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Mariners to Rays: Don't come around here Nomo

If the Mariners - or anyone affiliated with the organization - actually said that, they should be ashamed of themselves. That's, it's bad.

Fortunately, the game was a whole lotta good, as the M's picked up their second consecutive dramatic victory over those pesky D-Rays to wrap up their third straight series win, and fifth in the last seven (11-10 over that span). Looking back, you'd prefer that the Mariners pick up at least one easy win against Tampa Bay during the season series, but grabbing four one-run wins in six games will have to suffice, I guess.

It's interesting that the game ended up as it did, because by the top of the second, there were 40,004 real angry fans. Well, maybe 40,003, if Chuck Lamar was in attendance, but I wouldn't be surprised if he rooted against his own team.  It looked like the Mariners were headed for a real disaster Sunday, but Jamie Moyer suddenly found himself, and the offense suddenly started doing its job, and the two had just enough time remaining in the game to combine for a comeback win. Never underestimate the power of a little momentum when you're about to be badly overmatched by two pitchers in three games in an upcoming series.


I like these kinds of graphs. I hate it when a team knows that it's going to win or lose from the beginning - there's just nothing interesting there, nothing worth talking about. Here, though, there were huge, dramatic swings. The Mariners fell behind 4-0 early, but a little later they had the bases loaded and one down for Richie Sexson in a 4-1 game. The rally was killed, and so were the Mariners' chances of winning, but Sexson, Bret Boone, and Randy Winn worked a little magic to help the team pull ahead. All of a sudden, Jeff Nelson was summoned in order to administer a highly concentrated dose of heart-wrenching suspense, but he worked out of the jam, Sexson hit a wall-ball, and that was that. That's just fun baseball, and it's really encouraging when you consider how many boring games these guys had played in the previous weeks. The whole thrill of the game is coming to the park knowing that you have a chance to win; the Mariners of May really couldn't think that way, and it rubbed off on a frustrated fan base. This, this is much better.

Biggest Contribution: Randy Winn, +28.4%
Biggest Suckfest: Raul Ibanez, -18.0%
Most Important Hit: Sexson 2B, +33.7%
Most Important Pitch: Sanchez single, -34.0%
Total Contribution by Pitchers: +7.6%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +24.9%

That game was won by the offense, helped by the pitching, and hurt by the defense. Anytime you rack up 14 hits, allow five runs, and commit two critical errors, it's bound to turn out that way. I haven't really counted, but I'm willing to bet that the number of times both the hitting and pitching have made positive total contributions is in the single digits.

Jamie Moyer got the start today and threw 126 pitches, his highest total in at least the past four years (ESPN's game logs don't track back earlier than 2002). The pitch count is pretty much inconsequential, since Moyer's a 42 year old finesse lefty, but what's surprising about it is that Hargrove left him in that long in the first place. At 107 after five, you'd think that Mateo would be out there to start the next inning, but Hargrove felt comfortable with Moyer, who had retired 10 of the previous 11 batters he faced. You wouldn't want to see this kind of managerial approach with a young pitcher, but with Moyer, it was the right thing to do, and it paid off. Hell, he might've gone out there to start the seventh had it not been for a ten-pitch at bat agianst Jorge Cantu in the sixth.

We saw a lot of both Good Jamie and Bad Jamie today, with Bad Jamie getting out of the way early. You should really expect to get this kind of performance out of him pretty often. Moyer won't wake up having suddenly lost all of his ability as a pitcher - he's not going to go to Safeco, give up ten runs in the first, and call it a career. That only happens to movie characters and Pat Hentgen. What you'll see instead is a gradual decline, where Good Jamie is replaced more and more often by Inconsistent Command Jamie until either Jamie hangs 'em up on his own, or until the good is all gone. Even now, though, he'll still have his vintage moments, a reminder of a better time when men were men and chicks secretly dug the changeup. It's always sad to see a great player fade away, but as long as Jamie can hang around for four more months with performances like this one, he won't have to worry about spoiling any of his several accomplishments.

You want to see a guy who isn't aging as gracefully as Moyer? Look to second base, where Batflip the Terrible is currently on pace for a season in which he'll collect $600,000 per home run. I realize that this isn't really the best timing, since Boone went 2-4 today with an important double, but...well, compare these two lines:

Player A: .273/.297/.393
Player B: .239/.296/.385

Player A is 2004 Marco Scutaro, picked up off waivers by the A's and paid the league minimum. Player B is 2005 Bret Boone, who will end up costing the Mariners $9m, assuming they aren't able to move his contract during the summer. It's been an awful, sudden slide for Boone, one which has exceeded even the most pessimistic preseason projections. You have to figure that things will get better, if only by a little bit, but his fearsome power bat is gone for good. Which might be more tolerable if he were still bringing his Gold Glove defense every day, but...well, look at these numbers. Rate2 is a Baseball Prospectus measure of how many runs above or below average (+100) a defensive player is worth per 100 games. For example, a guy with a Rate2 of 90 is ten runs below average per 100 games, while a guy with a Rate2 of 120 is 20 runs above average over the same time span. Boone at second:

  1. 108
  2. 92
  3. 88
He's gone from great to bad to nightmarish in three years, to the point at which it's pretty easy to see at least one or two balls per game get through to the outfield that the Boone of old might've been able to reach. Although Derek Jeter probably has a death grip on the nickname, it occurred to me yesterday that we might want to start referring to him as Bret "just past a diving" Boone. We're hearing that more and more with each passing day, it seems.

Think of it this way: A defensive player will have the chance to make several easy, challenging, and spectacular plays over the course of a full season. Gold Glove Boone made all the easy plays, a lot of the challenging ones, and more than a handful of the spectacular ones. 2005 Boone, though, goofs around with some of the easy plays, struggles with the challenging ones, and barely offers at the spectacular ones.

With Boone and Morse manning second base and shortstop, we might have the worst defensive middle infield in baseball right now. You can remember Justin Leone, Greg Dobbs, and Jose Lopez all struggling with their throws to first base after being promoted last summer. Early indications are that Mike Morse has the same problem, as he's thrown away two balls in two games and made a few other bad tosses that Sexson has picked out of the dirt. He also has yet to hit a ball with much authority, as he's batting .182 by virtue of two little flares to the opposite field. We've seen a lot of young players struggle to adjust to the Majors so far in '04/'05, and it would be great to have an idea of why that may be, as it's hard to count on minor leaguers making an immediate impact on the staff or the bench when few of their peers have managed to turn in solid performances right from the get-go.

Speaking of Morse, here's Ron Fairly talking about his at bat against Hideo Nomo in the bottom of the fourth, with a 1-2 count:

"Morse has had a few fastballs in on the hands, so don't be surprised if here comes the split-finger, or a changeup."
"They're gonna come right back inside with a fastball."

That's the kind of quality, in-depth analysis they're paying you for, Ron.

People are quick to point out that both Ichiro and Jeremy Reed are slumping right now. Quick reply: Don't be too concerned. They're both predominantly singles-hitters, and as such, they're vulnerable to dramatic performance swings. The common word for these kinds of guys is "streaky", although you won't see that term used in conjunction with Ichiro very often, since his entire 2004 season was essentially one never-ending hot streak and people have been misled to believe that that's how he'll do every year. They'll both turn it around and look flawless again just as quickly as they hit the skids, and it could happen at any moment in any game, so don't get too down on either player.

On Reed: During one of the earlier innings, Ron Fairly was walking us through some StroMotion of two of Reed's catches, neither of which were all that spectacular. He then proceeded to go all John Madden on us, using a little white pen to draw a circle on the screen intended to show how much room Reed covers in center. Conclusion: Reed gets to balls hit in the vicinity of center field, which might be a little more remarkable if he weren't a center fielder.

Jeff Nelson has faced 80 batters this year. 29 have reached base, for a .363 OBP. This is our high-leverage right-handed reliever. In the bottom of the eighth, Mike Hargrove yanked the right-handed Julio Mateo in favor of...the right-handed Jeff Nelson, who has a much more dramatic platoon disadvantage against lefties. So, Lou predictably pinch-hits for righty Josh Phelps with lefty Alex Sanchez, who singles to sustain the rally. Nelson is left in to face five more batters, leaving the bases loaded after Alex Gonzalez lined out to Randy Winn. Given that Mateo was sitting at eight pitches when he was pulled, I'd love to hear an explanation for this move.

Monday's a travel day, as the Mariners will fly to Miami to take on the Marlins. Look for Jeremy Reed to get benched for the week of interleague play, as the team needs to find room for Raul Ibanez, one of its few hot hitters. If nothing else, it gives us an actual competent left-handed stick off the bench, although you have to wonder if Hargrove will actually use him.