Remember this moment.
The Mariners are a season-worst 13 games below .500 at the 83-game mark, 16.5 games behind the division-leading Angels and fresh off a series lost at the hands of the Kansas City Royals. I think it's safe to say that we've officially hit the low point of the year, and - barring some sort of miracle performance against Anaheim - this feeling is going to carry over into the All Star Break. It doesn't get much worse than dropping two of three to the Royals, and as much as the players will say that they'll just shake it off and get ready for tomorrow, you better believe they know it, too.
So, what does it mean? After all, a bad team will technically hit several "low points" over the course of a season, as they drop farther and farther below .500. So, if we can reasonably expect the Mariners to sink 15, 20, even 25 games below the mark before October rolls around, what's the big deal about today?
Consider this the day when Bill Bavasi and Mike Hargrove realize that 2005 is completely shot, and that it's time to start entertaining offers for anything and everything that can be sold (save for certain obvious exceptions). No more of this "holding pattern" stuff that we've heard about in each of the past two years - the Mariners are done, this roster isn't getting them anywhere, and it's time to get rid of all but the most necessary components, provided they can get something interesting in return for the spare parts. Bavasi no longer has to qualify his every statement with reassurance that this season is salvageable; get ready to hear a lot of "with an eye towards 2006" when he speaks to the press. Even a four-game sweep of Anaheim would leave the Mariners 13 games behind in the win column with 75 left to play. It's done. Cut bait and move on.
To the chart:
Biggest Contribution: Willie Ballgame, +7.6%
Biggest Suckfest: Jose Lopez, -20.5%
Most Important Hit: Beltre double play, -14.3%
Most Important Pitch: Buck single, -16.7%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -2.6%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -55.3%
As bad as Aaron Sele looked today, he wasn't the reason we lost - that honor goes to the hitters, of whom just three of 11 made positive contributions. A pair of Jose Lopez errors directly led to two runs being put on the scoreboard (and also to his being named "Biggest Suckfest" for the game), something which bad teams just can't afford to have happen if they want to escape with a win. Special note: I bet this is the only time that Willie Ballgame makes the biggest positive contribution to the team all season.
Sele was about as bad as anyone can be in a "quality start", allowing 13 baserunners and a homer without striking out a single batter in six innings of work. That string of solid outings he had once upon a time seems like ages ago, as his last three starts have been varying degrees of awful. Now halfway through the year, we see how Sele's performance thus far compares with previous seasons of his career, namely his '02-'04 stay in Anaheim:
ERA: 4.70, 2005 (5.20, 2002-2004)
IP/Start: 5.75 (5.38)
H%: 26.7 (26.3)
K%: 9.6 (10.0)
BB%: 8.0 (8.5)
HR%: 3.0 (2.9)
2B/3B%: 4.7 (4.9)
BABIP: .300 (.303)
It's hard to spot much of a difference between those two columns, mostly because there isn't one - 2005 Aaron Sele is pretty much the exact same pitcher he was with the Angels during the previous three seasons. Which is bad, because the Anaheim Aaron Sele sucked, and Safeco Field is the only reason his ERA is under 5. A little while ago, we might've been able to find something useful for Sele at the deadline, but now I'm not so sure; teams will look at his mediocre stuff, his mediocre numbers, and his mediocre performance against the Royals, and decide that he's really not much of an improvement over whoever they're trotting out there as the fifth starter, if he's an improvement at all. There's a chance that the Safeco Effect might make him seem half-decent to another team who plays half its games in a pitcher-friendly environment, but that's not very likely, and besides, the standard return for an Aaron Sele-type at the trade deadline - if any - is someone like Greg Wear or, if you're lucky, Aaron Looper. Sometimes it's just not worth the effort. Overall, Sele has been everything we expected him to be this year, and he'd stick out as a bigger problem if only the rest of the rotation didn't suck just as bad.
Today's Banner Bank Building for the Future minor league standout: 31 year old Jeff Harris.
He's only had one game and four plate appearances with the big club, but Chris Snelling already flashed the tools that make him such an awesome prospect: he has a real good idea of the strike zone, recognizes breaking balls and offspeed pitches, and has incredible bat speed that lets him wait on the pitch a little longer before reacting and spraying the ball into the outfield. He doesn't quite have the upper-body strength to launch 30 homers a year, nor does he have the kind of footspeed necessary to become a threat on the basepaths, but there's really no reason why he couldn't mirror Joe Mauer's career at the plate. Everything about the guy just screams "Major League ready", and it's obvious to even the most untrained eye that catches Snelling on TV for an AB or two. It's a shame that he won't really have a role in Seattle until Winn is gone, but that day will come, and the transition should be smooth and easy.
Pat Borders sure called a crappy game today. Went hitless at the plate, too. Right now, he's doing nothing but eating up outs that Miguel Olivo could be making a lot quicker, which is the kind of thing you look for when the game drags on like it did today. Play Olivo, if only so that we can have whatever's left of our hope completely dashed.
Willie Bloomquist on the year: .259/.304/.353. For his career: .259/.314/.337. Given his ability to run the bases and play a decent middle infield while not being a total black hole at the dish, I have to say that he's not such a terrible 25th man to have around. He's 27 years old now, entering his supposed prime, and we've seen him put a few power swings on some balls that we didn't see in '03 or '04. This isn't a guy you want to be paying seven figures (note: eligible for arbitration this winter), but it's also not a guy who's going to kill you as a defensive replacement, pinch-runner, and spot-starter every so often, so it could be worse. I guess the difference this year is that we don't have to start Willie at third base for weeks on end like we did in the Cirillo/Spiezio era, which keeps him from being over-exposed as a liability. Used properly - by which I do not mean starting five consecutive games - Willie Ballgame can be a useful asset off the bench. I never thought I'd say that, but hey, check it out. Give him a start at second and a start at short every week, and I won't complain too much.
Bottom of the eighth, Ron Villone awkwardly throws a pitch, mound conference ensues
Villone: "I'm fine, I'm fine."
Borders: "You're fine?"
Villone: "I'm fine."
Borders: "You didn't look so fine."
Price: "Hey Pat, he good?"
Borders: "He says he's good."
Price: "Ron, you're good?"
Villone: "I'm fine."
Price: "You sure?"
Villone: "I'm sure."
Price: "Because it looked like you may have tweaked something."
Villone: "I don't feel anything. I'm fine."
Price: "Your arm, it looked like it came down funny. I think we need to check you out in the trainer's room."
Villone: "No, seriously, I feel fine. I can pitch."
Price: "Why's your arm hanging?"
Villone: "Pat keeps punching me in the shoulder with his knuckles."
Borders: "You had a fly on your back."
Price: "That doesn't look good. I think we need to get Rick out here."
Villone: "No, honestly, that's not-"
Price: "Hey, Rick! Bring the kit, RoVo's not feeling so hot!"
Villone: "Stop hitting me."
Borders: "The fly came back."
Griffin: "What's up?"
Price: "Ron's wing is hurting."
Villone: "No, I'm fine. My wing is fine."
Griffin: "Why's it hanging like that?"
Villone: "God, Pat."
Griffin: "That looks like a labrum deal to me. We're going to need to go ahead and check you out in my office."
Villone: "How can I show you that my arm is fine?"
Price: "What do you think, Rick? 15 days? 60? Surgery?"
Villone: "Arm circles? How about some arm circles?"
Griffin: "Labrums are a big deal. Ron'll be lucky to come back again before his contract expires."
Villone: "See, I'm doing arm circles just fine. My left arm is fine."
Price: "You're just making the injury worse. Come on, follow Rick."
Villone: I don't feel any pain. I could throw a thousand pitches right now and I'd still be fine."
Griffin: "Hey, how long have you been favoring your ankle?"
Price: "I think we're going to need to cart him off."
Griffin: "Yeah, that sounds pretty smart. Settle down, Ron, we'll get you out of here and all scoped out before too long, don't you worry."
Villone: "I don't-"
Borders: "Go get 'em, kid. I'll see you in 2007."
Going to SoCal tomorrow night, as Joel Pineiro faces off against Bartolo Colon, who is quite literally twice the pitcher.