I'll be perfectly honest with you - as much as this season sucks, and as much as it pains me to see the looks on a few of the guys' faces in the dugout all the time, right now I only find myself actively rooting for the Mariners once every five days. Barring special circumstances, of course. But with nothing but hollow achievements left to accomplish, I have come to terms with the fact that what is in this team's best interests is landing the #1 draft pick next June. At this point, viewing everything in the big picture, trying to win as many games in 2008 as possible may indeed do more harm than good.
However, every five days I make the Felix Day Exception. Every five days, I root for this team every bit as hard as I did a year ago when we were gunning for the playoffs. Every five days I applaud the good and jeer the bad and give ridiculous standing ovations in my room to great plays or spectacular performances. Every five days, I want nothing more than for the Mariners to come away with a clean, easy win that leaves the clubhouse merry and McLaren all smiles for the press.
I don't even necessarily want the wins for me. At least, not directly. I want them for Felix. I want Felix to win because Felix loves wins more than everything but his family and his fastball, and regardless of what you think about this team's direction, it would behoove us to keep Felix as happy as we can, especially when one of the final acts of the man walking out the door was to offer him a lowball contract.
Felix is a man of whom we need to take proper care. It needn't be repeated just how much he means to the team, and it needn't be repeated just how much he means to me. But he's rather clearly the most important building block in the organization, and until someone gets the money worked out, priority number one ought to be keeping the guy in good spirits. It's all we can do with everything else in such disarray. A winning Felix is a happy Felix, and a happy Felix is a Felix we could end up seeing stick around for a long long time. And every five days, that means more to me than Stephen Strasburg ever could.
Biggest Contribution: Brandon Morrow, +15.9%
Biggest Suckfest: Jose Vidro, -9.5%
Most Important AB: Lopez double #1, +11.8%
Most Important Pitch: Hermida single, -10.6%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +36.7%
Total Contribution by Position Players: +2.8%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +10.5%
(What is this chart?)
For five innings, Felix was as good as he's ever looked. He needed just 54 pitches - 44 of them strikes - to retire 15 of 16 Marlin batters, with seven of them striking out and only two lifting the ball into the outfield. The lone blemish was a 1-0 centered fastball that Dan Uggla punished for a bomb, but where you'd think that might leave Felix a little rattled, he instead came right back to pitch spectacular baseball. The fourth inning in particular was nothing short of a masterpiece, as Felix needed just the minimum nine pitches to punch out the 2-3-4 third of Florida's order. It was the 13th such occasion in AL history, but the fact that the best anyone could do was a Jorge Cantu foul tip straight into Johjima's glove only made it all the more impressive. Just for good measure, two of the three bats were left-handed. If you have the means, I implore you go to back and watch that inning a few times and just get lost in Felix's utter control. It was like nothing I've ever seen, and perhaps the most extraordinary part is that Felix is perfectly capable of repeating the feat several more times. When he's putting his stuff where he wants, there's no better arm in the world. Never has that been more clear than it was in the fourth inning tonight.
What's funny is that even in his big blow-up inning, he still wasn't all that bad. 21 of his 34 pitches were strikes - four of them swinging - and for all the balls the Marlins put in play, one was a soft bloop and three were on the ground. Only Cantu's sac fly was hit a fair distance. It was a long inning, but not a terrible one, and while it would've been nice to see more offspeed stuff, he was able to put Jacobs and Uggla away with his change and curve, respectively, which got him out of a jam. I would argue that Felix's seventh inning was actually worse, as all four Marlins put the ball in play and three of them put it in the air, but since I can't be sure when Felix's calf started tightening up, I'm not about to complain.
Felix's line score shows four runs in seven and a third, but don't be deceived. Against a good (albeit strikeout-prone and undisciplined) lineup, he was dominant with the majority of his 107 pitches, at one point striking out six consecutive batters and not once allowing a line drive. McLaren went out to greet him with a smile in the eighth, and he deserved the ovation he got as he walked off the mound. This was a hell of an outing. Command, missed bats, groundballs, and an air of expectant superiority. We love you, Felix. Don't you dare ever leave.
Brandon Morrow is pretty good too.