Tagged: Mariners

AL West

Note: a “straight
run differential projection” is based on a team’s actual runs scored and
runs allowed.  A “component runs projected” is based on
basic runs created and component ERA without the adjustment to make it an ERA figure (i.e. IP and
the multiplication by 9 not included).  I then applied the
Pythagorean
Formula
with an exponent of
1.83.


Well, well, the AL West, a division full of teams with flaws.  Only one team in this division is above average at both scoring and preventing runs, and that team plays in a climate that has historically caused their pitching to melt down in the summer heat.  The rest of the teams allow more runs than they score, which is obvious cause to doubt their prospects.  


ANGELS

jered weaver.jpg

39-33, .542 winning percentage, 3.5 GB, 4.5 GB Wild Card.  4.74 runs per game (6th in AL), 4.88 runs allowed per game (11th in AL), straight run differential projection 83 wins and .511 winning percentage; component run projection 79 wins and a .488 winning percentage (an 13 games behind first place…ouch!)

Over the past two weeks the Angels have faced the A’s, Dodgers, Brewers, and Cubs, and they have made the most of their competition, with an 8-5 record over that time.  But their bogus run differential condition persists: they have scored 61 runs (4.69 per game) over that  period, but they’ve allowed 65 runs (5.00 per game).  This is the oddness of this year’s Angels ballclub: they are six games over .500 despite giving up more runs than they have scored, and they are out-performing their expected record by four games.  Their record of 8-5 over the past two weeks is about two games better than we would expect, all things being equal.  On top of this already kind of odd oddity, the Angels’ actual run differential significantly over-performs their expected–component–run differential, which implies that they’ve been efficient and quite lucky so far this season.  Or they are a wild aberration.

Jered Weaver, pictured above, is leading the AL in strikeouts.

From here, the Angels return home to face the slumping Dodgers, then the Rockies, and then the division-leading Rangers as June draws to its close.

The Angels’ offense is surging but…the pitching, particularly the bullpen, remains suspect.  It used to be that once Scioscia went to the ‘pen, the game was over, and you could practically feel that even while watching on TV.  But it hasn’t been like that in either ’09 or ’10, and, in fact, the opposite feeling, one of near panic, has been palpable, even on my computer monitor.  Heck, you can practically smell the flop-sweat dripping off of Angels’ relievers’ faces when they come into tight situations.

A good example of what I’m talking about took place on Friday, when the Angels led the Cubs 7-2 heading into the ninth inning.  The “other Francisco Rodriguez” promptly walked the first two batters than served up a dinger to Tyler Colvin to cut the score to 7-5 and then Fernando Rodney walked a high wire in a high win to close out the Cubs 7-6.  But why did that game end up that close?  in 2008 the Angels’ ‘pen just shut them down.  Of course, the game would have been 3-2 in 2008 in the first place, so maybe I don’t have a point.

Despite infield injuries that include the Erik Aybar’s knee, the Angels are holding together and really swinging the bats very well.  But if they keep on giving up more runs than they score…well, they just won’t be around to play in the post-season.

[Note: I have not hyperlinks for the Angels because…I was delinquent and had a power outage while I was typing this post the other night and all my material went…wherever stuff goes in cyberspace when the power goes out before you save your work….]


A’s

34-37, .479 winning percentage, 8 GB, 9 GB Wild Card.  4.00 runs/game (12th in AL), 4.28 runs allowed per game (4th in AL).  Straight run differential projection for 77 wins and a .473 winning percentage; component run projection for 76 wins and a .467 winning percentage.

Over the past two weeks the A’s have fallen off the pace in the AL West. Granted the Rangers have been really, really hot, but the A’s have faced the Angels, Giants, Cubs, and Cardinals and they have won only 4 games, losing 9, in that time period.  They have scored 50 runs (3.85/game) while allowing 56 (4.31/game), meaning that their offense has been worse and less active in the past two weeks than it has over the course of the season, which is scary, since their offense hasn’t been…so far this year.

From here the A’s host the Reds (whom they trail 0-1 right now in game one of that series), and the Pirates (which maybe should give A’s fans something to be happy about) before they travel to Baltimore to end the month of June.

According to A’s fans, manager Bob Geren isn’t making the grade, and the blog Athletics Nation offers a condensed Managing 101 course for their allegedly confused skipper. 

I’m not sure it’s just an issue with a manager, but rather than this team simply can’t score enough.  


MARINERS

Cliff Lee vs Reds 1-0.jpg

26-41, .388 winning percentage, 13 GB, 14 GB Wild Card.  3.41 runs/game (13th in AL); 4.38 runs allowed per game (8th in AL); straight run differential projection 62 wins, .382 winning percentage; component run projection 63 wins, .390 winning percentage.

Ah, Seattle.  They expected big thins this year but they just can’t score runs.  Their Offensive Ineptitude is pretty entrenched.  On the other hand, they can pitch a little here and there: they just swept the Reds, allowing Cincinnati only 1 run in the entire 3-game series and winning two 1-0 shutouts behind some obviously dominant starting pitching from Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, and Ryan Rowland-Smith.  

In the last two weeks the Mariners have faced the Rangers, the Padres, the Cardinals, and the Reds, all teams that are at or near the top of their divisions.  Seattle has gone 6-7 over that stretch of games, but they needed to sweep the Reds to win six games, meaning they were 3-7 versus the Rangers, Padres and Cardinals.  Over the past two weeks, the Mariners have scored 32 runs (2.45 per game) while allowing 61 (4.69 per game), meaning that they weren’t very good until they started playing the Reds, allowing 60 runs over the ten games prior to their series with Cincinnati…yuck.

Going forward, the Mariners host the Cubs–maybe we’ll see the Silva vs. Bradley matchup we’ve been waiting for–before traveling to Milwaukee and the CitiField portion of New York as Seattle closes out June.

The brightest spot for the Mariners has been the ridiculous Cliff Lee, who threw a brilliant 1-0 shutout on Friday night.  Right now the Mariners are being coy and staying mum about what other teams are asking about trading for  Lee.  The blog, U. S. S. Mariner, provides a nice assessment of Cliff Lee trade stuff.  And my heart beats a little faster upon reading this item on the Twins being serious about pursuing him…oh, sorry, the Twins being serious about considering pursuing him.  

Finally, here’s an item comparing the Mariners to the division-leading Rangers.  Kind of funny if you’re not a Mariners fan.


RANGERS

41-28, .594 winning percentage, 0 GB.  5.14 runs per game (4th in AL), 4.33 runs allowed per game (5th in AL).  Straight run differential projection 93 wins and a .577 winning percentage.  Component run projection for 90 wins and a .554 winning percentage.

The Rangers have the largest lead over second place of an division-leading team.  They are HOT, and their offense has been completely ridiculous in June: .302/.361/.467, a .829 OPS, and a .360 team wOBA (that’s in 2009 New York Yankees territory).

While they did just come off a sweep of the putrid Astros, the Rangers hold a 9-1 record over their last 10 games, a 15-4 record in June, and they are 11-2 over the past two weeks, having faced the Mariners, the Brewers, the Marlins, and the Astros, and having scored 80 runs (6.15 per game) while allowing only 38 (2.92 per game).  They have over-performed their expected wins for the past two weeks by 1 game, and they are two games over expectations for the season.  

And Nelson Cruz hasn’t been at 100%.  

Gosh, Vlad Guerrero loves hitting in the Ballpark.  While that .371 BABIP looks unsustainable, he was a .390 career hitter at that ballpark in over 100 career games there before the season started.  He just flat-out hits in Arlington: .389/.439/.690, 1.129 OPS and .476 wOBA.  That. Is.  Obscene.

The Rangers will finish June by playing the Pirates and Astros at home before going to LA to face the Angels.  In other words, they are set up to continue their strong June before facing their nearest division competitor.

One source of strength for the Rangers has been the unexpected contributions they have received.  Additionally, 5 key pieces in their lineup are simply raking with runners-in-scoring-position and 2 outs.  

josh hamilton.jpg

Josh Hamilton has been ridiculously hot as well.  After last season, no one could expect that Hamilton would be good, but the better he is the more likely the Rangers will be to take the AL West.

Right now, Texas is the class of the division, but as I noted in the opening, the summer heat is still on its way, and it tends to melt Rangers pitching.  There’s still 90 games to be played and the Rangers could fold like a Titanic deck chair, but even in they do, none of us should forget the June they’ve had here in 2010 because it’s been special.


Twins Drop Third Straight, Head to Oakland

So, the Twins traveled to Offensively Inept Seattle and managed to show even greater Offensive Ineptitude that the Mariners and drop the last three games of their four-game series, losing last night 1-4.  

The Twins have not been all that sharp on the road in 2010 and the series against the Mariners continued and added to their road woes.
Of course, in Thursday night’s game, the Twins ran into Mariner starter Felix Hernandez, aka King Felix, who showed why he has the title, displaying a great degree of mastery versus the Twins and shutting them down, collecting four (4) strikeouts in

the

an inning(!).

This was a bounce-back game for Hernandez, who was the anti-Blackburn: while Blackburn was unbeatable in May, Felix didn’t collect a single victory for the month, though the Mariner bullpen did pretty much all it could to bury the poor guy, blowing leads repeatedly in games he had started, with his May 13 start vs. the Orioles really standing out.
The Twins simply had no answer to Felix’s Kingly pitching.  Twinkie Talk succinctly notes that Felix is good.
Dave Cameron of the blog “U.S.S. Mariner” points out that last night’s game was a model of how the Mariners were built to work:

This game is essentially how
the Mariners drew up their game plan for the season – get some guys on base,
let the top of the order run like rabbits, and score enough runs to support
Felix. 

This brings me to something else that bothered me: the Twins’ utter inability to prevent base-stealing in the early innings.  The Mariners stole five bases in the first three innings, seeminly running at will against Pavano’s slow delivery.  I am blaming Pavano because we all know Mauer has a cannon.  This, I fear, is something we will see more of in Pavano’s future starts.  Unless Mr. Pavano manages to allow no speedy runners to reach base, we should all anticipate more stolen bases by other teams against him, which will be pretty excruciating to watch.  
Parker Hageman, both at his blog, “Over the Baggy” and in the pages of the Star-Tribune, points out that the top two lineup spots in the Twins’ batting order need to produce more and do a better job of table setting for the M&M boys.
On the comparative Offensive Ineptitude of the Twins and Mariners, a quick Excel session furnished me with the following sad tale of woe:
The Twins scored 8 runs (2/game) in the series to the Mariners 17 (4.25); the Twins collected 27 hits and 4 BB in the series, while the Mariners had 40 hits and walked 5 times for a 45 to 31 edge in baserunners.  The Twins slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) was .201/.225/.358 for a rollicking wOBA of .250; The Mariners, by contrast, produced at a .292/.317/.365 clip, with a team wOBA of .303.  Neither team pounded the ball, but the Mariners clearly out-produced the Twins at the plate.  Ouch.
The Twins clearly displayed a greater degree of Offensive Ineptitude than did the Mariners in the series.  And that really hurts.  Alternatively, the Mariners’ pitching is pretty good.  I think this is what a lot of people anticipated–see the Dave Cameron quote above–when they were making the Mariners the Flavor-of-the-Month in the AL West during the offseason.  I’m still skeptical.
On to Oakland to face another team that can pitch but doesn’t really hit the ball.  The A’s enter the series in a tie for first in the AL West, following a 4-3 roadtrip that saw them take three of four from the Tigers and then win the last of three games in Fenway from the Red Sox.  Hopefully jet lag gets them and/or the Twins’ can awaken their bats.
BONUS: A story about the Carl Pavono mustache that has Fetch at “Twinkie Talk” calling him Luigi…
BONUS 2:  The A’s enter tonight’s series 25th in scoring in the Majors at 4.04 runs/game while the Twins stand at 10th in the Bigs with 4.70 runs/game.  The A’s slash line: .259/.323/.383 and a team wOBA of .313 (but remember that the sheer magnitude of the foul ground in Oakland’s park suppresses offensive stats since a lot more foul balls end up as outs rather than souvenirs; their park factors show the Coliseum to be the most run-suppressing park in the Majors.)  The Twins slash line currently stands at: .270/.350/.418 and a team wOBA of .340.  While Target Field is hard on homers, it isn’t as hard on them as the Coliseum (.586 for Target Field vs. .381 for the  Coliseum).   
As always: Go Twins!

Griffey’s Retirement

I have nothing really to add to it, other than that having watched a lot of Mariners’ games since April 14, it was very apparent that he was having trouble getting around on fastballs, and that made me wonder if, indeed, it was time for him to hang it up.  

I’ll miss him being in the game, though I was 21 or so when he was a rookie, so, unlike some younger fans, I remember baseball before Griffey and thus it isn’t quite like I’ve suffered an amputation.  (That feeling I remember from when Dave Parker and finally John Candelaria retired. Tony Gwynn, too.  Kirby Puckett, too, though, when younger, I was much more of a National League fan than I am now, and so I identified much more with NL teams and players.)
For more on Griffey’s retirement, here are some links, all courtesy of the three great national baseball blogs, Big League Stew, The Daily Pitch, and Hardball Talk.
And, of course, there’s this item from MLB.com/News.
He’ll be missed, but in five years we can all remember him anew when he becomes a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

So, Base Umpires Can’t Make Correct Calls, Right?  [Updated]

Mere hours after Detroit’s Armando Galarraga was denied a perfect game by a blown call by the first base umpire, the second base umpire in the Twins-Mariners game handed the game to the Mariners by blowing the call on a close play at second.  

Granted, the Indians runner, shortstop Jason Donald, was more out at first–that is, out by a larger margin–than the Mariners runner. shortstop Josh Wilson, was at second.  But Detroit still won the game while the Twins had what had been a tense and thoroughly entertaining pitcher’s duel taken from them by a terrible, terrible call.  The result was an infield hit.
UPDATE 1:  As Fetch of “Twinkie Talk” says in his post’s title, “That 2nd Base Ump [Dale Scott] Thanks God for Jim Joyce”, the first base umpire in the Cleveland-Detroit game. Read Fetch’s post; it’s more satisfying than mine for he doesn’t blog at MLB so he gets to use profanity.
UPDATE 2: Jon Marthaler of “Twinkie Town” nicely sets the whole scene and recounts the wretched, wretched ending of this game.   
Pinch runner Ryan Langerhans was running as soon as the ball hit the bat and amidst the confusion at second base he was able to round third and score the winning run as the Twins fell to the Mariners, 1-2.  
When even the Mariners’ broadcaster says, “Looks like the Mariners caught a break,” you know that the call was blown at second.
The trouble for me is that this was a great game, and now the Twins must scramble to come away with the series split, as they face King Felix in tomorrow’s series finale.
As indicated, this was a fantastic and well-pitched ballgame.  Both starting pitchers were exceptional, the Twins’ Kevin Slowey and the Mariners’ Cliff Lee working deep into the game and shutting down the other teams’ batters.
Seattle’s Milton Bradley essentially manufactured their sole run prior to the ninth inning when he singled, stole two bases and then scored on a Casey Kotchman sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Holding a narrow 1-0 lead, Mariner starter Cliff Lee looked as though he would cruise only to be greeted rudely by Michael Cuddyer in the top of the seventh when he sent a 1-2 cut fastball into the seats to tie the game at 1.  
The game continued with a playoff-like atmosphere, tension building each inning as it became more and more obvious that runs were going to be very hard to score.  
This atmosphere continued into the ninth inning, only to be shattered by a wretched call at second.
I am pretty unhappy about the result because the guy looked out in real-time, on what is really a routine play at second when the ball is hit up the middle to the right of the second baseman in a situation when there is runner on first. 
I guess second base umpire Dale Scott had someplace he had to be.  Oh jeez, that means he’ll be handling duties at first base in Thursday night’s game.  
In WPA news, both starting pitchers were more or less brilliant, with Seattle’s Cliff Lee contributing .314 WPA (8 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 ER) and Minnesota’s Kevin Slowey chipping in with .215 WPA (7 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 ER).  Ichiro is credited with .317 WPA on the strength of his two-out “single” that won the game, and Jose Mijares received -.395 WPA.  Mauer was the Twins’ leading hitter with .169 WPA; even though Cuddyer was 2 for 4 with a homerun accounting for the Twins’ only run, he weighed in with -.50 WPA due to stranding 3 runners on base in his two hitless at bats.  Ouch. 
The WPA contributions of Ichiro and Mijares demonstrate a possible weakness in the WPA system: it goes solely by the result rather than by the process, and umpire Dale Scott created the result.
Bad day for the men in blue.  

It’s June…

…which means it’s no longer May. 

Nick Blackburn noticed; the Mariners did as well, and their bats did him in. No, Seattle did not demonstrated their usual offensive ineptitude Tuesday night; in fact, their hitters contributed .333 WPA.
Chone Figgins, who has been slow to start in Seattle, especially versus right-handed pitching, has gotten it going against the Twins (see the last two games).

Twins Open Road Trip With Victory

The Minnesota Twins opened their seven-game West Coast road trip with a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

The Twins’ now ride a five-game winning streak.

Evidence is still mounting that Target Field is not a homer-friendly stadium as Twins’ hitters, who have only hit 13 home runs in 27 home games, launched three home runs in Safeco Field, a ballpark that has a reputation of its own for being unfriendly to the longball.
Michael Cuddyer played second base Monday night in place of the injured Orlando Hudson.  He made no glaring mistakes, though he definitely looks more comfortable in right field.  Although Cuddyer played eight innings at second in 2009 and another 55 innings at second in 2005, the Twins’ infield defense will be less heartburn-inducing to watch if they play, oh, say, a middle infielder at second instead.  Thanks, Michael for making the effort, but I’m sure all Twins fans will prefer seeing you in the outfield.  And while you were good at first last season, if you are playing there a lot, that means something bad happened to Justin Morneau, and we don’t want that either.  
Francisco Liriano pitched a decent ballgame for the Twins, though, like Scott Baker on Sunday, he had a couple of innings in which he really had to labor.  All in all, he scattered eight hits over six innings, striking out seven and allowing three runs, which, though it constitutes a Quality Start, still seems like less than that against a Mariners ballclub most notable for their Offensive Ineptitude (27th in runs/game [3.66], 28th in home runs, 27th in batting average [.240], 26th in on-base percentage [.313], 29th in slugging percentage [.348], 29th in OPS [.661], 28th in OPS+ [83], 28th in team wOBA [.298]).
“Twinkie Talk” refers obliquely to Seattle’s offensive woes in this post’s title.
In Win Probability Added news, Josh Wilson of the Mariners earned a game high .196, but just didn’t get much support from his ‘mates. Delmon Young (.172), Michael Cuddyer (.156), and Justin Morneau (.097) led the visiting Twins.  Morneau is currently seventh in the Majors in Win Probability Added for the season.
The Twins look to secure at least a split in this four-game series tonight, sending Nick Blackburn to the mound. The Mariners will start Jason Vargas.
I hope Blackburn thinks it is still May.
Go Twins!

Mariners Score Big Runs, Mariners’ Pitching Allows Lots, Too

Safeco Field witness a surprising display Friday night, as two of the most offensively challenged teams in the Major Leagues hooked up for a display of fireworks and extra-base hitting that few observers could have seen coming.  (Okay, okay, I’m just blowing smoke and trying to obscure the fact that I figured that all of eleven runs were going to be scored in this three-game series.)

Adrian Gonzalez was a doubles machine (4 for 5 with 3 two-baggers) and the Padres’ offense roughed up Mariner starting pitcher Cliff Lee (-.171 WPA), but, for once, Seattle’s bat’s were simply too potent, as the Mariners mightily thumped Padres’ starter Wade LeBlanc and the pitchers who followed in the game, slugging their way to a 15-8 victory.  

(If ineptitude is doing things poorly, then is eptitude doing them well?  If so, would this game count as Mariners’ Offensive Eptitude?)
Mike Sweeney jacked two home runs for the Mariners, and catcher Daniel Bard chipped in another round-tripper as the long-dormant bats of the Seattle Mariners pounded the Padres into submission.  (Take a look at a very happy Sweeney, below.)
Sweeney Jacks 2 vs. Padres.jpg
Sweeney earned .211 WPA, while Bard, who bashed his first homerun of the season, contributed another .166 WPA.  Starter Cliff Lee, who was credited with the win in tonight’s slugfest, came away with -.171 WPA, which just goes to show you that the official won-loss record of a pitcher has next to nothing to do with his actual performance.  
This game was clearly won by the Mariners’ batters and not their pitchers making it wholly unusual for this season.
Highlights, lowlights, and the standard box score available along this link.
Win Probability Added analysis, a play log, and lots of other fun available along that–as opposed to this–link.
The Mariners, striking early and often, put this game out of reach, well, early, as evidenced by the following chart:
20100521_Padres_Mariners_0_90_lbig_May 21.png
Clayton Richard of the Padres will face the Mariners’ Ian Snell in game two of this series on Saturday night.  Hmm.  Wonder if the bats will be out again for that one.  If there are many more runs scored between these two teams Mariners’ fans will grow confused and afraid, as, once the novelty wears off, the experience of unaccustomed joys often leads to guilt, confusion, and, of course, fear.