I TOLD YOU I’D SHOOT, BUT YOU DIDN’T BELIEVE ME! WHY DIDN’T YOU BELIEVE ME?
Yesterday, I hit upon the good things we’ve seen in this Mariners season. Today: the rest.
Like yesterday, let’s start on the hitting side. Nori Aoki is the obvious huge disappointment, as he entered this season on the heels of not only a fruitful career in Japan, but a solid and productive 4-year MLB career as he bounced around from the Brewers to the Royals to the Giants. I mean, like clockwork, the guy was batting in the .280’s every season, with solid on-base numbers, minimal power, and enough defense to make the whole package pretty enticing. This year, however, his power has gone completely in the toilet, and his batting average is 40 points lower than normal. His stolen base output has declined every year since coming to America, and this year is no exception, as he has 4 stolen bases against 7 caught stealing. His left field defense is suspect at best, and his centerfield defense was a God damn neverending sewage-eating contest. It’s been so bad for Aoki this year that he was sent down to Tacoma (where, to his credit, he’s regained some of his old form at the plate, albeit in only 11 games), which all points to one thing: age. He’s 34 years old, and it’s very reasonable to boil all this down to him just being on the downslope of his career. Don’t take it hard, Aoki, plenty of players even better than you have come to Seattle in their twilight years only to die the True Death.
Adam Lind is my other everyday player (or quasi-everyday) catching some shade today, although I have a hard time really disliking the guy. He seems like a really cool dude, and I like him as a player a helluva lot more than I did Smoak, LoMo, or Montero. I do still think he’s got a bit of a turnaround in him this year, but I’m not sure that belief is entirely based in reality. Lind had a pretty awful April, playing most every day. He started to pick it up in May, but then he went right back in the toilet in June, so I dunno. As noted yesterday, Dae-ho Lee is rightly eating into Lind’s playing time, as the team is trusting Lee more and more against right-handed pitching. Should Lee continue to prove he’s capable of playing and producing on an everyday basis, we could be looking at a situation where Lind is relegated to backup status (getting occasional starts against righties, and/or when the team opts to put Cruz in the outfield and play Lee & Lind at the same time). It’s just a bummer, because I figured Lind, of anyone we brought in this year, would be a guy you could count upon to play to his career norms.
And that’s it! I’m moving on to the pitchers, because they’ve been a neverending source of rage and agita in my life this season.
Right at the top of the list – indeed, the most disappointing development of the entire 2016 Mariners season – has been the health of Felix Hernandez. I mean, he’s far and away my favorite player on this team, and far and away my favorite local athlete playing today (he also sits on my local Mount Rushmore next to Gary Payton, Steve Largent, and Edgar Martinez, but that’s neither here nor there). Going into any Mariners season, my worst nightmare has always been if King Felix gets injured. By and large, over the previous ten seasons, I’ve mostly managed to dodge that harsh reality, but this year, both myself and the team has been cock-slapped by his absence. This year’s team has EASILY had the best lineup of hitters we’ve had ’round these parts since Felix has become a Major Leaguer. And, at least through the first couple months, this team as a whole looked like it had the best chance to make the post-season in the same span. As a die-hard Mariners fan, all we’ve wanted to see over the last decade was Felix Hernandez pitching in the post-season. To reward him for his baffling loyalty to this organization, and prove to the world that he made the right decision (or, at the very least, to show that it wasn’t all for naught). The panic in all of our hearts has always been, “WE NEED TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS WHILE FELIX IS STILL IN HIS PRIME! WE’RE WASTING HIS MOTHERFUCKING PRIME, YOU GUYS!” So, to have him go down with this calf injury, when – 1. we have the best team around him we’ve ever had, and 2. our pitching depth is as poor as it’s ever been, and ergo he’s never been more needed – is truly a cosmic Fuck You to every Mariners fan still foolish enough to follow this team.
I didn’t mean to push this section into a second paragraph, but here’s my point: where would the Mariners be if Felix had never gotten injured? He went down on May 27th. We’ve gone 17-25 ever since. In the starts that he missed (counting every five days, assuming no rotation shuffling), the Mariners have gone 3-5, including Paxton’s initial disaster of a start on June 1st, a mediocre Miley start on July 9th, and a few hard-luck defeats where the offense didn’t necessarily show up (or, commonly known as your average Felix start). A healthy Felix would conservatively get you two more wins in that stretch, with a very reasonable possibility of him pitching a shutout in there and squeezing out a third. But, a healthy Felix also slots out some of the shakier pitchers who have made appearances in the rotation. Maybe a healthy Felix – combined with Paxton’s resurgence down in Tacoma – bumps Karns out of the rotation sooner. Maybe it prevents Adrian Sampson’s call-up (and subsequent arm injury that cost him his season). Maybe we don’t have a potentially-useless LeBlanc to kick around. MAYBE, it allows us to DL Taijuan Walker sooner – which I’m on record as saying we should have done in the first place – because we’re not so obsessed about our awful pitching depth. There are endless What If’s out there, all surrounding the injury of our Ace.
But, it also bears mentioning that even when Felix was healthy this season, he didn’t look quite right. Dating back to last year, Felix has been prone to getting knocked around a little bit in some starts. His velocity is way down (even more than usual), and his command hasn’t quite been there. Was the injury causing that? Is it the natural effect of aging (he may only be 30 years old, but he’s got a billion miles on his pitching arm right now)? It’s something to watch, as he makes his rehab starts ahead of an expected return to the Majors next Wednesday. Please be healthy and good again, Felix! We need you more than ever before!
I devoted more of this post than I’d anticipated on King Felix, so let me run through the rest of the pitching disappointments as quickly as possible.
Wade Miley – Fuck You!
Joel Peralta – Good Fucking Riddance!
Wade Miley – Fuck You Again, I can’t wait until this team cuts your ass!
Joaquin Benoit – Over-priced, spent time on the DL, has been garbage since his return. Not the 8th inning enforcer we traded for.
Nathan Karns – 5 & Dive specialist we haven’t seen since Erik Bedard. Not a long-term solution to our rotation woes.
Hisashi Iwakuma – A .500, middle-of-the-road pitcher who might be an okay 3rd or 4th starter, but is past his prime and no longer a viable #2.
James Paxton – Has the stuff to be an ace, but for some reason always gets killed by dribblers, dinks, and dunks (and poor defense).
Taijuan Walker – This injured foot has killed what was once a promising season in his development; a chronic set-back that likely won’t resolve until after the season ends.
Tony Zych – Probably this team’s 2nd best reliever (after Diaz), whose injury issues will cost him almost the entire season.
Charlie Furbush – Has been out the whole year, is set to return soon, but will probably be terrible.
Tom Wilhelmsen – Has returned, has been okay in his first few appearances, but the other shoe is right here, just waiting to drop.
Fernando Rodney – A HUGE Fuck You! Pitches like dogshit last year for the Mariners, gets demoted, gets released, then comes back this year to have his very best-ever season? What the fuck?! Eat all the dicks, you turd!
Steve Cishek – For making me long for the days of the Fernando Rodney Experience. Whereas Rodney’s appearances were always a slow bleed for 30 minutes, followed by complete disaster; Cishek just stabs you in the gut, then comes back two days later to jam his thumb into your festering wound.