In 2003, the Detroit Tigers, which is notable since the 2003 Detroit Tigers lost 119 games. Their team leader in RBI was Shawn Green, with 85. Behind him was Adrian Beltre, with 80. Behind him was Paul Lo Duca, with 52. One player on the team had an OPS over .800. One player on the team had more than 20 home runs. They were shut out 13 times, they were held to one run 27 more times, and they reached double digits on just four occasions - and only once before the middle of August. The 2003 Dodgers' lineup was just absolutely, miserably dreadful.scored 574 runs. This was back before offensive numbers started dropping league-wide. They scored 17 fewer runs than the
And the 2003 Dodgers won 85 games. They won 85 games because, while they only scored 574 runs, they only allowed 556, which was 81 fewer than the second-place. The rotation had an ERA of 3.49. The bullpen had an ERA of 2.46. Of the 16 pitchers on the team to throw at least ten innings, only two posted an ERA+ below the league average. They spun 17 shutouts, they held the opponent to one run 25 times, and on just 45 occasions did they allow more than four.
The 2003 Dodgers didn't make the playoffs. They finished 15 wins behind the Giants in the NL West, and six wins behind thefor the Wild Card. Ultimately, to get over the hump you do need to be able to score at least a little bit, unless your pitching staff is untouchable. But that team stands as proof that, to win, you don't necessarily need to be an offensive juggernaut, or even an offensive regular naut. You can have a mediocre or even a bad lineup and still finish with a good record given sufficient run prevention. It's the argument we tried to make last year before everything went to hell, and this year, the M's are making it work. This year's Mariners aren't scoring runs, but this year's Mariners - especially of late - also aren't allowing them.
This pitching run the M's are on is incredible. They've only allowed seven runs the last seven days. Since their ERA hit 4.90 on April 18th, it's dropped to 2.50 in the subsequent 29 games. Obviously, they've recently gotten a boost from playing theat home, the at home, and the on the road. The situations won't always be this pitcher-friendly, and more importantly, you never want to get caught up in evaluating a player or a team at its peak. The Mariners won't be able to count on these pitching gems every single day.
But what's seemingly becoming clear is that they will be able to count on them pretty often, and that's what makes it so easy and so tempting to believe. There's nothing better for a fan's confidence than a strong and deep starting rotation, which the Mariners most definitely have. That's a good foundation, and in a division with no clear front-runner, who knows, maybe it's enough. Maybe it isn't - the offense is pretty bad, and Dustin Ackley can only do so much - but it's not hard to imagine how it could all come together. Imagining the M's as contenders down the stretch doesn't require a whole lot in the way of mental gymnastics. With these five starters, it might be harder to imagine them falling flat.
It's May 22nd. The Mariners are still two games under .500, which isn't something we can ignore. But we're approaching the point at which we can start allowing ourselves to think about potential roster upgrades. Upgrades for now, I mean, instead of just upgrades for 2012 or 2014. I don't want to say the fun is just beginning, because it isn't, but be prepared for the fun to continue. There is that chance, and it has never seemed more likely than it does right now.
While I'm not one to pretend I'm capable of psychoanalysis while watching a game on TV, I have to imagine that Padres hitters spend a lot of their time feeling demoralized. A lot of their time feeling like there's nothing they can do, and a lot of their time feeling like, even if by some miracle they get on base, nobody's going to drive them in anyway. So it's with that in mind that I can't imagine how low they felt after Friday night. On Friday, they scored one run in a game started by Erik Bedard. On Saturday and Sunday, they were to face Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez. I don't know how one could even pretend to feel confident heading into that kind of wood-chipper.
Sure enough, over the course of the weekend Padres hitters wore a trench going back and forth between home and the dugout, as Pineda was nearly untouchable and Felix decided he didn't want the rookie showing him up. Again, I mean this in the least cocky way possible, but at no point was I concerned about whether or not the Mariners would win. As easy as Pineda made it look on Saturday, Felix made it look at least that easy today, and once the M's got on the board, the remainder felt like a formality. Like they were only playing nine innings because the fans paid for nine innings.
The fans. I hope those fans appreciate pitching. I feel for the Padres fans who paid to show up this weekend, and hopefully they were able to take something positive out of the experience. Otherwise it's just a bummer, you know?
Now for some quicker bullet holes again:
- And there's the dominant outing by Felix Hernandez, in case you weren't satisfied with what he did to the Twins. Pitching against the Padres at Petco is as soft an assignment as one can get and still technically be pitching in the Majors, but it's not just anybody who can strike them out 13 times without issuing a walk. Felix had them missing all game long, as he did an ace job of mixing in his offspeed stuff, and he couldn't have had a better warm-up for his upcoming start against the
. That five-inning start in Baltimore feels like forever ago.
- In Felix's first at bat, Tim Stauffer gave him a perfect slider and two perfect fastballs at the low-away corner of the strike zone. Tim Stauffer threw his best pitches of the game to Felix Hernandez.
- Sometimes people think I have the best job in the world because I get paid to sit and watch baseball. Jeff Gray's job recently has also been to sit and watch baseball, with the difference between us being that over the past ten days, Jeff Gray has earned more than eleven thousand dollars.
- In the second, Carlos Peguero lined a low-away fastball right at shortstop. In the third, he blasted a low-away curveball off the top of the fence in left-center field, 400 feet away. In the fifth, he ripped a low-inside slider into right for a single. He struck out against Cory Luebke in the seventh, but Cory Luebke is a lefty, and in Peguero's three at bats against a righty, he destroyed the ball all three times. He also made contact with all eight of his swings. Carlos Peguero has the plate discipline of Kevin James and he plays defense like Kevin James, but lately he's done an impressive job of fighting off pitches he can't hit and drilling pitches he can. For him to be able to hit that double as far as he did with the swing that he took - not a lot of hitters could've hit that double.
- In the bottom of the fifth, Orlando Hudson lined a ball to left-center that looked like trouble off the bat. Michael Saunders read it perfectly and got himself into position to make the catch before the camera even cut from home to the outfield. Saunders' offense has been a bigger disappointment than every soda after you turn 25 years old, but after the way he looked in the field early in the season, he's all kinds of comfortable now. Defensively, he's an asset.
- In the seventh, the Padres scored on a single by Chris Denorfia, but on the play, Franklin Gutierrez threw Cameron Maybin out at third, ending the inning. The Padres scored two runs in this series. On both run-scoring plays, a baserunner ran into an out. Chase Headley was the runner who scored on Denorfia's single, and he barely even flinched when he found out what had happened behind him. I'm telling you, demoralized.
- Immediately following the Gutierrez throw to nail Maybin:
Valle: Not only is he death to flying things - he's death to running things.
- In the top of the ninth, with one out, nobody on, and the score 5-1 Mariners, Miguel Olivo lined a base hit sharply to the left-center gap. Chris Denorfia sprinted over and made a full-out dive to his left to grab the ball and keep it from rolling to the fence, in so doing keeping Olivo to a single. That's the kind of play that catches your eye only because it would've been perfectly understandable had Denorfia stayed on his feet and played it off the wall. Chris Denorfia earned big manager points, or at least he earned big manager points as long as Bud Black was still paying attention. It also would've been perfectly understandable had Bud Black stopped paying attention.
- Until now, the last team to have nine consecutive starts of at least seven innings with two or fewer runs allowed was the 1988 . The 1988 San Francisco Giants finished 83-79 and had a team ERA+ of 97. Good company.
Tomorrow, Jason Vargas and the Mariners kick off a series against the Twins, seriously.