By now, it's pretty much official - there's just nothing good to say about this team. They've dropped five in a row and eight of ten since sweeping the Mets, falling back to 11 below .500 for the first time in more than a month. The offense is terrible, the pitching is hit-or-miss, and the end result is a team that's just one game ahead of last year's pace. Not that they're in much danger of sinking below it, mind you, given that the 2004 Mariners dropped nine in a row to enter the All Star Break at 32-54, but being a little better than one of the worst teams in franchise history isn't much of an accomplishment, nor should it be treated as such.
It's getting to the point at which you no longer watch the Mariners in the hopes that they win the game - you just want to see something funny, or exciting, or dramatic happen, and if the M's end up winning, that's neat. When you're 13.5 games out of first place and 4.5 out of third at the end of June, the whole notion of "victory" begins to lose its meaning, because at the end, all those wins really do is lower your draft pick (or raise it, depending on how you look at it, but you know what I mean). At the start of the year, you wanted to see Reed, Beltre & Co. do well and put the M's on top, but at this point, you just want to see Reed, Beltre & Co. do well and let whatever else happens happen, because does anyone still really care how Aaron Sele or Gil Meche do out of the rotation? None of our current starters, save for Pineiro (or so I'd like to think, anyway), and precious few of our relievers are likely to be a part of the next good Mariners team, nor are the likely to net much of anything in a trade, so is it really worth fretting over how they perform as stopgaps and placeholders? You'd like to see them do well, theoretically raising their market value while making the baseball a little more fun to watch, but the fate of the organization won't be determined by how Bret Boone hits in July, so it doesn't matter much in the long run.
Today was another ugly game, one which was thankfully limited to radio and stadium closed circuit camera feed coverage only. Meche was bad, the bullpen was bad, the lineup was bad, and the result was bad. Stop me if you've heard this before.
Biggest Contribution: Raul Ibanez, +13.8%
Biggest Suckfest: Adrian Beltre, -24.1%
Most Important Hit: Ibanez homer, +11.3%
Most Important Pitch: Kielty DP, +15.4%
Total Contribution by Pitchers: -8.0%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -39.5%
That last bit is a little misleading - "hitters" should really be read as "position players", because it includes player fielding. In this case, Adrian Beltre's three errors were responsible for more than half of the final Win Probability Added readout for the starting lineup, reducing Seattle's odds of winning by 20.5%. Nevertheless, it remains clear that most of the blame for this loss should fall on the offense, because this was just another miserable effort at the plate made a little more palatable by one decent inning. Gil Meche was lousy, but he shouldn't have allowed four runs, so it's hard to pin this one on him.
A week and a half ago, the Mariners were ahead of the A's by 2.5 in the standings. Over the next ten games, the gap would grow slimmer, reverse itself, and then essentially double in size. Oakland's been on fire, something they seem to do a few times every year, but Seattle's collapsed under the weight of...I don't know, is Texas crashing so hard that they're pushing down on the M's from above? Let's consult the WPA numbers from the past ten games to get an idea of who should and shouldn't be held responsible for this current slump:
What you're looking at is a table consisting of the sum WPA's for each player over the last ten games, along with an average per game played over that span. Mike Morse has been the hero, at +35.0% total and +3.5%/game, while Ichiro's been the goat, at -51.2% total and -5.1%/game. According to these numbers, the pitchers deserve most of the blame for this little slump, fueled by a lousy starting rotation that's been more than twice as bad as the hitters of late. Still, just about every part of the team has struggled; when only eight of the 26 players to appear in a game in the last ten days have made a positive contribution (and only two everyday players), you know things aren't going well.
So, where do we go from here? There are still another ten games until the All Star Break mercifully arrives, and you should plan on seeing the usual guys suit up and take the field until the second half is underway. Things to watch for are (1) Adrian Beltre getting his power back, (2) Mike Morse staving off an inevitable regression to the mean (Hitless in nine at bats! The sky is falling!), (3) Ichiro and Jeremy Reed planning their luck so that their respective singles-hitting hot streaks occur simultaneously, and (4) the rotation making its last few intact turns before we see a shake-up. This last point is probably the most interesting, if only because there are so many candidates to be replaced - we've known for a while that Franklin and Sele were pitching for their lives with every start, but now Moyer's out to lunch, Pineiro's clueless, and Meche is pitching like a stupid dick. None of them miss many bats, none of them can keep the ball in the park, and none of them can consistently stay in the strike zone - in short, they're all completely replaceable. Imagine if you will a game of musical chairs, in which there are three chairs for five competitors; the winners get to ride out the rest of the season on a losing ballclub, while the losers give way to Felix Hernandez and Jorge Campillo before too long. At least when that happens, we'll have something fun to watch.
Until the Mariners show some life and win a big game, I just can't bring myself to put much effort into these recaps. The schedule says they'll try again tomorrow night against Texas, where "try" is a relative term meaning anything from "going through the motions" to "sleepwalking through another one". At least the Leone interview will be up in a bit.