The Mariners Traded For Dee Gordon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of that lineup, here’s a possibility:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Finished 78-84

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the Mariners’ records by month:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God I hate baseball.

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

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

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

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

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

WHY CAN’T THE FUCKING MARINERS DO THAT?

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

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

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

THE SEATTLE MARINERS EVERYONE!!!

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

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

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

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

Mariners Tank-A-Palooza 2017 In Full Effect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Keep Winning & So Does Everyone Else

The Mariners have a 3-game winning streak.  How about that.

King Felix came back and didn’t embarrass himself.  He was on a pitch count of around 50 pitches or so, and ended up going just a hair over that trying to get the final out in the fourth.  He gave up a double to his final batter and was pulled for Ryan Garton to get out of the little mini-jam.

Which brings up a quick aside, as I’d like to praise Scott Servais for this thing he’s been doing lately.  I suppose I only noticed it because so many of our fucking starters this year have gone well under the 5-inning mark, but when it’s early in a game and the starter is clearly faltering, when Servais pulls him, he doesn’t go immediately to the long reliever, which I agree with 100%.  With a bunch of runners on base, and the other team clearly seeing & hitting the ball well that day, you don’t need to replace one mediocre starter with another mediocre starter (and what is a long reliever if not a mediocre starter?).  You need to bring in a standard one inning-type reliever to put the clamp down on further scoring that inning.  Then, assuming he gets out of the jam, go ahead and bring your long reliever in the NEXT inning, with a clean slate and no runners on base.

It’s not a big thing, but I think it’s very smart and deserves to be acknowledged.

Anyway, getting back, Felix held the Rangers to 1 run over his 3.2 innings of work.  He gave up 3 hits, 0 walks, and 3 strikeouts, and generally kept the Rangers off balance most of the time he was out there.  I’m not creaming my pants or anything, but it’s certainly better than a lot of what we’ve seen from this rotation in recent weeks.

Then, from the fifth inning onward, Andrew Albers took over, closing this game out.  He went a full five innings, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits, 1 walk, with 6 strikeouts.  It was announced before the game that Ariel Miranda is going to get some time off to rest his over-worked arm (which is certainly the prudent thing to do), and for the time being Andrew Moore is going to make the start on Sunday in his place.  People on Twitter were rightly manic about the snubbing of Albers – who has been a better pitcher for this team this year, and deserves the honor of taking over the rotation spot Miranda is vacating – but my hunch is after this turn, Albers will get his shot again.  Or, even if he doesn’t, it’s not like this team has suddenly, magically, fixed everything that was wrong with its rotation.  This team WILL need its long relievers again before the season is over!  You haven’t seen the last of Andrew Albers, I promise you!

It would’ve been a magnificent outing for Albers, if not for the 3-run homer he gave up in the bottom of the seventh.  But, by that point, the Mariners had racked up a 10-1 lead, so we weren’t in any danger.

In their 3 wins this series, the Mariners beat the Rangers by a combined score of 28-8.  THE BATS ARE ALIVE!  Just in time to be silenced in Houston this weekend, because we can’t have nice things; but on the off-chance that they’re not, this is the perfect time for this offense to be heating up.

Haniger finally went hitless, but did walk and score a run.  Segura had a hit and a run.  Zunino had 2 walks, a hit and an RBI.  But, those are small potatoes compared to the heavy lifting being done by the middle of the order.

Cruz, Seager, and Yonder Alonso (dropped from 2 to 6 in the lineup, which is exactly where he fits best) combined to go 9 for 12 with all the doubles and homers, as well as 7 of the 10 runs scored, and 8 of the 10 RBI.  Don’t look now, but Seager is up to 25 homers on the season, and Cruz is up to 33.  GREAT time for them to get hot!

Unfortunately, as I alluded to in the title, in spite of this 3-game winning streak, the Mariners haven’t made up any ground on the Twins, as they’re still 3.5 games back.  The M’s did do a good job of passing the Rangers, Orioles, Royals, and Rays, and we’re holding steady a half game back of the Angels (the only team between us and the Twins now), but as I keep saying, time’s a-wastin’.  15 games left in the season, including 3 against the Astros this weekend, and 3 against the magma-hot Indians (winners of 22 straight, an all-time American League record) next weekend.

Sadly, this feels like a good time to play one last game of fetch with Old Yeller before we take the Mariners out behind the barn and shoot ’em.  The last game I attended was back in August for Edgar Martinez Weekend, so I figure I should get out to one more before it’s all said and done.  Next week features the final six home games of the 2017 season; I recommend getting out there one last time to do the same.  If things hold as predicted, I’ll be going to the game where Corey Kluber klubs us to death.  Should be good times.

Mariners Get Back To .500 Once Again; How Many More Times Can We Do This?

Mike Leake is going to be a legend in this fucking town if he keeps this up!

Three starts, three games where he’s at least pitched into the sixth inning, while giving up 3 runs or less.  Yesterday, it was a 5.2 inning affair, with just the 1 run given up on 5 hits, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts.  He’s 3-0 with the Mariners, with a 2.41 ERA!  I don’t know when the other shoe is gonna drop, but I hope to Christ I never have to see that shoe ever again.  What’s that shoe’s deal anyway?  Fuck that shoe!  Stop dropping all over the place!

This was a fun one, no doubt about it.  Zunino homered to kick off the scoring in the fifth, and a few batters later Segura hit a 2-run home run to make it 3-0.  The Rangers got one back in the bottom of the sixth, just in time for all hell to break loose in the top of the seventh.

Segura walked and Haniger doubled to put runners on second & third.  Cano was called out on a check swing by the home plate umpire, and after Cano – seemingly calm and rationally – asked why he didn’t check down with the third base umpire, he was ejected from the game.  It was apparently his first career ejection, which sounds kind of amazing, 13 years in.  With a lefty on the mound, Cruz was intentionally walked to load the bases for Seager, who worked a solid count and hit a good pitch the other way for a 2-run single.  Cruz ended up hustling into third when their third baseman was caught off the bag, then a bad throw allowed Cruz to rumble home and Seager to slide into third.  Valencia then hit a sac fly to score Seager, and Zunino concluded the scoring that inning with another solo blast, this time the opposite way.  Just like that, 3-1 turned into 8-1, and the rest was academic.

I keep saying it, and he keeps doing it:  Mitch Haniger is on a ROLL!  Two more hits, including that double; he is CRUSHING the month of September.  His line, through 12 games:

  • .451/.451/.745/1.196, with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homers, 9 runs, and 8 RBI

If you tack on the last game in August for shits n’ gigs, his line looks like this:

  • .472/.472/.836/1.308, with 6 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers, 11 runs, and 11 RBI

This is fun!  For context, his season numbers have climbed back up to this:

  • .282/.359/.485/.844, with 21 doubles, 2 triples, 12 homers, 50 runs, and 41 RBI

Oh man, I gotta tell you, that’s not bad.  Not bad at all, considering he missed about half the season to various injuries.  I don’t want to give him that out, because if he comes back next year and misses another half season to injuries, then he’s labelled Injury Prone and his numbers don’t mean jack shit; but I will say I’m cautiously optimistic for his future.

While we’re on this train of thought regarding the youth movement on this team, I’d like to call out Mike Zunino for really turning his season around and (hopefully) his career as well!  He’s hit career highs in doubles and homers this season, with 22 and 23 respectively.  More importantly, his slash line is almost EXACTLY where I’ve always said I wanted it to be:  .246/.327/.507/.834.  With his throwing arm, his pitch framing, his blocking ability, and his rapport with the pitching staff, I will take those numbers all day every day!  Now if he can just manage to not completely fall apart these last two weeks, we’re really talking about a season you can be proud of, and certainly something to build upon going forward.

I don’t want to spend all day going up and down the lineup, but I’ll toss in one more kudos to Kyle Seager.  That at bat in the seventh inning was truly remarkable.  Cano had just been thrown out, Cruz had just been intentionally walked, so I’m sure his emotions were all over the place.  He had this hot-head umpire behind him, and a difficult-looking lefty on the mound (who actually legitimately struck Cano out on that check swing; the issue there is – why not just check with the third base ump; it takes two seconds).  Seager got ahead in the count right away, took a vicious crack at an inside fastball that he pulled foul, the count worked its way full, and then the single the other way.  It wasn’t just a lucky swing, where a guy flails at something out of the zone and it accidentally hits the end of the bat and bloops into the outfield; this was a determined strategy and a purposed swing to line drive that ball the opposite way to bring in a couple of runs!  Seager is notorious for pulling the ball – it’s where he generates the overwhelming majority of his power – and he has one of the more pronounced defensive shifts to prove it.  The Rangers weren’t shifting on this play, with the bases loaded, but he still managed to hit it over the short stop’s glove on a line.  I mean, this is like something you’d see out of Ichiro in his prime!

2017 might go down as a bit of a disappointing year for fans when they think about Kyle Seager, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that he’s legitimately gotten better each and every season of his career.  So, to hold steady, or take a step back in a couple areas, it’s tough to swallow.  But, I’ve noticed this year more than any year before, a determined effort by Seager to hit more balls the other way.  To be a more complete hitter, as they say.  I don’t think he’ll ever have really tremendous power the opposite way – particularly with how Safeco is constructed, it’s REALLY hard for lefties to hit them out over the left field fence – but a Kyle Seager who can spray balls to all fields is a dangerous weapon.  Over time, I don’t think it’s crazy to think he could hit more doubles the other way, off the Safeco manual scoreboard and the like.

I dunno.  I’m just happy for him, I guess.  That must take just a ton of work to get better at when you’re at the Major League level.

If you haven’t heard it already, let me be the first to say Happy Felix Day!

Mariners Look Up “Too Little Too Late”, See Their Reflection

It’s nice to see Marco Gonzales have a little success, I guess.  He was still only able to go five innings, but I have to assume that’s because he’s coming from the bullpen and hasn’t yet been stretched out.  Still, 5 innings and 3 runs is far and away his best outing start of the season.  He got into a couple of mini-jams, but was able to get out of them without throwing away the game.  He struck out 6 and walked only 1, while spreading 8 hits around.  And, he got his first win in a Mariners uniform (and his first Major League victory since 2014).  When you tack that onto his 4 shutout innings from his previous appearance, let’s hope that’s the start of a nice, successful run to close out the season.

It’s nice to see the offense bust out in a big way.  Haniger continues to smoke the ball, with 2 more hits (including a double) and 2 more runs scored.  Cano had 3 hits (including a double), with a run and an RBI.  Cruz had 2 hits and 2 runs; Seager hit a 3-run bomb and also scored 2 runs; Ben Gamel also had a 3-run bomb as part of his 3-hit day.  On top of that, Zunino and Alonso both had 2 hits apiece to really drag this game kicking and screaming past the 3-hour mark.

And sure, it’s nice that the dregs of the bullpen mopped up the final four innings without giving up another run.  All in all, it adds up to a nice 10-3 victory for the Mariners, evening up the series, bringing their record to within one game of .500, and maintaining the 3.5 game deficit from the second Wild Card.

All of these are nice things, but they won’t mean a damn thing until the Mariners are able to manage a winning streak.

The encouraging thing is, the Mariners might FINALLY be able to do something here.  It’s going to take everything they have, and if I had to bet the family farm, I’d 100% bet against it happening, but as of the middle of September – with just over 2 weeks left in the season – the Mariners might have finally fleshed out a starting rotation.

I know, right!  But, go with me on this, I’ve had a long day week month life.

Mike Leake has looked awfully solid in his first few starts here.  If he can keep it up, he’s a nice little #3 pitcher for this rotation.  He goes tonight.

Then, there’s Felix.  The last time he came off the DL, he was able to make 8 starts before re-injuring the same body part.  Of those 8 starts, 5 were useable.  Given how late we are in the season, 5 good starts should be plenty.  He goes tomorrow (he’ll be on a limited pitch count for the first game, but that’s what we have all these long relievers for).

Then, we’ve got Paxton kicking off the Houston series.  The last time he came off the DL, he was able to make 14 starts before getting injured again.  Of those 14, 12 were useable.  That’s more than enough.

Then, there’s Erasmo Ramirez.  He never gets injured.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes you just wish he’d go on the DL for the rest of your life.  He’s riding a 6-game Quality Start streak that has to be the best run of pitching in his entire career.  He has almost single-handedly held this rotation together while Felix and Paxton have been gone.  If we have to go with a #4 starter, I’ve seen worse.

Then, there’s TBD.  I’m going to flip the fuck out if Ariel Miranda is still in this rotation come Sunday, because as we’ve clearly seen, both Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore have both pitched excellent in recent games.  Either way, you have to expect Miranda is on the world’s shortest leash; it’s really more of a Chinese finger trap at this point.  I have to expect, if he gets the start, there will be a man warming up in the bullpen right alongside him before the game even gets going.  If you consider the team’s fifth starter just a Bullpen Day for the month of September (knowing full well that if by some miracle the M’s make the playoffs, they’ll never need a fifth starter, and likely won’t even need a fourth), I’d be okay with that.

So, you know, the blueprint is there.  Decent starting pitching, lots of clutch hitting, and the bullpen needs to catch fire the rest of the way.  5 games against the Rangers, 3  against Oakland, 3 against the Angels:  all should be winnable games.  Then, there are 3 against the Astros and 3 against the Indians.  I know the Astros are our kryptonite, but we’re going to have to find a way to win at least 2 of those games this weekend.  And I know the Indians are riding an insane 20-game winning streak, but we just have to hope they cool the fuck off before we play them at home next weekend, and again take 2 of 3.

Realistically, I think the Mariners need to go 13-4 the rest of the way to lock up the second Wild Card.  That would put us at 85-77.  Right now, the Twins (who currently hold that spot) are 75-69, with 18 games to go.  If we went 13-4 and the Twins went only went 9-9, we’d beat them by 1 game.  So, yeah, that’s what we’re looking at.  And let’s not forget the three teams in between us and the Twins (Angels, Rangers & Royals), nor the two teams still hovering around just behind us (Rays & Orioles).

When you lay it all out there like that, it really looks daunting.  It’s different when you see the Mariners are 3.5 games back.  Theoretically, you can make that up in a week!  But, when you factor in how few games are left in the season, and you realize your fate isn’t in your hands anymore, it seems impossible, doesn’t it?  Crazier things have happened, but I have to admit this would be one of the craziest.

What a damn, fucking waste this season has been.

Do The Mariners Have One More Playoff Push In Them?

Last night, the Mariners beat the Angels 8-1 to come within one game of sweeping them in this 3-game series.  A 3-game sweep would, incidentally, put them in a dead heat with the Angels, if they can get there this afternoon.  After today, there are 18 games remaining in this absurd baseball season.  The Mariners are within striking distance at 3 games out, but this is it!  The time to strike is NOW!  The Mariners need to rip off a super hot streak the rest of the way and sprint to this finish line!

We got another impressive start from Andrew Albers, with 6 innings of shutout ball.  Even more impressive was the Mariners’ offense, who ripped off a 6-spot in the bottom of the fourth to put this thing away early.  After Albers, we made it the last three innings with our D-squad bullpen guys (Altavilla, Simmons and Lawrence) just giving up one garbage-time run.

Mitch Haniger was just a double away from the cycle (and one base-runner away from getting a fifth at bat to try to get that double), knocking one in and scoring three times.  Nelson Cruz added another mammoth 3-run homer and Robbie Cano had 3 hits, 2 RBI, and a run scored.  For what it’s worth, Haniger has come back to life lately.  I hope that means he’s fully healthy and getting back to the hitter he was in April (and not, say, just a fluke).

I don’t know how much longer we can ride this gravy train, but Erasmo Ramirez goes for his sixth consecutive quality start this afternoon.  Please, dear God, give this to me!