As a wise man once said from the audience during a McBain stand-up comedy set in The Simpsons episode 2F31, A Star is Burns: "Hey, that really sucked!"
Biggest Contribution: Adrian Beltre, +11.7%
Biggest Suckfest: Richie Sexson, -21.7%
Most Important Hit: Beltre double, +20.5%
Most Important Pitch: Payton homer, -14.9%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +7.7%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -57.7%
I've heard from people time and time again that it's always a bad idea to write when you're angry, but they don't say anything about writing when you're totally crestfallen. This wasn't quite Mark-Loretta-walk-off-home-run-on-Boston's-stupid-regional-holiday depressing, but it was worse than Joe Blanton's two-hit shutout back in early April, precisely because this time the M's actually got the chance to blow it. The first time this happened, Blanton cruised, the lineup went down in order, we got bored, the game ended, and we looked ahead to the next day. This time, though, Blanton cruised, the lineup went down in order, we got bored, the lineup woke up, Huston Street came in, the game ended, and we were left hopelessly wondering what might have been, unable to remember the recent hot streak or look ahead to tomorrow because games like tonight tend to occupy the forefront of everyone's mind for a little while.
With a few modifications, we can turn a standard Win Expectancy chart into a rough plot of fan emotion during the game. The inherent assumption is that fans will respond to important plays with far more intensity than is actually warranted. The starting point represents the baseline; anything above it means the fan is happy, while anything below it means the fan feels like we do right now. The higher the happier, the lower the worse. Observe:
The emotion line hovered around the baseline until Jay Payton went deep, at which point several of us conceded the game. It got gradually lower and lower as the innings flew by until Adrian Beltre doubled in the ninth, when all of a sudden we started to feel pretty good about our chances (according to the plot, anyway). After that and the Lopez HBP we were actually happier than we were at the start of the game, but then Raul struck out looking, sending our mood well below the baseline again. We were still better off than we were after the Payton homer, though, at least until Sexson check-whiffed on a low-outside pitch that was never anywhere close to the zone, which sent us rocketing to a new low. One first-pitch Everett pop-up later and we reached rock bottom, with the game over and nothing left to think about except one of the more frustrating conclusions in recent memory. Watching the game was like going to a fancy restaurant, getting an incompetent waiter who forgets everything you and your date try to order, then when you finally get served two hours later some guy from another table comes over and farts in your entree. There's absolutely nothing to feel good about, and a persuasive argument could be made that the signs of life in the ninth inning only made things much much worse.
Even more unbearable is the fact that, while we still have another two games in Oakland, the Angels are entertaining the Royals, so there exists the distinct possibility that by Thursday night we're right back in last place. And maybe it's me, but that kind of takes something away from our complete and utter dominance over Anaheim, because it doesn't really mean as much if you aren't the better team in the standings. It's still funny in a "haha, a crappy team owns you" sort of way, but it's not as funny when they can come back with "and everybody else owns you." I'm sick of that. I'm sick of being owned.
I always kind of dread playing the A's, particularly in Oakland - not only because we can't seem to beat them, but also because the games tend to be eight shades of boring. Coming off a thrilling series in Anaheim only makes it seem that much more dull. And honestly, I'm not really sure why that is, although I have a few ideas. For one, Billy Beane has just assembled a boring roster lacking an Ichiro, Felix, or Betancourt, at least as long as Rich Harden is elsewhere getting cut open by people with expensive little knives. It's still a good roster, better than ours, but it's not very exciting. Beyond that, the McAfee Coliseum is a cavernous tomb that absorbs what little noise the sparse crowds are generating (drums excluded). If there's electricity in the stands, it sure as hell doesn't come across on TV. Continuing with the theme, I always seem to get stuck with the A's broadcast when I'm watching on MLB.tv, and while many complain about Rick Rizzs' insincere fanboy enthusiasm, the Oakland guys are some of the dryest announcers I've ever heard. I require at least some level of excitement to keep interested, even if it's biased towards the other team. God knows I've never found a WGN White Sox feed boring. I guess the last two reasons that come to mind are that (1) I don't hate the A's nearly as much as I hate the Angels, and (2) the M's always suck in Oakland, while makes it difficult to get amped up. There could be more, but I can't think of them right now. Maybe (probably) it's a combination of everything. The point is, there's just something about Seattle playing in Oakland that makes the whole game-watching experience tedious and dreary. I miss Angels Stadium already.
Jamie Moyer's first pitch of the game - the one he probably thought about more than any other throughout his six innings - went all the way to the backstop. There's something funny about that, although I'm not exactly sure what.
Things That Are As Big As McAfee Coliseum's Foul Territory:
Democratic Republic of Congo
The reciprocal of Richie Sexson's batting average
Gwyneth Paltrow's sense of anti-American Euro-snobbery
Michael Bloomberg's margin of victory over Fernando Ferrer
The Lhotse Face
After today, Joe Blanton lowered his career ERA against Seattle to 2.25 in 48 innings. This year he's allowed just two runs and 15 baserunners in 23 remarkably easy innings of work against our M's while posting a 6.75 ERA against everybody else. This is bad enough as it is, but what makes it worse is that the hitters seemed to be going up to the plate without any sort of plan other than "see the ball, pop it up, return to playing Powerade flip cup in the dugout." Blanton is very clearly a guy who works at a quick tempo when he's in a groove, but not once did I see a Mariner hitter try to interrupt his rhythm by calling timeout or taking a while to read signs. By giving complete control of the pace to the pitcher, hitters sacrifice some of their power and are left unprepared to swing, with the result being a lot of ugly hacks (and, in this case, lazy, easily-fielded balls in play). Pitchers like to work quickly because it helps them maintain a good feel for location, and as long as the guy on the hill is putting the ball where he wants to, the guy at the plate isn't going to get a good cut. It's part of the reason why DIPS theory breaks down on the individual game level - pitchers can absolutely settle into grooves and exercise some control over balls in play if the batters cooperate. I feel like that played a significant role in tonight's game, and given that this was the third time we've faced Blanton in two months (and the third time he's shut us down), I think it's inexcusable.
Fun With Numbers:
So far this season, Mike Young has created 42 runs with the bat in 64 games, while Yuniesky Betancourt has created 26 in the same amount of time (Hardball Times). If you're willing to assume that Young is playing defense at the same level as he did in 2005 (-21 runs per 150 games, UZR), and that Betancourt is an elite shortstop with the glove (+15 per 150), you get a difference of about two runs over a full season. Using the same methodology, Betancourt's about four wins shy of Derek Jeter - who's having a spectacular year at the dish - while costing roughly $20m less. People are going to learn this kid's name very soon, if they don't know it already.
Joel Pineiro vs. another AL West pitcher who looks like he spends his off days smoking out in a van tomorrow at 7:05pm PDT.