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Long Live the Fighters!

In the 1970's, Bill James realized that it was easier to build playoff teams in pitchers' parks.  STATS later confirmed this.

James' sense of history identified a primary reason why:  in parks like Fenway, the hitters developed egos, and they started playing for themselves and their paychecks.  

He noted that every good Red Sox team from 1930 to 1980 (or something) was one that had been recently torn down and rebuilt, jettisoning its ego'ed stars for fresh blood.

You'll find that this is true historically:  after a star-studded team wins it all, it often goes on the pizza circuit that winter and has little future other than to bicker and moan about what went wrong with future seasons.

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There's such a thing as being hungry, too...  pitchers' parks sometimes promote that.

In the arid desert of a low run-scoring environment, the batters stay focused on execution.  "The Fremen must stay out of the city," said Paul Muad'Dib.  "It will only rob him of his soul."

Anyway.  Pitchers' parks are often places in which blossoming pennant contenders learn to play smart, tough baseball.  If other prerequisite conditions are present, of course, such as a critical-mass level of talent on the roster.

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=== PYTHAG ===

Over the Mariners' last 10 games, they are 8-2.  

The cyber-fan's question pops the mitt louder than a Michael Pineda ladder pitch:  how much of that is sustainable?  And how much is just the fact that they've gotten the dice rolls in one-run games?  How good are the Mariners, if they keep playing just like this?

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1) We don't imagine that the M's will play .800 from here to the wire, which would leave them at 119 wins.  Yes, yes, Egbert, very good; you don't sustain .800 baseball by skill alone.  Now shaddap and siddown.

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2) The Mariners are 3-1 in one-run games over that stretch ... but hey.  They have outscored their opponents 42-20.  The Pythag on that is 129 victories per season.

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3) Strength of opponent?

The Tigers were 12-10 when we smashed them three straight.  They then lost to Cleveland, but then beat the Yankees three in a row.  Detroit is solid, not great, but the M's crushed a quality team in their park.

The Red Sox were on a 9-of-11 tear when the M's went into Fenway and beat them.  The Sox had their 3-4-5 starters going, but then again the M's had Vargas (a LHP in Fenway) and Fister (ump-tormented) also.

Right after they played us, the Red Sox destroyed Jered Weaver and Dan Haren (!) 9-5 and 7-3.  Have you checked the stats on Weaver and Haren?

The Rangers had lost two series coming into Safeco, with some tough losses in close games.  But they had their Big Three of Alexi Ogando, C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis going.

Some yahoo called into the radio show tonight and said "don't mean to rain on your parade about this win streak, but the White Sox are terrible."

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=== OFFENSE ===

The M's scored 42 runs in these ten games.  The AL average so far in April/May?  4.25.

This offense has been relying FARRRRR too much on Justin Smoak.  But with Smoak, it has been an offense capable of scoring three or four "hard" runs in a game.

The offense is not going to pile up 11-0 wins, like the Angels' win Thursday.  So its stats aren't going to pile up either.  But the fact remains that the offense is comfortable playing from 1-0 or 2-1 deficits -- because it thinks the pitchers will stop the other guys right where they are.

It's cool to watch.  This team goes down one run, and it's completely relaxed.  Check it out.  When behind 1-0 or 2-1, it makes crisp little plays on defense and it goes about the business of getting a couple of runners on.

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Favorite play of the game, Brendan Ryan catching Beckett off third.  It wasn't the play, as such.  It was the cool decisiveness with which the entire infield, a lead-run knife at its throat, danced the rundown ballet.

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The bats need a lot of work.  OTOH, because it's settling for a run or two at a time, it reliably comes up with "hard" runs in close games against good pitchers.

Earl's Third Law:  if you play for one run, that's all you get.  But!  What if that's all you need?

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=== PITCHING ===

Somebody said that the rotation is 7-1, 2.50 during these ten games.  The loss was Michael Pineda's.

It isn't a big secret any more that the M's rotation can lock you down; the only secret (to us more than anybody) is whether the 4-2 scoreboard recipe can hold up.

It's a funny thing.  You get the brick walls of dazzling rotation together and it's weird how people scramble to get the shingles and siding together.

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Best case analysis, a 120 team ERA+ from here to the wire, a 95-100 OPS+, and --- > that definitely means that M's are fighting for the brass ring.  

Really this ballclub is starting to remind me of some of the old Dodgers teams I used to hate.  It's not merely hot; it's got an overwhelming rotation, and the rest of the club genuinely appears to be racing supplies to the front to help out.  

Slap me silly, the position players are out there thinking they can win the ballgame behind these starters.

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Long live the fighters,

Dr D