Mariners Corner: Taking Chances
It took some time, but I have come to grips with the fact that a vast majority of my readers are Seattle Mariners fans. And I owe them an apology for not catering to them, even in the slightest of bits. Well spite them no longer, will I. This season, I am gifting Mariner fans everywhere with a small section of Not in HD to call their own: Mariners Corner.
This will be a section for you to catch glimpses of my player and team observations throughout the season. Some positive, some negative. But I promise you this, when I do write ill of your team Seattle, it won’t be because I hate the freezing drizzle of the Pacific Northwest or because M’s fans can lack passion at times. No, it will be because I genuinely take issue with something baseball related that the M’s are or are not doing.
That is my promise to you Mariner fans. At least in this small section of Not in HD. I make no such promises as to what you will find elsewhere, but Mariners Corner will be your safe haven, enabling you to put your rings together, forming one spectacular Captain Planet, learning new things or venting in the comment section about the work ethic of Erik Bedard or asinine antics of Milton Bradley.
The main thing I took away from the Opening Day battle with the Oakland A’s had to do with aggressiveness, in three facets of the game.
Facet One: Basepaths
This spring it seemed like talking heads couldn’t string together more than three or four Mariner related sentences without gushing about the new-found speed the club possessed. They would run on the base paths, on all counts, in any situation, with nearly anyone aboard not named Griffey or Sweeney. And I am inclined to believe it.
Chone Figgins took two bags and Ichiro tried to double-down as well, getting thrown out by Kurt Suzuki at third on his second attempt.
But it wasn’t all good, as Milton Bradley was also gunned down by Susuki at second and picked off first base by Ben Sheets as well. So if we didn’t already know it, we learned that the M’s are NOT scared to manufacture runs via aggressive base-running. They just have to hope it doesn’t come back to bite them too often. Three out of six successes on the bases (counting Bradley’s pick-off) is not a great ratio.
I do think they are taking the right approach though.
Facet Two: At the Plate
If we are to take what we saw in yesterday’s game as any indication, gone are the free swinging days of the Seattle Mariners of old. They were incredibly patient yesterday, taking full advantage of the small strike-zone as called by umpire, Tim Tschida.
Seattle forced Oakland pitchers to throw 167 pitches (by comparison Seattle threw a total of 138 pitches, 17 percent less than the A’s) on the evening. They patiently waiting out Sheets, as he was wild early and often, throwing only 54 of his 94 pitches for strikes. It’s no coincidence that he lasted only five innings.
This is where new additions Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley and Casey Kotchman should really help the club. In 2009 Figgins averaged 4.40 Pit/PA (pitches per plate appearance), Bradley (4.03) and Kotchman (3.80). That opposed to former players like Russell Branyon (4.11), Adrian Beltre (3.56) and Kenji Johjima (3.41). And Branyon’s career Pit/PA mark is a much more modest 3.75, than that of his impressive ’09 number.
This not even mentioning the slight batting-eye upgrade of a full season of Jack Wilson (3.59) at shortstop over Yuniesky Betancourt (3.35).
That was the long-winded, stat-oriented way of telling you this: The 2010 Mariners appear to be more disciplined at the dish than the needlessly aggressive 2009 bunch. Which should help produce a better team OBP and more runs.
Facet Three: In-Game Decisions
If you watched the game or listen to sports talk radio, you already know that pulling a suddenly hittable Felix Hernandez in the seventh inning and replacing him with the often hittable Sean White, was a questionable decision at best.
Still, though manager Don Wakamatsu undoubtedly had better, safer bullpen options in which to choose from, his decision showed gusto. Whether it was a smart one or not (the popular money is on not), he stuck to his guns, going with HIS guy. You have to at least respect that. Seattle fans are just hoping that HIS GUY isn’t Sean White for much longer.
Aggressive decisions are often the ones which change the tide, winning close games. On the flip side, thoughtlessly wild moves are the ones that lose them.
Fans hope that Wak stays aggressive, but does so with a strong foundation connected to his impulses.