erik lundegaard

Seattle Mariners posts

Sunday October 03, 2021

Believed

Well, so much for that.

What did I write a few weeks ago about the M's playoff chances?

If we went 10-2 [the rest of the way] maybe we would make the postseason for the first time since 2001. 

We wound up going 10-3 (I forgot a game) and lost out on the playoffs on the final day, as we fell to the Angels, 7-3. (Moot point, since both the Yankees and BoSox won their games to take the wild card spots regardless of what we did.) Shohei Ohtani hit a homer on the second pitch of the game, Angels scored four runs in the first two innings, and we were never really in it. By the end, Mariners announcer Rick Rizzs kept telling us if we could only load the bases—we're just a grand slam behind. Yes. If only. Just.

Last March, my friend Tim asked a few of us to make predictions for the Mariners season and this is what I wrote:

Erik: 83-79, 2nd place, will miss a Wild Card berth by one game.

They did better than I thought (90-72), with less than I thought (last year's Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis was injured), and they made this city care about baseball again. It's been a while. Twenty seasons, basically. 

On Twitter, someone mentioned how the Mariners were imploding today, and sportswriter Howard Bryant trotted out the usual SABR/common-sense response, which is: Yeah, they're not that good. To which I would say: Yes. And that's exactly the point. They're not that good and yet they won 90 games. They took it to the final game of the season. Among their regulars, they have zero .300/.400/.500 guys. Wait, scratch that. Not only do they not have one player with that batting line, which Edgar did regularly, but they don't have any player that fits any of that criteria. We don't have a regular who hit .300. We don't have a regular with an on-base percentage of .400. Nobody on our team slugged .500. Instead, we had this:

  • .200/.300/.400: Mitch Haniger, Ty France
  • .200/.200/.400: Kyle Seager, Luis Torrens
  • .200/.300/.300: J.P. Crawford, Tom Murphy (Murphy barely on two of those) 
  • .100/.200/.300: Jarred Kelenic, Dylan Moore

It's not a recipe for success; it's actually a recipe for disaster. And yet somehow these guys won 90 games. That's the story. How did they do it? I hope the Mariners are trying to figure it out. 

I like these kids—particularly J.P. Crawford and Mitch Haniger, and I have every finger crossed for Jarred Kelenic. I just wish I could've seen them more often. I have the MLB.TV package but don't have cable, which means I can watch pretty much any team at any time except for the Mariners. There's a blackout on local teams. Makes zero sense if you have any kind of long-term vision for the sport. But that's who's running the sport: people without long-term vision.

Anyway, here's to the kids. I don't know how you did it. But thanks for doing it. 

Posted at 06:28 PM on Sunday October 03, 2021 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Sunday October 03, 2021

Believe!

The Single.

Turns I went to the wrong game. 

That wasn't an issue in '95, when I went to all the games, practically. I remember when I missed one because I had to work the cash register at University Book Store on a Sunday, and that turned out to be the Tino Martinez walk-off homer to the bunny-hopping fan in right field. I still regret missing that one. Back then I had little money but a lot of time, and spent both on the M's. 

Last night, it was reminiscent of all that. M's went up 1-0 in the 3rd, Angels tied it in the 5th, M's went up by two in the bottom of the 5th. Then in the 8th, the usually reiiable Paul Sewald couldn't find the strike zone and walked the first two batters, then Jared Walsh went deep to put the Angels on top and take the air out of the stadium.

Momentarily. The fans got their second wind.

It was all bottom of the 8th. We started off with the bottom of the order and got a HBP and a BB. Then for some reason we sacrificed. Sure, scoring position, but c'mon. You give up one of your three outs. So the Angels intentionally walked J.P. Crawford then forced Kelenic at home on the next play. (And it was close.) Two outs, bases still juiced, and the batter was Mitch Haniger, who had driven in all the M's runs at that point: one-run single in the 3rd, two-run HR in the 5th. And he worked the count and worked the count. And at 3-2 he lined a base hit through the left side, plating two, including J.P., the IBB, who slid into home and popped up and exalted like Lo Cain in 2015. Then Kyle Seagar followed with an RBI single to center, a dunker that fell in. We had a slight scare in the 9th when David Fletcher doubled with two outs, but a lineout to second ended the game: M's 6, Whatstheirfaces 4. It was our 90th victory on the season, the most the M's have had since 2003.

I didn't see any of this live, btw. No cable, so the M's and MLB give me no way to watch my local team. I listened on the radio. (I still have one of those.) And when things got exciting, I was texting friends. That's how I'm doing it these days. It's a system. Until the main system corrects itself. If it corrects itself. 

Meanwhile, the Yankees got crushed by the Rays, while everyone else won. It's the last day of the season and the AL Wild Card is wild:

TEAM RECORD GB PAYROLL 
Yankees 91-70 - $203
Red Sox 91-70 - $182
Mariners 90-71 -1 $82
Blue Jays 90-71 -1  $150

Either the Yankees or Red Sox have to lose for the M's to have a chance. But they still have a chance. #Believe.

Posted at 10:10 AM on Sunday October 03, 2021 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Saturday October 02, 2021

Believe?

Did a portly Venezuelan with a 5.49 career ERA end the dream?  

Well, that was brutal. 

Last night was my sixth Mariners game of the season but the first where the park was packed—sold out even. And it was sold out because this young, surprising Seattle Mariners team was suddenly tied for the second wild card spot with three games to play:

TEAM RECORD GB PAYROLL 
Yankees 91-68 +2 $203
Mariners 89-70 $82
Red Sox 89-70 $182
Blue Jays 88-71 -1  $150

Yep, this scruffy team of cast-offs and no-names was up there with the big-money crowd. I've written about this before. Yesterday even. It's been fun.

I think I got too excited writing about it, to be honest. I think I felt I had to be there for this final weekend series. I wanted to be part of a baseball crowd where, you know, there was electricity in the air, where something was possible, where amazement at what was happening might wash over you like a wave. Like on Wednesday. Or like in '95.

Initially I was looking to go Sunday: day game, sunny, last of the season. Perfect. Then I thought like the true Mariners fan that I am: “What if we've already blown it by then?” So I opted for last night. Splurged on good tickets, found a friend, was excited.

And worried. I'm a germaphobe, we're still in a pandemic, it's been eight-plus months since my last vaccination. 

Did the Ms require vax cards? No. They did for a bit, but no. You had to be masked unless actively eating or drinking. That was the rule. And in the past that rule seemed fine. The game I went to in early September seemed fine. Plus we would be outdoors, sitting close to the field, away from indoor-like structures. In expensive seats, too, so surely away from the anti-mask crowd. Surely, people in expensive seats would behave responsibly. Surely.

I don't know what I was thinking. 

In section 120, I'd guess 30-40% of the crowd went regularly unmasked. There were more than a few Nosenheimers, too. Many were just not taking it seriously. Pandemic schmandemic.

And how did the Seattle Mariners organization and/or T-Mobile Park police this sudden huge crowd in the midst of a pandemic? Here's how. In our section, every other inning, a diminutive sexagenerarian hobbled down to the first row and silently held up a small sign that said wear a mask. 

I loved that diminutive lady, by the way. She did what she could. She was tough, considering. But the crowd was big, excited, and 30% didn't give a fuck. Looking around at all these folks, I thought, “Oh right. I hate humanity. What am I doing here?” I'd forgotten. This Mariners team made me momentarily forget.

I wish the game made up for all this but it wasn't to be. We scored in the bottom of the 2nd on a double by (who else?) Jarred Kelenic, who plated (who else?) Abraham Toro, scoring from first. All with two outs. Nice.

The Angels got it right back in the top of the 3rd. Our starter, Marco Gonzalez, lost control of the strike zone and the bottom half of the Angels lineup. Their number eight hitter led off with a single, followed by a walk to their number nine hitter. “Not good,” I told my friend Erika, who had joined me despite not being a huge baseball fan. I tried to explain that these guys were the lesser hitters and the better hitters were about to come up. “So,” she said, “statistically, these guys at the top of the lineup have a better chance of getting a hit?” At which point their leadoff hitter doubled to left, scoring both men. “Yes,” I said.

But that was it. Marco stopped the bleeding.

But that was also it. For the scoring. For the game. Final: 2-1, Angels. Our best hitter, Ty France, kept grounding into double plays, and the team kept blowing opportunties. Bottom of the 7th, Luis Torrens led off with a triple in the right-field corner that just missed going out and everyone went crazy. Toro followed with a walk and everyone went crazy. That brought up Kelenic, Wednesday's hero. And that brought in Jose Quijada, a portly left-hander with an ERA over 5.00. And it went: strikeout swinging, strikeout swinging, strikeout looking. And just like that a lot of the air went out of the stadium. I didn't want to think it, I still wanted to BELIEVE, as the Mariners were telling everybody, in homage to “Ted Lasso,” as if we were a ragtag Ted Lasso-type team with a cinderella story that had already been scripted, I didn't want to think it but I did: that inning felt like the end. That was the opportunity. You don't blow opportunities like that with the season on the line. Whooooosh. There it went.

Except we got another opportunity in the bottom of the 9th: Kyle Seager led off with a ringing double down the line, and we had three not-bad guys coming up: Torrens, Toro, Kelenic. Guys who had already delivered in this game. But Torrens grounded out and Seager couldn't move up. (At that point, he was replaced by a pinch runner, which maybe should've happened before Torrens' at-bat?) Then a pop-out to short. Then a fly ball to center. It was the sac fly we needed Kelenic to hit in the 7th. And that was that. Overall we got five hits, three walks; they got four hits, two walks. They won.

Was it us? The crowd? I was wondering about that from the get-go, when I heard that Friday night's game was sold out, and Saturday and Sunday's games were close to sell-outs. The players aren't used to this. They're used to what I'm used to: sparse crowds making tepid noise, with fans of the opposition team often making more of it. I was wondering if maybe that wasn't a driving force for these kids: We're playing well, and yet no one is showing up. We'll show them. Then we showed up and they lost that edge.

Now the standings look like this:

TEAM RECORD GB PAYROLL 
Yankees 91-69 +1 $203
Red Sox 90-70 - $182
Mariners 89-71 -1 $82
Blue Jays 89-71 -1  $150

We're still in it, just less so. Every team is within two of each other with two to play. Ya gotta believe. Or, as I suggested as a team motto in July: Ya never know.

Posted at 12:51 PM on Saturday October 02, 2021 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Friday October 01, 2021

#Believe

Kelenic's double.

A week and a half ago I wrote a post about whether the Mariners, who were then a solid 80-69 but didn't seem postseason-bound, could at least win enough games to win their most games in, say, five years, 10 years. I was looking for a consolation prize to an impressive season. Except then I saw we won 89 games in 2018 so even that seemed off the table. I wrote:

Winning 90 would mean going 10-2 the rest of the way, with nothing rained out, and that's a tough ask. Hell, if we went 10-2 maybe we would make the postseason for the first time since 2001.

Well, so far, the Mariners have gone 8-1 and are now tied with the Boston Red Sox for the second wild-card spot with three games to play. We get the Angels here (they're 75-84), they get the Nationals in D.C. (65-94). The Blue Jays, after losing to the Yankees yesterday, are one game behind both of us, the Yankees two games ahead. Like us, the Yankees are on a win streak. The Blue Jays (4-6 since that post) and BoSox (3-5), not so much. That's where it stands.

I've been as excited about all of this as a jaded, germaphobic fan in the middle of a pandemic with zero TV access to the games can be. (Basically, to watch M's games, you have to have cable or cheat, and I'm not much of a cheater.) Which is to say, I'm still very, very excited.

That previous post mentioned our negative run differential, which, over a season—so the SABR argument goes—will play out. You run out of luck, show your true stripes, etc. Hasn't happened. What I forgot to mention, and what I'd harped on earlier in the year, is that we don't hit much. We're last in the AL in batting average, second to last in OBP, second to last in SLG. We're last in hits and third in strikeouts. Unless you have a pitching rotation of Randy, Pedro, Maddux, that shouldn't translate to a postseason opportunity. Yet here we are.

Fans keep bringing up the '95 season, as in, “Hey, I haven't felt like this since '95,” which I totally get, and which I also feel. But in a way this year is more impressive. The '95 team had three future Hall of Famers (Junior, Randy, Edgar), two on the first ballot, as well as an incredible supporting cast (Tino, Buhner, Nellie, Norm, Joey, A-Rod as a rookie). They should've been in the running from the get-go. But these guys? No-names and castoffs and second-chancers. We have nobody hitting over .300, no regular with an OBP above .375. We have two guys nearing 40 homers (Haniger, Seagar) but nobody slugging .500.

And yet they keep winning. They defy math.

The big blow Wednesday night came from rookie Jarred Kelenic, who has the sixth-most at bats on the team despite a hitting line of .177/.260/.349. And it's only that good because he's improved. He was called up in May and promptly hit .118 for the month (8 for 68), then hit .000 for June (0 for 15) and was sent back to Triple A. I think at that point he'd been hitless in his last 39 at bats? Whatever it was, he was nearing a Major League record for futility. But he returned in July and hit .154, then .196 for August. This month it's .242. And on Wednesday he came up with one out, two on (both via errors), and the M's down 1-0. And he rifled a shot to the right-field corner, a double plating both men, then pumped his fist and pumped his fist. Art Thiel said if he pumped it one more time he was worried he'd need Tommy John surgery. But I'm sure all the frustration of this season was finally getting out of him. He was supposed to be a top prospect, a phenom, and yet he was barely hanging on. He wasn't even hitting Mendoza. And yet look at him now.

How can you not be romantic about baseball? 

Posted at 10:52 AM on Friday October 01, 2021 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Tuesday September 21, 2021

-1,129 Runs

It took me by surprise. Yesterday, I went on Baseball Reference's Seattle Mariners page because while it felt increasingly unlikely we'd make the playoffs this year (four games back of the second wild-card spot with two weeks to go) I was curious how many games we'd have to win to be the winningest M's team in the last whatever years: five, 10. Maybe since 2003? That could be a goal to shoot for. That could be something to root for.

Except that seems unlikely, too. Before last night's win over the A's, we were 80-69, which is nice, particularly since we have a -62 run differential. But I'd forgotten the 2018 team won 89 games, the 2016 team won 86 and the 2014 team nabbed 88. We'd also had winning seasons in 2009 and 2007. Now I could see us winning more than 86 games. But winning 90 would mean going 10-2 the rest of the way, with nothing rained out, and that's a tough ask. Hell, if we went 10-2 maybe we would make the postseason for the first time since 2001.

That's when I noticed the oddity. You could see it in the pythagorean win-loss column, which tracks what your record should be based on your run differential. Our 2021 season was below .500 because of that -62 number. But so was our recent 89-win season, when—and I'd forgotten this—we'd given up 34 more runs than we'd scored. Same with the 2009 season (-52 runs) and 2007 season (-27). That's what took me by surprise. The Mariners record since 2003 is horrible: just six winning seasons in 18 years, and no postseasons since 2001—the longest current postseason drought in professional sports. But it's actually worse. In those 18 seasons, we've only had two where we scored more runs than the opposition: 2014 (+80) and 2016 (+61). Since 2003, we've given up 1,129 more runs than we've scored. 

Some might think: pythagorean schmythagorean. You go to see real wins, not would-be wins. It's what you do, not what you should do. And that's correct. In 2016, for example, our +61 run differential was way better than Texas' +8, but we still finished nine games back. They won 95 and went to the playoffs instead of us ... where they got swept by Toronto. Hell, the 1987 Minnesota Twins won it all despite a negative run differential. So what does it matter?

But it still matters. Those other guys scoring more than we do seeps in. You keep thinking: We shouldn't be here. I mean, six winning seasons out of 18 is really, really bad. So it's astonishing to find out we were just lucky to win that much.

And yet, I have to admit, part of the joy of this 2021 no-name team is that they keep winning. They get clobbered and come back. We look at that run differential, assume they'll start slipping, but they don't. They defy math. They won again last night to go 81-69 and ensure only the 15th .500 season in Mariners history, and, more importantly, put us only three games back of that second wild card spot. What did St. Tug say? You gotta believe. 

Posted at 08:08 AM on Tuesday September 21, 2021 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Monday July 12, 2021

The 2021 Mariners Hit Parade, Singular

Yesterday I went to my fourth Mariners game of the season but I didn't stay until the end. In the 300 level, my friend Jim was bothered by the overloud sound system, which both discouraged our conversation and hurt his ears, so we left after seven with the M's down 4-1. By the time I got home, the game was done, 7-1. That top of the ninth must've been brutal: infield single, walk, single, single, sac fly, passed ball. Death by a thousand cuts. Then the M's went in order without getting the ball out of the infield, and that was that. Time for the All-Star break.

And time to access how we're doing.

Not poorly. This team of kids and second-chancers is 48-43, five games over .500, the sixth-best record in the AL. We're just 3.5 games out of the last wild card spot with no one between us and Oakland.

Also: poorly. We're last in the Majors in batting average and OBP (.216/.292), and 26th in slugging. Our run differential is -50, which indicates our winning ways probably aren't sustainable.

I haven't seen much of those winning ways in person. Of the four games I've been to, the M's are 1-3, managing a total of 5 runs on 13 hits—or an average of 1.25 runs on 3.25 hits per game. Fun. The May 5 no-hitter didn't help matters but in the other games we weren't exactly Murderers Row: 5 hits, 4 hits, 4 hits; one homerun, zero crooked numbers in any inning. Even with the lowest batting average in baseball, the M's still manage about 7 hits a game. So I guess I've just been lucky.

Or is it that I've only gone to day games? Do the M's do worse in those?

Not really: .215 BA during the day, .217 at night. We're not even the worst in the Majors in day games. The Yankees, of all teams, are beneath us with a shocking .212/.251 day/night split. Not sure what to make of that—other than to yet again lobby MLB to play more postseason games during the day.

No, the truly stark split for the M's is home/away games. Away from Seattle, we hit .230, 19th-best. In Seattle it's .203, which is not only the worst home batting average, it's the worst by 13 points. Yet somehow we having a winning record at Mariners Park: 29-20.

Seeing that, I wondered if we did particularly bad during home games during the day—like the ones I go to—but ...  nah. There's nothing really there, either. Home day games, M's average 3.3 runs per game on 5.08 hits. It's worse than what they normally do but better than what I've seen.

So maybe the problem is just ... me? I'm like William H. Macy's character in the 2003 indie hit, “The Cooler,” in which he's hired by a Vegas casino to bring bad luck to its patrons. (Macy also played a Lundegaard, remember.) So maybe the M's should hire me not to go to its games? Or they could just keep blasting the 300-level patrons with their overloud sound system. That might keep me away, too.

Anyway, here's to the kids and the second-chancers in the second half. Given what we've done, I'm amazed at where we are. “Ya gotta believe” has been taken as a slogan but we could go with something similar. The 2021 Seattle Mariners: Ya never know.

Posted at 12:36 PM on Monday July 12, 2021 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Saturday July 03, 2021

Should've Been 29 Down

Saw this with some chagrin in today's NY Times Crossword:

On the other hand, it was an easy get. Thanks in part to the pandemic, and in part to Rex Parker, Patricia and I are currently on a 447-day streak.

For more on the hapless answer, see here

Posted at 12:06 PM on Saturday July 03, 2021 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Wednesday May 05, 2021

M's Game: Means to an End, or My First No-Hitter

The view from Section 325, as the Orioles celebrate something that hadn't happened since 1969; and something I'd never seen in person.

We noticed how good he was immediately. First Mariners batter in the bottom of the 1st, Mitch Haniger, whom we’d just seen in a between-innings video talking about his first call up to the bigs (in 2016 with the Diamondbacks), as well as his first hit (a 2-run triple off Noah Syndergaard), saw three pitches and sat down. Then Ty France got to 3-2 and K’ed looking. Then Kyle Seager with a dribbler to first.

“All first-pitch strikes,” I said to Jeff.

We were 300-level behind homeplate, shaded first-base side, row 9, very close to the season-ticket seats I share with a group of great baseball fans led by a close, personal friend of Raquel Welch. Jeff and I spent the bottom of the 1st riffing off that Haniger video. He was impressed that the triple was off Syndergaard; I was impressed that it was a triple. “The most exciting play in baseball,” I said, repeating the aphorism. “Play at the plate,” Jeff said, as his choice for most exciting play in baseball. “Close play at the plate,” he amended. “Well, sure,” I said, “if you add context. I mean, really, the most exciting play in baseball is a close play at the plate in the bottom of the 9th inning of the 7th game of the World Series. Context-less, I’ll take a triple.”

Top of the 2nd was a little rough for M’s starter Yusei Kikuchi and the M’s defense: single, fielder’s choice, stolen base, strikeout. Two outs, guy on second, and it’s the bottom of their order, the .100 hitters—of which, by the way, the M’s have a lot. That was the conversation before the game began: How many guys in our starting lineup are hitting in the .100s? Turns out: four. And hitting over .300? Zero, of course. This is Mariners country.

Anyway, the O’s number 8 hitter, D.J. Stewart, blooped one to shallow left, just past shortstop J.P. Crawford, who mistakenly threw home to try to nab the beautifully named Ryan Mountcastle, allowing Stewart to go to second. Then their number 9 hitter, Ramon Urias, hit a liner to left and same deal. But this time the throw home was cut off and Urias was tossed at second. But it was still 2-0, Orioles.

“Should’ve been one run if we’d played that right,” Jeff said.

The Orioles pitcher, John Means, began the game with a 1.70 ERA, much better than Kikuchi’s 4.40, and in the bottom of the 2nd he kept throwing first-pitch strikes and getting outs; line out, pop out, strike out. I don’t think he threw a first-pitch ball until he faced Sam Haggerty, ol’ #0, in the 3rd. He struck him out anyway. Except the ball broke early and got past catcher Pedro Severino, and Haggerty, a speedy kid, made it to first.

“Hey, a baserunner!” I said.

Next pitch, Haggerty was thrown out trying to steal second.

“Or not,” I said.

We didn’t know how big a moment all that would turn out to be.

This was my second game of the season—and thus my second game since the pandemic shrunk all of our lives. First game was Sunday, a beautiful sunny Sunday against the Angels. For that one, I sat 100 level, hoping to get close-up looks at the Angels’ triumvirate of great stars (Shohei Ohtani) and future Hall of Famers (Mike Trout and Albert Pujols). Trout began the game hitting .400-something and went 0-3 with a walk. Pujols began the game at Mendoza and went 0-3 with 2 Ks. Ohtani got hit by a pitch in his first at-bat, promptly stole two bases, but also went 0-3. Meanwhile, the M’s scored two runs on an RBI single by Dylan Moore who was hitting something like .137, and two sacrifices following a leadoff double by a backup catcher hitting .190. We won 2-zip.

“That’s baseball,” Jeff said, shrugging.

I got Ivars fish-and-chips and a beer, Jeff got a soft pretzel and a beer. We talked kids (his), podcasts (Marc Maron), and the Beatles. He mentioned a recent biography of the Beatles he’d read called “Tune In” by Mark Lewinson, which was the first volume in a three-volume series on the Beatles. A deep dive.

“The first volume ends in 1963, when…” Jeff said, then blanked. 

“When they got their first UK No. 1?”

“I think so.”

“So before ‘She Loves You’ and Beatlemania hit.” 

“Definitely.”

“He’s Robert Caro-ing the Beatles.”

“Huh?”

“LBJ biographer. Been writing about him for the last, whatever, 40 years? He’s done four volumes, I think, and now LBJ is in the White House, and people are worried Caro won’t finish before he dies.”

“This guy’s younger than that,” Jeff said. He looked him up on his phone. “Oh. He’s 62. And the second volume was supposed to come out last year but didn’t. So maybe he is another Robert Caro.”

All the while, Means was blowing away the M's. “He’s still has a no-hitter going,” Jeff said in the 4th (two pop-outs to short and a K), and the 5th (foul out to first, line out to SS, K) and the 6th (K, ground out to catcher, fly out to center). I'd never seen a no-hitter in person before, and I kept expecting something to eventually get through. Didn’t that always happen?

In retrospect, the 3rd inning was our best chance. Not only did we get our lone baserunner (for one pitch) but the other two batters actually hit the ball out of the infield. In the entire game, only four ball were caught by the outfield: two in the 3rd (center, right), one in the 6th (center), and one in the 8th (left). Everything else was dribblers, popups and strikeouts. Twelve strikeouts in all, without a walk. Twenty-five first-pitch strikes. 

“Are you rooting for a no-hitter?” I asked Jeff at one point.

“Why not?“ Jeff said. ”Even if we get a hit, it’s not like we’ll come back.”

“What do you mean? We’re only down 2-0.”

“3-0,” he reminded me. In the 7th, Pat Valaika had rocketed one into the left-field bleachers. A minute later, after the beautifully named Ryan Mountcastle hit a 3-run shot, it was 6-0 and seemed out of reach. 

Actually I was wrong earlier. Our best chance to break up the no-hitter was in the bottom of the 8th. That’s when Kyle Lewis rocketed one to left and for a moment I thought it might be gone. And I had mixed feelings. I know. I still feel bad about it. It’s like when you’re watching a U-boat movie and suddenly find yourself rooting for the Germans, and you’re like “Oh man, this is wrong,” but you keep doing it. Same here. I found myself rooting for the no-hitter against my team. When Lewis’ rocket to left was caught at the warning track, I felt disappointment. And relief.

“I don’t think I’ve been at a game that went this long into a no-hitter,” I said. Then Murphy struck out swinging (on 3-2) and Evan White struck out swinging (on 1-2), and we were onto the 9th.

The second-best chance we had to break up the no-hitter was our last chance. In the 9th, after Dylan Moore fouled out to third, and Sean Haggerty struck out swinging, J.P. Crawford came to the plate. He was batting ninth even though he’s hitting .250-ish, which is third-best on our team. For this team, he’s basically the equivalent of Edgar Martinez on the 1996 Mariners. And on the first pitch from Means, he lined one to left and I thought it might get through. But then their shortstop Urias was there, and it was over, and the Baltimore Orioles were suddenly celebrating the team’s first single-pitcher no-hitter since Jim Palmer blanked the Oakland A’s in 1969. (They had a combined no-hitter in 1991.) Apparently it was the longest single-pitcher no-hitter drought in baseball.

You’re welcome, Baltimore.

It was also baseball history. Jeff and I watched something that had never happened before.

Yep, just that dropped third strike.

I am worried about my guys. According to Art Thiel, they began the game hitting the Seattle area code (.206) and they ended it near the Mendoza line (.201). I know this is a rebuilding year, but I didn’t think we were rebuilding back to 1979.

Thiel uses the phrase “the profoundly unheralded John Means,” but we knew going in he would be tough: 3-0, 1.70 ERA. Now he's 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA, and 50 Ks against 10 walks. And one complete game. Which is the first complete game of his career. That’s right. John Means’ no-hitter, his near perfect game, was also the first shutout and the first complete game he’d thrown in the Majors.

Here’s more on the man of the moment.

Posted at 09:16 PM on Wednesday May 05, 2021 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Saturday April 17, 2021

Mariners Fancare: That's a Problem

I'm part of a season ticket group for Seattle Mariners games at Mariners Field (formerly Safeco, currently TMP, should be Griffey Park), and because of You Know What I haven't seen a game there since Sept. 2019 (M's over Reds, 4-3); but last month, the man who runs our group, Stephen, told the group there would be a season-ticket presale for socially distanced games in April. Anyone in? Some were. I considered it but decided not. I'd been vaccinated but I tend not to go for April games anyway. It's a time of high hopes but low temps. This year's beautiful April notwithstanding.

May, I went for it. My favorite games are weekday getaways, and we had one on May 5 against the Orioles. I wanted to see the Angels, too, with their triumverate of great stars: Trout, Ohtani, Pujols. Anthony Rendon would be a star in most cities but seems an afterthought in Anaheim. Last night Stephen came through: an email from Mariners Fancare: “Stephen Just Sent You 2 Mariners Tickets.” Yes!

And here my troubles began.

To get the tix I had to create a Mariners account. OK, sure, there you go. Which is when the website told me: “Your phone is your ticket” and “Add your ticket to your digital wallet.”

I've had iPhones forever but I never use the digital wallet. So I opened the app and tried to figure out what was what. What app did I need anyway? A Mariners app? No, a TicketMaster app. Crap. TicketMaster. OK, whatever. Yes, and here's my Apple ID password to download the app. Nope, that's not it. The password field shook its head at me. Double-checked the password. It was the right password. Did I input it wrong? I did. This time no headshaking.

But not yet: “You need iOS 13 or later to use this app.” Navigated to Settings —> General —> Updates. I was all updated. At 12.5. Went online and learned that iOS 13 is for iPhone 6S-Plus or later. I was on iPhone 6. I couldn't get iOS 13, which meant I couldn't get the TicketMaster app, which meant I couldn't get the Mariners tickets I'd just bought. Fun. Way too much fun for a Friday night.

The original email did come with a Mariners Fancare phone number at the bottom, so I tried that. I pressed what I needed to press for digital tickets, and after much ringing a voice message: If you know your party's extension, etc., otherwise press 0 to return to reception. There, I got an actual person, began talking about digital tickets, and she said, “You want digital tickets,” and transferred me back to the first line again. Repeat. When I got back to her again, I quickly explained the Sisyphean loop I was in, and she said, like Edgar in the famous commercial, “Yes, that's a problem.” Her solution was to get the tickets in person at the M's box office, which I might do. I'll also try the phone line again later today.

All of this has taught me an important lesson about being frugal and using my iPhone as long as I can. That's not the American way, gramps. 

Hope to see you at the ballpark someday.

Posted at 10:49 AM on Saturday April 17, 2021 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Tuesday October 01, 2019

Player of the Year

Last week, the Seattle chapter of the Baseball Writers of America tweeted their award winners for the 2019 season: 

  • Player of Year: Daniel Vogelbach
  • Pitcher of Year: Marco Gonzales
  • Unsung Hero: Tom Murphy

I responded with the following:

By bWar the best players on the 2019 Mariners are*:

  1. Our Pitcher of the Year
  2. A .240 third baseman who missed 2 months
  3. A backup catcher
  4. Our regular catcher
  5. A guy we traded in June
  6. A pitcher we traded in July
  7. An outfielder injured in June
  8. A pitcher who missed 2 months and went 4-10
  9. Our Player of the Year

* The numbers shifted before the season ended: Our backup catcher is now No. 2 and our Player of the Year is No. 8.

This is not to slam Daniel Vogelbach, whom I love, and who had a much better season than I thought he would. I assumed he'd be a 2019 version of Bucky Jacobsen, another softball-player-looking dude who made a splash for a month or two in 2004, hit 9 homers with 28 RBIs, and then kinda disappeared. This season, Vogey clobbered 30 HRs with 76 RBIs. Both led the team—as did his .341 OBP—and he made the All-Star team. But his second half wasn't good:

  • Before All-Star break: .238/.375/.505, with 21 HRs and 51 RBIs
  • After All-Star break: .162/.286/.341, with 9 HRs and 25 RBIs

This is not to slam the Seattle chapter of the BWA, either. Who else to give it to—our backup catcher? A guy we traded in June? A guy injured since June? Kyle Seager—who missed the first two months and never hit above .220 in any month save August? There's really no good answer. To me, it's either Vogey or Omar Narvaez. 

No, it's just to point out the kind of year it's been. As if we didn't know. Baseball Reference has a legacy page for each team, even the Mariners, and it includes sortable columns on, say, wins (our best year was, of course, the 116 in 2001), losses (worst: 104 in ‘78), runs scored (993 in ’96), and runs given up (905 in ‘99), as well as most position players used (67, this year) and most pitchers used (42, also this year).

Then there’s a column called Top Player, which is that year's best player by bWAR. Last year, for example, it was Mitch Haniger (6.1) and in 2016 it was Robinson Cano (7.3). In ‘95, a strike-shortened year, Randy was tops with 8.6, while in 2001 it was Bret Boone at 8.8. The best Mariner year ever, according to this measure, was A-Rod in 2000 (10.4). And the lowest Top Player by bWAR? That would be the 3.9 shared by Ichiro and Richie Sexson in 2005. 

Until this year, that is. This year, by bWAR, our best player is Marco Gonzalez with a WAR of 3.4. Only two teams had a best player with a lower WAR: the Blue Jays, whose best player was Marcus Stroman (3.2), a pitcher they traded at the end of July; and the San Francisco Giants’ Jeff Samardzija (2.9), who had no such excuse. 

Well, it's a rebuilding year. We‘re remodeling our bathroom right now so I know a bit about such things. I know it’s inconvenient and there are unexpected delays and it's taking longer than expected. Way longer. The teardown, I know, is the easy part.

Posted at 07:44 AM on Tuesday October 01, 2019 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Sunday September 29, 2019

M's Playoff Drought Reaches 18th Year

Yeah, not exactly news. We knew it in March. Or at least by the time the M's turned their shocking 13-2 start into a 20-23 deficit a month later. We were 11 games over .500 on April 11 and 11 games under .500 by May 30. Quick work. Hopes dashed. See you next year. Or the year after. Or...

Anyway, it's the 18th straight season the M's haven't played October baseball, which is the longest such drought in baseball. It‘s not the longest drought in baseball history—not by a longshot. That would be 41 years, shared by three teams:

  • St. Louis Browns: 1903-1944
  • Philadelphia/KC/Oakland Athletics: 1930-1971
  • Cleveland Indians: 1954-1995*

(*Were the Indians the only original-16 team that didn’t make the postseason during the first playoff era (1969-1993)? Yep. Even the hapless Chicago White Sox did it twice (1983, 1993). Even the hapless Cubs (1984, 1989)).

Here's the various title-holders for “Longest drought” throughout MLB history: How many years without seeing the postseason; and how many years they held the “longest drought” title. 

LONGEST DROUGHT TEAM PERIOD YEARS YRS W/TITLE
St. Louis Browns 1903-1944 41 18
Boston Braves 1914-1948 34 4
Philadelphia Phillies 1915-1950 35 2
Chicago White Sox 1919-1959 40 9
Pittsburgh Pirates 1928-1960 32 1
Phil/ KC/ Oakland Athletics 1931-1971 40 11
Chicago Cubs 1945-1984 39 13
Cleveland Indians 1954-1995 41 11
Texas Rangers 1961-1996 35 1
Mon. Expos/Wash. Nationals 1981-2012 31 16
Kansas City Royals 1985-2014 29 2
Toronto Blue Jays 1993-2015 22 1
Seattle Mariners 2001-? 18 4

The length of the droughts are shrinking because it's easier to get into the postseason. The Browns had just one slot: AL pennant. The M‘s, in the wild card era, have had either four or five slots. Even with expansion, with 30 teams rather than 16, your have better odds today. 

If you’re curious how the other 29 teams have done since the last time the Mariners were in the postseason in 2001, well, you came to the right place:

TEAM

POSTSEASONS

PENNANTS TITLES
Yankees 14 2 1
Cardinals 11 4 2
Dodgers 11 2 0
Red Sox 10 4 4
Braves 9 0 0
Twins 8 0 0
Athletics 8 0 0
Angels 7 1 1
Cubs 7 1 1
Astros 6 2 1
Giants 6 4 3
Rays 5 1 0
Nationals 5 0 0
Rangers 5 2 0
Indians 5 1 0
Phillies 5 2 1
Tigers 5 2 0
Rockies 4 1 0
Brewers 4 0 0
Diamondbacks 4 0 0
Mets 3 1 0
Orioles 3 0 0
Reds 3 0 0
Pirates 3 0 0
Padres 2 0 0
Blue Jays 2 0 0
White Sox 2 1 1
Royals 2 2 1
Marlins 1 1 1
Mariners 0 0 0

After the M's, the longest MLB postseason droughts are the usual suspects: Marlins (2003), Padres (2006), and the White Sox (2008). Every other MLB team has gone to the postseason this decade. Every one. Think of that. 

Take us out, Tanner Boyle and Timmy Lupus. 

Posted at 07:44 AM on Sunday September 29, 2019 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  

Wednesday September 11, 2019

M's Game: Kyle and the Kids Take One from the Reds

A few minutes before gametime. Mariners attendance will dip below 2 million this year.

I'm part of a season ticket group that meets every March to divvy up the season's tickets and talk about the year ahead. Mostly it's gallows humor. It's a good bunch of guys, with good humor and a deep knowledge of baseball history. I tend to buy tickets to 10 Mariner games, and last night was my last for the season. It was also the first time I ever saw the Cincinnati Reds live. I think. I grew up in an AL city. 

Even so, it felt like the tail end of the tail end. It felt like the dregs. The weather was supposed to be nasty, and the M's were coming home from a really nasty Midwest road trip, in which they went 2-2 against the Rangers, 0-2 against the Cubs, and then 0-4 against Houston, including a 21-1 drubbing on Sunday. During the day, on my lunchbreak, I happened upon the Mariners Baseball Reference page and was comparing how this awful season compared with other Mariner awful seasons of the past:

  • Our .403 winning percentage is on pace for the ninth-worst mark in M's history. Last season's .549 mark was our sixth-best (after 2001, 2002, 2003, 2000, and 1997). 
  • We‘ve had 14 winning seasons. This will be our 29th losing season. 
  • 2001 was the big one, of course: 116-46 for a .716 winning percentage. Second-best is .574 (twice). Meaning we’ve been .700+ but never .600-.700. Odd.
  • Our attendance this year will amost certainly be below 2 mil for the fourth time (in a full season) since 1993. For the remaining 12 games, we'd need to average 34.7k to break 2 mil, and there have only been three games this entire season when we‘ve drawn better than 34.7k: two games in March, and a game last month against Toronto when all the Canadians came down. 
  • All of the sub-2 million attendance years have been this decade: 2011-13, and 2019.
  • We’ve used more position players this year than ever before: 63. The previous record was 61 in 2017. Oh, and this was before last night's game when two new players made their MLB debuts. So I guess it's 65? (Yes, it's 65.)
  • We‘ve also used more pitchers (40) than ever before. Well, it ties 2017. But 105 players total? What’s the record among all MLB teams? 
  • The best season a Mariner player has ever had, as judged by WAR, was Alex Rodriguez in 2000 when he posted a 10.4 WAR. Junior's 1996 season, when he missed a month to a hamate bone injury, is second at 9.7. The lowest WAR for the best Mariner player of a particular season is Ichiro's 3.9 out in 2005. We‘re likely to break that one, too. The best WAR on the team currently belongs to Kyle Seager. At 2.6. 

All of which didn’t make the evening seem propitious. 

But midday the skies cleared, and stayed so, and it was 69 degrees at gametime—about as beautiful a September evening as you could ask for. Plus we had Justus Sheffield on the mound, and I‘ve got hope in the kid. He had a couple good innings against the Yankees, and in his one outing on our sorry roadtrip he pitched five scoreless against the Cubs. Plus starting in right was Kyle Lewis, our 2016 No. 1 draft pick. So things felt new. There was upside. There were possibilities.

First inning looked good: three up and down for the Reds, while Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer had trouble finding the plate.

In the second, Reds right fielder Aristides (Double A) Aquino singled sharply between third and short, but he was erased on a DP. Then Phillip Ervin lofted one into the right-field corner, and our #1 draft pick dove for it. He didn’t come close, the ball bounced to the wall, Ervin glided in with a triple. Then a single, then a double, all sharply rapped. But a comeback to Sheffield ended the threat and it was only 1-0.

Sheffield kept ending threats. They kept getting hits but we kept getting double plays—four double plays in four innnings. We were hitless against Bauer but after 4 innings it was still only 1-0. Sadly, the kid misplayed another one in right, twisting the wrong way several times before making a desperate stab that went for naught (for him) and a double (for the batter). He got no error on either play. My friend Jeff was defending Lewis, since it was his first game, but I'm like, “He's doing the same thing he was doing for three years in the minors, just in a different field. I get where pitching might be at another level. But fielding? Misplaying a ball like that?” I was in the middle of all this when Lewis came to bat for the second time in his Major League career and promptly homered to left center. Tie game. Curtain call. An inning later, our No. 9 hitter, Dylan Moore, rapped one to left. 2-1, M‘s. 

In the 7th, we brought in Austin (Double A) Adams, and he got two quick outs, walked the No. 9 hitter, and faced a pinch hitter. “Isn’t it odd to pinch-hit for your leadoff hitter?” I was asking Jeff. Which is when the pinch hitter, Brian O‘Gradym went deep to right with a no-doubter second-decker, and just like that (as Dave used to say) the Reds were back on top. Oh, that was O’Grady's first Major League homer, too. September baseball.

The Reds pattern that inning was out, out, walk, homer, and in the bottom of the 8th we duplicated it. Narvaez struck out, Gordon grounded out, Nola walked and Kyle Seager (our No. 1 WAR guy, after all), hit a parabola that landed about three rows deep in right. And just like that we were on top again. Tony Bass finished it off, 1, 2, 3, and the M's losing streak stopped at six. It was our second victory in September. 

Of the seven runs in the game, six were scored via homers. That's getting old. Yesterday I read that something like 50% of all MLB runs this year are scored on homers. Pretty soon, everyone's first hit will be a homer. 

Attendance last night was 12,230. Officially. The unofficial number seemed about half that.  

Is Jerry Dipoto's reclamation project going well? We are getting younger. But young enough? By position-player age, we‘re currently tied for the 13th-youngest Mariners team with an average age of 27.9—as opposed to last year’s 29.8. By pitcher age, we‘re about the same: 28.8 this year vs. 29.0 last year. It’s the 11th-oldest pitching staff in M's history.

Posted at 08:24 AM on Wednesday September 11, 2019 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  
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