The All-Star break means a lot of things to a lot of people. To the players, it's an opportunity to relax, hang out with the family, catch some downtime, and take a breather. To the coaches and executives, it's an opportunity to reflect on everything that's happened and plan for the immediate and long-term future without getting bogged down by a game. And to the fans, it's an opportunity to take a break and re-energize. The baseball season is long. Unfathomably long. Sometimes unbearably long. Having a game pretty much every single day can wear on even some of the casual fans, so it's nice to get a few days where you don't really have to think very much.
For me, it really was re-energizing. I mean, I did a lot of work during the break, but you wouldn't believe how much less cluttered my days look when there isn't agame taking up a chunk. Getting a little time off can pull a fan out of a rut, and that's what it did for me. Three days without the Mariners turned out to be enough to make me sort of miss the Mariners. And so it was this afternoon that I found myself looking forward to the first pitch. I missed the experience, and because of the time off and the various other distractions, I'd kind of forgotten what it felt like.
Yeah I uh remember now
I'm going to race through these because it's late and whatever:
- There's been some degree of concern over Doug Fister, as this was the third time he's gotten hit around in four starts since coming off the DL. Now on the one hand, I gotta say, he looked as much like Doug Fister as he ever has to the naked eye. Same fastball, same breaking stuff, same control. 64 of his 91 pitches were strikes. He ran into some trouble and got drilled early on, which is uncharacteristic, but that sort of thing happens to contact pitchers every so often, previous DL stint or no. With regard to the DL trip and the struggles, many have been too hasty to turn correlation into causation.
On the other hand, this is something I just stumbled across. Via Brooks Baseball, check out how Fister's top-end velocity has been holding up over his last three starts:
For three starts in a row, now, Fister's fastball has gotten slower as the game has worn on, which isn't something we really saw from him before he went on the DL. And that's the kind of thing that makes you wonder. The bulk of the damage tonight was done before he started to lose it, but results aside, these graphs make me wary of Fister's shoulder. Curiously, he had no such issue in his first start back.
I'm not saying you should sound the alarms. Fister may very well be fine. This is just something to keep an eye on. Wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to start being cautious with the starters. God knows there's no longer any need to be aggressive.
- The first pitch of this game was an outside curveball for a called strike from Joel Pineiro to Ichiro. If that seems unusual, it should - only 2% of first pitches are breaking balls, and only 6% are offspeed. This, of course, strikes me as kind of stupid, since that's a predictable pattern and hitters feast on predictable patterns, but it's also practically tradition, and it's rare to see a guy deviate from what's traditional. Good on Pineiro and Mathis for mixing things up. More people should.
- There's nothing significant about this, other than the fact that it's kind of cool:
Against Juan Rivera in the third, Doug Fister threw three different pitches in a row to the exact same spot. All he was missing was the big loopy curve. I don't remember if he meant to do this, and I'm guessing he probably wanted the 0-2 changeup a little more outside, but the way it worked out caught my eye.
- Interesting day for Justin Smoak - between three strikeouts, he pulled a deep fly ball that nearly left the park, he made a good extended pick on a low Jose Lopez throw early on, and later he jumped higher in the air than I thought he could jump to pull down another errant toss from third. That he's now 1-12 with six strikeouts as a Mariner disappoints everyone who wanted immediate success, but at least today we caught a glimpse of his swing and his power. This is no time for impatience. This is literally the worst possible time for impatience.
- In the eighth inning, Kevin Jepsen threw Jose Lopez a high fastball that Lopez turned on, and Jepsen reacted as if he'd given up a first-pitch home run. The ball died 30 feet in front of the fence and Lopez casually jogged back to the dugout. Kevin Jepsen should have some faith in himself. Alternatively, Kevin Jepsen should have less faith in Jose Lopez.
- Paul McAnulty picked up an infield single in the second inning, which, if you've seen Paul McAnulty, is the kind of thing that should probably drop our UZR 40 points.
- Both before and during the game, we heard a lot about newcomer Jamey Wright. Specifically, we heard a lot about how he was a favorite of Wak's in Texas, and how Wak has been lobbying for him for more than a year. In the year that Wright and Wak overlapped in Texas, Wright walked more batters than he struck out. In his debut appearance tonight, he walked the first guy he faced on five pitches. The first guy he faced was Kevin Frandsen. This is a pattern now. Wak loves Sean White and pitchers like Sean White. He doesn't like pitchers like Shawn Kelley because pitchers like Shawn Kelley aren't like Sean White. I don't know how long Wak's list of responsibilities is with this team, but at this point I'm certain I'd like to reassign one of them to somebody else.