Baseball

BOX SCORES

White Sox 6 – Mariners 0

White Sox 10 – Mariners 4

White Sox 4 – Mariners 8

 

It takes a special kind of fuck up to take a series win like the Sox had and make it feel like they just got swept, yet here we sit. The Sox took the first two games against the Mariners in very high quality fashion, with Carlos Rodon hitting 98 on the gun on night 1, and Jose Abreu launching his 2nd granny of the season in night 2.

Then came the 6th inning in game 3.

With the Sox holding a 4-1 lead, Dallas Keuchel took the mound and promptly gave up a walk and a single, which involved Adam Eaton attempting to throw out Jose Marmolejos at second and it ending up in front of the Mariners bench. That was the end of Keuchel’s day, and in came Matt Foster to attempt to stem the bleeding. 5 hits and two walks later the Sox were down 7-4 and the game was out of reach.

 

TO THE BULLETS:

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-Let’s get this out of the way to start: LaRussa totally left Matt Foster out there to drown. After the game, LaRussa had this to say about the whole situation:

Yeah, no shit.

-The big selling point of having TLR over Ricky Renteria on the bench was the fact that Tony was supposed to be this mad genius working with the bullpen. Leaving Foster out there for 40 pitches and 6 runs while you have Aaron Bummer and Liam Hendriks, neither of whom had thrown in days, sitting on their hands in the pen is inexcusable. These guys are supposed to be your HIGH LEVERAGE relievers, and you’ve got the game on the line. What in the fuck are you waiting for?

-Also, the lineup that TLR threw out for game 3 made me think it was 2018 again. The rebuild is supposed to be over, and yet Billy Hamilton (who is fine, don’t get me wrong), Jake Lamb and Danny Mendick are all starting. This was insanely apparent when Justin Dunn walked 42 people in 5 innings, yet the Sox could only scratch 4 runs off him.

-Dallas Keuchel is beginning to worry me as well. He has yet to get out of the 6th inning in either of his starts and most of his stuff is up in the zone. Sinking fastballs don’t do much good when they’re letter high. He may still not be stretched out yet, but this definitely is a red flag right now.

-Anyways, Carlos Rodon looked pretty good on Monday night, going 5 strong innings with 9 Ks. His 3 walks all came in the same inning, but he then turned around and struck out the next 3 guys to get himself out of his own jam. Hard Carl indeed.

-Zack Collins had himself a strong series as well, going 3-9 in his two starts with 5 RBI, 3 of which came on a bomb shot in game 2. Once Engel comes back, playing time for guys like Collins and The Yerminator might start being pretty sparse, which sucks because you need them in the lineup right now, especially with the Human Sinkhole playing in RF.

-Lucas Giolito had pretty much the same start as Rodon, giving up 3 and striking out 10 in his 5.1 innings of work. He looked great, but with no Sox starter making out of the 6th inning the bullpen is begging them to last longer. Lance Lynn will get his chance, as he takes the bump on Opening Day on the South Side against the Royals, which leads me to:

 

Series Preview: Royals At White Sox – Homeward Bound

VS

Probable Starters

Thursday: Brad Keller (0-0, 40.50 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Saturday: TBD vs. Dylan Cease (0-0 5.79 ERA)

Sunday: TBD vs. Carlos Rodon (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Coming home in front of fans for the first time since the end of the 2019 season should feel pretty good for the Sox. Getting the fuck out of the West Coast should feel even better. Waiting for them on the South Side are the Kansas City Royals, who sit on a 3-2 record after absolutely blowing the doors off the Rangers in their first series, then splitting with Cleveland in the second. The Royals bats have come out of the gate on fire, scoring 33 runs in their first 5 games. 14 of those runs were scored against the Rangers opening day, with 8 different Royals plating a run in the fracas.

Under normal circumstances, the Royals offense is powered by Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler, with the corpse of Salvador “No Bat Flips” Perez helping out when he can. This season featured the arrival of Carlos Santana and Andrew Benintendi to the mix. Santana signed as a free agent from Cleveland in January, and the Royals acquired the services of Benintendi from the BoSox in a 3 team trade that sent prospect Khalil Lee to the Mets. The 5 of those guys combined with Hunter Dozier give the Royals (on paper) a pretty decent middle of the batting order. Obviously it’s worked out pretty well thus far.

As far as the pitching staff goes, coach Mike Matheny goes with Brad Keller on Thursday, who will be supremely disappointed to find out that Tim Anderson is on the DL. I’m sure he’ll find someone else on the Sox bench he can throw at. Maybe Yermin? Anyways, Keller got shelled his first start of the season, only lasting 1.1 innings, giving up 9 hits and 6 runs against the Rangers. Keller is a fastball/slider combo guy, who also uses a sinker about 20% of the time. He was converted to a starter in 2018 after the Royals basically ran out of pitchers, and has had decent success there, sporting a 21-23 record with a 3.63 ERA in that span. There isn’t much that’s exciting about Keller, but he keeps the ball in the park and his team in the game.

As for the rest of the starts, Matheny has decided to treat it (as he usually does) like some kind of national secret, preferring to announce the starters day of. Realistically, we can probably expect to see Mike Minor and Brady singer over the weekend. Mike Minor at this point is a known quantity, a career 4.00 ERA kind of pitcher who will give you innings and not much else. Brady Singer, however, is a far more intriguing figure in terms of ability. Singer was the Royals 1st overall pick in 2018, taken 18th out of the University of Florida. He made his debut last year in the covid season and performed pretty admirably going 4-5 with a 4.06 ERA. Right now, Singer works as a two pitch pitcher, primarily a sinker/slider type guy. Both of them are pretty solid, but they could benefit greatly from adding a 3rd option. Over the off-season he added a changeup, which he began throwing in spring training to middling success. If he can refine it, I could very easily see Singer becoming something much more than a back-end starter, which is where he’s currently projected to end up.

As for the Sox, escaping from the West coast with a 3-4 record is not exactly ideal, especially since they very easily could have won 6 of the 7 if the defense had been league average. Sadly, that was not the case and the Sox blew leads in every loss they had. The hitting hasn’t quite come around yet either, with the team stranding runners on 2nd and 3rd like it was going out of style. Combine that with the, shall we say, questionable bullpen management by TLR, and we’re left with a lot more questions than answers thus far.

With Lance Lynn taking the bump today, and an off day tomorrow, the Sox bullpen should hopefully be able to get considerable rest before the weekend. Odds are they’re probably gonna be needed at least on Saturday, with Dylan Cease on the mound. Both him and Rodon had exceptional spring trainings, but only Rodon has carried it over to the regular season this far.

With Tim Anderson officially going on IL yesterday, we can expect to see a lot of Leury Garcia at SS this weekend. Leury has not exactly gotten off to a blazing start so far, going 2-20 with no RBIs. While the Royals have the kind of staff that should theoretically allow Leury to turn stuff around, the Sox are really going to need him and Madrigal to fire up the bottom of the order.

With a week of home cooking for the Sox, it’s a good chance for them to set things right. Hopefully TLR’s issues with the bullpen this far is just him being acclimated to his new crew and how relievers in general are being utilized in today’s MLB. The Sox starters are better than anything the Rangers throw out there, so theoretically the Royals hitters should have a more difficult time finding pitches to drive. Now’s the time to right the ship and take that first real steps towards the postseason. Get it done.

LET’S GO SOX

Baseball

VS sea captain

 

Records: Sox 64-82  Mariners: 60-86

Game Times: Fri 9:10/Sat 8:10/Sun 3:10

TV: Fri/Sun WGN  Saturday NBCSN

Tis No Man, Tis A Remorseless Eating Machine: Lookout Landing

It’s always fun at the end of a season to have two rebuilding teams throwing whatever they can at each other. This matchup between the Sox and the Mariners promises to be no different, as they’re both basically in the same spot as each other in their rebuild. The both made big splashy moves in their off-seasons for the past few years, and now they’re both just sitting in front of the stove, waiting for the water to boil.

While the White Sox water may be bubbling more than the Mariners right now, it’s not by much. The M’s have a pretty interesting group of position players ready to take the next step in their major league careers, mixed in with some aging veterans who have been providing decent pop for the team. The Mariners as a whole are a better hitting team than the White Sox so far in the season, with their big bats being lead by Kyle “Not Cory” Seager and Dan “West Coast Palka” Vogelbach.

Seager missed the first 3 months of the season with a pretty nasty ligament tear in his hand. Before that he scuffled through the 2018 season, enduring his worst stretch of his career that saw him slash .221/.273/.400 and post an 83 WRC+, down almost 50 points from 2016-2017 seasons. He’s back at it this year however, as he has a .248/.331/.503 line thus far in 90 games, with 22 home runs. He’s been on a tear since the all star break, having hit 14 of those 22 home runs in the months of August and September. His .256 BABIP suggests that it’s pretty real, and actually he’s getting some bad batted ball luck in there as well.

The issue for the Mariners is not on the offensive side, as it’s their pitching that has let them down thus far in the season. They’re second worst in the AL, and third from the bottom of the league behind the BP machines that are the Marlins and the Orioles. Japanese import Yusei Kikuchi has not had the effect the Mariners were hoping for, as he’s gotten routinely shelled with a 5.24 ERA and 1.48 WHIP so far on the season.

Softball pitcher Mike Leake is gone, as he got shipped to ‘Zona at the deadline. The ghost of King Felix is here, who just returned from his 33rd trip to the IL since 2017 related to his shoulder which is “fine” and “structurally sound” and not at all “made from paper mache and balsa wood.” I joke here, but I actually love King Felix and were he on any other team than the Mariners would’ve had a pretty decent shot at being a Hall of Fame pitcher. Sam had a pretty great take a few weeks ago when they played the Cubs, check it out here. He’s also responsible for one of my favorite GIFs of all time, which is from last season when he struck out Adrian Beltre (who is also a national treasure) with a nasty change that resulted in a hideous swing, which Felix saw and prompted this reaction:

The only highlight for the M’s pitching staff is ace Marco Gonzalez, who came over from the Cardinals and almost immediately became the pitcher St. Louis had drafted him to be. Thankfully the Sox will miss him this time through the rotation. They will see Justus Sheffield (son of Gary) on Sunday, the prized rookie that came over from the Yankees in the Edwin Encarnacion trade. Sheffield was up earlier in the year and got knocked around pretty good. He got called back up a few weeks ago and has fared a bit better since then but still has a 4.43 ERA.

For the Pale Hose, the story remains the same. The Bullpen needs to be ready tonight, as they trot Dylan Covey out again to get decimated. Perhaps this time he makes it out of the 3rd inning, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Dylan Cease gets a chance to work on his fastball location again, and perhaps keep the walks down under 3. Nova goes again on Sunday. If the Sox pitching can keep the M’s off the board, the bats should have a good chance at feasting on sub-par Mariner’s pitching.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

Some players are born to just do one thing. It’s like they’re cut directly out of the molds that used to make the little plastic army men some of us played with as kids. Daniel Palka and Dan Vogelbach are two guys who look like they were made from the EXACT same mold. Literally. Like they had the same form and everything, then at the last second they put a different head on Palka just to make sure people could tell the difference.

Positionally they’re almost identical as well, as they are both generously listed as first basemen/outfielders but are both horrible in the field and better suited to being designated hitters. They’re both pretty identical there as well, being that they’re both plus-sized left handed uppercut swingers. Both guys are the prototypical “Three True Outcomes” hitters in this launch angle era of baseball that they both hit in.

They were both considered career AAA hitters as well, until last season when Palka had a fairly decent run at the big league level with the White Sox. He turned in a .240/.294/.778 slash line in 417 at bats. He also socked 27 dingers and added 67 RBI to the equation.  Vogelbach meanwhile had a brutal run at the major league level last season with the Mariners. He was called up twice and played in a total of 37 games with just under 90 at bats. In that time he slashed a miserable .207/.324/.691 with 4 home runs and 13 RBI. Vogelbach’s splits were exactly what you would expect from a left handed power hitter, having a .050 average and one extra base hit against same handed pitching in 2018, while he hit .250 against right handers and hit all of his home runs.

Flip to this year, and the two have practically swapped spots. Palka had a brutal start to the season, hitting .059 in 50+ at bats, with no extra base hits and an almost 50% strikeout rate. He was sent down to Charlotte in May. Vogelbach won the 1B/DH job out of spring training and came out of the gate smoking hot, hitting 8 home runs and ringing in 14 RBIs in the month of April. His job security increased even more at the beginning of June when the Mariners sent Edwin Encarnacion to the Yankees in the trade that netted them pitching prospect Juan Then. Vogelbach currently has a .212/.344/.800 line with 24 home runs. Palka was called back up this month as part of the September roster expansion and picked right back up where he left off, with a .135/.141/.176 line. Yeah, you read that right. Daniel Palka is currently slugging at a .035 clip in the 2019 season.

So what’s the difference? What changed? Why has Palka gone from a 0.7 WAR player to a -1.5 one in a single offseason? For once, there isn’t much in the advanced stats that can give us a clue as to why Palka’s swing has fallen off a cliff. Last season his BABIP was a little high (.308) but certainly not a number that screamed drastic regression. His 38% K rate is way above the league average, but that doesn’t speak much to his lack of hits. His hard hit rate is the only number that’s followed his performance off the cliff, going from 36.4% last year to 8.8% this season, but Palka himself admits he hasn’t really tinkered with his swing at all.

What is the cause of the turnaround in Vogelbach’s game that has him now a valuable major league contributor (granted for a rebuilding team) instead of a career AAAA player? This is pretty much the guy the Cubs envisioned when they took him in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. Kind of  like a pre-Schwarber Schwarber. A look at Vogelbach’s advanced stats show that most of them are pretty much in line with what he’s produced his entire career. His hard hit rate is 52.5%, up 4.8% from the previous year, which is what you’d expect with an uptick in power. His BABIP this season is at .230, which is actually lower than what he produced last season and indicates he’s not getting very good batted ball luck. His wOBA is only .010 higher than last season. What gives?

Ultimately we come to the point in baseball where there are some things that just can’t be explained away by advanced stats. Sometimes good (or bad) luck just takes over and produces career best and worst years. For the Mariners, they’re currently reaping those rewards being produced by the good stuff coming off Vogelbach’s bat. For the Sox, what was shiny last year has been polished right into a turd. Palka should be given the rest of the month to try and hit his way out of this epic slump that he’s in the middle of. The Sox should know if what he did last year was a mirage, or if this season is just some ungodly bad luck vortex that Palka is swirling amidst. Both guys have value to their teams, but only if the cards are cut juuuuuust right.

 

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 5, Mariners 1

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 6, Mariners 1

And here we go again, it’s never gonna end… The Cubs went from a sweep of a mediocre team in the Mets, to pretty much shitting their drawers against the Brewers, to doing exactly what they should have against a Mariners team that’s made of silly putty. Monday’s win felt like drunk sex, and tonight’s win just felt like what should have been. At least it got there in the end.

Let’s…

-This season has gotten to the point where I’m being threatened with basically a defenestration (though off a roof is not technically that) simply so someone can feel again. How else do you sum it up?

-A team actually intentionally walked Albert Almora. Anything is possible kids, as long as you believe hard enough.

-Schwarber got the big hit off a lefty pitcher, which only makes some earlier lineup choices even more infuriating. That doesn’t mean I think The War Bear is automatic against lefties, but at this point there’s just enough balance between he’s earned the chance of late and there being no one else that he needs to start every day until the season is over.

-Good god the Mariners are terrible. Is there anyone you think about seeing in the future?

-Against any representative team, Lester probably gets shelled tonight. Luckily, the schedule says he didn’t have to.

-Unluckily, it also says the Cardinals didn’t have to either.

-For a long time I’ve hoped that Ben Zobrist would be some kind of answer for this team, but recently I’ve come to the conclusion he won’t be any more of one than Robel Garcia or Ian Happ. Prove me wrong kids, prove me wrong.

-The fact that Bryant took a seat again tonight in recent memory almost certainly means he’s not healthy, be it knee or shoulder. The Cubs are three back with three to go. Unless you absolutely can’t, you’d be starting your best players every game. You rest them earlier for that exact reason.

-Hey does anyone remember the last time Heyward was on base?

-Is it weird that Kimbrel didn’t get an inning either yesterday or today? Especially with an off day next? Because the last time he came out of the pen throwing 95 and nothing on his curve, as he did Sunday, he was on the IL for two weeks the day after. Is he healthy? Is anyone sure?

-It’s good to see Schwarber higher up in the lineup, but he should be hitting leadoff and no one should give him any shit about the kind of hitter he is there. Because there’s not anyone else to do it, unless you want to see the Joy Division song in baseball form that Heyward is there.

Onwards…

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Mariners 58-80   Cubs 73-63

GAMETIMES: Monday 1:20, Tuesday 7:05

TV: WGN Monday, NBCSN Tuesday

FRANCES FARMER: Lookout Landing

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Mariners Spotlight

If the Cubs actually plan on recovering from their weekend-long attack of the hiccups against the Brewers, you couldn’t ask for better fodder than two games with the Seattle Mariners. There is no such thing as the free spot on the bingo card in baseball, but this is just about as close as it gets.

The Mariners gave their soaked and jaded fans a cheap thrill to start the season, when they started 13-2 behind an avalanche of home runs. As you can see, they’e 45-78 since. And this was always the way it was supposed to be, as the Mariners had long ago signaled their intention to rebuild by punting Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano to Queens. Other trades like Jean Segura to Philadelphia, James Paxton to the Bronx before the season, and Edwin Encarnacion as well to the Yankees midseason were just more of an indication what the plan was in Seattle. And now they’re at the bottom part of the cycle, which is the ugly part of the plan but the plan nonetheless.

Offensively, this is still a team that can jump up and bite you if you’re not paying attention. And you have the flu. And you’re blindfolded. And someone cut a beer fart right in front of you. Kyle Seager has been good when healthy, which has only been about half the time. Dan Vogelbach, who will be force-fit into first base for at least one of these games so get your Benny Hill theme ready, can put one onto Sheffield. Though he has cooled off from his hot start considerably, and hit .130 in August when we can only assume had pink-eye in both. The only players currently on the roster who might, might matter when the Mariners matter again are J.P. Crawford and Jake Fraley, and that’s giving Crawford the best of it. Otherwise, these are all just place-holders and people who go lost that the Ms handed a bat.

The rotation is where the real adventure is, and you know it is because the Mariners have gone with an “opener” 47 times this season. Justus Sheffield is up, and he’s someone they’ll hope can catch the torch when Felix Hernandez passes it down (or more accurately, hangs it and watches it belted into the gap). Sheffield had serious walk-problems in AAA though and that hasn’t stopped in his two MLB starts. Felix will get the second game, as he’s recently back from injury to take one last lap around the track before he’s sent to the farm upstate for aging pitchers with no velocity anymore.

As you might guess with any bad team, the Mariners have had a parade of the bewildered out of their pen, with Cory Gearrin moved along after showing competence. 17 guys have thrown at least 10 innings out of the pen for them, and if you can pick any of them out of a lineup then we weep for you and your family. It’s a Make-A-Wish out there. However, they have discovered some whosits that have found some success of late, possibly because hitters are trying to figure out who they are and if they’re that dude who did that thing to their lawn and ran off a while ago.

The Cubs are behind the eight-ball now, but this is also the time for them to put up a big streak/number if they’re ever going to .(they’re not). The Ms, followed by a second chance to do to the Brewers what they should have done the first time, and then four with the Padres before a homestand against the Pirates and Reds before shit gets real. The Cubs should be harvest organs in the next two weeks. More likely they’ll just continue to let theirs melt and slowly leak out their pores. But if it’s ever going to happen, it’s now.

 

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 6, Mariners 5

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 11, Mariners 0

The thing is I like Pearl Jam. It’s like this..

They’re fine. And I get that Eddie Vedder has nominated himself the #1 Cubs fan forever, even though he doesn’t know who Steely Dan is according to his own goddamn documentary (not that he should, but if you’re going to be music’s self-appointed ambassador, you’d better). But if you’re in Seattle and you’re going to make a big deal of your intro and outro music, try someone else. Off the top of my head I can name a dozen better Seattle bands:

Nirvana, Soundgarde, Dinosaur Jr. Screaming Trees. Green River, Mother Love Bone, Alice In Chains, Mad Season, Mudhoney, Sunny Day Real Estate, Heart, the Sonics. There, done. Try any of them. Honestly.

Oh right… the baseball…

The Two Obs

-Here’s something I like. With Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras cooling off just a bit, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have arrived. Bryant might not have enough to show for it, but last night he managed four balls with an exit velocity over 100 MPH, and Rizzo added two homers in two games, including a big one last night. And let’s not forget The War Bear, who has hit .381 the last week and won Tuesday’s game with a homer that turned the baseball oblong. If the thunder don’t get ya the lightning will.

-It’s been overshadowed by his injury absence, but the Cubs are getting serious work from Jon Lester. He’s got a WHIP of 0.96 on the year. So far this season he’s eschewed his four-seamer for more cutters and more change-ups, and if these are the results I’m here for it.

-You still can’t trust this pen as far as you could throw it collectively, but I’m hoping that just one day off after whatever that was on Sunday just wasn’t quite enough. But then I also think that Brad Brach just sucks, so here we are. I hold out some hope that Brandon Kintzler has some use, and he did get a seriously needed double-play last night. But he also served up one to Edwin Encarnacion that landed somewhere near Victoria.

-Cole Hamels had to get too many outs, and two earned over 5.2 innings should be enough normally. He wasn’t hit all that hard so we’ll just let it pass.

-Good lord are the Mariners helpless defensively. In my shitty high school league the first thing our coach told us was, “Get the ball in play. In this league, amazing things will happen.” That’s the same for the Mariners. We said it in the preview but Encarnacion and Santana should be DHs and Bruce probably should too. But because Dan Vogelbach would probably just eat his glove, they all have to play in the field. This could be a pretty good offense and if King Felix can at least be competent it’s not a hopeless rotation, but they’re going nowhere because they’re never going to catch the ball.

-I will take anything I can get when it comes to Dillon Maples, and striking out the side in the 9th in an 11-0 game is still that. Encarnacion was diving out of the way of strikes. So was everyone else. If he could ever just keep his fastball in the zip code, he’s the doomsday device out of the pen we’ve wanted. Seriously, he could be Josh Hader from last year, if his control wasn’t a Pollock painting.

-I guess that was Javy’s response to being asked if he wants to give up shortstop.

Onwards…

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 14-12   Mariners 18-13

GAMETIMES: 9:10 Tuesday, 5:40 Wednesday

TV: NBCSN Tuesday, WGN Wednesday

FRANCES FARMER WILL HAVE HER REVENGE: Lookout Landing

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Cole Hamels vs. Felix Hernandez

Jon Lester vs. Marco Gonzales

CUBS PROBABLE LINEUP

Daniel Descals0 – 2B

Kris Bryant – LF

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Jason Heyward – RF

Willson Contreras – C

Albert Almora – CF

Kyle Schwarber – DH

David Bote – 3B

PROBABLE MARINERS LINEUP

Mitch Haniger – CF

Domingo Santana – LF

Dan Vogelbach – DH

Edwin Encarnacion – 1B

Jay Bruce – RF

Tim Beckham – SS

Omar Narvaez – C

Ryan Healy – 3B

Dee Gordon – 2B

 

When they designed inter-league play, this wasn’t a matchup they were thinking about. Still, the way it’s worked out it’s become kind of intriguing, and not just because the Cubs end up in Seattle twice a decade. The Mariners are the surprise team in the American League, if not the whole of MLB, and the Cubs are rounding into sharpness.

So what are the Mariners doing crashing the private party that the AL West was supposed to be for the Astros again so far? Well, they’re pretty weird. They’ve had an offensive bonanza, with basically every fly ball they hit landing out beyond various walls. Four players are currently seeing a quarter of their flies turn into homers, and six are seeing 20% or above. That’s almost unheard of, even in this era of baseball where they’re using swollen Titleists as baseballs. You’d think that has to come down at some point. Jay Bruce’s .192 average and yet .552 slugging is particularly goofy.

And yet, there is some validity to some of it. Bruce, large adult son Dan Vogelbach, and Brewers castoff Domingo Santana are all hitting the ball extremely hard and aren’t benefitting from a bloated BABIP or anything like it. Santana has done this before in Milwaukee, and then was squeezed out by the Yelich and Cain acquisitions, as well as Jesus Aguilar‘s emergence (how’s that look now?). Vogelbach always threatened this in the Cubs’ system, he just needed a DH spot to do it at the top level as putting a glove on him would cause various air-raid sirens to sound off.

Tim Beckham might see his bubble burst, but Omar Narvaez’s on-base skill aren’t on luck either. Edwin Encarnacion is apparently not dead. and Mitch Haniger has been a plus-plus as well.

The flip side to this is that the Mariners are one of the worst defensive teams in recent history, as they have three or four players who should be only a DH for their own safety but only one spot occupied by Vogelbach. So Encarnacion has to be in the field. So does Bruce. Dee Gordon has to be at second, and he played himself out of there once already in his career. You know what Tim Beckham at short looks like. They’ve given up an unearned run per game so far this year.

The staff that has to work around this includes yet another undead ballplayer in Felix Hernandez. There was a real fear of what watching Hernandez this season could be in spring training, such has been his decline since being maybe the best pitcher in the American League for a minute. But Felix has been able to be better than simply a seat-filler or place-holder so far by cutting his walks down to next to nothing and upping the grounders he gets. He’s using his curve more for both, and pounding the strike zone with the rest of his arsenal.

The other hurler the Cubs will see is Marco Gonzales, who’s been magnificent through not giving up homers at all. He doesn’t get a lot of grounders but a lot of harmless flies. Gonzales flashed this a bit last year with a 3.5-fWAR season no one noticed, and being let down by a dreadful defense. The last part is still there of course, but he’s doing even better by also throwing nothing but strikes.

The pen is something of a cast of thousands, with six different yahoos collecting at least save. Old friend Zac Rosscup is here but he can’t hit a bull in the ass with a snow-shovel at the moment, which has helped him collect Ks but a ton of walks. Roenis Elias and Brandon Brennan have been the best out of there. The rest have benefitted from fortune, and this is the unit probably headed for a collapse first.

The Mariners have been fun thanks to all the fireworks, but they’re likely to not out-homer their Python-esque defense or Felix’s age for too much longer. But until then, it’s a fun ride.

 

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Mariners 7-1, White Sox 2-3

DATES AND TIMES: Friday 1:10, Saturday 1:10, Sunday 1:10

TV: NBCSN Chicago Friday, WGN Saturday and Sunday

WHY IS IT ALWAYS RAINING?: Lookout Landing

PROBABLE STARTERS

Yusei Kikuchi vs. Reynaldo Lopez

Mike Leake vs. Lucas Giolito

Wade LeBlanc vs. Ivan Nova

Probable Mariners Lineup

1. Mallex Smith (L) CF
2. Mitch Haniger (R) RF
3. Domingo Santana (R) LF
4. Jay Bruce (L) 1B
5. Omar Narvaez (L) C
6. Tim Beckham (R) SS
7. Ryon Healy (R) 3B
9. Dee Gordon (L) 2B
Probable White Sox Lineup
1. Leury Garcia (S) CF
2. Yoan Moncada (S) 3B
3. Jose Abreu (R) 1B/DH
4. Yonder Alonso (L) DH/1B
5. Eloy Jimenez (R) LF
6. Daniel Palka (L) RF
7. Tim Anderson (R) SS
8. James McCann (R) C
9. Yolmer Sanchez (S) 2B
For the past severeal years, it had started to seem like in the modern age of baseball, there are only two types of teams: teams that were trying to win, and teams that were trying to lose. The Moneyball era went to such an extreme so quickly that the way teams approached roster construction basically meant either you were going for it or you were intentionally tanking. The White Sox were, for a few years, in the former, constantly trying to win but always failing miserably, until they just decided to embrace what they were and start losing on purpose, but with purpose.
Over the offseason, the Mariners started to look like they were falling into the latter category, as they traded a few of their key players from 2018 away for younger, more controllable players or prospects. They started tearing down what looked like a damn-near elite bullpen by sending Alex Colome to – hey, us!, for Omar Narvaez, who was the Hawks best-hitting catcher from last year but a total butcher behind the plate. Then they traded Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets for top prospect Jared Kelenic.
However, what started to look like a rebuild quickly became more of a re-tool, as they traded Ben Gamel to Milwauke for Domingo Santana, because if there are two things the Brewers definitely needed, it’s left handed hitters and outfielders. That was less a move for the future and more a move to address something they needed now. Then they went out and signed Yusei Kikuchi, who was the best pitcher left in Japan after Shohei Ohtani came stateside, to a really creative contract that will keep him in Seattle for either three, four, or seven years, with both sides having options. Given that Kikuchi is 27, this was another move to build for now.
So in reality, what the Mariners did was build a team that could compete this year, but just for significantly less money. Clearing out the Cano contract may have cost them 2018’s best reliever in baseball, but so far the results have been fine. They took Oakland to task in the opening series in Japan back on March 20-21, and then smacked the shit out of the ball against what’s supposed to be a dominant Red Sox rotation before taking a two-game sweep against the Angels. They weren’t exactly designed to win in the same way as Boston or Houston, but they weren’t designed to lose either.
The thing that is so frustrating about watching how the Mariners went about this rebuild/re-tool movement this offseason was that the White Sox absolutely had the ability to do the same shit. Sure they missed on Machado, but had they been willing to open the checkbook up a bit and made moves like adding Santana and Kikuchi, or even some smaller moves like the Phillies made pre-Bryce Harper, they could’ve won this terrible AL Central. Seriously, looking at that Seattle roster, there’s almost no way they couldn’t win 95 games against this division. Instead, the Sox decided that they wanted to be even cheaper than Seattle and still not be good. Hooray!
For this weekend, at least, we just need to pray their bats cool off a bit and their pitching doesn’t stop what Yoan Moncada is doing. Simple!