M’s Mid-Season Report: Scouting Scott Servais

 “When the unexpected becomes the expected, strange becomes familiar.” — Jason A. Churchill | May 20, 2016

Scott Servais has been a manager, at any level, for half a season. I’m a nitpick on how I feel a game should be managed, and I have but a half a complaint with the way Servais has managed the Seattle Mariners in 2016.

What’s to like?
First, Servais, and bench coach Tim Bogar, does not default to the bunt, and perhaps more importantly, does not ask hitters who are bad bunters to bunt anyway.

Second, hitters have been strategically given the green light on 3-0 pitches. The Mariners have swung at a 3-0 pitch nine times thus far n 2016, putting the ball in play four times, swinging and missing twice and fouling off the pitch three times. Of those four put in play, the club has two hits — a double and a home run.

Third, Servais isn’t forcing the issue with the stolen base, even in games when the offense hasn’t done much and a stolen base could mean the tying run is a mere single away from strolling across the plate.

Fourth, the one thing I don’t like (see below), appears to be something the staff isn’t married to, per recent decisions.

What’s to dislike?
Bullpen roles based on the inning.

That’s it. Sure, on occasion it seems the club tried to squeeze an extra out or three out of the starter, but considering the shape of the bullpen and the unknown — we don’t know who was and wasn’t available out of the pen for the games in question —

For the better part of the first half Servais and staff clearly preferred “roles” for the bullpen, often going to Joaquin Benoit or Joel Peralta in the eighth inning despite faded performances by the long-time veterans. Benoit has twice as many eighth innings as anyone else in the Mariners’ bullpen — 18 2/3 — but that may start to fade some with the emergence of Edwin Diaz and skipper’s recent statement that Vidal Nuno would be used in higher leverage situations a little more often.

Some may have disliked the removal of Hisashi Iwakuma from Sunday’s game with no outs and a runner on in the seventh inning because ‘Kuma had thrown just 78 pitches. It was the right move by Servais.

Iwakuma had already faced the high-powered Orioles lineup three times through. Other than the elite arms in the game, allowing a pitcher to go through the heart of the order a fourth time is a bad idea, and Iwakuma hasn’t done so but for 68 total plate appearances in his career. This is also when Servais made another correct choice: Diaz.

Despite the fact it was the seventh inning and not the eighth, which plays right into my ‘no set inning-based roles’ preference, Diaz was brought in to face Hyun Soon Kim, Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Jonathan Schoop. The right move.

Benoit was warming up in the bottom of the seventh with the score 6-4, which isn’t ideal, of course, but it wasn’t to face the middle of the order. The right-handed was set to face the No. 8 and 9 batters to start the eighth.

Overall, Servais and staff have found a way to say the right things when needed, allow the veterans to handle things otherwise, avoid the bunt, never ask bad bunters to bunt, avoid running into outs and perhaps they are open to a matchup approach in the bullpen outside Diaz and maybe Cishek in the ninth.

That’s a lot to like, to be honest.

Not bad for a first-time manager, eh?

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