Game 132, Mariners vs. Guardians

marc w · September 2, 2022 at 4:11 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Luis Castillo vs. Cody Morris, 4:10pm

The M’s arrive in Cleveland red hot after sweeping the hapless Tigers. They just finished off beating these same Guardians back in Seattle, so they’ve been good against potential playoff rivals as well as roadkill like Detroit, and there’s really no question why.

The M’s pitching staff is on quite a run. In the last 30 days, they’ve been the best in MLB, with quite a gap between themselves and second-place…Cleveland. They’ve done it despite an extremely high (for today’s game) BABIP, but they haven’t given up a lot of home runs. They now have three starters in Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, and George Kirby who have somewhat elevated BABIPs, but who’ve been dominant at times. All three fit into a weird category of guys who give up hard contact, but strike out enough and, when going right, simply don’t walk anyone. This means that to beat these guys, you need a whole lot of well-struck balls in play to get down for hits, *right in a row*. That’s just not happening, and while that sounds like I’m kind of diminishing their own agency in their success, I don’t mean it that way. These guys are absolutely dominant on the things they can control, and thus giving up a few line drives each day simply isn’t a big deal.

But what about home runs? How can you give up hard contact and NOT give up home runs? Here once more we need to talk about the ball. As Joe Sheehan’s been banging on about, something weird happened in August, generally a month with a lot of home runs due to warm temperatures. The game was following its normal seasonal shifts perfectly through June: April’s SLG% was .362 with an awful ISO of .137, rising to .410 and .167, respectively, in June. Okay, rough start, but looking more normal. But then, a reversal: .400 and .155 in July. In August, the decline accelerated:: .393 and .148. August’s cumulative batting line is now lower than the season’s cumulative line. That makes…no sense whatsoever. That flies in the face of physics, or at least it would if the ball used was the same throughout. But recent history suggests we can’t assume that.

So baseball’s got a new, less-juiced ball, and they’ve put in new restrictions on the number of roster spots that can go to pitchers. All of this led starters to pitch *more* innings in August. Fewer pitching changes, fewer strikeouts, quicker games, and more scoring through balls in play seemed to be the desired goal, and MLB saw all of those things happen…except the last one. Strikeout rate is down, and was down in August. Fewer HRs also leads to fewer walks. But the runs aren’t showing up, as we’ve seen from watching the M’s pitching staff cut through the AL Central like a hot knife through butter.

All of this has hurt the M’s *offense* too. They’re batting .222/.303/.394 in the past 30 days, but they’ve done something pretty well. They’re tied for 4th with the Dodgers in the most HRs hit in the past 30 days. They can’t string together a bunch of base hits any better than the suckers trying to do it against the M’s pitchers, but they HAVE been better at taking the rare meatball they see deep. That’s been incredibly helpful in allowing them to score enough runs for their dominant bullpen to take over. The M’s just need to keep games close right now, and while they’re never going to blow teams out with their line-up alone, they’re scoring enough to win. It’s great to see a good team fire on all, or almost all, cylinders.

Speaking of the Guardians’ similarly good pitching staff: it’s banged up. Today’s named starter, Zach Plesac, is out after breaking a finger punching the T-Mobile mound after yielding a HR in his last start. Newcomer Cody Morris will make his MLB debut today. And Aaron Civale just went on the 15-day IL with a forearm issue this afternoon, too. It’ll be a series with some young pitching prospects – not exactly what Cleveland wanted in the stretch run of their quest for the AL Central title.

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


One Response to “Game 132, Mariners vs. Guardians”

  1. Stevemotivateir on September 2nd, 2022 4:53 pm

    I really wish they would stick with one ball, introduce pitch clocks and remove the limit for pitchers on a roster.

    Oh, and bump the start times up an hour earlier.

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