6.18.2007

Are M's losing because they're tired, or tired because they're losing?

Much has been made of this stretch of games the M's have found themselves in, and what it's done to the team's play. I referenced it yesterday, and it's generating considerable discussion.

Geoff Baker at The Seattle Times tries to give some perspective on what it's like to travel from city to city to city, something most of us have no concept of.

Some of you think the travel stuff is overblown. Let me tell you, it is not. I've done this for a decade and I've never been more tired on the road than I've been this season. And I am in shape. Run three miles per day at a clip of seven minutes or less each. Lift weights. And I am tired. Why? Those added Cleveland stints really add up. That extra city has made the last two trips a four-city experience. Few ballclubs ever have to do that. Maybe once a year tops. Not on back-to-back trips. Not across multiple time zones and back again. It doesn't matter whether or not you are in a first class seat. I've been upgraded on a few of these flights and while it's great to have some food and a few inches more space, it doesn't change the stress and fatigue that even a one-hour flight places on your body.
However, he stops short of using it as a full excuse -- more like a semi-excuse:
The Mariners have gotten by all season long with starting pitching that befits a .500 team at best. Nothing better and nothing worse. Maybe a few games in either direction, but .500. They've scored a few less runs than they've allowed and that usually has .500 written all over it.

Lately, the offense had gone on a tear that no team in the history of baseball has been able to sustain over an entire season. The Mariners averaged about seven runs per game for a month. That's over 1,100 runs in a season. Again, check the history books. Can't be sustained.

So, the team just played 46 games in 48 days and the hitters got tired. Sexson as well. He's tired. Jose Guillen is more worn out than he's ever been in his career. Adrian Beltre is hurt. Jose Lopez's brother just died. Raul Ibanez looks like he's sleeping on his feet. Mentally and physically, these hitters are spent. Throw that into the mix with the usual starting pitching -- mostly adequate, but by no means contender-like -- and the losses start coming. Unless the hitters can pile up the runs, a team giving up five or more per game will usually lose as often, or more, than it wins.
Dave Cameron over at U.S.S. Mariner takes it one step further, completely debunking the travel quasi-excuse and simply stating the M's are not a very good team by comparing them to the Indians, who have endured a similar stretch.
Since the snowout series, the Mariners have played 63 games in 69 days. ... Since the snowout series, the Indians have played 65 games in 69 days. The Indians are 40-28, first place in the A.L. Central, having outscored their opponents by 46 runs on the year. They’ve played two more games since the end of the snowout series than the Mariners have in the same amount of days. I’m sure they’re a tired bunch, but unfortunately, I can’t find any quotes in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer to prove it. Maybe they were too tired to give interviews?

Or, alternately, perhaps they’ve overcome their exhaustion and continued to win baseball games because they’re a good team. A playoff team. A team with a well constructed roster able to provide organizational depth when the preseason rotation falls to pieces. ... Perhaps it’s not the schedule? Perhaps it’s the roster.
I think the truth probably resides more on Baker's side. Talent obviously has something to do with it, as the Mariners' considerable flaws are getting emphasized right now, thanks to all the games in a row on a pitching staff that already was thin. Throw in the fact that traveling from Seattle -- where EVERYTHING is far away -- is a lot different than traveling from Cleveland, and you've got the makings of a devastating losing streak.

3 comments:

AJH said...

What is your evidence that Dave Cameron's analysis is wrong? The M's have no starting pitching. They were winning because they were hitting over .300 which is clearly unsustainable. They don't draw walks and don't hit for power. Their bullpen, while good, gets overused because their starters are so terrible. This is a 110 million payroll. It's embarassing. Bavasi and Hargrove need to go. (Lincoln too)

Nuss said...

I don't think he was wrong. I just think he was oversimplifying it a bit.

Baker used the team's make-up to explain why the travel and consecutive games were exacerbating existing problems. Dave basically said the Indians are more talented, therefore they're winning more games.

I think Dave's right, and I think he and Baker were basically making the same point. But I buy Baker's hypothesis as a better explanation.

And as far as the offense goes, you're right -- they don't draw walks. But they are middle of the pack in the AL in slugging and HRs, so it's not like they're a bunch of punchless judies like they've been the past two years. If the pitching staff can come together -- and I mean by finding someone else to plug in there (Feierabend, trade, etc.) not waiting for guys like Weaver, Ramirez and Batista to come around -- then the offense still will win its share of games.

And returning to the AL with Beltre back in the lineup will help, too. A lot, I think.

DrPezz said...

Starting pitching is their doom along with an inconsistent offensive attack. Yes, their slugging percentage is ok and their home run total is mediocre, but their production is below par for a playoff team. The Mariners are hoping for a wild card berth at best. A first round exit is about all they have to anticipate. That's it. End of story.