|SEA||Ken Griffey Jr||-0.477||-0.477||0.000||0.000||0.000||0.00||0|
|US Cellular Field||2.375||0.000||0.000||-2.375||0.000||0.00||0|
He blasted off on the bullpen again: Paul Konerko (2.497 NRuns: 2.429 hitting, 0.068 fielding)
Godspeed, Tyler Flowers: AJ Pierzynski (-1.439 NRuns, all hitting)
He can still run them down: Eric Byrnes (1.367 NRuns: -0.784 hitting, 2.151 fielding)
So can he, of course: Franklin Gutierrez (1.349 NRuns: 0.202 hitting, 1.147 fielding)
Mike Sweeney: 0.080 NRuns, all hitting
Ken Griffey Jr: -0.477 NRuns, all hitting
Lowest M's contribution today: Chone Figgins (-0.799 NRuns: -0.421 hitting, -0.378 fielding)
There isn't much of a goat today. Even Brandon League can't be blamed for allowing a go-ahead home run to Paul Konerko that had a stiff 22 mph wind to left behind it: Outfield flies become outs 77-80% of the time... at least when there's not a 20 mph wind behind them, and otherwise he was solid.
But rearing its ugly head was a lack of patience by Mariner hitters. Mike Sweeney was the most obvious offender with several bad swings and quick outs, but the team seemed to be patient until around the 5th inning, and then it seemed like everyone swung into 1st, 2nd and 3rd pitch outs. He's by no means one of the better hitters on this team, but kudos to Adam Moore for being one of the few who did take pitches throughout the game (except of course for his RBI single on a 2nd pitch changeup in his 2nd PA).
Perhaps the Mariners figured that being aggressive against strikeout lefty John Danks was better than getting to two strikes, putting the PA in Danks' control and then getting fooled into bad swings... but alas, to the contrary they made Danks' day easier by swinging into easy outs and keeping his pitch count low enough for him to work eight innings. He actually didn't pitch that great of a game (4.92 EXERA), but strong infield defense (2.228 NRuns) and a decent day by Juan Pierre in LF (1.008 NR) plus the Mariners' quick outs helped him breeze through eight frames. A better lineup probably chases Danks after 6 or 7 at most if he's dealing. They don't get impatient after five innings and buy him an extra couple of frames with quick outs.
At this point, there's a lot of calls to bench Ken Griffey Jr and unload Mike Sweeney, as the two aged DH bats are not helping the offense and obviously can't help the fielding. Griffey's not going anywhere as the team has built several promotional nights at Safeco Field around him and thus has an incentive to keep him on the roster... but they can still bench him and use him as just a pinch hitter or a spot DH. Sweeney, on the other hand, hasn't justified the roster spot handed to hit after a hot spring, as his hitting has been anything but hot in limited duty.
However, they're not the only reasons this team hasn't produced at the plate.
- I've mentioned the quick outs.
- I also mentioned the struggles against the changeup, and a couple more of Chone Figgins' outs today came on bad swings against the change.
- Matt Tuiasosopo, filling in for Jack Wilson at SS, hasn't been bad defensively, but his patient hitting value hasn't cashed out, as he's been probably the easiest out in the lineup this side of Junior over the weekend.
- Eric Byrnes has been absolutely empty at the plate save for a few walks, and if not for his defense he'd probably justify a powerflush from the roster.
- Ichiro's aggressive swings early in the count have always been a part of his game, and I'm not going to argue with his particular approach after 3000+ professional hits. But sometimes that approach is going to hurt him and he's going to have games like today where he mostly comes up empty after only 2-3 pitches. To a much smaller extent, this is also true of Jose Lopez, but to Jose's credit he did work a couple counts and has been a little more patient this season.
Really, if anyone should get blamed for this weekend's sweep, it should be the bats for repeatedly coming up empty against White Sox pitchers that could be beaten, especially in a bandbox with a consistently stiff wind out to LF. The starting pitching was terrific, the bullpen got snakebit by spotty control, flyballs and the wind, and the defense was mostly there. The bats, however, came up too empty too often, and got exposed as a bit too easy to beat. They, not the bullpen, are the big problem with the team right now.
Parts of the offense can be obviously improved (the two DH spots), but beyond that there's not a lot of obvious options for improvement. No one in Triple A Tacoma seems capable of stepping into LF or DH, or upgrading the team at catcher. And none of the available options can really do anything about the offensive black hole at SS (Jack Wilson's recent doubles aside), save for the unlikely event that Josh Wilson's really hot April in Tacoma becomes a hot May and is in some way for real.
This is the offense we're stuck with, and most knew that going in. The team was rolling the dice with pitching and defense, and hoping the offense would sneak enough runs across to win games. This team has only topped 4 runs five times in 19 games this season (the expected league average is 4.7 runs/game). Even when Milton Bradley's sore calf heals and he returns to the lineup, this team's still got a few rally-killing holes, some lineup-related and some approach-related, and until they're addressed those holes, scoring is going to be a problem and games are going to be close enough that bullpen cracks are going to continue to ignite losses.
Sure, the opposition can't win if they don't score. But neither can you.