Game One Recap

Dave · April 5, 2010 at 9:57 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Yay, 1-0!

I’d like to start off on a cheerful note, but unfortunately, there is one glaringly obvious thing to talk about, and it’s not positive; the seventh inning choice of relief pitchers.

Sean White had a nice ERA last year. Wak has a belief system with him. I get it. He’s still not a good pitcher, and the M’s need to be smart enough to realize that. His xFIP, a much better indicator of actual ability, was 4.80, two full runs higher. His ERA was a massive fluke, based on an unsustainable .235 batting average on balls in play. He struck out 28 batters in 64 innings, which is terrible, and he doesn’t make up for it with good command. He’s got a decent sinker, but nothing else, and that doesn’t even work all that well against LHBs.

But, despite having a fully rested bullpen, Wak went to Sean White to get a lefty out with the tying run on base in the 7th inning. With Brandon League and Mark Lowe just sitting there, Wak bypassed them both to put in the 5th or 6th best reliever on the team (depending on how much you like Kanekoa Teixeira). White doesn’t do anything better than League, and the only advantage he has over Lowe (ground balls) doesn’t matter when there’s two outs. White, predictably, gives up a couple of hits and the game ended up tied.

Wak doesn’t have long to get over his Sean White fetish. Sean White is not a good pitcher, and his manager has to learn this in a hurry. He should not be used in close games unless he’s the only available option. When he’s the first guy out of the pen on opening day in a close game, that’s a problem. Learn from this, Wak.

Moving on, Felix had an interesting night. It was one of those classic good stuff/no command nights for him, made worse by the fact that Tim Tschida’s strikezone was stupid and inconsistent. But, because of the movement Felix was getting on his fastball, the command problems were minimized by a ridiculous amount of ground balls. It’s really hard to score if you can’t get the ball out of the infield, and for most of the night, the A’s couldn’t. Felix is good enough to succeed even when he has no idea where the ball is going. It wasn’t his best performance, but it showed how tough he can be, even when he’s not entirely on.

Offensively, the approach to the at-bats taken by Figgins, Kotchman, and Bradley were fun to watch. Those guys took advantage of the dancing strike zone and Sheets’ control problems, running up his pitch count and getting themselves on base. They might not be sluggers, but there are going to be a lot of innings where those three take 20 pitches between them, and that has value.

Watching Figgins and Ichiro steal second at will was fun. Watching Ichiro get thrown out at third and Bradley get picked off was less so. Aggressiveness is nice, but if you have to give up two outs in your pursuit of three bases, its not worth it.

Lopez looked pretty good at third. I still don’t love the switch, but it was good to see him make all the plays and start a couple of double plays.

Rob Johnson crushed a Ben Sheets fastball on the same night that Jeff Mathis went yard for the Angels. It was bad hitting catchers home run night in the AL West, apparently. You’ll hear about Johnson’s off-season surgeries every time he does something good, and he’ll almost certainly hit better than he did a year ago simply because its hard to be that bad two years in a row, but don’t expect many repeats of that power display.

You saw one of the benefits of the 11 man staff in the 8th inning. When Jr doubled, Byrnes pinch ran for him, giving the team a better chance of getting the go ahead run in on a base hit. That’s not possible if you don’t have Langerhans around to serve as the extra outfielder. It’s a small thing, but it helps, and keep in mind that it’s only possible because the M’s were willing to go with just six relievers. Every time someone mentions how nervous they are about that, remember that it comes with benefits too.

Congratulations to Casey Kotchman for some big hits and to the Mariners for starting the season off on a winning note. They’ll have to play better than this to win on most nights, but a win is a win, and I’ll take it.


119 Responses to “Game One Recap”

  1. Jeff Nye on April 6th, 2010 1:26 pm

    Well, the problem with Tschida is less about “mistakes” and more about him clearly and deliberately ignoring what the rulebook says the strike zone is.

    By rule, it goes to the bottom of the knees; but at least last night, he very clearly decided it was going to stop mid-thigh, Because Tim Tschida Said So.

    I just don’t understand how people can pass off something like that as being “part of the charm of the game.” Aren’t the umpires supposed to be the ones ensuring the rules get followed?

  2. behappy on April 6th, 2010 1:27 pm

    So, in the case of last night’s game, how should we evaluate the performance of the running game? 3 steals out of 5 attempts would be only 60% success and then would indicate negative cumulative run value. On the other hand, Figgins’s steal attempts directly led to errors that resulted in 2 more bases, so do we evaluate the game as picking up 5 total bases on 5 attempts which would indicate a positive run value? What’s your take on that specific game’s results?

    I was thinking the same thing. I love the pressure the running game puts on the defense also, the extra attention the pitcher gives to the player on base. Some of those things can’t be summed up in a formula. However, I am not a big fan of stealing 3b, unless it is a high% attempt.
    That was a GREAT game to watch, so much fun.

    Also, regarding the Men in Blue, why don’t they just have an extra umpire upstairs looking at replays. Not for balls n strikes but, for all other close plays? It would only take an extra 30 seconds to replay the blown call. The trap call made me sick. And Ichrio was safe at 3b as well.
    That would fix most of the issues we have with the umps.

  3. LongTimeFan on April 6th, 2010 1:42 pm

    After looking more closely at the play-by-play from last night (admittedly not the best method of game analysis, yet still maybe helpful in some ways), it appears that the running game no matter the possible outcomes had zero run effect in the 1st inning (neither created or prevented runs), but in the 3rd inning the Mariners would not have scored any runs without attempting a steal and may have scored an additional run if Ichiro had been safe at 3rd base (he would have had to score on Figgins subsequent steal attempt of 2nd if Kurt Suzuki had still attempted a throw and air-mailed it).

    So one could argue that it appears that for this specific game, aggressive baserunning led to 1 additional run.

  4. Dave on April 6th, 2010 1:54 pm

    It’s impossible to know what would have happened in an alternate reality where the SB attempts don’t occur. We cannot assume that the pitcher would throw the same pitches with the runner at first instead of third. We cannot assume the hitters would take the same approach, especially when they’ve been coached since childhood to try to hit a fly ball with a runner at third and less than two out. We just can’t assume that everything that happened would have happened anyway.

    That’s why we use average run values from those situations in history. That allows us to see what likely would have happened in either scenario.

  5. MrZDevotee on April 6th, 2010 2:01 pm

    I think you misunderstood my post… by “poo-pooing” the ump criticisms, I meant the guys who were saying we were making too big of a deal out of the umpire’s calls. I was inline with you, JMHawkins, and Jeff on the subject.

    There are plenty of folks who complain about calls in all sports that really could go either way, but I don’t think that was the case last night at all.

  6. LongTimeFan on April 6th, 2010 2:11 pm

    That’s why we use average run values from those situations in history. That allows us to see what likely would have happened in either scenario.

    I agree completely, that’s why I said that play-by-play analysis is flawed and simply that it is possible to argue that in this particular game, aggressive baserunning may have contributed and does not seem to have hurt the run total. This would seem to be corroborated by the fact that 60% baserunning is not too far off of the break-even point of 67%. Of course, with baserunning, situation analysis makes all the difference. It does appear that this team will be aggressive on the basepaths and hopefully that will pay off over the course of the full season.

  7. msb on April 6th, 2010 2:16 pm

    Four umpires (and crew chiefs) retired this year, and sadly, Tschida was one of the existing veterans to be named a new crew chief.

  8. dietrich on April 6th, 2010 3:24 pm

    Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Casey Clutchman.

  9. Breadbaker on April 6th, 2010 3:30 pm

    It wouldn’t even take an extra umpire in the booth. All it would take is a couple of video technicians and a monitor. This is baseball, where nearly all the plays take place in a single discrete place (the run-scoring situation at the end of the seventh is the rare exception, and the video showed the umps got that right). There might be some rare cases where you have to look at more than a single frame (did he have possession long enough to make it a catch before he dropped it on the transfer?), but a huge number of plays can be determined by isolating a single frame: did he make the tag? did he miss the base? did he trap the ball? The trap last night was more easily determinable by replay than most borderline home run calls, where the camera may or may not be in the right position and you have to account for seeing in two dimensions what happens in three, but baseball allows those to be replayed.

  10. Alfalfa on April 6th, 2010 3:41 pm

    I also thought in one of the later innings, Ichiro hit a ball down the line that appeared to be fair. I rewound it several times and watched it, it was pretty close, did anyone else notice this? It definitely bounced inside the line before the bag..

  11. hark on April 6th, 2010 4:00 pm


    I think you’re referring to the AB when Ichiro! struck out looking against Blevins in the top of the 7th. I watched the replay a couple times, and yes, it was close, and yes, the ball did strike inside the line.

    But the rules state that a ball must cross the base (any part of it) in fair territory. The initial angle suggested to me that it was fair, but subsequent shots were inconclusive. Striking inside the line doesn’t make a ball fair. I’m willing to give the ump the benefit of the doubt (even though it may have robbed Ichiro! of a double).

  12. turin07 on April 6th, 2010 4:07 pm

    I don’t know. Its a little early to pigeonhole a guy. I think getting some innings for White is a good idea. Obviously it backfired, but on its face I dont condemn the decision based on matchups there. White improves every year and could improve this year.

  13. djw on April 6th, 2010 4:30 pm

    A little early? He’s got six seasons and about 600 innings pitched at the professional level.

    I’m not sure where you get “improves every year” except that his 2009 was better than his 2007 in terms of results. Over the course of his minor league career, he’s never really excelled; he’s always been mediocre to terrible. I can’t think of a good reason to have faith that will change soon.

  14. Alfalfa on April 6th, 2010 4:53 pm

    Really Hark? You want to give the ump the benefit of the doubt in THAT game. Alrighty then.

  15. Wolfman on April 6th, 2010 4:53 pm

    I feel pretty good about the win but I have to say I am in agreement with the posters regarding the umpire. You guys amaze me, knowing the different umps and their history, etc. I didn’t know the plate umpire but I thought he was horrible. The one strike Felix needed was right at the knees and the tracer showed it was dead-on in the zone….and he calls it a ball. It wouldn’t bother me a bit to see balls and strikes called consistently and correctly by a machine. Let the umps call everything else. Of course, I say that and now I’m going to agree that Ichi was safe at third. I guess you’re always going to have bad calls.

    I also agree on Sean White. When I saw him coming in the game, all I could think was, ‘Noooooo!’ We have a lot better relievers than that. It easily could have cost the game. Nick Hill wasn’t better? I don’t get it.

    I really, really like Ichiro and Figgins at the top of the lineup. I also like Milton Bradley’s fire but he needs to put it to better use. Don’t get yourself hurt and quit breaking bats! We may need those bats this year. Seriously Milton, it was only the first game of the season! Deep breaths…

  16. JMHawkins on April 6th, 2010 6:02 pm


    The numbers Dave quoted, +0.25 runs for a successful SB and -0.50 runs for a CS are averages. Errors like last night do happen, and they do make a small difference, but over the course of a season, an average team is still going to average +0.25 runs per SB and -0.50 runs per CS.

    Now, the 2010 M’s aren’t a typical offensive club – you could argue that they benefit a little more from the extra base and suffer a little less from the out, but it’s still going to be close to +0.25/-0.50. For the 60% success rate the M’s had last night to break even, it would have to be +0.30 runs and -0.45. That’s a .05 run swing both ways, and that’s a huge gap. That’s like turning 40% of your leadoff singles into doubles. Nice if you can do it, but not realistic.

  17. Typical Idiot Fan on April 6th, 2010 6:15 pm

    For all the folks chirping about how umpire-to-umpire strike zones bring something good to the game, need I remind you that MLB cracked down on the really exaggerated strike zones almost 10 years ago in an attempt to try to bring the stupid things back closer to the rules?

    Yeah, kindly remember that “umpire strike zones” used to include a foot off the outside corner, and for no reason at all other than the umpire felt like calling it a strike. Certain pitchers got preferential treatment based on their control, etc. Yeah, “charm”. Bullshit.

  18. JMHawkins on April 6th, 2010 6:15 pm

    Or perhaps I ought to say the gap (0.100 run expectancy) is nearly 40% of the difference between a leadoff single and a leadoff double.

    If the M’s averaged 3/5 SB for the entire season, they would score 40 fewer runs than otherwise expected and win 4 – 5 fewer games.

  19. LH sock puppet on April 6th, 2010 6:28 pm

    A couple things that I haven’t read in the preceding 100+ posts:

    Ichiro! was safe at third. He knows what he’s doing.

    Each time I read chone, Chone, or CHONE, I don’t know whether the reference is to our new 2b or an analytical tool. To avoid confusion, I propose giving the player a nickname that doesn’t end in y. How about:


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