Paragon: Jeremy Bonderman (+.467 WPA)
Jose Mesa: Tom Wilhelmsen (-.798! WPA)
Tonight should have been fun. The Mariners have reached their traditional mid-June role of schedule filler. Fans, while not happy about the teams continued failure, are more than accustomed to it. And tonight featured the controversial but still exciting debut of Mike Zunino, the Mariner's finest prospect. Win or lose, at least the overall takeaway from this game would be a fresh storyline or two right?
The problem is, as it has been for so, so, so many years, is that this roster simply had no margin for error. Everything is always dependent on too many players hitting 85-95% projections. It's always IF Michael Morse repeats his only productive season and IF Kendrys Morales can healthy. IF there's progress made by a thus-far-disappointing collection of young players. As a fan I always feel like the Mariners have endured so much bad luck that they are due for some good. I convince myself that these positive scenarios are not only possible but somehow likely. It's the Gambler's Fallacy... and I can't help it. I'm stupid. The problem is that I can't shake the feeling that the Mariners themselves seem to be placing some bets at least in part on this flawed thinking as well. How else do you explain a roster where even a modicum of contention is so dependent on good fortune?
The Mariners just scored 8 runs in a series against the Astros. That's with the Astros committing 7 errors. It wasn't flukey or bad luck. It was the byproduct of what is, at this moment, one of the 3 worst rosters of healthy players in the game. If all you do is chase hope you're never going to find it. I can't believe we have to start this crap all over again.
- There were 13 Mariners that participated in tonight's game, but only 3 of them matter. One of them was Mike Zunino who not only matters but is fresh and exciting. Zunino's first game: a single on a good breaking pitch 0-2, a strikeout, a groundout and a flyout where he appeared to just miss the sweet spot.
I won't pretend to be an expert on catching or talent evaluation but having played baseball through high school I feel comfortable enough making the observation that Zunino appears technically sound behind the plate. His receiving and framing look above average, though his instincts on pitches in the dirt need further refinement. The best play he made was throwing out something named Marwin Gonzalez. It wasn't caught stealing itself, which may have been partially due to a missed hit and run, but the arm strength and accuracy on display were the most "plus" tool Zunino flashed all night. Having a catcher that controls the running game while also not being Miguel Olivo sounds lovely.
- Nick Franklin went 3-4. He drove in the only run, right-handed at that. He's triple-slashing .300/.397/.520. He's playing quality defense. The struggle hasn't come yet, and until he shows some cracks in his approach the valleys are going to be shallow. This kid is playing the way that good and valuable baseball players play. There's nothing flukey about it. Continue to be cautiously enthused.
- Tom Wilhelmsen is a hot mess. Not counting the IBBs tonight he threw 10 pitches: 8 fastballs. It's clear the league has gotten the message that Tom has lost the confidence in his curveball and the ability to sit on number one is resulting, predictably, in failure. It's time to start considering other options.
Off-day tomorrow. Seems like a good time for roster moves but I honestly don't know what can be done with the roster in it's current old/shitty/injured state. What a depressingly stupid team this is sometimes.