Musings about, um... well, the Seattle Mariners as well as a love affair with this game baseball. By Peter J. White
Thursday, August 21, 2003
Blue Jay Way
Nothing takes away the August pessimism quite like a blowout: 9-1. The Mariners got their revenge on Kelvim Escobar from last Thursday as Rey "Single Me" Sanchez, Boonie and Edgar combined to go 9 for 13 with 6 runs scored and 6 driven in. Mac started in left as Winn was in center for the injured Mike Cameron. Are those groin injuries contagious? Mac went hitless and struck out three times. It could have been worse. John Mabry could have started in left. Bloomquist's groin injury takes one contestant from the third base sweepstakes, or black hole, depending on your point of view. In his stead, Jeff Cirillo singled in his first major league at bat in nearly four weeks.
Most important was Boonie's 3 for 4 night. The second half has not quite been the cakewalk the first half was for him. His batting average is down 60 points (.313/.250), his on-base percentage has slipped 40 points (.373/.333) and his slugging has plunged 100 points (.591/.492). He's striking out about 60% more often (one every 5.8 AB/ once every 3.7 AB). He's taking a base on balls at a consistent rate, though. The M's need Boone to escape any kind of offensive funk if they're to be the last team standing in October.
Edgar's rebounded nicely from his June slump: He hit .306/.417/.518 in July and is presently hitting .354/.449/.554 in August. But he has just 3 homers since the break.
Ryan Franklin went 6 innings, 96 pitches, 61% for strikes. He allowed 8 baserunners (5 hits, 3 walks) but just allowed one run. He escaped without giving up a homer against a pretty heavy lineup. Which is very good. Tonight's pointless stat of the day? The M's are 9-8 in games that Franklin allows a home run and 6-1 in games where he keeps the ball in the park.
But what a difference a day makes. The division lead shrinks to three games as the A's steal one from the vulnerable Sox and the Mariners can't find a single, blessed way to hit Josh Towers. Just 10 days removed from the minor leagues (he does have nearly 200 innings of major league experience though) Towers throws a complete game shutout. 107 pitches. 69% for strikes. The M's managed just 6 baserunners all evening. No walks. They did squeeze a pair or runs out of it though. Cameron, Davis, Winn and Cirillo combined to go 0-13 with the three K's. Rey "Single Me" Sanchez picked up another pair of one-base hits. He now has a single in 17 of his 19 games as a Mariner. As an M, he's hitting .342/.380/.342.
And as Dave so eloquently presented it, Meche is unraveling before our eyes. The pair of long balls did him in as he lasted 107 pitches in 6 innings, 57% for strikes. Five runs were the product of 5 hits and 4 walks, just 2 strikeouts for Meche. As Joshua pointed out yesterday in the comments section, Soriano's putting together quite a run of strikeouts without a walk. He made it 33 last night, and as I type, he's got a pair more for 35.
Tonight was supposed to bring the baseball world the greatest pitching matchup of the season: Hudson vs. Pedro. Hudson is banged up, so Rich Harden made the start instead for the A's. And now I see Casey Fossum started for the Sox. What happened to Pedro?! I'm concerned. Very concerned.
Oh and by the way, Rich at the Weekend Baseball BEAT is putting in some weekday overtime with some words about how A-Rod is en route to get shafted from another MVP. He compares to Ichiro (as several mediaoutlets are pressing), but count me in the Boonie for MVP camp.
|| Peter @ 8/21/2003
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Pythagorean Rankings: Week 20
(week 18 ranking in parentheses, with runs for and against)
1. Seattle (1) 628-488 The M's are a mediocre 17-14 since the break. Not a single starter is posting an ERA below 4 since then. However, Shigetoshi Hasagawa, Rafael Soriano and Julio Mateo have combined to throw 56 innings, allowed 24 hits, walked 5, struck out 60 and allowed just 5 runs for an ERA of 0.80.
2. NY Yankees (3) 668-544 Just a couple of examples why choosing the "All-Stars" at mid season is a joke: Alfonso Soriano is hitting .219/.252/.404 in the second half and Aaron Boone .169/.194/.254 since becoming a Yankee. Then there's Jason Giambi who's turning his season around with a vengeance hitting .273/.451/.6.16.
3. Atlanta (4) 706-579 Mike Hampton hasn't lost a decision since July 1. He's got the Brave offensive machine to thank for that as his July ERA was 6.10. So far in 4 August starts, it's 1.99.
4. Philadelphia (2) 593-490 Pat Burrell is nicely getting back on track (.878 OPS and 16 BB to 19 SO since the break), and Bobby Abreu is also quietly putting together a terrific second half with a 1.111 OPS. Once has to wonder though: His home/road OPS split is 1.100/.715. So what will he do next year when the Phils leave the Vet?
5. Oakland (5) 564-474 So what exactly has happened to Eric Byrnes? His OPS the first half was a pleasantly surprising .881. But since then, it's been an atrocious .253. The good news: Eric Chavez is hitting .319/.386/.580 since the break. The bad: Miguel Tejada has just 2 homers in the second half. He's on pace for 22, which would be his lowest total since 1999.
6. Boston (6) 736-637 On any other team, Trot Nixon would be a star. He's 3rd in the AL in slugging (.582) and 9th in OBP (.394). Southpaws are his kryptonite, though. He's posting just a .643 OPS against lefties, but 1.062 against righties.
7. Houston (8) 589-518 Tim Redding (3.24), Wade Miller (3.62) and Ron Villone (3.63) are three starters with second-half ERAs below 3.70. The Astros are going to need it and more as the boys of BP are giving the 'Stros 3-1 odds to make the playoffs based on their schedule strength.
8. San Francisco (7) 568-501 Oh, how the W-L deceives: Sidney Ponson is 0-3 as a Giant after a 14-6 run as an Oriole. So far as a Giant, he's allowing a respectable 1.16 baserunners/9 but they're all coming around to score to the tune of a 4.03 ERA.
9. Florida (12) 591-533 The Fish are 20-9 since the break. Best mark in baseball. Much credit goes to Mark Redman (2.30 second half ERA), Brad Penny (2.41) and Josh Beckett (2.72). Dontrelle-mania was fun while it lasted, eh? Since the second week of July, Willis has given up 5 homers, after allowing 3 the entire first half, and has a 6.10 ERA.
10. St. Louis (9) 679-618 Please, let's not kid ourselves (and the season's not over yet, so really the point is moot), but Triple Crowns and hitting streaks don't qualify a player as "most valuable." Albert Pujols deserves mounds of credit for making the NL MVP race a two-party event. But "most valuable," at least in my book, means creating runs and not making outs. And Albert is still second fiddle.
11. Los Angeles (15) 434-399 Three Dodgers presently boast an OPS above .800 for the entire season: Robin Ventura (.831 in 49 AB), pitcher Guillermo Mota (.875 with a single and home run in 8 at bats) and pitcher Troy Brohawn (2.000 with a single in his only at bat).
12. Arizona (11) 538-503 Not only is he the best NL Rookie of the Year candidate at this point, Brandon Webb is a solid Cy Young candidate as well. His 2.56 ERA ranks 4th in the league, his .217 BAA is 5th and his 1.11 WHIP is 5th.
13. Toronto (10) 690-651 Since the break, Kelvim Escobar is 4-0 with a 1.87 ERA. After his 14-decision winning streak, Roy Hallady has lost three of his last 4 decisions, thanks to 4 runs total of support from the Jays' offense in those 3 games.
14. Anaheim (14) 577-552 The Halos are 11-22 thus far in the second half. They've gone from defending a championship to now warding off the Rangers for the AL West cellar. All of a sudden, just finishing .500 seems like a mountain of a goal. The offense has a .698 OPS in the second half.
15. Chicago Cubs (17) 538-522 In the second half, Mark Prior is 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA in 3 starts, Carlos Zambrano is 5-1 with a 1.61 ERA, Matt Clement has a 2.66 ERA. If Kerry Wood gets some much needed rest before October, that just might be the scariest pitching foursome in the playoffs. I think an A's/Cubs World Series matchup would be incredible. But the Cubbies still have to get there. Tony Womack? Randall Simon? Dusty Baker did nearly win the World Series with a bench of Shawon Dunston, Tom Goodwin and Pedro Feliz.
16. Chicago Sox (13) 582-569 After starting hot, hot out of the gate to start the second half, losing just two from the break to August 1, the Sox are now 8-10 in August. Of the two midseason acquisitions, Carl Everett is having a 1.043 OPS August, while Robbie Alomar is struggling at .592 for the month.
17. Baltimore (17) 610-612 The O's have now dropped 8 in a row, sweeps by Tampa Bay and New York. It could get real ugly real fast in Baltimore as Friday the Orioles start a 10-game roadtrip to Yankee Stadium, Oakland and Seattle and then play host to Oakland, Seattle and Boston. They ended the season 4-32 last year. Anyone sensing deja vu?
18. (tie) Montreal (19) 552-556 The Expos are riding a 6-game winning streak and are now 4 games back for the wild card. They've got to be excited to have Vlad back. I'd like to know the place in history for Ron Calloway (.664 OPS), Endy Chavez (.659) and Jamey Carroll (.662) as the worst outfield in baseball history.
(tie) Colorado (15) 675-680 That 4-game sweep at the hands of the Mets has to sting. The fact they were outscored 32-8 by the Mets is just shameful. Chin-hui Tsao is off to a rockie (ha!) start: 12 BB and 16 SO in 27.2 innings with a 1.63 WHIP, .303 BAA and 5.86 ERA in his first 5 starts. And so far, he's much better in Coors (2.92 ERA, .213 BAA, 4 BB, 10 SO in 12.1 IP) than on the road (8.22 ERA, .371 BAA, 8 BB, 6 SO in 15.1 IP).
20. Minnesota (21) 598-611 Does anyone have a softer second-half schedule than the Twins? They started the second-half by winning 5 of 6 against Seattle and Oakland. KC and Chicago are the only .500+ teams they see the rest of the way. They're currently a game back and in third place with 10 games left against their two division rivals.
21. Kansas City (20) 641-657 Jose Lima. Kevin Appier. Paul Abbott. It's as if Kansas City has becoma a halfway house for the washed up, pitching carcasses of former 17-game winners. What does it say about the Royals that they beat the Yankees last week in games started by Appier and Abbott? What does it tell you about the Yankees? And the Royals have the reciprocal schedule of the Twins.
22. Pittsburgh (22) 565-609 Reggie Sanders hit 15 home runs in the first half. He has 12 more so far through the second half. To put it another way, before the break his SLG was .496 and after it's .737. He's one example where OPS doesn't tell the whole story: His .571 season SLG is good for 6th in the NL and masks his pedestrian .327 OBP.
23. Cleveland (23) 534-597 Since being recalled from Buffalo, Travis Hafner is hitting .293/.369/.533 with 10 BB and 13 XBH in 92 AB. It's not Jim Thome, but it'll do just nicely.
24. Texas (24) 667-762 Here comes Alex: Before the break, his OPS was .917 with 22 homers. He was striking out once every 4.5 at bats and walking once every 8.6 AB. Since the break, his OPS is 1.231 with 13 homers. He's cut the strikouts to once every 7 AB and the walks are up to once every 5 AB.
25. NY Mets (27) 539-618 Meanwhile, A-Rod's young protégé, Jose Reyes, is hitting .356/.384/.462 with 10 steals in 10 attempts in the second half. Since the return of Mike Piazza, the Mets are 5-1, outscoring their opponents 43-13. Piazza is hitting .400/.526/.800 since his return.
26. (tie) Tampa Bay (28) 547-661 The Rays are 19-13 since the break, including winning 6 of their last 8. And they've done that against such teams as Chicago, Boston, Kansas City and Toronto. Julio Lugo is hitting .325/.375/.496 since the break. And while I've noted the swinging ways of Baldelli and Crawford, neither can quite hack like Damian Rolls who has 3 BB and 27 SO since the break.
(tie) Cincinnati (25) 558-675 The new-look Reds are 6-10 thus far in August, but the team ERA is 3.67. Rookie John Bale has a 2.41 ERA in 3 starts this month. Paul Wilson is at 2.73 in 4 starts. It's the offense that has been truly offensive posting just a .606 OPS since August 1. D'Angelo Jimenez leads the starting nine at .753.
28. Milwaukee (26) 527-667 Ex-Mariner Scott Podsednik flashed Rookie of the Year potential with an .830 OPS and 20 steals in 25 chances (80% success rate) the first half. The sparkle is wearing off as he's slipped to .639 in the second half with 5 steals in 8 chances (62%).
29. San Diego (29) 509-662 Oh, it's been a hideous month in San Diego. Let's go to Portland where 23-year-old shortstop Khalil Greene is hitting .302/.361/.474 for the AAA Beavers. Then, we'll make a stop in Lake Elsinore, where 20-year-old Josh Barfield is hitting .340/.391/.524 with 111 RBI in 121 games for the A-ball Storm. How's that for a keystone combo for '04, maybe '05?
30. Detroit (30) 414-672 The Truly Terrible Tigers have won just 6 games over the last four weeks. According to the Baseball Library, the Tigers are just 3 games better than the all time worst 1916 A's through 124 games. The argument for worst team of all time when you consider the modern inventions of free agency, integration and the amateur draft. The pitching staff that had been merely mediocre is slipping into horrible-ville with a 6.23 ERA since the break. But then, Brandon Inge is hitting .404/.429/.596 since his recall.
IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY... Oakland at New York
Kansas City at Seattle
Philadelphia at San Francisco
Houston at Atlanta
LIMA AWARD AL - Bartolo Colon (Chicago Sox) 0-1, 3.0 IP, 7 H, 9 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO, 27.00 ERA
NL - Shawn Chacon (Colorado) 0-1, 1.1 IP, 5 H, 8 ER, 5 BB, 0 SO, 54.00 ERA (at Shea, not Coors)
|| Peter @ 8/19/2003
What’d I miss?
Finally… settling back into the regular routine again after four days of working sun up to sun down and three days of showing three of my favorite people—Jason, Sarah and Kelly—around the sites of DC and Baltimore. For a nominal fee, I too could be your tour guide through the sites and sounds of our great nation’s capitol. See the Apollo 11 watergun at the Air and Space Museum! See the Gunboat Philadelphia at the Museum of American History! See Jesse Orosco's first baseball mit at the Museum of Natural History! It's right next to the petrified trilobites. But on a more serious note, I wouldn't be shocked to see Steinbrenner and Cashman outright sell Orosco to the Smithsonian once the Yanks are eliminated from the playoffs. Or after the next B.J. Surhoff double he gives up. Whichever comes first.
And if you plan on seeing just one Major League Baseball game in person, the 3-hit shutout by Mike Mussina comes highly recommended. Moose brought his A-game Sunday afternoon. At one point (maybe the 3rd inning) I look up at the scoreboard, and he's thrown 30 of 37 pitches for strikes. He finished the day with 120 pitches, 81 strikes (68%). The first time Mussina reached a 3-ball count was the fourth inning, Luis Matos' second at bat. The next time was the 6th, Luis Matos' third at bat. Then 2 of the 3 batters of the 7th inning reached 3 balls. And that was it. No walks for the Birds. Three lone singles. No runs. No nothin'. What a gem.
But what did Mike Hargrove really expect sending out a starting lineup whose bottom half included Tony Batista (.285 OBP), Larry Bigbie (.329), Deivi Cruz (.280), Jack Cust (.342 in 31 AB) and Robert Machado (.289 career OBP)? It was lambs to the slaughter.
The one moment that Orioles fans (if there were really any there) had to cheer came in the 3rd. The Yanks are up 1-0 and following a walk to Karim Garcia and Alfonso Soriano's second double they've got two runners in scoring position with one out. Nick Johnson had grounded out weakly to second his first time up, but on a 1-1 pitch from Rodrigo Lopez he drives it deep to center field. Not deep enough as Luis Matos camps under it, makes the catch and fires a strike to home plate nailing Garcia who was tagging from third. Inning over. Yankee threat only temporarily averted.
It was my first visit to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and I have to say I was impressed. It's no Safeco, and it's far from perfect, but it was a nice place to spend an afternoon watching baseball. The ivy wall and Baltimore Sun clock in centerfield and strip of warehouse in rightfield make up the signature aesthetics. But the outfield seats... instead of curving in a circular fashion around the outfield, they're straight rows that meet at sharp angles, which leave many of those seats facing odd directions. Rather than home plate, I had a perfect view of the Orioles dugout. Maybe that was the point and I just missed it, but I was there to watch the pitcher/hitter chess match. Not Deivi Cruz spittin' sunflower seeds. Or whatever it is he spits.
Furthermore, I'm a fan who obsessive-compulsively cannot watch a baseball game without keeping score. So before the game I head to one of the program stands, and I'm informed they don't sell just a scoreboard. I have spring $5 for an Oriole magazine (commemorating Eddie Murray, by the way), an Oriole magazine featuring more advertisements than actual unique hometeam coverage, an Oriole magazine that I don't want just to get that precious single sheet scorecard. What a scam. At least the vendor offered me two pencils free of charge.
I did forget the sunscreen, though, and am current trying to keep a perpetual 1/4-inch glaze of aloe vera over my forearms and knees. Argh.
And now, back to the Mariners...
Reruns this week. Three in Toronto. Four in Boston. In a perfect world, I'd be in Boston this weekend. The M's managed to go 4-3 against the Jays and Sox last week, maintaining their 4 game lead over Oakland. So I see the standings are right where I left them. The M's will have to hit Kelvim Escobar, Josh Towers and again Mark Hendrickson. Hendrickson and Escobar won the opening and closing games last week as the M's just managed 5 total runs in those games. Meanwhile, the A's are in Boston facing Pedro, Lowe and Wakefield, and when the M's head to Beantown this weekend, they'll face the four Sox starters not named Pedro. That is excellent news and a break to M's would do well to maximize.