so uh, the Mariners won today. And it wasn't always looking like that, either. Despite the fact that this dinger you just watched above this line of text came within the first seconds of the game, the Mariners ended up running into some trouble by midday in Arlington. None of that takes away from the fact that the top of their brand-spankin' new lineup is comprised of Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, and another various person capable of getting on base depending on the handedness of each pitcher. I mean, Nobody thought Cano would be on pace for a dinger a day even after getting a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar contract two years ago, and yet...here we are.
Wade Miley came out of the gate throwing well in his Mariners' debut. In fact, perhaps all too well. Miley was hitting 92 on his fastball and mixing in a low-to-mid eighties slider, all which were thrown approximately two seconds apart from one another. In fact, he was throwing so efficiently--backing up Cano's two-run blast in the first and easing in Leonys with his own in the second--that when the trouble hit, he wasn't quite ready for it. He opened up the third by putting Adrian Beltre and Rougned Odor on base back-to-back, and soon the Rangers had two runs because Justin Ruggiano still has a death curse against this franchise, apparently.
The next few innings went by without much doing until Miley started climbing in the count. After starting the day hitting the low nineties here and there, his fastball dropped a few ticks, and he started running into trouble when putting it at the corners. To open the sixth, he threw not 92, not 91, but 89 on the top edge of the plate. Quite literally two extra ticks might have had this at an embarrassing swinging strike, but instead, it was:
Then, a moment and an inch later, Ian Desmond found himself on first with a blooper into right. And then, once Prince Fielder met an 83 MPH slider with 280 pounds of moving centripetal force, the Mariners were down two runs, and it wasn't looking great.
Now, it's going to be a hell of a year. We haven't even had 50 hours of baseball yet, and we've already been witness to 1. a fight 2. Felix taking a no-hitter into the fifth 3. Cano on pace for an all-time season 4. Edgar fidgeting with an iPad. What more could you ask for? Well............soon the bases were loaded following a pair of singles and a walk to Kyle Seager. Robinson Cano came up to bat, the very same Robinson Cano who had hit three dingers in three games, one of which landed in the second deck, and it was adamant after only a few seconds that the Rangers wanted nothing to do with his bat, whatsoever.
Rangers reliever Jake Diekman promptly threw three balls into the dirt, and they weren't even like gimme pitches either. The first, and 84 MPH slider, landed in the opposite batters box where a knee might be. The second was about four inches below the zone, the third in the dirt. Now at this point you may have been preparing to lose your absolute shit with the hottest hitter in all of baseball--yes, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper included--at bat with the bases juiced and a 3-0 count. But Cano has never been one for tearing his shirt off and yelling upward to spite the gods. No, Cano promptly watched two strikes sail easily into the zone.
It was....anticlimactic. You kind of had the feeling that anytime he would even make contact with a thrown ball in the zone that it would, by default, land over the fence, far, far away into some mystical place where no human hand would ever be able to reach it. I mean...you wouldn't be wrong if you thought that, but that's why Robinson Cano is going to be an MVP contender this year. Because Robinson Cano knows he can do that, and instead, he watched a pitcher who had just loaded the bases, utterly terrified to throw him anything....well, rather walk in a run than risk anything. So he let it happen.
Now, I want you to realize how bonkers this is. It is not hyperbole to state that Cano is the hottest hitter in baseball three days in (SSS whatever go to heck). To have this same person, criticized for seeking a big-ass payday, giving up postseason glory for star status in a small market, being uninterested in beating out already-out-grounders to first, well, make a judgement call that he was more likely to scare a pitcher into giving up a run than lucking into a BABIP anomaly is...well, that's something. Which is great because he just hit another dinger a minute later:
So yeah, the Mariners were three outs away from blowing the game, and instead they made it five batters until their final out, coming from a run behind to end up with a Robinson Cano dinger bridging the gap between four runs and a 9-5 scoreboard to earn them their second win of the season. Servais, smartly this time, pinch hit Nori Aoki in place of Steve Clevenger in the ninth, who singled before Ketel Marte singled, before Leonys Martin doubled, before...well, yeah.
Now, I mean, you guys. Holy shit. So this is the Robinson Cano we all thought we were getting when Jack Z opened the purse strings a few years ago. This Robinson Cano, who can put every single damned pitch over the fence if he wants to but who also realizes he's so terrifying that he can force an RBI walk, is every single bit the quarter-billion dollar once-in-a-generation player we all dreamed of that December when we were tracking that flight from New York to Seattle on our laptops. It feels good, it feels right, and damn, its fun.
But slow down. We all know that Robinson Cano had a fine second half last year, and the ucler wasn't his fault, but he was being pitched to differently. Robinson Cano ended his year with the fewest fWAR since his rookie season, at 2.1. He saw more changeups last year than he had since 2007, and he was such a bummer that pitchers just stopped worrying about him. Here are two interesting numbers, with the caveat that it's been three days:
- Pitches seen inside the zone, 2015: 45.7%
- Pitches seen inside the zone, 2016: 85.7%
Now, I don't want to piss on your campfire. It's been amazing watching Cano tear the Rangers a new one these past couple of days. But the only reason he has done this is because 1. It's been three days, and 2. The scouting report was throw shit inside he's terrible. I don't mean to say that he isn't going to have a great year, but part of the reason he is doing this right now is because he is being pitched at one way, but look: that is not going to stick. It's just not.
Now the good news is that unlike 2014, pitchers won't just be able to throw Cano on base and live with fucking Endy Chavez trying to hit him in with a dribbler up between the right side. With Cruz finally behind him, this is exactly what our future HOFer was asking for in the months after he first became a Seattle Mariner. The key for us is to now temper our expectations and realize that Cano isn't going to be this good all year--but also that it means that this team is a whole hell of a lot deeper than we even perhaps realized last week.
It's going to be a lot to handle, but boy, it could be a lot worse.