Mariners Pound Marlins To Take The Series, Look Ahead To A’s

I was at work for most of this game, and for reasons too boring to go into, I was unable to listen to the online radio stream of the game, so I had to do the next-best thing:  follow along on Twitter.

Boy that first inning sure sounded like a mindfuck, huh?  After a very fine start last Friday to kick off this good run of baseball the Mariners have been on, it looked like King Felix just didn’t have it.  Four straight singles to lead off the game, then a sac fly-turned-double play on the arm of Jarrod Dyson, then another single and a hit by pitch before he was able to get out of it only down 2-0.

If ever there appeared to be a day where the offense would have to pick up its Ace, this was it.  And pick him up they did!

The top of the lineup absolutely did its job, as Dyson through Seager went a combined 10 for 18 with 8 RBI, 7 runs scored, on 7 walks, 3 doubles, and only 3 strikeouts.  They also went a combined 5 for 9 with runners in scoring position.  Just an awesome, awesome day from the guys you expect to regularly have awesome, awesome days.  That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve recognition for a job well done!

Felix was able to settle down somewhat, but it looked like a battle all day.  He got into the seventh inning, going 6.1, with 12 hits, 1 walk, 4 runs, and 5 strikeouts.  Zych was able to get out of a little mini-jam in the seventh, by inducing a double play.  Vincent continued on his comeback trail by going a scoreless eighth.  And then something wonderful and annoying happened.

Evan Marshall came in to close out a 6-run lead in the ninth inning, and leading off – perhaps for the final time ever in Safeco Field – was Ichiro Suzuki.  I had made it home by this point, and had the television on for just an amazing sight:  Ichiro, drilling a homer into the right field stands to the astonishment and glee of Mariners fans (almost) everywhere.  I’ll admit, I let out a loud, “YEAH!” when I saw where that ball was about to land.

There aren’t many opposing players I’d openly cheer for over the Seattle Mariners, but Ichiro is definitely one of them.  Now, if the game were tied in this situation, I’d probably be a lot less thrilled, but as it was, Ichiro merely reduced the lead to 5 runs.  NBD, right?

Marshall walked the next guy, which is simply unforgivable in that situation, but he got the next two hitters to fly out.  It almost looked like he’d save face, but he gave up a single to the next guy and that was that.  Scrabble came in and one pitch later the game was over.

I know I called out the top half of the lineup for their good work, but individual kudos need to go to Seager for his 2-hit, 2-walk, 4-RBI day; as well as Haniger, for his 3-hit, 1-walk, 3-run, 4-RBI day.  Haniger now leads the team in average, homers, doubles, RBI, runs scored, OBP, and is second to Motter in slugging.  His RBI and runs scored numbers are 4th in all of baseball, and he’s up there in a bunch of other categories too.  That ROY award is practically all sealed up less than a month into the season!

***

Looking ahead, here are the pitching matchups for the A’s series:

  • Thurs:  Cesar Valdez vs. James Paxton
  • Fri:  Sean Manaea vs. Hisashi Iwakuma
  • Sat:  Jharel Cotton vs. Ariel Miranda
  • Sun:  Andrew Triggs vs. Yovani Gallardo

To say that I’ve never heard of any of these A’s pitchers would be an understatement!  Valdez looks like a journeyman minor leaguer who hasn’t appeared in a Major League uniform since 2010 with the Diamondbacks.  I’d say that game is safely the biggest mismatch of the weekend, with Paxton going for the Mariners.  The rest of those guys all had their Major League debuts in 2016, with Manaea being the youngest and the one with the most starting experience in the Bigs.  No doubt these guys must have some talent, but they’re definitely not bona fide regulars.

In three starts so far, Manaea has one okay start and two pretty bad ones.  Cotton pitched a gem against the Royals (7 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 3 walks, 6 K’s), but sandwiched around that one were two very crappy starts.  Triggs has looked the most impressive in the early going, giving up 0 earned runs (3 unearned) across 17.2 innings (3 starts), including just out-duelling Yu Darvish in his last outing.

The A’s bullpen has a 4.08 ERA, with 3 saves in 5 opportunities.  Doesn’t look like anything special, but we’ll see when we get out there.

As far as the bats go, Khris Davis has come to play this year, with 6 homers and leading the team in most offensive categories.  As for the rest of the regulars:  nothing too special.

On paper, this is a series the Mariners should win at the very least, and is probably a series they should sweep.  But, this is the Mariners, and those are the A’s, and it’s a divisional matchup and it’s on the road and I’m just sayin’ … don’t be shocked if things don’t exactly go our way.  I won’t be anyway.  I’ll be pretty pissed, but I won’t be shocked.

Slow News Week: The Mariners Are Going To Retire Edgar Martinez’s Number

In case you felt the need to ask my opinion:  I’m for it!  Love me some Edgar, believe he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, believe he deserves to be in there before David Ortiz.  Better writers, smarter at baseball, have given you all the arguments why he belongs.  Bad writers, dumb at baseball, have yet to put him in there.  And somehow life goes on.

Last year, the Mariners retired Ken Griffey Jr.’s number 24, and I can’t remember a better 3-day weekend I’ve had at the ol’ ballpark.  This year, if you check out the promotions the Mariners released, you can see it’s a pretty similar deal.  First homestand in August – like last year, only this year it’s the ONLY homestand in August – with give-aways all three days.  An Edgar Bobblehead on Friday, August 11th; the actual ceremony and a “Replica Number” on Saturday, August 12th; and a Replica Jersey on Sunday, August 13th.  Each to the first 45,000 fans, which is pretty much everyone, which means they’re expecting easy sell-outs for these games.

I’m debating as to whether I want to go to any/all of these games like I did last year.  You’d think this would be right up my alley:  I love free shit memorabilia, I like going to baseball games, and I certainly like Edgar more than Griffey (if for no other reason than he didn’t force his way out of Seattle, but that’s neither here nor there).  But, I dunno.  I’m still in sort of a football hangover, and I’m still not ready to grapple with another long baseball season.

Single game tickets go on sale on Saturday, March 11th though, so maybe I’ll start getting jazzed up for things by then.

As is always the case, people are already speculating about the next number to be retired.  Truth be told, we’re probably running low.  I don’t know if I see Jamie Moyer making a run at the Hall of Fame (you have to at least get close in the voting for the Mariners to give you a shot).  Randy Johnson is already in there, but are his 10 years with the Mariners enough to warrant a number retirement?  Especially when you factor in how he was Good-Not-Great for about half those seasons, and did all his best pitching after he left Seattle?  Let’s look at this logically here:  he didn’t wear a Mariners hat in the Hall of Fame AND if he was so good and so revered, why would they give out his number to another player a few years after he left?

If anything, I think the next number the Mariners retire is number 51, but ONLY for Ichiro.  As far as I’m concerned, after Edgar, he’s your next Mariners Hall of Famer.  If Randy Johnson should get his number retired, let Arizona handle that.  Let’s face it, the Mariners were dumb enough to not extend him and make him a lifelong member of this organization, so they have no business painting history in some alternate light.  He’s already in the team’s hall of fame, that’s enough.  51 belongs to Ichiro, the First Ballot guy, and the guy who played the overwhelming majority of his Major League career in a Seattle uniform.

Anyway, that’s all I got.  Just trying to wipe away the dust and cobwebs off the site.  I’ll be back to hopefully some more regularly scheduled posting next week, unless we get some breaking news in the meantime.

Ichiro Is The Hit King America Deserves

I should start out by acknowledging that this comes from a place of total and complete bias.  I’m a huge Ichiro fan; I bought in from Day 1.  I know, I’m from the Seattle area, and you’d think it could be taken for granted that I’d be a huge Ichiro fan, but as many of you well know, there are PLENTY of local haters in the area.  Mariners fans who don’t understand Ichiro, who like him well enough but like to mock him just as often, or who simply dislike Ichiro and everything he stands for.  You’ll find plenty of Mariners fans who think Ichiro is a me-first prima donna – and maybe he was!  I have no idea.  All I know is that Ichiro is the greatest right fielder the Mariners have ever had – which is saying something, considering I was also a pretty huge Buhner fan.  Ichiro was a 10-time All Star in his first 10 seasons in the Major Leagues, a 10-time Gold Glover in the same period, a 3-time Silver Slugger, and an American League MVP and Rookie of the Year in the SAME SEASON.  If you took just his 11.5 seasons with the Mariners, right there you’ve got a Hall of Famer, discounting all that came before and all that’s come since.  How you couldn’t at least appreciate him for what he was, I’ll never understand.

He wasn’t Griffey.  He wasn’t some middle-of-the-order power hitter.  And, as a leadoff man, he didn’t even walk all that much.  But, he was (and, apparently still IS) a hitting machine, a guy who could steal you an elite number of bases (anywhere from 26-56 in his first 12 seasons), a guy who played flawless outfield defense, and oh yeah, a guy who also had a rocket arm.  The sheer number of runs he saved this team, by either chasing down balls, throwing runners out, or more importantly, preventing runners from advancing an extra base, has to be staggering.

Ichiro was the whole package, minus the power.  And, in an era where MLB contracts just started to get into the ridiculously staggering levels they are today, Ichiro never really felt like a burden financially.  He had 4 years with the Mariners where he averaged $17-18 million per season.  Over his entire Mariners career, he averaged approximately $12 million per season, which feels about right.  Hell, for a Hall of Famer, it feels like a BARGAIN!

On the All Time Mariners list, here are some of his ranks:

  • WAR – 3rd, behind Griffey & Edgar
  • Batting Average – 1st, at .322
  • OBP – 9th, at .366
  • Games Played – 2nd, at 1,844 (behind Edgar)
  • Runs Scored – 2nd, at 1,176 (behind Edgar)
  • Hits – 1st, at 2,533
  • Doubles – 3rd, at 295 (behind Edgar & Griffey)
  • Triples – 1st, at 79 (next highest has 48)
  • Stolen Bases – 1st, with 438 (next highest has 290)

I don’t care what anyone says, Ichiro in his prime was undeniably great.  And, now he’s back in the news.

Yesterday, he passed Pete Rose for most hits as a professional, with 4,257 and counting.  Pete Rose, famously, was known as the Hit King, with his 4,256 hits in the MLB.  Of course, to get Ichiro to his number, you have to include the 1,278 hits he accumulated in the Japanese professional league, which many like to denigrate as inferior.  I dunno.  Do they get paid to play the game of baseball?  Is that what they do for a living?

If we’re going to reduce the impact of hits in the Japanese league – likening it to hitting in AAA – then do we get to do the same to the era in which Pete Rose played?  I mean, come on!  Are you trying to tell me the pitchers and level of athlete in the 60s, 70s, and 80s were just as good as they are in the new Willennium millennium?  I’m afraid not, mon frere!  If I had to find an apt comparison for those bygone athletes who chain-smoked, drank religiously, hardly ever worked out, and couldn’t tell you what a “carb” was if their lives depended on it, I MIGHT be so bold and so insensitive as to compare their level of talent and athleticism to those playing in the Japanese league when Ichiro was over there getting his 1,278 hits (but, to be honest, that would be unfair to our overseas friends).

Look, I know these are meaningless numbers.  All of them.  Who cares who has the most professional hits?  If you care, then you’re doing it wrong.  The whole numbers thing with baseball is so pointless, I don’t even know why anyone talks about it anymore.  Didn’t Sosa and McGwire, and then Bonds and A-Rod already make a mockery of the whole thing with their steroids-fuelled abominations?  If you care enough to continue calling Pete Rose the Hit King, then you’re admitting that you condone Barry Bonds as the Home Run King and all that his numbers stand for.

If you’re going to get your panties in a bunch, then I’m afraid we’re just going to have to stop comparing different eras of baseball, because it’s really too much.  If you got in a time machine, pulled Pete Rose out of the 1960s, and had him start his playing career in Japan in the early 1990s, then had him follow a similar career trajectory as Ichiro, would he have become the animal he was in the 70s and 80s?  Or, would this generation’s level of talent and athleticism have overwhelmed him to the point where we’d never know the name Pete Rose?

Sorry ol’ Petey Pants, but I’m not buying it, and I’m not buying you as the Hit King anymore.  Ichiro’s my man!  Ichiro, the erstwhile 27 year old MLB rookie, who later this year is going to get his 3,000th MLB hit (21 away, as of this post), is the single greatest hit machine the sport of baseball has ever seen.  Granted, they may mostly be singles, and he may have a ton of the infield variety padding those stats, but no one said Ichiro is the greatest hitter.  Just like no one said Pete Rose was the game’s best hitter.  If that’s who you’re looking for, then you should probably go grab Ted Williams.  But, the Hit King is a different beast.  And today, that beast goes by the name Ichiro.

Look, America is swell, and it has a lot going for it.  But, America doesn’t need to be the best at EVERYTHING.  We don’t need to make every facet of our lives about who has the biggest cock, okay?  On this one, Japan gets to hold the record.  It’ll be all right!  America will still be good at other things!  Like mass gun murders!  And electing worthless, pieces of shit to be our political leaders!  And obesity, probably!

America:  All These Things & More! (just not the Hit King).

The Greatest Comeback In Mariners History

About an hour into the game last night, I texted my brother, “God damn fucking worthless ass Miley …”

It couldn’t have been much later than the first inning, but of course we were already losing 4-1.  On the heels of the previous day’s meltdown with Paxton, Miley was trying to one-up him.  So, I did what I usually do when I’m confronted with a losing Mariners effort:  anything but watch more baseball.  In this particular case, it involved my continuing pursuit to catch up on The Americans (no spoilers!).

As I do, I tend to have a little A.D.D. when it comes to entertaining myself at the end of the day, so I was flipping in and out, occasionally checking in on the score of the game, when I saw it was 12-2, Padres.  Well!  All right then!  I guess I can go fuck myself, if I think there’s going to be any chance of a comeback!

When I returned to Twitter to check on the game, it was 12-7 and Robinson Cano had just been hit on the hand to load the bases.  To be honest, I was more concerned that we had just lost Cano to an injury, but when he stayed in the game and it looked like he’d be all right, I have to admit, the thought of a full-on comeback intrigued me.  5 runs in the final 3 innings?  That’s do-able, right?

If I’m being honest, had I stuck around and watched the whole first half of the game, and forced myself to endure beyond the 12-2 deficit, my hopes for a comeback would’ve been pretty bleak.  But, 12-7 is an entirely different animal!  12-7 is like 12-2 didn’t even happen!

But it did, and that’s what makes this game so amazing.

The top score is the previous "biggest comeback in franchise history"; the bottom score is from last night ...

The top score is the previous “biggest comeback in franchise history”; the bottom score is from last night …

I’ve mentioned it repeatedly, but I’ll say it again:  I’m one of those knobs who first became a fan of the Mariners in 1995, during the stretch run of awesomeness.  Almost right away, I went from not knowing much of anything about baseball, to trying to be the biggest super fan of them all.  Before the 1996 season, I joined the Mariners Fan Club, which I want to say came with free tickets to a game, a media guide (which I still have, btw, and it’s awesome), and a bunch of other crap, for what I want to say is a pretty reasonable price.  Essentially, for the price of tickets, you get all this other stuff, plus tickets.

My first-ever game that I saw in person was April 15, 1996, in the Kingdome, against the California Angels.  Did I have my dad buy me a scorecard so I could learn to keep score that day?  You bet I did!  Do I still have that scorecard somewhere in my dad’s house?  You’re damn right I better, or I’m gonna be pissed!

As you can see from the snippet of a box score I posted above, the Mariners started out that game down 9-1, before roaring all the way back to win 11-10.  It was, up until last night, the largest comeback win in Mariners history.  Someone named Paul Menhart started for the Mariners, went 3 innings and gave up 7 runs.  Edwin Hurtado followed him – just trying to eat up some innings – and gave up 3 runs over the next 3 innings.  Rafael Carmona went an inning to bridge it to Norm Charlton, our closer, who came in for the 8th inning.  Once the Mariners took the 1-run lead in the bottom of the 8th, Charlton came back out for the 9th to lock it down, with the crowd (including my dad and myself) going absolutely nuts.

Last night’s game, I shit you not, was WAY more impressive.  Not just because the Mariners were down an extra couple runs, but in the way we came back.  Let’s go back to that 7th inning, down 12-7, with the bases loaded and 1 out.  Nelson Cruz was at the plate and I want to say he saw somewhere around 11 pitches before finally striking out.  That was the ONLY time, all game, where the Mariners failed to get a hit with runners in scoring position.  They’d finish the game 11/12 in that category!  Now, you can complain about Cruz’s at bat all you want, but even though he didn’t score anyone, or take a walk like he probably could have, I want to say he really tired the pitcher out.  From there, with 2 outs now, this happened:

  • Seager 2-run single; 12-9
  • Lee 1-run single; 12-10
  • Iannetta 1-run single; 12-11
  • Romero 1-run single; 12-12
  • O’Malley 1-run single; 13-12
  • Aoki 1-run single; 14-12
  • Aoki stole second base
  • Guti 2-run single; 16-12
  • Cano ground out

I mean, isn’t that unbelievable?  To be perfectly honest, I would’ve settled for the 12-10 deficit after Lee’s at bat.  I thought, for sure, with the slump he’s been in over the last month, that Iannetta was the easiest of easy outs.  Then, when he somehow found a hole, I was DOUBLY sure Romero wouldn’t do anything.  After he also somehow found a hole, it just got silly.  O’Malley?  Sure, why not?  Aoki?  Whatever, dude, get some!  Guti?  Shut the front God damn door!  At that point, it was destiny.  The Mariners would do whatever it took to keep that average with runners in scoring position as high as possible, without actually being perfect.

From there, it was a simple game of hold-on.  Luckily, we had our best three pitchers in Vincent, Benoit, and Cishek, all lined up and ready to lock down the final three innings.  And, thanks to the unearned run allowed by Vincent, Cishek even got the save!

With Joel Peralta’s release earlier in the day, someone had to fill the gap in the bullpen.  When it comes to personnel on the 25-man roster, that spot went to Cody Martin, who was doing some starting down in Tacoma, but essentially was called up to be a warm body given all the poor outings we’ve gotten recently from our starting pitchers.  He actually came in last night and pitched a scoreless inning!  I didn’t see a lot of what he had to offer, but it looked pretty average to my untrained eye.

As it turned out, filling Joel Peralta’s role as Giant Turd Sandwich in the bullpen somehow, mysteriously, fell to Mike Montgomery, who came in the game immediately after Miley, and gave up 3 runs of his own, on top of a few inherited runners Miley left him.  Suffice it to say, had Montgomery pitched like he’s pitched just about the entire season to this point, the game wouldn’t have been nearly as big of a Padres blow-out (and, indeed, may not have even qualified for the largest comeback in Mariners history).

Of course, the goat of the game falls on Miley himself, who – when he’s bad – is just the God damn worst.  When he’s good, he’s fine, but he’s never going to be overpowering, and he doesn’t seem to have it in him to limit the damage when his stuff isn’t particularly “on”.  He is, in essence, exactly who we thought he was coming into the season, and the offense is letting him off the hook by providing him with among the most run support in all of baseball.

Make no mistake, by season’s end, if we’re relying on Miley to be a third starter for this team, we’re in trouble.  He can be an okay innings-eater as a back-end of the rotation guy, but he is by no means someone I want to rely upon when the games start to really matter.

In closing, I’d like to – as briefly as I can – take you back to August 5, 2001.  The Mariners, in their greatest-ever season, where they would end up winning 116 games and tying the all-time record, had a 14-2 lead after the 5th inning, and proceeded to remove a bunch of starters to allow them to rest for half a game.  You can see, by and large, those bench guys who came in did next-to-nothing the rest of the way.  Meanwhile, Aaron Sele fell apart in the 7th, and a pretty good bullpen just totally shit the bed through the 9th.  At that point, with the game going to extras, it was only a matter of time.  Ichiro, Edgar, and Olerud were all pulled, but the team as a whole was just defeated.

It was, as a fan, one of my lowest points for a regular season game, in ANY sport.  To have the game so in control, and then watch helplessly as it’s chipped away, until finally you’re dead in the water and there’s nothing you can do but await the inevitable … I wouldn’t wish that on many people.  Last night, the game was decided in the 7th, and as Padres fans, you probably just sat there stunned for the final three innings, miserable and bitter.  In 2001, the misery lasted from the 7th through the 11th innings.  With each passing out, there was some hope of the Mariners ending the suffering, until finally it went to extras, and at that point, more outs were just delaying the inevitable.  Either way, it’s not a good feeling.

But, in a completely different way, nearly 15 years later, did we – as Softy noted on Twitter last night – exorcise those demons?  Well, technically, that was the last year the Mariners made the playoffs.  And, I’ll admit, even when we were in the thick of it against the Yankees that October, that defeat to the Indians was staunchly in the back of my mind the entire time.  Could last night’s game be the type of reverse-mojo THIS team needs?  A team that looks to finally break the string of seasons without a playoff berth?  A team that – should it break that string – might have what it takes to go all the way?  Unlike a certain 116-win team 15 years ago?

Look, I’m just asking questions here.  No harm in that, right?

Mariners Make More Moves, MmmKay?

I feel like there’s something going on every two minutes, so I better get this up quick.

  • Mariners trade Mark Trumbo & C.J. Riefenhauser to Baltimore for Steve Clevenger
  • Mariners signed Nori Aoki to a 1-year deal
  • Mariners signed Justin De Fratus to 1-year deal
  • Mariners claimed Andy Wilkins off waivers from Baltimore
  • Mariners designated Edgar Olmos for assignment

A lot of little deals add up to a whole lotta HUH?

Obviously, Trumbo isn’t a Jerry Dipoto Kinda Guy, that much is clear, considering this is the second time in his GM career that he’s traded Trumbo away.  He strikes out a lot, hits for a low average, plays pretty shabby defense, and all in the name of a few dingers every now and then.  To be honest, I’m not sad to see him go.  To be PERFECTLY honest, I’m not sad to see a lot of the Jackie Z disappointments go.  One would think you’d be able to get more for a guy like Trumbo – especially from a team like Baltimore, who plays in a bandbox – but he’s set to make about $9 million next year, and apparently this was nothing but a cost-cutting move.

The fact that we also had to give up C.J. Riefenhauser, all for the honor of bringing back a backup catcher in Steve Clevenger, seems to be an extra slap in the face to all concerned (except for Clevenger, I guess, who has to feel like ten million bucks right about now).  But, let’s face it, Riefenhauser is semi-expendable, considering we’ve got about a thousand lefty relievers right now.  And Trumbo was never going to be the difference between us winning and losing.  Shedding his salary, and being allowed to make other moves for potentially better players, ultimately brings this deal up to the “Not So Bad” level.

I don’t think anyone is expecting much out of Clevenger.  He’s out of options, which means he’s all but assured to be this team’s backup catcher this year.  That forces Mike Zunino down to Tacoma for continued seasoning (unless the team decides to keep three catchers and/or convert one of them to first base, which I won’t rule out).  There’s also the outside chance that the team ends up flipping Clevenger for another player, like they just did with Riefenhauser (really disappointed I’m not going to get to write out “Riefenhauser” on the reg in 2016); or an interesting, VERY outside chance that the team trades Zunino (but, I honestly can’t see them giving up on a player this young, this good defensively, and with this much promise to turn his career around at the plate).  On the plus side, Clevenger is a lefty, which means he’ll likely start against the most difficult right-handed pitchers (but, obviously not ALL of them, as Chris Iannetta is still slated to be our starter).  And, overall, this seriously improves our overall organizational catcher depth.  Iannetta and Clevenger in the Bigs, Zunino and Sucre (probably) in Tacoma, and everyone else in the lower minors slotted accordingly.  If and when there’s an injury to a Major League catcher, it’s nice to know we’ll have Zunino at the ready to come up and play immediately (especially since he knows a lot of the pitchers really well).

That’s honestly more than I thought I’d write about the acquisition of a backup catcher, but there you go.

The more interesting move of the last 24 hours is actually the reported signing of outfielder Nori Aoki.  You might remember him from playing in Kansas City in 2014 on their World Series team.  He’ll be 34 years old next year (downside), but he’s only on a 1-year deal.  His 2015 was cut short due to a concussion, but he’s apparently been cleared to play and all appears to be well on that end.  Most importantly, he solves our Right Field problem, plays solid defense, hits for a solid average, and gets on base like a fiend.  I, for one, love a guy who walks more than he strikes out; I don’t know about you.  He’s a top-of-the-order table-setter type of guy that this team has been SORELY lacking since Ichiro exited his prime.  I don’t know if he’ll bat first or second in the order, but either way, this is the best news I’ve heard all offseason.

The outfield now looks like it’s going to be a left field platoon of Seth Smith & Guti, with Leonys Martin in center, and a right field semi-platoon with Aoki and Nelson Cruz (likely with Aoki playing the majority of the games, health permitting).  Our defense is bolstered, our hitting/on-base percentage is improved … this is honestly working out just as Dipoto promised.

Normally when you see this much turnover out of a new GM, I get the feeling that he’s just trying to mark his territory, seeking change for the sake of change, while at the same time trying to make the previous GM look as silly as possible.  But, I dunno, Dipoto feels different.  He’s got a plan – which every GM has when they start a new job – and he’s actually working toward making that plan a reality.  The only move he’s made so far that somewhat challenges his vision is Leonys Martin – who is NOT a good on-base guy – but he’s still got the defensive skills and athleticism you look for out of a center fielder.  When you partner the move to bring him in with the signing of Aoki (while also making a concerted effort to reassure fans that Martin will be a bottom-of-the-order hitter) I think that smooths things out, as this team is in dire-need of more table-setters (and, quite honestly, we don’t know if Ketel Marte is one of those guys yet).

Of course, what these moves have accomplished is, while they’ve filled our most glaring outfield hole, they opened up one at first base.  With LoMo no mo’ (kill me, kill me now), and with Trumbo gone, that just leaves Jesus Montero as our only first baseman on the 40-man.  Unless you count this Andy Wilkins guy, who has all of 17 games of Major League experience.  What we’re really looking at is:  this team isn’t done.  Not by a long shot.  BUT, things are in a little clearer focus.

Outfield is set.  Catcher is probably set.  Infield is mostly set; just need a first baseman.  The bullpen probably has more tweaking to go (we also signed this Justin De Fratus guy, who was a reliever for the Phillies the last few years, had a good 2014, had a crappy 2015, you know the score).  Need to add another starter (likely Iwakuma) and we’re good to go.  Or not, you never seem to know with new GMs.

What we do know is that there’s probably not another HUGE deal on the horizon.  With so much money tied up in Felix, Cano, Cruz, and Seager, don’t expect one of the top free agents (like a Chris Davis, for instance, who does play first base) to sign here.  The last big money deal will likely go to Iwakuma, and that’s still probably going to be a 2-3 year, modestly-priced deal.  Nothing like what you’re seeing with guys like David Price and the like (set to make $31 million per season, which sounds like suicide to me, but it’s not my money).

*** UPDATE ***

Looks like the Mariners gave away Patrick Kivlehan, a promising first base prospect from Tacoma, to finish the trade to the Rangers that brought in Leonys Martin.  This displeases me greatly, as I thought he’d be a guy who might pop for us.  Hope it doesn’t come back to bite us in the ass.

Mariners Tidbit 43: A Sign Of Things To Come For Cano

Because part of me feels like a tool for going on and on about the wet mound last night – yet part of me can’t help but look at how Felix’s night turned on a dime just as soon as he started having trouble with his footing – I’m going to let that fight die and move on to something much more disturbing.

Remember that 10-year contract we gave to Robinson Cano before last season?  Remember how we always kind of expected that deal to turn sour eventually?  Remember how this is only Year 2 of the deal, though, and he was still supposed to be pretty much as good as he was last year?

Yeah, Robinson Cano has been absolutely shit-awful in Year 2, and we’ve got 8 more of these fucking things to go.

Robbie’s worst year ever from a batting perspective was in 2008, when he finished the season with a slash line of .271/.305/.410/.715, career lows for all.  In that particular year, he dug himself a mighty 16 for 106 hole in the month of April, batting .151 with 3 doubles and two homers.  He slowly but surely dug himself out – batting no lower than .287 in any given month the rest of the way – but all his numbers sans doubles were down across the board thanks to his early funk.

I don’t know if this year is going to be anything like 2008 for Cano, but it’s the beginning of June and his numbers aren’t super different than they were at this point in 2008:

  • 2014 – .246/.290/.337/.627, 12 doubles, 2 homers, 35 strikeouts
  • 2008 thru June 1st – .220/.268/.327/.595, 10 doubles, 4 homers, 21 strikeouts

What have we seen so far?  What everyone’s been talking about:  he’s expanding his strike zone and pitchers are making him pay.  He’s rolling over on a lot of weak-ass grounders.  He’s not hitting the ball the other way like he’s used to.  He’s been a drain on this team and if you don’t believe me, chew on this:  he’s already grounded into 9 double plays through 50 games; he averages anywhere from 16-22 double plays in any given season!

I believe Cano will somehow right the ship and get that batting average somewhere approaching .300 by the time the season ends.  But, that’s no guarantee.  He very well could finish the season batting .250 and we’re all going to be REALLY sad to see that there’s 8 more years of this.  The fact of the matter is, he’s on the wrong side of 30.  He’s not getting any BETTER.  Plus, he plays half his games in a stadium that’s going to sap his power every chance it gets.  This is nothing we didn’t see coming when the signing came down, but it’s very disconcerting to see his decline happening this early.

And make no mistake, this is the beginning of the fearsome Cano Decline.  What happens next is he turns into strictly a singles hitter.  Maybe he tries to work an extra walk here and there to compensate.  Unfortunately, unlike Ichiro’s Decline, Cano can’t rely on his legs to prop up some sorry numbers.  Cano isn’t legging out too many infield singles, nor is he stretching many singles into doubles; that’s not his game.  Eventually, when the pop in his bat goes, and his defense goes, you know what we’re left with?  The world’s most useless DH.  Or, as it’s commonly known around here:  Jose Vidro circa 2008.

Take a look at THOSE numbers.  That’s your future, right there.  And, unfortunately, the future is closer than we’d all hoped.

Predicting The Seasons Of Various Mariners In 2015, Part II

Yesterday, (royal) we kicked our 2015 Mariners coverage into high gear with some words about what types of years we can expect out of our starting pitchers.  Today, let’s take a look at the bullpen in all its gory glory.

If you think about it, the bullpen is probably the most underrated aspect of any baseball team.  You’re not going to be in contention – and you’re CERTAINLY not going to be winning any divisions – if your bullpen is blowing games left and right.  Unless you’ve got the offense to end all offenses, you’re going to need your bullpen to be on point much more often than not (and even then, never forget about the mid-90s Mariners with their astronomical offense and astronomically bad bullpen).

When you look at this team as it’s presently constructed, we’re talking about a lineup that’s much better than it was, say, five years ago.  We’ve got three bona fide middle-of-the-order hitters with Cano, Cruz, and Seager.  And, we’ve got enough talent around those guys (while they might not be All Stars, we can at least expect them to get the job done from time to time) with Jackson, Ackley, LoMo, Zunino, and hopefully our right field platoon, that runs shouldn’t be the struggle to come by that they were in the most recent dark ages.  Brendan Ryan is NOT walking through that door.  Nor are the myriad pieces of crap we’ve employed of late.  It’s no 1927 Yankees, but this is an offense that should get the job done.  Then, factor in the starters, and we’re talking about another group good enough to be getting the job done more often than not.

Getting to the 6th and 7th innings with a lead should NOT be too much of a hassle for this team.  The question is:  can we expect the bullpen to lock these games down?

Fernando Rodney – Let’s start at the bottom.  Last year, our closer was better than he’d ever been, except for that crazy 2012 when he only gave up 5 earned runs all season.  In 2014, he blew three saves, which is outstanding.  He also ended up more or less costing us three other games, when he came in during a tie game and gave up the winning run.  So, he wasn’t PERFECT, but he was about as good as you could reasonably expect.  If we could squeeze another year out of him like we had last year, I’d be head over heels.

Relievers are tricky, though.  You never know what you’re going to get, and that has absolutely nothing to do with injuries.  You’ve got relatively small sample sizes with each season, and they get even smaller when you consider most relievers go just one inning per appearance.  You give up a couple runs and all of a sudden, your numbers look crazy bad.

With a closer, all you want is to not have to endure a string of consecutive meltdowns.  Somehow, we were spared this fate in 2014, but I doubt we’ll be so lucky in 2015.  It’s how you’re able to bounce back that will define your season.  With younger guys like Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen, multiple consecutive meltdowns triggered the demise of those guys as closers.  Doesn’t mean they’re not valuable relievers; just means they probably can’t handle the pressure of the end of the game.  Rodney strikes me as a guy who will suffer a run of bad luck, or bad performances, and be able to overcome.  I expect his numbers to look a little worse, but not so bad that we have to totally replace him for the duration.

Danny Farquhar – Probably the guy I worry about the least in this bullpen, so of course he’s going to be the guy who fucking tanks it.  Farquhar has been an absolute treat since he came over here in that Ichiro trade and has more or less been locking fools down on the reg.  My prediction is that he will continue to be dynamite and we’ll all continue to bemoan the fact that we’re NOT using Farquhar whenever Medina or Wilhelmsen enters the game.

Yoervis Medina – Speaking of the devil, I feel like Medina gets kind of a raw deal in this whole thing.  We’re talking about a guy who has blown exactly 5 saves in the last two years, and that’s been almost exclusively in a 7th & 8th inning role, which arguably can be the tougher innings to pitch, depending on the situation.  Nevertheless, you know as well as I that a sense of dread comes over all of us whenever Medina’s name gets called.  At times, Medina can be lights out and the best pitcher in the stadium.  At times, you wonder if he’ll ever find the strike zone again.  For the vast majority of his outings, he’s just good enough.  He’ll put a scare into everyone, but he wouldn’t be employed if he weren’t getting through these innings.  Frankly, you need guys like this to fill out your bullpen.  Medina is a horse, he can pitch multiple days in a row, he seemingly never gets injured, and in the long run he’s going to save your more important bullpen arms down the stretch.  I expect more of the same.

Tom Wilhelmsen – Dude turned into something of a Jack of All Trades last year.  He’s never fully regained the form that he had in 2012, when he stole the closer’s job from League, but he’s also not as bad as he was in 2013 when he lost the closer’s job.  He’s an innings eater, which is crucial when you’re talking about a bullpen that doesn’t really employ a “long reliever/spot starter” type.  I’m a little concerned about him regressing back to his crappy self, but if the team continues to use him properly (read: sparingly), we should be able to get some good mileage out of him.

Charlie Furbush – For some reason, I feel like Furbush took a huge step back in 2014, compared to 2013, but the numbers don’t really bare that out.  He somehow managed to blow exactly zero saves last year, but he did find himself on the losing end of five games (four in the first half alone, when he struggled out of the gate for long stretches).  Honestly, Furbush was the LAST guy I wanted to see come out of the bullpen last year, as 15 of his appearances saw him give up at least one run (saying nothing of the guys he let score who were put on base by the previous pitcher).  I don’t have high hopes for Furbush, but as he’s a reliever, he could magically figure out how to dominate the strike zone and be amazing.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed and move on.

Carson Smith & Dominic Leone – Leone was a rookie who managed to stay with the big club all year.  Smith was a guy who got a cup of coffee in September and made the most of it by making batters look silly while giving up 2 hits and zero runs in 9 appearances.  I hope both of these guys make the team, but suffice it to say, whether or not we go with the 8-man bullpen, they’ll both get some play in the bigs at some point this season.  I like Smith’s upside more, as I feel like he’s got his offspeed pitches figured out.  But, Leone is another horse who will get you multiple innings and be able to pitch multiple days in a row.  The hope is, with a full year under his belt, he’ll start adding to his arsenal and be even more dynamic than he was last year.  If that’s the case, watch out!

Overall, I do like our bullpen’s chances.  Even if some of the older guys start to flail about, I think we have enough hotshot young arms to make up for it.  The hope is, if someone is indeed done, the organization realizes it in time and makes the switch early enough to save our season.  Because, if Rodney, for instance, falls off the wagon, we’re going to need to act swiftly.  Playing him just because he’s the veteran – even though he’s melting down every game – will surely drive me insane and nobody wants that.

Mariners Sign Kyle Seager To A 7-Year Extension

I hope you’re all prepared.  This deal – to keep Seager here for 7 years and $100 million – might be the biggest and most important deal the Mariners make this offseason.  Don’t let that discourage you!  This is something that had to happen, and had to happen this year, so in a sense it’s all part of The Plan.

True, Kyle Seager wasn’t going to go anywhere for a while, but now we’ve got him locked in.  What’s more:  he should still be really good by the time we reach the end of this deal.  The Mariners paid $100 million for what will likely be seven really good, above-average seasons of third base production.  For less than $15 million a year, we get to have an All Star through the entirety of his prime years.  That’s great!

But, it’s also a little unsatisfying.  I get it.  I’m a fan.  The Mariners will have Kyle Seager around, and I think he’s just the greatest, but there’s a big difference between these prudent, smart player personnel decisions that you HAVE to make, and the splashy, headline-grabbing player personnel decisions this team will end up doing to try to improve upon last year’s strong finish.

See, this move doesn’t make us any better in 2015.  Kyle Seager could get better, through the natural improvement of an elite baseball player who has still yet to reach his full potential; but like I said before, we were going to have him in 2015 anyway.  This move just let’s us know the Mariners won’t get any worse at third base for a while.  We’ve got two positions and one starting pitcher locked down for the long term.  That’s great for peace of mind, but what everyone’s focused on right now is:  what are we going to do in the short term to get that ring?

I don’t want to sound like Donnie Downer or anything.  It truly is something to celebrate.  But, it’s a little underwhelming when it’s your first major move of the offseason and not your final major move.  Ideally, signing Kyle Seager is the cherry on top of the sundae.  But, it’s like the Mariners just handed us a cherry and told us it’s going to be about a month before we get our ice cream.

I guess it’s understandable.  You want to get Seager out of the way so you have a clear idea how much money you’ve got to spend on other pieces.  I highly doubt the Mariners are looking to extend any of their other arbitration-eligible guys beyond the requisite 1-year deals they’re on for the next few seasons.  So, with this done, I’m sure the Mariners can set their budget and start going after the guys we need to get over the hump.

It’s just frustrating when you see the Red Sox making all these huge moves.  The A’s already went out and got their right-handed DH.  The Tigers already prevented everyone from signing the best hitter on the market.  It’s bleak out there!

Who do we got?  Melky Cabrera?  Nelson Cruz?  Torii Hunter?  Kendrys Fucking Morales?  Ichiro?

I mean, there’s not a lot out there, ya dig?  Either we’re over-paying for one of those dudes, or we’re selling off one or more of our better young pitchers in a trade of some sort.  Hopefully not for a 1-season rental, but I suppose beggars can’t be choosers.

I’m sorry, this is supposed to be a happy day.  So, let’s be happy.  Two more days to Thanksgiving!  Come on ride the train!

Awards Season: Kyle Seager Is A Gold Glove Third Baseman

The Seattle Mariners’ first-ever Gold Glove player was Mark Langston in 1987.  From 1987 through 2010, the Mariners had at least one Gold Glover on their team (mostly thanks to Griffey and Ichiro, who were defensive stalwarts in their stints with the Mariners).  24 consecutive seasons, a remarkable stretch.  Our last Gold Glove players were Ichiro & Guti in 2010; since then, it’s been a barren wasteland (with one key snub being Brendan Ryan who should’ve won all the Gold Gloves).

This week, Kyle Seager hopes to start a new streak, as he just won his first Gold Glove award.  If you want to take a look at all the Mariners who have won the award, click HERE and scroll down.  It’s not a perfect award – it’s still voted on by people who may not necessarily follow the approved defensive metrics we’ve got in place today – but it’s still the most popular and noteworthy.  The Baseball Hall of Fame isn’t listing the number of Fielding Bibles players have won in the past, if that’s what you’re getting at.  The Gold Glove is still SOMETHING, even when it’s a crying shame that certain guys are squeezed out.

By all accounts, Kyle Seager took a “big step forward” in his defense this year.  I never thought he was all that bad before, but I think the biggest difference is:  he’s making the routine plays look easy and the difficult plays look routine.  Third base is an important defensive position.  You’ve got right handed power hitters jacking balls a million miles per hour in your direction, and you’ve got noodle-armed speedsters dropping bunts and the so-called “swinging bunts”.  His defense on those plays where he has to run up, one-hand a slow-roller, and uncork a powerful, off-balance throw to first base a half-second before the runner’s foot lands on the bag are certainly reminiscent of those good ol’ Adrian Beltre days of yore.

We’ve certainly come a long way since the days of Russ Davis.

Was Kyle Seager the most-deserving defensive third baseman in 2014?  Tough to say.  To be fair, he DIDN’T win the Fielding Bible (that went to Josh Donaldson of the A’s), but it sounds like the two players were close enough that this isn’t the biggest outrage of the century.

I’m a little more concerned with what this means going forward.  Before this year, Kyle Seager was a nice little player for us.  He came up with Dustin Ackley and was the steadier player of the two.  In his first couple (full) seasons, he hit 20+ homers and was one of the few pleasant stories on the team.  While his offensive numbers have slowly climbed each year, his defense has improved dramatically, culminating with his first All Star Game appearance and now his first Gold Glove award.  He’s really developing a nice little reputation in the league!  We’ll never have a chance to say Kyle Seager is underrated, because his 2014 season has proven that the rest of the baseball world is indeed properly rating this kid.

Which is good and bad.  It’s good because he’s getting better.  He’s not just some guy filling a hole at a key position of need.  He’s no longer just a guy who you “don’t have to worry about”.  Going forward, Kyle Seager is a guy you build around!  He’s a guy you stick somewhere around the top half of the lineup and watch him produce.  He’s a guy who helps those around him in the infield defend better, because the short stop doesn’t necessarily have to worry about covering extra territory.  He’s a star, and a guy other teams need to game plan for.

Which ultimately means he’s a guy who’s going to cost us a lot of money to retain.  He’s arbitration-eligible and in a couple years will be a full-blown free agent.  If the Mariners are going to take a shot at keeping him long-term, and getting something of a discount by buying-out his remaining arbitration years, they better do it now.  THIS offseason.  Yes, the Mariners need to fill holes at DH and in the outfield, but they also need to make Kyle Seager a top priority.

It seems like year-in and year-out, third base is one of the toughest positions to fill.  There really aren’t a lot of great third basemen out there.  Guys who can both hit well and defend well.  So, when you find one – and you’re able to cultivate him from the very beginning of his career – you NEED to keep him for as long as possible!

I have no doubt that the Mariners will get it done.  Just like they got an extension done with Felix.  This, really, has been what we’ve been waiting for since 2009, when the Mariners made a drastic reduction in payroll.  You can’t just go out and spend money willy-nilly on free agents, because they’re rarely worth the hundreds of millions of dollars they command.  The best way to spend your money is to extend your home-grown guys.  But, they have to be WORTH it.  And Kyle Seager is most certainly worth it.  He’ll be a great player in this league for at least another ten years.

Honestly, at this point, if we could get something in the area of 10 years, $180 million, I’d do that in a heartbeat.  With the way payroll is only going up and up across both leagues, $18 million per year will be right in line with his overall value.  And, if we can go with something cheaper – like 10 years, $150 million – Kyle Seager would be a steal.

The only problem with that is, I don’t know if he’d want a deal with that many years.  If he went in for a 4 or 5-year deal, he’d still be right there in the prime of his career, ready to TRULY max out a contract.  Just this week, Kyle Seager turned 27 years old; these are exciting times.

So, congratulations Kyle Seager!  Yes, the Gold Glove is nice and everything, but you’re also about to be a very rich man!  Now, let’s just hope that you’re a career Mariner, and we can all go home happy.

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

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

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

Click HERE for Part I
Click HERE for Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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