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Mariners continue to find out who they are, lose 4-3

So the thing is there was bad hitting and some pretty poor tactical choices and losing. Baseball's back!

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Well what we had here was the New York Yankees Vs. Mike Montgomery and Kyle Seager. The Mariners, fresh off a tongue lashing from their manager, came to New York and just generally spent 9 innings swinging at everything Masahiro Tanaka threw at the plate, barring the occasional strike down the middle of the plate. Here's his pitch chart, courtesy of Brooks:

Tanaka Chart

Some notes here:

  1. Note that for the most part Dr. Quinn Wolcott called a solid zone. Balls in the zone were called strikes, those outside called balls.
  2. Next please note all of those red dots in or around the middle of the strike zone that indicate pitches in the strike zone that were not swung at. Let me be clear:

    Tanaka Swing
  3. Now you'll also note all those blue dots outside the strike zone. Those indicate pitches swung at that resulted in outs. Those are bad and the Mariners did that a lot tonight (and most nights to be honest). Again, let's skip a thousand words:

    Tanaka Don't Swing

This issue with being super bad at the basic tenets of hitting was most acute at the worst possible time. In the 2nd inning the Mariners sandwiched an Austin Jackson single with two slices of walk bread to load the bases. Unfortunately chance rolled snake eyes in that there were two outs and Mike Zunino was up to bat. Now, I've been taking shots at Mike recently and I do not like to grind down on individual players very often. Baseball is very, very hard. However, in the 2nd highest leverage at bat the Mariners would have the batter struck out without seeing a strike.

Zunino Flail

I wish this stood out but I could go through the season and pull similar screenshots from game after game after game after game. I jokingly told some of the staff tonight that Mike Zunino was the worst hitter I have ever seen. Then I thought about it. I root for the Mariners so most of my baseball experience is DH baseball. So without seeing pitchers hit on a regular basis I think I can comfortably say that 2015 Mike Zunino is the worst hitter I can remember watching on a daily basis.

Now this was the kind of game with a buffet of blame set up and it would be unfair to single out poor Mike Zunino for so gluttonously feasting. In the the bottom of the 7th inning, with the game tied at 3-3 Joe Beimel was brought in to face Brett Gardner, a tough left handed batter. Beimel, who in 2014 held LHH to a .226 wOBA in 85 batters faced, struck Gardner out on three pitches. Mark Lowe, the Mariners 2nd best reliever this year, was ready in the pen. However Lloyd McClendon decided to let Beimel stay in to face Alex Rodriguez. Now a few facts:

Joe Beimel 2014 vs. RHH: .276/.367/.424
Joe Beimel career vs. RHH: .277/.363/.429

Alex Rodriguez 2015 vs. LHP: .237/.408/.474
Alex Rodriguez career vs. LHP: .287/.388/.547

Playing the after-the-fact numbers breakdown to torch a one-time tactical decision is not my favorite thing to do. There are, whether we are privy to them or not, factors in play beyond the things I can see on my television or look up on Fangraphs. However this was a tactical error that, immediately, blew up. Beimel tried to throw a sinker that floated up and away and one of the greatest players of all-time did what he had already done 672 times previous.

So it was bad process and deservedly bad result. And Lloyd new it right away! At least, his face said he did.

Lloyd Face

So originally I was going to gloss over this. Mistakes happen. Once I tried to pay for my King-sized chicken sandwich meal at Burger King at the drive-thru and I smacked my hand and my debit card fell between my window and the sealing rubber, trapping the card in the car door. I did not get to eat that sandwich. Stuff happens.

But part of leadership is owning up to mistakes and after the game, whether honestly or dishonestly, McClendon defended his decision:

I am, or at least largely have been, a pretty big fan of Lloyd McClendon but that's a bad look. Setting up a player to fail and not taking ownership of it is the kind of thing that can erode a clubhouse, which has been one of McClendon's strongest traits.

Of course in the 9th the Mariners had to give you one final tease. With 2 outs Mark Trumbo ripped a line drive down the left field line. The ball appeared to be headed toward the corner but Brett Gardner reminded us that non-right-handed-power-hitting-outfielders are people too with a terrific sliding stop to hold Trumbo to a single. With Andrew Miller on the mound and Brad Miller due up Lloyd went to Jesus Montero, and the team was given approximately its 2,056th chance to create an indelible moment. But instead Jesus Montero just kind of hung out and swung at some balls.

Jesus Montero Swings

It was an appropriately feeble effort for what was largely an unacceptable performance from the team. No one loss defines a season, as no one day defines a life. However on July 17th this felt as good a cover for the 2015 Mariner Yearbook as any. Tick tock fellas.

A few bulletpoints because everything is NOT in fact shit:

  • Kyle Seager is doing that thing he does every year where he spends 20-30 games as one of baseball's very best players. Coming into tonight Seager was OPS'ing .868 in July. After swatting two home runs tonight that is going to go up. Today's outburst has his wRC+ on the year at a very Seager-like 117.

    Every year Seager goes through streaks where it appears he's finally going to turn into the pumpkiny utility infielder he always seems so destined to be. But Seager has made a career out crapping all over people's limited expectations of him. Regardless of the wins and losses he'll be a reason to keep watching.
  • Speaking of continuing to reshape the narrative of your own story Mike Montgomery again was outstanding, if imperfect. Facing a Yankee lineup stacked with right-handed power hitters Montgomery went 6 innings, gave up 3 runs, walked 3 and struck out 9. Montgomery beautifully worked both sides of the plate, pounding right-handed hitters inside with a cutter to get ahead before deploying the changeup as his own personal Avada Kedavra. Of the 9 changeups Montgomery threw 8 were swung at and 5 missed. 

    Today I spent 1600 words adding coal to the fire underneath Jack's seat. But if 2015 is his Waterloo we will miss his front office's ability to find and get the most out of overlooked starting pitchers. Mike Montgomery looks every bit a mid-rotation fixture for years to come. Good job Jack and Co.