Casey at the Bat | Chris Jakubauskas Baffles Angels, Mariners Lose

Casey McLain@caseymclain34Senior Analyst IApril 17, 2009

Last night I was faced with a dilemma.

I sat down to my computer to do some work, and put MLB Network on for background noise. As I’ve done with ESPN for years, I watched—rather, listened—to the same highlights at least a half-dozen times.

Then, much to my enjoyment, a baseball came on, and my attention, unintentionally, was pulled from my computer. Initially I was only comparing the MLB Network’s announcing team with those from the NFL network.

However, as I continued to hear names like Francisco Liriano and Roy Halladay, I left my computer idle and gave my full attention to the game.

I’m a baseball fan and a sports fan in general, but if there was any aspect of sports I’d choose to devote my life’s following to, it’d be pitching. However, I work four-days 10 hour shifts a week, so quite frequently I miss those marquee matchups.

As the time neared 7 p.m., I was faced with a choice; watch the great pitching matchup, or watch the Mariners.

A matchup like Halladay vs. Liriano is the pitching-enthusiasts version of pornography. It’s that rare blend of a grizzled veteran against a youthful, vulnerable future star. It's the type of matchup that is hard to find on a regular basis, and harder to turn away from. 

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I ultimately chose the Mariners, and got to see Chris Jakubauskas baffle the Angels, after a spring training of baffling the tongues of announcers as a result of his last name.

Granted, the Mariners lost 5-1, however, when the 30-year-old rookie was on the mound, the Angels looked like the independent league hitters he’s faced for the better part of the last half decade.

Jakubauskas didn’t win the game. He didn’t flirt with a no-hitter like Brandon Morrow did in his first start. However, what he did do was hit almost every spot he was pitching to, and when he missed, it was usually off the plate.

He located his breaking ball masterfully, causing a lot of ugly swings in his short five-and-a-third innings. Unlike Morrow, who I’ve been critical of, he wasn’t given a few months to stretch out his arm.

The reality is that Jakubauskas probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make this start if it wasn’t for Morrow’s self-demotion to the bullpen.

One of the great pitchers to watch in a Mariners uniform, while Seattle had the chance, was Jamie Moyer. Moyer wasn’t dominating, but aggressive in the strike zone. The pitcher that Jakubauskas replaced, Ryan Rowland-Smith has a very similar pitching style.

It was a pleasant site to see Jakubauskas perpetuate that trend. He threw almost 75 percent strikes. Most of the early batters Jakubauskas faced saw first-pitch strikes, and many saw second-pitch strikes.

Starting pitching was among the top two major concerns for most experts regarding the Mariners.

Now, with Rowland-Smith and Jakubauskas primed to upgrade the back half of the rotation, the Mariners have a good problem, depth in starting rotation.

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