I had to leave during the sixth, so I couldn't see the final three innings. Sexson and Ibanez had just hit back-to-back home runs before I went out the door, so while I was driving, ideas started popping into my head regarding what to write about in the game recap. Well, whaddya know, I come home to find that the bullpen (of all the people...) bit the big one just minutes after I left. My first thought was thus to scrap my topic idea.
Then I thought, "Hey, wait a second. There's seldom anything positive to write about anymore, so why not just go with your original idea and forget about what the bullpen did?"
Eventually, I made a compromise with myself: acknowledge the shoddy relief, but lead with the happy thoughts.
I was all ready to get out the door in the middle of the sixth inning, and I had my keys in my hand when I heard that Beltre and Sexson were due up. I decided to stay put for a few minutes to see how they did, whether or not they could break the tie. Surely enough, I was rewarded soon thereafter, as Sexson hit a blast to deep center to make it a 2-1 ballgame. I left home satisfied.
Anyone who's read this site for any decent amount of time knows that I'm a guy who likes his numbers and quantifiable data, but there's a psychological aspect to following this 2005 team that you don't really hear about. I was prepared to leave the house when I found out that our two big new FA acquisitions were due up, so I stuck around to see what they did. This wouldn't have happened a year ago (or really in 2003, either) - other than Ichiro, of course, we haven't had any showstoppers in the lineup for quite a while. Nobody who makes you put everything down and watch intently whenever he comes to the plate. The $114m that the Mariners spent on Beltre and Sexson this past winter may not be looking all that great in terms of on-field performance yet, but anyone can tell you that it's made a difference in how you watch the games.
Richie Sexson is on a one-man mission to destroy the honeycombed center field batter's eye with long fly balls. A few more of these mammoth shots and Safeco might have to go back to the trees.
A Moment of Horn Tooting:
Earlier in the afternoon: "For no good reason, I'm picking Raul Ibanez to go deep today."
A few hours later: R Ibanez homered to right center.
I hereby retire as the undefeated champion of coincidental foresight.
Let's go to the chart, now, because it's a unique one indeed:
The game floundered along for a little while, without anything of particular significance taking place, until Bret Boone's RBI double in the fourth (note to Boston: Trot Nixon is a clown in the field). Manny sent it back to a coin-toss game two innings later, but Sexson and Ibanez's consecutive home runs put the Mariners way up there around 87% in the bottom half. Things were looking good until Ron Villone did his best Matt Whiteside impression, allowing a run and loading the bases with one out for Manny Ramirez. What follows are the specific Win Expectancy numbers once JJ Putz entered the ballgame:
Called from the bullpen: 60.8% chance of winning
Ramirez strikes out: 70.1%
Nixon grand slam: 9.8% (note to Boston: he's good at the plate, though.)
Bam. With one swing of the bat, Seattle's odds of victory were completely destroyed. That's the biggest impact any single play has had in a game all season long, in terms of Win Expectancy, and I doubt it's going to be surpassed by many more over the course of the next five months. As big as the Ramirez strikeout was at the time, Putz must have become overconfident (note that I am not a psychology professor, nor do I play one on TV), because he tried to slip his good fastball by a good fastball hitter. In this case, two goods made a bad, and the game was essentially ruined.
Something to point out: by allowing the grand slam, Putz continued our streak of having at least one pitcher in a game finish with a Win Probability Added figure below -0.450. Seriously, is it any wonder why we suck? At least the strikeouts are on the rise.
Ryan Franklin was throwing a lot of pitches today, part an inconsistent strike zone and part inconsistent command. Four of the six strikeouts he recordered were of the looking variety, as nobody could really figure out what was and wasn't a strike. It seemed like the outer border of the zone changed with every pitch, as Franklin kept hammering the outer black with fastballs, and kept getting different calls. I love that he was getting some strikeouts, and I love that he's the only half-decent starting pitcher we have right now, but I won't be very impressed until he's actually missing bats, instead of sneaking by them while they're asleep.
Speaking of Franklin, we have some warning signs:
K%: 8.9 in 2005 (12.0 in 2004)
BB%: 8.9 (7.0)
HR%: 3.9 (3.8)
I really want to be able to have some confidence in the guy, since he's practically the only starter capable of keeping us in the game for more than three innings, but when I look at numbers like those posted above, I can't help but think that the end is near. His success so far this season is pretty much all defense-dependent (not like you haven't heard that a million times already).
FLC hurt his hamstring late in the game tonight, forcing Hargrove to go to the bench and put the struggling Tinkerbell in during what was supposed to be an off day. Early indications are that it's a fairly serious strain, which could conceivably mean one of five things:
- Ryan Christianson gets promoted
- Rene Rivera gets promoted
- Wee Willie Bloomquist gives this "emergency catcher" thing a try
- The Mariners go dumpster diving for an external solution
- FLC sticks around, since an injured leg probably wouldn't have much of a deleterious effect on his performance
It won't be long before Greg Dobbs passes Dan Wilson as the Mariner hitter with the most at bats without drawing a walk. Meanwhile, Dave Hansen has kicked off the year by going 0-4 with three strikeouts. Love that bench.
Is Ron Villone a LOOGY, or isn't he? Nearly half the batters he's faced this year have been right-handed, which is way out of whack from what you'd expect for a conventional situational lefty. It doesn't help that said righties usually slap him around, while everyone stands a pretty good chance of drawing a walk. What a strange usage pattern Mike Hargrove has outlined for the guy so far.
Gil Meche and Tim Wakefield go head-to-head at 1:05pm, PDT.