And so ends another sweep, the third of the season. We're still a game ahead of last year's pace, though, which has to mean something to somebody. I know it's depressing to think about, but it's probably about time that we officially write off the idea of contending this year - if it looked like the Mariners would have a hard time keeping up with the leaders over the course of the season back in March, I don't know how we could realistically expect them to make up nine games in the win column between Memorial Day and the end of the year. Which isn't to say that 2005 can't still be an entertaining year, if Beltre/Sexson get going and we get to see some of the more high-profile prospects in the system make the jump, but you can probably stop daydreaming about a miracle World Series run. The 2004 Astros were able to mount a furious late-season charge, but they had Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, Jeff Kent, Jeff Bagwell, Brad Lidge, Roy Oswalt, and Roger Clemens (man, they were good). We have Ichiro and a sack of cheap party favors.
Today was just another lousy effort where the Mariners fell behind early, decided that they didn't really feel like making a comeback, and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting amongst themselves in eager anticipation of tomorrow's nationwide release of Madagascar. Richie Sexson was evidently more preoccupied than anyone else with the question of how Chris Rock could have two movies coming out on the same day, as he struck out three times en route to an 0-4 performance. To make things worse, the lineup spoiled another decent Ryan Franklin start, the fourth time in nine starts that the Mariners have failed to provide much offense for Franklin when he allows three runs or fewer.
Today's chart rather accurately captures our feelings of despair and hopelessness:
I don't know about you, but I'm getting really tired of the Mariners peaking in the first inning. They don't even bother losing in interesting fashion anymore, preferring instead to make their intentions clear as quickly as possible. It's no wonder that McClendon, Robinson, Trammell, and Guillen are having some laughs at our expense - at least their teams don't put them to sleep before the game's halfway over.
Today's chart is another good demonstration of why Win Probability Added shouldn't be used as a normal player rating. Ryan Franklin pitched himself a pretty good game, but because the Mariners could generate just two runs in nine innings, he gets a negative rating by virtue of allowing three. He wasn't the worst offender, though, as Sexson and Olivo finished ahead of (behind?) him by going a combined 0-7 and stranding five. On the other side of the ball, Randy Winn, Raul Ibanez, and Jeremy Reed made positive contributions, collecting four of the team's six base hits. Melvin Mora's first inning home run was the most important play of the game (-15.6%), while Winn's sac fly (+6%) was the best thing to happen for Seattle all day.
If there exists such a thing as "vintage Ryan Franklin," we saw it today - good control, pitched to contact, and allowed a few longballs while limiting the overall damage. These are the kinds of starts that we need to get from him if we hope to win some games; no more of that five-walk nonsense that we saw against San Diego a week ago. No, he's not a great pitcher, but there is value in a guy who can keep you in a ballgame, particularly when nobody else in the rotation is consistently pulling his own weight. The home runs are irritating, but that's just part of the whole Franklin package - there's no sense getting worked up about them today when we've known about the issue for as long as he's been on the staff.
Rafael Palmeiro's always been known as a "Mariner killer" because he's hit more home runs against Seattle (51) than any other team. By going 2-4 today with a blast, he upped his career numbers against us to .288/.371/.546. Which is phenomenal, but he's been even better against the Yankees, Tigers, Royals, Rangers, Angels, and Padres, along with a few other interleague opponents with sample size issues. Maybe it's time to consider that he doesn't so much catch fire against Seattle as he does continue to hit very well, which he's done his entire career. What's weird is that he's been a terror in Safeco after putting up pedestrian (by comparison) numbers in the Kingdome. Anyway...
Quote Brian Roberts, when asked about all the injuries his Orioles have had this year:
I understand that he's a professional athlete and all, but wouldn't it have been funny if they did quit?
Mazzilli: "Hey guys, Javy broke his hand. He'll be out for a little while."
Roberts: "Well, all we can do about it is play through. Sal can do the job for us while Javy's out. What's a little adversity? We're all a family, we can pick each other up. C'mon, O's!!"
Mazzilli: "Oh, and hey, we had to put Bedard on the DL, too. FYI."
Roberts: "-wait, what? Another one? Sweet Jesus, one or two I can understand, but...no, just no. Screw you guys, I'm outta here. God."
Players: <pack bags>
We were that close to picking up a win by forfeit. Damn those Orioles and their self-confidence.
More from the O's:
Might have a little something to do with your team having the best offense in the league, too, Lee.
Looking up and down this Mariner roster right now, what's most striking is just how many players are underachieving, given preseason expectations. The list of players at or below their 25th percentile PECOTA projections: Wilson Valdez, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Olivo, Jeremy Reed, Bret Boone, Willie Bloomquist, Greg Dobbs, Dan Wilson, Scott Spiezio, Jamie Moyer, Matt Thornton, (Bobby Madritsch), and Joel Pineiro. Where do you even begin to fix everything that's gone wrong so far this year?
On the one hand, it's a pretty strong indication of how bad the team is right now that we're getting excited about a guy hitting .263/.345/.362; on the other hand, Jeremy Reed's an exciting player, and he finally went deep after lasting more than 200 homerless AB's to begin his Major League career. His slugging percentage isn't very impressive right now, but five of his last ten hits have gone for extra bases, and he's taken some real good swings that make it seem like he's about to take off. A .288/.350/.425 May is a steady improvement from a slow April, and those numbers are probably pretty close to where he should finish the year. Reed's current 0.69 BB/K ratio would have ranked him in the upper third of qualified ML hitters a year ago, and this is coming from a rookie.
As much as Adrian Beltre loves to chase those outside pitches he can't reach, he sure seems to have a problem pulling the trigger on a strike over the outer half. If anyone could explain this to me, that'd be swell.
Miguel Olivo's new approach: suck really badly so that pitchers start salivating when he comes to the plate. They'll inevitably become indecisive over which pitch to use to strike him out, and will occasionally slip up and throw an accidental floater that even he can hammer. I wonder if he discussed this plan with Don Baylor prior to implementation.
Today's Confusing Hargrove Moment of the Game: in the top of the seventh, with two on and two out in a 3-1 ballgame, Hargrove let Miguel Olivo hit for himself against Cabrera. Olivo weakly grounded out to end the inning. Hargrove then pinch-hit for Wilson Valdez to lead off the eighth. This doesn't make a lick of sense. Does he believe that Valdez's at bat was somehow more important than Olivo's, or what? Does he even realize that Olivo's making outs five out of every six times he strolls to the plate? How many times will we have to sit here watching an automatic out do what he does best in a critical situation?
This pains me. Tune in tomorrow, as Gil Meche and the Mariners travel to Tampa Bay to take on Mark Hendrickson and the Red Hot Devil Rays(!). Expect the announcers to draw parallels between Hendrickson and Sexson's basketball backgrounds at least once a game.