Monday, July 05, 2010



Once again, Cliff Lee is good. Once again, Mariner pitching can do wonderful things, especially if the offense is scoring some runs. Unsurprisingly, eight runs is way more than enough for Cliff Lee, who needs to be traded around nowish. I've said this before -- for all the talk in the offseason about the Mariners were going to first-and-third other teams to death, the reason I hated trying to make the team that way is because it'd always take three or four hitters to score a run. Sometimes, you need power guys to bail you out, and that's exactly what happened in this game (except Casey Kotchman's not a power guy). I didn't want a lineup with just a bunch of slap-hitting on-base guys in it. I wanted balance. Optimally, one phase of the offense could pick up the other less hot phase of the offense, i.e., power bailing out cold slap hitters.

Anyway, this game marked the halfway point of the season, and the Mariners are 34-47, meaning of course that they're on pace to finish 68-94. Their 81-game record is three games better than that of the 2008 team, two better than the 2004 team, one worse than the 2005 team, seven worse than the 2006 team, eight worse than last year's team, 12 worse than the 2007 team, 14 worse than the 2000 team, 17 worse than the 2002 team, 19 worse than the 2003 team, and 26 worse than the 2001 team.

One big note heading into this post is that I finally noticed MLB.com (I'm pretty sure) seems to short the pitchers on flyout stats. I noticed in Cliff Lee's last start that the MLB.com boxscore doesn't really add up rationally when it came to seeing what Lee's groundouts, flyouts, and strikeouts didn't tabulate anywhere close to his innings pitched. The ESPN.com boxscore had a groundout-flyout total that was a lot more rational.

-- needless to say, the starting pitching will be addressed in the gameballs

-- Brandon League came in to mop up in the ninth. With one out, he gave up a Danny Worth double and a four-pitch walk to Austin Jackson before tightening the screws and getting the next two hitters to ground out and end the game. I'm not freaking out since League was protecting an 8-1 lead and not a 2-1 lead.

-- the Mariner bats exploded for eight runs and 15 hits, and every starter in the lineup but one managed to get at least a hit. Three hitters had two hits apiece, and two hitters got three hits apiece. Three of the 15 hits went for extra bases (one double, two home runs). The Mariners scored three times in the third inning, four times in the fifth, and once more in the eighth. Of the two-hit guys I don't have in the gameballs, Franklin Gutierrez and Jose Lopez both went 2-for-5 and drove in a run apiece. As for the three-hit guy I don't have in the gameballs, Chone Figgins went 3-for-4 in the game, walking once. Going into the game on May 28th, he was hitting .194. Since then, he's gone 38-for-128 (.297) to vault that awful .194 mark to a bad-but-not-awful mark of .239. If he goes into the All-Star break at .245, consider it a victory. Hopefully the break doesn't kill his momentum if that happens.

-- how did they score? In the third, Michael Saunders' speed turned a not-so-good bunt into a leadoff single. Ichiro did the fielder's choice thing to erase Saunders, then stole second before Figgins walked. Russell Branyan then clobbered the first pitch he saw to put the Mariners into a 3-1 lead, and that was all they needed. In the fifth, Figgins singled with one out, then went to third on a tagged Branyan single. One out later, Franklin Gutierrez singled Figgins across to make it 4-1, though he did get the advantage of a call on a borderline pitch low in the zone, much to the chagrin of Tiger pitcher Jeremy Bonderman of Pasco. Casey Kotchman also got a borderline pitch his was as well, and he drilled the next pitch just over the wall in rightfield to make it 7-1 (Bonderman and Laird were tossed after the third out). In the eighth, Rob Johnson led off with a single to chase Eddie Bonine. Saunders then drew a walk against Mark Schlereth's son. One out later, Figgins got aboard on an infield single to load the bases. One out later, Jose Lopez singled to score Johnson and make it 8-1, capping the scoring.

-- we only care so much about blown chances when the team wins 8-1, but they were still there. In the first, Figgins singled with one out, but Branyan did the inning-ending double play thing. In the second, Gutierrez singled with one out, then stole second and went to third when Gerald Laird made a bad throw to second. Kotchman walked, but then Josh Wilson and Rob Johnson both whiffed to end the inning. In the fourth, Kotchman led off with a single and watched the next three hitters go down in order. In the seventh, Lopez doubled with one out, then one out later, Kotchman was put aboard, but Josh Wilson grounded out to end the inning. In the ninth, Kotchman led off with a single, but met the same fate as in the fourth.

-- Ichiro went 1-for-5 in the game, pushing him to 109-for-332 (.328) on the season. He is on pace to finish the season with 218 hits.

-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro scored once and had a hit. Figgins had three hits and scored twice. The Mariners are now 11-5 when both players score and 16-24 when both collect hits.

1) Casey Kotchman
He needs to go in and try to lobby for more playing time more often. I don't know when he's going to have another game like this. He went 3-for-3 with two walks, driving in three runs. This pushed his battign average all the way up to .206. I'm not so sure he should be consistently slotted at sixth in the lineup as I think it's a little high for him, but whatever. I can't argue with the results in this game. I don't think the team's going to ride Kotchman's production to incredible heights or anything, but if he can just be a meaningful contributor to the machine, I'll settle for that considering how awfully he started at the plate this year, and .206 is still awful. If he stays hot, though, Branyan will have to be hurt or fall off the cliff at the plate (or Saunders will need a rest day) to get Milton Bradley any playing time. Who needs to watch Bradley flailing away in the low .200s when you can see Kotchman and Branyan not sucking horribly? I think I subscribe to the latter.

2) Cliff Lee
What is there left to say? About the only bad thing that happened in this game was that he had his streak snapped at three straight complete games. However, he struck out 11 for a season high. This was actually his least efficient start (in terms of pitches per inning) since June 2nd. His average per-start line this season: 8 innings, 2.4 runs (2.1 earned), 71 hits, 0.5 walks, 6.9 strikeouts, 110 pitches (79 strikes), 7.2 groundouts, 9.7 strikeouts. He averages 13.7 pitches per inning. Mathematically, that puts his 100th pitch somewhere in the eighth inning. The well-rested bullpen has Lee and Felix Hernandez to thank for that. When they're not well rested, they have Ryan Rowland-Smith to thank for that. The only run he gave up came in the first inning. Austin Jackson and Magglio Ordonez reached on infield singles. Miguel Cabrera then hit a one-out single to score Jackson, but Lee got outs with the next two hitters to end the inning. If Lee gets hurt or something before the Mariners can trade him, I'm going to be incredibly angry.

3) Russell Branyan
The trade to reacquire Branyan was a bit puzzling since the season was going (and still is) nowhere, but he's at least brought the long ball back into the Mariners' lexicon. All I know is that there were many times last year where I'd be watching a game where the offense was doing absolutely nothing and the Mariners had no chance to win, then Branyan would hit a homer out of nowhere. The power can quickly bail out your otherwise crap offense, and it's what the Mariners missed a lot early on in the season. I won't attempt to dig up statistical proof, but what if the Mariners had Branyan once he recovered from the injury and what if Cliff Lee was healthy from the beginning of the season? They still wouldn't be .500 right now, but I can't help but feel those two guys could have made the Mariners three to four wins better than they are currently. I must say I missed the majestic blasts that Branyan provided us last season. Of course, it's all good fun until his back explodes.

Josh Wilson
Going into the game on June 13th, Josh Wilson was hitting .307. Since then, he's gone 11-for-55 (.200) to sink his batting average like a rock down to its current .264. It actually didn't look too bad going into June 27th, when he still was at .286, but he's gone 0-for-14 in his last four games. After he got to .307, he went 0-for-14 over his following four games as well. The more he hits like this, the more likely we are to see Jack Wilson get to the plate and attempt to hit, so I hope Josh warms it back up soon. On the other hand, if he hits .264 for the rest of the season, is that really a bad thing? That's still quite a few notches above awful, and we've seen a lot of players this season get a lot of at-bats for long periods of time despite being awful. I think Josh would have to get down to about .240 before he starts getting benched on a consistent basis. Sadly, in relation to the rest of the team, .240 still wouldn't be all that bad. Rough year, this one.

Bannister. Hernandez. Tonight.

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