Still one game ahead of last year's pace. And hey, the 2005 Mariners have tied the 2004 Mariners for losses in games during which they score 9+ runs.
You should never lose a game after scoring five times in the first. Instead, the offense fell silent for the second half of the game and our first two pitchers turned in their worst performances of the season to date. If nothing else, you have to thank the Mariners for rarely stringing you along - when they plan on losing, they tend to let you know pretty quick.
Despite a promising start to the year, 2004 Jamie Moyer has returned in a furious blaze of suckitude, raising his ERA three full runs over three starts. In those same games, he's lasted a total of 8.2 innings, allowing 27 hits and 17 runs. You can take some solace in the fact that these last two miserable starts of his have come against Boston and New York, who have strong offenses, but that's just awful pitching from a guy who many thought would lead this rotation towards borderline respectability.
Speaking of the rotation, let's take a look at how they've done so far:
198.2 IP (5.8 per start)
224 H (10.1 per 9)
27 HR (1.2 per 9)
68 BB (3.1 per 9)
99 K (4.5 per 9)
Ryan Franklin is the only starter with an ERA under 5. As a group, they're 27th in the Majors in ERA, 26th in K/BB, and dead last in K/9. All this despite facing a comfortably below-average collection of hitters. Batters that Mariner starters have faced are hitting .249/.316/.395 on the season, as compared to an AL league average line of .259/.324/.404. That's right - just as Mariner hitters have faced better pitchers than the average, their pitchers have faced worse hitters than the average. How's that for encouraging?
Moyer was just bad today, missing his spots, elevating too many pitches, and struggling against every batter. He gave back all five of the runs we gained in the top half of the first before recording a second out in the bottom. Before his day was through, Moyer had allowed 11 of the 18 batters he faced to reach base (along with a 12th who reached via a Valdez error). Not that he got much help from Miguel Olivo, who watched Derek Jeter and Tony Womack combine for five stolen bases without getting caught. Even so, weak defense can't explain away three straight terrible starts for Moyer, who looks as bad right now as he ever has. He's got a chance to redeem himself in a week against the same team, but...well, that would be the best-case scenario.
The Mariners were still hanging around, though, and some solid relief by Matt Thornton in the third - stranding two men in scoring position - allowed for the team to get some momentum heading into the fourth. Ichiro hit a solo shot to tie the game and Raul Ibanez soon followed with a three-run homer, and it looked like Thornton might be able to vulture his first win of the season.
Four batters into the bottom half, and the lead was all gone. The Yankees broke the tie in the fifth with two more home runs, and Thornton was yanked. 13 batters, six runs, three homers. In one game, all of his perceived gains disappeared, and all of a sudden he owns the worst ERA on the team, along with five bombs allowed in just 15.2 innings. He's got the 11 walks to go with that homer total, ensuring that even with a great strikeout rate, he's still not a successful pitcher.
On the one hand, it's just one game, and Thornton really has been better since his early season debacle, but on the other, this is a reminder that he's really not anywhere close to being a solid reliever. They way for a wild pitcher to succeed is by compensating with a tough repertoire that's difficult to hit. Juding by the home runs allowed, it's safe to say that Thornton still has a ways to go before he reaches that level of ability. A few days ago, it would've been tough to bid him farewell in light of his recent performance, but now I don't care anymore. Put him on waivers - if he makes it through, great, and if not, great. George Sherrill's sitting in Tacoma with a terrific strikeout rate of his own, only with the walk and home run accessories not included.
So, what did today's game look like on a Win Expectancy scale, anyway? Let me show you:
That is, hands down, the most interesting WE chart of the season so far. You've got your crazygood start, your ugly descent, your crazygood rebound, and your eventual collapse. What strikes me as most notable about the chart is how sharp it is; such is the nature of game-changing home runs, as opposed to drawn-out rallies. You'll notice that we exceeded an 80% chance of winning on two separate occasions, only to end up back at 0% for the tenth time in 11 games. Tony Pena retired because he couldn't handle the stress of another neck-and-neck race for a high draft pick, I guess.
A glance at the Win Probability Added numbers shows that Moyer turned in the "most harmful" game of the season, reducing our chances of winning by 57.6%. When you start out at 48.4%...well, that's a whole lotta suckage in a small amount of time. Matt Thornton tried to hide his miserable appearance behind the Moyer collossus, but at -0.442, that's still up there as one of the three or four worst games so far. He's solely responsible for the overwhelming majority of that dip from the Ibanez homer to the Sheffield blast. (Picture inserted for easy reference.) Hopefully the chart can make clear what words have difficulty describing.
It's a real shame that the pitching tanked, because not even rolling over after the fourth inning could keep the lineup from having a strong day. The 4-6 hitters each homered (showing up above zero on the WPA scale), and Ichiro shook off a little funk by collecting three hits and a longball of his own. Adrian Beltre hurt a little bit by making four outs and leaving four on base, but he's still working on a six-game hitting streak with a handful of extra-base hits, so it's hard to blame him for much of anything. He did ground out weakly with two on and two out in the top of the fifth (when it was 9-9), but he seems to make an important out in every game we play, so this kind of thing hardly seems noteworthy anymore.
How good is Wilson Valdez's defense? Despite a costly error in the first inning today, he's still showing up at four runs above average (RAA2) so far, on pace for +19 over a full season. RAA2 is a flawed metric, and the guy still can't hit, but that's impressive no matter how you look at it. Jeremy Reed, for what it's worth, is at +2 in center so far.
When the score's 7-2 and the offense looks dead, Hargrove summons Julio Mateo. When the score's 6-5 and the offense looks red-hot, Hargrove summons Matt Thornton. What?
For those of you looking for a way to enjoy yourselves while watching a Yankees game on TV, I present to you this matching game:
By muting the game and blocking out the score, you can still tell how it's going by matching the color of Brian Cashman's skin when the camera pans to his press box with the same tone in this handy chart. The closer to the middle it is, the better things are going for the Yankees. As it moves to either extreme, you can be sure that George Steinbrenner is preparing his chopping block. It's fun for the whole family, unless you're related to Brian Cashman, in which case you probably can't get any joy out of life anyway.
Tomorrow is a travel day, as both the Mariners and myself will be flying back to the left coast. Jeremi Gonzalez and Joel Pineiro have a rematch on Friday night at 7:05 PT.