This is from Friday night, but it’s well worth revisiting.
Seems that for the second time this year, Mike Quade was unhappy when a Cubs’ opponent tried to steal a base with a big lead. This time it was Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, who attempted to steal with an 8-1 lead in the fifth inning. Earlier this year Quade was angry when Brewers’ outfielder Carlos Gomez stole a base with a 6-0 lead late in a game. Quade’s comment: “I probably have to get a copy of the Milwaukee and the Los Angeles unwritten rules books … There might be a Los Angeles and Milwaukee version I need to read.”
Oy vey. Look: I’ll give you your unwritten rules when it comes to matters of etiquette, ethics and professional courtesy like, say, refraining from flipping bats and showboating after a home run. Or batters looking back at the catcher to steal signs. Or even the rules governing beanball wars, even if I think beanball wars are themselves illegitimate.
But please, spare me the stuff about stealing bases when you have a lead. At no time in any game should any perfectly legitimate strategy be considered out-of-bounds. Neither 8-1 nor 6-0 leads are insurmountable. At no time does the losing team cease to use all of the weapons it has at its disposal, so neither should the team with the lead.
But there’s a philosophical point to be made along with the tactical one. Animating Quade’s thinking here is that, hey, the game is over for all practical purposes, so stop trying to win. The next logical step to that is to have Quade throw in the towel and take his losing team off the field. After all, that would be courteous too! It would save a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the pitchers! It wouldn’t, if you believe Quade, make any difference in the outcome! If the team with the lead is expected to stop trying at some point, why doesn’t the manager of the losing team make it easier for them to do so by clearly noting the exact moment they plan to quit, and then literally quit. If Quade’s not going to do that — and I’m guessing he won’t — he shouldn’t have a problem with Don Mattingly still trying to score runs.
This isn’t Little League. Don’t want A.J. Ellis stealing bases on you, Mike? Have your pitchers hold his butt on the bag, OK?
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.