Feel free to use it. I'm pretty sure I stole the Chuck Norris image anyway.
The M's took a 4-0 lead and, seeing that the Rays were losing interest in competive baseball, threw them a few runs. Once the Rays pepped up, the Mariners resumed Knight-forking Queens and Rooks ... but saw the Rays' countenance fall again. So the M's threw them another tie game at 5-5.
"Carrying" the loser might seem generous in the middle rounds. But in the 11th, Iannetta's homer must have hit the Rays about like Little Marco did after the "Linguistic Killshot" (the Washington Post's term) blew him back off the podium, showing the country the soles of his shoes.**
So, the gameflow can be brief this issue. Just pretty much --- > Nurse Diesel holding a big spoonful of fruit cocktail out to Harvey Korman and, when Korman finally leans forward, taking the spoon back and savoring it juicily in front of him. But the Rays knew we were strict. Nobody forced them to be there.
TAIJUAN WALKER, SEATTLE MARINER (tm Spectator 2014)
Didn't see the game live, but ran the tape back to see what happened in the 6th. By coincidence or design, Taijuan and Iannetta relayed the situation accurately -- well, we should say "candidly" -- in the postgame. Obviously they are stepping up their games in order to make Seattle Sports Insider.
"I just started trying to be too cute on the corners, instead of going right after them, especially when I felt like I had my best stuff today," Walker said. "I had the couple walks and that's what was huge. I'd rather just make them put the ball in play and earn it."
"Taijuan did a great job," said Iannetta. "I know the line doesn't look as good as it was, but he was cruising for a long time and made a couple pitches around the zone that were really close. Then he throws a curveball to Dickerson -- he'd been swinging and missing at offspeed pitches all series and he finally connected with one. You tip your cap in that situation. It's unfortunate for Taijuan that it ended that way, but the guy did really well today."
And, oddly, that was what had occurred. DiPoto and Servais have started an experimental fad in Seattle: telling the reporters what happened. In the 6th inning:
Normally ballplayers assume it is useless to explain that they played good, but the other guys won fair-and-square. But 21-and-13 will do wonders for their relationship with the press.
We know what you're thinkin'. What could Taijuan have done better? ... not much. He could have made Miller hit his way on with challenge fastballs, but that's about it and that's second-guessing. More to the point is the fact that precious few MLB pitchers finish their careers with ERA's of zero-plus.
All y'all saw the five innings before that. Walker's fastball drew 11 swings and misses, a 96.1 average on the gun, an 11" hop, and the home plate ump's undying admiration. As well, his "slider" and "splitter" were consistently breaking out of the zone, as they have been doing all year, which created the "In-Between" reactions and the fastball swings and misses.
But there was something Dr. D had not seen yet this year: Taijuan was flinging his overhand yakker (-19 MPH) at the knees routinely and with an air of amusement. Well, the kind of amusement you see from the baddies in the horror shows, anyway. The "slider-change nibble" factor has already made Taijuan a TOR starter; the easy command of his curve, if continued, would make him a $200M pitcher.
When Garry Kasparov was 15 years old, the Grandmasters around him were freaked out based on one specific idea. "He learns VISIBLY." From one week to the next you could see the changes in his games from the bleachers, as it were.
Walker has been getting ugly on the league since about last July, but yesterday's game flashed greatness.
Would you give Walker a Matt Moore contract yet?
We're sorry to report the truth sometimes. But in this case the truth is that in the 4th inning, Chris Archer made life very, very easy for Boomstick. Archer issued an engraved invitation with that 1-1 changeup waist high middle-in. Cruz gleefully accepted the invitation, though at 112 MPH launch velocity the elevation angle of only 21 degrees meant a lack of yardage on the drive. He didn't even get the usual forward roll on the "draw" because of the chain-link fence.
Not meaning to be too harsh on Boom for what was, after all, a home run. But he's "only" hitting one a week, and this week's was on a cripple. For the first 5-6 weeks he has lacked the gasp-inducing Steroid Vision that he showed last year.
Boomstick is batting .270/.366/.475 with a 141 OPS+, but you've got to slug .600(ish) to be a 2015-era Booooooomstick. At the moment you roto owners should probably be dealing Cruz to anybody who expects another 40+ homers.
Which is okay. If Cruz slugs .500 with 32 homers, and Robinson Cano continues his Payback Tour, you'll have two guys with 130-160 OPS+ as opposed to last year's 119 and 160. There is a comforting normalcy to Cano earning $30M and Nellie $20M.
RAISING THE ROOF ... er, FLOOR Dept.
Sadly, the Stat-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named has made all other analysis obsolete. With an air of resignation, he reads off the teleprompter:
|Mariner||Projected WAR, 162 Games|
|Leonydas, King||3.0 (shudder)|
|Big Boy, 1B||2.5|
|Total||725 runs/year on #24 BABIP|
Last season, the M's had only two players (Cruz, Seager) with >2.5 WAR. To compensate, they did sport 13 players with negative -WAR, and nine of those players combined for -5.3.
This year the problem is -WAR problemo is limited to Adam Lind, who admittedly is on pace for -4.5 WAR. Clevenger and Sardinas are nominally below replacement also. But the point is, this roster is not frantically churning and bubbling through Monteros and Joneses and Weekses and Taylors.
And on the mound, it's just as ugly. EVERYbody is good, and WBC-san is gooder than you thought he was. He's on pace for another 3.5 WAR. Felix doesn't have a single WAR to show yet, and the M's are 21-13.
Hey, guess what. The cream of the M's glovework has also risen to the top - they are #2 in all the land for Defensive Efficiency Rating. Only the Cubs are better defensively, and the M's .729 conversion rate is beginning to echo the 2001 Mariner defense (.740) that Baseball Prospectus called "eerie."
The M's glovework snuck up on people all year in 2001, and it's doing exactly the same now. The credit for the M's 121 ERA+ isn't exclusively limited to Vidal Nuno's imposing presence on the mound.
** I like Marco Rubio. :- )
Feel free to use it. I'm pretty sure I stole the Chuck Norris image anyway.
You were a little prescient, a bit ahead of your time. But are those clouds or flames in the background? If they're flames they synch up pretty well with the A.L. batting landscape in 2016 ...
Last year Cruz was nearly a freebie. We weren't paying $14M for THAT cruz. We were paying $14M for THIS Cruz. In '15 we had Hank Aaron. Well the '67 version of the Hammer, anyway: '67 Hank was .307-.369-.573/'15 Cruz was .302-.369-.566.
Come to think of it, Aaron's career #'s are .307-.374-.555! We did have a run-of-the-mill Aaron in '15. And that's Hank, not Tommie.
This year our $14M is just buying us Eddie Matthews: .271-.376-.509. Hey, you can't just go out and buy an Eddie Matthews off the corner bargain rack at K-Mart, you know.
If Cruz gets to 30 (a fair bet) and finishes at .841, then we are still way ahead for our 28 million clams.
But that was kind of your point, wasn't it Doc?
I'll just ride shotgun on this one then, if you don't mind.
THEN he is a very wise investment for this team. What he was last year, I haven't the vocabulary to capture. Right. It's like if you'd gotten Russell Wilson for the 12th pick overall, you were really smart. If you get him in the 3rd round, it's kind of like you're not smart :- )
This Nelson Cruz is very, very smart.
Imagine if Cruz last year also stole 17 bases, caught only 6 times, and played a stellar right field with incredible range and a canon arm. Then we'd have had ALL of Hank Aaron in 1967, not just his bat. But then, Mr. Mayor knew that. This public service announcement provided for those who didn't.
Read a biography of Aaron when I was a kid. It told how as a kid himself he got those incredibly strong wrists and forearms hauling large blocks of ice around the neighborhoods to help his parents provide for the family. Umm, that'll do it.
I'm convinced Cruz isn't totally healthy right now. To me he has looked pained at the plate over the last few weeks, like it's a mild ordeal for him. That neck strain couldn't have helped. My guess is, he's healthy enough to play but not to produce at his optimal level.
It seems unthinkable to combine two or three stars into one player the way Aaron and Mantle and Mays and Bench did, and I always figured it was because the rest of the league was, um, Rick Manning :- )
Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are challenging my notions on that, however. Ketel Marte.
1) There is no indication that Cruz is hitting the ball any less hard than he did in 2015 - his HH% and LD% are steady from 2015 and up from 2014
2) 2015 Cruz had a fluky good year on HR/Fly even by his elevated standards (MLB average = 11%, Cruz's average = 20%, Cruz in 2015 = 30%) but also an odd year per his normal GB/FB profile. He was able to bat .300 last year because he hit more balls on the ground. Grounders have a higher BABIP than flies and his BABIP climbed as a result. Normally, when you hit the ball on the ground more, you get fewer XBH/HR but we didn't notice because he was lucky on fly balls.
3) Cruz' plate discipline is showing every sign of gradually IMPROVING with time, not decaying. He is no danger of aging out as of yet. His K rate is steady from career norms and well down from 2015. His BB rate is up...rising steadily from 5-6% early in his career to 10% now.
4) So far this year, Cruz is pulling to ball more than normal and also popping the ball up more than normal. That is a player who is seeing the ball not that great or is physically a little off...but I wouldn't call it something I'd expect to continue.
5) The league is respecting Cruz more now. He's facing an increasing diet of sliders, cutters and change-ups and for the first time in his career, his FB% is < 50%
6) There is no change in Cruz's run values per 100 pitches on any pitch type really - he's not being exposed or anything...they're just not throwing him as many FBs.
7) His Chase% is down, his zone swing percentage is up, his whiff rate is down noticeably, and his contact percentages are up (except out of zone, where they are down, and that's probably a good thing)
Oh...and on defense, Cruz is playing pretty well by his normal standards: DRS - -1 / UZR/150 -1 instead of -10
He's fine...and, apart from losing a few homers due to insanely good luck last year, I see no reason to expect anything short of a fantastic season from him.
You're right. His F/X plate discipline numbers are a shade the better. ... I do wonder about his launch velocity; last year we had that 337-foot fly ball stat. Don't know if there's anyplace to get those numbers.
It could very easily be that he's simply missed four or five pitches (1/4 inch low on the ball).
So you see a 35-40-ish homer season a la 2014 with the Orioles?
DaddyO - Nathan For You: Find it on Hulu or Netflix or wherever and enjoy an ironical, brilliant look at marketing in America. Nowadays, you develop those Aaron wrists with targeted workouts. So, why not create a gym in which people pay to be able to move furniture for you? You get a double payday: money from the mover, money from the movee? Create a book, a testimonial on how the moving program built the author's body. Sell it for more money! And promote it for free on the talk show/entertainment TV Curcuit.
We need a book: "Delivering Ice Can Give You that Hall of Fame Career!"
Doc: Way to step up in the clutch, my man. Brilliant post. Let me go share it on Facebook now.
Actually I was able to put up a personal Facebook page, seattlesportsinsider.com within Facebook. And by "I" I mean Cindy.
Went over to the M's Facebook page and added a couple of comments with links, per Matt's suggestion. Kinda cool. ... when you say you're going to "share" the article on Facebook, from an outside blog, what does that mean? And can somebody teach me how to write cursive?
Or James J. Braddock breaking his right hand and using his left to work on the docks? Wonder how many sadness'es like that turned out to be blessings in the long term.
When I share a link, everyone who is a "friend" and as such includes me in their newsfeed gets a "post" from me, with a suggestion they click the link and read the article.
... as a current media term, comes straight from Scott Adams' blog. He studied--and used, successfully, according to himself--persuasion techniques for his business career, and thus recognized exactly what Trump was doing as early as last August. All his predictions have come true.
As the only Republican with the cachet and courage to support raising taxes on the rich--or rather, returning them to pre-Bush-tax-cut levels, at the least--he reminds me of Arnie. It seems at least likely that he could do for the country what Schwarzenegger did for Cali.