In the grand scheme of things, we know lineup order means little. It’s certainly more important that a manager have the right guys playing than have them in the proper order. Lineup decisions aren’t worth a tenth of all the ire they produce on the Internet and radio.
And, yet, once in a great while, those poor lineup decisions get exactly the results they deserve. For example, here is how the Royals have fared in all six of Chris Getz’s starts in the leadoff spot this season:
May 22 – Lost 3-1 to Houston
May 23 – Lost 5-4 to L.A. Angels
May 24 – Lost 5-2 to L.A. Angels
May 25 – Lost 7-0 to L.A. Angels
May 26 – Lost 5-2 to L.A. Angels
Aug. 13 – Lost 1-0 to Miami
That’s six games, all losses, with a total of nine runs scored. Getz went 4-for-21 with four walks between the six games, giving him a .320 OBP that slightly exceeds his career mark of .310.
Obviously, if Getz has to play, he should be batting ninth. And that’s usually where he bats in manager Ned Yost’s lineup. But not tonight, for some reason. Jarrod Dyson, who has better numbers against right-handers and is faster than Getz, hit ninth tonight. David Lough, the usual leadoff hitter against righties, hit fifth, apparently because he was needed there more than he was at the top.
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.