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I...I have no intro. For the first time in my blogging career, I think I have writer's block. It's not that I don't have time to come up with something, or that I'm lazy, or that I'm just looking to throw up a quick post; I legitimately can't think of anything to say, and it's pissing me off. I don't know how long this is going to last, but bear with me in the meantime. Could be one day, could be several days, could be even longer. I have no idea. Thank God for the invention of bullet points to allay any need to be creative.

Biggest Contribution: Jose Guillen, +29.8%
Biggest Suckfest: Raul Ibanez, -19.9%
Most Important At Bat: Johjima DP, -11.2%
Most Important Pitch: Cuddyer single, -19.4%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +25.7%
Total Contribution by Position Players: +18.2%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +6.1%

(What is this chart?)

  • CoolStandings isn't updated yet, but given that the Mariners improved their chances of making the playoffs by another 8% last night, we can assume that today will have a similar impact, and in so doing vault the M's over the 50% hump for the first time all year. At this point, the odds are officially good that this team plays in October. Things can change an awful lot in one day, so there's no sense in getting ahead of ourselves, but nevertheless that feels pretty amazing. It's nice to get some separation, especially with that terrifying series in the Bronx still on the way. If possible, I'd love to go into that thing with a bit of a margin for error.

    Update: 14.9% shot at the division, 38.6% shot at the Wild Card, 53.5% shot overall. The Yankees are at 49.8%, and the Tigers at 48.9%. The Orioles are hanging tough at < 0.1%.

  • As tired as I'm getting of criticizing John McLaren (especially since my critiques of his lineups have pretty much blown up in my face every time), when he went scanning the Internet the other day, he clearly didn't stumble across the Washburn post, because once again he left the guy in too long. He entered the sixth at 73 pitches, which is fine, but a long AB by Nick Punto and a single by Alexi Casilla took him up to 84, and then a five-pitch Mauer walk took him to 89. Let's say it's taking Morrow some time to warm up. Fine, Washburn can face Hunter. He did, and allowed a single. Let's say you then want to play the lefty/lefty advantage and leave him in for Morneau. Fine. He did, and got Morneau to pop out. But with two outs and the bases loaded with a solid righty at the plate and Washburn firmly entrenched in his Danger Zone, McLaren should've come out to save his starter and hand the ball over to the bullpen. Washburn isn't real good against righties, and Cuddyer doesn't really treat southpaws with a ton of respect. Every single person watching knew something bad was on the way, and sure enough Cuddyer killed a base hit up the middle. As if that wasn't enough, McLaren then let Washburn stay in to face Jason Kubel, who hit a sharp liner towards second for the final out. A manager with a better understanding of his players wouldn't have let that inning happen the way it did, and it gave the Twins life where before they looked dead in the water. I'll grant that it's difficult to sit any regulars right now for Jones or Broussard, but pulling a pitcher before he starts melting down shouldn't be this hard. Knock it off, McLaren.
  • Jose Guillen saved our asses with a pair of aggressive takeout slides at second, the latter of which directly allowed two insurance runs to score and indirectly led to two more. Together, they were the kind of slide that help the team and get the dugout fired up, with the only downside being that they were both spectacularly against the rules. The first one didn't end up making any difference, but here's the second:

    Guillen is way out of the line, and has no prayer of touching the base as he slides through Punto's legs. According to the rulebook, this is illegal, and Guillen should've been called for a double play. Instead, though, the umps let them go, and the Mariners took liberal advantage of the second takeout slide by scoring two huge runs when Punto dropped the ball. Those additional runs wouldn't matter in the end, but nobody knows how the game would've played out were it still 3-2 Mariners in the bottom of the eighth.

    They were good hustle plays on Guillen's part, and I'm glad he was able to work that gray area to our benefit, but had this happened to us I know I'd be livid, so I can understand if Minnesota fans are none too pleased with how this turned out.

    (By the way, for WPA purposes I decided to charge Raul with a DP there in the eighth and give Guillen credit for the dropped ball and two runs, since were it not for his slide, the inning would've been over. But you figured that out already.)

  • After a two-week slump that saw his OPS drop 49 points, Adrian Beltre is batting .455 over his last five games with four extra-base hits, providing further evidence that he's among the streakiest players in baseball. However, where someone like Ichiro's good and bad runs seemingly come and go without warning, I think it's possible to predict when Beltre's about to heat up by watching for his deep fly outs to center field. When he's in a rut he'll usually swing at anything, but when he gets those low fastballs that he just misses, it looks to me like a sign that he's on the verge of breaking out again. I think instead of having everything click at once, he's one of those cyclical players for whom improvement comes in stages, and when he hits those 380-foot fly outs to straightaway center, it shows that he's just a slight adjustment away from having the whole packing working. That's my current theory, anyway. But I could be totally wrong.
  • If anyone asks me a few weeks from now what I remember about this game, all I'm going to have are unusual slides, both Guillen's and the slide Jose Lopez took into second base on a double. After putting a ball off the end of the bat into the gap, Lopez rounded first and dove into second for what should've been a routine double, but instead of easily gliding forward into the bag, Lopez's upper body slowed down while his lower body kept moving forward at the same speed, causing him to crumple up and jackknife his face into the ground. It was basically like Lopez slid into a patch of velcro, and while he sacked up and responded to Felix's taunts from the bullpen with a sheepish smile, the whole episode was like a combination of Woody Allen's self-deprecating sense of humor and FDR's grace.
  • Combined, Matt Garza and Scott Baker threw 148 pitches to 50 batters over the last two days. At less than three pitches per plate appearance, the Mariners have taken as aggressive an approach as I've ever seen, swinging at everything over the plate and not letting either guy get away with a flat fastball. When people call this a fastball-hitting lineup, these are the games they're talking about; the M's swung early and got to the starters before they could get ahead in the count and go to their offspeed stuff. The obvious solution for an opposing pitcher, then, would be to throw breaking balls early, but neither Baker nor Garza did that very often, and they got punished. It was exactly the right approach to take against two guys who pound the zone with heaters, and the sort of thing that renewed my faith in this offense's ability to bail our starters out of trouble. What they do against Silva tomorrow, of course, is a different story, but I have enough confidence in Batista that we shouldn't need all that much support.

Early early game tomorrow. The series is already won, but you can't tell me it hasn't been a kick to sit back watching NYY/LA and wondering who's going to lose some ground. Sweeping this thing would just work absolute wonders for our October aspirations. Plus I don't want to be unhappy at lunch, because sandwiches taste worse when you're frowning.