Mariners waive Garko in favor of Mike Sweeney

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sweeney-mike-100330.jpgThe Seattle Mariners might not win the AL West this season, but they will have the best damn chemistry in the history of baseball, even with Milton Bradley patrolling the clubhouse looking for signs of disrespect.

As Jon Paul Morosi of Fox reports, the Mariners have waived first baseman Ryan Garko, opting instead to keep Mike Sweeney as the terrific guy/Bradley babysitter/Griffey practical joke partner/1B/DH platoon man.

Garko is a 29-year-old right-hander who historically crushes left-handers, seemingly making him a solid platoon partner with Casey Kotchman at first base. So it seems puzzling that the M’s would waive him to instead keep a 36-year-old guy with a history of injuries, no matter how likable he is.

But Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times makes a pretty good case for the move.

Garko apparently was terrible in the field this spring, to the point where Kotchman was playing first base even against lefties. Plus, Sweeney appears to have found the Hot Tub Time Machine and teleported back to, oh about 2000, smashing everything within reach and making him a better candidate to share DH duties with Griffey.

Since Sweeney wasn’t on the 40-man roster, they needed Garko’s spot, thus the decision to waive him instead of sending him to the minors.

Either way, it probably won’t make much difference for the Mariners. They’re still going to struggle scoring runs no matter which of their middling 1B/DH candidates they throw out there. So I guess they decided to go with veteran chemistry, which Sweeney can still provide even after his back goes out in mid-May.

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No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.