The Seahawks Lose To St. Louis In The Dumbest Way Possible

It’s all just such cliched bullshit.  Why is it that every fucking time we go into St. Louis, Jeff Fisher turns into Vince Lombardi and Pete Carroll becomes fucking Rich Kotite?  And how many times are we going to lose to the Rams on some flukey special teams nonsense?

The punt return I actually thought was pretty impressive.  That’s a real Wheel of Cheese moment.  I disagree with the notion that the Rams “saw something on tape.”  That shit could’ve worked against any team with a halfway competent punter who knows how to angle his kicks and down them inside the 20.  That shit’s not Seahawks-specific, necessarily.  The Rams just knew that it would work against us and so they pulled it out at the absolute worst time.  Because they like embarrassing us; don’t ask me why.

But, how in the fuck do you let them pull off a fake punt to ice the game?  Are you kidding me?  There are one of two ways you can play that.  The first is to send 10 guys running towards the punter in full Punt Block Mode.  Let’s see how well their punter throws the ball when he’s about to get fucking exploded.  The other way is to just play defense and go into full Punt Safe Mode.  Put a body on an eligible body and make sure they kick that ball.

What you DON’T do is treat is just like any ordinary punt, because guess what:  the Rams like to take these moments to catch us napping!  Why more teams don’t go all-out on freak special teams plays when they game plan against us, I’ll never know.  We’re like an excited puppy running around out there.  We know one thing:  GET THE BALL!  So, we’ll fall for pretty much any sort of fake-out you can give us.

It’s also all such cliched bullshit because, here we go.  Just another Super Bowl team who struggles the following year.  Be it injuries, or key losses in personnel, or your superstars not playing up to their ability.

The whole defense is a joke.  Just want to put that out there.  Do we have injuries?  Of course, but everyone has injuries.  We’ve still got a lot of really good, really healthy players out there who are doing NOTHING.  Earl Thomas, where you at?  Richard Sherman, how about it, buddy?  I’m gonna leave Kam Chancellor out of this because he’s dealing with some nagging injuries.  But, Avril & Bennett, could I trouble you for some sacks this year?  Is it too much to ask, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, and Malcolm Smith, for a little play-making?

We just made a team that has looked terrible all season running the football look like the fucking Bo Jackson/Marcus Allen Raiders of Tecmo Bowl.  They were 3 for 3 in red zone touchdowns!  I mean, are you shitting me with this?  I get the rationale behind “Bend/Don’t Break” Defense, but that only works if you DON’T FUCKING BREAK!  It’s not supposed to get EASIER for these teams to move the ball the closer they get to the endzone!  And yet, the Rams looked like an avalanche rolling down hill once they got inside the 20.

Do the Seahawks have it bad right now with injuries?  Yeah, but we’ve got it better than most.  Supposedly, this is a “depth” issue, but you pay playmakers to make plays, and our playmakers haven’t done SHIT this year!

On the other side of the ball, God damn this offensive line.  I mean, what can you do?  It’s not just an injury issue – though, from the looks of things, it appears that most of these guys are dealing with some serious shit – but a talent issue.  James Carpenter is nobody’s first round draft pick.  J.R. Sweezy was picked in the seventh round for a reason.  Britt might end up being something, but right now he’s pretty worthless.  And, if Okung and Unger can’t stay healthy for more than a few games, then I don’t think they should be around anymore.

Bottom line:  offensive line needs to be the #1 priority for this team in the draft going forward.  We need an infusion of talent, which means injecting HIGH draft picks into this all-important unit.  Russell Okung probably shouldn’t be re-signed once his contract runs out.  James Carpenter also probably shouldn’t be retained.  We should be actively seeking out Max Unger’s replacement as soon as possible, and it would probably be a good idea to invest a little more heavily into “backup center”, because at this point it’s a guarantee that he’ll get his share of playing time.

So, here we are, 3-3.  In the great Post-BYE easy stretch of games where we were SUPPOSED to go 8-0 (or, at worst, 7-1), we have started out 1-2.  The defense has taken the year off, and the offense just isn’t good enough to pick up the slack.  As a result, we’re destined to fall back to 8-8 and miss the playoffs, while all these smug, asshole national media types get to sit around telling us, “I Told You So.”  Because they used flawed logic to reach a correct conclusion.

Until the defense rises from its slumber, the Seahawks are fucked.  We go to Carolina next week; are you at all confident that we can stop them?  Because I’m not.  Shit, we couldn’t even stop the Rams!  What makes you think we’re going to get a handle on Cam Newton?  He’s going to slice and dice us with his nobody-scrubs he’s got around him!

Good God, who would have ever predicted that it would be October 20th and we’d already be looking forward to the next Mariners season?

Seahawks Traded Percy Harvin To The Jets … wait, what?

It’s real, and it’s spectacular!

It was right around 3pm.  I was at work, on hold, trying to get one last phone call in before 3:30 (quitting time).  While waiting, I clicked on Twitter and much to my surprise, it was absolutely BOILING OVER with news about the Harvin deal.

WHAT THE FUCK?

Exactly.  What we know for sure is that Percy Harvin was traded to the Jets for a draft pick.  A conditional draft pick, likely somewhere between the 2nd & 4th rounds **UPDATED** – a 6th rounder that will bump up to a 4th rounder if Harvin is on the Jets’ roster in 2015.  I guess depending on how healthy he remains going forward.  And we know that our financial obligation to Harvin ends after this season.  The Jets pay his salary going forward; all we have to do is move up the signing bonus cap hit to this year (which, not paying his $7 million-or-so that he’s still due will more than make up for).

What we think we know is:  Percy Harvin is a God damn cancer.

We’ve got media people reporting on Harvin’s “anger management” issues.  How he’s not getting along with coaches and/or players.  How he apparently punched Golden Tate in the face – giving him a black eye – before the Super Bowl last year (WHAT???).  How he might have gotten into it – either verbally or physically – with Russell Wilson in the past week.  I don’t know how much of that is true, just as I don’t know what ELSE has been kept from us by the team in an attempt to show a united front.

What I do know is this:  teams don’t just throw away superstar players for no reason.  You MIGHT get rid of a superstar because he makes too much money and you’d rather allocate that elsewhere; but you almost never see that happen in the middle of the season in the NFL.  If Percy Harvin is, indeed, a Top 5 talent in the NFL – which, I’m not sure that he is, but he’s definitely up there – and he’s not absolutely crippling your salary cap (which Harvin wasn’t, regardless of what people will end up saying after today), then you keep him … UNLESS, he’s a fucking cancer in the locker room.

In which case, you know what?  The Seahawks won 16 games last year – including the Super Bowl – without him.  Oh, he was there for three games, but he wasn’t the reason we won any of those three games.

It is being argued that the Seahawks didn’t use Harvin properly, and that’s what set him over the edge.  Being “used properly” meaning:  ”often enough”.  But, the fact of the matter is, Percy Harvin should never be the number one focal point of any offense.  He’s a perfectly great complementary piece.  Used as a decoy to open up rushing lanes.  Given the ball in space occasionally to take advantage of his speed.  And yes, used in down-field patterns.

I agree that Harvin wasn’t being used properly, because I think he was being used too MUCH.  They were trying to bend over backwards to make the offense about him and that was never going to work.  And, seeing this trade happen today, I don’t think he was going to let it work.  He was going to keep demanding touches and holding this offense back.  Watch us, going forward, be a MUCH better offense without him.  Wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.

I’m of the opinion that the Dallas game was the last straw, but it was far from the only example of the team not working well with Harvin (or, vice versa, I guess).  If you ask me, Doug Baldwin’s rant after the game is more telling now than ever before.  He’s a guy you don’t want on your bad side.  He won’t settle for your bullshit and if you’re not giving your all out there, you’re going to hear about it from him.  He’s the unquestioned leader in that wide receiver room, and frankly I trust his judgment even more than I do Pete Carroll’s or John Schneider’s.  It wouldn’t shock me in the least that he had a big part in Harvin’s going away.

There will be time later to talk about what this means going forward, but frankly I’m in too much shock STILL to have coherent thoughts.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Pitchers, Part II

Turns out there’s A LOT more to say about the 2014 Mariners than I originally thought.  Anyway, last week I wrote about all the position players used by the Mariners throughout the season.  It turned out to be a massive, 7,000+ word monstrosity that took over four hours to write and had to be split over three days.

This one figures to be a lot somewhat shorter simply because we used a total of 24 different position players and only 20 pitchers.  Here’s to me keeping this to a modest TWO posts!

Click HERE for Part I

In case you missed it, here’s the breakdown of the hitters from last week:

And now, without further ado, let’s talk about the rest of the pitchers.

Yoervis Medina - This is all you REALLY need to know about Medina’s 2014.

If only they had the Internet back when Gil Meche caught Mo Vaughn looking.

Everyone absolutely LOVES to get off on hating on Medina.  I don’t get it!  Is he the best reliever this team has?  No.  Is he the guy you ideally want to see in the 8th inning of a winning ballgame?  Probably not.  But, way more often than not, he gets the job done.  He averages over a strikeout per inning, gotta like that.  He’s a little over 2:1 strikeout-to-walk, which isn’t the greatest, but it’s far from terrible.  Opposing batters hit .229 off of him, which is very good.  His OPS against is under .650.

I mean, seriously!  What more do you want out of the guy?  He’s durable, he’s good to go pretty much whenever you need him.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard any sort of variation on the phrase, “Medina isn’t available in today’s game because he’s pitched too many days in a row.”  He’s a 2-year pro whose ERA is below three in both years.  Even by more advanced metrics, he’s not bad.  So, why all the hate?

Fuck if I know.  He does tend to be a little wild sometimes.  He’s not quite Fernando Rodney Experience levels of cardiac arrest, but he’ll certainly raise the ol’ blood pressure from time to time.

When I look at a reliever, though, I like to look at meltdowns.  Is he going to be awesome for a while and then go all Brandon League on you?  That’s not good.  If you count ‘em out, though, of his 66 appearances in 2014, he gave up at least one run only 12 times.  So, in 18% of his appearances, he’s giving up a run.  Granted, when he’s going in higher leverage situations, those runs tend to mean a little more.  But, I would venture to say of those 12 games where he gave up at least one run, he wasn’t the sole reason why we lost most of those.  Relievers can give up a run here and there and not have it bite them in the ass.

For my money, he’s young, he throws hard, he strikes people out; that’s worth him getting into and out of a few jams every now and then.

Outlook for 2015:  A lot of my talk yesterday was about how the Mariners are destined to trade a reliever or two for hitting help.  I’d venture to say Medina – along with Wilhelmsen – is probably on the lower end of the rankings.  My point being:  get used to seeing his mug come out of the bullpen on the reg in 2015.  And, if I’m right about Farquhar, Maurer, and/or Leone getting shipped off, that will only strengthen LMC’s resolve on using Medina in the 8th inning.  If he stays healthy, I’d bank on him being his usual, reliable, sometimes-scary self.

Hector Noesi - I want to say Noesi was out of options and that’s why he made the Mariners out of Spring Training.  I mean, his numbers were okay, but when you compare them to the rest of his Mariners career, I don’t think any fan thought he DESERVED to be here.

On April 2nd, he pitched an inning of relief in Anaheim, giving up 2 runs in a single inning.  It was a blowout Mariners victory, so people let it slide.

Then, on April 3rd, he came into a tie game in the bottom of the 12th down in Oakland.  He threw two pitches to Coco Crisp, the second of which was a game-winning home run.  Considering we missed out on the playoffs by 1 game to those very same Oakland A’s, you COULD say Hector Noesi is the reason why we fell short.

He moved on to the Rangers and made three appearances.  In his final appearance, against the White Sox, Noesi went a single inning and gave up 7 runs.  Fuck if I know what they saw, because after the Rangers released him the following day, the White Sox would go on to pick him up and pitch him less than a week later.  Noesi eventually cracked the White Sox’s rotation (because shit went very VERY wrong for that organization in 2014) and did all right.

He even got to start against the Mariners twice.  The White Sox would win both games (1-0 over in Chicago, 2-1 in Seattle), while Noesi combined to throw 14 innings, giving up 10 hits, 1 run, 0 earned runs, while striking out 9 and walking only 3.

If this is the point where you kill yourself, I totes understand.

Outlook for 2015:  Who the fuck cares?  Fuck that guy!

James Paxton - Paxton made 4 starts in September of 2013 and really plowed through the competish.  With that, he factored into the battle for the starting rotation in 2014 and easily won a job.  He made two starts, winning both, and then had to be shut down with a strained lat muscle.

He was only supposed to miss a few weeks to a month, but he didn’t actually make his Major League return until August thanks to a number of setbacks.  Once he got his strength back, he was the stud we’ve all come to expect (for the most part).

Outlook for 2015:  Definite front-runner for a rotation spot once again.  Will he be able to stay healthy?  Hopefully, the organization figured out what was wrong and how to avoid it in the future.  The sky is the limit with this kid if he can stay healthy.  Best-case scenario is:  he turns into a legitimate #2 starter behind Felix one day.  The sooner that day comes, the better our chances at making the post-season.

Stephen Pryor - Pryor flashed onto the scene in the later parts of 2012 and showed a rocket arm with closer-type stuff.  He figured to be a staple of our bullpen in 2013, but got injured.  All sorts of shoulder-type stuff.  That carried over into 2014.  He made a single appearance, on July 9th, giving up an unearned run.  I think he was called up to be a warm body (kinda like Luetge) to eat a couple innings.  In the end, he was sent back down and eventually traded to the Twins for Kendrys Morales.

Outlook for 2015:  It looked like he lost quite a bit off of his fastball.  He never did make any appearances for the Twins after he was traded, so that leads me to believe he’s still working his way back in the minors.  Hope he gets his stuff back; seemed like a good enough guy.

Erasmo Ramirez - Every year, from 2012 onward, we’ve had high hopes for this kid.  Good control, nice change up.  But, he throws a very straight, hittable ball.  And, sometimes he loses that control that’s his bread & butter.  Once that happens, he’s one of the ugliest pitchers you’ll ever watch.

He made 14 starts for the Mariners in 2014 (17 appearances overall).  With Iwakuma out, Ramirez made the rotation out of Spring Training.  He proved to be unreliable and eventually lost his job to Brandon Maurer (who proved to be even worse).  He re-entered the rotation in June, when he managed to more-or-less put up zeroes, but also couldn’t go deep into games because who could trust him to?  It was all spot starts after that, whenever we wanted to push guys back or otherwise give them extra rest.

Outlook for 2015:  Fodder for Tacoma, with Emergency Starter potential.  If he makes the rotation out of Spring Training again, something has gone horribly wrong (again).

Fernando Rodney - Meet your new Single-Season Saves Leader in Franchise History!

48 baby!  Hot dog!  Only 3 blown saves!  Gee willikers!  19 out of 69 games where he gave up at least 1 run!  Actually, that’s not the best figure in the world.

They don’t call it the Fernando Rodney Experience for nothing.

10.31 K’s per 9.  He’s got that fastball that runs anywhere from 93-99 miles per hour.  He’s got that change up that runs in the low 80s.  He’s got batters in between those two speeds MOST of the time.  And, every once in a while, he has a gnarly little meltdown.

Whatever you do, don’t bring him into the 9th inning of a tie game.  You WILL be losing that shit in short order.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s signed for one more season.  Another $7 million.  If we get similar production to what we got in 2014, he’ll be worth every penny.  If he takes even a modest step back, it could be a real trainwreck for the senses.  I’m fairly confident he’ll be what we expect him to be, but I make no guarantees.

Carson Smith - Nine games, all in September.  He would’ve been here sooner, but our Major League bullpen was kicking too many asses and taking too many names.  There was a roster crunch that got even crunchier when Brandon Maurer discovered 6 extra MPH on his fastball.

What we saw out of Smith, however, shows me this is the real fucking deal.  In those 9 games, he threw 8.1 innings (in a playoff chase, I might add!  In some pretty serious moments!), gave up 0 runs, 2 hits, struck out 10, and walked only 3.  Lots of movement on his hard fastball, with a wicked slider.

Outlook for 2015:  Theoretically, he could be another one of those Trade Chip guys, but teams generally like to have proven commodities.  I mean, these were the first 9 appearances of his Major League career!  I think he stays for that reason alone.  And, he’s the reason why I wouldn’t be absolutely heartbroken if we lost a Farquhar or a Maurer.  He can easily slide right in there as a 7th or 8th inning set up guy.  Eventually?  Another future closer, if he stays healthy.

Taijuan Walker - Another guy who got a September call-up in 2013.  Another guy who looked good during his cup of coffee.  Another guy who figured to be in the rotation battle in Spring Training 2014.  And, another guy who got injured and missed a significant portion of the year.

We might thank that injury for his still being here.  As, you have to figure it sapped some of his value from around the league.  You never know, if he was healthy and dominating, maybe it’s Walker who we trade at the deadline for a super-amazing, non-Kendrys bat.

I wish I could look into some alternate dimension where Iwakuma, Paxton, and Walker were all healthy out of Spring Training and healthy for the duration of the year.  What would’ve happened to the 2014 Mariners in this universe?  Could’ve been fucking amazing, if you ask me.

Shoulder impingement.  Had him shut down in Spring Training and didn’t allow him to return to the Majors until the end of June.  He made three sporadic starts before September, but spent the majority of the year down in Tacoma.  Working on his arm strength, and later working on his control.  He returned in September and looked much better, closing out his regular season with an 8-inning, 1-run game against the Blue Jays that we ended up losing 1-0 (essentially the nail in the coffin to our season, though we did finish with four straight victories to come within a game of a play-in game to the play-in game).

Outlook for 2015:  They stuck Walker down in the Arizona Fall League to get some work in.  By all accounts, he’s looked great.  He’ll be back in Spring Training fighting for a rotation spot.  If all goes according to plan, your 2015 rotation will look like this:  Felix, Iwakuma, Paxton, Walker, Elias.  But, then again, when does anything ever go according to plan?  Count on the Mariners bringing in a veteran or two to fight for the final rotation spot, so nothing will be handed to Walker.  But, if he’s got his head on straight and puts in the work necessary to make it, he should be fine.

Tom Wilhelmsen - He took over as closer in 2012 for the displaced Brandon League.  He lost his job as closer in 2013, suffering from Brandon League disease.  People wondered if he’d be traded prior to 2014.  People wondered if he’d even make the Big League roster out of Spring Training.

Not only did he make it, but he earned the trust of LMC to the point that he was THE guy behind Rodney.  He rewarded that trust by having a pretty mediocre April.  Calls for his head soon followed, but you know what?  Instead of doing what these relievers normally do – totally implode until they’ve been DFA’d or traded for a bag of baseballs – he figured his shit out and had a nice little 2014 season!

Wilhelmsen was lights out from May until the very end of September (for the record, the entire bullpen was lights out from May until the very end of September, hence the reason why we lost so many games towards the end there).  He ceded his 8th inning duties to Medina & Farquhar, but he earned something a little more important:  long relief & the occasional spot start on Bullpen Days.

He was made for this role, so I’m glad it’s clicked.  There’s been chatter here and there about him converting back into a starter, but I doubt it’ll happen.

Outlook for 2015:  I think he’ll be right here, doing what he did in 2014.  It’ll be nice to have him back (never would’ve caught myself saying that at the end of 2013).

Chris Young - The Mariners signed Randy Wolf to a minor league contract heading into Spring Training.  He was given a legitimate chance to win a rotation spot thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness out of some of our younger guys (Maurer, Beavan, others).

Scott Baker was another guy the Mariners signed prior to Spring.  He was ALSO given a legitimate opportunity at cracking the starting rotation.  He ended up being pretty awful in his four starts and asked for his release (since we weren’t ready to anoint him the starter, he used an opt-out clause in his deal).  This opened the door wide open for Wolf, who wasn’t a WHOLE lot better in his five spring starts, but it beat going into the season with AAA guys.

But, here’s the rub:  the Mariners asked Wolf to sign a contract with a clause that stated if the Mariners waived him after 45 days, they wouldn’t have to pay his full $1 million salary.  Randy Wolf threw a hissy fit (over what was a pretty standard clause for guys in his position) and refused, also asking for his release.  It was so granted.

Meanwhile, Chris Young was fighting for a spot with the Washington Nationals.  Prior to the season, the Nationals traded for Doug Fister (remember him?), and thus no longer had an opening for Young.  Young was released and the Mariners signed him.

He went ahead and agreed to the contract with the 45-day clause.  He was not only rewarded with a rotation spot for almost the full season (he broke down a bit towards the end and was benched), but he very well should be the frontrunner for Comeback Player of the Year.  AND, he probably rejuvenated his career to the point that, in 2015, he’ll get a guaranteed contract (and MAYBE even a multi-year deal).

Young’s first appearance of the year was out of the bullpen.  This was to build up some innings, as he’d had a gap between his release from the Nats and his pickup by the M’s.  His next 29 appearances were all starts, as injuries and ineffectiveness reared their heads.

3.65 ERA, 12-9 record, 108 strikeouts in 165 innings, with only 143 hits and 60 walks.  All of this after many years in the baseball wilderness.  Before 2014, he hadn’t made 29 starts since 2007.  Indeed, he missed ALL of 2013.  Comeback Player of the Year?  I think so.

Outlook for 2015:  My guess is, he’ll command more money elsewhere.  It’s also my hope, because I don’t think he’s going to catch this lightning in a bottle twice.  It was nice having him here, it was nice watching him fight the regression dragon as long as humanly possible, but I’ve seen the 83 MPH fastball and the damage done.  If he’s not inducing weak infield pop-ups, he’s getting crushed.  Pity the team that overpays him in 2015.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Pitchers, Part I

Turns out there’s A LOT more to say about the 2014 Mariners than I originally thought.  Anyway, last week I wrote about all the position players used by the Mariners throughout the season.  It turned out to be a massive, 7,000+ word monstrosity that took over four hours to write and had to be split over three days.

This one figures to be a lot somewhat shorter simply because we used a total of 24 different position players and only 20 pitchers.  Here’s to me keeping this to a modest TWO posts!

(Part II tomorrow)

In case you missed it, here’s the breakdown of the hitters from last week:

And now, without further ado, let’s talk about the pitchers.

Blake Beavan - On April 15th, Blake Beavan made his one and only appearance for the Seattle Mariners in 2014.  It was a start (presumably because we lost Paxton to injury a few days earlier, and because Iwakuma was still a couple weeks away from making his debut, and because we still weren’t too confident in Maurer’s abilities – but would have to be five days later because injuries), and he lasted four innings.  In those four innings, he gave up two solo home runs and we all thought he was being pulled due to ineffectiveness.  It would later be revealed that Beavan had a shoulder injury that kept him out until July.  After that, it looks like he finished the year in relief, down in Tacoma, going no more than 2.2 innings per appearance the rest of the way.

Outlook for 2015:  I honestly have no idea.  I mean, I have some idea:  he won’t be playing for the Mariners.  Presumably, he still has options left, so I’m going to say he’ll be in Tacoma to start.  But, will he BE a starter?  Not gonna lie to you, once Beavan went on the DL, all the Beavan news sort of dried up.

Joe Beimel - One of the lesser-heralded moves made by the Mariners ahead of the 2014 season.  Beimel didn’t cost much, he won a job out of Spring Training, and he was easily the most-effective lefty out of the bullpen.  He’s a 14-year veteran who didn’t pitch in the Majors in 2012 & 2013 due to injuries and – I’m guessing – ineffectiveness.

This year, he appeared in 56 games, almost exclusively as a lefty-on-lefty specialist.  45 innings, 2.20 ERA, not a bad little year all told.  I sure as shit liked him more than the wild and erratic Charlie Furbush.

Outlook for 2015:  I could see the Mariners signing him again, but not if he’s going to cost an arm and a leg.  I don’t know how many lefty relievers the Mariners have coming up the pike, but I’m pretty certain we can find one on the cheap somewhere.  This is the same management group that found a diamond in the rough the last few years with guys like Beimel and Oliver Perez.  There’s no reason to think that won’t continue.  I’m giving him a 33.333% chance of returning.  But, he’ll certainly get a guaranteed contract from SOMEONE.

Roenis Elias - Probably the biggest feel-good story of the Mariners organization in 2014.  Cuban defector, made the leap from AA to the Bigs in one Spring Training, AND pretty much made it through the whole season!

29 starts, 163.2 innings, 143 K’s, 64 BB’s, 3.85 ERA, 10-12 record.  All good stuff.

(also, I forgot about his 5-shutout-inning start in Tacoma in August when the Mariners sent him down to limit his overall innings count)

He made his final start on September 16th, where he had to leave early with an elbow strain.  The team – in the middle of a Wild Card chase – rightly played it safe and shut him down.  The best part of his rookie season was probably how he didn’t really slump.  He’d have 2-3 bad outings in a row, but not very often; and he always found a way to bounce back.  And, while the team tried to limit his innings per start, if you discount the final game where he left injured, he failed to go five innings only three times all year.

His most obvious high point was the June 1st start at home against Detroit where he went the full nine, shutting them out on 3 hits, with 1 walk and 8 strikeouts.  He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he’s a lefty with good control and a wicked curve.  When he has his change up working, he’s tough to beat.  And, considering he turned 26 in August, his poise is off the charts.  No jam is too overwhelming.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s certainly earned the right to be a frontrunner for a starting rotation spot.  I’d slide him right in after Felix, Iwakuma, and Paxton as a fourth starter (though, for purposes of splitting up the lefties, you’ll probably see him in the 5-hole).  He pitched 148.1 minor league innings in 2012 and 130 more in 2013, so you have to wonder whether the Mariners will let him go hog-wild in 2015 or not.  It might be unfair to expect him to go 200+ next year, but I could easily see him in the 180-200 range.  Here’s to hoping that elbow issue is nothing and he’s right as rain from the get-go.

Danny Farquhar - Aside from a small number of bad outings, Danny Farquhar was arguably the best reliever on the team all season long.  And yet, it took LMC and Co. a while before they realized it and used him in high leverage situations.

Just another hard-throwing righty in a bullpen full of ‘em.  Good movement on his fastball, great cutter, and some nice control with his offspeed stuff.  While Lloyd would interchange him, Medina, and Wilhelmsen in that 8th inning role (because, quite frankly, all three of them got the job done for the most part), it was Farqhuar who earned the role of defacto closer whenever Rodney was unable to go.  Love to see that.

Outlook for 2015:  Should be another year of lockdown relief.  I could see the bad kind of regression out of guys like Wilhelmsen, Medina, Leone, Rodney, and pretty much anyone else in that bullpen.  But, for whatever reason, I have the utmost confidence that Farquhar will be our rock.  That having been said, he could also be one of the better trade chips we have, if we decided to work out a blockbuster deal for a bat or something.  It would hurt to lose Danny, but you have to like the thought process behind such a move (the thought process being:  the Mariners have a ton of relievers that could easily step up and keep our bullpen intact and dominating).

Charlie Furbush - Furbush had the 2nd-most appearances of anyone on the pitching staff, but the 7th-most innings pitched among relievers (not counting Maurer, who only pitched around 37 innings of relief, with the rest of his innings in that ill-advised starter role).  Furbush was, like Beimel, mostly a lefty specialist.  Unlike Beimel, he was used more often because we wanted to keep Beimel’s appearances down (given his, shall we say, “advanced years”).

Furbush was also probably the least-effective reliever on the team, among the relievers who were with us the full year.  I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s feast or famine with Furbush.  Which was kind of a bummer because I remember him being a lot more effective in 2013.  Of course, he wasn’t ACTUALLY “a lot” more effective last year, but perceptions can be tricky.

Furbush is who he is.  He’s got a dynamic arm angle which should make it tough on any lefty trying to hit off of him.  But, he doesn’t really have dramatic splits:

  • Vs. Lefty:  79 AB, .241 avg against, .277 OBP, .594 OPS
  • Vs. Righty:  83 AB, .253 avg against, .315 OBP, .701 OPS

That comes out to a difference of 5 more walks to righties and 2 more homers (with 1 fewer double).  His career splits are much more in line with expectations, but you have to factor in how he was a starter to begin his career.

Outlook for 2015:  He’ll almost certainly be back, and be right back in that lefty specialist role in the bullpen.  Since relievers tend to be wildly inconsistent from year to year, the odds are just as good that he’ll be super amazing or fucking terrible.  Maybe just bank on him being what he’s been the last two years as a full-time Major League reliever and keep your eyes shut during the scary parts.  I’ll tell you when you can open your eyes again.

Felix Hernandez - Our little Cy Young winner!

34 starts.  27 quality starts.  236 innings.  15-6 record.  170 hits.  248 strikeouts.  46 walks.  6.8 WAR.  0.92 WHIP.  2.14 ERA.

He led the American League in ERA and WHIP.  Second in Innings Pitched and WAR among pitchers.  Fourth in strikeouts.  Among pitchers who went 200 innings or more, he gave up BY FAR the fewest hits (next lowest was 187).  And the fifth-fewest walks.

Oh yeah, and he had those 16 consecutive starts where he went 7 or more innings AND gave up 2 runs or less, breaking the Major League all-time record.  SIXTEEN!  From May 18th through August 11th, he was by far and away the best pitcher in the American League and probably all of baseball.  That’s not to say he was dogging it those other 18 starts, but that kind of consistency is fucking amazing and deserves to be recognized.

If Felix didn’t already have that one Cy Young Award to his name, I’m sure I’d throw the biggest hissy-fit of all time if he doesn’t win it this year.  But, regardless, it’ll be a pretty sizable hissy-fit if he gets edged out.  Thankfully, the fact that he already has one is actually a good thing.  Baseball Writers who vote for these things are nothing if not sheep.  Felix is a name.  He’s understood as being one of the greats in the game today.  Moreover, he’s a good guy, who played for a good team, who came 1 game short of the playoffs.  Corey Kluber is NOT a name.  He’s a guy no one ever heard of outside of Cleveland until this year.  If he wins the Cy Young, then they should also go back and retroactively give the MVP to A-Rod over Juan Gonzalez in 1996, because that shit was some BULLshit.

Felix was pretty great in 2010 when he won, but this year he was WITHOUT QUESTION even better.  His 2014 was the best season of his career so far.  I hope everyone enjoyed it.

Outlook for 2015:  The Ace of the team.  He’s here for the duration.  He might not be a Cy Young winner, but he’ll be pretty fucking awesome and still among the best pitchers in the game.

Hisashi Iwakuma - Kuma fucked up the middle finger on his throwing hand when he got it caught in some netting while practicing a baseball drill.  As a result, he didn’t make his first start for the Mariners until May 3rd.  He was a little up and down in those first couple months, then settled down in July and August to be his usual remarkable self.  Then, he completely fell apart in September and absolutely could not be counted on to keep us in ballgames.

From August 24th onward, Kuma made seven starts.  He averaged less than five innings per start, going 32 innings total; and he averaged 4 runs per start, giving up 28 in total.  He gave up 40 hits in those innings, to go along with 9 walks, and boy did other teams take advantage of those hits & walks!

I find it hard to believe that’s a trend with him, because in 2013 his September ERA was under 1.  And that was a year where he DIDN’T miss a month of the season to injury!  My thinking is:  it’s just one of those things, and you just hope it doesn’t carry over to next year.

Overall, I still think Kuma is a rock solid #2 starter.  His 2014 was good for the most part, but considering the start and the finish, we all might be better off just forgetting it even happened.

Outlook for 2015:  The team will most definitely pick up his $7 million option.  So, that’s cool.  We get another legit #2 starter for a VERY reasonable salary.  The question going forward is:  what do we do long-term?  It looked like – after his 2012 season where he came on strong in the second half once his arm got right – he could’ve commanded quite the bounty on the open market.  The fact that we got him for essentially 3 years, $21 million, was quite the shock.  And, it still is, to tell you the truth.  I think he’s still got some good mileage left on his arm, so I wouldn’t be against another 3-year extension if the terms are right.

Dominic Leone - 16th round draft pick in the 2012 draft.  He’s been great every step of the way.

He played in Everett in 2012, then spent the duration of 2013 in the minors, going from A to AA, dominating all the way.  Then, sure as shit, he continued his ass-kicking parade in Spring Training this year, which earned him a role on the Mariners that he never gave up.

He was never really a guy the team turned to in the 8th inning of a winning ballgame, but he certainly earned higher-leverage situations as the season went along.  And, I’m looking at his numbers here, and I can only count 2, maybe 3 bad outings all year, out of 57 appearances.

By WAR, he was the second-best reliever on the team behind Wilhelmsen of all people.  He had the fourth-highest K/9 among relievers who stuck with the Mariners the full season.  And he somehow finished with an 8-2 record out of the bullpen, which is meaningless but still kinda fun.

Hard-throwing righty with good movement.  Obviously, his secondary pitches were pretty solid, if he managed to stick the full season.  Best of all, I never really felt all that nervous with him on the mound.  Considering he had this much success as a rookie tells me if he can stay healthy, he’s got a long, fruitful career ahead of him.

Outlook for 2015:  He should be back in the bullpen for the full go, but like Farquhar, he’s got a lot of value as a trade chip.  In fact, among the relievers on this team, he’s probably got the MOST value.  He’s got the full season under his belt, he was great this season, and among our Major League relievers, he’s got the most service time left.  Leone by himself could probably fetch us a semi-quality bat.  Package him with another guy or two and you could theoretically wrangle away a great hitter for the next year or two.  If I’m being honest with myself, I give it 2:1 odds that Leone is traded for someone awesome.  But, if he’s back, you could be looking at a future closing candidate when Fernando Rodney moves on.

Lucas Luetge - He made 12 appearances.  8 were in September.  The rest were sprinkled around in April and July as extra bullpen help during lean times where we had to go to the ‘pen quite a bit.

It’s hard to say Luetge was much more than a warm body, but then again he wasn’t given much of a chance.  We plucked him from Milwaukee in 2012 in the Rule 5 draft and he stuck that whole year with the club.  Since 2013, he’s been up and down from Tacoma, with middling results.  It’s tough, because he’s been more-or-less pretty good down in AAA, but it hasn’t quite carried over when he’s been called up.

Outlook for 2015:  He needs to refine his command and control.  He’ll contend for a Major League roster spot, but anything could happen.  If he’s great in Spring, he’ll most likely make it.  But, if we bring in a veteran on a small deal who also pitches well, we may opt to keep the vet & save Luetge down in the minors in the event of injury.  Either way, you WILL see him at some point in a Mariners uniform (unless, again, he’s thrown into a deal with another club, which could happen to almost any of our relievers).

Brandon Maurer - The Mariners drafted Maurer in 2008 in the 23rd round.  In 2012, he was in AA and earning comparisons to our Big 3 (Hultzen, Paxton, and Walker).  He earned so many comparisons, that we had to temporarily amend it to the Big 4 and put him in it!

In 2013, Maurer was the first of the Big 4 to break through.  Like Roenis Elias, he too made the jump from AA to the Bigs with an outstanding Spring Training.  He started for us for the first two months, generated an ERA near 7, and was demoted to Tacoma.  When he returned later that year, he was mostly used in relief and was mostly not at all good.  His 2013 in general was pretty pisspoor.

In 2014, Maurer did NOT earn a roster spot out of Spring.  But, injuries to Iwakuma, Paxton, and the aforementioned Blake Bevan left us desperate.  Maurer made his first Big League start on April 20th.  He would continue to make starts through the end of May and for the most part looked like his crappy 2013 self.

So, he was sent down to Tacoma again.

While in Tacoma, the organization decided to make him a full-time reliever.  Quite honestly, this has to go down as one of the Top 10 All Time Greatest Decisions The Seattle Mariners Have Ever Made.

Maurer returned on June 25th.  From what I recall, the Mariners didn’t necessarily NEED him at that time, but what they were getting from him in Tacoma was too good to deny.  Upon his return, he was consistently hitting the upper-90s with his fastball (whereas, he was in the mid-to-low 90s as a starter).  His slider was breaking like we haven’t seen around these parts since the heyday of Jeff Nelson.  He even found control of his change up that had eluded him throughout the duration of his time as a starter!  It’s one thing to gain some MPH on your fastball when you convert to a reliever, but how in GOD’S NAME do you mysteriously figure out your change up in the blink of an eye?

Maurer didn’t give up a run until his 11th relief appearance.  A stretch of 15 straight innings!  On the whole, his splits are blowing my mind:

  • As A Starter:  151 plate appearances over 7 games.  7.52 ERA, 1.21 strikeouts to walks, .321 avg against, .880 OPS, 4.7 K/9 innings, 1.763 WHIP
  • As A Reliever:  150 plate appearances over 31 games.  2.17 ERA, 7.60 strikeouts to walks, .217 avg against, .535 OPS, 9.2 K/9 innings, 0.964 WHIP

Are you kidding?  Those numbers aren’t just Night & Day, they’re Night & Oranges!

Outlook for 2015:  You could make the argument that Brandon Maurer was the best reliever on the team in the second half of this year (Carson Smith might have something to say about that, but we’ll get to him in due time).  Like Leone and Farquhar, you’ll find Maurer high on the Trade Chip list.  I’m telling you, at least ONE of those three WILL be traded before the 2015 season starts.  It just makes good sense.  If the Mariners are dead set on keeping Paxton and Walker, then the bullpen arms are the next-best pieces we have to move.  Or, at least, the next-most-desirable.  If he’s not traded, then he’ll be duking it out with Medina, Wilhelmsen, and whoever’s left for those coveted 8th innings.

Look for Part II tomorrow.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 6

Last week, we got into it with the defense a little bit.  Certainly, those issues are still around.  This is the second time the Seahawks have given up 30 points in a game this year; the Seahawks gave up 30 or more only once all of last year (including playoffs).  The Cowboys used the Chargers’ model of beating the Seahawks:  converting lots of third downs, running a lot of plays, churning lots of clock, and scoring touchdowns in the red zone instead of field goals.  The L.O.B. stinks right now, the defensive line is a shell of their 2013 selves, and injuries abound.  This is not a good unit and it’s looking like the prophecy was correct:  give these players big-money contracts and watch them dog it on the field.

Oh, I’m sorry, am I wrong?  Is that unfair?  Then, prove it, cuntbags!  Get out there and dominate like you’re supposed to!

Anyway, I’m through with the defense for now.  This week, we’re talking offense.

I go through ebbs and flows when it comes to listening to sports radio.  Sometimes, I have the radio on daily, sitting in my living room after work, catching up on the goings on.  Sometimes, I’ll go weeks without.  Let’s face it, sports radio can be a little irritating sometimes.

But, it’s always good to tap into the public discourse once in a while, to see what’s bothering the masses.  Sometimes, what’s bothering the masses this week is what they were falling all over themselves praising last week.  For instance, take Russell Wilson.

Last week, against the Redskins on Monday Night, Russell Wilson was the best player on the football field.  He practically single-handedly won us that game with his legs and his arms and his leg-arms (or, rather, his ability to throw while running away from immediate pressure).  He was great.  He proved once again that he’s a Top 5 quarterback in this league.

Then, six days later, against the Cowboys, Russell Wilson turned in one of the very-worst performances of his young career.  Now, all of a sudden, what makes him great – scrambling around, eluding pressure, keeping plays alive – are reasons to take him down a peg.  “He doesn’t step up into the pocket enough.”  That’s the biggest criticism I’m hearing this week on sports radio.  Instead of twirling all around, running backwards out of the pocket, he should step up into a throwing lane and make a play.

The thing is, what hardly gets acknowledged in this scenario is that quarterbacks who step up in the pocket to throw the football tend to take body-crushing hits.  Yeah, it’s macho to be that guy who “hangs in the pocket”, unleashing a perfect pass just as someone is burrowing his shoulder into your chest, but that shit adds up!  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  live to fight another day.  I’d rather have Wilson scrambling all around, this way and that, vs. stepping up and getting destroyed.  That’s how ribs are broken.  That’s how hands are mashed against opposing helmets.  That’s how concussions start to ruin your life.

I hope Wilson NEVER listens to these sports radio yahoos who’ve never played a day of quarterback in their lives.  He can just keep doing what he’s doing.  For the most part, I have a lot of problems with how the offense is performing, but none of those problems involve #3.

My main problem involves the offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell.

After winning the Super Bowl last year, I tried making a pact with myself to leave the man alone.  I’ve been criticizing him pretty much from Day 1, when we were forced to go with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback thanks to the NFL lockout.  Slowly but surely, I’ve grown to appreciate his style, as I think it meshes well with what we’re trying to do:  ground & pound.

Here’s the thing, though.  For the last couple years, Darrell Bevell has been among the top head coaching candidates in the NFL.  He’s seen Gus Bradley get his shot.  He’s heard about Dan Quinn’s impending promotion.  With winning comes great notoriety; losing teams will look towards the winning ones to find out what they’re doing that works.  More often than not, winning clubs lose their coordinators as the losers of the world hope to catch that lightning in a bottle twice.  Maybe a little Pete Carroll magic has rubbed off on so-and-so.  It’s IMPOSSIBLE to think that this thought process hasn’t wormed its way into Bevell’s brain.  What I’m arguing here is that it’s not only something that’s on his mind, but it’s something that’s affecting his job performance.

Obviously, there’s nothing that can be done and nothing that will be done at this point in the season.  Our BYE week has come and gone.  Besides that, it would be a batshit crazy overreaction to fire Darrell Bevell.  But, one has to wonder:  is he doing more harm than good?

You know what Darrell Bevell is?  He’s a U.S. Senator running for President.  He’s on his way out!  It’s only a matter of time.  In his mind, he’s checked out.  His duties as Senator no longer interest him; all he can think about now is what he’s going to do when he’s in the Oval Office.  And so, instead of doing his job, he’s spending the next year actively campaigning around the country for something better.

What do I mean by this?  It’s plainly simple.  Darrell Bevell’s job is to call the plays that work best in this team’s system.  This is a team that runs the ball.  When it’s not running the ball, it’s throwing off of play-action.  And, at least 4-5 times a game, it’s having Russell Wilson throw deep for the home run.  That is what works for this team.  That is what has worked for the last two years.  Everyone else in the league knows what we’re doing and we do it anyway.

The thing is, Darrell Bevell isn’t DOING his job.  He’s gone out and created this whole other offense based around Percy Harvin (who I’ll get to in a bit).  Fly sweeps and lateral passing and screen plays and handoffs up the middle.  Yes, Percy Harvin is a great weapon to have.  Yes, he’s among the most dangerous weapons in all of football with his speed and elusiveness.  But, you can’t forget that this team has OTHER weapons that are just as good and effective in their own ways.

Marshawn Lynch is one of the most dynamic running backs in the game.  What the FUCK is he doing only getting 10 carries in a game, EVER?  I don’t care if Dallas hogged the football through most of the first half of that game.  I don’t care if it leads to repeat 3 & Outs, you better kick off the game by handing the rock to Beastmode!  On first AND second down if you have to!

Now, I know that’s not sexy.  Handing the ball to Lynch isn’t going to get you noticed as a coordinator; but it WORKS.

And that’s just it.  To get noticed as a coordinator, you’ve got to be running a well-oiled machine of an offense.  You’ve got to have that scoreboard spinning!  You’ve got to average around 30 points per game with lots of big plays from your skill positions.  In this case:  Russell Wilson & Percy Harvin.  So, he’s forcing Wilson to force the ball to Harvin as much as possible.

When it’s working, Bevell looks like a genius.  Why did Gus Bradley get the Jacksonville job?  Because he turned around a defense that was among the very worst to one of the very best.  That’s what gets defensive coordinators jobs as head coaches.  How do offensive coordinators get jobs as head coaches?  Well, it starts at quarterback.

If Bevell can make Wilson a legit Top 5 quarterback in this league – and not the perceived Game Manager everyone thinks he is – then he will have done the impossible and he’ll have his choice of teams to head coach next year.  Russell Wilson isn’t going to shed that Game Manager label by handing the ball off to Lynch all day long; he’s got to throw the ball!  With Harvin as the team’s best weapon in the passing game, of course Bevell is going to organize the offense around his abilities!

So, that’s what we’re going to get.  The only problem is:  we’re going to get that type of offense to the detriment of the TEAM.  That’s a problem for Seahawks fans, but guess who it helps.  Guess who actually benefits if the Seahawks manage to lose a few too many games this year!  That’s right:  Darrell Bevell.  Because coordinators who make the Super Bowl don’t get hired as head coaches.  Because it takes too long, and other teams want to get a jump-start on their next seasons.  THAT’S why I think Darrell Bevell is doing more harm than good.  I’m not going to sit here and tell you that he’s actively trying to cost us ballgames.  But, I am saying that defeats aren’t going to linger with him the way they’re lingering with fans.  I’m also saying that he’s being pig-headed with this new offensive scheme and is going to stick with it – without making the necessary adjustments – for better and for worse.

Here’s what I’ll say about Harvin:  he works best as a complementary player.  A change-of-pace.  Because:

  1. You don’t want to give him the lion’s share of the touches because he might get injured.
  2. Teams know what to expect out of him after multiple viewings.

The injury thing is obvious.  He’s a small guy.  He takes vicious hits because he runs so fast and because defenders are so much bigger than he is.  But, it’s the second part that Bevell doesn’t seem to understand.

In the Super Bowl, Harvin was electric.  Why?  Because nobody had seen him play all that often in a Seahawks uniform.  They didn’t have a really good idea how we’d use him.  So, those fly sweeps went for big gains.  And, in the early going of this year, it was more of the same.  Those quick-hitters to Harvin went for big money because the Packers and Chargers didn’t know what was coming.

Now?  Teams know what we’re doing.  This isn’t college football.  You know why John Ross is so great as a Husky?  Because he’s a man among boys.  He’s an NFL player surrounded by glorified high schoolers.  All you have to do is give Ross the football and he’s going to make magic happen (evidenced by that 86-yard touchdown against Cal, which would’ve been stopped for a modest gain AT BEST in the NFL).

Harvin is a great weapon because of his usefulness as a decoy.  When we send him in motion towards the quarterback pre-snap, the defense has to be on alert:  will the Seahawks hand it off to him?  Will Wilson turn and throw it to him as he runs away from him, in sort of a swing pass?  They have to account for him, which opens up the handoff up the gut to Lynch.  That takes one guy from The Box and removes him from the play, making life easier for Beastmode and the blockers in front of him.

And yes, it’s good to get his hands on the football once in a while, in space, like a glorified handoff.  But, you’ve also got to run him out in patterns sometimes!  He’s a slot receiver; how about you fucking USE him like a slot receiver?  Run some slants with him.  Run some double-moves and get him going down field!  I know the deep passing thing isn’t his game, necessarily, but the threat has to be there!  They can’t always expect Harvin to be hovering around the line of scrimmage.

Go watch tape of Green Bay.  Go look at how they use Randall Cobb.  Make THAT part of Harvin’s game.  Let’s keep the defense on their toes.

The fact of the matter is, yeah, Bevell is getting stagnant with his scheme vis-a-vis Harvin.  And a little stubbornness going along with that stagnation.  But, that doesn’t absolve Harvin himself.  He’s making A LOT of money.  And I know his mere presence on the field as a decoy will help this offense in the long run.  But, he’s not getting all those millions of dollars to give us 22 receptions for a measly 133 yards and 0 receiving touchdowns across five football games.  He’s also not getting all those millions of dollars to give us 11 rushing attempts for 92 yards and a single rushing TD.  He needs to be doing more.  EVERYONE needs to be doing more, but Percy Harvin can never again have a fucking game where he gets the ball 6 times and has negative net yardage.  We didn’t pay him all this money to be a speedy kick return man.  Ted Ginn Jr. is out there if you want that.  Much cheaper, too.

Finally, I’ll just say this:  if you’re injured, stop playing.  Sit out.  Because you’re only making your injury worse, and you’re not functioning properly when you’re on the field.  You’re not helping!  You’re actively hurting us with your penalties and with you being constantly out of position.  I’m looking at you, Okung, and I’m looking at anyone else who’s playing injured in secret.  STOP IT!  Get well, then come back.  Don’t be Mr. Macho Man, because you’ll get no credit from me for playing through pain.  You’ll only get my scorn for making the team worse.  I know you think that You at 75% is better than someone else at 100%, but I promise you you’re wrong.  Take a seat.

***

  1. San Diego Chargers (5-1) – Could’ve used a better defensive performance in Oakland for fantasy purposes, but I suppose I can’t really hold it against them.  It’s always tough going on the road in your own division.  I still really like their body of work right now and think they match up really well with the Broncos.
  2. Denver Broncos (4-1) – Not for nothing, but they get dinged a little bit (and therefore stuck in the #2 spot) because they lost to the Seahawks, who REALLY aren’t as good as I thought they were.
  3. Seattle Seahawks (3-2) – I’m not willing to dump the Seahawks much farther than this spot right now, though - because I think a lot of teams are iffy at this point – but a few more injuries and unexpected defeats will surely plummet them quick.
  4. San Francisco 49ers (4-2) – And they’re only going to get better as the season goes on, with their injured guys returning and their later BYE week.
  5. Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) – I can’t believe how fast people jumped off their bandwagon this week.  SO MANY pundits took the Giants.  Just when you start to believe the Eagles’ offense is in a slump, they bust out.  Let that be a lesson.
  6. Dallas Cowboys (5-1) – As advertised:  one of the best offensive lines in all of football.  Limit Romo’s opportunities and you’ll limit his mistakes.  Simple Fucking Equation.
  7. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1-1) – The defense is starting to mess me up in the head a little bit.
  8. Detroit Lions (4-2) – Frankly, the offense is starting to mess me up in the head a little bit.
  9. Indianapolis Colts (4-2) – Just Colts being Colts.
  10. Green Bay Packers (4-2) – Nice little underrated win, going down to Miami to steal one.
  11. Baltimore Ravens (4-2) – If only Flacco could play that well every week, he’d be a cinch for the Hall of Fame.
  12. New England Patriots (4-2) – Death, taxes, and the Patriots beating the Bills.
  13. Arizona Cardinals (4-1) – I’m beginning to think the NFC West – aside from the Rams – has the best collection of coaching staffs in all of football.  I don’t know what sort of voodoo Bruce Arians practices; I just know I don’t want to get on his bad side.
  14. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) – I dunno, they had a BYE week.  Hard to look good on your BYE week, when better teams around you are kicking ass and taking names.
  15. New Orleans Saints (2-3) – They’re out of my Top 10.  Smell you later, Saints.  Smell you later forever!
  16. Chicago Bears (3-3) – Yeah, good luck going up against the Lions and Packers; you’ve got no shot at the division.
  17. Carolina Panthers (3-2-1) – What was once considered – by me – as possibly being the best division in football, the NFC South is now one of the worst?  Lump them in with their AFC counterparts and the South in general is just a fucked up pile of shit.  HEY, WAIT A MINUTE!
  18. Cleveland Browns (3-2) – Haha, Steelers.
  19. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) – Ha. Ha.
  20. New York Giants (3-3) – Poor Eli.
  21. Houston Texans (3-3) – Poor J.J.
  22. Atlanta Falcons (2-4) – I place them below the Texans because their offensive line is horrendous.  And if they ever went up against J.J. Watt, Matt Ryan would cease to be.
  23. Miami Dolphins (2-3) – Making me look bad, Dolphins!  You don’t want to see me when I’m angry.
  24. Buffalo Bills (3-3) – This is a frisky little team, but all the used-up, washed-out white quarterbacks in the world won’t help them make the playoffs.
  25. Washington Redskins (1-5) – I just learned this week that they have only one win and not two.  Because I pay attention to detail and have a solid awareness of what’s going on in the world.
  26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5) – What the hell is up with this defense?  This is borderline offensive(!).
  27. New York Jets (1-5) – They’re going to have a mighty housecleaning if they don’t get improved quarterback play pretty soon.
  28. Minnesota Vikings (2-4) – This offense is a mess.  I think Norv has used up all his magic beans.
  29. St. Louis Rams (1-4) – Pretty tall order for a rookie quarterback to go up against the 49ers on Monday Night.
  30. Tennessee Titans (2-4) – You move up no spots because all you did was beat the fucking Jags.
  31. Oakland Raiders (0-5) – You move up one spot in the rankings because you’re not the Jags.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6) – Fuck you, Jags!  You’re supposed to be BETTER than this right now!  How many years in a row are you going to lead the league in being the 32nd-ranked team in the NFL?  Moreover, who ever told you that you could work with men?

Quick & Dirty: Going To The UW/Cal Game

So, from the start of last week through the second week of December, I won’t be able to use any more vacation days.  In achieving this, I will unlock the elusive 11-day Christmas vacation (where Christmas and New Years fall on Thursdays – I get these as paid days off – and I only need 5 vacation days to pad it out for the full 11), where I plan to do nothing but watch college football and be a huge waste of space.  It’s going to be glorious.

That makes travel between now and then … limited.  And yet, for the last four years (including 2014), I’ve gone down to San Francisco to attend a Husky football game against whichever Bay Area opponent happens to be hosting that particular year.  The two Stanford games have been demoralizing in very different ways.  But, the two Cal games have been revelations of fun and excitement!

Since I was unable to use any vacation days for this trip, I had to schedule my flights around work.  As such, I didn’t fly out of SeaTac until around 6pm on Friday.  I purchased this reservation with credit card points, so it was sort of free (but, as an added bonus, I opted to pay for a first class upgrade).  Essentially, it boiled down to $125 for a comfortable seat, the opportunity to board and leave the plane first, and all the red wine I could drink in around 2 hours.  It may have been a needless extravagance, but you don’t know how much wine I can take down in a short period of time.  Besides, I had to kickstart the party into high gear, considering a couple of my friends had flown down earlier in the day.

I was picked up and whisked away to dinner at a Sushi place.  Sushi and sake and beer; not a bad way to close up a Friday evening.

And a GREAT way to pack on a hangover for Saturday morning!  Every year, without fail, I’m stuck in the backseat of a car, keeping my head down and my eyes closed for the longest ride of my life, WILLING myself to refrain from puking.  Last year, we had to stop the drive to Palo Alto before we even left the city so I could throw up on the side of the road.  This year’s drive to Berkeley went much more smoothly.  I managed to keep down my breakfast and whatever pill I was handed to keep the nausea at bay.  From there, I was a mimosa and a Coors Light away from recovery.

So, we got a couple laughs from Cal fans when they noticed our flag was backwards.  "Tailgating, how quaint!  Come, Bob, take a picture of the yokels!"

So, we got a couple laughs from Cal fans when they noticed our flag was backwards. “Tailgating, how quaint! Come, Bob, take a picture of the yokels!”

Apparently, they don’t tailgate at Cal.  Nerds, amirite?  Luckily, my Frisco friends were able to find this public parking lot where we could pay a fee, park our cars, and set up a beer pong table and a mini-grill for some games and food and such.  Thankfully, the Dawg fans dominated the parking lot tailgate scene.  Doubly thankfully, we got pretty much the only shady spot so we didn’t all die under the oppressive heat.

My beer ponging skills were severely lacking on this day; certainly well below my own expectations of myself.  Gonna have to go back to the film room and watch the tape on what went wrong, followed by some early mornings on the practice table (#NoTimeForSleep).

We were, like, a mile from the stadium.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a game at California Memorial Stadium, but it’s a long walk up a low-grade hill.  We arrived on the scene at around 10am and started heading over to the field at about 2:30pm, so there was That Many drinking hours in between.  Did I mention the oppressive heat?  There was oppressive heat.

We had seats in the Husky section, which was nice.  They shoe-horned a Cal alumni band in between us and the Husky band, which was less nice.  Those old fucks were good sports, though.  We even got to sing along to Separate Ways and Basket Case as our football team was crushing their shit in.

Being as plastered as I was, there aren’t a whole lot of specifics I remember about the game.  As I’d written before, I didn’t have the best feeling about this one going in.  I thought we were in for a shoot-out, which was (what I thought was) the best-case scenario.  Turns out there was an even BETTER case scenario than the best, and that was total domination.

The not-quite Victory Formation; final play of the game ...

The not-quite Victory Formation; final play of the game …

I remember the first touchdown we scored, which was a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown from Shaq Thompson (which is, like, his 12th return touchdown of the year?  40th?  1,033rd?), because we were at the exact opposite end of the field, and all we could say to one another was, “No fucking way!  Is that Shaq?!?  No fucking WAY!  OH MY GOD IT IS!!!”  Followed by a bunch of waiting around as they reviewed the fumble, followed by more rapturous cheering when it was confirmed.

For the record, the John Ross 86-yard touchdown was another one of those exact same moments.  Because he caught the ball around the line of scrimmage, it looked like he was going to be tackled for a minor/modest gain, and then he just kept making people miss, weaving in and out of traffic, all the way to the endzone, with less than two minutes left to go before half.  In fact, I think that one was ALSO reviewed!

A lot of delayed gratification in this game.  We had our usual bouts of Pac-12 referee ineptitude, which is always never fun.  Once we got past halftime and our defense continued to be very stout against what had been – up until this game – a totally dynamic offense, it was nothing but a party for the Husky fans in attendance.  The party was made all the more relieving as the sun started to set and we got some shade in our section.

Other than the few details I drunkenly (and hungoverly) recall, I got a good sense that Cyler Miles took a big step forward in this game.  He looked more confident, more decisive, and more willing to throw the ball DOWN field and not just towards the sidelines.  Granted, Cal wasn’t known to have the best defense in the nation, but after the first few starts out of Miles, I will take this in a heartbeat.

The Husky defense was superb.  We forced three turnovers – all fumble recoveries – and held Cal to 368 yards of offense.  That’s a team that averages over 500 yards per game, and a team that racked up 589 yards and 60 points against the Cougars in Pullman the week before.  Jared Goff – their quarterback who has taken a real step forward in this Bear-Raid offense this year – managed less than six yards per attempt through the air.  Our defensive line harassed him all day, with Hau’oli Kikaha taking over the national lead in sacks with (I think) something like 10.5 in six games.

It’s funny how one game can really alter your outlook.  People need to realize this defense is legit and has no less than four guys who should be drafted in the first couple of rounds.  Appreciate it now, while you still can!  And hope that our current coaching staff can refill the coffers once they all mass-exodus on us at season’s end.  Kikaha, with Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters, and of course the immortal Shaq Thompson, are all going to be excellent pros in the very near future.  We’ll get to say we knew them way back when.

Also, not for nothing, but I couldn’t help but praise Tosh Lupoi to anyone wearing Cal colors as we walked out of the stadium, triumphant.  That is, when I wasn’t berating them for all being such huge nerds (I’m actually really fun to be around when I’m drunk, I promise).

After a long day of drinking (including two hangovers – one before and one after the tailgate), it was time to drive back to the city for some fireworks off in the distance and some Chinese food.  I tried spicy pork intestine; BETTER than you’d think.  Then, we watched a bunch of New Girl on Hulu before passing out.

I had just enough time for breakfast and an hour’s worth of morning NFL games before I had to take an UberX to the airport.  My flight took off sometime after 1pm and I didn’t get back to my apartment until the Seahawks game ended.  It wasn’t quite the perfect weekend, but it’ll do.  Until next October, and next year’s Stanford game.  One of these times, I’m going to witness the Huskies beating them.  And BOY will the Cardinal fans not hear the end of it.

Why I Needed The Seahawks To Lose To The Cowboys

You know what the worst thing about this season is going to be?  Watching all the national fuckheads be proven correct in their bullshit line of thinking.

Just because the Seahawks will ultimately fail in their quest to repeat as champions – just because we may not be looking at the next Football Dynasty, but rather just another run of the mill competitive team for the next decade – doesn’t mean they reached their correct conclusion using proper logic.  The Seahawks won’t fail because it’s just “too hard to repeat in this day & age.”  They’re going to fail because Shit Happens, and a bunch of other stuff outside of our realm of understanding.

This isn’t me overreacting.  It’s not time to jump off the bandwagon, because if I was really being honest, I was never on the bandwagon to begin with.  Not this year.  For whatever reason, I just didn’t have my heart in it.  Objectively, I could sit there and look at this roster and marvel at all the stars and make the argument:  yes, this is the best team in football.  But, there was always a nagging little kernel of doubt that prevented me from going all the way with it.  Last year, I was sure.  After the 2012 season ended with that loss in Atlanta, I was sure.  2013 was the slam dunk to end all slam dunks.  I ended up putting my money where my mouth was and I was rewarded with a few hundred dollars.

I had my chance to repeat that bet of the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl again.  But, what did I do?  I decided to take the $700 I was going to place on the Seahawks at 4-to-1 and I tried to double down on Black at the roulette table.  Why?  Because that way I’d have $700 AND a bet on the Seahawks to win it all.  Partially, it was me being stupid and greedy.  But, more than anything, it was me just wanting to have $700 in my pocket, because I didn’t REALLY believe in that Seahawks payday.  In the end, I lost on the roulette table and that was that.  I had nothing to bet for the Super Bowl.

My theme for 2014 has been, “Going Through The Motions”.  I haven’t really had the passion I had last year when it comes to the football season.  I know for a fact I felt a rabid excitement before the first game of this season – I remember vividly in the days leading up to that game wanting for nothing else but to have that game start immediately – but I think that was more residual good vibes from 2013.  It was the Coming Full Circle moment, where we got to look back one final time at the Magical Season That Was, before putting it to bed and looking forward at an uncertain future.  The Seahawks were victorious on that opening night and everyone rejoiced, because it felt like a slice of 2013 come back to life.

Then the Seahawks lost down in San Diego.  And ever since it’s been a struggle to give too much of a shit.  Even during that game, watching it slip through our fingers as they dinked and dunked their way to carving up our defense, it was hard to get all that upset.  I tried to rationalize it away by saying I was confident in our ability to come back.  Because this team is so good, I ALWAYS feel a victory is imminent, until it’s not.  I guess that’s somewhat true.  But, it wouldn’t explain my rather timid response once the game ended.

It’s easy to blame a defeat on the weather conditions.  But, I’ve been watching this team all year just like everyone else (except for yesterday’s game against Dallas, of course).  I’ve seen the deficiencies in this squad compared to last year.  The defense isn’t quite right.  We’re giving up too many 3rd down conversions and too many big plays.  The offense SHOULD be better, but for whatever reason just isn’t.  It’s like we’re witnessing some sort of reverse Ewing Theory with Percy Harvin; last year, he was injured throughout and we won it all; this year, he’s healthy and we’re struggling.  There are real problems with this team that – until right now – had been glossed over.  We’re the champs, we’ll figure it out.  The skeleton of the team is still intact; there’s no reason why we won’t turn it on come playoff time.

And that might be true.  But, this year is fundamentally different.

Expectations are sky high.  That’s what happens when you win a Super Bowl and you bring back the vast majority of that very same team.  We’re not like any other champion; we’re built for the long haul.  Age isn’t set to ravage our roster for another few years yet.  We shouldn’t be having these types of growing pains right now, because we should be right in our prime.  And so, because expectations are so high, there can only be two ways this season plays out:  either we meet expectations, or we fail.

I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to get all overly geeked out by the prospect of simply “meeting expectations”.

It was different last year, because while my expectations were also to win the championship, that was the first time in my life that a team I rooted for went all the way.  Your first time having sex is never going to be the best sex of your life; but you’re never going to forget it because JESUS CHRIST, my dick just shot a load and for once it wasn’t my own doing!

We all kind of saw this coming, though.  We’re fans of Seattle sports teams, we’re used to failure.  We’re not used to knowing what it feels like to be the best.  Consequently, we don’t know how to handle going into a season expecting to be the best.  For many of us, there will be lots of hand-wringing.  Lots of complaining.  Lots of second-guessing.  Of the coaches, of the players.  Of our preconceived notions of greatness.  The Seahawks SHOULD be the best team in football.  But, for right now, they’re not.  That doesn’t mean the season’s over.  This is, I may remind you, the same team that held down Denver for most of the game and ultimately came away victorious when it mattered most.  But, there are going to be certain matchups that just don’t play well against this particular group of Seahawks.  If we’re smart, we’ll figure out how to combat these matchups, to ensure they’re not problems down the road.  If not, we’ll have to get lucky and hope we just don’t see these matchups again when the season is on the line.

Either way, how do I reconcile my lack of passion right now?  Shouldn’t I be more pissed off about this week’s loss?  We’re the Seattle Fucking Seahawks!  We don’t lose at home!  We don’t lose to teams like the fucking Cowboys!  We’re BETTER than they are, God damn it!  And yet, there I was on Sunday night, more or less not giving a shit.

You know why I missed the Seahawks game?  Because I was flying back from the Bay Area after witnessing – in person – the Huskies destroy the Cal Bears.  The Seahawks could have been playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl yesterday afternoon and I wouldn’t have been NEARLY as elated as I was in the middle of that Husky game.  It comes back to expectations.  I expected the Seahawks to beat the Cowboys at home.  But, I went into that Cal game fearing the worst.  I’ll get into this in more detail with tomorrow’s write-up, but I went into the Cal game thinking we’d see a high-scoring game with both teams in the 40s in points.  And, to be honest, I expected the Bears to win.  I expected them to make one or two plays at the end to push them just over the top.

And to see the Huskies not only fight back against those expectations, but totally smash through them in the most satisfying road victory I’ve ever been witness to, was a type of sports joy I haven’t felt in quite some time.

See, the Huskies are right in that sweet spot.  They’re good, but they’re not so good that I expect them to win every week.  So, when they defy expectations and win a game they probably shouldn’t (or, at least, win a game I could just as easily foresee them losing), it’s just so much more thrilling than watching the Seahawks hold off the Washington Redskins in an ugly Monday night affair.

If I’m being honest, I needed the Seahawks to lose this game to maintain my interest.  Is that sick?  I feel like that’s a sick thing for a fan to say.  But, what have I been saying all along?  After the BYE week, the Seahawks faced a string of eight straight games where they should certainly go 8-0 and really pad out their record ahead of the closing stretch.  And what if the Seahawks HAD gone 8-0 in that stretch?  We would have been 10-1 and the prohibitive favorites to win it all.

Now?  Now there’s doubt.  Now, there’s reason to question whether this team has what it takes.  There’s that knot in your stomach.  That old, familiar knot that keeps telling you, “They’re going to find a way to fuck this up, I just know it.”  I’ve missed that knot!  It’s what defines me as a sports fan!  I no longer have to pick the Seahawks to win every week in pick ‘em just because they’re the best team in the league and they should win every time they step on the field.  I can rip them apart and doubt them, as is every fan’s birth right!

This team has problems!  And now, apparently, we’re on the outside looking in at the likes of the Cowboys, Eagles, Cardinals, 49ers, Panthers, Packers, and Lions.  We’re not the best!  It’s all I ever wanted.

Now, I get to sit here and tell you all the reasons why we’re going to lose the next two games – on the road against the Rams and Panthers.  I get to talk about 10am start times.  I get to talk about how hard these two teams have played us in recent years and how stout they are on defense.  And, not only that, but I get to MEAN it!  I get to say with sincerity that I think the Seahawks will – at best – go 1-1 in these next two weeks.  And, when I sit down to watch these games, that fire will be back.  Smoldering in my stomach with that knot of doubt, leaving me anxious and nervous and overreacting to every bad thing that happens on those football fields.

I’ll get to be me again.  The insecure Seattle fan who always expects the worst out of life.  And I’ll get to simmer in my cauldron of rage for the next couple days as I read about how the Cowboys are back.  About how they really shut us up for once.  About how the 12th Man isn’t invincible.  About how The Champs were knocked down a peg or two.  About how the NFL needs the Cowboys to be great.

My God, I want to barf so hard.

Taste it, Seahawks fans.  Let it get all up in there.  Face the reality that it’s going to be a struggle.  There will be no banking on this team flipping a switch when the calendar turns to December and January.  Now, we just have to hope we win enough games to make it in, clean up within our own division, and get a little lucky at times.  This is where we want to be.  We want people doubting us.  We want to be overlooked.  We want to be just another good team in a good conference of football.  We want to face this turmoil head-on and find a way to overcome.

Last year, we had to fight through one of the more difficult schedules – and difficult divisions – in all of football.  Our schedule made us stronger, as steel sharpens steel and all that.

This year, we have to fight through every other team’s best game.  We have to fight our own sky-high expectations.  Everyone hates us for being cocky and arrogant and frankly, annoying.  We have to fight through the fact that everyone is against us.  Everyone in the NFL wants to see Seattle lose.  They want to see it so badly, they’ll even root for the fucking Cowboys against us!

It won’t be easy, but it’s not supposed to be.  Thanks to this loss, I think I’m finally ready for the season to begin.  I’ll have my ass parked in front of my TV next Sunday and I’ll be looking for blood.  And if we lose, I’ll rant and rave and be all kinds of pissed off.  But, if we win, it’ll be a thrill.  Because, it’s not something that’s been pre-ordained.  It’ll be just another good team gutting out a road victory.  Made all the sweeter by the reduced expectations being thrust upon us thanks to this defeat to the Cowboys.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like football season.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Hitters, Part III

Consider this the third in a series of looks back at the 2014 Mariners.  For once, it’s going to be more than, “They fucking sucked, I’m sick of thinking about this shit, I’ll see you in February.”  I’m sure I’ll toss out the usual “What Went Right” and “What Went Wrong” posts as time and desire permit, but right now I’m taking a look at the players.  In short, I’m going to list all the players who accumulated a stat for the 2014 Mariners, and I’m going to talk about each of them individually.

I’m also breaking this up into three parts, because we’re pushing 7,000 words here.

Click HERE for Part I
Click HERE for Part II

Logan Morrison - Following the signing of Corey Hart, the Mariners hedged their bet by trading away Carter Capps to the Marlins for their version of Justin Smoak.  LoMo played a little more outfield than Smoak ever could have dreamed, and he was a lot more injured, but the sentiment is still the same:  a guy with a lot of power potential who just never put it together, for a maddeningly long amount of time.

He’s yet to play a full season (only over 100 games once in his 5-year Major League career), and he’s yet to be all that effective at the plate.  Encouragingly, 2014 was his best year ever, so there’s hope yet.

He hit .262/.315/.420, with 11 homers and 20 doubles in 99 games.  He had only 9 games in the outfield, with the rest at 1B or DH, which is promising.  Let’s keep him there.  He was a VAST improvement over Justin Smoak (who got the lion’s share of starts early in the season at first base) offensively, and wasn’t all that bad defensively either.  He’s club-controlled and if he can stay healthy, might just be a viable starting first baseman for us.  He’s no All Star or anything, but at this point I’ll just take anyone who’s above replacement.

Outlook for 2015:  Slot him in as your starting first baseman.  At best, the Mariners will only be able to bring in one right-handed slugger, and you have to figure that guy will play primarily at DH.  If, in some incomprehensible universe, the Mariners bring in two sluggers, then I suppose you could be looking at LoMo as a platoon option at first/DH.  But, I bet he sticks and makes us all forget about that time he smashed a bat against a wall in frustration and cut up his face, causing him to miss some time.

Humberto Quintero - Says here he was a third catcher down the stretch and had as many at-bats (2) as Felix Hernandez (as many hits too).

Outlook for 2015:  He’s a free agent.  Either he’ll be back in Tacoma, or he’ll be with some other team’s AAA squad, or he’ll be somewhere else.

Stefen Romero - As per usual, the Mariners were desperate for right-handed outfield bats.  Stefen Romero was pretty good in Spring Training and won a spot on the Major League club.  He stunk.  He was sent down and brought up multiple times.  In that aforementioned game in Atlanta where John Buck hit the game-winning home run, Romero hit a game-tying 3-run home run that ultimately led to Buck’s magic.  This day would be the highlight for both of these men in 2014.

Outlook for 2015:  I dunno.  Tacoma probably.  Outside shot at a bench spot with the Mariners, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Michael Saunders - I’m just going to come out and say it:  Michael Saunders was the third best position player on the Mariners in 2014 behind Cano and Seager.  That’s really saying something, considering he only appeared in 78 games.

Why did he only appear in 78 games?  Well, to start the season, he was on the bench, behind Almonte, LoMo, Romero, and others.  When he got a chance to play – however infrequently – he consistently produced.  But, he missed a huge chunk of June with an injury; then again missed some of July, all of August, and some more of September with another injury.

Is this what the team considers Michael Saunders to be?  This injury-prone fourth outfielder who needs regular days off to stay healthy, fresh, and productive?  Probably.  Not for nothing, but when you’re talking about these guys who play all-out all the time, I tend to agree.  Yeah, he’ll give up his body to make a play, but he’ll be paying for it later.  That’s why I never understood all the vitriol with Ichiro never diving.  Do you want him falling all over the field going after balls?  Or, do you want a guy you can count on to be in your lineup every single day?  Same thing with Shaun Alexander.  Until the end of his career, he was very durable.  Why?  He went down and out of bounds rather than take unnecessary hits.  I love Beastmode and Jay Buhner as much as the next guy, but I’m just sayin’, there’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself and living to fight another day.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s looking to get a raise in arbitration.  He should certainly be back.  Pencil him in as a fourth outfielder with a chance to win a starting job if things break right.  If you wanted my prediction right now, though, I’d say he’s not starting.  I’ve got Ackley in left, A-Jax in center, and Free Agent X or Trade Acquisition Y in right.  Still, it’ll be nice to have Saunders back, as I DO think he’s a bona fide Major Leaguer.  He’ll be even more valuable if we manage to find three viable starters to play ahead of him in the outfield.  No more crappy Endy Chavez for us if we can help it!

Kyle Seager - LOVE me some Kyle Seager, boy!  Hot damn that kid is damn hot!

He led the team in homers with 25 and RBI with 96.  He made his very first All Star game and got a couple flimsy hacks in.  He’s been a regular since July 2011 (the same time as Ackley) and he hasn’t let us down once!  In his three full seasons, he’s hit at least 20 homers and batted between .259 and .268.  All the while, improving dramatically with his defense at third base.  This is reflected in his WAR, which has gone up from 2.6 in 2012, to 3.9 in 2013, to a whopping 5.8 this year.  He was only bested in that number by Felix and Cano, which puts him in rarefied air.

And the best part?  He can still get better!  Particularly at the plate.  I agree with LMC, he can and SHOULD be hitting in the .280s.  And, if this team manages to produce some heavy hitters in this lineup, I think he’d be an ideal 2-hole hitter.  Regardless, I have no problem with him batting fifth, IF we find a legitimate cleanup guy.

Either way, I love the fact that there’s someone besides Cano and Felix who I don’t have to worry about.  He doesn’t slump for extended periods of time.  He’s not afraid to hit in Safeco.  He doesn’t get injured.  He doesn’t have extreme splits at the plate.  Thank God for Kyle Seager!

Outlook for 2015:  I’ll have what I’m having!

Justin Smoak - Ahh, the anti-Seager.  Before the season – indeed, even before Spring Training – Smoak was touted as the starting first baseman.  He was someone LMC declared would one day lead the league in doubles.  Instead, he’s successfully led the league in facepalm moments.

His April was no good after his first seven games.  His May was even worse.  In June, he was either sent down to Tacoma or injured.  Either way, he sucked dick the rest of the way.  .202/.275/.339.  THIRTEEN doubles.  PRETTY sure that’s not even close to league-leading.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s arbitration-eligible and due to make some serious coin if he stays.  He’s also out of minor league options, so we can’t just stash him in Tacoma when we’re sick and tired of looking at him.  I have to believe, with every fiber of my being, that he won’t be back.  He’s been given every chance in the world to succeed and he’s been dreadful at every turn.  It’s time for him to go elsewhere and fail miserably for someone else.  If he’s lucky, the Rockies will sign him and he’ll parlay a hot Spring Training into an okay career, making us all wonder, “What If”, except I’ll tell you What If:  he never would’ve made it in Seattle!  It’s Bandbox or Bust for Smoak.

Jesus Sucre - This was the guy we brought up to replace John Buck.  He’s a better receiver of baseballs – he can frame a pitch well and has a pretty good arm – but he’s nothing with a bat in his hands.

Outlook for 2015:  I’m almost certain he’ll be back in Tacoma.  There’s an outside chance he’s back up here as a backup to Zunino.  But, I have to believe that “backup catcher” is once again one of our middling priorities in the upcoming offseason.

Chris Taylor - He was called up and played his first game on July 24th.  He would’ve been called up sooner, but he had to go on the DL for a brief period.  Either way, his promotion was made possible by Brad Miller being a suck-ass for the first few months of the season.

In total, he played in 47 games.  He had a great batting average (.287), but only hit 8 balls for extra bases (with no triples or homers).  His defense was a step above Miller’s, so there’s your trade off.  Miller is a guy who will hit for power, but he won’t walk, so if he’s not striking the ball flush, then he’s not doing much for you.  Taylor is a guy who will never hit for power, but he walks a little more and doesn’t strike out NEARLY as much.  He also gives you better defense.

Or, put it this way:  Taylor was worth 1.5 WAR in his 47 games; Miller was worth 1.6 WAR in 123 games.

So, what do you value?  Premium power at a premium position?  Or defense and stability?  If Miller plays up to his potential (meaning:  hitting for a high average and cutting down somewhat on strikeouts, while maintaining his power), then his ceiling is one of the best offensive short stops in baseball.  I think Taylor is pretty much at his ceiling right now, meaning he’s anywhere from a 3.5 to 4.5-WAR player (if he can keep it up through a full season).

Outlook for 2015:  I guess we’ll find out next year.  It’ll be interesting to see the short stop position battle shake out in Spring Training, and it’ll be even more interesting to see if the winner of that battle can hold onto his job.  Gun to my head:  I think Miller has the edge in this race.  I think they love his power and are willing to put up with some defensive lapses and slumps.  Not TOO MANY slumps, mind you, but I guess we’ll see.  Taylor is a nice Plan B to have.

Mike Zunino - Right out of the gate, just know that Mike Zunino isnt going anywhere.  He’s the entrenched starter as catcher and will be for years to come.

With that out of the way … KIND OF a woofer of a 2014.  Here are the positives:

  • He stayed healthy and played in 131 of a possible 162 games.  That’s quite a workload!
  • He threw out 28.3% of base stealers (28 of 99), which I want to say is good (at least, it’s a vast improvement over the duds we’ve had here since Dan Wilson retired).
  • He was in the upper echelon of pitch-framers, stealing more would-be balls as strikes than most other catchers in baseball.
  • His Catcher E.R.A. was 3.18 (I don’t even know what that means, or if it’s even a good stat or not)
  • He only had 8 passed balls all year (considering he catches Felix on a regular basis, VERY impressive).
  • He hit 22 home runs.
  • He’s only 23 years old and already has a year and a half of Major League experience under his belt.

You notice that most of his positives are defense-related, yet I’m seeing here that his Defensive-WAR was only 0.3 and his overall WAR was only 0.6.  According to other metrics, he actually had NEGATIVE defensive runs saved numbers.  What the shit?

I was all prepared to come on here and talk about what a stud he’s been defensively, and about what a black hole he’s been at the plate.  Turns out, not so fast.

With my untrained eye (and mediocre grasp of advanced stats), I think he’s still good defensively.  I know for a FACT that he’s the best catcher we’ve had in YEARS.  Again, probably since Wilson.  I also think that his bat stinks, but it’s sure to get better.  It would almost have to, as I don’t think it can get much worse.

He had 476 plate appearances in 2014.  Of those, 337 were against right-handed pitchers and 139 were against lefties.  Here are his splits:

  • Vs. Lefties:  .252/.295/.427, 8 doubles, 5 homers, 42 strikeouts, 30.2% Ks
  • Vs. Righties:  .176/.237/.394, 12 doubles, 2 triples, 17 homers, 116 strikeouts, 34.4% Ks

That’s gotta tighten up.  He’s a home run blast waiting to happen, but much more often he’s a strikeout waiting to happen.  And against righties, he’s remarkably worse.  That’s gotta change, because we can’t just save him for lefties.  We’ve got to hit on this guy because he’s THAT important to our future.

Outlook for 2015:  Starting catcher.  You probably want to keep him towards the bottom of the lineup again.  Which isn’t the worst thing in the world.  Let him get his feet wet and maybe one day he’ll be a 5-hole or 6-hole hitter.  I’m not too worried yet, but his offense has to pick up.  If he hits in 2015 the way he did in 2014, I’m going to be VERY concerned.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Hitters, Part II

Consider this the second in a series of looks back at the 2014 Mariners.  For once, it’s going to be more than, “They fucking sucked, I’m sick of thinking about this shit, I’ll see you in February.”  I’m sure I’ll toss out the usual “What Went Right” and “What Went Wrong” posts as time and desire permit, but right now I’m taking a look at the players.  In short, I’m going to list all the players who accumulated a stat for the 2014 Mariners, and I’m going to talk about each of them individually.

I’m also breaking this up into three parts, because we’re pushing 7,000 words here.

Click HERE for Part I
Click HERE for Part III (tomorrow)

Corey Hart - The Mariners picked him up as a free agent, taking a flyer that he’d return to his old, bashing ways in Milwaukee.  Of course, he hadn’t played since 2012 – losing a full year to knee injuries – and baseball isn’t like riding a bike.  Especially when you’re 142 years old ABOUT A YEAR YOUNGER THAN I AM?  GOOD GOD I’M OLD!

Hart appeared in a lot of games in the first month and a half.  Mostly at DH.  Occasionally – and ill-advisedly – in the outfield.  Then, he was placed on the DL.  He returned to play a lot in July, then he went back on the DL again until September call-ups.  He stunk throughout, hitting right around .200 for the season.

He had 9 doubles and 6 homers in 68 games.  A paltry 32% of his hits went for extra bases, which is not something you’re looking for in a “power hitter” in your cleanup spot, who you want protecting Robinson Cano in the order.

Outlook for 2015:  The Mariners have already given him his release, because they needed to make room to bring Jesus Montero back from the suspended list.  That’s how little Corey Hart means to this organization, and it’s the perfect representation of his value.  When you look back at his career as a Mariner, just think about that and frown.  Frown with all your might.

Austin Jackson - If you haven’t by now TL;DR’d this series of posts and you’re following along closely, A-Jax is the second of three guys we traded for in July to help bolster the ballclub.  We traded Nick Franklin to get him.  Nick Franklin was an expendable trade chip who never really had a future in this organization once Robbie Cano was signed.  Austin Jackson was a very good, still-in-his-prime centerfielder with another year of team control in 2015.

The Mariners, of course, DESPERATELY needed a centerfielder.  With Guti taking the year off to get his health issues squared away (and no longer a centerfield prospect anymore, given his durability issues), with Abe Almonte a fucking zoo out there, and with James Jones’ absolute dearth of power, we didn’t have a whole lot of options.  A-Jax looked like a perfect fit.

In Detroit, from 2010-2013, A-Jax was worth no less than 3.4 wins per year.  He was a plus-fielder with quicks on the basepaths who could hit for some pop as well as for average.  He declined greatly in 2014, for reasons no one can quite fathom.  In Detroit this year, he was average-at-best, though his power and overall hitting numbers weren’t down dramatically.  Which makes you wonder if he took that huge step back in the field.  Either way, he was better than what we had in Seattle – or so we thought.

In Seattle, A-Jax batted .229/.267/.260.  He was good for 0.1 WAR.  And, not for nothing, but anecdotally he was a fucking disaster in big situations.  Seemed like whenever he had a man on base or otherwise an opportunity to positively affect a ballgame, he would instead ground into a double play or (at best) strike out.  He proved to be my least-favorite of the three mid-season acquisitions, and that’s REALLY saying something Kendrys Morales.

Outlook for 2015:  Still in Seattle, still starting in center, still batting leadoff.  At least out of Spring Training.  Beyond that, who’s to say?  If he plays like he did in the last two months of this season, you never know.  We may be talking about one of the many reasons why the 2015 Mariners DON’T make the playoffs.  Honestly, we’re REALLY counting on A-Jax to turn it around.  I highly doubt the Mariners are going to go out and find another guy to compete in center.  So, if A-Jax fails, and there’s no one in the minors to take his place, we’re proper fucked at a spot on the team where we’re banking on being set.  Just in case you were overwhelmed by the warm-fuzzies after this pleasant 2014 run, keep that in mind.

James Jones - In his first two months, James Jones was amazing.  He was everything Abe Almonte wasn’t.  He was crisp at the plate.  He wasn’t the most-refined in the outfield, but he was solid enough.  And, he was a wizard on the basepaths.

Then, July came around and he started falling off.  We all started noticing his faults.  Like:  how he wasn’t really improving as a centerfielder.  Like:  how he couldn’t hit for power.  Like:  how if he didn’t slap a single the other way, he couldn’t get on base to take advantage of those legs.  In the end, he lost his starting job, was sent back to Tacoma for a couple weeks, then returned exclusively as a bench player.

It’s the part he was born to play, baby!

Keep him away from the starting lineup, keep him out of center, and watch him shine.  He’s a plus-defender in the corner outfield, with speed and a strong arm.  Put him in during the later innings to replace Endy Chavez or whoever.  Pinch run him for Kendrys Morales or some other slow piece of crap.  He’s GOLD!

27 stolen bases in 28 attempts.  Very, very good.

14 extra-base hits in 312 at-bats (with only 12 walks vs. 67 strikeouts) is very, very BAD.  That’s factoring in how a lot of those doubles were hustle-doubles.

Outlook for 2015:  He needs to bulk up.  He needs to get a little more power into his bat.  He needs to retain how well he hit the outside pitch the other way, but he’s also gotta recognize pitches better and take MANY more walks.  His career will be built on a foundation of base-stealing.  If he wants that career to primarily take place in the Majors, then he needs to figure out a way to get on base with more regularity.  In an ideal world, he’d fix what’s wrong with him and be our fourth or fifth outfielder.  But, I got a feeling he’ll start out in Tacoma again.  Not the worst thing in the world.

Brad Miller - In following the Dustin Ackley Path To Success, Brad Miller was a mid-season call-up as a rookie and did quite well.  So well, in fact, that he pretty much earned his starting job without a fight.  Nevertheless, the Mariners put the short stop job up for grabs between Miller and Nick Franklin.  Didn’t matter, as Miller mopped the floor with him in the month of March.  The job was his, and everyone rejoiced.

Then the regular season started:

  • April:  .173/.212/.333 with 26 strikeouts in 81 at-bats
  • May:  .136/.260/.152 with 17 strikeouts and 1 extra-base hit in 66 at-bats

In June, he turned it around with:  .298/.355/.512 with 21 strikeouts in 84 at-bats.  But, then July happened:  .172/.262/.224 with 12 strikeouts and 3 extra-base hits in 58 at-bats.  On July 24th, Miller lost his starting job for good, with the promotion of Chris Taylor.  From that point on, they’d split duties, with Taylor getting the bulk of the looks the rest of the way in high-pressure games.

To his credit, Miller did turn his season around somewhat:

  • August:  .273/.357/.545 with 6 strikeouts and 4 extra-base hits in only 22 at-bats
  • September:  .314/.340/.549 with 13 strikeouts and 7 extra-base hits in 51 at-bats

On the whole, Miller’s 2014 was worse than his 2013, but he still has the potential to be a solid starting short stop in this league.  His power potential is undeniable.  His defense isn’t quite as good as Taylor’s, but he’s very athletic and there’s talk of him maybe converting to outfield (or, at least adding that to his repertoire to become a super-utility guy).  Normally, losing your starting position and getting that super-utility label is a death sentence, but in this case I’m willing to hear it out.

Outlook for 2015:  He will once again come in competing for the starting short stop job, this time against Chris Taylor.  If he mashes again like he did in Spring of 2014, he’s certain to win the job out of camp.  But, I have no doubt that if all things are equal with health, there will be a short leash on Miller if he struggles again in April.

Jesus Montero - You know the story:  we traded Michael Pineda and some other dude for Montero and Hector Noesi.  Noesi was a disaster who was finally DFA’d this year (and who became an okay starter for a struggling White Sox team).  Pineda has been mostly injured throughout his time with the Yankees, but at season’s end he flashed that potential he showed in Seattle as a rookie.

Jesus Montero, on the other hand, has been a fucking loser from the get-go.  First, he was our starting catcher of the future; that didn’t pan out.  Then, we looked to convert him to first base; that hasn’t gone well.  He’s a fat, immobile turd who gets to add “injury prone” to his list of descriptors.  Then, towards the end of the 2014 season, on a rehab assignment with the Everett Aqua Sox, functioning as a first base coach (which, not for nothing, is his future in the game:  a base coach for a single-A baseball team), Jesus Montero was baited into an altercation with an allegedly drunken scout (at the time) for the Seattle Mariners after that scout (again allegedly) sent him an ice cream sandwich and yelled at him to hustle more.

The scout was fired (and rightly so, because I like to give Montero shit, but even I know he was acting like a cunt), and Jesus Montero was suspended (probably because he went into the stands with a baseball bat in his hands, which is a huge no-no in sports).  Montero has since been reinstated, and is apparently being watched like a hawk by the Mariners’ front office.  There’s one last chance on the table for Montero in a Mariners uniform (or, more likely, for Montero as trade bait to try to recoup some of his tons of lost value).  They’ve got him in Arizona working out on a strict exercise program (because, you know, he came in fat to Spring Training 2014 and admitted as such in interviews that all he did was sit around and stuff his face during the offseason).

Outlook for 2015:  Once a loser, always a loser.  There will be all this crap written about how he’s in the “best shape of his life”, but that’ll probably mean that he’s lost all his power.  He’ll start out in Tacoma and continue to suck (if he’s not outright traded in the offseason as a throw-in to a much bigger deal).

Kendrys Morales - Sigh.  Here we go.

You remember him as a productive hitter for the Angels for a bunch of years.  Then, he broke his foot or some damn thing while celebrating a game-winning home run and he ended up losing his 2011 season.  The Mariners swapped Jason Vargas for him straight up prior to the 2013 season (after a decent, but not great 2012) and he had a decent, but not great first year with the club.

The big draw with Morales – aside from being a huge step up compared to the other DHs we’ve employed since Edgar Martinez retired – was that even though he’d be a free agent at season’s end, we could tender him and if he signed as a free agent elsewhere, we’d get a high draft pick (a first rounder most likely, unless it was one of the top 10 “protected” draft picks).  So, we offered him the tender – 1 year, $14.1 million – and of course he turned it down.  Reportedly, we even offered him a 3-year, $30 million deal, and he turned THAT down.  See, Scott Boras is his agent, and together they thought they could squeeze a little more out of the free agent market.

They couldn’t.  No one would sign him.  Because no one wants a broken down statue on the basepaths who can’t play first base because he’ll get hurt or need a few days off every time.  He’s a DH and nothing more, and not even that great of a DH at that.  .449 slugging percentage in 2013, playing almost every single day.  That’s crap.  When you bring nothing else to the table, then guess what:  you don’t get contract offers when it means a team has to give up a high draft pick.

In June, he signed with the Twins.  Again reportedly, the Mariners were interested in signing him during the season, but he wouldn’t have it.  So, we ended up trading for him, by giving the Twins Stephen Pryor (a reliever returning from major injury who was no longer the smoke-thrower he was pre-surgery).

Kendrys had 154 at bats with the Twins.  His numbers were bad (.234/.259/.325), but we all rationalized it away by saying, “He didn’t have a REAL Spring Training, so just consider his numbers with the Twins as his Spring.”

That oft-belabored talking point would soon switch to, “If the Mariners can just get Kendrys going down the stretch, everything should be all right with the offense.”  That’s because he was much, MUCH worse as a Seattle Mariner than he was as a Twin (hitting .207/.285/.347), so whenever he managed to do something right (which, again, wasn’t very often), we all had to hope and pray that THIS was the day that turned a slumping slugger who has “always hit” into what we thought we were getting as the centerpiece of our mid-season trades to bolster a contending team.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  But, at least Morales doesn’t have to worry about being tendered anymore.  Even if he DID qualify, there’s no way in FUCKING HELL that even the Mariners would be stupid enough to offer him a 1-year deal for $15.3 million.

Outlook for 2015:  If he had managed even a semi-reasonable finish to his 2014 season, I could’ve seen the Mariners trying to bring him back on a 2-3 year deal.  But, he looked so bad, I doubt it’d happen.  On top of that, I don’t think Morales wants to be here.  Truth be told, he never did (and proved it by signing with a last-place Twins team even though the Mariners were in contention this year and wanted him back), but after his disaster of a season, I think he’s going somewhere on a prove-it deal.  Some place like Baltimore or the Yankees or some other place he can DH in a small ballpark.  Get his numbers back up to where they should be, and then hopefully sign a final long-term deal for big money with the Rangers or some damn place.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Hitters, Part I

Consider this the first in a series of looks back at the 2014 Mariners.  For once, it’s going to be more than, “They fucking sucked, I’m sick of thinking about this shit, I’ll see you in February.”  I’m sure I’ll toss out the usual “What Went Right” and “What Went Wrong” posts as time and desire permit, but right now I’m taking a look at the players.  In short, I’m going to list all the players who accumulated a stat for the 2014 Mariners, and I’m going to talk about each of them individually.

I’m also breaking this up into three parts, because we’re pushing 7,000 words here.

Dustin Ackley - Funny thing about Ackley.  If you’d followed the Mariners all season, you’d know that Ackley was one of the most important reasons for our continued success.  But, if you didn’t follow along, and you just now looked at his numbers on the surface, you’d think, “What’s the big fucking deal, bitch?”  He batted .245 this year; he batted .253 LAST year.  He walked only 32 times this year in 143 games; he walked 37 times last year in only 113 games.  What gives?

Well, for starters, his slugging went way up.  .398 vs. .341 last year.  That amounts to 27 doubles, 4 triples, and 14 homers, over last year’s 18/2/4 line on extra-base hits.

Then, take a look at his first half vs. second half.  At the end of the day on June 30, 2014, Ackley was hitting:  .214/.273/.329/.602, with 12 doubles, 2 triples, & 4 homers.  From July 1st onward, Ackley hit .274 with a slugging percentage of .463.  He hit 15 doubles, 2 triples, and a whopping 10 homers to really pick up the slack.  It might’ve been even better, but a nagging ankle injury in September limited his playing time and production.  His August was insane, though:  .280/.325/.533/.857.

So, what does all of this mean?  Haven’t we been seduced by this siren’s song before?  He played a little over half a season (from mid-June onward) as a rookie and did well.  He had a solid start to 2012 and then fell off the map.  He struggled for most of the first half of 2013 before turning it on in August (after enduring a monthlong stint in the minors to get his head right).  Then, in 2014, he struggled in the first half again – finding himself batting towards the bottom of the lineup – before turning it on in the second half.  Which Ackley is the real Ackley?  I’d like to believe he can uphold his second half numbers, but I’ll never be sure until I actually see it for a full year.

Outlook for 2015:  Ackley looks to be the Mariners’ starting left fielder once again, as well as our 2-hole hitter.  We’ll bank on him continuing to hit and play solid corner defense.  If all goes well, we’ve got our left fielder of the future, today.  If all goes to shit, then Ackley is nothing more than a 4th outfielder on a good team’s bench.

Abraham Almonte - On the heels of a pretty mediocre Spring Training, Almonte was handed the keys to the starting center field job as well as our leadoff hitter role.  He was fast, he was exciting at times, but he was raw and for as many amazing plays he made, he made twice as many mistakes.  In the end, he hit like shit and was sent down to Tacoma in early May.  He was later traded to the Padres for Chris Denorfia, where he went on to be a slightly better – but still quite mediocre – hitter.  And then in September, his playing time was cut drastically.

Outlook for 2015:  I have to imagine in AAA somewhere, but certainly not for the Mariners.

Willie Bloomquist - He was a guy – if you’re a Mariners fan – who nobody wanted.  And yet, he was a guy who the Mariners signed to a 2-year guaranteed deal to be this team’s primary utility infielder/outfielder.  And, in the first three and a half months, he played more than anyone would’ve liked, because the majority of this lineup sucked dick.  Particularly our short stop and our entire outfield.  As such, not only did Willie play a lot for a utility guy, but he batted near the top of the lineup.

And, if I’m being honest, he wasn’t The Worst.  He batted .278 and played solid defense.  He was a replacement-level god in a world of sub-replacement clods.  He held this team together in a lot of ways until other guys either improved on their own or came up from Tacoma.  Then, he had a season-ending injury.  But, it was okay.  Chris Taylor was slapping hits around, Ackley was turning it on, and trades were made to theoretically bolster the lineup.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s still under contract, so there’s that.  He had surgery, so I guess it all depends on how he recovers.  If he’s able to return to form, he should be good to have around on the bench.  If he’s not, then we’ll have to decide whether we want to eat the salary, or keep him around anyway as a veteran presence or some damn thing.  I tend to believe he’ll be here, but it wouldn’t kill me if he started the season in the Minors (so, on the DL, getting some extended Spring Training).

John Buck - He was our backup catcher, brought in on a 1-year deal, to back up Mike Zunino (with an outside shot at playing more regularly, depending on whether or not Zunino struggled at the Major League level).  He played in 27 games for the Mariners, he was pisspoor behind the plate, and he was even worse at bat.  He’ll be remembered for hitting a game-winning 2-run home run down in Atlanta, and then getting DFA’d on his birthday on July 7th after a 2-0 win at home over the Twins.  By all accounts, he was a great Clubhouse Guy (who may or may not have come up with the double-jackoff hand signals after guys reached base), but he was also a poor receiver who the pitchers wanted to be rid of.  Jesus Sucre was called up to replace him.  The Mariners would go on to lose their next three games and finish the month of July 7-12, inciting what many only I called the John Buck Curse.

Outlook for 2015:  He was apparently picked up in September by the Angels and played in five games.  The Angels would go on to have the best record in the American League, only to get swept in the ALDS by the Royals.  So, maybe the John Buck Curse has many different meanings.  He won’t be back with the Mariners and he likely won’t be back in baseball period.  All adequate things must come to an end.

Robinson Cano - You know the story:  10 years, $240 million.  He’s here through the 2023 season.  2014 was Year One.

  • The numbers:  .314/.382/.454/.836; 37 doubles, 2 triples, 14 homers, 10 stolen bases, 61 walks, 68 strikeouts, 82 RBI, 77 runs scored, 6.4 WAR, 1 heart stolen (mine, *swoon*)

Want to know how those numbers line up with his career figures?  Let’s take a look:

  • .310/.358/.499/.857; 41.2 doubles per year, 3 triples, 21.8 homers, 4.8 stolen bases (his 2014 total was a career-best), 41.1 walks, 75.7 strikeouts, 90.4 RBI, 87.6 runs scored, 4.88 WAR

His power numbers were a little down, but you had to expect that coming from a bandbox in the Bronx to a cavernous wasteland that is Safeco Field.  Nevertheless, if you go by WAR, this was the fourth-best season of his career.  And that’s in a lineup with not a whole lot around him in support.  There was Seager, and a lot of question marks and holes.  It’s no wonder Cano was among the league leaders in intentional walks.

Consider me a Cano Fan 4 Life after he won me $500 and gave me a good excuse to go back to Tahoe next year to claim my winnings.  We shouldn’t expect these types of numbers for the remaining nine years of his contract, but it’s a helluva start, and in my opinion he’s worth every fucking penny.

Outlook for 2015:  Starting second baseman, 3-hole hitter.  Mark it down in Sharpie.  MVP candidate?  You got it!  The guy who ultimately brings the Mariners back to the post-season?  Gosh I hope so!  Any way you slice it, I would expect numbers comparable to what he did in 2014, with little-to-no dropoff.

Endy Chavez - Like 2013, Endy Chavez signed a minor league deal to return to the Mariners in 2014.  Like 2013, Endy Chavez started the regular season in Tacoma.  This year, he first appeared on May 30th; I believe he had it written into his contract that if he wasn’t on the Mariners’ roster by the end of May, he could get his release and be free to sign elsewhere.

When Endy first played for the Mariners in 2009, he had speed and great fielding ability.  Then, Yuniesky Betancourt happened, causing Endy to tear an ACL.  Ever since, he’s lost much of that speed and fielding ability.  But, if you’re looking for a guy to come off the bench, play some corner outfield, play some emergency centerfield in a pinch, and hit .270 while slapping around a bunch of singles and never walking, then Endy Chavez is your guy!  In short, I like him for what he is.  I like him as THAT.  I don’t like it when he’s playing every day and I don’t like it when he’s batting near the top of the lineup.  Maybe if he walked more, but that’s never going to happen.

Outlook for 2015:  Surprisingly, Endy only played in 80 games this year.  Doesn’t it feel like A LOT more?  I guess if you factor in how he missed the first two months, he really did play in a high percentage (probably around 3/4 of all possible games).  I get the sense that the Mariners will bring him back once again on a minor league deal.  Because why not?  Is he really holding anyone else back?  Not from what I’ve seen.  I’ll take his .270 batting average over some of the stiffs we’ve had roaming the corner outfield spots of late.  If you figure the locks to make this outfield are Ackley, A-Jax, and Michael Saunders (with James Jones as an outside shot as a 4th guy); and if you figure that the Mariners are all but guaranteed to go out and get another outfielder to compete for a starting spot from outside the organization; then it really makes a lot of sense to bring Endy back, start him in Tacoma, and bring him up in late May again if there’s a need for bench help.

Chris Denorfia - He was one of three guys we acquired in trade in the month of July to help us with our stretch run.  We weren’t asking for a lot out of Denorfia:  platoon in right field with Endy Chavez/Michael Saunders when he was healthy, and hit well against left-handed pitchers.  What we got was remarkably less than what we expected.

In 2013, Denorfia was a 4-win player for San Diego, who also plays in a pitcher’s paradise.  He’s always been more or less a bench player in his career, but he got real starting time from 2011-2013 and made the most of it, accounting for a little over 7 wins in production during that time.  For whatever reason, in 2014 he fell off the proverbial cliff.  In 89 games with the Padres before being traded, he hit .242/.293/.319 – essentially the definition of replacement-level.  We picked him up and he hit .195/.256/.317, or just less than a replacement-level player.  In real-world numbers, he had 5 extra-base hits in 32 games.

Now, let’s dig a little deeper.  We brought this guy in to bat right-handed against left-handed pitchers.  How did he do in the role he was brought in for?

In 61 of 90 plate appearances, he hit .164/.246/.255, with 2 of his 5 extra-base hits.

So, in other words, he was an unmitigated disaster.  Chock that trade up as a huge FAIL, because I can all but guarantee that Abe Almonte could’ve EASILY surpassed those bullshit numbers.

Outlook for 2015:  Not a Mariner.  I don’t care where he ends up, as long as it’s not here.  He’ll probably get a minor league deal with an invite to camp somewhere to compete for another bench spot.  I’d say 50/50 he breaks camp with a Major League team.

Nick Franklin - In Spring Training, it was a battle between Nick Franklin and Brad Miller for the starting short stop job.  Remember that?  Remember how we signed Cano, thereby closing that position to Franklin who’d started there for much of 2013?  Remember how we had visions of turning Franklin into a reserve outfielder?

Anyway, Brad Miller was off-the-charts hot in Spring Training, and that was that for Franklin.  Until around mid-April, when he was called up because he was hitting so well and Miller wasn’t.  He proceeded to stink and by early June was back down in Tacoma again.

We would go on to trade him to the Rays in a 3-team deal that brought us Austin Jackson.  At the time, it looked like a gift from the Heavens.

Franklin wouldn’t make his Rays debut until September.  He played in 11 games for them in total.  In his first start, he had two hits with a double, an RBI, and a run scored.  He would go on to have only five more hits, two more extra-baggers, and that’s about it.

Outlook for 2015:  I guess contending for a roster spot with the Rays?  There’s a lot of team control left, so I’m sure he’ll have plenty of chances.  We’ll see.

Cole Gillespie - He’s another fringe, AAAA-type player who’s probably too good for Triple-A, but not good enough for the Majors.  And yet, I’m absolutely certain he would’ve been an improvement over Chris Denorfia.  He played in 34 games and did okay.  I still don’t quite remember why we let him go.  He played in 1 other Major League game after he left and I don’t know what’s going on now.

Outlook for 2015:  Sometimes you eat the bar …