I don't even pretend to fill in for Jeff when it comes to post-game thoughts, much less when I don't even have the opportunity to really focus on the game in his absence. I don't even have a plan for this. What follows are some thoughts that come to mind as I stare at all this empty white space. God I hope this goes well.
Going back to yesterday, there is a tendency to characterize Doug Fister's performance as "solid", "not great" or some other grouping of adjectives that generally means unimpressive but serviceable. In reality, Fister was better than that. He didn't miss many bats, just four in 102 pitches, but Detroit has a high contact lineup and missing bats isn't Fister's game to begin with.
What Fister has always specialized in is hitting the zone. By my count , 57 of his 102 pitches were in the strike zone which is an above average number. He induced enough swings on pitches outside the zone that only 35 pitches were recorded as balls. That 34.3% is a fairly good rate.
What has separated Fister in 2010 from Fister before is the increased ground balls and that is where last night's start jumps from satisfactory to legitimately good in my mind. 28 balls were put in play and 17 of them were on the ground. Another two were infield popups and seven went as fly balls. Merely two were categorized as line drives. On the whole, tRA evaluated Fister's start at 2.77.
Yesterday, David Aardsma threw 15 pitches, all of them fastballs. In total, the Tigers saw 132 pitches yesterday between Fister, Shawn Kelley and Aardsma. 104 of them were fastballs.
Moving ahead to today, a depressing thing happened with our offense. Through his first 51 pitches, Jeremy Bonderman recorded just one missed bat. Over his final 42 pitches, he would miss 11 bats. Something seriously went wrong with our offensive approach and discipline over those innings.
Speaking of missing bats, Jason Vargas was all kinds of unhittable today despite not getting the strikeouts to show for it. He tossed just five innings due to a high pitch count thanks to some defensive miscues and Ryan Raburn's irritating foul balls, but in those five innings Vargas missed 15 bats in his 109 pitches. That ties him with Felix for the most by any Seattle pitcher in one game all season long. Of the list of most missed bats, Felix had six of the top seven with only Cliff Lee joining him. Now he's tied with Jason Vargas. Time to step up, Felix.
Felix took 113 pitches to record 15 swinging strike by the way.
Vargas was not nearly as groundbally as Fister, but that's to be expected. He did a similarly good job as Fister at avoiding line drives, surrendering just two.
Ryan Rowland-Smith appeared for the second time out of the pen to relieve Vargas and only got through two outs before being yanked. It was not really his fault and some, including myself, initially questioned the short leash on RR-S when we needed to soak up innings, but I have come around to the decision. First of all, Wak replaced RR-S with Brandon League which hints that he was trying to limit the damage and keep the Mariners in the game, at the time just 3-1, rather than it being simply a reactionary pulling. Secondly, there is a day off tomorrow and there was one on Monday so using RR-S to rest the remainder of the pen is rendered moot by the schedule.
Brandon League by the way threw seven offspeed pitches out of his total of 28 and got four of seven batted balls on the ground. It wasn't his best first batter ever, but he settled down quick after that and gave the team 2.1 innings of solid relief.
There have been times during this season that as little as a one run deficit in the third inning has felt insurmountable. This team was down 4-1 in the sixth and I didn't feel it a helpless endeavor. I think having a lineup that's not fit to get a manager committed has a lot to do with that.
Ichiro is fine.
According to Larry Stone, Josh Bard has a mild calf strain and will be evaluated tomorrow. This does not appear to be serious, but do expect to see more Rob Johnson in the near future. On the subject of Rob, I bestow some rare kudos to him for not committing any egregious gaffes behind the plate and adding a huge double in the four-run eighth inning.
The Mariners take tomorrow off and travel down to Anaheim to open up a three game set with the Angels. Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez will be involved and one of Ian Snell or Doug Fister will be as well. Taking two against Detroit is a good first step, but this is showtime now. 10 of the next 14 games are against divisional foes. If the Mariners are going to be a factor this summer, they have to make a statement here.