When you know that you won't have very much time to write a recap, it helps when the game is incredibly quick and rather uneventful. So, thank you, Mariners and Orioles, for being so accomodating to my personal schedule.
Someone mentioned in the game thread that it's frustrating how the pitching and hitting never seem to show up at the same time. The 2005 Mariners have certainly left us with that impression, but is it actually true? Let's take a look:
Seattle pitching has held the opponent to 0-3 runs on 15 occasions. In those 15 games, the offense is averaging 4.2 runs scored. In the 30 other games in which we've allowed four or more runs, the offense averages out at 4.1 runs scored, a little lower but essentially the same. So, no, there's no evident inverse relationship between the hitting and the pitching; on the contrary, I believe they're actually directly related, in that they've both sucked pretty hard so far.
For a pretty good idea of just how lousy this game was, take a gander at the chart:
Bloody awful. The Mariners peaked before the first pitch was thrown. Palmeiro's home run sent everything to hell, and after the first inning the M's never again had much more than a 20% chance of winning the game. If you've ever wondered what a team rolling over would look like in Win Expectancy terms, there you go. In fact, that graph pretty much shows two teams rolling over, since precious little worth noting happened after the early blast.
Jamie Moyer kind of gets it in the shorts, as his strong defensively-aided start winds up drawing a negative Win Probability Added rating on account of the low run support. The "star" of the game was Raul Ibanez, who had two hits and scored the only run for the Mariners. Bret Boone was the only other player to contribute to the win effort despite going hitless, simply by virtue of advancing Ibanez to third base in the fifth. Richie Sexson and Pat Borders were the two big offensive anchors, as Sexson stranded two in the sixth and Borders hit into a double play in the fifth. Palmeiro's homer was obviously the biggest play of the game, reducing Seattle's chances of winning by 17.7%, while Ibanez's double ended up the biggest contribution by bumping the odds by 5.9% (if you're unfamiliar with the Win Expectancy system, understand that these aren't scientifically precise measurements for the game context - they're based on twelve years of general data which pretty much assumes each team to be of equal quality).
If today's game provided anything worthwhile, it was a reminder that baseball has always been a game of inches, and that fans need to treat umpires as a common variable that evens out over time, lest the fans suffer from some sort of cardiac discomfort by getting too angry over one or two calls. The following are screenshots of two disputed plays which occurred during the first inning:
In the top image, we see Jay Gibbons clearly trapping a line drive. Rather than being rewarded with a two-out single, though, Adrian Beltre was instead called out, ending the inning. Mike Hargrove attempted to argue, but he was even further way from the play than the umpire, so nothing good was going to come out of that.
In the second image, we see Jamie Moyer throwing a 1-2 pitch to Rafael Palmeiro that many fans think should've been called a strike, ending the at bat. Instead, McClelland ruled it a ball, prolonging the at bat which would end with a home run. Although the camera angle isn't from directly behind the mound, the pitch looks outside, but it's close, and a lot of umpires might call that a strike (particularly with Borders' frame job afterwards).
It's always your first inclination to say that "those lousy umps cost us the game", but save for extreme circumstances, that's just never a valid excuse. Bad calls get made from time to time, and there's no bias involved - over the course of a full season, a team is probably going to break even in terms of bad calls going for and against it. Clearly, the Beltre line drive ruling was a mistake, but we'll have that happen in the Mariners' favor at some point later in the year that nobody's going to complain about. The whole thing reaches a new level when you start arguing balls and strikes, simply because strike zones can be so wildly different. I think what you'll notice, though, is that clear strikes are called strikes, clear balls are called balls, and borderline pitches are split about 50/50. How else would you do it? With a pitch like Moyer's shown above, it's pretty much a coin toss whether or not it's called a strike, and things just didn't work out in our favor today. It's no big deal, and it's certainly not the umpire's fault that Moyer allowed a home run later in the at bat.
Our eighth inning today:
P Borders grounded out to third.
W Valdez grounded out to third.
I Suzuki flied out to center.
Trailing by two, with nothing even remotely resembling an offensive spark, Mike Hargrove decided to let Pat Borders and Wilson Valdez go to the plate for important at bats. With a righty on the mound, Hargrove could've brought in his left-handed bench bats to pinch-hit to both increase the team's chances of success and play the matchups; even if the Orioles turned around to pitch Kline or Parrish (unlikely, given Lopez's pitch count at the time), Hansen and Dobbs probably still would've posed a greater threat than Borders and Valdez, and Olivo/Bloomquist still would've been available. You could make an argument that Hargrove didn't want to empty the bench by pinch-hitting for both of them, but doing nothing in that situation is unforgiveable. Hit Hansen for Valdez. Sub in Bloomquist when the team takes the field. Trailing by two in the eighth, the only way the game is going to keep going is if you score two runs, and all the defense in the world isn't going to help you trim that deficit. Frankly, I'd love to know why Wilson Valdez has any plate appearances later than the seventh inning.
I'm out of time, but there really wasn't much else to say about the game, anyway. Tune in tomorrow to see if Ryan Franklin and the offense can salvage this series against Daniel Cabrera at 4:05pm PDT. You should also stop by to read Devin's interview with Chris Snelling, which will take place in the afternoon and get posted at some point before too late.