The 2016 Mariners Had A Legit Hitting Lineup

In 2010, as difficult as it seemed at the time, I knew this day would eventually arrive.  The Mariners had been a great hitting team Back In The Day, in the glory years of the early 2000’s.  And, with steroids largely policed out of the game, we couldn’t reasonably expect a return to those types of insane power numbers.  Nevertheless, whatever “Good” means in this brave new world of lower power numbers and better overall pitching, whatever the new normal would end up being, ONE DAY, the Mariners would once again have a good lineup.

And, it appears, that time has come.

This is going to be very rudimentary, so I wouldn’t come here expecting a vast expanse on sabermetrics.  My little pea brain has a general fixation on what good hitting should be, and that number is .250.  If you’re hitting .250 or above, you’re doing all right.  If you can pack your lineup with those types of guys, you’re generally going to score lots of runs and, hopefully, win lots of games.  It’s not a hard and fast rule, but more of a glance.  There are obviously other ways to contribute – a lower average, with a higher OBP, for instance, will bring a lot to the table; ditto a guy with a high slugging percentage – but I like it when I can look at the Mariners’ stat-sheet and see a bunch of guys hitting .250 or above.  It warms my fuzzies right up.

Currently, the Mariners have 6 regulars hitting .250 or above (Cano, Cruz, Marte, Martin, Smith, and Seager).  Aoki and Iannetta are lagging behind a little bit, but they do make up for it with OBP.  The only guy struggling too much for comfort is Lind, with a .216 batting average to go with all of 5 walks on the season, and a paltry .319 slugging percentage.

On the plus side, that’s really only ONE black hole.  You could make an argument that Guti is another, but he doesn’t play nearly enough to qualify for that type of slur.  If he’s still struggling in July, then maybe you think about his role on this team.

But, as far as I’m concerned, having just the one regular struggling is FANTASTIC!

I started this post back on May 25th, and then for some reason I just abandoned it to my drafts folder.  I don’t know why; I guess I just didn’t feel like getting into a whole thing.  I was apparently pretty high on the Mariners’ hitters on May 25th, and that carried through – for the most part – the rest of the season.

I already got into Cano, Cruz, and Seager in a separate post, so feel free to read about my thoughts on them over there.  Spoiler alert:  I like those guys.  But, there were other guys I liked too, so let’s talk about them for a while.  In no particular order:

Leonys Martin

As a centerfielder (as a hitter and defensively), Leonys Martin was the definition of “Meets Expectations”.  Damn near a .250 hitter, 15 homers, 24 stolen bases, and absolutely elite, top-shelf fielding.  We’re not talking about Ken Griffey Jr. numbers or anything, but that’s as ideal of a centerfielder as you can expect.  Now, as a Mariners fan, when I think of Leonys Martin, I’d have to actually put him in the “Exceeds Expectations” category, because God damn have we been tortured with a bunch of mediocre outfield crap since Mike Cameron left!  We got nearly 2 seasons of Guti in his prime before he fell apart, but other than that, it’s been a wasteland of Meh out there.  When you factor in Martin’s declining offensive numbers in Texas in 2015, I was CONVINCED that he’d be a dud this year.  But, as I said, he really did shock the world with his level of play, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.  He’d never shown that kind of power before!  When all of us were expecting the equivalent of Brendan Ryan As Centerfielder at the plate, Martin was a revelation.  Consider me delighted we have him under club control for two more seasons.

Nori Aoki

I get the feeling, with Nori, that more people are down on him than high on him after what amounts to a 1-year experiment.  I’ll admit, while I’m not crazy about him defensively, and he obnoxiously ran himself into more outs than I care to remember (caught stealing 9 times out of 16 attempts, are you kidding me?), I think I’ll look back on him fondly overall.  It doesn’t hurt that he really tore shit up over the last two months of the season, after he’d been sent down to Tacoma to work on his swing (among, I’m assuming, other things).  On June 23rd, he was hitting .245, along with his crappy defense and baserunning, making him a total liability in all phases of the game.  He was called up about a month later, played for a month, had to go back to Tacoma for about a week due to other injuries and the roster crunch therein, and then finished the season playing mostly everyday.  He got that average back up to career norms in that time (.283) while adding 100 points to his OPS from his June low.  His main competition when it comes to returning in 2017 is:

Seth Smith

Both are left-handed corner outfielders who bring more with their bats than in the field.  Smith has a little more pop in his bat, but Aoki has slightly better on-base abilities.  Given Smith’s foot speed is absolute zero, Aoki has him there on the basepaths, and overall as an offensive weapon.  Smith’s already under contract though (for a sensible $7 million) while Aoki is an unrestricted free agent.  I don’t know if Aoki will draw a Qualifying Offer, or if that’s even an option with him, but at a hefty price tag of $17+ million, I doubt the Mariners would be willing to bite.  You’d think you could get Aoki to come back on a reasonable contract, but I would assume there’d have to be assurances made (i.e. the trading away of Seth Smith).  You really don’t need both of these guys on your roster, and it doesn’t sound like the Mariners are going to try to keep both.  One thing the team will have to consider is Smith’s rapid decline over the last two months of the season.  He barely hit .215 in August and September combined, and even with his mini power surge in September (5 homers, 2 doubles), his overall OPS really bottomed out as he rolled over into shift after shift.  Seth Smith is always lauded for his professional at bats, and his ability to get on base, which shouldn’t be discounted.  But, he sure does seem to wear down the more he plays, and the second halves to his seasons sure look pretty mediocre.  At some point, it would be ideal for the Mariners to shore up the corner outfield with a more permanent, everyday option.  But, for now, I guess we can live with another platoon year.

Guti, Gamel, Heredia

Let’s just lump all these guys together and wrap up the outfield portion of this post.  I won’t be shocked when the Mariners re-sign Guti to another 1-year deal, considering he’s a veteran right-handed bat with pop.  He appeared in all of 98 games in 2016, and his overall offensive numbers took a bit of a hit, but he didn’t totally flatline.  We got Gamel from the Yankees and didn’t really see enough of him in September.  He’ll be competing with Heredia most likely to be this team’s final outfielder.  For the most part, I liked what Heredia brought to the table, but I’d like to see some more power out of him.  Slap-hitting singles hitters don’t tend to stick at the Major League level very long.

Dae-ho Lee & Adam Lind

Ahh, the ol’ first base platoon.  Dae-ho Lee was another really pleasant surprise, who sort of struggled as the season went along.  He’s a free agent, but I wouldn’t mind having him back for another go-around if the price is right.  As for Lind, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  His averages across the board took a huge nosedive, with his worst OPS since 2010.  Which just adds more fuel to the fire that guys get signed by Seattle and promptly lose the ability to hit.  Safeco isn’t even that bad to hit in anymore, compared to what it used to be before the fences were moved in!  Besides, it was never all that bad for lefties!  He just stunk.  For whatever reason – maybe the reputation of Safeco got in his head – he got off to a horrid start and was never able to fully recover.  I’m sure he’ll sign elsewhere and bounce right back to his usual self, in which case he can promptly and savagely go fuck himself with a bat right in his cornhole.

Ketel Marte

This was a guy I was pretty stoked about early in the season.  He was a little raw defensively, but his speed on the basepaths was top notch, and his bat was coming around.  Then, he hurt his hand and went on the DL, and was never the same.  Tack on another DL stint for mono, and you have one of the great lost seasons in Mariners history.  He played out the stretch run, but his bat never really recovered, and his defense never really developed.  He was making the same dumb, rookie mistakes in the field as he was at the beginning of the season.  I don’t expect the world out of a guy defensively, but you’ve GOT to make the routine plays!  When one of his blunders helped cost us a game in the final week of the season, I essentially wrote him off.  I might back off that stance eventually, but if the Mariners go out and deal for an upgrade at short stop, I won’t be crushed.  As I’ve said before, we’ve got to win while the winning’s good.  Cano, Cruz, and Felix won’t be in their primes forever.  I don’t know if we have the time to hold Marte’s hand as he works his way through these growing pains.

Zunino, Iannetta, Clevenger, Sucre

My overarching take-away from Mike Zunino’s 2016 is that he’s turned the corner.  Then, I looked at his numbers and now I’m starting to wonder if that’s true.  The power is still there, which is his saving grace, but it looked like he started to fall into the same old traps over the final two months of the season.  His strike out percentage was right there at his career norms (33.9%), his batting average was barely over the Mendoza Line, but I’ll give him credit:  his eye at the plate is VASTLY improved over what it was in 2015.  His walk rate jumped up to 10.9% from 5.1% over his first three seasons, which is incredible.  I’d also say that while he’s still striking out as much as ever, he’s not necessarily falling for those breaking balls low and away as much as he was before.  Baby steps, maybe.  But, there’s still a big ol’ hole in his swing, which is going to necessitate a quality catcher to either platoon with him, or spot him more days off than we’ve been giving him.  Obviously, this year, we had no choice but to play him mostly everyday, because he was so clearly better than any other catcher in this organization (in spite of Sucre’s random surge in production in September).  Iannetta is under contract for 2017, which is less than ideal, as he brings nothing to the table offensively, and even less to the table defensively.  Hopefully, we can trade him for a bag of batting donuts, because I’d almost rather have Sucre out there, if he can continue working on his batting skills.  Clevenger seems to be a non-starter, unless the team really wants to work with him on the whole Racist Tweets shitstorm.  I wouldn’t be totally against it; seems like having a left-handed catching partner with Zunino would be a good thing for this team (plus, he’s under club control for 2 more years, so it’d be nice to see what he’s got in him as a baseball player).

And The Rest

Which is really just Shawn O’Malley.  He’s a step up from Willie Bloomquist, so that’s something.

The Long Shadow of the Randy Johnson Trade

I moved this to my Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings heading HERE.

Jack Zduriencik Is Gone

I remember June 16, 2008, like it was seven years and a few weeks ago.  We were in the middle of a year that would just get worse and worse and worse.  The Mariners, coming off of a winning 2007 campaign, revamped their starting rotation with the Erik Bedard trade and the Carlos Silva signing.  A would-be weakness for the team was bolstered by the addition of a second ace pitcher, and an innings eater who’d solidify the back-end of the rotation while pitching half his games in the spacious Safeco Field.

Those 2008 Mariners would go on to lose over 100 games, netting the #2 overall draft pick.  On June 16, 2008, Bill Bavasi was fired after four and a half miserable fucking seasons.  And we all rejoiced, for we all knew Bavasi was not only the face of Satan incarnate, but the most bumbling and inept motherfucker ever to be given the keys to a professional franchise (tell me I’m wrong, COME AT ME BRO; I will fight you to the death).  Every year of his reign was another chance to reload.  Re-BUILD?  What does that even MEAN?  The Mariners were coming off of their most fruitful seasons under Pat Gillick; but those veterans were all long dead and buried.  Bavasi made it his mission to bring in veteran after veteran to try to right the ship, at the expense of our entire farm system and anything else he could get his hands on.  He wasted money, he traded away superstars, and he brought us nothing but losses piled upon losses piled upon shit.

On October 22, 2008, the Mariners brought in Jack Zduriencik, and while we didn’t really know much about him, we knew he worked in the upper management in Milwaukee, for a Brewers organization on the rise.  He was responsible for that team bringing in some of its biggest stars, and was the first non-GM to win Executive of the Year in 2007.  This guy was a rising star in his own right, and it seemed like he’d fit into the GM world like a glove.

On August 28, 2015, the Mariners fired Jack Zduriencik.  He’d been at the helm for a little over 6 and a half seasons.  So, it was time.  He’d out-lasted his predecessor and really wasn’t all that much better at his job.

Bill Bavasi’s Mariners record:  322-395, .449 winning percentage
Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners record:  506-595, .460 winning percentage

Over time, the Bavasi regime has become known for the Erik Bedard/Adam Jones trade, and the dual trades to the Indians in 2006 giving them quality All Stars Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera for magic beans.  Those are desperate moves no GM would EVER live down.  The Zduriencik regime will ultimately go down for the Triad of Suck that was Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero.  The Mariners gave up some legitimately great capital to bring in those guys (2nd overall draft pick, Cliff Lee, and Michael Pineda, respectively) and they all blew up in Z’s face.

Considering Jackie Z’s extensive history in scouting for Major League Baseball, that makes his transgressions all the more galling.  He’d been here for over 6 years and all he had to show for his work was Kyle Seager.  Anyone he ever brought in who was worth a damn was either an established free agent (Cano, Cruz) or some scrub who’d previously washed out of baseball either via injury or ineffectiveness, only to make his comeback with us for an anomalous year or two (Chris Young, Mark Lowe, Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel).  I mean, will you LOOK at some of the bullshit that’s crossed our paths thanks to Jackie Z:

  • Dustin Ackley, draft pick
  • Chone Figgins, free agent
  • Eric Byrnes, free agent
  • Justin Smoak, trade
  • The Entire Doug Fister Trade, less Charlie Furbush (a sometimes-okay lefty specialist out of the bullpen)
  • Jesus Montero, trade
  • Brandon League, trade
  • Casey Kotchman, trade
  • Mike Morse for John Jaso
  • Logan Morrison for Carter Capps
  • Mark Trumbo for Welington Castillo
  • Mike Zunino, draft pick
  • Danny Hultzen, draft pick
  • Nick Franklin, draft pick
  • Corey Hart, free agent
  • Jason Bay, free agent
  • Joe Saunders, free agent
  • Hector Noesi, trade
  • Miguel Olivo, free agent
  • The Hitless Wonder That Is Brendan Ryan, trade
  • Jack Cust, free agent
  • Blake Beavan, trade
  • Milton Bradley, trade
  • Rob Johnson, trade(ish)

You could go on and on, and I know I’m just picking and choosing the most worthless piles of crap out there, but LOOK AT THAT LIST!  Look at all those miserable bastards that have contributed to nearly 600 losses the last 6+ seasons!  That’s Jack’s legacy!  Did he give away studs on par with Jones, Choo, Cabrera, Tillman and the like?  No.  But, he did get PENNY on the dollar out of stud trade chips like Cliff Lee, Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, Brandon Morrow, John Jaso, and Carter Capps.  He had three draft picks in the top 3 overall and we’ve yet to see any of them amount to anything more than somewhat quality defense.  After this year, it’s highly likely two of those three draft picks won’t even be in the organization, with Ackley traded, Hultzen an injured free agent who should probably retire, and Mike Zunino fighting for his life somewhere between Tacoma and Seattle.

Was he as destructive as Bill Bavasi?  No, he was not.  That’s why August 28, 2015, came and went a little bit differently than June 16, 2008.  I don’t feel quite the sense of elation as I did when Bavasi finally got the ax.  That was on par with the Wicked Witch of the West getting assassinated; this is more like Old Yeller taking a bullet out behind the house.  Could the Mariners afford to keep him in charge even one more year?  Absolutely not.  His rabies-infested mind would surely destroy us all; he NEEDED to be put down, for his sake as much as our own.

But, it’s not even like that.  I have no real affinity for Jackie Z; it’s not like I’m going to miss him now that he’s gone.  But, it’s still a bummer, because this isn’t supposed to be how it ended.  There was a lot of flawed decision-making when it comes to Jackie Z’s reign; but, there’s also a lot of moves where you could see why he thought the way he did.  A lot of moves that looked good on paper, and then that paper was set ablaze by a fucking cannon.  Guys like Smoak and Ackley and Figgins and Montero – they all came highly touted and having produced quite a bit in their careers up to the point they arrived in Seattle.

In fact, you could say 2015 was a perfect microcosm of the entire Jackie Z era.  There was hope – coming off of a year where the Mariners ended up 1 game out of the playoffs.  There was a smart signing – Nelson Cruz, MVP candidate in 2015.  There was flawed logic – trading away a professional catcher during Zunino’s worst year in the Bigs for a righty power bat who will never play well in Safeco (and who’s yet another DH who shouldn’t be playing out in the field to boot).  And there was a whole lot of bad luck – Cano’s shitty start to the season, Ackley turning back into a pumpkin after last year’s bonanza second half, the bullpen absolutely falling apart after being one of the best units in the American League last year.

Like him or hate him, it’s just sad.  This whole season has been depressing as shit!  Jackie Z getting the boot is just the cherry on top.

The worst part is:  what do we do going forward?  When Bavasi was fired, there was a clear thought process:  scrap everything and start over through the draft.  It only got muddled when the Mariners had a winning record in 2009; that shouldn’t have happened, and it set things back in a lot of ways.  The Mariners made “contending ballclub” moves when they should’ve stuck to the gameplan to keep rebuilding.  It backfired in 2010, meaning we wasted two good rebuilding years thinking we were worth a damn.  We started anew in 2011, built the club up into a winner in 2014, only to see it all bottom out yet again.  Unexpectedly.  Yet again.  But, maybe we should have expected it.  This city is cursed in a lot of ways, and it took one of the greatest football teams of all time to break that spell in 2013.

Now, like in 2008, the Mariners have no farm system.  But, they’ve got plenty good at the Major League level.  This team is far from great, but it’s also far from the worst.  Will the organization be able to find the right guy to come in here and put all the pieces in place?

No.

It won’t.

Because Howard Lincoln is still the man calling all the shots.

He’s an imbecile and he needs to go.

But, we’re stuck with him, and that’s why we’ll always be losers.

Predicting The Seasons Of Various Mariners In 2015, Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awards Season: Kyle Seager Is A Gold Glove Third Baseman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week Mariners 6 Thoughts Random

The Mariners are on quite the winning stretch of late.  They were 5-3 last week (my weeks, for the purposes of these posts, go from Monday thru Sunday).  Their most recent road trip saw them go 7-2.  Since the 8-game losing streak, they have gone 13-5.  This has been nice.  It probably won’t keep being this nice, but I’m enjoying it now for what it is.

Would’ve been a lot better had we won on Sunday.  That’s a tough one to swallow.  The defense was horrible, the home plate umpire was frustrating (another AAA ump hellbent on ruining it for all of us fans of the Major Leagues), and the pitching could’ve been better.  It was a real team effort, except somehow the offense was pretty amazing and did more than enough to deserve the win.

It’s mostly disappointing because going into Sunday’s game, the Mariners were one of the leaders for the Wild Card spot.  Isn’t that shocking?  Again, it’s early, but it’s also not.  We’re through six weeks and there we are, in the thick of it!  Normally, around this time, Mariners fans would be looking ahead to the next batch of disappointing prospects, wondering how many games we’d have to lose to get a top draft pick.

THIS year has potential!  Let’s keep it going!

A .500 baseball team won’t contend for a Wild Card spot.  You want to be in the 90-win range to be on the safe side.  It doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s 18 games over .500.  That’s winning, over the course of a full season, 55.5% of your games.  After six full weeks, the Mariners are just two games over .500, at 20-18.  It’s a start!  It’s a good start.  But, it won’t be enough if we just play .500 ball the rest of the way.

The way things are going, as Mariners fans, you’d have to be pretty happy if the Mariners are at or above .500 by the end of May.  At that point, hopefully Paxton & Walker will be very close to returning.  With those guys in the fold (or even just one, as at this point Chris Young is an adequate fifth starter), we can start entertaining thoughts of post-season contention.

Let’s say the Mariners, at the end of the night on May 31st, are 28-27.  That’s pretty good, pretty reasonable.  You’d like for them to be better (we play the Rays & Twins this week, they’re pretty underwhelming; we have four against Houston and four more against Anaheim … but, that’s neither here nor there), but let’s just go with this for a minute.  28-27.  For them to get to 90 wins, the Mariners will have to go 17 games over .500 the rest of the way.  Four months.  Four months of going 4 to 5 games over .500.  That’s do-able, right?

You’re damn right it is!  Let’s get into this thing!

Some other thoughts as this post gets pushed back a day thanks to the NFL draft:

This James Jones kid looks pretty decent, but don’t they ALL look pretty decent in their first couple of weeks, and then the league takes over, and they start struggling until they’re inevitably sent back down to Tacoma?  I’ve seen it a thousand times …

Most everyone is hitting in the .250-ish range except for Brad Miller.  Not too shabby.  I’ve said all along, I don’t need a bunch of amazing hitting artists; I just need a lineup full of guys who can hit around .250.  Not .200, not .190.  You didn’t see too many A’s of the last couple years hitting .160.

Speaking of .160, Brad Miller is quite the mess.  He really needs to break out of this soon, or it’s curtains.  Which probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  Lots of people say they don’t want Nick Franklin playing everyday short stop, but isn’t what we’ve been getting out of Miller lately about a thousand times worse?  For a guy who is supposed to be a plus defender (maybe not in the Brendan Ryan range, but supposedly still pretty good), Brad Miller has sucked more dicks out there than I care to count.  I’m not calling for his head yet (mostly because we’re winning), but the time is coming soon if he doesn’t pull himself out of this nosedive.

I Love Felix; I Hate The Mariners

I say it every year, under these EXACT same circumstances, so why not say it again:  if Felix ever leaves the Mariners, I’m dumping this fucking team in a heartbeat and I’m following him around like the Grateful Dead until he hangs ’em up.

This is what happens when you “sleep on” a loss like last night’s.

Blow any other game.  Literally ANY other game, not started by Felix, and I wouldn’t be this upset.  But, you could see it coming a mile away.  As soon as he came out for the 8th, as soon as he gave up that leadoff triple, as soon as the manager came out to pull him.  You could see the blown save hovering over the stadium like a tsunami of suck just waiting to crash down and destroy everything in its path.

Of course, I was expecting Furbush to come in and lay the game to waste.  Or maybe Medina getting into trouble and giving up a moon shot.  And then, when he improbably got out of the 8th inning with the lead still intact (although cut in half), I thought maybe we had a chance.  Yes, Fernando Rodney is wild, but he’s EFFECTIVELY wild.  He might blow ten saves in a row, but MAYBE he can get out of this one unscathed!

***

Brad Miller SHOULD feel like dogshit.  I hope he sat up until all hours of the night thinking about botching that grounder that should’ve ended the game and made Felix the first 4-0 pitcher of the season.

By the way, when the FUCK is Brad Miller going to start carrying his own weight on this team?  You know what I see when I look at Brad Miller?  Every time a ball JUST bounces off of his glove and skips into the outfield for a single?  I think, “Brendan Ryan surely would’ve made that play.”  Now, I’m not sitting here wishing that we had Brendan Ryan back, mostly because his hitting drove me crazy.

Except …

You know what I see when I look at Brad Miller with a bat in his hands?  I see someone who sucks JUST AS HARD as Brendan Fucking Ryan!

Brad Miller is supposed to be a decent-to-good glove man with a plus bat.  Instead, he sucks dick at the plate, and he’s always seemingly JUST out of position to make the play at short.  We all had a good chuckle when the ball bounced off of his glove and went right to Cano’s for the head’s up double play the other day, but that happens TOO OFTEN, and last night it bit him in the ass.

So, yeah, Brad Miller, you SHOULD feel like crap.  You deserve all the vitriol from the fans right now.  You deserve to have Nick Franklin breathing down your neck.  Predictably, another wildly successful Spring Training performance has been shot down in flames once the calendar flips to April.  Brad Miller needs to start proving that he deserves to be here, otherwise I have zero problem with the team sending HIM down to Tacoma when we need a spot-starter this Sunday.

***

Fernando Rodney is going to blow A LOT of saves this year.  He’s going to get in trouble just about every time he’s on the mound.  It’s just a foregone conclusion.  So, I’m less inclined to put this loss on him.  Nevertheless, he strikes me as a mental midget who’s going to let the emotion of the game dictate his on-field performance.

Once that error cost him the save and forced him into more work, I think it’s no surprise whatsoever that he threw that wild pitch that forced in the tying run.  After that, it was all academic.  That game wasn’t going into extra innings!  No way!  Rodney’s got some okay stuff, but he’s no pitcher.  He’s just a guy who stands on a mound and throws really hard, but he’s not a pitcher.

Pitching is a thinking man’s game, and Fernando Rodney strikes me as a guy with an 8th grade education at best.  No, he just gets up there and throws hard and hopes for the best.  And, every once in a while, you run into Fernando Rodney’s 2012 season where everything miraculously goes right and you’re the best reliever on the planet.  But, that shit never lasts.  Because he has no real control over where the ball’s going to end up.

***

Seems like it always happens down in Texas.  Not these horrific late-game losses; those happen all the time, all over the place (no place more than Chicago when we’re playing the fucking White Sox, though).  No, the “it” I’m referring to is the end of the season for the Seattle Mariners.  The point where everything falls to shit, and we spend the rest of the year just running out the string of games and hoping for better things NEXT year.

It came a little earlier than we expected this year, but by no means earlier than USUAL.  The Mariners are done.  Their hope for a reasonably okay starting rotation is shot because Paxton & Walker won’t be back any time soon (if at all).  The usual suspects in the lineup are as frustrating as they’ve ever been (looking at you, Smoak, Saunders, Ackley); and SURPRISE, the younger guys who are supposed to be better are exactly the same (Miller, Almonte, Zunino).  Save Robinson Cano, our offseason plan was a total and complete bust (thank you, Hart, Morrison, and Rodney).  I still have faith in Seager, but it wouldn’t shock me in the least if he just stays this way forever until I lock myself in the attic until the voices in my head leave me alone.

There’s no hope.  Not that there ever really was, but now it’s official.  Of course, that word “Contention” is a funny word because it has a wide range of meanings.  Or, really, just two.  There’s Contention in the sense that we’re a good team seriously competing for a division title, or at the very least in a solid position for the Wild Card.  And, then there’s “Contention” where the Mariners approach a .500 record, have a handful of teams ahead of them for the Wild Card, never really SERIOUSLY make a move toward the top, and just kind of hang around until they’re mathematically eliminated sometime in August or September.

The 2007 and 2009 Mariners “contended” in the second sense, but they were never seriously in the hunt.  Those Mariners teams weren’t very good and were playing WAY above their means.  These 2014 Mariners strike me as being very similar.

To be in REAL contention, you have to prove you’re a clear-cut player in your division.  Right now, the Oakland A’s are 10-5 and looking pretty unstoppable.  Then, there’s three teams in the middle of the pack, all at or within a game of .500.  Then, there’s the Astros.  So, if the Mariners want to be a player in the A.L. West, they have to prove they’re the clear-cut second-best team (and then hope the A’s suffer some more injuries or something).

Right now, I’m pretty confident that the Mariners are at least as good, if not WAY better than both the Astros and Angels.  But, again, to be that player, we’ve got to also be better than the Rangers.  We’ve ESPECIALLY got to be better than the Rangers when they’ve got so many guys on the DL!  We can’t be frittering away these fucking games like last night if we expect to REALLY be in contention for the post-season.

Of course, if we just want to be in “contention”, like the 2007 & 2009 Mariners were in contention, then go right ahead and keep playing grab-ass, BRAD MILLER.  Boot these fucking games away.

Everyone likes to bring up the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ when they talk about the Mariners, but they forget that there were a lot of good times in that movie.  Yes, it was the same fucking day, every day, forever, but Bill Murray found a bunch of different ways to entertain himself.  He got to have easy sex, he stole a bunch of money from an armored truck and bought pretty much whatever he wanted, he got to party with the guys and do everything he’d ever wanted without consequence, he got to eat all of that delicious diner food.  It wasn’t all down times and misery.

Of course, with the Mariners right now, it IS all down times and misery.  If this part of the season is ANY part of the ‘Groundhog Day’ movie, it’s when Bill Murray is just beating the shit out of his alarm clock as it plays that God damned Sonny & Cher song for the 50,000th time.

Coming up next:  dozens upon dozens of daily suicides.

The Shitshow That Was The 2013 Seattle Mariners, Part II: Hitting & Defense

Catch Part I HERE.

To be honest, it’s been two days of this and I’m already bored and frustrated by rehashing the 2013 Mariners season.  I’d quit right here, but then what kind of Seattle sports blogger would I be?  A half-assed one, that’s what!  Well, I’ll have you know that I’m determined to use my whole ass starting right now!  So, get used to it!

The best and only hitters you could reasonably qualify as “good” on this team in 2013 were Kendrys Morales and Kyle Seager.  Morales, as we’re all well aware, was received in trade for Jason Vargas.  Not to get too deep into this, I’ll just say that the Mariners traded a strength to fill a weakness and essentially came out even in the deal.  I don’t necessarily know what Vargas did in Anaheim and I don’t care, because what he did there has no bearing on what he would have done in a Mariners uniform.

I like Morales.  I don’t love him.  I don’t think he’s worth $14 million a season and I don’t think he’s worth having around for more than two years (three tops, but that’s really pushing it).  Apparently, the Mariners have either extended a qualifying offer to him (for the aforementioned $14 million) or are going to extend him a qualifying offer, but either way it doesn’t sound like he’s going to accept it.  Either that means the Mariners reach some sort of multi-year deal with him, or they let him go to another team and receive some sort of first round draft compensation.

So, what does the 2013 Kendrys Morales season mean to me?  Well, if he ends up going to another team, it’ll mean absolutely nothing.  We kind of figured he’d be a one-year-and-done player anyway when we traded for him; and besides, who really wants to stay with the Mariners for longer than they have to?  Besides Felix (God bless you, sweet Felix).  And, if Morales stays around for another three years?  Then, his 2013 season showed us that he’s still got it.  What is “it”?  Well, on the one hand, you can look at him and say he’s an over-priced quasi-slugger who has no business playing in the field, and offers nothing in the base-running game, so his value is limited.  Or, on the other hand, you can look at him and say he’s easily the best designated hitter we’ve had since Edgar Martinez.

Are you a Glass Half Empty guy or a Glass Half Full?  Yeah, he’s going to cost us a lot of money if he stays.  But, he beats the fucking shit out of the Carl Everetts and Jose Vidros of the fucking world.  So, calm the fuck down.  It’s not your money.  Besides, it’s about time the Mariners start shelling out some dough so I don’t have to watch a colossal bunch of fuck-ups year-in and year-out.

Kyle Seager, on the other hand, is our little third base pride and joy.  He’s steady as the day is long.  30+ doubles, 20+ homers, solid defense.  He’s a true middle-of-the-order (anywhere from 2-5 in the lineup) hitter and best of all:  he’s actually someone we drafted and cultivated from our very own farm system!  I’m starting to doubt that he’ll ever be that perennial All Star, but I’ll tell you what:  I’d give anything to have eight more hitters just like him at all the other positions.  And, you gotta figure that sooner or later he’s going to really pop and have a year where he bats .330 with maybe 40 doubles and 30 homers.  Wouldn’t shock me in the slightest.

Of course, it also wouldn’t shock me if he just fell off the face of the Earth, because that’s what everyone else does in this organization.

Dustin Ackley had something of a bounce-back year, at least at the plate.  I’m not ready to start sucking his dick and writing him in as an everyday player for this team going forward, but let’s just say I’m cautiously encouraged.  He absolutely stunk through the first two months of the season, somehow batting even worse than he did in 2012 (which I didn’t think was physically possible for him).  The Mariners finally had to send him back down to Tacoma because, Jesus Christ, he was batting .205 again!  In Tacoma, he proceeded to fuck everyone’s shit up and found himself back in the Majors by the end of June.  Of course, at this point, Nick Franklin had usurped his job at second base, so the organization converted him back to a center fielder.

His defense wasn’t the worst I’d ever seen, but he was clearly the team’s third best center fielder (behind Guti & Michael Saunders), and maybe even the fourth best (behind Endy Chavez).  Whereas his second base defense was quite solid, his center field defense was doing his WAR no favors.  And, when he returned to the Mariners, his batting average cratered to a season-low .194.  He more-or-less struggled through July and everyone thought he was done.  Too good for Triple-A, but not good enough for the Majors.  Just another Jeremy Reed.  Then, something happened.  He caught fire in August with this line:  .390/.420/.597/1.017, raising his season average to .258 in the process.  He coasted on that hot August through September to finish the season with a .253 average.  Rubes have hope for the future of Dustin Ackley.  The rest of us jaded fucks have our doubts.

Justin Smoak was similarly interesting, in that he started shitty, missed some time, came back, and peaked somewhere in July.  He tailed off at the end of the year leaving us all to believe this is just who he is.  A .240-ish hitter with minimal pop and okay defense at first base.

Michael Saunders was more distressing than anything.  Everyone thought he had turned a corner in 2012 after fiddling with his batting stance in the off-season.  For him to take a step back the way he did in 2013, you can’t help but think he’s a fourth outfielder at best.  Essentially, 2014 will be his last shot, but who knows if he’ll even HAVE a last shot?  The team seems pretty set on going full-boar in finding some new outfielders to replace the gaping holes we’ve had for the better part of a half decade.

Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, and Mike Zunino were three call-ups in 2013 who were all probably rushed into starting Major League jobs before they were ready.  Miller acquitted himself well, though his propensity for defensive blunders are a little nerve-wracking.  Franklin started off a house afire, but he really struggled the longer he remained in the starting lineup.  I know when Ackley was on his torrid streak, people were calling to move him back to his old second base job, but at that point you can’t start jerking people around (especially when there was nothing to play for this season except for experience, which Franklin got in spades).  Zunino gets an incomplete because he broke his hamate bone and missed a bunch of time.  His leadership and defensive abilities are a welcome addition.  But, he’s still pretty raw at the plate.

In a nutshell, this season was defined by the veterans and how they failed us.  I already went over the veteran starting pitchers who totally stunk up the joint.  Well, they were joined by guys like Raul Ibanez, Mike Morse, Jason Bay, Brendan Ryan, Endy Chavez, Kelly Shoppach, Henry Blanco, Robert Andino, and of course, the oft-injured Guti. All brought in (or retained) with the intent to add “leadership” to our young core.

Ibanez tied the record for most home runs by a senior citizen with 29.  That was good for a lark, especially when he managed to bash 24 of them before the All Star Break.  Hell, we all thought he was going to SHATTER the record.  But, of course, what happens when you let a 41 year old play every fucking day?  His production goes down the shitter.  5 more homers the rest of the way.  And, if you think I’m talking about Ibanez’s home runs too much, that’s because his homers were literally the ONLY thing he was bringing to the table.  We couldn’t play him at DH where he belonged, because that’s where Kendrys Morales belonged (and, truth be told, it’s also where Mike Morse and Jason Bay belonged, but they can’t ALL be designated hitters).  So, we got to enjoy Raul’s baffling defense in left field on a near-everyday basis.  Lucky us.

It was no better with Morse in right, but at least he was injured for most of the season.  His first couple of weeks were pretty intense; it looked like he might mash 50 homers.  Since this is Morse we’re talking about, you had to figure his body would break down.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re no longer free to take steroids as much as you’d like.

I refuse to acknowledge the presence of any of the other veteran hitters on this team because each one is worse than the last.  I’ve already blown through way too many words on this group of hitters as it is, so I’ll cut this short and save some stuff for tomorrow when I look at what the Mariners should do this off-season.  If you catch me writing anything other than “Blow the whole fucking thing up,” then I encourage you to write your congressman and have me put in prison.

Shoot Me Now: The Mariners Are Still Terrible, July 2013 Edition

Well, that 8-game winning streak sure was fun, right?

April, May, June.  What’s the buzzword for July?  What’s my overarching feeling about this Mariners team as we head into the final two months of the season?  Meh.  That’s how I feel.  Meh.  The Mariners picked up five games in their quest to finish the season at .500, with a 15-10 record in July.  The Mariners had a CHANCE to do so much more, but of course because they’re the Mariners, they couldn’t let a month go by without double-digit losses.

July started out rock-solid, with a 4-2 road trip against the likes of Texas and Cincinnati.  Then, the Mariners came crashing down to Earth with a 3-1 series defeat at the hands of the Red Sox.  I’m sure everyone was thinking as I was, “Same ol’ Mariners,” but then something amazing happened.

Yes, the 8-game winning streak.  The streak that defined the month.  Three over the Angels, three over the Astros, and two more over the Indians.  Things were looking VERY good.  The delusional among us were even contemplating the impending possibility of playoff contention.  Then, the Mariners split a 4-game series to the lowly Twins and followed that up with these last two road losses to the Red Sox.  This 2-5 finish has really put a damper on what was once an exciting month.

I said it last night and I’ll say it again:  my opinion on the Mariners’ month of July totally depended on how yesterday’s game ended.  It’s sad, but it’s true.  A second consecutive defeat to the Red Sox meant it was yet another series the Mariners wouldn’t win.  More than that, it’s the ultimate example of how the Mariners are not There yet.  They’re not a player.  They would have no business being in the playoffs, because there are still truly great teams out there like the Red Sox to thump us back down the beanstalk.

But, what does that mean?  Yesterday was one game.  It was the difference between either 15-10 or 16-9.  I say that knowing full well it’s a ludicrous statement, and yet here we are.  I wouldn’t call July a failure, but it’s certainly a disappointment considering it could’ve been so much better.  Tack on a couple more wins – last night’s game and the Felix nine-inning no-decision to the Twins – and I’m a lot more pleased.  But, what are you gonna do?  They are who they are.

July saw the return of Erasmo Ramirez, which also meant we got to say goodbye to Jeremy Bonderman.  Win/win.  July also saw the fracturing of the hamate bone of Mike Zunino, which also means Henry Blanco is now a semi-full time starter along with some other scrub.  Lose/lose.  Mike Morse returned from the DL and Jason Bay was DFA’d … same/same.  Eric Wedge had a minor stroke and has been away from the team for the last couple weeks … let’s move on.

August is going to suck.  I’m just going to put that out there right now.  The Mariners won’t be going on any 8-game winning streaks this month; nor will they end the month with a winning record.  Raul Ibanez is in the toilet right now.  Miller and Franklin have their good days and their dreadful days.  The bottom of our lineup includes a pile of crap (Ackley), a pile of crap that plays good defense (Saunders), and a cover-your-eyes honest-to-goodness shit-hole that is whoever is catching that day.  Kyle Seager and Kendrys Morales are the only two people batting worth a damn, the team is jerking around Smoak’s playing time in favor of watching Morse strike out five times a day (three in the game and two more in the batting cage just for practice), and at this point I don’t even know why Brendan Ryan is even on the team anymore.

Oh, and by the way, why are the Mariners so insistent on playing Ackley in center and bumping Saunders over to one of the corner outfield spots?  Ackley’s arm is terrible, his range isn’t all that great, and he’s clearly the inferior defender.  You’re supposed to hide those types of guys in left field!  But, then again, I guess they really can’t when they’re already hiding Ibanez’s broken ass in left.  Hey, here’s a great idea:  play a 41 year old every fucking day because he was on a hot streak for a month.  That’s a genius way to make sure the guy gets overworked and turns into a pathetic flailing mess at the plate!

Defying all expectations, Aaron Harang is still a thang (!).  I give it two more weeks before the team picks up whatever triple-A pitcher is going best and dumps Harang on his ass (James Paxton alert!  Please keep going on that roll you’re on!).

Felix is still mowing people down and looks like he’s got the inside track for the Cy Young Award.  That’s exciting.  Iwakuma is still plugging along, though he won’t be getting any Cy Young consideration.  Joe Saunders is Joe Saunders.  Erasmo is still working the kinks out, but I fully expect him to deliver a quality outing any time now.

The bullpen feels to me like it has been slightly better of late.  I know it’s hard to judge, what with the late-game & extra-innings defeats lately.  Wilhelmsen has his closer’s job back.  The team didn’t trade Oliver Perez.  Hector Noesi was sent back to Tacoma recently (hopefully for good).  And I can’t bring myself to talk about anyone else.

Like I said, I fully expect August to be terrible.  But, that’s okay, because one week from today, we’ll be looking at the first Seahawks pre-season game.  And even if the starters only play a couple of drives, who cares?  It’s football!  Football isn’t baseball!  Which means that football is good!  God I hate baseball with all of my being!

The Mariners Are Impossibly Thin, With No Depth

You want a reason for the Mariners to stand pat and not trade anybody in the next couple weeks?  This would be Reason #1.

The argument against trading people are many.  The veterans we have aren’t worth a whole helluva lot, which means we wouldn’t get anything back except for middling prospects (see:  Eric Thames, Trayvon Robinson, Casper Wells, etc.).  Right now, the Mariners are going good, and do you REALLY feel like messing with that just to bring back some tryout flunky who will probably be traded or waived within two years?

I’m as realistic as I can be right now; I know the Mariners aren’t playing for anything THIS season.  At best, I’m hoping they end up at or near .500; anything over that mark would be a huge bonus.  As such, I know that anybody we bring in via trade will be someone that likely WON’T help us and won’t make us any better, either this year or in the future.  They will be organizational filler.  I’m tired of organizational filler.  We’ve got an organization FILLED (!) with organizational filler!

Yes, the Mariners are going good right now, but things won’t always be this good.  There’s another lull right around the corner (probably).  How soon that lull arrives, or how debilitating that lull is to our chances of ultimately achieving that .500 goal, all depends on what happens at the Trade Deadline, and what happens with injuries going forward.  A good way to speed up that lull will be to trade away guys like Morales, Ibanez, Joe Saunders, or even Oliver Perez.  Tired of watching this new, exciting brand of Mariners baseball?  Yearning for the duds we’ve seen the past three seasons?  Then, start clamoring for the Mariners to make ill-advised moves.  I’ll be over here, ironically pounding the podium for the status quo (ironic because I’m usually with the rest of you, demanding trades at all costs for players who won’t be around next season anyway).

Concerned about the Mariners?  Then, be concerned about the status of our everyday lineup and our pitching rotation.  This team is thin.  The bench consists of guys like Henry Blanco, Jason Bay, Endy Chavez, and Brendan Ryan.  You don’t mind playing Blanco once or twice a week (at the most) because catchers need off days.  The rest you don’t mind seeing in the occasional spot-start, or as defensive replacements in later innings; but they’re not guys you want to see playing everyday.  We’ve been there, we’ve done that, it didn’t turn out well.

Also, are you looking to shake up the starting rotation?  Well, for starters (!!), no one is going to trade you a fucking thing for Aaron Harang, so just stop it.  STOP IT!  Felix is untouchable (of course) and Iwakuma isn’t going anywhere (we’ve still got him on a cost-effective basis for next year and most likely 2015 as well, on a team option at a reasonable price).  Erasmo Ramirez is someone you hope will be part of the future, so he’s out.  That just leaves Joe Saunders.

Tired of Joe Saunders?  Want to see the team trade him while his stock is high?  OK, I’ll bite.  You know that’s going to create a huge, Grand Canyon-sized hole in the middle of this rotation, right?  Anybody we get back will likely be some triple-A hitter of little value, or a pitching prospect who is not yet ready for the Majors.  That’s what teams in contention give you for guys like Joe Saunders.  They’re not going to give you some young stud you can throw immediately into the rotation; if they had that, they’d keep him and use him instead!  Without Joe Saunders in our rotation, that leaves some pretty sad options:  Blake Beavan (the leader in the clubhouse), Hector Noesi (who, as you can plainly see, is still terrible), James Paxton (who, despite some recent success, still probably isn’t ready for anything more than a September call-up and one or two starts), and that’s about it.  Danny Hultzen is injured and keeps suffering setbacks by the week; I’m putting my Smart Money on him being finished for the season.  Taijuan Walker JUST started pitching in Tacoma a couple weeks ago and is on a strict pitch count.  Even if we bring him up, he’s going to be shut down in about 45 innings or so (he has pitched 84 innings in AA and 21 innings in AAA; reports have him at around 150 innings for 2013 before being shut down).  What is that?  5-8 starts?  Whatever it is, his number of starts is going down by the week.  I’d eat my hat if he becomes Joe Saunders’ replacement.

Yeah, so Blake Beavan for Joe Saunders; that’s what you’re looking at.  Still gung-ho about ridding ourselves of this middle-of-the-road pitcher?  For my money, Saunders is a helluva lot better and more reliable than Beavan.  I’ve seen enough of Beavan to know I never want to see him again.

As for our bullpen, word on the street is Oliver Perez’s days are numbered.  He has the highest value, he’s not our closer anymore, and he’s likely gone after this season; why not, right?

Well, it’s true, Tom Wilhelmsen has seemed to regain his former position as the team’s closer, but does he really inspire a ton of confidence right now?  We’re all still waiting for his strikeout numbers to return; I have a feeling we’ll be waiting until the end of time.  Yoervis Medina has been a pleasant surprise in 35 games thus far.  Charlie Furbush has been used appropriately and has turned out some positive results.  But, after that, it gets pretty dicey.  The aforementioned Noesi is up here because it looks like the Mariners want to stretch Beavan back out to starting.  He’s a terrible pitcher, but he can eat up innings in a blowout, so there you go.  Lucas Luetge is back, but he still can’t get out right handed batters, so he’s usually only good for a third of an inning.  Capps has been sent down to Tacoma for getting torched too often.  Farquhar – after a promising start to his Major League career – has shown why he was so available in that Ichiro trade.  Bobby LaFromboise isn’t anyone I ever want to see again.  Stephen Pryor is working his way back from the 60-day DL and who knows if he will make it back before season’s end?  The other guys are in Tacoma for a reason.

This bullpen, in short, has Perez, Medina, an iffy Wilhelmsen, an iffy Furbush, and that’s it.  If you ask me, I’d like to see Perez stay here and help us win as many games as we can.  He, like everyone else trade-able on this roster, won’t garner much in return.

Getting back to our hitters – and our toothless bench – there isn’t much help on the horizon.  Mike Morse will probably be back pretty soon.  At which point, I guess he goes into a time-share with Ibanez?  Honestly, I don’t know what we do with Morse when he returns.  Ackley seems pretty entrenched in center, Michael Saunders is probably the team’s best defensive outfielder, and Ibanez has been hitting lefties just as good as he’s been hitting righties.  Does Morse’s return spell the end for Jason Bay?  His playing time has diminished to almost nothing since our current outfield incarnation has presented itself as viable.  Does Bay bring anything to the table, aside from being slightly better defensively?

Also, what does this team do if Guti returns?  Part of me hopes he NEVER returns, because what’s the point?  We would have to waive Endy Chavez.  Granted, Chavez isn’t good, but I like what he brings in a very part-time role.  He doesn’t walk, but he gets hits (singles, mostly) and plays solid defense.  As a defensive replacement for Ibanez, you have to like him on the team.  You know, if we waive him for Guti, some contender is going to snap him up and put him on their bench.  Then, a week later, Guti will get hurt again, and where are we?  Welcoming back Carlos Peguero, apparently.

The only guy currently on the 25-man roster I won’t actually miss is Jason Bay.  This team could conceivably also get rid of Brendan Ryan, because Nick Franklin is a serviceable back-up at short stop, and Ackley can always slot back over and play second base if needed.  Other than that, there’s nothing I want to see this team do in trades, nor is there anything I want to have happen as far as health is concerned.  Let us just ride this wave to its conclusion and make whatever moves we feel like making this offseason.