Week #4 in Review
It’s a dreary, wet day. Fridays seem to be sleepy days here in central Kentucky. I’m sitting here in the coffee shop of the tiny college town drowning myself in some Seattle Blue Nile brew or something, attempting to get some work done. And if we’re lucky, we can squeeze this into a regular routine.
As of today the Mariners are 11-11, tied for 2nd place in the AL West and two games back of the Angels. They’ve scored 99 runs, which is better than Oakland in the division, but unfortunately, only better than the A’s, Indians and Royals in the context of the whole league. On the happy side, they’ve allowed 93 runs, giving them a run differential of +6, and that accurately reflects they’re .500 record. Oakland and Los Angeles (that’s so weird to type) have each allowed 92 runs, and the only team in the league significantly better than that is Minnesota at 87. So, the run prevention has been top-notch thus far.
Over the past seven days, the Mariners split the week’s games, going 3-3, and scored a run for every one they gave up (25) against a Cleveland club that has suddenly developed an allergy to first base and a Rangers squad that still bleeds runs. That the Mariners scored as many runs as their opponents this week is pretty significant when you consider that the pitchers got clobbered for 10 homers (of a total 47 hits allowed, yikes!) while the lineup provided just 3. They did out-walk the opposition 25-18, and that helps.
Raul Ibanez had a hot night at the ballpark Tuesday, reaching base 4 times, and for the week went 8-for-19 (.421/.560/.526). Toss in 6 bases on balls and that’s 14 times on base in 6 games. When you reach more times than you make an out, that’s a very good thing. Now if only the three fellas behind him in the batting order could get it together. The 7-8-9 hitters combined to go 11-for-60. And Raul Ibanez crossed home plate only twice.
Randy Johnson. Roger Clemens. Jamie Moyer. One of these pitchers is not like the others. Yet it was Moyer who tossed 95 pitches over 8 innings Sunday, allowing just a home run to Bret Boone’s baby brother. He threw 62% of his pitches for strikes, allowing just 6 hits without a walk and struck out 5. Moyer’s K/BB for the season is currently 3.29. The only time in his career he’s maintained a ratio over 3 for a whole season was 1998.
This just has not been Bret Boone’s week: 4-for-23 (.174/.200/.217). He created 8 more outs than Ibanez, reached base 11 fewer times. And scored just as many runs. Go figure.
Ryan Franklin didn’t have such a hot week either. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Have you had your Blass Disease immunization?
Pity poor Jason Davis. Control has never been the strongest tool in his utility belt, but Sunday’s outing must have been painful to watch. It was like suddenly an invisible forcefield suddenly materialized around the strike zone. Just have a look at Davis’ pitching chart (stupid flash; you’ll have to select ‘pitching’ and use to drop down menu to find Davis). How else do you explain consecutive walks to Raul Ibanez, Randy Winn, Miguel Olivo, Wilson Valdez (on four pitches!) and Ichiro?
Mariner fans, hope you were paying attention. Because we will never, never, never, NEVER see Olivo, Valdez and Ichiro each pass on four pitches in succession ever, ever, ever, EVER again.
It’s Put the Ball in Play Night in Arlington
Couple of weeks ago a buddy of mine who happens to be a Reds fan and NL-only kind of guy, asked for some fantasy baseball advice. The conversation went something like this…
Reds guy: What do you think of picking up Ryan Franklin? He’s looking pretty good.
Me: If we’re playing in the same fantasy league, right on. But my unbiased opinion says, No way, Jose. And he was pitching against the Royals, dude.
Going into Wednesday’s contest, Ryan Franklin had been on a roll of 3 consecutive 8+ inning starts, allowing only 8 runs over 28.2 innings, an ERA of 2.51. But here’s why we here at USS Mariner will never overestimate the power of peripheral pitching numbers and why you didn’t need a crystal ball to know this wouldn’t last forever: He had walked 6 batters while striking out only 5 batters in those 28+ innings. Even with the 2 more he struck out Wednesday, his K/9 stands at less than 2. The major league average is, oh, ’round four-and-a-half. The power strikeout pitchers notch a K at a rate about once an inning. Pitchers who can’t strikeout 2 batters in 9 innings don’t keep their jobs very long at all.
Ryan watched 10 hits drop in just 4.1 innings. I’m sure he was pleading, “Someone, please anyone, please catch the ball!” Sure, strikeouts are undemocratic, but never striking anyone out is baseball’s equivalency of requiring legislation to pass with a unanimous vote.
And yet, on the other side in that same game, Kenny Rogers walked 5 and struck out 1 in his 6 innings.
Some days you eat bear, and sometimes the bear, well, he eats you.
Exhibit #2874 in When to Use Your Best Reliever
Tuesday. April 26. Bottom of the 8th. 5-3 Mariners. Joel Pineiro has thrown 69 pitches over 7 innings so far. Hops ahead of Laynce Nix 0-2 before popping him out to left. Then falls Alfonso Soriano 2-0. That’s a situation Soriano doesn’t see all that often. Hitter’s count and Soriano knocks it out of the park. The fourth solo shot on Pineiro’s watch. 5-4 Mariners. One-run lead. Five outs to go. Heart of the order on the way–Blalock, Young, Teixeira.
So Hargrove pulls Pineiro and brings in his ace closer to shut the door on this rally… Ron Villone.
Lefty Villone strikes out the lefty Hank Blalock. Now with two down, with a one-run lead, and Rangers’ hit-machine Mike Young to the plate, Hargrove turns to his ace closer to shut the door on this rally… J.J. Putz.
Young singles to left. Now with the Rangers’ biggest longball threat to the plate representing the go-ahead run, Hargrove…. stays with Putz.
Teixeira singles. Young, the tying run, now in scoring position. Putz still stays in the game and pitches to David “Walk-Machine” Delucci. Delucci watches four balls and the bases are loaded for the Rangers’ hottest hitter, Kevin Mench.
Putz stays in the game. Now, I can understand a manager’s tendency to, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it”. And when the jam is escaped, it looks brilliant and the pitcher’s self-esteem must rise to astronomical levels only Dr. Phil knows.
Well, Putz must really feel all warm and fuzzy, because Mench dribbled the first pitch for a fielder’s choice at third. The M’s scored a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth, and Eddie Guaradado pitched the bottom of the inning, now with a 3-run lead, against the bottom of the Rangers’ lineup–three guys with OBPs south of .300. Three up, three down. Save for Guardado. But really now, Dave Cameron could have retired Gary Matthews, Rod Barajas and Richard Hidalgo right now.
Now, in fairness I don’t have a clue what was going through Mike Hargrove’s mind in the bottom of the eighth inning. And he surely wasn’t predicting a three-run lead going into the last frame. But here’s a textbook example of how the backward thinking of saving your Closer for the ninth-inning exclusively can nearly cost you the game. It’s a textbook example of how critical the eighth inning can be while the ninth is insignificant.
Before jumping to conclusions with Hargrove, it’s just one game. But one games become trends. And trends become seasons.