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April 12:

"Defense is a big part of our game, and we have been really sloppy,'' McLaren said. "It is something we take pride in. We have to do a better job. When it is your strength and it works as your weakness, that's not good."

Bottom 1

Ian Kinsler hits a sharp groundball to Adrian Beltre's left. Beltre picks the ball, then bobbles it, and by the time he recovers and throws to first, Kinsler is safe.

Bottom 2

Brandon Boggs sends a line drive into left field in the vicinity of Raul Ibanez, but Ibanez is slow in pursuit, eventually diving and having the ball tip off his glove for a double. The next batter - Gerald Laird - bounces a grounder right by a backhanding Yuniesky Betancourt at short for an RBI single.

Bottom 3

With two on and one out, David Murphy chops a could-be 4-6-3 grounder to Jose Lopez, but Lopez sits back instead of charging the ball, and Murphy beats out the throw to first for a fielder's choice.

Bottom 4

With men on the corners, Felix puts a fastball in the dirt right behind the plate that bounces away from Kenji Johjima, allowing a runner to score and the other to advance to second.

Bottom 6

Gerald Laird hits a line drive single into left field, but Raul Ibanez fumbles the ball, allowing Laird to advance to second.

Bottom 8

With one down, Gerald Laird chops a grounder to Yuniesky Betancourt, but the throw to first pulls Miguel Cairo off the bag. Later, with two on, Ramon Vazquez sharply grounds a single into right to load the bases, but the ball sneaks under Wladimir Balentien's glove, allowing everyone to advance and making it a 4-2 ballgame.

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Eight miscues. Seven if you think Yuni didn't have a chance on Laird's single. Seven or eight miscues that cost the Mariners four or five outs and 13 or 14 bases. While we obviously can't know for sure, one could make a pretty convincing argument that, had the Mariners played good team defense tonight,  the Rangers would've only score one run. Instead they scored five and won by a comfortable margin.

Generally when I criticize this team's defense, I'm referring to its overall lack of range, but these guys also seem to make way too many stupid little mistakes on routine plays. Tonight we saw the worst of both worlds. Beltre probably should've made that play in the first. A real left fielder catches Boggs' fly in the second. A better shortstop might then pick Laird's grounder and throw him out at first. A more aggressive second baseman turns Murphy's grounder into a double play. A catcher who knows how to block the ball instead of stab at it keeps Felix's fastball in front of him. Anyone older than 8 ought to keep Laird at first base there in the sixth. And, of course, the eighth just brought another pair of mental mistakes. This has gotten so far beyond bad that it's bordering on criminal, and the worst part is that, aside from things like fumbled grounders in the outfield, I can't envision a scenario in which it gets markedly better. God only knows what a Griffey acquisition would do to us. The only defensive highlight all game was a play that Felix turned in by himself. That's bad. This team is just hemorrhaging runs in the field that it can't afford to allow.

I guess it's not that big of a deal in the short-term, since the season's pretty much over and the team's record from here on out is of limited importance. But it bothers me to no end that a front office incapable of pitcher evaluation is similarly so incapable of evaluating defense. The gloves are killing us, and they've been killing us for a while. They're not the reason we're losing, but they're *a* reason we're losing, and yet this rarely gets mentioned as a problem.

Defense matters.

DEFENSE MATTERS.

I know I beat this drum all the time, and some of you are probably getting sick of hearing about it, but I'm not going to stop until more people understand just what kind of impact a team's defense really has on its record. It's huge. It's absolutely huge. And anyone who doesn't get that by now just doesn't get the game.

5_13_08_medium

Biggest Contribution: RRS, +5.9%
Biggest Suckfest: Yuniesky Betancourt, -19.9%
Most Important AB: Johjima double, +13.5%
Most Important Pitch: Kinsler DP, +11.6%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +7.5%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -57.5%
Total Contribution by Opposition: 0.0%
(What is this chart?)

We lost. Felix's command has completely and utterly disappeared. 121 different players have at least twice as many walks as our shortstop and second baseman combined. I'd love to see a nightmare tonight that could top the one I'm living during the day.