One of the biggest obstacles between me and completing literally any task is the ability to focus. It doesn’t matter how big or small the task is. It doesn’t matter if I haven’t even started, or I’m just one minute away from finishing. A momentary lapse in concentration can easily snowball into staring out the window for twenty minutes, or finding myself on the “Wind power in the Republic of Ireland” Wikipedia page at four in the morning, wondering how I got there.
Fortunately, most of my slips in concentration go unpunished. Most of my work is low-stakes, at least to the rest of the world. Neither of those things can be said for any member of the Seattle Mariners. Sure, baseball is relatively low-stakes, but you can be sure it doesn’t feel that way to anyone on the actual team (or a large part of the fan-base).
Yesterday, Edwin Diaz had a tough time focusing, and his results suffered. Call it a lapse in concentration, call it not having a “mental edge,” as Scott Servais stated after the game. Whatever it was, all of his stuff was there, but he wasn’t getting results. It was a relatively low-leverage situation and it went unpunished, but it was still a little bit worrisome. It wasn’t unwarranted, then, when this was the reaction of many as Edwin stepped in today:
It me, guy worried about Edwin Diaz converting this save. pic.twitter.com/r4arngAED4— Mariner Muse (@MarinerMuse) June 28, 2017
Edwin Diaz came in to protect a 4-3 Mariners lead. He quickly fell behind Tommy Joseph 2-0, but fought back into a 3-2 count. Diaz’s sixth pitch to Joseph was a fastball down and in, exactly where he’d just thrown an identical fastball moments earlier.
Diaz did come back and strike out the next two guys, but walked Cameron Perkins to put the go-ahead run on. It’s worth noting that the Phillies took each of the first four at-bats against Diaz to full counts. Diaz needed 29 pitches to make it through just four batters. Demoralized and tired, Edwin immediately committed a balk to send Perkins to second base before an Andrew Knapp single scored the winning run for the Phillies.
Edwin Diaz has two primary pitches: his fastball and his slider. A lot of people were commenting that he wasn’t throwing his slider much this game, but about 30% of his pitches were sliders, just below his average rate this season. It is worth noting, however, that during both the Joseph at-bat (which resulted in a dinger) and the Knapp at-bat (which scored the winning run), Edwin did not throw a single slider.
So what’s wrong with Edwin Diaz? It’s probably not his stuff. His velocity was normal, and as Servais said yesterday, his stuff and his command both look fine. It’s probably some combination of pitch selection and a lack of focus. The solution is probably to give him a break from closing games at the MLB level. Whether that comes in the form of a role demotion or a Triple-A demotion remains to be seen. It’s important to remember that he’s only 23 years old and has been dominant at every level in his life. This is his first real taste of adversity, and it would be premature to panic on him.
The good news is that the offense looked good today. Jean Segura continues to look amazing, going 3-for-5 with a run. The team generated three dingers today, from Kyle Seager (thank goodness), Danny Valencia, and this one that Robinson Cano absolutely clobbered.
Unfortunately, they were all solo shots. I know we’re all sick of hearing about how the team has been unlucky, but there was certainly room for some better scatter luck today.
As for Felix, he looked passable. He did technically record a quality start, but it took some luck and a Freddy Galvis TOOTBLAN to limit the damage to just three runs. He struggled to hit 91 on his fastball and his command was shaky, as he gave up three walks. With the Drew Smyly news, the Mariners will really need Felix to look like something resembling a Number-3 starter, and this game had both encouraging and discouraging aspects.
As a relevant aside in light of Diaz’s struggles, both James Pazos and Nick Vincent looked great today. They combined for 2 perfect innings with 3 strikeouts, and I’d be fine with either or both of them in the closer role going forward.
The Mariners have another off-day tomorrow to think long and hard about this four-game losing streak before they head off to Los Angeles to face the Angels. If there were any team that would further plunge this season into a pit of despair, it would be them.