We now return you to your regularly scheduled Cactus League broadcasts

Oakland beat Seattle 4-1 Thursday behind 3 late HRs, earning a split of MLB’s out-of-town preview. Bartolo Colon exploited Seattle’s aggressiveness to work 8 strong innings on just 86 pitches, allowing just 3 hits and a walk. The first 3 men in Seattle’s order went 0-12 with 4 Ks.

Seattle skipper Eric Wedge pursued the platoon edge with his pitching changes, but saw each one backfire. Yoenis Cespedes reversed a 1-0 deficit with a 2-run shot off RH reliever Shawn Kelley with 2 gone in the 7th. Josh Reddick then greeted George Sherrill with a left-on-left bomb, ending a personal 15-game RBI drought. And Jonny Gomes, who batted .167 against righties last year, capped the scoring with a solo HR off northpaw Steve Delabar in the 8th.

  • The A’s were 12th in the AL last year with 114 HRs and had just 3 games with 3+ long balls; every other MLB team had at least 5. Their top holdover, Kurt Suzuki, hit 14 HRs last year.
  • The teams combined for 4 HRs, twice the high mark in their 19 games last year.
  • Cespedes had a double in the series opener. The known record for a career-starting streak of games with an extra-base hit is 5, by Enos Slaughter in 1938. (Only one other player had 4 straight games, which were also the first 4 games in franchise history. Can you guess?)

No Mariner reached base until Jesus Montero singled in the 5th. That eventually led to their only scoring threat, but Brendan Ryan couldn’t produce with 2 out and the sacks full. Justin Smoak‘s “oppo” HR in the 7th, which gave Seattle a brief lead, was the only other interruption to their 1-2-3 waltz.

  • Seattle’s last bases-loaded double came in August 2010. Every other team has at least 3 since then.

Don’t put this on the how-to video: With 1 out in the 9th and his team down by 3, Ichiro attacked a 2-0 pitch and grounded out.

  • Why was that foolish, when Ichiro has a career .332 BA on putting the 2-0 pitch in play? Because OBP is all that matters here, and that .332 BA is by definition also his OBP for those situations. Taking that pitch yields either a 2-1 or a 3-0 count; his career OBP from those counts is .402 and .658, respectively (excluding IBBs).
  • If that all seems too deterministic, then just note that Grant Balfour has held lefties to a .206 BA over the past 4 years.

Colon and Balfour used just 99 pitches over 9 innings — Oakland’s lowest total since a 2008 CG by Dana Eveland.

Seattle SP Jason Vargas had a line much like his first outing last year, which also came in game 2 against the homestanding A’s. In each case, Vargas pitched into the 7th inning and was charged with 1 run (producing Game Scores of 66 and 65), left with a 1-run lead, but saw the bullpen blow it.

  • One thing at least seemed like a true Oakland home game: There were 5 foul outs.

Each of MLB’s 4 miniseries played in Tokyo has been split 1-1.

  • After each prior Tokyo series, one of the teams has gone on to the League Championship Series, while the other has finished at least 10 games below .500. I foresee at least one of those streaks holding up.


We now return you to your regularly scheduled Cactus League broadcasts — 19 Comments

  1. If there is anyone who should be exempted from sabermetric criticism it might be Ichiro. The dude has more hits than most of us have hairs on our heads. He attacks the ball, that is who he is.

    • I’m with you Voomo.

      If Ichiro sees a good pitch to hit at 2-0, he’s going for it. It’s not like he should expect to get a better pitch at 2-1.

      • With due respect, Doug, I suggest that how to get on base is the proper focus in that situation, not specifically getting a pitch to hit.

        I think John McGraw would have fined a player for swinging on 2-0 down 3 runs in the 9th with nobody on base.

        • John,

          i’m echoing Voomo’s post #13 below. I think both our views are that this is about Ichiro, rather than generally accepted strategy which, as we all know, is make the picther throw a strike.

          It’s certainly fair to question whether Ichiro or anyone should be exempted from following the strategy or be forgiven if they don’t. But, I really doubt Ichiro ever gets the take sign. Of course, if he has another season like last year, then that may change.

    • The knock on swinging 2-0 when you need 2 baserunners just to have a chance is hardly sabermetric criticism — it’s drilled into every amateur that you have to take a strike in that situation. Why should anyone get a pass on such fundamentally unsound strategy? I’m puzzled by anyone who would defend it.

      • JA,
        I’m with you, of course, on the fundamental strategy.
        It is, in fact, my biggest baseball pet peeve to see a batter hack away in that situation. I yelled at my TV so many thousands of times because of batters swinging 2-0 that the TV had to go in for counseling, and then it finally broke up with me. Now I haven’t had a TV for 10 years.

        I even quit my beer-league softball team because even though they were a bunch of great guys, they motherf’ing swung at the first pitch every single time, even if it was over their heads. Meanwhile I batted dead last with an OBP of .800

        But Ichiro…
        He looks for a pitch he likes an he slaps at it.
        That is what he does.
        And from high school to age 37 he was unrelentingly successful.

        Was 38 old age or a hiccup?
        Dunno yet, but he did have 4 hits on opening day.

        My point is that if you are Ichiro, and your approach is to get a HIT, you know that you are more likely to see a pitch over the plate on 2-0 in that situation than 2-1.

        Unless the pitcher has lost the zone.

        And unless the pitcher is thinking “this guy doesn’t want to walk, so I am going to keep nibbling.”

        And unless the pitcher is thinking “this entire offense has sucked for years, why would I throw a strike to the one guy who gets hits?”

        And unless the pitcher is thinking “because of Ichiro, this entire offense has sucked for years because NOBODY wants to take a walk, because they all want to be like Ichiro, even though the do not have the discipline and dedication and strong hip flexors that Ichiro has, so I might as well keep nibbling.”


  2. (Only one other player had 4 straight games [with an extra-base hit], which were also the first 4 games in franchise history. Can you guess?)

    Using as an aid B-R’s yearly Player Debut page, which is a sortable list that includes the date of each debut, my guess is Travis Lee.

  3. Thanks to B-R’s box score section, I believe the answer is Coco Laboy of the 1969 Montreal Expos.

    He hit a home run on April 8, a double on April 9, 2 doubles on April 10, and and one more two-bagger on the 11th.

      • My apologies.

        That said, I got the idea to use boxes because you reference the debut page. I realize it doesn’t make much of a difference, but come on…this is a site filled with people who look up stats non-stop. At least I was open to the fact that I used boxes and didn’t pretend like I somehow knew it was Laboy.

        • Absolutely right – you were completely forthcoming and transparent. :)

          I actually kind of liked guessing. The debut pages were actually quite useful to educate the guess, because you could tell who debuted in April and who didn’t (critical piece of info for this quiz). One thing that page didn’t tell you is what team the guy played for – instead it shows what team drafted the player.

          I’m at least glad I didn’t guess someone who wasn’t playing for an expansion team that year – that would have been embarassing.

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