I won't tell you this is a turning point. There are no turning points; at least, not turning points you can identify at the time. The only turning points that exist exist in hindsight.
I won't tell you this is the day the offense jelled. Those things don't happen overnight. One could argue they never really happen at all. We have the same issues to deal with now as we did yesterday afternoon.
I won't tell you that Wladimir Balentien just arrived. Major League adjustment is a dimmer, not a light switch. He will have a lot of good at bats going forward, but he will also have a lot of bad ones.
And I won't tell you that the Mariners are ready to get back in the hunt. This is a deep hole they've dug for themselves, one that'll take a sustained effort to escape, and they could very easily fall flat on their faces again tomorrow.
What I will tell you is that, coming off a miserable road trip, this was the biggest win of the year. They just couldn't afford to keep losing. They couldn't. Entering the day, the Mariners stood at 6.5 games back of the Angels and 5.5 games back of the A's. If you figured them for a 35-45% chance at the postseason last March, this morning they were down to a mere fraction of that, having blown opportunities to keep afloat by losing to a terrible Orioles team and getting swept in the Bronx. Simply put, they were almost out of chances. They needed to start winning the games they were supposed to win, because the alternative was a toboggan ride to four long months of meaningless baseball.
Tonight, they won.
Maybe this gets things turned around. Maybe it doesn't. But every team that pulls itself out of a slump has to win a first game, and that little glimmer of hope is the best we could've asked for tonight. May this be the first stage of Operation Season Rescue.
Biggest Contribution: Jose Lopez, +13.9%
Biggest Suckfest: Adrian Beltre, -4.4%
Most Important AB: Ibanez double, +11.5%
Most Important Pitch: Boggs strikeout, +3.3%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +18.0%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +32.0%
Total Contribution by Opposition: 0.0%
(What is this chart?)
I have the bullet point function back! Only a few bullets, since I'm still kind of focusing on the whole site restoration process (you'll notice that things are gradually beginning to reappear):
Update: sweet sweet restoration!
- JJ didn't look too bad. He didn't look like Awesome JJ, but he also didn't look like the JJ of a few days ago who was using the area in and around the zone to write the alphabet with his fastball. Today he was pretty good about throwing strikes, and against Frank Catalanotto in the final at bat he dialed it up to 96 with good location. At this point I'm inclined to agree with MFanInAlaska - seems like JJ just randomly lost his fastball command for some reason and intentionally reduced his velocity to try and find it. He's not back yet, but he's getting there, and unlike before, no longer do I think he's still injured. I think he's just getting over the time time he missed with the previous injury. The splitter's certainly working. Based on nothing in particular, I'd say give JJ ~2 weeks and he'll be back to form.
- If you're one of the zero people who ever doubted Wlad's raw power, he put it on display tonight when he drilled a Millwood fastball about 25 rods into left-center, clearing the visitors' bullpen. Seldom do you find a player capable of hitting a no-doubt home run beyond Safeco's left field power alley, famous for making Mike Cameron crazy and giving Jeff Cirillo crippling bouts with PTSD, but Wlad's got more strength than anyone that's come through this system in many moons, and this isn't the last time he'll decorate the bullpen backdrop. In the short term he won't give this team much in the way of average or OBP, but he's a home run threat every time he steps up to the plate. And that's a threat this lineup sorely needs.
- Despite his notorious difficulty when it comes to hitting the zone against left-handed batters, Sean Green continues to be badly underrated. He gets more swinging strikes than Felix, his sidearm delivery renders righties virtually helpless, and his groundball rate of 68.3% ranks fourth in baseball among pitchers with at least ten innings (last year he was 11th out of 374 pitchers with at least 40 innings). His best outings may not look as sexy as Morrow or JJ's, but he's a hell of a reliever, and a good candidate to end up the most valuable Mariner no one ever mentions.
- Anybody who wants to know what it looks like when bad outfield defense costs runs should check out the bottom of the second. Milton Bradley gave us two baserunners, one of whom would come around to score. Those two balls in play should be required viewing for anyone who dares to take fielding percentage seriously.
- So ever since Wlad and Clement got called up last week, I've been doing some thinking. Fans always love it when a young player gets promoted to the Majors. They're always interested, even if the player in question isn't particularly good, or doesn't seem ready. Why is this? Why do people seem to enjoy watching out for young players so much?
The best answer I've come up with so far is that young players are a mystery. They come up with clean slates, if you will. No matter what their numbers might look like on the farm, people haven't been conditioned to expect certain results out of them the way that we expect, say, Ichiro to put the ball on the ground and run it out, or Richie to whiff. Even with all the evidence we have that minor league performance tends to translate remarkably well into the Majors, we all still want to see it with our own eyes, and building that early impression of a young player seems to be at the heart of the intrigue. It's like having a new toy, only it's a toy you've never seen before, and you can't wait to see what it can do.
That's not it, though. I think there's another (related) factor in play here, a lesser factor but still a real one. And that's that, when they arrive, it feels like every young player has some small chance of turning into an instant impact player, sort of the way that Albert Pujols and Ryan Braun flipped out from the first day they set foot in the big leagues. Obviously not every player has that kind of potential, but where you always feel pretty confident that you know the veterans, the rookies come up with a vast array of possible outcomes, and with each guy you can't help but feel like maybe, just maybe, this could be the guy.
It's something that isn't really supported by the numbers. Superstars generally don't come out of nowhere, and veterans are no more predictable than rookies. But as long as there exists that infinitesimally small chance that Prospect X turns into the greatest player you've ever seen, you'll watch him with interest and give him a longer leash than you would somebody ten years his senior. It's not the most rational approach, but it's a fundamental one shared by pretty much every baseball fan on the planet.
Back to work tomorrow night, as Miguel Batista goes up against holy crap you have to be kidding