A Roster Shake-Up & A Mariners Victory

One did not necessarily lead to the other, of course, unless you believe in the motivating factor of roster transactions.

The minor move is that Chase De Jong was sent back down to Tacoma – a day after going 4 scoreless innings in relief of Ariel Miranda – in favor of Chris Heston, another spot starter/long reliever type.  Obviously, this was through no fault of De Jong’s, but simply because after pitching 4 full innings, he wasn’t going to be available in relief again for a few days.  And, with this rotation (specifically with guys like Gallardo, who got the start in yesterday’s game), you never know when you’re going to need an extra reliever.

Also, not for nothing, but De Jong and now Heston are merely keeping this spot warm until Steve Cishek works his way back into MLB playing shape, which is probably a week or so away.

The major move made yesterday was the DFA of Leonys Martin.  That’s a pretty tough pill to swallow.  I wouldn’t say he was a fan favorite or anything, but I’m sure the fans liked him enough.  He played great defense and he had a good run at the plate just last season.  It seemed like just a matter of time before he’d pick it back up at the plate and at least be passable in the everyday lineup.  But, thanks to the Mariners losing 3 in a row in Oakland – and starting off the season 1-9 on the road heading into yesterday’s game – time is exactly something the Mariners DON’T have a lot of.  This season is going down the toilet in a hurry, and we can’t sit around waiting for all of our slumping hitters to get their collective shit together.  In that sense, you could say the DFA of Leonys Martin is just as much about the entire team as it is about Martin’s own deficiencies.  Which, I’m sure, made the move that much more hard to swallow.  Because, while the fans liked him enough, the players and the coaching staff adored this kid, and I’m sure the move was as painful as it gets.

The thing is, I’m not super convinced it’s a moved that needed to be made.  Right now, we’re a team with just three outfielders, that is, until Jean Segura comes back from the DL, which should be any day now.  When Segura returns, you’ve got Motter who can play there too, but he’s a utility guy who can play anywhere.  He’s also the only guy on the roster who can back up at any infield position (assuming Mike Freeman gets sent back to Tacoma upon Segura’s return).  For all intents and purposes, Danny Valencia becomes your traditional fourth outfielder, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him at first base either.

See, the corresponding move with the Leonys Martin DFA is the calling back up of Dan Vogelbach, who hit .309/.409/.473 in Tacoma, with 3 doubles and 2 homers in 16 games.  The talk is, for now, Valencia rides the pine while Vogelbach gets to start every day.  THIS is a move that’s been about a week overdue, but again, I don’t know if it needed to be made at the expense of Martin.

Here are my concerns:

  1. I’m not convinced Guillermo Heredia is an everyday player
  2. I’m not convinced Dan Vogelbach is ready (or will ever be ready) for the Major Leagues
  3. What do we do if Jarrod Dyson gets injured for an extended period of time?
  4. I also lowkey have my doubts about Taylor Motter, as it feels like the other shoe is about to drop anyday now, and we’re in for an extended stretch of no hitting and lots of strikeouts

The Heredia thing, I think, sort of goes without saying, but let me try to elaborate.  I think he’s okay.  I think he’s a fine fifth outfielder, maybe.  He’s been a big help in the early going, and right now I’d say he’s DEFINITELY playing better than Leonys Martin.  But, I think long-term, Heredia isn’t much more than a Quad-A player.  The speed is great, don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t seem to hit it out of the infield very much, and he can’t rely on infield base hits and bunts alone!  He walks about as often as Mike Zunino, which is to say hardly at all, and if he’s not pulling his weight in OBP, I don’t see him adding a whole lot of value with his bat.  He needs to be walking a ton and stealing a ton of bases for him to be an everyday outfielder for us.

The Vogelbach thing, I’ve been harping on for a while.  I just don’t know if he has it.  He’s still pretty young though, so I don’t know if it’s necessarily fair to expect him to have it right out of the gate.  I think he’s going to struggle at least in this early going, which means he’ll fall back into the platoon they’d planned for him and Valencia in the first place.  You gotta figure, at some point, Valencia is going to start hitting for us, and the more he does that, the more he’s going to see the field.  At which point, you’ve sort of got Vogelbach here as a lefty pinch hit bat off the bench.  Is that worth giving up on Leonys Martin?

Because, yeah, what if Dyson has to go on the DL for something?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have Martin there, with everyday playing experience?  Without Martin, I guess you slide over Heredia, and maybe call up Ben Gamel as an extra outfielder.  Is that a better situation than what you would’ve had with Martin?

And, if everything else works out, Vogelbach takes the first base job and runs with it, and the rest of our infield stays healthy, that means Motter effectively becomes your left fielder.  But, does increased playing time for Motter equate to decreased production at the plate? You figure pitchers are going to figure him out EVENTUALLY.  Does he have what it takes to re-adjust?  Or, will he flail along and watch his strikeouts skyrocket?

To counter all of my hemming and hawing, you’re probably right to ask:  what would I have done differently?

Well, for starters, do we REALLY need 8 relievers?  I think it was a smart idea to kick off the season, as the starters generally need some time to build their arms up and get their innings-counts up to snuff, but I feel like we’re there now.  Granted, Paxton and Miranda gave us some pretty shitty starts in that Oakland series, but it’s not like the bullpen has been notoriously over-worked or anything!  For the first three weeks of the season, they’ve split a pretty average workload among 8 people instead of 7 (more, really, when you count the guys coming and going from Tacoma).  There’s only been the one extra-innings game, in the third game of the season.  They had a huge homestand and one day off, with another off day scheduled today (and the next two Mondays to boot).  We could have EASILY made it through the next few days (or however long it will take for Segura to come off the DL) with just 7 relievers.  Then, when Segura is ready to return, we send Freeman down like planned, and keep going with a full bench and lots of different lineup options.

Facing a right-handed pitcher?  With Martin in the fold, you can go:  Segura, Haniger, Cano (L), Cruz, Seager (L), Vogelbach (L), Zunino, Dyson (L), Martin (L), with over half your lineup batting from the left side.  Facing a lefty?  You can go Segura, Haniger, Cano (L), Cruz, Seager (L), Motter, Valencia, Zunino, Heredia, with Heredia in center and Motter in left.  I dunno, I’m just spit-balling here, but with Martin you’ve got extra speed on your bench, another lefty hitter for late in games, and extra defense in case the unthinkable happens.  Instead, you waive him for nothing and hope no other team picks him up, and that he’s willing to play for you in Tacoma until it’s time to call him up again.  Seems like a longshot.

***

As for yesterday’s game, it was an 11-1 Mariners victory, to salvage at least not getting swept by the fucking A’s.  For what it’s worth, the Mariners are now 5-9 against the American League West, which obviously is far from ideal.  Also, the Mariners are tied for last in the division with the Angels at 8-12, good for third-worst in the entire league.

Motter hit a grand slam and Cruz hit a 3-run homer.  They combined for 9 of the 11 RBI.  Vogelbach had his first hit and RBI of the season, and played just fine at first base.  Seager had a minor hip issue that kept him from starting, but he was available to pinch hit if needed.  Considering he wasn’t, it’s nice that he has these back-to-back days off heading into the Detroit series.

On the pitching side of things, we finally got a good start out of Gallardo, going 6.1 innings, giving up 1 run on 4 hits, with 1 walk and 7 strikeouts.  Zych, Scrabble, and Scribner wiped out the later innings with no damage done.

So, the Mariners need to figure out how to win on the road.  Remember last year, when it was the opposite, and the Mariners had trouble winning at home in the early going?  They were 1-5 in their first home series last year, whereas they were 8-4 on the road and would go on into May 18-7 on the road before coming down to Earth.  How far down?  The 2016 Mariners finished 7 games over .500 at home, and only 3 games over .500 on the road.  That’s because most teams, by and large, are better at home than they are on the road.  So, you could sort of see a turnaround in the 2016 Mariners’ home record coming, even if it did take a while.  Which means the hot start on the road was VERY much to their benefit, and a big reason why they were able to stay in contention for so long.

This year, the Mariners are 6-3 at home, and now 2-9 on the road.  That’s pretty terrible, because while you would expect the Mariners to be good at home, it’s also not inconceivable that the Mariners might be this bad on the road.  In an ideal world, I think you want the Mariners to hover around .500 on the road, and be really good at home; in this world, it’s going to take A LOT of winning to get back to .500 on the road, and it’s going to take maintaining a lot of winning to stay really good at home.  None of this bodes well, and it’s starting to become clear to me that 2017 is going to be a lot like 2015, 2010, and 2008.  Recall those were all years where we were coming off of winning seasons, with heightened expectations, and collapsing under the weight of said expectations.  Same team, different GM/Manager combo.  God I hope I’m wrong.

God Dammit, Mariners

Predictably, Ariel Miranda stunk yesterday, giving up 4 runs in 3 innings.  Also predictably, Oakland’s starter gave them a quality start.  And, once again, the Mariners’ offense didn’t have it, leading to a 4-3 loss.

Chase De Jong was called up to replace Dan Altavilla, who as I noted before really needed to be sent down to Tacoma to get right.  De Jong – who was the hard luck loser in that extra innings game in the first series of the year in Houston – rebounded nicely, going 4 shutout innings of relief yesterday to at least keep the team in it.  Alas, it wasn’t enough.

I heard Dan Vogelbach was pulled from the game yesterday, so we might be seeing him come up to replace someone!  Someone who has been stinking up the joint at first base, no doubt!  I’m looking at you, Danny Valencia, you turd!

Yovani Gallardo, who’s terrible, is going for us today, against probably Oakland’s best healthy starter in Andrew Triggs.  So, go ahead and bet the farm on the Mariners somehow winning this one, because that’s just how stupid baseball works.

Of Course The Mariners Lost That Game To The A’s

The Mariners had everything going for them.  Best pitcher in the game through three starts going up against a guy who hadn’t cracked the Majors since 2010.  A quality lineup that had just put up a 10-spot the night before.  The overwhelming majority of the Athletics lineup being average-to-below-average thus far this season.  Everything about this matchup screamed a Mariners victory.

So, yeah, the M’s lost 9-6.  Makes sense.

I kinda want to just throw up my hands and say, “Hey, Paxton just didn’t have it!  It happens!”  But, the first time through the lineup, he actually DID have it.  His scoreless streak to start the season didn’t get snapped until the third inning.  From that point to the end of his night, he was rocked like we haven’t seen since last season.  Four hits in the third tied the game at 3-3, then Paxton settled back down to get out of the fourth inning 1-2-3, then three more hits, a 2-base error, a sac fly, and a walk into the bottom of the fifth inning and he had to be pulled.  The A’s had a 5-3 lead by that point, and cue the “That Escalated Quickly” memes.

But, it DID escalate quickly!  Going into the bottom of the third, the game was going according to plan.  Dyson led off the game with a single, tagged up on a deep fly ball to right, then scored on a Cano RBI single.  Then, in the second, a Motter leadoff double eventually came around to score on a Zunino double.  Leonys Martin, who got on with a fielder’s choice, ended up scoring on an RBI single by Dyson to make the game 3-0.  This was it!  We were exposing an over-matched career minor leaguer in Cesar Valdez, Paxton was dealing, and this game would slowly unravel as a dominating Mariners victory.

Flash forward what felt like 90 seconds, and there we were, down 5-3, needing a Monster Motter 2-run homer to tie the game back up.  From there, it felt like the game could’ve gone any number of directions.  Obviously, the offense was still humming along, and if the bullpen could just keep a lid on things, it was only a matter of time before the Mariners tacked on the game-winning run.

What it ended up being was only a matter of time before the A’s put the M’s away.  The very next half-inning, in fact, when Scribner let the leadoff man get to third base with one out, who ended up scoring on a sac ground out.  The game wouldn’t become out of reach until the next inning, when Dan Altavilla – after getting the leadoff out – walked two guys and surrendered a 3-run homer.  Altavilla, it would seem, has a lot of problems right now.  A lot of problems that will likely require a stint with Tacoma to rectify, because I don’t see how you can trust him in a close game right now, with how his last four appearances have gone.

I turned the game off and went to bed after that.  Sure it was a risk; it wasn’t IMPOSSIBLE that the Mariners would put up a 4-banger to tie the game back up, but I was tired and didn’t much feel like waiting around for that remote possibility.  So, I missed Evan Marshall’s scoreless inning of relief.  And I missed the little mini-rally started by Valencia’s double (who would go on to score to make the final 9-6) in the ninth inning.

The best part of baseball is that there’s almost always another game to play the very next day.  Well, I’ve got good news and bad news:  the good news is this holds true – there is another game tonight – but the bad news is that Felix and Paxton have already pitched the last two days, and we’re staring down the barrel of an Iwakuma-Miranda-Gallardo weekend.  In Oakland, who will probably sweep us right on out of town and into yet another shame spiral.

As it turns out, the worst part of baseball is that there’s almost always another game to play the very next day.  Who knew?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners Broke Up A No-Hitter In The 9th Inning, Still Lost

There isn’t much to say about this one.  Wei-Yin Chen no-hit the Mariners through 7 innings, then was mystifyingly pulled for a reliever after 100 pitches (because that’s the world we live in now, apparently), then the 8th inning guy went 1-2-3, and then with one out in the 9th inning Mitch Haniger hit a double to right center to keep a no-hitter off the books.

If it wasn’t obvious, Haniger was the only guy to have a relatively good day, as he also took a walk.  But, I mean, it is what it is, I guess.  In spite of the fact the Mariners are no longer so lefty-heavy in their lineup, they still struggle against average left-handed pitchers (on the year:  .167/.286/.233).  Chen is absolutely nothing special, until you put him in front of a bunch of Mariners, and then he’s the best pitcher alive.

On the flipside, Gallardo went 6 innings, giving up 4 runs on 9 hits, with 3 strikeouts and 0 walks.  When you look at his numbers like that, they don’t look SO bad for a #5 starter; given some of the real duds the Mariners have employed over the years in that spot, it’s actually kind of okay!  All you really ever hope for is that he “keeps you in the ballgame,” but at no point did it ever feel like the Mariners were in this one.

The Marlins scored a run in the first on a bad luck infield single chopped too high for anyone to make a play.  With no outs at that point, it was a minor miracle Gallardo was able to get out of the inning without more damage.  The Marlins put two more runners on in the second and bunted them over into scoring position, but when Dee Gordon’s 1-out bunt went right back to the pitcher for the second out of the inning, it looked like Gallardo might wiggle out of danger.  Then, a wild pitch brought in the runner from third and suddenly it was 2-0.

Then the Marlins hit a 2-run homer in the third inning, and it never really felt all that close after that.

What are you gonna do, you know?  These games happen.  Winning streaks have to end at some point; in this case it ended after 4 games.  We get Felix on the mound this afternoon, then we start a 4-game series in Oakland.  Since I’m going to be working this afternoon, and thus won’t have a chance to watch the game, maybe for tomorrow’s recap I’ll try to do some sort of Oakland A’s preview.  Feels like an important series, like a good way to make up some ground in the A.L. West and put one of our foes to bed early.

Mariners Wore Their Big Boy Pants, Beat Up Marlins

As I noted on Twitter last night, the Mariners’ hitting with runners in scoring position has gone up 40 points in the last two days.  Shocking, right?  They should change the sport’s name from Baseball to Regression To The Mean.

All it took was going 8 for 19 with RISP to bump it up from .157 to .197.  They still have a way to go to get back to league average, so it’s probably reasonable to expect many more fine offensive days to come.

I fully understand that nobody who’s anybody really cares about batting average with RISP as a stat, because they see it as just hitting.  Good hitters are going to be better with RISP than bad hitters, and it all evens out in the end.  But, I think it’s important.  We talk all the time about pitchers – particularly relievers – in high-leverage situations.  Well, what’s a batter walking to the plate with a runner on second or third base if not a high-leverage situation?

The fact of the matter is, every hitter has the same goal:  get on base.  Take what the pitcher gives you and work a walk, bloop a single, line a double, or destroy a homer.  But, there are always variables.  What’s the score?  A guy is apt to try a little harder in a 0-0 game than he is in a 10-0 game, regardless of whether his team is winning or losing.  Is a runner on base?  Well, that’s an RBI opportunity!  Say what you will about baseball players, but they love batting runners in.  Is that runner on second or third base?  Well, shoot, then all the batter needs to do is hit a single into the outfield to get him home!  Your approach changes depending on the situation.  And, factoring in game score, time of the year, whether your team is in contention for the playoffs or not, the pressure is ramped up.

On the flipside, the pitcher doesn’t want to give up those runners in scoring position!  They’re trying to preserve their ERAs!  So, they’re going to bear down, so to speak.  They’re going to focus a little bit harder on making good pitches to get the batter to do what they want them to do.

And, since the name of the game is to score more runs than your opponent, I’d say hitting with RISP is a pretty important aspect to the game of baseball.  So, I think keeping track of the day-to-day on this thing brings value.  If nothing else, I hope to gain a little more understanding about the game I’ve been following for so long.

Last night, the Mariners came to play from the jump.  Dyson walked to lead off and Cano ended up bringing him home with a 2-run moon shot to right-center.  Cruz followed that up with a blast of his own to make it 3-0.  Thankfully, the Mariners were able to add on, with two more runs in the fourth and one more in the fifth.

In the fourth, Martin got a single and stole second, before advancing to third on a poor pick-off move by the pitcher.  From there, Dyson hit a double down the line the other way, then proceeded to score on a double by Cano that was very close to being his second homer of the night.

In the fifth, Taylor Motter joined the party with a towering homer to left field in the upper deck.  Good golly Miss Molly is this kid fun to watch.

On the pitching side of things, Ariel Miranda had his best outing of the season.  He was perfect into the fourth inning, got into a little bit of a jam with 2 outs in the sixth (giving up back-to-back singles), but got out of it and made it through seven scoreless innings, with 5 strikeouts and 0 walks, on only 4 hits.  Outstanding!

It’s too early to get too excited about Miranda’s performance last night, particularly after his first two underwhelming starts.  But, he’ll be one to watch going forward.  With Smyly injured, with Iwakuma hit or miss, and with Gallardo not likely to impress too much, it’ll be important for Miranda to pick up some of the slack.  For what it’s worth, he looked as good as I’ve ever seen him last night.  Fastball touched 95, he was locating well, and for the most part he kept his off-speed stuff down in the zone.  The key is to do that every time, or most every time.  Up next for him is a game in Oakland; they don’t strike me as an offensive juggernaut.

Nick Vincent and Evan Scribner each got an inning of work.  They were the only two bullpen guys not to appear on Sunday, so that’s fine.  Scribner gave up a hard-luck homer the opposite way in the 9th.  I thought his stuff looked good, I just thought the guy hit a quality pitch out of the park.

I hope the offense continues its hot streak tonight, with Gallardo on the mound.  I’ll never know what to expect from him, but hopefully he’s able to get on track a little bit.

Blowing A 5-Run Lead For The Mariners Is Child’s Play

Much like the night before, this game started off pretty promising.  The offense jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Mike Freeman hit his first-ever Major League home run in the second inning, and Taylor Motter – the untamable beast – hit a 2-run homer in the third inning to really set things up nicely.  Yovani Gallardo was cruising along, so it should’ve been a cinch for him to go 6 innings and get that quality start.  And, from there, surely our finest bullpen arms would be able to put the game away easy peasy!

Except, starting in the fourth inning, Gallardo decided to give the whole lead away.  Two runs in the fourth & two more in the fifth made it 5-4 Mariners, but at least Gallardo got to qualify for the win!  Because that’s fucking important!  Not the fact that he clearly lost his command way back in the fourth inning and probably should’ve been pulled before he could do any more damage!

But, where would that get us?  As it was, we pulled him after five, and the bullpen STILL managed to more than give the game away.  Scrabble kept it tight in the sixth inning, but Dan Altavilla – ostensibly our best reliever after our closer – wiped away everything by giving up 3 runs in the seventh.  After that, I just turned the fucking game off.

I mean, the game was already a collosal bore, dragging on WAY too long thanks to both starters futzing around on the mound all damn day.  There was no way the Mariners were going to get that lead back.  When the dregs of the bullpen gave up 3 more runs in the eighth, let’s just say I wasn’t surprised.

The obvious point of contention is to look at the offense that didn’t do a God damn thing after the third inning.  That isn’t the way to put most teams away, let alone the Astros who are really fucking good and really have our fucking number.  But, it’s not like there were tons of opportunities.  After the third inning, the Mariners never had more than 1 baserunner in an inning, and all told spread out just three hits.

Quite frankly, this is the type of game I expected to see a lot of this season.  Crappy starting pitching followed by really sketchy bullpen pitching.  The offense did enough to win on many days, but obviously 5 runs isn’t going to cut it every time out for this pitching staff.

This thing sort of goes deeper though.  We’ve had to count on A LOT of young arms this year, less than two weeks in.  Altavilla is 24, having just made the jump from AA late last year.  Dillon Overton is 25 and has just 9 Major League appearances to his name.  Evan Marshall is 26, and has just one full Major League season under his belt.  James Pazos is 25 and had just 18 Major League appearances before this season.  Chase De Jong is just 23 and made his Major League debut in that extra innings Houston loss.  And, hell, our closer, Edwin Diaz is only 23 and is still more or less getting his feet wet as he made the jump from AA last year.  So, you know, don’t be shocked if you see these guys come up here and struggle from time to time.  Also, don’t be shocked if some or all of them ultimately flame out, because we simply don’t know how they’re going to respond when they get punched in the mouth like they’ve been recently.

Also, not for nothing, but the veterans we’ve sprinkled in around them haven’t exactly been world-beaters.  Aside from Scrabble – who’s pitched 2.1 innings in 4 appearances – we’re talking about Nick Vincent (very underwhelming), Evan Scribner (far from ideal), and Casey Fien (who was just outrighted to Tacoma to make room for Evan Marshall on the 25-man roster, and Boog Powell on the 40-man roster).

I’ll say this, the team could REALLY use Tony Zych and Steve Cishek back and healthy.

On the offensive side of things, I can’t help but be dazzled by Taylor Motter, who has 4 doubles and a homer in the last two days.  I said it before, kind of joking, but now I’m serious:  he NEEDS to be the everyday first baseman as long as he’s hitting like this.  Between him and Haniger, they’re in the early running for Biggest Pleasant Surprises (the Dae-ho Lee Award).  The longer Motter hits, the more the team is going to have to play him.  If he becomes a starter (either at first base or in the outfield), we’re going to be talking about this past offseason for many years to come.  Two very big black holes are currently being filled by Motter and Haniger, and if they continue to play well for a full season, it’s going to bode REALLY well for our chances down the stretch.

First thing’s first:  start taking care of business in the division.

Today is an off-day, which I’d say the Mariners desperately need.  Here’s to hoping this weekend goes better than last weekend.

What Are You Supposed To Do With A Mariners Offense Playing Like This?

At some point this week, I decided I’d take it upon myself to post a recap of all the Mariners games, even on *shudder* the weekends.  Someone needs to slap some sense into me, preferably with a couple of perky C’s.

I don’t know what to tell you.  5 hits in a 5-1 defeat to the thoroughly unimpressive Angels.  1 for 7 with runners in scoring position, another 7 left on base.  I mean, what is this?  Is this Spring Training fatigue?  The fact that these guys have been away from home for so long, and now the MLB schedule-makers have tacked on an extra 7 days to this living nightmare?  Will a simple matter of some home cooking turn this thing around?

God, I hope it doesn’t take that long.  Going 1-6 in your first week isn’t an insurmountable mountain to climb, but it sure as shit makes life unnecessarily difficult.

I mean, it’s one thing to see Kyle Seager struggle in the early going; we’ve come to expect that at this point.  And we all knew the outfield would be a bit of a depressing mixed bag at the plate (currently hitting a collective 8 for 59 (.136) with 5 walks, 2 doubles, 1 homer, and 18 strikeouts).  But, I think what’s most alarming is the funk that Cano and Cruz have been in through 5 games.

Those are our rocks!  Our studs!  Our superstars!  6 hits in 39 at-bats (.154) with 2 doubles, 0 homers, 1 RBI, 5 walks, and a whopping 13 strikeouts.  I know 5 games is a small sample size and everything, but come on!

Really, you can go up and down the lineup and pull these lunatic numbers that make you wonder just what sort of fresh hell we’re in for this season, so I won’t bombard you with all the misery.  I will say that I have no problem with Segura so far; I like that Seager has at least taken the most walks on the team to feature the highest OBP (.364), even though he’s only batting .125; and I’m starting to come around to Mitch Haniger (who leads the team in extra-base hits with 2) mostly because he seems to also have a good command of the strike zone with a .333 OBP.

As far as last night’s game is concerned, we got our first look at Yovani Gallardo.  I came away not totally sick to my stomach!  Granted, he went 5 innings and gave up 3 runs (being pulled in the bottom of the 6th with no outs after giving up a solo homer and a hard-hit single) while only throwing 90 pitches, but there were issues outside of his control that severely altered the course of the game for him.

In the bottom of the first, Gallardo gave up a leadoff single, followed by an ever-so-unfortunate double to Kole Calhoun (opposite field, against the outfield shift, just BARELY touching the chalk of the left field foul line before bouncing into the stands).  If that ball lands foul, who knows where the inning takes him?  Even still, with no outs and runners on 2nd & 3rd, he only gave up a sac fly to Mike Trout before getting out of the inning.

Then, in the bottom of the third, disaster.  A couple of singles and a strikeout preceeded Trout coming to bat.  After spotting him a 3-0 count, the Mariners intentionally walked him to get to Albert Pujols with 1 out and the bases loaded.  Pujols obliged about as well as you could ask for with a weak grounder right at Kyle Seager.  It was a tailor-made double play ball to get out of the inning still down 1-0.  Instead, Seager totally biffed it, allowing a run to score with the bases still loaded.  I couldn’t tell you how many pitches that cost Gallardo in his pitch count, but he ended up striking out the very next batter before getting out of the bases loaded jam with a ground ball to third.

And you may say, “Well, his pitch count stalled at 90 anyway, so it’s not like he was THAT over-worked,” but I’ll say this:  pitches in high-pressure situations like that, with the bases loaded and less than 2 outs, count A LOT more than pitches with nobody on base.  Sure, it was mostly his doing that got the bases loaded in the first place, but in the end, he induced a ground ball that should’ve been a double play and instead was a fielder’s choice/error that got no one out.  That’s not on Gallardo.

All in all, I thought Gallardo looked okay.  I saw him touch 94mph on the gun, he was usually in the lower 90s with his fastball, and he was able to work both up and down in the zone to pretty solid effect.  I mean, he’s never going to be anything amazing, but he’s a veteran 5th starter, so a lot of his starts are going to look like this.  He’s going to spread around a bunch of hits, hopefully not walk too many, and usually keep you in enough ballgames to justify his roster spot.  Think of a Kevin Millwood or a Chris Young type moreso than a Wade Miley or a Joe Saunders type.  At least, that’s my hope.

Casey Fien looked pretty good in his first inning of relief, then gave up a 2-run homer in his second inning of relief.  But, he’s not really a guy you’re going to count on in the 8th inning of a game you’re winning; he’s a guy you’re going to see in games like this, where we’re losing but hoping he can keep it close enough for us to come back.  I think the jury is still out on him, but I also don’t see him going anywhere anytime soon, even with Tony Zych set to rejoin the Mariners at some point in the next week or two.

Finally, Dillon Overton got his first inning of relief in the soft landing we unfortunately couldn’t give to Chase De Jong.  Overton gave up a meaningless single and netted 2 strikeouts, but I couldn’t tell you how he looked because I turned off the TV after that 2-run homer Fien gave up.

Felix Day today.  Let’s hope he doesn’t have to cover first base.

The Official 2017 Seattle Mariners Preview, Part II: The Pitchers

You can read Part I HERE.

There are two ways this thing can go down in 2017:  either the Mariners break the curse and make it back into the post-season, or they don’t and the pitching is entirely to blame.

Now, there are also two ways that previous sentence can go down in 2017:  either I’m right, or the Mariners will find another way to screw both me and the entire fanbase by having good-enough pitching and yet still not making the playoffs somehow, but that’s neither here nor there.

It’s already starting, if I’m being honest, with all this Drew Smyly stuff (UPDATE:  out 6-8 weeks).  Why is it, in sports, that it always seems like teams suffer the most injuries at the spots they can least afford to suffer injuries?  It’s like the man with one leg who sprains his good ankle.  I mean, seriously, what the fuck?

It’s unfair to pin your hopes on one guy, but I have a feeling Smyly was going to be a key cog in our rotation.  Obviously, our chances start with what we get from Felix.  He needs to bounce back in a major way and be that Ace we’ve seen from him before.  Then, you figure the next guy up – the guy who has the biggest opportunity to really explode (in a good way) and possibly climb into that Ace realm – is James Paxton.  The variance on that guy ranges from Top End Starter all the way to Injured Waste of Space, with a lot of options in between.  Then, I always figured Smyly had the next-highest variance of possibilities on the team.  He was an erstwhile top prospect who has had success in this league, and it wasn’t hard to picture it all coming together for him.  If you could work out a Big Three of sorts in our rotation with Felix, Paxton, and Smyly, with those guys carrying the major load, you’d take what you could get out of Kuma and Gallardo and probably walk away with something resembling 90+ wins (depending on how the bullpen shakes out).

Kuma and Gallardo, by the by, have the least amount of variance on the team.  You know what you’re going to get with those guys, and as long as it’s something approaching .500 ball, you’ll take it and you’ll fucking like it.

But, now this Smyly thing happened, and we’ve already got to dip into our starting pitching reserves.  The only question now is, how long until disaster strikes again, and will Smyly be back in time to pick up the slack?

As for the bullpen, buckle up buckaroos!

There’s actually a lot to like about this unit, all things considered, but a lot of things would have to break right to expect these guys to be totally lockdown.  Edwin Diaz, for as talented as he is, is still going to be something of a rollercoaster.  Looking beyond just the Opening Day roster, Steve Cishek figures to have a major role in the back-end of the bullpen when he gets fully healthy and ready to fire, and we’ve all seen the kinds of meltdowns he’s capable of.  I look forward to Evan Scribner being a calming, dominant presence – based on his September last year and his Spring Training this year – but we don’t really know!  We’ve yet to see him when the games REALLY start to matter (while the Mariners were still “in contention” last September, it was going to take a minor miracle for them to claw all the way back into post-season play).  We better hope Scribner has what it takes, because Nick Vincent has looked like warm, hittable garbage this spring, and his stuff wasn’t all that good to begin with.  I have a feeling Vincent won’t be on the team by season’s end.  That Scrabble guy was our major bullpen free agent signing, to be our primary lefty reliever, and he’s certainly had his ups and downs.  You don’t sign a guy like him for 2 years and $11 million just to be a fucking LOOGY, so he better figure the fuck out how to limit the damage from right-handed hitters, because so far this spring they’re responsible for ALL of the runs he’s given up.

On the plus side, some of the younger guys look better than expected.  Dan Altavilla has all but won himself a spot on the team.  Tony Zych is also working his way back from injury, and should play a big role in this bullpen when he’s ready.  James Pazos is another lefty the team is looking at long and hard, though he’s suffering many of the same complications as Scrabble, with right-handed hitters bashing the shit out of him.  With someone like Pazos, though, I don’t think you mind as much letting him be a LOOGY for a while, to get his feet wet and build his confidence (especially if this team goes with 8-man bullpens for various stretches of the season).  Beyond that, you’ve got any number of non-roster guys who are doing great, but I’m having a hard time figuring out who’s slated to be in a minor league rotation vs. who’s fodder for our bullpen should the need arise.

Bottom line with these guys, I think the bullpen is good enough to get us there.  I would be legitimately surprised (and yet, as a longtime Mariners fan, not surprised whatsoever) if the bullpen totally fell apart like it did in 2015.

What is a concern is not just the rotation underperforming, but their underperformance having a drastically negative impact on our bullpen.  A dominant bullpen can carry the load for a short period of time, if the rotation goes into a slump (which always happens, at one point or another, on every team).  But, if the bullpen is expected to carry this pitching staff over a super-long stretch of games, it’s ultimately going to get over-worked and severely lose its effectiveness.  So, yeah, the bullpen COULD struggle when all is said and done, but you have to look at the whole picture and decide:  are these guys just duds, or did the rotation totally screw them over?

I keep going back and forth with my predictions for this team.  I know when I was in Reno, I thought the bet of over 85.5 wins was pretty solid.  But, I didn’t think it was solid enough to actually put my own money on it, so do with that what you will.  My feeling on the Mariners seems to change with my mood.  When I’m happy, I can see this team winning over 90 games and going pretty far.  When I’m unhappy, work is getting to me, and I’m obsessing over the 5,000th consecutive overcast day in fucking SEATTLE GOD DAMN WASHINGTON FUCK ME WHY DON’T I MOVE TO SAN DIEGO AND GET AWAY FROM ALL THIS BULLSHIT … my outlook on the Mariners’ prospects tends to swirl down the toilet along with my disposition.

I WANT to believe!  But, I’ve been burned time and time and time and time again.  Sometimes I think it’s safer just to predict another 80-something win season where the Mariners fall oh so short of the Wild Card.  I also think it’s safer because I worry if I predict a World Series championship, I’m jinxing the team, because I’m clinically insane.  Besides, if I go with everyone else and just say the Mariners will win 85 games, I can be pleasantly surprised if I’m wrong and they win more.

Well, I’m not going to do that this year.  THIS time, I’m actually going to go out on a ledge and risk looking QUITE the fool!  95 wins!  I say this not with excitement for what’s about to happen, or with the blind enthusiasm of a mental patient, but with terse resentment and overwhelming expectations.

You fucking owe this to us, Mariners!  I’m tired of pussy-footing around and blindly hoping for a “fun summer” or whatever.  I don’t just want you to keep things interesting until football season rolls around.  Fuck football season!  It’s not like the Seahawks are elite anymore anyway!  We’re all deluding ourselves in believing this team’s championship window is still open; they’ve been on a downward spiral since they beat Denver 43-8.  The Seahawks are old news; it’s the Mariners’ time now!

And we’ve put up with too much of your bullshit to let this thing go on one more season.  You better be great, you better take care of business in this division, and you better deliver the fucking goods come playoff time!  Because I’m sick and tired of carrying a torch for this team!  I want lots of wins and lots of success!

And baseball gods, if you’re listening, you can eat all the world’s dicks, because you fucking owe us too!  The Mariners have been baseball’s whipping boys since forever.  Even when we were good, we were morbidly unlucky!  It’s about time the Mariners defied all expectations, guys out-performed projections, and the team stayed mostly-healthy.  This Smyly shit will not stand!  I want GOOD luck from here on out!

I think I’m losing my mind, you guys, so I’m going to wrap this up.  Just a couple things to keep an eye on before I go.

The current odds for the Mariners to win the World Series is 30 to 1.  I think the odds were lower when I was in Reno (maybe 20 or 25 to 1).  I was thinking, with the way I like to throw money around when I’m down there, of putting $1,000 on this, just to see if I could see a miracle in my lifetime.  I didn’t, of course, but that’ll be something to look back on should something wonderful happen in 2017.

Also, the odds for Nelson Cruz to hit the most home runs in the Major Leagues was a whopping 20 to 1.  Last year, Cruz was second with 43, behind Mark Trumbo’s 47.  The year before that, Cruz was second with 44, behind Chris Davis’ 47.  The year before that, Cruz was first with 40.  Again, we’re talking among the entire Major Leagues!  He’s been 2nd, 2nd, and 1st in the last three years.  This spring, he looks just as good as ever, if not even better somehow.  Would THAT have been a good bet to throw $1,000 on?  I think it’s infinitely more likely to happen than the Mariners winning the World Series, so you could say I’ve been kicking myself for the last two weeks for not throwing money down on Cruz.  We’ll just see, I guess.

There was also a bet to see who could get more combined hits, home runs, and RBIs between Kyle Seager and his brother.  I think the younger Seager is a lock on that one; easiest money I ever left on the table.

How Are The Mariners’ Pitchers Looking Thus Far?

In case you missed it yesterday, here are some random thoughts on some random hitters.  Today, we’ll dig into some random thoughts on some random pitchers, which is significantly more problematic, because we’re talking about an even smaller sample size.  Also, not for nothing, but this WBC thing is throwing everything off.  I mean, go Dominican Republic and everything, but tell me when this is over so we can focus on getting the Mariners back into the post-season!

It’s also difficult to formulate an opinion on the pitchers because by and large the pitchers getting the most appearances are the guys least likely to stick with the Big League club.  I’m more interested in the guys who will actually be Mariners this year, so let’s talk about some of them.

Probably the guy generating the most interest is Felix.  This is also probably the guy who will be toughest to predict heading into the regular season.  The King is the epitome of a veteran just getting his work in.  He got a jump on matters, as he was preparing to play in the WBC this year.  His two spring starts were pretty mediocre, and he followed that up with a mediocre start in his first WBC appearance for Venezuela, going 2.2 innings, giving up 2 runs, 1 earned, while striking out 3 and walking 2.  Tough to say if the lack of command is a holdover from a year ago, or just part of ramping up for the season ahead, but you can’t say he was “just getting his work in” in this case.  I have to imagine if Felix is going to participate in the WBC, he’s going to be trying his hardest.  In which case, maybe we should be a little nervous?  We’ll see how he looks in his next outing.  For what it’s worth, there’s been a slight uptick in his velocity by about 1 mph, which would be great if that continues, as he generally sees his velocity increase as the season goes along.

Sticking with the WBC guys, let’s look at Yovani Gallardo next.  His first appearance in Spring Training was something of a disaster, giving up 4 runs in 1 inning of work, but he followed that up with a nice 3-inning, 1-hit, no-runs appearance before going off to play for Mexico.  In his lone start in the WBC, he went 4 innings, giving up 4 runs on 3 homers.  He did strike out 5 while walking 0, so while it’s not anything to write home about, I’m also not ready to write him off either.

It’s my understanding that Drew Smyly hasn’t appeared in the WBC yet, but he’s set to go this week.  Either way, in two Spring Training starts, he’s yet to give up a run over 5 innings, so that’s really promising.  Paxton’s numbers are a little less encouraging from a pure runs perspective, but he’s got 7 K’s to 1 walk in his 5 innings of work thus far.  He also looks better than he did at this time last year, which is important because he started out the regular season last year in Tacoma.

Of course, I had to pick today to write about the pitchers, a day after the single worst pitching performance of the entire spring in losing 24-3 to the Brewers.  Hisashi Iwakuma was no small part in yesterday’s “effort”, giving up 7 runs in 2.2 innings.  One start prior to that, he gave up 0 runs in 2 innings.  And, in his first spring start, he gave up 1 run in 2 innings.  All in all, I don’t think you take much away from a start like yesterday’s or Spring Training in general when it comes to Kuma.  He is who he is.  Sometimes that’s dominating, sometimes that’s terrible.

As for the bullpen, Edwin Diaz has yet to give up a run in 2 appearances with the Mariners and 1 with Puerto Rico.  A lot of the younger guys slated to start in the minors are putting up some bonkers numbers as well.  That’s probably important, because some of our veteran guys are looking pretty crappy thus far.  Nick Vincent has given up runs in each of his three appearances so far.  Marc Rzepczynski had a disasterous first appearance before settling down for 3 scoreless appearances.  Dan Altavilla’s overall numbers are hampered by one bad inning as well.  And, Ariel Miranda was cruising right along until he hit a speedbump over the weekend.  There is a lot to like about what Scribner has brought to the table, though.

Again, you really can’t learn a whole lot about a pitching staff after 3 appearances apiece, so consider this to be a VERY premature look at some of the guys we’ll be counting upon in the regular season.  By the end of the month, hopefully things will round into shape and we’ll have a good idea of what we’ve got with this team.