The Mariners Kicked Off 2018 With A Series Win Over The Indians

Saturday didn’t go quite as expected, following Thursday’s miracle victory over Corey Kluber on Opening Day.  James Paxton took the hill for Game 2 and was supposed to dominate, as is his Canadian way.  Instead, he was blasted for a first inning Grand Slam, and ultimately gave up 6 runs in just under 5 innings to take the L.  The bullpen – led by Casey Lawrence’s 2.2 innings of shutout relief – kept the team in it, as the offense chipped away at the deficit.  Homers by Haniger and Cruz (and RBI singles by Cano and Segura) made it a 6-5 game, but that’s where it remained, as the M’s really couldn’t do anything against Cleveland’s superior late-inning relief corps.

This put Sunday’s game in real jeopardy.  Thankfully, the pitching and hitting were up to the task.

Mike Leake started off the year just as strong as he finished 2017, going 7 innings, giving up just 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 4.  RBI doubles by Segura and Seager tied the game in the fifth inning, and homers by Gordon and Haniger put the game away in the seventh.  Juan Nicasio did his damnedest to almost blow it in the eighth, with a 2-run homer given up.  But, Edwin Diaz was on fire in the ninth to put the game away, and earn his second save of the short season.

Mitch Haniger is on an absolute tear through three games, with a double, 2 homers, 3 RBI, and a whopping 2.227 OPS.  Cano, Cruz, and Gordon are all off to hot starts at the plate as well (though Cruz apparently twisted his ankle on Saturday – after his second homer in two games – and may or may not miss some extended time).  Segura started to pick things up in yesterday’s game, and Ichiro and Seager have had their moments.

The defense played particularly well in this series, with Gordon flashing the leather all over the place.  Ichiro stole a homer on Saturday.  The backup catchers (with Zunino starting the season on the DL) have blocked a number of important pitches, and Ryon Healy – while doing nothing with his bat – has picked a number of tough balls on throws to first.

The injury to Cruz follows in a long line of hilarious injuries, as he did it while slipping on stairs in the dugout or some damn thing.  I mean, what fucking ancient gypsy witch cursed this team?  If you find out, let me know so we can cut her fucking heart out.  I’d like to say when he and Zunino return, this team is going to look unstoppable on offense, but that would presume we won’t have another five injuries happen between now and then!

Still, pretty cool to take 2/3 against the Indians, who look great and figure to be in the hunt for the best record in baseball.  Now, we hit the road, and for some reason have three more off-days in the next two weeks.  We also feature as the opponent in home openers for San Francisco (tomorrow) and Minnesota (Thursday).  Also, lots of day games in this stretch, so it’s truly one of the oddest starts to a season in recent memory.

Tomorrow, Marco Gonzales gets his first start of the season, before the rotation turns over with Felix again on Wednesday.  Assuming Cruz won’t play the next few days, I’m curious to see what we’ve got in Dan Vogelbach.  Ryon Healy already looks pretty miserable at the plate, and Vogelbach wasn’t able to muster much more than a few futile swings and misses in his start at DH yesterday.  The long national nightmare of a black hole at first base continues apace.

A Cool Thing Happened At The Mariners Game Last Night

They won!  One down, 64 left to go, RIGHT SHEEPLE???

I can be as sour on this season as I wanna be, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying a delightful Opening Night Mariners game with a sold-out crowd (apparently the largest regular season crowd ever for a Mariners game in Safeco Field?  Even though I’m pretty sure it holds 48,000 seats and last night’s number fell just short of that?).  I met up with some friends at Slugger’s for a few rounds of Coors Banquet Beer tallboys right around 3pm until it was time to mosey on over to the stadium.  I don’t know if the fans were smarter about getting inside earlier, or if the Mariners organization was indeed moving things along at a faster clip, but I was inside in a matter of moments and I didn’t need a CLEAR membership to do it.

I like to get 200-level seats whenever we’re going to a game that’s going to be at or near a sellout.  What you sacrifice in food options, you more than make up for with better seats, clear sightlines, less people getting up and getting in your way every inning, and a quicker time in and out of the bathroom.  It’s really a no-brainer.  Also, as I really wanted to try the new donut place (spoiler alert:  couldn’t find it), it was easy to just walk downstairs and make a loop around the stadium before the game started.  I actually did this during the pre-game introductions, which is fine.  Red carpet, lots of clapping and fireworks, I get it.

I had a pizza slice, a couple of hot dogs, and I got to try Dippin’ Dots for the first time ever.  I’ve always been partial to, you know, actual ice cream, though I tend to gravitate to soft serve in a mini-helmet when I’m at the game, but I think at the time the soft serve machines were still “warming up” so to speak.  I’ve always wanted to try Dippin’ Dots and even though I’m not a child, I decided to get a cup at an open stand.  BOY were they disappointing!  I don’t know what I was expecting, but the ice cream of the future can suck it!

Then, it was gametime.  Felix Hernandez pitched to contact, kept his pitch count relatively low, limited hits and walks, and still found 4 guys to whiff.  All told, he was pulled after 5.1 innings (after he gave up his second walk of the evening) of shutout ball, and the game was put in the hands of the bullpen.

The M’s jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first after Cano had a 2-out single and Cruz followed with a first pitch bomb to dead centerfield.  The score stayed that way until the 7th, when the Indians – off of Nick Vincent – got 3 hits to manufacture a run.  He held the damage there, Juan Nicasio did his job in a clean 8th, bridging us to Edwin Diaz.  Sugar worked around a couple HBP’s, striking out the side with the go-ahead runs in scoring position.  It was a tightwire act, to be sure, but it was good enough to hold up for a 2-1 victory.

The Mariners’ offense did about as well as I could’ve hoped against the likes of Corey Kluber, who went the distance for the Indians, sprinkling around 6 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 8.  It was a hard-luck loss for the ace, but it’s impossible not to come away impressed with how the Mariners pitched in this one.  I know it’s 1/162, but still.

While all the games won’t be as low scoring as this one, I think this is a textbook example of what most Mariners wins are going to look like.  Felix more or less controlled the game through 5 innings, but at the very first sight of trouble in the top of the 6th (that 1-out walk), Scott Servais was out of the dugout and had no qualms about pulling his Opening Day starter.  I know that Felix was more or less on a pitch count regardless – as he didn’t have much of a Spring (coming back from that hit on the arm) – but I think it says a lot that he made it through 5 innings at less than 80 pitches, and the team automatically had guys warming up in the bullpen.  I feel like that’s going to be the norm for a lot of starters on this team; I doubt we’ll see Servais out there asking Felix how he’s feeling, or if he’s got one more left in him.  Similarly, I don’t think we’ll see Felix argue his way into staying in games once he’s reached that point.  It’s a new day, Seattle!

The bullpen shook out like I expected.  Dan Altavilla came in for Felix and got a double play to end the threat.  Scrabble started the next inning, got his one out, and was pulled for Vincent.  Vincent struggled, as I thought he might (he too didn’t really have much of a Spring, after being over-worked in 2017).  I hope he’s able to work through this and turn back into the guy he was for most of last year, but I’m fearing for the worst at this point.  Hopefully Altavilla will be able to take that next step and be our 7th inning guy (and 8th inning guy when Nicasio can’t go).  Nicasio’s stuff didn’t look too electric, but it’s tough for me to tell from where I was in the stands.  I feel like he knows how to pitch, though, and he went right after the batters in front of him.  Consummate 8th inning guy; here’s hoping the combo of him and Diaz are able to really shorten these games.  As for Sugar, I guess we’ll see.  It was an adventure last night (I was convinced he was going to give up the tying run and we’d head to extra innings), and I think it’s going to be an adventure on most nights.  He’s 1 for 1 in save opportunities, so that’s all that really matters I guess.

All in all, a really fun day.  That was pretty much the only way the Mariners were going to beat someone like Kluber, so I’m glad the pitching staff was able to hold it together.  Now, we head into the weekend (with a stupid off-day today) at a pretty good advantage, with Paxton set to go tomorrow, and Leake there to go on Sunday.  If you gave me 2 of 3 right now, I’d gladly accept and fast forward to next week.

As for the hitters, we saw Dee Gordon get his first in a Mariners uniform (as well as a walk), but no stolen bases just yet.  Segura had a rough night, going 0-4 and grounding into a double play.  Those first inning hits were the only ones for Cano and Cruz, but boy were they massive!  Mitch Haniger was the rest of the offense, going 3 for 3 with a double.  On pace to bat 1.000 with 162 doubles!  Zunino was a late scratch with some tightness, and Mike Marjama stepped in like a champ.  Hope Z’s okay going forward.  And Ichiro got the start in left field (which was weird to see).  He made a nice catch at the wall and had a chance to drive in a run, but ended up going 0 for 2 with a strikeout before being pulled late for defensive reasons.  He’s still coming back from injury too, so I don’t know if I’d read too much into that.  I do think Heredia is a better defensive outfielder at this point – and if the M’s had their druthers, he’d get the bulk of the playing time over Ichiro – but I think for now they’re going to go with a straight platoon in left until Gamel returns.

Here we go!  Baseball’s back!  We’re doing it live!

The Mariners Keep Winning & So Does Everyone Else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real G’s Move In Silence Like Lasagna: Tahoe, Year Three

One year is a vacation.  Two years is a trend.  But, back-to-back-to-back years going to south Lake Tahoe for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament?  That shit’s a tradition!

I've yet to lose a futures bet and I don't plan on starting now ...

I’ve yet to lose a futures bet and I don’t plan on starting now …

The first year was actually a bachelor party, of which there is no written account.  Here’s what happened in year two; and damn, looking back on it, if I’d put $100 down on Felix to win the ERA title, I’d be sitting on another $800!

As it stands, my Robinson Cano bet came through with flying colors.  $550 to win $500, as he outlasted Adrian Beltre in total Hits, Home Runs & RBI.  The first thing I did after checking in to the Montbleu Casino & Resort was try to cash it in.  Of course, since the baseball season last year ended over 120 days ago, the sportsbook couldn’t honor my ticket.  Apparently, computers have limitless possibilities.  They hold the power to harness just about anything you could possibly imagine!  But, if you’re a sportsbook, computers apparently can’t hold ANY MORE BETTING INFORMATION after 120 days.  So, that’s fucking annoying.  Anyway, all hope is not lost.  I’m told if I simply mail in the ticket, they’ll mail me a check.  It’s not the way I wanted to do it, but I guess I don’t really have a choice in the matter.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on the topic, I like to make at least one futures bet on my way out of Tahoe, just so I have something to look forward to.  Since sports gambling is illegal in Washington state and everything.  In my first Tahoe year, I put $100 on the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl at 7 to 1 odds.  When they beat the Denver Broncos, I was a happy camper in more ways than one.  Last year, I decided to up the ante with my Cano bet.  This year, not only did I up the ante again, but I upped the number of futures bets.  To wit:

  • Seattle Mariners Over 87 Wins, $110 to win $100
  • Seattle Mariners Win 2015 World Series, $100 at 14 to 1 odds
  • Seattle Seahawks Win Super Bowl, $100 at 6 to 1 odds
  • Most Regular Season Strikeouts For A MLB Pitcher Over 260.5, $550 to win $500

As you can tell, I’m banking on a Seattle Sports Renaissance the likes of which we’ve never come REMOTELY close to seeing.  The only one I really feel confident in winning is the strikeouts bet, but I was more confident when the number was 257.5 (what that bet means is:  I just need any pitcher in the Major Leagues to have 261 or more strikeouts by the end of the 2015 season.  Last year, two people achieved this feat – David Price with 271 and Corey Kluber with 269 – but I’m really banking on Max Scherzer’s move to the NL carrying a huge spike in his strikeouts.  Also, for the record, Felix ended last year with 248, which was a career high).

Thanks to last year’s horror show at the roulette table, where I lost $1,600 in the matter of a couple minutes, I decided to take a step back and gamble on other stuff.  My primary weapons ended up being sports bets and slot machines.  My first big wager of this year’s trip was $300 on Hampton +34.5 against Kentucky.  Just needed Hampton to lose by 34 points or less, and lo and behold they did just that!

I did most of my sports gambling on Friday.  Virginia was heavily favored over Belmont, so I took Belmont and the points and won.  Louisville was favored by 9 over UC Irvine.  I took the Cardinals and a bath on that one as they only managed to win by 2.  My big winner of the day ended up being North Dakota State vs. Gonzaga.  The Bulldogs were favored by 17.5, so I bet on the Bison to beat that spread.  Thanks to their crazy barrage of three pointers, I ended up winning that bet, and a parlay with Belmont.  I also won on a prop bet on Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer.  He needed to get over 22 combined points and rebounds to win me $100 and he CRUSHED IT.

My sports gambling on Saturday was the turd in this year’s punchbowl.  I took the OVER on total points in the Kentucky/Cincinnati game (I think it was around 123.5 points combined) and got nowhere near winning that one.  I took Ohio State +10 points against Arizona and they ended up losing by 15.  I slept in too late and missed my chance to bet the OVER on total points in the UCLA/UAB game (which I would’ve crushed).  And, for good measure, I bet on the Mariners to beat the Cubs with Felix on the mound and most of our regulars playing.  YES, it was a Cactus League game, but when in Rome, assholes!  Anyway, the Mariners lost 12-10 and I decided to cut myself off for the rest of the weekend on sports bets.

Luckily, my slot machine game was on point.  I hit a couple of good-sized Wheel of Fortune progressives, winning around $700 each time.  The last time – at about 2am on Saturday night – was the difference between a winning and losing weekend.  I pumped in $300 into the same machine, just waiting to hit one of the big spins.  It took a while, but I got mine.  I entered Tahoe with $2,500 and left Tahoe with $2,900.  Plus, my Cano bet from last year that I need to mail away for, plus the futures bets mentioned above.  All in all, one of my better gambling weekends.

For the record, I’m already locked in to Year Four.  I kinda sorta got suckered in to sitting through a 90 minute timeshare presentation next year, but I think I got a pretty good deal.  For $149, I get four nights and five days at the Montbleu Casino (which is where we always stay anyway).  The guy gave me $100 in what I can only describe as “fun money”.  Brown chips that could only be used on black jack or craps.  Since I don’t play craps, I took it over to black jack.  I would bet only with my brown chips.  If I won a hand, I’d put my winnings aside and let the brown chips ride.  If I lost, they took the brown chips and I’d bet more brown chips until I was out.  I ended up turning $100 in fun money into $125 in real money, so for all intents and purposes, I’m going to stay at the Montbleu next year for four nights for less than $25 (and a 90 minute timeshare presentation).  On top of all that, once I finish the presentation, I get a $100 Visa giftcard to use on whatever I want, so I might have happened upon the deal of the century (assuming, of course, there isn’t some hidden thing waiting to fuck me over).  Bottom line:  I’m 34 years old and I’ve never been involved in one of these things.  I feel like it’s a rite of passage in First World Problems to get suckered into a timeshare presentation at least one time in your life.

Now, it’s only a matter of sitting back and rooting on the home teams.  For the record, if I win my Mariners and Seahawks bets, I might just blow the whole blog up and start fresh with a brand new one.  Why do we put ourselves through this?  For the hundreds of gambling dollars coming our way, that’s why!!!

P.S.  Also, I feel like I need to put this down for the record, because it’s important to me and my people.  While in Tahoe, on Thursday, we retired to one of our hotel rooms to play some beer pong.  My friends and I like to partake in the occasional beer pong session – particularly during tailgate season – and I like to think we’re all pretty good at our favorite drinking pasttime.  Anyway, a buddy and myself were controlling the table.  About two or three games in, we took our first turn of the game against two fresh opponents (as is our right, as we had yet to lose).  In a 6-cup game, on our first shots, we nailed the same cup (which, according to our house rules, means they have to pull & drink three cups, as well as give us balls back for an immediate second turn).  They pulled all the interior cups, leaving us with the three corner cups and huge gaps between each one.  On the same turn, we each nailed the same cup to effectively end the contest.  Without the other team having a turn!  As we play with the troll rule, if you lose a game without ever making a cup, you have to sit under the table during the entirety of the next game.  My buddy and I ended up going undefeated on Thursday, and would go on to troll a second team not too long after.

I just thought you should know:  this was the single greatest achievement in beer pong in my entire life.  Go on about your business.

Awards Season: Felix Hernandez Did Not Win The Cy Young Award

Kyle Seager winning the Gold Glove was a nice little surprise I think nobody expected.  Chris Young winning the Comeback Player of the Year was as sure of a slam dunk as can be.  Lloyd McClendon not even making the Top 3 for Manager of the Year is at least a little insulting, but it’s hard for me to say if he’s more or less deserving than the Baltimore, Kansas City, and Anaheim managers.  I’m too close to the situation; I’ve watched these Mariners bungle their way through life for too many years.  2014, and the job done by LMC, felt like a fucking miracle on par with walking on water.  Then again, I probably would’ve sent my vote to the Kansas City manager – even discounting what they did in the post-season – because if you want to talk Long Suffering Baseball Fans, followers of the Royals will chew your God damn ear off!

Yesterday, they announced the Cy Young awards.  In the NL, Clayton Kershaw won it unanimously.  In the AL, it was always going to be a 2-man race.  In one corner, you have Felix Hernandez.  The face of the Mariners’ franchise and one of the most talked-about names in baseball at every trade deadline until he signed that massive extension.  Winner of the 2010 Cy Young Award, having the single greatest season he’s ever had in what’s looking like a Hall of Fame career.  In the other corner, you have Corey Kluber.  A guy, plays for the Indians, who became a full time starter in 2013.  He had his breakout this year, coming in second overall in strikeouts, with a lot of other impressive numbers to boot.

Two worthy players (and Chris Sale, I guess, but no one took him seriously).  Two aces pitching for teams who fell just short of the Wild Card.

Felix had the ERA crown at 2.14.  Felix had the best WHIP in a generation with 0.92.  Felix was second in Innings Pitched (236, behind David Price) and fourth in strikeouts (248, behind Price, Kluber, and Max Scherzer).  Felix’s 6.8 WAR was second to Kluber’s 7.4.  Felix’s 2.56 FIP was behind Kluber’s 2.35.  Felix’s strikeout-to-walk ratio was a little better, Kluber’s strikeout-per-9 innings was a little better.

In the end, it was determined by the Baseball Writers.  Out of 30 voters, Kluber received 17 first place votes to Felix’s 13.  Overall, Kluber had 169 points to Felix’s 159.  It was that close.  Both were deserving to win it all, but one guy did, and it wasn’t our guy.  That makes me a little sad.

What irritates the shit out of me is the rationale some of these voters used.  Read this.  Or don’t.  I’ll summarize.  Here are some of the reasons why people voted for Kluber over Felix:

  • The Seattle Mariners had a good defense, while the Cleveland Indians had a bad defense.
  • Felix Hernandez had one bad game in Toronto on September 23rd.
  • Felix Hernandez plays in a more pitcher-friendly home ballpark.
  • Kluber beat Felix in their lone head-to-head matchup.
  • Kluber had a better month of September.
  • Kluber had more 10-strikeout games.
  • Kluber had better sabermetrics.

The last point I’d be willing to concede.  I’m not going to dig around and learn all the intricacies of every sabermetric statistic to try to make an argument one way or the other.  If you tell me Kluber had the better sabermetrics, and if that’s something that matters to you as a voter, then fine, I give.

But, come on.  You’re punishing Felix because of Safeco Field, and because our general manager put a competent defensive unit around him?  At that point, what more could he possibly do?  How much better than Kluber would he reasonably have to be to be considered the best pitcher in the AL?  How can he expect to compete for one of these awards again if he’s being dinged for things outside of his control?

Nevermind the fact that his home and road numbers are actually quite similar, and the fact that he gave up four more homers in Safeco than he did on the road.  Oh, and also NEVERMIND the fact that Felix had 12 unearned runs compared to Kluber’s 8, which would lead me to understand that maybe Felix didn’t have this huge defensive advantage after all.  Yeah, no, yeah, those are valid reasons.

Oh, but that month of September though!  Hang on:

  • Felix:  6 games, 1.66 ERA, 25 hits in 38 innings, 11 walks, 43 strikeouts
  • Kluber:  6 games, 2.09 ERA, 39 hits in 43 innings, 7 walks, 56 strikeouts

I dunno, not seeing this huge difference.  And pardon me if I don’t give credence to their head-to-head matchup, which saw Felix take the loss while going 7 innings and giving up 2 runs, while Kluber went the full 9, shutting out our inept offense.  If you’re going to use that as criteria in voting for Kluber, then we have to bring team offense into the equation.  Cleveland as a team scored 35 more runs than the Mariners and had a .706 OPS vs. our .676.  But, again, that’s really an argument I don’t want to make, because this is SUPPOSED to be about the pitchers.

The one thing that really burns my ass more than anything else is this whole What Have You Done For Me Lately mentality.  Really?  We’re going to boil a guy’s season down to his final meaningful start?

Corey Kluber went 8 shutout innings on September 26th to win his final start of the year 1-0.  Felix Hernandez went 4.2 innings on September 23rd down in Toronto, costing us a win and ultimately a shot at the Wild Card.  He gave up 8 runs in that game, though a scoring change after the fact determined only 4 of those runs were earned (and thereby giving him the ERA title after he pitched 5.1 innings of meaningless shutout baseball on the final day of the season).

I can see being a little cynical about that whole scoring change issue.  Seems a little self-serving on the Mariners’ part to ask for a review of the play days later, but Major League Baseball didn’t HAVE to give us the scoring change.

Regardless, one guy won his last start and one guy didn’t.  Except, here’s the thing:  at the end of the day on September 26th, the Indians were 3 full games back in the Wild Card race, with two days to go.  They had two teams to leapfrog in order to get into the playoffs even going IN to that game, so what makes Kluber’s performance on that day any more important than Felix’s performance on the 28th, after we’d found out Oakland won earlier in the afternoon?  Kluber’s big final start meant NOTHING, and yet he’s being lauded for pitching well in a meaningless game.

Was it a shame that Felix laid a stinker in Toronto?  Of course.  You can certainly make the argument that, to date, that game was the biggest of Felix’s career.  Albeit, a career that has still yet to see him grace the post-season.  Nevertheless, that was an important game, and his meltdown cost us on that day.

But, the Cy Young isn’t supposed to be about what you did last.  It’s supposed to be about your entire body of work.  And, quite frankly, I’ll never be able to forget what Felix was able to do in those 16 starts from May 18th through August 11th when he went at least 7 innings in every game while giving up 2 runs or less.  IN EVERY GAME!  Are you kidding me?  He set the Major League record!  That’s not just dominance, that’s SUSTAINED dominance, over damn near half a season!  And, it’s not like he’s just hanging his hat on those 16 starts, most of his other 18 starts were pretty fucking good too.  But, not that one in Toronto, I guess.  Fuck me.

Why are we glossing over a remarkable achievement like those 16 consecutive starts?  Why isn’t THAT the fucking headline on this Cy Young race?  Clayton Kershaw, the unanimous NL Cy Young award winner couldn’t even achieve what Felix was able to achieve!  And we’re glossing over it for what?  A lone start in September?  Bitch, please.

I’m not going to go around saying this is the biggest travesty in the history of meaningless sports awards, but it’s still pretty fucking irritating.  It’s also a reason why I choose to no longer talk about politics with anyone, even with people who agree with mine.  It’s not what you vote for, it’s HOW you vote.  And the OVERWHELMING majority of ignorant cunts in this country base their votes on the most pointless, trivial, stupid-ass bullshit you can possibly think of.  The Baseball Writers Association of America, sadly, is a predictable cross section of those very same ignorant cunts of the American voting public.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Pitchers, Part I

Turns out there’s A LOT more to say about the 2014 Mariners than I originally thought.  Anyway, last week I wrote about all the position players used by the Mariners throughout the season.  It turned out to be a massive, 7,000+ word monstrosity that took over four hours to write and had to be split over three days.

This one figures to be a lot somewhat shorter simply because we used a total of 24 different position players and only 20 pitchers.  Here’s to me keeping this to a modest TWO posts!

(Part II tomorrow)

In case you missed it, here’s the breakdown of the hitters from last week:

And now, without further ado, let’s talk about the pitchers.

Blake Beavan – On April 15th, Blake Beavan made his one and only appearance for the Seattle Mariners in 2014.  It was a start (presumably because we lost Paxton to injury a few days earlier, and because Iwakuma was still a couple weeks away from making his debut, and because we still weren’t too confident in Maurer’s abilities – but would have to be five days later because injuries), and he lasted four innings.  In those four innings, he gave up two solo home runs and we all thought he was being pulled due to ineffectiveness.  It would later be revealed that Beavan had a shoulder injury that kept him out until July.  After that, it looks like he finished the year in relief, down in Tacoma, going no more than 2.2 innings per appearance the rest of the way.

Outlook for 2015:  I honestly have no idea.  I mean, I have some idea:  he won’t be playing for the Mariners.  Presumably, he still has options left, so I’m going to say he’ll be in Tacoma to start.  But, will he BE a starter?  Not gonna lie to you, once Beavan went on the DL, all the Beavan news sort of dried up.

Joe Beimel – One of the lesser-heralded moves made by the Mariners ahead of the 2014 season.  Beimel didn’t cost much, he won a job out of Spring Training, and he was easily the most-effective lefty out of the bullpen.  He’s a 14-year veteran who didn’t pitch in the Majors in 2012 & 2013 due to injuries and – I’m guessing – ineffectiveness.

This year, he appeared in 56 games, almost exclusively as a lefty-on-lefty specialist.  45 innings, 2.20 ERA, not a bad little year all told.  I sure as shit liked him more than the wild and erratic Charlie Furbush.

Outlook for 2015:  I could see the Mariners signing him again, but not if he’s going to cost an arm and a leg.  I don’t know how many lefty relievers the Mariners have coming up the pike, but I’m pretty certain we can find one on the cheap somewhere.  This is the same management group that found a diamond in the rough the last few years with guys like Beimel and Oliver Perez.  There’s no reason to think that won’t continue.  I’m giving him a 33.333% chance of returning.  But, he’ll certainly get a guaranteed contract from SOMEONE.

Roenis Elias – Probably the biggest feel-good story of the Mariners organization in 2014.  Cuban defector, made the leap from AA to the Bigs in one Spring Training, AND pretty much made it through the whole season!

29 starts, 163.2 innings, 143 K’s, 64 BB’s, 3.85 ERA, 10-12 record.  All good stuff.

(also, I forgot about his 5-shutout-inning start in Tacoma in August when the Mariners sent him down to limit his overall innings count)

He made his final start on September 16th, where he had to leave early with an elbow strain.  The team – in the middle of a Wild Card chase – rightly played it safe and shut him down.  The best part of his rookie season was probably how he didn’t really slump.  He’d have 2-3 bad outings in a row, but not very often; and he always found a way to bounce back.  And, while the team tried to limit his innings per start, if you discount the final game where he left injured, he failed to go five innings only three times all year.

His most obvious high point was the June 1st start at home against Detroit where he went the full nine, shutting them out on 3 hits, with 1 walk and 8 strikeouts.  He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he’s a lefty with good control and a wicked curve.  When he has his change up working, he’s tough to beat.  And, considering he turned 26 in August, his poise is off the charts.  No jam is too overwhelming.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s certainly earned the right to be a frontrunner for a starting rotation spot.  I’d slide him right in after Felix, Iwakuma, and Paxton as a fourth starter (though, for purposes of splitting up the lefties, you’ll probably see him in the 5-hole).  He pitched 148.1 minor league innings in 2012 and 130 more in 2013, so you have to wonder whether the Mariners will let him go hog-wild in 2015 or not.  It might be unfair to expect him to go 200+ next year, but I could easily see him in the 180-200 range.  Here’s to hoping that elbow issue is nothing and he’s right as rain from the get-go.

Danny Farquhar – Aside from a small number of bad outings, Danny Farquhar was arguably the best reliever on the team all season long.  And yet, it took LMC and Co. a while before they realized it and used him in high leverage situations.

Just another hard-throwing righty in a bullpen full of ’em.  Good movement on his fastball, great cutter, and some nice control with his offspeed stuff.  While Lloyd would interchange him, Medina, and Wilhelmsen in that 8th inning role (because, quite frankly, all three of them got the job done for the most part), it was Farqhuar who earned the role of defacto closer whenever Rodney was unable to go.  Love to see that.

Outlook for 2015:  Should be another year of lockdown relief.  I could see the bad kind of regression out of guys like Wilhelmsen, Medina, Leone, Rodney, and pretty much anyone else in that bullpen.  But, for whatever reason, I have the utmost confidence that Farquhar will be our rock.  That having been said, he could also be one of the better trade chips we have, if we decided to work out a blockbuster deal for a bat or something.  It would hurt to lose Danny, but you have to like the thought process behind such a move (the thought process being:  the Mariners have a ton of relievers that could easily step up and keep our bullpen intact and dominating).

Charlie Furbush – Furbush had the 2nd-most appearances of anyone on the pitching staff, but the 7th-most innings pitched among relievers (not counting Maurer, who only pitched around 37 innings of relief, with the rest of his innings in that ill-advised starter role).  Furbush was, like Beimel, mostly a lefty specialist.  Unlike Beimel, he was used more often because we wanted to keep Beimel’s appearances down (given his, shall we say, “advanced years”).

Furbush was also probably the least-effective reliever on the team, among the relievers who were with us the full year.  I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s feast or famine with Furbush.  Which was kind of a bummer because I remember him being a lot more effective in 2013.  Of course, he wasn’t ACTUALLY “a lot” more effective last year, but perceptions can be tricky.

Furbush is who he is.  He’s got a dynamic arm angle which should make it tough on any lefty trying to hit off of him.  But, he doesn’t really have dramatic splits:

  • Vs. Lefty:  79 AB, .241 avg against, .277 OBP, .594 OPS
  • Vs. Righty:  83 AB, .253 avg against, .315 OBP, .701 OPS

That comes out to a difference of 5 more walks to righties and 2 more homers (with 1 fewer double).  His career splits are much more in line with expectations, but you have to factor in how he was a starter to begin his career.

Outlook for 2015:  He’ll almost certainly be back, and be right back in that lefty specialist role in the bullpen.  Since relievers tend to be wildly inconsistent from year to year, the odds are just as good that he’ll be super amazing or fucking terrible.  Maybe just bank on him being what he’s been the last two years as a full-time Major League reliever and keep your eyes shut during the scary parts.  I’ll tell you when you can open your eyes again.

Felix Hernandez – Our little Cy Young winner!

34 starts.  27 quality starts.  236 innings.  15-6 record.  170 hits.  248 strikeouts.  46 walks.  6.8 WAR.  0.92 WHIP.  2.14 ERA.

He led the American League in ERA and WHIP.  Second in Innings Pitched and WAR among pitchers.  Fourth in strikeouts.  Among pitchers who went 200 innings or more, he gave up BY FAR the fewest hits (next lowest was 187).  And the fifth-fewest walks.

Oh yeah, and he had those 16 consecutive starts where he went 7 or more innings AND gave up 2 runs or less, breaking the Major League all-time record.  SIXTEEN!  From May 18th through August 11th, he was by far and away the best pitcher in the American League and probably all of baseball.  That’s not to say he was dogging it those other 18 starts, but that kind of consistency is fucking amazing and deserves to be recognized.

If Felix didn’t already have that one Cy Young Award to his name, I’m sure I’d throw the biggest hissy-fit of all time if he doesn’t win it this year.  But, regardless, it’ll be a pretty sizable hissy-fit if he gets edged out.  Thankfully, the fact that he already has one is actually a good thing.  Baseball Writers who vote for these things are nothing if not sheep.  Felix is a name.  He’s understood as being one of the greats in the game today.  Moreover, he’s a good guy, who played for a good team, who came 1 game short of the playoffs.  Corey Kluber is NOT a name.  He’s a guy no one ever heard of outside of Cleveland until this year.  If he wins the Cy Young, then they should also go back and retroactively give the MVP to A-Rod over Juan Gonzalez in 1996, because that shit was some BULLshit.

Felix was pretty great in 2010 when he won, but this year he was WITHOUT QUESTION even better.  His 2014 was the best season of his career so far.  I hope everyone enjoyed it.

Outlook for 2015:  The Ace of the team.  He’s here for the duration.  He might not be a Cy Young winner, but he’ll be pretty fucking awesome and still among the best pitchers in the game.

Hisashi Iwakuma – Kuma fucked up the middle finger on his throwing hand when he got it caught in some netting while practicing a baseball drill.  As a result, he didn’t make his first start for the Mariners until May 3rd.  He was a little up and down in those first couple months, then settled down in July and August to be his usual remarkable self.  Then, he completely fell apart in September and absolutely could not be counted on to keep us in ballgames.

From August 24th onward, Kuma made seven starts.  He averaged less than five innings per start, going 32 innings total; and he averaged 4 runs per start, giving up 28 in total.  He gave up 40 hits in those innings, to go along with 9 walks, and boy did other teams take advantage of those hits & walks!

I find it hard to believe that’s a trend with him, because in 2013 his September ERA was under 1.  And that was a year where he DIDN’T miss a month of the season to injury!  My thinking is:  it’s just one of those things, and you just hope it doesn’t carry over to next year.

Overall, I still think Kuma is a rock solid #2 starter.  His 2014 was good for the most part, but considering the start and the finish, we all might be better off just forgetting it even happened.

Outlook for 2015:  The team will most definitely pick up his $7 million option.  So, that’s cool.  We get another legit #2 starter for a VERY reasonable salary.  The question going forward is:  what do we do long-term?  It looked like – after his 2012 season where he came on strong in the second half once his arm got right – he could’ve commanded quite the bounty on the open market.  The fact that we got him for essentially 3 years, $21 million, was quite the shock.  And, it still is, to tell you the truth.  I think he’s still got some good mileage left on his arm, so I wouldn’t be against another 3-year extension if the terms are right.

Dominic Leone – 16th round draft pick in the 2012 draft.  He’s been great every step of the way.

He played in Everett in 2012, then spent the duration of 2013 in the minors, going from A to AA, dominating all the way.  Then, sure as shit, he continued his ass-kicking parade in Spring Training this year, which earned him a role on the Mariners that he never gave up.

He was never really a guy the team turned to in the 8th inning of a winning ballgame, but he certainly earned higher-leverage situations as the season went along.  And, I’m looking at his numbers here, and I can only count 2, maybe 3 bad outings all year, out of 57 appearances.

By WAR, he was the second-best reliever on the team behind Wilhelmsen of all people.  He had the fourth-highest K/9 among relievers who stuck with the Mariners the full season.  And he somehow finished with an 8-2 record out of the bullpen, which is meaningless but still kinda fun.

Hard-throwing righty with good movement.  Obviously, his secondary pitches were pretty solid, if he managed to stick the full season.  Best of all, I never really felt all that nervous with him on the mound.  Considering he had this much success as a rookie tells me if he can stay healthy, he’s got a long, fruitful career ahead of him.

Outlook for 2015:  He should be back in the bullpen for the full go, but like Farquhar, he’s got a lot of value as a trade chip.  In fact, among the relievers on this team, he’s probably got the MOST value.  He’s got the full season under his belt, he was great this season, and among our Major League relievers, he’s got the most service time left.  Leone by himself could probably fetch us a semi-quality bat.  Package him with another guy or two and you could theoretically wrangle away a great hitter for the next year or two.  If I’m being honest with myself, I give it 2:1 odds that Leone is traded for someone awesome.  But, if he’s back, you could be looking at a future closing candidate when Fernando Rodney moves on.

Lucas Luetge – He made 12 appearances.  8 were in September.  The rest were sprinkled around in April and July as extra bullpen help during lean times where we had to go to the ‘pen quite a bit.

It’s hard to say Luetge was much more than a warm body, but then again he wasn’t given much of a chance.  We plucked him from Milwaukee in 2012 in the Rule 5 draft and he stuck that whole year with the club.  Since 2013, he’s been up and down from Tacoma, with middling results.  It’s tough, because he’s been more-or-less pretty good down in AAA, but it hasn’t quite carried over when he’s been called up.

Outlook for 2015:  He needs to refine his command and control.  He’ll contend for a Major League roster spot, but anything could happen.  If he’s great in Spring, he’ll most likely make it.  But, if we bring in a veteran on a small deal who also pitches well, we may opt to keep the vet & save Luetge down in the minors in the event of injury.  Either way, you WILL see him at some point in a Mariners uniform (unless, again, he’s thrown into a deal with another club, which could happen to almost any of our relievers).

Brandon Maurer – The Mariners drafted Maurer in 2008 in the 23rd round.  In 2012, he was in AA and earning comparisons to our Big 3 (Hultzen, Paxton, and Walker).  He earned so many comparisons, that we had to temporarily amend it to the Big 4 and put him in it!

In 2013, Maurer was the first of the Big 4 to break through.  Like Roenis Elias, he too made the jump from AA to the Bigs with an outstanding Spring Training.  He started for us for the first two months, generated an ERA near 7, and was demoted to Tacoma.  When he returned later that year, he was mostly used in relief and was mostly not at all good.  His 2013 in general was pretty pisspoor.

In 2014, Maurer did NOT earn a roster spot out of Spring.  But, injuries to Iwakuma, Paxton, and the aforementioned Blake Bevan left us desperate.  Maurer made his first Big League start on April 20th.  He would continue to make starts through the end of May and for the most part looked like his crappy 2013 self.

So, he was sent down to Tacoma again.

While in Tacoma, the organization decided to make him a full-time reliever.  Quite honestly, this has to go down as one of the Top 10 All Time Greatest Decisions The Seattle Mariners Have Ever Made.

Maurer returned on June 25th.  From what I recall, the Mariners didn’t necessarily NEED him at that time, but what they were getting from him in Tacoma was too good to deny.  Upon his return, he was consistently hitting the upper-90s with his fastball (whereas, he was in the mid-to-low 90s as a starter).  His slider was breaking like we haven’t seen around these parts since the heyday of Jeff Nelson.  He even found control of his change up that had eluded him throughout the duration of his time as a starter!  It’s one thing to gain some MPH on your fastball when you convert to a reliever, but how in GOD’S NAME do you mysteriously figure out your change up in the blink of an eye?

Maurer didn’t give up a run until his 11th relief appearance.  A stretch of 15 straight innings!  On the whole, his splits are blowing my mind:

  • As A Starter:  151 plate appearances over 7 games.  7.52 ERA, 1.21 strikeouts to walks, .321 avg against, .880 OPS, 4.7 K/9 innings, 1.763 WHIP
  • As A Reliever:  150 plate appearances over 31 games.  2.17 ERA, 7.60 strikeouts to walks, .217 avg against, .535 OPS, 9.2 K/9 innings, 0.964 WHIP

Are you kidding?  Those numbers aren’t just Night & Day, they’re Night & Oranges!

Outlook for 2015:  You could make the argument that Brandon Maurer was the best reliever on the team in the second half of this year (Carson Smith might have something to say about that, but we’ll get to him in due time).  Like Leone and Farquhar, you’ll find Maurer high on the Trade Chip list.  I’m telling you, at least ONE of those three WILL be traded before the 2015 season starts.  It just makes good sense.  If the Mariners are dead set on keeping Paxton and Walker, then the bullpen arms are the next-best pieces we have to move.  Or, at least, the next-most-desirable.  If he’s not traded, then he’ll be duking it out with Medina, Wilhelmsen, and whoever’s left for those coveted 8th innings.

Look for Part II tomorrow.