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Ervin Santana Sucks, Wins


Tonight's game recap introduction will be paragraphs built around numbers. Ervin Santana got the ball tonight for the Angels, opposite Charlie Furbush. His objective was to shut down the Seattle Mariners, who have an offense that probably isn't as bad these days as its overall statistics. Still, it is pretty bad, or at least not very good. It has some power, but outside of one or two guys, it is not very disciplined, which is a problem that pitchers can exploit.

Santana would go on to throw 6.2 innings. Over those 6.2 innings, he would strike out five guys, and issue seven walks. Just 62 of his 109 pitches were strikes. He won, and moved to 11-9.

That's absurd. But maybe it doesn't seem that absurd to you. So he walked seven guys in 6.2 innings. That's not good, but what's the big deal? I get it. Sometimes these things have to be put in context.

So I went to the Baseball-Reference Play Index and pulled up every game since 1990 in which a starter's walk total was higher than his innings total. There were 4,888 such games. I don't know why I only went back to 1990 - I guess I just like to stick in my comfort zone, and my comfort zone is "years that I was alive and aware of things" - but 4,888 is a good sample size. It's a big sample size. Definitely big enough.

Out of those 4,888 games in which a starter had more walks than innings, the starters earned a total of 178 wins. They earned 3,107 losses, and had 1,603 no-decisions. So, they had a record of 178-3,107, good for a winning percentage of 5.4%. They had an actual winning percentage - where total games is the denominator - of 3.6%. For every 27 games in which a starter had more walks than innings, a starter would earn one win.

The math. The math is crazy. Obviously I could've narrowed down the sample to be more selective. Santana, after all, had barely more walks than innings. He should be compared against other guys who also had barely more walks than innings, for greater accuracy. But for one thing, this exercise was just for fun. And for another, all right, since 1990 there had been 30 games in which the starter allowed seven walks in 6.2 innings. Those starters earned a total of three combined wins. There was Tony Saunders against the A's, Aaron Sele against the A's*, and Steve Trachsel against the Diamondbacks.

* oddly, those two A's games came just five weeks apart in 1998. That A's team featured a 24-year-old shortstop named Miguel Tejada, and a 33-year-old third baseman named Mike Blowers.

Ervin Santana, then, had no business winning this game, given how he pitched. Or at least, he had very little business winning this game, given how he pitched. A no-decision would've been okay. But a win? A win, despite seven unintentional walks in 6.2 innings?

It's funny - under competitive circumstances, this was a Mariners game that would've driven us up the God damned wall. Santana just didn't have it. He issues two walks in the second. Two walks in the third. A walk in the fourth. Two more walks in the fifth. The Mariners plated three runs, but they left eight runners, getting one guy thrown out and bouncing into a pair of awful double plays. More damage should've been done, and the M's would lose by the slimmest of margins.

But under our current circumstances - what you might consider ordinary circumstances - it's less aggravating, and more curious. Sure, it was frustrating to watch the Mariners do little and lose when they could've done a little more and won, but at least for me, now that I've seen the numbers, I think it's interesting. I think it's interesting that Ervin Santana had more walks than innings, and won. It makes the Mariners look bad, but I'm used to things that make the Mariners look bad, most notably the Mariners themselves. I'm way beyond the hurt.

Tonight, Ervin Santana pitched poorly. His movement was fine, but his control and command were godawful. Tonight, Ervin Santana defeated a Major League opponent. I'll be damned. I will be damned.

What do I have here for bullet holes, now that I've exhausted my most interesting point? Why don't we see! Together, we can see!

  • We'll begin with Charlie Furbush. The first thing that needs to be said about Charlie Furbush's outing tonight, the thing that shades all other points, is that Charlie Furbush didn't face a single left-handed batter. Furbush is a southpaw with a somewhat low arm angle, so from the beginning, he was at a disadvantage. Platoon splits matter, all the time.

    Still, as a lefty starter, Furbush needs to be able to pitch to right-handed batters, and once again he flashed some pluses and minuses. On the positive side, his fastball looked lively, as the Angels missed with eight of their 26 swings. Furbush has good fastball velocity for a southpaw starter, and I feel like his weirdass delivery adds an extra hint of spice.

    But on the negative side - for one thing, Furbush's fastball command wasn't really there. Most noticeably, he was flying open and missing high and away entirely too much. And for another, I feel like his breaking ball has looked better. The curve that Torii Hunter hit out in the first, for example, was low, but it didn't move much. It hung up enough for Hunter to get the barrel on it.

    So Furbush remains a work in progress, as we'd expect since he still has only eight starts in the bigs. I do wonder, given his delivery, if he could ever develop good command. There's a lot going on, and a lot of force in a lot of directions. It's hard to keep that many moving parts in sync. But he could improve, and his stuff is good enough to give him a little margin of error. I don't think he's a Major League starter right now, but he doesn't have to get that much better to stick.

  • A few times, the broadcast referred to Kyle Seager as a hot hitter, as he came in batting .423 over his last 14 games. But then, he also came in batting .238 over his last six games, and .214 over his last four games. But he came in batting .500 over his last one game, so I guess score one for the broadcast. It does make you wonder, though: at what point do you declare a hot streak over? What does it mean if a hot streak is immediately followed by a cold streak? Is there a way we could talk about these streaks such that we can be interested in the numbers without pretending like there has been a sudden and temporary change in a hitter's true talent?

  • In the bottom of the third, I watched Miguel Olivo flail at a low and away slider, out of the zone and on top of the dirt. It's the pitch that makes Olivo look like an idiot, it's the pitch that made Adrian Beltre look like an idiot, and it's the pitch that makes a whole host of over-aggressive right-handed batters look like idiots. It's ugly enough to see as it is, but just tonight another reason dawned on me for why I find it so exasperating. The batters swing because they get tricked, thinking the slider is a fastball. But even if that pitch were a fastball, it would be in the low-away corner, where it's almost impossible to do anything with it. So they have bad judgment swinging at that fastball, and bad judgment getting tricked into thinking it's a fastball.

    It's a little more understandable with two strikes. A little, because then you have to swing at that fastball to protect the plate. So with two strikes, it's only one level of bad.

  • It felt like it'd been a while since Casper Wells' last home run, but I didn't realize until the later innings tonight that he's actually riding an extended hitless streak. After tonight's o'fer, Wells is now hitless in his last 30 at bats, dating back to August 22nd. Over that span he's struck out 12 times. There's a lesson to be learned here: you shouldn't get too excited about a player based on how he does in his first several games. By the same token, though, you shouldn't put too much stock in his next batch of games, either. Wells had a hot streak, he's currently in a cold streak, and his OPS as a Mariner is .748. His OPS on the season is .763. His OPS in his career is .806. It's actually the last of these that has the most meaning.

    Wells has demonstrated that he has enough individual skills to cut it as a regular. It's an open question as to whether he can put them together often enough, but he is pretty good. Try not to be too discouraged.

  • People have joked in the past that I'm a little too observant when it comes to things happening off the field. This is true, and it comes at the expense of being observant when it comes to things happening on the field, which is why it wasn't until tonight that I learned about Jordan Walden's mid-delivery hop.


    There is no part of Jordan Walden's body touching the ground. If there is, it's only because I took a bad screenshot. Walden has a fairly regular beginning to his delivery, and he has a fairly regular end to his delivery, but in between, he jumps. His delivery is a step function. I have never seen this before, with anyone, I have no idea if it's actually legal, I have no idea how he throws strikes, and I can't imagine what it's like to be a high school baseball coach in the Anaheim area, where your kids are all trying to be the pitching version of Happy Gilmore. I'm not saying that Jordan Walden is the pitching version of Ichiro, but trying to pitch like Jordan Walden is probably like trying to hit like Ichiro, or Vladimir Guerrero. Don't ever try. You'll look stupid and hurt yourself.

  • In the seventh inning, Ervin Santana was relieved by Bobby Cassevah. In the top of the ninth, Bobby Abreu pinch-hit for Bobby Wilson. Individually, they're nothing, but together, they're three grown men named Bobby on the same Major League baseball team. Do you suppose, if Rob Johnson went by Bobby Johnson, he would've been more tolerable, less tolerable, or equally impossible to tolerate?

  • This was a hit by Peter Bourjos in the top of the eighth.


    It was a double.

  • Bourjos: Hey, I have to run out and get some things.
    Friend: Cool, I'll be here, watching TV.
    Bourjos: What?
    Bourjos: Oh, I'm back.

  • Jamey Wright is in his second year of being a Mariner. Combined, he's up to nearly 100 innings. Tonight, he threw a few sliders, and I sat there, puzzled, wondering "has Jamey Wright always thrown a slider?" This is how little attention I've generally been paying whenever Jamey Wright has come into a game.

Time to play the A's. I'm going to call it a certain playoff atmosphere, but only because I don't actually remember what the playoffs are like, and neither do you.