Game 49, Mariners at Orioles

marc w · May 31, 2022 at 3:54 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

George Kirby vs. Bryan Baker, 4:05pm

After perhaps their best series of the year, the M’s head back out east to face the Orioles. Their last road trip put a serious dent in their playoff odds, so the M’s simply have to do better this time. Lucky for them, their quality of opposition drops noticeably. Instead of the Blue Jays and Rays, they get the Orioles and Rangers before resuming the difficult task of facing the Astros again.

Time has not been kind to the Orioles rebuild. Since the start of 2017, the Os are a combined *202* games below .500. They bottomed out in 2018 at 47-115, but then lost 108 games the very next year. After drafting well and building a well-regarded farm system, they came back strong in 2021…no, I’m sorry, they lost 110 games *again.* I understand that fans tolerate this sort of thing now, and that spending money to finish .500 is bad or inefficient or what have you, but, uh, this doesn’t look good, and it’s looked bleak for a while.

On the plus side, #1 prospect Adley Rutschman is now up and Grayson Rodriguez is in AAA. The line-up isn’t good, to be clear, but it looks like a bad MLB team and not a AA line-up anymore. Perhaps most crucially, and that’s kind of damning right there, the aggressive re-making of the left field dimensions at Camden Yards have allowed their pitching staff to more or less hold their own. Since 2017 began, the O’s have allowed 134 more home runs than any other team (Seattle is 3rd, 143 behind at 1,030). They pair that with the lowest K rate of any team in that span, AND a below-average walk rate.

Sure, the short porch in left was a factor, but the plain truth is that the Orioles pitching staffs have been bad because no one’s really tried to make them good. They’ve taken cast-offs from other orgs and watched them get worse (Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley), and they’ve brought up prospects and saw them flail or stagnate (Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy). The prospect failures aside, the team hasn’t prioritized getting good pitchers during this rebuild, and it shows. They haven’t really tried much this year, but the deader ball and the shockingly deep LF have combined to make the group sort of playable despite a bottom-third K-BB%.

The offense, though, hasn’t been helped a whole lot. They have a 90 wRC+ at home, killed by their lack of power. They’re not great anywhere, but their sudden turn to playing in a pitcher’s park has consequences. That means this is a good day for George Kirby to attack the hitters, something that’s essentially been his MO since he was drafted. It’s not always a great plan, and he’s scuffled slightly in his last two starts – he’s given up 16 hits and three HRs in his last 10 IP. Here, though…why not?

Opposing him is the Orioles’ journeyman spot-starter, Bryan Baker. Baker was drafted by the Rockies, and made one appearance out of the Jays bullpen last September before being waived. A reliever, his presence as the starter portends a bullpen game – see above for the O’s hesitance to spend money on the rotation, OR to have to spend money later by bringing up Rodriguez too soon. Baker throws a four-seamer and a cutter, and as such, has some platoon split issues. He’s trying to remedy them by learning a change, but he hasn’t trusted it too much thus far – still, his MLB career is all of 20 IP long, so it’s not like he can’t reinvent himself. At 94-95, his fastball’s decent, and he’s had great results with it in his brief career. The cutter, though, just hasn’t been big-league quality.

I know Orioles fans have been through a lot. I know many are excited to cheer on Rutschman and Rodriguez (eventually). But I wonder what they think of watching yet another team stumble to the AL East cellar? I bet many, many people wonder why we’re all still watching the M’s try and fail to make the playoffs, and there’s the kernel of a disappointingly good question in there. But there’s one thing about watching a team try, maybe not as hard as we’d all like, with plenty of missteps here and there, but *try* – and whatever it is the Orioles are doing. I know, I said something very similar about the White Sox a few years ago, and their aggressive rebuild finally starting paying off. And even they weren’t *this* bad *this* often. I have seen M’s teams put up 100 loss seasons, and no, there’s no meaningful difference between 105 losses, say, and 110. But losing 100 in the last three full seasons and starting out in last place again? I don’t know that I could keep caring, even as I’m sure the fans are treated to every encouraging performance on the farm, and reminded about the importance of the draft. At some point, though, the will runs out.

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

With a Covid outbreak sidelining the Rainiers manager and batting coach, the M’s have turned to Dan Wilson to take the helm of the Rainiers as they head to Reno this week. Good luck, Dan!


3 Responses to “Game 49, Mariners at Orioles”

  1. Stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2022 7:17 pm

    What an explosive game. I still can’t believe Julio was tossed for simply trying to dust off the plate, but it didn’t matter at that point.

  2. MKT on June 1st, 2022 5:18 pm

    “But losing 100 in the last three full seasons and starting out in last place again? I don’t know that I could keep caring”

    The Orioles were at or above .500 for five straight years in the 2000-teens, making the playoffs or at least the wildcard game three of those years.

    But aside from that stretch, they’ve had long stretches of mostly bad baseball since the late 1990s, after being a well-above average franchise in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s with several World Series appearances and two championships.

    That’s over two decades of mostly bad baseball except for that stretch in the teens. They’ve been even worse than the Mariners since the late 1990s — the Mariners had a nine-year stretch of mostly good, often arresting baseball, from 1995-2003.

    And the Ms are a good sight better this year, with a rebuilding plan that seems to mostly be going according to plan except for the mysteriously poor play and accompanying losses this season.

    But being better than the last generation of Oriole’s teams is a low bar. And the Os had almost four decades of competence often excellence prior to that. Whereas the Ms have four and a half decades of mostly hopelessly bad baseball except for those 1995-2003 seasons.

    That’s not a good enough ratio for me. As I said in another thread, 2023 is the M’s last chance in my book. I don’t mean just giving up on the Ms that season, or on DiPoto, I mean giving up on the Ms completely and indefinitely. Their combination of being unwilling to spend the money to put a competitive team on the field, combined with incompetence at spending what they do have, have finally worn me down after almost five decades of futility. For me they have through 2023 to show that they are deserving of any attention at all rather than being the feckless losers they keep showing themselves to be.

    But I haven’t given up yet. They have accumulated some young talent, they did manage to be in a playoff race in 2021 (even though it was based on luck, wins are still wins). 2022 had to be foreseen as the final rebuilding year, with a .500-ish team. And maybe they’ll put things together and have a good team in 2023.

  3. eponymous coward on June 1st, 2022 9:58 pm

    “We are going to re-situate our roster and look toward 2020, 2021,” Dipoto told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore shortly after the trade was announced. “We can take a step back this year to put ourselves in a position where we can be as competitive as we can be at that point.”

    Now maybe this is typical MLB GMspeak of bullshitting your fan base, but nobody held a gun to Jerry’s head to make him say that. It is not ridiculous to hold someone accountable for what they voluntarily offered in terms of goal setting (and I might note that in terms of the W-L record they met that goal in 2021, if not in true talent).

    If it wasn’t a reasonable goal to begin with… well. Then I suppose that raises its own set of questions and problems.

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