Game 52, Mariners at Rangers

marc w · June 3, 2022 at 4:50 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Logan Gilbert vs. Dane Dunning, 5:05pm

After a hard-fought series win in Baltimore, the M’s face another of the AL’s weaker teams. The Rangers have been quite bad in recent years, but their slow start is a bit more of a concern this season. I don’t think anyone had them challenging their in-state rivals in Houston, but you don’t add Corey Seager and Marcus Semien and expect to be an also-ran. Yes, yes, I know: they’re ahead of Seattle right now. But if the M’s start is seen by M’s fans as a massive disappointment and a brewing crisis, I think Rangers fans are one losing skid away from the same sorts of feelings. The M’s had higher expectations, but only just.

The problem is very similar to the one I talked about when the M’s hit Baltimore: Texas has failed to develop pitching. Unlike Baltimore, they haven’t had the problem of bringing in free agents or trade for vets who suddenly get worse. In fact, Texas had developed something of a reputation as a good place to go after getting quite a lot out of Lance Lynn and Mike Minor. But they haven’t had any success at all with pitchers they’ve drafted and developed. In recent years, they’ve been extremely active on the trade market, seemingly attempting to outsource the process of pitcher development to other, more successful, organizations. Thus, their rotation currently includes Glenn Otto (developed by the Yankees, acquired in trade), Taylor Hearn (developed by the Nats and Pirates, acquired in trade), Martin Perez (developed by the Rangers, but then laundered through the Twins and Red Sox orgs, acquired as free agent), Jon Gray (developed by the Rockies, acquired as free agent) and Dane Dunning (developed by the White Sox, acquired in trade – for Lance Lynn).

The Rangers have seen prospect after prospect stall out at or near the majors. They’ve traded a few, like Hans Crouse, but they’re still high on Cole Winn, who’s scuffling a bit in AAA, and Jack Leiter, perhaps the most anticipated pitching prospect in the game, who’s at AA and giving up more runs than he should. I’m not really sure what’s happened, as for years, the Rangers seemed to get a lot out of their prospects and pick-ups from other orgs (Nelson Cruz being the best example). But things have changed since Scott Servais was their minor league coordinator, and not many have been good. The Rangers once enviable pipeline of international free agents has dried up, and they’re struggling to develop league-average players to plug in around their big free agent acquisitions.

But there are encouraging signs that they’ve sort of bottomed out, and that their player development may be getting a bit better. Dane Dunning is an interesting case. He’d flown through the minors for the White Sox, pairing high ground ball rates with strikeouts, an optimal combination. What was powering those outcomes? A turbo sinker like Blake Treinen? Err, no. Dunning throws 88-89, and if I’d comp him to anyone, it would be as a right-handed Marco Gonzales. That sounds like a less-than-exciting prospect pedigree, but Dunning gets a lot out of mediocre raw stuff. Michael Ajeto tries to explain it over at Baseball Prospectus, and mentions one of the keys to Dunning’s success: batters don’t swing at his sinker when he throws it in the strike zone. He’s got the highest called-strike rate on his fastball of anyone in the game. That’s for any type of fastball, too, not just sinkers.

As a sinker/slider/change guy, he could have pretty significant platoon splits, and despite his neat trick of not getting swings on in-zone 88mph fastballs, he does. Lefties have traditionally done considerably better against them. Against them, he throws roughly equal numbers of sinkers and change-ups, and against righties, it’s a blizzard of sliders and cutters. What allows him to be playable and even effective against lefties at times is *how* he allows balls in play. Lefties have put more than twice as many change-ups in play as sinkers. He’s almost trying to let southpaws make contact with change-ups, where he, and the rest of the league, allow weaker contact. That’s a big reason why his average exit velo and thus his expected ERA is low. The best option is always to strike everyone out. If you can’t do that, the next best option is to have batters put balls and non-fastballs in play. This isn’t his plan against righties, though. Righties actually DO hit his sinker, and hardly ever swing and miss at it – but they struggle mightily to make contact with his slider. He gets far, far more ground balls against righties because of this; his sinking/running sinker is a grounder machine to righties. Thus, Dunning has two different approaches depending on the hitters’ handedness.

All of this hasn’t made him great yet, though, and in his relatively brief career, he’s posted better FIPs than ERAs. He’s given up a flurry of base hits, and his BABIP is super high despite the overall downward trend in BABIP and with a deadened ball. Bringing in the likes of Seager/Semien should help Dunning more than most, but to date, it hasn’t. That’s not the fault of the IFs, though – his BABIP on grounders is super low. Rather, it’s that he’s prone to giving up line drives. The M’s lefty-heavy line-up needs to barrel up those change-ups, something they’ve been pretty good at doing this year.

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

With Kyle Lewis on the concussion IL, we’ll go back to seeing the DH slot rotate through a few different players depending on the handedness of the opposing starter. With Dunning on the mound, the M’s get to use it on an extra lefty tonight.

The R’s have been doing quite well in Reno, and won last night’s game 7-0. Justus Sheffield shut out the Aces for 6 to get his first AAA win of 2022. Jarred Kelenic led off the game with a dinger, but is still struggling somewhat – he’s got 8 Ks and 0 BBs in his last three games, going 3-16, but two of those three hits are homers.

Arkansas destroyed Springfield 16-5 – all 5 of the Cardinals runs came on solo shots. Kaden Polcovich led the attack for the Travelers with a home run and 4 hits in all.

Modesto beat Fresno 2-1 as Edwin Arroyo had two hits and Jimmy Kingsbury went 5 solid IP for the Nuts.

Everett was rained out, but they’ve got the rehabbing Ken Giles as the opener tonight.


2 Responses to “Game 52, Mariners at Rangers”

  1. Stevemotivateir on June 4th, 2022 9:01 am

    Nice to see a 9th inning blast to pick up a struggling offense and get the win.

    Weird seeing so little from the top of the order.

  2. Stevemotivateir on June 4th, 2022 6:39 pm

    Would’ve been nice to have seen a 9th inning blast to pick up a struggling offense and get the win.

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