BY THE NUMBERS:
0.5: Games difference in standings between Seattle and Oakland
0.52: Kirk Saarloos' season K/BB entering the game
Infinity: Kirk Saarloos' K/BB this afternoon
1: Mariners to reach scoring position
.000: Team batting average w/RISP
2: Hits by Jeremy Reed
2: Hits by everyone else
.237: Ryan Franklin's BABIP before today
.251: Ryan Franklin's BABIP after today
2.36: Ryan Franklin's average run support
6.79: Ryan Franklin's RA in his nine losses
0: Number of innings of today's game I was able to watch
23852793847324: Number of blessings I counted due to above
82: Richie Sexson's league-leading strikeout total
0: Number of current Mariners with 100+ plate appearances hitting .300
2: Number of appearances by Shigetoshi Hasegawa since June 10th
37,549: Number of Mariners fans will never want to go to another ballgame as long as they live
That really tells the whole story right there, but I've never been one to keep things quick and concise. I can't tell if this was an unexpected result, or if we all should've seen it coming a mile away. Kirk Saarloos came in with some god-awful numbers, but he was facing off against Ryan Franklin, who must do something to his hitters prior to the game that renders them vulnerable to any pitch, anywhere, at any speed. This was the eighth time in 14 starts that the Mariners have been held to two runs or fewer in a Franklin start, a trend which is beginning to stray beyond the limits of coincidence. Saarloos went on to have his best start since AA - of course - and the Mariners were toast. With Seattle heading for San Diego this weekend while Oakland plays host to San Francisco, there's the distinct possibility that we'll be talking about a last place team by Monday.
On the one hand, Franklin was bad today, and deserved the loss. On the other, it's not like he ever really had a chance, as Jeremy Reed was the only Mariner to reach second base all game long. So, because we aren't sure at whom to point the finger, let's consult the trusty chart:
Biggest Contribution: Pat Borders, +3.9%
Biggest Suckfest: Randy Winn, -11.0%
Most Important Hit: Borders single, +6.8%
Most Important Pitch: Hatteberg single, -9.8%
Total Contribution by Pitchers: -6.8%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -44.8%
Based on the chart, we can blame...well, pretty much everyone for this loss, save for Reed and Borders. The other nine players all made negative contributions, with the offense doing most of the damage (in a bad way). All in all, this is probably the most evenly-distributed set of Win Probability Added numbers you'll ever see. That's what happens when the pitching sucks and the lineup sucks more.
Beyond individual contributions, the chart also reveals the fact that this was just a tremendously boring, suspense-free game. Reason? No single play swung the win expectancy by at least 10%. Last night, there were 13 such plays. I feel genuinely bad for anyone who had to suffer through all nine innings, because the game had absolutely zero redeeming value, unless you're a big Kirk Saarloos fan, in which case you're imaginary and don't feel feelings.
Even with a red-hot Mike Morse, a partially-rejuvenated Adrian Beltre, and a successful Raul Ibanez, the Mariners have scored just 77 runs in 20 games this month (3.85 per), dropping to last in the AL and 29th in the Majors. They're 25th in batting average, 28th in OBP, 29th in slugging, 25th in walks, 27th in BB/K, 29th in isolated power, and 30th in secondary average. They've remained competitive in June almost exclusively because of the pitching, which has maintained a 3.25 ERA this month. People like to talk about how good this team would be if both the hitting and the pitching were firing on all cylinders, but what about the opposite? What if, instead of the hitting playing up to the level of the pitching, the pitching played down to the level of the hitting, and we were stuck with a 650-run lineup and a 950-run staff? Nobody wants to be the Rockies, but there's a chance that we'll see just that if the offense doesn't heat up as the pitching cools off. We might see one hell of an ugly transition state come early July or so. Rookies are nice and all, but they can only get you so far when they're playing way over their heads and the rest of the hitters aren't doing their jobs.
A few days ago, I pointed out that Richie Sexson was striking out more than he ever has, but that when he actually hits the ball, he's as good as ever. Today, he earned himself the golden sombrero. Conclusion: I was half right.
A lot of times, when a team has a day game after a night game, you'll see the manager swap starting catchers. Today we saw Pat Borders, who played the last three innings of yesterday's game. He had also started the two games prior. Rene Rivera, on the other hand, is roughly a quarter of Borders' age, and while he did indeed play nine innings last night, he took Monday and Tuesday off, and was an everyday catcher in the minors. And yet, Hargrove went with Borders. Which isn't so much a bad move as it is an interesting one, since 42 year old catchers aren't supposed to be doing things like walking and eating solid food, let alone starting a game half a day after the previous one ended. Pat Borders really is a freak of nature, a borderline medical miracle. If only he were good.
Something's always troubled me about that "The Cycle" Mariner promotional ad, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Earlier today, it came to me. What, exactly, is Ryan Franklin trying to do with the bat? If he's trying to demonstrate how to hit for the cycle, it's just a poorly thought-out sales pitch: you can't run around the bases on a cluttered stage, and on the off chance that he actually makes contact, he'll just send a line drive sailing directly into the studio audience. That's just asking for a lawsuit, which is pretty much the complete opposite of selling merchandise. They were able to get video coverage of Miguel Olivo doing field work in "The Tag"; couldn't they have done that for "The Cycle", where Ichiro clobbers a few pitches and runs around the bases in an actual ballpark? It just doesn't work for me. But maybe I'm missing the deeper symbolism.
The Oakland A's all look the same. Scott Hatteberg looks like Dan Johnson, who looks like Mark Ellis, who looks like Eric Byrnes, who looks like Nick Swisher, who looks like Eric Chavez, who looks like Kirk Saarloos. There's more to that, too, but you get the picture. This is the part of Moneyball that nobody talks about. The only guys who're easy to spot are Charles Thomas, who's black, and Bobby Kielty, who's a Viking.
Bret Boone was in the midst of a 2-27 slump when he was temporarily benched so that he could go back to the basics and work on the fundamental aspects of hitting. He's 1-7 since coming back, and now stands at .224/.290/.359 on the year. The league-average second baseman: .274/.335/.407. He stands at 36th in the Majors in EqA for a second baseman with at least 100 plate appearances. Nobody wants him now, and nobody will want him in July.
To San Diego tomorrow night, as Gil Meche goes up against Darrell May. I'll be in attendance for all three games, which isn't really useful information to anyone but me, so I don't know why I said it. Better win tomorrow, because they aren't going to touch Jake Peavy on Saturday.