My work takes me to properties all over as many as seven Western Washington counties. In all that land there are many properties that, while technically considered suburban for assessor and census purposes, are by all practical function rural. A regular site are long dirt/gravel roads beyond the maintenance of any government agency. These roads and neighborhoods have conditions that run across the full spectrum of American society, but by and large as an outsider they fall into two general categories:
1) The communities that cling so desperately to the idea of individualism and self-sufficiency that the roads they live on, sometimes miles long, are left sporadically maintained. It's not uncommon for my all-wheel drive vehicle to have to slow to 10-15 miles an hour for extended periods to carefully navigate the gigantic potholes, ruts and small lakes that populate these inroads. There are usually a few signs of occasional maintenance, but woefully insufficient to make passage as easy as it should be in our modern world.
2) A group of families/individuals recognize the value of transportation, including that the value of their properties will communally rise, and form what is commonly known as a "road maintenance agreement". This is a document on file with local government that lays out the costs and responsibilities of maintaining the road that serves the community in question. A regular financial contribution is laid out and used to provide a smooth, passable surface for vehicles. Many times it is not until needing to sell their property that people in these types of locations come to understand that the property is not available to all types of financing without a road maintenance agreement on file with the local municipality. For those without, life is needlessly more difficult.
That's a convoluted analogy to lead to today's 3-0 loss to the Texas Rangers, but it loosely has application in this: The Mariners, three times with the game tied, twice in the 1st inning, ran into outs on the basepaths. It's an ongoing issue, one that Andrew wrote well about last week. All year the Mariners have needlessly made scoring runs more difficult than necessary by mindlessly running into outs. Let's take a look at the situations today.
Ketel Marte on 1st
Kyle Seager batting, count 2-1
Run expectancy - 0.86
Ketel Marte caught stealing, run expectancy - 0.26
Run expectancy if Marte is safe - 1.11
Bottom of 1st
Kyle Seager on 2nd, Mark Trumbo on 1st
Run expectancy - 0.44
Kyle Seager does whatever this is, run expectancy - 0.00
Run expectancy if the Rangers somehow screw it up beyond all comprehension - 0.59
Bottom of 5th
Brad Miller on 3rd, John Hicks batting.
Run expectancy - 0.94
Brad Miller takes off on contact, is out, run expectancy - 0.22
Run expectancy if Brad Miller just walks back to third like a reasonable human being who does not subsist on energy drinks - 0.37
I don't much like playing Captain Second Guesser. Managing baseball is difficult, and I certainly could not do it with any semblance of competence. However the reason this is so damming to me is twofold; primarily that the idea of win expectancy is not complex, nor is it ill-founded, drawing on decades of granular analysis to help managers create and utilize a solid, if imperfect cost-benefit matrix. Secondarily this is not a team that has struggled in anyway to score runs for almost 2 months now. Consider:
Mariners MLB ranks since All-Star break: Runs 234 (5) AVG .272 (4) OBP .334 (3) SLG .466 (2) OPS .801 (2) HR 73 (1) 2B 99 (3) BB 155 (7)
— Gary Hill (@GaryHillJr) September 6, 2015
Granted the team was lacking Nelson Cruz, its best hitter, and Franklin Gutierrez, its best platoon bat. But the margin of my grace and understanding on this stuff was TOOTBLAN'd through long ago. The Mariners have no business being an "aggressive" team on the bases, and that was obvious to any semi-regular observer of this roster and its play months ago. The fact that they continue to make outs with such abundance and regularity is yet another nail in the wooden structure that's starting to very much resemble a Lloyd McClendon-shaped coffin.
Detail matters. Learning, adapting, willingness to mold a style and preference of play to fit the talents of one's roster; these are the things that most managers without top to bottom elite rosters must excel at. Time and again this season, McClendon and his staff have failed at it. It has cost their boss his job. Barring a miracle, it's going to go a long ways into costing them theirs as well.
A successful team is typically built off of excellent communication, of an understanding of each member's talents and deficiencies, and a willingness to contribute the strengths together to maximize them and mitigate weaknesses. Instead of this the Mariners more often resemble those neighborhoods on the roads full of potholes. The appear individuals going their own way, sometimes able to patch things together here and there, but inevitably derailed by the lack of a cohesive and communal plan.
Winning major league baseball games is hard. Too often the Mariners make it even harder, for reasons that are beyond my understanding. Walker and Hamels tomorrow. I hope for reason to triumph, but I have no reason to expect it.