Raul Ibanez makes me insane. Here we have a player that didn't get 500 plate appearances in a season before the age of 30. When Ibanez made his first return to Seattle at the age of 32 it was at the fevered dawning of the age of Moneyball, when I really probably did need to get my head out of the spreadsheet and watch a game every now and then. The numbers on Raul said that at age 32 and with ugly platoon splits the acquisition was less than ideal.
He spent five seasons with the Mariners. Five of the worst damn seasons the Mariners ever had. It was five years of the organization putting into practice all the wrong, unrepeatable lessons they learned in 2001. As a fan it was a slow descent into a madness that we still mostly haven't recovered from. Through those miserable seasons Ibanez's successes rang hollow with many fans, myself included. It was the losses. It was the ugly ass swing. It was his managers never pinch hitting him against a light's out left-handed reliever. It was the defense. Ooooooooooohhhhhhh my friends that defense that spawned a series of GIFs that last in fame to this day.
When Ibanez signed with the Phillies before the 2009 season I don't think I really gave it a second thought, other than to laugh at the Phillies. Raul made the All-Star team, had his best season and got one poor blogger on ESPN and you don't ever want to be the outsider on ESPN.
I have no real idea why the Mariners decided to sign Raul Ibanez this season. The endless debate about chemistry and leadership and its role on a roster will never really be settled because one side wants the tangible and the other speaks in the language of romance. I want wRC+, a beat writer wants a good interview and a compelling backstory. All I know at this point is Raul Ibanez has spent his entire career working his ass off. He began his career at an age when most of his peers were beginning to decline and he's resisted the aging curve far, far better than other and infinitely more gifted players. He's now leading the Mariners in home runs which actually means something these days. He has an ISO of .302. Since May 4th his OPS is almost 1.000. He busts his ass absolutely every play at every opportunity. He is winning my heart with every time he refutes my knowledge.
Within my own shallow experience Raul Ibanez has made the journey from being an object of ignorance, to one of mockery and scorn to one that I hope will soon be respect. At this point I think he may have a shot at being in the Mariner Hall of Fame. He has won me over so gradually and over such a long period of time that I think it was just today that I realized I'm happy he's ending his career here. Raul Ibanez has destroyed my brain. All that's left is love.
I'll apologize in advance for the brevity of these bullet points. Tired gets what tired wants.
- For the standard he's set for himself Felix was slightly average. But those 4 runs allowed are partially the fault of Oliver Perez and mostly due to some unfortunate sequencing. When you only allow 7 baserunners in 7 1/3 innings and you allow 4 runs? Yeah that's some bad luck. 8/1 K/BB and it feels kind of disappointing. Don't you dare ever forget how wonderful Felix is.
The main note of interest for Felix was an uptick in velocity. According to Brooks Baseball Felix's fastball/sinker averaged just a hair over 93 MPH tonight. That's nearly 2 miles per hour faster than his 2013 average coming into the game. Now, the standards caveats apply: Pitch F/X can be and is wonky from game to game and even if it was accurate tonight we run into the sample size issue. Still, it's interesting. And interesting is good. It keeps us coming back.
- Nick Franklin almost hit a home run but instead hit a double. He almost got trucked on the final play of the game but didn't. Instead he completed a fantastic, game-ending double play to continue a strong start to a career. We'll keep watching Nick Franklin for signs of struggle, for imminent failure. We've seen players on the Mariners make spectacular debuts only to end up Willie Bloomquist. But there's pop, there's some speed, there's nifty defense, there's patience. If it's fun for you there's no good reason to not get really excited about Nick Franklin. He's been kicking ass and it's been a blast to watch. Go nuts, optimists, if you're still here.
- Michael Saunders, 8th inning: Walk, steal second, steal third, score on sacrifice fly. Stop striking out Michael. You are too beautiful to spend so much of your time in the dugout with a scowl on that ruggedly handsome face.
- BONUS BULLET POINT BECAUSE I FORGOT TO CHECK TWITTER: Jesus Sucre went got his hand dinged by Alexei Ramirez' backswing. It sucks because watching Sucre catch was a very zen experience. However if he's out for awhile the Mike Zunino era may, I stress may be forced to dawn. Keep your eyes glued HERE while also carefully observing medical advice I just found on the internet.