Seattle Mariners Shockingly Blanked By Really Awesome Pitcher

Fish joke

I don't think it's quite right to say this game was lost in the first inning. Technically, it's never right to say a game was lost in the first inning, and the Mariners had nine chances to erase the early deficit. They've scored more runs before, and they've scored more runs against good pitchers before, and deficits can turn around in a hurry.

But realistically, while this game wasn't lost in the first inning, it did get much of the way there. Between some bad pitching, some bad luck, some bad defense, and a bad call, the Angels put up an early four-spot on Doug Fister, which meant the M's wouldn't only need to win a game against Jered Weaver - they'd need to score a bunch of runs and win a game against Jered Weaver. That's a tall task, and it's not surprising that they couldn't pull it off, or even get particularly close to pulling it off.

The optimist says that the M's have lost to Dan Haren and Jered Weaver, and that's okay, because Dan Haren and Jered Weaver are really good, and the M's were throwing their two worst starters. The pessimist says that the M's have drifted back to .500 and are bracing to be passed by the Angels within a few days, as the AL West sorts itself out.

The subject-changer reflects on Jered Weaver's status coming out of college. Weaver was considered a possibility to go first overall in the 2004 draft, but he fell to the Angels at #12 due to signability concerns. However, while Weaver was a top pick, when you go through the old scouting reports a common thread can be seen. Weaver was praised for things like his command and pitchability and poise. He scored a few points for his deception. His stuff, though, was thought of as pretty good, but not great. A sample:

On raw stuff, though, Weaver is a step behind Prior--and even Justin Verlander. Weaver pitches off his fastball, which he normally throws at 91-92, touching 95. His curve is just an average offering. He also throws two kinds of sliders, one with greater depth that he added just this year.

Nobody doubted that Weaver was a talented pitcher, and a good bet to be a successful pitcher, but many felt he was working with a limited ceiling. Many felt he didn't have the ace potential of a Justin Verlander, because he offered an inferior assortment of stuff.

And now look at Jered Weaver. Since the first day of last season, he's thrown 333.2 innings, with 329 strikeouts, 80 walks, and a 2.70 ERA. Jered Weaver isn't the best pitcher in baseball, but he's one of them, and he's unquestionably an ace. He's not any worse than Verlander. While Jered Weaver isn't flawless, he is most certainly phenomenal.

And it makes you wonder what people actually mean when they talk about pitcher ceilings during the draft. Look at who the Mariners selected second overall. Look at Danny Hultzen. What are the dominant similarities between Hultzen's various scouting reports? Good command. Good pitchability. Good poise. Good mechanics. Good, but not great stuff. From this, it's concluded that Hultzen has a limited ceiling. Why? Because he doesn't throw 100 miles per hour?

I don't think the concept of ceilings necessarily has to be abandoned, but my sense is that, with pitchers, perceived quality of stuff might be weighed a little too heavily, considering the importance of things like command and mechanical repeatability. Saying that a guy like Hultzen has a ceiling as a #2/#3 starter ignores that a guy like Jered Weaver can make it as a #1 starter. Jered Weaver's individual pitches have worse velocity and movement than those of a lot of other guys, but it's amazing how good a guy can be when he's capable of putting his pitches where he wants to.

Getting shut down by Jered Weaver is depressing and frustrating when you're hoping for the M's to look alive in the race. But from Jered Weaver, we can learn some lessons, and feel more positive about the Mariners' latest top draft pick. Danny Hultzen doesn't throw the best raw stuff in the country. Neither does Weaver. But when it comes to Major League starters, Weaver's almost as good as it gets.

And that's how you turn a negative into a positive.

To a few bullet holes!

  • Given that I basically missed the first inning while working on something else, I thought Doug Fister looked terrific. Now, obviously that first inning can't be ignored, since Fister allowed four runs and threw 42 pitches, but it's interesting how a guy can go from being problematic in one inning to downright dominant in the following six. Fister needed just 66 pitches over his final six frames, whiffing five without walking anyone.

    Fister has now logged nearly 100 innings with a league-average strikeout rate. A league-average strikeout rate is not remarkable on its own. Brian Duensing has a league-average strikeout rate, and I took a nap in the middle of writing this sentence. But a league-average strikeout rate for Doug Fister? I'm still not sure you guys properly understand how weird it is that Fister is what Fister is these days. I'm also not sure I do either.

  • Fister was the starting pitcher in that game the Mariners won 13-3 over the Tigers. Over his other 14 starts, the Mariners have scored a combined total of 22 runs. The M's are now 4-10 in games started by Doug Fister this season, and Doug Fister has a 3.53 ERA. It's possible that the offense is also perplexed by how Doug Fister is managing a league-average strikeout rate.

  • Four consecutive multi-hit games for Ichiro since he got his day off. Tonight he singled on a soft liner up the middle, and then in the ninth, he ripped a double into the right-center gap that chased Peter Bourjos to the wall. For good measure, he also turned in a pair of excellent catches, including one pseudo-leaping catch to rob Howie Kendrick of a hit in the eighth. Ichiro ranged well to his left and flagged down a line drive that was bending away from him. I don't want to be the guy sitting here and claiming that Ichiro getting a day off made all the difference. It's too simple. But there's no denying that the Ichiro we've seen the last few days has not looked like the Ichiro we saw over the previous several games. He's looked...he's looked like Ichiro. He's looked like Ichiro, instead of a cross between Ichiro and Juan Pierre and a guy with malaria.

  • Mike Carp made a sliding catch in foul territory to end the top of the first inning. Later, in the top of the eighth, he attempted another sliding catch on a sinking liner by Mark Trumbo, but the ball bounced off of him and back towards the infield. Mike Carp's absolute peak as a defensive outfielder is being described as a guy who "isn't pretty but gets the job done." That's his peak. That is not him now.

  • In the seventh, Andrew Romine reached on a strikeout/passed ball on a thigh-high changeup over the plate.

  • When we watch Chone Figgins, we expect nothing, but when we watch Vernon Wells, we're somewhat afraid. When Angels fans watch Vernon Wells, they expect nothing, but when they watch Chone Figgins, they're somewhat afraid. Perspective is weird. No matter how bad a hitter is, and no matter how well-known his struggles might be, he will always feel worse to fans of his own team than to fans of other teams. 

Ervin Santana and Erik Bedard tomorrow in what suddenly feels like a really important game. "Good thing David Pauley is rested," he says, wondering how things got to this point.

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