doesn't the M's season so far show that the "pitching and defense" thing is exactly what you want to do to turn a 101 loss team around when you are facing very tight budgetary constraints?
=== First, the Ballgame ===
0-9 is, I'm pretty sure, a forfeit score. Which is exactly what our offense is doing, in a lot of these games.
FORFEIT, n. Something surrendered as a penalty for a crime, offense, or breach of contract. "The Beaneaters did not show for Sunday's contest, causing a 9-0 score to be entered in favor of the Redlegs." ... "The Mariners forfeited Friday evening's tilt in consequence of a misunderstanding that pitching and defense were the keys to baseball." ;- )
It's the 7th -- six full innings gone -- and the score is 1-0 again. I'm marvelling. Yet another game that is, literally, a Deadball Era evening. The M's are being shut out by a left hand pitcher with an 87-mph fastball and a 30/26 control ratio.
Folks have told us, for about 140 years, that pitching and defense are the keys to baseball. Folks (like Confucius) have been telling us, for about 2,500 years, that a picture's worth 1,000 words. But might we gently ask if anybody has been looking at these nightly pictures of pitching and defense *failing* to be the key to baseball? :- )
The M's have the best ERA in the league, at 3.65 (and no other team is in the 3's at all). Has it been the key to baseball? We got home tonight from the All-Star Break, and Dr. D hears that it's time to quit and trade all our best veterans. We were dead awfully early with this pitching-and-defense thing, weren't we?
Bill James always thought that pitching and defense were, combined between the two of them, 50% of baseball. He thought that the perfect team started with four HOF hitters, two right and two left, a leadoff hitter, a doubles hitter and two home run hitters.
Yeah, I know. I like great ERA's too. I'm just sayin', you have to talk about Adam Dunn like you have to talk about Jack Wilson. Safeco Field is furnishing a nightly illustration of that.
=== Ryan Rowland-Smith By His Own Standards ===
Draw a line from left to right. Mark the right side +10, and the left side =0.
RRS' stuff in 2007: +10. (91-94 mph, and 42 strikeouts in 38 innings.)
RRS' stuff in April 2009: =0. (83-86 mph, and 1 strikeout per 4 walks.)
RRS' stuff on July 24, 2009: +7.
Rowland-Smith had most of his stuff back last night:
1) He averaged 88.3 mph, touching 90-91 mph, which is not minus for a lefty. It's about average.
2) He threw a really crackling curve again. And threw it a lot.
3) He showed 8 or 10 changeups.
4) He threw strikes: 59 of 91 strikes, and only 1 walk in 28 hitters. (Four balls, 4-0 count, and the tracer said the ump missed 3 of them being strikes.)
5) RRS gave up only 1 run through 6 innings.
And I was severely alarmed by what I saw.
The Indians sat back on his offspeed stuff easily, sat "in between" pitch types and hammered his offspeed stuff.
On one sequence, Garko waited on a really sharp curve, leaned out and CRRRRRUUSHED it just a couple of feet foul. On the next pitch, RRS threw a change and Garko belted it into the gap. When a batter smashes one foul, and then smashes the next pitch too, you're either in a slo-pitch league or your pitcher is doing something wrong.
Rowland-Smith fanned only 2 batters in 28 attempts, and worse, they seldom took passive swings. RRS' fastball didn't have their respect, or he was telegraphing his offspeed, or both.
One thing that PCL hitters *don't* do as well as the Cleveland Indians do: exploit a mediocre fastball by sitting in-between.
When a pitcher has a dubious outing -- and 2 K's plus three* home runs is a dubious outing -- DOV'S FIRST QUESTION IS, DID HE EXECUTE HIS PITCHES.
RRS executed his pitches, and the Indians enjoyed the evening. I'm alarmed.
=== As Y'Know, We Live to Serve ===
Now, 60% of voter-amigos had RRS as the pick of the #4SP litter, so here's a bone your way, along with Dr. D's sympathies. ... Check Brooksbaseball.net's location chart, here.
Count the number of dots that are far, far away from the little outline square in the picture. There are very many. And many that are IN the little outline square caused Varitek-san to move his glove a considerable distance.
RRS had lousy command on Friday. Definitely. And as RRS gains location -- which he will -- he might increase his DOM from "melancholy" to "not too bad after all".
I don't buy into this hope muchly, but if you want to, knock yourself out. Don' say we never did nothin' for ya. :- )
Personally, I'm going with 4 Morrow 5 Vargas 6 RRS 7 Jakubauskas. They're all dice rolls, but with Morrow you get the ML investment time in, plus you get upside.
It's debatable, of course.
...and the game thread at MC noticed it too...RRS was throwing too many offspeed pitches to right handed batters and REFUSING to come inside. When he was pitching well in 2007, he came inside to righties with his fastball and fooled them with his change up away, but he wasn't able to get his fastball in there last night and the Indians were able to lean out over the plate and drill his change-up.
I think RRS, like Olson, is best utilized as a lefty specialist. No lefties had good swings on him even in the April game when he was terrible. He's not carrying a huge career split but I still believe if deployed as a lefty middle reliever, he can be a potent weapon.
In the limited context of "what is the cleanest way to go from 100 losses to .500," pitching-and-defense may very well BE the best way to do it.
I think most sportswriters mean, "The way to win the World Series is pitching and defense," which is a different thing, but your point is well taken.
It is pretty clear that the Mariners' brass has "tightened up" that on-field play, changed the culture of losing, convinced the players to play smart and play together ... starting precisely with that glovework, and starting with Gutierrez. Won't argue against that for a second.
Lesson learned for me, from 2009, may be that if you're trying to fix a selfish, bickering clubhouse, then a season full of 3-2 games is the easiest way to do it. :- )
He needs to pitch way more aggressively or thye're going to splatter him.