I was planning on doing a full-on honkin' recap for yesterday's contest until I realized that today's game has an early start, meaning that this write-up would get buried under the MLWU and game thread pretty quickly. So, with that in mind, we'll just take a brief look at Joel. That is, after the Win Expectancy stuff.
Biggest Contribution: Joel Pineiro, +28.5%
Biggest Suckfest: Adrian Beltre, -13.7%
Most Important Hit: Lopez single, +15.3%
Most Important Pitch: Ellis double, -17.8%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +47.4%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -15.1%
How responsible were the Mariners themselves for winning this game? Let's find out.
- The Mariners began the game needing a sum rating of +51.6% to win (1 - 48.4%)
- The Mariners ended up with a sum rating of +32.3%
- Thus, the Mariners themselves were 62.6% responsible for winning
In simpler terms, all that's saying is that Oakland made some costly mistakes that improved Seattle's chances of winning the game. What were these mistakes, you ask? A pair of errors by Mark Kotsay in the seventh inning, one of them allowing Richie Sexson to advance to second on a single, the other allowing Jose Lopez to get to third on a single. These two misplays reduced Oakland's odds of winning by 19.3%, a significant margin. It wasn't the Mariners' fault that Kotsay screwed up, but they certainly took advantage.
Now then, a look at Joel, pre- and post-August 1st :
General trends: hits are down, walks are way down, homers are down, and groundballs are down. Strikeouts are up.
The first thing to point out is that, when Joel was bad, he was unlucky on top of that, allowing considerably more hits and home runs than you'd expect (assuming a BABIP somewhere around .300 and a HR/flyball rate near 11%). So part of the improvement has been simple regression to the mean, because it was unlikely that he would keep up those kinds of numbers over a full season.
Going beyond that, though, it's clear that something's different, as evidenced by the fact that he's cut his walk rate in half while upping his strikeouts. When you throw more strikes and get a little more help from your defense, your ERA's going to drop by a significant margin simply by virtue of the fact that you're putting fewer people on base. A little good luck in the way of home runs (four, with 61 flyballs, since August 1st) and suddenly you're looking at a guy who can go six or seven strong per game without putting his team in a big hole. The new Joel is pretty much a league-average pitcher; nothing great, and certainly not worth $6m, but still a marked improvement over what he was earlier, and a guy who can put up a shiny ERA throwing 100 innings in Safeco.
So the question then becomes, why is Joel suddenly throwing so many strikes? The answer, just as it always is with this kind of thing, is that (everybody now!) he's using a consistent release point. He was all over the place earlier in the season, a function of his high-intensity, high-stress delivery. Every part of his body was working "hard," so to speak, in that his mechanics weren't very smooth. Now though, he's got a certain fluidity that you can see as he brings his throwing arm forward towards release. The jerkiness is gone, replaced by a smoother path leading directly from the back to the front and finishing over the top of his shoulder. By slowing things down a little bit and keeping control of his body, Joel's able to ensure a more consistent point of release, which has led to him peppering the strike zone over his last seven starts. Whether or not it has anything to do with the team's suggestion that he "put his hands up" during his motion, I have no idea, but it's clear that he's made an improvement, one that should last, provided Joel doesn't many another change.
Ryan Franklin (on three-days' rest) against Dan Haren in about two and a half hours.