In a bit of a rush, so let's see how quickly I can get through this while still covering everything I want to cover:
Biggest Contribution: Jeff Harris, +47.4%
Biggest Suckfest: Ichiro, -12.6%
Most Important Hit: Betancourt single, +13.3%
Most Important Pitch: Blalock double play, +22.7%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +54.9%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -13.4%
Sometimes it's good to be wrong. Pitching in a terrifying ballpark against a lineup that slaps around righties like so many gnats, Jeff Harris did a spectacular job for seven innings before giving way to the bullpen. I didn't think he'd make it to the sixth, but he certainly proved me wrong, and hopefully earned a few more starts in the process. After today I'm sure the team is in no particular rush to get Gil Meche back into playing shape.
What makes Harris' performance all the more impressive is that he did what he did in weather hot enough to melt Nicky Punto into a cute little puddle of liquid flesh. I'm sitting here on a hot San Diego afternoon barely able to summon the energy to lift my fingers; I can't even imagine trying to play baseball in this, let alone throwing 94 pitches to a dangerous lineup without any easy way of cooling off. Baseball players aren't machines - they're just as loathe to don a uniform in 95-degree heat as you or I, and under such circumstances, lackluster performances should be forgivable. When a guy does well despite the temperature, all you can really do is tip your cap and count your blessings that you didn't have to stand out in the scorching sun for three hours. Jeff Harris, guys: the man, the myth, the legend.
Is he really all that good, though? In a word, no. Observe his rate stats, followed by the league average in parentheses:
K%: 12.2% (16.3%)
BB%: 7.3% (8.0%)
HR%: 3.7% (2.8%)
GB/FB: 0.73 (1.51 Edit: closer to 1.20)
BABIP: .177 (.306)
Okay, yeah, he hasn't even faced 100 batters yet this year, but you get the point - that 1.69 ERA is incredibly misleading. Given enough innings, Harris will eventually regress into becoming a rough approximation of, say, the next John Wasdin, a long relief guy who can give you the occasional spot start and look like a decent pitcher in the right environment. Nothing more, nothing less.
So? Well, for one thing, looking "just all right" for 5-6 innings per game would've made Harris the third best starter in the rotation this year, had he broken camp with the team, certainly better than anything Meche, Pineiro, or Franklin has provided. But on another level, you know that Harris appreciates every pitch he gets to throw as a Mariner. It wouldn't really mean much of anything to a contender, but when you're stuck in last place and you have a choice between a mediocre pitcher who's just going through the motions and a mediocre pitcher who's thankful for the opportunity to throw a ball for money, you go with the latter without thinking twice. None of Meche, Pineiro, or Franklin have earned the right to keep pitching this year, but Harris has worked his ass off to get this far, and you better believe he's not taking anything for granted. So it's not quality analysis. Whatever. There's a human interest side to baseball, too, and that's what you have to start looking towards when everything else has gone down the shitter.
Eddie Guardado has only allowed two or more runs in an inning once this season, back on April 9th. By comparison, JJ Putz, Matt Thornton, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Julio Mateo, and Jeff Nelson have done that 27 times.
This doesn't really have anything to do with today's game in particular, but something that comes up from time to time is the issue of Jeremy Reed's baserunning. He's been caught stealing ten times this year, with just seven successful thefts, his 41.2% success rate ranking last in the AL among players with at least ten attempts. So how bad has this actually been?
The sum Win Probability Added of all 17 of Reed's stolen base attempts is -0.306 - he's reduced the Mariners' chances of winning by nearly 2% each time he's taken off. Which doesn't seem like much, but seriously, stop trying. It doesn't help. Look at the breakdown:
+1.1% per SB
-3.8% per CS
Reed would need to steal about four bases to make up for each time he's caught. If his baserunning has taught us anything so far this year, it's that he's incapable of achieving that kind of success rate on a consistent basis. So, Jeremy, just keep your legs fresh when you're standing on first. You'll need them to chase down the result of Ryan Franklin's next pitch.
Ichiro's current .139 isolated slugging percentage is the best of his career by 15 points. I only bring this up because I think it'll be interesting to watch Ichiro age, to see if he starts trying for the extra-base hit more often as his legs run out of giddy-up.
Greg Dobbs isn't good. Even when he hit .321 in Tacoma, 80% of his hits were singles, and he drew a walk just once per 14.6 plate appearances. His offensive upside looks way too much like 2001 Marlon Anderson for me to take him seriously as a 1B/DH.
Game worth watching tomorrow, as Felix prepares to own the White Sox for seven or eight more innings at 7:05pm PDT.