Said Horacio Ramirez after the game:
Welcome to Seattle, the only city on the continent where a guy can run the worst ERA of any pitcher in baseball with more than ten starts and still be surprised when his manager has a quick hook. You know why he was surprised? Because he didn't expect it. You know why he didn't expect it? Because he's never had any reason to expect it. Horacio Ramirez has been granted so many undeserved opportunities this year that he takes to the mound thinking he's earned himself the manager's confidence.
Step back for a moment and consider how absurdly ridiculous this is. Horacio Ramirez has a 7.16 ERA over 20 starts. Only two pitchers have put up a worse ERA this year over at least 50 innings - both of them Devil Rays, and neither of them still in the Majors. In just seven of his starts has Horacio managed to see the sixth inning, and even that's only happened one time since July 28th. He walks more batters than he strikes out. He has a batting average against of .337. With more innings, his home run rate would rank tenth-highest in baseball despite groundball tendencies that should theoretically help him. The fans and media have been talking about how every successive start feels like "Horacio's last chance" for what seems like months now. And this man is surprised when his manager finally grows impatient?
Just think about the kind of organizational environment that must be in place in order to foster thinking like Horacio's. Of course this is a happy clubhouse. Why wouldn't it be? The people who've been around the game for a few years - the people who have voices - get whatever they want. For God's sake, this is the team that kept putting Richie Sexson in the lineup despite a leg problem that was allegedly killing his productivity. This coaching staff, led by John McLaren, just doesn't have anyone capable of sitting a player down and having a difficult conversation. They won't do it. Somehow, somewhere along the way, they came to believe that the mood in the dugout has more to do with performance than ability. The loyalty has paid off in some cases, but it's killed us in others, and at the end of the day this team just didn't stand a chance as long as it was getting a .200 average from first base and a combined 6.70 ERA from the back of the rotation.
With shorter leashes and a little more creativity, the Mariners might've found themselves in playoff position today. Instead they're left wondering where it all went wrong. It sucks to think about, but there's definitely a lesson to be learned here. Please, if nothing else, take this opportunity to learn from today's mistakes so that you don't repeat them tomorrow. At least that way we'll know we got more than just heartbreak out of this whole season.
Maybe we didn't have enough talent. Maybe this team was just never good enough to stay in contention. But without ever daring to rock the boat and shake things up a little bit, we'll never know for sure. When faced with hope, most teams try to squeeze every last drop out of their roster that they can. The Mariners become paralyzed with inactivity.
Learn. Learn, or continue to get left behind.
Biggest Contribution: Sean Green, +1.4%
Biggest Suckfest: Horacio Ramirez, -24.1%
Most Important AB: Ichiro single, +3.0%
Most Important Pitch: Young single, -10.0%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -31.4%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -21.9%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +3.3%
If this game had any redeeming value at all, it was that we got to see Jorge Campillo make the longest Major League appearance of his career. Not that Jorge Campillo is anything special aside from being a new log in a sea of rotting driftwood, but at least this gives me the opportunity to say my piece, which is probably long overdue given how frequently his name seems to come up.
Jorge Campillo is not a solid, Major League-caliber starting pitcher. That impression isn't borne out by either his repertoire or his performance. You already know about his arsenal - fastball around 85, changeup around 75, big looping curve around 70-72. That's not going to blow anyone's mind. Before you accuse me of having an unfair scout-style bias against a junkballing righty, though, his numbers aren't impressive, either. Observe:
PCL League Average:
OPS against on road: .818 (Cheney is a pitcher's park)
A flyball, contact pitcher with a rookie league fastball and no apparent ability to miss the fat part of the bat. Color me enthused. The ERA is shiny, but considering we've seen the same kind of PCL mastery by the likes of Brian Falkenborg, Denny Stark, and Craig Anderson before, I'm not going to give it much stock.
Incidentally, one of my favorite pitchers of all time was a former Orioles prospect by the name of John Stephens, an Aussie import who saw nerve damage drop his fastball from ML-caliber down to the 82-86mph range. And yet, despite the injury, Stephens was able to use his good command and quality offspeed stuff to just tear through the minors to the tune of a strikeout an inning and an ERA in the 2's. The amount of success he had was incredible, and at the age of 22 he was able to force his way into the Majors, where he threw the only 65 big league innings of his career. The debut was less than spectacular, and Stephens' story hasn't gone on to have a happier ending, but for as long as he was around, he was an awesome guy to follow. It was impossible not to root for someone who achieved so much statistical success with such an unusual skillset.
So, yeah, my issue with Campillo isn't the stuff. It's that he doesn't post good enough numbers to make up for it. No matter where he went, John Stephens was almost always near the top of the leaderboard in walks, strikeouts, and K/BB. He put up better stats in AA than Felix. Campillo doesn't have that going for him. His strikeout rate is near the bottom among regular PCL starters this year, and his K/BB doesn't crack the upper 20%. He throws a ton of strikes, but also allows a hit an inning, implying that he's more about hitting the zone than hitting a particular spot. The numbers that made me pull hard for John Stephens aren't there for Jorge Campillo.
To me, he has an awful lot of Greg Wooten coursing through his veins. You'll remember Wooten as a guy who had more wins than walks with AA New Haven back in 2000. The next season he went up to Tacoma and put up very similar numbers to Campillo, but nothing better ever materialized, and a year later he was out of baseball (that's where the comparison ends). Like Campillo, Wooten was a strike-throwing righty with a fastball that nicked the upper-80's in a strong wind, and so had to get by with his offspeed stuff. That kind of attack can succeed in the minor leagues, but rarely does it translate well.
Of course, rarely does it even get the chance, and this helps segue into my second point - for as little faith as I have in Campillo turning into any kind of solution as a starter, he deserved to get a look several weeks ago. Horacio Ramirez has been known to be a problem for a long, long time, a problem with but one three-letter solution. He should've been ousted from the rotation, and with Baek hurt, RRS relieving, and Feierabend still sorting things out, Campillo should've had the first shot at taking over. For as little as I think of Campillo's true ability, I do not think of him as a 7-ERA starting pitcher. At the very least he can throw consistent strikes, which gives him a leg up. This is the key point, here: we can compare Campillo to other average or replacement-level arms all we want, but in the end the only comparison that matters is Campillo vs. Ramirez, and whether making a switch would improve the rotation. Do I think Campillo is the better pitcher? How couldn't I?
To suggest otherwise underestimates just how staggeringly bad one has to be to post an ERA over seven. There are very few upper-level pitchers who could be as bad as Ramirez for as long as Ramirez. 7.16. 7.16! With a 7.90 RA! In 20 starts! Even swapping him out with a randomly-generated 6.00 RA would've saved us at least 20 runs by now. And even that level of crappiness is difficult to achieve, especially in a ballpark like ours. If all Campillo ever did was throw strikes and let Safeco help him out, he could manage an ERA around 5.50. An ERA of 5.50 isn't good. An ERA of 5.50 also isn't Horacio Ramirez.
Jorge Campillo is not a good Major League pitcher, but considering the Mariners paid $37m over four years for one rough approximation and $8m for another while giving away Rafael Soriano for a guy who sucks worse, it's remarkable that he hasn't been given a chance. How many times are you going to let Ramirez prove how bad he is before giving someone else the same opportunity? Your scouts may not think that Campillo's stuff will translate very well, and your analysts may agree. But we know beyond a shadow of a doubt what Horacio Ramirez brings to the table, and I damn sure don't think any replacement could possibly be worse. Make the switch. It'd be almost laughable for you to do it now, months too late, but make it anyway, just to prove to us that your minds aren't completely inflexible.
Horacio Ramirez was pulled after four batters today, without retiring a single one. His time has to be up, right?
Late update: Horacio has indeed been pulled from the rotation. No word on his replacement.