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40 in 40: Shawn Armstrong

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Measuring the power of nominative determinism.

You might as well be prepared.
Tee Miller

What’s in a great baseball name? Is it something simple but memorable, like Pedro Martinez or Pete Rose? Is it unique and evocative, like Mickey Mantle or Satchel Paige? Or could it be best to make a common name resoundingly your own, like Jackie Robinson or Alex Rodriguez? These are all good options, but they’re all wrong. A great baseball name, like a superhero or supervillain, should herald the skills you bring to bear. Nominative determinism is a science that has yet to gain widespread acceptance, but that ends today.

In this, more than any team in the AL West, the Mariners are poised to excel. The Astros lineup may seem intimidating, but upon deeper inspection of how their players’ names could be utilized on a baseball field, there is little to fear. A Peacock Sipping a Gose is bizarre, but far from frightening, and even if he’s a trained spearman, their Fisher might find it difficult to make much contact with a Lance. The Angels are even more poorly equipped, bringing a Bard, a Scribner, and a Shoemaker together, with just a solitary Trout to share between them.

With the help of our graphics expert and occasional nightmare creator, Tee Miller, I’ve broken down the starting nine for the Mariners by their nominative utility on a baseball field.

Here’s the Opening Day batting order:

Shortstop: Dan Altavilla

Tee Miller

Some might argue it’s horrifying to start of the day with an image like this. Those people don’t care enough about the Mariners’ infield defense. The Tall House is well suited for any number of positions on the field, but it’s hard to argue with the impact it’d have reducing extra-base hits to left-center. There are concerns about the ability to field grounders consistently, but most of that will be negated by the abject horror hitters will feel seeing this looming over the pitcher’s right shoulder.

Second Base: Dan Vogelbach

Tee Miller

Concerns about defensive range have hounded Vogey for much of his career, but no longer. The German “vogel” for bird and “bach” for creek gives us a fleet-footed (and winged) defender with the range to make up for Altavilla’s limited dexterity. While he’s he lacks much power, the difficulty of determining where his tiny knees are mean a minuscule strike zone, letting Vogelbach run an astronomical OBP and fly wild on the basepaths.

First Baseman: Nelson Cruz

Tee Miller

There’s no one trustier to lock down throws from the infield than Full Nelson Cruz. With his powerful physique, much like the Nellie we know and love, he’s a middle-of-the-order bat. Here, however, the best offense is a good defense.

Right Field: Sam Moll

Tee Miller

Batting fourth is one of the more volatile links in the lineup. After an executive decision to lean into the definition of the pronunciation of his name as opposed to its written interpretation, Sam is dependent on the host he has acquired for that inning. Parasitic in nature, Moll hops from mammal to mammal, controlling their functions to abet his baseballing functions. If Sam snags a gorilla or Bryce Harper, things should go well. Nab a three-toed sloth or my sophomore year math teacher? Things could get dicey.

Third Base: Ariel Miranda

Cornhole_that_dog

Between Vogelbach, Miranda, and the final position player upcoming, the Mariners have a charmingly aquatic-themed squad. Miranda has the versatility, talent, and athleticism to hang at the hot corner. While his choice to use a bat made from driftwood seems inadvisable, he’s a dependable contact hitter. Despite his talent, Miranda prefers to lead exclusively by example, with some players saying they’ve never even heard Ariel speak.

Center Field: Mike Ford

Tee Miller

Fresh off his role in Pixar’s Cars 8: Welcome to Hell, Ford returns to the diamond to put his range to work. In an otherwise limited outfield, Ford’s 12-cylinder engine is the type of motor coaches rave about. His drop-top adds to his already extensive range by allowing him ample room for error when getting under the ball. Despite his great attitude and 600-grade horsepower, Ford’s offensive profile is limited, and his propensity to lead the league in hit-by-pitches rapidly reduces his trade value.

Left Field: Nick Rumbelow

Tee Miller

Fitting Rumbelow into your starting lineup is a double-edged sword. He is buried underground, so good luck to opposing pitchers attempting to find the strike zone. Unfortunately, his mobility is limited to situations where someone digs him up and rolls him down the line. Moreover, there are times when he seems to just evaporate defensively. To mitigate this, not only is Rumbelow flanked by an elite defensive CF in Ford, but also, and I cannot stress enough the impact of this, a tall house is playing shortstop.

Catcher: Jean Segura

Tee Miller

Few things are more valuable than a defensively elite backstop, and no player is more trusty behind the dish than Jean Segura. He’s already locked up half a dozen Gold Gloves in his career, and it’s safe to assume he’ll secure another this season.

Pitcher: Shawn Armstrong

Tee Miller

Armstrong is a RHP who came up in the Cleveland organization. His strikeout numbers in the minors have consistently been exceptional, as he’s posted K/9s over 11 at AA and AAA every year since 2013. The trouble has been translating that dominance to the majors, as he’s only managed a 7.89 K/9 in 43.1 IP once called up to the show. While a 94-mph fastball is nice, Armstrong’s tends to work a cutter, along with a vicious, high-spin rate power curveball that is devastating when located well.

Armstrong’s struggles with command have hindered him, but remind me of the Mariners’ acquisition of James Pazos last year. Once considered “untouchable,” the Yankees were willing to part with Pazos after his development seemingly stalled as his walk rate skyrocketed. In 2017, the Mariners were able to help Pazos find the consistency needed to be successful at the MLB level for the first time. Armstrong’s lack of options mean he’s likely to get first crack at earning a bullpen slot, and hopefully he can receive similar improvements during Spring Training.

And yes, his arm is strong.