We all have goals we want to achieve. We go to college, trade school, the military, freelance – there’s always something to chase, and it’s human instinct to chase that desire. Sometimes it doesn’t happen instantaneously. It comes from years of grueling work, commitment, internships, multiple jobs. Usually, these things take time. No one inherently knows how to operate on a broken bone, install the wiring in a new building, drive a tank – we have to learn how to do our skill, and it takes time for it to become efficient.
Tonight, Jason Vargas set two milestones. Tonight was the first time in his career he pitched more than 200 innings. 201, to be exact. Last year he threw 192.2 innings, and it turns out that he made one more start this year than last. It may not seem like much, but it’s a step in the right direction, and that’s what this year has been all about – taking the right steps in the right direction. You can’t get caught up in the day-to-day grind of baseball when your in a situation like the Mariners. He also struck out ten batters, the most he ever has in his career. You win some, you lose some. Tonight, the Mariners won, and they also improved a little bit, too.
There’s this other pitcher I know of, he pitched 200.2 innings one time. It was the first time he ever broke 200 innings. Hopes were high for him, and people were expecting the best. The next season, he threw 238.2 innings, and placed second in the Cy Young Award voting. I don’t know if it’s only the fact that a pitcher is throwing more innings that effectively stretches a pitcher out. It may be that, or it may be the experience. The experience of going through the opposing team’s lineup three times and adapting to them, rather than them adapting to you. The experience of your stuff getting better as the night wears on. The experience of going deeper into games.
That pitcher was Felix Hernandez.
If I was a snake, my jaw would have literally hit the floor while watching Vargas pitch tonight. Not because I had a really large meal, but because I was impressed. See what I did there? Vargas had a Felix-esque start tonight. Firstly, his line is impressive: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 10 K, 0 BB. The last time he went eight innings was 13 starts ago, and the last time he struck out 10 batters was…never. Tonight he set a new career high in strikeouts. All of the different media venues have critiqued and criticized Vargas’s new twist. There may be new data to examine from tonight.
Vargas touched 90 mph on multiple occasions tonight. During the post-game, Olivo said their game plan was to go out throwing fastballs. Fastballs. A crafty lefty going out and throwing fastballs? Out of the 58 swings Oakland took, 18 of them missed, which is a 31% swinging strike rate. He put up a 17.3% swinging strike rate his last time out. Strictly looking at the numbers, Vargas had a great night. He got ahead in counts and commanded the ball well – out of the 105 pitches thrown, 79 of them went for strikes, a 75.2% strike rate. Looking at more than the numbers, this start of his was absurd. This was a Clayton Kershaw type of start. This was a Cliff Lee type of start. Not only did he have great control, each of his pitches had purpose. He climbed the ladder on more than one occasion, and thanks to his plus-changeup, it kept the batters fooled. I mean, they looked fooled. The line can only say so much, but watching Vargas tonight, I think I can safely say this is the must fun I had watching a 6′ 210 lbs. man do anything.
Alex Liddi is slowly making his case to return to the big club next year. I’m not sure I want him to, but he sure is trying hard. He’s fielding the position very well. I don’t know if his defense was ever suspect, but I suppose he’s quelled any thought of that. In his first at-bat, he went the other way for a double on a fastball on the outside of the plate. It’s impressive whenever someone can lace a ball the other way. What’s most impressive about this outing for Liddi is that he didn’t strikeout. It’s impressive because out of his 35 major league at-bats, he has struckout in 15 of them, which is a 42.8% strikeout rate. That’s bad. Mark Reynolds has a 31.3 K%. Sample size, sure, but it’s something that Liddi’s been flagged for, so we should keep our eye on it. Although putting your eye on a man would be particularly awkward for both parties involved.
Brandon McCarthy had the Mariners number until the sixth inning, when Dustin Ackley hit the ball hard into right field for a single. He was then followed by Mike Carp putting into play the other way, dropping neatly into left field. This set the stage for a Justin Smoak second pitch bomb. It was a no-doubter off of the bat, and you can even see that he knew it, too. Harrison brought up that, with 68 plate appearances, Smoak put up a wRC+ of 133 and a wOBA of .363. Smoak is starting to look like he he might be an invaluable part of this club after all. He was playing through a sore groin, if that adds any leverage to the story. And I guess it’s not a bad thing that McCarthy has the Mariners number. If he ever needs to get towed, or if he’s locked out of his house, and least he has someone to call.
Sadly, or not sadly, depending on your perspective, that’s really the only story the game had going on for it. That sixth inning capped off an amazing performance by Vargas, the rookies rallying in the sixth and Brandon League almost-not-but-still shutting the door in the ninth. Typical Mariners. Typical Mariners?
- Miguel Olivo set a club record for the most homeruns hit by a Mariners catcher. This is disheartening, because Mariners catchers never were known for hitting homeruns. Olivo has set a new standard by which all future Mariners catches will be shunned, because no Mariners catcher will ever hit more homeruns.
- Eric Wedge believes in roles. The story is that, the ninth belongs to Brandon League. Brandon League, the closer. A closer is a luxury, not a right. Teams don’t need closers, especially non-contending teams. It might say something about the philosophy of the club, I can buy that. It also might say something about our bullpen.
- Breaking news: People from Japan high-two. Oh wait, that’s only Ichiro Suzuki.
I’m really excited for next year.
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