Dan Altavilla Sure Looks Like The Second Coming Of Bobby Ayala

This one looked like a picture-perfect, textbook Mariners victory.  Ariel Miranda coughed up a couple of solo homers in the first couple innings before settling down to go 7 innings, giving up just those 2 runs, on 4 hits, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts.  Nelson Cruz jacked a 2-run homer in the bottom of the first, Taylor Motter hit a solo homer out to left in the bottom of the second, and Ben Gamel added to the Mariners’ lead with a solo homer of his own to dead center in the bottom of the seventh.  All we needed was someone to bridge the game from Starter to Closer.

The tricky part was that Nick Vincent – our usual bridge guy – was unavailable, due to his back-to-back 1.1 inning performances the last two days.  Tony Zych was unavailable due to what we would later learn to be an illness.  I have to believe they wanted to save James Pazos unless it was an absolute emergency, considering he too had pitched the previous two days.

Which meant that the only right-handed relievers available for that eighth inning were Dan Altavilla, Steve Cishek, or Max Povse.  It would be pretty fucked up to make Povse’s Major League debut a tense eighth inning affair with a narrow lead, and Cishek is another guy who pitched the previous two days.

So, that left Altavilla, who was rested, but also fresh off of a 3-homer performance down in Texas on Saturday.

This really hasn’t been Altavilla’s season.  I don’t know what to make of his total and complete lack of command.  He got the late-season call up last year and was dominant.  But, this year, he’s been all over the place.  Sometimes, he looks unhittable, and zips through these innings no problem; other times, he falls apart and gets pounded into submission.  In his 25 appearances this year for the Mariners, he’s given up runs in 10 of them; that’s unacceptable.  He’s got the live fastball; he’s got the slider that has righties swinging for the dirt.  But, he leaves too many balls in the middle of the zone (when he’s not entirely missing the zone and walking a bunch of guys).

I didn’t see what he looked like on Saturday, but I watched him last night.  His first sin was walking the leadoff hitter, Ian Kinsler.  Kinsler was able to steal second on the perfect pitch (a slider low and away), but Altavilla really wasn’t doing a whole lot to keep him close to the bag at first.  He was able to strike out the next couple guys, but then did an ATROCIOUS job of keeping Kinsler close at second, who was allowed to have a huge lead to steal third base easily.  The fact that the pitch on that steal was another slider that got away from Zunino was also pure Altavilla.  I know you want those strikeout pitches buried in the ground, but he was spiking those fucking things five feet in front of home plate!

The subsequent solo homer to J.D. Martinez, though, that was pure Ayala.  Just a fat middle-middle meatball that he crushed to the opposite field seats.  I mean, I don’t understand how you go from absolutely OWNING Miguel Cabrera in the previous at-bat (utilizing your live fastball, brushing him off the plate, only to get him to watch your slider cover the outside corner for strike three) to being so careless with a guy like Martinez, who is another premiere slugger in this league.  It’s what made Bobby Ayala so maddening back in the day.  He had a plus fastball and a devastating splitter that could’ve laid waste to the American League.  But, all too often, as he fell off the left side of the mound, he’d leave those pitches up and out over the plate to get crushed.

Is it a concentration thing?  Or, are they just not able to control where their pitches go?  Either way, it’s something that needs to be fixed in a hurry, because I don’t really see a ton of other options in the minors with the kind of upside Altavilla demonstrates.  Who knows, maybe Max Povse will be the guy, but it’s way too early in his career to put that on him.

The Mariners squandered a 2-on, 1-out situation in the bottom of the eighth, with the heart of the order at the plate, and after that I went to bed.  Granted, they got good and Bucknor’d on that strikeout to Jarrod Dyson to end the inning, but all three of the guys who made outs in that inning (including the also-hot-hitting Nelson Cruz and Danny Valencia) were letting juicy sliders waft past them for strikes without even offering a swing.  One of the more frustrating half-innings I’ve seen in a while that didn’t involve the Mariners leaving someone on third base with less than two outs.

Edwin Diaz and Steve Cishek each worked scoreless innings to get us to the bottom of the tenth, where the Mariners scored the game-winning run on a Kyle Seager double (Tyler Smith pinch ran for Cruz and scored from second after a wild pitch).  I guess the joke is on me that the Mariners did all these cool things after I went to bed; I’ll somehow have to console myself with the good night’s sleep I enjoyed.

In the Kudos Department, Gamel had 3 more hits (including the aforementioned homer), Cruz was on base 4 times (with the aformentioned 2-run homer), Zunino had another hit to keep the good times rolling, Motter had a couple hits as Jean Segura works his way back in his rehab assignment (with a probable return tomorrow or Friday), and Seager had the heroics in extras.

I’d also like to circle back to Ariel Miranda, who got short shrift with all this Altavilla talk.  That’s an amazing bounce-back performance after his dud in Minnesota last week.  No hits after the third inning!  I would’ve complimented him on saving the bullpen in this one, but obviously what happened was outside of his control.

It does beg to wonder what things will look like tonight if the Mariners are in a position to win.  That’s three straight days with an appearance for Diaz and Cishek, so I have to believe those guys are sitting.  That most likely slots Vincent as our closer, with some combo of Zych and Pazos in the eighth.  Here’s to hoping Paxton has his mechanics working again, because we’re gonna need him.  Here’s also to hoping the offense gets on its horse so we don’t have to sweat one out in the late innings.

Mike Zunino Smashed The Mariners To Glory

Not “Smashed” in the Jersey Shore sense, although in a way …

Also, what’s a Jersey Shore?

Mike Zunino has been on an incredible tear!  This is like nothing he’s ever put up before!  I’m not exaggerating; he’s never had a month as good as this June.  The closest is probably his April in 2014 when he had a slash line of:

  • .279/.306/.471/.776, with 3 homers, 4 doubles, 10 RBI, and 7 runs scored

Now, compare that to just the first 19 days in June of this year:

  • .385/.431/.885/1.316, with 8 homers, 2 doubles, 26 RBI, and 11 runs scored

The walks to strikeouts ratio hasn’t changed a whole lot, but he passes the eyeball test.  He’s putting himself in better counts, working his way back from 0-2 holes, and forcing pitchers to throw to him in the strike zone.  Even better, he’s actually HITTING those pitches instead of swinging through them like he was earlier this year (and for most of his career)!

Now, obviously, he could turn back into a pumpkin as early as tonight and go on another prolonged cold streak.  His actual June numbers by month’s end might not look so hot from a slash-line perspective (which, you would think will happen regardless, what with regression and all that), but the point is he’s never been nearly as good for nearly as long as he has through the first three weeks of this month.  No one is expecting Mike Zunino to compete for triple crowns (although, can you imagine?), but it’s comforting to know he’s got this in him.

I’ve said all along:  just give me a Mike Zunino who hits around .250.  With his power, with his pitch-framing ability and overall defensive ability, with the way he’s great with the pitching staff, with his leadership, that’s a guy I wouldn’t mind having at catcher for a good, long career.  Anything above and beyond that, hittingwise, is gravy.  And, in this month of June, we’ve been blessed with a whole shit-ton of gravy!

Last night, with the game tied in the bottom of the sixth, Mike Zunino cranked a 2-run home run to left field – over the bullpens – to put the Mariners ahead.  Then, in the bottom of the eighth, with the M’s still clinging to that 2-run lead, Mike Zunino ding-donged one to center to give the good guys a comfortable 4-run advantage (and thereby swipe a save opportunity from Edwin Diaz, who was already warming up in the ‘pen).  Not for nothing, but it was Z’s second multi-homer game of the month, but that probably doesn’t surprise you.

It might surprise you to see yet another fine pitching performance by this beleaguered bunch.  Sam Gaviglio gave the Mariners 5 solid innings of 2-run ball.  He got into a couple jams by giving up 3 hits and walking 4, but was able to greatly limit the damage thanks to some timely double plays.

Which brings us to the big question:  who will the Mariners keep in the rotation, Gaviglio or Bergman?

For what it’s worth, the organization might not have to make that decision just yet, as Iwakuma got a rehab start last night and could only make it through 2 innings.  He might need another outing or two (like Felix did) before bringing him back.  But, the question is looming regardless.

It could be further complicated if the Mariners decide to throw rationality to the wind and keep Yovani Gallardo on this roster.  I mean, look, he’s been ridiculously terrible this year.  If you go by the generous “Quality Start” definition in Major League Baseball (going at least 6 innings, giving up no more than 3 earned runs), he only has 4 in 14 total appearances.  He’s given up fewer than 3 runs only twice; for a so-called innings eater, he’s only gone 7 innings one time; and worst of all is he’s earning $11 million this year (with a $2 million buy-out next year).  It’s absolutely fucking shameful.

The primary argument for choosing Gallardo over the other two is that he’s got experience (Bergman had 14 starts over 3 seasons before this year; Gaviglio is a rookie).  He’s also a veteran, while I believe the other guys should have options (Bergman has less than 2 years of service time, so we should be good there).  Talentwise, Gallardo has a decent fastball, but he’s just been getting pounded.  There’s a slight argument in his favor that he usually only has 1 bad inning per start, and once he gets around that, he’s putting up zeroes.  But, that 1 bad inning is usually very early in the game, and it’s usually REALLY bad, putting the team in too big a hole to climb out of.  You’d think, if he could take better command of that 1 bad inning and at least limit the damage, he’d be an effective starter for this team.  But, you’d also think if he had that ability in him, he would have done it by now.

The fact of the matter is, Gallardo sucks at getting out of jams.  He’s been nothing but a liability for this team, and I don’t think we would’ve been any worse off if we’d given all of his starts to Chase De Jong all season.  Just because he’s been healthy all year and has made all of his starts is no feather in his cap.  If anything, he’s the ONE guy I WISH would’ve gotten injured, as opposed to the four guys who did.

If this is any sort of just and fair world, Gallardo gets hacked off this roster as soon as Felix returns on Friday.  Because, based on performance, Gallardo is severely lagging behind Bergman and Gaviglio.

Which gets us back to the aforementioned big question:  Bergman or Gaviglio?

Bergman has 3/9 quality starts; Gaviglio has 2/7 (with an asterisk, as one of those “quality starts” saw him give up 4 unearned runs in a loss).  By my own vague definition of starts where they kept the Mariners in the ballgame, I’ve got Bergman at 6/9 and Gaviglio at 4/7.  Bergman has a couple 7+ shutout inning performances under his belt and looks like a guy who will give you more quality innings; but he’s also got those two truly atrocious starts where he gave up 10 and 9 runs respectively.  Conversely, Gaviglio has gone between 5-6 innings in every start, giving up 0-5 runs.

Which leads to my thumbnail definition of each guy.  Bergman is more likely to eat more innings and look better doing it; but he’ll also have starts where he completely falls apart and looks like the most hittable guy on the planet.  Gaviglio is more likely to give you 5 innings and limit damage to 2-3 runs.

If I’m being honest, I think Bergman is the better, more talented pitcher right now, but I just flat out feel better when I see Gaviglio is on the mound.  There’s no way to explain it, because if these two guys pitched for the A’s or something, I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.  Frankly, I don’t know how BOTH of those guys aren’t getting destroyed every time they hit the mound.  Looks like a lot of smoke and mirrors, if you ask me.  I could be way off base, though, but I just feel like Gaviglio has a higher upside.  Maybe I’m just easily impressed by the “bulldog mentality”.  Of course, the last guy we had around here with a bulldog mentality was Erik Bedard, and he too was prone to the Five & Dive start.

I really don’t have a clue as to what the Mariners are going to decide.  I’m pretty confident they’ll let Gallardo go at some point.  Considering Bergman was called up before Gaviglio – meaning he was “ahead” of Gaviglio on the theoretical depth chart – if I had to guess I’d say they roll with Bergman for a while and let Gaviglio keep starting in Tacoma.  Of course, I doubt we will have seen the last of either of the guys who end up being sent down to Tacoma.  What, the Mariners are suddenly going to get and STAY healthy?  Poppycock!

As for the rest of last night’s game, kudos to Guillermo Heredia – getting the start for Haniger, who was given a rest day – who hit the game-tying 2-run home run in the fifth.

Big ups to James Pazos, who got the win with his 1.1 innings of shutout relief.

Bigger ups to Nick Vincent, who went 1.1 innings of shutout ball for the second day in a row.  As I was talking about on Twitter last night, that’s 13 consecutive appearances where he hasn’t given up a run.  He’s 8 for 8 in Hold opportunities in that span, going 11.1 innings, giving up 10 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 7.  He’s been an absolute beast all year and the only guy in the ‘pen (besides Pazos maybe?) who hasn’t really had any sort of prolonged slump.  He’s locked down that 8th inning role and is able to be used multiple innings on multiple days in a row, which is really important for a team that’s largely struggled with its bullpen for the season.

Also, a shout out to Jarrod Dyson, who is having his own fine month of June.  Ever since Mitch Haniger came back, and it looked like Dyson’s grasp of a starting job might be in jeopardy, he’s come out swinging like a big dog to fend off Heredia for now.  It’s a crowded outfield, with four guys playing really well, and I can’t remember the last time I was able to say that with a straight face.

This Tigers series continues with Ariel Miranda tonight.

Mariners’ Bullpen Saved The Day Against The Twins

There were plenty of heroes in last night’s 6-4 Mariners victory.  Mitch Haniger banged a 2-run homer in the first.  Mike Zunino chipped in with a 3-run homer in the third (and has his average over .240 to boot).  Ben Gamel had 3 hits, 2 runs, and a MONSTER catch in foul territory in left field, crashing into the wall and coming down with the ball to get the second out in the eighth inning, with the Mariners only leading by 2.  Cano, Valencia, and Dyson all had multi-hit games to help keep the offense rolling along.

But, this one belonged to the bullpen.

Sam Gaviglio was so-so.  He was great through four innings, then gave up back-to-back solo homers in the fifth and downgraded to just good.  But, he could only manage one out in the sixth before giving up a 2-run homer and subsequently getting pulled.

James Pazos yanked his ass out of the fire by striking out the final two batters of the inning; but he wasn’t done there.  He erased a leadoff single with a double play, then walked a guy, allowed him to steal second, but got the next batter to pop out to end the inning.  It wasn’t the prettiest, but Pazos went 1.2 innings to bridge this game to the eighth, and that’s just fine in my book!

Nick Vincent came in, got the first two batters out, gave up a single to Minnesota’s best power hitter in Miguel Sano, then was pulled for Scrabble with a lefty coming up.  Scrabble walked the pinch hitter and was immediately replaced by Edwin Diaz for the 4-out save.

Diaz got the final batter in the eighth to strike out on three pitches.  He got the first batter of the ninth to fly out to left-center, walked a guy, gave up an infield single, struck the next guy out, let the tying runners steal their way into scoring position, and got Brian Dozier to fly out to center to end the threat.  I’ll admit, it looked pretty dicey there late in the game, but Diaz never looked like he was out of control and ultimately earned the skipper’s confidence in him.

In Long Reliever News, Casey Lawrence was sent back to Tacoma, this time replaced by our good buddy Chase De Jong.  Since being demoted, De Jong has been far from ideal in AAA.  In the first three starts, he got pretty well pounded, giving up 8 homers in 17 innings; his sterling April ERA with Tacoma took a fucking BEATING.  But, in his most recent start, he went 6 shutout innings.  I’ve got to think he’s only here on an emergency basis, until the Mariners have waited the requisite amount of time until Emilio Pagan is allowed to return, and they won’t put De Jong in any games unless they’re winning or losing big.

In other news, Hisashi Iwakuma pitched 4 shutout innings with the Modesto Nuts.  Felix is set to pitch one more time in Tacoma this weekend I think.  Jean Segura is making great progress and could be back as early as next week.  And Major League Baseball concluded its draft.  The Mariners picked a bunch of guys I’ve never heard of and probably will never hear of.  I’m being told that each of the Top 10 draft picks will sign with the team though, so that’s exciting.  REFILL THAT FARM SYSTEM!!!  Also, I heard Kyle Lewis returned from his ACL tear and is back playing some baseball again, so that’s fun.

The Mariners finish their season series with the Twins later this morning with a 10am local start time.  Ariel Miranda will try to help the M’s win this series 3-1 and get the team back to .500 overall.  Please God, let it happen.

The 2017 Mariners Have Still Never Been Over .500

That was as unlucky of a 2-1 defeat as you’ll ever see.  Down 1-0 on a solo homer in the fourth, Christian Bergman was working around a moderate jam in the fifth.  With two outs, he got Joe Mauer to bounce one to second base.  At the time, you could’ve made an argument that they would’ve given Bergman a shot at going six innings in this one.  But, not so fast, because the ball booted off the heel of Robinson Cano’s glove to put runners at the corners.  The lead runner was past third base enough for the M’s to potentially have a shot at picking him off, but Cano couldn’t get a clean grip on the ball.  By the time he did, it was too late and he should’ve eaten it.  Instead, he tried to rush the ball to third, saw it skip past Kyle Seager, allowing the runner to turn around and score.

Two errors, one play, by a guy who had one error all season.

In the bottom of the fifth, Jarrod Dyson led off with a triple.  One out and a Boog Powell walk later, Ben Gamel hit a sac fly to score Dyson.  Guillermo Heredia hit a single to right to put runners on the corners, which brought up Robbie with a chance to atone for his sins in the top half of the inning.  He hit a screaming liner to center that looked like it was going to score the go-ahead runs for the Mariners, but Byron Buxton made a crazy leaping catch to end the inning.

There’s probably only a small handful of guys who are able to track that ball and make that catch.

The bullpens kept the game the same on into the bottom of the eighth, with the heart of the order coming up.  Cano and Seager singled to put runners at first and second; with one out, the hero of the previous night – Mike Zunino – stepped to the plate.  He didn’t have a particularly good game in this one heading into the at bat, but all of that would’ve changed had he gotten ahold of one.  On a 1-0 pitch, Zunino smashed a liner right at the pitcher that almost certainly would’ve scored the tying run.  But, he hit it right into the pitcher’s glove, who was able to easily double off Cano at second to end the threat.

There would be no blown save for Minnesota’s closer on this night, as he came into the ninth and went 1-2-3.

What can you do, you know?  The confluence of events to get that game to go in Minnesota’s favor was pretty astounding.  Bergman once again pitched good enough to keep the Mariners in the ballgame (funny how he rarely seems to have Gallardo’s problem of The Big Inning, but that’s neither here nor there) and the bullpen pitched good enough to give the Mariners the win.  Four shutout innings by Pazos, Cishek, Scrabble, and Altavilla.

Offensively, we’re talking about 0 for 7 with RISP, which obviously won’t get the job done on many nights.  The Mariners will try again to get back to .500 (and maybe over .500) against the Blue Jays this weekend.  Sam Gaviglio goes tonight, which is cause for concern.  The fact that the Blue Jays have practically everyone back and healthy is another cause for concern, considering they were pretty beaten down by injuries the last time we played them last month, and they still managed to sweep the M’s in a 4-game series.  On top of all of that, we have to deal with a park full of insufferable Blue Jays fans.  Part of me wants to go to Safeco this weekend and mix it up, but the rest of me knows the Mariners are just going to lose anyway, because we always fucking lose to Toronto.

On a minor positive note, both Drew Smyly and Hisashi Iwakuma threw off of a mound yesterday.  It’s not much, but it’s an important next step.  Also, Mitch Haniger had a good game down in Tacoma, drawing the game-winning walk.  And, word around the team is that Nelson Cruz should be back tonight, but we’ll see.

Paxton’s Return Is A Sight For Sore Eyes

How crazy is it that James Paxton didn’t totally have it last night – his first Major League game since May 2nd – and he still managed 5.1 innings of 3-hit shutout ball?  How crazy is it that James Paxton has thrown shutout ball in 5 of his 7 starts this season?  This guy is unbelievable!  Now please, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, stay healthy the rest of the season!

In winning four in a row to close out the month, the Mariners managed to go 14-14 in May.  They’re a game up on the A’s and only THIRD-worst in the American League.  They’re also, not for nothing, 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, because say what you will about teams like the Astros and Yankees running away with things, but all these teams contending for the second Wild Card spot are PRETTY mediocre.

Now we settle into what appears to be – on paper – a very enjoyable month of June.  19 out of 27 games at home, 3 total off days (including 2 in the middle of long homestands), only have to go as far east as Minnesota, only three games (at home) against the unstoppable Astros, no stupid games in National League parks, the luxury of two more games against the hapless Philadelphia Phillies.  I mean, I could go on and on, but this month should be a delight!

So, you know, watch the Mariners muck it up somehow.

10 more hits for the offense last night, but only 3 for 11 with RISP.  Nevertheless, the Mariners jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the second, and were able to tack on a couple more as the game went on; none of the runs attributed to homers, which is nice.  It’s nice that the Mariners can score in bunches and don’t just have to rely on the long ball.  Seager, Valencia, and Zunino each had two hits apiece (Valencia with 2 RBI to boot); Ben Gamel had a hit and a couple more RBI; Cruz, Segura, and Dyson all got in on the action as well.

Is it a coincidence that the Mariners have won four in a row, and the bullpen has been fantastic in that span?  Absolutely not!

  • Shutout in Boston:  2 innings by Pazos, Vincent, and Diaz
  • 6-5 win in Colorado:  4 shutout innings by Pazos, Zych, Vincent, Scrabble, Altavilla, and Diaz
  • 10-4 win in Colorado:  4 innings, 2 runs by Lawrence, Zych, Scrabble, and Altavilla
  • Shutout in Seattle last night:  3.2 innings by Cishek, Pazos, and Vincent

We’re going to need to see the bullpen continue to do this, pretty much for the rest of the season and not in these temporary bursts, but at least we’re starting to see something from these guys.  The next step, of course, is to get more consistent performances from our starters, to take some of the pressure off of them.

Particular kudos to Steve Cishek last night for getting out of that jam in the 6th without giving up any of his inherited runners.  I’d LOVE to see more of that going forward as well.

Today, we go for the sweep, with Gallardo on the mound.  I wish I could say I have even a little bit of confidence in him getting the job done, but all I can think about is how happy I am that this is a weekday afternoon game so I don’t have to subject my eyes to this nonsense.

Why It Doesn’t Make Sense To Blow Up The Mariners

It’s always alarming when people start talking about tearing a team down and doing a full-on rebuild, particularly when it’s a team like the Mariners, who had the hype and expectations they had coming into the season.  Indeed, it’s more than just alarming; it’s discouraging, frustrating, enraging, you name it.  It also makes sense in a lot of ways.  The Mariners have an aging roster with guys like Cano and Cruz on offense, and guys like Felix and Iwakuma on the pitching staff, on top of various role players and guys on 1-year deals.  When you factor that in with how this team has underperformed, is staring down the barrel of last place, with a few guys making a lot of money, and then take a look at how barren the farm system is, and yeah, I can see why people might be clamoring for a tear down.  Get the nasty taste of Jackie Z and Howard Lincoln out of our mouths once and for all, start fresh with the new ownership group and the new GM.

Now, normally, when you do this, you have someone on your roster who you choose to build around, but I’m hearing people talking about trading Cruz, Cano, Felix, (obvs) and Kyle Seager?  Not that Seager is some stud superstar or anything, but he’s not old, he’s not particularly overpaid, and you figure he’s got a lot of years left of being a productive player at this level.

But, here, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s say, for the sake of argument that the Mariners continue to be terrible on into July and anyone and everyone is on the table for trade.  I want to go through the roster line by line, so to speak, and tell you why it doesn’t make a ton of sense to blow the whole thing up.

Any conversation in this area is going to start with Robinson Cano.  We’re currently in the fourth year of a 10-year deal, where he’s making $24 million per season.  He’s 34 years old and still putting up All Star numbers.  He has that DL stint under his belt already this year, which is an obvious concern (given his age), and that contract is pretty prohibitive for a lot of teams.  Smaller market cities just flat out won’t be able to afford him; teams at the top of the league in payroll are going to be VERY wary of bringing on such a huge deal.  So, right there, you’re chopping off maybe half the league, not even factoring in the teams who have a need for a second baseman, who are also in contention and willing to be buyers at the deadline.  Oh, and by the way, Cano has a full no-trade clause, so he’d have to agree to any deal.  The bottom line is, there’s no way the Mariners are trading Cano without opting to eat a significant portion of his salary, in which case why even bother?  We’re not at a point where he’s a cancer in the organization.  And, even if we did trade him while eating a bunch of money, we STILL probably won’t get anyone of value in return.  That’s, like, a million whammies against this ever happening.  Next.

Nelson Cruz.  He’s even older than Cano, at 36 years of age, but he’s in the third year of a 4-year deal.  He’s still playing at an All Star level, but he’s also just a DH.  He can only play the outfield in National League games, and I’m not totally sure he can even play on back-to-back days.  That SEVERELY limits his value.  It takes out the entire National League, for starters, as he can’t play any other defensive position than right field.  So, he’s a DH.  I’m sure an American League team would welcome him with open arms, but he immediately limits a team’s flexibility to give guys DH “rest” days late in the season.  His contract isn’t too terrible, at $14 million next year (and whatever pro-rated portion of that for the rest of this season), but again, you’re not talking about a guy who is going to bring back a lot of value.  Maybe a couple Quad-A guys, and some salary relief and that’s about it.  Next.

Felix Hernandez, of course.  He’s 31 years old, but he’s been in the Major Leagues since 2005 and has a lot of miles on his arm.  He spent significant time on the DL last year and again this year.  He’s making $26 million this year and next, and $27 million in 2019.  There’s a $1 million option for 2020 if he spends significant time on the DL with an elbow injury, otherwise he’ll be a free agent in 2020.  His performance has declined since 2014 (the last year he was really at an All Star level) with no reason to expect him to return to a consistent All Star level.  In short, trading Felix would be a straight-up salary dump for very low-level prospects.  And, on top of it, he too has a full no-trade clause.  Seems highly unlikely any team would take on the risk of a Felix Hernandez for that type of money, so this is another scenario where the Mariners would almost certainly have to eat some of that money.  He doesn’t have the type of emotional value anywhere else besides Seattle, so what would be his motivation to want to go elsewhere (aside from being a broken-down starter trying to back-door into a playoff appearance)?  Seems like a longshot at best that the Mariners are able to deal him at all.  Next.

Hisashi Iwakuma.  Will he even be healthy by July?  Let’s assume he is, for the sake of argument.  Well, he’s 36 years old right now.  He’s earning $14 million this year, so he’ll cost his new ballclub whatever the pro-rated amount of that is.  He’s 94 innings-pitched away from earning a guaranteed $15 million in 2018, which he could very well reach if he’s able to return by July (otherwise, it looks like 2018 is a $10 million club option year, and he could be released if he doesn’t reach the innings threshold).  Also, Kuma has a full no-trade clause.  His velocity has gone down significantly this season, he’s not making great progress in his rehab at the moment, and aside from 2016, he hasn’t proven to be very durable.  Throw him on the pile of guys I’ve already mentioned who won’t bring back much of anything in trade, aside from salary relief.

Boring and repetitive, no?  Let’s return to Kyle Seager then.  Here’s a guy with some real, actual value.  He’s 29 years old.  He’s on a contract for up to five more seasons after this year (2022 is a club option year with a buy-out).  He has yet to be prohibitively expensive, though his salary spikes starting in 2018 (between $18-$19 million per season over the next four years, while his 2022 season value could climb as high as $20 million if he reaches certain performance markers).  Again, though, that’s not an unreasonable number for a guy like Seager, who plays a solid third base, who is as durable as they get, who is consistent offensively (and has improved little by little every year).  This is a guy any team would love to have!  So, we get back to the usual questions:  which teams in contention also need a third baseman?  You could talk about moving him to second base in a pinch, but moving him to first base seems like a waste of his talents, and reduces much of his value.  I could see the Mariners getting a really valuable piece in return for Kyle Seager, but once you trade him, you’ve got an immediate hole at third base.  Who fills that void?  The Mariners don’t have anyone in the minors right now ready to step in there on an everyday basis.  If you trade Seager for a third base prospect, you still don’t know if that guy will pan out.  You’re essentially trading a sure thing for a lottery ticket, and you haven’t really helped your team out in any other areas.  Plus, Seager is a homegrown talent, and if you’re looking to unload salary elsewhere, you’re going to want to keep a guy like Seager around to help lessen the blow of the fact that the Mariners would (in this scenario) be getting rid of a lot of familiar faces.  However, if the Mariners are forced to keep guys like Cano, Felix, and Cruz (due to age and salary issues), then by all means, try to get as much as you can for Seager.  I just hope the backup plan at third base is a true asset and this won’t be a Robbing Peter to Pay Paul situation.

Jean Segura is under club control through 2018, so here’s another valuable piece.  Who wouldn’t want a guy like Segura?  You could stick him at short stop or second base, you can put him at the top of your lineup as he’s a hitting machine, he’s got plenty of pop in his bat to boot, and he’s cost-friendly from a contract perspective (his final Arb year is next year, but he’s a steal at $6.2 million this year, and should still be a bargain next year with whatever raise he gets).  You can unload Seager and Segura and get some high-level prospects back, but again those are a couple of really big holes to fill on the left side of your infield.

After that, I don’t know that you have a ton of value left to trade.  Smyly’s hurt, Gallardo is bad, Valencia is just okay, ditto Dyson and some of the veteran bullpen guys.  You’re not going to get much back in return, is my point.  The only other guys with value on the Mariners are younger guys:  Paxton, Haniger, Heredia, Gamel, Diaz, Altavilla, Pazos, but isn’t the whole point of a total roster rebuild to build AROUND that young core?  Wouldn’t you want to KEEP guys like Paxton, Haniger, Heredia, Gamel, Diaz, and the like?  Sure, you could get some decent prospects back, but at that point you’re REALLY trying to bottom out if you’re going to trade talent like this.  That’s more of a long-con like the Astros did, where they went after the #1 overall draft pick year after year after year.  Can the Mariners afford to wait that long, when they’re already the team with the longest playoff drought in the entirety of Major League Baseball?

I’ll talk a little more about Paxton here, since I’m thinking he’s a name people might want to trade.  Like Kuma, Paxton is a guy who has never proven he can stay healthy for a full season.  He hasn’t really had any significant arm trouble, but it’s been a lot of other things, and you have to think the significant arm trouble is on the horizon.  I just don’t know if you’re going to get the type of value for a guy like Paxton that you’d be happy with.  It makes more sense to hang onto him for the pennies he’s making now, let him build up value over the next few seasons (if he can), and reap the rewards of his ace-like performances while we can.

I dunno.  A total rebuild is a nice idea, particularly in a season like this where everything is going to shit, but I just can’t see it.  At best, the Mariners can unload salary, while getting some good prospects back for Seager and Segura, but it comes at a price:  knowing the Mariners won’t contend for anything for another 3-5 years or more.  Maybe you’re okay with that, but there’s another problem with “building for the future”:  even if you run into a Best Case Scenario, like with the Royals a few years ago, these things are short lived!  Guys get injured, guys underperform at random, guys become free agents and command huge deals on the open market.

Going back to the Royals, they were a bottom-feeder for almost 30 years!  They won the World Series in 1985, then didn’t make the playoffs again until 2014.  They made the World Series in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015 (winning it all the second time around), then fell to .500 in 2016 and now, in 2017, they’re last in the American League.  THAT’S HOW FAST IT CAN ALL FALL APART!

Now, come back to the Mariners.  Again, I reiterate, the Mariners have the longest playoff drought in the entire Major Leagues.  They’re one of two teams who have never reached the World Series (with the Nationals/Expos), and one of 8 teams who have never won it all.  Only the Buffalo Bills have a longer playoff drought in all of the four major American professional sports.  You could make an argument that the Mariners, as presently constructed, are just a couple players away from being serious playoff contenders (particularly on the pitching side of things).  Are you willing to throw that all away, to start over fresh, without any guarantee whatsoever that tanking these next 3-5 years will bring about any sort of turnaround?  Just because it looks like it’s worked for the Astros doesn’t mean it will work for the Mariners.  And, even with the Astros on the rise, how long will it last?  Will they be the new Royals in three years?

TL;DR:  why do we even follow the sport of baseball?  ALL OF LIFE IS A MEANINGLESS FARCE!

The Mariners Might Actually Salvage A .500 Road Trip Later Today

After losing 2 of 3 in Washington, and then 2 of 3 in Boston, you start to wonder, “What’s the point?”  Yet, here we are, one win away from a 2-game sweep of the Rockies, thanks to a hard-fought 6-5 victory yesterday.

The Mariners had hits up and down the lineup, even Sam Gaviglio with a single that would come around to score.  Ben Gamel had a couple hits and a couple runs scored, Danny Valencia had 3 hits and an RBI, Mike Zunino had a couple hits and a walk, Kyle Seager had a double and 2 RBI.  And, once again, the Mariners left a bunch of runs out on the table, going 2 for 13 with RISP.  I would anticipate a huge breakout any day now.

Gaviglio was more or less rolling, giving up 3 runs in 5 innings, with a very low pitch count, before coming back out for the 6th.  He gave up back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before being pulled; both would come around to score.  Nevertheless, the Mariners had already scored their 6 runs by this point, and the bullpen would prove masterful in locking down the victory.

Pazos went 1.1 innings, Zych went 0.2; Vincent, Scrabble, and Altavilla mixed and matched and each got an out in the 8th inning, and Edwin Diaz looked downright dominant in closing things out in the 9th.

After a promising start to the month, where the Mariners went 6-2, they’ve been in a nosedive, winning only 4 of their next 16 games.  The Mariners have won 2 in a row here and time will tell if it’s just a blip in a much longer, more painful losing stretch, or if this is the beginning of the Great Turnaround.

On the plus side, James Paxton returns tomorrow.  The rotation for the next five days looks like this:  Miranda, Paxton, Gallardo, Bergman, and Gaviglio.  That’s obviously far from ideal, but Miranda has made great strides this year, as has Paxton before he got hurt (and Paxton was starting much further ahead than Miranda to boot, so it’s really saying something to say that Paxton has made a lot of strides); and Bergman and Gaviglio have looked semi-competent at times this season.  It’s encouraging to see Felix start to throw the ball pain-free (it’s less encouraging to see Iwakuma not-so-pain-free; and I’ll believe it when I see it for Smyly).  I don’t want it to sound like I’m getting my hopes up here or anything.  The REAL Great Turnaround for this season might not hit its stride until July or August, at which point it might be too late to mean anything as far as the playoffs are concerned.  I’m just looking for baby steps right now.  I’m looking for this team to not have to make daily roster moves between Seattle and Tacoma.  Then, I’ll be happy if Scott Servais can simply settle on a back-end of the bullpen that’s based on merit, and not based on whose arm is the freshest.  It’s got to be discouraging for someone like Jean Machi – who was solid for Seattle before he had to be sent back down, only to never get a repeat opportunity – or someone like Pagan, who had a wonderful 4-inning scoreless outing before going back to Tacoma.

Then, once we’re able to lock down the bullpen, wouldn’t it be nice to start getting guys back from injury without immediately seeing other guys have to go on the DL?  The Mariners will never be at 100% full strength, but wouldn’t it be nice to see them at 90 or 95% full strength, for like a full month or more?  I KNOW, look at the big dreamer over here; next thing I’ll be asking for is fresh air and clean drinking water!

This is why I don’t feel even remotely sorry for Angels fans for Mike Trout going on the DL for 6-8 weeks.  Talk to me when you’ve had to start Chase De Jong FOUR TIMES.

Another Day, Another Garbage Yovani Gallardo Start

When the chips are down, you find out who the fighters are and who are the wastes of fucking life.

I have a lot of respect for a lot of guys on the Mariners right now.  Shit is REAL bad, but these guys are going out there and getting the job done.  Jean Segura, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager.  Hell, Danny Valencia started off the season as a wreck, and look at how he’s built up his numbers!  Heredia and Gamel have stepped up in a major way – even if they’ve cooled off over the last couple weeks – in the wake of Leonys Martin being sent to Tacoma and Mitch Haniger spending so much time on the DL.

On the pitching side of things, obviously we’re talking about the bulk of our hardships here.  But, I can’t say enough about how Ariel Miranda has stepped his game up this season.  He’s gone from a guy who’s good one day, bad the next, and he’s morphed into a guy who is consistently keeping the Mariners in more games than not.  The Mariners are 6-4 in his starts this season, and you could argue two of those losses were very much on the offense not getting it done.

In the bullpen, it’s been a disaster, but there are a few bright spots.  Scrabble, Zych, Vincent, and Pazos have all stepped up in a major way this season.

The point is, there are a lot of fighters on this Mariners team.  I wouldn’t say they’re able to keep the Mariners afloat – as we’re now 7 games under .500 with yesterday’s 3-0 defeat – but they’re at the very least slowing down the drowning somewhat.

Then, there’s Yovani Gallardo.  He’s been a burr in my fucking saddle pretty much since the day we (ugh) traded Seth Smith for him.  And, look, I understood the rationale then and I understand the rationale now:  Seth Smith is, at best, a platoon outfielder with very limited defensive skills, while the Mariners had a need for a veteran, back-of-the-rotation starter.  But, while Seth Smith is over in Baltimore doing Seth Smith things (10 extra base hits in 105 at bats, with an okay batting average, a great on-base percentage, and he’s already matched his 2016 WAR in under two months, while dealing with some nagging injuries), Yovani Gallardo is just the God damned worst.

As has been beaten into the ground, the Mariners are struggling with injuries.  Per my opening sentence:  the chips are fucking DOWN!  A bunch of guys on this team are TRYING to keep things in check until some of our injured guys return, and hats off to them.  But, here you’ve got an 11-year veteran starting pitcher who is the only man standing from this organization’s intended starting rotation coming into the season, and sure, he’s lost a bit of his skills over that long career.  But, I dunno, it seems like he should be doing more.  It seems like a guy who has kicked around the Majors for this long would have enough tricks up his sleeve to step up when things are at their worst.  I mean, shit man, you’re easily the most veteran healthy pitcher on this roster right now!  The Mariners are a VERY young team, particularly on the pitching side, they’re looking to YOU to set the fucking example!

And the best you can give is a 5.76 ERA?  The best you can do last night is 5.1 innings of 3-run ball, giving up 7 hits and a whopping 6 walks?!  That on the back of a 10-run outing the last time out, against the White Sox?  People shouldn’t have to fall all over themselves sucking your dick just because you occasionally get into the 7th inning, while still giving up 3 runs!  The Mariners are 3-7 in Gallardo’s starts this year, and that’s just pathetic.  If the Mariners weren’t so fucking decimated by injuries, Gallardo should’ve been DFA’d WEEKS ago!

Sure, you could make the argument that the Mariners’ offense hasn’t showed up in a lot of those defeats (a la last night’s shutout), but I’d counter that with the fact that Gallardo has consistently stunk early in games.  He has a 9.00 ERA in the first innings of his starts!  Over a quarter of all his runs allowed have come in the first!  27 of his 35 earned runs have come in the first four innings!  That’s not keeping your team in the game!  That’s digging them a huge hole they’ve got to dig their way out of against the bullpens of the league!

The fact of the matter is, the Mariners – right now – need more than what Gallardo is giving them.  He’s a worthless lump and I can’t wait until I never have to be subjected to one of his starts ever again.  If the offense is slumping, then guess what:  a GOOD pitcher steps up and helps his team!  He doesn’t consistently average 5 innings and 3 runs a game.  NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  He’s hurting this bullpen, he’s hurting the win/loss record of the team, and he’s demoralizing an offense that has to always score 6+ runs in his starts just to have a CHANCE to win.

Fuck Yovani Gallardo.

Fancy That: The Mariners Stopped The Losing Streak Behind Solid Pitching & Timely Hitting

Alternate title:  The Mariners Won A Baseball Game By Scoring More Runs Than Their Opponent

They bumped the series finale against the Nationals up to the early morning Pacific time so they could avoid an impending rainstorm and get the whole game in.  While most of us were hoping for a rainout, if for no other reason than to stave off another defeat, the Mariners shocked the world by being semi-competent.

Ariel Miranda managed a workmanlike 5 innings, giving up 2 runs in that fifth to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead.  In the top of the sixth, Nelson Cruz jacked a 3-run home run to give the Mariners a lead, and Scott Servais proceeded to stop fucking around.  He went immediately to our good bullpen guys in hopes of locking down the first Mariners victory in a week.

Zych worked a scoreless sixth, Pazos worked a scoreless seventh, Vincent & Scrabble worked a scoreless eighth, and Edwin Diaz reclaimed his closing duties on the strength of TWO WHOLE ADEQUATE PERFORMANCES, and somewhere in there the Mariners added an insurance run to give the Mariners a 4-2 victory.

The top of the order really did the heavy lifting in this one.  Segura had a couple hits and a run; Cano had two more hits, an RBI, and a run; Cruz (getting his second start in right field) had the aforementioned 3-run homer; and Seager and Valencia each had a hit to round it out.

There are no take-aways from this one.  The Mariners got a win in a game featuring their best healthy starting pitcher; it’s as simple as that.  This isn’t the start of a great turnaround, it’s just a random win, because in baseball it’s impossible to literally lose every single game.  Hell, even Charlie Brown’s team had a win or two!

The Mariners are still a game out of last place (tied in the loss column) in the entire American League, five games out of the second Wild Card, and 11 games behind the Astros in the A.L. West.

In a shocking development, the Mariners went a whole day without making a Big League roster move, so that’s something.  With all these injuries and shuttling of players, it feels like we’re just wrapping up our fourth month of Spring Training for Christ’s sake.

This weekend, the Mariners go to Boston for three games.  It would be nice to pick up some games on the team that’s currently holding the second Wild Card spot, but wish in one hand and shit in the other, you know?  I just hope no other important people go on the DL between now and Monday.

On the Mike Zunino front, in his three games since being called back up from Tacoma, he has one hit (a homer) and 7 strikeouts in 11 at bats.  I just … I could NOT be more disappointed.  Y U MAKE ME LONG FOR THE RETURN OF TUFFY???

Mariners Bullpen Blows It, Offense Walks It Off In The Ninth

Yeah, I don’t care, I’m bringing back the phrase Walk Off, even if the winning team doesn’t walk in the winning run!  COME AT ME BRO!

Sam Gaviglio got the start yesterday, and like Christian Bergman the day before, he was greatly effective.  Five shutout innings, on 3 hits and 1 walk, with 2 strikeouts.  Considering it sounds like he wasn’t TOTALLY stretched out – I kept hearing about how the Mariners were only expecting to get four innings out of him – that was quite the amazing performance.  Once again, someone else who has leapfrogged Chase De Jong on my Chase De Jong scale.

The Mariners’ offense did some work early, with Dyson pulling a solo homer in the third, and with Segura jacking a 3-run homer in the bottom of the fifth.  They turned things over to the bullpen with a 4-0 lead, and I dunno, maybe I’m shortsighted.  I figured a day after Bergman spun his magic, and Pazos cleaned up after him, we’d have a more available bullpen with which to work.  But, apparently the plan was to get whatever they could out of Gaviglio, and then immediately turn the ball over to Casey Lawrence for something resembling long relief.

I would argue, once you get five innings out of the 10th starter you’ve used this season, and once your offense gives you a 4-0 lead, you don’t mess around.  By all means!  Use Casey Lawrence!  You brought him into the organization, you called him up, it’s the least you can do.  When you’ve got four full innings of relief to spread around, the bottom man in the bullpen is good enough to throw in there in the sixth inning.  And, to his credit, Casey Lawrence did a fine job.  Other than an infield single, he got the White Sox out in order.  Bingo bango bongo.

So, WHY would you bring him back out for the seventh???

Double to left, homer to left, 4-2 Mariners.  I don’t get it.  Everybody should’ve been fresh-enough!  You go one inning per reliever, use up four relievers, and you worry about Friday on FRIDAY!

Thankfully, Lawrence was able to settle down and finish out the seventh, but it could’ve gotten REALLY hairy there if he didn’t.  At that point, still with the 2-run lead going into the eighth, I was at least moderately confident we could get this thing to the ninth with a lead.

WRONG.

I don’t really blame Servais for using Altavilla in this spot, though I understand if you do.  He was coming off of a real bonzer outing two days earlier, but before that he’s been inconsistent as the day is long.  In gratitude for Servais’ confidence in him, Altavilla got the first two outs of the inning, then gave up back-to-back solo homers to tie the game.  Just brutal.

But, you know, what can you do?  Edwin Diaz was just demoted and is working on his mechanics; I think they’re looking for a softer landing for him than eighth inning set up man.  Steve Cishek just came off the DL and he too just blew a game recently.  Tony Zych is apparently also being handled with kid gloves.  Even though he was used three straight days from May 13th through the 15th, I guess he needs three full days off to recover?  I dunno.

What I do know is that it was pretty clear they were saving Nick Vincent for the ninth.  With Overton being saved for Sunday in all likelihood, that only left Scrabble as a possible eighth inning guy, but there were a bunch of right-handed bats coming up that inning, so Altavilla was the guy.  Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just telling you my theory on this whole thing.

Still doesn’t totally forgive putting Lawrence out there for a second inning, because that guy was already terrible when we got him, and it’s not like joining the Mariners is going to magically fix all his issues.

Anyway, Vincent got through the ninth inning without incident, and there we were, the bottom of the ninth.  I was tired, hoping to get to sleep in the near future; I’m sure the Mariners were tired; it was a long, cold night.  The bottom of the order got things going.

Taylor Motter’s leadoff single was erased by a subpar sac bunt by Dyson, but in a way if you had to choose who you want standing on first, you certainly would rather have Dyson there via the fielder’s choice.  Obviously, in an ideal world, the bunt would’ve worked and they both would’ve been safe, but that’s neither here nor there.  Unfortunately, with a lefty on the mound, Dyson couldn’t steal second.  He did run on a 3-2 count to Ruiz, who grounded out, thus allowing Dyson to advance to second.  With two outs, they walked Jean Segura, because that guy is a machine; plus I’m sure they liked the lefty/lefty matchup with Gamel coming to the plate.

Except, Guillermo Heredia was still on the bench (getting a rest day, with Boog Powell getting the start), so he came out to pinch hit.  Blowers noted that the White Sox had a righty warming up in the bullpen, so I figured it was academic:  they’d bring him in to face Heredia, and we’d go from there.

Instead, they left the lefty in there, Heredia knocked a single to right-center, and Dyson came flying around to score the WALK OFF run.  Just like Servais drew it up, right?

All in all, a nice little win for a desperate team.

In Injuries Rule Our Lives news, Paxton, Felix, Kuma, and Smyly all threw baseballs this week.  Paxton actually threw a legit bullpen, and is looking to do a rehab start in the near future.  Mitch Haniger is setting out for a rehab assignment of his own this weekend, with the hope that maybe he’ll be able to return during the next road trip.  As always, I’ll believe it when I see it.