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Salk: The whole Mariners organization, not just the GM, deserves credit for Marco Gonzales

Marco Gonzales has seen success from using his four-seam fastball less this season. (AP)

General managers get a lot of credit – and blame – for the roster decisions they make. No doubt, that is a huge part of the job. But it isn’t the whole gig, and the rest of the skills are becoming increasingly important.

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Representing the organization, managing a large staff, setting a tone and identity are all factors now. And so is building a series of departments that aid your on-field product.

When you rank Jerry Dipoto’s deals for the Mariners, the trade with Arizona for Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger is obviously No. 1. Getting Dee Gordon (from Miami) and Mike Leake (St. Louis) rank near the top. Gotta like the James Pazos, Ben Gamel and Ryon Healy deals, too. But the Marco Gonzales deal is maybe the most interesting and the one that Jerry can take a bow for.

Sending Tyler O’Neill to the Cardinals for Gonzales was panned – by the media and the fans. There was NOT unanimous agreement in the organization to make that deal, either, but Jerry felt confident despite that. And obviously, it has worked.

But here’s the thing: this is NOT the pitcher they traded for, and at the time they had no plan to make him into the pitcher he’s become.

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When they got Gonzales, the Mariners’ analytics group, pitching coaches and mental skills coaches all collaborated on how to make Marco better. At the time, he threw his four-seam fastball nearly 60 percent of the time and it got crushed. Now? He throws that pitch less than 10 percent of the time (see chart here from Brooks Baseball).

Obviously, Marco gets credit for improving and throwing quality pitches. Jerry too for seeing the potential and for praising Gonzales’ athleticism. But this shows how success can go to whole organizations.

If you need an example the other way, look at the chart of Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ, who has been rumored to be a possible trade target for the Mariners.

Happ was previously with the Mariners in 2015 and dealt to Pittsburgh just before the trade deadline on July 31 that year by then-GM Jack Zduriencik. He had basically stopped throwing his sinker here and that pitch has been huge for him since.

Coaching, scouting, analytics and pitch selection matter in baseball – not just stuff and command.

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