Well. That was a stressful way to spend the first full series on American soil. It’s hard to imagine the team is going to have a more difficult matchup this year than a four game series in Arlington without Felix Hernandez pitching. The results were predictable and I don’t imagine too many fans are feeling overly down about losing three out of four.
The Rangers are good. Really good. Watching them up close I don’t think there’s a more complete team in the American League. The bullpen may have to shake itself out a bit (Joe Nathan appears doomed) but with the exception of Yu Darvish’s control issues Texas’ starters showed amazingly consistent command and stuff. Combine that with above average defense and very good offense and I feel pretty comfortable saying this is the team to beat in the AL West.
Today’s game played out much the same way as the last two at the beginning. The Rangers got an annoying early run and the Texas starter went about mowing down Mariner hitters with ease. Late life from the hitters again made the game interesting towards the end but like Netfali Fliez and Colby Lewis before him the Dread Pirate Holland completely handcuffed the offense.
Let’s be frank: This season can be a boring pile of crap like 2010 or 2011 or the hitters on this team can somehow cobble together an offense that doesn’t make you want to weep and then die. Through the first real week of play they’ve shown an ability to hit line drives (24.9%. Third in MLB coming into today) but continued an eternal and infernal inability to draw walks (4.5%. Third LOWEST in MLB). While the security blanket of discouragement may seem closely at hand the walk rate may be due for some regression-Happy Division. The Mariners are currently sporting the second lowest O-Swing% (pitches swung outside the strike zone.) in the game. In fact they aren’t swinging at that many pitches IN the strike zone either (18th in that regard). Pitchers clearly are comfortable simply throwing strikes and expecting weak contact. The Mariners, thus far, have obliged. The only two home runs hit on this continent have been by Michael Saunders and little Kyle Seager.
Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, hell Miguel Olivo! You guys are strong and have the ability to hit a baseball a long ways. Please do so soon and often.
Kyle Flippin' Seager
Speaking of Seager there had been talk during the spring about him working on getting stronger. He showed some pop in Arizona and then today took a Derek Holland pitch way out to the second deck. Now home runs in Arlington are not a great accomplishment (looking at you Michael Young) but this one got the “I’m just gonna stand up and stare at my pitcher for being such a suckass” response from the outfielder. Seager has been the brightest offensive contributor during the early season and continues to confuse the hell out of me. Everything about Kyle Seager screams utility infielder to me. Except when he plays he seemingly is always ripping line drives and has looked nothing but competent at third base. It would be just like the Mariners for all of their hyped prospects to be outshone by a third-round pick who is envious of Derek Holland’s ability to grow facial hair.
After the thrilling triumph of the #FreeJohnJaso campaign many people were upset/annoyed/snarky about Miguel Olivo being back behind the plate. I’ve been as strong a critic of Olivo as anyone but today’s outrage was misspent energy. Derek Holland is a very good left handed pitcher who last year held left handed hitters to a .601 OPS. John Jaso has a horrible time with lefties and Miguel Olivo’s .795 OPS against southpaws may actually be his only redeeming trait. We’re big on managers putting players in a situation to succeed and to ask Eric Wedge to ignore such an obvious platoon advantage is the height of intellectual inconsistency. I am almost sure that Olivo will start tomorrow night as it’s the home opener and he and Felix seem to like each other. Should that be the case the war will resume and our voices will once again cry for the freedom of John Edward Jaso.
Pinch-hitting. It's a thing you can do.
I can’t spill words defending Wedge’s use of platoon splits without also decrying his horrible decision to let Olivo bat in the 9th inning against Mike Adams. For his career Adams has struck out 25.3% of RHB. Miguel Olivo is at the very apex of his Olivoness against right handers. To not get Saunders/Ackley/Jaso an at bat in that situation furthers evidence that Eric Wedge’s irrational (and so very human and understandable) liking of Miguel Olivo is damaging the team.
I saw Miguel Olivo in Spring Training interact with fans in real and enthusiastic ways. He is from all available accounts a fantastically likeable person and I do not enjoy ripping him for being a bad baseball player. However in one of the psychoanalytic portions of Moneyball Lewis explained how Billy Beane intentionally avoided the team so that he could be intellectually unsullied by emotional attachment when deciding what was best for the team. Eric Wedge has, in this instance, seemingly failed in that regard. We can only hope that Jack Z has not and soon rectifies the issue.
I hope he does it by making Olivo and Jaso switch uniforms just to see if anyone notices. He probably won’t though.
Tomorrow all this preamble with its week long breaks, ocean-hopping and Texas-filled bullcrap comes to an end. Tomorrow we get Opening Day with Felix Hernandez pitching at Safeco Field. After this series with the A’s we actually get to play some new teams. The fact that Mariners and A’s fans don’t hate each other at this point says everything about the quality of our teams and nothing about the quality of ourselves.
We’re still all animals.