Saturday afternoon, he'd finally had it. Even with the winning streak and the events of Friday night still fresh in his mind, they also couldn't have felt more distant. He'd canceled plans. He'd said no to friends, because he wanted to stay in to watch the Mariners game. He loves the Mariners, see, even if they don't act like they love him back, and the Mariners are always a high priority. Saturday afternoon, he made the Mariners a high priority. He wished that he hadn't.
He spent three hours of a Saturday watching the Mariners lose to the Blue Jays seven to nothing. Three hours of the middle of a Saturday, which meant no brunch, no hike, no backyard lunch barbecue. It was a waste of three hours, and while the Mariners had wasted several of his hours before, these three hours felt different. For whatever reason, these three hours drove him crazy.
To cool down afterward, he went for a walk around his neighborhood. The weather was nice - nice enough as to add to his regret. People had always told him that walks are relaxing, and while he didn't quite get it, since a walk is a walk and there's nothing soothing about exercise, he thought he'd give it a try. He didn't have anything better to do. He'd cleared his schedule.
A few blocks away, he happened upon a yard sale. Figuring a yard sale could take his mind off of the Mariners better than walking for walking's sake, he walked up and started to rummage. He leafed through old books, he picked up old shot glasses, he read the backs of old baseball cards. Just as he was about to leave, something caught his eye at the end of one of the tables. It was a small furry hand, and he touched it. He picked it up. He looked at it carefully.
The old man who owned the house told him the hand could grant wishes. He laughed it off - that's nonsense - but after the man walked away, he looked around and started to whisper. "I just wish the Mariners could hit dingers," he said. "I wish they could actually score runs with dingers." He watched the fingers. None of them bent. He chuckled to himself and set the hand down. A finger bent. He jumped backwards, enough to get the old man's attention. The old man asked what he had done, but got no answer. The man looked down at the hand on the table, and raised an eyebrow.
He was beside himself. Tuesday night, he was beside himself, and after the Mariners' game was finished he ran out the door to the house that had the sale. He pressed on the doorbell, once, twice, three times, anxious to talk to the old man. Anxious to find out what had happened.
The old man came to the door and recognized the younger man before he'd even put on his glasses. Before the old man could so much as say a word, he was peppered with questions about the hand, and about how a wish could be un-granted. "Settle down, settle down," said the old man, ineffectively. "Tell me what's been happening." The younger man began to explain without missing a beat.
Finally the younger man stopped talking, looking to the older man for a response. The older man removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes, one at a time. He put his glasses back on and looked the younger man in the face.
"You used a wish on a baseball team?"
"Well - yeah, the Seattle Mariners," replied the younger man.
"You used your first wish on a baseball team."
The younger man shifted his eyes back and forth, waiting for the older man to continue.
"Not money. Not sex. Not, I don't know, cars, or personal happiness, or universal happiness. A baseball team."
"I just thought - I was being silly. I didn't think it was serious. I was playing around."
"Boy, you never play with a monkey's paw."
"But there's no way I could've thought it would be real."
"Why would I lie to you about the monkey's paw?"
"I don't know, to sell it!"
"I'm not a liar. Do you take me for a liar?"
"But - wait, yes! You are a liar of omission! You said it grants wishes! You didn't say it grants horrible twisted wishes!"
"See..." the old man trailed off.
"Why would you even have a real monkey's paw!"
The old man looked at his feet.
"How is this not a major story! You are in possession of magic! Dark, evil magic! Why would you try to sell a real monkey's paw! Why would you try to sell a real monkey's paw for four dollars!"
The old man bent down and sat in the doorway. He looked off into the distance, then he looked down at his lawn. Then he looked up at the younger man. He shrugged.
"How do you shrug!" Every sentence the young man was saying ended with an exclamation point. "You were trying to sell evil for four dollars!"
The old man sighed. Then he furrowed his brow and looked up again. "Wait. So you only made the one wish?"
"Yeah, the Mariners wish! It's come true!"
"And since you made the wish they've only scored on solo dingers?"
"Yes! Exactly! Make it stop!"
The old man shifted his weight to one side. "I understand why you're upset. I really do understand why you're upset."
This seemed to get through to the young man, and he sat down on the porch. He took a few deep breaths in order to calm himself. His inhalation was deliberate. His exhalation was deliberate.
"But hey, at least they're hitting dingers, right?"
The young man prepared himself to disagree. He opened his mouth and the words stayed within. He swallowed, and opened his mouth again. "At least they're hitting dingers."
The old man nodded slowly. The young man nodded slowly. The old man rose to his feet. "Dingers," he said, to the young man, and to no one.
"Dingers," replied the young man, to the old man, and to no one.
This was a baseball game with obvious downside - a loss - and less obvious but still significant upside. True, the Mariners were outscored by the Rays three to one. But they out-hit the Rays nine to three, and they out-OPS'd the Rays .678 to .553. Which isn't to suggest that .678 is a good OPS, or that you should really care about single-game team OPS, but Matt Moore's a talented pitcher, and the Rays hit even worse than the Mariners did. It's all about timing. There are a few reasons why the Mariners have lost four games in a row and scored only on solo home runs, but a big reason is that they haven't gotten a hit with a runner in scoring position. Not one. Scoring runs is about putting people in position to score and then driving them in, and the Mariners have casually neglected to do the second part.
Everybody's noticed. On the broadcast, they chose to pin the struggles to get timely hits on the fact that the Mariners have a young lineup. I guess there's more pressure when there are runners on base, and young players don't respond well to that pressure. My instinctive response is to say that there's nothing here, that it's not about the Mariners being young and it's more about the Mariners just being unlucky, but I can't completely discount the youth idea. I can assume the youth doesn't have much to do with it, but I can't out and out prove that the youth doesn't have much to do with it. Maybe Mike Blowers knows what he's talking about. He has, after all, played, and so he can't be ignored.
Whatever's going on, fortunes will change. The Mariners will get a hit with a runner in scoring position. After that, they will get several more. The run distributions won't continue to be so fuckin weird. Weird splits are why I always prefer to look at a team's rate stats instead of its runs total. But while fortunes will change, the Mariners have lost four games in a row and there's no getting those four games back. They're three under .500 now. Friday was awesome and Friday was a while ago. I don't know, you guys, I'm not feeling real good about the Mariners going to the World Series. I had some glimmer of hope, but then the Mariners lost to the Rays 3-1 today, and I was like, welp, there that goes. No championship this time.
Just a few bullet holes:
- Hector Noesi was neither really good nor really bad tonight, which made for a change of pace. He started out kind of ugly, in terms of results, but the fastball that Matt Joyce hit to center for a triple seemed to be located where Noesi wanted it, and the fastball that Joyce hit to right for a home run seemed to be located where Noesi wanted it. The good way of looking at this is that Noesi hit his spots. The bad way of looking at this is that Noesi got hit anyway. It'd be a death sentence if you were a pitcher who got hit even when you hit your spots.
Not that Noesi was making an evening of hitting his spots. For a guy who's supposed to be a strike-thrower, he threw just 54 percent strikes, which is way too low. That's like Kyle Drabek-low, which just raised your eyebrows if you're aware of how infrequently Kyle Drabek throws strikes. Sometimes I forget that you guys don't have my job and thus might not spend so much time looking at other teams' statistics.
Noesi showed something new tonight, though. In his previous four starts, his high groundball rate was 42 percent, and his overall groundball rate was 28 percent (!). Tonight, the Rays put 18 balls in play against Noesi, and ten of them stayed on the ground. Joyce still had the fly-ball triple and Joyce still had the fly-ball dinger, but Noesi got some grounders and he settled into a groove after Joyce went yard.
With something like this, it's tough to know how much is the pitcher and how much is the opposing offense. But what we can say now with certainty is that Hector Noesi is not incapable of generating groundballs. Noesi's by no means a season-long lock to stay in the rotation but we might as well look for positives.
- The other day, ROOT Sports showed an infographic having to do with Lucas Luetge and Leverage Index, presumably inspired by a post at USS Mariner. Today ROOT Sports showed an infographic having to do with Alex Liddi and contact rate, presumably inspired by a post at USS Mariner. I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to think about this. Should I be irritated on USS Mariner's behalf that ROOT Sports isn't giving them credit, or should I be pleased to see these kinds of statistics on the Mariners' TV broadcast? I suppose I could be both. God damn you, life, and your stupid shades of gray.
- On Liddi - in the bottom of the fourth, he made a diving stop to his left to rob B.J. Upton of a base hit. It's just one play, and you should never read into one play. I remember one time I saw Rob Johnson catch a pitched ball. But it's also not just one play. This is fitting into a pattern with Liddi. To the eye, he's looked pretty good at third base. To the eye, he's shown some improvement at the plate. Liddi shouldn't be counted on as a piece now, and he shouldn't be counted on as the third baseman of the future, but I think right now Liddi is ahead of where people thought he would be this season. Have you ever thought about what it must be like inside Chone Figgins' brain? What do you do when you're in Figgins' present position? In a lot of ways I don't think it sucks at all to be Chone Figgins, but in a lot of ways I think it absolutely must.
- Going to the seventh inning, ROOT Sports showed an outside shot of St. Petersburg, and Dave Sims said:
Good-looking view here of things happening.
- If Jesus Montero is a guy whose on-base percentage is going to be driven by his batting average, then tonight was a big night for Jesus Montero, as he went 4-for-4 to raise his average to .294 and therefore raise his OBP to .303. In the fourth inning, he grounded a single to right. In the sixth inning, he grounded a single to center. In the eighth inning, he ripped a double down the left-field line. But I think what I'll remember most is that, in the second inning, he hit a fly ball off the wall in center field, and he got a single out of it. It was a fine at-bat - Montero worked a full count, and drove a low, inside 96mph fastball. No complaints there. He hit the ball 400 feet and singled. Jesus Montero is 22 years old. He's never going to be faster than he is right now. If Jesus Montero were any slower I'm pretty sure he'd be legally disabled.
- Against a hard-throwing righty in the top of the ninth, Eric Wedge pinch-hit Munenori Kawasaki for Casper Wells. I haven't decided what I think of this yet. My brain is trying to process it rationally but it's constantly being interrupted by the part of my brain that's hopelessly in love with Munenori Kawasaki.
- Leading off the top of the third inning, Michael Saunders got a first-pitch inside fastball from Matt Moore and turned on it, knocking the ball out of the yard for a solo homer. Saunders is now sitting on an .853 OPS, and as weird as it is to me that Michael Saunders has an .853 OPS in May, even weirder is that he's hit three of his four homers this year off left-handed pitchers. He has 16 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers. Two singles, a double, and three homers. Earlier on Twitter the Mariners' official account polled the audience to find out which player was the most surprising in April, and the winner was Liddi, who edged Saunders by a few percentage points. What was that about? Either people aren't paying attention, or people had almost insultingly low expectations for Alex Liddi. Wow! People must have thought Alex Liddi would be literally the worst baseball player in the world!
More baseball tomorrow in the same stadium against the same team at the same time, because it's worked so well for us so far.