If the Mariners win a series in Detroit, and no one's able to see it, does Minnesota get to gain any ground?
Chart 'em both:
Biggest Contribution: Joel Pineiro, +37.1%
Biggest Suckfest: Jake Woods, -12.4%
Most Important At Bat: Beltre "FC", +11.3%
Most Important Pitch: Casey double play, +28.7%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +47.8%
Total Contribution by Position Players: -11.0%
(I don't know what made me think that people would be able to recognize Jake Woods' generic disembodied face, but by the time I thought of that the image was already uploaded. He actually looks a little like me there, albeit with a way cooler hat. He's even casting spells with his left hand.)
Biggest Contribution: Raul Ibanez, +29.5%
Biggest Suckfest: Adrian Beltre, -31.3%
Most Important At Bat: Ibanez double, +20.0%
Most Important Pitch: Monroe double, -38.7%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +32.2%
Total Contribution by Position Players: +14.3%
This had to be the least thrilling series win over a top seed by a cellar dweller in a long time. Between the rain, the tiny crowds, the lack of TV coverage, Detroit's recent struggles, and the nancy way the Mariners scored most of their runs last night, it just felt like bland baseball. Which is a shame, because two of the games were tight until the end and the other was tight until the seventh, but even so I just don't think anyone came away all fired up about the outcome. It's like finding a lost pair of sunglasses under your car seat a few weeks after you went to the store to buy replacements. It's neat, because everyone likes finding things they thought were gone forever, but you wish it would've happened a month or two earlier. I love that the Mariners are showing signs of life after the Road Trip of Death but at this point all they're doing is making me wonder why they couldn't play like this against Oakland, and why Cubs fans get to enjoy their team's mad dash for the #1 draft pick while we have to sit here and watch our guys play for pride or dignity or whatever the kids are saying about losers these days. "Go big or go home" doesn't only apply to winning.
Let's do some bullet points:
- One of the things I love about MLB.tv is that you can get a video feed for games that aren't televised anywhere, but the quality of said feed sucks, and when it's looped with a radio broadcast that's either a few seconds ahead or behind the whole viewing experience becomes borderline unbearable.
As of earlier this afternoon, that's as bad as I thought it could ever get. I remember we had to deal with that during Felix's MLB debut in Detroit last August, when we had lousy audio and imaging from a camera somewhere in the second deck:
But now, several hours later, I realize how wrong I was. The camera angle for Felix's start didn't allow you to see whether a pitch was up or down, but you could still tell if it was off the plate, and how much horizontal motion it had. It wasn't much, but it was something. Apparently, though, this setup revealed far too much information, so at some point during the past 13 months they switched to a camera along the first base line somewhere in space:
...and that's it. The camera would move slightly to show hits should they reach the outfield, but it never showed the batter, so you couldn't discern anything - at all - about individual pitches. Hell, you could hardly even see the ball. It was like watching the Zapruder film; something would happen, and people would run around, but you didn't really know the source of the commotion, or even where it was standing. A completely surreal experience, and one I'd rather not repeat. Evidently there's just something about Comerica that Fox Sports doesn't like to put on the air. I used to think that "something" was the Tigers, but that excuse doesn't really fly in 2006.
- I've exchanged a few emails with Dave Cameron over the last few days regarding Adrian Beltre, and his theory is that, after Beltre strung together a few outs and got into a rut, he decided to try and swing his way out of it, because he didn't know any other way to get back on track. (Which would explain the Detroit announcer's [valid] observation today that Adrian "is swinging at everything" right now.) After thinking about this for a little while, though, I realized that it doesn't only apply to Beltre - the same could go for roughly 125% of all the hitters on the roster. Almost everyone in the lineup's a hacker who'll expand his strike zone when he's pressing, which is a terrific way to make something as simple as a bad week snowball into a slump of the highest order. Right now we're seeing it with Beltre, we're seeing it with Ichiro, and we're seeing it with Broussard. All three of them are currently taking the same approach to the plate as each and every one of us does when we're losing in a baseball video game: offering at everything the pitcher throws in an effort to pick up a bunch of hits as quickly as possible. These guys aren't unique to the Mariners - there are a ton of similar hitters in every other organization in the league - but we just have the misfortune of having a few too many of them on the payroll. The reason this lineup goes cold so often is because no one's willing to draw a walk. It really is as simple as that.
- As of this writing, JJ Putz is on pace to eclipse his previous high for pitches thrown in a season by 168. That, by itself, isn't bad, but as a closer, every pitch he throws now is presumably more taxing than the pitches he threw in seasons prior, because the leverage of the situation requires that absolute concentration and maximum effort go into each individual delivery. There's a reason closers generally don't last very long, particularly the ones who throw really hard; Billy Wagner stands as a rare exception, but even he's had elbow surgery. Hell, look at Papelbon in Boston - he was pitching out of the rotation as recently as last summer, but after moving into the closer's role, his shoulder gave out after 60 innings. It's a difficult job, and this is probably the hardest JJ's ever worked in his life.
So it's time to give him a break. We know he's awesome, he knows he's awesome, and the organization has nothing to gain by sending him out there every time the Mariners have a narrow lead in the later innings. I'm not suggesting they shut him down entirely, but they should really just let him take it easy for these last few weeks, because, why not? Even if he's not hurt yet - Will Carroll seems to be the only person reporting JJ's "sore elbow" - why risk it? The downside is huge, and the upside is...well, I can't even see the upside, unless you think ending up around 77 wins instead of 76 is a noble goal worth the blood, sweat, and tears of everyone on the roster.
On the one hand, I have a tendency to get overprotective of pitchers, and the fact that the Mariners were careful when Soriano and Lowe complained of soreness tells me they probably won't push JJ too hard. On the other, though, they haven't done squat with Sherrill despite his tenderness, and before today JJ had worked three consecutive multi-inning appearances, so who knows. Chances are this is a futile argument anyway, since JJ's one of the only "dependable" guys left in the bullpen and Hargrove won't want to hand the ball to a rookie in the ninth inning for as long as he's alive, but, man, I'd be lying if I said I weren't a little concerned. All year long I've been waiting for JJ's bubble to burst, because I couldn't believe how great he'd suddenly become, and I didn't think anything that good could possibly happen to a team as star-crossed as the Mariners. Now I'm afraid that I can see what happens next, and it's devastating. Please, God, just let us get through the year with a healthy closer. You can hurt Joel all you want (I hear he covets), but leave JJ alone.
- People in Seattle have undoubtedly heard this by now, but the following is a transcript of Rick Rizzs' call of the double play that ended the game:
JJ delivers to Casey, the pitch - and a groundball to third, Beltre's got it, second for one, the relay by Lopez and it's in time for the double play and the side is retired. We're gonna go to the eleventh tied, it's the Mariners - MARINERS WON IT! DOUBLE PLAY THE MARINERS WIN THE BALLGAME! IT'S OVER! THE MARINERS WIN 5-4! IT IS OVER! AROUND THE HORN, 5-4-3, THE GAME IS OVER! THEY GET MONROE AT SECOND, DOUBLE UP CASEY AT FIRST, AND THE MARINERS WIN 5-4 IN THE BOTTOM OF THE TENTH INNING. SO THE MARINERS COME AWAY WITH A WIN! THE LONG RAIN DELAY, 3:09, IT IS OVER, AND THE MARINERS ARE HEADING HOME. THE MARINERS GOT THE WINNING RUN IN THE TOP OF THE TENTH INNING. IT IS OVER, THE MARINERS WIN 5-4.
Someone must've leaned over to bring him up to speed after he called the double play, because by that point he was locked on the take-us-to-commercial autopilot setting, and he'd already completely checked out of the game. And then watch what happens - in the span of eleven sentences, Rizzs says that the Mariners won twelve times. Twelve. In about twenty seconds. I don't know if he was trying to convince his audience or himself, but whatever the case, I think he got his point across.
- The best part about the game-ending call, of course, was that it included one of Rizzs' trademarked narrate-the-play-as-if-it's-currently-happening-even-though-it's-already-over exuberant proclamations. It's a really really really annoying habit of his that he can't seem to shake, and you have to feel bad for his family at home, who has to put up with it every day.
Mr. Rizzs: Hey honey, I'm home.
Mrs. Rizzs: Great, I've got a roast cooling on the counter. How was your day? How was work?
Mr. Rizzs: Dave's furrowing his brow.
Mr. Rizzs: He looks a little uncomfortable.
Mr. Rizzs: He's leaning to one side...I think he's going to get up out of his chair...
Mr. Rizzs: And-YES! THERE HE GOES, TO THE BREAK ROOM!
Mr. Rizzs: HE'S POURING HIMSELF A CUP OF COFFEE!
Mr. Rizzs: AND THERE'S THE CREAM! ONE PACKET! TWO PACKETS! TWO PACKETS OF CREAM!
Mr. Rizzs: HOOOOOOOOOOOLY SMOKES, WHAT A CUP OF COFEE DAVE'S MADE FOR HIMSELF!!
Mrs. Rizzs: Just tell me how your God damn day was and shut up, dillweed.
Mrs. Rizzs: (looks up the stairs) Kids! Dinner! Your plates are on the table!
Mr. Rizzs: YOUTH HAS BEEN SERVED!
- Richie Sexson since the ASB: .309/.379/.589. The average is a fluke, and the walks still aren't where you'd like them to be, but if he's able to keep this up through September his contract's going to be a lot easier to unload on somebody else during the offseason, should Bavasi choose to go down that path. I know it may seem counterintuitive to want to ditch the best pure power hitter the team's had in years, but Sexson's due $14m in both 2007 and 2008, and since he turns 32 this December, it's worth remembering that it's better to trade a player too early than too late. This situation is going to be looked at very closely once the offseason rolls around, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see Richie suiting up for someone else next spring. And, thanks to his strong second half, we might be able to grab a prospect or two in addition to the straight salary dump. Hypothetically.
Travel day tomorrow, home for Texas on Friday.