Clearing the Bases: Wild, wild Wests

May, 31, 2012
5/31/12
1:45
AM ET
First base: Carlos Gonzalez ripped a trio of home runs against the Astros in Coors Field. There’s no snark or punchline, just simple facts: The dude can rake, Coors is where he plays and the Astros aren’t the joke that people made them out to be in March.

So on a basic level, it looks like CarGo’s back on track to be that MVP candidate he looked like in 2010, when he won a batting title while cranking out 351 total bases (just two less than Matt Kemp had last year). But one odd or interesting thing about CarGo’s splits is that he’s generating longer at-bats but also swinging and missing a little more often. His unintentional walk rate -- the walks he draws himself, as opposed to the freebies he’s handed intentionally -- has slowly inched up year over year as a regular, going from 5.1 percent in 2010 to 7.5 percent in 2011 to 8.5 percent. Predictably enough, his at-bats are averaging more pitches, finally topping the league average this year (3.86 pitches per PA before Wednesday night).

Yet his rate of swinging strikes has also moved up, from a career average of 20 percent of his strikes to 23 percent. What’s that supposed to mean? The interesting thing there is that CarGo’s a fastball hitter, and a guy who offers -- and misses -- on off-speed stuff fairly often. But longer at-bats generally mean more hitter’s counts, and CarGo’s getting into hitter’s counts a little more often (40 percent of the time, versus 36 percent in 2011), and doing more damage in those counts, slugging .746 against .605 last year.

Having fun with numbers aside, what does it mean? I’d take these as symptoms of a still-young hitter coming into his own. CarGo’s just 26 years old, after all. And did I mention the dude can rake?

Second base: The Mariners scored 21 runs. No, wait, that’s not a punchline either, and it was off the Texas Rangers, the best team in the league. Every starter in Seattle’s lineup had a hit, so nobody was left out of the party. Third baseman Kyle Seager had four hits, and he didn’t even come close to having the best day at the office: Justin Smoak ripped a pair of bombs and a double while boosting his RBI season tally from 21 to 27, while Jesus Montero scored and plated four runs and hit a bomb of his own.

All sorts of stupid stuff comes out of this on the pitching side, like Hisashi Iwakuma being awarded a save for pitching the last three innings. Rule 10.20 says you award a save for a three-inning relief appearance for pitching “effectively,” but maybe his three runs allowed in three frames for the Mariners looked so effective compared to Yoshinori Tateyama’s night (two outs, eight runs allowed) that the official scorer was feeling especially generous to see this bloodbath brought to a merciful conclusion. At least Rangers starter Derek Holland can take some solace from the notion that he could only lose this game once.

But the notion of losing or winning this game just once is where the numbers get really silly. The Mariners were scoring just 3.79 runs per game beforehand, and can now point to this one ballgame representing almost 10 percent of their season runs scored tally, almost a third of the way through their season. How silly is that? Well, considering that the Mariners were already seen as doing three games worse than their expected record before this game -- using the Bill James-inspired Pythagenpat projection of team records per their runs scored and allowed, the Mariners were “supposed” to be 25-27 through their first 52, and now, after their big win, they’re supposed to be 27-26, or four games better than their actual 23-30. So by scoring 21 runs in one game, they now look like they’ve been even more “unlucky,” which is ridiculous, but that’s how these things work out.

Third base: Carlos Quentin’s making up for lost time at the plate. In his first three games back from the DL, the new Padre is 7-for-12 with three doubles and three homers, including Wednesday’s two-homer game against the Cubs. If the deadline market in the new two wild-card setup is likely to feature more buyers than sellers, you can bet that a franchise as out of it as the Padres franchise will be able to convert the free agent to be for top talent in July, especially if Quentin keeps thumping like this.

Home plate: The tweet of the night goes to well-monikered @SessileFielder, who noted of the new Brewers backup backstop, Martin Maldonado
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Alcides EscobarDavid Richard/US PresswireBird? Plane? Or just Alcides Escobar levitating as he turns a deuce against the Indians?

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