Toss out your morning New York Times crossword puzzle, or Sudoku, or Skip-O-Vision translation ring game, and tackle something much more challenging this morning. Which of the following numbers does not belong?
|SEA rank among 30 teams||O-Swing||Z-Swing||Contact%||Zone%||SwStr%||F-Strike%||HR||ISO|
The Mariners see more strikes than any other team - a lot more strikes. Over 49% of pitches delivered to the M's are thrown inside the strike zone, compared to 45% for the league. Only three other teams are even over 47.0%.
This contributes to a BB rate that is much lower than it should be; the M's are #26 in BB percentage. As you might have noticed, it's tough grinding out a rally when you never seem to have a walk or two mixed in there.
I don't have the data, but would be willing to bet that most "crooked number" rallies -- the number on the board is not straight, a "1" -- are "given to" the offense by a pitcher who walked a man or two aboard. A lot of sports lies in the "unforced error" aspect of the battle, much more than fans like to admit.
Q. Are the pitchers refusing to walk the Mariners because they're not dangerous enough to command respect?
A. Check the HR and ISO column. Why wouldn't the 17 teams below them in the HR column be getting no walks?
Q. Are Eric Wedge's aggressiveness sermons causing the low walks?
A. Check the O-Swing column. The M's have the 5th-best rate in the majors at this. They have been absolutely superb, for such a young team, in refusing sucker pitches. It's remarkable that a 23-year-old team* should be in the top 5 of 30 teams in refusing pitches outside the strike zone.
Whatever you think about Wedge's aggressiveness philosophy, the Mariners are not swinging at called balls. Then how much can we really complain? That's what you want to do: lay off balls, and attack good pitches. Even if you're Eric Wedge's worst critic, you should give it up for him on the O-Swing percentage. C'mon, be fair.
Q. Why would the First Strike % be normal, but the overall strike % be sky-high?
A. Necessarily because --- > enemy pitchers throw the Seattle Mariners a weirdly high number of strikes when down 1-0, 2-0, and 2-1. Enemy pitching has been totally fearless when behind in the count. Here it is, hit it.
Q. Do the M's see a lot of breaking pitches in these counts?
A. There's nothing unusual in the pitch mix the M's see. And the Mariners are not good or bad at hitting any type of pitch - fastball, cutter, change, whatever.
It's no more and no less than pitchers going "here it is, hit it" when behind in the count.
Q. Wouldn't this apply to other teams, too? Oakland doesn't hit well. Pittsburgh doesn't. They don't face this syndrome.
A. I would say it's due to one of two things:
1) The reputation of the 513-run seasons in 2010 and 2011* lingers, or
2) The Mariners have seen disproportionately tough pitching for 37 games.
Q. Supposing that it was 1), what would be the fix?
A. To load up and punish 2-0 pitches for home runs, rather than for singles. Have 'em open up those swings in hitters' counts.
Of course, that may be what they're doing; perhaps the Mariners are really the majors' #20 best homer team, and are #13 because of the over-challenging.
Q. Supposing that it was 2), what would be the fix?
A. To wait for easier pitching.
I'd like to see somebody go through and count up the 2011 xFIP numbers for the 37 starters the M's have faced, and compare it to the league average... I'll bet you dollars to Ackley bobbleheads that the 37 starters have been really good.
Q. Leaving us where?
A. In any case, an M's fan can tune into the Grand Theme over-arc'ing here. The M's have got to punish enemy pitching for taking so much of the plate.
Those pesky rodent opposition starters are getting a whoooolllle lotta the plate on 2-0 and 2-1. It's up to the M's to blast this overconfident approach or to do without walks.