It has been observed many times over the years that the results of one-run games hinge largely on luck. A bad bounce here or there. One pitch released just so. One little flare. Just one! A gorp, a groundball — a groundball with eyes — a dying quail, just one more dying quail … and a tie game can turn into a one-run win or loss.
It observed just this morning by one of our fine readers that the Orioles have been crazy-lucky in this regard this year, as they have won 13 straight one-run games. “The Orioles are so lucky that they crap leprechauns,” as it was so eloquently put.
The opposite can be said about the Tampa Bay Rays. They lost 1-0 last night. Which is nothing new, as they have lost four 1-0 games in the month of August alone. That’s the most 1-0 games a team has lost since 1969. It’s the most an AL team has lost in a month since 1955.
Now, my earlier comments notwithstanding, that’s not all about luck. Losing a 7-6 ballgame is different than losing a 1-0 ballgame in some ways, it seems. When you get shut out a lot it suggests your offense stinks. And the Rays offense kind of stinks compared to the rest of the league. Behind them in the AL are only the Royals, the Indians the Mariners and the A’s.
The Rays are a good team, of course. But this is really something.
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.