Biggest Contribution: Jeff Weaver, +30.7%
Biggest Suckfest: Raul Ibanez, -20.3%
Most Important At Bat: Broussard foul out, -8.2%
Most Important Pitch: Hill single, -8.9%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +30.7%
Total Contribution by Position Players: -80.7%
Total Contribution by Opposition: 0.0%
I don't like having to set my alarm on weekends. It's not that I'm exhausted and hung over from going out all the time - I live a remarkably sedentary life - it's that, between this place and my day job, I barely get any sleep during the week, so I like to use my Saturdays and Sundays to make up for what I've missed. There aren't very many things for which I'll willingly get out of bed before 10:30 or 11.
Last night, I thought the Mariners were one of them. Last night, I was wrong.
I wish I could think of an interesting way to recap today's game, but I can't, because so little happened. If you were able to watch this game live, it probably stands as one of the worst combined offensive performances you've ever seen; overall, there was a total of seven hits and nine baserunners against two starting pitchers who entered with a sum ERA over twelve. Two of the hits were bloopers that found a hole, and two more didn't leave the infield. Forget the inconvenience of my having to wake up early - these two teams had an extra three hours and still didn't get out of bed and arrive at the ballpark until about fifteen minutes ago. Just be glad this wasn't a doubleheader.
Against the habitual strike-throwing Josh Towers, the Mariners took the right approach but forgot about execution. The result was that, through 5.2 innings, all they had to show for their efforts was an infield single by Jose Vidro up the middle. They were able to mount their biggest threat of the day after an Ichiro walk and Vidro single into right, but Vernon Wells was able to run down an Ibanez line drive into straightaway center for the third out of the sixth, and that was as close as the team would come to plating a run. They'd put another two on in the seventh, but were promptly stymied on three pitches when Ben Broussard decided to find out what the whole popping-up hoopla is all about. When it's the young infielders who're leading by example rather than the other way around, you know you're in trouble.
Ibanez and Guillen later struck out looking in the ninth.
The only difference between the Mariners and Blue Jays, of course, was that the Blue Jays were able to find turf with consecutive bloopers in the second that led to a run when Aaron Hill followed with a single into left. Ibanez was up with the ball as Wells rounded third, but he didn't make a very strong throw home, and so Toronto went ahead with the only run they'd need all day. The rest of the time they looked equal parts bad and stupid, as Weaver spun his second complete game of the season (and forget about the fact that he only had eight innings; he also only threw 88 pitches).
About the only entertaining thing all game long was the microphone the Rogers Centre decided to put close enough to home plate to pick up words that would've gotten people red carded out of Safeco. Aaron Hill cursed a blue streak after swinging through a slider in the fifth, but perhaps the highlight came when Tim Timmons took a foul ball off the body and his string of flagrantly audible blasphemous epithets was heard twice in ten seconds as the TV feed decided to show a replay of the pitch. How does a stadium that features John Gibbons 81 times a year get away with a microphone that picks up so much impromptu discourse?
For his part, Jeff Weaver did look fine, if a little hang-happy. He was effective and efficient in taking care of a talented albeit predominantly right-handed lineup, and the bullpen got to sit and watch for the fifth time this season (believe it or not, the Mariners are tied for second in team complete games). While I don't buy the relevance of his early-season FIP since I don't think he was throwing Major League stuff, ever since coming off the DL Weaver's put up a 2.55 K/BB and 3.38 FIP in 50.2 innings. His real level of ability is worse than that as he's gotten lucky on fly balls (if you notice, the man has not allowed very many home runs), but every time Weaver throws a game like this, he looks more and more like a serviceable #5, meaning our rotation problems may be down to a single slot. Upgrading from Ho to someone around league-average might be all this group needs. I'm never going to trust Jeff Weaver, but his job as a #4/5 is to keep us in the game, not blow people away, so in that respect I don't consider it a problem.
This being a good opportunity to be pessimistic and frustrated, the following is a brief list of grievances:
- Raul Ibanez: 261/.309/.401 on the season, with awful defense. If you choose to exclude that one unbelievable game in Cleveland, it's .252/.303/.366, with awful defense. Every player's going to look worse when you remove his best game of the season, but where, say, Beltre's still been a league-average contributor if you remove his 5-5 (two doubles, two homers), Ibanez is one game removed from being the worst regular hitter on the team. When I wrote that post a while back about how his bat has gotten slow, I should've stuck with it instead of taking it all back after the Cleveland game, because it looks to be true - Raul Ibanez looks finished. It's possible that he's nursing a whole bunch of little injuries that're taking their toll on his swing, but that's a part of getting old, and all it means is that he still needs to leave the everyday lineup for a while to rest up. Either Ibanez is done as a productive hitter or he's an extended break away from being healthy enough to resume helping out a little bit. No matter which it is, though, the solution is to call up Adam Jones right the fuck now, before it's too late. Jose Vidro, consider yourself blessed - thanks to Mr. Mariner, you are no longer the
biggestmost glaring target on the roster.
- Between Sexson, Lopez, Betancourt, Vidro, and Ibanez, our everyday lineup has five bats slugging .401 or below. Richie's second-half magic is nowhere to be found - 2008'll be fun! - and neither Guillen nor Beltre are consistent enough to really help Ichiro in carrying this group on their backs. Turns out we need a bat, too. Jones or Wlad could be that guy, but we'll never know until they get a chance, now will we? And I still don't think we're making the playoffs unless either Richie wakes the hell up or McLaren figures out that Ben Broussard might be able to help out a little bit.
- At a combined .686 OPS, it might be time to consider that our young, talented middle infield has been way overhyped. Forget comparisons to some of the better players in the league; this twosome is beginning to look an awful lot like Minnesota's old Guzman/Rivas tag-team of horror. Granted, Lopez is a little better than Luis Rivas ever was, but at some point you have to wonder when the ability's going to show up in full force. Superstars make progress before hitting their strides. Lopez hasn't, at least not significantly so. There are encouraging signs, but nothing that indicates future stardom. Betancourt, meanwhile, just looks lost half the time. How a guy like that decides to become a flyball hitter is beyond me, but it isn't doing him any favors. He is not helping this team.
(I'd still take our guys over Texas'.)
- Fun bullpen news - McLaren likes Chris Reitsma as JJ's eighth inning setup man. Reitsma doesn't miss any bats and has allowed 30 hits in 21.2 innings. Sean Green does and hasn't. Meanwhile, Mark Lowe is apparently just days away from returning to the big league bullpen even thought his velocity and command haven't come back, with the explanation that "usually, that stuff doesn't come around until a guy starts pitching up here." Because we're clearly in position where we can have a guy experimenting in relief. Maybe you could, I dunno, make Lowe prove that he's okay in Tacoma while calling up Kam Mickolio to bide time, but what do I know? I'm just some guy. Clearly Lowe is to be trusted almost immediately after returning from an unprecedented procedure on his throwing elbow from which he still hasn't recovered.
All right, I think I've shaken all the anger out of my bones. Felix and Halladay tomorrow morning at 10:07am PDT, as the King gets a chance to make us all wildly overenthusiastic again before heading to Texas.