Some Reasons To Maybe Check In On The Mariners Once In A While 2018

It absolutely sucks being a Mariners fan.  This team has either been terrible or mediocre every year since the 2003 season came to a 93-win playoffs-less end.  I haven’t had much opportunity to write about the M’s this offseason, because they haven’t done much this offseason; it’s very un-Jerry Dipoto-like, someone should check and see if he’s still alive, or if all these podcasts he’s doing are like a Wolfman Jack situation.  The last time I wrote about the Mariners, I wasn’t very happy.  That should be nothing new, of course, but specifically I wasn’t very happy because the starting rotation this year looks like complete and utter shit.  And, that’s the thing about the Mariners:  timing isn’t their strong suit.

How many years did we slog through a lineup that couldn’t hit its way out of a wet paper bag?  How many elite Felix years did we squander?  Remember when we had both Felix and Cliff Lee in their primes, together, on the very same team?  Want to feel old?  That was 46 years ago.

Anyway, this year, it’s the flipside:  the pitching stinks, but the hitting is kinda, sorta okay.  Or it isn’t, I dunno.

I’m going to try to look on the bright side here, and give you some reasons to live.  MIND YOU, don’t try to twist this into some ill-conceived belief that I think this team has something to play for.  In this division, as this team is constructed, the playoffs are not in our immediate future, so go ahead and cast those thoughts right out of your head.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, I give you some reasons to maybe check in on the Mariners once in a while 2018:

Mike Zunino is coming off of his very best season as a professional baseball player, which is VERY exciting to me.  I know it could very well be an aberration, and he could turn right back into a pumpkin this year, but I like to believe he’s really turned a corner in his career, and will be a reliable player for us for many years to come.  Probably not a superstar, but if he can keep it up and get hot at the right times, I could see him making an All Star Game or two.

As long as they’re healthy, guys like Cano, Cruz, and Seager are always worth watching.  Sometimes they run into horrendous cold streaks, but when they get going, they’re pretty fun.

I’ll be curious to see how Jean Segura looks, fresh off of his mid-season contract extension last year.  He finished the season pretty cold from a power perspective, but he still hit .300 and played some solid defense.

Of course, the biggest story as we head into Spring Training (and on into the regular season) is how Dee Gordon is going to look as this team’s starting centerfielder, making the conversion from middle infielder.  I’ll be as interested in his hitting ability as I am in his defensive ability, since so many times you see a drastic reduction in offense when a player makes a Major League position switch.

I’ll be curious to see if Mitch Haniger blossoms this year, after an injury-plagued 2017.  He has all the tools to be a great one, now he’s gotta stay healthy and put it all together.

I was surprised to see Ben Gamel featured pretty prominently in the 2018 promotional give-aways, as those were announced very early on in the off-season.  That was a big indicator that he was going to remain on the Mariners, and not traded for pitching help like a lot of us thought.  I’m torn, because this team absolutely NEEDS pitching help, but I don’t think Gamel alone gets us the quality starter we need, in which case I’m glad he’s staying.  He made a huge leap in 2017, and I’ll be curious to see if he can continue that upward trajectory.

Guillermo Heredia figures to platoon with Gamel in one of the corner outfield spots (or give Dee Gordon an occasional day off), and he too made a nice jump in his production in 2017.  He’s always fun to watch, and seemingly does something amazing almost every time he’s out there, either in the field, at the plate, or on the basepaths.

While the pitching as a whole is pretty suspect, the bullpen has the potential to be pretty awesome.  It’s going to have to be, if this team wants to be a winner.  It’ll require no less than being one of the three best bullpens in all of baseball for this team to simply contend for a Wild Card spot, so there’s your glimmer of hope if you were looking for one.

  • Can Edwin Diaz continue to stay healthy and dominate?
  • After a shaky September, will the Good Nick Vincent return?
  • Will David Phelps be healthy and return to form?
  • Will newcomer Juan Nicasio be our 8th inning lockdown reliever?
  • Will lefties Pazos & Scrabble continue to be reliable?
  • Will we get anything out of Tony Zych or Dan Altavilla?

Finally, I’ll be interested in how this team is managed.  There’s talk of a 6-man rotation.  There’s talk of an extended bullpen.  There’s talk of really limiting the number of innings per start – even more than we’ve already done, out of necessity, thus far in Servais’ Mariners career, because our starting pitching has been so mediocre – and having the bullpen do all the heavy lifting.  What will that translate to?  Seems to me, at the very least, we’re in for more of the same when it comes to shuttling guys to and from Tacoma on the daily.  But, going into the season, with the bullpen knowing it’s going to carry more of the load, how will they respond?

I think the game of baseball is really on the brink of a revolution.  Starters are pitching fewer innings than ever before, and that number might continue to fall.  How will that affect roster construction?  Will the game adapt and finally increase roster size?  Will there be 6-man rotations?  Or, perhaps 3- or 4-man rotations (pitching 3-4 innings per start), with extra long relievers in the bullpen?  The way guys are getting injured every year, this might be the way to limit those arm injuries and keep guys fresher throughout the season.  Essentially, treat the pitching staff like you do in the World Series, all year long.

Everything is on the table.  I don’t expect it to be to that extreme, of course, but it’ll be interesting to look at the trends the Mariners start to implement.  If they can somehow “hide” their rotation by limiting its importance on the game, maybe they can get something going.  Or, maybe they’ll tire out their bullpen and flame out after a couple months.

The 2018 Seattle Mariners:  come for the toasted grasshoppers, stay for the trainwreck!

The Mariners Feel Their Rotation Is Set?

So, I guess there was this interview with Jerry Dipoto on 710am recently where he said the Mariners are more or less set with the starting pitchers they have.  Don’t expect any major moves – either via free agency, or trades – between now and Spring Training.  This, in spite of the fact that at the moment, there are a TON of starting pitchers on the free agent market.  The supply is high, the demand appears to be low for now, and so you know what that means:  good pitchers could be brought in for a song.

And the Mariners aren’t going to take advantage of this?  Are they fucking NUTS?

This feels like a Once in a Decade type of thing.  Usually, Major League Baseball’s free agency period is a feeding frenzy of 30 ravenous coyotes all going after one small, dying group of deer.  The biggest, toughest ones snatch the best players for themselves, leaving the rest of the league trying to squeeze blood from a stone (lots of weird metaphors here, I apologize).  Every once in a while, the Mariners go big game hunting, but more often than not, we’re among the lower-level teams picking off the scraps.

But, this year, there’s actual talent on the market!  That the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, and Angels have all passed over!

On the flipside, you’ve got the Mariners, whose plan apparently involves going into 2018 with the same set of rotation pitchers they had at the end of 2017.  I know I ranted my way down this rabbithole on Twitter earlier in the week, but let’s run down everyone:

  • James Paxton – has never stayed healthy in his entire career
  • Felix Hernandez – clearly on the downside of his career, also coming off of multiple seasons of injuries
  • Mike Leake – who was very good with the M’s late last year, but those were his first 5 games as a member of the American League, so he had the element of being an unknown on his side (he also out-pitched his career numbers to an amazing degree, so it’s safe to say 2018 Leake is in for some heavy regression)
  • Ariel Miranda – who is just a so-so fifth starter type as it is, who faltered GREATLY at the end of the season last year
  • Andrew Moore – who just got POUNDED almost each and every appearance
  • Marco Gonzales – who also got POUNDED almost each and every appearance
  • Erasmo Ramirez – who probably had his best-ever sustained run of greatness last season after being traded back to the M’s, but you’re a fucking FOOL if you believe that’s going to continue on into 2018 and beyond
  • Hisashi Iwakuma – who is coming off of a lifetime of injuries, who is currently on a minor league deal, and who knows if he’s even recovered from last year’s debilitating arm issues?

And that’s not even getting into all the other AAA nobodies we have in this organization who are all surely just as bad as all the AAA nobodies we had to suffer through in 2017 thanks to all the injuries and nonsense.  At least we don’t have Yovani Gallardo wasting our fucking time with his bullshit.

I mean, this is a joke, right?  That the Mariners are “set” with their starting rotation?  You do realize we’re in the FUCKING American League West, with the best team in all of baseball (the Astros) who have done nothing but get BETTER this offseason (especially if they figure out a way to bring in Gerrit Cole).  Then, there’s the Angels who finished 2 games ahead of the Mariners in 2017, who still have the best player alive (Mike Trout), and who brought in the consensus best free agent pitcher/hitter in the world (Shohei Ohtani).  Then, there’s the Texas Rangers, who had the same record as the Mariners last year, and had injury issues of their own to contend with.  Oh, and you can’t dismiss Oakland out of hand, because they always deal in up-and-coming prospects and you never know when it’s all going to come together for them out of nowhere.

What have the Mariners done?  They traded for a second baseman that they’re converting to a centerfielder, they signed a reliever, and they traded for a first baseman who might not be any good (and who might not even be any better than the first basemen we had last year).  That’s it.

This is a team, mind you, with a majority stake in their own fucking regional sports network!  They’re practically printing money!  And this is all we can muster?

Don’t forget, this is also the team that refuses to tear it all down and start a rebuild.  Which, fine (they probably couldn’t anyway, because no one in their right minds would give legitimate prospects for the likes of aging veterans like Cano, Cruz, or Felix, no matter how much the fans are clamoring for it).  We’ve got these veterans, we’ve got a solid offense, let’s play to win now.

Well, then LET’S GO!  Let’s sign one of these stud starting pitchers still out there on the free agent market!  What, we had all this money to pursue Ohtani, but we don’t have a few sheckles for Yu Darvish or Lance Lynn or any of the numerous starting pitchers out there who are BETTER and MORE RELIABLE than the ones we have under contract?

You know what really gets me?  Every time the Mariners decide to bite the bullet and hit the free agent market in earnest, they have to over-pay to bring in the guys they sign.  Sometimes it works out (Cano and Cruz have been great signings, for instance), but a lot of times they’re busts (Carlos Silva anyone?  Jarrod Washburn?  ET FUCKING AL).  Now, we have a chance to get some really GOOD players on the cheap (what are they going to do, retire in protest?  GTFO), and what do we do?  Clutch our purse strings and claim poverty.

Bullshit.  Fucking BULLSHIT!

God damn these fucking Mariners!  WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING HERE YOU GUYS???  You do realize the M’s are WAY WORSE than both the Astros and Angels!  You do realize we have to play everyone in our division 19 times apiece!  That’s 76 games – almost HALF YOUR FUCKING SCHEDULE – and you’re not even fucking trying.

Well, if you’re not going to try, then blow the fucking thing up.  But, these half measures are fucking killing me.  Normally, when I write a season off before it starts, it’s because the Mariners are fucking miserable failures.  But, this year, if you planted the Mariners in any other mediocre division, they’d probably net at least 10 more victories than they will in the A.L. West.  Fucking unbelievable.

Except, no.  VERY believable.  Welcome to YOUR Seattle Mariners, everyone!  Just shoot me in the fucking head right now and get it over with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Leake’s Mariners Debut Goes Swimmingly

I’ll admit I had my doubts.  After the trade was made, going into the game yesterday, during and after the first inning, doubts were swirling!  While Mike Leake isn’t like every other Quad-A, flyballer Jerry Dipoto has brought into this organization, he was still a different kind of Meh.

Then, single-single-RBI double happened to lead off the game, and HERE WE GO AGAIN!  You could’ve cooked an egg on my forehead.  I mean, holy hell, what does this team have to do to get some competent fucking pitching in here?

Thank God he settled down.  After staking the A’s to a 2-0 lead in the first, he shut them out over the next six innings – OH YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT – he went seven innings, giving up just the two runs in getting his first Mariners victory!

I don’t know if it was his brilliance, or the A’s just being the A’s, but he only walked 1 and struck out 7, while inducing them into 2 double plays.  Honestly, it was refreshing more than anything.

As for the Mariners’ offense, I wouldn’t say they’re cured, but they got a rare win while scoring fewer than 4 runs, so that’s something.  A Mike Zunino opposite-field homer got the scoring started, followed by a Mitch Haniger RBI single (back in the 2-hole, plating Jean Segura), followed by a Kyle Seager sac fly to score Haniger, all scored in the third inning.

With Leake out of the game, Scrabble and Vincent shared the eighth, and Diaz had no trouble getting his 31st save of the season.

We’re officially into September, and with it the call-ups.  Jarrod Dyson returned from the DL and got a start last night.  Reliever Shae Simmons – who spent the better part of the last two months in the minors as he worked his way back from injury – was called up for the first time since we got him from the Braves.  Familiar faces Dan Altavilla and Andrew Moore are returning, both headed to the bullpen, where they’ll find Marco Gonzales – who was officially taken out of the rotation with the trade for Leake.  Also newcomer Ryan Garton – who we got from the Rays for nothing – will get a shot to help out in the ‘pen.  Finally, recently acquired catcher Mike Marjama will be the team’s third catcher for the month, because that’s apparently a thing that teams do.

To make room on the 40-man roster, subtractions had to be made.  David Phelps was put back on the DL, to no one’s surprise.  Christian Bergman was outrighted to the Rainiers, which I guess ends his season with us.  And, in the most shocking news, Sam Gaviglio was waived – and immediately claimed by the Royals.  That’s slightly disappointing, if only because he’s clearly better than both Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore, though I guess those guys are younger with more club control.  It’s been real, Sam Gaviglio!  You were the Charlie Brown of this rotation, under-appreciated and the constant butt of our jokes, but always there and always … I dunno, existing I guess.

I don’t know if all these moves will put the Mariners back into contention (now 3.5 games back of the second Wild Card), but I do know this:  it won’t matter one iota.  Because the Astros did what everyone else was too chickenshit to accomplish:  they traded for Justin Verlander.  So, you know, go ahead and pencil in the Astros and Dodgers into the World Series now, because it’ll be a doozy!

Also, not for nothing, but the M’s better sweep the A’s this weekend, because have you seen the starters the Astros are going to throw at us Monday thru Wednesday?  How about Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander (in his Astros debut), and Lance McCullers?  I’m going to do myself a huge favor and not watch any of those fucking games.

Ariel Miranda: Human Fucking Jugs Machine

Apparently, durability gets you the utmost praise in the Mariners organization nowadays.  The Mariners just traded for someone named Mike Leake from the St. Louis Cardinals for a minor league infielder and cash.  Cash towards the international free agent signing market and just plain ol’ cash to offset Leake’s high contract.  He’s apparently owed $53 million after this year (counting a $5 million buy-out in 2021), and the Cardinals have forked over $17 million, meaning the Mariners essentially have Mike Leake on a 3-year, $12 million deal.

So, who is Mike Leake?  Well, he’s a career National League pitcher who got his start in the Bigs in 2010.  Since 2012, he’s made at least 30 starts per year, peaking in the first half of 2015 before he was traded from the Reds to the Giants.  He signed as a free agent with St. Louis in 2016 and has seen a sharp decline in his abilities.  Or, maybe just his results, but I’m willing to bet it’s both.  This year, he’s 7-12 with a 4.21 ERA, so he immediately becomes the Ace of the Seattle Mariners.

And, of course, right there in Jerry Dipoto’s quote, he calls Leake, “one of the most durable starters over most of the last decade.”  That’s the bar you have to clear to make it on the Mariners, because this season can seriously go fuck itself.

Ariel Miranda, about to give up another home run …

Ariel Miranda is another one of those durable types.  He tends to get lavished with praise for the simple ability to not land on the DL, though less praise is coming by the start, because YEESH is he fucking terrible.

Staked to a fucking 6-2 lead, Miranda proceeded to fuck that all away and couldn’t even get through the fifth inning in the process, giving up 4 MORE home runs, to put him at a Major League-leading 35 on the year, in 27 fucking starts, or nearly one and a third home runs per start.

That’s what you get when you combine a shitty fastball with a shitty arsenal of off-speed pitches and a general shitty command of all of it.  Fastballs in the 91 mph range might be considered “average”, but to me they’re shit.  Anything below 94 mph – if you don’t have a significant amount of movement – is a worthless fastball at the Major League level.  You’re only going to get swings and misses if you totally fool the hitter into expecting that you’re going to throw something else.  Combine that with a change-up that tends to float out over the middle of the plate more than dive towards the dirt, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the worst fucking pitchers in the league, from a homers-given-up perspective.

In case it wasn’t abundantly clear by now, THIS is the reason why he was a sixth starter heading into this season (before Drew Smyly got hurt), and THIS is the reason why the Mariners still have a lot of work to do before next year to shore up this rotation.  Because I don’t think we can afford to suffer through another year of Ariel Miranda making 30+ starts, unless he makes a dramatic improvement in his overall pitching presence.

You know what’s odd?  He doesn’t even necessarily get more homer-prone the second and third times through the lineup.  Of his 35 homers, 13 of them have been given up in the first inning, his worst inning by far.  He seems to settle down in the second inning, but this would still make him a miserable candidate for the bullpen, because out of the gate he’s throwing meatballs right down the middle of the plate!  After the second inning, he slowly but surely gets worse as the game goes on, until you get past the sixth inning, when the sample size is too small (ostensibly, if Miranda is pitching into the seventh, eighth, or ninth innings, he’s probably on top of his game that day, which is exceedingly rare).

So, yeah, the Mariners blew a 6-2 lead yesterday, ultimately losing 8-7.  David Phelps got injured again, probably because he was rushed back into pitching after his last DL stint.  Christian Bergman was used in a rare (for him) late-game, short-inning appearance, going 2/3 of an inning, giving up a hit and a walk before being pulled by Scrabble, who allowed the game-winning run to score on his only pitch of the day.

Just a perfect end to a disaster of a road trip.  5-7, including a 5-game losing streak to close it out.  The Mariners went 12-15 in August (not shocking, considering the road slate they were faced with) and have fallen 4 games back of the second Wild Card, behind the likes of Tampa, Texas, Baltimore, Anaheim, and Minnesota.

Day off today followed by a 10-day, 9-game homestand.  The M’s don’t have to travel any farther than the state of Texas the rest of the regular season, but considering all the teams (save Oakland) are legitimately better than us, I could see September being a real ball-buster.

Thank Christ football season is officially upon us starting tomorrow.  God Awgs!

The Mariners Stop The Bleeding

Of course, there’s more than one way to stop the bleeding.  For instance, there’s physically running out of blood!

The Mariners got the W, though.  That’s all that matters, I guess.  Before the game, a number of moves were made:

  • Andrew Albers was called up
  • Sam Gaviglio was called up
  • Casey Lawrence was sent to Tacoma
  • Thyago Vieira was sent to Tacoma
  • Christian Bergman was DFA’d

Albers we knew would be our starter last night.  Lawrence we had a pretty good idea would be going back down, since he pitched 4 innings the night before, and Servais is on record as saying the Seattle-Tacoma shuttle is going to be in full effect for the rest of August.  Vieira was also used the night before, and was really only up here for depth until we needed to activate Albers.  Gaviglio makes as much sense as anyone to come back to Seattle.  He can start, if the team feels like making a move (*cough* GALLARDO *cough*), or he can slide into a long relief role, which is probably what will happen.  As for Bergman, we needed room on the 40-man for Albers, and if I’m not mistaken, we were able to DFA Bergman earlier this season and still retain him in Tacoma.  I can’t imagine the market for a pitcher like Bergman is very big, unless Jerry Dipoto has a twin brother who is also a Major League GM.

Albers looked good!  Kind of a shock to the system, but that’ll happen when you’ve done nothing but throw shit against the wall for the last week trying to see what’ll stick.  5 innings, 6 hits, 1 walk, 1 run, 4 strikeouts.  The run was of the solo homer variety, but it’s not like we haven’t seen that before, from everyone else in this God-foresaken rotation.  I’ll hold back on making any grand sweeping statements of positivity until I see him make a second start in a Mariners uniform, if it’s all the same to you.

At 3-1, this was the rare Mariners victory where the good guys scored less than 4 runs.  The Mariners are now 60-61 on the season; this is only the FIFTH time the Mariners have won a game while scoring less than 4 runs, which is simply astonishing, yet it also explains literally everything about this year.  In fact, 5-42 is the Mariners’ record when scoring less than 4 runs, which means they’re 55-19 (.743) when they score 4 runs or more.  Holy mother of God.

Segura & Heredia get some kudos for having 2 hits apiece at the top of the lineup.  Cano and Cruz had an RBI apiece, which is nice considering Seager was out with an illness.

The lion’s share of the kudos go to the bullpen, though.  Emilio Pagan relieved Albers and went two very strong shutout innings, striking out 4.  Scrabble and Vincent combined to lock down the eighth, and Diaz got his 26th save.  Now that’s more like it!

The victory, combined with losses for all the teams ahead of the Mariners for the second Wild Card spot, means we’re back to 1.5 games back.  It won’t mean much if the Mariners can’t keep it up.  Winning this afternoon would be a good start.  After that, it’s an off-day, followed by a 2-week East Coast trip to Tampa, Atlanta, New York (Yankees), and Baltimore.

Maybe it’s best for the M’s to get out of town for a while.  If they’re going to totally implode, might as well be away from the booing onslaught of the hometown crowd at Safeco Field.  Then, when they get back and it’s officially football season, we’ll all resume not giving a shit.

Baseball!  Catch the excitement!

Marniers Did A Bunch Of Things I Don’t Like Yesterday

They lost to the Mets, for one.  Ariel Miranda struggled mightily early, then settled down to strike out a career high 10 batters over 6 innings, giving up the 4 runs.  With the offense roaring back in the fifth inning, the Mariners even handed their bullpen a 1-run lead!  But, it wasn’t to be.  Scrabble had one job to do, and failed miserably as the left-handed hitter smashed a homer to right.  Then, David Phelps proceeded to melt down in the very same inning, giving up the go-ahead two runs.  We couldn’t get anything off of their bullpen, and that was that.

Perhaps even more damaging than the loss was the trade the Mariners made:  Steve Cishek for Erasmo Ramirez.  Yes, THAT Erasmo Ramirez.  We traded him away to the Rays for Mike Montgomery a while back when he was out of options, and now he’s back.  He’s been primarily a reliever for the Rays, though he’s spot-started his fair share of games.  He’s been better as a reliever, but he’s still pretty much the same mediocre pitcher we sent away.

And now he’s being handed the keys to a starting rotation spot.  Because Andrew Moore was just demoted back to Tacoma to make room.

Is Erasmo Ramirez better than Andrew Moore?  Or Yovani Gallardo?  Or Sam Gaviglio?  Or any of these other shitty starters we’ve brought in?  Absolutely not.  So, let’s go ahead and dilute our bullpen to bring in another shitty starter!  Oh, wait, I forgot, “trade from a position of STRENGTH”.  Yeah fucking right.  We have a tenuous hold over this bullpen at best, thanks to the starters always getting pulled prematurely; we need as many quality bullpen arms as we can get!

It sounds like this is the last of the deadline deals, and I can only call it an unmitigated disaster for the Seattle Mariners.  Jerry Dipoto has done a lot of good in his short time here, but he really should be ashamed at what little he was able to accomplish in this very important season.  Not getting a Sonny Gray, or another comparable starter to help us in the stretch run, is an absolute failure for this organization.  And trading away Tyler O’Neill is going to be the icing on the cake when he starts tearing shit up in a few years.

Time to shift gears to football season, because there’s nothing to see here with this Mariners team.

Mariners Finished Sour First Half On Upbeat Note

There’s a lot to like about yesterday’s 4-0 shutout of the A’s to salvage a split of the 4-game series.  Dyson and Ruiz – representing the bottom of the order – got 5 hits, with a run and an RBI combined.  Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run bomb to give him 3 homers in the last week, and 17 on the season.  Robbie Cano hit a double and scored a run.  Felix Hernandez pitched 6 shutout innings, giving up 2 hits, walking 3, and striking out 8.  Vincent and Zych finished a SUPERB first half with a couple scoreless innings.  And, Edwin Diaz bounced back after taking the L on Saturday, striking out 2 in his inning of work.

The win brought the Mariners to 43-47, with 72 games remaining in the second half.  We’re currently 4th in the A.L. West, a game behind both Texas and Anaheim (17.5 games behind the insane Astros).  Yet, we’re only 4 games back in the Wild Card race, right in the middle of the pack (even the worst A.L. team is only 7.5 games back, so it’s not like anyone is really “out of it”).  Once we get through the All Star Break, there will be two and a half weeks of baseball before the July 31st Trade Deadline.  Will the Mariners be buyers, sellers, or nothing?  Well, we’ll see.

Starting this weekend, the M’s go on the road to play the White Sox, where we ALWAYS LOSE.  Then, we face the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox; sissy-boy loser time is over.  Those are some serious opponents the Mariners are going to have to face to try to climb back over .500; if they continue to play like they have these last two weeks, I don’t see a lot of hope for this season (particularly when you consider the brutal stretch of road games in August).

The question we have to ask ourselves is:  can the Mariners do it as is?

I know Jerry Dipoto said he’s going to be listening to what’s out there offered in trades, but we have to assume for now that he won’t be able to get a deal done (otherwise the variables are just too vast; this blog post would be 50,000 words long).  I’m thinking, even if he does get a trade done, it won’t be for some huge piece.  We’re not going to see a Rent-An-Ace situation because A) I don’t believe we have the prospects to bring one to Seattle, B) I don’t think the M’s want to take on that kind of payroll, and C) I don’t think the M’s are in a Win-Now-At-All-Costs mode.  Now, whether they SHOULD be in that mode is another issue; I think they like the core they’ve got, and they think they can compete for years to come with some of the young talent they’ve brought in and developed.  At best, maybe the M’s bring in another under-the-radar reliever to help boost the bullpen, or maybe a solid, veteran, back-of-the-rotation starter to help shore up the rotation.

But, you know, like I said, for the sake of argument let’s hold off on speculating on that until it happens.  Let’s take a look at the roster as it is right now.

I thought Ryan Divish made a good point on the radio last week when he talked about how this pitching staff is holding this team back.  Pretty much, every game (save a dominant Paxton start here and there), you go into it expecting these starters to give up a minimum of 2-3 runs per outing.  That’s on top of whatever happens with the bullpen.  But, it’s like the hitters have to go into every game needing to score 4+ runs to win, and that’s got to be a mental drain after a while.

Yeah, sometimes these hitters look unstoppable; but sometimes these hitters look really bad, and it’s a rare instance where the entire pitching staff is capable of picking them up.

I think we’re all pretty happy with what Paxton has brought to the table this season.  Obviously, it wasn’t helpful that he missed damn near the entire month of May, and that was reflected in his sub-par June, but he’s looked a lot better in the last three starts, so hopefully he can keep that going the rest of the way.  Really, if this team is going to truly contend for a playoff spot, he’s going to NEED to keep this going the rest of the way.  He’s 7-3 with a 3.21 ERA at the break; just give me that (or maybe a little bit better) the rest of the way and I’ll be happy.

I think we’re all justifiably concerned with what we’ve seen from King Felix not just this season, but the last 2-3 years.  He still hasn’t quite morphed into that Pitch To Contact guy he probably needs to be to prolong the prime of his career.  No, the fastball isn’t ideal, but more than that he’s simply missing his spots.  Batters are less likely to chase his stuff out of the zone, and when he comes in for a strike it’s getting clobbered.  It’s taken him until July 9th – against a terrible-hitting A’s team – to finally throw an outing of all zeroes on the scoreboard.  These types of 6- or 7-inning, 0-run games used to be a much more regular occurrence; that one might be the only one we see all year and it wouldn’t shock me!  I just don’t know what to make of the King anymore.  It’s like he knows what he needs to become, but he’s fighting against it (fighting with himself).  At this point, it would be irresponsible to have high expectations for him the rest of the way.  I’m just hoping he can give us what Iwakuma gave us last year (which would be nice, since it looks like Iwakuma is going to be a longshot to return from injury after being shutdown in his rehab multiple times).

Up next, we’ve got Ariel Miranda; who expected him to be the second- or third-best starter in this rotation heading into the season?  At this point in his development, I just want him to continue doing what he’s been doing.  He’s not an Ace, but he’s been healthy and he’s been good more than not; just keep doing that!

In the 4-hole, there’s Andrew Moore, who is all of three games into his Major League career.  All three of his starts have been what you would call Quality Starts (at least 6 innings and 3 runs or less every time), but he’s also given up 5 home runs in those three games.  That is … less than ideal.  That also might just be his game.  He’s not what I would consider a phenom, even though he’s young and has shot through the minor league ranks; but he throws strikes, limits walks, and generally keeps the damage to a minimum.  How well will he continue to do once the league has a book on him and starts making their adjustments?  The Mariners can’t really afford to have a lot of growing pains out of him if they expect to make it to the post-season.

In the fifth starter spot, the Mariners have some options.  Sam Gaviglio has been the guy since being called up as an injury-replacement, but his last start was pretty bad, and really overall he’s Just A Guy.  Yovani Gallardo has been pretty fantastic in his long reliever role, which has a lot of people wondering if he’s destined to return to the rotation at some point.  Has he worked out – mechanically – what was so wrong with him early in games in his starts?  What if it’s just a matter of throwing more or less warm-up pitches before he goes out there?  Or what if we just don’t tell him which days he’s going to start, and spring it on him 30 minutes before gametime?

Overall, this is a far-from-intimidating rotation; really just an Ace with four #5 starters.  And, honestly, I don’t know if there would be much out there available in trade besides some other team’s #5 starter, so we is what we is.  And ultimately, that’s probably what’s going to keep us out of the post-season.

The bullpen has been pretty mediocre as well, but I don’t know if I would put as much of the blame on them.  There are plenty of bright spots, like Nick Vincent, Tony Zych, James Pazos, and Scrabble.  Steve Cishek looks like he’s rounding into form after coming back from injury.  Edwin Diaz has had some shaky outings, but looks like he’s getting a handle on things.  Right there, that’s six guys I’m more or less okay with.  Emilio Pagan hasn’t really gotten the chances I think he deserves, but he seems to be more steady than Dan Ayala-tavilla.  Then, there’s the revolving door of long relievers between Seattle and Tacoma who won’t make-or-break you.  I think that’s an okay unit!  Maybe even a good one if guys start getting on rolls!

Same thing can be said for the hitting and defense.  The outfield has out-performed even my wildest dreams.  Cruz and Cano are banged up but doing a pretty good job playing through it.  Valencia bounced back in a big way to play to the back of his baseball card.  Zunino had that insane month of June that might more-or-less salvage his season if he doesn’t backslide too far in July.  Seager is definitely taking a step back this season, but I have to believe he’s got a torrid streak in him coming up.  Overall, in the American League, the Mariners are in the Top 5 in runs scored, average, and on-base percentage.  They’ve taken a substantial step back in their power numbers from a year ago, but they’re also capable of making that up and getting into the upper half of the league by season’s end.

Ultimately, I think that’s what it’s going to take.  These Mariners need to have a power surge and carry this team offensively through the next two and a half months.  With that, an improved bullpen, and a carefully maintained starting rotation, this thing just might take us into the final weekend of the season with a chance.

That’s all I ask, Mariners.  Just give yourselves a chance in the final weekend.  Then, let the chips fall where they may.

It Was Absolutely Okay For Jarrod Dyson To Bunt To Break Up The Perfect Game

Don’t come in here with your macho headgames; this is baseball – ostensibly a kid’s game – there are no points for winning or losing with honor.  To put it another way, you’re no more or less of a man for bunting to get on base as you are clubbing a ball into the outfield.

The unwritten rules of baseball are among the stupidest things in all of sports.  Chief among them is this concept that you shouldn’t try to bunt to break up a perfect game or a no-hitter.  And I’m not buying this whole “grey area” that people are trying to amend to this thing.  What’s the difference between the first batter of a game bunting for a base hit, followed by the pitcher getting 27 consecutive outs, and the last batter of a game bunting for a base hit to break up a perfecto?

The job of a hitter in baseball is to help in the facilitation of scoring runs, by any means necessary.  Obviously, in a close game, people feel it’s perhaps more justified to bunt to break up the no-no than if it were, say, 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth.  But, you know what?  This isn’t Brett Favre giving Michael Strahan a record-breaking sack; as the opposing hitter, you don’t have to lay down and die just so someone else can make history.  If speed is a big part of your game – the way you make your LIVING, by the way – then obviously the bunt is always going to be on the table.  And, if the opposing defense is going to give you this HUGE opening in front of first base – with Miguel Cabrera playing insanely deep against someone known to bunt from time to time – then it’s absolutely your right to do so.  First inning, sixth inning, or last inning.  Having someone throw a perfect game on you in your own stadium?  That’s embarrassing!  Way more embarrassing than the temporary “shame” of bunting to get a hit; even if it’s 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth.

Last night, Justin Verlander was rolling.  He’s usually been really good against the Mariners throughout his career, but this was another level.  16 guys put down to start off the game; 6 of the first 9 hitters struck out and 9 of the first 15.  Good life on his fastball, good movement on his breaking pitches, outstanding command.  It really did look like it was going to take a miracle just to get a guy on base.  I’ll admit, I almost went to bed after the fourth or fifth inning.  I turned the game off, I picked up a book to do some pre-bedtime reading, and right before I considered shuffling off to bed, I checked Twitter.

By this point, the Mariners were down 4-0.  James Paxton looked moderately better than he did last time, but by no means his usual dominant self from before the injury.  With the way Verlander was going, there was just no way this Mariners team could come back!

But, I checked Twitter maybe 30 seconds after the bunt, and immediately flipped over to the game.  I saw Zunino walk, I saw Segura bloop a single in no man’s land that the short stop somehow overran, I saw Gamel continue his torrid June with an RBI single to center, and I saw Robbie Cano strike out.

For what it’s worth, that was a great Cano at bat, but an even-better Verlander sequence.  That strike three was, as Aaron Goldsmith described, vicious.  Unhittable.  But, I also saw a Cano in that at bat who looked remarkably dialed in.  He was JUUUUST missing, but his timing was getting awfully close.  Close enough that it would only be a matter of time before he started making a huge impact offensively.

That put the M’s at two outs in the inning, though, with only 1 run to show for their rally.  Forget the bunt, forget the perfect game and all that, the Mariners had an opportunity here!  But, they couldn’t let having men on second and third – with the heart of their lineup at the plate – go by without scoring more than just the 1 run.  Thankfully, Nelson Cruz got ahold of a curveball and roped it into left field.  To my horror, it looked like Justin Upton might come up with the diving catch to rip our collective guts out, but he came up empty and the Mariners got to within 4-3, with three full innings left to play (and knocked Verlander out of the game in the process).

Mitch Haniger – dropped to 7th in the lineup, with the return of Jean Segura from the DL (the Mariners opted to keep Ben Gamel’s .350+ batting average in the 2-hole, at least against righties, and at least for the time being) – led off the seventh with solo blast to tie the game.  With the Tigers’ bullpen sucking all ass around town, this thing felt attainable!  They got a couple quick outs, but then the rally train started chugging down the tracks again.

Segura walked and Gamel singled to set the table for Cano.  Yep, that Cano.  The one who, quite frankly, hasn’t been all that good lately.  Coming into the game, he had all of 2 extra-base hits in the month of June, and I don’t know if he’s been all that right since he went on the DL back in May.  Obviously, he’s getting his hits, and he’s playing through some pain, and you commend him for that, but he hasn’t been that dynamic superstar we’ve seen him be, at least for the last few weeks.

But, he was due, and he made good on that by lining a double into the gap in right-center field to score Segura and Gamel and give the Mariners an improbable 2-run lead.  Cruz would subsequently single in Cano to give the M’s a 3-run cushion, and the damage was done.

Of course, I don’t know if the Mariners would’ve been able to salvage this game without some excellent bullpen work.  Tony Zych came into the game in relief of Paxton, with 1 out and 2 on.  They’d JUST scored two runs to give them their 4-run lead.  But, Zych not only shut them down, he went another inning on top of it without giving up a run.  Then, after finally getting a day off the night before, Nick Vincent kept the Tigers off the scoreboard in the eighth.  And, in a somewhat questionable move, Scott Servais opted to throw Edwin Diaz out there for a fourth consecutive day.  He looked a little wild, and grooved a solo homer to Ian Kinsler; things got really interesting when Cabrera walked to the plate with a runner on first in a 7-5 ballgame.  Cabrera is always an MVP-type threat – even if he’s not having that sort of season this year – but that’s not what really terrified me.  I was worried what would happen if Cabrera simply singled or walked or otherwise got on base for J.D. Martinez, because HE’S the real killer on that team right now.

Honestly, if Cabrera would’ve gotten on base, I would’ve chosen to walk Martinez.  If I’m being REALLY honest?  I might have intentionally walked both of those guys to load the bases for Justin Upton; but I guess that’s why they don’t pay me the big bucks to manage a Major League Baseball team (yes, THAT is the reason).

Instead, Diaz worked ahead in the count to Cabrera, and got him to roll over on one to short stop to end the game.

I’m not gonna lie to you, that game was one for the ages.  An Instant Classic, at least from a Mariners perspective.  I have no idea what it’ll all mean in the grand scheme of things, but isn’t it funny how it took all of that for the Mariners to get back to .500 again, this time at 37-37?

Isn’t it ALSO funny that in today’s slot in the rotation, we were due to start Yovani Gallardo?  Our WORST starting pitcher?

Well, it’s like Dipoto and Company knew I’d be freaking out today, because we’ve got moves!

The first, I’ve already alluded to:  Jean Segura returned, with Tyler Smith going back to Tacoma.  Thanks for the memories Smith, but your services will no longer be required.

The second was an absolute shocker:  hotshot prospect Andrew Moore was called up, with Christian Bergman being sent down (and Tyler Cloyd being DFA’d to make room on the 40-man).  I talked about it yesterday, and it looks like the Mariners and I were simpatico on the whole Bergman vs. Gaviglio argument, because Gaviglio keeps his spot in the rotation (set to start this Saturday) at least until Iwakuma returns from his rehab assignment.

Andrew Moore was a second round pick in 2015, and one of the top prospects in the Mariners’ farm system.  He apparently throws in the low-90s, but has great command of the strike zone, doesn’t walk many guys, and has excelled at every level.  In his first professional season, he dominated in Everett.  In 2016, he split time between high-A ball and AA.  Then, this year, he appeared in 6 games in AA before being promoted to AAA.  He appeared in 8 games in Tacoma and now he’s here.  Not only is he here, but his Major League career is getting STARTED.  He’s not up for a spot start, or to help out in the bullpen in long relief like most of these jokers we’ve brought up from Tacoma; Andrew Moore is getting the start TONIGHT, in place of one Yovani Gallardo.

SQUEE!!!

Sorry, not sorry, but once I realized he last started for Tacoma last Thursday, I was able to put 2+2 together and come to the hypothesis that he was going to take Gallardo’s job.  Bergman goes to Tacoma, because apparently he was always going to go to Tacoma regardless, but if my hypothesis holds true, the Mariners will hold onto Gallardo through tonight’s game – in case Moore’s jitters get the better of him and he’s overwhelmed by the Tigers – and then they’ll DFA him when they officially bring Felix back onto the roster.

In other words, unless something crazy happens, we officially have one more day with Yovani Gallardo in our lives.

And I know what you’re thinking, sour grapes and all.  Normally, I don’t root for people to lose their jobs, but he’ll be fine.  He’s a fucking multi-millionaire who will DEFINITELY get another shot with some other team.  So, don’t cry for Gallardo; it’s what’s best for everyone.

I mean, this has to be what’s happening, right?  They’ve already officially named Gaviglio the starter for Saturday; I don’t think they’re just going to change their minds and send him down when Felix returns on Friday.  The only other move is to keep Gallardo in the bullpen and send someone like Altavilla down to continue to work on his game.  At this point, I’d say it’s 50/50 between those two things, but I’ll say this:  if Gallardo’s main problem has been giving up too many runs early in games (18 of the 54 runs he’s given up this year – or a full 33% – have been in the first innings of his starts; he’s got a first inning ERA of nearly 11!), what makes you think we can trust him in a relief role?  As a reliever, you have to be able to shut guys down RIGHT AWAY!  There isn’t time to have one big inning, settle into a game, and make it up by throwing 4-5 shutout innings after that.

So, I dunno.  All I know is I’m going to the game tonight with my brochachos and I have the good fortune of witnessing Andrew Moore’s Major League debut and NOT Yovani Gallardo’s final start in a Mariners uniform.  Yep, I’m pretty pumped.

Valencia & Motter Bombed The Rays Into Oblivion

While I was at Clusterfest, watching comedians ranging from Kevin Hart to Sarah Silverman to Chris Hardwick to Natasha Leggero to Moshe Kasher to T.J. Miller (while still being able to catch a hip hop set from Ice Cube), the Mariners back in Seattle played a baseball game.

Taylor Motter hit a grand slam in the first, Danny Valencia had 5 RBI (including a 3-run homer in the third), and the Mariners ran away with it against the Rays, 12-4.

Funny coincidence alert:  Motter came from the Rays organization; he was beyond pleased with how this game went.

Also:  Danny Farquhar now pitches for the Rays’ bullpen, and gave up 4 runs.

Also:  Brad Miller had an error while playing second base, in the first inning, that led to 5 of those runs being unearned.

In Neverending Mariners Injury News:  Nelson Cruz was back and IN the lineup, with just a bruised hand, in spite of some dude on Twitter trying to tell me he broke his hamate bone and would be out 4-6 weeks.  Weird that a guy with 17 Tweets since December of 2016 and 9 total followers wouldn’t have the pulse of the Mariners clubhouse!

In Real Neverending Mariners Injury News:  Jean Segura is on the DL with a high ankle sprain.  It’s just the 10-day variety, but Dipoto is saying this could go as long as 2 months.  Meaning Segura likely won’t be back until August.  Which, if you’re keeping score, means AFTER the Trade Deadline.  Of course, miracles do happen from time to time, so maybe he comes back early.  Either way, I highly doubt Segura gets traded this season.

So, in a flurry of moves made yesterday, Casey Lawrence was rewarded for his masterful 5-inning relief performance of Yovani Gallardo by being sent back to Tacoma.  What a dick move!  First with Emilio Pagan (after his 4-inning relief performance a little while back) and now this!  Lawrence, to his credit (because he didn’t look like much of anything of value when we brought him in), has been a fabulous innings-eating long reliever this season, and I hope he gets a chance to come back up.

To make up for the losses, the Mariners called up a couple of Tylers.  Tyler Cloyd (a relief pitcher who is the epitome of a 30 year old journeyman, having bounced around 4 different organizations, as well as a brief stint in Korea) and Tyler Smith (an infielder who made his Major League debut last night, subbing in for Cano when the game was out of reach; he hit a double in his only at bat).

To make room on the 40-man, the Mariners moved Ryan Weber to the 60-day DL, and DFA’d someone named Andrew Alpin.

Getting back to that Casey Lawrence thing, and how much of a drag it is, because it’s all Gallardo’s fault that he was needed to go five innings in that game and save the rest of the bullpen in the first place, Christian Bergman went 6 innings last night, giving up just 2 runs.  He’s looking more and more like a guy we can keep around in this rotation if/when everyone else gets healthy.  And, you know Miranda and Paxton aren’t going anywhere.  Felix is set to do a rehab assignment on June 6th, so he’s close to being back; that’s four pitchers.  If we can get Kuma or Smyly going, I think it’s adios to Gallardo!  Unfortunately, we’re at least another month away from that, so don’t get too excited.

Gaviglio goes tonight.  He can make the Gallardo situation go away even sooner with some more quality outings.  Pray for Gaviglio.  Pray for us all!