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May 22, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Hear this week’s Talkin’ Baseball segment from Sports Radio 950 KJR where we discuss Mariners hitting approach and more

Many of you keep writing in to ask whether I can post the audio of my weekly chats with Mitch Levy during our Talkin’ Baseball segment on Sports Radio 950 KJR. Here is the one from this morning.
We discuss last night’s offensive performance by the Mariners in more detail. Some of you have written in to the blog this morning, asking whether the M’s really did all that much last night to “punish” Yu Darvish, noting things like the fact they “only” had four hits off him.
I guess my response to that would be: more forest, fewer trees.


Yeah, you can make the case that the Mariners fouled off some pitches in hitter counts, could have piled on the runs in that fourth inning with the bases loaded and none out — which we referenced in last night’s game thread.
But honestly, I’ll take an average of a hit per inning against a pitcher like Yu Darvish. I’ll take an average of 1.25 runs per inning off Darvish. And I’ll take an average of 1.5 walks per inning off him. Also the average of 2.5 baserunners per inning.
If you’re an offense and you average 2.5 baserunners per inning against any pitcher, you’re usually going to win that game. Against a guy holding the rest of baseball to a 1.94 earned run average? That’s pretty impressive.
Sure, you can minimize it by writing that the Mariners didn’t punish every pitch he threw inside the zone. I’ve covered baseball an awfully long time and I don’t know of any baseball team that can punish every pitch inside the zone.
To get to a championship level, the Mariners wont have to punish every single pitch that would otherwise land for a strike. They will be allowed to foul off pitches in hitter counts. Even strike out at times.
No team scores every single time they get runners into scoring position.
Yes, Darvish has walked guys before. But how many times does he get knocked from the game after four innings? More forest, fewer trees.
So, again, when you want to look for flaws in baseball, stats give you every opportunity to nitpick and see only the trees. But when you know that a championship-level team like the Rangers put about 1.4 guys on base per inning last year, you’ll take the M’s averaging 50 percent or 75 percent better than that to knock arguably the best Texas starter out after four innings.
Why wouldn’t you?
Did the Mariners let him off the hook by chasing bad pitches? No, they walked six times in the first three-plus innings.
Did they punish him enough? Yes, they scored five runs and averaged an earned run per inning off him. Made him throw 96 pitches — 24 per inning.
Could they have done even more? Of course. These are still the Mariners, after all. They aren’t going to win a championship, or contend for one, this season.
But at the Major League level, good pitchers know how to throw quality strikes as well. Not every strike pitch is a meatball that can be crushed. Not every strike is going to be in a particular hitter’s wheelhouse and sometimes, the best they can do is foul stuff off. The analysis of it isn’t as easy as going to Gameday and figuring out the counts and what pitches were strikes versus balls.
If it was that easy — if all players on all teams, including Josh Hamilton last night — didn’t frequently miss hittable pitches, then squads like the Rangers would win every game by a score of 50-0. Clearly, that’s not how MLB works.
The point Eric Wedge has been making about his envisioned offensive approach since last year at this time really is as basic about Baseball 101, as one reader mentioned this morning. It’s about swinging at quality pitches and trying to do something with those. It’s about laying off non-quality pitches as best you can and taking your walks when the opportunity presents itself.
I agree with the reader this morning who wrote that this approach should not be all that difficult to comprehend.
And yet, I’ve read over and over again throughout the past year that Wedge is somehow “anti-walk” in this approach. No, he is not. He’s against letting a fastball go down the pipe because a hitter is standing there hoping the next four pitches will be balls so he can get on-base.
And yet, over and over, I’ve seen his words twisted and misconstrued when what he’s preaching really isn’t that tough to figure out. Really is all about Baseball 101. A walk really is not as good as a hit many times.
So, it makes sense that he’d want a “hits first” style.
But I’ll tell you what: any system that allows a team to work six walks in three-plus innings may be a lot of things. Anti-walks? Not one of them.
Hopefully, that much is evident this morning. Are the Mariners in-the-clear now? Do they have it all figured out? Probably not. In a perfect world, they have been up 8-0 after last night’s fourth.
But I’ll take a 5-0 lead off Yu Darvish after four innings. Most reasonable people would. And they’ll view this as a positive step forward by a team that has spent many a frustrating night trying to master this approach going on 1 1/4 seasons.
If the Mariners can do this the majority of the time, the offense will be fine. We’ll probably be waiting a while before that ever becomes the norm. But you’ve got to start someplace.

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