There's something really nice about winning early and then having the division leader's game get rained out. Practically speaking, it doesn't really matter, since the Rangers will make it up at a later date and presumably won't be any more likely to lose than they would've been today, but psychologically, it feels like we got to chip away another little bit at the difference. I mean, I know that a Ranger loss would've pulled us in to 4 games back, but a Rangers win would've kept us at 5, and winning without making up ground gets annoying in a hurry, so I'm happy with how things transpired, no matter how conservative it may be. The Texas/Toronto game will be made up in September. We'll see how much it matters when we get there. For now, we're 10% closer to the lead than we were a day ago, and the 4.5-game gap is the smallest it's been in nearly a month. The Mariners' chance at being the team that drives Red Sox, Yankees, or Rays fans absolutely bonkers in October is very much alive and well.
- Felix against lefties today. Spot the gameplan!
The Orioles ran out a lineup with five guys who hit lefty against Felix, and Felix responded by living almost exclusively either down by the knees or in and around the outer third of the zone. Note how well the image above corresponds to the image below, showing the run value by location of pitches thrown by right-handed pitchers to left-handed batters (red and yellow being good for the pitcher, blue and green being good for the hitter).
Righties get the best results by pitching lefties away, and that's exactly what we saw Felix do today. Not that this is anything extraordinary, but this time around it seemed unusually pronounced, as Felix only threw two pitches that could be considered inside and barely put anything down the middle. Would it be nice to see him take advantage of that zone up and in as well? Yes, it would, but when he's having a mediocre command day like he did this afternoon, I'd just as soon like to see him try to avoid it, as his natural movement runs down and away from lefties and missing when you're aiming up and in could put something in the wheelhouse. I think Felix had the right idea. At least in terms of location. He still gave lefties too many fastballs (69%) and too few changeups (24%), but then, hey, it's Felix. Baltimore's three doubles all came on fastballs thrown to left-handed hitters. On the brighter side, the sixth and seventh innings saw Felix strike out lefties Luke Scott and Matt Wieters on low breaking balls that fell off the table faster than a pie wishes it could when it sees Carlos Silva LOL!
All in all, a good day for Felix that would be a great day for nearly any other pitcher alive. He generated 12 groundballs on 22 balls in play, missed 12 bats out of 103 pitches, and while he only threw 58% strikes with his heater, he kept himself in control by throwing 80% strikes when going offspeed. This marks the sixth consecutive start in which Felix has missed at least ten bats, and over that span his rate stands at 13.7%. The King is on a roll.
- Speaking of hot streaks, Jose Lopez since the start of the Angels series: .364/.383/.818. Half of his 20 extra-base hits have come in his last 11 games. It's been well established in other places by way smarter people that hot streaks don't have any predictive value - that a guy coming up in the middle of a hot streak won't do better than he would at any other point in time - but, to me, the real value of a hot streak is in its proof of ability. Jose Lopez's first several weeks made me doubt who he was as a hitter, so by flipping out all over the place and pulling himself up to a more respectable batting line in the process, he's showed me that perhaps 2008 wasn't such a total fluke after all. If Lopez can be a .310-.320 wOBA bat from this point forward, instead of the hitter he's been to date, then that'll be big news for an offense that needs all the help it can get. And because of his recent results, I'm beginning to think that maybe he can do it.
- I really do wish that Lopez hit more impressive home runs. Both of his shots today came on breaking balls that he deposited a few rows back in dead left. According to HitTracker, only five of Lopez's 46 homers since 2006 have surpassed 400 feet, and he's topped out at 415. What that tells me is that, while Lopez does clearly have home run power in his bat, he just doesn't have the strength to ever turn into much more of a power hitter than he currently is. It'd be one thing if he'd hit a ball 440 or 450 feet some time before. But a 415 max? Lopez isn't really sitting on the verge of a 30 bomb season. He is what he is. On that note, given Lopez's pull-hitting tendencies and ordinary strength, would you believe me if I told you that he's hit for better power at home than on the road over his career? 12.3 PAs per extra-base hit and 43.3 PAs per homer in Safeco, versus 14.2 and 54.3 elsewhere. Why, that doesn't make sense at all.
- What follows is a list of things that Sean White does worse than 2007-2008 Sean Green:
-get swinging strikes
I know that White seems comfortable right now. I feel the same way when he comes in for some reason. But he's not anywhere close to this good, and it's only a matter of time before he has one of those meltdowns that tended to plague Green down the stretch. Yeah, it'll be a meltdown made up of a bunch of singles and walks, but while that's less theatrical than the Guardado special, it's also more drawn-out and stupid. All I hope is that White is able to put off the reality check until Shawn Kelley gets right.
Olson and Koji Uehara tomorrow afternoon. In case you hadn't noticed, Uehara has been all kinds of good, in large part due to the splitter that he throws more often than any other starter in the bigs. It's funny how his tRA is better than Matsuzaka's could ever dream of being. This is Birdland!