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Cascades Thump Rocky Mountains In Laugher

everyone get a good look at Jason Vargas
everyone get a good look at Jason Vargas

Acknowledging the potential fallibility of the numbers, the other day in Matthew's series preview, he put the Mariners at about 24 runs below average as a team. That ranked them 22nd in baseball, or to put it another way, that ranked them ninth-lowest. The numbers matched up with what we'd seen - the Mariners hadn't been a disaster, but they'd had their disastrous moments, and they hadn't settled into a groove at the plate or on the mound. The Mariners felt like a lower-third team, and the numbers had them as a lower-third team.

In the same preview, Matthew put the Rockies at about 43 runs below average as a team. That ranked them 30th in baseball, or to put it another way, that ranked them last. Through the first quarter of the 2012 regular season, by Matthew's calculations, the Colorado Rockies were the worst team in baseball.

Seeing that caught me by surprise. My real blind spot is the NL East, because I don't have a damn clue what's going on in the NL East and every time I see the name Lucas Duda I'm reminded that I don't know anything about him, but I never expect the Rockies to be terrible. I always expect them to be okay, to be competitive, to be in the neighborhood of .500 and probably a little above. There's a lot of talent on that team, and there's long been a lot of talent on that team, and I didn't know they made baseball teams who were statistically worse than the Minnesota Twins.

So I was surprised coming into this series to see that the Rockies had been a good deal worse than the Mariners. In the first game of this series, the Mariners beat the Rockies 4-0, and Kevin Millwood threw a two-hit, complete-game shutout that was really a one-hit, complete-game shutout. In the second game of this series, the Mariners beat the Rockies 10-3, and Jason Vargas took a shutout into the seventh. The Mariners' lineup pounded out 14 hits, and added five walks. I didn't believe at first that the Rockies could be worse than the Mariners. Nothing gets proven over two games, but two games after Matthew's series preview, the statistical gap between these teams is a good deal wider. The Mariners haven't just beaten the Rockies on their own beautiful turf - they've beaten them comfortably, without breaking a sweat, and it can be exhausting to work out at altitude when you aren't accustomed to it. The Mariners could've had less trouble the last two nights, but requesting it would've been greedy.

We've heard a lot about the Mariners' struggles with runners in scoring position. Overall, the Mariners have baseball's #27 batting average, and #27 OPS. With runners in scoring position, they have baseball's #26 batting average, and #29 OPS. Okay, so the takeaway there is that the Mariners haven't been able to hit very well in any situation, but they have been worse in run-scoring situations, where the average team is about the same or a little better.

The fact is that the Mariners have been worse with runners in scoring position. The theory from many corners is that this had to do with the Mariners' youth. That the Mariners' hitters were unprepared to deliver key hits. The theory from other corners is that this had to do with sample-size fluctuation, that it would balance out in the long run. I think you know where this blog came down. I usually don't pay too much attention to situational splits, because I figure I'm not going to find anything meaningful in situational splits.

Given that the Mariners had been struggling with runners in scoring position, though, even if it was just random chance, today's game was a big game, psychologically. Today the Mariners batted 6-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and that's a load off for the players and coaches. That's an extra round of high-fives for Chris Chambliss, even if Chambliss didn't actually do or cause anything. Hopefully this'll help take the focus away from the Mariners' situational hitting, and put it on the Mariners' general hitting. That's the real concern. It's not like the Mariners are stacked with players who can regularly get on base when there's no one on base. Worrying about situational hitting barely makes any sense!

It was interesting today that the Mariners did what they did to Christian Friedrich, considering how he had started. He made his debut on May 9 and allowed an earned run in six innings against the Padres, with a walk and seven strikeouts. Then on May 14 he allowed a run in seven innings against the Giants, with a walk and ten strikeouts. Friedrich was throwing strikes and missing bats, and early on this afternoon the Mariners' broadcast was talking about time he spent staying with and learning from Cliff Lee. Cliff Lee isn't a bad pitcher for a 24-year-old southpaw to follow.

When Friedrich was removed, he had thrown 56 of his 100 pitches for strikes. He'd walked four batters, and he'd allowed nine line drives and a dinger. I don't know if this was more about Christian Friedrich or more about the Mariners' hitters, but thankfully we don't have to worry about identifying causation. Regardless of why this happened, this happened, and the Mariners set a new season-high for runs in a game. I'd say it figures they'd do that in Coors Field, but then the Rockies have three runs in two games. Coors has been selectively friendly, unlike its beer, which is consistently unfriendly, to tongues.

The Mariners' biggest hit was their first one, when Kyle Seager drilled a two-run homer to right-center in the top of the second. Friedrich followed a first-pitch ball with a second-pitch meatball, and Seager hit it out on a line. In the third inning, Seager singled, and in the fifth inning, Seager singled. In the eighth inning, he walked, which was just his fourth walk of the season. Seager's sitting on an .806 OPS, and while I usually wouldn't trust a hitter with four walks and 21 strikeouts, Seager strikes me as a different case. He's just done a fantastic job of converting strikes into line drives, and his low walk total isn't necessarily reflective of a deficiency. He's just been hitting pitches before he gets to four balls. The more we see of Kyle Seager, the more evidence we collect that he'll be a long-term regular. Which is comforting to think about given how Francisco Martinez and Vinnie Catricala are busy playing statistical chicken.

Michael Saunders finished with one hit and one walk, but more accurately, he finished with three hard-hit balls and one walk. Jesus Montero had three hits and a walk without a single strikeout, which might have had something to do with his time off and which might not have. Brendan Ryan tripled and singled, lifting his OPS above Chone Figgins' OPS, which is a part of a sentence that doesn't make me feel better about anything. Casper Wells played and batted five times without Eric Wedge ever yanking him and asking who he is. Jason Vargas singled and walked. Clint Barmes is the everyday shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Over 126 trips to the plate, he's drawn one walk. Jason Vargas has caught him. This'll only add more fuel to the Jason Vargas vs. Clint Barmes rivalry we keep hearing about.

Tomorrow, the Mariners will try to sweep, which is a pretty common thing to do on Sundays. Blake Beavan will oppose Jeremy Guthrie. I don't know if Beavan is quite up to sweeping given what recently happened to his elbow, but then Jeremy Guthrie hurt himself falling off of his bike so he sounds like a real klutz. The Mariners aren't about to let some klutz get between them and their chores.