16-28, Game Thoughts

IMPORTANT NOTES

1) I don't really care that the Mariners lost. We're 16-28. Our DH was Ken Griffey Jr., and our infield was Rob Johnson, Mike Sweeney, Chone Figgins, Josh Wilson, and Matt Tuiasosopo. And the Padres are my bandwagon team, so I like to see them get a boost.

2) We lost 8-1. When you lose 8-1, there's usually plenty of blame to go around.

HOWEVER

As has been expressed many a time both here and other places, every event in a baseball game is tied together. If, for example, somebody gets thrown out stealing third, and the next guy doubles, you can't say "that caught steal cost us a run," because the caught steal influenced the subsequent series of events. Chances are, were it not for the caught steal, the double never would have happened.

This is an important principle to keep in mind all of the time, but it's especially important today, because even though the Mariners lost 8-1, they were only down 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh with runners on second and third and nobody out. Their odds of winning at that point were about 30%, and the leverage stood at nearly three times the average. Needless to say, this was an important juncture in a winnable game. And the Mariners sent Rob Johnson and Josh Wilson to the plate against Luke Gregerson.

Maybe that, on its own, doesn't mean a whole lot to you. So let me just shoot you a handful of facts:

-Rob Johnson is right-handed
-Rob Johnson is bad at hitting
-Josh Wilson is right-handed
-Josh Wilson is bad at hitting
-Luke Gregerson is right-handed
-Luke Gregerson is good at pitching

I don't need to tell you about Gregerson's numbers. You can look them up for yourself. Basically, he's a righty who throws a ton of strikes and misses a ton of bats against righties, which you'd expect from a guy who's thrown 60% sliders on the year. He's not quite a specialist, because he's good against lefties too, but he's absolute death to right-handed bats. The Padres got Gregerson as a throw-in, and he's turned into one of the better relievers in baseball.

And the Mariners let Johnson and Wilson swing away. They let Matt Tuiasosopo swing away, too, but he only came up with a man on first, so that wasn't as important an at bat (and, to Tui's credit, he doubled). The next two were big, and Wak did nothing, even though he had the switch-hitting Josh Bard, the lefty-hitting Michael Saunders, the lefty-hitting Ryan Langerhans, and the lefty-hitting Casey Kotchman on the bench.

That's dumb. So maybe you want to give Bard and Lopez a day off. Well, the M's don't play tomorrow. They don't play Thursday, either. This is a light week. I think they could've handled it. And even if Wak were afraid that the Padres might go to lefty Joe Thatcher, so what? Thatcher's worse than Gregerson, and you still have options, and so forth. By leverage, the two most important plate appearances in this game were Rob Johnson and Josh Wilson against Luke Gregerson. And Don Wakamastu did nothing.

Pinch-hitting is hard. I get it. We all get it. You know what else is hard? Watching Rob Johnson and Josh Wilson swing away in a game-defining situation against a right-handed reliever. Johnson's career OPS against righties is .629. Wilson's is .603. The odds were stacked against us, and Wak sat still, because his preferred pinch-hitting extraordinaires Griffey, Sweeney, and Tui were already in the game. And hey, the Mariners lost. I'm not saying the Mariners lost because Wak didn't pinch-hit, because that would be silly, but it certainly didn't help, and beyond that it gives us some valuable insight into how our manager thinks.

I don't like that people tend to get after their managers when their team is struggling. By and large, I think managers tend to gather far too much blame. The seventh inning, though - that was bad. Wak has a belief system in Rob Johnson and Josh Wilson, yet neither of those two players has ever done anything to earn the big at bats that they got. That sucked.

  • Wilson, by the way, flew out on a 2-1 slider off the plate. Johnson got ahead 3-0, took a strike, swung and missed at a slider well off the plate, and then hit a sac fly. The crowd gave him a rousing ovation, even though that sac fly dropped our odds of winning by 6.4%, making it the most damaging Mariner plate appearance of the game. Gotta applaud when a guy doesn't take a walk, and then makes an out.

    I know Ichiro struck out against Gregerson on three pitches, but that's one at bat. Tui doubled off of him, too, but do you want to tell me that you would like a Tui/Gregerson matchup going forward? You have to play the odds. A manager's job is to give his team the best shot at winning that he can. Wak didn't do that.

  • Before the game, FSN ran a poll asking the viewing audience which pitcher was most impressive before turning 24: Freddy Garcia, Felix Hernandez, Joel Pineiro, or Dave Fleming. Fleming won. By the time he turned 24, Fleming had 413.1 innings and a strikeout rate of 4.3. By the time Felix turned 24, he had 911.2 innings and a strikeout rate of 8.1. Oh, but Fleming had the better win percentage. I'm pretty sure the votes in the fan polls can all be traced back to various pre-paid mobile phones owned by Bill Krueger.

  • On more than one occasion, Dave Niehaus referred to David Eckstein as "this kid." David Eckstein is 35.

  • In the fifth inning, the Padres had a runner advance from second to third on a Johnson passed ball and score on a groundout. In the seventh inning, the Padres had a runner advance from first to second on a stolen base and score on a single. The second one obviously isn't Johnson's fault as much as the first one is, but the point is, Rob Johnson's poor defense played a not insignificant role in Felix's allowing three runs. And you think Felix doesn't know it? You think, when Felix sees a runner move up on a ball that gets through his catcher and score on a harmless groundout, Felix doesn't get upset? From 2005-2008, Felix threw 10,483 pitches, 29 of them wild. Since 2009, Felix has thrown 4688 pitches, 23 of them wild. That's an increase from one per 361 to one per 204, and it just so happens to coincide with Rob Johnson's arrival in the Major Leagues. And note that that doesn't even consider passed balls.

    I'm not saying we necessarily have a solution. Adam Moore is hurt, and he had trouble catching when he was healthy. We've barely seen Josh Bard, but his history doesn't suggest a superior ability to receive. I only bring this up because, while Felix and some other pitchers preferred Johnson to Kenji Johjima before, I wonder how many pitchers are actually happy with the way Johnson plays behind the plate. I'm guessing they still like him, but if that's true, that means there's something else he does they like so much that it cancels out the fact that he can't actually catch a baseball.

    Alternatively, it's possible that pitchers blame themselves when a ball gets away.

  • When Corey Patterson came up with that throw after an Ichiro single in Baltimore, I wondered to myself why left fielders don't always play Ichiro that shallow. After all, most of his hits the other way are bloopers or grounders. In the third inning today, Ichiro drilled a ball over Oscar Salazar's head in left for an easy double. That's why. You can take your chances in left field and play Ichiro shallow if you want to, but he can make you look foolish with one flick of the wrists.

    His double was just another one of those cases where you see Ichiro do something and casually assume it's exactly what he intended.

  • In the second inning today, Felix owned Oscar Salazar with an inside fastball. In the fourth inning, Felix owned Oscar Salazar with a couple inside fastballs. In the sixth inning, Felix badly sawed Oscar Salazar off with a couple inside fastballs. The at bats inspired me to do some research into how Oscar Salazar usually performs against 94+ mph inside fastballs, which is one of those things that, like chopping Persian cucumber while watching Best of the Stellar Awards, makes you pause and wonder whether anyone in the world has ever done this before.

  • Our lineup today - against a right-handed pitcher - had Matt Tuiasosopo at third, Mike Sweeney at first, Rob Johnson behind the plate, and Ken Griffey Jr. at DH. It's remarkable how close we came to fielding the worst possible semi-realistic lineup of the players at our disposal. I guess we could've had Lopez instead of Figgins, Langerhans instead of Gutierrez, and Saunders instead of Ichiro, but, man, if you figure that those three guys are locked in, and that Wilson's also locked in for the time being, that means that Wak has five positions that're left to his discretion on a daily basis right now, and this afternoon he got all five of them wrong.

  • Felix was okay.

  • Ryan Rowland-Smith made his first bullpen appearance of the season after Jesus Colome and Kanekoa Texeira imploded. RRS came out throwing his fastball around 90-92mph, but by far the most significant thing I think there is to take away from his outing is that he threw one damn inning, and it doesn't matter, and if anybody asks "So how did RRS look out of the bullpen? Does it look like he's going to be able to help?" I will literally ban you, or hit you if you're near.

  • Mike Sweeney drew two walks, singled, lined out, and didn't screw up in the field. I don't even know what to say about Sweeney anymore, so here is some stuff about Lake Nyos:

    At 9:30 p.m. on August 21, 1986, a cloudy mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2) and water droplets rose violently from Lake Nyos, Cameroon. As the lethal mist swept down adjacent valleys, it killed over 1700 people, thousands of cattle, and many more birds and animals. Local villagers attributed the catastrophe to the wrath of a spirit woman of local folklore who inhabits the lakes and rivers. Scientists, on the other hand, were initially puzzled by the root cause, and by the abrupt onset, of this mysterious and tragic event.

    Lake NyosLake Nyos covers an area of about 1.5 square kilometers and is over 200 meters deep. This region of western Cameroon averages about 2.5 meters of rain each year. In the rainy season, the excess lake water escapes over a low spillway cut into the northern rim of the maar crater, and down a valley toward Nyos village. The water in Lake Nyos is normally a beautiful, deep-blue color. The post-eruption photo shown here, however, is composed of murky reddish brown water which apparently formed by the oxidation of iron-rich bottom waters that were carried up to shallower lake levels during the August 1986 event.

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