Hello friends, and welcome to the first day of the All-Star break. What the All-Star break is is an arbitrary dividing line allowing people to try to find meaning in meaningless season splits. The Mariners don't play for four days, and then because they won't have played for four days we'll get to Friday and wonder if some of the players have suddenly gotten better. They won't have gotten better and we'll be used to the Mariners again by the middle of next week. For some teams the All-Star break might seem like it interrupts forward momentum but for me this has become my favorite time of year. Not because of the All-Star Game, of course. The All-Star Game can go and throw itself down a well and then I would fill the well with rocks and poison.
Off to a positive start, all right. Because it's the break, the thing to do is reflect on the first ~half of the season. I don't want to do that right now, because ugh depressing why would I want to do that. What I'm going to do instead is reflect on this past weekend, because I didn't watch it, and you probably didn't watch it, and now let's get all caught up together! It is imperative that we remain caught up with the Mariners' regular season. This past weekend, the Mariners played the Athletics three times. What did you and I miss?
The Mariners and the Athletics
Every time the Mariners play the A's, it's like they try to act the most them that they ever have. It's a game of unwatchability chicken, and neither side is one to back down from a challenge. Friday night's game went to 11 innings, and the Mariners scored one run. Saturday's game went the standard nine innings, and the A's scored one run. Sunday's game went to 13 innings, and the Mariners scored one run. The Mariners and the A's elected to close out the first half of the season by playing 13 innings of baseball and generating three runs of offense. Not because the pitching was outstanding, but because obviously the alternative to that. What you and I missed this weekend was exactly what you and I figured we would miss. The Mariners didn't lose all of the games and the A's didn't lose all of the games but honestly it doesn't matter who wins these games, it only matters that these games eventually reach a decisive conclusion.
It appears that yesterday's extra innings featured a flock of seagulls above the field of play that made it difficult for defenders to detect pop-ups against the sky. Every time a defender looked up, he ran the risk of getting shit on, which I think is only fair given what we usually have to go through when we watch these baseball games. If the Mariners and A's are going to shit on us, then the Mariners and A's should get shit on by seagulls. All that's left to close the loop is for some seagulls to get shit on by us.
Carlos Peguero is still Carlos Peguero
Peguero came up and batted eight times in this series. He finished 1-for-8 with zero walks, five strikeouts, and a triple, and the triple was actually an opposite-field blooper that was misplayed into a bunch of bases because the A's are a team made up of the kids who try to shag flies in the Home Run Derby. I guess that means the Mariners are a team made up of the kids who weren't selected to shag flies in the Home Run Derby. There is a difference between being terrible and being the most terrible. You can't ever base anything on eight plate appearances and I'm sure that Peguero isn't an exact clone of the player he was in 2011, but he's probably close enough that we won't notice any difference.
Speaking of terrible, Justin Smoak
Did you know that Justin Smoak has a 70 OPS+? Last season, Carlos Peguero had a 75 OPS+. Justin Smoak has been worse than 2011 Carlos Peguero over twice as many plate appearances! Watch as Smoak strikes out swinging on a pitch that was basically closer to being a pickoff attempt at second base.
It's hard to even be mad anymore because had Smoak made contact he would've just popped up or flown out to the warning track. If Smoak makes a habit of swinging really hard and completely missing the ball we can daydream that if he could ever hit the ball he would hit it 500 feet. Smoak can't hit the ball 500 feet, and I'm no longer certain he can hit the ball 400 feet, but if he just strikes out violently all the time we might develop more faith in his skillset than we have today. By the way Smoak still leads this team in home runs.
Jason Vargas knows who he likes to face
The A's have to be one of the very worst changeup-hitting teams in baseball because Vargas just cuts right through them like a hot knife through Smart Balance margarine substitute. Saturday, Vargas threw a complete game, with a walk and six strikeouts. In four starts this year against Oakland, Vargas has allowed six runs, with 12 percent swinging strikes. In his other 15 starts, Vargas has allowed 51 runs, with six percent swinging strikes. If you were to ask Jason Vargas which team he would most like to face in one given start, he'd say the A's, because he can't say the Mariners, because he's a Mariner still and he can't disappoint his teammates even if everyone's already thinking it. For the sake of preserving relationships, some things must remain unspoken.
Brendan Ryan is a quality defender
The year before the Mariners traded for Brendan Ryan, he posted a 57 OPS+. Presently, he has a 63 OPS+. That is a very bad OPS+, one of the worst among regular players. Yet I have a hard time characterizing Ryan as a problem because Ryan's defense is probably the one best thing on the entire team. I think Ryan is better at defense, relative to other defenders, than Felix is at pitching. Brendan Ryan's defense is the team's best individual trait, unless you count Carlos Peguero's lurching. Man knows how to lurch.
Of course it'd be super if Ryan weren't batting .187. Last year he batted .248, and for his career he's batted .247. Ryan could be a lot better than he is. But if the Mariners had an actual lineup of position players instead of discarded board games missing pieces and dice, we wouldn't be looking for Ryan to hit very much, because Ryan's never going to hit very much. He's a defensive specialist, and there's room for players like that. He's just a defensive specialist on a team that needs an offensive specialist.