Question: Does the best team always win the World Series?
Hypothesis: The best team doesn't always win the World Series
Experiment: Ian Snell, vs. Justin Verlander,
Result: Ian Snell, Mariners > Justin Verlander, Tigers
Conclusion: The best team doesn't always win the World Series
- Justin Verlander has a 28-strikeout lead over second place in the American League. Last year Carlos Silva didn't record his 28th strikeout until June 4th.
- I'm thrilled that Ian Snell was able to pick up his first win as a Mariner. I really am. The guy has been through a lot this year, and earning his first win with Seattle should only be of help in his attempt to put everything in Pittsburgh behind him. With that said, just as I didn't think he was as bad as his eight runs against New York last week, he definitely wasn't as good as his one run tonight against Detroit. He only threw 54 strikes out of 98 pitches, he walked more than he struck out, he missed just six bats, and he fell behind 16 of the 23 batters he faced - including 12 of the last 14. The strike zone was dancing around on him all night, and it cut into his efficiency.
Here's the good news, though. Yeah, Snell missed a lot, but do you know where he missed?
here's how Justin Verlander pitched. Now look back at Snell. Of his 44 balls, only seven - seven! - wound up more than 22 inches off the ground. When he missed, he missed low. It wasn't just his misses, either; most of his strikes were low, too. Snell was just pounding the lower half of the zone for the duration of his outing, and though he wasn't always able to hit his spot, he stayed around the right area, which prevented the Tigers from doing too much damage. That strikes me as a good way to help a struggling pitcher build some much-needed confidence.
If you're curious, here's what Snell looked like in his first start as a Mariner, his second, and his third. I think it's safe to say they had a different game plan today than in the past, and Johjima says as much on Drayer's blog.
The fastball [Johjima] said was good if it was kept down. To help keep Snell's focus down on all of his pitches Joh dropped to a one knee on the ground stance which he admitted made it a bit more difficult for him to block pitches. Despite this he felt it was important to keep his focus there so dropped to one knee as much as situations would allow.
- Another thing Snell's working on (he must feel like a college student going from one class to another), according to Drayer's Twitter, is:
Minor adjustment by Adair, wanted to get his front foot pointing towards the plate rather than to the 3rd base dugout
Here's what he looked like in his first start as a Mariner.
Here's what he looked like tonight.
Now, I think that last picture is a little misleading. I watched a lot of video on the MLB.tv archived footage, and Snell was still pointing his foot to the right of home plate a little bit. He's not "fixed" by any stretch of the imagination. But he did have his moments, and that's progress. Back when I used to pitch, the direction of the landing foot was a little thing that, for me, made a lot of difference - when I pointed my toes more towards first base (I'm a lefty) it felt like I was throwing over myself, like my front leg was sort of impeding forward motion. When I pointed my toes towards home, though, it was a much more fluid motion, and I had a better ability to spot the ball.
I'm not going to say that this will be the mechanical tweak that solves Ian Snell. Foot direction meant something to me, but it may not mean anything at all to him. That said, after going through some video, it seems to me that he did a better job of pointing towards home plate in 2007, so I'm definitely all about the team doing what it can to get him back to looking how he used to look. If they can get him landing better and feeling comfortable about it, something tells me we'll start to see him throwing more strikes.
Rob Johnson was available today. There was no reason for him not to be. And yet, with a pitcher struggling to find his way on the mound, we saw Kenji Johjima behind the plate. This interests me, because you'd think a team who believes in the Rob Johnson hype would want Johnson working with Snell, but it also makes me mad, because now we probably won't get to see Kenji square off against Jarrod Washburn.
- Snell's fastest pitch tonight was 93.8mph.
- I'm going to stick with the Snell subject a little while longer, because he's by far the most interesting guy to talk about today. One other thing I'll mention about him is that that 11-pitch at bat against Carlos Guillen in the sixth inning really went to show what can happen when you don't have an out pitch against left-handed hitters. If you thought that at bat felt like something out of Sean Green's playbook, you weren't the only one. Snell kept trying to get something by him or induce weak contact, but Guillen wasn't having any of it, and he just stayed in and fouled things off until Snell made a mistake. I won't say "get used to things like that," because 11-pitch at bats are highly unusual, but when we said that Snell struggles with lefties, this is what we were talking about. He just doesn't have the consistent changeup you need to be solid all around, and as such he will live and die by how well he can throw strikes to righties. Even if he gets good again, he'll still be pretty frustrating.
- I think my favorite part of any winning broadcast is when Mike Blowers starts going on about how the secret behind David Aardsma's breakthrough season is greatly improved command of his fastball. Because even if his fastball command is greatly improved, what?
- You know, considering the number of lefties he's faced, I'd say it's pretty impressive that Michael Saunders is one Chris Gimenez leap away from a .281/.324/.375 batting line. He's shown decent discipline, he looks beyond comfortable in left field, and tonight he put the ball in play in all four at bats while getting ahead of Verlander all three times he faced him. Saunders hasn't exactly had the softest big league landing imaginable, but he's managed, and for the time being I have zero complaints. I'd really like to see him maybe walk against a lefty once though.
My understanding is that rain is threatening tomorrow's 10:05am start time. Which might be just as well, because maybe it's not the best thing in the world to send a shorthanded and mediocre group of hitters up against a starting pitcher who knows each of their weaknesses.