On October 14, 2000 I sat on a couch in the common area of my dorm (our rooms didn't have cable) and got ready for Game 4 of the ALCS. As the game wore on I just sank deeper and deeper into those cushions while my school mates (almost all of whom were from California) watched me with amusement. I screamed, cursed and stewed as Roger Clemens threw a 1 hit, 15K complete game. Given the stakes, the opposing team and pitcher it was about as angry as any baseball game has ever made me.
It was also one of the greatest pitching performances ever.
Clemens was (and probably still is) a steroid fueled, competition addicted maniac who I loathed more than maybe any pitcher ever. But he was one of the greatest pitchers of all time, at the height of his powers in 2000 and completely overpowered the Mariners on that day. It stung like hell, but Clemens' greatness was blindingly evident.
Fast forward with us to last night's game. Dallas Keuchel, 26 year old fringe major league starter, faced a Mariner left handed batter 11 times last night. It took him 54 pitches to produce the following line:
1-10. 7K, 1BB
Watching Keuchel work to Mariner lefties last night it seemed there was an endless loop of "get ahead with fastball on the outer corner, put away with breaking pitch in the dirt." Brooks Baseball's chart mostly confirms this:
Now we can asterisk this by noting that Laz Diaz appeared to be quite generous on low and away pitches for Keuchel. To his credit Keuchel identified it early and hammered low and away, throwing only 9 pitches to lefties on the inner half of the plate.
Most damning is that while Cano/Seager/Miller/Ackley only swung at 8 pitches plotted as strikes on this chart they swung at 12 outside of it, most by a large margin. This was, for a night (and many other nights already this year) a complete breakdown in approach from a talented group.
The Mariners aren't off to a good start for a whole host of reasons. Bad luck and injuries are two things you can't blame the players for. Outfield defense was an issue last night from 2 players that don't know how to play the outfield. But allowing a back end starter for one of the worst teams in baseball dominate half your lineup with a 90 MPH fastball on the corner and a curveball in the dirt all night is an unacceptable process for the Mariner's left handed hitters.
This roster is in some ways comically flawed. We spend a good portion of the offseason lamenting many of the oversights. But Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley, Brad Miller and Robinson Cano are a talented group of players that would start for many major league teams. If they allow games like last night to happen often it's hard to blame anyone but the players.