Game 160, Angels at Mariners – What Does It All Mean?

marc w · October 1, 2021 at 3:44 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Jose Suarez, 7:10pm

It’s here: the final season of the series, and the most eagerly anticipated of any series in a decade. The M’s aren’t just waiting for a series of incredibly unlikely events anymore. Through their own remarkable work, the hardest part is done. They just need to focus on beating an out-of-it and already-eyeing-up-vacation-ideas Angels club, who will not be starting Shohei Ohtani. That’s…that sounds OK. Sure, if Boston sweeps the Nats, things get delightfully complicated, and we get play-in game scenarios and tie-breakers and all of that, but fundamentally, they’ve got it in their own, weird, hands.

Clearly, this almost impossible playoff chase has had an impact on M’s fans in the northwest. The sports radio stations are talking about it instead of wall-to-wall Seahawks discussion. The team’s pleas for fans to pack the stands have been heard, and tonight’s game is likely a sell-out, with Saturday and Sunday strong possibilities to sell out as well. In general, people seem to be reacting exactly as you’d hope, and exactly as they should: a completely bizarre, unlikely gift has just been dropped on them, and they’re all kind of bewildered and excited, just as they would if they found $500 lying in the road or if they found a long-lost family heirloom. Hey, thank you Fate.

There have been other voices, voices that point to the run differential or their still-pretty-low playoff odds, and still-lower odds of actually winning the World Series. “Just because you found that $500 doesn’t mean you’re, like, some sort of money-finding expert!” Look, the ship sailed on this year’s M’s team being a truly great baseball club. We don’t get to have that, and making the playoffs wouldn’t change that simple fact. The M’s abysmal run differential and their remarkable performance in “clutch” situations are indicators that their performance is not sustainable over the course of a season. Here’s the patently-obvious thing, though: the season’s just about over. No arguments about their run differential matter anymore. They mattered in June/July/August, but with each game, they matter less. We’re now down to looking at individual games, and as we’ve seen, baseball at the single-game level is just noise and weirdness and joy and beauty. Or ugly 14-1 losses. The team’s run differential just isn’t a good predictor of any of it, just as it hasn’t predicted the M’s utter domination of Oakland.

Is it weird to get excited about a team’s that’s overperformed? Shouldn’t this FO be judged on the thing that they keep asking to be judged on: building a lasting, sustainable winning team? No, and yes. It’s not weird to get excited about random good fortune. Most lottery winners look pretty stoked. None of this absolves the M’s FO of their main duty: building that year in/year out contender. If I’m nervous about one thing, it would be that this chase distracts people from holding the FO accountable for the REAL goal for a year or two. But the two goals – luck into a pennant chase and then grow into a legit WS contender in 2022 and beyond – are complementary. This is one of the many cases where looking at the numbers (Fangraphs’ Playoff Odds, run differential, Team WAR totals, whatever) make all of this craziness MORE fun. The M’s have the highest Clutch score ever. They have one of the largest gaps between their record and pythagorean/pythagenpat record ever, and quite possibly the largest gap between their record and a BaseRuns-projected record ever. We will never, ever see this again. This is historic stuff, and for once, all of that good luck alighted on the Seattle Mariners. We will be picking through the treasure trove of data, anecdotes, and assoted ephemera from this season for the next decade. When I figure out what the hell is happening, I want to tell my grandkids about it some day.

Let’s be clear: the M’s are not as good as many of the teams that have already been eliminated, including the anti-Mariners, the San Diego Padres. They look clearly a step or two behind the Blue Jays, the team desperately trying to chase them down. This run, and the way it’s happened, doesn’t change that. But after a long stretch where the M’s were buoyed up by players who’d signed minor league deals, odd hot streaks from Luis Torrens and Abe Toro, and Kendall Graveman’s amazing run, their *current* hot streak has had major contributions from players who are actually a part of the next few seasons. Jarred Kelenic pulled out of the batting death spiral he’d been mired in at exactly the right time, and Logan Gilbert’s steadied himself after a few bad outings. Tyler Anderson’s a free-agent-to-be, but I’d be shocked if the M’s didn’t offer him a multi-year deal. Is all of this a sign that the M’s are pennant winners in 2022? No, not without a big offseason and not without major growth/improvement from their youngsters this offseason. But it’s worth noting that the club currently in playoff position is NOT the club that racked up a lot of that negative differential in April and May.

That’s somewhat true of all teams, but I can’t quite fathom how differently this season could’ve gone. The opening day rotation has two players remaining, tonight’s starter, Marco Gonzales, and Chris Flexen. James Paxton went down, then Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn. The immediate replacements for Paxton – Nick Margevicius and Ljay Newsome – followed Paxton to injury rehab almost immediately. The bullpen that the M’s had touted as rebuilt and much-improved had Rafael Montero, Keynan Middleton, and Will Vest. When that group – and especially Montero and Vest – struggled, they turned to Domingo Tapia, Aaron Fletcher, and Wyatt Mills. But as the injuries mounted, and 40-man slots opened up, they finally called upon Paul Sewald and JT Chargois. The line-up’s benefited from Abraham Toro, a trade they made with that result in mind. But while the M’s deserve credit for finding the previously-unremarkable Sewald, it has to be noted that they didn’t put him on the team initially, and seemed to have him about 5th in line *among Tacoma relievers* for a shot in Seattle. Yes, the contract status of Sewald and Chargois meant they’d probably always be behind Wyatt Mills or even Robert Dugger or Erik Swanson for the first call, but I’ve been kind of shaking all day thinking of what could’ve happened if Sewald had a May or June opt-out clause in his minor league contract and never got a call from Seattle. The M’s assembled a historically good pile of ex-waiver claims and cast-off reliever this year, and it saved their season. I also hope they get better at identifying the Sewaldian gems from amongst the Brady Lails, Robert Duggers and Domingo Tapias.

1: Crawford, SS
2: France, 1B
3: Haniger, RF
4: Seager, 3B
5: Torrens, DH
6: Toro, 2B
7: Kelenic, CF
8: Murphy, C
9: Moore, LF
SP: Marco Gonzales

The ultra-competitive Gonzales is a perfect starter for this game.

The Yankees face the Tampa Bay Rays, who aren’t playing for much, having wrapped up the best record in the AL. The Yanks start remarkable ex-M’s cast-off Nestor Cortes, who has a 2.85 ERA in 88+ IP this year somehow. Cortes gave up 6 HRs in 44 PAs as a Mariner last year, but has given up just 13 to 356 batters-faced this year. The Rays start Shane McClanahan, the fireballing youngster who’s having a great rookie season, but kind of gets lost in the shuffle of the non-Glasnow Tampa fireballers. I still get him confused with Drew Rasmussen, but no, Rasmussen was the trade return for Willy Adames, while McClanahan was a first-round pick by the Rays in 2018.

The Orioles head to Toronto to face the Jays, who are coming off that crushing loss to New York yesterday. The Orioles start…look, you don’t want to know, and it doesn’t matter. Let’s just hope they do to Toronto what some equally-unlikely starters did to Boston these past few days. Toronto turns to Steven Matz, but Robbie Ray made his last start yesterday. I’d say they could try to bring him back on short rest, but the most likely pathway for the Jays now involves some kind of play-in game, and they’d likely want him for that (or, you know, the Wild Card game itself).

The Red Sox are in Washington DC to take on the Nationals and Josh Rogers. Rogers was a one-time Yankees farmhand who’d been with Baltimore, but even the pitching-starved O’s didn’t want Rogers, releasing him from their AAA farm team. Washington picked him up, and he was a bit better, although nothing eye-popping. Since coming up this September, though, he’s fared pretty well as your standard issue soft-tossing lefty FB/Slider/Change guy who doesn’t really miss bats and really reminds me of a 1980s style of pitcher. Not sure that’s confidence-inspiring, but the Sox must be feeling all kinds of pressure after dropping a must-win series against the Orioles.


22 Responses to “Game 160, Angels at Mariners – What Does It All Mean?”

  1. Stevemotivateir on October 1st, 2021 5:35 pm

    I’ve sacrificed a lot of sleep to catch the ends of these games. I’m glad this series ends over the weekend, but I still hope for swift victories (by the Mariners).

  2. heyoka on October 1st, 2021 6:18 pm

    Notice on the M’s BB-R page their fun differential.

  3. Stevemotivateir on October 1st, 2021 8:24 pm

    France with a couple of doubles already. Wrong variety, but it’s still early.

  4. Jake on October 1st, 2021 9:59 pm

    Meet the new Mariners. Same as the old Mariners.

  5. Stevemotivateir on October 2nd, 2021 5:58 pm

    Muñoz gets activated, Smith goes to the IL, and the pressure is on with Boston and Toronto both winning.

    New York lost, though. Imagine if this ends in a 4-way tie?

  6. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2021 9:33 pm

    Oh man, this Saturday game is gonna stop my heart…

    Mariners now up 5-4! Haniger is carrying them on his back tonight.

  7. kmsandrbs on October 2nd, 2021 9:37 pm

    Yeah, here’s hoping the Mariners’ season ends like so many of their games this year, going down to the wire but the M’s coming out on top!

  8. Longgeorge1 on October 2nd, 2021 9:38 pm

    Has my attention.

  9. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2021 9:39 pm

    Nice little bloop single into no-man’s land by Sea-Boss.

  10. kmsandrbs on October 2nd, 2021 9:40 pm

    Hey Torrens, why don’t you join the hit parade this inning?

  11. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2021 9:41 pm

    Well, they got an insurance run at least.

  12. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2021 9:47 pm

    DON’T GAMBLE like that when you’ve got a 2 run lead, you idiot!

  13. kmsandrbs on October 2nd, 2021 9:49 pm

    Not watching – what was the gamble?

  14. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2021 9:49 pm

    Oh,man, whew!

  15. kmsandrbs on October 2nd, 2021 9:49 pm

    Live to fight another day! Woo hoo!

  16. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2021 9:50 pm

    @kmsandrbs Fraley should’ve stayed back and held the guy to a single. Instead he gambled on a diving catch, the ball got past him and the runner was in scoring position.

  17. kmsandrbs on October 2nd, 2021 9:50 pm

    Prediction for tomorrow: Toronto wins big (again). New York loses in a squeaker. Boston loses in a kind of close but not really close game. And the M’s? Extra inning win! 4-way tie! Make it happen!

  18. kmsandrbs on October 2nd, 2021 9:51 pm

    @Westside guy – thanks!

  19. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2021 9:52 pm

    I would love to see that 4-way tie scenario.

  20. kmsandrbs on October 2nd, 2021 9:53 pm

    Wouldn’t that just be emblematic of the M’s this season? It’s like it’s meant to be.

  21. globalalpha on October 2nd, 2021 10:42 pm

    Isn’t that exactly the RIGHT situation to gamble in? With the two run lead, the first run doesn’t matter. May as well put him on third base or just balk him home. Selling out to try and get the out is exactly what you want to do there. Nice play Fraley.

  22. Stevemotivateir on October 3rd, 2021 7:18 am

    A Westy sighting!

    I hope everyone enjoyed that as much as I did!

    Today is going to be surreal.

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