Game 31, Phillies at Mariners: It’s Early

marc w · May 10, 2022 at 6:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Robbie Ray vs. Aaron Nola, 6:40pm

The M’s ugly loss to Philadelphia brought a *lot* of angry comments and recriminations of the front office. I’ve been critical of the FO, and thought the team wasn’t built to contend with the elite in the AL, but even I think the outpouring of emotion in early/mid-May is a bit much. No, the M’s aren’t anywhere near as good as they looked when sweeping the Royals, but no, they’re nowhere near as punchless and overmatched as they’ve looked at times on this homestand.

Yesterday was the result of a bad day for Flexen meeting up with a very good Phillies line-up. It was also the result of a line-up getting smothered by an inconsistent pitcher. It’s not pretty, but it happens. Fortunately, we’ve got a great pitching match-up today, and a win probably helps everyone chill out a bit.

This isn’t to say that the comments about the line-up or the roster construction aren’t warranted: they are. There are red flags here, but I just don’t see this line-up being one of the worst in the league. By the same token, it’s more clear than ever that if the line-up was going to bash down the doors to the playoffs, pretty much everything would have to go right. Not everything has gone right, from Jarred Kelenic’s continued struggles to the slow start from Jesse Winker, and thus the M’s find themselves at 13-17.

They’re 13-17 after a rough patch of the schedule. If they were 15-15 or 16-14, we’d probably see this in a very different light, and that’s just not that far away. They need to get healthy, and get another batter hot – another insane stretch for France or Crawford – and you’re back to looking at a good-but-not-great team, which is still what I think the M’s are.

The problem remains that many of their rivals sought to make themselves into great teams, and it’s simply hard to compete with that for 162 games. The Angels have been doing the M’s a solid for at least 10 years, amassing some of the greatest players I’ve ever seen, and doing nothing with them. But you can’t count on that forever, and they are, sadly, looking pretty formidable now. Minnesota’s weird great-one-year,-bad-the-next pattern is holding, but as this is an even numbered year, they’re good for now. Injuries have hampered them, but they picked up a good amount of pitching depth, which can help them get past a Buxton IL trip, or, as we heard today, an elbow injury to Chris Paddack.

By design, the M’s didn’t add depth from outside the org, and will look to improve the players who are already here. That’s a fine plan if you can actually do it; the Rays can, and the Yankees often can, but I’m not sure it’s actually the M’s strength. They think it is, but I’m not convinced yet, not with Kelenic struggling, or with Brash’s quick demotion, or Evan White, or Justus Sheffield, etc. Look, even I’m wading back into the doom and gloom stuff. Sorry. It’s a gorgeous day, the M’s are playing at home, and they are, somehow, still a fun team to watch (mostly).

Aaron Nola gets the start for the Phils, a veteran righty who throws from a low arm slot and has two seriously plus pitches. He throws a four-seamer at 91-93, nothing amazing, but it sets up his curve and change. Both pitches rack up ground balls *and* whiffs, which is a pretty neat trick if you can pull it off. They give him legitimate weapons against both lefties and righties, and have allowed him to essentially eliminate platoon splits, even as kind of a sidewinding righty. Lefties *should* enjoy facing him, but they most certainly do not. It helps that he can command all of his pitches (he also has a sinker and a cutter), and he’s fine throwing all of them to RHBs and LHBs alike; he’ll throw righty-righty change-ups, and everyone gets a steady dose of the curve, which is probably his best overall pitch.

All told, there’s no mystery why Nola is able to consistently post excellent strikeout rates. He mixes pitches, and mixes in two legitimate out-pitches. How do the M’s beat him? The answer’s the same for so many pitchers in the modern game: hit home runs. Despite the high GB%, Nola’s yielded a lot of HRs in his career. In the early going in 2022, he’s giving up even more. The same was true of Ranger Suarez, and the M’s couldn’t figure HIM out, but still. If you guess right against Nola, you’ve got a chance to do damage.

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

The Rainiers lost a day game today to Reno, 8-3. Darren McCaughan took the loss. McCaughan had an amazing/improbable run to the majors, shoving in AA in 2019, then shaking off the lost 2020 season to hold his own in Tacoma and make his MLB debut in 2021. But he’s off to a slow start in what remains just a brutal environment for pitchers in the PCL.

Arkansas is facing San Antonia in the Texas League with Stephen Kolek on the hill.

Everett is in the Tri-Cities, and give the ball to Bryce Miller, the former 4th round pick who’s off to a great start for the AquaSocks.

Modesto hosts Inland Empire tonight.


7 Responses to “Game 31, Phillies at Mariners: It’s Early”

  1. Stevemotivateir on May 10th, 2022 8:37 pm

    Definitely a tough stretch they’ve been in and the injuries haven’t helped, but I question if this team is good enough to reach the postseason and a lot of that has to do with what teams like the Twins, Blue Jays, Rays, etc. are doing.

    Though everyone knows how I felt about Suzuki and Seattle leaning too heavily on both Kelenic and Rodriguez, the offense never really concerned me that much and it still doesn’t. The defense, however, did, so it’s good to see that concern being erased.


    The rotation has been inconsistent apart from Gilbert and the bullpen really needs to ween off its dependency of Castillo.

    A lot still has to go right and my fear is that they’ll dig themselves into a hole before bigger injuries start to occur.

  2. don52656 on May 10th, 2022 9:27 pm

    The first month seems to have made it clear that the Mariners can clearly be successful when playing against the AL Central, but not so successful when playing the best teams. The next road trip (NYM, TOR, BOS) looks daunting and I wouldn’t be stunned to see them come back from that with a 15-25 record, which would make it a long uphill climb back into contention.

    Last year, the Mariners won 10-15 games more than expected. This year, it doesn’t look or feel like they have that same level of magic. However, the team is clearly more talented than last year’s version, and it would be nice to have Kyle Lewis and Mitch Haniger back in the lineup. Sure wish I knew what was wrong with Kelenic….he is talented, and I don’t know if his brain is getting in the way or what, but I fear he is going to get another chance to visit the ballparks of the PCL.

    Julio, on the other hand, sure looks like a future star to me….

  3. schwingy on May 10th, 2022 9:53 pm

    So what does Kelenic need to do to consider him to have a ‘good’ Sophomore year? .220? .240? He is at .154 and has so many non-competitive ABs,
    Somebody give me hope he’s not another Dustin Akeley.

  4. bookbook on May 10th, 2022 10:26 pm

    Does Julio’s power emerge this year? I’d bet on July, but who knows?

    Kelenic needs a psychiatrist and a hitting coach, in that order.

  5. eponymous coward on May 11th, 2022 1:47 am

    Kelenic isn’t Dustin Ackley because Ackley wasn’t a bad player when he was called up or his sophomore season. Kelenic is legitimately terribad. Even Justin Smoak wasn’t this terribad. The last M who was this level of awful coming up was Michael Saunders.

    Good news is Michael Saunders made an All Star game. Bad news is it was as a Blue Jay, and he basically had two years as an OK MLB regular and washed out of the league by 30.

  6. schwingy on May 11th, 2022 7:04 am

    Thanks for the reassurance EC! : )

  7. Stevemotivateir on May 11th, 2022 8:12 am

    What’s weird about Kelenic is that he goes through these little stretches where he makes solid contact, then tinkers or presses and ends up right back where he started.

    I’m not about to give up on him or consider him a bust, though. He probably needs to return to AA and spend most of the season in the minors. Seattle hasn’t exactly shown patience with its hitting prospects, and some of that’s understandable given the state that AAA is in, but he had just 92 AA PAs before his AAA promotion and MLB debut that followed shortly after. Seattle’s simply stuck right now. They can’t really do anything until they get Lewis and Haniger back.

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