Game 33 Recap
Well this is no fun.
I caught some of the post-game show on KIRO, and found I agreed entirely with Matt Pitman’s read on the situation: Ryan Rowland-Smith is a great, great guy, and he’s incredibly easy to root for. He’s also not helping the team right now. I thought RRS would be good for nearly 2 WAR this year, a prediction that now looks certifiably insane. Did I overestimate him because I like him? Is this just an aberration or another dead-arm period that affected him last year at this time? Is this, as Ryan’s hinted at himself, just a period of self-doubt, where he’s out-thinking himself and struggling with his confidence? I don’t really know, but it’s painful to watch.
Ryan Rowland-Smith’s fastball averaged 87 MPH today, exactly the same as he averaged in his last start. I went back and looked at some of his starts down the stretch in 2009, and while the data aren’t consistent, they’re telling. In his last start of the year, he went 6 2/3 IP against Texas, throwing 104 pitches. He topped out that day at 93, and hit 92 with his 100th pitch (and again with his 102nd!). Can you even imagine RRS hitting 92 now? This is as difficult for me to visualize as a Griffey home run off of a curve ball. Velocity isn’t the key to Ryan’s game any more than it is for Jason Vargas, but he really doesn’t pitch well at 87.
Coming into the year, we all thought the curve was RRS’s out-pitch. He’d run up consistently good pitch values on it, and he used it enough to command it. The first game out, the A’s clearly waited on the slow curve and hit it hard. He had a modicum of success with his change-up that night, so he’s since thrown more change-ups and fewer curves. RRS threw a total of 3 curve balls tonight, but it didn’t matter: his change-up didn’t fool the O’s, and it ended up his worst pitch on the night. Now, these are all tiny, tiny samples, but it’s looking like he comes into a start with a game plan, with pitches he wants to use to get swinging strikes and outs, but the pitch just isn’t good enough. I thought his early struggles with the curve were survivable given the success he’s had with the change and slider, but today’s game makes me think that ‘success’ has been BABIP luck. Like I said, this sucks.
Ken Griffey Jr hit a sacrifice fly to right field in the ninth for a meaningless run. As is so often the case, the at-bat will be seen completely differently by different fans, based entirely on what they thought of Junior going into it. The pro-Griffey camp may see it as the beginning of a turn-around: down 1-2, he fought off two tough off-speed pitches, then *pulled* a 96 MPH fastball deep to right. Pessimists will see this as confirmation that Griffey’s power is completely shot: a 96 MPH fastball imparts a lot of momentum, and Griffey’s swing can no longer hit one out under the best of circumstances. Honestly, I thought it was a good AB, and the fact that he got around on the pitch impressed me. There may be more in the tank than I’d previously thought, but not enough to justify the roster spot.
Adam Moore looks completely lost at the plate right now. His swing doesn’t look capable of driving the ball, and a bloop single or a seeing-eye GB is basically the best-case scenario in each at-bat. Alonzo Powell needs to work with him, and soon. There’s ability in there, but his approach puts him on the defensive. He looks like he’s mimicking someone else’s swing (as a kid, I loved copying Mickey Tettelton’s swing, which is basically the opposite of what Moore’s doing these days).
Ian Snell was his usual enigmatic self. He averaged 93 MPH and touched 95 with his FB, and his slider had nice break. The Orioles – the Orioles – hammered both of them. I thought that he had a chance to re-invent himself as a 2-pitch reliever with a FB set-up by a slider. His FB’s generated such poor results that he may need to throw the slider 40/50/60% of the time to survive, but the stuff was clearly there. Now I’m not so sure. There are plenty of theories as to why Snell’s FB doesn’t make batters miss, but now we have to wonder why his slider’s hittable too. I like Snell and wanted him to succeed badly, but the early returns on his ‘change of scenery’ aren’t encouraging. He’s slowly (or not-so-slowly as the case may be) becoming a likable Miguel Batista. This recap is pure sunshine.
Uh, Langerhans looked great – at least we’ve got a player with actual positional flexibility. After a day at 1B, he moved to CF and threw Miguel Tejada out at home on a single. He’s hitting well recently! I’m… scraping here.
The M’s still have a chance at the playoffs thanks to the division’s mediocrity and the number of games left to play. If you’re hoping for a late charge though, it’s time to start rooting for whoever’s playing Texas. The Rangers talent looked a touch better than the M’s to start, but they’re not running away with things thanks to Chris Davis’ death-rattle, Justin Smoak’s learning curve and Julio Borbon’s inability to get on base. They had as many disappointing starts as the M’s, but their depth is allowing them to work through them. They’re starting to look scary. OK, MORE scary.