"NO DON'T STEP ON IT IT'S GOING TO BLOW UP!" "I WANT TO STEP ON IT SO BAD!" "DON'T STEP ON IT IT'S GOING TO BLOW UP!" "LET ME STEP ON IT"
Let the calls for more offense commence. That's what I imagine the theme is going to be after this series. Errors were a big part of our output in game 1. We got embarrassed by Dallas Braden in game 2. We only had one extra-base hit in game 3. We were shut out through eight innings in game 4. This offense is terrible. There's no way the stand a chance of competing as long as they're running out a lineup this bad.
Don't be one of those guys. We all know this offense isn't going to light up the scoreboard on a regular basis. That's not new news. But you can't watch four games and immediately throw out all the offseason analysis that showed how much better we'd be. The M's had a terrific approach against Ben Sheets. They looked bad against Braden, but Braden's changeup was apparently out of this world. They hit a bunch of line drives a day ago. And today, while you never want to be scoreless going into the ninth, it's hard to fault a lineup when it doesn't hit Brett Anderson. Brett Anderson is an excellent young pitcher. He's one of the better arms in the league. This happens. Note that, for whatever it's worth, Rajai Davis took a homer away from Milton Bradley in the second.
Through the first four games of the season, the lineup hasn't looked so hot, but it's a small sample, it's the first week, they faced some good pitchers, and they were the victims of some good defense. It's pretty obvious when it's the right time to panic. It isn't the right time to panic. To be sure, you can be disappointed - I imagine we're all disappointed - but impatience is seldom rewarded.
- Holding true to my rule about early-season pitcher analysis, all I will say is that, if you watched the game this afternoon, you'd never believe that Doug Fister walked 11 batters in 106 AAA innings a year ago. For a guy with the very definition of a pedestrian fastball, he was throwing an awful lot of them, and that's because he was both falling behind everyone and struggling to show even the slightest bit of offspeed command. The Jesus Colome move sounded aggressive this morning, but sweet baby Jesus did that ever come in handy, because Oakland worked Fister's pitch count like Mike Blowers works his hair.
- This sounds silly since I've dismissed him before, but Colome showed me a lot of good things today. Not only did he soak up three innings of much-needed relief, but he threw first-pitch strikes to ten of the 13 batters he faced and flashed this sharp little slider that looked good low in the zone. It's worth keeping him around for a little while to see if any of this improved command is for real, because if it is, he's a decent solution against righties and probably a better pitcher than Sean White.
- Tricky play early on, when Rajai Davis led off with a chopper. Jose Lopez was able to field a shorthop at third, and then Matt Tuiasosopo was able to field Lopez's shorthopped throw at first. Good way to get two guys in the infield involved right off the bat. Not much else to report as far as Lopez's defense is concerned - he couldn't barehand an excellent Cliff Pennington bunt up the line in the eighth, but few can, and anyone who complained about that play as it happened forgot just how spoiled we've been.
That Pennington bunt was historically significant, by the way, because it wound up going for a double. After Lopez bobbled the attempted barehand, Adam Moore raced up the line and tried to scoop the ball with his catcher's mask. Turns out you can't field a ball in play with headgear, so the runner on was awarded third base, and Pennington was awarded second. That's the kind of double only the Mariners or a team just like the Mariners would hit. So if you've ever messed around and tried to, say, catch a baseball with your hat, congratulations, you're breaking the rules. Way to set an example for the kids out there.
- There were signs of life in the top of the seventh, when the Mariners - behind 4-0 - had two on and none out. Chad Gaudin came in from the Oakland bullpen to pitch to Milton Bradley, and on the first pitch, Bradley squared up and tried to lay down a bunt that rolled just foul.
I'm torn on this one. On the one hand, I support the game theory thought process, and had Bradley kept the ball fair, he could've cartwheeled to first base. But on the other hand, Bradley was followed in the batting order by five consecutive righties, and if you weren't aware, Chad Gaudin has some of the more extreme splits in baseball. Over the course of Gaudin's career, righties have posted an OBP of .318 while lefties have posted an OBP of .389.
The Mariners needed Bradley to deliver in that situation, because after him they didn't stand much of a chance. And so, in order to justify a bunt, Bradley had to be absolutely certain he could get it down.
He didn't, and he wound up striking out. Shockingly, Sweeney and Lopez failed as well, and no runs were scored. Huge at bat for Bradley, and an unfortunate result.
- Got to see the bullpen congratulate the ball boy one by one when he fielded a foul grounder in the third. Always hilarious. I'm never going to want to see Mark Lowe get traded.
- Your Milton Bradley Event Summary:
(1) Took a high 2-1 heater to straightaway center in the second that Rajai Davis raced down and snagged with a leaping catch over the wall. With most any other center fielder, that's a home run. Bradley doffed his batting helmet in recognition of the play.
(2) In the bottom of the second, after failing to run down a foul pop up, Bradley blew a kiss to the fans down the third base line. You know those guys have been giving it to Bradley for four straight days, and it's both funny to watch him respond, and also annoying, because, hey, everything you do draws attention, so you should probably try to do as little as possible in terms of extracurricular activity.
(3) Took a 3-1 heater to straightaway center in the fourth that Rajai Davis raced down in front of the track. Bradley sighed and smiled, as he nearly got all of it. Bradley was fractions of inches away from having a two-homer afternoon.
(4) The aforementioned bunt attempt
(5) Slid in an attempt to catch a sinking line drive in one of the early innings. He knocked it down instead. That's the second or third diving try Bradley has attempted in two days, and this is why I'm so nervous about having him play the field. He's a fine defensive outfielder - somewhere around average or above-average - but he's proven to be so brittle over the years that I'd really rather not tempt fate. Unless you're Bill Hall, playing the outfield can take a toll on the legs.
Franklin Gutierrez ended the bottom of the first by making a running catch on a Kevin Kouzmanoff fly just in front of the center field fence. That's probably really annoying for Franklin, because it means he has to jog 400 feet back to the dugout. The good news is that, if nothing else, he wasn't due to lead off the second. Those are some splits I'd like to see. I know people have looked at the effect of baserunning on pitcher performance before. Let's apply a distant relative of this analysis to rangey outfielders!
Wakamatsu: Franklin, you're up.
Gutierrez: Can I get a second?
Wakamatsu: I can't pause the baseball game.
Gutierrez: I need to catch my breath.
Wakamatsu: You should've thought of that before catching the baseball.
- I wonder how well fan applause correlates with the run value of the event that's just taken place. Do fans cheer 38% louder for the average double than they do for the average single? Do fans cheer 171% louder for the average home run than they do for the average walk? Fan response is probably exaggerated. The point I'm doing a miserable job of getting to is that I think fans should get a little more excited about hitter-friendly counts, like 2-0 and 3-1. You know what happens in those hitter's counts? The average hitter turns into Albert Pujols. I know cheering for increased probability that something good might happen is different from cheering for something good that already happened, but I really don't think people realize how good it is when a hitter gets ahead.