I have a son. He's five. He's kind of bad at things. Not bad for his age mind you. Bad in the sense that he, like the majority of Americans children his age, is largely incapable of performing the basic tasks necessary for functional living. He can't drive, he can't buy groceries, while he CAN use a smartphone (to a frightening degree of competence) he can't actually use it AS a phone. He is, simply, not a fully formed human. Like I said, he's five. But he's way better at things than when he was, say two. Whereas at one point putting him in underwear was playing Devil's Roulette there is a high level confidence that he will go through a day without smearing crap on our wall. He writes his name, he speaks in complete sentences, he does math, plays video games, etc. etc. He's slowly acquiring the skills that will lead to him being able to be by himself without dying. He may even thrive.
The thing about watching something like an infant become a toddler and then a full child is that the progress comes so sporadically. You can watch them fail at the same task a thousand times in the exact same way and then one time, presto, they figure it out and it's never an issue again. Parents, educators, observers, we all want progress. But more than that we are often guilty of wanting it to be progress of a steady, predictable nature. The reality of progression is full of unforeseen leaps and seemingly insurmountable setbacks. While the child very well may get to the level you'd like him/her to get to they will do it atop a mountain of failure. And they will do it at their own damn pace.
The Mariners have spent the last decade picking their nose, tripping over the same toys and shitting on the floor. Games like tonight's lead you to the edge of your seat, waiting for progress. Then, bam, falling over, pain and tears. Those instances are never going to stop. There's too many pitches, too many innings, too many games in baseball to eliminate the pain. The question is whether games like tonight will ever start to catch us by surprise. If and when they do that's the sign of progress.
- Brandon Maurer is not going anywhere anytime soon. He hasn't been a disaster and with Erasmo Ramirez getting the full Rapunzel treatment there's no one pushing for his spot in the rotation. That said his starts are beginning to be defined by his struggles against LHH and a general lack of command with offspeed pitches. The always on point Dave Cameron wrote about Maurer's struggles against lefties and the A's wisely stacked the lineup with seven lefties. Maurer certainly didn't appear to have the confidence to regularly attack the hitters and threw an Ian Snell-like 54% of his 95 pitches for strikes. The obvious hope for Maurer is that he can improve the quality and command of his curve and change to offset his current platoon issues. He's certainly young enough that such improvement is projectable. As always with pitchers, especially young ones, projection is a spaghetti noodle grabbed with butter coated hands while falling into an abyss of unknowability.
- In the offseason Jon and I were discussing the upcoming season and one of the topics that came up was the value of simply avoiding having an everyday player that was among the worst in the league. Every year it seems the Mariners are home to at least one Jose Vidro/Ken Griffey Jr./Jack Wilson/Rich Aurillia player who simply craters and due to a lack of organizational depth or a farm system bereft of options that player still receives the lion's share of at-bats.
The 2013 Mariners currently have two of those players and they both play the same position. Robert Andino's OPS is .443 and it's exactly 100 points higher than Brendan Ryan's. Almost a quarter of the way through the season that level of hitting is laughable for a pitching staff, let alone a position player. I understand why the team doesn't want to rush Nick Franklin. I understand his defensive limitations. I also understand that at this point Nick Franklin is not Brendan Ryan or Robert Andino. At this point that is my favorite thing about Nick Franklin.
- Through 5 innings tonight the Mariners had 2 runs and 1 hit. Through the remaining 4 they had 6 hits and scored 1 run. I actually prefer to keep my nose in my spreadsheet of WPA and Run Expectancy over that human element-fueled malarky.
- While on the topic of malarky, bull-pucky, grievous errors in judgment and general poor performance I offer to you Kyle Seager's 9th inning at-bat, the last of the game:
MLB umps have had a rough week what with them not being able to correctly use replay or the major league rulebook. Tonight's error was less egregious but you'll never see a clearer example of strike zone ambiguity. Pitches 2 and 4 are both fastballs. It's almost as though the strike zone changes dependent on count. Now I know umps are just people trying to do a job but it'd be nice if they made their screw ups A) not so readily apparent and B) not in the 9th inning of a one run game. Right Bob Melvin?