The Mariners Feel Their Rotation Is Set?

So, I guess there was this interview with Jerry Dipoto on 710am recently where he said the Mariners are more or less set with the starting pitchers they have.  Don’t expect any major moves – either via free agency, or trades – between now and Spring Training.  This, in spite of the fact that at the moment, there are a TON of starting pitchers on the free agent market.  The supply is high, the demand appears to be low for now, and so you know what that means:  good pitchers could be brought in for a song.

And the Mariners aren’t going to take advantage of this?  Are they fucking NUTS?

This feels like a Once in a Decade type of thing.  Usually, Major League Baseball’s free agency period is a feeding frenzy of 30 ravenous coyotes all going after one small, dying group of deer.  The biggest, toughest ones snatch the best players for themselves, leaving the rest of the league trying to squeeze blood from a stone (lots of weird metaphors here, I apologize).  Every once in a while, the Mariners go big game hunting, but more often than not, we’re among the lower-level teams picking off the scraps.

But, this year, there’s actual talent on the market!  That the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, and Angels have all passed over!

On the flipside, you’ve got the Mariners, whose plan apparently involves going into 2018 with the same set of rotation pitchers they had at the end of 2017.  I know I ranted my way down this rabbithole on Twitter earlier in the week, but let’s run down everyone:

  • James Paxton – has never stayed healthy in his entire career
  • Felix Hernandez – clearly on the downside of his career, also coming off of multiple seasons of injuries
  • Mike Leake – who was very good with the M’s late last year, but those were his first 5 games as a member of the American League, so he had the element of being an unknown on his side (he also out-pitched his career numbers to an amazing degree, so it’s safe to say 2018 Leake is in for some heavy regression)
  • Ariel Miranda – who is just a so-so fifth starter type as it is, who faltered GREATLY at the end of the season last year
  • Andrew Moore – who just got POUNDED almost each and every appearance
  • Marco Gonzales – who also got POUNDED almost each and every appearance
  • Erasmo Ramirez – who probably had his best-ever sustained run of greatness last season after being traded back to the M’s, but you’re a fucking FOOL if you believe that’s going to continue on into 2018 and beyond
  • Hisashi Iwakuma – who is coming off of a lifetime of injuries, who is currently on a minor league deal, and who knows if he’s even recovered from last year’s debilitating arm issues?

And that’s not even getting into all the other AAA nobodies we have in this organization who are all surely just as bad as all the AAA nobodies we had to suffer through in 2017 thanks to all the injuries and nonsense.  At least we don’t have Yovani Gallardo wasting our fucking time with his bullshit.

I mean, this is a joke, right?  That the Mariners are “set” with their starting rotation?  You do realize we’re in the FUCKING American League West, with the best team in all of baseball (the Astros) who have done nothing but get BETTER this offseason (especially if they figure out a way to bring in Gerrit Cole).  Then, there’s the Angels who finished 2 games ahead of the Mariners in 2017, who still have the best player alive (Mike Trout), and who brought in the consensus best free agent pitcher/hitter in the world (Shohei Ohtani).  Then, there’s the Texas Rangers, who had the same record as the Mariners last year, and had injury issues of their own to contend with.  Oh, and you can’t dismiss Oakland out of hand, because they always deal in up-and-coming prospects and you never know when it’s all going to come together for them out of nowhere.

What have the Mariners done?  They traded for a second baseman that they’re converting to a centerfielder, they signed a reliever, and they traded for a first baseman who might not be any good (and who might not even be any better than the first basemen we had last year).  That’s it.

This is a team, mind you, with a majority stake in their own fucking regional sports network!  They’re practically printing money!  And this is all we can muster?

Don’t forget, this is also the team that refuses to tear it all down and start a rebuild.  Which, fine (they probably couldn’t anyway, because no one in their right minds would give legitimate prospects for the likes of aging veterans like Cano, Cruz, or Felix, no matter how much the fans are clamoring for it).  We’ve got these veterans, we’ve got a solid offense, let’s play to win now.

Well, then LET’S GO!  Let’s sign one of these stud starting pitchers still out there on the free agent market!  What, we had all this money to pursue Ohtani, but we don’t have a few sheckles for Yu Darvish or Lance Lynn or any of the numerous starting pitchers out there who are BETTER and MORE RELIABLE than the ones we have under contract?

You know what really gets me?  Every time the Mariners decide to bite the bullet and hit the free agent market in earnest, they have to over-pay to bring in the guys they sign.  Sometimes it works out (Cano and Cruz have been great signings, for instance), but a lot of times they’re busts (Carlos Silva anyone?  Jarrod Washburn?  ET FUCKING AL).  Now, we have a chance to get some really GOOD players on the cheap (what are they going to do, retire in protest?  GTFO), and what do we do?  Clutch our purse strings and claim poverty.

Bullshit.  Fucking BULLSHIT!

God damn these fucking Mariners!  WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING HERE YOU GUYS???  You do realize the M’s are WAY WORSE than both the Astros and Angels!  You do realize we have to play everyone in our division 19 times apiece!  That’s 76 games – almost HALF YOUR FUCKING SCHEDULE – and you’re not even fucking trying.

Well, if you’re not going to try, then blow the fucking thing up.  But, these half measures are fucking killing me.  Normally, when I write a season off before it starts, it’s because the Mariners are fucking miserable failures.  But, this year, if you planted the Mariners in any other mediocre division, they’d probably net at least 10 more victories than they will in the A.L. West.  Fucking unbelievable.

Except, no.  VERY believable.  Welcome to YOUR Seattle Mariners, everyone!  Just shoot me in the fucking head right now and get it over with.

The Mariners Signed Reliever Juan Nicasio & Other Things Happened

Juan Nicasio (2 years, $17 million) is a 7-year pro, starter-turned-reliever from the right side, who had a very good year last year.  He was great for Pittsburgh, was waived at the end of August for some reason, picked up by Philly, and was traded a week later to St. Louis for minor league prospects.  I don’t know and I don’t want to know.  He averaged a strikeout per inning and apparently has pretty good stuff (mid-90s fastball, good slider, not-so-good change).  Throw him on the pile of potential late-inning relievers with closer Diaz, Vincent, Phelps, Zych, and sometimes Altavilla from the right side; with Scrabble and Pazos on the left side, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty good bullpen.  Not great, not out-of-this-world or anything, but pretty good.  Potentially.  Or maybe not.  Maybe some of them are good, some are bad, and some are injured.  That’s the way the cookie crumbles in this thing, doesn’t it?  It’s all one big, stupid, pointless crapshoot.

Yeah, sure, I like the move, but bullpens are so volatile and random, it’s hard to get too excited about anything anymore.  “We’ll see.”  That’s gonna be my motto with this Mariners team, this year and forever.  We’ll see.

The Mariners also traded away some of their International Slot Money to the Rays for a minor league reliever they’d originally traded TO the Rays last year for God knows what.  So, that’s something.  They also traded some slot money to the Indians for a reliever by the name of Shawn Armstrong.  He’s actually got some Major League experience, so I feel like he’s actually worth mentioning.  But, not a ton of experience, so let’s go ahead and store that name and move on.

And, the Mariners took Mike Ford in the Rule 5 Draft from the Yankees’ organization.  It was to be expected that the M’s would go after someone in the Rule 5 Draft this year, as they had ample roster space, but I figured it would be for a pitcher (most likely a reliever), because you need to keep anyone you pick in the Rule 5 Draft on your roster for a full season, otherwise the player’s rights revert back to his original team.  Considering there’s been all this chatter about the M’s going with a 6-man rotation for at least part of the season, or an 8-man bullpen for a lot longer, it made sense.  What doesn’t make sense is that Mike Ford is a first baseman.  A first baseman who has never played an inning of Major League ball.  Who, indeed, has only 25 games’ worth of AAA experience.

Now, of course, it’s always possible the Mariners and Yankees work out a trade, if indeed 25 games’ worth of AAA experience isn’t enough to land you on a Major League roster for a full season, but it’s a puzzling move any way you slice it.  Obviously, when we’re talking about Rule 5 players, we’re not talking about an organization’s best prospect.  This is a guy the Yankees felt they could leave off of their 40-man roster and risk losing to another club.  Maybe they figured – as most anyone would – that no one would bother with a 25 year old 5-year minor league first baseman whose numbers aren’t really all that eye-popping.  But, that’s the Mariners for you.  The same Mariners, mind you, who just traded for first baseman Ryon Healy.  It didn’t look like he needed a platoon partner, so again, I guess we’ll see.

In yet other minor news, Andrew Albers was granted his release so he could go play in Asia.  That’s one less useful AAA starter we could spot start in a pinch.

And finally, I’ll end with this:  Drew Smyly ended up signing a 2-year, $10 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, which I guess was more than we were willing to go.  He gets $3 million this year just to recover from surgery, and another $7 million in 2019, with $6 million in incentives if he returns to starting.  Thus ends the Drew Smyly era in Seattle.  He never threw a pitch in a regular season game, he earned a little under $7 million, and he cost us three prospects.  If that isn’t the epitome of the perfect Seattle Mariners transaction, I don’t know what is.

The Mariners Traded For Dee Gordon

I don’t have a good space for this post, as the next day I anticipate having an opening will be next Thursday, which would make this beyond stale.  So, instead, I’m doubling up on a Friday.

The Mariners acquired Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins!  In return, the Marlins get three minor leaguers.  If you thought, like I did, that the Mariners traded away all their minor leaguers, you’d be wrong.  Indeed, considering Gordon’s talent level, I’m shocked the Marlins were able to find three guys they liked from our farm system, but that’s neither here nor there.

It looks like the Marlins are in salary dump mode, which isn’t something new.  Dee Gordon is set to earn $37 million over the next three years, with 2021 being an option year ($14 million if he stays, $1 million if we buy him out; the option vests automatically if he has 600 plate appearances in 2020, or 1,200 across 2019-2020).

If you don’t know who Dee Gordon is, he was a starting second baseman for the Marlins, who happened to play at an All Star level in 2014 & 2015.  He also won a Gold Glove in 2015, as well as a Silver Slugger award and had the National League batting title.  He had a down season in 2016, thanks to an 80-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs (which is cause for concern, because I’m sure the next offense is way worse than 80 games), but he bounced back in a big way in 2017.

The hitting talent is there.  He doesn’t have much in the way of power, but in his last three full seasons he’s had over 20 doubles per year.  He’s also going to sprinkle in a good number of triples, because the dude is fast.  He’s one of the fastest players in the Major Leagues.  In his last three full seasons, he’s averaged over 60 stolen bases per year!  He’s going to get caught from time to time, but still, that’s insane.  He could probably stand to walk more, but if he hits the way he’s capable of hitting, on-base percentage shouldn’t be an issue.

The biggest issue, of course, is what I mentioned earlier:  he’s a second baseman!  Robinson Cano, is also, a second baseman.  Dee Gordon also has experience as a short stop.  But, Jean Segura is our short stop.  He just signed an extension in the middle of last season!  Cano and Segura aren’t going anywhere.  Ipso facto, the Mariners are making Dee Gordon convert to center field.  Where he’s never played an inning of Major League ball.

And he’s got about 4 months to get it down.

Not that I have a choice in the matter, but I’m okay with the whole thing.  My biggest concern is how well he does in his defensive conversion.  I’ve seen plenty of players get shuffled around to other positions while at the Major League level, and it rarely has gone well.  Usually, we’re talking about going from DH to first base, or catcher to first base, or first base to second base to outfield, or third base to corner outfield, and so on and so forth.  The defense gets worse, and the hitting also suffers.  If anything, it takes about a year to get acclimated, if they get acclimated at all!  So, I wouldn’t say I’m on the bandwagon just yet.

I do like the idea, though.  I mean, the guy is super fast, why WOULDN’T he at least be passable in center field?  It’ll probably take some time before he gets to be elite, but that should come with experience.  In the early going, how about he just makes the routine plays?  Between that, and his elite bat at the top of the lineup, I’ll take it.

Speaking of that lineup, here’s a possibility:

  1. Dee Gordon (CF)
  2. Jean Segura (SS)
  3. Robinson Cano (2B)
  4. Nelson Cruz (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  7. Ryon Healy (1B)
  8. Mike Zunino (C)
  9. Ben Gamel (LF)

That’s pretty aces, from top to bottom.  Now, whether we still have Ben Gamel when the season starts, I guess we’ll see.  It’s probably a good sign that he’s featured in some of the promotional give-aways this season, but I guess they could always stop production on those.

Can’t have a trade without giving away some pieces.  The Mariners gave away Chris Torres (a low level minor league short stop prospect with a lot of upside), Nick Neidert (probably the top pitching prospect in the M’s system who projects as a mid-rotation starter with low velocity but good command and change-up), and Robert Dugger (a relief pitching prospect).  I don’t know if any of these guys will turn into anything, but that’s the risk, isn’t it?  You’ll probably see Neidert in a Major League uniform sooner rather than later (maybe even as early as this season, considering the tank job the Marlins are pulling), and if he becomes a quality starting pitcher, that one could sting.

To lessen that sting, the Mariners also got $1 million in International Slot Money.  Shohei Ohtani is a Japanese player who is both a quality starter and a quality hitter.  He has narrowed down his field of prospective teams to seven, one of which includes the Mariners.  Due to his very young age, he’s not entitled to the usual Free Agent money you’d see thrown around for posted Japanese players.  But, he’s determined to come to America, and right now is trying to figure out where he fits best.  The Mariners now have somewhere in the area of $3.5 million to offer him – which is the most among the seven remaining teams, by a small margin – but this was never really about money for Ohtani.  Although, I’m sure the Mariners are thinking that if all things are equal in that regard, it’ll come down to where Seattle ranks among his potential destinations.  The Mariners have a lot to offer, and many consider us to be the leaders of the pack, but I’m not gonna get my hopes up.  Easier that way.

Lots more moves to go this off-season.  One very important move could be coming in a matter of days.

UPDATE:  And the move has been made.  Shohei Ohtani to the Anaheim Angels.  Between them and the Astros, maybe think about cancelling Mariners baseball for the next 3-5 years.

Wasting No Time: The Mariners Traded For Their New First Baseman

So, I guess the Danny Valencia/Yonder Alonso experiment is over.  They were both thrilling and aggravating, but ultimately not a very major reason why the Mariners failed to make the playoffs in 2017.  They’re now free to return to the Oakland A’s, or any other team they see fit.

Speaking of the Oakland A’s, the Mariners traded with them again.  To bring in another first baseman again.  For the third time in a row.  Ryon Healy is his name, which isn’t a totally annoying way to spell the name Ryan, but that’s neither here nor there.  He’ll be 26 years old in January and has spent the past season and a half in the Big Leagues.  In that time, he’s been solidly productive:

  • .282/.313/.475/.788 with 38 homers, 49 doubles, a whole mess of strikeouts and not very many walks

Without knowing how good he is defensively (I assume he’s fine), this feels like a quality addition to the right side of the plate.  More importantly, the Mariners don’t feel like they’ll have to platoon him, which should free up a roster spot on the bench.  I suppose that spells doom for Dan Vogelbach’s future in a Mariners uniform, but more than anything he feels like trade bait for one of the 50 other deals Jerry Dipoto is going to do between now and the end of the year.

Another cool thing about this deal is that Healy is still two full seasons away from being arbitration eligible.  The Mariners, if things go well, should have him for 5 full seasons before he’d earn any sort of significant money!  And, if he’s already flashing this type of power and batting average as a second year player, one would think the sky is the limit.

He’s going to fit in quite well in the 2018 batting order, too.  Check out my way-too-early projection:

  • Segura (SS)
  • Haniger (RF)
  • Cano (2B)
  • Cruz (DH)
  • Seager (3B)
  • Healy (1B)
  • Gamel (LF)
  • Zunino (C)
  • Heredia (CF)

I highly doubt that’ll be the Opening Day 9, but you get the idea.  Bank on the top 6 guys being THE guys.  Toss in Zunino in the bottom third with one, maybe two new outfielders, and you’ve got yourself a lineup.

I think my favorite part of this deal is that the Mariners won’t be subjected to a first base retread.  I don’t have to worry about the return of LoMo, for instance, who was a name being bandied about when people discussed possible solutions to this first base quandary.  Same goes for Justin Smoak (though, I have to figure Toronto is pretty happy with him after last year), Brad Miller, and the duo from last season.  Danny Valencia is a nice player, and it was awesome to have his defense over there, but he is who he is.  He’ll have hot streaks and cold streaks and he’ll struggle quite a bit against right handed pitching.  Yonder Alonso, I think, is more flash in the pan than player on the rise.  Before 2017, his season high in homers was 9; last year, he hit 28.  I’m not going to bring steroids into the conversation, because I think the league has done a pretty good job to test those drugs out of the sport, but it does feel like an unsustainable leap.  Also, not for nothing, but the bulk of his damage last year was done pre-All Star Break (where he made his first-ever All Star Game).  He fell off a pretty mighty cliff and never really righted the ship after he was traded.  His on-base ability was a breath of fresh air, but the M’s didn’t bring Yonder Alonso over to walk guys in.

And that’s where I think we get a little too in the weeds with on-base percentage.  Sometimes, you just want a guy to mash you a 3-run homer.  Yeah, if you can, get you a man who can do both, and hold onto him for the duration of his career.  But, if I had to choose what I want out of my first baseman, batting out of the 6-hole?  Give me doubles n’ dingers.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about who the Mariners gave up:  Emilio Pagan and minor leaguer Alexander Campos.  Pagan, you may recall, was a rookie last year and one of our very best relievers.  Long relief, late in games, high leverage situations, extra innings, you name it and more often than not he came through the trials with flying colors.  Considering how cheap he is, and how much team control he has left, that’s a guy you could see anchoring your bullpen for many years to come.  But, if he can get you a starting first baseman – and not just for a season or two, but for up to 5 years or more, if you opt to extend him long term – that’s a no-brainer.  I mean, let’s face it, odds are Emilio Pagan won’t be the next Mariano Rivera.  Duh.  I would also say the odds are we’re trading him at his very highest value.  If we’d kept him even one more year, and he struggled, he couldn’t be traded for much more than Jack Squat (see:  Vogelbach).

As for Campos, he’s a 17-year old infielder.  We almost certainly won’t read about him ever again.  And, if we do, it almost certainly won’t be for at least 3-5 years, and by that point I hope to be long dead, having probably never again seen the Mariners in the post-season.

I will say that it’s a little scary to trade from a position of weakness (pitching) to further bolster a position of strength (hitting).  To say nothing of the issues with the rotation, how good will this bullpen be when you trade away arguably your 2nd most talented reliever after Edwin Diaz?  I know, Nick Vincent will likely start as your 8th inning guy, but I don’t know if I buy him having back-to-back amazing seasons.  And, besides that, you need more than two quality relievers to win games consistently.  Aside from David Phelps when he was healthy, and our lefties Pazos and Scrabble, I didn’t see a lot of uber-promising young talent coming through Tacoma into the Bigs last year.  With the minors as depleted as they are, I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of impact trades for pitching, unless you’re cool giving up on Ben Gamel (who I ASSURE you will not bring back the type of prize Mariners fans would expect from someone who looks like he could be a solid starter for many years to come; so be ready to be VERY disappointed at some point this offseason).

All that being said, I think this is a great trade, and it’s a deal I would do again and again in a heartbeat.  If I’m being perfectly honest, aside from maybe re-signing Jarrod Dyson, I don’t think I’d do very much to turn over the offense.  I like our outfield!  I like Haniger and Gamel and the combo of Dyson and Heredia!  That’s great defense across the board, with solid plate production and speed on the basepaths.  It’s unrealistic to believe that the hitting/defense side of the game is going to stay as is, especially with Dipoto running the show, and especially since we’re almost certainly going to have to trade from that position of strength (hitting) to improve our pitching.  But, whatever you do, you’ve got to keep that outfield defense as a strength, without sacrificing too much in the way of hitting.  Edgar Martinez can’t do it all!

The Mariners Finished 78-84

Tied for 14th-worst record in baseball, with the Texas Rangers.  And, by virtue of the Rangers having a superior record than the Mariners in 2016, that means we win the tie-breaker!  Hurrah!  We’re drafting 14th!

Hey, it could’ve been worse.  Sure, it could’ve been a lot better, but I guess we just HAD to win those three games in the final week!

I have nothing to say about the series against the Angels.  I’m just going to run through some numbers.  I’ll have a proper End Of Season Recap when I’ve had time to digest everything that’s happened.

78-84 is good for 3rd in the A.L. West, behind the division-winning Astros and the nothing Angels.  The Astros were 23 games better than the Mariners.  Go ahead and let that sink in.

78-84 is good for 7 games back of the second Wild Card spot.  The Twins ended up taking that, as I believe I’ve mentioned before.  The Royals, Rays, and Angels all stood in our way as well.  Oddly enough, every team out of the playoffs was under .500 in the American League (there were two teams in the N.L. with winning records that failed to make the playoffs).

The Mariners finished 40-41 at home; 38-43 on the road.  The Mariners finished with a -22 run differential (by the Pythagorean winning percentage, we should’ve been about 1 win better).

Here are the Mariners’ records by month:

  • April:  11-15
  • May:  14-14
  • June:  15-12
  • July:  14-12
  • August:  12-15
  • September:  12-16

The Mariners’ peak was 3 games over .500, which I believe they achieved twice; the nadir was 8 games under .500.  The longest winning streak and losing streak were both 6 games.  The Mariners were 7-5 in extra innings games.  They were 26-15 in 1-run games.

Here are the Mariners’ final records against their A.L. West foes:

  • Houston:  5-14
  • Anaheim:  7-12
  • Texas:  11-8
  • Oakland:  12-7
  • Total:  35-41

That means the Mariners were 43-43 against everyone else.  Not great, considering every other American League division had a minimum of 2 playoff teams; we really should’ve done a better job cleaning up in our own division.

Jean Segura led the Mariners in batting average with an even .300.  Nelson Cruz led the team in OBP with .375, and Slugging with .549 (it would stand to reason, then, that he led in OPS with .924).  Cruz led the team in homers with 39, and in runs scored with 91; he led the entire American League in RBI with 119.  Robbie Cano had the team lead in hits with 166.  Cano and Seager tied for the team lead in doubles with 33.  And Ben Gamel took the team lead in triples with 5.  Jarrod Dyson was your stolen base king with 28.

The less said about the pitching, the better, but here are a couple of nuggets.  You want to know who led the team in innings pitched?  Ariel Miranda, with a whopping 160!  Paxton led the team in strikeouts with 156 and in wins with 12.  Yovani Gallardo led the team in losses with 10.  Nick Vincent, naturally, led the team in Holds with 29.  And Edwin Diaz finished with 34 saves.

The Mariners finished 7th in the A.L. in runs scored with 750.  8th in ERA with 4.46.

I could go on and on, but I’ll call it a day right there.  All told, the offense was worse than I expected, and the pitching was as bad as I feared.  Of course, I hoped for the best with the pitching, and it indeed may have been better had everyone not gotten injured.  But, overall this is probably the record the Mariners deserved.  This is probably the best indication of who these Mariners were.  Sure, they might’ve been a bit better with a full season out of Paxton and Felix, and with ANY season out of Smyly, but with their flaws, this was no playoff team.  Not now, not ever.

You want to hear something really sad?  In two years managing the Seattle Mariners, Lloyd McClendon was 163-161.  In two years managing the Seattle Mariners, Scott Servais is 164-160.  Over these last two years, the Mariners are exactly 1 game better than they were the previous two years.

God I hate baseball.

Thank Christ There’s Only Three More Of These Fucking Things Left

On a day where the Minnesota Twins – a season after losing 103 games – clinched the second Wild Card spot (thanks to an Anaheim Angels defeat, glory to God), the Seattle Mariners dropped to 77-82.

The Twins feel like nothing special, right?  They started out as the Washington Senators in 1901, went to three World Series in their first 60 years as the Senators (winning one), then moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.  Since then, they’ve made three more World Series (winning in 1987 and 1991), but since THEN, really haven’t done much.  Just another American League team in another American League city.  You know, the city of wherever it is the Minnesota Twins play.

Would it shock you to know that this is the 7th time they’ve made the playoffs since 2002?  You’re probably more of a baseball fan than I am, so you probably already knew that.  But, here’s a team that was last good in 2010, when they won the A.L. Central with 94 wins.  Since then, in order, they’ve lost 99, 96, 96, 92, 79, and 103 games.  Suffice it to say, the Twins have been pretty terrible the last six years.

AND YET, somehow they’re at 83 wins and counting, having secured a Wild Card spot with four games to go.

WHY CAN’T THE FUCKING MARINERS DO THAT?

I never thought I’d be jealous of the Twins, but here I am.  It’s not like they’re in some huge market!  They don’t spend the most money or have some genius GM.  I mean, maybe all that losing translated into high draft picks that they were subsequently able to hit on, but that’s a roll of the dice as much as anything!

It’s when confronted with information like that where I start to think Seattle truly IS cursed.  Or, maybe it’s just the Mariners organization, I dunno.  But, here we are, 16 seasons of playoff-free baseball in a row.  And counting!  Because, where does this fucking thing end?  Paxton can’t stay healthy, Felix is on his last legs, the rest of this rotation is full of soft-tossing knobs who give up home runs like they’re the antidote.  And, oh let’s see, Nelson Cruz will be 38 years old next year; Cano will be 35 (and in his 5th season of a 10-year deal).  Some of the younger hitters look promising, but they’re no guarantees, and this team’s success really depends on Cano and Cruz playing like superstars!

Even IF this team were to win the lottery and put together a magical Wild Card run in 2018, the clock is ticking on our studs.  I could just as easily see this team continue to spin its tires in the mud for a few years before they have to blow everything up and start all over again.  At that point, what are we talking about here?  Over two decades of either mediocrity or outright filth.

THE SEATTLE MARINERS EVERYONE!!!

Erasmo Ramirez got the start yesterday and was sort of okay.  The defense was shit, as usual, but the offense bailed everyone out and got him a no decision.  He appears to have a rotation spot waiting for him next year, which is everything you need to know about this organization.  That’s Paxton-Felix-Leake-Erasmo as your top four guys heading into the offseason, with the likes of Miranda, Marco, Albers, and Moore vying for that fifth spot.

Of course, that CAN’T happen, and it won’t happen.  The team will make moves this offseason, bring in at least one guaranteed new starter, with probably a small handful of other guys to compete for a back-end starting job, but barring some trades (which you know are coming), these are the guys we have to look forward to.  And Erasmo, very much, is in that conversation.  Maybe not as a #4, but certainly as a #5 or as a long reliever/bullpen type.  I, uhh … yeah.  Neat.

Mike Marjama got his first Major League start at catcher and got 2 hits, including a double.  I didn’t see how he looked, because I was working, but that’s a memory that’ll last him a lifetime.  Jacob Hannemann got his second career start (both in this series) and had a hit, a run, and an error.  He, of course, started in place of Guillermo Heredia, who was shut down earlier this week and will have shoulder surgery.  He should be fine by Spring Training though.

Shae Simmons gave up a walk-off home run to keep the Mariners from sweeping this dopey series, so good for him.  We’re still drafting 16th right now, which means I have to root for the stupid fucking Angels this weekend.  There are still FIVE teams we can leapfrog, so let’s get to losing Mariners!  Do something RIGHT for once!

The Mariners Unsurprisingly Win When It Does Them No Good

But don’t worry, next year when it matters again, they’ll get right back to the losing!

James Paxton got the start and did about as well as you’d expect:  5.2 innings, 3 runs, on 6 hits, with 5 strikeouts.  Suffice it to say, he’s still rounding into shape from his latest DL stint, and should be back to his old dominating self next week sometime.  Just in time to watch the playoffs from his couch.

The offense picked him up today, so at least he was able to salvage a no decision.  Gamel had 3 hits and an RBI in the leadoff spot.  Alonso and Valencia each had homers and combined for 5 RBI.  And, the Mariners’ bullpen did their job to round out the 6-3 victory.

It’s been a while since this team was able to go Pagan-Vincent-Diaz, with them all throwing shutout innings.  Brings back fond memories of better Mariner times.

This may or may not be James Paxton’s final start.  We know Felix is done, and we got word that Mike Leake is also being shut down to rest his arm or some damn thing.  We’ve got Erasmo going today, Marco Gonzales going Friday, and Andrew Moore going Saturday, with Sunday TBD.  Could be Albers, could be Paxton, could be a bullpen day.  I guess we’ll see.

If this was Paxton’s final start, we might as well congratulate him on his very best season as a Mariner.  Oh yeah, in spite of all the injuries, he’s hit career highs in appearances (23, all starts), innings (130), strikeouts (147), wins (12), and WAR (3.5).  This was, officially, the year that James Paxton became the Ace of the Seattle Mariners’ pitching staff.  And, if he hadn’t missed 10 starts, we might be talking about a really special season.

Look at it this way:  as it stands, the Mariners won a little over 60% of his starts.  If you tack on 10 more starts, and give the Mariners 6 more wins, BOOM, we’re right there in the thick of that second Wild Card spot.  And that’s not even taking into account how poorly he’s pitched in the first few games after returning from the DL those two times!  I mean, just this month alone he took two hard-luck losses because he was building up arm strength and therefore was stuck on a low pitch count.  Every time he came back from a leave of absence, he had to get his mechanics back in line; if he was just healthy all the way through, he never would’ve had those mechanical issues and a reduction in arm strength.  It’s not out of the question, with the way he was going, for the Mariners to win up to 70% of his starts if he’d been fully healthy all season!

You want a reason why the Mariners didn’t make the playoffs?  Well, there’s 1 of about a billion right there.

The Mariners have fallen to 16th in the draft order with last night’s victory, so that’s just fucking great.  There’s only one more game for the A’s to roll over and fucking die for us, then we go to Anaheim to close out the season.  Hopefully on a nice, fat, juicy 3-game losing steak streak.

Final Felix Day Goes The Mariners’ Way

But, if you’re like me, and you’re hoping the Mariners lose out to improve their draft stock, it decidedly did NOT go our way.

The weekend went okay.  Could’ve been better; the Mariners somehow won on a walk-off homer in the ninth inning on Friday against the Indians.  But, they turned it right back around and were shut down the next two days (including the Oktoberfest game on Saturday, which I attended; I got some fried chicken from the Pen, some Oktoberfest beer, and some chocolate soft serve and we were out of there by the seventh inning; good 2017 season at Safeco, everyone!).  The two defeats dropped the Mariners to 14th in the draft order, still with some room to move down.

The real key was going to be this series in Oakland.  Heading into yesterday, only 2.5 games separated the two of us; an A’s sweep would’ve really flipped the script!  But, this series is shaping up to be a real ball-buster.

King Felix got the start last night, what we would come to find out was his final start of the season.  He owns the A’s.  Absolutely kills ’em!  25-9 is his record against them, easily the best of any team he’s faced.  2.60 ERA, the best of any team he’s faced at least 20 times in his career.  All this guy does, whenever he sees the A’s, is slam Quality Starts down their throats.  And yesterday was no different.

6 innings, 2 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, in 70 pitches.  Can’t get much more efficient than that.

This was, without question, the most challenging season of Felix’s career, with the injuries, the ineffectiveness, and the atrocities of aging.  That’s also a nice way of saying it was, without question, the worst season of Felix’s career.  86.2 innings pitched is nearly a career low (he threw 84.1 in his rookie season, in which he made 4 fewer appearances).  4.36 ERA is nearly a career high (he had a 4.52 ERA in his second season, before he became King).  6 wins is nearly a career low; 0.8 WAR is absolutely a career low; and the .468 slugging percentage given up is a career worst.  It’s sad!  It’s a sad thing to see and to experience, and I hope like hell that he can somehow turn it around, but it just doesn’t seem all that realistic at this point.

I don’t want to be rid of him, if that’s what you’re thinking.  For starters, it would be literally impossible to move him.  He’s making $53 million over the next two years; I know there are a lot of dumbass GM’s out there in the baseball world, but no one is dumb enough to take that on (or even a portion of that on).  Even if you ignored the injury risk, Felix just hasn’t been that good the last two years.  He certainly hasn’t been elite since 2014.  But, that’s neither here nor there, because you can’t ignore the injury risk.  You have to assume, going forward, you’re going to get – at best – half a season per year out of his arm.  And even then, it’s going to take a lot of babying from Servais to hold his hand through these 5-6 inning starts.  Gone are the 7-8 inning gems, I’m sorry to say.

But, besides that, I don’t want to be rid of him because he’s earned this.  Felix was amazing for 11 years.  He was one of the best pitchers alive, he was a homegrown kid, and he remained loyal to the Seattle Mariners through some of our WORST seasons in a franchise history chock full of some pretty shitty fucking seasons.  He deserves to go out a Mariner.  Hell, he deserves to do whatever the fuck he wants!  He can go out there and walk 50 batters per start and I wouldn’t love him any less.

I just have to adjust my expectations, and everyone else needs to too.  He’s not an ace.  He’s not even a #2 anymore.  On his best days, he’s probably a #3 starter, but more often than not he’s going to look like a #4 or a #5, and that’s when he’s not on the DL.  It’s sad how these superheroes age out of their sports, and we’re all going through it together.

So, when Felix has a start like he did last night, you sit back and enjoy it, even if it hurts the team’s draft stock.

Andrew Albers came in and mopped up the rest of the game for the elusive 3-inning save.  I’m starting to get a real strong long relief/bullpen vibe out of Albers for next season.  Either way, he’s a good guy to have around.

Mike Zunino jacked a 3-run home run to give him 24 on the year.  I’m telling you, this time next week when I’m writing my Season In Review post, I’m going to have PLENTY of good things to say about Z!

Mitch Haniger jacked a couple homers to give him 16 on the year, and I’m with the rest of you, I can’t wait to see what this kid is able to do with a full, healthy season.

Yonder Alonso hit a solo homer to improve his free agency stock next year.  Too little, too late, my friend.

Taylor Motter got the start in place of Segura, who injured his finger and might be done for the season.  A fitting end, if it is the end.

The rest of this series looks similarly dreadful for our draft prospects.  James Paxton goes for his final start of the year tonight, followed by Erasmo Ramirez tomorrow afternoon; he of 8 innings of 3-hit, 1-run, 10-strikeout ball against the Indians last Friday to allow for that walk-off home run.  He’s been the best pitcher on this team since August, so get ready for a useless Mariners sweep in Oakland you guys!

Mariners Tank-A-Palooza 2017 In Full Effect

I’m proud of you, Mariners!  I really am!  Some teams might cling to some notion of honor in reaching a .500 record, as a moral victory of sorts.  But you know, and I know, that it’s all bullshit.  What matters, when your season is over, is the race to the bottom!  You grab that brass ring!  And that brass ring, in this case, is getting a Top 10 draft pick in next year’s draft.

The Mariners lost to the Rangers last night 4-2, to complete the 3-game sweep.  The losing streak has reached six games, and in between football freakouts, fans and media alike are bemoaning the fact that the M’s are falling so hard on their faces, but WHY?  You do realize that wins at this point don’t help you, right?  No one’s going to remember this team faltering at the end of the season when we take a step back and assess this season for what it was:  the Mariners just weren’t good enough.  Period.  They weren’t on par with the best teams in the American League:  the Astros, Indians, Red Sox, and Yankees; and in the end they couldn’t take advantage of the rest of the A.L. being mediocre enough to make that second Wild Card spot attainable.

So, lose away!  The Indians come to town – they of the legendary 22-game winning streak; they who’ve won 27 of their last 28 games – so how about another sweep?!  Let’s extend this losing streak to 9 games, then 12, then 15 AND THEN WE’RE GOING TO TAKE BACK THE WHITE HOUSE, BLRGYAAAH!!!

I almost didn’t think the Mariners had it in them last night.  I thought they MIGHT actually come from behind and win one.  Paxton got the start and got roughed up a little bit in the first inning, but he settled down, had more life on his fastball, and had better command than he did in his previous start.  A pitch count limit of around 75 pitches meant that he would only last 3.2 innings, but he only gave up the 2 runs, on 4 hits and 2 walks, with 4 strikeouts.

Luckily, the bullpen came in and played add-on; by which I mean they gave up another 2 runs to salt this one away.  Cole Hamels, for the Rangers, was dominant over 8 innings, giving up just the 1 run, and their closer gave up a meaningless solo homer in the ninth to wrap things up.  Cruz and Cano did all the damage with their solo bombs; it was the 35th of the season for Cruz, and 22nd for Cano (but also the 300th of his career, so it’s good to get that one out of the way so he can start fresh in 2018 without that hanging over his head).  Aside from a couple singles by Segura, the rest of the offense was shut down.

More importantly, the Orioles won and the Marlins and Athletics were idle.  We weren’t able to move from our draft position of tied for 14th, but now we only have 4.5 games between us and the A’s for that 10th draft pick.

I won’t get into it, but you should SEE the set of starting pitchers the Indians are bringing to town.  If the Mariners win any of these fucking games, I’m going to be VERY upset!

The Dog In The Mariners’ Fight Has Been Put To Sleep

I’m at that part of the Mariners season where I turn wistful.  Like Bing Bong slowly disappearing in the Memory Dump in Inside Out, so too do the sands of my belief in a Mariners miracle.  With time running out, I just want to see my team play some baseball before everything gives way to football for another offseason.

King Felix took the mound yesterday, and for three innings he looked like Classic Felix.  I wasn’t deluding myself; I know he hasn’t turned anything around.  I know that he’s still going to look amazing in short bursts, every once in a while, only for him to lose his release point, or lose his command, or whatever you want to call it.  Can’t I just enjoy a little King Felix while the getting’s good?

As the fourth inning started, it was getting to be my bedtime.  But, Felix was rolling, the season’s coming to a close, and I was willing to push it to the limits:  8:30, maybe even 9 o’clock!  However long Felix was out there and looking good, I’d stay awake on my couch and root him on!

But, it was like Felix somehow knew that I needed to be fresh and alert today at work.  So, he did what any good King would do, he took care of his people … by walking the bases loaded and giving up a few runs.  With one out, and the bases loaded, Andrew Albers came on in relief, and promptly gave up a Grand Slam to put this game – and yours truly – to bed.  I guess he won’t be getting the start on Saturday.

The Mariners would go on to make a game of it – as they do – but it’s hard to come back when you’re in the hole 7-1.  A bunch of people had a bunch of hits, and things got really interesting in the seventh, when the M’s pulled to within 8-5.  Cruz and Seager both walked to load the bases, then Yonder Alonso promptly swung at the first pitch to get the Rangers out of the jam.  Didn’t really C the Z there.  I can’t imagine a world where Yonder Alonso is back with the Mariners next year.  He’s not the reason we failed, but he’s done very little to help this team succeed either.

In the end, the Mariners got another run in the eighth, and that was that.  8-6.  Making this a 5-game losing streak, with 10 games to go.  At this point, we should probably be rooting for the Mariners to lose.

HEY, we haven’t done this in a while!  Let’s take a look at where the Mariners would draft next year!  Right now, we’re tied with the Rays for 14th.  We throttled the Rays this season, so that would seemingly give them the tie-breaker for better draft position.

With 10 games to go, there’s certainly room to move up in the draft order.  As I noted, we’re tied with the Rays.  The Orioles are just 1.5 games back (and remember, we have 3 more against the Indians to look forward to!).  The Marlins are only 2 games back!  And hell, the Blue Jays are 3 games back and they KILLED us this season!  If we can somehow lose enough to leapfrog those teams, that would put us drafting 11th.

And then there’s Oakland.  Bet you thought Oakland was so far back it would be IMPOSSIBLE for them to pass us in the standings!  Well, you’re not far off, but it’s also not impossible!  Now, hear me out:  5 games.  That’s all that stands in our way.  And, don’t forget, we play the A’s in Oakland next week, so if we can somehow get them to sweep us, that takes care of 3 games.  Now, unfortunately, even if they do sweep us, we will still have won the season series 10-9, so I have to hope that I’m mistaken and the season series has no bearing on tie-breakers for MLB Draft purposes.  Or, maybe we just go out and lose the whole fuckin’ thing!  Aside from playing us, the A’s play their remaining 7 games against Texas.  Unless you’re the Mariners this week, the Rangers aren’t unbeatable, so I’m still holding out hope that the Mariners can somehow sneak into a Top 10 draft pick.

The other option would be the Pirates, who are 5.5 games back, but they have 4 against the Nationals, and they’ve been pretty terrible these last few weeks.

I think I’ve got renewed life!  Lose Mariners Lose!  Paxton vs. Hamels tonight; can we get another night of Paxton with poor mechanics?  Can Hamels fucking BRING IT!?!  Go Rangers!