99 minutes. This game was over in the time it takes Nomar Garciaparra to finish an at bat against Steve Trachsel. Only 197 total pitches were needed to record 51 outs, and efficient pitching by each starter managed to keep the bullpens from intervening. In that respect, it was a pleasant surprise, because games have been getting longer and longer as long as I've been alive.
What wasn't so pleasant (nor was it really a surprise) was Mark Buehrle's outright dominance of every non-Japanese hitter he faced. Ichiro went 3-4 today with a triple; the rest of the lineup was 0-25 with a walk and 12 strikeouts. Check out these numbers for the young season:
For the first 11 games of the season, Ichiro has hit like a manbeast and everyone else has hit like Enrique Wilson. And yet, the team's on pace to break 800 runs scored on the season. Something's gotta give. Pray it's not Ichiro.
Ryan Franklin had his second splendid start in a row, needing just 91 pitches to go eight strong, blemished only by two mistake pitches to the same guy. I'll take responsibility for both of those; I never should have mentioned Konerko's power in the open game thread. My bad. The two blasts aside, Franklin had another good day inducing mostly weakly-hit balls, with the key being 11 groundouts. Having worked on a sinker over the winter, Franklin put it to good use today.
Of course, I can't talk about Ryan Franklin without also bringing up his success on balls in play so far. Franklin's current BABIP: .152. Best BABIP since 2002: Denny Stark, .210 (Second best: Damian Moss, .232). It's going to get worse. Of the 75 batters that Franklin's faced this year, he's struck out only four, and 66 of them have put the ball in play. That's bad.
Of course, this doesn't mean that he can't still have some success on the hill, even when balls start falling in for hits behind him. Franklin's done nothing but throw strikes so far this year, and avoiding walks is a good way to limit the damage caused by hits and home runs. The terrific group of gloves in the field should help him keep his ERA at or below 4.50 this year, and with his ability to go deep into ballgames, that has value, particularly for a team with such a problem keeping pitchers healthy.
A thought: We all know what it means to be a "platoon hitter", but what about a platoon pitcher? It would take a hell of a lot of creativity to pull off, and it's not going to happen, but what if the team promoted Dan Reichert and had him and Franklin split a rotation spot? Franklin would pitch against the aggressive, low-power lineups, and Reichert would match his strong groundball tendencies against slugging offenses. I'm intrigued by the possibilities, as I think it would be a good way to maximize their respective abilities while minimizing their weaknesses.
Richie Sexson was so sick today that he never left the team hotel. This left Mike Hargrove in the undesirable situation of having to put a piece of crap in the starting lineup for the second night in a row, and Spiezio went on to finish 0-3 with two strikeouts. But then, there wasn't just one piece of crap in there today - there were four of them, all in a row, technically hitting in front of Ichiro. Unfortunately, what choice did Hargrove have? Replacing Spiezio with Dobbs is a lateral move, and with a lefty on the hill it probably wouldn't have worked out. Miguel Olivo caught yesterday's night game, so he wasn't about to suit up for today's early affair (which is too bad, because if there's one thing he can do, it's crush lefties). Sitting Reed in favor of Bloomquist was an unnecessary evil, but it's not like Reed has really blown anyone away so far.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this bench is abysmal, and it's causing us to lose winnable games. What's more frustrating is that there are potential improvements rotting away in AAA right now in Leone and Strong. It's not like they're hot prospects, so putting them on the bench wouldn't rob them of important development time. The failure to address the bench this winter is a mistake that hasn't gotten much attention yet, but it'll become quite apparent over the course of the season if something isn't done to change it. Still two months to go until Bucky's ready. Sigh...
With all that said, I have to be honest - I don't think there are too many hitters in the world who could've done much against Buehrle today. He was hitting his spots with every pitch, sneaking in a good backdoor breaking ball against righties and working a sharp cutter up and in. What's more, he has a real quick tempo that keeps hitters off balance while keeping his defense on its toes. I think it would be interesting to compare BABIP numbers between fast workers and slow workers, to see if there's a relationship between pace and defensive effectiveness.
I'm going to share a bit of information that long-time readers already know: I hate Hawk Harrelson with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. Darrin Jackson's no winner himself, but his general unpleasantless pales in comparison to Harrelson's massive toolage. Thanks to Buehrle's mastery of the Mariners today, I had to sit through twelve "HE GONE!"s, in addition to several irksome displays of blatant homerism over the course of the game. Hawk Harrelson sucks and I hate him.
Harrelson's pre-game Pick to Click today: Aaron Rowand. He ended up 0-3 with a strikeout. Haha.
Ryan Franklin has a really good pickoff move, especially for a righty. You wonder if it's one of those things that pitchers work on when they know that they don't have the stuff to blow people away, where impressing a coach with a good pickoff could mean the difference between life as an AAA journeyman and securing a spot on a Major League roster. We saw the same thing with John Halama a few years back. Franklin almost nabbed Joe Crede at second base in the bottom of the third, but Wilson Valdez couldn't hang on to the throw.
Speaking of Crede, he reached second base by dint of launching a double into deep center field. Watching Willie Bloomquist try to follow the ball all the way to the track, and then sprint back into the outfield to retrieve it after it bounced off the wall, was enough to make you hope that he never plays in center again. I wonder if Dave Niehaus still thinks that Willie's the best defensive CF on the team.
The Olive Garden Cooking School is to Italy as clown college is to the US.
Runs scored by virtue of extra-base hits for Chicago in the series: 6
Manufactured runs scored for Chicago in the series: 2
Hawk Harrelson referred to Ron Fairly as an "outstanding announcer" today. Seriously. Another example of his unparalleled cognitive brilliance came when he was comparing a slide into first base with dive at the finish line of a race. In Harrelson's words, "well, you can't really dive when you're running at full speed." What does he think baserunners do whenever they slide into a bag? Stop just short and make a standing leap? I hate him so, so much.
From ESPN's game log:
Seattle - Top of 1st
Mark Buehrle pitching for Chicago
-I Suzuki singled to center.
-R Winn sacrificed to third, I Suzuki to second.
With a man on and none out in the top of the first, Mike Hargrove called for a sacrifice bunt. Nevermind that Winn's been one of the only guys hitting the ball well so far (.300 entering the game), or that he's had better success against lefties than righties for his career - he told Winn to bunt. I understand that Hargrove wanted his offense to get on the board first, but bunting in that situation actually reduces the likelihood of getting a run across. Not to mention the fact that it kills the chances of a big inning. When you're playing with a depleted lineup, why make this move? I don't get it.
Ignore the box score; Dan Wilson didn't strike out twice. I don't care what Tim Timmons had to say about it, because Wilson didn't go around in the fifth inning. If you don't get a good look at where the head of the bat ends up during a check swing, why err on the side of the pitcher? That pissed me off.
At one point during the game, WGN ran an ad for Ultimate Arena Paintball, which is being broadcast later tonight. Apparently, it's an "exciting new extreme sport". You can't make this stuff up.
Adrian Beltre had a miserable day at the plate, finishing 0-4 with a strikeout and looking lost each time. Buehrle was hammering the outer half of the plate all day against him, just like Vizcaino did last night, and Beltre couldn't make solid contact. I'd be more concerned, but remember that he's still dealing with a sore back that can make it difficult to extend your swing to cover the whole strike zone. With a hurting Beltre and a sick Sexson, this lineup is in a world of hurt.
Gil Meche will test out his elbow tomorrow against ol' Freddy the Headcase at 3:05pm EDT. The bad news is that we don't know how Meche will do as his pitch count rises, but the good news is that Chicago has failed to complete a single sweep this year after winning the first two games of each of their series. By the fifth inning tomorrow, we'll know a lot more about Meche than we do right now. Until then, just think thappy thoughts.