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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 17, 2008 9:21 PM

Mariners at Oakland Athletics: 4/17 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

a's2 024.jpg

9:21 p.m.: Carlos Silva did indeed go seven innings for the fourth straight time this season, needing only 98 pitches to do it after a 1-2-3 seventh. Ryan Rowland-Smith worked the eighth, with Seattle up by seven with an 8-1 lead following a two-run single by Jose Lopez in the top of that inning. Three outs to go and the Mariners will have a winning record again. Brandon Morrow will work the ninth. His first action of the season.

a's2 017.jpg

8:40 p.m.: It's now a 6-1 game, M's in the lead, midway through the sixth. Raul Ibanez has his second consecutive three-hit game here, singling home Ichiro in the top of this inning. The A's finally got a run off Carlos Silva in the fourth on a line drive to right center by Emil Brown that Ichiro and Willie Bloomquist had trouble coralling. By the time Ichiro got the ball back in, Jack Cust had scored from first and Brown was standing on third with a generously-awarded triple.

Silva is only at about 70 pitches through five, so it looks like he'll go seven innings again barring a disastrous inning.

7:58 p.m.: Seattle just put up a five-spot in the third off an erratic-looking Lenny DiNardo, who was knocked from the game. The M's forced the issue by drawing three walks in the inning, all of them in key situations. Jose Lopez and Raul Ibanez notched their second singles of the night with one out to get the rally going. Adrian Beltre then drew a walk to load the bases and Jose Vidro cashed in two runs with a single to left. Vidro looked like Kirk Gibson -- circa 1988 -- hobbling down to first base after the hit. He's obviously in a lot of pain. We'll see if he stays in the game. Not sure what the problem is.

Greg Norton then drew another walk to load the bases and Kenji Johjima took a 3-1 pitch for a ball to force in a third run and end DiNardo's night. Kirk Saarloos came on to pitch and Willie Bloomquist then hit a double-play grounder, but used his speed to beat the throw to first and allow another run to score. Yuniesky Betancourt then singled to right to make it 5-0.

Carlos Silva breezed through the bottom of the inning, despite a Norton fielding error with one out. Silva erased that on a double-play grounder by Travis Buck.

7:33 p.m.: A perfect second inning by Carlos Silva, who has retired six batters -- including four via groundouts and one on a popout. We heard last night about how the A's hitters changed their normally patient approach and swung early in the count once Felix Hernandez showed he could land first-pitch strikes. Same thing appears to be happening tonight. Here's the thing: this Oakland team can't hit. So, if you're a pitcher, just throw the ball for strikes and dare them to do something with it. There's no Nick Swisher, no Eric Chavez around to punish pitchers who put the ball over the plate. Strategy seems to be working for the M's so far.

7:22 p.m.: Raul Ibanez looked a little sluggish diving for that two-out double to left center by Daric Barton in the first. But nothing comes of it as Jack Cust grounds out meekly to second. Ibanez had one of two Seattle singles in the top of the inning -- Jose Lopez getting the other -- but Adrian Beltre struck out and Jose Vidro grounded out to third. Scoreless after one.

7:08 p.m.: Carlos Silva tries to go at least seven innings for the fourth consecutive start. Lenny DiNardo goes for the Oakland A's, facing an M's lineup in which both Richie Sexson and Brad Wilkerson are sitting out. First start for Greg Norton, taking Sexson's spot at first base.

I asked John McLaren earlier for his feelings on the infield defense so far. McLaren had opined that he felt Yuniesky Betancourt should have held that ball last night instead of making a rushed throw that eluded Sexson at first base and led to an unearned run. Feels that Betancourt and Adrian Beltre make so many spectacular fielding plays that they sometimes mess up by trying to do too much rather than just the smart thing. Something to watch for.

McLaren feels the infield D is better than what's been shown. But he blamed the cooler weather for some of the mistakes that have been made so far.

"I think basically, considering the weather and everything, we've done OK,'' he said. "We've had a couple of breakdowns. I think once the weather warms up, they'll start being the defensive club we know they are.''

MARINERS (8-8)

51 Ichiro CF
4 Jose Lopez 2B
28 Raul Ibanez LF
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
3 Jose Vidro DH
10 Greg Norton 1B
2 Kenji Johjima C
16 Willie Bloomquist RF
5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS

52 Carlos Silva RHP


ATHLETICS (9-7)

6 Travis Buck RF
14 Mark Ellis 2B
10 Daric Barton 1B
32 Jack Cust DH
8 Emil Brown LF
7 Bobby Crosby SS
15 Ryan Sweeney CF
24 Kurt Suzuki C
22 Jack Hannahan 3B

25 Lenny DiNardo LHP

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Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

7:27 PM, Apr 17, 2008

"I think basically, considering the weather and everything, we've done OK,'' he said. "We've had a couple of breakdowns. I think once the weather warms up, they'll start being the defensive club we know they are.''

This is the lamest excuse in the world. So what about the all the teams in the SE and SW -- do they not make errors?

Is anyone else thrilled that this will be a Sexson and Wilkerson free night?

Posted by Merrill

7:34 PM, Apr 17, 2008

blah, nice to see you back on board.

Posted by Big Dick

7:35 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Well not much for me to do today since my boss gave me the night er uh day off. So I figured I'd peek in on this Blog. Wow! Anemic lineup tonight. The M's sure could use a big power bat in the lineup! Especially at 1B!

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

7:37 PM, Apr 17, 2008

we know its not you. sexson would never use the word "anemic". he'd say "sucky".

Posted by blah

7:37 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Merrill, nice to see you write a post shorter than War & Peace for once

Posted by Merrill

7:39 PM, Apr 17, 2008

very nice pix, as always, Geoff. Great vids, too, thanks!

I take it MLB has increased its 2-minute daily limit?

Or was that ST only?

Posted by Merrill

7:40 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Glad you enjoy my posts, blah.

Posted by good guy fan

7:44 PM, Apr 17, 2008

woo hoo- the DH comes thru!!

Posted by Merrill

7:55 PM, Apr 17, 2008

And Adam--I find it bizarre that some people think "clutchness" doesn't exist.

If you mean it doesn't exist as a measurable ... um... entity, shall we say, well that's one thing a lot of other people could dispute (BA with RISP, etc.).

But anyone who's ever played a pickup basketball game knows it exists.

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

7:55 PM, Apr 17, 2008

thank god bloomquist is in this game - wilkerson would have gotten thrown out at first, no doubt. bloomquist will never be a star, but he's pretty solid as of right now.

Posted by Frankie

8:00 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Very nice inning by the Mariners here in the 3rd. Patience pays off and it paid off right there.

Let's see if we can hold it now...

Posted by i heart Morse

8:18 PM, Apr 17, 2008

for all the talk this spring about the M's new baserunning goals...does anyone remember the last time a mariner went first to third on a single? i'm not sure it's happened once...though I've seen a number of opportunities.

Posted by Frankie

8:32 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Wow, where is all the action on this blog?? Does everyone only come on here when the Mariners are losing??

Posted by i heart Morse

8:40 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Wow...it's been said a million times but Raul is about as locked in as I've ever seen anyone.

He looks like a legitimate contender for the batting title.

Posted by drlo

8:45 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Been away from the blog for awhile, reading what Geoff, Larry and Jose have had to post but not feelng the need to post anything myself. The post in the previous thread though, by X I think, about Lopez needing folks in front of him to bring out the best deserves comment.

I'm not a fan of Lopez. For the sake of the Mariners I would love to see him reach the potential seen in him several years ago, but I'm not a believer that it is there, certainly not defensively and probably not offensively. For the sake of disclosure, this is my bias. But my point is not to denigrate Lopez; it is simply to point out that any runners on base argument to support a contention of his or anyone's hitting ability is, in all due respect, rather specious.

My point is not to debate whether "clutchness" is measurable or not, or even exists or not (see previous threads), but simply to say that arguing that a hitter is better with runners on base is the same as saying that a hitter is (likely) better if the pitcher has a handicap, or throws with his wrong arm. That is what runners on base are, especially to starting pitchers -- a handicap.

Very few, if any, starting pitchers have better stats with runners on base. Most lose some velocity from a set position, fret about fast baserunners, change their pitch selection to ensure easily-handled pitches to their catcher, and to varying degrees rush their deliveries. So the argument really is simply (and obviously) that pitchers collectively are less effective with runners on base.

Felix, for example (and honestly I didn't pick him to prove a point; he was the first name that came to mind), is significantly less effective with runners on base than without.

BA OPB Slug OPS OPS+

0 runners .239 .291 .353 .643 83
Runners on .288 .348 .443 .791 125

Randy Johnson's differentials are not as large, but nevertheless are clearly noticeable. Most hitters also will show splits that reflect to lesser or greater degree the same reality, even Richie Sexson. Baserunners are a pitcher's handicap, and while granted that some pitchers can handle it and practice pitching from set position more than others, it is the extremely rare starter who is not negatively impacted by baserunners.

Yes, one can argue that Lopez's differentials are greater than the norm. (I don't know that for sure, but for argument's sake, I'll concede.) But once you normalize the numbers, I'm pretty sure the differentials will be much less significant.

And this is without even beginning to look at the quality (or, in fairness, possible lack of quality) of the speed and baserunning ability of the runners who are actually on base. As a number two hitter at least, Lopez has had some pretty fair runners ahead of him in Ichiro and Betancourt.

Posted by Thorpe

8:54 PM, Apr 17, 2008

It IS A FACT that some men perform better under pressure than others. Ask a fireman, policman or an infantryman...

Posted by Mr. X

9:05 PM, Apr 17, 2008

drio, I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Jose is the only player on the team with more hits of every kind with runners on than he does with bases empty. You won't find more of a difference between the numbers with any other player on this team. That's why it stands out enough for me to mention it at all. There may be player on other teams who are similar, but I don't have the time to do the research. I'm not saying that Lopez is "clutch", I'm stating facts. Facts that no one has been able to refute.

Posted by The Fremont Troll

9:05 PM, Apr 17, 2008

I'm falling in love with Silva...and fast! Nobody tell my fiancee...

Another 7IP quality start. He's worth every bit of that $48mil. And I'm dead serious.

Go M's!!

Posted by The Fremont Troll

9:13 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Lopez clutch again. A 3-hit night. 2 RBIs. Solid piece of hitting. He gets a pat on the back from the Troll.

-TFT-

Posted by Alex

9:19 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Ibanez and Jose are in the top of the league in RBI's.....wow!

Posted by Donovan

9:21 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Troll - Dude, so much positivity. Aren't you afraid of being branded a company shill? I don't blame those who question the scale of Silva's contract, and it will be a couple of years before we can judge properly, but so far this year, it looks like 12 mill well spent. What a difference it makes to have starters who can pitch deep into games. Can you even imagine what would have happened to our makeshift bullpen with last year's rotation? Also, Lopez is getting it done so far. That's one question about the offense being answered the right way.

In the interests of balance, there are plenty of other questions still out there on the offense, and Oakland really does suck. That early run was a fluke. Still, you gotta win the games that are winnable. It's nice to see. Can't wait to see what Dickey can do tomorrow. Shouldn't be boring in any case.

Posted by Dignan

9:21 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Morrow predictions?

Posted by The Fremont Troll

9:24 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Morrow? I say....bring 'em on!!

Tonight. Not toMORROW.

Heh.

-TFT-

Posted by The Fremont Troll

9:31 PM, Apr 17, 2008

For Morrow? A 1-2-3 inning with a 'K.'

Granted the A's hitters would've made me look like a decent pitcher tonight...but, I'll take it.

Cheers...and go M's!!

-TFT-

Posted by PRchef

9:34 PM, Apr 17, 2008

First part of the prediction completed. A's have been dominated.

Now onto kick some Angel butt!

Hopefully

Posted by Adam

10:51 PM, Apr 17, 2008

X - " I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Jose is the only player on the team with more hits of every kind with runners on than he does with bases empty."


??? You have NEVER made this argument. More hits of every kind? Where did that come from? You've accused me of cherry-picking, but man...

Just because he has "more hits of every kind" when men are on is completely irrelevant. He's not a good hitter, and just because he improves when men are on doesn't mean anything.

But back to the "clutchness" debate:

Below I've listed several Mariners and the differences between their career OPS with men on base and their career OPS with the bases empty. In parenthesees is their overall career OPS w/men on.

Wilkerson - 26 points (.816)
Sexson - 101 (.911)
Beltre - minus 12 (.780)
Ibanez - 60 (.851)
Ichiro - 27 (.831)
Lopez - 202 (.786)


So Lopez has the biggest difference (meaning he improves in "clutch" situations more than any other Mariner), but his OPS is only higher than Beltre's w/men on base. So is Lopez really "clutch?" Is he the guy we want in any point in a game with men on?

Surely no. Drlo made a great point - most pitchers don't perform as well with men on. Conversely, most hitters perform better with men on. That fact alone should call the whole "clutchness" idea into question.

Further, David Ortiz's career OPS w/men on is actually seven points LOWER than his career OPS with the bases empty. Does that mean he's less "clutch?" Would anyone rather have Jose Lopez or Julio Lugo (OPS w/men on is 10 points higher) at the plate in a tight spot than Ortiz?

Of course not. Clutchness is something perpetuated by the media and fans. Most hitters are better hitters with men on, for a variety of reasons.

And it's no coincidence that a team's best hitters, rather than its "clutch" hitters, are in the middle of lineups. It's because the best hitters generally hit best in "clutch" situations.


So personally, I just want a good hitter up there with men on, not a guy who gets better in those situations, but still isn't very good.

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