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One of the things I've enjoyed about for most of the season so far is that I've been able to get the Mariner broadcast team for every game, where a year ago it seemed like random choice. Not that I'm a huge fan of Fairly's Captain Obvious routine, Hendu's obnoxiousness, or Rizzs' exuberant insincerity, mind you, but it's always easier to watch a game with fellow fans than with people who're actively rooting against you. It allows you to cheer louder during the good and weep softer during the bad. It's a little like group therapy, albeit more like a kind of mandatory prison therapy than the sort that you'd pay for with your own money.

That said, yesterday was not one of those days. For, you see, the only thing more enjoyable than a Mariners walk-off victory is a Mariners walk-off victory against the White Sox with Hawk Harrelson calling the winning hit. Picking up on the stunned monotone despondency that comes across in his voice almost makes up for all the other letdowns, the kind of euphoric schadenfreude that only serves to enhance the feeling of what was already a spectacular moment.

But I was stuck with Rick Rizzs.

Whatever. I guess I'll take anything I can get at this point, since the happy bits of following the Mariners have been few and far between through these first three weeks. It just sucks to know that, through no fault of your own, you weren't able to enjoy a terrific moment as much as you could've had the circumstances been a little different.  

Chart it!

Biggest Contribution: Yuniesky Betancourt, +34.3%
Biggest Suckfest: Eddie Guardado, -26.7%
Most Important "Hit": Betancourt single, +38.5%
Most Important Pitch: Anderson homer, -36.2%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +38.4%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +2.4%

(What is this?)

Mariners Who Have Been Worth At Least +1 Win In Win Probability Added Terms So Far:

Rafael Soriano

Mariners Who Have Been Worth At Least -1 Win In Win Probability Added Terms So Far:

Adrian Beltre
Jeremy Reed
Richie Sexson
Eddie Guardado

Guardado and Beltre have actually been worth more than -2 wins through the early going, putting each of them on pace to cost the Mariners about 15-20 games over the course of the season. It shoudn't really come as any surprise, given Guardado's propensity to allow the extra-base hit and Beltre's tendency to avoid it at all costs, but it's still kind of incredible to me that two players could be that bad that consistently. They've been the most egregious offenders, although I suppose it's not only their fault - of the 27 players who have appeared in a Mariner uniform this year, only nine have made positive contributions. But then, a year ago the fraction was 12/48, so at least they're making some progress.

Last night had the feel of a game that was going to get out of hand really fast, so it's remarkable that it turned out the way it did. Jamie Moyer was getting smacked around in the early going, but a slowass Jim Thome and a few fly balls that fell inches short of leaving the yard saved his bacon and let him get through the early innings without too much damage. This was one of those days where, had the game been played anywhere else, Moyer would've been done in the third with the M's trailing 7-1, forcing Bobby Livingston to make his Major League debut in mop-up conditions when no one who cares is paying attention anymore. God bless Safeco Field. It's almost like, once Jamie recorded a couple of warning track outs, he got more confident pitching in the zone, which allowed him to cruise where he was totally laboring just a little while earlier. After throwing 60 pitches in the first three innings, Moyer needed only 49 to get through the next four, and I don't think anyone saw that coming. For all his complaints about starter endurance and bullpen usage, Mike Hargrove owes Jamie a sarsaparilla or something.

It wouldn't have meant anything without a little offense, though, so here's to Jose Lopez, Ichiro, and Raul Ibanez, who picked up run-scoring hits (two of them coming via the longball) to put the Mariners in position to win going into the ninth inning. At least it would've counted as being in position to win had Eddie Guardado been dismembered in the bullpen or otherwise unavailable for use, but sure enough, for the second time in a week, Eddie gave up the lead with two outs and two strikes, a yanked home run to left field off the bat of Brian Anderson that just managed to sneak by Ibanez's glove. It was the sort of thing that you knew in the bottom of your heart was probably going to happen again, you just didn't know when, so with each successive strike leading up to the homer you weren't so much cheering for the prospect of victory as you were cheering for the prospect of being able to avoid another Eddie meltdown. Whoops.

On the one hand, Eddie's allowed three bombs on just eight outfield fly balls, so you know it's not going to keep up like this. It's early, but his xFIP is less than half his actual ERA, indicating that he hasn't actually pitched as poorly as his numbers would suggest. On the other, metrics like xFIP only work under the assumption that the given pitcher is capable of surviving in the Major Leagues, and when you watch Eddie go to work, you're not so sure that's the case. He's only really throwing one pitch right now, and it's flat and slow, which leads to...well, results like these, mainly. I find it virtually impossible to watch him without getting knots in my stomach because, eight strikeouts be damned, I currently have zero confidence that he'll be able to miss a bat when he needs to. Closers become closers in the first place because they have good stuff and good numbers. Right now, Eddie has neither, with his reputation being the only thing keeping him secure in his role. If this were his first season as closer, and he put up the same numbers, do you really think Hargrove would want to go back to him the next time a save situation comes up?

But then, I really shouldn't be complaining, because as bad as Eddie's looked in the ninth inning, the rest of the bullpen is being used almost perfectly, and it's beginning to pay off. Mateo and Woods have had their problems, but thanks to that spectacular top trio of Soriano/Sherrill/Putz, the Mariner bullpen has the second-highest strikeout rate in the league, whiffing 66 batters in 61.2 innings. Soriano's been allowing his share of fly balls so far, but he's always done that, and he has good enough stuff to get around the issue with minimal damage. Such is the risk of going to the high fastball for strikeouts. George Sherrill's been used as more of a conventional LOOGY than many of us would like, but with his lack of success against righties so far and the dominance of the two other guys, it hasn't been a big deal, and he's just murdered left-handed bats. And finally, JJ Putz. The much-maligned "future closer" has actually pitched like one, with 19 strikeouts, 2 walks, and a 3.00 GB/FB ratio through 11.1 innings. Behold the wonders of a little pitch variety. Putz has gone to the splitter more often since a rough start and the results have thus far been phenomenal, creating the statistical profile of a flawless pitcher. Putz obviously won't continue to be this good all year long, as doing so would essentially make him the best reliever of all time, but the elevated strikeout rate will make him a viable candidate for high-leverage appearances through the next five months, which should help Hargrove sleep at night if Eddie continues to totally suck. It should help us even more, since we appear to care about the team more than its manager.

According to Dave Valle, "a good defensive first baseman is worth his weight in gold." This statement allows for a fairly simple conversion of player weight to value on the open market. Gold is currently worth $20.01 per gram, and 1 pound = 454.55 grams, so the following is a brief list of how much certain 1B glovemen would go for as free agents:

JT Snow: $1,910,064.56
Doug Mientkiewicz: $1,864,586.83
Scott Hatteberg: $1,910,064.56
Tino Martinez: $2,042,166.53
Player A: $1,953,376.68
Keith Hernandez: $1,731,402.05

As it turns out, Player A was rather significantly undervalued this past winter, and given a constant body weight, Keith Hernandez could've collected another $27,702,432.87 had he stuck around for 16 more years instead of retiring after 1990. What's interesting is that bad defensive first basemen seem to be worth their weight in platinum diamonds that have the image of the Virgin Mary divinely engraved rather clearly on every face.

More fun with conversions: last night, I distinctly heard what sounded like three different guys yelling "C'MON PAULIE!!" during Paul Konerko's at bats. With a paid attendance of 20,390, we can thusly say with a high degree of confidence that one intoxicated Chicagoan is as loud as 6,795.67 normal people.

If Willie Ballgame played for a better team, he might currently be enjoying the riches and legendary status lavished upon folk hero Dave Roberts by all of New England instead of pinch-running for a hateful bigot for a last-place team in front of three drunk Chicagoans, a half-dozen or so of Thome's Homies, and nearly twenty-one thousand screaming prepubescents. But then, Willie can't be totally exonerated of any blame since at least some of it has to be his fault, so whatever. Context is everything. Hell of a basestealer, though.

Javy Vazquez and Joel Pineiro tonight at 7:05pm PDT. The Mariners now have two chances to take a series against the defending World Champs before taking a day off on Thursday to fly to Baltimore.