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Something I've been trying to work out in my head since the news broke this afternoon is, why now? I don't mean "why did the Mariners make the changes," because it's obvious why they made the changes, but why did they do them today, in the middle of a series in Cleveland? Even leaving aside the whole service time thing, they usually don't do stuff like this until the beginning of a homestand, so the minor leaguers can sleep in their own beds and travel as little as possible. What made these moves such a priority? Why not just wait until the end of the weekend?

The answer occurred to me somewhere around dinner time. The Mariners made these moves today because, by getting Balentien and Clement their season debuts in Cleveland in a Washburn start, they were minimizing the amount of pressure on the young players' shoulders, since no one would be watching. When you call a prospect up from the minors and give him an important job, you have to worry at least a little bit about how he'll deal with the stress. The Mariners responded to this concern by beginning both their prospects in a stress-free environment. I imagine it's a lot tougher to get comfortable in front of 30,000 fans at home than it is to get comfortable on the road in front of a 55 year old drummer in a game you have no chance of winning. So, good on you, Mariners. Way to turn lack of interest and Washburn's countless limitations into a positive.

4_30_08_medium

Biggest Contribution: Richie Sexson, +1.3%
Biggest Suckfest: Jarrod Washburn, -15.4%
Most Important AB: Balentien double play, -7.6%
Most Important Pitch: Sizemore homer, -9.6%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -20.3%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -29.7%
Total Contribution by Opposition: 0.0%
(What is this chart?)

  1. You hear the expression "pitch to contact" all the time about various guys around the league. Jarrod Washburn, for example, is absolutely a pitch-to-contact pitcher. But while you usually think of these guys as letting the ball hit the bat and hoping the defense does the work, I think a more accurate way of looking at things is that, for pitchers like Jarrod Washburn, they simply leave it up to the hitter. And sometimes that doesn't necessarily lead to contact. Jarrod Washburn struck out seven hitters tonight, six of them swinging. 11 times now we've seen him strike out at least six hitters despite not having strikeout stuff, and despite seldom really trying for the strikeout. This is because sometimes hitters are just going to miss the ball, even if the guy on the mound is trying for a grounder or a pop-up.

    What I mean by this is, when Washburn has one of his 6+ strikeout games, it's not because he made an adjustment or changed his mechanics. It's because the batters just missed the ball more often than they usually do, and in the wrong counts. Washburn doesn't own a strikeout pitch. He doesn't go out there trying to make the hitters fish for breaking balls in the dirt. He works in and around the zone, trying for weak contact. Of his seven strikeouts today, one was called - on an 0-2 fastball just off the plate - and six were swinging, of which five came on pitches in the strike zone. And I'd say it's more the Indians' fault than Washburn's that they missed those pitches. Most of the time they'll foul them off or put them in play, but tonight they swung through, and Washburn's K rate jumped as a result. It's neat, but it's not reliable, because it's not done on purpose.

  2. Ordinarily, of course, when a guy piles up a surprising number of strikeouts, he benefits from the lower amount of balls in play. But not Washburn, not tonight. The contact wasn't real good aside from Sizemore's leadoff home run, but all the luck Washburn had with missing bats was erased by weak hits putting men on base. In that respect this felt a little too much like Felix circa 2006.

  3. Cha Baek deserves a better job than the one he's got. Bill Bavasi is actively costing him future millions by refusing to let him go and catch on with some other team's starting rotation. If you're so into ethical behavior, Bill, you'll deal Baek to a team with a need and give his mop-up spot to some random Rainier with a dream. That way you make two people happy instead of zero.

  4. This was RRS' first appearance in a week. Over that span of time, Arthur Rhodes has three, and Sean Green has four. I guess nobody noticed that curveball he threw to Garret Anderson.

  5. I wasn't wild about the way Wlad got his season debut started, putting two pitches outside off the plate in play in his first two at bats, but the home run he hit in the seventh inning is exactly why he's always managed to get people excited despite all kinds of weird issues (some that continue, some that went away) with his approach. Lee gave him a low-outside fastball in a 2-0 count, and Wlad went down and drove it the other way, supplying the bulk of the power and hitting it hard enough to clear the fence. That's no small feat, and it demonstrates both incredible strength and an ability to go to right field. I won't go crazy about the opposite-field hitting until I see it a little more often (remember Kenji's first home run?), but the power is legit, and it's the tool that got Wlad to where he is today. Wlad will miss his fair share of pitches, but the ones that he hits will be hit pretty hard. Remember how I said that I couldn't even imagine what a Wilkerson home run would look like? I can imagine Wlad doing much much more. He...he won't be boring.

  6. Jeff Clement's 2008 Mariner debut: one pitch, one strike, 95mph, line drive base hit to center. With one out to go in an 8-3 game, the pitcher's obviously just going to pipe fastballs until a batter gets himself out, so kudos to Clement for knowing that and taking advantage. I don't know why more people don't do things like this. I don't just mean in blowouts, either. The first pitch of the game by both pitchers is almost always a fastball, so why not anticipate that, make sure it's a strike, and rip away? Might be the most hittable pitch you see all day.

  7. 7024_mediumYou know those crime scene TV shows where they find a skull and use reverse-animation or whatever to figure out what the face would've looked like? Jamey Carroll looks like that face before they add the little subtleties that make it human.

  8. Ichiro can start hitting any day now.

  9. I don't know what to say about Cliff Lee. Looking through his PITCHf/x data, he's throwing nearly 85% fastballs, up from ~72% a year ago. And...that's about it. His pitches are the same, and while the ratios are a little different, that doesn't come close to explaining what's going on. He's also throwing a few more strikes, but again, when a guy goes from a K/BB of 1.8 to a K/BB of 16, you expect to see something a bit more dramatic. This is one of the weirdest fluke months I think I've ever seen. Considering his five starts have come against four of the five worst non-Cleveland offenses (so far) in the AL, he's obviously due for some heavy regression, but I just hope it's not too bad, because I love seeing cool pitchers bounce back from adversity to be successful.

Miguel Batista and Paul Byrd tomorrow at 4:05pm PDT. But they should really just declare that the matchup is Johan Santana against Whitey Ford, because what's the worst that could happen?