It is technically correct to say that, Tuesday night, Miguel Olivo drew three unintentional walks in one game. It is also technically correct to say that Tuesday night's game between the Mariners and the Orioles was basically two games, as it lasted exactly 18 innings. Olivo batted twice as often as he usually does, so the "one game" merits an asterisk. Still, Olivo woke up with four unintentional walks on the season, and he went to bed with seven unintentional walks on the season. In the span of just a few hours, Olivo increased his walk total by 75 percent.
To be completely honest with you, I might as well point out here that I'm a little disappointed. Olivo's game in no way changes my personal evaluation of Miguel Olivo, but it changes the numbers, and I love when statistics are laughable. I loved that Olivo had four walks all year, each of which was either preceded or followed by another unintentional walk. I love that last year, Anthony Vasquez had 13 strikeouts, 13 walks + hit batters, and 13 home runs allowed. Seven walks is still not very many walks, but it's a good deal better than four, meaning Olivo's numbers aren't quite so laughable. That'll take some getting used to.
But Olivo drew three walks. One game, playoff contender. Calculate the odds that Olivo would draw three walks in the span of eight plate appearances. Take a grain of rice, to represent the three-walk outcome. Now put that grain of rice in a cup or rice, or a bucket of rice, I don't know, I haven't done the math. If you were instructed to select one grain of rice from the container, while wearing a blindfold, do you think you would select the three-walk grain of rice? Olivo drawing three walks is not unlike Carlos Peguero drawing three walks. I don't know how many more ways I can try to say "how on earth did this happen".
It's funny that Olivo homered yesterday, driving in both of the Mariners' runs, and still all I can think about are the bases on balls. It's odd that Olivo showed discipline in the process. He walked for the first time in the second inning. He walked on four pitches, but the fourth was a fastball right by the up-and-away corner of the zone. Olivo walked again in the ninth. He laid off three sinkers just barely outside. Finally, Olivo walked in the 16th. He laid off three fastballs just barely low and away. Olivo didn't just draw three walks -- he drew three somewhat difficult walks.
My plate discipline in baseball video games is terrible. In fact, my video game plate discipline is basically Miguel Olivo's plate discipline. I swing at most pitches and I swing at them hard. I try to be disciplined but I've never developed the skill. With that said, very very occasionally I will string together a few plate appearances where it all comes together and I feel like I'm in the zone. I recognize strikes and I recognize balls. For some moments, I have discipline, and it feels ever so satisfying. Then inevitably it goes away and I'm back to hacking.
Miguel Olivo must've been in the zone. Out of nowhere, Olivo started identifying pitches. I'll point out that Olivo has had extended stretches of in-the-zoneness in the past. In May 2011, Olivo posted the same walk rate as Jack Cust. He swung at just 34 percent of pitches out of the zone, which is worse than average, but not by a lot. In July 2011 Olivo swung at 55 percent of pitches out of the zone. Infrequently, Miguel Olivo gets it, and most frequently, Miguel Olivo doesn't have it. Most frequently, he doesn't have anything even close to it.
Now at seven walks, Olivo has passed Mariner Eric Thames, he's caught Franklin Gutierrez, and he's one behind Munenori Kawasaki. He has one more walk than Barry Zito. He has as many three-unintentional-walk games in 2012 as Kevin Youkilis, David Wright, and Joey Votto. We also know now that Olivo won't set a new career low, as he drew five unintentional walks in 2006 and 2008. This is what I mean when I say the numbers aren't so laughable anymore. It's crazy and improbable that Olivo did this, but as a result his overall 2012 body of work brings me less joy. I'm just a little bummed out.
You might be wondering: is Miguel Olivo turning over a new leaf? Are we witnessing the beginning of a Miguel Olivo metamorphosis? I present to you Olivo's final plate appearance Tuesday night, or, more accurately, Wednesday morning. Facing Jim Johnson in the bottom of the 18th inning:
I think things'll be back to normal right quick.