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April 8, 2009 at 9:56 PM

Some thoughts on Silva

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So, I’m back up from the clubhouse, where the Mariners were absorbing their second defeat in as many nights. For Carlos Silva, it was only his first defeat of 2009. But to many impatient Mariners fans, who have already flooded this blog with complaints about him tonight, they see a pitcher who is 1-16 since last April.
They see a guy riding a personal seven game losing streak. Not a one-game losing streak from this season.
I’m not here to campaign for the guy. After all, Brandon Morrow took a lot of heat in Seattle today for blowing one save so far in 2009. If it’s good enough to throw heat at Morrow — a guy who was outstanding in many respects in 2007 and 2008 — than I suppose it’s fair for Silva to take heat one start into the 2009 season.
Still, I suppose one should try to keep some perspective.
After all, Silva is going to be here for most if not all of the next three years.
You have to ask yourselves this:
Did he go from being a 200-strikeout staff ace and Cy Young Award contender in Minnesota to being a pitch-to-contact guy in Seattle? No, he didn’t. He is and has always been a strike thrower who gets hitters to put balls in play — hopefully at fielders.
The numbers show that he should have had better results last season.
His Fielding Independant Pitching (FIP) was nearly two runs lower than his ERA. Does that absolve him of all blame? No, of course not.
It merely suggests he should do better with a better defense behind him.
The question you have to ask is whether he’s trying to improve.
Let’s go down the list:
He lost 30 pounds this off-season. Should have dropped it earlier, but was told to this winter and did. So, check.
Worked on standing taller on the mound and shortening his stride to the plate. In other words, changed his delivery process. So, check.
Has recognized he needs to better control his emotions on the mound and is talking to team officials about it and working to do better. Check on that.
Silva knows his reputation took a bit of a hit last summer when he spoke out in frustration about teammates not doing all they could to win. Last Sunday, he treated the entire team — even GM Jack Zduriencik and the coaching staff — to a party at his home here in suburban Minneapolis. So, he’s working to fit in and be a part of this team’s fabric, knowing he’s not going anyplace else for a while.
Silva still had trouble against lefty hitters tonight. But he’s had that his entire career. This is nothing new. Yes, he needs to work on it.
He thought his sinker was sharper tonight, as did manager Don Wakamatsu and catcher Kenji Johjima. They all said he was able to command it and spot it where he needed to.
The problem was two change-ups that got golfed for home runs.
“I felt great with my mechanics and everything,” Silva said. “Besides those two change-ups that I threw, I wouldn’t take anything back.”
Wakamatsu on the same subject: “With Silva, I thought we saw a lot more sink than we saw before,” Wakamatsu said. “It was similar to the last (spring training) outing. It’s just too bad that two bad pitches cost us the ballgame.”
Yes it is and yes they did.
Now, i know what you’re going to say. Yes, we’ve heard this story before with Silva. How one or two bad pitches wind up ruining his day.
And the truth is, at the end of the day, a pitcher has to make those pitches. The good pitchers find a way to make the pitches that help them win ballgames.
Yes, Silva is going to give up ground ball hits, like one of those fifth inning doubles that decided the game. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy and those guys give up ground ball hits. But he can’t keep giving up multi-run gopher balls. Obviously, he can’t. So, it’s something he has to work on.
Was this the worst start he’s had in a Mariners uniform? Not even close.
But even Silva has to understand — and I’m sure he does — that fans won’t automatically forget what happened in 2008 just because a team with some different faces says it’s a new season. Yes, his past is going to be looked at, It’s how all players awarded large contracts are judged — over the duration of the contract.
I guess, what I’m saying here is, for your own sanity, try to judge Silva within the context of what’s happening right now. He did not pitch well enough to win tonight — two bad change-ups or not. You give up a pair of two-run homers the first two innings, you usually lose. Silva has to change that. Has to reduce those big mistake pitches and close the gap between being a pitch or two away from winning and actually winning for a change.
But he also isn’t 0-10 to start the season. He’s 0-1. Look to see whether he can make some corrections between now and his next start and judge accordingly. It’s like I told you with 10-game increments and trying to judge a team that way, instead of changing your mind every day in a 162-game season. Look for trends. And look for them this year.
If Silva goes 0-2 or 0-3 and keeps getting hammered on one or two bad pitches then we can start to come to conclusions that he really needs to bear down more during those game-changing moments.
But he’s not going to lose his rotation spot one game into a new season.
Not when the team saw encouraging signs from him. I know it’s frustrating, but like I said, Silva isn;t going anywhere. If you’re frustrated about why he’s still in there, try to look at it the way I’m suggesting right now — through the lense of his being an 0-1 pitcher, not a 4-16 guy as a Mariner. That’s the way the team is judging him. They don’t care that Bill Bavasi gave him $48 million. That’s done. Same way the team doesn’t care that Bavasi drafted Phillippe Aumont in the first round as a starter. He’s being made into a reliever now because that’s what’s been deemed best.
If Silva can’t get his act together over the longer haul, I have no doubt he’ll be sat down at some point. But now — this season — one game in is too early for that. Just keep on watching him out there, monitor his progress on what we’ve just discussed, and see what happens his next few outings.
I know it’s tough, trust me. But if you want him to keep his temper in check out on the mound, see if you can do a little of that from home and wait to see whether he can become what he is — a middle of the rotation starter. Nothing more, nothing less. This season is about getting guys to realize their talent level, their potential, and to generate expected results. Not about justifying price tags. That battle is long done and it’s one — quite frankly — that Silva has no chance of winning.
Let’s see if he can do a different kind of winning, on the field, for now. He can start by better executing those one or two missing pitches.



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