About a year ago, this is how I led off a game recap:
With that in mind, here's how I went about following last night's game:
3:30pm: Post open thread
9:15pm: Post lineups
9:45pm: Go out
3:30am: "Hey neat, the Mariners won."
I miss the days of interesting baseball. I miss the inconvenience of having to schedule around the Mariners because they're playing a big game that I just absolutely have to watch. I miss having to tell people "sorry, can't, the M's are on" a million times a week and watching them roll their eyes while I smile in anticipatory glee. This current situation sucks. There's nothing worse than September apathy.
I was over at an apartment with some friends last night, and before they could go anywhere they had to watch the end of the Red Sox game. As Joey Gathright hilariously doubled in the tying and go-ahead runs in the top of the ninth, I sat there wondering "how can they still care about this? The season's over. Give it up." What I realized is that, while this was something of a new experience for them, I've been living it for years, and the novelty of losing wears off real quick. They'll learn.
Oh, and hey, the Mariners beat Texas! Yeah!
Biggest Contribution: Cha Baek, +36.7%
Biggest Suckfest: Chris Snelling, -5.7%
Most Important At Bat: Johjima homer, +20.7%
Most Important Pitch: DeRosa double play, +4.9%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +41.0%
Total Contribution by Position Players: +9.0%
Bullet points are a blogger's best friend.
- Behold the mystery of Cha Baek not sucking. The most generic of the generic pitchers in the organization has come up from Tacoma to allow just seven runs in his first 24.1 innings, providing a little reliability to a pitching staff that's been missing it for eons. Baek seems to be picking up steam just as Jake Woods is losing it, and with Felix and Washburn being the only names penciled into the 2007 rotation, there are whispers that Baek's performance may be earning him a more permanent job.
You already know that I'm not particularly fond of this idea, but I feel like I have to repeat myself every time he has a reasonable start, because ERA blinds a lot of people to the truth. There is one thing Cha Baek does well: throw strikes. That's important, and a key component to sustained success, but it's not enough by itself. Baek's repertoire sucks, and the results have been twofold - (1) he's homer-prone, and (2) he doesn't miss too many bats (his strikeout rate so far with Seattle has been fine, but his swinging strike percentage is low, suggesting that it won't continue). The Mariners seem to stockpile these kinds of pitchers, which works in Baek's favor, but they also aren't good, which doesn't. His ERA is only low because he's stranding a disproportionately high percentage of baserunners while the defense is turning an extraordinary number of balls in play into outs. These won't keep up.
Cha Baek isn't Ryan Franklin. It's close, but Baek generates more groundballs and doesn't have a shitty attitude, making him more likeable. The problem is that Ryan Franklin shouldn't be the benchmark by which all other starters are compared, because 98% of the guys you come across are virtually guaranteed to meet or exceed your standards. As a #5, you could do worse than Cha Baek's 4.90-5.10 Safeco-aided ERA for the league minimum, but that kind of pitcher should never be your first choice, because you'd be resigning yourself to 180 replacement-level innings when there are scores of better options with higher upside floating around, waiting for a chance. Hell, just look at Francisco Cruceta - they say he doesn't have good enough control to start, but unlike Baek he actually has Major League stuff, and might be able to help the team instead of just not killing it.
Arms like Baek are everywhere. Better arms than Baek are also everywhere, albeit in slightly lesser numbers. For those reasons alone the Mariners shouldn't count on him to hold down a rotation spot next season. I don't hate Cha Baek, and I want him to do well, but the odds of that happening are so slim that I'd rather see him try to build on his 2006 somewhere else.
MLB, None On: .264/.325/.427
MLB, Bases Loaded: .296/.327/.467
Richie Sexson, None On: .243/.296/.478
Richie Sexson, Bases Loaded: .500/.500/1.643
It's no coincidence that batters are more productive with men on every base - pitchers have nowhere to put them, leading to more fastballs, more strikes, and more pitches to hit. Unless you've got a guy on the mound who's real confident in his stuff, a lot of the "game within the game" is removed from the equation, with deception and trickery being replaced by crossed fingers and wishcasting. A hitter's job is a lot easier when he doesn't have to worry about breaking balls out of the zone.
So, yeah, it's easy to see why Sexson does so well with the sacks juiced. It's not just a one-year phenomenon, either - for his career, he's at an .821 OPS with none on and 1.262 with them loaded. Richie is a dead fastball hitter who struggles with pitches below his knees and curveballs anywhere, and when you reduce the likelihood of the latter two, you increase the likelihood of the former, thereby giving him a lot more of the pitches he tends to destroy.
This isn't a fluke. While getting more hittable fastballs benefits every batter in baseball, Sexson is exactly the type that'll benefit the most. When the bases are loaded, Richie is legitimately one of the most productive players in the league, and it's going to stay like that for as long as he's able to send belt-high fastballs flying 430 feet to straightaway center.
- Speaking of long home runs, via Hit Tracker Online we learn that an average Richie Sexson home run travels 395.9 (standardized) feet. Adrian Beltre and Raul Ibanez are tied for second at 392.2. The league leader? None other than the least clutch hitter in baseball, at 416.2. No one else is even within eight feet. Yuniesky Betancourt, by the way, is at 372, among the lowest averages in baseball. His power potential isn't nearly as great as some people would have you believe.
- The Texas Rangers are routinely referred to as having one of the best young lineups in baseball. This is patently untrue. I present to you the difference in career home/away OPS for their "star-studded" infield foursome:
Teixeira: -.119 points
Of the four, only Teixeira has been decent away from Ameriquest Field. Blalock looks like a spectacular bust, Kinsler looks like someone who could use a little more minor league seasoning, and Young just looks like a crappy shortstop, a guy with a below-average bat with godawful defense. With Coors Field playing more neutral, Texas is far and away the most hitter-friendly ballpark in baseball. Don't believe the hype - these guys aren't really that good.
(Of course, it also works the other way around. Kevin Millwood's 3.58 road FIP looks real good, but the Home Environment Of Terror has made him look like a bad investment when he really hasn't been.)
- Not-So-Fun Fact of the Day: 490 players in baseball have accumulated at least 50 plate appearances so far this season. Chris Snelling's PA/K rate (3.1) ranks seventh-worst out of all of them. He's still hitting the ball hard when he makes contact, but something's got to give, and I'm afraid it's going to be his batting line, at least until the strikeouts go down. This is the most often he's ever struck out in his life, even including month-by-month splits from his rocky summer in Tacoma this year, and while the lack of a track record is encouraging in that it suggests that it won't continue, it also tells me that something isn't quite right in Snelling's head. If there's an upside to this, it's that hopefully all the whiffs will force Snelling to work on levelling out his swing, because that uppercut is retarded.
Tejeda and Washburn...in five hours.