Thehave a rockpile out to the left of center field, and it's supposed to make the ballpark feel more open and, I don't know, natural, or at least less artificial. Nevermind that it's an artificial rockpile. Yet out of that rockpile launch fireworks upon each Angels home run, and at the end of each Angels win. Today the Angels won, and they hit three home runs, which means those fireworks went off at least four times, and maybe five times if they also launch before the game gets started.
Those fireworks don't come without a cost, both financial and environmental. Think about what the game looks like on TV after an Angels home run. The infield looks foggy, because all the smoke has to clear. That smoke has to go somewhere. Do you know where it goes? Into the air. Into plants, and into drinking water. Into the lungs of your children and grandparents. There is nothing wrong with celebrating a great achievement. There is something wrong with the way the Angels choose to celebrate their great achievements.
Sure, Tuesday night, the Angels were the winners in the game of baseball, by a 6-1 score. Sure, the game was never really in doubt, as Garrett Richards had the eating out of the palm of his hand. But Tuesday night, the Angels were the losers in the game of life. The Mariners set off zero fireworks. They minimized their carbon footprint. The Angels, meanwhile, thanked their paying customers by poisoning the air that they breathe. And don't even get me started on how the Angels' groundskeepers watered the infield dirt. Such senseless pollution, and such senseless waste. The Angels should all pretty much be put in jail.
Every so often, someone will look at a game win expectancy chart and ask if it's possible for every player on a team to finish with a negative win probability added. The answer is "of course, yes" because just imagine a perfect game with bad pitching. But more realistically and usefully, take today's game. Eleven Mariners took part, and nine of them finished with negative scores. Hisashi Iwakuma finished a little in the black, and Michael Saunders finished a lot in the black. Now imagine if Iwakuma gave up a run or two in his first inning. Now imagine if Saunders went, say, 0-for-4 or 1-for-4, or something like that. I'm not running the math, but I imagine that would've led to total negativity. In the numbers, and in our minds.
So yes, it's very possible for every player on a team to finish with a negative win probability added. Tonight the Mariners tried to give us all a taste. They've come even closer before. Maybe they've even done it before and I just forgot. You are familiar with the types of games that would lead to such results.
I'm designating today as something of a mental break day because I don't have the energy to try to force 2,000 words of content about this game. Thankfully Matthew chimed in with one of his insightful box scores for those of you who can't stand getting less than you're used to. With that noted, I do have a couple things.
There aren't a lot of advantages to rooting for a team that you know isn't going to the playoffs, but something you could consider an advantage of rooting for a team like these Mariners is that it's easier to identify and settle for certain silver linings. Today, nearly the entire Mariners lineup looked weak, and the pitching was far from spectacular. But Michael Saunders continued his hot streak by going 3-for-4 with a single, a double, and a homer. He's lifted his OPS all the way up to .798; I didn't check, but before his ninth-inning out, he might've been at .800.
When you're rooting for a better team, you won't be content when everybody but one guy has a lousy game. In our situation, though, we can be encouraged by Saunders continuing to establish himself, and we can write off the rest of the team's performance to development and inconsistency and such. We aren't so bothered by losses, because we expect there to be losses. This season is about progression, and tonight highlighted the progression of the Mariners' surprise center fielder.
I think I've long liked Saunders more than most so I was more disappointed by his struggles than most. That also means I might be more excited about his emergence than most, but consider where Saunders is now. In the third inning, he worked a 3-and-1 count and launched an outside fastball - at 96 miles per hour, off the plate - off the rockpile in center field. In the fifth inning, he worked another three-ball count and stroked a single up the middle. In the seventh inning, he swung at another fastball outside off the plate and doubled off the left-field fence. He grounded out in the ninth, but not before getting ahead, and the grounder was hit sharply.
When Saunders had good numbers in April, it could've just been a hot start. He slumped in May, and one wondered if Saunders would go back to being something like what he was before. But he's well above water again, and not only has Saunders been hitting the crap out of the ball of late - he's struck out just twice over his last 36 plate appearances. He's been making more contact, and Saunders makes good contact. He hits balls to center field harder than most players can.
We can talk even more about Saunders in another post, a Saunders-specific post, but however disappointed you might be in, say, Dustin Ackley or Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders are looking like things we didn't think they would be. The presumed long-term center fielder has struggled with injuries. Those injuries cleared the way for a long-term center fielder. Suddenly, a healthy Franklin Gutierrez is less a necessity and more a potential luxury.
While I'm here I should also give some attention to Blake Beavan. I will say that, in Beavan's defense, he got hurt on what seemed like some good pitches. In the third inning, Albert Pujols got jammed on his RBI single, and Mark Trumbo got jammed on his RBI single. In the fifth inning, Pujols got jammed on his double behind first base. But the big damage was done on pitches that were not nearly as good.
Trumbo's first home run came against a belt-high first-pitch fastball that was supposed to be more like a shin-high first-pitch fastball. Torii Hunter followed that by pulling an 0-and-1 fastball that drifted over the plate. The pitch that Trumbo hit out in the fifth was an 0-and-2 pitch that ended up here:
The idea was to throw Trumbo a slider low and away, which was a good idea, because Trumbo probably would have swung at it. Beavan wound up giving Trumbo an 81mph spinner at the belt which is pretty much an unforgivable mistake to a hitter that aggressive and that strong. I'm not saying that pitch would've been hit for a home run every time, and most of the time that pitch might have even been hit for an out, but the odds of that pitch being hit for a home run are greater than you want in an 0-and-2 count, by like zillions of percents.
Beavan allowed three home runs in five innings in a big ballpark at night, and that's bad. He didn't walk anybody, and that's good, but what holds Beavan back is that his command isn't as good as his strike rate. Some people say the definition of command is like understanding the difference between strikes and quality strikes, and some people would say that's why Blake Beavan is what he is instead of something more. Some people would say that's enough words written about Blake Beavan for tonight.
Hector Noesi and Jerome Williams go head-to-head tomorrow in a matchup of starting pitchers who have probably never set foot in my apartment. I don't know who set foot in this apartment before we moved in, and I have no way of getting that information, but I'm going to trust my gut.