Game 23, Mariners at Astros: New Series, New Rules

marc w · May 2, 2022 at 4:27 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Jake Odorizzi, 5:10pm

The M’s capped off a mostly frustrating series in Miami on a high note: beating the Marlins thanks to yet another great start from Logan Gilbert and the first HR of Julio Rodriguez’s career. If this was a glimpse of the future, it was a tantalizing one. Now, the M’s head to Houston – their collective house of horrors for the past half-decade. They face an Astros club that’s perhaps lucky to be at 11-11, and which is looking to find its identity.

They’ve been such a great offensive team for so long, but the breaking up of their core and some rotten BABIP luck have them hitting a collective .214/.288/.369. They’ve been great defensively, but even in the new, low-scoring era we’ve stumbled into, that’s not going to cut it. Their pitching’s been…fine, but somewhat anonymous. It’s hard to say what they excel at, especially if Justin Verlander isn’t starting. Will the familiar feeling of beating up on their divisional rivals help them find themselves? Or is there nothing to find, given the shocking revelation that losing Gerrit Cole, Carlos Correa, and Zack Greinke without elite replacements just makes you worse?

Today’s the day MLB trims its rosters down, as teams were allowed to carry 28 players through May 1 in recognition of the shortened spring training. But now, they’ll move back to the agreed-upon 26, with a twist: teams can carry a *maximum* of 14 pitchers. At the end of the month, that cap will drop to 13. Ben Lindbergh has a great article at The Ringer about how this could help the game by reducing the ability of teams to throw legions of 97mph-throwing, interchangeable relievers at helpless batters. It’s an interesting theory, and it will be fun to try and tease out which rule changes impact scoring (or pace of play) the most. Within a year, this will likely be mixed in with the pitch clocks that have slashed time-of-games in the minors.

How will teams respond, and how will the M’s in particular respond? They, like everyone else, have used a ton of roster spots on relievers, and many of them shuttle back and forth between Tacoma and Seattle. Would teams restore the near-extinct long reliever/swingman position? The guy who didn’t throw hard, but would cromulently give 5-6 innings in a blowout? Seattle’s early answer seems to be no: they’ve optioned Justus Sheffield, whose role was something between swingman and “wait, he’s still on the team?” They also optioned Donovan Walton, which is nice, as he’d appeared in just one game, and hadn’t had a plate appearance yet.

On the one hand, forcing teams to start carrying viable bench bats, especially bench bats not required to back up SS or C should help. On the other, I’m not really sure that we’ll see much from a reduction in relief arms if teams are still able to bounce them between the minors and majors. That’s where another rule change comes in: teams no longer have unlimited options during a player’s option years. Now, they only get 5 (options before today don’t count towards the limit). *This* should help reduce the temptation for teams to let one or two relievers air it out, option them, and bring in the next two on the depth chart, repeating ad nauseum throughout the year. This means it’s more important for teams to actually identify which reliever near that 13th-14th pitcher spot is actually good versus which is just fresh.

1: Frazier, 2B
2: France, 1B
3: Winker, LF
4: Suarez, DH
5: Crawford, SS
6: Rodriguez, CF
7: Toro, 3B
8: Kelenic, RF
9: Torrens, C
SP: Gonzales

The M’s full season affiliates got swept yesterday. Tacoma lost another close one in Vegas, 6-5, despite a Marcus Wilson HR. Wichita beat Arkansas 4-3, despite 5 IP of 2 R ball from George Kirby, who K’d 7. Spokane destroyed Everett 9-1, and San Jose beat Modesto 5-3. No games tonight in the minors.


4 Responses to “Game 23, Mariners at Astros: New Series, New Rules”

  1. Shizane on May 2nd, 2022 7:32 pm

    So Marc (and USSM) faithful: what should be done with Kelenic? When/if haniger and lewis come back, i think he should be sent down. But right now, it’s not like there is anyone better in AAA so unless we trade for someone, i suppose we let him get some more reps….defense is there so not a total loss. Thoughts?

  2. Stevemotivateir on May 2nd, 2022 8:14 pm

    ^He has less than 75 PAs. Stung a ball pretty good tonight, just didn’t result in a hit.

    He needs time, and since there really isn’t an alternative, there isn’t really anything to debate until both Lewis and Haniger return.

  3. Shizane on May 3rd, 2022 6:41 pm

    I also count last year as well, so 75% of a season with poor offensive results. Agree that the lack of an alternative is likely what is keeping him up. Really want him to put it all together!

  4. eponymous coward on May 4th, 2022 3:49 pm

    He needs time all right.

    In Tacoma.

    But yeah, no point playing Dylan Moore out there with a pop gun arm and sub-“meh” bat. Wait for Kyle Lewis to get some reps in.

    But boy, we could sure use another OFer, huh? Whocouldanode?

    (Don’t answer that, I know you were on that horse for a while.)

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