Game 112, Mariners at Royals – Kingless Again

marc w · August 5, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners

Marco Gonzales vs. Danny Duffy, 4:15pm

It wasn’t easy, but the M’s won yesterday’s must-win game. That should’ve given them a bit of a boost heading into tonight’s game, but instead the M’s have more injury problems to deal with. The M’s placed Felix Hernandez on the 10-day DL today with biceps tendinitis, and they’ve called up lefty Marco Gonzales to make tonight’s start.

Jerry Dipoto has talked about Gonzales being an undervalued arm due to his injury history and apparently improved stuff since coming back from TJ rehab. Those apparent improvements may be real, but they’ve been stubbornly slow to reveal themselves to hitters, as Gonzales got blasted in his 1 start for St Louis, and has been so-so in two starts for Tacoma. He had a nice ERA for Memphis, but his FIP was above 4.

Gonzales was a top prospect a few years ago, and may become a solid #4, which is not a slam on his ability at all. The problem, as you’re all probably sick of hearing me say, is that the M’s haven’t really shown a lot of aptitude in getting as much production as they can for pitchers like him. Andrew Moore and Sam Gaviglio had HR problems plague their big league tenure, Christian Bergman was up and down (but mostly down), and Dillon Overton/Chase de Jong were completely overwhelmed. Gonzales has better stuff than most of this list (with the exception of Moore), but the same questions remain: can his change-up become a weapon at this level and neutralize righties? Can he avoid HRs?

There are some positives here: the park suppresses HRs, and the Royals are a bad line-up vs. lefties. On the other side of the ledger, the M’s face Danny Duffy, the ace of the Royals staff. The lefty is somewhat Paxtonesque in that his undeniable talent is often obscured by disabled list stints. Fresh off a contract extension, Duffy’s been mostly healthy (he’s only missed a month thus far!), and he’s been very effective on the year thanks to low walk and HR rates.

Duffy throws a rising fastball at 93-94, and a pair of 84-MPH secondaries: a change-up and a slider. Both are very good pitches, and he’ll throw both a quarter of the time or more. Despite the quality of his change, he’s shown pronounced platoon splits, so it’s not a shock to see Danny Valencia up at #2 again.

1: Segura, SS
2: Valencia, 1B
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Heredia, LF
7: Gamel, RF
8: Zunino, C
9: Dyson, CF
SP: Gonzales

Moore took advantage of the league’s unfamiliarity with him and had a few solid starts before the bad started outweighing the good. Let’s hope Gonzales can do the same. Actually, let’s just hope Dipoto’s right and he’s throwing way, way better than he has in the recemt past and he’s a clear, obvious upgrade. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of hope.

Tyler O’Neill homered off of Sam Gaviglio to lead Memphis to a 5-4 win over Tacoma. Boog Powell went 3-4 with a HR, but the story was Shaw Simmons pitching a perfect inning and touching 97. I’ve been a big fan of Simmons since seeing him pitch against the M’s years ago, and really hope he stays healthy enough to contribute.

Lindsay Caughel’s 7 shutout innings win the pitching line of the night and helped Arkansas beat Tulsa, a team stacked with Ex-M’s minor leaguers. Reliever Brian Moran, one-time Rainier, took the loss in relief, and the Drillers boast not one but two ex-M’s minor league shortstops with Drew Jackson and Erick Mejia. C Marcus Littlewood homered for the Travelers.

Spencer Herrman K’d 9 in 6 IP, but the Nuts still lost 4-1. JP Sears got the save in Clinton’s 8-7 win.

Game 111, Mariners at Royals

marc w · August 4, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners

James Paxton vs. Jason t, 5:15pm

After a disappointing loss, the M’s can turn the ball over to their ace today. It’s unfortunate that James Paxton’s in the position of being asked to essentially win out this year; the M’s simply must have wins in the games he starts, and then try to cobble together as many wins from other starters as they can. Paxton obliged them in July, and the M’s need to hope he keeps at it. Luckily, he’s amongs baseball’s toughest starters when healthy and mechanically sound, so it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Carry your teammates, Big Maple!

The M’s lost a tough one yesterday to the Royals, as their bullpen – shockingly – isn’t as robotic and flawless as they’d appeared recently. Kansas City remains one of the toughest parks in baseball to homer in, so what did we see but four somewhat cheap HRs, including one that doomed the M’s late. The Cain/Dyson Royals teams racked up defensive chances in part due to the park and prevailing conditions, and even amidst the rise in HRs league-wide, it’s still a park where most fly balls go to die. Given the M’s OF defense and their pitching staff’s predilection for giving up fly ball contact, this would seem to be a perfect place for the M’s to sneak some road wins, but not if the Royals can reach the first few rows in the left field seats.

Jason Hammel’s been a roughly average pitcher for nine seasons now: he’s produced 17.9 fWAR in that time, or 1.99 WAR per season (2 is league average). Of course, that obscures quite a bit of volatility for a pitcher whose repertoire and stuff have been quite consistent. He’s been hurt by injuries, and has never tossed 180 IP in a season. His FIP went from 3.29 to 4.93 to 3.92 in three consecutive seasons. Two seasons with the Cubs seemed to solidify him, and he’s been missing more bats than ever, but his HR rate was also creeping up, which hurt his overall effectiveness. A move to KC was just the right thing for his HR problems, but some of his other peripherals have started to go south, always a concerns as he’s now less than a month from his 35th birthday.

He throws a four-seam and sinker from a high 3/4 release point; both are around 92-93. His best pitch is a slider he throws a ton of – he started throwing it more when he got to Baltimore in 2012 (and started throwing his curve a lot less), but really started relying on it with the Cubs. His big weakness is a sinker that doesn’t sink too much, leading to an inflated HR rate. He’s smartly dialed back his sinker usage from 4-5 years ago, but he throws enough of them that the M’s may be able to take advantage.

1: Gamel, LF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Dyson, CF
8: Zunino, C
9: Martin, RF

The Rainiers played the red-hot Memphis Redbirds yesterday, whose new RF Tyler O’Neill has adjusted well and is slugging .634. Christian Bergman’s long slide continued, as the righty gave up 7 runs in 4 IP. His ERA in his last 10 starts is nearing 6, and his post-AS break ERA is near 11 (it was under 3 before the break).
Today, it’s Sam Gaviglio’s turn to tame the Redbirds.

Anthony Misiewicz’s brilliant first month in AA hasn’t continued, either. After last night’s loss to Tulsa, he’s given up 18 hits and 12 earned runs in his last two starts, spanning 9 1/3 IP. Lindsay Caughel will try to deal with Tulsa, and he’s matched up with Scott Barlow, who’s been excellent in the Texas League this year (and bad in the PCL).

A late rally allowed Lake Elsinore to beat Modesto 5-3. Luis Liberato doubled and homered. Spencer Herrman toes the rubber tonight for the Nuts.

Clinton beat Wisconsin 4-2, as Nick Wells pitched around 4 walks in 5 1/3 to get a win.

Everett beat Salem-Keizer (home of the big Eclipse Game in a few weeks) 11-10. Ronald Rosario had 3 hits including his 6th HR; the 20-year old is off to a fast start for Everett. Anjul Hernandez will start tonight the the AquaSox; I know I said that yesterday, but Randy Bell took the mound instead.

Game 110, Mariners at Royals – Competitive Windows

marc w · August 3, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners

Yovani Gallardo vs. Trevor Cahill, 5:10pm

The M’s begin their biggest series of the year against the team currently in control of the 2nd wildcard, the Kansas City Royals. The Royals were in an odd spot this year – they faced the looming departure of most of their core players in free agency after this year, but they didn’t have the prospects to go all-in one last time. After they an atrocious start, it seemed like the final year of the Cain/Davis/Moose/Hosmer Royals would be a quiet one. But a blistering June/July pushed them back into playoff position, and so they’ve made some small moves to improve their odds this year, like picking up Trevor Cahill from the rebuilding Padres.

The Royals opening day payroll this year was $143 million, just a tiny bit less than the Mariners’. But while the M’s will return most of their core – their vets signed long contract extensions, and they’ve got a group of pre-arb players as well – the Royals are hurting. They owe a combined $59 million next year to the less-than-inspiring group of Ian Kennedy, Alex Gordon, Joakim Soria and Danny Duffy. Duffy, Sal Perez and Jorge Soler are all under reasonable-ish extensions (especially if Duffy can stay healthy), but pretty much everyone else is either unmovable (Gordon, Kennedy) or bad (Brandon Moss). They have holes all over the roster, and it’s not clear how they’ll fill them. All of that’s next year, though. For now, they’ve upgraded their rotation with Cahill and their bullpen with Brandon Maurer and Ryan Buchter. They don’t look like a contending team on paper with a worse-than-average offense AND pitching staff, but then, that hasn’t stopped them in recent years. They have one more year to perform one of their odd Royals magic tricks, and then it’s over.

The Royals predicament reminds me a bit of what the Rangers might be facing. For years, I’ve seen them as a formidable organization due to great player development married with elite amateur and pro scouting. It’s not enough that their prospect coffers always seemed to be overflowing, it’s that they’d go out and get diamonds in the rough from other orgs, too (Nelson Cruz comes to mind). If their prospects couldn’t quite turn potential into production, or if they got hurt, they could trade their prospects for Cole Hamels or whatever else they needed. That gave them a tremendous advantage, and they used it to go to the playoffs 5 out of the past 7 years. It wasn’t enough that they’ve been consistently, easily, better than the M’s – it’s that I couldn’t figure out when it was POSSIBLE for the M’s to overcome that deficit. It’s pretty clearly happened, though, as the Rangers magic touch with their farm system doesn’t appear to be working anymore. Trades for guys like Hamels, Jonathan Lucroy and others have shipped a ton of production elsewhere, and injuries to guys from Jurickson Profar to Chi Chi Rodriguez have played a role as well. After the trade of Yu Darvish, they have essentially no rotation outside of Hamels, and their top 4 prospects – *all* of whom were in BP’s top 101 – have struggled this year. Hamels, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo and Rougned Odor are signed long-term, but their flexibility going forward looks pretty constrained. I’m not trying to bury them; Jon Daniels is a capable GM, and things looked bleak a few years ago. But the team was able to keep turning high-risk, high-reward prospects into hugely valuable trade chips, and if that’s not true anymore, or LESS true than it was, they’re in a bit of trouble. Nomar Mazara’s essentially repeated his rookie year, Odor’s OBP is .259, Martin Perez remains below-average and Profar seems destined to be a utility guy. The Astros emergence would’ve made it essentially impossible for the Rangers to keep controlling the West, but it really looks like their run as perpetual contenders is over.

All of this stands in contrast to the M’s push for controllable players. I haven’t liked all of Dipoto’s deals, but it is absolutely to his credit that the M’s have a better 2018-2020 outlook than they did before he got here. I mentioned the looming crisis last year, in that the M’s would lose several players to free agency, and clearly didn’t have replacements ready on the farm. Their core was/is aging, and it’s not clear that they’ll get star-level performances from Felix or perhaps even Cano in the years to come. But the emergence of Jean Segura, Ben Gamel and James Paxton means they’re not looking at a Royals-style apocalypse. They have plenty of holes to fill too, so it’s not like all is well, but the path from here to contention is navigable.

Enough about the future. Tonight, the M’s make a play for 2017 against the suddenly-vulnerable Royals. After a long winning streak, the Royals are coming off a sweep at the hands of the Orioles. The famously bad O’s rotation even shut them out yesterday. Trevor Cahill makes his second start in Royal blue; his first was something of a clunker, as he gave up 5 runs (and 2 dingers) in 4 IP to the Red Sox. Cahill came up with the A’s as a sinker/change-up/curve pitcher who got ground balls to overcome a lack of bat-missing stuff. He averaged 89 or so with the A’s in 2010-11, but his velo picked up by about 1 MPH after a trade to Arizona. Unfortunately, it didn’t help his results. After a great first year in the desert, he was hurt and then ineffective, and ended up losing his rotation spot in 2014. Time in the bullpen for Arizona and then the Cubs remade him, and he’s been a bat-missing expert since. His fastball velocity was up again in the bullpen, but he seems to have remade his change and curve, using them much more often and getting a lot more K’s. Even after moving back to the rotation this year, he’s set a career high in K% and K-BB%, and his change/curve combo is a big reason why.

He’s shown normal platoon splits over his career, but a lot of that is the result of two awful campaigns against lefties – one of them his rookie year of 2009. In many years, he’s been pretty even, and they’re even reversed a bit this year. That’s the power of a decent change-up, and it highlights that the M’s shouldn’t be too doctrinaire about platoon splits in setting their line-up.

1: Gamel, RF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Dyson, CF
8: Heredia, LF
9: Zunino, C
SP: Gallardo

Bryan Evans was staked to an early lead in NW Arkansas, but couldn’t hold it, giving up 3 HRs and 7 runs to the Naturals. That was enough for Josh Staumont, who’s still struggling a bit, but righted the ship after a tough first inning. CF Braden Bishop went 3-5, and is now batting .383 in AA in a bit more than 50 PAs.

Reggie McClain had a much-needed solid start in Modesto’s win over Rancho Cucamonga. McClain gave up a run in 5 IP, striking out 4.

Wisconsin edged Clinton 2-1, with Tim Viehoff a hard-luck loser in relief of Steven Ridings. Wyatt Mills K’d 2 in 2/3 IP, and has been lights out in Clinton the past few weeks.

Christian Bergman, Anthony Misiewicz, Tyler Jackson and Anjul Hernandez are probables in the M’s system today.

Game 109, Mariners at Rangers

marc w · August 2, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners

Ariel Miranda vs. Andrew Cashner, 5:05pm

It wasn’t easy, but the M’s got a win they absolutely needed to have last night. Nick Martinez was predictably bad, but the M’s hurlers weren’t great, either. The back of the M’s bullpen – which has been remarkable over the past month – calmly dismissed the Rangers, ending any hope of a comeback, though.

There’s been some discussion on twitter about the true impact of deadline deals involving relievers. Because of chaining, does getting an elite reliever end up adding *more* production than his WAR would suggest, because you essentially knock each existing reliever back a place (8th inning guy to 7th, 7th to 6th or specialist role, etc.) with the end result being that you replace your *worst* reliever with a great one. Plausible, but it seems to me that what you really get is a fight over a limited number of very high leverage situations, and if the gap between the newcomer and your existing closer/set-up man isn’t huge, then I’m not sure the overall impact is all that big. When David Phelps was acquired, I noted that he wasn’t projected to be all that much more effective than Emilio Pagan, and Pagan’s absolutely on fire right now. But there’s another consideration: if you’re a team that, for whatever reason, has a LOT of high leverage situations, then you can still get a pretty big boost by bringing in a new set-up pitcher. The M’s have seen this the past few days, where they’ve been able to stagger Phelps and Nick Vincent, hopefully keeping both fresher/more effective than they’d otherwise be. The M’s rotation (outside of Paxton) may give up some runs, and the M’s offense is very capable of getting them back into games, so it’s possible that the M’s have enough situations where this surplus of set-up men is actually an effective strategy.

Today’s starting pitchers are among the league leaders in an odd stat: Ariel Miranda currently has a FIP 0.84 runs higher than his ERA; that gap ranks 10th in baseball. There’s no big mystery about why: Miranda’s yielding an absurd .227 BABIP, tied for 2nd best in MLB, but he’s also allowing buckets of home runs. FIP ignores the former, and is greatly alarmed by the latter, and you get this huge gap in actual versus predicted runs allowed. Cashner’s a different beast, but if he qualified, he’d rank even higher than Miranda, with a FIP over a full run higher than his ERA. The issue with Cashner isn’t HRs – Cashner’s somehow managing to keep the ball in the park in Arlington – but rather a dreadful K:BB ratio. His K-BB% is under 2, which puts him squarely in the “replacement level” camp by FIP, but a .207 BABIP with men on base means his ERA doesn’t look replacement level at all.

As I mentioned when the M’s saw him before, he’s a completely different pitcher to the 97-98 MPH guy he was several years ago in San Diego. He’s now around 92 with his sinker and four-seam, and complementing them with a change, cutter, and a rare curve. Those secondaries aren’t swing-and-miss pitches (refer again to his K rate), but they help him get ground balls, which is one reason he’s able to limit HRs. While his platoon splits don’t look too out of whack, lefties should enjoy a pretty big advantage. For one, his K-BB% is actually *negative* against lefties, and he’s got huge batted ball splits: righties pound the ball into the ground, while lefties are able to elevate it.

1: Dyson, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Martin, RF
8: Heredia, LF
9: Zunino, C
SP: Miranda

The M’s are generally always active on the minor league free agent front, and today’s no exception, as they’ve signed – re-signed, actually – SP Bryan Evans, who’ll start today for Arkansas opposite Royals prospect Josh Staumont. The extravagantly bearded Evans pitched briefly for Jackson last year, and has pitched in just about every Caribbean league as well. He was drafted way back in 2008. Good luck, Bryan!

Reggie McClain starts for Modesto, looking to end a loooong slump he’s been mired in. After posting sub 3 ERAs in the early going, he’s been lit up since mid-June or so. Is any of this related to his All-Star game hijinks or his chicken chasing championship? I can’t rule it out, dear reader. His ERA is 8.78 since the All-Star break.

Andrew Moore lost a pitcher’s duel to OKC yesterday 3-1 despite a HR from Taylor Motter. Moore yielded 1 HR in his 4 IP of work.

Modesto lost a heartbreaker to Rancho Cucamonga 2-1 in 12 IP, wasting a brilliant start from Robert Dugger, who went 7 shutout with 9 strikeouts. Eric Filia went 4-5 for the Nuts.

Nick Neidert was cruising through 5 for Arkansas when errors, a few bad pitches, and poor relief led to an 8 run inning for NW Arkansas and an eventual 9-8 win. Neidert K’d 4 in 5 1/3 IP, but gave up 5 runs (only 1 earned).

Cedar Rapids pulled off a remarkable extra-inning win over Clinton by doing one of the toughest things in the low-minors: putting the ball in play off of JP Sears. A hit and then an error put runners on 1st/3rd with no out, and then after a strikeout, the Kernels won the game on a walk-off passed ball. Sigh. Sears still had 3 K’s in 1 1/3 IP.

Filia’s 4 hits was the batting line of the day, and Dugger’s 9 K performance wins pitching line of the night.

Game 108, Mariners at Rangers

marc w · August 1, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners

Erasmo Ramirez vs. Nick Martinez, 5:05pm

Thanks to the trade deadline, we’ve got a very different match-up today than when the pitching probables initially came out. This was supposed to be Yu Darvish for Texas, but he’s off to Los Angeles in a fascinating trade. And instead of Andrew Moore, the M’s turn, again, to Erasmo Ramirez. Ramirez has been working out of the pen most of the year, and has been limited to about 60 pitches by the Rays. Even in his starts for them, he’s gone 3-4 IP at the most. The M’s may give him a bit more rope – 75-80 seems to be the outer limit according to this story from Bob Dutton – but not a ton more. If he’s going to start long term, he’ll gradually build his arm strength to get up to 90-100 pitches.

Nick Martinez has been in AAA for most of the month, and was recalled for this start once the rotation spot opened up. A righty, he’s got a four-seam fastball at about 93, a cutter that’s a decent ground ball pitch, a change-up and a curve. The repertoire is varied, diverse, perfectly reasonable from a movement/velocity standpoint…and wholly inadequate. In his first few years, a low K rate and high-ish walk rate was partially overcome by a low BABIP and not-bad-not-great HR-avoidance. But as HRs picked up around the league, Martinez was pretty vulnerable: not enough bat-missing ability to avoid balls in play, and not enough raw stuff to induce poor contact or tons of ground balls. As a result, he’s been a classic AAAA guy, riding the shuttle between Arlington and Round Rock – he’s perfectly decent rotation depth at AAA, but the HRs and low Ks are tough to play in the big leagues.

A move to the pen might not be in the offing, as the lack of stuff means he doesn’t hold promise as a righty specialist. He’s got a career FIP of 5.49 vs. lefties, but it’s 5.17 against righties. In short, this is a mismatch on paper, even given Erasmo’s own struggles this year as a starter (he’s already lost to the Rangers in that capacity). These are the kinds of games the M’s absolutely need to win as the prepare to face better teams and better starters as the road trip winds on. Anything can happen, and any minor league call-up can have a career day, the spirit of Doug Waechter laughs at the overconfident, etc. but the M’s need to win this game. The M’s playoff odds stand at 21.9% on Fangraphs and 27.6% on BP. This game matters.

1: Gamel, LF
2: Dyson, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Martin, RF
8: Zunino, C
9: Espinosa, SS

The Rainiers lost to Dodger prospect Walker Beuhler last night 3-1, despite Dan Vogelbach’s 14th HR. Mike Curto reports Beuhler sat 96-99 through 5 innings, which…wow. Obviously, the Dodgers didn’t need to move him to get Darvish – who’s only a rental for 2017. Instead, they gave up bowling-ball shaped 2B Willie Calhoun, who sounds like an absolutely fascinating prospect.

Batting line of the night goes to rehabbing utility man Shawn O’Malley, who went 4-4 with a HR. Kyle Lewis went 2-4 with a HR for Modesto as well. Chase de Jong was solid through 7 for Tacoma, but we’ll give the pitching line of the night to 17-year old Juan Mercedes down in the Dominican Summer League who one-hit the Orioles through 6, walking none and striking out 6.

Nick Neidert tries to get on track in AA as he starts against hated rival NW Arkansas, and suddenly on-the-radar guy Robert Dugger starts for Modesto. Ljay Newsome and Andrew Moore round out the probables.

Game 107: Mariners at Rangers – Catching Up on the Deadline + Gratuitous Beltre Appreciation

marc w · July 31, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners

King Felix vs. Cole Hamels, 5:05pm

Happy Felix Day! Take an extra well-deserved sigh of relief/pint of beer as baseball’s trade deadline has now passed, too. The M’s, to no one’s surprise, did not land Sonny Gray. Instead, the erstwhile Athletics ace will head to the Bronx in exchange for three highly regarded but red-flag-laden prospects. The Rangers just traded Yu Darvish today, and sent C Jonathan Lucroy and RP Jeremy Jeffress out for prospects last night, as they are clearly playing for the future and not 2017. Both the Yankees and Red Sox ended up getting pitching help, which is relevant to the M’s, who’ll have to pass whichever of the two doesn’t win the AL East, and the Astros got creative in patching an emergent black hole in their bullpen by adding Francisco Liriano. Still, the story of this series for many M’s fans isn’t Texas’ role as spoiler, but rather celebrating Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre, who notched his 3,000th MLB hit yesterday, becoming the first Dominican-born player to do so.

Beltre’s tenure in Seattle was an odd one, as Safeco’s dimensions crippled his power production, but he became something of a fan favorite by being, well, himself. He was the perfect antithesis for Ichiro’s effortless cool. He was the animated, funny, almost goofy partner for Felix while Ichiro calmly made play after play and got hit after hit without displaying emotion of any kind. Both Beltre and Ichiro attracted the irrational kind of hate from fans who are frustrated at a team’s lack of progress and aim their brickbats on players who are playing well, as opposed to those who aren’t. At the same time, Beltre was always set up to fail, as he was one of the biggest free agent signings in M’s history (given his age, you can make the case it was a bigger ‘get’ than Robinson Cano) for a franchise that had no idea how to build a winning team. That wasn’t Beltre’s fault, of course, but when he put up a .303 OBP in his first year, many blamed him anyway. Beltre was, by far, the best defensive third baseman the M’s have ever had, which is no slight to the Gold glove winning Kyle Seager. He’s clearly one of the top defensive 3Bs of his generation, and he overlapped with some all-timers, including Scott Rolen. Given the value of his defense, he’s tailor-made to be underappreciated (again with the Ichiro parallels), and that’s what he’s been. The 3,000 hit plateau isn’t intrinsically magical; it doesn’t make him a hall of famer (in my book, he was an inner-circle guy already), but it’s a tidy bow on a remarkable career, and one that’s remarkably back-loaded in terms of performance. When he left Seattle, he seemed destined to be a Kenny Lofton player – a true great who gets very little recognition for it, or worse, a guy who’s unfairly categorized as a one-season wonder. Instead, he went out and built an unassailable hall of fame resume. I don’t like the Rangers, but I’ll be cheering for Adrian Beltre today. And most days, if I’m honest.

The M’s made a series of personnel moves while I was gallivanting around Mt. Rainier yesterday. After taking a Jacob DeGrom fastball to the face, Mitch Haniger returns to the DL, and, as you saw yesterday, has been replaced by Leonys Martin. To get Martin a 40-man spot again, the M’s DFA’d their 2013 first round pick and one-time top prospect, DJ Peterson. Peterson’s production tailed off upon promotion to AA back in 2014, and then utterly collapsed in 2015, a year that’s looking more and more important in M’s history. Despite taking the highest-floor bat at worst and best college bat, period at best in 2013 and then the consensus best high-school bat in 2014, the M’s watched them flail miserably in 2014 and could never really figure out why, or help them out of it. The fact that Alex Jackson immediately started hitting this year for the Braves system may just be a coincidence, but while Peterson’s earned this DFA with 2.5 years of marginal play (with the possible exception of early 2016 in Jackson), I won’t be shocked at all if he starts hitting again somewhere else. Do you blame the Zduriencik era PD group who supervised a collective faceplant by the M’s top prospects? Is it the new regime, who saw some improvements but weren’t able to overhaul Peterson/Jackson last year? What then to make of Tyler O’Neill, who developed nicely under both groups? How much blame to the players themselves need to shoulder here?

However you apportion the blame out, that 2015 season seems pretty pivotal in hindsight. Peterson’s flameout meant that the M’s didn’t have high-minors depth to turn to in their playoff run in 2016, and the lack of development from Jackson and Luiz Gohara meant that their value in trade wasn’t all that high; they’d be moved in the offseason instead. Daniel Missaki got hurt, then shipped to Milwaukee in a deal for Adam Lind that presumably neither fanbase looks back on fondly. Austin Wilson didn’t hit. Ryan Yarbrough took a step back, Gabby Guerrero was so-so and then traded, and all of this was preceded in March by the death of Victor Sanchez.

The M’s DFA’d SS Tyler Smith, who’s been picked up by Texas, and they’ve recalled RP Casey Lawrence from Tacoma. To presumably add depth in the Rainiers’ pen, the M’s have also picked up ex-UW player and Everett native Aaron West. West had been with Fresno in the Houston system before being released a few weeks ago. This may shock you, but he’s a command/control righty who’s put up absurdly low walk rates in the minors working out of the bullpen. He’s a fly-ball pitcher who’s managed the rare feat of keeping the ball in the park, too, so his fangraphs page scratches many/most of Jerry Dipoto’s personal itches. And like many such pitchers, a lack of an outpitch has made him somewhat hittable in the PCL, as he’s yielded 72 hits in 43 2/3 IP. Again, the problem for the M’s is that their competitors have all made sizable upgrades, as New York now has Sonny Gray, and the Red Sox improved their bullpen by picking up Addison Reed from the Mets. The Astros and Indians got bullpen help too, making them a bit more formidable for whoever manages to win the Wild Card game. As good as they are, and as well as they’ve played against Boston/New York (thank you Big Maple!), the M’s are still stuck right around .500. A few weeks ago, that was enough, but since then, the Royals essentially haven’t lost, the Yankees won so much they took over the AL East lead, and even the Rays made some pretty big additions. The M’s are a talented, exciting team, who now need to string some wins together. The August schedule has them on the road nearly the entire month. That unfortunate, but it can’t be an excuse. The M’s need to go on a run, particularly as they’ll face their big wild card rivals in Kansas City and Tampa this month.

1: Gamel, LF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Heredia, CF
8: Martin, RF
9: Ruiz, C

With Peterson’s DFA, LookoutLanding’s Ben Thoen noted:

Batting line of the night in the system goes to Everett 1B Onil Pena who hit his 6th homer and went 2 for 3 with 2 walks in a loss to Spokane. Gareth Morgan also homered and went 2-3. Slim pickings for pitching lines, but we’ll go with Oliver Jaskie of Everett, who really needed a good outing, and put up 3 hitless innings with 5 Ks.

Today’s match-ups are headlined by the Rainiers in Oklahoma City, where ex-Dodgers prospect Chase de Jong faces off with Dodgers current #1 pitching prospect Walker Beuhler, who’ll be making his 3rd AAA start. Beuhler and de Jong never played together in the Dodgers system, as both moved up fairly quickly, and Beuhler’s a 2015 draft pick.

Loved this quote from Jerry Dipoto in this Bob Dutton story regarding the Marco Gonzales trade:

“Clearly, we like Marco Gonzales better than the mainstream media,” Dipoto said, “but the mainstream media hasn’t been familiar with Marco Gonzales for a year-and-a-half. “You know what happens? Sometimes pitchers have Tommy John (surgery), and sometimes they come back and they’re good.”

Logan Davis’ tweet alerted me to the quote, and like him, I think the candor here is great, especially after the famously tight-lipped Zduriencik regime. But I’d point out that when you believe you have an information advantage, something few know, that should obviate the need for an overpay. The M’s and Cards have so-so farm systems, and the M’s sent their #2 prospect for the Cards’ #15-16, and the reasoning here seems to be that he’s better than people think after major arm surgery. He’s defending the deal, as he should, and he’s pointing to a specific reason Gonzales may be undervalued right now by the like of, well, me, and that’s great! I’m not entirely convinced, but this is way more detail and specificity than I’m used to getting from quotes like this. Kudos to Dipoto, and also to Dutton.

Game 104, Mets at Mariners: M’s Pitchers and the Limits of Low BABIP

marc w · July 28, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners

Ariel Miranda vs. Rafael Montero, 7:10pm

The M’s start a rare series against the Mets today, and we’ve got an interesting match-up between two pitchers who flew way under the radar before making it to the majors. Miranda signed a minor league deal with Baltimore when he was 25. Despite his close-to-the-majors status, he was passed over in Orioles prospect lists, which took some doing. Pitchers ranked ahead of him by BP included such luminaries as David Hess and Gray Fenter. Rafael Montero signed with the Mets in 2011 as a teenager in the Dominican; so far, so normal, but Montero didn’t sign until he was past 19. In a place where elite talent is working out deals at 15 before officially signing them at 16, a guy getting all the way to 19 is not a sign of a future major leaguer.

Montero immediately garnered attention for some absurdly low walk rates; his walks-per-9 started with a 1 in most of his years in the minors, but he wasn’t *just* about avoiding walks. He was an above-average strikeout pitcher as well. He was never going to be a Noah Syndergaard, but he wasn’t Yusmeiro Petit, either (to sabermetric fans of a certain age, the scouting/stats wars surrounding Petit will be very familiar). Montero throws 93-94, occasionally 95. He’s got a pretty good change-up and a slider as well. So if he’s a starter with above average velo and brilliant control, why wasn’t he a big prospect? It’s the same question I have about Miranda. Sure, neither of them are incredible, but they seem like the kind of pitchers that scouts usually like. To be fair, BA had Montero as the #3 Mets prospect once, but dropped him to 8th the next year (and he dropped out of BP’s top 10 altogether). A big part of it is that, despite control of a varied arsenal, neither guy had a standout weapon, a vaunted putaway pitch.

I’d argue Montero’s change-up is pretty close, as is Miranda’s split-change. Both pitches are difficult to square up and allow them to post decent strikeout numbers while keeping opposite-handed batters off balance. Despite their velocity, neither guy’s fastball is all that special, and in fact, it’s their fastballs that give rise to their shared HR problem. Miranda in particular seems to want to induce elevated contact – something that the M’s have prized this year. It’s working; like a Cuban Andrew Moore, Miranda’s GB% is in the low 30s, and that’s helped keep his BABIP in absurdly-low territory. That’s great! But when you give up as many HRs as he does, that kind of caps how far you can go with that BABIP.

Miranda is, in that sense, a microcosm of the M’s pitching staff. As I mentioned way back in April, the M’s clear plan was to get a bunch of pitchers who wouldn’t walk many and who’d give up fly balls. The trade for Jarrod Dyson was critical to this; by getting fly ball pitchers and assembling an all-world defensive outfield, they’d run really low BABIPs and allow their staff to out-pitch what even the M’s assumed would be a fair-to-middling FIP. I think there’s a critical assumption underlying all of this: that Safeco would help keep fly balls in play for Dyson to run under. Unlike that post in April, I have to say that every element of their plan has worked, and worked beautifully. The only problem is that assumption the whole thing rested on.

Since April, the M’s team defense has been on a rapid rise, and their outfield defense in particular has been better than advertised. Back when the M’s acquired Dyson, I worried that there might not be enough chances for a great OF to convert into outs; given that most fly balls are routine, it’s really only the marginal ones that can add or subtract from average. Unless the M’s really amped up the number of chances, they’d have a great OF without opportunities to demonstrate their skill. Well, I was wrong. The M’s lead baseball – comfortably – in the number of balls their OF has had to field. They’re neck and neck with Boston in UZR, and DRS. By defensive efficiency and BABIP-allowed they rank #1, too. The key is that they lead baseball in fly ball percentage. Sure, losing Felix and Iwakuma helped the M’s push up the rankings there, though of course if Drew Smyly’d been healthy, then maybe they would’ve been even higher. This has been the plan, and it helps make sense of some of the minor trades and free agent pick-ups we’ve seen from Dipoto and crew.

So with the best BABIP in the game, the M’s are probably giving up far fewer runs than their FIP, right? Right! But they’re still giving up waaaaay too many runs. The M’s HR/9 is 1.50, third-worst in the game, and the primary driver of a FIP that’s inching close to replacement level. They allow nearly 4.8 runs per game, and that’s simply hard to do when you have a defense playing at this level. The M’s had an elite defensive efficiency not that long ago. It was 2014, and a great outfield anchored by…uh, Dustin Ackley and Austin Jackson? pushed the M’s to a .275 team BABIP. Their pitching staff put up a FIP of 3.61, but the defense pushed their ERA down to 3.17 (this is another reminder of just how much the game has changed in a few years thanks to the HR revolution).* The M’s were merely average in preventing HRs, but their defense and a strong bullpen made them elite run-preventers. The M’s have gotten worse at controlling the zone (K-BB%) thanks to age and injuries to some of their best pitchers, but it’s actually *hard* to find teams with BABIPs this low who struggled like this. The examples I can find are way back in the height of the steroid era – the 2002 White Sox, the 2003 Devil Rays.

The M’s may have banked on HRs regressing after surging in 2016, but after rising in mid-2015, the league-wide HR/FB just keeps going up. Unless some change to the ball or bats occurs, I’m not sure it’ll just go down on its own. And if it doesn’t, the M’s may need to rethink this fly-ball-centric strategy. The M’s OF defense has been a treat to watch, but baseball in 2017 is all about the HR.

1: Segura, SS
2: Gamel, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Haniger, RF
8: Dyson, CF
9: Zunino, C
SP: Miranda

Tacoma and Colorado Springs played a classic at-altitude game last night, with the SkySox winning 16-9. This is the Rainiers final trip to Colorado Springs, as the franchise is leaving the PCL after 2018. Tulsa put a beating on the Arkansas Travellers and recently-promoted pitcher Nick Neidert. Neidert allowed 3 HRs in 4 IP with 7 runs allowed; he’s now made 2 starts in AA, covering 9 1/3 IP. In that time, he’s yielded 14 hits, and 9 earned runs. Whatever weird mojo that allowed Anthony Misiewicz to improve his High-A numbers has not alighted upon Mr. Neidert.

Starters in the minors today include Dylan Unsworth, Reggie McClain and Andres Torres.

* That 2014 team had Chris Young, who posted a BABIP of .238 that year. He was signed by the Royals the next year and Dyson and Co. helped him drop that to .209. It’s funny; pretty much every team Young pitched for (when healthy) posted very low BABIPs. Young’s pretty much the only guy who was able to allow a ton of fly balls and not pay too high a price for it…up until these past two years.

M’s Swap Steve Cishek for Erasmo Ramirez

marc w · July 28, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners

When the M’s acquired David Phelps from Miami, I thought it seemed like an odd move: the M’s clear need is in the rotation, not in right-handed set-up men. With Phelps’ starting experience, I thought they could change his role and address the issue, but Jerry Dipoto went another route: Phelps arrival meant that the glut of RHRPs could be used to acquire SP help. And that’s just what he’s done – by sending Cishek to Tampa, he’s allowed the M’s to reunite with SP/RP Erasmo Ramirez, who the M’s traded for Mike Montgomery right at the end of spring training in 2015. Another command/control righty without plus stuff? Well, yes, fair point, but this seems like a great move for both teams.

Since that trade in March of 2015, Erasmo’s worked mostly out of the pen as a newfangled kind of long reliever, somewhat similar to the role that Emilio Pagan’s now playing in Seattle. He’s also made 36 starts for the Rays, and that’s the role the M’s will likely use him. He’s made some adjustments since last we saw him in an M’s uniform: he picked up a cutter last year, and is now throwing it over 25% of the time. It’s an arrow-straight pitch that results in elevated contact, and he essentially uses it as his fastball to lefties, pairing it with his best pitch, the change-up many M’s fans remember from his debut back in 2012. That change has, er, changed as well. When he came up, it was about 11-12 MPH slower than his fastball. It’s now much firmer, at 84 MPH, it’s 3 MPH faster than it was in 2012, and as his fastball velocity’s dropped, the gap between them is down to about 7-8 MPH. The slider and curveball that were so ineffective for him in Seattle have been re-worked, with the curve all but gone from his arsenal, and the slider a very occasional pitch he’ll use to righties to steal a strike.

He was never a really high strikeout guy, and he’s not now. His ground ball rate shot up in Tampa due to a much heavier reliance on his solid sinker. That said, HR problems – one of the reasons Seattle gave up on him – is still a part of his game. That’s one of the reasons his FIP’s been pretty high these past two years, and while Erasmo’s ERA came in much lower in 2016, it hasn’t this year. That’s why he’s available, of course, and it’s why his rest-of-season projections aren’t all that great. Still, there’s upside in there, particularly if his strand rate regresses anywhere close to his career averages, and Erasmo is a far sight better than the M’s current 4th-5th starters. And all it cost them in trade was a righty set-up guy made superfluous by Phelps.

I’ve been one of Erasmo’s biggest fans since scouting his stat line in the old Venezuelan summer league, and was pretty frustrated with the M’s inability to help him out of his struggles in 2014-15, frustrations evidently shared by ex-M’s staffer Tony Blengino. I understood and even liked the trade to Tampa, as Erasmo was clearly never going to get either a) better or b) a real shot under the previous regime. I’m glad he’s developed elsewhere and can help the M’s now. Even as irrationally fond of him as I am, I understand this could fail to do much of anything for the M’s playoff chances. Erasmo’s HR struggles aren’t likely to be improved by Safeco Field, and Erasmo’s developed some odd platoon splits over the past couple of years, as lefties have learned to batter his fastball. He’s been awful in the rotation this year for Tampa, as well. Still, while I’ve had my issues with the last few trades, this one is a no-brainer, and a solid move by the front office.

They help cover their biggest weakness, while Tampa gets a righty reliever better than Sergio Romo. The emergence of Jacob Faria meant Erasmo really had no chance to start anymore, and they’re looking for more traditional set-up guys as they make their own playoff push. Steve Cishek’s death-to-righties arsenal is perfect for a team in their position. As a command/control righty, you have to assume Dipoto’s been longing to get Erasmo back for a while. He’s much further along than Marco Gonzales, but the same issues with development are still relevant: the M’s need to make some tweaks to get the most out of him, and that’s a bit of a concern. Can this team that couldn’t help, say, Christian Bergman/Chase de Jong help Erasmo now? We’ll see, but for now it’s nice to see the M’s upgrade their command/control depth so easily and so comprehensively.

More Thoughts Than You Need on That Trade

Jay Yencich · July 27, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues

Being of a somewhat ruminatory disposition without the requisite number of stomachs to make that useful, the trade of last Friday has remained stuck in my craw. I’d like to use a new, off-day post, then, to address some comments that came up in the original post, because visibility and all sorts of marketing buzzwords that belie the fact that I haven’t been paid to do this in years.

One comment that came up was that we have the appearance of an outfield that looks fairly set with young cost-controlled players, ergo, who would be displaced? Were we not trading from one position of strength into an area of dearth? I mentioned some of my misgivings with that type of analysis earlier, specifically that Gonzales (who again, I’m not here to trash) has no options remaining after this year and still has some endurance and breaking pitch repertoire questions which he would invariably have to answer in the major leagues on a competing team rather than in a lower-stress, controlled environment.

But to speak more specifically to the point of “where would we put O’Neill?”, this is the type of question that needs to be answered with an assessment of what we have. It goes without saying (but here I go saying anyway) that to assess the strength of one position area, the outfield, is going to present different roster construction issues than those that led us to trade away Jason Vargas and Doug Fister because we had a bunch of high-quality pitching prospects on the way of which only Paxton remains. However, one ought to be careful not to overvalue present configurations. For one thing, we need a center fielder. Dyson is effectively a rental, we may never see Leonys Martin again (we may though!), and Guillermo Heredia will likely remain a fun player but not exactly a starting CF on a contender. Both Gamel and Haniger can fit in CF and have done so in the past. It’s not perfect, but it does allow you to maneuver an O’Neill into a corner without much loss as he’s a pretty decent defender on his own there. If it doesn’t work right away, you still have three option years! Neat!

As a corollary to this point, we ought to be careful not to overvalue our major league assets simply because they’re in the majors. Haniger has had a small sample size of success where he remade his swing going into this year. I would argue that what we’ve seen of him slumping (hey, his OPS is still better than former RotY contender Andrew Benintendi) is probably brought about by the oblique issue he had more than any other physical deficiencies, but we should bear in mind that nailing down swing mechanics may only be slightly less difficult than nailing down pitching mechanics and once muscle memory gets involved, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Haniger will have to work hard when/if he puts the oblique issue behind him to get back on track again. To speak to Gamel, he’s been great so far. My mom even knows his name and uses it to try to talk to me about baseball and I don’t know that she’s been able to recognize anyone post-Ichiro. But Gamel also is running a .420 BABIP right now and there are risks involved. I could tell you about the troubles of expecting long-term positional security based off a sample size even of a year, but you should know this. After all, I am speaking to Mariners fans.

The tertiary point that I want to bring in was really the one that I came for, which is that if I’m setting myself as being against the “trade volatile upside for more modest, predictable returns,” then what exactly is the alternative that I’m proposing as a course of action. I do believe that constantly emphasizing something resembling safety is a quick way to get you a roster which will yield you regular season wins and a post-season whooping, but I really want to take a look at this in terms of the field of DiPoto’s transactions so far.

Not all trades are going to burn us. Sending Elias and Smith for Miley and Aro ended up being okay because we spun Miley off into Ariel Miranda and Smith has been hurt. Trading away two rookie league pitchers for Ben Gamel, whatever he is going forward, looks smart now. I still like the trade in the offseason with Arizona. It doesn’t immediately look like Chase de Jong for Drew Jackson and wild thing Aneruys Zabala is going to be the subject of lament. The results have sucked with Smyly, but the process made sense. However, when you give volume away and scatter your talent over a number of transactions, you’re going to get burned eventually.

Carlos Herrera and Freddy Peralta got us the frustration that was a season of Adam Lind. We turned Enyel de los Santos into Drew Storen after an intermediary period of Joaquin Benoit, and then decided we weren’t going to keep Storen. Zach Lee for Chris Taylor didn’t look bright even when Taylor was still only a competent defender who could control the zone. Chris Heston sort of turned into Tyler Herb and it’s debatable which would have been better to start. Alex Jackson and Tyler Pike turned into Max Povse and Rob Whalen. Jason Goldstein was flipped for Dillon Overton. And now, in a higher profile move, we have O’Neill for Gonzales. MLB trades are not Baseball Mogul or name-your-simulator where you can send off an amount of “stuff” that reaches a certain threshold and, bam, here’s your good player. However, you can look at other recent transactions like what the Royals did with the Padres a few days ago to get Cahill and more or even the Twins getting Jaime Garcia and wonder about the differences in return. Odds are, if we had kept certain talents for longer and developed them more, we would now be in a position to make a good trade that would damage our farm system but give us a more certain short-term contributor without emptying us out completely. If you’re committed to trading guys off to improve your team regardless, you may as well target good players as opposed to several different versions of something that you can hope patch the back end of the rotation.

To return to my earlier quip of last week’s post about sending good money after bad, it’s a lot of talent that we’ve sent away, mostly for potential back-end starters but also the occasional first base project and veteran relievers for added stability. Last night over twitter feeds, there came Ken Rosenthal’s rather dour prediction of a Sonny Gray trade to the Mariners that included another needle: ““I’ve never gotten it,” one rival executive says. “It feels like he has made 348 trades to turn a .500 team into a .500 team.”” Like most snappy and strongly-worded opinions built on hyperbole, it’s not accurate, but neither is it entirely false. It’s been a risk-averse approach that leaves us hoping to occasionally find a diamond and then sending more resources away when we fail to get that diamond. I can’t help but think that if we had just stood by our resources over the past several years rather than compulsively making transactions, we would have enough now to pick Gray and Alonso or your trade of choice without totally wrecking our future outlook. Instead, we may make a desperation move that will leave us without rebuilding materials once our window closes. That’s not the type of process that I find comforting.

Game 103, Red Sox at Mariners

marc w · July 26, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners

Andrew Moore vs. Chris Sale, 12:40pm

Last night’s extra-inning win was huge, as it allowed the M’s to keep pace with the Yankees and Rays, and ensured a big series win ahead of today’s game…which looks like it might be a tough one.

Chris Sale’s having his best year in the majors, and has established himself as the AL’s preeminent starting pitcher. After consciously trying to induce more contact last year as a way to get deeper into games, he’s implemented Boston’s get-whiffs-with-high-fastballs plan and it’s worked incredibly well for him. His K% – which was still plenty good last season – is up by over 10 percentage points, to 36.4%. That figure leads baseball, which means he’s outpacing Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer in strikeouts despite the fact that those two get to face pitchers a few times a game. Not only that, but Sale’s working on a career-low walk rate, at just 4.7% (yes, his K-BB% leads baseball as well). Escaping Chicago’s small-ish park has meant that his HRs rate is down, too.

But wait, wouldn’t a lefty pitching half his games at Fenway be MORE likely to give up HRs thanks to the short LF dimensions? It doesn’t look like it – Boston’s actually giving up the fewest HRs of any park in the AL this year. Yes, Sale/Price/Pomeranz have something to do with that, but it’s still pretty remarkable. That gives rise to the one bit of hope about today’s game: Sale’s worse on the road, and Safeco’s now a much more HR-friendly spot than Fenway. Sale’s dominating right-handers like never before – they’ve got an OBP of just .235 this year – thanks to a wholesale change in how he attacks them. When he came up, there was nothing special about where he threw his fastball – it had elite movement and all, so being intentional about where to put it may not have been a huge priority. Now, his fastball comes in up and away to righties, and then he buries breaking balls down and in.

I talked about Andrew Moore learning from Drew Pomeranz, but Sale’s another great lesson in the importance of *how* to use one’s fastball. Of course, he throws nothing like Sale, so he can’t straight-up emulate the guy. Still, having a (different) plan should really help, as the natural movement on his fastball is already pretty remarkable. Of all pitchers who’ve thrown at least 100 pitches this year, Moore’s vertical ‘rise’ ranks 4th in baseball. Fellow rookie Jacob Faria (of the Rays) is 3rd, and like Moore, throws in the low 90s. Faria’s K rate is double Moore’s, and he’s gotten great results in his first few MLB starts. The king of fastball “rise” – and a guy who’s fought serious HR problems at times – is Marco Estrada, who throws even slower than Moore. There are precedents here, and guys who’ve shown this overall skill set can work. But what Moore’s done in his first 5 starts hasn’t quite worked, and it’s time to make some changes.

1: Segura, SS
2: Gamel, LF
3: Cruz, DH
4: Valencia, 1B
5: Seager, 3B
6: Heredia, CF
7: Haniger, RF
8: Ruiz, C
9: Danny Espinosa, 2B
SP: Moore

Speaking of guys who need to make some changes, welcome to the line-up, Danny Espinosa. Shawn O’Malley’s rehabbing in AA at the moment, so we’ll see if Espinosa’s just keeping a seat warm, or if they’re intrigued enough by his power/defense profile to keep him around as an Edgar project.

A day after Anthony Misiewicz’s 8 shutout IP earned him the M’s MiLB pitching line of the day, Lindsey Caughel nearly matched it, tossing 7 shutout IP against NW Arkansas in a 5-0 win. Caughel’s peripherals were even better, actually, as he K’d 7 and walked 0, giving up just 3 hits. Batting line will go to Everett’s Eugene Helder. The Aruban 2nd baseman went 4-5 with a 2B and a 3B.

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