Game 121, Mariners at Athletics

marc w · August 20, 2022 at 4:23 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Logan Gilbert vs. James Kaprielian, 4:15 (This game is on Fox’s national telecast, not on ROOT)

The M’s pitching staff has been much better since mid-June, with some of the stragglers sent packing and the remaining M’s throwing better breaking balls. But we, er, at least *I*, haven’t given enough attention to the bats during this stretch. At first you might say, “Of course not; they’re actually hitting *worse* since June 15th than they were before!” This is, strictly speaking, true. But let’s look at them anyway.

Before 6/15, the book was out on the M’s line-up: throw high fastballs and low breaking balls. It’s a fairly similar book on *all* teams, and thus it was one the M’s were prepared for. Against all fastballs in the upper-third of the zone, the M’s wOBA was.349, third-best in MLB. Their 18 HRs on such pitches had them tied with Houston for the most in baseball.

But since mid-June, the M’s have lost the ability to destroy high heat. Since 6/15, their wOBA on such pitches is just .251 to hunt high heaters, good for 25th in MLB. Their 19 HRs on them is nothing special.

Part of the reason for this turnaround has been adjustments by pitchers, as high heat was the one thing Jarred Kelenic, for example, was hitting well. Julio Rodriguez has fallen off his early-season pace as well. So is this why the M’s offense hasn’t really gotten going, aside from last night’s 10-run outburst? Maybe, but remember: that scouting report had two components. Since 6/15, the M’s have actually gotten much better at hitting *breaking balls*. Their 36 HRs is second most in MLB since mid-June, trailing only the Yankees. And just as the book got out on Julio and Cal Raleigh, the two youngsters adjusted: Raleigh and Julio rank 1-2 in wOBA on breaking/offspeed stuff since 6/15, and are 1-2 in HRs against them (Cal has *9*).

This is a pretty exciting thing to see. The book got out on Kelenic, and he and Julio were seeing a steady diet of soft stuff. Kelenic couldn’t really adjust, and he continued to struggle on bendy pitches in Tacoma, even as he continued to hit fastballs. Given the trajectory of Evan White and, to this point, Kelenic, it looked like the M’s really struggled to help their prospects make the kinds of adjustments all young players need to make. They’re going to need to hit MLB-caliber breaking stuff, and if they can’t learn that, their ceilings are always going to be low. When I’ve lamented the M’s record with young hitters, this is pretty much exactly what I mean. It looked like a pattern, and if such a gifted hitter as Kelenic struggles with it, what chance would a lower-average, high swing-and-miss guy like Cal Raleigh have? A…a pretty good chance, as it turned out.

Julio is such a unique player, and his adjustments won’t really surprise anyone. This is not to take credit away from the M’s, who’ve pretty clearly helped his development. But it’s just tough to credit *anyone* for Julio, sort of like with Ken Griffey Jr: the guy was just born to do this. So to see the growth in Cal Raleigh has been perhaps my favorite thing this season. That totally changes the outlook for the M’s.

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


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