Don’t forget my Talkin’ Baseball segment for KJR AM 950’s Mitch in the Morning show, coming up at a special time today at 7:15 a.m.
Remember back in May when it seemed as if every starting pitcher was going seven or eight innings against the Mariners?
Well, that’s no longer the case. And it’s one reason the Mariners wake up today, enjoying the All-Star Break, sitting in the thick of contention in the AL West.
There have been a number of changes to the team’s Opening Day lineup. And while the Mariners still struggle to score runs on a nightly basis, they do seem to finally be making opposing starters work a little bit.
Let’s take a look at what they’ve done the past 10 days.
The last pitcher to go at least seven innings against the Mariners was Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox back on July 3 in a game Seattle still managed to win.
Brad Penny 6.0
Jon Lester 6.2
Brad Bergesen 6.0
Jeremy Guthrie 2.1
David Hernandez 6.0
Tommy Hunter 6.0
Scott Feldman 6.2
Kevin Millwood 6.2
Dustin Nippert 3.2
The Mariners are still letting opposing starters work into the seventh inning on many an occasion. But they are at least getting to some middle relievers a little more frequently.
A big reason why is the middle third of the order.
Ken Griffey Jr., Franklin Gutierrez and Ryan Langerhans all know how to take a pitch. As a result, they are sporting respective on-base percentages of .342, .356 and .364, all well above the team OBP of .317.
The walk rates of the three heading into yesterday were 15.6, 8.6 and 15.4 percent respectively. And that’s pretty formidable, considering anything above 10 percent is considered good. In fact, the only guy, heading into yesterday, with a walk rate higher than 8 percent was Russell Branyan at 13.5.
And so, that’s something to consider.
After months of preaching, beginning in spring training, the Mariners are finally looking like a team capable of showing some plate discipline and pitch recognition. Not the entire lineup, but enough of it. Ichiro doesn’t have very much, but when you notch 200 hits per year, you can get the OBP in ways other than walks.
Throw Ichiro and Branyan in there with Griffey, Gutierrez and Langerhans and all of a sudden, you have five guys out of nine capable of reaching base at an above-average rate. Contrast that to what was happening in April and May, when only Ichiro and Branyan seemed able to get on and you have signs — however feint — of improvement heading into the second half.
Something to keep an eye on.