Andrew Moore: The First Three Starts

Andrew Moore is one of the Mariners’ best stories of 2017. We should just get that out of the way. A PNW-born, slight, no-velo kid who starred at the region’s best baseball college, Moore is one of only a handful of 2015 draft picks to have already reached the major leagues. Most of the others (Andrew Benintendi, Alex Bregman, Dansby Swanson, etc.) are upper 1st round, consensus top prospect talents. What Moore and the Mariners have managed to do in successfully rocketing him to Seattle is a fine achievement, and we can all be happy about that.

The Mariners rotation is a disaster, and looks to be a disaster through at least the rest of the year. Moore is being asked to do more than he probably should, which is to arrive as a 23-year old rookie and shore up the rotation for a team that’s desperately trying to make the playoffs. With that in mind, even though it has only been three starts, let’s take a look see

CAVEAT ALERT: I am not a mechanics or pitching expert in any way, and if you want a place to learn the building blocks of Moore’s game I highly recommend reading Kate Preusser’s exhaustive breakdown here. I’m just here to do some Small Sample Size Sizin’ Up. So, through three starts, what has Moore done well?

Pacman, but innings 

In two of Moore’s three major league starts, he has managed to go at least seven innings. This sounds like low praise, but it’s not an easy thing, and in the context of the 2017 Mariners rotation, it’s rarified air. Here’s the leaderboard for starts of 7+ innings:

Ariel Miranda7
James Paxton5
Andrew Moore2
Christian Bergman (!)2

Moore’s economy of motion, very quick pace, and well-advertised ability to pound the strike zone is a huge plus for this team, which features one of the American League’s scariest bullpens. No, not like the Astros bullpen is scary, the other scary.

Swing the bat or walk (back to the dugout)

Going in tandem with the previous point is Moore’s almost total unwillingness to walk anyone. After his first 21 major league innings he has only walked two batters, or a BB% of 2.4. Of all pitchers with a minimum of 20 innings that puts Moore 4th, behind only Kenley Jansen, Noah Syndergaard, and Roberto Osuna.

This is, again, as advertised with Moore. He has never run a BB% higher than 6.5% as a professional, and was running a rate of 3.9% in Tacoma prior to his callup. The dude throws strikes, and then some strikes, and then more strikes. You gotta swing it.

Ok, that’s some good stuff to build off. Let’s look at the concerning parts

Oh lordy please miss some bats

Major league hitters are terrifying, earth-destroying, pitcher-swallowing demigods, sent to this planet from the cosmos with the sole purpose of reconfiguring our perception of the atrocities that can be committed to baseballs. As such, it’s really in a pitcher’s best interest to just have them not hit the ball altogether. Thus far, Moore is one of the worst in baseball at this.

Through three starts Moore’s K% is 12.2% 12.2! That is 12th worst in baseball, two spots better than the tanning corpse of Jered Weaver, and three places worse than poor, poor Hisashi Iwakuma. This is a concern I expect to alleviate at least partially. Moore will never be even a league average strikeout pitcher, but his current MLB rate is almost half what it was in Tacoma.

I certainly hope it rises, because after factoring in the annually increasing league-wide strikeout rate Moore’s inability to generate strikeouts starts to look a lot like, um, well, you all won’t like this comp I know.

 

 

 

 

I’m sorry. You can stop reading now.

 

 

 

 

Still here?

 

 

 

 

(Guy peeking out behind the building ASCII art)

 

 

 

 

Carlos Silva. It’s a lot like Carlos Silva. There, I said it. The thing with Silva, who actually scraped together a few 2+ fWAR seasons in Minnesota, despite striking out less than 10% of batters, is he ran above average to good groundball rates. And, well……

Bombs over Safeco

Andrew Moore’s inability to generate strikeouts is doubly concerning when we notice that over 70% of the balls hit off him are in the air. His GB% of 29.4% is 12th lowest in baseball, tied with AJ Griffin, and a few spots worse than Francisco Rodriguez. Here, Moore’s rates lineup with his minor league numbers very well. He has always allowed a very high number of fly balls, with a GB% under 35.0 in every level above A ball.

Not surprisingly, Moore has already allowed 5 home runs, and there has been plenty of hard contact hit foul or to the warning track in addition to that. The HR/FB% of 13.5 should theoretically decline, but allowing so many balls to get hit in the air is not a traditionally repeatable model for quality major league pitching.

Summary

Andrew Moore is smart, and probably knows everything I just said way better than I do. He knows his .188 BABIP is going to regress in the bad way. He knows his ERA of 3.86 is almost two runs worse than his FIP. He might even know his DRA is 6.34, which, yikes.

Moore is a tough, intelligent, savvy competitor. He has dedicated his life to gaining every bit of pitching skill out of his talent that he possibly can, and by all accounts has done so while remaining a grounded, humble, likable person who teammates adore. However, even with his ability to work deep in games, and refusal to walk batters, he will quickly need to show an ability to miss bats, or generate more groundballs.

It’s possible he could be an exception to the idea that a low strikeout, low groundball pitcher can succeed as a starting pitcher. Baseball’s greatness shines brightest when players gleam through the cracks in our ascertations and rigid stereotypes. However, I see no compelling reason to believe that at this time.

I have little doubt that Andrew Moore is one of the Mariners organization’s five best starting pitchers. He belongs in Seattle, even if that is partially due to the organization’s utter lack of MLB quality pitching depth. The primary concerns remain, however, and they are large enough to potentially overshadow everything else.

Without more strikeouts and/or fewer flyballs (which, again, could absolutely come. It’s three starts Nathan, you idiot) it’s very difficult to see Andrew Moore as anything greater than a useful, cheap backend starter at his very peak. To my admittedly layman’s eye, it’s hard to see much more than a Brian Bannister-style career.

As always, may I be wrong.

 

Gee Yair Mo

An uncomfortable truth is that, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s fun to play favorites. Watching someone, or something we’ve anointed with our favor succeed results in an intoxicating bouquet of pride, joy, and, truthfully, superiority. It’s easy to love your team’s greatest players, and we almost all do; Junior, Edgar, Felix, Ichiro, etc. But there is something special about picking a player before greatness, catching them before their rise. It’s personal, in a way rooting for superstars is not.

The 2017 Mariners are not a great team, but they are replete with fun players to root for. You could pick one of a group of 6-7 guys to ride with. I’ve made my choice, and it’s an intense, scrappy outfielder from the island of Cuba.

Guillermo Heredia

Experiencing Guillermo Heredia playing baseball is like watching George Bailey wildly running around Bedford Falls at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life, telling everyone and everything Merry Christmas. He possesses the emotional equivalent of an exoskeleton, and watching everything he feels and experiences portrayed so visibly, at all times, is riveting.

Earlier this week, when Heredia saved Nick Vincent’s ass with a fantastic running grab in Los Angeles I announced, with my usual lack of thought or research, that of all the Mariners sudden bounty of quality outfielders, he is the one I would take for the next five years. That was a moment of mildly inebriated hubris, and as we now have this nice new place to serve for investigation, I went searching for some ACTUAL DATA, to determine just how dumb I was and am.

I can do a decent Fangraphs/BRef search like a normal baseball blogger, but for a player I love as much as Guillermo Heredia, I wanted to find some good stuff. As such I consulted with good friend Eric Blankenship, formerly of Lookout Landing, and as sharp a baseball mind as I personally know. Eric disappeared into the Matrix for a while and came back with an exhaustive look at how Heredia’s offensive profile comps with major leaguers past and present:

Well well, there are some might fine baseball players on this list. Angel Pagan would be a terrific career for Guillermo. Ditto, David DeJesus and few others. Heredia’s combination of quality plate control, and contact ability has worked very well for some very good players over the years. However, for Heredia to separate himself from the Timo Perez and Augie Ojedas of this list he needs to do two, mostly interconnected things better: He needs to hit the ball in the air more, and improve that ISO slugging.

Players like Heredia walk a very narrow path with their offensive profile. Little power and absolutely no power is one of the key differences between 2009 and 2010 Chone Figgins. The total absence of power means pitchers regard you with a total absence of fear, and you really want major league pitchers to feel some fear.

Guillermo’s slight frame, tendency to dive over the plate, and, to this author’s marginally trained eye, below average lower body torque limits his ability to hit home runs, even with the nonsense rabbit ball MLB is currently using. Still, the swing and contact ability are there for more than a singles slap hitter. A player with Heredia’s well-rounded skillset, speed, and defensive ability can be a quality starting outfielder on a good major league roster if he can hit 30+ doubles, and with his speed a few of those can be triples. That kind of contact should be, and I’d imagine is, the goal he and the team have set for him moving forward.

The offensive side of the game needs only to reach average to slightly above average levels, because by most accounts and data Heredia is a very good defensive outfielder. Fangraphs currently has him at +5 runs saved defensively, whereas the Total Zone Rating used by baseball-reference has him accruing 0.9 wins with glove alone in 2017. This serves as a good excuse to say hey holy shit y’all remember that time Guillermo Heredia sprinted backwards and, in the span of approximately a half second turned, found the ball, leaped, crashed into the wall, and robbed Andrelton Simmons of a home run?

ENHANCE

BASEBALL SHOCKED COBRA

BASEBALL SURRENDER COBRA

Guillermo Heredia’s story of defection, quality defense, and electrifyingly energetic playing style has made him one of my favorite 2017 Seattle Mariners. The path to a long, productive major league career exists, but more than likely he projects as a quality 4th outfielder, a role that easily makes him a Jerry Dipoto success story. However if I’m honest, from a front office perspective I would not, in fact, take him over all the Mariners other young outfielders. The road to stardom is simply too long and winding for a player with such a low offensive ceiling.

As a fan, however, I can do whatever I want, and that is this: I want to sit down, turn on my tv, and let this earnest, skilled, passionate man from Matanzas make me care about what he does every second he’s in the game. He’ll do that, as long as he wears a Mariners uniform, and probably well after.

(I am extremely grateful and indebted, again, to Eric Blankenship for his assistance in researching and compiling the data for this post, and talking through it with me.)

Welcome to Dome and Bedlam

Dome and Bedlam began in 2015 as a pressure valve. The daily work and stress of running a major team site in a sport with a game every day takes a toll, and so we decided to just let something rip. A podcast allows a freedom the written word does not, and there is joy in spontaneity and camaraderie.

After Nathan and David left Lookout Landing due to time constraints, this site was started as a sort of halfway house for recovering baseball bloggers. More than anything, it was a way to hold on to the most valuable thing any of us ever got out of baseball writing: A wealth of relationships with wonderful, hilarious, smart, and kind people. The continued development of those relationships, and our continued enjoyment creating and sharing things we like with each other and a small, loyal audience has led to what we are announcing today.

As the season has worn on, and the podcast and site have served their purpose as a depository for our free time and ramblings, the thought has remained that there may be room for something more. After a lot of discussion and (a little) planning we are thrilled to bring Dome and Bedlam into the world as a fully functional, living baseball blog, starting today.

While Dome and Bedlam started as the vision of three friends with a shared passion for baseball, and the podcast for now will remain largely Scott, David and myself, we are thrilled to welcome some good friends to the site, and can now feature something approximate to a fully staffed baseball website:

Scott Weber (@ScottyWeebs)
David Skiba (@SkibaScubaShop)
Nathan Bishop (@NathanHBishop)
Matt Ellis (@MatthiasEllis)
Andrew Rice (@Andrew_Rice)
Peter Woodburn (@Wernies)
Scott George (@ScottGeorge)

The underlying principle of Dome and Bedlam being as much for the authors as the reader has not changed. Click chasing and content grinding is not, and will never be our mission. This is a place for us to record when we have time, and write when inspired. If you are hankering for daily, in depth Mariner coverage, beloved stalwarts Lookout Landing and USS Mariner are both excellent sites that admirably fill that purpose.

This will be something different; a return to the days of independent blogging, with a high bar for content, a blend of old and new school baseball thought, a shitload of nonsense, and a posting schedule that first and foremost fits our availability and energy level. You will never see anything on Dome and Bedlam we are less than thrilled to share with you, because all content will be produced solely at the creator’s whim and availability.

If you’re still here, and if that sounds like something you’ll enjoy, welcome. You are our target audience, and we’re grateful for you. We can’t wait to get started. We hope you’ll make us a regular part of your reading routine, and you can follow us @DomeAndBedlam on Twitter.

Go Mariners, blah blah blah.

The Mariners Outfield Looks Rebuilt

The goal of a front office, per annum, is to win the World Series. From an elevated perspective, it is to build a top down system of acquiring and developing talent that leads to the best odds year in and year out of winning the World Series. By the end of 2017, the Mariners are exceedingly unlikely to achieve either of these goals.  Whether the Mariners squeak into the playoffs as a Wild Card, or miss the postseason for a sixteenth consecutive season, the season is most likely a short term failure.

Failure is a loaded term, and one with an undeservedly negative association. After all, as they say, baseball is The Game of Failure. Failure combined with the proper mindset leads to growth, better failure, and finally, success. While the Mariners are not yet the shining city on the hill for all of baseball to admire and aspire to be, the first half of 2017 has seen some notable improvement, from one of their longest running weaknesses.

APTOPIX Red Sox Mariners Baseball

The performance of the Mariner’s outfield this decade has, until recently, been an utter failure. Like a baseball Statue of Liberty other baseball teams have sent their Morses, their Trumbos, their Ricky Weeks’. If you have watched the team at all in past years this is far from revelatory, but to drive home the point here is the AL ranking of Mariner outfielders in fWAR every year this decade prior to 2017:

2010: 8th (6.6 fWAR)
2011: 14th (-1.3!!)
2012: 11th (3.9)
2013: 13th (0.8)
2014: 15th (1.7) (to hell with you, Austin Jackson)
2015: 6th (10.4)
2016: 4th (8.9)

There are some very low points there, along with that dreaded and familiar term Mariners fans know so well by now: A low ceiling. In fact 2015 stands as the only season of Mike Trout’s career that Mariner outfielders, combined, have accrued more fWAR than him (10.4 vs. 9.0).

So we have a sample of a lot of truly awful, with a smattering of average-slightly above average production.. I went looking to see if there was a common thread in the failures and, by and large, there sure was. Here is the average age of Mariner outfielders by year, minimum 100 plate appearances.

2010: 29.6 years
2011: 27.9
2012: 28.0
2013: 32.0
2014: 27.3
2015: 30.3
2016: 30.6

Let’s chart it!

Mariner OF 2010 2016

The data lines up well with what we’ve perceived over the years: The Mariners have been bad at developing positional talent, particularly outfielders. Whenever the team attempted to build a young outfield (Trayvon Robinson, Casper Wells, Mike Carp, etc) the position group’s production took a nose dive. With the mild exception of Michael Saunders it has only been through the acquisition of costly and/or aging talent from outside the organization (ex. Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith, Raul Ibanez) that the Mariners have managed to drag their outfield into competence.

It is in this way that Jerry Dipoto’s 2017 Mariners stand apart. The average age of Mariner outfielders this year is 27.6 years, and with a little more than half the season banked they are on pace for 12.1 fWAR. Granted the oldest, and most short term member of the group, Jarrod Dyson, leads them with 2.0 wins, but Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, and Mitch Haniger are all close behind, bunched up at 1.9, 1.2, and 1.4, respectively. Let’s update that chart to include 2017’s projected production:

Mariner OF 2010 2017

All three rookies (Haniger/Gamel/Heredia) are in the 25-26 age range, and potentially have room for further development and growth. I think the odds are against any of them regularly producing the 5+ wins of a true star, and Gamel and Haniger are due for some harsh BABIP regression. However, they have shown a consistent ability to produce quality at-bats, and feature acceptable to good walk rates, along with average to above average defense at all three outfield positions. They loosely share a well rounded skillset, with the ability to endure some dry offensive periods and still provide value in other ways on the field. It doesn’t feel unreasonable to think that each of them can be a 1.5-3 win player in upcoming seasons.

The potential windfall of pencilling in 4.5-9 wins from your young outfield is enormous due to the other benefit of young players: Club control! Between Haniger, Gamel, and Heredia the Mariners have an almost embarrassing eighteen years of club control, half of which is pre-arbitration, and thus at or near league minimum salary. Baseball’s screw-the-young-guy labor structure allows the team to absorb the expensive decline years of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Felix Hernandez while potentially making up the difference with an incredibly cheap, productive outfield.

Gamel catch

This, this is how you overcome years of criminally negligent and incompetent front offices. While Jerry Dipoto has been far from perfect, and the pitching side of the organization is still a barren wasteland where even small oasis of prospect competence has fans lapping at the water like dying men, his work in the outfield stands as his finest achievement in his first year and a half in Seattle. He has taken an organizational black hole, both at the major and minor league level, and filled it so quickly and efficiently that we haven’t even discussed the developing fail safe redundancies in the minors, aka Tyler O’Neill and Kyle Lewis.

We all hope the 2017 Mariners take advantage of a down American League, and find themselves in a playoff game in October. But regardless of this season’s outcome, the organization and the fanbase should remember the final goal, which is best in baseball levels of greatness, year in and year out. There are miles and miles between them and that destination, but a quick glance at outfields past shows many miles have already been traveled. Carry on, Jerry. Carry on.



The Mariners are Not Toast

On May 3rd, forty-seven games ago, I wrote that the Mariners were probably toast. They were 11-16, missing Felix Hernandez and Mitch Haniger, Edwin Diaz was a mess while still being their best bullpen arm, and the team did not (and still does not) have the talent resources on the farm to acquire help via trade.

Those things were true then, and I do not regret writing them. What is also true is that, despite losing Jean Segura (twice), Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, and doubtless a few others I’ve forgotten to injury the Mariners have managed to go 26-21 since, and after tonight’s 7-5 win over Justin Verlander and the Tigers, sit at 37-37.

Additionally, and crucial to the headline of this post, is that the American League has refused to run away from the Mariners while they spun their wheels and filled up punch cards at the local Group Health. While the Yankees and Red Sox are trading division leader/WC1, only the Twins and Rays sit a few games above .500 and the Mariners, and I am here to tell you despite their many flaws the Mariners major league roster is every bit as talented as those two teams.

It’s important to note that the Mariners are not by any stretch a lock or even a front runner for a playoff position at this point. Their Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds coming into today were 25.1%, somehow down from the 28.7% they were at when I condemned them to heck last month. They are still massively flawed, with little depth beyond the outfield, a bottom third (at best) major league rotation, and a bullpen that, while improved since April, is far from the league’s best.

This team, even if everyone stays healthy and Drew Smyly comes back and contributes at the levels expected in March, is not a team I would feel comfortable shooting for a playoff spot in most years. Only the AL’s parity and the benevolent gift of WC2 from His Holiness Allen Huber “Bud” Selig have given this team life. This is a confluence of good fortune, and one that does not come around often. With the 2nd Wild Card typically falling between 88-90 wins, likely a total well beyond this team’s capability, the possibility of only needing to win 85 games or so is as responsible as anything for the stay of their execution.

Still, the team deserves credit. They have not thrived, but they have survived. They have overcome their weaknesses, both built in and unexpectedly arisen. They have managed to build a roster and culture that has allowed Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, and Mitch Haniger to flourish, bringing the possibility of the most complete Mariner outfield in franchise history very much into focus. They have assembled, when healthy and when Mike Zunino has not been fed after midnight, as fearsome a 1-9 offense as there is in the American League.

Tomorrow, Andrew Moore makes his debut, and while I don’t believe he’s a budding star, I have little doubt he is better than many pitchers who have started games for the team this year. Friday, Felix Hernandez returns. A Paxton/Felix/Miranda/Moore/Gaviglio rotation is nowhere approximate to “good”, but if you’re optimistic and have had as much booze as I’ve had tonight you can squint and make it passable, particularly if your offense can casually score 6-7 runs any given night.

They are many things. They are unfinished, flawed, broken, old, exciting, tough, frustrating, confusing, persistent, and infuriating. But they are not, as I said most recently, toast.

On May 3rd I wrote this:

“To root for a team to overcome long odds is one of the most rewarding experiences we as fans can have.”

They have proved me wrong, by proving that correct.

To beating long odds, and the roar of the faithful when Nelson Cruz’s double found grass tonight.

GOMS

GOBIZ

 

 

 

 

Episode 8: Outfield Rakes, & Spicy Takes

(This week’s episode brought to you by Noah Dupont and his generous donation in goods amounting to a worth of $16.50.)

Nathan gets the duct tape removed, to the detriment of the show. The guys talk about the excitement of overcoming long odds, the outfield depth, and more. Scott and David try to name Mariner pitchers.

Twitter takes are read, and mostly ignored, but appreciated. We answer a few questions, and bid you adieu.

(Music credits: Jay Z, The Oh Hellos, Further Seems Forever)

One and two

In the Art of War, Sun Tzu describes that an enemy is not easily defeated by surrounding them completely. One must present their adversary with an apparent way out of danger, and there lies your trap. It is for this very reason that 0-2 is not the most difficult count for a hitter, it’s 1-2. At 0-2 a pitcher is never supposed to throw a hittable pitch. At 1-2, you’re backed into a corner. The pitcher has already wasted something offspeed to show you the wrong part of the outside corner. They could easily do it again, you have that to worry about. Their full arsenal is available; the pitcher has their entire repertoire at hand. The enemy has the green light. You are a boat stranded upon the ocean and the storm is swirling around you. The waves, taller than the mast, they are coming. But in your hand, you have an oar. Down 1-2, a hitter is up against the odds. Yet the odds always allow for two outcomes.

When I was six years old, for whatever reason, my parent’s had mostly childless friends. As an only-child myself, I was often the one kid at parties full of 30 and 40-something’s and my dad let me drink a finger of wine whenever he found it fitting. I hated it, but it seemed en-vogue and it’s what adults did when they got together. At six years old, I turned to him in a moment I distinctly remember and told him, “I want to be a winemaker.” I’d heard him say that word, “winemaker”, before and Dad and one his best friends often discussed making wine in the garage. There was no knowledge of what the job entailed, simply that it appeared to provide pleasure and a space for friendships. In that instant his response to me was plain, facetious, honest, “Then you better get your Masters from UC Davis.” It was a joke. I had no idea what that meant. What that would cost of me. It stuck.

My senior year of college I was all over the place. I applied to seventeen law schools, and three schools for enology and viticulture (the sciences of winemaking and grape-growing, respectively). By early April I had replies from 19 schools. UC Davis was the one missing, and I simply figured that I messed up my application. It had been several weeks since I had heard from my second-to-last school. Yet on a Sunday morning at 8AM, Central Time, an email was waiting for me from UCD – “Your Application Decision”. It took me ten minutes to summon the courage to open it.

“Attached is your Admissions Decision”

Another few minutes to gather myself and open the attached document of which I read only the first word, “Congratulations…”

It’s 6AM in Seattle but I call my mother with the biggest news I’ve ever received and been able to deliver in my young life. A goal fifteen years in the making achieved, all my roommates awake from my monstrous victory yell, she answers the phone.

“Mom, guess what.”

“What?”

“I got into Davis.”

A brief pause. I’m ecstatically waiting her unbridled joy. A response I’ve been waiting for since almost before my memory can reach.

“How are you gonna pay for that?”

I wasn’t raised in a house that dwindled long on accomplishment. Victories were briefly celebrated, if at all. They were simply treated as fuel for the next fire to burn. I was taught from a very young age that without stoking your own furnace, you will one day go cold and void. It sounds like a harsh way to live, but it’s an honest one. It’s about being able to inspire yourself. You have achieved this mountain top, now what about the next? It’s about a willingness to fail in hope that the next valley is more shallow than the one before. It’s about resiliency. Teaching this is a dear, dear form of love. Because in this life, well, more times than not, you’re gonna take a step out of the box, catch your breath, adjust the gloves, and stare out at the mound, down 1-2.

Every at-bat has a certain scheme and rhythm before the music starts. A routine before even stepping into the batter’s box, a certain way you tap the bat to the plate. There is always this plan. It’s not even learned, it’s within you at birth. You reached out and grabbed this plan, these habits, so very long ago from the stardust surrounding your soul before you become matter. But plans mean nothing when the bullets start flying. As you step into the box, settle yourself and free your mind, the pitcher comes set.

It’s a grooved fastball. Middle-away, full extension of the hands is easier here, clearly a mistake. You swing as hard as you possibly can while trying to keep your head in. You can already feel the effortless crack of the ball hitting the sweet heart of maple, the ball over the fence, the cheering crowd, the slow, purposeful arc and crisp final one-hundred feet of a bundle of leather and string defying all given physical expectations. The ball instead is fouled straight back.

Strike one.

You missed your shot.

I was once asked where the richest place on Earth is. Sensing a trap within the question, or some sort of riddle, I thought about mineral wealth of nations. What laid buried beneath. Papa New Guinea was my first thought. I was on the right track, but miles away from the wanted answer.

“The richest place on Earth is the graveyard.”

There lies the songs never sung, the letters never written, the stories gone to bed too soon. There lies love lost, the regret of silence, the eternal question of what happens when you leave something behind. The answer? Nothing. Nothing happens because the spark was never given a chance to light fuel. The question isn’t what happens when you leave something behind. It’s what didn’t happen. And we’ll never know. It’s a heavy-handed metaphor, sure, but the sentiment is a true one. A lot of people die full. Full of their talent, full of their ability, their skills. They never used it because they were scared to take a risk. You have to shoot your shot.

Sometimes, you miss. You still have a strike to give.

The pitcher is set again. Down 0-1 you’re still very much in this at bat. Gloves properly adjusted, the pitch arrives, another mistake, but this one too far off the plate to even give a chance. The pitch darts away and into the dirt. Ball one. Some decisions are so easy they seem almost to be made for you. Some forks in the road have a very clear choice. The count is 1-1. You’re back on track. You step out of the box to mentally check the plan.

A deep breath and a return to the inside of the chalk lines, the next pitch is delivered. It’s coming inside and tight.

I am sitting with her as she attempts to talk her sister out of suicide on the phone. My room is eerily quiet. I’m holding her hand. It’s the only thing I can feel in the darkness of the space.

I am sitting next to a man in a ditch. He is dying. My arm is around him as I give him water and wash his wounds. “You’ll be okay. We’re here with you.”

I am standing in a bar as her last beer turns into the story of how she was beat as a child. Her tears are warm against me as I hold her while the music drowns out the rest of the world. The warmth of her pain made physical is all I feel.

I am sitting on her bed when she tells me she is going to marry another man.

My phone rings, an old friend. I take a walk to answer the call, expecting to catch up during a warm, Summer’s evening. She has other news. Dave died this morning.

I am sitting on her bed as her PTSD returns. She can’t be touched in this moment. I ask if it’s better for her if I stay or leave. She asks me to stay. I sit at the foot of the bed, quiet.

I am driving my car when she starts to cry. She heard first the news of my grandmother passing. It strikes her too close to home. I hold her hand. It’s a Sunday morning and we have a tradition of getting breakfast. In this instance and all the others, I have no words. I am a passenger. I am not enough. They are, though.

All these people will leave me, in one way or another. In that leaving they will take with them a piece of myself. Not out of malice, but out of necessity. It’s not even a conscious act. It is what we all do when a body catch a body coming through the rye. In those moments there was deep love, but deep inadequacy, too. I was measured too light. I didn’t recognize the pitch.

The ball curls wordlessly away from your body and into the zone. The movement deceptive. You were simply a passenger, the bat still on your shoulder. You never saw it coming.

Strike two.

So there you stand, two feet out of the batter’s box and in a hole. There you stand with no strikes to give. No room for error, pieces of you gone, and at the will of an enemy who has you backed into a corner. The waves are rising, your vessel looking smaller and smaller against them. In this moment, as in every moment, you have a choice. You can wait and hope, or fight. It won’t be easy. I wish I could tell you it gets easier, but it doesn’t. You have to find something inside yourself. You aren’t in the graveyard yet. You still have an oar. Start paddling. Put Fate, Circumstance, whatever form of free-will you believe in, into your own hands. Go down swinging.

The pitcher comes set again.

It is not the things we do in life that we regret on our deathbed, but the things we do not.

Swing if it’s close.