That’s what it’s supposed to look like. That’s what we say when one of these games happen, right? When the pieces all click into place and this oversized V8 roadster that can’t turn right or left finds a nice stretch of open road, tonight is what it looks like.
The thing is, it actually looks like that it a lot. Not all the time, because then they wouldn’t be here, but at least a sizable chunk of the time—as, outside one bad week, they’ve been at touch above .500.
Still, one bad week will do you, especially when there aren’t many really good ones. So had you told me in March the Mariners, behind a dominant start from Taijuan Walker, would on September 14th trounce the Angels while knocking Garrett Richards all over the goddamn park, I would’ve been thrilled.
But we’ve—or I’ve—"had you told me in March"d for three or four months now. We’re here now, and baseball’s baseball. With baseball, and so precious little left, you take what you can get—and sometimes what you get is the Rangers and Astros battling for a division title while the Mariners and Angels play in front of maybe 10,000.
What those people specifically got, however, was one of the best all-around performances of the year.
Should we start with Taijuan Walker? Let’s start with Taijuan Walker.
The young pitcher who needs to be good in 2016 the Mariners are going to be anything looked quite good tonight as he spun seven innings of one-run ball, striking out seven and walking none. It wasn't as good as Taijuan looked, as he was working largely off the fastball, but the fastball looked very good—with the four-seamer averaging more than 96mph and even touching 99.
But we know Walker will never reach his potential without the secondary offerings. All season, he's worked off his fastball and splitter/change, and that was the case tonight, throwing 58 four-seamers and 16 of that splange.
Taylor Featherston, lost without his lacrosse stick, had this reaction to a sixth-inning splange from Walker.
Taijuan Walker threw Taylor Featherston a mean pitch and Featherston was confused dot gif. pic.twitter.com/MKLHGhRcMj
— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) September 15, 2015
And here's the pitch:
While that's great when it's rolling, and Walker can be quite tough with that two-pitch mix, we all want the curveball. Or we should all want the curveball. For a time, it looked like it was coming on. Except, since that I wrote that it was, batters have slugged .471 off it, and Walker's useage of the pitch—while up from early in the season—has been all over the place:
Though, the 14 he threw tonight was the second-most after he really busted it out in back-to-back starts against Toronto and Minnesota. He only threw half for strikes, and one of the two that were put in play was hit pretty hard, but its use is the most important thing. It's the development, and also its effectiveness. When he throws a lot of them, it works.
But in a game the Mariners won 10-1, there's also a lot more to the story. The bats looked good tonight, maybe as good as they've looked all year.
The Mariners managed to hit seven balls more than 100mph. And that's good. But if I could get Baseball Savant to not time out, I bet I'd find out they'd done that least 15 or 20 times, and lost more than a handful. Those balls tonight though, they were coming with guys on base, and they were finding the gaps—when not banging off the walls.
The first, from Seth Smith, that wasn't banging off any wall. He destroyed a poorly-located 97mph Garrett Richards fastball—one put in about the worst spot you could put a pitch against a lefty with any pop. I can't embed the video here, because MLBAM is slow and dumb like that, but you can watch and listen to Aaron Goldsmith's enthusiastic call over here.
What was almost more entertaining, in a humorous way, was the reaction to his double—when he pulls into second dejected and Cruz just isn't buying the idea that ball didn't get out.
Of course, there was a lot more going on than Seth Smith. Robinson Cano stung a double past Mike Trout—like, on the ground. It was weird. Mark Trumbo continues to hit the ball very, very hard as he smashed an opposite-field double that nicked the top of the wall, pretty much because the 107mph screamer seemed to barely carry any higher than the eight or so feet required to clear it.
Hell, even Ketel Marte hit a ball over Mike Trout's head. James Jones—James Jones—hit a ball 106mph.
It looked good, it all looked good. And on offense, it's looked good for a not-insignificant stretch of time now.
In the second half of the season, the Blue Jays are the only American League team whose position players have performed better than the Mariners', as measured by fWAR. By wRC+, they have the third-best offense in baseball over that stretch.
Maybe, just maybe, there's something there. They obviously need more, because oof, do not checking the pitching numbers after the break. But maybe there's something to build off of, even if there's still some building to do.
Honestly, I don't know. I hope so. We won't know for certain between now and the end of the season, with the Mariners hiring someone new to architect their future shortly thereafter. But until then, we have baseball. Baseball produces seasons like these, but it also produces nights like that. Maybe between now and the day they close Safeco's gates for the year, we'll get a couple more of those. I hope so, because that was fun.