Game 153: Rangers at Mariners – The Final Sprint

marc w · September 28, 2022 at 5:04 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Robbie Ray vs. Tyson Miller and Jesus Tinoco, 6:40pm

Ten games to go. The M’s playoff odds are 99.8%, even if it doesn’t feel quite that solid after as ugly a 3-7 stretch as you’ll see; it doesn’t feel like a lock after the M’s blew a 9 run lead to the *Royals* in their last game. The M’s win probability in that game hit 99.7%, and you know what? Let’s just move on.

It’s fascinating to see what’s troubled the M’s has shifted. In Oakland, they couldn’t hit, and had the bad fortune to end up on the wrong side of some close games – the kind of games they’ve won so often in the past two seasons. In Kansas City, they simply couldn’t pitch, and would’ve gotten swept if not for the timely intervention of Cal Raleigh on Saturday. The line-up has looked lost at times without Eugenio Suarez and Julio Rodriguez, and the pitching staff has looked tired. Logan Gilbert and George Kirby are probably pushing past whatever innings limits the M’s had on them coming into the year, and they’ll be asked to do more in the playoffs. The line-up’s beaten up, as you’d imagine Cal Raleigh would’ve been IL’d at any other point, but the team probably felt that they simply couldn’t have Raleigh AND Suarez AND Rodriguez out at the same time.

Fortunately, they don’t have to anymore. Suarez is back tonight, though he’ll be limited to DH for a bit as his finger is still healing. Julio sounds like he’s on track to come back when he’s eligible, which is great considering his back did not seem to feel too good when he had to leave the game in Oakland. The M’s have fared well with injuries this year, and it was terrifying to think their luck was running out at the wrong time. Getting these players back without nebulous “setbacks” or delays is great. Of course, we’ve all seen players come back and struggle with timing, explosiveness, or what have you, and we’ll just have to hope that that’s not the case here.

The M’s had a meeting after the debacle on Sunday, and they needed to. As the odds show, math is very much on their side, but they need to wrap things up so they can get some starters a bit of rest heading into what’s increasingly looking like a road series in the wild card round. To do that, they’ll have to play smarter than the team that’s frankly looked like they’re sleepwalking through September. Get the whole playoff drought weight off their backs, and then they really WILL have the luxury of taking it easy for a few days.

So what’s the ultimate goal here? Sure, WC #1 is, but that’s not terribly likely. The Jays are finishing strong, and have a three game lead, just a half game less than the M’s lead over Baltimore for WC #3. There is ample room for debate about which spot is best after #1. The #2 WC club plays on the road against WC #1. The #3 team plays on the road against the winner of the AL Central, the Guardians. The winner of THAT series faces the Yankees, while the winner of #1-#2 faces off with Houston.

ON KJR Radio, Dome and Bedlam guy and friend of the blog Nathan Bishop made a pitch for WC #2 as the best path because it means facing Houston in a shorter series, the 5 game ALDS round, rather than the 7 game ALCS round. Randomness has more scope to move in a shorter series compared to a longer one, so you want to minimize the games in order to minimize the advantage of Houston’s edge in talent. It makes some sense, and was praised on the radio. I just can’t get myself to agree.

The advantage of going through Cleveland and New York instead of Toronto and Houston should be obvious once you just type it out that way: it’s an easier path to the pennant. Yes, facing Houston in 5 is probably preferable to facing them in 7 games in the ALCS, but that doesn’t account for the odds that you let Tampa do your dirty work for you and win. I mean, they just did exactly that in 2020. The M’s odds of going to the World Series are long no matter what path they take, and I can see ignoring it if they’re exceptionally well matched against one team or another, but they ARE slightly higher with the Cleveland/NYY pathway. It makes sense to me, given that the M’s beat up on Cleveland and New York in home AND away series in the not so distant past. Cleveland can’t really hit, and while the Yankees are better, their line-up is extremely top-heavy and has some easier patches, just like the M’s. And all of the sudden, the M’s starting pitching looks pretty darn good against the Yanks. Even as good as they’ve been, I’m not sure that’s true against Houston, the best staff in the American League by a wide margin.

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

Tyson Miller got a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2020, and pitched in one game for Texas before tonight. The 27 year old has struggled in AAA, though the PCL has been nearly unplayable for a few years now. He’s only faced 39 hitters in total across two orgs in two different years so there’s not a whole lot to say except this: he’s yet to strike anyone out. That’s kind of weird, as he’s posted high K rates in AAA, albeit paired with too-high walk rates and high average-against numbers. He’s been a sinker/slider/four-seam/change guy.

He dropped his arm angle with Texas, so he’s almost a side-armer now. This has given his sinker and change a ton of armside run, and his four-seam is extremely cutter-like with essentially no horizontal movement (PitchInfo calls it a cutter). The slider moves a lot laterally, so it’s an arsenal that could work, but might be better as a situational reliever. As the opener tonight, that’s essentially what he is.

Jesus Tinoco has a similar repertoire, with a running sinker, a slider, but then a curve instead of a change-up. Tinoco throws harder, 95-96, with the slider around 88-89. Tinoco’s able to get similar armside run despite a much higher release point. He’s been a bit lucky on contact, and his FIP isn’t much to look at, but Tinoco has had some success this season.


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