57-92, Game Thought

I don't think he's going to generate much power like that

I won't keep you long. I know you have meals to eat, beers to drink, and Seahawk turnovers to forget. I didn't even watch this game, anyway, since I was on the road the whole time. There's only so much you can write about a game you didn't see that lifted your favorite team to 35 games under .500.

So I'm just here to say one thing, and then I'll leave you be. And that one thing: as hard as it can be for pitchers to work with little run support, and as often as it comes up in the press, the Mariners have really done a hell of a job.

All that stuff people write about the pressure of knowing you pretty much have to be perfect - it's true. Pitchers aren't idiots. They aren't idiots about winning games, anyway. They know what's at stake, and it can get in their heads. One missed spot could seal the deal. Everybody prefers to pitch with offensive support. It adds to the comfort and adds to the confidence.

The only thing you can really do when your offense can't score, then, is to try to push it out of your mind. Try to forget about it. Try to go out there and ignore everything else and try to do your job, and then hope that your teammates can do theirs. In a way, you have to lie to yourself. You have to pretend like runs aren't that big of a deal.

And the Mariner pitching staff has succeeded in that regard, by and large. I don't know how much of an effect there really is. I don't know how much this matters on average, and what effect that pressure and psychology usually has on performance. What I know is that, as the Mariner offense sinks further and further towards historical depths, we aren't seeing a corresponding performance decline on the mound. This team is fourth in the AL in ERA. It's fifth in FIP. Since trading Cliff Lee, the M's have a team ERA of 3.79. Even excluding Felix Hernandez, since Felix is Felix, we've seen Jason Vargas pitch well. We've seen Doug Fister pitch well. We've seen David Pauley pitch reasonably for what he is, and the same has gone for some of the bullpen.

I'm not sure that people properly appreciate just how bad of an offense we've been watching. The Mariners are on pace to score just over half as many runs as the 1999 Indians. HALF. This has been perhaps the worst offense that anyone in your family has ever seen. It's frustrated us. It's frustrated everybody. It's definitely frustrated the pitchers. But the pitchers won't let it show. They continue to go out there and do their jobs admirably.

Obviously, I'm aware of the shortcomings with ERA. The team gets help from its stadium. It gets help from the defense. Their ERA looks better than it probably ought to. When you look at the group of arms this team actually has, though, it's hard not to be impressed. It's hard not to wonder how every pitcher who ever takes the mound in a close game isn't a complete nervous wreck.

The Mariners are on pace to allow 690 runs. The whole team didn't fail. The offense failed. The pitching, and the run prevention, have done just fine. They've done just fine despite knowing damn well how important every run is. The Mariners are 7-74 when they allow at least four runs. The need for near-perfection has maybe never been greater.

And despite that stress and anxiety, the M's have managed. I don't know if pitchers have ever buckled under this kind of pressure before, or if that's just a media creation, but if ever there was any team where pressure-related struggles on the pitching staff's part could be understood, it's this one. And they've sucked it up. Seems to me, that's really something. These hitters are pathetic, but these pitchers are tough.

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