Game 94, Astros at Mariners

marc w · July 22, 2022 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Jose Urquidy, 7:10pm

The season’s second half begins the way it should: a sold-out game between the best team in the AL West against the hottest team in baseball. Look, I don’t think I need to remind you how the last several “most important series in years” have gone for Seattle. The LollaBlueza series of 2007 and its many imitators have me a bit on edge. The suddenness of the M’s streak (perhaps magnified because I was out of the country for much of it) helped grab Seattle’s attention again, but I worry about it being snuffed out just as quickly. But today’s not for worrying. Today’s a celebration of a team and a superstore that barged their way into relevance and contention.

Baseball Prospectus has an article up on the surging Seattleites, as does Fangraphs. 14-game winning streaks will get you noticed, of course. They’ve been admirably eclectic in *how* they’ve won, too. They’re bashing out plenty of base hits, raising their season average to, uh, .236, the lowest among MLB contenders, but it’s of course deflated by their home park. They’re stranding runners like never before, producing a very low ERA from good-not-great peripherals. They’ve hit big HRs when they’ve needed them, and they’ve ground out close pitcher’s duels, too. *Everything* looks unsustainable in a 14-game winning streak, but there’s no real jumps-off-the-page “luck” number here. They look like a very good team that’s also gotten a few breaks, not a so-so team with a lottery ticket (that was last year’s team).

Their power output has been both welcome and somewhat surprising. Sure, adding a Carlos Santana helps with that (and adding Kyle Lewis back from rehab should continue to help), but as Joe Sheehan points out, HRs and HR/FB are down noticeably in the past few weeks. Baseball got off to a very slow start offensively, but we’ve all assumed that July/August would get us back towards normal, at least in terms of HRs. But after a jump right as the month started, HRs have dropped in the past few weeks. The league’s isolated power is .148 since 7/8. That’s better than it was in April (.137), but lower than either May (.153) or June (.167). As those numbers show, we’ve seen exactly the pattern we would expect (starting low and then rising), but it abruptly went into reverse a few weeks ago.

The ball was supposed to make HRs a bit harder to hit, but all three of the three true outcomes are down – fact explored by Jayson Stark and Eno Sarris here. Given the shifts we’ve already seen – from April to June and nearly back again – and given what some observers saw in the HR Derby, it’s time yet again for wondering if MLB has switched balls, or could switch them again. Fun stuff.

The nice part of it all is that the M’s probably benefit from conditions that keep the ball in play. Their defense is generally quite good, and the small T-Mobile outfield limits non-HR extra-base hits. Their pitching staff isn’t elite in terms of strikeouts, and can be tater-prone. The story of the M’s season in many ways is a patched-together staff (plus the defending AL Cy Young winner) doing enough to win games. The offense has the young superstar and a lot more depth than they get credit for, but the pitching staff has made this below-average scoring team a real contender. They gave up 1.4 HR/9 in May and paid the price. They’re at 0.8 HR/9 now, and while that’ll probably rise a bit, a non-juiced ball can help limit how MUCH it’ll rise.

1: Julioooo, CF
2: France, 1B
3: Winker, LF
4: Santana, DH
5: Suarez, 3B
6: Crawford, SS
7: Lewis, RF (!)
8: Raleigh, C
9: Frazier, 2B
SP: Gonzales

Justin Upton was optioned, and as an MLB vet, he has the right to refuse the option and become a free agent. And he exercised that right. Kyle Lewis’ return made him expendable; we’ll see if he catches on somewhere else.

It’s a big day in the minor league system as well. Emerson Hancock, fresh off a scoreless, strikes-out-the-side inning in the Futures game, is starting for Arkansas. Tacoma’s in Salt Lake for three, with Justus Sheffield starting tonight. Mike Curto reports that Daniel Ponce de Leon exercised an out in his contract, and he’s signed with the Nationals. They did just pick up Taylor Williams, who’d been cut by San Francisco. Williams was the M’s reliever traded for Matt Brash a few years ago. Eugene comes to Everett to take on the AquaSox. The Frogs’ Logan Rinehart starts – he’s missed a lot of time due to injury and pandemics, but he’s off to a very good start. Modesto faces off with San Jose.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.