Seahawks Face First Big (Non-Rams) Road Test Of The Season In Arizona

We’re all the way into Sunday night of week 7 before a primetime Seahawks game.  Meanwhile, to date, we’ve seen the following boring garbage teams twice (Denver, San Francisco, the Jets, Houston) and we’ve seen the fucking Bears a whopping THREE TIMES.  What the fuck, NFL?  Do you WANT people to watch your product?  If I’m not mistaken (and I’m not), the Bears were 6-10 last year and in last place in the NFC North.  And, oh-by-the-way, on top of the three fucking times we’ve seen the Bears in primetime, guess what!  We get them again on Monday night, next week, with their third string fuck-up quarterback and their limp-dick defense.  Luckily, it’ll be Halloween, so most people won’t feel forced to put it on TV.

And, if you thought the Texans were a boring, nothing team now, just wait until you see them two more times on Monday night, and another primetime game on Saturday near the end of the season!  Merry Christmas, here’s Brock Osweiler throwing wobbling ducks to the running backs coach on the sideline!

Thankfully, the NFL will be treated to a compelling matchup between two new rivals who both complement one another very well.  Two flashy, hard-hitting defenses; two tough, high-flying offenses.  You gotta figure the game will be competitive for at least a half (which half that is, is to be determined), with a better-than-50% chance of the whole game being good!

Even though they’re on the road, I have to give the Seahawks the edge in this one.  Now, that might change if Kam misses another game, and if Jimmy Graham’s injury is more serious than they’re letting on.  But, even without those guys, I still like our chances.  Russell Wilson, while fighting through some very limiting injuries, is still progressing well as a pocket passer.  The running game, while spotty to date, is getting chunk plays on a regular basis; it feels like only a matter of time before we bust out for 200+ yards as a team.  The defense is blitzing more than it ever has under Pete Carroll, and the increased pressure is paying off bigtime.

On top of all of that, who have they really played?  They bungled their game against a Brady-less Patriots team, they too got beat by a bad Rams team (go figure; we might be more similar to the Cardinals than we thought), and they got dismantled by a Bills team that might be in the Top 5 in the AFC, but that’s like saying you’re in the Top 5 cleverest analogies thought up by me before I’ve had my coffee.  On the flip, they took care of business against some terrible Bucs, 49ers, and Jets teams.  Clearly, this is not last year’s Cards team.

The poster boy of that sentiment is Carson Palmer.  I went into this year’s fantasy football draft eyeballing him for two reasons:  he was coming off of an amazing year on an amazing team with an amazing set of receivers, and I knew that if I picked him, he’d immediately revert back to whatever the crappiest version of Carson Palmer is (probably the one that played for the Raiders, but that’s just a stab in the dark).  See, I know I’m a terrible fantasy football player, and my teams are always mediocre at best, so if I can use that power for good (picking key rivals of the Seahawks, in hopes that they’ll turn into pumpkins before our very eyes), all the better.  I just wish I’d made more of an effort to grab Minnesota’s defense in more leagues.

Anyway, Carson Palmer has taken quite the beating this year.  He’s already missed one game due to a concussion, and when I see him, he just don’t look right.  This isn’t the same offense we saw a year ago, driving the ball down field via the long bomb with regularity.  Part of that, undoubtedly, has to do with having fantasy phenom David Johnson as your running back – when you have a talent like that, you ride him for all he’s worth – but also they just look out of sync.  It’s like Bruce Arians doesn’t know what to do with himself when his running game is leaps and bounds better than his passing game.  In years past, even when they had to rely on 2nd & 3rd string quarterbacks, they still threw the ball deep a ton when games were still competitive; now?  They’re dinking and dunking like the rest of these mediocre teams we see, which could be a good or a bad thing.

Fortunately, there’s no clear-cut #1 receiver we have to worry about.  I think we’ll see more of our usual defensive positioning this week, with Sherman on his side, and the other guys on their side.  MAYBE, if the Cards run more jumbo sets out there, with only 1 or 2 receivers (which I feel like I’ve seen out of them more this year than I have in the last few seasons), Sherm will go find Fitzgerald and lock on him.  But, in any 3-wide receiver sets, figure Sherm to stick to his side, even if it’s guarding Michael Floyd.  The point is, even if Fitz is the best guy on their team, he’s still a guy who can be covered by the likes of Shead or Lane.

There’s a lot of unknown going into this game, that won’t be made clear until Sunday.  The aforementioned injuries to Kam & Graham.  Also, what are the Seahawks going to do if Prosise is healthy?  He and Spiller essentially play the same position; are they both even active at the same time if they’re both able to play?  As for the Cards, John Brown found himself on the injury report after seemingly getting through Monday’s game healthy.  That would be a HUGE loss for them, as to be quite honest he’s faster than all of our corners, and is the one guy on their offense who can beat us over the top.  Similarly, Carson Palmer hasn’t practiced through Thursday (he may this afternoon, but we’ll see).  There are no indications that he won’t play this week (aside from the not practicing, obviously), but you might as well stick a fork in the Cards if they’re without Palmer.

In which case, go ahead and forget what I said in those first three paragraphs (HAHA, too late, you already read those paragraphs, you chickenfuckers!).

This game has me super pumped, I’m not gonna lie.  The ramifications are tremendous!  The Seahawks can go up 3 games in the loss column over their nearest rival (you can put the 49ers and Rams to bed; they’re not competing for the division), and keep pace with the likes of the Cowboys and Vikings for the top seed in the NFC.  On top of that, it’s just fun to watch your team on Sunday night, when the rest of the NFL-loving world is doing the same.  I love the unusual circumstances, I love the fact that most of the country hates the Seahawks with a passion and will be rooting against us with the fury of a thousand suns, I love the fact that they still have to begrudgingly respect Russell Wilson’s game even though 100% of all non-Seahawks fans think he’s the biggest tool in the world, and I particularly love knowing all of this and then having the game being a blowout in our favor.  So, not only do the vast majority of people tuning in hate the Seahawks, but they’ve got to sit there and watch us whoop it up on the sidelines in and out of every commercial time out.  Outstanding!

Then, there’s always that cool thing after every dominant Seahawks primetime win where the rest of the NFL media types talk about how great we are, like this is a new thought that just crossed their minds.  Motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre the Seahawks!  NFL media types have the memories of a gnat.  They can only focus on one thing at a time, and it’s immediately forgotten with the next new shiny thing that crosses their paths.  Right now, it’s all about the Cowboys and their rookie QB, or the Eagles and THEIR rookie QB, or the Vikings because they’re the only undefeated team left.  But, if the Seahawks stomp all over the Cards like they should, get ready for the rest of the country to jump ALL OVER our bandwagon.

This game is also fun because, once we get through it, we don’t play another team in our division again until the final three weeks of the season, when we play them all in a row.  We’ve got some FUN games ahead!

  • At New Orleans, for a potential offensive showdown
  • the Bills on Monday Night
  • At New England, for a possible Super Bowl preview
  • the Eagles and their aforementioned rookie QB
  • At Tampa, for a possible blowout
  • the Panthers (while they’re disappointing, they still pose matchup nightmares for us)
  • At Green Bay, with another opportunity to knock an NFC rival down a peg

These are teams (aside from the Panthers & Packers) that we don’t get to see enough.  And, if we keep winning, expect the good times to continue rolling.


In Conclusion: My Final Thoughts On The 2016 Seattle Mariners

I’m finding it harder and harder to get angry over the end result of yet another season without the playoffs.  But, let’s just let that sink in for a while and see if the rage comes back.

With every regime change, it feels like you start your fandom all over again.  True, the Seattle Mariners have gone 15 consecutive seasons without reaching the playoffs, but Jerry Dipoto’s Seattle Mariners are only on an 0 for 1 streak!  He improved over the 2015 Mariners, and had us contending for that second wild card spot up to the very end of the season.  Had a couple things gone differently, maybe we’re in there against either Baltimore or Toronto, fighting for an opportunity to get into the ALDS.

This year was especially different, because it not only saw the Mariners bring in a new GM, but also a change in ownership.  No more Howard Lincoln to kick around!  Whether it had any bearing on the 2016 season, or the direction of this franchise going forward, it feels – as a fan – like a clean slate.  That dark cloud of incompetence has lifted with the infusion of fresh blood.  This isn’t the team with the longest playoff drought in the entirety of the Major Leagues; for all intents and purposes, we’re looking at an expansion team, and a stacked one at that.

Were the 2016 season Year 8 of the Jack Zduriencik regime, I think I’d feel a lot differently than I do.  A new regime brings with it new hope.  A winning season falling just short of the playoffs – knowing you’re THIS CLOSE to being relevant – means that we’re just a couple pieces here and there from taking the next step NEXT year.

But, just because there are new people in place at the top, doesn’t mean we forget what’s come before this.  These still are the Seattle Mariners!  An inept franchise for the bulk of its existence, with a brief window of competence from 1995 to 2001.  I’m into my third decade of rooting on this team, and it’s been a non-stop parade of misery from the start.

I really wanted 2016 to be the year to break the string.  Our stars aren’t getting any younger, for one, and it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll have many stars coming up through the pipeline in the next few seasons.  I REALLY wanted to see Felix get a taste of post-season life, because he deserves it more than anyone.  And, quite frankly, I’ve seen this group of guys go on a hot streak.  If we could’ve maintained our high level of performance from our pitching staff, the sky was the limit for this team.  With Paxton on the hill, I like our chances in a 1-game playoff.  From there, let the chips fall where they may and see what happens.

As it stands, the lasting image I have for this team – the image I can’t get out of my head – is Felix in the dugout, with his head against the railing after the Mariners lost to the A’s on October 1st to officially eliminate us from the playoffs.  That’s 12 years of frustration and anguish, personified.  One more year on the outside looking in.  One more year of utter failure.

I feel you ...

I feel you …

In spite of what I’ve written before (which you really should read, if you want more vitriol in your season-ending Mariners wrap-up post), there’s a lot to like about our chances in 2017.  We’ve still got our core guys locked in place – Felix, Cano, Cruz, Seager, Kuma – and a bunch of other guys who helped us go pretty far this year – Smith, Diaz, Cishek, Paxton, Walker, Miranda, Martin, Zunino, Iannetta, Marte.  While you’re right to be concerned about Dipoto’s trades thus far in his Mariners career, you have to admit he was able to find some diamonds in the rough in his free agent signings.  If Dan Vogelbach can stick – and truth be told, he’s been able to hit well at every level so far in his young career – we could be poised to make a big jump next year.

But, I’ve got a whole offseason to talk about that.  For now, you know what?  I’m going to feel okay about the 2016 Mariners.  This was a fun team to root for, that gave us a lot of wonderful memories.  Huge walk-off hits from Lind, Martin, Cano, and Dae-ho Lee, among others; the epic Ken Griffey Jr. Weekend in early August to kickstart our comeback drive to contention; and a wild September run that saw us fall JUST short.  Feel however you want to feel, but any season that allows me to check the standings on a daily basis down the stretch to try to figure out our path to the post-season is ultimately an entertaining one, if nothing else.

Maybe don’t go overboard.  Failing to make the playoffs isn’t something to be proud of.  I’m not going to say “Good Job,” or “You Did Your Best,” or any of those other pithy platitudes.  We’ve been down this road before.  We’ve been close to the playoffs as recently as 2014; we’ve had winning seasons in 2009 & 2007.  Each of those years have seen bountiful hope and optimism heading into subsequent seasons.  In 2015, the Mariners won 11 fewer games than the previous year, ending up 76-86; in 2010, the Mariners won 24 fewer games than the previous year, ending up 61-101; in 2008, the Mariners won 27 fewer games than the previous year, ending up 61-101 again.  In this run of futility that started with the Bill Bavasi regime, winning seasons haven’t been building blocks so much as edges of cliffs for the franchise to fall from.  There are plenty of reasons to think 2017 will be different, but that’s what we said after 2007, 2009, and 2014 as well.

Be careful out there, is what I’m getting at.  Don’t set yourself up for a big fall by setting expectations too high.  I’m mostly saying this to myself, because every year I get suckered in, and every year I’m left drained.  Let’s take the Wait & See approach and hopefully the Mariners will prove they’ve broken the curse.

I don’t know what Seattle did to deserve the Mariners, but at some point we have to be rewarded for sticking by this team all these years, right?  I mean, Cleveland can’t have ALL the sports glory, can it?

The 2016 Mariners Had A Legit Hitting Lineup

In 2010, as difficult as it seemed at the time, I knew this day would eventually arrive.  The Mariners had been a great hitting team Back In The Day, in the glory years of the early 2000’s.  And, with steroids largely policed out of the game, we couldn’t reasonably expect a return to those types of insane power numbers.  Nevertheless, whatever “Good” means in this brave new world of lower power numbers and better overall pitching, whatever the new normal would end up being, ONE DAY, the Mariners would once again have a good lineup.

And, it appears, that time has come.

This is going to be very rudimentary, so I wouldn’t come here expecting a vast expanse on sabermetrics.  My little pea brain has a general fixation on what good hitting should be, and that number is .250.  If you’re hitting .250 or above, you’re doing all right.  If you can pack your lineup with those types of guys, you’re generally going to score lots of runs and, hopefully, win lots of games.  It’s not a hard and fast rule, but more of a glance.  There are obviously other ways to contribute – a lower average, with a higher OBP, for instance, will bring a lot to the table; ditto a guy with a high slugging percentage – but I like it when I can look at the Mariners’ stat-sheet and see a bunch of guys hitting .250 or above.  It warms my fuzzies right up.

Currently, the Mariners have 6 regulars hitting .250 or above (Cano, Cruz, Marte, Martin, Smith, and Seager).  Aoki and Iannetta are lagging behind a little bit, but they do make up for it with OBP.  The only guy struggling too much for comfort is Lind, with a .216 batting average to go with all of 5 walks on the season, and a paltry .319 slugging percentage.

On the plus side, that’s really only ONE black hole.  You could make an argument that Guti is another, but he doesn’t play nearly enough to qualify for that type of slur.  If he’s still struggling in July, then maybe you think about his role on this team.

But, as far as I’m concerned, having just the one regular struggling is FANTASTIC!

I started this post back on May 25th, and then for some reason I just abandoned it to my drafts folder.  I don’t know why; I guess I just didn’t feel like getting into a whole thing.  I was apparently pretty high on the Mariners’ hitters on May 25th, and that carried through – for the most part – the rest of the season.

I already got into Cano, Cruz, and Seager in a separate post, so feel free to read about my thoughts on them over there.  Spoiler alert:  I like those guys.  But, there were other guys I liked too, so let’s talk about them for a while.  In no particular order:

Leonys Martin

As a centerfielder (as a hitter and defensively), Leonys Martin was the definition of “Meets Expectations”.  Damn near a .250 hitter, 15 homers, 24 stolen bases, and absolutely elite, top-shelf fielding.  We’re not talking about Ken Griffey Jr. numbers or anything, but that’s as ideal of a centerfielder as you can expect.  Now, as a Mariners fan, when I think of Leonys Martin, I’d have to actually put him in the “Exceeds Expectations” category, because God damn have we been tortured with a bunch of mediocre outfield crap since Mike Cameron left!  We got nearly 2 seasons of Guti in his prime before he fell apart, but other than that, it’s been a wasteland of Meh out there.  When you factor in Martin’s declining offensive numbers in Texas in 2015, I was CONVINCED that he’d be a dud this year.  But, as I said, he really did shock the world with his level of play, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.  He’d never shown that kind of power before!  When all of us were expecting the equivalent of Brendan Ryan As Centerfielder at the plate, Martin was a revelation.  Consider me delighted we have him under club control for two more seasons.

Nori Aoki

I get the feeling, with Nori, that more people are down on him than high on him after what amounts to a 1-year experiment.  I’ll admit, while I’m not crazy about him defensively, and he obnoxiously ran himself into more outs than I care to remember (caught stealing 9 times out of 16 attempts, are you kidding me?), I think I’ll look back on him fondly overall.  It doesn’t hurt that he really tore shit up over the last two months of the season, after he’d been sent down to Tacoma to work on his swing (among, I’m assuming, other things).  On June 23rd, he was hitting .245, along with his crappy defense and baserunning, making him a total liability in all phases of the game.  He was called up about a month later, played for a month, had to go back to Tacoma for about a week due to other injuries and the roster crunch therein, and then finished the season playing mostly everyday.  He got that average back up to career norms in that time (.283) while adding 100 points to his OPS from his June low.  His main competition when it comes to returning in 2017 is:

Seth Smith

Both are left-handed corner outfielders who bring more with their bats than in the field.  Smith has a little more pop in his bat, but Aoki has slightly better on-base abilities.  Given Smith’s foot speed is absolute zero, Aoki has him there on the basepaths, and overall as an offensive weapon.  Smith’s already under contract though (for a sensible $7 million) while Aoki is an unrestricted free agent.  I don’t know if Aoki will draw a Qualifying Offer, or if that’s even an option with him, but at a hefty price tag of $17+ million, I doubt the Mariners would be willing to bite.  You’d think you could get Aoki to come back on a reasonable contract, but I would assume there’d have to be assurances made (i.e. the trading away of Seth Smith).  You really don’t need both of these guys on your roster, and it doesn’t sound like the Mariners are going to try to keep both.  One thing the team will have to consider is Smith’s rapid decline over the last two months of the season.  He barely hit .215 in August and September combined, and even with his mini power surge in September (5 homers, 2 doubles), his overall OPS really bottomed out as he rolled over into shift after shift.  Seth Smith is always lauded for his professional at bats, and his ability to get on base, which shouldn’t be discounted.  But, he sure does seem to wear down the more he plays, and the second halves to his seasons sure look pretty mediocre.  At some point, it would be ideal for the Mariners to shore up the corner outfield with a more permanent, everyday option.  But, for now, I guess we can live with another platoon year.

Guti, Gamel, Heredia

Let’s just lump all these guys together and wrap up the outfield portion of this post.  I won’t be shocked when the Mariners re-sign Guti to another 1-year deal, considering he’s a veteran right-handed bat with pop.  He appeared in all of 98 games in 2016, and his overall offensive numbers took a bit of a hit, but he didn’t totally flatline.  We got Gamel from the Yankees and didn’t really see enough of him in September.  He’ll be competing with Heredia most likely to be this team’s final outfielder.  For the most part, I liked what Heredia brought to the table, but I’d like to see some more power out of him.  Slap-hitting singles hitters don’t tend to stick at the Major League level very long.

Dae-ho Lee & Adam Lind

Ahh, the ol’ first base platoon.  Dae-ho Lee was another really pleasant surprise, who sort of struggled as the season went along.  He’s a free agent, but I wouldn’t mind having him back for another go-around if the price is right.  As for Lind, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  His averages across the board took a huge nosedive, with his worst OPS since 2010.  Which just adds more fuel to the fire that guys get signed by Seattle and promptly lose the ability to hit.  Safeco isn’t even that bad to hit in anymore, compared to what it used to be before the fences were moved in!  Besides, it was never all that bad for lefties!  He just stunk.  For whatever reason – maybe the reputation of Safeco got in his head – he got off to a horrid start and was never able to fully recover.  I’m sure he’ll sign elsewhere and bounce right back to his usual self, in which case he can promptly and savagely go fuck himself with a bat right in his cornhole.

Ketel Marte

This was a guy I was pretty stoked about early in the season.  He was a little raw defensively, but his speed on the basepaths was top notch, and his bat was coming around.  Then, he hurt his hand and went on the DL, and was never the same.  Tack on another DL stint for mono, and you have one of the great lost seasons in Mariners history.  He played out the stretch run, but his bat never really recovered, and his defense never really developed.  He was making the same dumb, rookie mistakes in the field as he was at the beginning of the season.  I don’t expect the world out of a guy defensively, but you’ve GOT to make the routine plays!  When one of his blunders helped cost us a game in the final week of the season, I essentially wrote him off.  I might back off that stance eventually, but if the Mariners go out and deal for an upgrade at short stop, I won’t be crushed.  As I’ve said before, we’ve got to win while the winning’s good.  Cano, Cruz, and Felix won’t be in their primes forever.  I don’t know if we have the time to hold Marte’s hand as he works his way through these growing pains.

Zunino, Iannetta, Clevenger, Sucre

My overarching take-away from Mike Zunino’s 2016 is that he’s turned the corner.  Then, I looked at his numbers and now I’m starting to wonder if that’s true.  The power is still there, which is his saving grace, but it looked like he started to fall into the same old traps over the final two months of the season.  His strike out percentage was right there at his career norms (33.9%), his batting average was barely over the Mendoza Line, but I’ll give him credit:  his eye at the plate is VASTLY improved over what it was in 2015.  His walk rate jumped up to 10.9% from 5.1% over his first three seasons, which is incredible.  I’d also say that while he’s still striking out as much as ever, he’s not necessarily falling for those breaking balls low and away as much as he was before.  Baby steps, maybe.  But, there’s still a big ol’ hole in his swing, which is going to necessitate a quality catcher to either platoon with him, or spot him more days off than we’ve been giving him.  Obviously, this year, we had no choice but to play him mostly everyday, because he was so clearly better than any other catcher in this organization (in spite of Sucre’s random surge in production in September).  Iannetta is under contract for 2017, which is less than ideal, as he brings nothing to the table offensively, and even less to the table defensively.  Hopefully, we can trade him for a bag of batting donuts, because I’d almost rather have Sucre out there, if he can continue working on his batting skills.  Clevenger seems to be a non-starter, unless the team really wants to work with him on the whole Racist Tweets shitstorm.  I wouldn’t be totally against it; seems like having a left-handed catching partner with Zunino would be a good thing for this team (plus, he’s under club control for 2 more years, so it’d be nice to see what he’s got in him as a baseball player).

And The Rest

Which is really just Shawn O’Malley.  He’s a step up from Willie Bloomquist, so that’s something.

The Bullpen Was Too Much Miss, Not Enough Hit

Unless you take that phrase literally, in which case “miss”ing bats is a good thing and getting your balls “hit” is a bad thing, in which case I hate the title of this post already.

The amount of power a bullpen holds over the quality of your team’s baseball season is pretty obscene.  Granted, every area of a baseball team plays its part – hitting, defense, starting pitching, baserunning – so to get to a point where your bullpen can make or break your year means you need your starters to keep you in the game, you need your hitters to give you a lead, your defense needs to not give the other team extra outs, and you can’t take away outs from your own team by getting picked off or taking an extra base you shouldn’t have.

So, while the hitting for the Mariners wasn’t good for the longest time (mostly during the Jackie Z era), it didn’t really matter if our bullpens were good or not.

But, it’s a new day.  Our hitting is solid, our starters – for the most part – keep us in ballgames (even if they’re not particularly dominating), our defense is good enough (again, for the most part), and while our baserunning is pretty bad, it’s also a pretty small part of the game of baseball, all things considered.  A team like 2016’s Mariners had it all going for them, meaning the bullpen was the most important factor in deciding whether or not we’d make the playoffs.

And, as you can tell by our absence, obviously the bullpen wasn’t quite good enough.

For starters, the Mariners were 30-30 in 1-run games.  This is actually what one would expect.  If you’re significantly better, then it would stand to reason that you’re luckier, as these sorts of things tend to even out over time.  If you’re significantly worse, then it would stand to reason you’re unlucky.  So, we can throw luck right out the window as far as the Mariners are concerned.

The Rangers, on the other hand, were 36-11 in 1-run games, which is, like, an all-time crazy record for 1-run games.  Their dumb ass luck ran out though, when they got swept by the Blue Jays in the ALDS, going 0-1 in the playoffs in 1-run games.

Anyway, here are the records of the A.L. playoff teams in 1-run games:

  • Texas:  36-11
  • Cleveland:  28-21
  • Boston:  20-24
  • Toronto:  21-25
  • Baltimore:  21-16

So, as you can see, there’s a good mix.  Texas, Cleveland, and Baltimore were all over .500; Boston and Toronto were both a few games under.  What I noticed straight away is that the Mariners were involved in significantly MORE 1-run games than any of these teams.  37% of our games were decided by a single run.  Looking at it another way, 73% of our games (119) were decided by 4 runs or less.  So, we played a lot of close games.  I’d wager we were among the league leaders in close games.  As such, the performance of our bullpen meant a lot more than that of the rest of the American League.

The Mariners were involved in 74 save opportunities this season; we converted 49 of them, for a save percentage of 66%.  The league average was only 68%, so that doesn’t put us too far behind the 8-ball.  But, how does that compare to the playoff teams?  Let’s take a look:

  • Texas:  56 of 73, 77%
  • Cleveland:  37 of 48, 77%
  • Boston:  43 of 61, 70%
  • Toronto:  43 of 65, 66%
  • Baltimore:  54 of 68, 79%

So, as you can see, 4/5 playoff teams had superior save percentages than the Mariners.  If we’d just saved 70% of our opportunites – 2% above league average, and right in line with the playoff teams – that’s 3 more wins you could add to our total, which just so happens to be the number of games the Mariners missed the playoffs by.

The story of the 2016 Mariners bullpen kicks right off with injuries.  Charlie Furbush was a guy we’d penciled in for a significant role, but he didn’t throw a single inning.  Ryan Cook was another guy we brought in, at least on a tryout basis, but he’s a guy who’d had success as recently as 2014, and was one of the better relievers out there in 2012 & 2013; he too never pitched an inning for us.  Then, there’s Evan Scribner, who didn’t throw his first Major League pitches until September, when it turned out he’s actually terrific!  So, right off the bat, we were at a disadvantage, meaning guys like Joel Peralta and Steve Johnson were getting extended looks early in the season.

Then, you have Tony Zych, who made the Major League roster out of Spring Training.  He had the best fastball on the team, and arguably the best “stuff” of any of our relievers.  He made it to 10 appearances before he got hurt and was lost for the year (for all intents and purposes; he came back in late August for a couple of innings, but had to be quickly shut down again).  And, of course, there was Joaquin Benoit, who got hurt in April, returned about a month later, but was not the rock we needed out of our 8th inning set up guy.  He ended up being traded to Toronto for Drew Storen, where the change of scenery did both of them good.

It’s really quite remarkable, not just how the bullpen ended up looking compared to how we pictured it at the beginning of 2016, but also how it evolved throughout the season.  On top of those other injuries, Storen, Wilhelmsen, Nick Vincent, and Steve Cishek all found themselves on the DL at one point or another.  When you factor in how the starters weren’t always (or even USUALLY) at their best, this bullpen was continuously taxed nine ways from Sunday, all the way until September, when we were finally allowed to expand our roster.

This, of course, affected how we shaped the rest of our roster the first five months of the season, bringing into question why Major League Baseball limits teams to 25-man rosters, when so much of the game is specialized by way of bullpens and platoons and pinch runners and defensive replacements.  It makes no sense, when you think about it, but that’s baseball for you.  It’s the “neither here nor there” of professional sports.

If you want to know how the bullpen was doing at a particular point in the season, just look at the schedule.  You don’t need to hunt for stats to figure out when this bullpen was rolling vs. when it was sucking my will to live.  In the month of May, for instance, it was on a nice little run (the Mariners just so happened to have gone 17-11 in May); in the month of June, they fell apart (the Mariners just so happened to have gone 10-18 in June).  They were great in early August, terrible in late August, and so on and so forth.  This was one of the streakiest Mariners teams in recent memory, and those streaks almost always coincided with how the bullpen was doing.  They’d go long stretches of scoreless baseball, followed by painful stretches of agonizing baseball.  And, in the end, it all added up to 3 too many blown saves.  Who were our culprits?

Well, the first name that comes to mind is Steve Cishek, who started the season as this team’s closer, but lost that job on August 1st, after yet another meltdown.  Of his 7 blown saves, the Mariners were only able to come back and win 1 of them.  He also cost us 3 other games when he came into the game tied and took it on the chin.  Immediately after ceding control of the closer’s job to Edwin Diaz, he went on the DL, only to return to be a masterful set up man.  He’s also under contract for next year, so bank on him being back.

Edwin Diaz was lights out through his first three months or so.  We started him off slowly, but he quickly earned higher leverage roles when it was readily apparent that he was striking out everybody he faced.  He blew three saves, but we were able to come back and win two of those games.  He took 3 other losses when he came into a tie situation, but two of those games were in his pre-closer days.  He did end up taking the loss in the season-deciding game on October 1st, but he was in his 3rd inning that day, and was clearly over-worked to that point.  Diaz will go into 2017 as the frontrunner for the closer role.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to manage his outings a little better.  He was on pace to make something like 74 appearances over the course of a full season, so maybe we can try to shave off 5-10 next year, since he’s still a growing boy and all.

When you take a look at the actual numbers for our bullpen, one name sticks out like a sore thumb:  Nick Vincent.  Even though he had a spell on the DL, he’s one of those constants you can point to on this team this year.  He was brought in just before the regular season, and almost immediately entered the regular rotation as one of our high-leverage pitchers.  What sticks out is that Nick Vincent of all people was involved in 9 save situations, and somehow managed to blow SIX of them!  One fewer than Steve Cishek, and double the number of blown saves of Edwin Diaz; what in the holy fuck?

As I’ve said before, Vincent isn’t bad, but he’s also not a guy – in an ideal world – you want in there late in the game with a lead.  He’s a guy who should be used earlier in games, when the starter gets knocked out prematurely.  Or, put him in there in the 6th/7th innings, or in games where it’s close but we’re trailing.  I’m not saying he can’t handle the pressure of high-leverage, game-winning situations, but I’m VERY MUCH saying his stuff is weaksauce and I’m surprised guys didn’t smack him around more than they did.  Unfortunately, the 2016 Mariners bullpen was far from an ideal world, so he was counted upon more than he should’ve been.  It’s one of the reasons why he hit the DL in the first place; he simply wasn’t used to pitching that much, and his body couldn’t take it!

His semi-saving grace is that only 3 of his 6 blown saves led to losses.  But, again, he accounted for 4 other defeats in tie-game situations.  Of our pitchers who were exclusively relievers, who threw a minimum of 20 innings this year, Vincent was one of only two who had a negative Win Probability Added, leading me to believe that it’s pretty difficult for a reliever to GET a negative rating for this stat over the course of a full (or even PARTIAL) season.

For what it’s worth, Vidal Nuno is the other reliever to have a negative WPA.  I was about to dismiss his numbers though, as he seemed to be used mostly in mop-up duties, but apparently he appeared in the 4th most high leverage situations of guys in our bullpen at 16.  The only people to appear in more high leverage games were Vincent (24), Diaz (26) and Cishek (37).  Diaz had a whopping 1.9 WPA (meaning he alone was worth nearly 2 wins by himself), and Cishek actually had a respectable 0.7 WPA (or he was worth nearly 1 win by himself).

Most of the guys had their ups and downs, but I’d like to point out a few of the good ones.  Drew Storen was actually pretty great, especially considering Toronto was THIS CLOSE to DFA’ing his ass before they traded him to us for Benoit.  Tom Wilhelmsen, same deal (especially considering his stint in Texas, when he was worth -0.9 WPA in 21 games before they did DFA his ass).  Mike Montgomery was also one of the good ones, which is why it’s so unfortunate that he was traded away to the Cubs mid-season.  He’s a pretty rock solid reliever, and he’s good for the occasional spot start, which in my book makes him invaluable, but in the Mariners’ book makes him worth Dan Vogelbach.  Scribner, as I said before, had the all-world September; and Arquimedes Caminero has some lethal stuff, if only he can harness it.

Going into 2017, there’s a lot to like about this unit.  We’re, unfortunately, going to be without Charlie Furbush again, as he needed surgery that would keep him out ANOTHER year, but hopefully with certain guys returning, we can solidify this part of our team and not have to worry about it so much.

Guys I like:

  • Edwin Diaz
  • Steve Cishek
  • Evan Scribner
  • Tony Zych

If we can get these guys back and keep them healthy, that’s as good a foundation to a bullpen as can be.

Guys I like, sort of:

  • Drew Storen
  • Nick Vincent
  • Tom Wilhelmsen
  • Vidal Nuno

Storen isn’t under contract, so the team would have to go out and re-sign him, but I think for the right price, that could be a nice little move for this team.  The rest of these guys, I could take or leave.  I don’t totally trust any of them in high leverage situations, so I’d PREFER they stick to 6th/7th innings, or in extras; but, I also wouldn’t be devastated if the team traded them away or otherwise got rid of them.

Guys I find interesting:

  • Arquimedes Caminero
  • Dan Altavilla

Caminero I talked about before.  Altavilla is another one of these guys (like Diaz) where the Mariners brought him up straight from AA.  He was called up late in the season for the team to get a look at him, and only 3 of his 15 appearances were in high leverage situations, but he showed good stuff, and if he carries that over into Spring Training, I could easily see him making this roster.  If he proves he’s got what it takes to do well in those high leverage situations, he could find himself quickly climbing into the Guys I Like category.

All the other bullpen guys on the roster feel like Spring Training fodder and little more.  The team is in desperate need of a quality left-handed reliever, so I’d expect them to make a move in that regard in the not-too-distant future.  My way-too-early prediction for next season has our bullpen looking like this:

  • Diaz – closer
  • Cishek
  • Scribner
  • Zych
  • Vincent
  • Altavilla
  • Random Lefty Not Currently In The Organization

Depending on the lefty, that strikes me as a bullpen we can work with!  Again, assuming they’re utilized properly.

I Don’t Know How The Seahawks Beat The Falcons

You know when you’re a cartoon tough guy getting ready to sock someone right in the puss, and as you’ve got your fist cocked and loaded they come back at you with an apology, and now you’re just standing there teetering on the line between rage and forgiveness?  You’ve got all this aggression inside you, just begging for release, but the target of your aggression no longer deserves to have that violence heaped upon them!  It’s an awkward feeling.  Almost as awkward as the opening to this Seahawks post.

As the third quarter spilled over into the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks drove to the red zone, trailing for the first time all game, I couldn’t help but think about that third quarter, and how easy it had all of a sudden become for the Falcons to move the ball at will.  This drive was do or die, and there we were with 1st & Goal at the 10 yard line.  Crazy run by Michael stuffed for no gain, drop by Spiller inside the 5, incomplete to Kearse in the back of the endzone.  There we were, settling for a field goal, with part of me secretly wishing we’d just go for the jugular and go for it on 4th down.  And then we botched the field goal, and for a minute there, I had to stop watching the game.  I turned the TV off for the next Falcons drive, because no good could have come from it.

I was sitting there, stewing.  Thinking about all the reasons why we were losing.  Hopping mad about how EMBARRASSING the Seahawks looked in the second half.  Breakdowns in the secondary, lack of a pass rush after we’d gotten after Matt Ryan consistently in the first half, Pete Carroll chickening out of a 4th & Inches situation on the Falcons’ side of the 50 yard line, the Falcons – in general – making the halftime adjustments, and our inability to counter, Christine Michael bungling multiple opportunities to plow ahead for first downs, seemingly allergic to contact.  I mean, I could go on and on.

But, then somehow we forced the Falcons to punt!  A miracle!  We drove straight down there, and thanks to a timely pass interference penalty, we were able to punch it in!  All I could think about was how there was still a lot of time left, and maybe it wouldn’t be so hot to be in a tie game with the Falcons at this point.  Sure enough, the extra point was blocked, and my wish was granted!  Of course, I never expected that wish to be granted, but I swear there was some logic being it:  in a tie game, the Falcons are more likely to be aggressive and move the ball down the field through the air – which, to that point, had been like a hot knife through warm butter.  But, if the Falcons were nursing a lead, they’d be more likely to go conservative, try to milk some clock, and otherwise play it safe to avoid the defensive big play turnover.

As it happened, the Falcons had no intention of going conservative.  They threw on their subsequent three plays.  A couple of short-gainers for a first down, and then a slant to Julio Jones, who had abused us all second half.  It tipped off of his outstretched hand and ultimately bobbled its way into the cradling grasp of Earl Thomas for the defensive big play turnover we’d been looking for!

We ended up driving it right back down into field goal range, and this drive really had all the makings of one of those 4-minute, run-out-the-clock type drives where you win it on the last second field goal.  But, Russell Wilson – who ended up having a fine, if unspectacular game – got a little antsy and overthrew a WIDE open Tyler Lockett with a terrible lob pass on 3rd & 3.  Nevertheless, with two minutes to go in the game, we re-took the lead, 26-24.

Shockingly, Matt Ryan threw three straight incomplete passes to Mohamed Sanu before finally going for Julio on 4th down.  In double coverage, with our two best secondary guys draped all over him.  Richard Sherman ultimately got in the way enough to allow the ball to fall incomplete, but God damn was Julio close to catching it anyway.

And don’t think this is me trying to gloss over the fact that Richard Sherman most certainly interfered with the receiver.  But, there’s a clear difference between how Sherm interfered with Julio, and how Atlanta’s Robert Alford interfered with Jermaine Kearse earlier in the quarter.  For starters, Alford is one of the worst cornerbacks in football.  He’s constantly out of position and giving up huge plays.  And, when he’s not doing that, he’s drawing huge flags to further dismantle his team’s chances of getting a stop.  Desmond Trufant is good, but he can’t cover everyone at once!  But, that’s neither here nor there, because whether or not Sherm had a good game yesterday (I don’t know the defensive play calls or the audibles or whatnot, so I don’t necessarily know what his responsibilities were supposed to be), he’s still a great cornerback.  And the great ones know how to interfere with a receiver’s ability to catch the football, while at the same time make it so subtle that the refs don’t see it.

That was a subtle move Sherman put on Julio.  Without gesticulating a lot, just keep Julio’s arm pulled down at his side so he can’t go up with two hands to catch it.  While, at the same time, turning around to make a play on the football.  I’ll admit, I didn’t even notice the interference on first watch; to me, it looked like two guys going up for a football.  And, I’m sure that’s how it looked to the refs who were in the area.  When you’ve got all that, plus you’re talking about an end-of-game situation, they’re usually going to let the guys play.

All in all, it added up to a miracle finish, one the Seahawks needed pretty desperately.

This was the most un-Seahawky game I think I’ve seen in a long time.  Normally, when the Seahawks (under Pete Carroll) struggle to win a game, it’s because we’ve gotten off to yet another slow start.  The offense can’t convert on third down, and the defense helps dig us an early hole.  Then, after halftime, adjustments are made, the opposing offense is held in check, and Russell Wilson & Co. hurry to make yet another breathtaking comeback!  This game was pretty much the opposite of that.  While the offense wasn’t any great shakes in the first half, we did score on half of our drives, which more than compensated for a defense that held the Falcons to all of 3 points in generating a 17-3 halftime lead.  Then, it was the Falcons who made the adjustments, while our defense fell apart to the tune of 21-unanswered.

If you could win games in the third quarter, the Falcons would’ve gotten the better of us!  But, I think I heard somewhere that you can’t win the game in the third quarter.  Just like you can’t win it in the second or first quarters, but that’s neither here nor there.

At halftime, I was convinced this game would be a walk-over.  After the third quarter, it wasn’t even dread, it was full blown resignation that the Seahawks were going to lose.  Thankfully, you can only win games in the fourth quarter.  And so we got the W, but it was costlier than I like.

Michael Bennett was taken out at the knees and was unable to return.  That one looked pretty scary, but from the sounds of things, it might not even keep him out of next week’s game against the Cardinals.  We may have dodged a bullet, so pray to the god of skinny punks that it turns out to be nothing.

Luke Willson suffered what looks like a crusher.  We won’t know until they do the MRI and all that, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it ends his season, and potentially his Seahawks career.  He’s an unrestricted free agent next year, so you have to wonder.  At the very least, he probably has to sign a 1-year prove-it deal somewhere, before he can cash in for something more substantial.  Either way, knee injuries are never good for “move” tight ends.  I hope it’s less severe, for his sake as much as the Seahawks’.

That means Brandon Williams moves up a spot, which is less encouraging.  I don’t want to short-change him, I’m sure he’ll be fine, but Luke’s got a track record of making some big catches for us.  That’s a nice security blanket, in the event Graham goes down.  It also means Nick Vannett is returning from his high ankle sprain at just the right time.  You figure he’ll be thrown into the fire right away, so I hope he has that playbook on lock.

Let’s run through the kudos.

Jimmy Graham with another huge game.  God, it’s just so HUGE to have a player of his calibre on this team!  It took him about a year to get comfortable with the scheme, and for Wilson to get comfortable with him, but now that everyone’s on the same page, this is the type of lethal combination we’ve been waiting for since we drafted Wilson.  Doug Baldwin is a great player, and will always be that security blanket for us, but it’s just so awesome to have a big guy we can throw it up to in traffic and have him come down with it for a big play.

Alex Collins had a nifty little TD run in the second quarter, when Christine Michael was out in the concussion protocol.  Bad for my fantasy team, but good for the kid to do that and do it in a victory.

Player of the Game on defense had to be Cliff Avril, who was on the warpath, particularly in the first half.  He had two sacks and multiple hits, as well as a forced fumble that was picked up by Tony McDaniel.  We’ll certainly need him to be at the top of his game if Bennett ends up missing any extensive time.

Another great game by Bobby Wagner, who’s really showing up with big play after big play.  Same with Earl Thomas, who nabbed the all-important interception in the 4th quarter.

We’ll definitely look back at this one come playoff time, especially if the Falcons continue playing well.  This win gives us a tie-breaker advantage over a likely divisional winner.  Since we won’t get a chance to play the Cowboys or Vikings, getting as many of these types of wins will be huge.  Next week is another one, as we can really put the Cardinals away early and put ourselves in the driver’s seat for one of the top two seeds in the playoffs.  Whatever keeps us from playing that Vikings defense as long as possible is the best scenario in my book.

For Strictly Fantasy Purposes, I Hate Matt Ryan

Simply put, I’ve been involved with a 2-QB league for the better part of my adult life.  In Matt Ryan’s first few years, he was always a great guy to have in the mix, because even though they were more run-focused in his early days, he still threw enough TDs to keep you in the black, while avoiding turnovers to ensure his floor was high.  Paired with a really dominating QB, Matt Ryan of the first three years of his career was a nice little complement.

Then, as Matt Ryan made the jump to perennial 4,000-yard passer, people in my league caught on, and would draft him before I had the chance.  Once we made the switch to being a 2-keeper league, I made it my mission to get Matt Ryan back in the fold once and for all.  As it just so happened, that coincided with his atrocious 2015 season, when he threw only 21 TDs to counter a whopping 16 INTs.  Yeah, throwing for a ton of yards is great and everything, but if you’re making the sorts of bone-headed mistakes he was making last year, it’s absolutely impossible to field any sort of consistent fantasy team (unless you’re looking for “consistently fucking terrible”).

Matt Ryan is not an elite quarterback, regardless of what his numbers look like this year, and regardless of how he was able to go into Denver last week and defeat the Broncos with their awesome defense.  Matt Ryan is an average quarterback with 1 elite wide receiver in Julio Jones.  How does a guy like Ryan throw for 500 yards in a game?  When he has a guy like Julio catching 300 of those yards (going up against a secondary in Carolina that might be the worst in football).  I guarantee if you put Kirk Cousins or Ryan Fitzpatrick or even Brian Fucking Hoyer on this team with a healthy Julio Jones, they’d all look just as competent.

And yet, for some reason, all anyone can talk about heading into this game is Matt Ryan, his improvement over last season, and how he’s giving the Falcons more than a decent chance of winning in Seattle.

You think YOU can get SOUP???  Please!  You’re wasting everyone’s time!

Matt Ryan isn’t an elite quarterback because elite quarterbacks make the players around them better.  No one said a God damn thing about the Seahawks’ receivers until Doug Baldwin caught 14 TDs last year, yet the Seahawks and Russell Wilson have been pretty great since 2012!  Why is that?  Because regardless of who you put on the field with Wilson, he’s going to make it work and grind it out for a win.

Take away Julio Jones and you know what you’ve got in Matt Ryan?  Yet another Joe Flacco.  Flacco needs elite talent around him to be successful.  Ever since the Ravens opted to skimp on receivers, tight ends, and running backs, Flacco has been mediocre at best and a disaster the rest of the time.

What has Matt Ryan been like the last few years?  Well, for starters, Julio hasn’t always been healthy, and when he’s slowed down by injury, forget it.  The Falcons are pathetic without Julio.  But, they were also trying to get by with a broken down Roddy White, no running game, and a poo-poo platter of crap as their #3 receivers and tight ends.  Tony Gonzalez has been out of the game for a while, and that might have been the biggest set-back to Matt Ryan’s career!

So, don’t tell me Matt Ryan has turned a corner.  Everyone wants to talk about how the Seahawks have faced the easiest schedule through 4 games when it comes to opposing offenses; well, aside from the Broncos, who have the Falcons played?  Tampa, Oakland, New Orleans, and Carolina.  Those are four bullshit defenses who couldn’t stop anyone!  And, of the five games, Ryan’s worst was easily last week’s against the Broncos, when he was held under 100 in passer rating.

I would also argue Denver’s defense MIGHT not be as great as we anticipated coming into the season.  I’ll give Atlanta credit for exposing some things (like how you can pass all day on their linebackers, if you have top-notch, pass-catching running backs).  But, I’m going to go ahead and say this right now:  Denver’s defense is no where NEAR as complete as ours, at all levels.  They might be as good as us in the secondary, but check the game last week:  Atlanta’s top two running backs caught a combined 167 of Matt Ryan’s 267 passing yards.  That means Julio Jones and the Gang were held to 100 yards receiving COMBINED.

I’ll go out on a limb and say their receivers will have a slightly better day on Sunday than they did last week, but their running backs won’t do shit!  Unless you’re in the mood for a lot of check-downs, then by all means, tout the Falcons’ passing attack.

But, you’re looking at the Seahawks coming off of a BYE, with everyone healthy, at home in the pouring rain, against a domed Falcons team.  I’ll take this matchup all day every day, please and thank you.

Also, tell me, how are the Falcons on defense going to stop us?  Desmond Trufant is only one man, the last time I checked.  Even if you put him on Doug Baldwin, I still expect Baldwin to get his.  But, how are they going to guard Jimmy Graham?  Who will account for Tyler Lockett?  And, for the love of all that is holy, can ANYONE stop Christine Michael?

We’ve got weapons, plural.  They’ve got Julio.  If there’s any justice in this world, Richard Sherman will shadow him all day, giving us another fascinating matchup like we had with the Jets and Brandon Marshall two weeks ago.

I’d expect this game to be exciting, but mostly if you’re a Seahawks fan.  I’d expect people will be having a lot of third and fourth thoughts about how good the Falcons really are when this one’s finished.

Mr. Dipoto’s Wild Ride

Jerry Dipoto was hired to be Seattle’s general manager on September 28, 2015.  His first major move was claiming Cody Martin off waivers from Oakland on October 19th.  Four days later, he hired Scott Servais to be his manager.  From there, we were off and running in the Jerry Dipoto Era.

He made a lot of moves in the ol’ transactions wire, both large and small.  I tried to pull most of the ones relevant to the 2016 Mariners’ Major League ballclub.  For the purposes of this post, I’m going to go ahead and rank his moves from most impactful to least, with commentary on each.  At the very bottom of the post, I’ll throw in a section with just the transactions in chronological order, so you can see them all lined up in a neat little pile.

Also, if you want to know my overall thoughts on Dipoto’s first year as the GM of the Mariners, you’ll find my closing arguments at the bottom (just before the chronological list of important transactions).  This post has TL;DR written all over it!

12/2/15 – Baltimore Orioles traded C Steve Clevenger to Seattle Mariners for RF Mark Trumbo and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser.

This one feels like cheating, but I’m still putting this at #1 because it’s so laughably lopsided against the Mariners, it harkens back to the Bill Bavasi glory days.  Trumbo was an All Star outfielder on a wild card team who hit 47 homers, 108 RBI, and all around had his best season ever.  Granted, the same problems were still there – a low batting average, a not-great on-base percentage, a shit-ton of strikeouts – but if you’re just talking about the right-handed half of a corner outfield platoon, making just a hair over $9 million, would you rather have his massive bat or Franklin Gutierrez making $2.5 million?  I know we love Guti and all of that, but his defense isn’t all that much better than Trumbo’s, and there’s no comparing the hitting numbers.  Even in a very minor role, Guti still had a down year by his standards.  And, of course, who can forget what we got back in return?  Aside from salary saved (that, as far as I can tell, ended up going to Joaquin Benoit, so *fart noise*), we got a left-handed backup catcher in Steve Clevenger who hardly ever played, then broke a bone in his hand, then said a bunch of racist shit on Twitter, then was suspended for the rest of the year, before ultimately (I’m assuming) being released.  On top of ALL of that, this trade had a direct impact on the standings.  The Orioles probably would’ve made a different move to acquire a power bat, but it almost certainly wouldn’t have been as good.  And, we ended up finishing 3 games behind Baltimore in the wild card.  So, we sent what would become their very best power bat and run producer to our direct rival, who snatched up the final A.L. playoff spot by just a handful of games.  Inauspicious start to say the least.

11/16/15 – Texas Rangers traded CF Leonys Martin and RHP Anthony Bass to Seattle Mariners for RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, CF James Jones and PTBNL (3B Patrick Kivlehan).

Let’s follow that turd sandwich with the opposite of that (vagina pizza?).  The Rangers ended up signing Ian Desmond on a 1-year, $8 million deal later on in the offseason (leaving me to wonder why we just didn’t fucking do that, but whatever), so I don’t totally understand why they were so keen to let Leonys Martin go, but obviously they didn’t see him in their future plans.  Martin ended up starting for us from day 1, playing a superb centerfield, and even blowing away his season high for homers with 15.  All in all, he was slightly better than we thought he’d be, with two more years of Arbitration to go.  While he’ll never be a superstar, he’s a solid offensive piece and an elite defensive talent.  The fact that we ended up getting back 2/3 of this trade for nothing later in the season is the hilarious part, along with the fact that Wilhelmsen was a dumpster fire while wearing a Rangers uniform (and sort of his usual okay self when the alleged double-agent returned to Seattle), and the fact that James Jones is who we thought he was.  We essentially gave the Rangers nothing and got a starting centerfielder for a minimum of 3 years in return.  Not too shabby.

12/18/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Hisashi Iwakuma.

We all know the story of how the Mariners got Iwakuma back in the fold, but if you don’t know, go here and read this.  What I will say is, to anyone making any sort of argument that the Mariners’ cost-cutting measures helped pave the way for Kuma’s return, you can go fuck yourself, because you’re full of shit.  Those moves were made well before we got Kuma back, and were under the assumption that he was going to go elsewhere for a higher guaranteed contract than we were willing to pay.  The owners, to their credit, opted to make room in the budget to bring him back when the opportunity presented itself, and it paid off pretty well, all things considered.  Without Kuma, things could’ve been A LOT worse (I don’t know if I made that point well enough in that linked post up there, but it’s true; the AAA starting prospects were pretty shabby).

12/14/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Cishek.

Two years, $10 million, plus incentives.  He secured 25 saves and blew 7 of them.  That’s a lot of blown saves in what amounted to a little over half a season’s worth of closing ballgames, particularly for a team that finished 3 games out of the wild card.  Overall, his numbers actually look pretty good on the season, and at times he approached the level of dominance he once had back in 2013.  But, a career-high 8 homers allowed really did him in.  He was pretty dominant against righties, but lefties hit 5 of those 8 homers, in significantly fewer plate appearances.  With him losing his job to Edwin Diaz the way he did, he projects to be an 8th inning set up man in 2017, with an outside chance of regaining his closer’s job should Diaz falter in his Sophomore season.

12/9/15 – Milwaukee Brewers traded 1B Adam Lind to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carlos Herrera, RHP Daniel Missaki and RHP Freddy Peralta.

Meet Adam Lind, your left-handed first baseman platoon partner.  He had a few memorable late-game hits (walk-offs and whatnot), but for the most part Lind was a huge disappointment.  His numbers took a significant dive compared to his career norms, and they never really recovered the way we all hoped.  He was essentially a replacement-level player making $8 million.  On the plus side, we likely didn’t give up anyone special to get him, but suffice it to say, first base is the hole that can never be filled.

7/31/16 – Seattle Mariners traded LHP Wade Miley to Baltimore Orioles for LHP Ariel Miranda.

12/7/15 – Boston Red Sox traded RHP Jonathan Aro and LHP Wade Miley to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carson Smith and LHP Roenis Elias.

Ahh, the Miley deals.  I ranked the deal sending him away higher than the deal bringing him in for a couple reasons.  For starters, while he spent more time in Seattle doing everything he could to ruin our playoff chances, we were able to deal him to our main rival in Baltimore, where he proceeded to do everything he could to ruin their playoff chances.  We were able to dump salary (and increase theirs), while at the same time getting in return a potential future starter, at a minimum salary, with many years of club control.  On the flipside, those Red Sox really swindled us good!  Though, it had no effect on the 2016 season, as neither Smith nor Elias hardly played at all due to injuries/ineffectiveness.  The decider could be Jonathan Aro – who made all of one appearance with the big league ballclub – but I’d put my money on Carson Smith returning at some point and being a dominant late-game reliever.

11/5/15 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison and RHP Danny Farquhar to Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Nathan Karns, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser and CF Boog Powell.

I downgraded this move mostly for the incomplete/unknown nature of the various players involved.  I will say that Brad Miller ended up hitting 30 homers for Tampa, and playing a decent number of games at first base, leading me to wonder what could have been had we held onto him and Trumbo and either platooned them both at first, or at various positions around the field.  Miller’s overall batting numbers are nothing to write home about, but those homers would’ve looked awfully nice in a Seattle uniform.  In return, we got about half a season out of Karns, who was mostly mediocre.  He’s still a starter with lots of club control, but now he’s injured, and I’d say no news is bad news when it comes to his injury, as it doesn’t appear he’s anywhere close to returning to action.  And, if he does, will he ever make good on his promise?  I’m starting to have my doubts.  The one saving grace might be Boog Powell, but he spent most of 2016 suspended for ‘roids or some damn thing.  Besides, at best he appears to be a 4th outfielder, so all in all, I’d say this is another major trade we got killed in.  It particularly hurts because Brad Miller is cheap, versatile, with lots of club control, and we essentially got back nothing in return.

12/3/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent LF Norichika Aoki.

Aoki signed a 2-year deal, but only 2016 was guaranteed.  His 2017 option would’ve vested at 480 plate appearances, but he only managed 467.  He ended up earning just shy of $6 million this year, but lost out on $6 million next year by 13 PA’s.  He likely would’ve had a lot less, but he ended the last two months absolutely on FIRE at the plate, and we couldn’t sit him.  Even with his finish, I’d say he was a net-negative for this team, considering his defense was pretty galling, and his base running was even worse.  The team already has Seth Smith under club control next year, so I can’t imagine we bring Aoki back unless we deal Smith first.  File this under:  Eh, It Was Worth A Shot.

3/30/16 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Nick Vincent to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.

Faced with a bevy of bullpen injuries in Spring Training, this was an underrated move just before the regular season that ended up paying off.  Until it stopped paying off, like a hot black jack table with a new dealer.  All in all, Nick Vincent was a fine reliever in 2016, but he was savagely over-used, and I can’t really blame Servais for it either, because he didn’t really have a whole lotta options in the first half of the season.  It wasn’t until Dipoto made all of his summer deals when the Mariners could finally cobble together a workable bullpen.  By that point, injuries (directly attributed to said overuse) piled up on Vincent, sending him on a DL stint.  He did return, and was okay, but by that point he was behind a number of superior relievers, which was appropriate.  Vincent should be nobody’s 8th inning guy.  Save him for the blowouts and the extra innings affairs and you’ll be in better shape.

11/23/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent C Chris Iannetta.

He started off hot in April, cooled off in May, and I contend he ended up losing his starter’s job because the team overused him (though, this time I DO blame Servais).  We brought Clevenger in here in that ill-fated Trumbo deal, so why didn’t we use him more?  Was he REALLY that terrible?  If so, why bring him in in the first place?  Seems to me they made a snap judgment in Spring Training, refused to give Clevenger a consistent chance, even though when he did start, he looked pretty okay.  Iannetta, on the other hand, proved to be a pretty big disaster defensively, and his power was drained to zero by the second half of the season.  Now, it’s neither here nor there that Clevenger ended up breaking his hand, opening the door for Mike Zunino’s triumphant return.  All I know is Iannetta is under contract at over $4 million next year, and he figures to be this team’s backup catcher.  Not ideal use of funds.

2/3/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent 1B Dae-ho Lee to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

Oh how I love Dae-ho Lee, let me count the ways!  He started the season by knocking Jesus Montero off the roster, which is always nice.  He secured the right-handed platoon of first base, and ended up by and large outplaying Adam Lind.  On top of that, some early heroics endeared him to the fanbase for all eternity.  But, he did cool off considerably as the season went along, and with that his playing opportunities dwindled.  He spent some time in Tacoma, to regain his swing, but never really made much of an impact in the stretch run.  His defense was a pleasant surprise, and his ability to go the other way kept opposing defenses honest.  Then again, his base running was predictably bad.  But, he was cheap, earning just $1 million, while being worth every penny.  Word is the team wants him back for 2017, and I don’t blame ’em!  I’d like to see him back as well!  I don’t know if he’ll ever be an everyday starter, but I’m curious to see how his game will grow now that he’s got a season’s worth of experience in the Majors.

11/11/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RF Franklin Gutierrez.

As noted above in the Trumbo section, this turned out to be less than ideal.  Complain all you want about there not being any right handed power bats on the market, but we fucking gave one away in Trumbo!  The plus side on Guti is that he’s cheaper, he’s well-liked in the clubhouse, and he doesn’t need to or even want to play everyday.  He’ll always be as prepared as can be in a pinch, so that’s not something to worry about.  But, in the end, he’s another year older, and his body has been ravaged by injuries and illnesses over the years.  His defense has taken a huge step back, and I don’t think any part of his game is ever going to get better; it can, indeed, only get worse.  Sounds like the team wants him back too, but I think that’s a mistake.

7/20/16 – Seattle Mariners traded RHP Jordan Pries and LHP Mike Montgomery to Chicago Cubs for 1B Dan Vogelbach and RHP Paul Blackburn.

Oh what could’ve been with Mike Montgomery.  As I’ve written about repeatedly, this was a deal made to sell high on an iffy bullpen piece, for hopefully a future starter at first base.  Montgomery proved with his ongoing stint with the Cubs that he’s here to stay, and this one might end up backfiring even more depending on how long and impressive his Major League career ends up being.  Shades of Matt Thornton, if you ask me.  In return, Dan Vogelbach, who got a cup of coffee with the Mariners, but still looks pretty raw.  He figures to get a shot in Spring Training (at least in a platoon role), but I have serious doubts.  If anything, he probably figures to be a placeholder until one of our other impressive first base prospects is ready to make the jump.  Don’t be shocked if, come June 2017, D.J. Peterson has supplanted Vogelbach (that is, assuming we don’t go out on the open market to bring in a veteran).

7/26/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded RHP Drew Storen and cash to Seattle Mariners for RHP Joaquin Benoit.

11/12/15 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Joaquin Benoit to Seattle Mariners for RHP Enyel De Los Santos and SS Nelson Ward.

The Joaquin Benoit deals!  He cost upwards of $8 million this year, and he ended up being a total dud, first hitting the DL for a protracted injury, then being a lump of crap upon his return.  Makes you wonder how he was ever good in the first place, but then he went to Toronto and pitched lights out the rest of the year.  Hence why that deal is ranked higher.  I don’t think we gave up much of anything to get him (seemed like a cost-cutting move by the Padres, if anything), but we did end up getting back an interesting piece in Drew Storen.  One of those Change of Scenery deals that ACTUALLY works, as Storen was MUCH better as a member of the Mariners than he was in a Blue Jays uni.  Of course, this move helped/hurt both teams, as Toronto was the other wild card team that had us by 3 games by season’s end.  They got the better of us ever-so-slightly, as Benoit proved to be the healthier option than Storen, and the more important piece to their bullpen than Storen was to ours.  Both are UFA’s this year, and neither figures to make a substantial salary; I could easily see Storen returning to Seattle if the price is right.

2/9/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Joel Peralta to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

6/22/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent Tom Wilhelmsen.

12/8/15 – Oakland Athletics traded RHP Evan Scribner to Seattle Mariners for RHP Trey Cochran-Gill.

I’m going to start lumping a bunch of moves in, as I failed to anticipate how long this post would end up being.  Peralta was a longtime vet brought in on an invite to Spring Training.  He ended up winning a job in our bullpen thanks to lots of injuries ahead of him.  He was also pretty okay in March, but it would not last long.  We ended up designating him for assignment in June, after it was clear his Major League career was done.  Similarly, Tom Wilhelmsen – in on that Leonys Martin deal – had a hard luck stint with the Rangers.  They’d finally had enough of him by June, and we were more than happy to bring him back.  A veteran, making the minimum, familiar with the organization, willing to go to Tacoma to work on some things, while at the same time able to fill in on Seattle’s bullpen that was sort of in shambles at this point of the season.  Wilhelmsen ended up being who we thought he was, which is far from elite, but at the same time far from the waste of space he was for Texas.  Scribner spent the bulk of 2016 on the DL.  He returned in September and was FAR AND AWAY our best reliever in those 12 appearances, giving up 0 runs and only 5 hits in 14 innings.  Where was THAT when we needed it April through August?  He’s under club control for three more years, and if he pitches anywhere close to what he was in September, this trade with Oakland looks MUCH better than it already is.

6/22/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Wade LeBlanc to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.

One of these days, I’d like to write a book about Wade LeBlanc’s 2016 season, because something sure as shit doesn’t add up.  We traded for him at probably our lowest point in the season (most likely for cash), and he was inserted into our rotation when most everyone else was injured.  AND HE WAS ALL RIGHT!  He didn’t turn the world on with his smile or anything, but he was somewhat competent!  He had 5 quality starts out of 8, and he looked no worse than Ariel Miranda.  Of course, there’s no point in having both Miranda and LeBlanc in your rotation at the same time, unless you’re just riddled with injuries, but who’s to say LeBlanc couldn’t have taken to a bullpen role?  He sure as shit took to it with Pittsburgh, when we dealt him to the Pirates in September!  He gave up 1 earned run in 12 innings with them!  I hope that PTBNL we get back from the Pirates is something more than just the cash we gave away to the Blue Jays in June.

8/6/16 – Pittsburgh Pirates traded RHP Arquimedes Caminero to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL and Future Considerations (LHP Jake Brentz and RHP Pedro Vasquez).

10/19/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed Cody Martin off waivers from Oakland Athletics.

Caminero came to Seattle and tore the A.L. a new asshole with his 100mph fastball.  Unfortunately, when teams started sitting dead red, and when he lost his command, they tore him a new asshole right back.  You can’t help but be intrigued by a guy like that, and hopefully our coaches are able to work with him mechanically to help him reign in some of that explosiveness.  Regardless, we’ve got 4 more years of club control on a guy with a ton of upside, so I like the move.  As for Cody Martin, I don’t know what to tell you.  He made a couple of spot starts for us, and a few more relief appearances, but other than mop up duty in extra innings games, he didn’t provide much of an impact.  He started primarily with Tacoma, and he figures to do more of the same in 2017.

3/1/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent CF Guillermo Heredia.

8/31/16 – New York Yankees traded RF Ben Gamel to Seattle Mariners for RHP Jio Orozco and RHP Juan De Paula.

I honestly have no idea where Heredia came from, what he was doing for the entirety of the 2015 calendar year, or anything other than we signed him as a free agent out of Cuba.  But, he tore through the minors and was called up to be primarily a defensive replacement in the outfield.  He figures to compete with Ben Gamel, among other guys, to be one of this team’s reserve outfielders.  Heredia bats righty and Gamel lefty, so it’s not like they’re in direct competition, but they sort of are, with Heredia on the inside track considering this organization’s lack of right handed bats.  They’re both for the most part on the same level, talent-wise, with Heredia having the higher ceiling, and Gamel more likely to be Major League-ready.  The 2017 outfield figures to be pretty jam-packed, with centerfield already on lockdown, so guys like Heredia and Gamel have a long way to go.

8/1/16 – Seattle Mariners claimed 1B Mike Freeman off waivers from Arizona Diamondbacks.

6/19/16 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Chris Taylor to Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Zach Lee.

11/20/15 – Seattle Mariners traded CF Ramon Flores to Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Luis Sardinas.

The Mariners never really figured out their reserve infielder spot.  Ultimately, Shawn O’Malley took the bull by the horns, but he’s not really much better than any of these guys listed here.  Luis Sardinas had the first crack at the job, but quickly proved to be ineffective (ultimately traded away to San Diego in August).  Chris Taylor had about the shortest opportunity I’ve ever seen, but in what I want to say was his only start with us this year, he had 2 errors and was sent away almost immediately afterward.  He ended up predictably doing nothing for the Dodgers (after his leadoff triple with them right after the trade), so no big loss.  Mike Freeman had some memorable plate appearances (particularly in that Anaheim series during Griffey weekend), and should be around to compete for the backup infielder spot next year.

3/17/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Johnson to a minor league contract.

8/6/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Pat Venditte to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL (2B Tim Lopes).

11/6/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed LF Daniel Robertson off waivers from Los Angeles Angels.

1/12/16 – Los Angeles Dodgers traded RHP Joe Wieland to Seattle Mariners for SS Erick Mejia.

These last deals aren’t really even worth mentioning, but I stuck them down here at the bottom anyway.  Steve Johnson appeared in 16 games, almost exclusively as the very last man in the bullpen.  When it became readily apparent he was a waste of space, we cut him loose in mid-June.  Pat Venditte is the switch-pitcher we brought in, who got his cup of coffee with us in September, almost exclusively in blowout situations.  I don’t know if he’ll ever be much more than a novelty.  Robertson appeared in 9 games, and for the life of me, I can’t remember a thing about any of ’em.  Apparently, they took place in July.  He obviously didn’t make much of an impression, as he didn’t return in September with the rest of the call-ups.  Finally, Joe Wieland appeared in one game, making a spot start on August 12th against the A’s.  He gave up 6 runs in 5 innings, as we lost 6-3.  We ended up trading him to the Braves in September, rendering him as little more than a trivia question answer, and not even an interesting one.


So, all in all, how would I rate Jerry Dipoto’s first year on the job?  I’d say of all the moves I listed above, about half of them were good and half of them were bad.  I would say the trades were particularly bad (including the Trumbo, Lind, 1st Miley, and Karns deals) with only the Leonys Martin deal having a real positive impact.  He was able to find a lot of value towards the back-end of the roster, particularly the bullpen, as the season went along, and he was smart to fill the roster with veterans, considering the closing competitive windows of our aging stars.  Ultimately, the Mariners improved by 10 games in his first year, so that’s certainly a feather in his cap.  But, I think a lot of that was achieved by players already here.  Cano having a bounce-back year, Seager improving, Zunino improving, Paxton making more of an impact, and so on and so forth.

What Dipoto needs to do now is find a way to fill some of these holes that are still dogging us.  First base, short stop, corner outfield.  He needs to find cost-effective ways to bolster our pitching staff.  And, let’s face it, he needs a little luck to go his way.  This team is close.  So very close to making the post-season and breaking this streak.  But, at the same time, it’s also pretty damn close from bottoming out yet again.  Is Dipoto the man for the job?  Time will tell, but I’m going to reserve any enthusiasm I have for the man until I see some actual results on the field.

It’s playoffs or bust, Jerry!  You’ll get a “good job” out of me when I see some rings on the fingers of these players.


Important Mariners Transactions for the 2016 Season

  • 10/19/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed Cody Martin off waivers from Oakland Athletics.
  • 11/5/15 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison and RHP Danny Farquhar to Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Nathan Karns, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser and CF Boog Powell.
  • 11/6/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed LF Daniel Robertson off waivers from Los Angeles Angels.
  • 11/11/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RF Franklin Gutierrez.
  • 11/12/15 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Joaquin Benoit to Seattle Mariners for RHP Enyel De Los Santos and SS Nelson Ward.
  • 11/16/15 – Texas Rangers traded CF Leonys Martin and RHP Anthony Bass to Seattle Mariners for RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, CF James Jones and PTBNL (3B Patrick Kivlehan).
  • 11/20/15 – Seattle Mariners traded CF Ramon Flores to Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Luis Sardinas.
  • 11/23/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent C Chris Iannetta.
  • 12/2/15 – Baltimore Orioles traded C Steve Clevenger to Seattle Mariners for RF Mark Trumbo and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser.
  • 12/2/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Justin De Fratus.
  • 12/3/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent LF Norichika Aoki.
  • 12/7/15 – Boston Red Sox traded RHP Jonathan Aro and LHP Wade Miley to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carson Smith and LHP Roenis Elias.
  • 12/8/15 – Oakland Athletics traded RHP Evan Scribner to Seattle Mariners for RHP Trey Cochran-Gill.
  • 12/9/15 – Milwaukee Brewers traded 1B Adam Lind to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carlos Herrera, RHP Daniel Missaki and RHP Freddy Peralta.
  • 12/14/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Cishek.
  • 12/18/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Hisashi Iwakuma.
  • 1/7/16 – Seattle Mariners released RHP Anthony Bass.
  • 1/12/16 – Los Angeles Dodgers traded RHP Joe Wieland to Seattle Mariners for SS Erick Mejia.
  • 2/3/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent 1B Dae-Ho Lee to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
  • 2/9/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Joel Peralta to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
  • 3/1/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent CF Guillermo Heredia.
  • 3/17/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Johnson to a minor league contract.
  • 3/28/16 – Toronto Blue Jays claimed 1B Jesus Montero off waivers from Seattle Mariners.
  • 3/30/16 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Nick Vincent to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.
  • 5/29/16 – Texas Rangers traded 3B Patrick Kivlehan to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL (RHP Justin De Fratus).
  • 6/2/16 – Seattle Mariners designated RHP Joel Peralta for assignment.
  • 6/17/16 – Seattle Mariners designated RHP Steve Johnson for assignment.
  • 6/19/16 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Chris Taylor to Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Zach Lee.
  • 6/22/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Wade LeBlanc to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.
  • 6/22/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent Tom Wilhelmsen.
  • 7/20/16 – Seattle Mariners traded RHP Jordan Pries and LHP Mike Montgomery to Chicago Cubs for 1B Dan Vogelbach and RHP Paul Blackburn.
  • 7/26/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded RHP Drew Storen and cash to Seattle Mariners for RHP Joaquin Benoit.
  • 7/31/16 – Seattle Mariners traded LHP Wade Miley to Baltimore Orioles for LHP Ariel Miranda.
  • 8/1/16 – Seattle Mariners designated 3B Patrick Kivlehan for assignment.
  • 8/1/16 – Seattle Mariners claimed 1B Mike Freeman off waivers from Arizona Diamondbacks.
  • 8/6/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Pat Venditte to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL (2B Tim Lopes).
  • 8/6/16 – Pittsburgh Pirates traded RHP Arquimedes Caminero to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL and Future Considerations (LHP Jake Brentz and RHP Pedro Vasquez).
  • 8/15/16 – Seattle Mariners sent Daniel Robertson outright to Tacoma Rainiers.
  • 8/15/16 – Seattle Mariners traded 2B Luis Sardinas to San Diego Padres for Player To Be Named Later.
  • 8/31/16 – New York Yankees traded RF Ben Gamel to Seattle Mariners for RHP Jio Orozco and RHP Juan De Paula.
  • 9/13/16 Seattle Mariners traded LHP Wade LeBlanc to Pittsburgh Pirates for PTBNL.
  • 9/14/16 Seattle Mariners traded RHP Joe Wieland to Atlanta Braves for PTBNL.

Cano, Cruz, Seager: An Appreciation

In football (and, I guess in all sports, but people seem to talk about it in football the most), the goal is to strike a healthy balance between offense and defense, between high-priced superstars and cost-effective elite youth, between a strong running game and an opportunistic passing attack on offense, as well as stout run defense and a lethal pass rush.  Of course, there have been teams that got by with a stark imbalance (usually a top defense and a meh offense), but even the teams who have won Super Bowls with high-flying offenses usually see an uptick in their defensive production, if only for that championship season.

The Mariners, for years, have been anything but balanced.  The pitching has usually been okay, but for the longest time, the hitting was non-existent.  In the Jackie Z “Rebuild On The Cheap Through Prospects” Era, the middle of our order was riddled with sick jokes.  Power hitters with no on-base abilities who struck out a ton, line drive hitters with warning track-power who struck out a ton, past-their-prime veterans who struck out a ton, injury-plagued veterans who couldn’t even stay off the DL long enough to strike out a ton, and so on and so forth.

It really wasn’t until we signed Robinson Cano in 2014, then paired him with Nelson Cruz in 2015, that we could say we had a middle-of-the-order we could be proud of.  But, there always seemed to be a straggler.  In 2014, Cano was top notch and Seager was Seager, but Kendrys Morales was a lump of crap, and all too many at bats were going to the likes of Logan Morrison and Justin Smoak.  In 2015, Cruz and his 44 homers were far and away our offensive MVP, and while Seager was still Seager, Cano was plagued with nagging injuries and had a forgettable first half of the season.  This three-piece didn’t really all put it together until 2016, but boy did they make beautiful music together!

Not since the trio of A-Rod, Griffey, and Edgar have the Mariners had a middle of the order this formidable.  Don’t take my word for it, though; take these numbers:

  • Cano – .298/.350/.533, 39 homers, 103 RBI
  • Cruz – .287/.360/.555, 43 homers, 105 RBI
  • Seager – .278/.359/.499, 30 homers, 99 RBI

I would like to point out, before we move on, that Seager would’ve had that 100th RBI had his line drive not hit the second base umpire in the last week of the season, as it most certainly would’ve scored the runner from second.

Anyway, as you can see, that’s a ton of production.  We were second in the league in homers, and 112 of our 223 (a hair over 50%) were from those three guys.  They missed a combined 12 games and led us to our best offensive season since the Lou Piniella days.

Cano had a career high in homers, which is particularly impressive coming off of his 2015, when we all wondered if he was beginning his decline a little earlier than scheduled.  He proved he’s still the superstar we signed up for, and even though his batting average dipped under .300 for just the third time since becoming an everyday player, the huge boost in his power numbers were most welcome on a team that stayed in contention throughout the season.  We’re 3 years into a 10-year contract; it’s comforting to believe we have at least a couple more high-level years to go with Cano before we face that inevitable decline.

Cruz has been something of a revelation since leaving the Rangers at the age of 33.  He’s always had impressive power, but lacked consistency.  Everyone figured he’d get a massive deal anyway, because this is baseball and GMs are dumb, but more teams than expected were turned off by his lack of defensive ability.  So, he signed a 1-year prove-it deal with Baltimore and turned out the best season of his career to date, with 40 homers and a 4.7 WAR over 159 games.  He parlayed that into finally getting that massive deal with the Mariners (4 years, $57 million) and somehow had an even BETTER season in 2015!  44 homers and a 5.2 WAR over 152 games (including a .302 batting average and .369 on-base percentage, which remain career highs with a minimum of 110 games played).  It was better than we could have possibly hoped for, considering he played half his games in Safeo Field (moved-in fences or no, it’s still a notoriously tough place to hit dingers).

It would’ve been pretty unrealistic to expect that upward trajectory to continue, and while it came to pass that Cruz’s numbers took a bit of a dip, it wasn’t the nosedive some of us feared.  He still hit over 40 homers and nearly pulled off a .290 batting average in earning another 4.7 WAR season.  Granted, he played a lot more DH than he did last year, but that’s not a bad thing.  Given his limitations in the field, he SHOULD be preserved by playing almost exclusively DH (outside of games in N.L. stadia).  Considering we’re halfway through his contract, and he’s still hitting as well as he did in Baltimore (combined with our tough luck with free agent acquisitions in the past), I feel like we’re playing with house money with Cruz.  Hell, his year THIS year could’ve been even better had he not been dealing with that wrist injury down the stretch!  Talk about a guy playing through the pain and producing at a high level!

Given what we’ve seen out of him over the first half of his contract, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect him to continue playing at a high level at least through the 2017 season.  One would hope, barring injury, that his decline doesn’t officially kick in until 2018 or beyond, but suffice it to say these declines can start at any time, and when they hit, it’s remarkable how fast a player can go from being at the top of his game to out of baseball entirely (see:  Sexson, Richie).

The real player I’m in awe of in 2016 is Kyle Seager.  I just don’t remember ever seeing a player like him before.  He consistently gets better with each passing season!  It’s incredible!  Usually those guys end up leaving Seattle, and finding their success with other teams.  There have certainly been Mariners players who have been better than Seager, but guys like A-Rod and Griffey were superstars as infants.  Edgar was already a pro hitter when he was still languishing in the minors.  Cano and Cruz obviously made their names elsewhere before cashing in here.  But, Seager is a true rarity.  A true find.  A homegrown stud at a difficult defensive position who was rewarded with a contract extension, and who continues to improve at his craft.  We’ve had Seager in Seattle for six years (five full seasons), and the best part of his game is that he could continue to improve for six more years!

He’s played in at least 155 games in every full year he’s been in the Majors.  Before 2016, he’d hit for an average of around .260 to .270.  He’s increased his homer production each and every year.  He’s got a gold glove under his belt.  He’s been an All Star.  But, this year, he took his hitting to a new level.  Yes, yes, the career highs in homers, RBI, and runs scored.  But, also career highs in average, on-base percentage, and slugging!  And, we’re talking considerable jumps:

  • .278 average, previous high of .268 in 2014
  • .359 on-base percentage, previous high of .338 in 2013
  • .499 slugging percentage, previous high of .454 in 2014
  • .858 OPS, previous high of .788 in 2014

This coincides with a smarter approach at the plate.  If you look at his spray charts this year compared to years past, you’ll see while he’s predominantly a pull hitter when it comes to homers, he’s much better at distributing batted balls evenly throughout the field.  Still a lot of ground-outs to the second baseman, but not nearly as pronounced as it was even two years ago.  If he can continue to improve in this regard, he might even be able to get teams to stop shifting so much when he comes to the plate.

I still contend there’s a .300 hitter lurking beneath the surface of Kyle Seager.  The more he works at hitting to all fields, the better his chances of cracking that barrier.  Of course, you take the good with the bad, and there are definite limitations to Seager’s game.  He’s got power, but not to all fields.  So, the trick is, maintaining that 20-30 homer power, while morphing into that .300 hitter I keep saying (every year) that we’re going to see one of these days.  It’ll happen, and when it does, I’m going to go hoarse from saying “I Told You So” so many times.

The best part of this 2016 Mariners team was its heart of the order.  These 3-4-5 hitters.  Even if they went through individual slumps, they weren’t long-lasting.  And, it seemed like there was never a point in the year where all of them were in a slump at the same time.  There was always one or two of these guys hitting to pick up the slack.  And, when all three were on at the same time, it was usually a bloodbath for the other team.  Now, whether that contributed to the hitters around them being better, or getting better pitches to hit, I couldn’t tell you.  I do know that we had 9 guys (including our fearsome Big Three) who had over 10 homers, which is pretty impressive.  I’m sure guys ahead of them (pitchers not wanting to walk guys ahead of Cano) and behind them (pitchers not wanting to give up more RBI, as there would most certainly be at least one guy on base by the time the 6-hole batter came up) saw better pitches to hit.  But, this was also a very veteran team, that by and large was able to work a count better than we’ve seen in over a decade.  So, it’s tough to say how the Big Three affected the rest of the lineup.

I just know what they were able to do, and it was the best we’ve seen ’round these parts in quite some time.

Ideally, we’ll get more of the same in 2017.  We’re probably going to need it, as I can’t imagine the pitching staff is going to drastically improve between now and then.  But, if they start to regress, at least we’ll have 2016.  It didn’t end in a post-season berth, but it was still an entertaining year of baseball thanks to these three guys.

Will Ariel Miranda Get A Legitimate Shot At Next Year’s Mariners Rotation?

In any season where a team finishes with 86 wins and a few games short of the playoffs, there are going to be plenty of pleasant surprises to go along with the smattering of disappointments that prevented you from reaching your goal in the first place.  Of all the deals made in Jerry Dipoto’s first year, one of the few that didn’t either totally backfire or result in no net change whatsoever for either involved team was the Wade Miley for Ariel Miranda trade.

Miranda was a Cuban AAA prospect on the cusp of breaking through to the Majors.  With the Orioles in the pennant race – and with the Mariners in pretty bad shape by the end of July – this was seen as a clear power move for Baltimore, and another sign of the Mariners giving up on their season (to go along with sending a valuable bullpen piece/spot starter in Montgomery away, as well as a veteran set-up reliever in Benoit).  In all likelihood, aside from the Montgomery deal, the Mariners were no worse after those other two trades than before.  But, sending Miley and Benoit to contenders was clearly a cost-cutting move for a team that had less than a 50% chance of making the playoffs (going into August, the Mariners were 52-51, so not the most inspiring of records).

Anyway, for the Orioles, you could see why they opted for Miley over Miranda, even though both were lefties with marginal stuff:  Miley was the veteran, and in a pennant race, you always want the guy with experience over the guy who has never started in the Bigs before.

I’d say it wasn’t shocking that Miley stunk up the joint upon going to Baltimore; he’s a terrible pitcher, and it was a bad idea to bring him here in the first place.  But, he got us Ariel Miranda, and considering what we gave up to get Miley in the first place (Roenis Elias and Carson Smith), we might’ve still come out ahead in the whole thing.  Miranda is already better than Elias ever was, plus he MUST have more club control.  Carson Smith was injured throughout most of 2016, so we’ll see how he comes back from Tommy John surgery.  But, Smith is just a reliever, and you’d trade a quality reliever for a quality starter 9 times out of 10.

The Mariners brought Miranda along slowly, which was absolutely the right thing to do, even as the team itself started playing better down the stretch and closing the gap between themselves and the wild card teams.  His longest start was only 7 innings, and his highest pitch count in any one game was 103.  He averaged about 84 pitches per start.  As such, we were able to keep him fresh through September, we were able to keep him healthy, and we were able to preserve his confidence, as he often found himself rolling through the first five innings before quickly being pulled at the first sign of trouble late in games.  By season’s end, he was on a great run, finishing with 3 quality starts in September (including an impressive 7-inning, 2-run, 8-strikeout victory against Houston of all teams).

When you tack on his seemingly unflappable nature (he more than held his own in his final start against the A’s, a do-or-die game for this team, going 5.1 innings of 1-run ball), Miranda has more than earned a chance to compete for a starting job next spring.  My question is:  will he get that chance?

Obviously, we’re pretty far away from that point, so anything I say from here on out is pure speculation, but the rotation as it stands right now – indeed as it stood at season’s end – is:

  1. King Felix
  2. Iwakuma
  3. Paxton
  4. Walker
  5. Miranda

Regardless of what happens, Felix and Kuma aren’t going anywhere.  I believe James Paxton has earned a spot in this rotation with his work in 2016, so he doesn’t have to compete for anything.  He just has to show up in shape and ready to build his arm up to where it was this year.  I think Walker will be given every opportunity to win a spot in this rotation, but I also think he’s going to have to earn it.  He’s going to have to come in healthy, with the right mindset, and ready to pound the zone with strikes.  I also think he’s fully capable of doing that, and putting up good spring numbers, so his situation boils down to whether or not the team wants to make an example of him.  To tone down expectations a little bit and let him settle into a groove in Tacoma for the first month before getting called back up.  It wouldn’t shock me, so I hope, for his sake, he comes into camp all business next year.

I also think, as I’ve written before, that the team isn’t set on this rotation.  I’d bet my next four paychecks that the Mariners will end up either trading for or signing a veteran free agent sometime before Pitchers & Catchers report.  Now, the question here is:  will they go after a Wade Miley type?  I.e. a supposedly-solid veteran who has his rotation spot all but guaranteed?  Or, will it be more of a Jeremy Bonderman type who comes in under a minor league deal, with a shot at the big league camp in Spring Training, but who likely starts his season in Tacoma before proving he’s worthy of a real opportunity in Seattle?  Regardless, when you throw that person (or persons) into the mix, alongside Nate Karns (if he manages to return from injury), along with whoever from the minors decides to make a big splash, I could see a real dogfight for these last two spots.

As I said, Walker probably has the edge, but if we bring in a bona fide veteran (which is the way I’m leaning, if I had to make a prediction), that means it’ll be Walker vs. Miranda for that final spot.  Both have options left, so either one could start his year in Tacoma.  But, Walker has better stuff and higher upside.  So, if Miranda is going to make a name for himself, he’s really going to have to step up his game.

I like Miranda’s fastball well enough.  It’s hard to tell if he got as far as he did this year because no one really knew him or faced him; I’d be curious to see how he does next year, when opposing batters have more of a book on him.  He’s also got a splitter that he tends to leave up in the zone, as well as a change up that looks like the same thing.  He’s got to get better at keeping those off-speed pitches down in the zone.  And, it would help if he developed a curve or a slider to keep lefties off-balance.

I won’t be totally pissed if Miranda has to start his year in Tacoma, because I know that sooner or later we’re going to need him.  I know I’ve said this repeatedly in the past about Roenis Elias, but it’ll be nice to have Miranda as starting insurance, because it’s nearly impossible for a rotation to stay fully intact with the same five guys for a full season.  If Miranda works on his craft and stays healthy, he might be one of the better 6th starters in the league!

The Huskies Dropped 70 On The Oregon Ducks!

The only way this game could’ve been better is if Oregon was a better football team.  But, they’re not.  They’re not even GOOD!  They might be mediocre at best, but they’re more likely bad, and maybe even the worst in the conference.  0-3, having fallen to Colorado and Washington State as well.  Now, as it turns out, the Buffaloes and Cougars might be way better than we all thought, but that’s neither here nor there.  The Ducks are a shitshow, and we just beat them 70-21.


November 1, 2003, was the last time the Huskies beat the Ducks, a 42-10 upset at Husky Stadium.  Since then:

  • 2004:  @ Oregon, 31-6
  • 2005:  @ Oregon, 45-21
  • 2006:  @ Oregon, 34-14
  • 2007:  vs. Oregon, 55-34
  • 2008:  @ Oregon, 44-10
  • 2009:  vs. Oregon, 43-19
  • 2010:  @ Oregon, 53-16
  • 2011:  vs. Oregon, 34-17
  • 2012:  @ Oregon, 52-21
  • 2013:  vs. Oregon, 45-24
  • 2014:  @ Oregon, 45-20
  • 2015:  vs. Oregon, 26-20

It was a black mark on this organization only rivalled by the winless 2008 campaign.  Granted, there’s a lot of money being pumped into the Oregon athletic program; Phil Knight is trying to buy his way to a championship in everything.  But, this is still college football, and Oregon doesn’t enjoy the same advantages it once did.  They came on like a tidal wave and took the college football world by storm; they went from also-ran to one of the nation’s elite programs in the blink of an eye.  Much like the Huskies did under Don James oh so many decades ago.  But, as quickly as you can build up a program, it can fall apart through neglect.  That happened to the Huskies over the course of the 1990s before ultimately bottoming out in the first decade of the 2000s.  And, that MIGHT be what’s happening down in Eugene right now.

Truth be told, I never thought we’d see those glory days ever again.  It’s college football!  It just sounds so daunting, doesn’t it?  There are hundreds of schools to compete with!  The rosters turn over so frequently!  And, let’s face it, it seems like other schools just care more.  Alabama, Ohio State, Texas, Florida State.  Hell, even schools in our own conference, like USC, Oregon, Stanford, and UCLA.  Where does Washington fit in?  Who the hell would ever want to play football here, when you can go to one of those other schools with a seemingly better chance of playing for a championship?

The Huskies last won a title in 1991!  Literally everone playing for the Huskies right now was born AFTER that year!

There are no memories of the Huskies being a powerhouse!  I feel like most of the kids here have no memory whatsoever of the last time we even played in the Rose Bowl in the 2000 season!

You know what’s pretty fresh in their minds?  0-12.  Eight years ago, we were in the middle of the very worst season in this school’s history.  Now?  We’re ranked in the Top 5 with a very reasonable shot at making the college football playoff AND WE JUST PUT UP 70 POINTS ON OREGON!!!

The most points the Huskies have scored since the 1944 season, when we were members of the Pacific Coast Conference, and we dropped 71 against Willamette and again against Whitman a few weeks later.  They were also the second-most points Oregon had ever given up in school history, and the most since 1941.

Jake Browning scored a Pac-12 record-tying 8 touchdowns (6 passing, 2 rushing) on 304 yards (22 of 28) passing.  Myles Gaskin ran for 197 yards and a TD.  Dante Pettis caught 8 balls for 134  yards and 2 TDs; John Ross caught 9 for 94 and 3 TDs.  The defense logged 3 more sacks (2 for my boy Greg Gaines), and Budda Baker caught an interception to help pad his elite numbers.

Even though the Ducks are God awful, this win does so much for us going forward.  It’s still Oregon, which is a nationally-recognized football brand.  People are going to see we put 70 on them and they’re going to be impressed, regardless of Oregon’s record.  This was also a road game, and it’s never this easy to win on the road unless you’re truly elite, like we are.  On top of all of that, with all his production, Jake Browning has put himself on the Heisman short list.  That Louisville guy will probably end up winning it, but just the fact that Browning is in the top 5 right now is more than enough to keep the Huskies on everyone’s minds come playoff time.

Now, obviously, the Huskies have to keep winning.  Even 1 loss, and you kiss this whole “playoffs” thing goodbye.  Like certain conference championship-seasons under Lorenzo Romar in basketball, this Husky team is dogged by the Pac-12 being in a down year.  Fucking Stanford did us no fucking favors by losing at home to the Cougars.  Wazzu being undefeated in conference play WOULD BE interesting – considering we play them in the Apple Cup next month – if they didn’t fucking lose to Eastern Washington and Boise State earlier this season.  Yeah, Boise is ranked in the Top 20, so maybe that’ll help matters, but I can’t see the Cougs being too highly ranked when they lose to the likes of Eastern (plus, let’s be real here, I’d be shocked if they didn’t Coug it a few times between now and the time they play us on Thanksgiving weekend).

A 2-loss Stanford team (and counting) sure hurts us.  A 4-loss Ducks team is a non-entity; they might not even make a bowl game this year.  Colorado just made the Top 25, then promptly lost to USC, who itself has 2 conference defeats.  I’m holding out hope that the Utah game at the end of the month will mean something, but they lost to Cal, who has losses to ASU and Oregon State of all teams!  ASU is an interesting one, with a 5-1 record, and a 2-1 conference record, but their defense is one of the very worst in all of college football!

I mean, on and on.  This Pac-12 is comprised of the Washington Huskies and a bunch of disappointments.  One slip-up and it could all go tumbling down.

But, on the flipside, if we keep winning like we’ve been doing, it’s almost a certainty we’ll be in that college football playoff!

Like I said up top, I never thought I’d see the day.  I never thought I’d see the Husky football program with a legitimate shot at going undefeated.  But, it’s all right there in front of us!

We get a BYE week this week, then we host Oregon State next week.  That’s followed by a HUGE showdown in Utah against a team with a stout defense that’s superbly coached.  Then, we follow that up with a road game against Cal; this will be the toughest 2-game stretch the rest of the regular season.  Unlike Utah, Cal’s offense – particularly its passing game – is off the charts good.  We might be in for a shootout in that one.

Then, we get back-to-back home games against USC and ASU.  I like our chances here quite a bit.  That puts us into Apple Cup week, which I predicted at the beginning of the season would be the game that decides who goes to the Pac-12 championship game.  It’s in Pullman, against what figures to be a pretty talented Cougar team that would love nothing more than to ruin our chances at a national championship.

True, the Huskies could slip up in any of these games, but at the same time it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see us run the table.  If I had to put money on it, I’d probably bet against us, because life is the worst and I can never achieve happiness.  But, for right now, anything is possible and that includes a mountain of Purple & Gold confetti dropping down on January 9, 2017.