Because I don't watch very many other teams' ballgames, I can't really be 100% certain when I say this, but it sure seems to me like the Mariners spend an inordinate amount of their time not showing up. At least once or twice a week there's a game that you know the opponent is going to win from the first pitch because the M's just don't have any energy or apparent desire to be on the field. Maybe this is normal, I dunno, but its frustrating nonetheless because baseball is all about both excitement and the thrill of victory, and on nights like this Seattle fans get to experience neither. Paying attention really does feel like a complete waste of three hours. How do you justify that to someone who asks you the next day how you spent your evening?
(Seriously. How? I'd like to know.)
To the chart:
Biggest Contribution: Jose Lopez, +13.6%
Biggest Suckfest: Gil Meche, -21.0%
Most Important Hit: Lopez homer, +21.7%
Most Important Pitch: Johjima PB, -9.6%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -17.1%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -39.2%
If it seems like the ol' Win Expectancy is being particularly tough on Meche tonight, bear in mind that Raul Ibanez had to gun down a guy at the plate with a perfect throw in the fifth, and that an inning later Gil left with nobody out and the bases loaded. In some ways, you could call this WPA picking up on something that eluded many of us for a while - Gil was not pitching well tonight, and it caught up with him in the end. It's probably worth reminding yourself every so often that even when Gil pitches better than usual, that doesn't make him good, because there's an incredibly large gap between Normal Gil Meche and a good pitcher. It just makes him slightly less awful. Which could be cause for celebration, I guess, since it does still represent something of an improvement, but I like to think that I have higher standards than that.
Daniel Cabrera was in control over the Mariner lineup from the get go. After tonight's game, he's now allowed 11 runs in 34.1 career innings against Seattle, which is the most success he's had with any opponent against whom he's recorded at least 20 innings. The reason? Seems to me that Mariner hitters continually go up to the plate with the wrong over-aggressive approach. Cabrera's a guy who's perfectly capable of beating himself if you give him the chance; witness his seven-walk season debut, or his nine-walk showing a few days later. He's just not much of a strike thrower. This isn't a case of him simply elevating his game against Seattle, either, as tonight's 61 strikes in 105 pitches (58.1%) were right around his career average (58.3%). The M's were just over-confident that they could actually get good swings against Cabrera when the reality is that, no, they really couldn't. Few lineups can. The guy throws 100mph with movement, after all. You have to let him start the self-destruct sequence before you entertain any thoughts of piling it on. That's something they should've known ahead of time, especially given their prior experience against him, but whatever.
Sometimes I like to think of Cabrera as Felix's worst-case performance scenario. They're both young, they're both right-handed power arms (a year ago they finished #2 and #4 in the league in pitches thrown at 95+ mph), and they both have spectacular stuff, as you could infer from their strikeout rates. They also like to keep the ball on the ground, which can be an enormous help for any pitcher with occasional bouts of wildness - being able to avoid the big home run does a lot to limit the damage. The main differences, though, are that (1) where roughly half of the balls in play against Cabrera stay on the ground, the fraction jumps to two-thirds for Felix, and (2) Cabrera issues way more free passes. It's like Cabrera is the Major League version of last year's AAA Felix Hernandez, whereas the Major League Felix Hernandez is virtually unparalleled in his awesomeness. So that should give you some idea of Felix's performance downside going forward. If he starts pitching higher and off the plate more often, he'll turn into Daniel Cabrera. If he stays low and in the zone, he'll blow the comparison out of the water and win some awards. That's just how good Felix is (and also how good Cabrera is close to being).
New Mariner Broadcast Drinking Game:
-Take a shot every time Dave Valle or Hendu say "that's why they call it the hot corner" after a well-struck grounder or line drive to third base.
...and that's it, that's the whole game. It should leave you in no condition to drive by the fourth inning and excellent condition to puke all over yourself and the Chinese food delivery guy at the door from that place down the street you hate when you're sober by the seventh.
At what point do we stop referring to certain current statistics as early-season flukes and start looking at them as potentially meaningful indicators? In 88 at bats, Richie Sexson has two homers and a 8:27 BB/K ratio. In 84 at bats, Adrian Beltre has one double. And in 60 at bats, Jeremy Reed has...well, he has nothing, really, he's just been awful. This is obviously worthy of a much bigger and better-researched post than I have time to put together right now, but when do you begin to worry? I suppose most of us have been down on Beltre for longer than these few weeks, so that doesn't really count, but both Sexson and Reed were being counted on to produce this year, and so far neither has answered the call. There's nothing you can do about Richie aside from leaving him where he is and hoping for one of those torrid hot streaks to make everything feel better, but Reed is another matter. He's shown zero improvement from where he was last year, still with too few line drives and too many long swings, and the result is that he's essentially been a black hole in a lineup that already had enough problems. While the fan in me wants to see the Mariners stick it out with Reed in center to see if he finally develops into something useful, my inner skeptic is losing faith in his ability and beginning to worry that Mike Hargrove might see fit to give Willie Ballgame the starting CF job until he's fired (Adam Jones won't warrant mention until he's doing better than a 1:18 BB/K). If you were given the option of letting either Beltre or Reed go 4-4 tomorrow with a pair of homers, which would you choose? At this point, it's hard to say who needs it more. Both of them could use slumpbusters in the worst possible way.
There are certain players in baseball who are mysterious because you aren't familiar with them, and you have absolutely no idea what kind of production they can provide. Then there are others who are mysterious only because you aren't familiar with them, even though a quick glance at their track records could tell you everything you need to know about what they bring to the table. I like to think of these players as being similar to those densely-vegetated islands you always see in the middle of lakes. They invariably manage to capture your interest and spur your imagination even though you know damn well that all you'll find there are desiccated leaves in various stages of decomposition and the same ferns and birds that you can see everywhere else within a 100-mile radius. You trick yourself into thinking about forgotten hermits or buried treasure when you know none of it's true, and that the crap on the island is the same as the crap on the shore. Jake Woods is one of these players. The only reason he's even remotely interesting is because he's new to us, and as much as we might like to daydream about him turning into something spectacular down the road, deep down we know that he's just another generic left-handed reliever in a long line of generic left-handed relievers. Those little islands never live up to the hype.
Felix and Bruce Chen tomorrow at 1:35pm PDT.