Whenever you watch something like this, where the current game becomes a lost cause, you can't help thinking ahead to the next opportunity to right the ship. As the old adage goes, after all, tomorrow's another day. In this case, though, that isn't particularly comforting, because when I consider that we were awful on Friday and worse tonight, the thought of what might happen tomorrow afternoon against Rich friggin' Harden leaves me both trembling in anticipatory terror and fearful of potential embarrassment. It's like the feeling you get the night before your first doctor's appointment since returning home from your trip to Thailand where you took your friend up on a bet to lick a dead stork on the street for three dollars and a half-eaten rice cake. The outcome probably isn't going to be very good, and after willingly putting yourself through either situation you're unlikely to garner much sympathy.
In case you missed tonight's game - and be glad that you did - all you need to read to get an idea of just how bad it was is the following quick summary of the Mariners' notable offensive achievements:
- One hit, a Richie Sexson double off the glove of Mark Kotsay in center field
- One walk, a 3-2 pitch to Willie Ballgame that was mistakenly called low and in after easily catching the inside corner above the knees
- Two hit batsmen, one right after the other
Biggest Contribution: Rafael Soriano, +3.9%
Biggest Suckfest: Carl Everett, -9.4%
Most Important Hit: Sexson "double", +6.4%
Most Important Pitch: Kotsay homer, -12.8%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -1.5%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -51.3%
Read that again:
Biggest Contribution: Rafael Soriano, +3.9%
That's it. That was our "star" tonight, a guy who threw 2.1 innings of shutout relief when everyone and their mother knew that the Mariners wouldn't be scoring any runs, much less three of them. At some point last summer I set a lower WPA threshold; if the Mariners didn't have a single player exceed +10% on the night, it was almost certainly an abortion of a game. I didn't bother going any lower than that because I couldn't conceive of many situations in which the team was almost unanimously terrible. Well, tonight nobody exceeded 5%, and that's just calling for the use of adjectives and nouns that are either too explicit for this website or don't exist.
I suppose it's appropriate that, on a night during which we reflected on Dan Wilson's career, the whole team hit like him, but that hardly makes it any easier to stomach. At least the pregame ceremony was nice, if a little uneventful. Dan stayed pretty composed through most of his speech, although I suppose it might be difficult to get emotional when you're plowing through a laundry list of names of friends and coaches you want to thank. The fans would applaud each name, with Lou getting something of a raucous ovation while Melvin and Hargrove received the rough equivalent of a horse's fart. For me, the funniest part came near the end of Dan's speech when he said "good luck, Mike, as you lead the Mariners into the future." Methinks Dan might be a little off on that one.
Bob Wells showed up looking just like he did eight years ago, which is to say he looked a lot like my barber. Come to think of it, he looks like a lot of barbers, leading one to wonder whether Bob got himself into the wrong profession. Career statistics seem to suggest that, yes, he did.
The following is a direct, word-for-word announcer quotation from the bottom of the fifth. It has been left completely unedited for your reading pleasure.
Fairly: "That'll bring the tying run to the plate in Willie Bloomquist."
I feel bad for ragging on Willie when he was the only guy in the lineup to reach base twice (although, again, he didn't really have to do anything either time), but tonight's game served to undermine two popular theories about what Willie brings to the club that ought to be addressed.
One: his energy and hustle are contagious. The Mariners have looked completely lifeless two games in a row, which also happen to be the only two games in which Willie has participated. If anything, his presence is disrupting the team dynamic, in that he's trying so hard that nobody else on the roster is able to hustle. It's a simple application of the First Law of Thermodynamics - there's a finite amount of energy available for use on the field, and when Willie's playing he takes it all for himself, leaving nothing for the rest of the guys.
Two: he's the best defensive center fielder on the roster. Try again. Mark Kotsay lined a should-be single into center field, but rather than play it on the hop, Willie chose to dive and wound up about five feet short. The ball rolled to the wall, and Kotsay was on his way to third by the time Ichiro came over to pick it up and return it to the infield. Anyone who's ever played the outfield knows that you never dive after line drives unless you're absolutely sure you can catch it because, if you miss, it's going to get way behind you. You should only dive after high fly balls, because if you miss, it's not going to bounce or roll very far away. That was a fundamental mistake that wound up giving the A's their third run. It's possible that Bloomquist's infield instincts were just kicking in at the wrong time, but his job is to be ready to play any position at any time, and at least on this particular hit, he wasn't. The good news is that it didn't matter in the end, since the lineup sucked and all.
I have nothing to say about Jamie Moyer, really; he looked exactly the same as he always does. There might not be a less interesting, more predictable pitcher in baseball. The only two things worth watching for are how many fly balls clear the fence, and which talented veteran batters are going to make themselves look like idiots flailing at his changeup.
It's late, and I'd like to wrap this up, so I'll leave you with this - the 2006 Mariner offense is going to be streaky. I know that eponymous coward has pointed it out a few times in the comments, but it bears repeating that this lineup doesn't have very many guys who'll take a walk (only Sexson stands out as being distinctly above-average, possibly along with Raul). It also doesn't have a tremendous amount of power, at least as long as Beltre continues to practice his own unique brand of passive resistance against offensive productivity. Because of this, the team's run scoring is going to be most strongly related to its batting average, which we all know to be a wildly variable statistic. When things are clicking, they'll be picking up 15 hits a game and scoring runs by the handful, but when they're not, it's going to be real ugly, because this isn't a lineup that can fall back on its walks or home runs when it gets into a slump. And while I'd like to say that Richie will be immune to this due to his great eye and incredible strength, he's the one who's going to be feeling a lot of the pressure when nobody else is hitting, which leads to over-aggressiveness and a heaping pile of strikeouts.
At the end of the season, the Mariners will have put up some pretty good offensive numbers, scoring 750-800 runs with a strong batting average, but the season itself will be made up of streak after streak of both the good and bad variety. This kind of offense doesn't lend itself to much middle ground. On any given night we're just as likely to see an eight-run outburst as we are to see a nauseating one-hitter, and while that can make for some pleasantly surprising outcomes against talented pitchers (like, say, Lackey, Weaver, and Loaiza), it can also make for absolute misery. That's just something we'll have to deal with over the course of the year. I'd say that we'll get used to it, but I don't think anyone ever does, so here's to feeling the highest highs and lowest lows.
Rich Harden and Joel Pineiro tomorrow at 1:05pm PDT.