Biggest Contribution: Raul Ibanez, +7.9%
Biggest Suckfest: Jarrod Washburn, -13.1%
Most Important "Hit": Lopez DP, -12.7%
Most Important Pitch: Scutaro double, -15.5%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -15.4%
Total Contribution by Position Players: -34.6%
Sometimes you just have to up and admit that another team has got your number. It can happen to anyone - the 2006 Cardinals are 3-10 against the Cubs, the 2005 White Sox went 2-7 against the A's, the 2003 Marlins were 1-5 against the Astros and Giants, the Orioles and Devil Rays have notoriously given the Red Sox fits, and so on and so forth. For reasons beyond the grasp of human understanding some teams just play differently against certain opponents, and the season series ends up looking nothing like what you'd expect. It doesn't mean that the losing team sucks, and it's not the death knell for their year - it's just something weird that happens, a kind of statistical fluke. The losing team just has to try not to think about it too much and hope that they're able to salvage the season.
Where it becomes a more critical concern is when you're trying to win your division despite punting pretty much every game you play against one of your rivals. There's no reason for this to be happening, but it is anyway, and it sucks, because a loss tomorrow pretty much wipes the Mariners off the ALW map. I know, I know, there's still a lot of time left and anything can happen, but I can't help but feel like losing this series deals a decisive blow to the Mariners' postseason chances. There's no quicker way to improve your place in the standings than by playing other teams in your division, but the M's are pretty much doing the total opposite of that. In fact, yeah, cross out the "pretty much." They are doing the total opposite of that, and at this point it's fair to say that they're running out of time to turn things around.
A's vs. non-Seattle Opponents: 4.3 RS/G, 4.6 RA/G
A's vs. Seattle: 5.8 RS/G, 3.0 RA/G
M's vs. non-Oakland Opponents: 4.9 RS/G, 4.5 RA/G
M's vs. Oakland: 3.0 RS/G, 5.8 RA/G
Or, to put it another way using Pythagorean winning percentages:
A's vs. non-Seattle Opponents: .470
A's vs. Seattle: .771
M's vs. non-Oakland Opponents: .537
M's vs. Oakland: .229
A very convincing argument could be made that the Mariners are actually a better team than Oakland. Their lineup is better from top to bottom and, for all the talk about our crappy rotation, our staff FIP entered the day one-hundredth of a point better than theirs. Our defense is a little worse (at least, according to The Hardball Times), but the difference there isn't nearly as large as the one between the two batting orders. To put it bluntly, if I had to re-start the 2006 season with one of these two rosters, I'd take Seattle's.
(Now re-read that paragraph and think about how stupid it sounds an hour after the M's lost their tenth consecutive game to the frickin' Athletics.)
One of the neat things about baseball is that, for all the games everyone plays, the sample sizes are still small and conducive to flukes. It's why we're unable to predict the outcome of the season with a computer in March - the summer just isn't long enough for everything to average out. It adds drama and a rather pervasive element of the unexpected, but boy does it ever suck when those inexplicable statistical flukes don't work out in your favor. I know in October I'm going to look back on this season series and wonder what might've been, and I know I'm going to cry.
In case you missed tonight's loss, it was almost just like every other game we've played against Oakland, with one twist - this time the Mariners managed to get a few guys on base before swinging their way into three outs. Ten batters reached base through the first five innings against Zito, but only one of them was able to score thanks to a pair of crushing double plays, a godawful hit-and-run, and a staggering dearth of extra-base power. I honestly don't know if it was more or less frustrating than the Blanton games; is it better to have hoped and lost than to never have hoped at all? I couldn't tell you, but what I can say is that tonight felt something like contracting the bird flu, getting approved for an experimental clinical trial, then dying a week later because they only gave you sugar pills. Home runs and wins are the only antidote to what's ailing all of us. No more of these placebo singles.
Anyway, two quick observations before I call it a night:
-Jarrod Washburn is a good control pitcher, as he hasn't posted a BB/9 over 3.00 since 2000. What he isn't is a good command pitcher, as there seems to be very little consistency as far as his hitting the target is concerned. He can throw the ball towards the strike zone, but where it ends up inside that rectangle is anyone's guess (although "high" would be a good place to start). This is a dangerous approach to have when you're facing a guy who covers most of the plate pretty well and you need to hit his weak spot, and Exhibit A for those who vehemently oppose the Washburn = Moyer idea that came up last winter. Probable cause of Washburn's poor command: the crazyass thing he does with his glove during delivery. Not "crazyass" as in "rare," but "crazyass" as in "stupid and not helping." By pulling his shoulders with his glove, Washburn ends up having to release the ball early and throwing across his body, two things you like a young pitcher to avoid but which you generally accept with veterans. Do it for long enough and the pitcher can learn to throw strikes, but he still won't be able to consistently hit his target because there are too many forces acting on the ball in different directions when he lets go.
(Some people might accuse me of digging too deep to find something to complain about regarding Washburn. To which I reply, why would I bother digging so deep when there's already so much on the surface?)
-There's always been something about Raul Ibanez's swing that just doesn't seem right. I didn't really think about it for a while, but lately I've paid more attention and come to notice that he's got a lot of moving parts. His swing is long, which leaves him vulnerable to inside pitches both high (.187 BA) and low (.183 BA), he rotates his lower body ahead of his upper half, and his head wobbles a little bit, something Edgar Martinez wouldn't even dream of doing. And yet, despite these somewhat unconventional characteristics, he's still a steady run-producer in the middle of the lineup, and has been for quite a while. This is a guy who gets the most out of a little, as opposed to someone like Greg Dobbs, who gets the least out of a lot. With this kind of swing, it's easy to see why Raul was a 36th round pick and had to go to Kansas City to get any playing time. Scouts probably thought he'd hit the wall in AA and didn't change their minds until he blasted 24 bombs in 2002.
Our worst pitcher goes up against Oakland's best tomorrow afternoon in what is arguably the biggest game of the season (which, if won by Seattle, will be followed by another Biggest Game Of The Season 21 hours later). There's nothing quite like waking up on a Saturday morning and immediately feeling like you need to throw up. Anyway, 1:05pm PDT, and I think it's on FOX for those of you who aren't in Southern California like me. I'm sorry.