Why did the Mariners lose?
- They were facing Dallas Keuchel, who is a very strong candidate for the AL Cy Young Award. Coming into tonight Keuchel's AL rank in FIP, GB%, and fWAR were 3rd, 1st and 2nd respectively. He did nothing to worsen those marks, throwing 7 innings, allowing a single run, and striking out 8.
In 2012 Dallas Kuechel started 16 games for the Astros. His K% and BB% were 10.1 and 10.3. Yes he actually walked more hitters than he struck out over 85+ innings. His FIP was 5.74. Now he may win a Cy Young. That, in case you've forgotten (and I could understand if you had), is called player development, in which a young player improves through hard work, good coaching and a cohesive organizational philosophy.
- They started Vidal Nuno, who is ok. Nuno had to tap dance his way through the lineup with his usual assortment of meh fastballs and cutters over the outside edge. His stuff is exceptionally fringy and requires pin point command to work. When it isn't there bad things happen. Like this. And this:
All in all Nuno managed to get through 6 innings, which is in itself an aesthetic blessing in the days of the 2015 Mariners bullpen, but walked as many as he struck out and allowed three home runs. Nuno can soak up innings, and his inclusion in the Trumbo deal probably prevents it from being the utter disaster it has felt like at times, but at the very best he is a fringe number 5 starter and almost certainly a relief pitcher on a good team.
- The fulcrum of the game was the top of the 4th and 5th. In those two innings the game was either tied or within reach and the Mariner had four at-bats with runners in scoring position. They went 0-4 with a double play and three strike outs. Here are those at-bats:
One way of looking at this is to acknowledge that Dallas Kuechel's pitches have great movement and he does an exceptional job not giving into hitters in a high leverage situation. The other way is to put on the song "Shots" and yell "HACK HACK HACK HACK HACK". Your call.
- How many times over the decade have thoughts similar to "If the Mariners just had an average offense, how good could they be?" The Mariners on the year are 7th out of 14 AL teams in wRC+ at 99, one point behind the 6th place Astros, who are built in a similar low OBP, high SLG style.
- Of course it's the run prevention where the two teams so sharply diverge, other than won-loss record that is. The Astros pitchers have been worth ~12 more wins on the year than the Mariners, helped by a substantially better defensive team. While the Mariners have scraped out their league average offense at the cost of Nelson Cruz, Mark Trumbo, Rickie Weeks and others in the outfield, not to mention a noticeably slower Robinson Cano and whatever this is:
The Astros have fielded above average defensive players all over the field in Jose Altuve, Jake Marisnick and now Carlos Gomez and Carlos Correa. In his final years Jack Zduriencik treated defense like Howard Hughes treated nail clippers. It's one of many things for the next FO to get serious about fixing philosophically.
- They lost because, and I hate picking on him, Jesus Sucre's OPS is 42 points below Miguel Cabrera's batting average. That's not a slight on Jesus Sucre. He, like Mike Zunino, had no place being put in the position to fail so absolutely in the first place. We have written recently about Jack Zduriencik's black hole problem. The 2015 catcher position is possibly his largest of them all.
- Jesus Sucre has a BABIP of .121. I mean, come on, luck.
- I am not one for mocking fans or cities for attendance, as it's almost always bullshit. But Houston sent fewer than 20,000 people to this game, for one of the most enjoyable teams it has ever had, fresh off a homestand that saw four walk-off victories in eight days. I get it's Monday and the Mariners aren't a draw but I'm genuinely curious if that has been the norm since the Gomez deal or if tonight was just an off night. Soak it up, Astros fans. You know how precious these things are, almost as well as we do.
- The Mariners lost because they came into the game 61-70, limping into the seasons final month with a rotation and bullpen broken beyond repair, an interim general manager, and nothing to look forward to but, again, some really sweet offseason Instagrams. Their opponent was 72-59, had their best pitcher on the mound and are seeking their first playoff appearance in a decade. The Mariners are tired, as are we all. Each and every one of us.