Friday, May 15, 2009
Since their last winning streak (two games or more), the Mariners have dropped 13 of 17 games. Around this time last year, they lost 17 of 22 games between winning streaks. The Mariners have been under .500 after the third, 31st, 33rd, 34th, and 35th games of this season. The scariest thing, though, is that a three-game winning streak will only get the Mariners to .500. The team has fallen far and fallen quickly. The 16-19 mark is worse than all Bavasi-era Mariner teams other than the 2007 team (two games worse). The current pace is one game better than the 2006 pace, two better than the 2005 and 2008 paces, and four better than the 2004 pace (that team was busy losing 11 of 13 at this point). The 16-19 record is worse than every Gillick-era Mariner team -- two games worse than 2000, six games worse than 2003, nine games worse than 2002, and ten games worse than 2001. A bit of trivia here: the 2002 team took 45 games to drop four games behind the pace of the 2001 team. I remember the team started pretty hot, but that's still nuts. The 2002 team actually had a better record than the 2001 team after 16 games at 13-3.
Mariner hitting went a collective 5-for-32 in this game, walking exactly zero times (you can't blame Yuniesky Betancourt this time since he wasn't in the lineup) and striking out seven times. Jose Lopez turned in the only multi-hit game. Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, and Wladimir Balentien had the other hits. Lopez, Beltre, and Balentien all doubled, accounting for all the Mariners' extra-base hits. Lopez was stranded after hitting his double. Beltre doubled in the fourth and scored on Balentien's two-out double. Beltre and Branyan both struck out twice. Beltre is hitting .259 in May after a .207 April. His double took his slugging mark to .444 for the month (.340 overall). He's still only hitting .227, on-base at .255, and slugging .340 for the year, though. Interesting note about Balentien -- he's 8-for-29 in May, and five of those hits are doubles. I hope Don Wakamatsu un-benches Betancourt soon since Ronny Cedeno is 5-for-36 (.139) on the year, not to mention his miscommunication with Beltre on a fly ball to the left side of the infield late in this game (Beltre was visibly pissed). Lastly, I'm a Franklin Gutierrez fan, but he's in a horrendous 1-for-20 slump. To his credit, he's walked three times in that slump.
I guess I'm covering all three of the Mariner pitchers in this game below, so I won't elaborate too much here. Maybe I'll combine the good stats of Felix Hernandez and David Aardsma. They combined to throw eight innings of shutout ball, giving up four hits and walking two hitters while striking out seven. They faced 30 hitters to get 24 outs. They got nine groundouts to eight flyouts. It was all roses with those two guys on the mound.
1) Felix Hernandez
The outing wasn't without a little bit of adversity for Felix, but at the end of the day, he still threw seven shutout innings. The final line was four hots, two walks (a bit of meh), and six strikeouts. He got eight groundouts to seven flyouts, and keeping the ratio tilted toward the groundball side is a good thing in Arlington. He threw 66 strikes out of 110 pitches and faced 27 hitters to get 21 outs. In short, after two bad outings, Felix got back on the horse and showed us what we've all wanted to see. The last two times out, we've all wanted him to be the stopper, but he wasn't able to come through. This time, he throws a gem and Brandon Morrow can't come through. I don't have to tell you this is a bad baseball team right now. They might get starting pitching one night, but the bullpen fails. They'll get hitting one night, but the starting pitching sucks. It's the mark of a bad baseball team. Back to Felix -- he's had eight starts so far, and has given up five or more runs in three of those starts. Oddly, he's only averaging 6 1/3 innings a start, which surprises me. That needs to get higher.
2) Jose Lopez
After going hitless in the first two games of the series, Lopez went 2-for-4 with a double. Extra-base hits are always nice to see, but they're kind of wet-blanketed when the hitters after you can't drive you in from second base. His signled in the fifth, however, did lead to him eventually scoring the first run of the game. Lopez is now hitting .246 for the month and .250 overall. He's on-base at a .271 clip for the month and a .294 clip overall. He's slugging .351 for May and .364 overall. In other words, those numbers were better for him in April than May. Wouldn't you know it, the Mariners have been worse as a whole in May. Still, I'll maintain that I'm not a big fan of Lopez hitting second in the lineup. I think it really takes away his RBI opportunities. It definitely did in this game -- Ichiro only got aboard once, and the bottom third of the lineup went 0-for-9. It's apparent now that they want to change Betancourt's approach at the plate, but before they got ticked off at him, I would have liked to see him hit second to take advantage of how aggressive he was. Ichiro's on first? Betancourt, hit and run.
3) David Aardsma
Another day, another clutch inning of relief for Aardsma. Throwing on his second straight day and holding a 2-0 lead, Aardsma sliced through Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, and Josh Hamilton in order, ending it by striking out Hamilton. He threw nine strikes on only 13 pitches. In complete hindsight, it might have been better to trot him back out there for the ninth, but he had thrown the day before. It also wouldn't have sent that nice of a message to Morrow. Of course, they could have passed it off as not wanting to throw Morrow on back-to-back days, but I guess they've got more confidence in his arm and shoulder than they did before. As for Aardsma, he walked six and struck out eight in April, but that ratio is becoming nicer in May as he's walked five and struck out ten. Surprisingly, even as he might be even more fastball dependent than Morrow, Aardsma's only been taken yard once this season. Aardsma has only given up runs in two of his 17 appearances. He has allowed his in six of his appearances. Unfortunately, he has handed out walks in nine of his outings.
There still part of me that wants Don Wakamatsu to tell Morrow that it's better for the team that he's in the rotation. Carlos Silva is down and the fifth spot in the rotation is only as solid as Chris Jakubauskas' next good start (who knows when that'll come). I don't mind having Aardsma close. If anything, Aardsma's been much more deserving of the closer role than Morrow, who asked to be in the bullpen. How many people out there think Morrow has the mental makeup of a closer in this league? I'm not so sure anymore. He's got to throw more pitches than a fastball, that's for sure. His fastball might be his best pitch, but against a team that feasts on fastballs, maybe it'd be a good idea to mix a few off-speed pitches in there. At least now he's the trivia answer to "Mariner pitcher off whom Hank Blalock homered in the final at-bat on consecutive days." Morrow's horrific line had him giving up three runs on three hits, two of which were homers. Chris Davis busted out the driver on his homer that ended the game.
One more time to see if the Lithuanian Laser is more like the laser we'd like him to be as opposed to the guy that allows mega-parabolae.