The first ever Feign Excitement About the Mariners Day(!) was not a success. Problem: not enough feigned excitement, due to this being a holiday weekend and the game being blacked out outside of the team markets. Solution: get a better team, so we don't have to fake it.
And to think, this one had so much potential, too - there was a good crowd on hand, a special pregame ceremony, a bad pitcher on the mound for Texas (or, better put, a series of them), and a breakout performance by Adrian Beltre. Alas, it was not to be, as the evil spirit that possesses JJ Putz's right arm in close games overrules all else in the known universe, including the cosmic postulate that Gary Matthews Jr. sucks. It's a real shame that this happened, and on more than one level - beyond the sting of losing another game, this all but assures that Mike Hargrove will lose faith in Putz for another few weeks and use Jeff Nelson in more high-leverage situations. Rebuilding teams require managerial patience, and I'm not sure that Hargrove is the right guy for the job. But then, it's not the coaching staff's fault that the Mariners are 13 below .500 before the All Star Break. Guys like Hargrove make their share of bad decisions, but they don't lose many ballgames by themselves, so it'd be nice to see someone else held accountable for the team's struggles, rather than the manager.
Let's go to today's chart:
Biggest Contribution: Adrian Beltre, +36.2%
Biggest Suckfest: Bret Boone, -29.9%
Most Important Hit: Boone double play, -21.6%
Most Important Pitch: Matthews Jr. homer, -44.4%
Total Contribution by Pitchers: -34.6%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -17.0%
Judging by those last two numbers, you could say that this loss was mostly the pitchers' fault, but that's a little too simple - it all really came crashing down with a single pitch by JJ Putz. Not like he didn't have help; Joel Pineiro wasn't anything special, and two-thirds of the starting lineup went hitless. But when your win expectancy is 61.5% one minute and 17.1% the next, after you've thrown a pitch, you can generally assume that you haven't done your job very well. But hey, if you're like me, you'll take pleasure in pinning a lot of this loss on Bret Boone, since, after all, he did have the lowest WPA rating on the team.
Joel Pineiro, revisited:
Conclusion? Pineiro's ten-day stay in Tacoma to work on his mechanics doesn't look like it did too much good. There's a dip in ERA, but this can be explained away by anomalous situational splits that skew data recovered from small sample sizes. The slight decrease in hits and home runs and the increase in strikeouts are also to be expected, sine Joel's faced much easier competition after coming back than he did beforehand (for example, his two most recent starts before being sent down came against Boston).
Should this really be surprising? No, I don't think so - it's almost impossible to fix any baseball problem in a week and a half, especially when you're talking about a pitcher's mechanics that have become engrained in his brain and muscle tissue with repeated use. Joel's still the same mess he was two months ago, and all the coaching in the world can't fix what's probably wrong with his shoulder or elbow. His delivery is a little screwy, and he wastes a lot of energy on peripheral motion that could be going into each pitch, but he's been like that for a while, and it doesn't explain a 5+ mph decrease in velocity. Pineiro's not right, and the organization needs to get him checked out as soon as they can so that he's able to contribute something in 2006. If nothing else, it'd make their decision over which starter to drop for Felix Hernandez a lot easier.
Dueling cliché baseball reputations: is JJ Putz the tough-as-nails kid reliever who can step in and close a game whenever you need it (2004), or is he the no-good choker who can't handle the pressure of the later innings, and who'd never succeed in a place like New York (2005)? You have to wonder if he'd be looked at differently if not for those nine saves he collected in the second half last year with Eddie sidelined. Fun note: a comparison between Putz's 2004 and 2005 peripherals shows little difference, but he's cut his ERA by 45%. Behold the wonders of BABIP fluctuation.
Daily^ Adrian Beltre Update:
.326/.390/.506 since the start of June. Admittedly, it's an arbitrary starting point, but it gets the point across. One issue is that he hasn't drawn a walk in seven days after showing good patience early in June, but it's hard to argue with success - Beltre got into a few three-ball counts today, and strikes me as the kind of guy who swings at the first good pitch he sees, rather than drawing out the count. The whole idea behind the importance of walks is that hitters shouldn't offer at bad pitches; as long as Beltre is sticking to balls around the plate, rather than sliders off and in the dirt, I'll have no complaints, because he was dominant with that approach a year ago.
I know it was CJ Wilson and John Wasdin, but even so, the power is coming. Adrian's first shot flew to right field, which is one hell of an encouraging sign.
As Beltre is heating up, Richie Sexson is cooling off, hitting .219/.305/.396 since June 1. His power hasn't shown up, and he's had more multi-strikeout games (10) than multi-hit games (7) over that span of time. You shouldn't take this as a sign of a bigger problem - Richie isn't a young Mariner pitcher, after all - but rather as simple whining, because I want to know what it's like to have both Beltre and Sexson red-hot at the same time. You'd like to think that $114m could pay for such a luxury. Note that Sexson spent nearly the entire month of June (and the first two games of July) in homer-suppressing ballparks, which can explain some of his struggles.
That ninth inning sac bunt by Dave Hansen was a real, real dumb move. With Scott Spiezio standing on deck, you have to assume the second out, and then you know that Showalter's going to give Ichiro the empty base to face the slumping Randy Winn. I hate the idea of giving up outs, particularly against good pitchers with a bad hitter due up. Win Expectancy agrees with me, as the bunt dropped our odds of winning by 3.7%.
Speaking of Cordero, Niehaus twice remarked that he was throwing hittable fastballs. The first time, he noted that Spiezio "just missed a good pitch", which happens to be one of Scott's few consistently reliable skills. The second time, Dave mentioned that Cordero threw a "hittable fastball" over the plate, which was followed by "and that pitch registered at 99 miles per hour". Either Dave Niehaus is a spectacular physical specimen with the reflexes of a cobra, or he doesn't know what "hittable" means.
One thing that bugs me: apparently, Bryan Price has been complaining to whoever wants to listen that his starting staff is "pleased with mediocrity". I can understand being frustrated with Gil Meche, whose talent has always portended something more than the pitcher he's become, but the other guys? Has it occurred to Price that they might just be mediocre pitchers? Was he actually expecting something more out of Aaron Sele? I don't have any unique knowledge of this situation, but it seems to me like Price is developing something of a track record of deflecting blame. I don't mean to suggest that he needs to lose his job, because this is a bad rotation that can only overachieve for so long, but I don't see why he's so reluctant to take responsibility for some of the things that have happened over the past few years.
...but then, maybe he's just pissed off and venting like all of us have been doing, in which case, vent away, I guess. Just don't go crying to the press about a pitcher who doesn't take instruction very well after you've blasted him in public.
Back at it tomorrow afternoon, as Jamie Moyer takes on one of several potential replacements for Kenny Rogers. 1:05pm start time.