Game 36 Recap

Jay Yencich · May 15, 2010 at 4:43 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I’ve heard that back in the day, there were journalists out there who wrote two different stories in the late innings of tie games, one for if the team pulled it out and one for if the team lost. Through seven innings, I was thinking we were going to pull it out. Instead, we lost yet another one that we didn’t need to.

Originally, my preface here was going to be about how we eked out a run against a pitcher that ended up dominating us in the late innings. Now, I have to talk about the eighth inning. Jason Vargas threw four perfect innings to start the game out because the Rays happen to be terrible against left-handed pitching. Through the first four innings, Vargas’ pitch count was only thirty-two, twenty-two of which went for strikes. The Rays were swinging early and putting the ball in play. It wasn’t working out well for them.

Oddly, in the fifth, they opted to become more aggressive, with eleven of sixteen pitches going for strikes, and they managed their first hit of the game, but things slowed down in the sixth, with twelve of twenty-four being called strikes and only five of twelve in the eighth. One would think that a manager would recognize Vargas seemed to be getting tired, and that a low pitch count was not reason enough to keep him going out there into the eighth, but nevertheless, Wak did.

We all know what follows because we’ve seen it too many times lately. We have a lead, and in the eighth inning everything blows up. Upton and Navarro had back-to-back singles, Upton moving to third as he had previously stolen second off a slightly rusty Rob Johnson behind the plate (the first time a Rays runner had even been in scoring position). League gives up a single to Bartlett and then is pulled after a sacrifice bunt by Bartlett and an intentional walk to Crawford, and that brings up the Sean White vs. Ben Zobrist match-up that ends in a sac fly and the tying run scoring before Longoria lines out.

From there, the story pretty much writes itself, except in our case we had the added fingernails-on-chalkboard effect of the Fox broadcasters not shutting up about pop music. Gutierrez drew a leadoff walk and stole second in a turnabout play off John Jaso entering the game, and then he was left out there, stranded after getting into scoring position. Jesus Colome served seven pitches to Willy Aybar and then I stumbled back to my ethernet connection, numb, because I had known the loss had been coming since the eighth.

The rest of the game, I don’t have all that much to write about because frankly, it wasn’t interesting from our perspective. Tui somehow got the start at first against a tough right-hander instead of Kotchman and went 0-for-4, striking out twice and stranding three. Heck, I would have settled for Langerhans out there again. The offense was not good, and after Mike Sweeney’s third home run in as many days, James Shields turned in four perfect innings of his own before Adam Moore’s single.

Funny, because yesterday, I wanted to talk up Moore’s good points, and today he struggled to justify much of that. He grounded to short in his first at-bat and had an ugly K in the fifth, one of ten against Shields on the day. He did well to knock out Longoria when he hit the tapper to the left side, but mostly, what we’re going to remember is him bruising his heel, or knee, or whatever, and coming up hobbled after his infield single in the eighth. If he comes out for a pinch-runner then, even Rob Johnson as the case probably would have been, we’re sitting pretty with runners on second and third with one out on Ichiro’s should-have-been double. At that point, Figgins doesn’t have an easy double play to ground into.

Speaking of which, I also wanted to talk up Figgins’ good points today, but can’t easily. He had a double in the first, legging out a close one that he probably shouldn’t have attempted, and then got a bloop single stolen from him his second time up. His last two at-bats were a strikeout and a double play. Whatever confidence he might have gained from forcing the error and scoring on a wild pitch in the first was probably undercut by not being able to come through in the eighth.

A few other “highlights”, so to speak, included Lopez snagging two liners, one in the sixth against Gabe Kapler that he jumped up to snag, and one in the eighth against Longoria again that probably spared us further run scoring. If he hadn’t been posting a .436 OPS in May, we might be talking about these sorts of things a little more.

Anyway, it’s still light out, the weather is pleasant, so go out and enjoy yourselves. There’s no miracle in this one, just another frustrating loss where the M’s let a winnable game get away from them. It’s getting mundane.


32 Responses to “Game 36 Recap”

  1. Mousse on May 15th, 2010 4:52 pm

    I turned off the game as soon as I saw that Wak brought in Colome to pitch to the Rays in the bottom of the 9th in a tie game.

    High leverage situation with the game on the line – of course, the reliever we want in there is the one that passed through waivers because no other team wanted him.

  2. SonOfZavaras on May 15th, 2010 5:14 pm

    I’m getting very, very tired of us losing winnable games in final ABs.

    Is it fair to say that Wakamatsu needs to be more Sun Tzu? Or at least brush up on both his von Clauswitz and Stengel?

  3. charliebrown on May 15th, 2010 5:28 pm

    I’m an engineer, so I believe numbers don’t lie but I just don’t have as much time as I wish to dig into what they all mean.

    Could someone give me a reason, statisticly speaking, that Wak didn’t have Sweeney bunt Guti over to third with no one out? A bunt and a fly ball would score a run. Seems like the smart play to me.

  4. scott19 on May 15th, 2010 5:43 pm

    Is it fair to say that Wakamatsu needs to be more Sun Tzu? Or at least brush up on both his von Clauswitz and Stengel?

    Nah…like I’ve mentioned before, I think he just needs to dust off that old Ouija board and channel some of the psycho-spirit of Billy Martin into that clubhouse.

  5. robbbbbb on May 15th, 2010 6:07 pm

    That was a painful game to watch.

    It isn’t so much that the M’s have been losing a lot recently, although that hurts. It’s the nature of the losses. They’re getting beat in the late innings by a combination of luck and bad bullpen usage. (Why did League come out again? He’s your second-best reliever, and the guy most likely to get a ground ball DP there.)

    This one hurts. Lee has a chance to make it a winning series tomorrow, but every loss hurts, and the M’s have had a few emotionally crushing defeats.

  6. lalo on May 15th, 2010 6:07 pm

    I think Pat Burrell its a fit for the M´s if Rays pay most part of his salary and I like Kanekoa Teixeira setup man, because League sucks most part of games, the starters is OK but the bullpen and 1st base sucks,

    Real lineup

    Sweeney/1st base
    Jack Wilson/Josh Wilson
    Josh Bard/Adam Moore

    Griffey Pinch Hitter
    Tui AAA
    Rob Johnson AAA
    Colome: Released

    Setup Man: Teixeira, Lowe
    Middle bullpen: Kelley, League, White, Hyphen
    Closer: Aardsma

    Call up Luke French and send Hyphen to bullpen
    When this changes M´s maybe win the division
    You agreement?

  7. CYK on May 15th, 2010 6:27 pm

    Please–no Pat Burrell. The word that comes to mind, and no other, is SUCKS. My wife remninded me that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. Time for me to reexamine watching the ballgames over and over with the expectation of getting a W. Truly insane.

  8. GarForever on May 15th, 2010 6:29 pm


    I like the way you’re thinking in terms of fundamentals, but given the type of hitter Sweeney has been for most of his career, I doubt any manager would have much confidence asking him to bunt, since he will have been asked to do it very rarely since he was about nine years old. There is another philosophical question in there about whether any and every major league player should be prepared to bunt, but that’s beside the point here. Wak probably made the right call, hoping Sweeney could at least muster a grounder to the right side, which would have accomplished the same result.

    Otherwise, I have to say, I am rapidly losing faith in Wakamatsu, and not just because the M’s are losing, though admittedly that forces the issues more to the conscious surface as it were. Though the M’s would hardly be in first place without some of his highly questionable decisions regarding (not) pinch-hitting and/or putting marginal arms into high leverage situations, the fact of the matter is there have been some winnable games where the skipper’s decisions did not help the cause.

    (Spoiler alert: what follows is the sort of folksy baseball aphorism that probably doesn’t mean much, but since it came from Sparky Anderson, who managed three World Series championship teams…)

    It has been said (by Sparky Anderson) that every baseball teAm is going to win a third of its games and lose a third of its games regardless, because that’s the nature of the sport. The manager impacts the remaining one-third. Right now, Wak is costing them more games than he’s winning through his management. I hope he figures it out, because I do believe he’s a smart baseball guy and probably good for the team. He can’t go up to the plate and hit for guys who aren’t producing, but he CAN stop putting lousy pitchers into situations where it will cost the M’s.

    For what it’s worth…

  9. GripS on May 15th, 2010 6:30 pm

    Wakamatsu is an idiot.

  10. JMHawkins on May 15th, 2010 6:39 pm

    Is it fair to say that Wakamatsu needs to be more Sun Tzu?

    No, he needs to be more Abraham Lincoln, who knew the less competent Generals should be given minor, out of the way jobs where they couldn’t lose the damn war.

  11. Jay Yencich on May 15th, 2010 6:40 pm

    Luke French has been absurdly lucky in Tacoma. That 1.72 ERA is a 4.69 tRA and a 3.91 FIP. Calling up French will not help us.

    Nor will Pat Burrell, in any capacity.

  12. scott19 on May 15th, 2010 6:43 pm

    Please–no Pat Burrell. The word that comes to mind, and no other, is SUCKS.

    Thank you. If Pat Burrell gets signed, it’ll basically be akin to going in circles — since he’s yet another guy with zero defensive value and diminished offensive skills.

    I’d rather have Burl Ives in the lineup than Pat Burrell — and he’s been dead for 15 years!

  13. SonOfZavaras on May 15th, 2010 6:50 pm

    Pat Burrell’s days as a middle-of-the-order bat are done. His type of hitter often loses it quick, and his decline is in freeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-fall.

    Unless you want to re-live Richie Sexson, 2008…

  14. Dogham on May 15th, 2010 7:06 pm

    Unfortunately, i think Wakamatsu needs to go. The players are not performing and he’s the one pulling the strings. Granted he wasn’t handed the Yankees to manage, but i see a lot of other managers doing more with less.

  15. MrZDevotee on May 15th, 2010 7:09 pm

    I think “mundane” is an appropriate word– hadn’t thought of it until you wrote it. I’ve gone through disappointed, perplexed, frustrated, pissed, morose, sad, and depressed… and now there’s nothing left but the mundane.

    We know all to well NOT to allow ourselves to get excited when we’re up 2-0 to the best team in baseball in the 8th inning. Which sucks as a fan. And in short order we’ve learned that it’s too exhausting to continue to get depressed (and then optimistic for “tomorrow”) when we lose what should have been a solid win.

    So we wait patiently for the days to pass, waiting for either a change in the fortitude “weather”, or some brilliant move to come along by Z that kickstarts the optimism of both the fans and the team.

    Those days passing by are getting “mundane” to the ‘nth degree.

    We’re just treading water, dead center between the deep end and the shallows.


  16. mlathrop3 on May 15th, 2010 7:46 pm

    Jesus that was terrible.

  17. Gomez on May 15th, 2010 7:53 pm

    Could someone give me a reason, statisticly speaking, that Wak didn’t have Sweeney bunt Guti over to third with no one out? A bunt and a fly ball would score a run. Seems like the smart play to me.

    Because a manager typically will not give away an out for a base unless he’s fairly certain the batter at the plate isn’t capable of knocking that runner over and/or in on his own. Whether or not he should, Wak clearly had faith in Sweeney to get the job done on his own: The groundout to 3rd was just one of those outcomes where he couldn’t do so.

    Plus, there’s no guarantee Lopez or Tui, who have both struggled at the plate, cash the runner at 3rd in with a base hit. Wak would rather not give away an out if it’s very possible it would just be followed by two others. He’d rather give Sweeney a chance to get a hit and preserve all three available outs if possible.

    (I’m not agreeing with the logic BTW. I’m just giving a plausible reason why Wak wouldn’t sac bunt there.)

  18. LewLegend on May 15th, 2010 8:15 pm

    My frustration with this team is pretty simple…

    We get a guy to second base with no outs in a tie game late. The next two guys come up there and don’t even try to hit behind the runner in any way, shape or form. 643 pulls the ball to third and Lopez pulls a ball to the shortstop. Why not, at the very least, try to hit something to right field without rolling your top hand over? A routine fly ball gets Guti to third with no problem.

    Another case in point…

    League comes into the game and tries to induce a double play ball. Our relievers rarely ever try to pitch on the outer half of the plate with a lead. League…inner half and Upton rips a single up the middle. They try to force their secondary pitches on the inner half. Hence the game winning homers and late gate blowups. I don’t know who is calling the game but something in their philosophy needs to change.

    This is high school stuff.

  19. CCW on May 15th, 2010 8:33 pm

    I mean no offense by this, but… JEEZUS FUCKING CHRIST the M’s know how to lose painfully. I’m pretty sure, having been an M’s fan my whole life, that I can recognize your standard, run of the mill, losing season. And this is not it. No. This is painful, daggers slowly dragged across the throat, gut-wrenching, 1 thousand needles, death by bird, anguish.

    As an aside, I think Wak has to receive an F for bullpen management. It takes a special kind of bad to lose 10 games on walk off hits before 1/4 of the season has paased, and the M’s bullpen just isn’t that bad. That’s a failure of management.

  20. mlathrop3 on May 15th, 2010 9:34 pm

    CCW – you are IN MY MIND!

  21. smb on May 15th, 2010 10:07 pm

    Maybe it’s the inevitable restoration of the balance after all those insane wins from ’01…since the subsequent seasons between now and then were full of the numbing blowout losses.

  22. Marinersdude83 on May 15th, 2010 10:49 pm

    Had a wonderful day outside today with the family! Listened to the game, enjoyed some great beer! An another loss but whatever. Winning feels kind of weird anyway.

  23. Rick Banjo on May 15th, 2010 10:50 pm

    I’m not going to chalk this whole thing up to a simple law of averages since Wak-o keeps severely bungling simple baseball strategy. At least in 2001 you would see calls to bunt runners into scoring position. Just because your 283-year-old DH is swinging a hot bat does not mean you look for an excuse to try to win in the hardest way imaginable.

    Plus, there’s no guarantee Lopez or Tui, who have both struggled at the plate, cash the runner at 3rd in with a base hit.

    The only trouble with this logic is that we’ve seen that either of these guys is perfectly capable of generating a flyout, and with any luck, a flyout within 10 feet of the warning track. I know it’s a bit farfetched to think that a manager would be bunting a man to third base because he think his following hitters will fail to hit safely, but at least you give yourself another option than base-hit or nothing. It’s the difference between insisting on a sunny day and finding the silver lining in a big pile of dog shit.

    Edit: These two can generate warning-track outs with some very good luck, which shoots a hole in my argument, but Lopez would look better with a Value Village FATBAT in his hands right now.

  24. RRS for Prez on May 15th, 2010 10:58 pm

    At what point do ya’ll start getting excited about having Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, and 2 random dudes who don’t like giving up runs? (Not to mention Bedard lurking in the shadows…)

    I’m sure you’ll be waiting for something like an offense that scores, a catcher who catches, or a bullpen that doesn’t blow/a manager who picks good pitchers to play at important times…but Felix, Cliff, Vargas, and Fister are enough for me.


  25. spankystout on May 15th, 2010 11:13 pm

    It looks like Wak is trusting his ‘instincts’ with his bullpen selection and not the numbers. This team is…..not good.

    By the way if you think Pat Burrell will help, you are crazy.

  26. spankystout on May 15th, 2010 11:20 pm

    RRS for Prez

    It doesn’t matter even if you have god pitching everygame. As we have seen the pitchers have to consistently hold teams to two or three runs for the M’s to have a chance at winning. Couple this with a asphyxiated offense and you get losses. Lots of them.

  27. davepaisley on May 15th, 2010 11:49 pm

    If we can just prevent our opponents from scoring more than -2 runs we should be OK.

    What, you’re saying negative numbers don’t work in baseball? Pshaw.

  28. MrZDevotee on May 15th, 2010 11:59 pm

    Totally agree. I mean, even Jesus couldn’t keep us from losing today– although, wouldn’t Jesus be most effective on Sunday, or wait, is that the day he rests? I’m so confused.

    All I know is when he takes the mound, my first thought is always “Oh God… *sigh*”

    Although I say the same thing whenever White takes the mound, or Griffey swings at a changeup.

    Griffey, Colome, and White.

    Wait– Look at that.

    The FATHER (of all things Seattle baseball), the SON (Jesus), and the HOLY GHOST (ie- guy missing an out pitch).

    Crud. If we can’t win with these guys on the team… What now, Z?

  29. Chris_From_Bothell on May 16th, 2010 6:50 am


    Do the Ms actually have a decent enough bullpen to hold late leads this year, but they’re just horrifically misused and mismanaged?

    Or can we legitimately say this bullpen is a weakness right now?

    It’d be a very distant second to the M’s issues on offense, but even so… it be even more maddening than it is now to get the right changes at DH and C, to get other guys to get to hitting their career averages, and then have even more games go this way for the rest of the summer.

  30. Gomez on May 16th, 2010 9:04 am

    I’m not going to chalk this whole thing up to a simple law of averages since Wak-o keeps severely bungling simple baseball strategy.

    The other thing is that if Sweeney does bunt him over and then the next two guys fail to drive him in, then people crucify Wak for wasting outs in a key situation when he had a RISP with no outs. He can’t win. People can find fault with every decision he makes that results in a failure to score key runs.

    Again, I’m not defending the guy. it’s just not as cut and dry as it appears in hindsight. It’s always easy to look back on failure and find fault with the manager’s decisions through results based analysis.

  31. joser on May 16th, 2010 9:10 am

    So League has not been as effective as he was last year — though he is still by far the most likely pitcher on the staff to get a ground ball — but the reason he was so effective last year was his new splitter (aka “the best pitch in baseball”). And yet this year he hasn’t been throwing the splitter.

    In apparently unrelated news, he switched teams in the off-season. Last year in Toronto he had Barajas behind the plate, a guy who can catch balls in the dirt. This year he has the wicket twins. Just thinking out loud here, but is it possible he’s reluctant to throw the splitter this year with men on base because he doesn’t want to see them advance while the catcher is doing the kitten-with-yarn thing in the foul area behind the plate?

    We’ve already seen that affect the outcome of the game as recently as Friday night. Is there any question that catcher defense matters? A lot?

    Could someone give me a reason, statisticly speaking, that Wak didn’t have Sweeney bunt Guti over to third with no one out? A bunt and a fly ball would score a run. Seems like the smart play to me.

    Well, the “numbers” answer is that the run expectancy for a runner on 3rd with 1 out (0.983) is actually slightly lower than it is for a runner on 2nd with no outs (1.189). But they’re close enough that it’s a wash, or rather it will be overwhelmed by the specific details of the particular instance. And those details — which I’m quite sure Wakamatsu was looking at, not the numbers — have already been covered by others above: whether or not Sweeney can get a bunt down (probably not — when was the last time he practiced it) and whether he was more likely to not make an out by swinging (since he suddenly has “a hot bat”). If Wak had called for the bunt half the fanbase would be screaming because he was taking the bat out of the apparently young-again hands of Mr three-homers-in-three-games; if Sweeney had then been unable to get the bunt down the rest of the fanbase would be screaming about expecting a bunt from a guy you shouldn’t expect such things from.

    And then, even if it all worked, what are the odds Lopez can get a deep fly ball to score the run? (And if he doesn’t, Tui doesn’t have a shot since now there are two outs — Lopez is unlikely to get a walk under any circumstances, and certainly not when he’s going to the plate intent on a sac fly)

    From Wak’s perspective there was no upside to that call.

  32. JMHawkins on May 16th, 2010 9:32 am

    Do the Ms actually have a decent enough bullpen to hold late leads this year, but they’re just horrifically misused and mismanaged?

    Here are the M’s relievers listed in order of effectiveness (xFIP, look at it like ERA for anyone who doesn’t know what xFIP is):

    Name xFIP
    Texeira 2.98
    League 3.41
    Aardsma 3.57
    Snell 4.19
    Kelley 4.65
    Lowe 5.44
    Colome 5.60
    White 6.08

    Set aside Texeira and Snell for a moment, since Texeira’s a surprise and Snell just got to the pen. League and Aardsma are good (not great, but good). Kelley is average, Lowe, Colome and White are terrible.

    Now, rank them by the leverage index when Wak brought them into the game (gmLI, higher numbers mean tighter spots, game more on the line.):

    Name gmLI
    Aardsma 2.33
    Lowe 1.85
    League 1.59
    White 1.28
    Colome 0.71
    Kelley 0.65
    Texeira 0.57
    Snell 0.37

    Again, set aside Snell. Aardsma gets the toughest calls, as he should. League, Lowe and White all get called in tough spots, but only League really deserves it. Colome, Kelley and Texeira get the mopup duty (last night an exception for Colome).

    Honestly it’s not as bad as I expected, but I think it means the answer to your question is a little bit of both problems. While our bullpen isn’t as strong as we’d like, it is in the upper half of the league, but has been moderately mismanaged to give below average results.

    Compare to Anahiem, another team struggling at the plate. They have slightly better relievers, but they leverage them very well (xFIP and gmLI line up well). Their bullpen has 5 wins, 3 losses and blows less than 1 out of every 4 save opportunities. The M’s pen has 10 losses, and blows nearly half of their save opportunites.

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