Game 69, Mariners at Athletics: Not So Nice

marc w · June 21, 2022 at 3:22 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales Vs. James Kaprelian, 6:40pm

The M’a fell to ten games under. The offense is in crisis-mode. The once impregnable fortress of a bullpen is in tatters. It’s a rough patch for our Seattle Mariners, but at least they get to face Oakland, a perennial power that took itself out of the running quite successfully this offseason, trading nearly all of their star position players in exchange for exciting young talent with questionable hit tools. I’ve said frequently that even as an M’s fan, I just don’t know how to BE an Oakland fan, but the past twenty years remains a fascinating comparison of depressing styles.

The A’s have been a dynamic team that has excelled at different things over the years, but they’ve always been good at *something.* What do they DO with these skills and abilities? Well, mostly stay cheap, sell off any player you can, and keep developing youngsters or drafting well or scout waiver claims. It’s a living.

The M’s have occasionally been good at things, but a combination of blind spots, bad luck, and a desire to remain within their station from a payroll perspective has meant they haven’t challenged for anything. I don’t really think that Oakland *wants* to, but they keep getting close due to skills and abilities. The M’s want to (I can see many of your rolling your eyes through the screen), but can’t due to a lack of those skills and self-defeating bouts of parsimony. It’s always weird watching these two teams “compete.”

One of the things Oakland’s been quite good at is building a bullpen out of the flotsam and jetsam of the league. Or, you know, out of homegrown players. They’re not picky, but they have been consistently good in that regard. The M’s have done so occasionally, but, as we see this year, it doesn’t always hold up. It’s understandable, given bullpen volatility. The A’s manage through coaching, but also through a relentless churn that makes it hard to be a fan, but easy to like if you’re paying the bills.

The style of baseball they helped usher in is now ascendant throughout the game. The concept of the starting pitcher is now in flux, as workhorses like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander represent the last of their kind. Closers are still closers, but the importance of the times through the order penalty or platoon splits or just the league-wide lines for starters vs. relievers has opened the door for regular, non-closer relievers to proliferate. The league’s pitching staff cap of 13 is in place, and many teams don’t really know what to do with so few pitchers, even though 10-15 years ago, the idea of a 13 man staff wasn’t even considered. We’ve come a long way.

Where…where are we? In a place where starting pitchers, often the league’s highest paid players in a given year, are less valuable. A vast, faceless mob of relievers straddles MLB and AAA, with the middle tier in constant movement between the levels. With more innings going to low-paid pre-arb arms. Where volatility dominates, and the solution is simple: just draw from the deck again.

For absolutely no reason, and changing subjects entirely, the M’s have DFA’d veteran RP Sergio Romo and lefty Roenis Elias. In their place, they’ve activated veteran RP Ken Giles, signed before his TJ surgery last year.

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

James Kaprelian is a starter the A’s did a good job developing, but have seen injuries, the Covid layoff and regression reduce his effectiveness. He used to throw 2-3 ticks harder, and despite throwing more breaking balls these days, he’s not missing bats. He’s also walking too many and liable to dingers, so the overall line is getting at something tangible and disappointing for A’s fans. He throws a four seamer, a slider, a change, and a curve he’s gone to more frequently this year.

Comments

5 Responses to “Game 69, Mariners at Athletics: Not So Nice”

  1. MKT on June 21st, 2022 6:22 pm

    “The M’s want to […], but can’t due to a lack of those skills and self-defeating bouts of parsimony.”

    Yep, that describes the Ms throughout their entire history. Even during the closest thing they’ve had to a Golden Age, 1995-2003, they kept screwing up and failed to make it to a World Series (or even to the playoffs, most of those years).

    Imagine if they’d sprung the $$ for a better bullpen in the mid to late-1990s, instead of relying on Bobby Ayala to be their closer — and then in a panic trading for Heathcliff Slocumb from the Red Sox in a desperate attempt to shore up their failling bullpen. Fans in Boston knew that Slocumb was stick-a-fork-in-him done, and were glad that some team was dumb enough to take him off their hands. Even across the continent I knew that Slocumb was no answer to the Ms’ bullpen woes.

    What I didn’t know was how outrageously costly that trade would be, because the players that the Ms traded to the Red Sox were a couple of youngsters by the names of Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe.

    Classic Ms.

    “the M’s have DFA’d veteran RP Sergio Romo”

    Speaking of players who are done, Romo had a nice enough career but was replacement level in 2020 and 2021. Thankfully the Ms didn’t give up any players to acquire him, and though a little slowly for my taste did soon enough recognize that this is not a player who can help the Ms bullpen problems, and instead has been one of the problems. But he didn’t do too much damage this season, only a very slightly negative Win Probability Added for the Ms despite being well below replacement level on bref.

    But I haven’t given up on the Ms yet. This season looks likely to be a lost cause at this point, but it’s still just season 4 of the rebuild. Next season though, the Ms are out of excuses. If they fall on their faces yet again, as they have mostly done for 46 years, then I truly will give up on them. Meaning, not just for 2023 or for the DiPoto reign, but indefinitely. This is the organization that thought that Kevin Mather was worthy of being a baseball executive, that didn’t promote Edgar Martinez because Jim Presley was occupying third base, that frittered away the strong fan support that the new ballpark and 2001 season brought them, that has been unable to even get into the playoffs since that season, etc. etc.

  2. eponymous coward on June 22nd, 2022 1:43 am

    DiPoto was quoted as saying that the “step back” was supposed to have them in contention by 2021 (it’s not particularly hard to find this: https://sports.mynorthwest.com/593898/drayer-jerry-dipoto-explains-how-focus-on-2020-21-gives-mariners-better-shot-at-als-elite-teams/amp/).

    “We’re on year four of our three year rebuilding program, just wait until year five and we’ll be on track” is not really a good look.

  3. bookbook on June 22nd, 2022 5:18 pm

    Many savvy commentators at the time, on this site and elsewhere, suggested that Jerry was being optimistic-not realistic-with that assessment.

    Have we the right to be annoyed that a clear rebuild was called a step back? Sure.
    Can we be even more annoyed that the rebuild was sold as a get-fixed-quick scheme when it was never likely to be that? Absolutely.
    Neither of these points should obscure the larger reality: rebuilds are hard in a league of savvy operators, several of whom are in the exact same stage of their own plans at the same time. I think Jerry’s been doing a solid job, and there’s still a good chance of ultimate success.

  4. MKT on June 22nd, 2022 6:59 pm

    “it’s not particularly hard to find this”

    There’s no need for me to find it, I have very clear memories of what the Mariners said, and when. When DiPoto said “step back”, for a day or two I thought about the ways that the Ms might get back into contention in 2020.

    And realized there was no way they were going to contend in 2020. Or 2021. It was at that point that I realized we need to look at full rebuild scenarios, and history suggests they take four years. So 2019-2022 was clearly the rebuilding phase, and that was clear back then.

    Ironically the Ms almost did make the playoffs in 2021, but both at the time and in retrospect, it was clear that was luck, not because they were truly contenders. Opposing bullpens spontaneously combusted for them, gifted them with walk-off HBPs, and engaged in tomfoolery such as giving up grand slams to Dylan Moore. (Who I’ve come increasingly to like, he’s athletic and is hitting decently this season and can be a useful utility player, but he’s not Willy Mays by a long shot.)

    So yes the step back was BS all the way, but it was clearly BS back then, and now. What’s not BS is that the Ms have made moves that do point to 2023 potentially being a good season for them — if they don’t screw it up somehow, as is their wont.

  5. MKT on June 23rd, 2022 6:28 pm

    Today’s game was a throwback to 2021, when opposing pitchers would do things such as 2-hit the Ms over 9 innings — and give up 4 walks and 2 wild pitches in the 9th allowing the Ms to escape with a win.

    But we can’t count on opposing bullpens to keep floundering like that.

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