Game 40, Mariners at Red Sox – RIP, Roger Angell

marc w · May 20, 2022 at 3:27 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Robbie Ray vs. Michael Wacha, 4:10pm

“My gratitude aalways goes back to baseball itself, which turned out to be so familiar and so startling, so spacious and exacting, so easy looking and so heartbreakingly difficult, that it filled up my notebooks in seasons in a rush; a pastime indeed.”
– Roger Angell’s Hall of Fame Induction speech

The greatest baseball writer of all time, Roger Angell, died at his home today in New York. He was 101. He watched essentially every great star of the game, from Babe Ruth, to a rookie Willie Mays, to Mike Trout and Juan Soto. We’ve lost a brilliant prose stylist, a keen observer, and someone who made you proud to be a baseball fan. But because he’d been watching and thinking about the game so long, he seemed to essentially embody baseball history itself, at least the part after it became a big, professional institution. It is sad to lose that first-person perspective on baseball history, but I am always thankful he turned those memories, those sights, into something timeless.

I’ve been thinking in recent years about just how *glad* I am that a writer like Patrick Dubuque chose to write about baseball. There are so many things to write about, so many things to care about or follow. The odds seem stacked against the alignment of a singular voice and this odd game, one that always frets it’s too old and past its prime. So when it happens, I don’t want to forget to feel thankful. Roger Angell is the clearest example of that, the writer who made it possible for thousands to come after him, to raise this silly game into something worthy of his words.

It’s weird; just given things like blogs, I’ve probably read more words from Dave Cameron and Jeff Sullivan than I have of Angell’s (though I’ve read a lot of them). At no point ever did I think, “Wow, that’s very Angell-ian.” But he didn’t inspire imitation; that would be difficult, and the potential for cringe would be sky-high. He inspired coming at the game honestly, and thoughtfully, and thus I think people like Sullivan or Dubuque or Rowley or DMZ really can be seen as heirs.

Yesterday’s game was a brutal one, a big early lead given back almost immediately, and then a bizarre gaffe by a manager just trying to execute a pitching change. Whatever the cause, the M’s seemed helpless to stop the Red Sox and Trevor Story, who hit three home runs. The Sox enter today just a half-game back of the M’s. An already-cluttered wild card race could get even more stuffed soon. It’s not a shock or anything; this Sox club is way too talented to be a bottom-feeder, even in the AL East.

With three wild cards, the M’s chances aren’t as dour as they’ve looked on this road trip, but the problem is the two-tiers of playoff hopefuls, with the Angels/Rays/Jays looking like a very different group of hopefuls than, say, the Guardians and M’s. I think you could add the White Sox to that former group as well. The M’s simply aren’t this bad, and should start winning more games sometime soon, perhaps after this brutal road trip. But the first 39 games happened; they don’t get to start fresh.

Robbie Ray’s K rate is down slightly this year, as he’s getting just a couple fewer swinging strikes each start. It’s not a lot, and he’s striking out more than a batter an inning, so it’s not necessarily a problem. It’s not like those missing whiffs and K’s are turning into HRs; just like the rest of the league, his HR/9 is down. The problem is that those missing Ks are turning into balls in play. As a result, some innings look fine, but if some hits string together, he’s suddenly given up a big inning. But why is he giving up more balls in play?

One reason is that after moving back to the AL, he’s not facing very many lefties anymore. Over his career, Ray has had the platoon advantage in 22% of his PAs-against. It was slightly higher with the Diamondbacks, then it dipped to 18% last season. This year, it’s just 14%, a clear low mark in his 9-year career. And while his K% against righties has been high, and almost as high as it’s been against lefties, it’s still lower – and this year, that gap has grown.

Michael Wacha came up as a phenom in 2013, pitching well in critical postseason games just a year after being drafted by St. Louis. As a change-up maven without a huge fastball, he flew through the system, and essentially cut the trail that Marco Gonzales would follow just a year later; Gonzales was drafted in the summer of 2013, and got some postseason experience in 2014. But after a brilliant first full season, injuries and ineffectiveness took over.

The Cardinals let him go, and his 2020 campaign with the Mets was a disaster. He found himself with Tampa a year ago, and I think a lot of fans expected that if anyone could fix him, it’d be the Rays. It didn’t happen. Too many HRs, occasional injuries – it just didn’t work, and after one year and an ERA over 5, he landed with Boston. He’s already had one IL stint, but so far, so good for Wacha.

He’s got strong reverse splits for his career thanks to that change, but he still strikes out more righties. It’s weird; even against righties, if he needs a chase or a strikeout, he goes to the change. It’s mostly effective, but if they hit it, it tends to go a long way. Lefties make awful contact on the pitch, and thus have poor overall numbers against Wacha (he throws the change more than his FB to lefties). Wacha’s worked on other pitches for righties – a cutter, a curve – but he remains mostly a FB/CH guy.

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

Today’s roster move is that Matt Festa’s back, replacing Wyatt Mills. Festa’s remade slider has him missing more bats than his prior stint in the bigs, but he’s been unable to avoid the home run.

The bigger roster move is upcoming. Kyle Lewis’ rehab stint officially ends on Monday. He’s played three games in a row for Tacoma, but they’ve all come as a DH. As Mike Curto notes, Lewis played 7 innings in the OF back on May 4th, and hasn’t played there since. It seems exceedingly unlikely the M’s could hope to use Lewis there in the majors. But with their offense sputtering, maybe they could actually use a part time DH? The M’s have said repeatedly that they wanted Lewis 100% before calling him up. A few weeks into his rehab, he’s not there yet. They could re-start the 20 day clock after Monday, and if they want something more than a DH, that’s what they’ll have to do. But the bottom of the line-up is rough, and the guys the M’s keep rotating through the DH spot could all play the field; this isn’t a Dan Vogelbach situation. This is one to keep an eye on. Please get healthy, Kyle.

Speaking of health, apparently C Tom Murphy had a setback with his shoulder, and thus won’t be coming off the IL when his stint ends. Damn.

Dipoto talked about Jarred Kelenic on 710am yesterday, saying that they just want him to have fun. I get what they’re saying, but they almost seemed wary of giving him specific things to work on, outside of potentially take/swing decisions.

The Rainiers are in Sacramento, and they destroyed the hosts 11-0 yesterday with old friend Tommy Milone getting the win after 5 scoreless. Jarred Kelenic hit his first AAA HR of the year. Konner Wade makes his third start for Tacoma tonight against Tristan Beck.

Arkansas blanked NW Arkansas 5-0, as Jake Scheiner hit his 6th HR. Levi Stoudt starts for the Travelers tonight.

Everett didn’t get the memo, and gave up a solo HR in the first, but then got things on track, and shut out Hillsboro the rest of the way to win 6-1. Spencer Packard hit his 7th for the Frogs. Prelander Berroa, the SP the M’s got from San Francisco a few weeks back, makes his second start in the org.

Modesto misinterpreted the memo, and got shut out by Stockton 5-0. Ports starter Luke Anderson was scoreless, obviously, for 5 2/3 IP with 8 Ks but 7 BBs. That’s filling up the box score.


3 Responses to “Game 40, Mariners at Red Sox – RIP, Roger Angell”

  1. Stevemotivateir on May 20th, 2022 5:03 pm

    “I think the real fans are the fans of terrible teams because they know what good baseball is and they know how far their own players fall short. The rallying cry that has always struck me as so poignant and beautiful is, ‘Come on, you bum!’ which means, ‘We know you’re no good but we want to win.'” -Roger Angell

    He must have had Mariners fans in mind when he said that.

    Trevor Story should strike out three times tonight and cost Boston the game. That’s how it works. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll buy each and every Mariner fan commenting here a drink tonight.

  2. Stevemotivateir on May 20th, 2022 5:17 pm

    So, Story isn’t playing along.

    Someone needs to buy me a drink.

  3. MKT on May 21st, 2022 5:29 am

    “The greatest baseball writer of all time, Roger Angell”

    Yeah, true. Very few of us who are alive today saw Babe Ruth play. But we could all read Angell’s work each year.

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