The chances of a team rallying from a four-run defecit and grabbing the win are slim; the chances of a bad team doing the same are slimmer still to the point of questionable and suspect existence. That's pretty much what made tonight's game so exciting - the sheer improbability of it all.
Simply recognizing the in-game resurgence falls short of grasping the whole story, though, for it was the mid-rally suspense that sets this one apart from other recent wins. Be it Morse's double play in the fourth, Meche's near-implosion in the fifth, or Ibanez and Sexson's inability to come through in the eighth, tonight it just felt like the complete comeback wouldn't come to fruition, that somehow the Mariners would piss away all their hard work and end up with the same old result. Not so. Thanks to Jeremy Reed's judicious eye and Jesse Crain's inability to throw strikes on command, the rally did end up with a lead change, and Eddie Money^ was there to seal the deal, just as he has in each of his previous 26 save opportunities.
(^-may this nickname never be used again.)
Biggest Contribution: Jeremy Reed, +47.7%
Biggest Suckfest: Mike Morse, -31.9%
Most Important "Hit": Reed walk, +30.1%
Most Important Pitch: Stewart double #1, -17.9%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +24.9%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +23.7%
That's what I call a balanced victory. The bullpen held down the fort while the lineup scrambled back to take the lead, so it only makes sense that the pitchers and hitters should share credit for the win. To make things better, I didn't have to make any subjective decisions about the scoring in this one - it was all pretty straightforward, so said ratings should accurately reflect who was and wasn't responsible for the final result.
In 23 starts this year, Gil Meche has allowed fewer baserunners than innings pitched just twice. It was fairly obvious from the start tonight that he didn't have his best stuff (which isn't all that great to begin with), so he had to try and make do by spotting his pitches well so that they were difficult to hit. Once he started getting sloppy in that department, the Twins were all over him, and that's why he was pulled from the game before the sixth for the 12th time on the year. Forget the forearm injury - it seems absurdly minor, and reeks of an easy excuse for Price and Meche to deliver on the heels of another lousy start. It's a shame that the Mariners presently lack the resources necessary for moving Meche to the bullpen. My kingdom for a little rotation depth, I guess.
A summary of game situations into which George Sherrill has been inserted so far this year:
-Tie game, 1st & 2nd, 1 out, top 8
-Down two, none on, none out, bottom 8
-Up two, 1st & 2nd, 1 out, bottom 7
-Up two, none on, none out, top 8
-Up one, bases loaded, 1 out, top 7
The guy hasn't exactly been throwing mop-up innings. He's been summoned from the bullpen five times in five close games and three incredibly stressful situations, and he's responded by striking out six of the 14 batters he's faced, with a walk being the lone blemish on his record. Say hello to an instant favorite to be one of the best left-handed setup men in the league next year. The 2006 Mariners could put together one incredibly effective and incredibly cheap bullpen, if they so desire.
Short jokes Nick Punto is tired of hearing:
-"Hey Nicky, c'mere, I dropped something under the fridge."
-"How's the weather down there?"
-"Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf called, he wants his skeleton back."
-"You know what they say about guys with small everythings."
-"If you're getting chilly, I think LeCroy has an extra sock you can wrap yourself in."
-"Hey, you're short."
As Mike Morse's tailspin continues - .223/.284/.298 since June 28th - look for Yuniesky Betancourt to get most of the playing time from here on out, as his defense is significantly better, and his offense really couldn't be much worse. With luck, Morse's hot start left a lasting impression with some other front office who's looking to add a little middle infield depth over the winter.
Coming into the game, Carlos Silva had walked just seven of the 572 batters he faced during the season - two of them intentionally. So how cool was it for Chris Snelling to draw a five-pitch free pass from the guy? He's now walked five times in 26 plate appearances, with but a single strikeout.
And now, the moment a certain percentage of you have been waiting for - announcing the current Mariner player standings in Win Probability Added. (Or 'Win Expectancy Added.' Whichever. God.) As you should know by now, every event that takes place during a game has an effect, be it positive or negative, on the Mariners' chances of winning. We can credit each of these events to individual players, and at the end of a game, we can use these numbers to find out who made the most positive and most negative contributions.
Well, just as you can do this for individual games, you can also do it for full seasons, eventually arriving at what Dave Studeman calls a "Win Contribution metric" that measures just how much certain players have helped or hurt a team's chances of winning on the year. With this in mind, it seems like the perfect way to determine a team's most valuable player, because where we're used to looking at general numbers and arriving at a conclusion, this way we can actually find out who helped his team win games the most.
With 111 games in the books this season, I've created or received Win Expectancy spreadsheets for each of them (thanks again to those of you who helped me out), and I compiled all the data over the past two nights. Safe to say, some of the results are a little surprising.
Your 2005 Seattle Mariners Most Valuable Player to date:
If you consider that an average team will have a 50% chance of winning any game, it makes sense to conclude that a player contribution of +50% is equal to one win added, and a player contribution of -50% is equal to one win subtracted. It's not an exact science, but it's fairly accurate and easy to understand, so let's go with it. Using that methodology, Eddie Guardado has been worth just over three wins to the Mariners so far this year.
(For a few reasons, I don't want to post specific WPA numbers right now; those'll be made available at the end of the season.)
Your 2005 Seattle Mariners Least Valuable Player to date:
Joel Pineiro. Beyond five wins subtracted.
Most Valuable Position Player per plate appearance: Raul Ibanez (Rene Rivera does not qualify)
Least Valuable Position Player per plate appearance: Scott Spiezio
Most Valuable Position Player per game: Raul Ibanez
Least Valuable Position Player per game: Scott Spiezio
Most Valuable Pitcher per inning pitched: Eddie Guardado (George Sherrill does not qualify)
Least Valuable Pitcher per inning pitched: Matt Thornton (Clint Nageotte does not qualify)
Most Valuable Pitcher per appearance: Eddie Guardado (Felix Hernandez does not qualify)
Least Valuable Pitcher per appearance: Joel Pineiro
Things of note:
-Adrian Beltre has been the second-least valuable player on the team so far
-Richie Sexson ranks third-highest on the list of position players, behind Randy Winn (seriously)
-Shigetoshi Hasegawa has made a positive contribution, while Jeff Nelson, JJ Putz, Julio Mateo, and Ron Villone have not
More fun with this stuff at a later date. Back to work tomorrow night, as Kyle Lohse takes on The Future.