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56-51, Game Notes

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I've learned something about myself these last two nights. Honestly, I don't know why it never dawned on me until just now. And what I've learned is that, for all the talk about how offense is exciting and chicks dig the longball and the Rockies kept selling out because there was non-stop action, for me - and I'm only talking about me, here - while high-scoring games can be a fun change of pace from time to time, they rapidly lose their appeal as they start to drag on. Which, in turn, means that duration is a bigger determinant in how much I enjoy watching a baseball game than the level of offense. In terms of an equation:

Enjoyment = Aα + Bβ + Cγ + Dδ +…

There are a whole lot of different factors that can affect how much I enjoy watching a baseball game. Leverage. Significance. Whether the Mariners win or lose. And so on. All of those things are included above as separate variables. But what I've learned tonight is that

If α = level of offense and β = duration

Then B > A

The first two games of this series have taken something like seven combined hours to complete. I'm glad the M's came out on top of both of them, but rather than happy and enthralled, all I've been for much of those seven hours is bored and annoyed. Congratulations, Mariners - your wins have taken so long that at several points I've lost interest and felt like a bad fan for doing so. That's not how this is supposed to work.

Thank you for winning. Winning is neat. Now just please do me the courtesy of hurrying up.

  • Reflecting on his performance and then looking at the box score, Luke French pitched a better game than his line would suggest. Both home runs were on pitches I imagine he'd like to have back - particularly Gordon's, which came on a high-80s 1-0 fastball literally in the center of the zone - but outside of those, I thought he looked pretty good for what he is. Though both the TV radar gun and the PITCHf/x reported velocities seemed high, French still got some fastballs up there at 90+ and he seems to have "sneaky" heat, in that his fastballs look faster than they really are. I don't know what causes that sort of thing, but that was my impression, and by and large he was able to put it where he wanted.

    As for French's secondary pitches - for one thing, he threw them a lot. 43% offspeed on the game. And for another, they were effective. 26 of 38 were thrown for strikes, six missed bats, and only one was hit particularly hard. What's interesting is that, where he came in having excelled with his slider, tonight it was his changeup that stole the show. Although I guess that was mostly the doings of Miguel Olivo, who swung at five changeups and missed four of them. Still, Olivo's a big league hitter, and French's change threw him for a loop. It's encouraging to see him working off that pitch pretty well since it was a big part of his success in AAA.

    When you look at French's fastball and tendency to pitch up in the zone, you'd think he's always due to get shelled. But throw in a pair of good offspeed pitches and an ability to move the ball around the zone and you get a guy who's better than being just another Garrett Olson. Olson couldn't even throw strikes today with a giant lead. French threw strikes with more than two-thirds of his pitches. A skeptic might call him "Garrett Olson with command," but Garrett Olson with command isn't Garrett Olson anymore, and that's why I think French could be a pretty good piece. When you can locate and work against both lefties and righties, you've got an excellent chance of contributing at the Major League level. Though hardly spectacular, what I saw from French tonight only served to confirm my moderately optimistic expectations.

  • I can't get over how uncomfortable and awkward Olson looks in a baseball uniform. I know that sounds weird but you'll notice it too the next time you see him, and then that's all you'll be able to see for the rest of the season. I don't like to wear shorts. However, I get hot really easily, so I went to try on some shorts the other day, but when I put them on I didn't at all feel like myself. That's how I see Garrett Olson in a baseball uniform. Like he doesn't have any confidence in his image because he's wearing something he doesn't think suits his body.

  • I think it's high time we give this segment a new name.

    As if the 222 games of Major League experience weren't enough of a clue that Koplove isn't going to be making any prospect lists, Dave Sims chimed in with - and this is an exact quote - "Didn't even know he was still bouncing around baseball. Thought he hung 'em up." 

  • Any act of building is building to the future. This is like Mitch Hedberg/every picture is of you when you were younger all over again.

  • In the top of the third inning, Michael Saunders ripped a 3-1 low-inside fastball down the right field line for his first ever Major League triple. As a starter, Kyle Davies has a career 5.92 tRA over nearly 500 innings. I wonder if it still counts as your first career Major League triple if you hit it off a AAA arm. 

  • As evidenced by the promotion at Kauffman today, 80s Night is a popular phenomenon for people of all ages. It gives them an excuse to wear clothes they'd never wear, use words they'd never use, sing along to songs they'd never sing along to, and generally just celebrate a memorable but nevertheless thankfully distant decade that hasn't stood the test of time. It's an opportunity for people college-aged or older to reflect on all the stupid shit they used to like so many eons ago, and for people high school-aged or younger to look at their parents and wonder what the hell was wrong with them. Now here's a thought: the Royals haven't won more than 84 games in a season since 1989, and they haven't made the playoffs since 1985.

  • Miguel Batista inherited a 10-4 lead and threw 14 strikes out of 28 pitches. Garrett Olson inherited an 11-5 lead and threw 20 strikes out of 37 pitches. Without being able to record catcher glove location prior to each pitch, we don't have a real good measure of pitcher command. Strike rate in blowouts, however, might be a useful proxy, because there's no good reason to nibble around the edges. Hey, by that test, guess which relievers of ours who pitched today don't have good command?

  • Yuniesky Betancourt as a Royal:

    OSwing%: 22.9% (25.0% league average)
    ZSwing%: 67.5% (65.7% league average)
    Zone%: 63.2% (49.3% league average)

    Over the last 30 days, Yuni's Zone% - the percentage of pitches thrown within the strike zone - has been the highest in baseball, 4% above Jason Kendall. Pitchers are clearly just going right after him, not the least bit afraid that he's going to deliver much damage. In Yuni's defense, though, at least his discipline looks to be quite a bit better. I'm not going to jump to any conclusions because there are sample size issues here to take into consideration, but as a member of the Royals, Yuni has swung at fewer balls out of the strike zone than the average Major Leaguer. If you remember what he was like as an M, that's just a little bit flabbergasting. For them, this is an encouraging sign of progress. And I actually think that's pretty cool.

  • Jack Hannahan got to play two innings in the field at short in relief of Jack Wilson, diving at but missing a groundball single. I'm surprised the Mariners are giving him the opportunity to work on his versatility at the Major League level, but I'm also ecstatic, because the prospect of Hannahan as a utility player tickles me in all the right places, and this way I don't have to watch any Chris Woodward. Hannahan's approach to hitting makes it really, really hard for me to believe he's as bad as his numbers, and should his plus defense translate to other positions around the infield, he could very well turn out to be quite the find.

  • A cat running around the living room: not interesting. A cat running around the street and the sidewalk: somewhat interesting. A cat running around the living room of someone who doesn't own a cat: more interesting. A cat running around a baseball field during the middle of a game: maximum level of interest. Whenever something like this happens, the critter invariably ends up drawing a greater ovation than pretty much anything that happens during the game, which makes me think that zoos have it all wrong. The key to making an animal interesting isn't so much presenting the animal itself as it is presenting the animal in a situation in which people don't expect an encounter. I'd find our zoo way less boring if I only saw animals in surprising situations.