Good afternoon, and welcome back to Lookout Landing. I regret to inform you that the proposed follow-up to yesterday’s piece LINK, 21 Ms Fan Sex Tips (21 in homage to Guti, of course, objectively the sexiest Mariner of all time), was shot down, so instead we’re going to spend some Friday time looking at numbers. And *spoiler* they’re not very fun numbers.
As of late is has seemed as though the Mariners have been playing an unreasonable number of close games, and the numbers back this up; already in August 11 of their 24 games have been decided by one run. When they’ve won, the team is averaging a margin of victory of 2.06 runs and when they lose the margin of loss averages 2.11 runs- though it is worth noting that the final two games against the Yankees do a lot to push that average higher. All this is to say the Mariners aren’t making these games a low stress experience for the fans but, more importantly, the increased number of high leverage situations has largely contributed to an overtaxed bullpen, whose collapses are occurring with increased frequency. So what exactly can be done to decrease these high leverage situations? Quite obviously the first thing would be to score some more runs (this is what you’re reading this site for, right? We’ve got groundbreaking content coming at you every day) but, more specifically, the Mariners need to be better at scoring runs after the starting pitcher has left the game. Let’s take a peek at my vaguely amateurish table below:
To offer some context, the average major league starting pitcher is currently averaging 5.7 innings per game, according to baseball-reference. Therefore, all told, the Mariners have been fairly adequate at getting into an opposing team’s bullpen early on. Just over half of August’s starters have thrown more than the average number of innings. The real problem kicks in when the relievers come in, and the Mariners offense seems to shut down. Of August’s nine losses, all but two have come after failing to score against the opposing bullpen. I’m not saying that the Ms should have scored three off Craig Kimbrel when the Red Sox were in town but, particularly against the chewed up bubblegum and poscicle sticks that make up the Angels and Brewers bullpens, these Mariners need to take better advantage of bad pitching.
I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting four games in red, which represent days when the starting pitcher did not last more than six innings, the Mariners did not score off relievers, and subsequently the game was lost. An extra innings loss to Boston like that hurts, sure, but Boston is also a good team; it’s a "bigger" loss to lose games like that against Oakland, Milwaukee and Chicago. Arguably their most egregious offense of this kind was the final game against Milwaukee, last Sunday, when the Mariners scored six off Matt Garza in 3.1 innings and then allowed themselves to be shut out long enough to blow a three run lead in the ninth. Interestingly, of those four losses all but one ended up being a one run game. It’s a dangerous game to go back and wonder "what if", but the hypotheticals here aren’t all that excessive; simply put, what if the Mariners had scored off relievers in these four red games? There are three games, at least, when scoring off the bullpen would have won them the game. The August record is still good at 15-9, but holy heck would we be in a different mindset if it was 17-7, or even 16-8. Beyond the raw wins there is also the added stress placed upon the Mariners bullpen, when a failure to capitalize on bullpen pitching leads to high leverage situations at the end of games. There have been complaints about Scott Servais’s bullpen management abilities, but the Seattle offense could mitigate those concerns by continuing to score runs after the opposing starter has left the game.
*Optional commenter participation: I ran out of time to actually look at the quantified quality of these bullpens, but that could be another element to further fuel your rage and/or frustration