When I woke up this morning there was very little reason to feel great about the Mariners' chances today. Aaron Harang, while not as bad as his results have been, is a below average starting pitcher with a home run problem. Starting him in the oversized-softball-field-like confines of Yankee Stadium felt like an impending reversal of last night's 12-2 victory. The Mariners had their chance to win this series with Felix and Iwakuma pitching the first two games, and they didn't make it happen.
So it was with this dour frame of mind that I heard that Harang had been scratched. Stiff lower back. Hector Noesi to start. It's not that victory was impossible, it's just that the visceral response to the phrase "Starting Pitcher Hector Noesi" is not pleasant. Wins and losses are devoid of meaning as it pertains to analyzing pitcher quality, but the brain does what the brain does and mine associates Hector Noesi with defeat. It could be A) that the Mariners were 5-13 in games that Noesi started last year or B) that Hector Noesi was amazingly terrible last year. As slim a chance of victory as Harang presented, Noesi presented a tiny fraction of that already small slice of the outcome pie. We were going to lose.
In internet baseball parlance it's common for baseball fans to respond to massively unlikely outcomes with a simple, one word response: "Baseball." It's designed to express the inexpressible. "There is neither reason nor rhyme to what just occurred, so rather than use this deeply flawed Germanic language system to try and convey it I will simply settle on 'baseball'". Tonight was a "baseball" night. The Mariners defeated the Yankees because Hector Noesi provided 4 1/3 innings of hilariously effective baseball. They won because Brendan Ryan has seemingly finally appeased the fickle gods of BABIP. They won because Eric Wedge shot almost every bullet in his bullpen gun and hit almost every target. They won because Michael Morse and Dustin Ackley did exactly what they are supposed to do every game, dammit.
The Mariners just beat one of the AL's best teams on the road without a starting pitcher. Sometimes "baseball" says it all. But that doesn't mean we can't talk about it some more, because that was one hell of a good time.
- Hector Noesi's 2012 was nothing like what the Mariners were hoping for when they acquired him. Although the reasons for the 5.82 ERA in 106.2 IP are probably many and complex, from our vantage point we see the two that stand out: A home rate that doubled from 2011 and an astounding 1.015 OPS against when pitching AHEAD in the count 0-2. Noesi somehow managed to be worse when put in the most advantagous position a pitcher can be put in. This isn't new information, so I won't belabor it, but still... man. Hector Noesi basically spent all of 2012 getting beat by the opposing batters' Saving Throws.
Anyways, tonight Noesi squeezed through those 4.1 innings without allowing a home run and somehow only got one batter into an 0-2 count. That hitter was Brett Gardner, leading off the game, whom he retired. It was, aesthetically, a very Hector Noesi experience. There were flyballs, there were baserunners, there was spotty command. But generating enough strikeouts (4) and keeping the ball in the ballpark goes a long ways to expanding a pitcher's room for error. Hector seems unlikely to diminish his capacity for error any time soon, so he would do well to widen the margin for it.
- Michael Morse is in a contract year and it seems like he is committed to making sure any and all perspective future employees are entirely aware of the product they will be purchasing. Michael Morse has thus far this year been absolutely the most Michael Morse I think anyone could possible be. His walk rate, strike out rate and ISO are all perfectly in line with the player he made himself into after he moved to Washington. At his current pace he will finish the year with 40 home runs and about 1.5-2 WAR. He is playing exactly like what he is: an average player with a great party piece.
If you're not the type to find joy in perusing numerical data, then WATCH Michael Morse this year. Tonight we saw the power but we also saw a catchable line drive sail past his glove and allow his run. The saying doesn't go "A run is a run unless one of those runs is a home run." Michael Morse is an athletic two guard with a 40' vertical leap with no jump shot and poor defensive rotation. There just isn't a lot of depth to his game.
- Brendan Ryan came into the game with a wRC+ of -1, which is quite bad. His BABIP was .169, which screams "regression", but watching Ryan hit everyday makes historically awful seem attainable. How many hits do infield popups and weak choppers to second produce? Somehow, in the top of the 2nd, Brendan Ryan came up with two runners in scoring position and hit an authentic big boy line drive. It should have scored at least one. With the awkward slide Ichiro made the ball could have easily skipped by him and led to a triple, if not a chance at an inside the park home run. Instead Ichiro snared the ball perhaps two inches from touching the most sacred of ground for a Brendan Ryan batted ball: the outfield grass. (GIF by Mr. Cheatum.)
- Given the struggles Jesus Montero has faced throwing out baserunners this year, it seemed inevitable that the Mariners would play a game that led to a late and close situation where the other team exploited this weakness in comic fashion. After Brett Gardner slapped a single with one out in the 9th, the speedy outfielder broke for second on the second pitch to Jason Nix. Jesus Montero did not throw out Brett Gardner. No, no he did not. (Again, Mr. Cheatum.)
- Logan has been hammering this point recently but it can't be overstated how desperately Dustin Ackley needs to pull more extra base hits like the double he hit in the 2nd today. The lack of walks and power is what has been killing him, and you can't walk if pitchers don't think you can punish mistakes. The road to Ackley being more than roster filler is him showing pop. Same goes for Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero and oh right we won tonight not gonna talk more about that.
- The Tom Wilhelmsen Bad Regression is coming. The command is too spotty, the strand rate too high and the strikeout rate too disconcertingly shrunken. His results have been great... but oh that flawed, flawed process. Consider me the Ghost of Tom Wilhelmsen's future. I bring tidings of blown saves, friends. May I be wrong.
- It beats many worse and vastly more common scenarios: