The Mariners and Angels played 18 head-to-head games this year, spread over six series. The result? Nine wins apiece, with each team also claiming a pair of sweeps. What's important to realize is that these really shouldn't be evenly-matched teams; Anaheim's currently in position to win the division, holding a hefty 17-game lead over our beloved cellar-dwellers. Something about them just seemed to bring out the best in the Mariners, the way that the Blue Jays and Devil Rays seem to bring out the best in the Red Sox and Yankees (respectively).
But does this hold up to a little statistical analysis? Let's find out:
Mariner batters vs. Anaheim: .273/.330/.404
Mariner batters overall: .256/.316/.394
Angel batters vs. Mariners: .282/.336/.446
Overall batters vs. Mariners: .268/.333/.420
Sum of all variations: +1.1%
A little cocktail-napkin math shows that, according to the raw batting lines, the Mariners were roughly 1% better against the Angels than they have been on the year overall. That's nothing. In fact, it's a wonder that the M's were only outscored by a single run in the season series, given that they were out-OPS'd by 48 points. Let's hear it for fluky clutch hitting. I gotta say, if we can only put on that kind of offensive show against one team, I'm glad it was the Angels.
This really was a hell of a game, if you managed to sit through the whole thing. The initial offensive outburst, the unlikely Moyer collapse, the second offensive outburst, the terrible defense, the shaky bullpen, and the third offensive outburst...well, it may have been in front of one of the smallest crowds in Safeco history, but those 23,000 and change got their money's worth. There's no thrill quite like being at the stadium for a walk-off victory, and for season ticket holders who made it to last night's affair as well, it's been a satisfying few games. And, hell, it's probably been pretty nice for the players, too; you may feel kind of silly celebrating a win that pushes you to 17 games under .500, but drama is drama, and for a lot of guys, it's proof that this team may have a little life and resiliency after all. It's to the benefit of all parties involved that the Mariners aren't just rolling over in September (except the Angels, I guess). After all, with the team clearly building for the future, it's important that some of these guys develop a thirst for winning, something that last year's bunch sorely lacked for much of the summer. A little ambition never hurt anyone. Except Icarus, I guess, since he died and all, but I think the Mariners are a little more reasonable with the goals they set.
Biggest Contribution: Yuniesky Betancourt, +36.4%
Biggest Suckfest: Jamie Moyer, -27.7%
Most Important Hit: Betancourt single, +27.2%
Most Important Pitch: Molina single, -31.7%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -7.4%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +51.2%
It's important to note that, when I say "total contribution by hitters," I really mean "total contribution by position players," since their defense is included. Thus, the ratings might be a bit different than what you expected. Explanation:
-Lopez error on DP ball in the 8th: 13.7% win expectancy swing. Putz gets credit for inducing the DP, Lopez gets charged for screwing it up.
-Beltre error on grounder in the 9th: 15.5% win expectancy swing. Guardado gets credit for inducing the grounder, Beltre gets charged for screwing it up.
Those are the two biggies. Lopez would've been charged for another huge gaffe he made in the ninth (they gave the error to Guardado, although it was Lopez who couldn't catch the damn ball) if he hadn't rushed over to pick up the ball and throw Izturis out at home. The net difference in that play was zero, since the intent of the original sac bunt was to move a man to second base. How's that for a roundabout way to get things done?
Also note that, as depressing as the game may have been at certain times, the Mariners' chances of winning were never worse than a coin flip. Blowing leads is one thing, and actually putting your team in a hole is quite another. Moyer and the bullpen managed to avoid the second thing, albeit narrowly. If you were to repeat that Putz/Guerrero at bat a hundred times, how often do you think Vlad would bounce into the DP? I mean, really. Still, Putz has been doing one hell of a job, and he deserves credit for pitching every bit as well as other, more well-known setup men in the league.
More on Win Probability Added: for the year, Adrian Beltre has been the least valuable player on the team, and it's not particularly close - he's been nearly one full win worse than Miguel Olivo and Joel Pineiro. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why this is so, beyond generally disappointing offense and a few big errors. He's actually been a little more valuable on the year, since WPA doesn't account for defense aside from errors and spectacular plays, but the point remains valid: Beltre's been a killer this year, and if you replaced him with an average third baseman, the team would be about three games better in the standings. I think that's the last thing any of us expected coming into the season.
Greg Dobbs Career PA's, prior to today: 154
Greg Dobbs Career BB's, prior to today: 3
Odds of Greg Dobbs Walking In Given PA: 2%
Odds of Greg Dobbs Walking Thrice in Five PA's: 0.007%
In other words, for every 14,070 games in which Dobbs collects five plate appearances, you could reasonably expect him to draw three walks in a game once. That's one every 87 seasons. (My math may be a little off, but you get the point.) And yes, I realize that one of those free passes today was of the intentional variety, but when you're Greg Dobbs, you can't be picky.
In case you were curious, Betancourt's odds of doing the same? Once every 3121 games, or roughly once every 19 seasons. That's right, Yuniesky Betancourt is actually a more disciplined hitter than Greg Dobbs...
If you watched today's game, there were at least three occasions where a better throw from the outfield might've changed the whole game. Two times Ichiro unleashed underwhelming tosses back to the infield, while Garret Anderson didn't come particularly close to nailing Ramontiago at home on the winning hit, despite having lined up in shallow left field, with Ramontiago stumbling and almost falling down while rounding third base.
Ichiro w/RISP a month ago: .272/.375/.383
Ichiro w/RISP, present day: .315/.424/.463
It's not quite the .384/.482/.479 split he had coming into the season, but it's an improvement, and another indication that Ichiro really does become a better hitter when he has the chance to drive in some runs.
One of the things I'm fond of saying after a given pitching performance is that "we don't really know anything more about (pitcher) now than we did this morning." Such is the case with Moyer today. He's a guy who's hanging on by a thread, and he went up against an aggressive lineup that likes to swing at the first hittable pitches they see. Sometimes bad things happen, and that's all we saw today. So, instead of worrying about Jamie as you go to bed tonight, think about this picture instead, and how great Betancourt must be feeling right now, considering where he was two years ago (or, for that matter, two months ago).
It's back to Texas for Jeff Harris tomorrow, as he takes on Kameron Loe at 5:05pm PDT.