I'm going to be honest with you - I didn't get to see much of this game, and, quite frankly, the enthusiasm that went into the last few recaps just wore me out. That said, this is as good a night as any to take it easy on the writing, since there wasn't much good that came out of today's game anyway. Bullpen meltdowns used to break my heart, but I'm adapting, and by naturally associating pain and disappointment with the likes of Ron Villone, Jeff Nelson, and Matt Thornton, I save myself from a lot of anger after the fact.
Let's just go right to the chart, because there's some explaining to be done:
Biggest Contribution: Jeremy Reed, +41.3%
Biggest Suckfest: Jeff Nelson, -24.6%
Most Important Hit: Reed double, +14.3%
Most Important Pitch: Kielty homer, -27.6%
Total Contribution by Pitchers: -37.2%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +8.0%
As difficult as it may be to believe that the pitching was solely responsible for the loss despite the offense managing just two runs, there it is, right in front of you. Nelson and Villone weren't quite in JJ Putz territory, but they were bad, which is a real shame, because it looked like things might turn out okay after Keith Ginter grounded out with the bases loaded in the seventh. Kielty's homer reduced the Mariners' odds of winning from a coin flip to one-in-four, and Jeff Nelson made sure to immediately dash all remaining hope by serving up a meatball to Mark Kotsay. Nelson's walking 15% of the batters he faces and allowing 1.5 baserunners per inning, and he's still being asked to pitch in high-leverage situations. Hopefully, one of the advantages of having a 12-man staff is that none of Nelson, Villone, or Thornton will ever appear in a close game again. I don't know how much longer I can wait for Soriano and Sherrill before I go crazy.
Now then, there's one big thing to explain, and that's how Jeremy Reed wound up at +41.3% by going 2-4 with a run-scoring double. The answer? I gave Reed credit both for robbing Dan Johnson of a double in the fifth, and hitting a home run in the sixth. The first one's pretty self-explanatory, as that play was all Reed (Sele, in turn, was charged with allowing a double), but the second one's more subjective. I just can't bring myself to penalize a guy for hitting a ball over the wall, regardless of whether or not it's brought back into the field of play. In my opinion, Reed hit his third home run of the season, and Nick Swisher took it away. It's been that way all year in terms of Win Probability Added (for me, anyway), and it's just not Jeremy's fault.
I've said time and time again that I won't be convinced that Beltre is turning it around until he starts hitting balls over the fence. I might have to amend that statement. In 12 games so far in June, Beltre's batting .326/.404/.435, raising his OPS by 43 points. The key? He's drawn five walks, against five strikeouts, in 52 plate appearances. This is up from six and 35 in 208 coming into the month. Anyone who's paid even a little attention to him over these past few weeks can see that he's substantially improved his concept of the strike zone, staying away from those sliders and forcing pitchers to come back over the plate. The stubborn ones keep throwing breaking balls, but if they miss, Adrian seems a lot better about taking them for balls and walking to first base. He's still got a ways to go before he looks like the 2004 Adrian Beltre again, but this isn't the same guy we saw earlier in the year, either, so that's something.
The most vanilla fans in Seattle, holding the most vanilla sign:
That's all I can really bring myself to write tonight, so I'll leave you with a pair of defensive numbers, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus:
Reed: +4 runs above average in CF
Morse: 0 runs above average at SS
I take back everything I've ever said about these guys' athletic prowess in the field. Reed looks every bit like a legitimate long-term center fielder, and while I don't buy Morse as the solution at short, he's been a hell of a lot better in the early going than I expected.
Back tomorrow night at 7:05pm, with Joel Pineiro going up against Rich Harden, who has been, quite literally, twice the pitcher so far this year.