I think many of us like to believe in the significance of indicators. We like to believe we can know something about the future based on what's happening in the present, because we always want to know the future, and it stands to reason that current events could be a sign. Wake up and stub your toe getting out of bed and you might think "this is going to be one of those days." Wake up and find a five-dollar bill as you walk to your car and you might think "this is going to be one of those days!" Consciously or unconsciously, we're almost always thinking about the now and thinking about the later, trying to piece together what could happen in the later. Evolutionarily, it makes some sense, as there's value in being prepared.
As it is in life, so it is in baseball, because did you know that there are parallels between baseball and life? We try to forecast a pitcher's overall performance based on his early performance. "He just doesn't have it today." "He's throwing some real no-hit stuff." A pitcher might be on the top of his game, and you expect him to remain on the top of his game. A pitcher might be struggling, and you expect him to keep struggling.
As far as indicators are concerned, I can't think of many worse indicators for a starting pitcher - or many better indicators for the batting team - than a leadoff home run by Chone Figgins. If you're a pitcher, and you give up a leadoff home run to Chone Figgins, you're going to think "this is going to be one of those days." If you're a fan, and you observe a leadoff home run by Chone Figgins, you're going to think "this is going to be one of those days." How could you not? Even if it isn't entirely rational, or in any way rational, it's what comes to mind. You want to interpret the present for the future, and when the present has a Chone Figgins dinger, the future looks weird.
Henderson Alvarez began this game with a pair of called strikes. One was 96 miles per hour. The next was 96 miles per hour. Then he got a foul on a pitch at 97 miles per hour. Then a foul on an offspeed pitch at 87 miles per hour. Henderson Alvarez began this game with four consecutive strikes. His fifth pitch was a ball, but a good ball, at 97 miles per hour. His sixth pitch was a changeup that missed, and a Chone Figgins home run.
Henderson Alvarez followed five good pitches with a Chone Figgins dinger, and immediately, as a Mariners fan, you see that and relax. Not that I think Mariners fans go into baseball games stressed out or anxious, but a leadoff homer by Figgins puts you at ease. It makes you feel confident - that the game'll be fun, and that the Mariners'll win. Everybody laughs at a Chone Figgins home run. Dave Sims laughed while he called it. Chone Figgins laughed as he touched home plate. The Mariners' dugout laughed when he returned. How could this not go on to be an enjoyable ballgame?
And then on the very next pitch, Alvarez threw Dustin Ackley a fastball high and away, and Ackley swatted it off the left-field wall for an opposite-field double. The Mariners were going to tee off. The Mariners were going to take the rubber game, and leave us all with a pleasant Sunday afternoon and evening.
Now you know the rest of it. The Mariners scored their first run in their first plate appearance. The Mariners scored their second run in their 34th plate appearance. In between, the Blue Jays scored their first run, their second run, and their third through seventh runs, to make it a laugher. A game the Mariners began with a Chone Figgins home run ended up a game the Mariners lost 7-2. It ended up a game that left me precious little to write about, which is why I'm writing about this, because I don't have anything better. When this game finally ended, I thought to myself, oh man, I just watched three hours of baseball and I don't have anything to say.
The hell with indicators, I guess is what I have to say. Or if you really want to believe in the power of indicators, then if you look at the box score, the Mariners got a home run from Chone Figgins, but the Blue Jays got a home run from Jeff Mathis. The Mariners couldn't lose a game in which they got a home run from Chone Figgins. But the Blue Jays really couldn't lose a game in which they got a home run from Jeff Mathis. Maybe the Mathis indicator is simply more significant than the Figgins indicator.
No, no, that's all nonsense. Indicators are nonsense and seldom can we know much of anything about the future. We'll keep on trying, but we'll keep on failing, selectively remembering the successes so as to keep on thinking we can know something about the future. All a Chone Figgins home run tells us about the future is that in the future we'll be able to talk about a recent Chone Figgins home run. That's exciting, because it's funny, but as we've now seen, it isn't exciting enough. A Chone Figgins home run doesn't make a ballgame on its own. You need a lot more than that, and today, the Mariners barely did anything else.
This was close, until it wasn't close. The Mariners have that going for them. Friday night is officially a distant memory. The Mariners are back under .500, and the positive feelings are beginning to swing the other way. I know that I should be looking at the bigger picture but it's so hard to pull back and look at the bigger picture when you're in the middle of the daily grind. Tomorrow brings Felix Hernandez, so that'll be good, maybe. And the Angels lost again today. They're 7-15. Albert Pujols has a .561 OPS. Chone Figgins has a .655 OPS. Last year, Carlos Peguero had a .622 OPS. Jack Wilson had a .559 OPS. Jeff Mathis has a career .566 OPS. I don't think it makes sense to root for another team's failure as much or more than you root for your own team's success, but if your own team has no success on some given day, then there's no reason not to look for happiness where you can get it. Today, the Mariners left me disappointed and bored, so I'm going to smile about the Angels. I cordially invite you to do the same.
I wasn't kidding above. I have so, so little to say here. I had to scrounge for bullet holes yesterday. Today I have to scrounge even more. Really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Scrape a piece for resin and you can end up with potent resin. It doesn't work like that with five-run baseball games in which the offense is supplied by Chone Figgins and Miguel Olivo. Lookout Landing does not endorse the consumption of drugs
or alcohol, but if you watch a lot of Mariners games, Lookout Landing understands.
- I am somewhat fascinated by Henderson Alvarez, as he is a very interesting young pitcher. Today he turned in another very interesting start. Alvarez threw some fastballs in the upper 90s, and his fastball has a lot of movement. He also has a pretty good changeup, and a developing slider. Against the Mariners, he threw 90 pitches before coming out, and he recorded but a single swinging strike. And that came with one out in the top of the sixth inning, against Miguel Olivo, so it barely even counts. The Mariners took 36 cuts against a sometimes-flame-thrower. Of those, 35 cuts made contact.
On the year now, Alvarez has allowed a contact rate just over 90 percent. That's through five starts and nearly 500 pitches. Blake Beavan has a career contact rate of 88 percent. Henderson Alvarez throws lights-out stuff and he's allowed more contact than Blake Beavan.
It's kind of a mystery, in the way that Brandon League is kind of a mystery. As a Mariner, League has posted a roughly league-average contact rate despite a blazing fastball with mad tail and a devastating split. In fact, League and Alvarez throw somewhat similar fastballs. You'd think those fastballs would be hard to hit. They're actually not that hard to hit, into the ground.
Velocity isn't everything, as League and Alvarez demonstrate. They're still successful pitchers. This isn't really about whether or not League and Alvarez are good; this is more about how big-league hitters are incredibly talented. Sometimes I note that it's amazing how often pitchers miss their spots, when you start paying close attention. It's amazing how often hitters make contact. Have you ever thought about facing someone like Brandon League or Henderson Alvarez? You'd stand no chance! You might literally die!
- Leading off the bottom of the fourth, Jose Bautista worked a full count and popped up an outside changeup in foul territory. Miguel Olivo stood near it, and Kyle Seager stood near it, and somebody else stood near it, and nobody caught it, giving Bautista new life. The next pitch was an outside fastball, which Bautista popped up to short. Jason Vargas induced consecutive pop-ups from one of the most dangerous hitters in the world. On TV and on the radio, the announcers were talking about how Bautista was showing signs of coming out of his funk. I didn't see that at all. Jose Bautista spent the series looking like a guy who pops pitches up.
Not that I think this is going to happen, but hypothetically, if Jose Bautista became mediocre again, would it be less surprising than if, say, Albert Pujols became mediocre, because of Bautista's rise out of nowhere? Would the speed of his improvement indicate the possible speed of a decline? Man, there are some slumping awesome hitters.
- When Brett Lawrie mis-hit a hittable pitch, he screamed "FUCK" at the top of his lungs and tossed his bat. That wasn't surprising because Brett Lawrie seems like a guy who inserts "fuck" in every other sentence. When Kyle Seager mis-hit a hittable pitch, he screamed "FUCK" at the top of his lungs and tossed his bat. That was more surprising, because that was Kyle Seager showing emotion. I don't expect Kyle Seager to do a whole lot that's colorful. I expect him to forever be Dustin Ackley Lite, and can you imagine Dustin Ackley screaming "FUCK" at the top of his lungs and tossing his bat? When Dustin Ackley mis-hits a hittable pitch, I don't think he says anything, and I think he thinks "dang".
Edwin Encarnacion finished this series 5-for-9 with two doubles, three homers, two walks, and a hit-by-pitch. He came in with an .834 OPS, and now he has a 1.005 OPS. Today's lesson for Jason Vargas was how not to miss with a changeup in a 1-and-1 count.
Miguel Olivo was like, I want this at sock-level. Jason Vargas was like, well I'll try, but then his changeup ended up at belt-level, which is weird since the changeup is Vargas' best pitch. It's possible that Jason Vargas threw his changeup at belt-level because he's really into belts. Jason Vargas seems like the kind of guy who would have a really big belt collection. I don't say "impressive" because I don't think there's such thing as an impressive belt collection. Maybe if you had like the pope's belt. That's the second pope reference of the day. The first was in a conversation this morning that you weren't a part of.
- In the sixth inning, Alex Liddi hit a very deep fly out to Colby Rasmus in center. In the eighth inning, Alex Liddi hit a very deep fly out to Colby Rasmus in center. Alex Liddi came away with zero hits and zero home runs, but Alex Liddi came away with two almost-hits and two almost-home runs, so if you're into seeing the positive side of things, Alex Liddi was almost not hitless. ooooh
John Jaso saw six pitches out of the strike zone and didn't swing at any of them. He drew a walk, and in the top of the ninth, he ripped a double. John Jaso has played zero innings at catcher. This is the wrong time to be picking on Miguel Olivo since he's working on a mini hitting streak and went deep today immediately prior to Jaso's double, but, seriously, Jaso has good at-bats, it's pretty much all that he does. Eric Wedge wants his team to have better at-bats. Eric Wedge might have a very peculiar idea of what constitutes a good at-bat.
- I think it speaks volumes about Miguel Olivo's strength that he has maybe the worst plate discipline of any position player in the league and he's into his 11th season in the Majors. He's played in more than a thousand games. He's slugged .418 despite attacking pitches the way whales attack plankton.
- Because we have to talk about it, Jeff Mathis has now hit .216/.287/.366 against the Mariners, and .193/.255/.300 against everyone else. That's a .653 OPS, and a .555 OPS. Milton Bradley posted a .649 OPS as a Mariner. Marc Newfield posted a .554 OPS as a Mariner. I'm not sure what these comparisons were supposed to show. Something, probably.
Tomorrow the Mariners begin a series against the Rays, with Felix Hernandez opposing Jeremy Hellickson. Last year, Hellickson posted a .223 BABIP. So far this year, through four starts, he's posted a .218 BABIP. That's even lower! Therefore the Mariners would be best off minimizing their balls in play and maximizing their dingers. I should be a coach.