Game 124, Nationals at Mariners

marc w · August 24, 2022 at 12:17 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

George Kirby vs. Anibal Sanchez, 1:10pm

The first of two consecutive day games day, as the Nats bid farewell to the Northwest. Normally, that’d mean that we wouldn’t see them for several years – but in something of a surprise, MLB has completely changed the way they schedule. Gone are the strongly imbalanced schedule we’ve grown used to with 19 games against divisional opponents. Interleague play goes up, meaning each team will play every other team every year. That’s…that’s a big change.

The M’s 2023 schedule includes home series against the Rockies, Brewers, Cardinals, Pirates, Marlins, Nationals, Padres and Dodgers. I’m in no hurry to see the Nationals live any time soon, but this is a great opportunity to get to see teams and players who don’t come out this way very often. And as Grant Brisbee points out, there are fewer long road trips – lots of two-team road swings, and fewer 9-10-11 game slogs. I think he’s right that players (and families!) will like this new schedule a lot more. For the M’s in particular, it might even out the travel miles logged. Seattle will always lead the league in miles traveled, but anything we can do to balance the travel requirements for west coast teams would be appreciated. It’s an oft-ignored thumb on the scale for east coast/central teams.

Last night’s attendance, on a Tuesday, against a team that is openly tanking and playing sub-MLB-quality ball, was over 38,000. The last Tuesday home game, which came against the Yankees, also got over 38,000. I’m a bit stunned at how quickly attendance rose with the M’s playoff odds. The turning point of course was the long winning streak, leading to around 40,000 for a weekend series against Houston in late July. Since we’ve hit August, the attendances have remained high even for mid-week games. The fans noticed the team, and the team has clearly noticed that it’s a lot louder than it was in May/June, when a Tuesday game would get 13-16,000 fans. The marketing around watching the team improve, the talent pipeline/prospects helped prime the pump to a degree, but once the team got good – and *immediately* after they started winning – the fans came out in droves. I’m a bit surprised by it, but it’s cool to watch.

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

Hey, so how’s that cool new slider working for George Kirby? Remember, Kirby took a few MPH off of his primary breaking ball, creating more horizontal sweep. Would this improve its comparatively poor whiff rate? Uh, no, it does not seem to be doing that. The pitch remains a problem, as batters are slugging .583 against it, and it’s forced him to go to his curve more these days, but that pitch isn’t all that great either.

So far, it hasn’t seemed to matter, as his fastball is a true weapon. Since bringing in a sinker as well, batters can’t just sit on his four-seam (primary) fastball, and thus the whiff rate on it has gone up. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a pitcher post a higher whiff rate on his four-seam and sinker than on his slider before, and if we go by whiffs per swing, the four-seam rate is nearly double that of his slider. Bizarre. If he can ever figure this out, he’s going to be really, really tough to beat. Even as it is, with a poor swinging strike rate, he’s a tough match-up, particularly because he’s simply not going to give up free passes, and he’s able to pitch ahead in the count so much. He’s gone 0-1 to 206 batters, while going 1-0 to 130.


One Response to “Game 124, Nationals at Mariners”

  1. Stevemotivateir on August 26th, 2022 2:18 pm

    Imagine if Kirby figures out how to really throw his slider.

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