Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Would it matter if the Mariners were hitting in a more hitter-friendly ballpark? Are their numbers just so bad because they play half their games in Safeco Field? The answer from this game is an emphatic "no." By the time the seventh inning rolled around, I was totally half-watching this game and half-watching Iron Maiden Flight 666: The Movie since it was proving to be more entertaining than the game itself. Before that, though, came one of the reasons why I watch games on a regular basis, and that's to see things I haven't seen before. It's not that I haven't seen a fan interference call on a home run ball before, it's that I haven't seen them go back for a video review and then call it an out. It went in the books as a fly ball to Endy Chavez, but I thought they'd rule it a ground-rule double or something. Just like that, two runs were off the board for the Orioles. Too bad it was already 1-0 and the Mariners wouldn't be scoring more than one run on this night. In a related story, there's that grated walkway where the seating hosts tread behind the rightfield wall at Safeco Field that prevents people from reaching right over the wall.

After 58 games, the Mariners have a record of 28-30. This ranks ahead of every Bavasi-run Mariner team except for the 2007 team, which was 32-26 at this point. Twenty-eight wins is two ahead of the 2005 pace, three ahead of 2006, six ahead of 2004, and seven ahead of last year. The mark is worse than all the Gillick-run Mariner teams -- three worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002, 12 worse than 2003 (final game of a nine-game winning streak), and 18 worse than 2001 (14th win on a 15-game winning streak).

Mariner hitting combined to go 7-for-33 in the game, walking zero times and striking out seven times. Endy Chavez and Adrian Beltre doubled to account for all the Mariners' extra-base hits. Ichiro had two hits as the only multi-hit Mariner. Ken Griffey Jr., Ronny Cedeno, and Jamie Burke were the hitless Mariners in the starting lineup. The team went 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position (the number four there is more damning than the number one) and stranded five runners.

The bullpen will be covered below. Jason Vargas had trouble in the first, fifth, and sixth, which is when he gave up runs and was losing a bit of his control. It definitely wasn't the strongest outing we've seen out of Vargas. Still, he's gone at least five innings in each of his six starts and has gotten into the sixth in each of his last five starts. For someone who didn't make his first appearance until May 3rd and who didn't crack the rotation until May 12th, I think that's pretty good. He hasn't gotten into the 90-pitch range in his last two starts, but I think that's more due to the sticky situations he got himself into rather than how tired he was. In this game, Vargas gave up three runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out four. He threw 55 strikes out of 89 pitches, and faced 24 hitters to get 17 outs. He got two groundouts to ten flyouts (in that park, yikes).

1) Ichiro
We're getting spoiled. There's probably going to be a stretch later this season where Ichiro goes hitless twice in the span of five games, and everyone will be saying he's cooling down and falling off. Since his hitting streak was snapped, Ichiro has had multiple hits in each of the last three games, making him 7-for-12 (.583) with a double (slugging .667). His batting average sunk seven points to .346 thanks to that 0-for-4 against Minnesota, but thanks to these last three games, he's up to .359, his highest mark since he went 2-for-5 in his first game of the season and ended the game at .400, which really doesn't count. Basically, .359 is his high-water mark of the season so far. He's so good that if he goes 1-for-3, his batting average goes down. A 1-for-3 night every night would return Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez to respectability, but for Ichiro, it sinks his numbers. Ichiro is hitting .393, on-base at .452, and slugging .464 so far this month. Ichiro can't stop. Won't stop. After all the trades happen, he and Felix Hernandez might be the only two reasons to watch this team.

2) Brandon Morrow
I saw on The News Tribune's Larry LaRue blog that apparently Morrow has changed his mind and told the Mariners he'd like to start again. I don't know why it took this long, but thank goodness for that. Maybe the Mariners can get Philippe Aumont back to starting as well and the organization can actually have decent starting pitching depth again. Anyway, Morrow's seen that David Aardsma has taken the reins at closer and is excelling at it. Really, I don't think Morrow had the mental makeup for it anyway. Outings like the blown save(s) in Texas are supposed to disappear out of the mind of a closer, but clearly that wasn't happening with Morrow, even when he was shifted to middle relief. If this was his last appearance before moving to Tacoma's rotation, though, it's a good thing. Morrow faced nine hitters to get seven outs, pitching shutout ball on two hits, walking none and striking out one. The only blemish is that he let one of Vargas' runners score before he finished the sixth. Still, when you look at all the reasons the Mariners lost this game, Morrow's not high on the list. The lack of offense is probably each of the top five reasons why.

3) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' second baseman drove in the Mariners' only run of the game, scoring Beltre from third with two out in the ninth. It was the Mariners' only hit in only four opportunities with runners in scoring position. He also struck out once. Lopez is 8-for-29 (.276) on the month, slugging .517. His batting average for the year is .236, so he's still a good tear away from respectability. Ironically, for all the crap we've given Adrian Beltre this season, he's hitting .246, 12 points better than Lopez. Sure, Lopez has the 32 RBIs, but I'd really like to dig back through all the logs and see how many of those RBIs came on groundouts. To me, just going through my head, it seems like that'd be a pretty high number. I guess something that's worth considering is whether we've seen enough of Lopez to know about his offensive ceiling and whether he's already reached it. I'd love to see a 25-homer season out of his guy, but right now he's only at six. If nothing else, the Mariners spent a couple of picks on their first day of the draft on middle infielders.

Ronny Cedeno
For someone that quite a few Seattle media folks thought would be the starting shortstop over Yuniesky Betancourt out of spring training, surely back then he didn't look completely overmatched at the plate. If there's one thing Cedeno has proven so far this season, it's that (aside from a 3-for-4 game against Boston) he flat out cannot hit Major League pitching. Screw batting average, he's only gotten hits in eight of the 22 games in which he's played. By comparison, Ichiro has gone hitless in only five games this entire season. We've heard that Don Wakamatsu is sitting Betancourt due to issues about preparation and things like that, and that's fine and dandy, but Betancourt's proven that he can hit the odd single. I know the entire offense sucks right now, but when you start Cedeno out there, you're basically punting two slots in your starting lineup (catcher being the other). Wakamatsu might be trying to prove a point, but this is enough. I think it's almost worse that he's starting Cedeno than sitting Betancourt.

It’s a good night for a Felix night. It’s a better night for the offense to do something, but hitting in this park hopefully should help.

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