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Mariners Forget To Battle, Suck

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If Ichiro just batted this way all the time he would never not reach base
If Ichiro just batted this way all the time he would never not reach base

The Mariners are a battling team, which basically means they're a procrastinating team. They don't worry about getting their work done when it's first assigned because they're confident they'll be able to do a good job when they're up against the deadline.

Procrastination can work. We probably all do it. We probably all brag about how well and how often we do it. But the problem with procrastination is that, if something comes up at the last minute, you're screwed. In school, if you procrastinate and then you get sick, or you get in a car crash, or your computer dies, you're shit out of luck. You just have to accept the consequences of having a terrible work ethic.

The Mariners are a procrastinating team, and today, something came up. I don't know what that something was, but whatever it was clearly prevented the Mariners from battling, and so they were left in a helpless and hopeless position. Maybe they all got sick. Maybe they all forgot to do their taxes. Maybe they all got broken up with by their significant others. Gun to my head, though, I'd wager that the thing that came up is that they aren't very good.

One of the interesting things about the fact that the Mariners can't score runs is that it's not like they're dealing with a ton of strikeouts. They struck out ten times today, but they're only fifth in the AL in strikeout rate - barely ahead of Oakland - and the two nights before, we saw them score six total runs with six total strikeouts. The Mariners, so far, have drawn a good number of walks while keeping their whiff rate perfectly reasonable.

The reason they haven't been able to score is that their contact has been bad. Some of it has been bad luck, but some of it hasn't. We've seen a lot of those lazy fly balls. Lots of tappers around the infield. And this isn't a lineup stocked with power. The Mariners, to date, haven't had a problem putting the bat on the ball so much as they've had a problem putting the right part of the bat on the ball.

It'll get better - they won't maintain a team BABIP around .250, and they'll improve with runners on - but starting out like this is a surefire way to lose people's interest in a hurry. Barely two weeks into the year, the Mariners are 4-11 and they've already basically played their way out of possible contention. Nobody expected them to hang around and challenge the Rangers all year, but to drop out this fast is ticket window and TV ratings poison. This is not an easy team to care about, and while there are individual players with a lot of promise, good luck using that to convince people to keep tuning in on a regular basis.

  • It's easy to look at Felix Hernandez's numbers today and conclude that he was the victim of bad luck. He allowed three unearned runs after Chone Figgins mishandled a grounder in the fifth and Ryan Langerhans misjudged a long double, and on top of that, the run he allowed in the first was the result of a pathetic bloop double and a weak groundball single. Based on that, you'd think Felix's defense did him in.

    But while Felix's defense certainly didn't do him any favors, it's not like Felix was going out there and shutting guys down. He struck out six, but several Royals hit the ball hard, and of the 15 balls in play he allowed, 11 stayed in the air. That on its own is evidence that Felix wasn't quite right, for the second start in a row.

    What do we do with this information going forward? I'm not sure. I'm more concerned about consecutive subpar starts than I am about one, but Felix's repertoire appears to be okay, and it's possible he's just having a hard time staying energized with the team around him playing so poorly yet again. It doesn't help that Franklin Gutierrez is elsewhere, since the two of them have a good bond. If Felix is down, that's on him and he needs to shake himself out of it, but I'd rather Felix be dealing with a lack of focus than a lack of stuff, and his stuff seems fine. Here's hoping he's just having a season that parallels his 2009.

  • Eric Wedge called a team meeting after the game and, according to the reporters, basically summoned the Devil himself to try and get these guys to wake up. Wedge was so consistently positive with his remarks through the spring and into the early part of the year, but the frustration's been steadily building up and today he finally let it vent, meaning it took all of 15 games for the Mariners to break him, just as they've broken everybody else. This might even be a new record.

    Wedge: I'M SICK AND FUCKING TIRED OF THESE COLD BATS
    Wedge: DO YOU GUYS EVEN KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO SWING A HOT BAT?
    Wedge: DO YOU?
    Wedge: /pulls out lighter
    Wedge: /sets bat on fire, hands it to Cust
    Wedge: SWING THAT
    Cust: coach
    Wedge: SWING THAT BAT
    Cust: Okay!
    Cust: /tries to swing
    Cust: OW
    Cust: OW JESUS CHRIST
    Wedge: THAT'S WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO SWING A HOT BAT
    Cust: JESUS CHRIST
    Cust: JESUS CHRIST MY HANDS

  • When you beat a team, and the team's manager subsequently calls a meeting and rips his players to shreds after the game, there are only two ways to take it. You're either satisfied, because you beat the other team so bad its manager decided he had to do something rash, or you're insulted, because the other team's manager thought losing to you was humiliating.

  • Luis Rodriguez hit a line drive single, he hit a line drive double, he drew a walk, and in the one plate appearance in which he made an out, he was called out on strikes on a curveball that was well inside and out of the zone. Even though we know hot streaks don't mean very much, if they mean anything, I don't know if there's any reason at this point not to play Rodriguez pretty much every day, at least until the guys in front of him start doing anything.

  • In the past, Ichiro has talked about how, when he's tracking a fly ball, he'll see it off the bat, then turn and run to the spot where he figures it'll come down. Compare that to the way Ryan Langerhans handled a fly ball off the bat of Alex Gordon in the fifth. Rather than watch the ball off the bat and turn to run to a spot, Langerhans watched the ball for its entire flight path and wound up short, with the ball coming down beyond him for a double. I don't want to get on Langerhans' case for poor defense since all the available evidence says he's amazing in the field, but that particular play looked ugly, and Langerhans most definitely didn't look comfortable. It's worth noting that you run slower when you're watching a fly ball than when you're not.

  • In the top of the third, Brendan Ryan hit a sharp grounder down the first base line that went for a one-out double. When trying to project a younger player's performance down the road, a look of people will look at doubles as portending a future increase in home runs, but one must remember that not all doubles fall into the same bucket. Not all doubles are fly balls off the wall.

  • In the fourth inning, Dave Sims said "Jack Cust slamming on the brakes" when he stopped at first on a single, and then said "Cust will slam on the brakes there" when he soon thereafter advanced to second. For one thing, Jack Cust runs like his foot is too big and it presses both pedals. For a second thing, I never want to drive with Jack Cust. And for a third thing, slamming on the brakes is a great way to wear down your brakes, leading up to the point at which your brakes no longer work. We're only a few more Cust singles away from his brakes being worn down completely, meaning he'll be unable to stop himself at any base. Which means he might finally hit a dinger.

  • Wedge, about the message he sent in his postgame team meeting:

    ...it's the same thing, different day and it's unacceptable...We're not going to keep watching this.

    One interpretation is that Wedge and the coaching staff will get this team to start playing different baseball. Another interpretation is that the team will keep playing the same baseball, and Wedge and the coaching staff just won't watch it anymore. I don't know which of these I'm rooting for.

Tomorrow brings us Michael Pineda at 11:10 in the morning. That should leave you enough time to go to brunch and get yourself all liquored up.