So it wasn't quite like the last time - this one lasted 40 more minutes, after all - but it was just another masterful performance by Mark Buehrle over the feeble Mariner lineup (a feeble lineup which, mind you, has been every bit as good as Chicago's, when you account for environment). It wasn't the same kind of dominance, as Buehrle struck out nine fewer hitters than he did the last time out, but he was avoiding the fat part of the bat all game long, inducing pop-ups and jamming batters into weak groundballs. It was the kind of pitching performance that makes you question the whole methodology behind DIPS theory, because if a pitcher can saw off that many bats in one game, why can't he do it over a full season? The answer: he can. See Mariano Rivera's career .262 BABIP. The problem with Buehrle is that he doesn't have Rivera's command of the cutter, so his good games and bad games tend to even out over a full season, as you'd expect. But today...hoowee, there wasn't too much solid contact made until the eighth. Except by Willie Ballgame, which nobody can explain.
Despite the offensive woes and the early hole (after which I declared the game over), you got the feeling a little later on that the Mariners stood a reasonable chance of climbing back into the game. Jamie Moyer was on total cruise control after the first, and all it would take were a few lucky bounces and a good swing to make it a whole new ballgame. The Mariners threatened, but they just couldn't get that one good swing to put them over the hump, be it Sexson/Beltre in the first, Sexson/Beltre in the sixth, Ichiro in the seventh, or Morse in the eighth. There was still a little carryover momentum after Beltre beat the crap out of a ball for an RBI double off Cliff Politte, but Tadahito Iguchi's two-out single in the bottom half just killed it, sealing Seattle's 62nd loss of the season. But hey, at least it was quick.
Biggest Contribution: Willie Ballgame, +5.1%
Biggest Suckfest: Jamie Moyer, -14.2%
Most Important Hit^: Beltre double, +9.8%
Most Important Pitch: Konerko homer, -15.7%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -13.4%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -32.2%
^-Sexson K in the first: -10.1%. Don't go down on strikes with a man on third and less than two outs.
Jamie Moyer gets something of the royal screwjob here, as his player rating doesn't really do justice to how well he pitched between the first and the eighth. Those four runs really are his responsibility, though, and falling behind by three in the first is a big hole to get out of, so it's not like he should've come out looking like rainbows and gumdrops. So it goes for the starting pitcher in a low-scoring loss, I suppose. The real problem spots in my mind have to be Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, and Ichiro, who combined to leave nine men on base, men who could've scored and made this one a lot more interesting. Against a guy like Buehrle, you have to cash in on as many opportunities as possible (am I sounding cliche enough yet?), so watching strike three with two in scoring position and one down in the first is a pretty unforgiveable sin. I love Richie for being the best player on the team so far, but...man, that one hurt, and so did his groundout with one gone and Bloomquist on third in the sixth. Those were killer AB's (and shame on Beltre for not picking him up).
Subjective Win Expectancy decisions: Moyer was charged for all of the stolen bases, because he's vulnerable to the baserunning, and it's not like Torrealba ever had much of a shot. Chris Snelling took credit for the catch-and-throw double play in the fifth, with Moyer being charged for the single that would've happened if not for Snelling's lay-outitude. I gave Sexson credit for a single on the ball that Rowand misplayed into a double. Finally, that Pierzynski bunt that turned into a hit? I called that one an out in the spreadsheet, because Bucknor blew that call.
Scott Podsednik on the season:
.285/.356/.343, 54/70 stealing bases; 16/16 stealing 3rd
Scott Podsednik on the season, with steals included in his line (total bases):
Congratulations, Podzilla, you're a slightly worse offensive contributor than Damon Hollins. And yet, he made the All Star Game, and will almost undoubtedly receive dark horse support for the AL MVP barring a total White Sox collapse. Being able to foresee human stupidity may seem like a gift, but it's not. As much as I respect the guy for his style of play, along with how much he's accomplished to just get this far, Scott Podsednik is a fourth outfielder, a considerably worse player than, say, Randy Winn. The media love has got to stop.
As long as we're talking about misconceptions, how about that one which declares that the White Sox are riding smallball to victory? After all, they lead the Majors in stolen bases, and they're tied for the AL lead in sac bunts. It's gotta be Ozzie Guillen's managerial strategizing that's gotten them this far, right?
...wrong. First of all, the team they're tied with in bunts? Detroit. Kansas City has two fewer successful sacrifices on the year. I don't think anyone would argue that they're using smallball to beat up on the rest of the league. And Chicago's stolen base success rate is 69%, a little below the break-even point. So, you could say that not only is their crazy baserunning not helping them win, but it's actually hurting.
To go further, the White Sox are fifth in the Majors in homers, which is hardly indicative of a team that relies on putting men in motion and hitting behind the runner to put crooked numbers up on the scoreboard. Although I can't find the link, some recent work by Baseball Prospectus shows that Chicago is every bit as dependent on the longball this year as they were last summer, when the team was far worse.
Ignoring that, the major point, of course, has to be that Chicago's success isn't even dependent on its offense in the first place. Despite playing in a significant hitter's environment, the staff ERA is tops in the American League, with eight different pitchers sporting ERA's below 4 (minimum 30 IP). You have to go back to 1993 to find the last White Sox staff to pitch this well for this long. On top of that, the staff has been helped by the second-best defense in baseball, which is turning 71.2% of balls in play into outs. The offense, which ranks near the bottom in team EqA and which is benefiting from some fluky numbers with men on base (+.035 BA, +.045 SLG), has been bringing up the rear. Forget Ozzie Guillen and all the smallball talk: the White Sox are winning because of Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, Mark Buehrle, and a bunch of gloves.
A word-for-word transcript of Ron Fairly trying to talk math during the middle innings:
"Podsednik...real good base-stealing ratio...stealing...caught..."
Although the camera was firmly pointed at the playing field, you could almost see Fairly squinting and shifting his eyes from side to side as he tried to figure out where his sentence was going.
Ichiro splits: pre-2005 2005
None on: .334/.363/.441 .333/.363/.471
Men on: .351/.423/.448 .232/.315/.345
RISP: .384/.482/.479 .272/.375/.383
An improvement with the bases empty and a significant drop with ducks on the pond. A change in approach? Not at all - it's just a function of small sample sizes. However, Ichiro doing nothing at the plate in run-scoring situations has been pretty annoying this year, especially given our expectations based on his previous situational splits. It feels like he's never come through when the bottom of the lineup has started a rally; now we've got a little confirmation. Look for these numbers to approach a balance over the rest of the year.
Mike Morse is hitting .233 with five extra-base hits since an arbitrary starting point of June 28th. If he keeps slumping through September but ends with respectable numbers because of his hot start, it'll be interesting to see what the organization thinks of him going into 2006. Will they take a look at his decent rookie numbers and hand him a spot, or will they recognize his return to earth and shaky defense and send him back to Tacoma? Something tells me that there's a lot riding on how Jose Lopez finishes the season.
I'm done with this one. Back tomorrow at 12:05pm, as Jeff Harris gets to fulfill a life-long dream against Jon Garland.