Sunday, April 11, 2010
If there's one thing on which we can all agree, it's that the Mariners look a hell of a lot better right now with a record of 2-5 than with a record of 1-6. In a way, I consider this almost a karmic regression to the mean after the Mariners pulled off the ninth-inning win on Saturday. After exploding for 12 hits on Saturday, the Mariners were back to their ways, pushing out only two runs on nine hits in this one, a 9-2 loss to the Rangers in Arlington.
-- before I go any further, I made note of more weird defensive plays. Early in the game, a ball snuck through the left side for what amounted to a single with runners moving everywhere (I wish I'd recorded the exact hitter and inning). The ball went to the left side, and it looked like Jose Lopez would have had it within reach and he let up on the ball, which seemed to surprise Jack Wilson, who was backing up the play. The ball got past Wilson and through for the single. The next two weird plays were both of Adam Moore's catcher's interference plays, both on consecutive David Murphy at-bats. Moore must have been reaching pretty far out or something. It was much more obvious on the first one than the second. The other weird play was a popup in foul ground on the right side that got Casey Kotchman turned around, and he probably should have had it. Again, for as much as we like this defense -- the one thing the Mariners can be counted on to deliver night in and night out -- not even that facet of the Mariners' game has quite arrived yet. Really, that's fitting, because no facet of the Mariners' identity has shown itself yet, unless all the facets are bad.
-- Ian Snell had a second start that was much more like what I expected for his first start, and it really could have been even worse. It was a minor miracle he got out of the first inning having only given up one run. Michael Young took Snell yard to the opposite field on Snell's ninth pitch of the game. The next three hitters reached base to load the bases with one out before Chris Davis bounced to third for a 5-2 force at the plate, then Matt Treanor (or is it Matt Treanor-May?) flew out to center to end the inning. Snell could not evade his own suckness in the second inning, however, as the Rangers put four runs across to effectively end the game. The final three balls in play to end the inning all scored runs, with the inning ending with Davis being gunned down at second right after Josh Hamilton scored the fifth Ranger run. Don Wakamatsu left Snell in the game for the third inning, letting him basically pitch out the string. He gave up only a one-out single in the third, with the other runner being Murphy (catcher's interference). Snell threw 78 pitches in three innings of work, giving up five runs (four earned) on eight hits, walking two.
-- With Snell doing awfully, it was the perfect time to summon Jesus Colome from the bullpen, making his second appearance as a Mariner, and in virtually the same situation as his first appearance -- innings-eating mopup duty. On two days' rest, he threw two innings and have up two runs on two hits, walking and striking out one on 39 pitches. He loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth, and instead of the Rangers laying the Mariners to waste, they went light on Colome, deciding instead to hit consecutive sacrifice flies to make it 7-2, followed by a flyout to end the inning. Kanekoa Texeira, also working on two days' rest, gave up a run on three hits, walking and striking out one in his two innings of work, throwing 33 pitches. He got a double-play ball to make the sixth inning less grisly, giving up only one run to make it 8-2, then he threw a decent seventh. On three days' rest, Brandon League threw the ninth inning and, like Texeira, gave up a run on three hits. Texeira threw 12 strikes out of 19 pitches and gave up three straight one-out singles to cap the scoring for the game at 9-2.
-- Where does this leave bullpen rest going into the home opener? Obviously, Colome, Texeira, and League all would have thrown the day before. Mark Lowe and David Aardsma will have a day's rest. Shawn Kelley and Sean White will have two days' rest. Hopefully, Ryan Rowland-Smith will just throw seven innings so we really don't have to worry about a lot of this. The Mariners' non-Felix starting pitching has been so ineffective so far, Wakamatsu really hasn't been able to go situational at all with the bullpen arms (yes, I know they're all righties). Somewhat related: only twice this season has a Mariner reliever made an appearance shorter than one inning in length. One was on Opening Night when Sean White blew Felix's two-run lead, got the final out of the seventh, then didn't come out for the eighth. The other was when Mark Lowe couldn't preserve a 5-5 tie in the ninth in the third game of the Oakland series (Kurt Suzuki's double).
-- Wakamatsu decided to give everyone a day off from The Milton Bradley Experience and instead let Eric Byrnes take a start in leftfield. Byrnes went 1-for-4 and struck out twice. He hit the single to leftfield in the second that Murphy had go off his glove, pushing himself to second and Ken Griffey Jr. to third with one out. Griffey scored later on a groundout as the tying run at 1-1.
-- by looking at boxscores, I've counted six stolen bases for the Mariners through seven games. I've also counted the Mariners as getting caught stealing four times, getting picked off twice, and being on the wrong end of three outfield assists (two at the plate, one at second). That's nine of those kinds of plays in seven games, which is an average of a little over one per game. As much as I like the Mariners trying to take their speed game to the opponents, I'm not sure they can afford to play so fast and loose with their baserunners when they're having so much trouble driving those runners to the plate.
-- the average line for a Mariner starting pitcher so far: 5 1/3 innings, 3.3 runs (2.9 earned), 6.1 hits, 2.3 walks, 3 strikeouts, 96 pitches (60 strikes), 7 groundouts:4.9 flyouts. The average line for a Mariner non-Felix starter so far: 4 2/3 innings, 3.4 runs (3 earned), 6.6 hits, 1.8 walks, 2.4 strikeouts, 92 pitches (58 strikes), 4.6 groundouts:5.8 flyouts. The numbers could be a lot worse, but for as inefficient as the Mariner starters have been, no one in the rotation has given up more than five runs in a start, and their pitch counts usually get high enough that they're pulled before they can give up any more runs.
-- Ichiro went 1-for-4, making him 8-for-28 (.286) on the season with a double and an RBI. He's only on pace for a 185-hit season, which would be a massive disappointment. I mean, the Mariners are having an Ichiro-Designed T-Shirt Day, for goodness' sake, so Ichiro has to get at least 230 hits. That would make it 10 straight 200-hit season for Ichiro, and I hope it happens. What else I hope happens is Ichiro getting to 3000 Major League hits. If he does that, I have to think he'd be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Keep in mind that the Hall of Fame's full name is Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, as opposed to Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Thus, you'd have to think Ichiro's Japanese stats would be taken a little into account when they're holding the voting.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
He's the only one who's hitting, and he keeps on doing it. A 2-for-4 day puts makes him a .444 hitter in the early going. What made this day different? One of the aftereffects to Bradley being benched for Byrnes was that Byrnes was slotted seventh, and Gutierrez got bumped into the fourth slot in the lineup. Again, though it's only seven games into the season, it hasn't mattered whether Gutierrez has hit third, seventh, or even fourth now, he just gets hits. Getting shifted around in the lineup doesn't seem to affect his hitting, and it definitely doesn't affect his defensive prowess.
2) Chone Figgins
The Mariners' second baseman went 2-for-4 with a double for a modest two-game hitting streak. He has reached base in six of the seven games this season, making his .333 on-base percentage look markedly better than his .240 batting average. Interestingly, Ichiro and Figgins have only collected hits in the same game twice, and those games were the last two games of this Texas series. As luck would have it, neither of them crossed the plate in this game, though they scored once apiece on Saturday afternoon. Of course, Saturday afternoon and Opening Night are the only two times this season where Ichiro and Figgins scored runs on the same night.
3) Ken Griffey Jr.
He was 1-for-3 with a walk. Getting aboard more than once is good. He saw 20 pitches over his four plate appearances, so that's not too bad considering Jack Wilson saw nine pitches total in the game. Griffey also gave a good ride to a fly ball that Nelson Cruz caught on the warning track in rightfield. Maybe Griffey's almost there. Maybe once he gets in a groove, he'll pop the occasional home run. This team damn sure needs a home run every once in a while, that's for sure. They also need decent starting pitching outside of Felix, though, and we're seeing how that's going. Still, Griffey nearly hit 20 homers last year, and he wasn't the healthiest dude. I'm hoping he's able to catch a bit of fire and pass Willie Mays this season. If Griffey did that, then I would have seen all I need to see out of him.
Other than Milton Bradley, I think this guy's the next-biggest disappointment at the plate when it comes to the Mariner regulars. Lopez is hitting .179 through seven games. If there's an off chance that Wakamatsu puts Lopez at second base for a day and he pops one, I say put Figgins at third and Lopez at second for the rest of the season. Maybe I haven't been the closest observer of these games so far, but I haven't immediately noticed Figgins taking a bunch of balls at second that I don't think Lopez would have had. Lopez went 3-for-4 on April 7th and has gone 1-for-16 since. To recap, the Mariners just finished a three-game series in frigging Arlington, a home-run hitters' haven, and they only hit one home run (Kotchman). Lopez is one huge reason for the power outage that has seen the Mariners hit just three home runs in their first seven games.
Duchscherer. Rowland-Smith. Tomorrow.