The way in and frequency with which people talk about run support is weird to me. Run support is significant in that it's correlated to overall run production, and overall run production is important. It's better to have a lot of run production than a little run production. But to talk about run support as it pertains to individual pitchers is to give weight to a pitcher's won/loss record, which I think pretty much all of us understand to be flawed and best left ignored, including the pitchers themselves. Pitcher run support can make for the occasional fun fact when mentioned in passing, but that's the extent of it. It isn't worthy of being a topic of conversation.
And yet, a common topic of conversation lately has been Doug Fister's lousy run support. Coming into action today, Fister had the lowest average run support in the league. He was 3-9 with a 3.02 ERA. He was winless over his last three starts, during which he allowed three runs in 25 innings, and lost his last game 1-0. People just wanted to see the give Fister some help. They didn't want to see him get shafted anymore.
So what did we see tonight? We saw the Mariners give Fister some support. In the top of the third inning, Brendan Ryan doubled home Franklin Gutierrez, and Fister was handed a 1-0 lead. A 1-0 lead! The offense had provided for Fister the opportunity to earn a win, just as everybody wanted - and against Jered Weaver, no less.
But after being given such a flood of support, Fister threw it all away. A walk, two singles, and a fly ball later, and thewere up by one. A double put them up by two. This was all in the bottom half of the same inning in which the M's gave Fister a lead. Provided with an advantage, Fister immediately buckled at the knees. If it's frustrating to be a pitcher who doesn't get support, imagine being a member of a lineup who provides support, only to watch it get poured down the drain. Tonight, the offense did its job. It was Fister who couldn't execute, and the Mariners lost a big game 5-1.
...as with so many of my intros, I'm having trouble keeping this up and staying in character. I end up having to use my imagination so often because it gets bothersome having to write about the same baseball game over and over. Tonight, the Mariners pitched all right, but they lost because they couldn't score. I've heard this tune more often than a top-40 DJ hears Adele. I know it was Jered Weaver, and I know that Jered Weaver is one of the best pitchers in baseball. In isolation, tonight's outcome is perfectly understandable. But try as I might, I can't view this game by itself given the pattern. If the M's have to lose, I'd at least like to see them lose 12-9. Just once, just to see what it's like.
Realistically, when the M's failed to add on after Ryan's one-out double, I figured they were in trouble, and when the Angels went up by two a short while later, I kind of felt like the game was already over. I'm sure I wasn't the only one. Remember last year's offense? Last year's offense had an OPS+ of 79. This year's offense has an OPS+ of 79. When you can't score against the Jason Marquises and the Chris Volstads of the world, nobody's going to believe in your ability to hit Jered Weaver, and with the M's now the furthest back of first that they've been since the middle of May, one has to wonder how much longer we'll keep caring about the day-to-day results. This little canoe is taking on water.
A selection of bullet holes:
- While Doug Fister only got the one run of support, at least he wasn't as sharp as he'd been the previous three times out. He says, as if this is a good thing. Or maybe he was, and he just wasn't getting any help from Chad Fairchild's strike zone, which is a distinct possibility, as Fairchild was reluctant to give any edges. But the fact of the matter is that Fister felt a little more behind, rather than in control, as he's felt so often of late. He needed 100 pitches to get through six innings.
The rally in the third began with a questionable walk of Jeff Mathis and then a high chop single by Torii Hunter. Bobby Abreu's tying single was just a grounder through the hole. You could make the argument, then, that Fister was a little unlucky. But Howie Kendrick's double was smashed, Mathis lined out with two runners in scoring position in the sixth, and it's worth noting that Fister hit two guys with pitches. HBPs can't be ignored, and Fister's already up to eight on the season. That's a lot of HBPs.
In all, it wasn't Fister's strongest effort of the season. But he was still fine - fine enough to win a lot of the time, on another team - and now he'll get an extended break to rest up and reflect on what's been a really superb first half. Wins and losses be damned, Fister has exceeded any and all expectations.
- With one on and two out in the bottom of the second, Fister hit Mark Trumbo with a fastball. The crowd responded with cheers and applause. Given that home crowds are almost always belligerently suspicious of any visiting pitcher who hits a home batter with a pitch, I think this says a lot about how Angels fans view Doug Fister, and the state of our rivalry.
Mike Sweeney came to visit the ballpark and hang out on the field today before the game, since he lives nearby. Somehow he didn't walk away having signed a minor league contract. Zduriencik might still have a chance to flag him down. Mike Sweeney doesn't move so fast anymore.
- Hunter chopped a ball off the ground in the bottom of the third, and by the time it came down from its really high bounce, he was practically already at first. Kyle Seager rushed a futile throw anyway requiring an Adam Kennedy pick, and Mike Blowers chimed in to say that Seager will learn in time that he should put that ball in his pocket, rather than risk an error when there's no play to be made.
Seager: /fields ball
Seager: /puts ball in back pocket
Seager: /removes ball from back pocket
Seager: /throws ball back to pitcher
Ryan: You don't actually-
Seager: I didn't know if it would fit.
Dustin Ackley didn't do a whole lot to stand out, although he did finish with a hit, which is more than five of his starting teammates can say. The play of his that got a lot of attention, though, came in the seventh. Ackley was on first with two outs when Franklin Gutierrez hit a grounder towards the hole on the left side. Erick Aybar kept it in the infield and threw to first too late to get Gutierrez, and as Aybar was throwing, Ackley took off from second for third and made it safely with a slide. The run expectancy increase in that situation isn't huge, but this was less about the specific advance and more about Ackley being a quick, heads-up baserunner. You can mark that up as just another one of his skills. Ackley knows how to get on base, and once he's there, he knows how to move himself along.
- Not much to say about Kyle Seager's debut. He forced a throw on Torii Hunter's grounder that he shouldn't have forced, but that was the only thing of note in the field. And at the plate, he went hitless in four at bats, with two strikeouts. In a 1-1 count in Seager's first at bat against Weaver, Weaver centered a slow curve, and Seager was so far ahead of it that he could've completed his swing, regrouped, and swung again. I will judge Kyle Seager when he's played more than one game, and when he gets to face guys who aren't arguably the best pitcher in the American League. This was an almost impossible assignment, and they can't all be Dustin Ackley.
- The M's kind of had a chance in the top of the seventh, when they had runners on the corners and two down for Carlos Peguero. Peguero even worked a 3-1 count, at which point I would've immediately pinch-hit Jack Cust. But Weaver dropped in a good curve for strike two, and after Peguero fouled off a high fastball, he chased a low change for the final out. Again, it's Weaver. You can only expect so much against Weaver, especially from a rookie. But Peguero's at bat was part of a larger pattern of frustrating at bats, and so a lot of that kind of boiled over. Peguero isn't winning himself a lot of fans.
If Carlos Peguero were a secretary tasked with stapling together a bunch of papers, he'd feed the papers into the stapler but he wouldn't know when to press down, so he'd press down a bunch of times, and he'd end up with a stack of papers with staples all over the place.
- In the bottom of the eighth, Peter Bourjos ripped a double into left field. He considered trying to stretch to a triple and took a wide turn around second base, but then he held himself up, and immediately this expression of absolute agony came over his face, and he limped back to the bag before calling time and then coming out of the game. What people don't realize is that Peter Bourjos is a real-life version of Crank, and he wore that expression of agony because he knows he has a weekend of sitting still in front of him, and if Peter Bourjos sits still for too long, he will die.
In a related story, the Angels are calling up Mike Trout. So, watch for that.