Seattle Mariners All Stars

First of all, let’s just get the obvious out of the way:  there isn’t a single Mariners hitter worthy of going to the All Star Game this year.  The last time I checked – which was, admittedly, some time ago – Ichiro was in 4th place for the outfield.  A small part of me would like to see the streak continue, but the bigger part of me hopes he doesn’t make it.

I mean, how could I?  He’s batting .252, his defense hasn’t been up to his usual standards, he’s still not walking.  In other words:  for the past month and change he’s been hurting his team WAY more than helping it.  It would be an embarrassment if he was voted in.  Everyone would blame the International Voting (instead of rightly crediting it in past seasons when Ichiro was good), and frankly I don’t want that.  I’d like to think the International Japanese voters are smarter than that.  I know they love their idol, but at some point you have to vote your conscience.

Of course, as I write this, I realize just how trivial the whole All Star Game really is.  Nobody REALLY cares about the All Star Game; hell, I don’t give two shits and haven’t given two shits since I was a teenager!  It’s nice for the players, it’s nice to see first-timers who’ve earned their way aboard by having breakout seasons; it’s annoying that players are voted in because of their names and not their numbers.  But, it’s not something to get bent out of shape about.

With that having been said:  do the right thing, Japan.  Leave Ichiro at home.  And, for the love of Christ, don’t just vote for whoever the Red Sox and Yankees are throwing out there.  Do the research!

Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s move on to the pitchers.

The Mariners have a team ERA of 3.35 – at the time of this posting that’s tied for first in the American League with Oakland (and tied for fifth behind the Padres, Phillies, Giants, and Braves).  With the amount of studs we have on this team, it would be a crime not to have at least two or three guys show up for the big game.

Michael Pineda needs to be on this team.  You’re talking about the guy who’s a frontrunner for Rookie Of The Year.  He’s 4th in AL ERA and 9th in AL strikeouts (this in spite of the fact that he’s tied for 37th in Innings Pitched).  His K’s per 9 innings pitched is Number 2 in the AL.  He’s been so very impressive, especially with what he’s been working with.  He’s a two-pitch starter with a firm 100 pitch-count limit every game.  If Michael Pineda isn’t on that team, then he will have been robbed.  It’ll just be another case of a player’s reputation being accepted over a new, fresh, exciting young stud who hasn’t “paid his dues” yet.  Bullshit.

By the by, you know who’s Number 1 in K’s per 9 innings?  Well, that would be Mr. Felix Hernandez.  Felix is leading the AL in strikeouts (4 more than Justin Verlander with 4 fewer innings pitched), he’s only 18th in ERA (with a still-amazing – and better than last year’s – 3.29) and he’s the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.  I don’t think there’s anyway King Felix ISN’T on this team, but if that ERA was holding some people back, then I hypocritically applaud the people who vote him in on name-recognition alone.

Another should-be lock is, surprisingly enough, Brandon League.  At the moment, he’s leading the AL in saves with 18 (2 more than the next closest).  I don’t think I remember there EVER being a year where the saves-leader going into the All Star Game wasn’t actually ON the All Star team.  I will grant you, that week in May was one of the ugliest weeks I’ve ever witnessed for a single player (4 losses with 3 blown saves in five days).  But, he’s yet to give up a single RUN in his last 11 appearances (with 4 hits, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts).  If League can keep it up (which, I would define as blowing no more than a single save between now and when they choose teams), he’s as big a lock as there is.

There has been talk bandied about that perhaps another reliever is deserving to go from the Mariners.  Well, you can cross off Jamey Wright from that list right now.  His ERA is almost at three; set-up men will never get in with numbers like his.  Aaron Laffey, I would argue, hasn’t been in enough games or pressure situations, though his ERA is sub-2.  Besides, he’s handcuffed because we have an even BETTER reliever than him who’s currently hogging all the focus.

David Pauley.  Who in Christ’s name would’ve thunk it?  But, you can’t deny the man’s been nails with the ball in his hand.  He gave up 2 runs in April (in 16.1 innings, mostly as a long-guy in losing situations), 1 run in May (when he was essentially promoted as our 7th/8th inning guy, over the course of another 16 innings), and so far 1 run in June over 5 innings.  His ERA stands right now at 0.96.  He’s got 23 strikeouts against 8 walks, and his WHIP is 0.78.  The guy is a fire-breathing dragon (who induces a helluva lot of ground balls).  And, I don’t remember him giving up too many runs from inherited baserunners either.

With those numbers, I don’t see how you could keep the guy off the team.  If he manages to keep it up (meaning, that ERA stays BELOW 1.00), David Pauley definitely belongs.  That being said, it’s damn near impossible for a reliever who’s not a closer to make the All Star Team.  I only remember a couple of Mariners (Jeff Nelson and maybe Shigetoshi Hasegawa) ever managing that feat.  Of course, when they made it, they had the peripheral numbers on their side.

The powers that be who pick these teams pretty much just look at two things with relievers:  Saves and ERA.  If you’ve got zero saves, you’re at a HUGE disadvantage.  So, your ERA better be fucking sparkling.  I’d feel more confident in Pauley’s chances if he was perfect for the rest of this month.  I’d also feel more confident in Pauley’s chances if some of these other closers ahead of him started throwing out their shoulders.

My guess?  I’m going with Felix and League as a lock.  I think Ichiro misses his first-ever All Star Game since joining the Mariners.  I think Pineda and Pauley are the last two pitchers left off the team.  Let’s face it, we’ve got the Texas Rangers picking the team’s pitching; are they REALLY going to take four Mariners from a team that’s in 2nd or 3rd place at the time of the game?  Highly unlikely, if you ask me.

Which, to be honest, wouldn’t piss me off in the least (well, that’s not true, I’m sure I’d be on here with venom spewing from my fingers if Pineda’s left off).  Michael Pineda, by getting the shaft, would have that much more to prove the rest of this season.  Hell, it could be a rallying cry for this entire team as it heads toward the second half of the season.

**UPDATE**

Of course, in today’s game, Michael Pineda goes 5.1 and gives up 5 earned runs.  Next up:  Felix tanks tomorrow’s game and David Pauley gives up four runs in an inning.

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