You know how I know that I'm used to losing? After the latest in a series of gut-wrenching embarrassments, all I can think about is how glad I am that I was able to see Ichiro throw himself at the wall for the sake of a team going nowhere. Good show, little dude. Good show.
Biggest Contribution: Yuniesky Betancourt, +5.5%
Biggest Suckfest: Felix, -20.3%
Most Important AB: Lopez HBP, +9.7%
Most Important Pitch: Pedroia double, -26.5%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -19.1%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -34.5%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +3.6%
(What is this chart?)
- It was an absolute beast of a catch, and Ichiro's instant answer to people who thought he might've been dogging it during the road trip. For all we know, it was also Ichiro's answer to his own self-evaluation. When Varitek hit that ball it looked like a bomb or at least a run-scoring double, but Ichiro was on his horse from the crack of the bat, and as he neared the track you got the feeling in the back of your head that you were about to see something special. Sure enough, as he set foot on the dirt, he left his feet and propelled himself into the fence to make an over-the-shoulder catch the likes of which Willie Mays couldn't even imagine. He fell on his back, adjusted his hat, returned the ball to the infield, and then - after taking a moment to catch his breath - fixed his socks as if nothing had happened. JD Drew scampered back to first base as a stunned Jason Varitek stared into center field.
It was the kind of catch that you imagine making when you're a kid playing ball in your backyard, and as you get back to your feet you smile and high-five the other outfielders and you doff your cap to the fans. But aside from simply touching the bill of his hat in response to the Safeco standing ovation, Ichiro was as cool and collected as ever, which only makes the guy all the more awesome, since you know the whole time he was running the ball down he was thinking "I need to make up for yesterday." Let Ichiro never be accused of giving less than 100% ever again, because risking your body to make a catch that in the grand scheme of things won't mean anything is the ultimate...well "gamer" is pretty much exclusively used in a derisive manner these days, but that's not a catch you make unless you're busting your ass.
Ichiro may not always look like he's giving it his all, but that's simply a mistaken perception due to the grace with which he plays the game. Trust me. He is. And never has that been made any more clear than it was tonight.
- Immediately following the catch, the camera panned to a shot of Red and his girlfriend applauding in the stands. That was 30 seconds of the Eels in a season of Creed.
- With the season firmly entrenched in the crapper, the most frustrating thing to deal with right now is Felix's regression to something more resembling a #2 or #3 starter than an ace. I'm not talking about the hits or the runs; I'm talking about the spotty control, the reduced swinging strike rate and the sharp increase in fly balls. Odalis Perez has better peripherals at the moment, for God's sake. Odalis Perez, as you recall, was signed by the Nationals as an NRI last February. Nobody who was recently signed as an NRI should be out-pitching your phenom.
I wish I could dive into a spreadsheet and figure out what's wrong, but with the 2007 pitch data being fairly unreliable, I don't have that much to go on. However, the obvious suspicion is - as always - an over-dependence on fastballs. Even moreso than in years past (Stottlemyre?). He's up over 65% fastballs, which is beyond ridiculous for a guy offering an above-average changeup, slider, and curve. There's no reason for him to be throwing that many heaters, and you can kind of see it reflected in his struggles to put batters away; after getting ahead 0-1, he's allowed a .688 OPS on the season, compared to the AL average of .610. When a guy with Felix's repertoire gets ahead of a hitter 0-1, that should be it. Game over. But it hasn't been that way, and it's a problem. Throw fewer fastballs. Throw fewer fastballs! If only to see what happens. It's not like there's much to lose at this point. Might as well start experimenting.
- With two on and none out in the bottom of the sixth, John McLaren called for Jose Vidro to lay down a sacrifice bunt. That's all well and good, since Vidro sucks and all, and I would've been okay with it were it not for one little thing - Vidro was batting third in the lineup. John McLaren has so much faith in Vidro that he's been batting him third, but he has so little faith in Vidro that he had him bunt the runners over in a critical situation. We know it's not a matter of McLaren simply being comfortable bunting with anyone, since the other run producers (Beltre, Ibanez, "Sexson") have yet to put one down, so which is it, John? Do you think Vidro's good or do you think Vidro sucks? Because too often I'm finding it hard to wrap my head around what you're thinking.
The winter has not gone well for RHP Bartolo Colon, who is trying to rehab a torn rotator cuff. Colon, 34 and never a picture of health, has thrown just 155.2 innings over the past two years. He apparently did not use any of his rehab time to lose weight, a point of concern for those scouting him in winter league ball. Worse, according to one scout, was his lack of velocity. "We barely had him in the high 80s," the scout says. "If he is not throwing 94, I am not sure where he fits in."Bartolo Colon's average fastball, first two starts: 92.7mph, with 27% of them over 94 and a handful at 96.
Colon can't quite scrape the high-90s like he could in his career peak, and he's essentially a two-pitch pitcher with a ticking time bomb of a shoulder, but the Red Sox got him on a minor league contract, and for as long as he's healthy he's a good bet to either match or exceed the performances of all three expensive bits of our starting rotation. If only someone would've thought of this earlier. This is but one of a million reasons why the Red Sox win and the Mariners don't.
- I've long been of the stance that Jacoby Ellsbury's an overrated prospect, because he just doesn't have that high of a ceiling at the plate. However, while I still believe that, lately I've been reconsidering my position on the issue, because God damn the kid has a hell of a glove. Not counting tonight, Ellsbury's had 98 balls hit into his zone on the year, and he's caught 95 of them. He's also made 18 plays out of zone for good measure. That's tops in the league, and while it's still early, he seems to have good enough instincts to be an impact defender, and he definitely has the speed. So, yeah, Ellsbury may just develop into an elite-level outfielder after all. Just not because of what he does with the stick.
- Miguel Cairo is super awesome at pouncing on bunts from first base and throwing down to second. As best attributes go, that's a really weird one.
- Felix's 8th inning:
low-away 1-2 curveball; groundball single
bunt force out
low-away 1-2 fastball; groundout
first-pitch inside fastball; pulled double
first-pitch outside fastball; opposite-field single
high-inside 0-1 fastball; infield single
first-pitch outside changeup; infield single
Felix was not all that bad in the inning, and he certainly didn't deserve to give up four runs and get tagged with the loss. When the camera showed him in the dugout a few minutes after getting yanked, it looked like he'd been crying, and honestly, I can't blame him. He hasn't won in seven starts, and as silly as it sounds to us, wins are all most pitchers care about. This has been a rough year for everyone, but it seems like Felix has had to deal with an inordinate amount of frustration. He needs to be on the right side of a laugher in the worst way.