We’re now in that lovely little stretch of the season, where the temperatures are so high and the team is so bad, that I’d honestly rather drive twenty miles to a minor league ballpark than sit in my office chair and watch the Mariners flail away.
I honestly wish I could give you a detailed account of what happened in this game, but I just can’t. I had it on the whole time, but it was so agonizing to watch tonight that I just couldn’t pay attention to it. I can tell you that Branyan and Lopez went back-to-back at one point, and that the M’s loaded the bases with one out and failed to score a run once again. That’s about it. Oh, and Koji Uehara has awesome sideburns. And Adam Moore had four hits, including a go-ahead, tenth-inning home run way out to left field. Of course, David Aardsma had one of his nights where he channeled Bobby Ayala and walked in the tying run in the bottom of the tenth, so there’s that. Then they lost in the bottom of the eleventh on a bunt, in typically ironic Mariners fashion.
One thing I did notice that helped confirm a recent trend has to do with Franklin Gutierrez. He’s putting together a somewhat OK August so far, but his July was absolutely miserable (wRC+ of 34, where 100 is league average). The root of his problems is having issues with the same thing that helped him to his hot start in April and May. Back at the start of the year, Gutierrez was seeing the ball very well, and was able to make adjustments on almost any pitch he saw in order to at least make contact. In fact, his eye was so good in May that he racked up a ridiculous 18% walk rate. June was a pretty mediocre month all in all, but a drop in his walk rate all the way down to 5% would precipitate things to come.
As I said, Guti’s July was atrociously awful. In 110 plate appearances, he managed just four extra-base hits, and just 16 hits on a whole during the month. His walks went up slightly, but that had more to do with pitchers working around a bad hitter than anything else. Curiously, the few times Franklin was able to get on base tended to be productive: he stole six bases on the month, the most of any month of his career, and scored eight times in 25 total times reaching base, or on just under a third of his opportunities. August hasn’t been much kinder
So what’s happened? Why has Guti gone from so amazing in the first two months of the season to so awful the last month and a half? There’s a couple of reasons. First and foremost, his BABIP was insanely high in April at .403, which basically means that Guti for lucky and had a lot of balls fall in for hits that probably shouldn’t have. His BABIP in May was a more reasonable .339, but still much higher than his career .316 mark. June saw a much more normal .300 mark, but July’s BABIP tumbled all the way down to just .179.
One could say that July was all bad luck thanks to the horrific BABIP, but there was another factor at play. Something has happened to Guti’s ability to see the ball. He can’t get anything on breaking pitches any more, and his swings on them seem to indicate that he just can’t see where they’re going. Even on fastballs, if it moves very much at all, Franklin can’t seem to track them as well as he did earlier in the year, and it’s resulting in a lot of weak swings and balls driven into the ground.
Sight issues even seem to be effecting Guti’s normally sparking defense, as he’s had a number of flyballs lately that he’s seemed to hesitate on as he figures out where it’s going before he makes his break. While that’s normal to see in most outfielders, it’s very strange to see Guti do that, as he’s usually running as soon as the ball is off the bat.
While this is likely just a short-term aberration, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on to see what happens with it.
In other news, we’re currently 40 minutes away from the signing deadline for draft picks, and the Mariners only have one notable player left to sign, right-handed prep pitcher Ryne Stanek, the M’s third-round pick. Shortstop Marcus Littlewood, the team’s second-rounder, signed for $900k earlier today, which is more than half a million dollars less than some pundits were expecting. That should leave a little bit of extra cash to throw at Stanek, who is committed to play at the University of Arkansas and thus would likely cost more to sign. I’ll let you know what happens there as soon as I hear anything. UPDATE – Per Jim Callis of Baseball America, Stanek did not sign and will go to Arkansas.
Megan’s note: I got to listen to a little bit of this mess on the radio at school today, and actually had some high hopes after hearing the back-to-backs. I should have known better. Aardsma was kind enough to extend the game into extras so that I could watch more baseball, but since I like the Orioles, it never seems to matter to me who wins or loses. It’s hard to get riled over games against Baltimore – I’m the one who goes to SafeCo wearing both teams’ gear, after all – so series like this are kinda ‘eh’ for me, really. I know that the Orioles have been doing really well at home, so this game actually surprised me a little – I figured for sure it would be a slaughter – but then I came back onto this ethereal plane and realized that we were playing Baltimore. Hashing it out for the basement is so glamorous!
EDIT of my edit; Conor reminds me that Aardsma didn’t actually send the game into extras – it was Brandon League, right? I can’t be bothered…
Extra special edit from Conor: The game was already tied when League came in. It was 3-3 by the time the starters came out. It’s OK, you weren’t home yet when all that happened…