I am certainly no stranger to writer's block. Sometimes I'll be watching a game and the inspiration for a bunch of material will strike either during the action or the instant I open the editorial window to write a recap, but more often than not, after the end of a game, I'll sit here and wonder "now what in the hell am I going to say about that?" So I'll sit, and I'll stand, and I'll walk around, and I'll eat fruit, and I'll pantomime a pitching motion, and I'll do whatever I can think of for minutes or hours until I either come up with something or surrender. It's a common chore, and one for which I have yet to find a consistent and reliable remedy.
One occasionally effective trick, I've found, is to put myself in the place of the reader. If I were a member, rather than an author, what would I want to read about after a game? I rooted for a lousy hockey team last season, but still checked a handful of blogs on a regular basis. Why did I do that? What were they providing that I liked?
What kept me going back to those places, I think, were three things: (1) summaries of the performances of the best players, (2) summaries of the performances of the most promising players, and (3) summaries of how well the team played as a whole. Those topics allowed me to stay connected to the current season while considering what the team could look like down the road, and how good it could be. With that in mind, then, and with nothing more creative striking my fancy, I offer you the following, in hopes that you guys want the same sort of stuff as fans as I do:
Best players: Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, Russell Branyan, Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, David Aardsma, and Ken Griffey Jr. were either inactive or unavailable. Franklin Gutierrez and Jose Lopez went 0-7 with zero line drives.
Most promising players: Dustin Ackley disappeared after BP. Luke French gave up seven runs, Michael Saunders had a pinch-hit strikeout, and Bill Hall dropped to 8-35.
Team performance: The Mariners ran into a far superior opponent and lost by ten.
Okay so sometimes that approach to blogging doesn't work.
- It's a bit of a shame that some of French's worst results came on a night during which he posted some of his best peripherals. He went up against one of the best offenses in baseball, an offense whose lineup featured exactly one hitter - one really good hitter - swinging lefty. Aside from the fact that he was pitching in Safeco, this was among the worst matchups for French imaginable. And if you just look at his most immediate numbers, he did pretty well. Better than two-thirds of his pitches were strikes. He missed eight bats. He controlled his changeup. He didn't walk a guy. If all you knew about his start today were those four simple facts, you'd think he pitched a solid game and got through six innings.
Instead he went five and allowed seven runs, because he threw a bad slider to Vladimir Guerrero and because Juan Rivera reached out and yanked a 2-0 change that didn't seem as hittable as Rivera made it look. It's the most runs French has allowed in a Major League game, and due to both his efforts and a depleted Mariner lineup, this one was pretty much done by the top of the third.
I don't think less of French after tonight. Truth be told, if anything, I might even think more of him. If you can manage to pry yourself away from the R column on the scoreboard, you'll see that he just about made the most of a hazardous situation. But as evidenced by the home runs and the zero swinging strikes on 53 fastballs, even decent French is a very limited pitcher, and for that reason I'm going to caution against reading too much into this. While I think it's reasonable to put a positive spin on what the box score says was a miserable outing, nothing about him is special.
- Here's a fun fact for you:
Jarrod Washburn over six starts as a Tiger: 6.81 RA, 1.4 K/(BB+HBP)
Luke French over six starts as a Mariner: 6.82 RA, 1.5 K/(BB+HBP)
French is really taking this younger-Jarrod-Washburn thing to heart. The only thing he's missing is the jeopardizing of a team's shot at the playoffs.
- In the early innings, Dave was going on about how Vladimir Guerrero might be the biggest Mariner killer of all time. My first instinct was to disregard his statement, having borne the brunt of the Rafael Palmeiro experience, but then I decided to check Baseball-Reference, and you can imagine my surprise when I came across the following two splits:
Palmeiro vs. Seattle: .922 OPS, 17.6 PA/HR
Vlad vs. Seattle: 1.092 OPS, 15.7 PA/HR
And that, of course, doesn't include Vlad's two homers today, which pushed his OPS well north of the 1.100 mark. You might recognize 1.100 as roughly the OPS Barry Bonds put up as a Giant. Over 411 career plate appearances against Seattle, Vladimir Guerrero has hit like Barry Bonds, and though these sorts of statistics don't really mean anything when you consider that our current pitching staff looks nothing like it did in 2004 and players don't randomly dominate other teams for no reason, it's still unthinkably impressive when you reflect on it. Vladimir Guerrero hasn't killed us. Vladimir Guerrero hitting like Vladimir Guerrero would've killed us. Vladimir Guerrero hitting like Jimmie Foxx in the titanium alloy stadium from Triple Play 99 has bound our limbs with bailing wire and dropped us in a bathtub of acid.
Years from now, a generation of Mariner fans will tell the tale of the Campillo/Vlad showdown not with shame, but with reverence.