Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The B-List: 5/13

FINAL            1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Mariners (16-23) 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 0 0 4 6 0
Indians (24-13)  1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 5 7 0

W: Sipp (2-0) L: League (0-4)

With all the rain, the Mariners must’ve thought they were at home.

1) Pronk Smash!

On April 26th, Travis Hafner hit a double against the Kansas City Royals.  Since then, he had 8 games in which he made more than one plate appearance, going 9-for-30 with 4 walks for a .300 AVG and a .382 OBP, both of which are pretty darned good.

This yielded a SLG of .300, which plainly is not.

On the young season, Hafner’s overall numbers of .340/.403/.528 are quite excellent, and certainly more than could reasonably have been expected of him.  Frankly, I doubt he’s got a whole season of .340 AVG in him, but I’ll take a .400+ OBP and a .500+ SLG (at this point in his career) every time.  Still, which a .188 ISO is nothing spectacular (it is less than Matt LaPorta’s .202, for exmaple), he’s been hitting the ball with enough authority to warrant him hitting in the middle of the order and being a bona fide everyday DH.  His May has actually been a bit better than his April in one regard, in that his strikeout rate is slightly lower but his K:BB has decreased quite a bit (19:7 in April, 7:5 in May).  But while he slugged .566 in April, his .433 SLG in May would be more at home on the batting line of Mike Brantley (.412 for the season) than it looks on Travis Hafner.

After Fausto Carmona coughed up a hairball 7th, the Indians were down 4-2 entering the bottom of the 9th.  If Hafner were to hit, it would be with as the winning run, since he was scheduled to hit 5th.  After back-to-back doubles by the first two hitters, the next two made outs, meaning that while Hafner did indeed represent the winning run, he did so with two outs.

Now, it would be disingenuous to claim that the pitcher he was facing was a lockdown closer.  In fact, it can be argued that Brandon League may have been completing the worst stretch for a reliever ever stretched.  In three consecutive appearances over four days, League entered the game to close out a win (the Mariners had just either just taken the lead, or took it after he started pitching), and failed miserably in each case.  He entered the game with an 0-3 record, and each loss was recorded in just the last week.  After eight consecutive scoreless outings in a row, including his 4th through 9th saves, lowering his ERA from 4.76 to 2.08, League essentially became Personna Non Goodness, giving up multiple runs in each game to cough up the losses.  On the other hand, he hadn’t walked anyone, nor had he given up a homer.  He just got beat.

Although his first double allowed was simply clocked, his second should arguably have been out number one had it not been for the inexperience and/or depth perception of rookie Carlos Peguero.  Still, he retired te next two hitters with little trouble.

Hafner watched strike one.

He did not watch strike two.

While the homer lacked a bit of the majesty of Shin-Soo Choo’s opening-inning clout, it was to dead center and was in no danger of being caught.  Whether this gets Hafner “back on track” or not remains to be seen, but it’s hard to argue he should have “hit the ball better.”

What made this especially gratifying was that due to other promotions at the park, the crowd was a large-for-2011 33,000+.  So not only did they see a game in which the Indians flashed their muscle (three homers) and their pitching (except for one inning, Fausto was terrific), they got the added excitement of a walkoff two-out game-winning homer by a player even casual fans have heard of.  If you wanted to script a scenario in which attendance-increasing buzz is generated, you might be hard-pressed to come up with one more enticing than this.

2) Shiny Object Syndrome

Fausto Carmona began the game by retiring the first nine hitters in order, and faced the minimum through 4 2/3 thanks to a nifty 3-6-3 double play by the nominally-speedy Chone Figgins after a walk of Ichiro Suzuki.  Carmona actually had Suzuki down 1-2 in the count before a couple fouloffs led to a minor lapse in which Carmona threw three straight balls.

The 15th hitter of the game, Carlos Peguero, then hit the ball about as hard as humanly possible, a 451-foot moon shot that brought the Mariners within one run.  After that, though, Carmona retired the next four in order.  Through six complete innings, Carmona had allowed 1 run on 1 hit and 1 walk, and needed an economical 64 pitches to get there.

And then … well … at that point, it is impossible to be descriptive without making attributions involving attention spans, nitrous oxide, or Pee Wee Herman.

How else do you describe an inning in which Carmona coughed up three straight hits (the second a homer to dead center), a four-pitch walk, and an infield single so irretrievably lame that Jack Cust scored from third while looking like someone had draped a Mariners jersey over Greg Luzinski’s refrigerator?  Yes, after the sixth straight ball (Carmona went 2-0 on Brendan Ryan after walking Peguero), Fausto generally threw strikes and recorded outs, but wobbly bobbly boo, that was awful.

Still, even then Carmona was able to waft through most of the 8th (two three-pitch groundouts to start the inning) before plunking Justin Smoak and giving up a single to Refrigerator Cust and that was enough of that.  The nice thing was that Carmona threw strikes over the first six and even with the last two innings got the first pitch over to 21 of the 31 batters he faced, so this is better than his previous start.  And those first six innings ... I’m concerned that his finish might make some glance at his pitching line and dismiss it as “mediocre.”  Yeah, the end point was mediocre.  But the first six innings were pretty bloody great.

3) Ho Hum Dept.

On April 26th, Tony Sipp made an ineffective relief appearance, striking out one hitter but walking two and giving up a hit.  For this, he was credited with his 8th “Hold” on the season, which signifies that the “Hold” statistics has roughly as much value as real estate on Io.

Since then, Sipp has pitched 7 innings with 4 hits and no walks allowed.  Unsurprisingly, each outing was scoreless.

So for him to throw 1 1/3 perfect innings last night was not entirely a surprise, but it was a fine thing nonetheless.  Sipp’s ERA now stands at 1.50 with a 0.89 WHIP.

Note: Sipp’s numbers against our next opponent, Kansas City: not as good.

4) Digging the Long Ball

All five Cleveland runs scored as the result of an extra-base hit.  The only one not to score on a homer was when Brantley scored from second on a double by Asdrubal Cabrera.

Shin-Soo Choo’s mammoth shot in the first is listed at 438 feet, which leads me to believe that the tape measure they used was a 438-foot version.  I mean, he CREAMED that ball.  With 5 homers on the season, Choo is right about where we’d expect a 20-homer guy to be after a slow start.

Meanwhile, Brantley hit his third on the season, which is about 3 more than I’d have predicted for him coming into the season.  I don’t mind being wrong about that.

5) The Law of Small Numbers

Pundit make obnoxious off-hand remarks about the lameness of Seattle’s offense, but the actual numbers are truly shocking.

Of the nine men in the lineup Friday, Chris Gimenez’ .310 OBP was the FOURTH-HIGHEST.  SIX of the NINE batters had an OBP .310 or lower, invluding FIVE .275 or below.  Adam Kennedy batted fifth with a .395 SLG, because .395 SLG was the SECOND-HIGHEST in the lineup.  SIX of the Mariners hitters have SLG below .350, including FIVE at .300 or below.

Look, slugging .350 isn’t very good.  It’s really not much good at all.  But slugging .300 is completely feeble.  It’s borderline amazing that the Mariners score any runs at all.

6) Past insight

I have written a whole lot about Eric Wedge as a manager, but I’d like to recall something I said about how I think he manages: he determines what things need to happen for his team to be successful and tries to facilitate those things.  In my opinion, if he determines that the team will not be successful unless Thing X is true, he appears to manage as if there isn’t much point in managing around Thing X failing: if it fails, the team isn’t going to be successful anyway, so he might as well continue to push Thing X.

In this case, the Mariners have the greatest chance at success if Brandon League is their closer.  And really, for most of the season, League’s been just great at it.  No worries.  So really, the faster Wedge can get League to turn the proverbial page on his recent struggles, the closer the Mariners are to getting back on track.

So it’s not a big deal to me that Wedge pulled a thoroughly effective Doug Fister to put League in with a two-run lead.  I thought it showed the kind of faith and tolerance that players would prefer from their managers, and it wasn’t “Wedge being an idiot” as much as it was League “continuing to fail.”

7) Credit Where Credit is Due Dept.

Doug Fister was really good.  The two homers represented both of the runs he allowed, and half of the hits total.  I don’t actually believe in Doug Fister, but that was good.

8) Doofus Patrol

Austin Kearns was thrown out trying to steal.  One batter later, Brantley hit a home run.  So … I didn’t like that very much.  Phbt!


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