Saturday, May 09, 2009
Just to get this straight, the Mariners on Tuesday faced Vicente Padilla, who had a 7.43 ERA coming into the game, then the next day they faced Sidney Ponson, he of the 7.16 ERA. In this game (two nights after facing Ponson), they faced Scott Baker, whose ERA was a mere 9.15 coming into the game. Can anyone venture to guess how many runs the Mariners scored against this formidable trio of arms? Anyone? The total is two runs, with only one of those being earned. Padilla gave up the unearned run in eight innings, Ponson gave up the one run over 7 1/3 innings, and Baker threw seven shutout innings. That's a combined 22 1/3 innings where the Mariners scored two runs (one earned). ERAs are bad when small sample size is used, but the numbers I just gave you would make for an 0.40 combined ERA out of those pitchers collectively against the Mariners.
Mariner hitting went a collective 5-for-32 for the game, striking out seven times and walking zero times. They were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, which means they had five at-bats with runners in scoring position. If you were watching or even partially watching the game, it's amazing they even had runners in scoring position for five at-bats. The Mariners amassed all of five hits obtained by Ichiro, Endy Chavez, Adrian Beltre, Kenji Johjima, and Yuniesky Betancourt. All other Mariner hitters were hitless, thus making me hesitant to use the word "hitters" to describe them. The Mariners also went without an extra-base hit.
Two out of the four Mariner pitchers will be described below. Meanwhile, it was a good day for Miguel Batista to get in some work, and he poured fuel on the fire, scoring two of Jakubauskas' runners in 1 1/3 innings. He gave up three hits (a three-run Buscher homer) and walked two, facing nine hitters to get four outs. Mark Lowe threw a scoreless one-hit eighth inning.
Oh, the pace paragraph. The 15-15 mark at 30 games is better than every Bavasi team except for the 2007 team, where the records match. It's two wins better than last season and three better than all of 2004-2006. The record is worse than every Gillick team. It's two worse than 2000, four worse than 2003, six worse than 2002, and eight worse than 2001.
On a light-hitting day for everyone, the sliding catch in rightfield put Ichiro over the top. The Mariners' leadoff hitter went 1-for-4. The double on Thursday night spiked his slugging percentage up a bit, and it's now at .414, while .346 is his on-base percentage. Ichiro is hitting .313, and .324 so far for the month of May. He has gone hitless in only one game out of eight this month. Another fun fact about Ichiro: despite missing eight games to start the season, Ichiro has hit two more home runs than Adrian Beltre. This of course means Ichiro has two homers on the season. Ichiro has drawn five walks on the season and struck out nine times. After missing the first eight games of the season, he has piled up 31 hits. Extrapolated over a 154-game season (since eight games of zero really weighs it down), Ichiro is on pace for a 217-hit season. At this pace, however, I'm not sure if the other eight hitters in the lineup will combine for 217 hits. I guess what's really a shame is that the Mariners have had the best leadoff hitter in the Majors since Ichiro came aboard, and they've been complete crap for four of the eight years he's been here.
2) Endy Chavez
He was 1-for-4, stole a base, and I thought he made a decent throw home on a play where a runner scored. He hit .305 in April, but is having a .167 month of May. He's at .280 on the season. He has drawn 11 walks on the season and struck out 14 times. He has gone hitless four times this month, but two of those games where pinch-running appearances late in games since Wladimir Balentien is drawing into the lineup a bit more frequently. Chavez is 6-for-7 on steal attempts. Again, it should be noted that the Mariners were 6-2 without Ichiro, and I'm pretty sure Chavez was the leadoff hitter in all of those games. There have been some people suggesting Ichiro get moved down in the lineup just to shake things up, but I'm not sure we go that far yet. The good thing about that is the Mariners have the luxury of having two guys capable of hitting leadoff. I guess whether or not Don Wakamatsu does it depends on the level of desperation. In the dugout, they probably still feel they haven't completely lost grip of the situation.
3) Jason Vargas
Two appearances and it's full marks for one of the guys that came back in the JJ Putz trade. Though he picked up a win in the extra-inning game against Oakland (and is therefore the answer to the trivia question "who is the last Mariner pitcher to record a win?"), it was going to be a tall task for the offense to score 12 runs and win the game for Vargas this time around. In this game, Vargas stranded the two runners given to him by Batista. He faced six hitters to get four outs, giving up a hit. Based on how Jakubauskas is doing, I think you might have to look at this guy if you want someone else to put into the fifth spot in the rotation, and I happen to think it might be time for just that. If his two Mariner outings are completely representative of what Vargas will give you, then the Mariner rotation should be one-fifth Vargasian, I say. Or the Mariners could suck horribly except for Bedard and Washburn, then the Mariners could trade them away for a bunch of awesome starting pitching prospects, and everyone will be fine and merry. Until we realize starting pitchers can't hit and the Mariners still don't have hitters. I'd ask what the over-under is on a Mike Carp call-up if he wasn't playing first base.
Okay, I think Jakubauskas has a nice story, and he's been good to great in two of his five starts, but the other three have been pretty atrocious. If Ryan Rowland-Smith isn't coming back anytime soon (I haven't heard rumblings, anyway), I think it's time to send this guy back to the bullpen so his confidence (though I know he's not young) doesn't get completely shattered. In two starts this month, he's given up four homers in 8 2/3 innings of work, and his May ERA is 13.50 (ouch!). The problem for the Mariners isn't necessarily that they don't have a guy anchoring down the fifth spot in the rotation well (not many teams stick with the same fifth starter for the entire year), it's that they don't have a solid fifth starter or third (Silva) starter. I won't quite say you're punting away 40% of the rotation, but it's at least once every time through. It's hard to mount long winning streaks with Silva sucking every turn through the rotation, and it's even harder if Jakubauskas is doing on-the-job training if the fifth spot in the rotation. If two spots in the rotation suck, you can still play .600 ball if Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, and Jarrod Washburn go undefeated. The only problem with that theory is that those three won't go undefeated. Reeks like a .500 or worse team to me, though honestly I always thought it'd end up that way.
If ever there was a good day for a Felix Day, this is it.
Friday, May 08, 2009
I got a bit nervous when the Canucks were sending just the single forechecker, and then even more nervous when I started not seeing a forechecker (might have been a camera angle thing). Still, the Canucks weren't generating a lot of chances, which is bad, but they had a lead and Chicago was getting nothing. Willie Mitchell is getting the pile-on for that tying goal, which is too bad. What's too bad about this game is that really the first mistake the Canucks made defensively ended up in the back of their net and tied the game. Mitchell tried to clear the puck along the right-wing boards and through a mess of bodies that included Andrew Ladd, Taylor Pyatt, and Kyle Wellwood and failed. Martin Havlat then picked up the puck and skated slightly faster than Mitchell, Wellwood, and Steve Bernier (from behind), who were all trying to reach in with sticks to impede the shot. Roberto Luongo after the game said that Havlat fanned a bit, which messed him up as he was ready to stop the perfect shot.
All told, Luongo had a big stop which the Canucks used to eventually get the Darcy Hordichuk goal, but Nikolai Khabibulin got a stop or two in on the only chances the Canucks had in overtime, which the Blackhawks used to get the final goal. Bolland went over to the boards to pick up a loose puck, then just shot toward the net without really looking, and Ladd tipped in five-hole on Luongo.
I guess the tough part is that the Canucks had this game completely dominated and had it in the bag. Two minutes and 44 seconds is all they had to get through. Apparently Mitchell made the right move since clearing down the middle of the ice isn't the fundamentally correct move, but it seemed to me there was some open ice and Bernier down the middle of the ice.
I didn't want this to be a long series, but a win in this game would have pushed Chicago to the brink and the Canucks could have finished it off tomorrow night. Instead, the Canucks have to go back to Chicago for Game 6 and hopefully they just win the next two because I don't think I can take a Game 7 against this team. Two years ago against Dallas was different, and that was a first-round series.
The 15-14 mark is even with the pace of the 2007 team. Other than that, it's better than every Bavasi team -- two better than 2008, and three better than all of 2004, 2005, and 2006. Fifteen wins is a worse pace than every Gillick team -- one worse than 2000, three behind 2003, five behind 2002, and seven worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting went a collective 9-for-33 at the plate, walking three times and striking out a staggering 11 times. Rob Johnson and Ronny Cedeno both got hat tricks at the plate, striking out three times apiece. Mike Sweeney came in to pinch hit in the ninth for Johnson and managed to break up the shutout. Multi-hit games belonged to Ichiro (three hits) and Ken Griffey Jr., who had two hits. Ichiro and Wladimir Balentien hit a double apiece to account for all of the Mariners' extra-base hits.
Mariner starting pitching will be discussed in the gameball section. Sean White threw the eighth inning and gave up one run on a hit and walked one. A 2-0 game became a 3-0 game under White's watch. Still, with the offense going the way it was going, White's inning was largely inconsequential.
1) Jarrod Washburn
Needless to say, the Mariner offense wasted yet another good start out of Washburn. His record at this point is 3-2, though he should easily be 4-1 or 5-1. His only crappy start out of six starts this season was the six-run start in Anaheim. He gave up two runs (one earned) on six hits in seven innings, striking out five and walking none. He threw 62 strikes out of 95 pitches. The newfound sinker manifested itself in the form of 11 groundouts to five flyouts. I'll take a wild guess and say Washburn has 14 more starts before the trade deadline. Say he goes 8-3 or something, that'd take him to 11-5 and what I hope would be a very tradeable commodity. Or we could hope for 14-0. Okay, it's probably not going to quite happen like that. We know from last year that if Washburn is pitching for a way to get off this team, he gets sufficiently motivated and can pitch pretty well. He's got a second chance to get himself out of here, so let's hope he pitches like gangbusters again. I hope other teams can see through any occurrences of bad run support.
Just the Mariners' luck that they get him to the plate representing the go-ahead run with two on and two out in the top of the ninth and he grounds out. This was the only out he made in the game. Such is how it's going for the Mariners. Ichiro thusly went 3-for-4 with a double, walking once and stealing a base. I've been doing all his pace calculations using 154 games since he's an everyday player and missed the first eight games of the season. Taking that into account, his 30 hits in 21 games extrapolates out to a 220-hit pace for the season. He is also on pace to drive in 66 runs, but as we stastically get further away from the grand slam, that number should steadily decrease. Ichiro has also stolen bases on five of seven attempts. Ichiro has gone hitless in only four out of the 21 games he's played this season. Eleven of those 21 games have been multi-hit games for Ichiro, more than making up (at least numberswise) for the hitless games. Going 5-for-9 over the past two games has taken the batting average from .291 to .316.
3) Ken Griffey Jr.
Finally some good news out of Griffey. A 2-for-4 day in Kansas City skyrocketed his batting average to .214, the highest it's been since April 18th, when it was .233 after a game against Detroit. He was hitting .197 after the first game of the Kansas City series. He is slugging .343, which is lower than his on-base percentage of .353, but that's what happens when you're not getting extra-base hits and you're walking a lot. Junior has drawn 15 walks this season and despite limited playing time, that total is more than that of Yuniesky Betancourt and Ichiro combined. Of course, .214 is in icky average, and five RBIs is icky, and Griffey not being able to catch up to fastballs on the outside corner is an icky thing as well. I have no idea how much better Griffey will get or even if he'll get better at all. Any little bit helps out of Griffey though. I can only complain so much since he's not an everyday player like, say, Adrian Beltre. Did you know Griffey has hit two more homers than Beltre this season? It's true.
Did you know that despite being out for the last two weeks, Cedeno still has one more home run than Beltre? Cedeno homered against Detroit, which I was probably really pleased about at the time, but I've completely forgotten it. Cedeno's .276 slugging percentage is higher than Beltre's .274 mark. Beltre bashing aside, Cedeno has gone hitless in five of the nine games in which he's gotten an at-bat. Cedeno is hitting .138 this season, and he's appeared in ten games. In this game, he went 0-for-3 and got the hat trick with three strikeouts. It didn't stop there as he misplayed a ball at shortstop, which Betancourt easily could have done, and he could have at least gotten a hit out of the whole deal. The infielders weren't getting too many days off with Cedeno out, but the lineup seemed comfortable with Mike Sweeney drawing in every once in a while and with Wladimir Balentien drawing into the outfield every couple days. The way it is now, though, the only hitter I'd really want Cedeno swapping for is Beltre, but then you're losing some on defense.
Lithuanian laserage tonight, along with the Metrodome's absolutely horrible camera angle.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
The current Mariner record of 15-13 is still better than any Bavasi-era team. It's one game better than the 2007 pace, two better than last year, three better than 2005 and 2006, and four better than 2004. The record is worse than all of the Gillick teams. It's one worse than 2000, two worse than 2003, four worse than 2002, and seven worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting was a collective 9-for-35. They were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners. They walked once and struck out three times. Mariners with multi-hit games included Ichiro, Jose Lopez, and Franklin Gutierrez, each with two hits. Ken Griffey Jr., Russell Branyan, and Lopez all hit a double each, accounting for all of the Mariners' extra-base hits.
Mariner pitching will be covered below since there was one starter and one reliever. The starting pitching was horrible.
The leadoff hitter went 2-for-5, striking out once. He also gunned down a runner at the plate, and that's always fun. Ichiro is sitting at .297 on the season. Maybe the bad part is that he left five runners aboard, but I don't want to detract from the gameball selection here too much. I might have put Jose Lopez as one of these three, but he had a pretty bad looking error at second which kind of smudges the two hits he had. I'm just ecstatic that even despite missing the first eight games of the season, Ichiro should have 200 hits without a problem. That's impressive stuff. This is his ninth season in the Majors, and I have to wonder aloud what it will take here to get him into Cooperstown. I don't know how much weight the voters would give the Japanese leagues, but Ichiro is definitely a cinch to have 2000 hits in a Major League uniform, and he has a decent chance at 2500 hits, and might have an outside shot at 3000 hits. If he gets 3000 hits, he's a lead-pipe cinch for a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. How much more does he need to get into the Hall of Fame?
2) Garrett Olson
His line was three runs (two earned) on nine hits over five innings, walking three and striking out two. He threw 58 strikes in 96 pitches and got five groundouts along with seven flyouts. It might not be the most stellar line, but it was in relief, and his line would have been a way better starting line than Carlos Silva. There's a pretty long list right now of people who I'd rather have start than Silva: Batista, Vargas, Olson, Morrow (ha!), Rowland-Smith. The way it's going with the offense, there's no way Silva's going to win because the amount of runs the offense can muster doesn't allow a sufficient margin of error that Silva needs. Rather than crush his ego even more, let's just have someone else take a few turns in the rotation before we turn back to Silva again. It's going to be really bad if Silva decides to eat his way through his struggles. I never had a before-and-after photo comparison, but while I'll trust people when they say he cut a bunch of weight, maybe the results so far are making me think he hasn't lost any at all. Dude's still throwing the same.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
He didn't get a hit in the final game of the Texas series, which snapped his hitting streak at eight games. However, he aws hit by a pitch, so I guess you could say it's a ten-game streak where he's either hit or been hit. Either way, he's amassed 16 hits in his last ten games. His batting average has gone from .191 to .301 over that span. He also has three more homers than Adrian Beltre does this season. Still, I wouldn't advise moving him anywhere in the lineup right now because he seems to comfortable where he is. I'm okay with moving a Jose Lopez up to the third spot, though, as was done in this game. Overall, it's too bad Gutierrez is doing well but his good story is being thwarted by how horrible Carlos Silva is and how nonexistent the offense has been finding itself lately. Probably the worst thing Gutierrez has done this year is overrun a couple of balls in centerfield on which he probably wouldn't have had too much of a chance to get the guy at the plate. Who expected this guy to be hitting .301 at any point of the season?
Please let this nightmare end. The game actually started with a nice pitch that got parachuted into the outfield for a base hit, and then it was pretty much over after that. The poetically beautiful moment of the night, of course, was the balk with a runner on third that put the Royals ahead 6-0. I wonder how much worse he has to be -- might the thought of eating his hefty hefty contract even enter the mind? They've at least got to get him out of the rotation. It's obviously not working. I'd much rather have Miguel Batista go out there and suck every five days just to change it up. Heck, Olson pitched the remaining five innings in this game, proving that he can at least last five innings and not implode. Silva gave up six runs on right hits in three innings, walking one. He threw 42 strikes on 70 pitches, getting seven groundouts and two flyouts. In addition to the balk, Silva also hit Jose Guillen with a pitch. Silva faced 17 hitters to get nine outs. Does anybody know what to do with this guy? Silva surely doesn't know what to do with himself.
Washburn today. A complete game would be nice. Ha.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
A physical tone was set early as Ryan Kesler threw a hit on his very first shift. Before two minutes had elapsed in the game, some jostling in front of the Vancouver net ended with Vaananen going off for roughing, knocking down a Blackhawk in front of the net. Willie Mitchell challenged Dustin Byfuglien to a fight (it didn't come). Kesler later ran Jonathan Toews' head into the end boards behind one of the nets. Alex Burrows got tied up with someone at the Chicago bench.
More importantly, a couple days after the captain Roberto Luongo took some but not all of the blame for the team's performance in Game 2, the team responded nicely. The Blackhawks skated circles around and through the Canucks and drove to the net at will for at least three of the first six periods of play in this series, but in Game 3, Chicago found little time and little open space to move around. There was aggressive forechecking, there were busy sticks, and there was a team of Blackhawks who had much trouble generating anything like they had the last two games.
An aggressive forecheck by Kesler on Nikolai Khabibulin behind the Chicago net along with a smart pinch along the right-wing boards by Kevin Bieksa helped lead to the first goal of the game. Kesler skated toward the faceoff dot to get the pass from Bieksa. Knowing he had two Blackhawks bearing down on him, Kesler passed across the slot to a wide-open Raymond, who scored into a mostly open net. On a power play early in the second period, Alex Edler fired a shot from the left point, and Steve Bernier positioned himself well and had no defenders close to him in front of the net. Bernier buried the rebound for a garbage goal to put the Canucks out to a 2-0 lead. The third and final Canuck goal came in a four-on-four situation as Henrik Sedin took a pass from Alex Edler and shot close on Khabibulin. Khabibulin stopped the first shot and as he was trying to cover it, Henrik jabbed the stick between the pads and nudged the puck slowly across the goal line and into the net. An ill-advised trip by Daniel Sedin trying to chase down an iced puck led to Chicago's power-play goal as Brian Campbell's blast from the blue line got through to the net thanks to a screen by Dustin Byfuglien and the covering Edler.
Penalties as a rule are easier to take when they're penalties of aggression (roughing/boarding/fighting) as opposed to the penalties of not being fast enough (hooking/holding/tripping). Of the Canucks' six penalties, the first three were all aggressive penalties -- Vaananen for roughing, Pyatt for boarding, and Kesler for roughing -- and all penalties were killed. Daniel Sedin's trip resulted in the power play where Campbell scored. The Canucks killed the two penalties for which they were whistled in the third period -- puck-over-glass penalties for Edler early in the third period and Raymond midway through the third period. The penalty by Daniel was a bit infuriating because it came 42 seconds after the Canucks had just gotten ahead 3-0. The Blackhawks' first shift after that goal was a very good one, but tripping while trying to negate an iced puck is just bad.
As for Luongo, he didn't have to be spectacular in this game, but it's nice having him back there in case he does have to be spectacular. Other than the goal, maybe the closest call was the puck that deflected off Mattias Ohlund's stick and off the post. Luongo stopped all the shots he saw and a few that he didn't.
Not too many people going into this game said it was a must-win for Vancouver, but it pretty much was. If they didn't win, the pressure on them to win Game 4 would be unreal. Chicago would still have home-ice advantage, for one, and the Canucks would have to take it all the way to Game 6 and would still have to win one in Chicago to take the series. The Canucks won, however, so now Chicago has to win Game 4 or else they'll br on the brink of elimination and on a plane to Vancouver to fight for their playoff lives and try to win three straight against Luongo. Game 4 is a must-win for Chicago, and the Canucks have to be ready for whatever Chicago is going to throw at them. As long as Vancouver takes the game to Chicago more than the other way around, they should be okay.
The Mariners broke up their seven-game streak of alternating wins and losses, but unfortunately they had to do that with a loss. Losing twice to the intra-division Texas Rangers also hurts as the Mariners now only had a half-game lead over them for the lead. The 15-12 mark after 27 games is still better than any of the Bavasi-era teams -- one better than 2007, two better than last year, three better than 2005 and 2006, and five better than 2004. The mark isn't better than any of the Gillick-era teams -- ties 2000, two worse than 2003, three worse than 2002, and six worse than 2001. It should be noted that the 2005 team was in the midst of a seven-game losing streak (and 11 of 12) at this point, and last year's team was about to sandwich a win between dual five-game losing streaks. By the way, these current Mariners have lost six of their last nine. The sky isn't falling, but the team is creeping back to .500 for sure.
Mariner hitting went a futile 3-for-31 in the game, walking four times and striking out six times. The only Mariners with hits were Russell Branyan, Adrian Beltre, and Wladimir Balentien. Ichiro was hitless but managed to walk twice. The team was 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded four runners on base. Jose Lopez, Mike Sweeney, and Beltre all grounded into double plays.
I cover the starting pitching in the one of the entries below as well as the final pitcher. The three in between were Mark Lowe (eighth inning), David Aardsma (ninth inning), and Shawn Kelley (three pitches in the tenth inning). They combined for two shutout innings, giving up four hits, walking one, and striking out two. Lowe and Aardsma gave up two hits apiece, getting some adversity sprinkled into their appearances. Aardsma in particular was able to come up with a huge strikeout on a full-count pitch to end his inning. The concern goes to Kelley, who Mike Blowers noticed didn't look right after his second pitch, walking around the mound for a bit more than usual. Kelley threw his third pitch and fell in a heap on the front slope of the mound like he'd been nailed with wild animal tranquilizer or something. I hope we get to see this guy again. I think everyone was surprised to see him make the team out of spring training, and he'd proved his worth so far. I hope we get to see him on the mound again, though it might be at least 15 days.
1) Erik Bedard
After a bumpy first inning, I didn't think he would finish six innings, but instead he finished seven. His only real blemish was a pitch that was obliterated by Nelson Cruz (he hit the ball pretty hard all day), but that was his only run on seven hits. Making his already insane strikeout-to-walk ratio even more insane, Bedard struck out seven and walked none. He threw 72 strikes out of 102 pitches, and had a pretty nice curveball going. He got four groundouts to nine flyouts. Bedard faced 27 hitters to get 21 outs. The stoic Mariner lefthander now has an ERA of 2.37 and did the bullpen a decent favor by turning in a great outing following Felix Hernandez's not-so-good start on Monday and the extra-inning game on Sunday. The bullpen will need all the rest it can get because Wednesday's game will see Carlos Silva starting in a hitter-friendly ballpark. It'll at least be interesting to see how long the leash is on Silva. Does Don Wakamatsu pull him from the rotation after five more starts? One start? A month?
2) Russell Branyan
On a day where not a lot of good happened to the Mariners at the plate, Branyan chimed in with a 1-for-3 day along with a walk, and the one hit was a double. Even on a crap day for the team, Branyan gets his extra-base on. I also like that so far he hasn't proved to be too horrible of a defensive liability. There have been a couple of Beltre one-hoppers that have flummoxed him (and that Richie Sexson or John Olerud would have had), but maybe that comes with more reps with these guys. So far, so good on defense. So far, so very good on offense, as has been obvious since Branyan has come off the shelf. Branyan's goodness at the plate lately got Wakamatsu to move him up to fifth in the lineup in this game, bumping Beltre to fifth. As has been the case for years, the fourth slot always carries the tag of being the "cleanup hitter," and Branyan's definitely suited for it. Okay, he'd be more suited for it right now if he'd hit 11 homers, struck out way more, and hit .260 instead of his current .321, but we'll take what he's doing now.
3) Adrian Beltre
A 1-for-4 day bumped Beltre's batting average up to a gawdy .209. His one hit was a double, so that helps the slugging percentage go up a tick. Wakamatsu moved Beltre down to fifth in the lineup after being at fourth for so long, and I would think that takes some of the pressure off of him. With Ken Griffey, Jr. out for now, the lineup for this game had Ichiro (lefty), Lopez (righty), Sweeney (righty), Branyan (lefty), and Beltre (righty), with Balentien (righty) hitting behind him. Actually, it was a pretty righty-heavy lineup without Endy Chavez out there. Symbolically, the bump in the lineup definitely lets him know he should be doing better, but it also gives Branyan somewhat of a validation of what he's done so far at the plate. Of course, those who were betting on seeing a Beltre homer before a Betancourt walk lost that bet in the first game of this series. If he doesn't have a homer by May 15th, I think it's really time to freak out. If he sucks enough for this year, do you think his price goes down enough to where it'd be a decent idea to keep him?
If you're going to blow a tie ballgame, you might as well blast it all to hell. The bullpen was a bit tired, and after Shawn Kelley looked like he'd been hit with a tranquilizer dart, Stark came in and had as many warmup throws as he wanted before he resumed the batter on whom Kelley had a 2-1 count. Stark -- appearing in a game for the third straight day -- was pressed into action, sure, but his final line is something to behold. He did manage to get through the tenth inning, but gave up six runs on five hits, walking one. He faced nine hitters to get three outs (one flyout, two groundouts). He threw 21 strikes on 36 pitches. Needless to say, the grand slam by Jarrod "The Salty One" Saltalamacchia was the big blow that put the game on ice for the Rangers. Frankly, though it was only a two game series, the Mariners had a big problem with how many home runs the Rangers were hitting, and they weren't cheap home runs. They also had problems hitting Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla. Anyway, I don't think this outing alone would earn him a demotion since Kelley got injured before him and since he'd thrown three days in a row. I don't think he'll be voted off the island just yet.
Where will Silva go for his barbecue?
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
The Mariners are at 15-11, but have alternated wins and losses for their last seven games, so while there haven't been any losing streaks lately, there also haven't been any winning streaks, at least not since they were 12-6 at the end of a three-game winning streak. A two-game losing streak made the Mariners 12-8, and the wins and losses have alternated since. Of the still-good years of Mariner baseball, this pace is ahead of only the 2000 season by one game. It is five games behind the 2001 pace, two back of the 2003 pace, and three behind the 2002 pace. Of the crappy recent years of Mariner baseball, the pace is better than all the seasons, two better than 2007, three better than 2008 and 2005, four better than 2006, and five better than 2004.
Kevin Millwood threw a perfect game through four innings, so the Mariner hitters' numbers didn't warm up until the fifth. They were a collective 9-for-36, walking once (a surprise of a walk) and striking out three times. Kenji Johjima and Mike Sweeney doubled, Ichiro tripled, and Branyan and Gutierrez homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. The team went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position (the one hit was the Gutierrez homer).
I'll deal wtih the starting pitching (Felix Hernandez) below, so here's the bullpen. They threw three innings of shutout and no-hit ball. Sean White walked two in an otherwise spotless two innings, striking out one hitter. He faced seven hitters to get six outs, recording four groundouts to zero flyouts. Denny Stark threw in his second straight game, throwing a perfect ninth inning and striking out one, getting a groundout and a flyout.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
I hope everyone out there is enjoying the current output of Gutierrez, because I know I am. All I was hoping for this season out of Gutierrez was a .240 season with awesome defense. I wasn't expecting eight-game hitting streaks like the one he's on now. At the end of the Tampa Bay series, he was hitting .191. Eight games later, he's a .303 hitter. Simply incredible. He seems to not have too much trouble scratching together the odd hit, and apart from a three-game hitless streak (the Tampa Bay series), he's never gone hitless in consecutive games. It's not just an eight-game hit streak that's going for Gutierrez, though. He's gotten multiple hits in each of his last five games. He hit .211 before that streak, and now it's the aforementioned .303. I haven't even mentioned the three-run homer off Millwood that tied this game at four apiece. You don't expect him to hit a bunch of homers, and you don't expect eight-game hit streaks or five-game streaks of multi-hit games, but it's really nice to know that the potential is there. So far, this looks like a golden find by Jack Zduriencik.
2) Russell Branyan
He finally pulled one at the Safe. His mortar shot in the bottom of the fifth broke up Kevin Millwood's perfect game, no-hitter, and shutout, and it put the Mariners on the board, starting the nuttiness that ensued later in the inning. In the ten games Branyan has played since coming back from injury, he has homered five times. Add five doubles to that total, and it does wonders for the ol' slugging percentage, which has gone from .485 to .667 in those ten games. Branyan is also hitting .320, which is overwhelmingly good for someone you'd regard as a power hitter. He also has more hits than strikeouts. I'm not sure I expect that to hold up through the season. He has only struck out in one game this month, and that was the extra-inning game on Sunday, which gives a person many chances to strike out. So far it seems like the main pitches that Branyan are smoking seem to be on the outer half of the plate. He has to get his arms extended for the ball to have a legitimate chance to leave the yard. On the inside pitches, it seems his bat gets too vertical and it ends up too golfy.
3) Yuniesky Betancourt
HE WALKED! HE WALKED! HE WALKED!!!!!! Betancourt got up 3-0 in the count on Frank Francisco and I thought if I could take anything from this game, it'd be that Betancourt managed to walk himself aboard. Sure enough, he did. He represented the winning run on first base with Ichiro coming to the plate with two out. What's too bad is that despite the patience that Betancourt showed, Ichiro swung on the first pitch and flew out to centerfield to end the game. You can't win 'em all, I guess. The 1-for-3 night with a walk picked up nine points in on-base percentage for Betancourt, bumping it up to .302. His batting average is now .298, but for the first time since April 24th against the Angels, his batting average isn't greater than his on-base percentage. It's amazing what just one walk will do. I do have to say I'm still an advocate of moving Betancourt to the second slot in the lineup if Chavez is riding pine that day. Bat Balentien down low that day and it can be a hit-and-run fest with Betancourt since we know he'll be aggressive and make contact.
This team's not going to win many games when Felix gives up six runs. It's simple as that. Though he gets full marks for pitching despite a bout of the flu, he unfortunately made mistakes that you could imagine happening from someone who was pitching through a flu. He gave up all the runs and hits that the Rangers accumulated in the game. The dual two-run homers he gave up were the crippling hits -- Michael Young's opposite field shot made it 4-0 in the fifth, and right after the Mariners rallied back to tie it at 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth, Chris Davis crushed a ball to rightfield to make it 6-4. With the way Kevin Millwood threw in every inning to that point other than the fifth, it didn't look good for the Mariners. Felix gave up six runs on 10 hits through his six innings. Maybe the best thing about his line was that he didn't walk anyone and struck out nine. He threw 65 strikes out of 97 pitches. He recorded two groundouts to seven flyouts (not very Felix-like) and faced 28 hitters to get 18 outs. You can say anything about this game, but it boils down to Felix giving up six runs. The Mariners somehow nearly won despite this.
Bedardation! The game better be over before the Canucks play at 5pm.
Monday, May 04, 2009
The first 20 minutes of Game 2 looked a lot like the first period of Game 1. Vancouver looked great (aside from the first shift), and they had the lead going into the dressing room. They had a 1-0 lead after the first period in Game 1, but had a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes in Game 2. Much like Game 1, Chicago took ill-advised penalties in the first period and couldn't get all their lines rolling as a result. The Canucks made good 30 seconds into Niklas Hjalmarsson's delay of game penalty with a Sami Salo one-timer to make it 1-0. This was fine and dandy except that immediately after leaving the ice, Salo went to the dressing room and the team trainer followed him, and apparently the team doctor was involved as well. This happened 5:35 into the game, and Salo never returned, leaving the Canucks to play with five defensemen the rest of the way. I don't mind Bieksa and Mitchell getting extra minutes, but Mattias Ohlund is long in the tooth and I don't want Shane O'Brien getting any more minutes than he usually does. Anyway, the defensive pairings were screwed up for the rest of the game. Sure, Alex Edler capitalized on a one-timer on a five-on-three 69 seconds after the first goal, but the repercussions for the rest of the series could be huge for Vancouver without Salo.
Other things in that first period -- after Vancouver scored on the five-on-three, they nearly scored again toward the end of the penalty, but that was immediately followed by Chicago hitting Duncan Keith out of the penalty box with a pass to start a rush that was only stopped by being offside. I have Roberto Luongo's first glove save marked down with 9:51 to go. With 7:38 or so remaining, Ryan Kesler took a high-stick, but there was no call, and Chicago got a decent scoring chance after that. With 6:25 left, Jonathan Toews was allowed to skate through the defense and to the net untouched, but Luongo stopped and covered the shot. After Shane O'Brien was done serving a hooking penalty, the Kyle Wellwood line had a very good shift.
The second period was by far Vancouver's worst of the postseason. After Luongo made the ultra-awesome paddle stop of a Ben Eager shot with 10:51 left, it all went to crap for Vancouver. Rather than feeding off the energy that such a save could theoretically provide, the Canucks would go from up 2-0 to down 3-2 in a span of 4:26. After Pavol Demitra iced the puck (ill advised), Patrick Sharp scored soon after through a maze of bodies to make it 2-1. On a play where Dustin Byfuglien plowed into Luongo, somehow Kevin Bieksa was called for hooking which apparently froze the play and nullified the running of the goalie. With Bieksa in the box, Willie Mitchell wanted to put the puck in the air and inadvertently put it over the glass, and on the five-on-three, Sharp scored again to tie it. The fourth line for Vancouver did enough to get Patrick Kane to trip Rick Rypien. All good for the power play, right? It was until a crap change where Dave Bolland got behind the entire Vancouver defense. Duncan Keith fluttered a pass to him, and Bolland gloved it down, then skated alone to the net and put moves on Luongo before scoring. Shorthanded goal, and effectively the game was over. That was a backbreaker.
...then after that I stopped taking notes because I was so angry. The Blackhawks would score two more goals in the third period before the Canucks were able to answer. Any hope was squashed by the empty-netter that accounted for Chicago's sixth goal.
So what's the problem? Vancouver seems to juts have no bounceback to speak of after Chicago gets hot. Chicago takes the game to Vancouver, and the Canucks seem to have no answer. Rather than finding a way to stop the bleeding, the roof caves in. They definitely need to find a way to be more physical and to neutralize Byfuglien, that's for sure. They need Salo, but I don't know if they'll get him back. Maybe they go crazy and scratch a Rick Rypien for a Jeff Cowan, but probably not. If they get down, they just need to find a way to be stronger on the puck. Maybe when the Blackhawks are taking all those penalties early, it's by design -- all the skill players have rested legs later in the game, more rested than the Canucks' legs. The Blackhawks are fast already, but if they get the edge of a few more minutes of rest, that could be even more of an edge for Chicago.
Yeah, I don't know where this is all going. I just need the Canucks to advance.
The record of 15-10 puts the team one game ahead of the 2000 pace, two games ahead of the 2007 pace, three games ahead of the 2008 and 2005 paces, five games ahead of the 2006 pace, and six games ahead of the 2004 pace. The mark is one game behind the 2003 pace, three games behind the 2002 pace, and five games behind the 2001 pace.
Mariner hitting was a collective 16-for-58, walking seven times and striking out eight times. Wladimir Balentien and Russell Branyan doubled, and Mike Sweeney and Kenji Johjima homered to account for Seattle's extra-base hit output. Luckily for anyone in this extra-inning game, none of the starters went hitless. Those with two hits included Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, and Franklin Gutierrez. Those with three hits included Jose Lopez and Wladimir Balentien. The Mariners were 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 15 runners.
Chris Jakubauskas was mediocre, but didn't completely bury the team with his outing. He only got hit around in the first inning, then held the Athletics to those three runs until the fifth inning. Jakubauskas threw 52 strikes out of 78 pitches in his 4 1/3 innings. He faced 19 hitters to get 13 outs. He gave up four runs on six hits and struck out one, but didn't walk anybody.
The bullpen had a lot of work to do. They pitched the last 10 2/3 innings of the game. They emptied the bullpen, sending Sean White, Denny Stark (a Mariner once again), Mark Lowe, Shawn Kelley, David Aardsma, Miguel Batista, and Jason Vargas (his Mariner debut) all out to the mound. The first four of that group pitched before extra innings and held Oakland off the scoreboard. They combined for 4 2/3 innings, giving up three hits, walking two, and striking out three. Actually, the bullpen was pretty darn good with the exception of Batista. Aardsma threw a perfect tenth, and Vargas struck out four hitters in his 2 1/3 innings of work. Take Batista out of the equation, and you get eight scoreless innings out of the bullpen on five hits, giving out three walks and striking out eight. They faced 32 hitters to get 24 outs. Additionally, the bullpen stranded all five of their inherited runners.
1) Wladimir Balentien
He didn't have any of the big-ticket hits during this game like Sweeney, Johjima, Ichiro, and Lopez did, but 3-for-5 is 3-for-5. He also hit a double. He has been used in 12 games, reaching the plate in 11 of them. He's slugging .500, which is nice even though the sample size is a bit iffy. The extra-base hits he's had are a mere two doubles and a home run. I should add that in this extra-inning game, he also walked twice in addition to the 3-for-5, so his on-base percentage jumped from .323 after the final game in Chicago to .395 after this game. Balentien held down the number-six spot in the lineup well, and again, if he keeps messing around and doing this, Don Wakamatsu will have to find creative ways to get his bat into the lineup. The way Wakamatsu did that in this game was by fiving Endy Chavez the day off until bringing him in to pinch run as the tying run in the 15th inning. Balentien also isn't proving to be that horrible a defender in leftfield, getting a game-ending catch not too long ago, and there were a couple of caroms off the wall that he picked up and threw to second to make plays much closer than they should have been.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
The king of the push bunt returns to the gameball entries. He extended his hit streak to seven games. A 2-for-4 day made for yet another multi-hit game for Gutierrez, who is on a streak of four straight multi-hit games. Not only that, his mark is only 2-for-4 for this extra-inning game because he managed to walk three times (on the ceiling if you want me...ha). His only blight in the boxscore was a lone strikeout. What results is a spike in on-base percentage, going from .333 the night before to .366. The batting average went from .265 the night before to .278. Again, the flattering thing is that in seven games, Gutierrez has gone from hitting .191 to hitting .278. That's well over what I reasonably expect from him, and there is probably going to be some wicked regression back to the mean, so I'm enjoying this while it lasts (along with just about everything else on this team). Still, a .240 or .245 season is enough for me as long as the defense is stout. Also, whoever had the idea to push bunt on the first pitch after Johjima's homer tied the game in the ninth should be lauded. Genius move.
3) Jose Lopez
He ended the game again. There are only so many chances a player gets over the course of his career to come up with the game on the line deep into extra innings against the pitcher who started the game two nights earlier. Luckily for our viewing pleasure, the Lopez at-bat to end the game wasn't a mentally draining experience for everyone involved. Er, all of that mentally draining stuff was all contained into the ball in play, which dropped in front of Rajai Davis, who then overran it with the bases loaded and nobody out. Lopez went 3-for-8 with an RBI, putting him at .272 with 17 RBIs on the season. The RBI pace would end up with 110 RBI for a season. Lopez had another multi-hit game, his sixth such game in the last nine. That stretch has taken his batting average from .236 to .272. Perhaps the only frustrating thing about this entire stretch is that he's hit one double and that's been it in terms of extra-base hits. That's not tto say that he's come close a couple times, but the Mariners would love for some of those to fall. Same with Beltre, though. By the way, he's only third because of an error on an easy play and a misplay of a bouncing Johjima throw to second.
Once again, it doesn't matter if it's a book written by Batista or if it's Batista on the mound, it's murder. Sure, the Mariners only had so many arms in the bullpen at that point, so their hands were a bit tied, but it felt like I was waiting for Batista's luck to completely run out while he was on the mound. Unsurprisingly, it did exactly that. As far as I was concerned, the Mariners had managed to lose the game a second time, but I thought the Mariners wouldn't have it in them to come back another time. Instead, the Mariners are finding ways to win despite having Carlos Silva and Batista on the roster, and despite having Chris Jakubauskas, ye of little Major League experience, on the roster. As I brought up the other day, maybe the Mariners should just make that third spot in the rotation a Silva/Batista night just so we don't have to see either of those guys until the next turn in the rotation. Just combine those two guys and you should get into the seventh inning. They'd have to try pretty hard to screw that up, right? Wait... oh, by the way, it was 2 2/3 innings, 3 runs (2 earned), 3 hits, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts for his line. He faced 15 hitters to get eight outs and threw 36 strikes on 65 pitches.
Felix Night. (I totally misstepped here and originally put Bedardation, so my bad.)
Sunday, May 03, 2009
The Mariners have finally reached double digits in losses. This matches the pace of the 2000 team. It's one behind 2003, four behind 2002, and six behind 2001. The pace is one ahead of 2007, two ahead of 2005, three ahead of last year, five ahead of 2006, and six ahead of the putrid start of 2004. The 2005 team was losing the first of seven straight.
Mariner hitting went a collective 10-for-32, walking four times and striking out three times. Ken Griffey, Jr. (again?!) and Rob Johnson were the hitless Mariners. Ichiro, Russell Branyan, and Franklin Gutierrez all had two hits apiece. Adrian Beltre chimed in with a double and Branyan homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. The team went 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners on base. On the basepaths, the team was 0-for-2 on steal attempts as both Ichiro and Chavez were caught.
I'll cover the starting pitching in one of the gameball entries, so this will be about the bullpen. Washburn left the final two innings for the bullpen, and the bullpen got touched up once again. After having the top bullpen ERA not too long ago, the bullpen has hit a bit of a rough patch. Mark Lowe coughed up the lead in the eighth, giving up three hits. Lowe faced six hitters to get three outs, throwing 17 strikes on 24 pitches. The only hit David Aardsma gave up was on the final play of the game. Again, it's weird because Crosby stole second base to put himself in scoring position, so that's good for him, but then he scored (good for him) despite running the stop sign (bad) at third. That single was the third hit of the day for Oakland's ninth hitter and recent call-up Gregorio Petit. In any event, Crosby was only on base to begin with due to an Aardsma one-out walk, and we know sometimes that Aardsma's just a guy who throws and hopes it's in the strike zone, though I have seen some changes in speed lately from him.
1) Russell Branyan
Boom Boom Branyan is bringing the power back. He has been back in the lineup for eight games and has homered four times and doubled three times. In that span of time, his slugging percentage went from .485 to .688, and his on-base percentage went from .368 to .419. Branyan went 2-for-4 in this game with the one RBI from the solo shot. He currently is averaging a strikeout every four at-bats and has drawn seven walks. The homers he has hit the last couple nights have been largely in the same spot into the mass of inebriation over the wall in leftcenter. I'd have to say he's seeing the ball pretty well. These two homers have also been the only bombs he has it at home, as the other four dingers have been occurred on the road. This means we haven't seen Branyan hit balls off the Hit It Here Cafe or the upper deck in rightfield just yet. I haven't been to a game at the Safe in about six years, but I'm imagining what being there for batting practice is like when Branyan is hitting. In the grand scheme of things, let's hope this warm (and easily breakable) bat of Branyan's can bring up the rest of the lineup. Okay, Beltre.
2) Jarrod Washburn
The last start was a crappy one, but this one definitely was not. With two walks I'd stop short of calling it a grade-A start for Washburn, but it was a very solid start. He gave up only one run through on five hits in his seven innings of work, striking out six. Washburn threw 62 strikes on 101 pitches and got three groundball outs to 11 flyouts, which is much more Washburnian than his ratios have been as of late. Washburn faced 26 hitters to get 21 outs. Too bad he wasn't able to get the win in this game as the Mariners twice blew one-run leads before surrendering in the final two innings. At five turns through the rotation, Washburn has only had one crappy start out of five, and the four non-crappy starts have been really good starts. Sure, there was a six-inning start in there, but he's had two other seven-inning starts with an eight-inning start in there. The bullpen thanks Washburn in advance. Of course, the bullpen without Brandon Morrow means that there's David Aardsma at the end of it, and that didn't turn out too well in this game.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
It's another multi-hit game for Gutierrez, so he'll get the gameballs until he either does this regularly or hits a really rough stretch. He went 2-for-3 with a walk. Again, don't look now, but Gutierrez has a six-game hitting streak going. During the streak, he has gone 9-for-21 with a homer and two RBIs, along with two walks and four strikeouts. It's early in the season, so things like this can happen, but the streak has taken his batting average from .191 to its current .265. Like I've said, I'll take .240 out of the guy if he plays defense like he does. Another thing about Gutierrez is that he's hit two more homers than Beltre. I'm not sure how I can twist this, but Gutierrez has hit safely in 14 of the 21 games in which he's played, and he walked twice in one of the hitless games. If I couldn't see his face from far away and just saw a guy wearing a uniform, I would think it was Mike Morse, but luckily it's not. It's a guy who is infinitely better defensively and has never been banned under the substance abuse policy.
Griffey went 0-for-4 as well, but he managed to walk once. On top of the 0-for-4, Johnson grounded into a double play as well as misplaying the bounce of Ichiro's throw on the play of the plate that scored Oakland's go-ahead (winning) run. He looked like he had the plate blocked but looked to make the tag before he had the ball. Then Bobby Crosby steamrolled him. With Johjima back in the mix, I was a bit surprised to see Johnson play Saturday night instead of Sunday afternoon, but maybe the playing time will be an even split instead of Johnson being a strict backup. What's bad is that if Johnson hangs up these 0-for-4s, it just makes me want to scream for Jeff Clement to be up with the big club. This team does not have enough power, and Clement at least has some potential for power. If you want to use him sparingly, you could make him a late-inning pinch-hitter from the left side. You have a righthanded one with Wladimir Balentien, but unless Griffey's on the bench, you don't really have a lefthanded one. Also, if Clement hit seventh in this lineup instead of Johnson, there would at least be some lefties in the 6-9 portion of the lineup. Lefty spaceout is reason #49384 to not bat Griffey third in the lineup, so you don't have all of the first three hitters as lefties. If it's used effectively, the other team's burning all the arms in their bullpen.
I'll go on a limb and say that if the Lithuanian Laser has a game like he did in Chicago, he'll win this time.