I wonder how many people have checked out. Football season is gearing up, and the Mariners, to the casual fan, could hardly be considered interesting. Being 20 games back of first place is discouraging. There is no “any given Sunday” mentality. They don’t even play 20 games in the NFL’s regular season! Baseball is a game of inches, numbers and a “anything can happen” mentality. Anything excludes a playoff-berth in this case.
Things will be looking up in the future. Oddly enough, tonight offered glimpses into the future. Positive ones, not just Cesar Jimenez. Ichiro Suzuki got another hit. It was ripped into right field. Michael Taylor, who made his major league debut tonight, bobbled it, and Ichiro noticed and sprinted past second to make it into third base. It was an Ichiro-esque play that I haven’t seen this season. Maybe I shouldn’t count him out just yet.
Casper Wells got out of his slump and blasted a double into left field. Justin Smoak was in the lineup today, and he went 2-for-4 with two singles and a strikeout. Brendan Ryan legged out an infield-hit.
It’s hard to find positive things in a 9-to-2 loss. But they’re in there. We just have to look really hard.
I sit here perplexed at what Jason Vargas did tonight. Not the bases-clearing double he gave up to Hideki Matsui. Not his four walks and four strikeouts. It’s the thing I’ve been fascinated with for a while: swinging strike rate. Out of the 41 pitches Oakland swung at, 10 of those swings missed. That gives us a 24.3% swinging strike rate. In Felix’s last start, he put up a 25.4% swinging strike rate. So I sit here scratching my head. At first, I thought that the Athletics must just be suffering from “It’s-the-end-of-the-season-I-want-to-go-home” syndrome. The A’s and M’s are far out of contention, so maybe their level of effort is decreasing. Then I decided to hop over to fangraphs to see if the A’s are in fact a free-swinging club, to see if I their plate discipline accounts for their swinging strike rate tonight. But now I sit here more perplexed than before.
The A’s have the lowest O-Swing% in baseball with 25.7%. So I thought, my search scope is the entire season: teams change, standings in the position change – what about the last seven days? This will narrow my scope and perhaps explain what’s going on. But, it doesn’t. The A’s rank seventh in O-Swing% in the past seven days with 28.3%. So keeping the scope narrow, I look at the other stats. Oakland ranks second highest in O-Contact%(76.8), second in Z-Contact%(91.5) and lowest in SwStr% (5.9). So what happened tonight? I have two explanations.
First, maybe Jason Vargas’s stuff wasn’t that bad. It was enough to fool Oakland more than twice what he did against Chicago, and Chicago makes pretty good contact, posting a SwStr% of 8.0. Pitching is about deception, and it’s possible Vargas had better stuff than initially thought. He was mixing up his wind-up from time to time, and maybe that was enough to mess with the hitters timing. Examining this pitch sequence, it’s not bad at all:
The first pitch is right down the heart of the plate, and Jemile Weeks is dumb for taking that pitch. It’s the unspoken rule that, if a pitcher is wild, you take pitches. That logic is unsound. It’s it’s a pitch you can hit, you should hit it. If Mario Mendoza could hit it, you should hit it, too. Vargas then spots two fastballs on the inside that set up his fly-out inducing changeup. This is an example of a good Jason Vargas. He got away with a mistake, but he lived on the inside of the plate and got the out. Speaking of that, Coco Crisp. You pesky, pesky man.
During this David Eckstein type of at-bat, Vargas doesn’t come close to the strike zone. He’s living on the black this entire pitch sequence. Vargas doesn’t have strikeout stuff, we know this. I think better days are in store for him.
Second, maybe it’s just baseball. Just dumb baseball. You can’t explain it, and that’s what makes this game so great. Random things happen, and tonight Oakland was both (somehow) stifled by Jason Vargas, and also owned him.
- It was nice to see Wells get a hit, breaking out of his 0-for-28 slump. The pitch was down but in the middle of the zone. He stayed with it and did exactly what a hitter should do in that situation. I look forward to seeing more of Casper Wells.
- Cesar Jimenez did one good thing, and that was record a strikeout. However, it was the only out he recorded, and since Jeff Gray was so kind to let Cliff Pennington blast a three-run homerun, Jimenez’s ERA now sits at a comfortable 81.00. It’s not that bad, divide that by nine, and then by three, and it’s average?
- Oakland has their own friendly ghost in Andrew Carignan, who made his MLB debut tonight.
Tomorrow Michael Pineda gets the start. I met him the other day. His hand is the size of five of my hands.
Adam H. Wong