In 2000, when a 37 year old Jamie Moyer posted a 5.49 ERA (his highest in nine seasons), he instantly became the talk of the town. Should he retire? Did he already, without telling anyone? Why did we rely so much on a pitcher with that kind of underwhelming repertoire, anyway? Where do we go from here?
Then he rebounded in 2001, not missing a single start on the way to the first 20-win campaign of his career. Ever since that happened five years ago, I haven't had a single new thing to say about Jamie Moyer.
Sure, the whole "age" deal is interesting and all, and Jamie truly is one of the most unique and exceptional people to ever play the game, but it seems like anything anyone says about him anymore is something we've already heard a million times, and therefore hardly worth (re-)reading. And there's a reason for this - Jamie hasn't changed. At all, really. Ten years later, he's still the exact same guy we traded for a decade ago, a pitcher with a changeup for a fastball, a dying quail for a changeup, and a brain that utilizes more information on a game-by-game basis than Mike Hargrove ignores. That's part of what makes days like this so remarkable, because after seeing him for 500 career starts, hitters still haven't figured out a way to consistently pounce on his junk (that came out sounding more foul than I intended).
Pitchers are in control of two things - what they're throwing and where it's going. Hence, for purposes of sustaining effectiveness it's in their best interests to keep each of these hidden from the batter during an AB. There doesn't have to be a perfect balance; guys with a wide variety of pitches can do without perfect location, while guys without perfect location can do without a wide variety of pitches. Still, those are the two main aspects of pitching, and generally speaking the guys who have the most success are the guys who're best able to keep them secret.
Jamie, though...Jamie's alway struck me as an exception, in that he's been able to pitch well for so long despite being one of the more predictable arms in the league. You'll see hitters sitting on a changeup in a particular location, but even if they get it, they're still seldom able to make solid contact. Knowing the "what" and the "where" isn't always enough when Jamie's on top of his game. He makes his share of mistakes, but when he's in a groove, there's just nothing a hitter can do but cross his fingers and hope that his pop-up drops in no-man's land. That's a valuable pitcher to have around, and because of all this, he'll probably continue to be a valuable pitcher until he's stricken by old man renal failure and forced into retirement because mounds aren't designed to accomodate a dialysis machine. He'll gradually get worse as his pinpoint control starts to go, but the more the years pass the more I realize that we probably aren't in for the annihilation we thought we'd get at the tail end of Jamie's career.
I just wish he wouldn't suck so bad on the road.
Also, hey, sweep! That makes 6-0 against the NL West so far this season, and should that trend continue over the coming weeks (and really, why shouldn't it?), we'll see the M's at 46-37 when they "welcome" the comically pathetic Angels to town on July 3rd. But then, I suppose everyone has the occasional letdown game, so maybe 45-38 would be more appropriate. The point is, the Mariners would be a hell of a lot better if you took out all their tough matchups and replaced them with games against much more beatable opponents. In a league without Oakland and left-handed starters, the sky's the limit.
Biggest Contribution: Jamie Moyer, +28.2%
Biggest Suckfest: Jeremy Reed, -7.6%
Most Important Hit: Ibanez single, +11.0%
Most Important Pitch: Ellison DP, +11.3%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +29.6%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +17.8%
Nothing real interesting about the Win Probability Added numbers today - just a standard game, as far as the spreadsheet is concerned. Looking at the whole series shows a little more, though, so let's do just that:
Percentage of WPA (total = 1.5) accumulated by each:
("Other" refers to passed balls, wild pitches, and errors by the San Francisco defense that benefited the Mariners without requiring any effort. Each win is worth +50% of WPA, so a three-game sweep is worth +150%, or 1.5.)
The series was roughly two-thirds pitching, one-third hitting, and a tiny fraction of good luck. I guess that's what happens when you only allow six runs in three games. The lineup was good, but Gil Meche, Jamie Moyer, and JJ Putz were the three main stars, and each deserve their accolades. And that's kind of all I have to say about that.
Some more fun with WPA:
Five most valuable Mariners to date, on the basis of strictly pitching and hitting:
- JJ Putz
- Rafael Soriano (a full win behind first place)
- Raul Ibanez
- George Sherrill
- Jamie Moyer
- Adrian Beltre
- Richie Sexson (a full win ahead of last place)
- Jeremy Reed
- Yuniesky Betancourt
- Eddie Guardado
Speaking of defense, The Hardball Times currently puts the Mariners at +17 runs in the infield and -8 runs in the outfield, ranking fifth and 21st in baseball, respectively. The take-home message: Betancourt = good, Ibanez = bad. Kicking Everett to the curb, bringing in a legitimate left fielder, and slotting Raul back in at DH where he belongs would improve this team in more ways than one. I can't help but feel like the rate-limiting factor here is the total absence of Chris Snelling's power so far in AAA, although that might be one part reality and a zillion parts wishful thinking.
I don't know which is more depressing - when people claim that Adrian Beltre is "back" after he hits a home run, or when they don't even bother.
During one of the middle innings the camera panned to a fan in the stands holding up a sign that read "Bonds 4 President 2008." On the surface it makes some sense, because he meets all the Constitutional requirements - he was born in California, he's older than 35, and he's been a resident of the country for more than 14 years - but I wonder if he'd really be the best candidate for the position. While he's a recognizable figure, he's never before held office, he's a poor public speaker, he's currently in the middle of some kind of scandal that makes him an easy target for political mud-slinging, and he'd lead a rocky private life that's established a pattern of interfering with his daily responsibilities. Then you also have the fact that he's black - nobody in Washington likes change, after all - and that he might be the one guy in the world capable of finishing lower in pubic opinion polling than the current president, both of which might have a detrimental effect among potential voters. Working in Bonds' favor is that nobody can be quite sure of his platform or party affiliation, which helps to deflect controversy, but that's bound to come out sooner or later, at which point we can expect significant fragmentation of his support base. On the other hand, a campaign slogan of Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a few dingers? could work wonders in mobilizing the powerful young male demographic, which might be enough to sway things in his favor. Gunning for the White House in 2008 is a lofty goal, but Bonds has made a career out of doing what others considered impossible, so by now he probably deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Giants outfielder Jason Ellison and de-goateed Mariner utility white guy Willie Ballgame both attended the same local high school, with Ellison actually living part of his life in the Ballgame household. Now quick, tell me which career line belongs to which player:
Player A: .259/.313/.363
Player B: .262/.311/.336
I wonder if the alumni newsletter states that Jason and Willie are "doing South Kitsap High proud," and if so, whether the readers know they're being lied to. Jason Ellison plays a mean center field and Willie Ballgame knows how to steal a base, but, man, that's some eerily similar bad hitting.
Travel day tomorrow, as the team heads to Los Angeles for a Tuesday night matchup against the Dodgers. Joel Pineiro and Brad Penny face off at 7:10pm PDT as part of Dodger Stadium's We Could've Been A Hell Of A Lot Better Night, which includes a promotional giveaway of The Offspring's Splinter album to the first 20,000 fans and a ceremonial first pitch by Cary Elwes.