57-93, Game Thoughts

I accidentally typed "57-73" at first and thought, no, that's way too good.

57-73 would give the Mariners the eight-worst record in baseball.

We've all, I think, watched things that made us happy. Things that we went into feeling one way, and came out of feeling happier. Meaningful sports games. Funny or heart-warming movies. Good stand-up routines. Footage of bunnies, or koalas, or squirrels eating in trees.

We've also all watched things that made us mad. Things that we went into feeling one way, and came out of feeling furious. Meaningful sports games. Leap Year. Jeff Dunham. Footage of seal clubbing, or pollution, or political grandstanding.

And we've all watched things that didn't really affect us at all. Things that we went into feeling one way, and came out of feeling the same way. But what the Mariners have achieved here - certainly, what the Mariners achieved today - is a product that, when I watch it, makes my brain feel stupid.

I was in a good mood today. I was in a productive mood. I felt sharp, and witty, and mentally together. I don't know if I was all those things, but I felt like I was, and what I've learned in my literally dozens of years is that days that you feel that way start coming less and less often. So you cherish them. You take advantage of them.

I was doing great. I was doing great at around 4pm, when I flipped on the Mariners game. And I kept on doing great for about the first hour. Still felt good. Still felt on top of my game.

And then, at last, the Mariners won. Not the game. They definitely didn't win the game. They won the battle with my mental acuity. I could feel myself start to slide. It happened somewhere around Michael Saunders' first strikeout or Travis Snider's home run, and it just snowballed from there, to the point at which, in the 8th inning, when the M's called on Garrett Olson instead of the actually, frightfully interesting Dan Cortes, I could barely muster a response. I sat there on the sofa and leaned back with the remote in my hand like it were a hot summer day. I just sat, and leaned, and stared, as words and images entered and exited my head.

And when the game ended - not two and a quarter hours after it began - it took a good 30 seconds to register. Then I momentarily forgot how to turn off the TV and cable box, and I knocked over my glass of water standing up, and as I moved my computer back to the office to get writing, I couldn't think of a single word to say about the loss. I couldn't think of a single word to say, period, really. Mentally, I just felt fuzzy and sluggish, the way you do when you nap for too long.

It took me a couple hours to recover. I'm still not back to where I was, although I'll grant that may be because it's nighttime now.

This Mariners team - four out of five days, it can be like a bad houseguest. It just takes, and takes, and takes, and never gives anything back. It's a drain. It's not always a drain, and there are still good moments and interesting moments in a season this lost, but certainly today, and several other days over the past few months, I've watched, and they've just drained me of my vitality. I go in feeling one way and come out half dead.

God help me if I go into one of these games already feeling a little exhausted or slow. I might die. I might die, or slip into a coma. If my brain's at its best at high tide, too often the Mariners pull the plug on the ocean.

  • This was a weird matchup for Luke French. On the one hand, he's a soft-tossing, hittable lefty with easily identifiable pitches, and the Blue Jays have the sort of offense that swings from the heels and punishes whatever it can touch that's over the plate. On the other hand, try this on for size:

    OPS vs. southpaws

    27. Orioles, .663
    28. Astros, .656
    29. Blue Jays, .648
    30. Mariners, .632

    Coming into the day, the Jays had managed just a .283 OBP against left-handed pitchers, and given the difference in park between them and the M's, you could argue that Toronto has actually featured the worst lefty-hitting offense in baseball. So that was a big point in French's favor.

    The game, then, felt perfectly appropriate in the way it played out, as the Jays looked alternately potent and helpless. French got rocked. He allowed three home runs in the first four innings, only struck out two, and surrendered four bits of good contact on five pitches in the bottom of the second. But French also didn't get rocked. He lasted seven innings. He effectively retired 11 of the last 12 hitters he faced. He induced an impressive six infield pop-ups.

    Against French, the Jays covered the whole spectrum. The only things they did consistently were make contact and put the ball in the air. They whiffed six times, but only struck out twice, and just four of their 27 fair hits stayed on the ground.

    And that, right there, is Luke French. The only things he'll be able to do consistently are pitch to contact and keep the ball in the air. Through nearly 80 innings on the year, he's got a contact rate in the high-80s and a groundball rate of 32%. How he actually does will fluctuate depending on the park, the opponent, and the swings that they're taking. But the core skills, as always, will stay the same, and the core skills are not those of a pitcher sure to have a long, lucrative big league career.

    Luke French makes me uneasy. I don't trust him when I watch him go to work, and I don't think I ever will. The odds are just so long.

  • The Mariners are bad, the Jays are decent but out of it, and both Chone Figgins and John McDonald made spectacular diving catches to snare line drives - Figgins to his left to rob Travis Snider, and McDonald to his right to rob Josh Wilson. Leaving aside for a moment that Josh Wilson is not the sort of person who deserves to be robbed, just those simple plays stand as evidence that players aren't mailing it in, even in a game few would watch. I don't think Figgins or McDonald or anybody else had the level of focus you'd expect in a playoff game, but they were sufficiently close to the maximum to pull off a couple incredible plays. Horizontal full extension is tougher than it seems.

  • These being Cito Caston's final days as a Major League manager, it has to be hard for him to fight the temptation to start Lyle Overbay at shortstop, or fart all the time.

  • Michael Saunders has one extra-base hit since August 16th, and that was a blooper the other way that just fell inside the line. He has shown an ability to draw walks, and it's possible that efforts to improve his selectivity are having a short-term effect on his swing, but right now this is hard to watch, as he isn't driving the ball anywhere. Not that anybody else is, either.

  • Ichiro laughs at your concern.

  • A year ago, I noted that Aaron Hill and Jose Lopez might be in for a power drop-off, as their breakthrough 2009 seasons at the plate relied on a bunch of home runs pulled to left field that barely cleared the fence. Sure enough, Hill's homer total has dropped from 36 to 24. Lopez's has dropped from 24 to seven.
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