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Things That Seem Better Than They Are On Account Of How Bad This Team Is

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I found myself surfing through Baseball-Reference again tonight. That's frequently where I wind up when things are slow and I don't yet feel like drinking. And I know some of you are going to say "it's never too early to start drinking!" but the instant the drinking starts, the writing stops. My brain just ceases to work the same way. And I feel bad if I make the writing stop at 6:30.

So on nights like this, when I've got time on my hands but am feeling uninspired, I go to B-R and see what pops. It doesn't always pan out, but sometimes I find something. Maybe a fun fact. And what popped for me tonight was Garrett Olson's season line. Over 29 appearances out of the bullpen, he's posted an acceptable strikeout rate and a K/uBB of 2.0. Wow, I thought to myself. Garrett Olson looks all right! I should write something about this.

Then I realized what I was doing and stopped. It only seems like Garrett Olson has been something of a bright spot in the context of this team and this season. Garrett Olson's numbers wouldn't look good on the Giants. Garrett Olson's numbers wouldn't look good on the Twins. Garrett Olson's numbers only look good - or, acceptable is more like it - on a ballclub with 55 wins in 146 games.

Then I realized what I was doing and settled on this post, right here.

  1. Garrett Olson's K/uBB. Indeed, Olson's 26 strikeouts and 13 unintentional walks make for a bit of a departure from his 2009. But then, let's remember that he's a reliever now. Relievers are supposed to have good ratios. Olson's are only okay. He's thrown a few more strikes than he did a year ago, but he's also allowed more contact, and it's not like he's pitched that well against lefties. He remains a very similar guy. A very similar, uncomfortable-looking guy with the facial structure of a man in the wrong line of work.

    Olson's approaching 300 innings of Major League action. Nearly 300 innings, and he owns a career 6.23 ERA. He turns 27 on...my birthday? Holy shit, that makes me feel weird. I wonder which is preferable in the long run: never getting a chance and wondering if you could've made it, or getting a chance and realizing you aren't good enough. By now, Olson must realize he isn't good enough to stand out in the big leagues. He'll probably forever exist on the fringe, and that's a hard life. Or maybe it's a decent one, if you're good at saving money.

  2. Brian Sweeney's four walks. It was so cool when Sweeney came in and struck out four Brewers in his season debut throwing a bunch of offspeed junk. It completed his comeback story, at the age of 36. Sweeney earned a win in that game, and on a Saturday few expected to remember, the circumstances warmed our hearts.

    You know how many strikeouts Sweeney has since his debut? Nine. Sweeney doesn't maintain a tiny walk rate because he has impeccable command. Sweeney maintains a tiny walk rate because hitters put his pitches in play. Many of us have wondered what a pitcher with zero walks and zero strikeouts would look like, and Sweeney's about as close a real-life example as you're going to get. You can get by with his skillset. You just can't excel. Not in the Majors. I love what Sweeney has done, and I'm ecstatic he's been able to return, but let's be real.

  3. Chris Seddon's K/uBB. Like the Olson entry, only instead of 300 innings, it's 30. Seddon isn't yet to the point at which he's established beyond a reasonable doubt that he can't excel in the big leagues, but given the opportunity, he'd get there.

  4. David Pauley's 12 starts. Pauley isn't awful. Neither is Olson, neither is Sweeney, and neither is Seddon. These guys can exist as Major League players, and even as Major League players on contending teams. They just exist towards the back of the staff, inheriting low-leverage innings. Pauley has opened eyes. He's held opponents to a .594 OPS through the first three innings. People have noticed him. But I think they've mostly noticed him because no one really talked about him before, and he hasn't bombed his audition. He's been passable. Yet the truth of the matter is that, for a team with aspirations of winning more than 60 games in a year, Pauley is a fifth starter at best. More realistically, a sixth or a seventh, or a swing man. He keeps the ball on the ground, and he has a neat curve, but he isn't a player you get excited about, any more than Brad Bergesen is a player you get excited about.

  5. Young power. Michael Saunders, Matt Tuiasosopo, Adam Moore, and Justin Smoak have combined for 18 home runs over 650 trips to the plate, which isn't bad for a group of guys with little experience. On the other hand, Michael Stanton has 20 home runs in half the time. Logan Morrison has a .910 OPS. Some guy named Neil Walker is batting .300 with Pittsburgh. It would be neat if our four guys could hit better than a combined .190. 

  6. Josh Wilson. You know who's been just as bad at the plate this year as Jack Wilson? Josh Wilson. He's been overlooked since most of the focus has been on the struggles of higher-profile players, and since he was a reserve thrust into the starting role due to injury, but among 46 shortstops with at least 200 plate appearances, Wilson's OPS ranks 39th. He's worse than Willie Ballgame. Over his years in Seattle, Willie actually posted an OBP of .322. I miss you, Willie.

  7. Chone Figgins' .366 OBP over the past month and a half. Chone Figgins posted a .386 OBP over the three years immediately prior to his signing with Seattle. Chone Figgins, at his best in Seattle, has nearly approximated his average self in Anaheim. We were supposed to love you, Chone. You've just gone and been annoying in like a totally different way than we imagined.

  8. The Rainiers. Don't get me wrong, I'm rooting for them to win the PCL title just as much as you are. They're a neat team to follow, and Mike Curto's a fantastic announcer who deserves the excitement. Just bear in mind that we've now become emotionally invested in the wins and losses of a AAA baseball team.