Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Hitters, Part III

Consider this the third in a series of looks back at the 2014 Mariners.  For once, it’s going to be more than, “They fucking sucked, I’m sick of thinking about this shit, I’ll see you in February.”  I’m sure I’ll toss out the usual “What Went Right” and “What Went Wrong” posts as time and desire permit, but right now I’m taking a look at the players.  In short, I’m going to list all the players who accumulated a stat for the 2014 Mariners, and I’m going to talk about each of them individually.

I’m also breaking this up into three parts, because we’re pushing 7,000 words here.

Click HERE for Part I
Click HERE for Part II

Logan Morrison – Following the signing of Corey Hart, the Mariners hedged their bet by trading away Carter Capps to the Marlins for their version of Justin Smoak.  LoMo played a little more outfield than Smoak ever could have dreamed, and he was a lot more injured, but the sentiment is still the same:  a guy with a lot of power potential who just never put it together, for a maddeningly long amount of time.

He’s yet to play a full season (only over 100 games once in his 5-year Major League career), and he’s yet to be all that effective at the plate.  Encouragingly, 2014 was his best year ever, so there’s hope yet.

He hit .262/.315/.420, with 11 homers and 20 doubles in 99 games.  He had only 9 games in the outfield, with the rest at 1B or DH, which is promising.  Let’s keep him there.  He was a VAST improvement over Justin Smoak (who got the lion’s share of starts early in the season at first base) offensively, and wasn’t all that bad defensively either.  He’s club-controlled and if he can stay healthy, might just be a viable starting first baseman for us.  He’s no All Star or anything, but at this point I’ll just take anyone who’s above replacement.

Outlook for 2015:  Slot him in as your starting first baseman.  At best, the Mariners will only be able to bring in one right-handed slugger, and you have to figure that guy will play primarily at DH.  If, in some incomprehensible universe, the Mariners bring in two sluggers, then I suppose you could be looking at LoMo as a platoon option at first/DH.  But, I bet he sticks and makes us all forget about that time he smashed a bat against a wall in frustration and cut up his face, causing him to miss some time.

Humberto Quintero – Says here he was a third catcher down the stretch and had as many at-bats (2) as Felix Hernandez (as many hits too).

Outlook for 2015:  He’s a free agent.  Either he’ll be back in Tacoma, or he’ll be with some other team’s AAA squad, or he’ll be somewhere else.

Stefen Romero – As per usual, the Mariners were desperate for right-handed outfield bats.  Stefen Romero was pretty good in Spring Training and won a spot on the Major League club.  He stunk.  He was sent down and brought up multiple times.  In that aforementioned game in Atlanta where John Buck hit the game-winning home run, Romero hit a game-tying 3-run home run that ultimately led to Buck’s magic.  This day would be the highlight for both of these men in 2014.

Outlook for 2015:  I dunno.  Tacoma probably.  Outside shot at a bench spot with the Mariners, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Michael Saunders – I’m just going to come out and say it:  Michael Saunders was the third best position player on the Mariners in 2014 behind Cano and Seager.  That’s really saying something, considering he only appeared in 78 games.

Why did he only appear in 78 games?  Well, to start the season, he was on the bench, behind Almonte, LoMo, Romero, and others.  When he got a chance to play – however infrequently – he consistently produced.  But, he missed a huge chunk of June with an injury; then again missed some of July, all of August, and some more of September with another injury.

Is this what the team considers Michael Saunders to be?  This injury-prone fourth outfielder who needs regular days off to stay healthy, fresh, and productive?  Probably.  Not for nothing, but when you’re talking about these guys who play all-out all the time, I tend to agree.  Yeah, he’ll give up his body to make a play, but he’ll be paying for it later.  That’s why I never understood all the vitriol with Ichiro never diving.  Do you want him falling all over the field going after balls?  Or, do you want a guy you can count on to be in your lineup every single day?  Same thing with Shaun Alexander.  Until the end of his career, he was very durable.  Why?  He went down and out of bounds rather than take unnecessary hits.  I love Beastmode and Jay Buhner as much as the next guy, but I’m just sayin’, there’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself and living to fight another day.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s looking to get a raise in arbitration.  He should certainly be back.  Pencil him in as a fourth outfielder with a chance to win a starting job if things break right.  If you wanted my prediction right now, though, I’d say he’s not starting.  I’ve got Ackley in left, A-Jax in center, and Free Agent X or Trade Acquisition Y in right.  Still, it’ll be nice to have Saunders back, as I DO think he’s a bona fide Major Leaguer.  He’ll be even more valuable if we manage to find three viable starters to play ahead of him in the outfield.  No more crappy Endy Chavez for us if we can help it!

Kyle Seager – LOVE me some Kyle Seager, boy!  Hot damn that kid is damn hot!

He led the team in homers with 25 and RBI with 96.  He made his very first All Star game and got a couple flimsy hacks in.  He’s been a regular since July 2011 (the same time as Ackley) and he hasn’t let us down once!  In his three full seasons, he’s hit at least 20 homers and batted between .259 and .268.  All the while, improving dramatically with his defense at third base.  This is reflected in his WAR, which has gone up from 2.6 in 2012, to 3.9 in 2013, to a whopping 5.8 this year.  He was only bested in that number by Felix and Cano, which puts him in rarefied air.

And the best part?  He can still get better!  Particularly at the plate.  I agree with LMC, he can and SHOULD be hitting in the .280s.  And, if this team manages to produce some heavy hitters in this lineup, I think he’d be an ideal 2-hole hitter.  Regardless, I have no problem with him batting fifth, IF we find a legitimate cleanup guy.

Either way, I love the fact that there’s someone besides Cano and Felix who I don’t have to worry about.  He doesn’t slump for extended periods of time.  He’s not afraid to hit in Safeco.  He doesn’t get injured.  He doesn’t have extreme splits at the plate.  Thank God for Kyle Seager!

Outlook for 2015:  I’ll have what I’m having!

Justin Smoak – Ahh, the anti-Seager.  Before the season – indeed, even before Spring Training – Smoak was touted as the starting first baseman.  He was someone LMC declared would one day lead the league in doubles.  Instead, he’s successfully led the league in facepalm moments.

His April was no good after his first seven games.  His May was even worse.  In June, he was either sent down to Tacoma or injured.  Either way, he sucked dick the rest of the way.  .202/.275/.339.  THIRTEEN doubles.  PRETTY sure that’s not even close to league-leading.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s arbitration-eligible and due to make some serious coin if he stays.  He’s also out of minor league options, so we can’t just stash him in Tacoma when we’re sick and tired of looking at him.  I have to believe, with every fiber of my being, that he won’t be back.  He’s been given every chance in the world to succeed and he’s been dreadful at every turn.  It’s time for him to go elsewhere and fail miserably for someone else.  If he’s lucky, the Rockies will sign him and he’ll parlay a hot Spring Training into an okay career, making us all wonder, “What If”, except I’ll tell you What If:  he never would’ve made it in Seattle!  It’s Bandbox or Bust for Smoak.

Jesus Sucre – This was the guy we brought up to replace John Buck.  He’s a better receiver of baseballs – he can frame a pitch well and has a pretty good arm – but he’s nothing with a bat in his hands.

Outlook for 2015:  I’m almost certain he’ll be back in Tacoma.  There’s an outside chance he’s back up here as a backup to Zunino.  But, I have to believe that “backup catcher” is once again one of our middling priorities in the upcoming offseason.

Chris Taylor – He was called up and played his first game on July 24th.  He would’ve been called up sooner, but he had to go on the DL for a brief period.  Either way, his promotion was made possible by Brad Miller being a suck-ass for the first few months of the season.

In total, he played in 47 games.  He had a great batting average (.287), but only hit 8 balls for extra bases (with no triples or homers).  His defense was a step above Miller’s, so there’s your trade off.  Miller is a guy who will hit for power, but he won’t walk, so if he’s not striking the ball flush, then he’s not doing much for you.  Taylor is a guy who will never hit for power, but he walks a little more and doesn’t strike out NEARLY as much.  He also gives you better defense.

Or, put it this way:  Taylor was worth 1.5 WAR in his 47 games; Miller was worth 1.6 WAR in 123 games.

So, what do you value?  Premium power at a premium position?  Or defense and stability?  If Miller plays up to his potential (meaning:  hitting for a high average and cutting down somewhat on strikeouts, while maintaining his power), then his ceiling is one of the best offensive short stops in baseball.  I think Taylor is pretty much at his ceiling right now, meaning he’s anywhere from a 3.5 to 4.5-WAR player (if he can keep it up through a full season).

Outlook for 2015:  I guess we’ll find out next year.  It’ll be interesting to see the short stop position battle shake out in Spring Training, and it’ll be even more interesting to see if the winner of that battle can hold onto his job.  Gun to my head:  I think Miller has the edge in this race.  I think they love his power and are willing to put up with some defensive lapses and slumps.  Not TOO MANY slumps, mind you, but I guess we’ll see.  Taylor is a nice Plan B to have.

Mike Zunino – Right out of the gate, just know that Mike Zunino isnt going anywhere.  He’s the entrenched starter as catcher and will be for years to come.

With that out of the way … KIND OF a woofer of a 2014.  Here are the positives:

  • He stayed healthy and played in 131 of a possible 162 games.  That’s quite a workload!
  • He threw out 28.3% of base stealers (28 of 99), which I want to say is good (at least, it’s a vast improvement over the duds we’ve had here since Dan Wilson retired).
  • He was in the upper echelon of pitch-framers, stealing more would-be balls as strikes than most other catchers in baseball.
  • His Catcher E.R.A. was 3.18 (I don’t even know what that means, or if it’s even a good stat or not)
  • He only had 8 passed balls all year (considering he catches Felix on a regular basis, VERY impressive).
  • He hit 22 home runs.
  • He’s only 23 years old and already has a year and a half of Major League experience under his belt.

You notice that most of his positives are defense-related, yet I’m seeing here that his Defensive-WAR was only 0.3 and his overall WAR was only 0.6.  According to other metrics, he actually had NEGATIVE defensive runs saved numbers.  What the shit?

I was all prepared to come on here and talk about what a stud he’s been defensively, and about what a black hole he’s been at the plate.  Turns out, not so fast.

With my untrained eye (and mediocre grasp of advanced stats), I think he’s still good defensively.  I know for a FACT that he’s the best catcher we’ve had in YEARS.  Again, probably since Wilson.  I also think that his bat stinks, but it’s sure to get better.  It would almost have to, as I don’t think it can get much worse.

He had 476 plate appearances in 2014.  Of those, 337 were against right-handed pitchers and 139 were against lefties.  Here are his splits:

  • Vs. Lefties:  .252/.295/.427, 8 doubles, 5 homers, 42 strikeouts, 30.2% Ks
  • Vs. Righties:  .176/.237/.394, 12 doubles, 2 triples, 17 homers, 116 strikeouts, 34.4% Ks

That’s gotta tighten up.  He’s a home run blast waiting to happen, but much more often he’s a strikeout waiting to happen.  And against righties, he’s remarkably worse.  That’s gotta change, because we can’t just save him for lefties.  We’ve got to hit on this guy because he’s THAT important to our future.

Outlook for 2015:  Starting catcher.  You probably want to keep him towards the bottom of the lineup again.  Which isn’t the worst thing in the world.  Let him get his feet wet and maybe one day he’ll be a 5-hole or 6-hole hitter.  I’m not too worried yet, but his offense has to pick up.  If he hits in 2015 the way he did in 2014, I’m going to be VERY concerned.

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

Consider this the first in a series of looks back at the 2014 Mariners.  For once, it’s going to be more than, “They fucking sucked, I’m sick of thinking about this shit, I’ll see you in February.”  I’m sure I’ll toss out the usual “What Went Right” and “What Went Wrong” posts as time and desire permit, but right now I’m taking a look at the players.  In short, I’m going to list all the players who accumulated a stat for the 2014 Mariners, and I’m going to talk about each of them individually.

I’m also breaking this up into three parts, because we’re pushing 7,000 words here.

Dustin Ackley – Funny thing about Ackley.  If you’d followed the Mariners all season, you’d know that Ackley was one of the most important reasons for our continued success.  But, if you didn’t follow along, and you just now looked at his numbers on the surface, you’d think, “What’s the big fucking deal, bitch?”  He batted .245 this year; he batted .253 LAST year.  He walked only 32 times this year in 143 games; he walked 37 times last year in only 113 games.  What gives?

Well, for starters, his slugging went way up.  .398 vs. .341 last year.  That amounts to 27 doubles, 4 triples, and 14 homers, over last year’s 18/2/4 line on extra-base hits.

Then, take a look at his first half vs. second half.  At the end of the day on June 30, 2014, Ackley was hitting:  .214/.273/.329/.602, with 12 doubles, 2 triples, & 4 homers.  From July 1st onward, Ackley hit .274 with a slugging percentage of .463.  He hit 15 doubles, 2 triples, and a whopping 10 homers to really pick up the slack.  It might’ve been even better, but a nagging ankle injury in September limited his playing time and production.  His August was insane, though:  .280/.325/.533/.857.

So, what does all of this mean?  Haven’t we been seduced by this siren’s song before?  He played a little over half a season (from mid-June onward) as a rookie and did well.  He had a solid start to 2012 and then fell off the map.  He struggled for most of the first half of 2013 before turning it on in August (after enduring a monthlong stint in the minors to get his head right).  Then, in 2014, he struggled in the first half again – finding himself batting towards the bottom of the lineup – before turning it on in the second half.  Which Ackley is the real Ackley?  I’d like to believe he can uphold his second half numbers, but I’ll never be sure until I actually see it for a full year.

Outlook for 2015:  Ackley looks to be the Mariners’ starting left fielder once again, as well as our 2-hole hitter.  We’ll bank on him continuing to hit and play solid corner defense.  If all goes well, we’ve got our left fielder of the future, today.  If all goes to shit, then Ackley is nothing more than a 4th outfielder on a good team’s bench.

Abraham Almonte – On the heels of a pretty mediocre Spring Training, Almonte was handed the keys to the starting center field job as well as our leadoff hitter role.  He was fast, he was exciting at times, but he was raw and for as many amazing plays he made, he made twice as many mistakes.  In the end, he hit like shit and was sent down to Tacoma in early May.  He was later traded to the Padres for Chris Denorfia, where he went on to be a slightly better – but still quite mediocre – hitter.  And then in September, his playing time was cut drastically.

Outlook for 2015:  I have to imagine in AAA somewhere, but certainly not for the Mariners.

Willie Bloomquist – He was a guy – if you’re a Mariners fan – who nobody wanted.  And yet, he was a guy who the Mariners signed to a 2-year guaranteed deal to be this team’s primary utility infielder/outfielder.  And, in the first three and a half months, he played more than anyone would’ve liked, because the majority of this lineup sucked dick.  Particularly our short stop and our entire outfield.  As such, not only did Willie play a lot for a utility guy, but he batted near the top of the lineup.

And, if I’m being honest, he wasn’t The Worst.  He batted .278 and played solid defense.  He was a replacement-level god in a world of sub-replacement clods.  He held this team together in a lot of ways until other guys either improved on their own or came up from Tacoma.  Then, he had a season-ending injury.  But, it was okay.  Chris Taylor was slapping hits around, Ackley was turning it on, and trades were made to theoretically bolster the lineup.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s still under contract, so there’s that.  He had surgery, so I guess it all depends on how he recovers.  If he’s able to return to form, he should be good to have around on the bench.  If he’s not, then we’ll have to decide whether we want to eat the salary, or keep him around anyway as a veteran presence or some damn thing.  I tend to believe he’ll be here, but it wouldn’t kill me if he started the season in the Minors (so, on the DL, getting some extended Spring Training).

John Buck – He was our backup catcher, brought in on a 1-year deal, to back up Mike Zunino (with an outside shot at playing more regularly, depending on whether or not Zunino struggled at the Major League level).  He played in 27 games for the Mariners, he was pisspoor behind the plate, and he was even worse at bat.  He’ll be remembered for hitting a game-winning 2-run home run down in Atlanta, and then getting DFA’d on his birthday on July 7th after a 2-0 win at home over the Twins.  By all accounts, he was a great Clubhouse Guy (who may or may not have come up with the double-jackoff hand signals after guys reached base), but he was also a poor receiver who the pitchers wanted to be rid of.  Jesus Sucre was called up to replace him.  The Mariners would go on to lose their next three games and finish the month of July 7-12, inciting what many only I called the John Buck Curse.

Outlook for 2015:  He was apparently picked up in September by the Angels and played in five games.  The Angels would go on to have the best record in the American League, only to get swept in the ALDS by the Royals.  So, maybe the John Buck Curse has many different meanings.  He won’t be back with the Mariners and he likely won’t be back in baseball period.  All adequate things must come to an end.

Robinson Cano – You know the story:  10 years, $240 million.  He’s here through the 2023 season.  2014 was Year One.

  • The numbers:  .314/.382/.454/.836; 37 doubles, 2 triples, 14 homers, 10 stolen bases, 61 walks, 68 strikeouts, 82 RBI, 77 runs scored, 6.4 WAR, 1 heart stolen (mine, *swoon*)

Want to know how those numbers line up with his career figures?  Let’s take a look:

  • .310/.358/.499/.857; 41.2 doubles per year, 3 triples, 21.8 homers, 4.8 stolen bases (his 2014 total was a career-best), 41.1 walks, 75.7 strikeouts, 90.4 RBI, 87.6 runs scored, 4.88 WAR

His power numbers were a little down, but you had to expect that coming from a bandbox in the Bronx to a cavernous wasteland that is Safeco Field.  Nevertheless, if you go by WAR, this was the fourth-best season of his career.  And that’s in a lineup with not a whole lot around him in support.  There was Seager, and a lot of question marks and holes.  It’s no wonder Cano was among the league leaders in intentional walks.

Consider me a Cano Fan 4 Life after he won me $500 and gave me a good excuse to go back to Tahoe next year to claim my winnings.  We shouldn’t expect these types of numbers for the remaining nine years of his contract, but it’s a helluva start, and in my opinion he’s worth every fucking penny.

Outlook for 2015:  Starting second baseman, 3-hole hitter.  Mark it down in Sharpie.  MVP candidate?  You got it!  The guy who ultimately brings the Mariners back to the post-season?  Gosh I hope so!  Any way you slice it, I would expect numbers comparable to what he did in 2014, with little-to-no dropoff.

Endy Chavez – Like 2013, Endy Chavez signed a minor league deal to return to the Mariners in 2014.  Like 2013, Endy Chavez started the regular season in Tacoma.  This year, he first appeared on May 30th; I believe he had it written into his contract that if he wasn’t on the Mariners’ roster by the end of May, he could get his release and be free to sign elsewhere.

When Endy first played for the Mariners in 2009, he had speed and great fielding ability.  Then, Yuniesky Betancourt happened, causing Endy to tear an ACL.  Ever since, he’s lost much of that speed and fielding ability.  But, if you’re looking for a guy to come off the bench, play some corner outfield, play some emergency centerfield in a pinch, and hit .270 while slapping around a bunch of singles and never walking, then Endy Chavez is your guy!  In short, I like him for what he is.  I like him as THAT.  I don’t like it when he’s playing every day and I don’t like it when he’s batting near the top of the lineup.  Maybe if he walked more, but that’s never going to happen.

Outlook for 2015:  Surprisingly, Endy only played in 80 games this year.  Doesn’t it feel like A LOT more?  I guess if you factor in how he missed the first two months, he really did play in a high percentage (probably around 3/4 of all possible games).  I get the sense that the Mariners will bring him back once again on a minor league deal.  Because why not?  Is he really holding anyone else back?  Not from what I’ve seen.  I’ll take his .270 batting average over some of the stiffs we’ve had roaming the corner outfield spots of late.  If you figure the locks to make this outfield are Ackley, A-Jax, and Michael Saunders (with James Jones as an outside shot as a 4th guy); and if you figure that the Mariners are all but guaranteed to go out and get another outfielder to compete for a starting spot from outside the organization; then it really makes a lot of sense to bring Endy back, start him in Tacoma, and bring him up in late May again if there’s a need for bench help.

Chris Denorfia – He was one of three guys we acquired in trade in the month of July to help us with our stretch run.  We weren’t asking for a lot out of Denorfia:  platoon in right field with Endy Chavez/Michael Saunders when he was healthy, and hit well against left-handed pitchers.  What we got was remarkably less than what we expected.

In 2013, Denorfia was a 4-win player for San Diego, who also plays in a pitcher’s paradise.  He’s always been more or less a bench player in his career, but he got real starting time from 2011-2013 and made the most of it, accounting for a little over 7 wins in production during that time.  For whatever reason, in 2014 he fell off the proverbial cliff.  In 89 games with the Padres before being traded, he hit .242/.293/.319 – essentially the definition of replacement-level.  We picked him up and he hit .195/.256/.317, or just less than a replacement-level player.  In real-world numbers, he had 5 extra-base hits in 32 games.

Now, let’s dig a little deeper.  We brought this guy in to bat right-handed against left-handed pitchers.  How did he do in the role he was brought in for?

In 61 of 90 plate appearances, he hit .164/.246/.255, with 2 of his 5 extra-base hits.

So, in other words, he was an unmitigated disaster.  Chock that trade up as a huge FAIL, because I can all but guarantee that Abe Almonte could’ve EASILY surpassed those bullshit numbers.

Outlook for 2015:  Not a Mariner.  I don’t care where he ends up, as long as it’s not here.  He’ll probably get a minor league deal with an invite to camp somewhere to compete for another bench spot.  I’d say 50/50 he breaks camp with a Major League team.

Nick Franklin – In Spring Training, it was a battle between Nick Franklin and Brad Miller for the starting short stop job.  Remember that?  Remember how we signed Cano, thereby closing that position to Franklin who’d started there for much of 2013?  Remember how we had visions of turning Franklin into a reserve outfielder?

Anyway, Brad Miller was off-the-charts hot in Spring Training, and that was that for Franklin.  Until around mid-April, when he was called up because he was hitting so well and Miller wasn’t.  He proceeded to stink and by early June was back down in Tacoma again.

We would go on to trade him to the Rays in a 3-team deal that brought us Austin Jackson.  At the time, it looked like a gift from the Heavens.

Franklin wouldn’t make his Rays debut until September.  He played in 11 games for them in total.  In his first start, he had two hits with a double, an RBI, and a run scored.  He would go on to have only five more hits, two more extra-baggers, and that’s about it.

Outlook for 2015:  I guess contending for a roster spot with the Rays?  There’s a lot of team control left, so I’m sure he’ll have plenty of chances.  We’ll see.

Cole Gillespie – He’s another fringe, AAAA-type player who’s probably too good for Triple-A, but not good enough for the Majors.  And yet, I’m absolutely certain he would’ve been an improvement over Chris Denorfia.  He played in 34 games and did okay.  I still don’t quite remember why we let him go.  He played in 1 other Major League game after he left and I don’t know what’s going on now.

Outlook for 2015:  Sometimes you eat the bar …

Jack Zduriencik Receives “Multi-Year” Extension

Nobody really has any idea what this means, other than Jackie Z is getting rewarded for what is really his first successful season as a general manager.  Obviously, success is measured by how well your Major League ballclub does, and this year we’re looking at a team that’s 13 games above .500.

I must say, I’ve been quite pleased with the job Z has done this year.  The Cano deal looks like a slam dunk, the trade for LoMo has been a vast improvement over Justin Smoak, and the deals at the deadline were reasonable while at the same time not giving away all of our prized young talent.

I probably see these things a little differently than most, but the bottom line is:  Kendrys Morales is an improvement over the designated hitters we’ve had here before.  Austin Jackson is an improvement over James Jones and Abe Almonte.  Chris Denorfia gives us a solid right-handed platoon in right field.

Then, you have to factor in the pitching.  The Mariners REALLY got lucky that Randy Wolf threw a hissy fit and walked, thereby opening the door for Chris Young.  Nevertheless, Z went out and got him to sign and he’s been a thrilling success story.  Same goes for Fernando Rodney, who has been tasked with locking down this bullpen for two years.  Joe Beimel was another low-cost prospect who panned out.

At this point, it’s probably easier to look at which moves DIDN’T work, because that number is much smaller.  Corey Hart is an obvious disappointment, but you had to like the reasoning behind that signing when it happened.  John Buck is a guy who didn’t really work out, but who’s going to put a guy on blast for not hitting on a backup catcher?  Willie Bloomquist has been okay, but then he got hurt, and now you wonder why we’d go out and sign him to a 2-year deal when he probably should’ve been had for less.  Granted, we needed his versatility as a utility infielder early in the season, but was he ever going to be necessary in 2015?

The point is, after starting out this year at an all-time low as far as fan confidence is concerned, Z has rebounded quite nicely.  Cautiously optimistic is probably the phrase I’d use.  It doesn’t hurt that some of the younger guys are coming around a little bit (Ackley, for instance, if this thing is indeed for real).  I mean, when you’ve got the likes of Smoak, Montero, Ackley up until a few weeks ago, the Fister deal, the Figgins signing, and the 2013 outfield all under your belt … that’s a LOT to recover from!  You’d be foolish to revert back to In Jack We Trust again, but for now, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Frankly, it’s as much as he deserves, at least until we see some sustained success over a number of years.

This extension is like giving your teenage child the keys to your car the day they receive their driver’s license.  Yeah, you “trust” them, because you have to, but that doesn’t mean you’re not constantly worried for your car’s safety every moment they’re out there alone on those city streets.

The Mariners Really Fucked Up That Twins Series

Look, I’m not saying that the Mariners are 0 for their last 3 because they cut John Buck on Monday.  I’m just saying that they’ve made a lot of seemingly unnecessary moves this week.

Ostensibly, you cut Buck in favor of Jesus Sucre because you value Sucre’s defense at the catcher position.  And because you need to spell Mike Zunino more often to keep him fresh for the stretch run.  And yet, here we are, running Zunino out there every day anyway!  My guess, which will certainly come true, is that Sucre won’t get the start until the day game on Sunday, which takes us right back to Zunino getting only one day off a week anyway!

It’s all so aggravating.  It’s not Buck’s fault, or the lack of Buck’s fault.  This offense is completely inept about half of its games, and somewhat reasonable in about half of its games.  Right now, we’re in one of those inept periods.  Since we scored 28 runs in the three games against Houston last week, the Mariners have scored 9 runs in 7 games against the White Sox and Twins – two SHITTY FUCKING TEAMS.  With the White Sox, you can kind of understand it, because they were running out some quality starters.  But, the Twins?  There is NO fucking excuse for the kind of poor play we’ve seen.

Of course, unlike most of the times our offense is inept, we’re actually getting hits.  In the 2-0 shutout, we had 8 hits and left 6 on base.  In the 8-1 drubbing, we managed 12 hits … and left 12 on base.  Finally, in last night’s 4-2 fiasco, we had another 12 hits and 10 left on base.  Opportunities were there!  And, for the record, Corey Hart can eat my whole asshole.

Can’t just blame Corey Hart, but it’s fun to try.  Since his return from the DL, he’s played in 7 games and has 5 hits.  All singles.  What does it tell you that I’d rather have Justin Smoak as our DH?  What does it tell you that I’d rather have fucking Jesus Montero?  Shit man, right now I’d settle for Endy Chavez again!  At least when he hits the ball into a gap, he has a chance to motor in for two bases!

Corey Hart is a waste of fucking space who doesn’t deserve multiple weeks to get his shit together.  He’s hitting the ball like my grandmother, he runs like the fucking Tin Man from the fucking Wizard of Oz, and he’s getting too many opportunities with runners on base because LMC is batting him in or around the cleanup spot.

You want to DFA someone?  DFA Hart, not Buck.  Bring Smoak back, tell Hart to go fuck himself, and put LoMo at DH where he fucking belongs.  The Corey Hart Experiment was a disaster, we all know it, might as well stop giving him plate appearances so we just have to pay him more for sucking all the dicks.

In other Suck A Dick news, we had our Bullpen Day yesterday.  I’m sorry, did the Mariners defect and join the Pacific Coast League and nobody told me?  What kind of low-rent, Minor League bullshit are you selling us?  Frankly, I think everyone in attendance should get their money back.  Yes, I agreed with the move to push Felix back to the Oakland series, but I didn’t think we’d call up all of Tacoma’s relievers this week just to see if we could literally put ANYONE out there on the mound and try to win a game.  Why wouldn’t you bring up Erasmo for a spot start?  You knew you were pushing Felix back with enough advanced warning to adjust Erasmo’s pitch count!  It’s not hard to get five fucking innings out of the kid!

The Mariners – in an effort to get cute and gear up for this all-important weekend series against Oakland – were totally out-classed by the Twins this week.  You want to motivate a team?  Push your #1 starter to the next series, because you think pitching him in this series would be “wasting him”.  You don’t think the Twins wanted to ram this week down our throats?  Then, instead of bringing up another starter, we’ll go ahead and use six relievers instead.  Fuck it, right?  The Twins aren’t any kind of competition!

Yeah, so the Twins had that bulletin board material this week.  What did the Mariners have?  The Buck DFA, which was unanimously panned by the rest of the team, except for a few pitchers, I guess, who didn’t like the way he received the ball.  One could argue that was another motivating tactic, to show these players that nobody is safe.  Except, at that point, you’ve just got everyone playing scared.  Playing to NOT lose their jobs, instead of going out there and trying to improve.  Fear breeds mistakes, which you’ve seen all over the place this week.

In short, this week was the perfect storm of motivation backfiring on the Mariners.  And now we’re here.  The table is set.  We went and dropped dinner on the kitchen floor multiple times, but now the table is set and our guests have arrived.  The Oakland A’s are in town.  They’re ahead of us by 9 games, because they HAVEN’T spent the week shitting the bed.  That’s neither here nor there, of course, because Anaheim has also been on a tear and currently sits a whopping 5.5 games ahead of us.  We’ve still got that second Wild Card spot by 1.5 games, but what’s the point?

This thing won’t come to fruition if we don’t make some serious moves.  Standing pat, hoarding all of our prospects:  that’s not the way we’re going to make the playoffs.  One of these teams below us in the Wild Card hunt is going to get super hot at some point.  If we’re not prepared to improve our ballclub, we’re going to be left in their dust.  Yeah, a few of our prospects might turn into another Kyle Seager.  But, most of them will be Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller.  Sometimes, you just have to take a chance and hope for the best.

And, at this point, I’m not just talking about improving our hitting.  Yes, we do need upgrades.  We need an average everyday left fielder to replace Ackley and an average everyday 1B/DH so we can drop Hart.  We ALSO need another starter.  At this point, how can you trust Roenis Elias, when it looks like the league has adjusted to what he has to offer and he’s struggling to adjust to their adjustments?  When you factor in Taijuan Walker also being a rookie, and Chris Young being moments away from turning into a pumpkin, this rotation could really use a jumpstart.  At that point, we have to hope our bullpen can remain reasonably effective, and hope it doesn’t take too many of them to bring in the other pieces we need to improve.

I dunno, maybe it’s a lost cause.  Maybe there are too many holes to make this dam operational.  Maybe, no matter what we do, we’re doomed to be mediocre and miss out on the playoffs.

This All Star Break can get REALLY depressing in a hurry.  You hate to put a whole season on one series, but it is imperative that the Mariners not only look good against the A’s this weekend, but WIN this fucking series.  And, ideally, sweep it.

I mean, this is it!  If things stay the way they are and the Mariners make the playoffs, these are the three guys you’re going to see pitching:  Felix, Iwakuma, Young.  We’re putting all of our cards on the table right now, against the best team in baseball.  If we go out there in these next three games and duff the ball around, and stink at the plate with runners in scoring position, and lose a bunch of games 3-2 and 2-1 and 1-0, reality is going to hit this organization like a ton of bricks.

There are many turning points in any Major League season.  The Mariners had one on April 23rd when they ended an 8-game losing streak and proceeded to have one of the best records in baseball over the next 2+ months.  This series against Oakland could be another turning point, for the worse.  Losing this series would mean the Mariners have gone 3-7 in the ten games leading up to the break.  Getting swept would mean the Mariners have gone 2-8.  It’s not the worst stretch of baseball you’ve ever seen; those types of stretches happen to most teams at one point or another.  But, this will have the added symbolism of coming at the end of the honorary “first half”.  With two more weeks of baseball before the trade deadline, followed by another two months of going through the motions.

And, here I was, getting all excited for being in contention.  The next four weeks will sure be interesting.  After that, if the Mariners happen to fall apart, at least we’ve got pre-season football on August 7th.

Why Did The Mariners Cut John Buck?

It’s not like I care, necessarily, about John Buck, or think he’s all that good at baseball.  I’d mostly just like to know:  what’s the point?

Jesus Sucre was just called up to replace John Buck as this team’s backup catcher.  That’s gotta be tough:  you’re replacing a respected veteran and leader.  I’m not saying Sucre is a scumbag or anything, but he’s also not all that remarkably better than Buck either.

I could understand it if the Mariners were going to replace Buck with a really good backup catcher, except those things don’t really exist.  You know what you call a really good backup catcher?  A “starting catcher”.  I don’t think this team has any plans on demoting Mike Zunino anytime soon.  He’s not tearing the A.L. a new asshole or anything, but he’s shown that he belongs and that he’s capable of handling his growing pains at the Major League level.  One day, Mike Zunino will be an All Star.  For now, he’s just a really good, really young defensive catcher with some pop in his bat.  Just enough pop to keep him in the Bigs.  He’s not actively hurting this team through poor defense, so there isn’t much of a point in demoting him or drastically reducing his playing time.  I can understand if you want to give Zunino some extra days off between now and season’s end; this is his first full year at this level – two years removed from college.  He’s going to get tired and see his production decline if we’re not careful.

In other words, instead of resting 1 game per week, Mike Zunino should be resting 2 games per week.

I suppose LMC and Jackie Z got together and figured this out.  Yes, very good, Zunino needs more rest.  Then, it dawned on them that John Buck was the man they had filling that void.  A man who put up a .226/.293/.286 slash line in 27 games, across 92 plate appearances.  Is that REALLY something you want to see more than you’d have to?  Is that something you want to see at all?

So, they made the decision to cut Buck.  I still find it somewhat baffling.  Yes, his numbers are down compared to the rest of his career, and yes, they’re down compared to last year.  But, they’re not THAT far below!  They’re nothing a few hot games wouldn’t turn around.  If you believe at all in regression when it comes to baseball, you’d have to think that the Buck we’d get over the second half of the season would be at least something of an improvement over the Buck we got in the first half.  Especially if you gave him more playing time as you opted to spell Zunino more often.  Granted, I’m of the opinion that you have to earn your at bats; you shouldn’t get guaranteed playing time just because you’re a vet and you “need” to play every day to get your numbers back up to par.  Nevertheless, it feels a bit premature to throw away a guy before he’s had a chance to see 100 plate appearances.

John Buck isn’t the greatest, but he’s exactly what you’d expect out of a guy you’re bringing in to be your BACKUP CATCHER.  Who expects greatness out of their backup catcher?  You know what I expect – what I’ve ALWAYS expected – out of my backup catcher?  Four outs at the plate and 24 hours where the starting catcher gets to sit on the bench and play grab-ass.  Anything – anything at ALL – at the plate is a huge bonus.  Maybe that’s foolish thinking, but then again, if the guy was so great to begin with, he’d be a starter somewhere.

Now, you may be asking:  what’s the big fucking deal, bitch?  As you said, he’s just a backup catcher; who cares if the Mariners cut him or not?

Well, truth be told, I don’t care a whole lot.  If the Mariners continue to win – and if they get better production out of Jesus Sucre – then the move is a success and the Mariners are geniuses.  But, is it safe to EXPECT that?  Sucre is a guy who’s hitting .274/.293/.360 down in Tacoma in 48 games.  He’s a guy who had an 8-game cup of coffee where he showed absolutely nothing at the plate except that he could hit a single the opposite way.  Yes, his defense is pretty good – and probably better than Buck’s – but is it remarkably better?  I doubt it.  In fact, as a whole, Sucre isn’t a huge improvement, so why bother?

If it’s to save a half a million dollars, that only happens if someone claims Buck off of waivers.  That probably won’t happen, and besides, it’s half a mil; who gives a shit about half a mil in Major League Baseball?

In the end, this strikes me as a net-negative.  There isn’t much of a tangible improvement in the field or at the plate, and there’s a considerable decline in leadership and chemistry.  Every team needs one of those good guys everyone rallies around.  The guys who aren’t the most talented, but who are championed like crazy when they do something positive.  Glue guys for younger players to look up to and joke around with.  Yes, this team has leadership in guys like Cano and Felix, but those guys are superstars.  They’re so far above and beyond all the younger guys on this team, regardless of how open and accommodating they are, it still has to be somewhat intimidating to be around them.  But, someone like Buck?  He’s right there on their level.  He’s been around the block, he’s seen his day in the sun, and now he’s on his way back down – as they’re starting their own ascents up the mountain.  Considering a lot of the younger guys on this team likely WON’T be All Stars, it’s nice to have someone like Buck, who was never all that great, but still managed to carve himself out a nice little career in the game.

Most people dismiss the idea of chemistry and veteran leadership out of hand.  Positive chemistry comes with winning, of course!  Well, the Mariners HAVE been winning, and I find it hard to believe that the loss of Buck will suddenly pull this team into a tailspin.  But, it still feels like an unusually cruel and heartless thing to do, without a whole lot of consideration for the feelings of the players on this team who are tasked with playing day-in and day-out.  If Buck and Sucre are essentially equal, but you get more of a clubhouse benefit from having Buck around, why wouldn’t you just keep Buck around?

Which is why I have to believe there’s another move on the horizon.  A trade perhaps.  Not for another catcher, that would be idiotic.  But, maybe a trade for multiple pieces that would need to be placed on the 40-man roster.  The Mariners – prior to the Buck DFA – were at 39 on the 40-man; now, they’re at 38.  Maybe there’s an impending deal that required the Mariners to open up another spot on the 40-man.  Of course, if that’s the case, why didn’t the Mariners just wait until the deal was completed?  They didn’t have to cut Buck last night – ON HIS BIRTHDAY – right after a hard-fought win at home.

Cutting him now instead of later isn’t going to make his release any easier on him.  Shit, they could have quietly cut him over the All Star Break and it would’ve been easier on the players still on this team.  Probably easier on him as well, as he wouldn’t have been surrounded by guys who – a few hours earlier – were his teammates.  No, this move smacks of the organization believing that John Buck is an active detriment to this team, and I just don’t see how that’s possible.

This move could have waited.  There’s no excuse to cut a guy on his birthday if you don’t have to.  In the end, it’s probably not a move that significantly improves on-field performance.  So, why do it?  That’s a question we’ll likely never have the answer to.

3 Months In: How About Them M’s?

45-38.  +56 in run differential, which places us second in all of Major League Baseball (behind the A’s, who are a fucking brickhouse).  Third place in the division (3 games in the loss column behind the Angels), 1.5 games ahead of the next-best teams for the second Wild Card spot.

We’re in there!  We’re doin’ it!  Scrapping, yelling, mixing it up!  And yet, it seemed so impossible only three months ago.

Three months ago, I was of the opinion that everything had to go right for this team to do what it’s doing right now.  To be fair, a lot has gone right, but it’s by no means a perfect storm.  After the first month of the season, it felt like the same ol’ Mariners.  A big, fat, 8-game losing streak ruined what was an otherwise fine first couple weeks of the season.  And, thus far, this season as a whole has come to be defined by that losing streak.  There’s the Mariners through the 8-game losing streak:  7-13, hopelessly out-matched by teams like the Marlins and Astros (thought to be the two worst teams in all of baseball), ready to run out the string of shitty performances like we have in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2006, and so on.

And then, there’s the Mariners AFTER the 8-game losing streak:  38-25, amazing pitching, just enough hitting on most nights, an absolutely lights out bullpen, and a leader getting the most out of his players on a daily basis.

People still talk about the 8-game losing streak like it was an asteroid striking the Earth and wiping out civilization as we know it.  In a way, it did.  It destroyed the early-season bandwagon jumpers straight away.  All that was left were the hardcore, die hard Mariners fans.  Who watch games on a regular basis even though they have eyes and are able to comprehend simple arithmetic.  We the lowly, we the shivering, we the starving for a contender.  Any scraps or morsels of winning baseball, we pounce on and hungrily devour.  And since that 8-game losing streak, we have THRIVED!  My God, what a glorious last couple of months!  Two straight months of winning baseball, capped off by an 18-10 run in the month of June.

April seems so long ago now.  Remember when Abraham Almonte played in 27 games and started almost every one in centerfield, as our leadoff hitter?  Remember how he batted .198 with streaky defense and streakier base running?

Remember when James Paxton had two good-lookin’ starts out of Spring Training before being injured?  Remember how he was supposed to be back by now?

Remember how we lost Taijuan Walker to injury in Spring Training?  Remember how he just returned last night and threw himself a Quality Start?

Remember Kyle Seager’s slump to start the season?  And then he single-handedly ended the infamous 8-game losing streak and subsequently went on a tear that saw him raise his slash line from .156/.280/.219/.499 to what it is today:  .274/.345/.483/.828.  Even Kyle Seager defines his season by that 8-game losing streak!  Where his fortunes go, our fortunes go.  At the start, Seager was hovering near the bottom of the lineup, and now he’s entrenched as our cleanup hitter!

Remember how Iwakuma missed the first month of the season?  He hasn’t been his regular, Cy Young-ish self since his return, but he’s been plenty damn good, and certainly a huge upgrade over some of these other starters we’ve used.

It’s been a rough go with injuries, but I guess most every team could say that.  What’s most impressive is how players have responded.  Felix Hernandez is probably having his best-ever season, and that’s saying a lot, considering – in my estimation – he’s the best pitcher in baseball.  In this era of dominant pitching, it would be an amazing achievement for him to get his second Cy Young Award.

Roenis Elias has stepped up HUGE.  I don’t think anyone expected a whole lot out of him to start the year.  I know, for me, I was just hoping that he’d sort of be okay for a month until the rest of our rotation returned from injury.  Instead, those guys have had significant set-backs, and Elias has picked up the slack in a huge way.  What’s even more impressive:  Elias has a lot of room for growth; who knows what he’ll be doing in a year or two?!

Remember Randy Wolf?  Remember how he was supposed to be a thing?  And remember how he left the team because we wanted him to sign a contract that would allow us to cut him after 45 days, without penalty?  Yeah, he got REAL pissy with a process that happens ALL THE TIME.  Guys like Randy Wolf are a dime a dozen.  They don’t deserve guaranteed contracts because they’re old and coming off of injury.  They deserve what they get:  a safety net for the team that’s sticking its neck out by giving this guy a chance.  So, Randy Wolf split, and on the year he has appeared in six games.  He’s 1-3 with a 5.26 ERA, and it doesn’t appear that he has a job at the moment.  If he does, it’s not with a Major League team.

The Mariners, meanwhile, went out and picked up Chris Young, who was only more than happy to sign that contract with that 45-day clause.  He felt it was better to prove oneself and EARN that full-year pick up.  And, as it turned out, circumstances dictated that he was necessary to have in the rotation, with all the injuries and poor performances from guys like Ramirez and Maurer.  So, what did he do, with the circumstances he was given?  Made the most of them and proceeded to kick a lot of Major League ass!  He’s the current owner of a 3.15 ERA and MOUNTAINS full of regression potential.  But, that’s neither here nor there, because you can’t take away his first three months of the season, and those first three months have been AMAZING!

This could have been yours, Randy Wolf.  But, you let pride get in the way.  Tsk tsk.

For as solid as the rotation has been (or, at least, 4/5 of the rotation), the bullpen has been even better.  Currently, all but one guy has an ERA under 4 in the bullpen.  And that one guy?  Our eighth man, Brandon Maurer, who recently converted to the ‘pen and introduced the world to his 99mph fastball.

I can’t say enough good things about the bullpen.  If this team was ever going to go anywhere, the bullpen needed to over-perform its pre-season projections.  And it has, in spades.  Fernando Rodney has been one of the few (only?) free agent closers to sign with a new team this past off-season and be worth the money he’s been given.  It was dicey to start, but Rodney has really come on since about mid-May or so.  His save opportunities aren’t NEARLY as frightening as they were to start the season.  He has better command of his stuff.  And, finally, he has quieted those of us (myself included) who thought Farquhar deserved a crack at the closer’s job.  With Rodney in there locking shit down, that bumps everyone else back a level, and they seem to be handling it with great alacrity.

Leone has been good, Medina has been good, Farquhar has been good, Hell, even Wilhelmsen has been good!  Those are four really good right-handed set-up men, not counting Maurer, who has been lights out in his few bullpen appearances.  Joe Beimel has been rock-solid from the left side, if a bit underutilized (though, I guess with a guy his age – 37 – you probably want to keep him fresh by using him less often).  And, while Furbush has had his moments of being truly awful, he has picked it up of late, and there really isn’t any other option from the left side that you feel confident about.

On the offensive side of things, we’ve been just as unlucky with injuries.  Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, and Corey Hart have all spent time on the DL.  That’s a starting corner outfielder, a starting first baseman, a platoon outfielder/first baseman, and our starting designated hitter, all missing significant time.  The jury is still out on these guys, but thus far Saunders has looked really good, Smoak has looked really bad, LoMo has looked great since his return (and since he was given a chance to play everyday), and Hart looks incomplete.

Compounding the problem, the usual and unusual suspects have underperformed.  Dustin Ackley had one short stretch of goodness surrounded by an ocean of ineptitude.  Brad Miller really took a shit after one of the hottest Spring Trainings I’ve ever seen.  Almonte was given too long of a leash.  Nick Franklin was a strikeout machine in his two brief call-ups.  Stefen Romero could never take advantage of the opportunity he was given.  And while Zunino has shown brilliance behind the plate, his discipline AT the plate leaves a lot to be desired.

Nevertheless, there have been just enough bright spots to be pleasantly surprised.  At the top of that list, as far as hitters are concerned, is Robinson Cano.  He has been WELL worth the $240 million paycheck, at least in the first half of his first season here.  We’ll see how the rest of it goes, but it’s nice knowing we have at least one guy we can count on, day-in and day-out.

The aforementioned Kyle Seager has been another.  I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m surprised by his performance, but it is pretty thrilling to see what he’s done at home this year.  11 of his 12 bombs have come at Safeco, and his splits from there are pretty mesmerizing (you have to figure his road numbers will pick up in a matter of time).

James Jones has been rock solid since coming up to replace Almonte.  He’s like Almonte with a better contact rate, and not as skittish in the field or on the basepaths.  Almonte could be a disaster, or he could make other teams look foolish, but there was rarely an in-between where you felt comfortable with him out there.  Jones, on the other hand, is a calming influence.  And, not for nothing, but he’s up to 17 stolen bases with only 1 time being thrown out.  This guy slaps an infield single, and he’s on third in moments!

When you tack on Saunders’ solid play, with the surging Morrison and the power-streaky Zunino, and you’ve got six guys who range from “amazing” to “pretty good”.  Then, factor in Brad Miller’s improvement in the month of June, and Endy Chavez’s ability to hit a lot of singles and nothing else … well, you get the idea.

As the fan said in the movie Major League, “Ya know, these guys ain’t so fuckin’ bad.”  This is a team that had a lot of holes coming out of Spring Training.  Shockingly, they’ve managed to fill a lot of those holes with guys inside the organization.  If I were to rate the roster based on various confidence levels, this team has more positives than negatives.  Let’s go down the list:

I Feel Great About:

  • Felix Hernandez (SP)
  • Robinson Cano (2B)
  • Kyle Seager (3B)

I Feel Good About:

  • Mike Zunino (C)
  • Hisashi Iwakuma (SP)
  • Roenis Elias (SP)
  • Michael Saunders (OF)
  • James Jones (CF)
  • Everyone In The Bullpen

I Feel Adequate About:

  • Logan Morrison (1B/DH)
  • Brad Miller (SS)
  • Chris Young (SP)
  • Taijuan Walker (SP)
  • Justin Smoak (1B)
  • Cole Gillespie (OF)
  • Endy Chavez (OF)
  • Willie Bloomquist (INF)
  • John Buck (C)

I Feel Bad About:

  • Dustin Ackley (LF)
  • Corey Hart (DH)

There’s really only two guys I don’t trust, who figure to have a big impact on this team.  Two guys who I would be more than happy to replace with outside help at the trade deadline.  This team needs a new left fielder in the worst way.  It also needs someone to pick up the slack at DH.  If it were up to me, we’d leave LoMo at first base and see if he can continue this run he’s been on.  If he starts to falter, then maybe platoon him with Smoak.  But, either way, someone to play DH is a must.

But, who knows?  Maybe this organization struggles to make any trades and is forced to take another look at the guys we’ve got now.  Maybe Corey Hart finds his timing again and rips off a nice little second half.  Maybe Smoak gets healthy and turns it around.  Maybe Ackley has a fire lit under his ass with all this talk about the Mariners trying to unload him for nothing.

Or, maybe the Mariners fall apart in the second half and we go back to ripping this team on a weekly basis.  The fact of the matter is, I’m actually excited for what the second half could bring for this team.  I’m excited about the future, and for vastly different reasons than before!  Because the future isn’t some nebulous, intangible blob way off in the distance.  The future is here and now!  Right before us!  Three more months to go!

Three more months before – dare I say – a little bit more?

Random Week 13 Mariners Thoughts

Last week, the Mariners went 4-2.  The week before, it was 5-2.  In this critical stretch of games leading up to the All Star Break, the Mariners have gone 18-10 in their last 28 games.  We currently hold the 4th-best record in the American League, we hold the 2nd spot in the Wild Card standings by 1.5 games (over both KC & Baltimore), yet we’re still a full two games behind the Angels and 7.5 games behind the A’s.

This American League West is pretty fucking good this year.  I daresay it’s the NFC West of baseball divisions.

The Mariners crushed the Red Sox in the first two games last week, winning by a combined 20-5.  In the finale, Boston jumped out to a good lead, but we still managed to come back and pull within one run, with runners on base in the bottom of the ninth before our fortunes ran out.  Nevertheless, we came right back and took 2 of 3 from Cleveland, featuring a solid Chris Young performance, a night where the Mariners’ bats failed to show up to the ballpark, and an afternoon where Felix was absolutely masterful.  Cleveland 1-hit us on Saturday; we 1-hit them on Sunday.  Anything you can do, we can do better, because we’re the Seattle Mariners, so fuck you!

In roster transaction news, Erasmo Ramirez was sent down to eventually make way for Taijuan Walker.  As it happened, the Mariners replaced Ramirez with Brandon Maurer.  Maurer the starter is a suck-ass who doesn’t deserve legitimate playing time beyond the AAA level.  Maurer the reliever is a dominant force who can throw 99mph, has control of a wicked change up, and still has that slider that does so well against righties (and, apparently, a 93mph cut-fastball, which sounds ridiculous, but is true).  I’m not sure I want to see Maurer the reliever ever leave this team!  Can we keep him here forever?  Can he one day be our future closer?  Please?

Towards the end of the week, Jesus Montero was indeed demoted for Michael Saunders.  No surprise there.  Over the weekend, Saunders started three times and went 3 for 11, with a double and 2 runs scored.  Nice to have you back, Michael.

Then, after the game on Sunday, it was announced that Stefen Romero is finally being relieved of his duties.  Thank God.  I mean, I don’t hate the kid or anything, but he’s obviously still got a lot to work on.  He certainly has the potential to be a solid line drive hitting machine, but he’s got to figure out a plan when going into at bats.  And he needs to improve his pitch recognition.  Few more walks couldn’t hurt either.

It’s assumed Taijuan Walker is going to replace Romero on the roster, which is interesting, because that means Maurer is still here for the time being.  Maybe it’s only a matter of time (say, until Justin Smoak is ready to return).  Either way, it would be wise to take advantage of Maurer’s services while we still have him here.  An 8-man bullpen is a nice luxury, but not a luxury you can afford long term.  Not with the likes of John Buck as your DH.

Don’t look now, but it appears that the Mariners have a position of strength from which they can trade.  It’ll be interesting if we can ship off a couple of young bullpen arms for a bat.  At the very least, it beats the alternative of trading away starting pitching, which is at a premium for us right now.

Taijuan Walker goes tonight.  It would be nice if he’s good right out of the gate.  Then, I wouldn’t have to worry about the Mariners trading for one of the Cubs’ starting pitchers, when it’s so obvious to everyone in the world that the Mariners need help with their hitting.  I know everyone fears the day when Chris Young turns into a pumpkin, but I feel like even a few more bad games out of him over the second half of the season won’t make much of a difference, especially if Walker is the real deal.

The Mariners have now played 82 games.  Yesterday was technically the first game of the second half of the season.  2009 was the last time we were this good (at least, as far as record is concerned), when we finished 85-77.  Those Mariners ended up 10 games out of the Wild Card and 12 games out in the division.  Those Mariners also had a -52 run differential and only had that winning record thanks to insane luck in close games.  There wasn’t any 17-game losing streak like there was in 2011 (when the Mariners sort of contended through the first three months of the season), but there just weren’t the pieces in place to push that 2009 team over the top.  If you’ll recall, the only moves the Mariners made in the run-up to the July 31st Trade Deadline that year was:

  • A trade for Jack Hannahan (a bench infielder who made zero impact at the plate)
  • A trade for Jack Wilson & Ian Snell (a defense-only short stop and a crap starting pitcher)
  • The trading of Wladimir Balentien & Jarrod Washburn for prospects (prospects who turned out to be absolutely nothing)

We can’t make that mistake again this year.  There is a clear need:  hitting.  There are guys we can trade who aren’t Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.  I’m not asking the Mariners to bring me Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout, for crying out loud!  Just bring me someone who is better than Corey Hart or Justin Smoak or Dustin Ackley.  It can’t be THAT hard.

What Do The Mariners Do When Rehabapalooza Ends?

There are more decisions to be made in the coming days/weeks, besides what to do with the fifth starter in this rotation.  Like, who stays and who goes when Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, and Corey Hart are ready to return?

Michael Saunders figures to return just as soon as he’s allowed tomorrow.  He’s been tearing it up in Tacoma, and presumably he’s back to normal healthwise.  His replacement seems to be a no-brainer, as this would be a Last-One-In/First-One-Out type of scenario.  Jesus Montero brings relatively zero value to the ballclub.  He’s a DH who is only allowed to face left-handed pitchers.  No sense in keeping that on the club at the expense of people who can, you know, actually play defense.

Saunders is really interesting because – before he got hurt – he was one of the hottest hitters on this team.  He can slide into an everyday role in the outfield with Jones and Ackley/Chavez and provide an immediate lift.  Of course, as I say that, Endy Chavez has been tearing it up at the plate the last few games, but with him I’ve always been a proponent of Less Is More.  He needs days off, whether his batting average says so or not.  And, in my mind, Ackley isn’t really proving to me that he’s an everyday player.  So, if we get some kind of time-share thing going between Ackley, Saunders, and Chavez for the two corner outfield spots (with an occasional day off for Jones in center), I’d be all right with that.  Play the hot bats, and cycle out the cold ones.

Saunders returning also provides a lift at the DH position.  Since Montero apparently is inept against righties, we’ve seen the likes of Willie Bloomquist and John Buck at DH.  Once again, the Mariners are at the bottom of the league at the DH position, for the millionth year in a row (approximately) since Edgar retired.  I mean, I don’t LIKE Endy Chavez as our DH, but I’m willing to accept him over the likes of Willie or Buck.

It’s a little mind-boggling to me that Cole Gillespie hasn’t been given a crack at some of these DH at bats.  Lloyd is REALLY going too far in his love for veterans.  I say that, knowing this team is one of the youngest in baseball, but that’s by circumstance.  He HAS to play young guys all over the field, because that’s all we’ve got.  But, if he had his druthers, I guarantee you we’d see some slob of a veteran in all nine holes.  I’m not saying Gillespie has earned the right to play more, but you’d think he’d at least get a chance over the likes of Willie for crying out loud!

Which leads me to wonder:  who leaves when Smoak is ready to return?  I think many Mariners fans would just as soon leave Smoak in the minors for as long as humanly possible, but I just don’t see that happening.  His defense at first base is as good as we’ve got in this organization, he can work a walk better than most people on this team, and while his hitting is sub-par, he’s been known to … oh, who am I kidding?  It’s just the walks and the defense with him!

In the end, it’s down to Stefen Romero and Gillespie as to who goes down to Tacoma when Smoak is ready to return.  Romero has, somehow, been on the Major League club for the duration of the season.  He’s skipping gently around the Mendoza line, and his defense isn’t all that good in right field.  If it were up to me, he’d be the one to go down and start getting more regular at bats again.  Gillespie has been around the game of baseball a little longer, so I think he can adapt to the bench role he’s been given.  Plus, he’s been more productive than Romero while playing in fewer games.  Done deal (let’s hope).

Because either way, when Corey Hart is ready to return, (and assuming there are no injuries or other circumstances to worry about), whoever DOESN’T get sent down between Romero & Gillespie when Smoak returns, will most definitely get sent down when Hart comes back.  But, I’m not really focusing on that now, because by all accounts, we’re still a good few weeks away from that even being a possible issue.

The team has weathered the storm pretty well in the absence of Saunders, Smoak, and Hart.  With two of those three ready to return in the coming days (and with the impending promotion of Taijuan Walker merely a formality), this team will FINALLY be able to show what it can do!

Here’s a projected (ideal) lineup:

  1. Jones (CF)
  2. Saunders (RF)
  3. Cano (2B)
  4. Seager (3B)
  5. LoMo (DH)
  6. Zunino (C)
  7. Smoak (1B)
  8. Ackley (LF)
  9. Miller (SS)

That – with a bench consisting of Buck, Willie, Chavez, and Gillespie – isn’t half bad.  It beats the hell out of the alternative, relying too much on Chavez and company, who really need to stick to being part-time players.

As insane as it sounds, there will be a roster crunch when Hart returns.  Ideally, you want LoMo as a DH, but I guess in a pinch you could run him out in a corner outfield spot.  If Hart is able to hack it, he’s going to have to remain as the DH and nothing else, otherwise you can kiss his brittle ol’ knees goodbye.  That puts a crimp in our outfield defense, but I suppose you could run a 3-man weave between Ackley, Smoak, and LoMo at first base, outfield, and bench.  None of those guys probably deserve to play everyday anyway, but if LoMo is going to continue his hot hitting, it’s hard to justify sitting him.

These are sort of nice problems to have, but even nicer problems would be having hitters who you can count on day-in and day-out.  Frankly, Hart’s timing issues at the plate make me skeptical that he’s ever going to make a positive impact with this team.  He needs at bats to get his timing back, but he’s not doing anything with those at bats to justify his playing time!  I honestly have to wonder if he’s even worth the trouble at DH full time.  This team lacks pop from the right side, and he certainly has the potential to provide that.  But, can you afford to exclusively play him against left-handed starters?  And, if that’s the way it shakes out, is he really all that much better than Jesus Montero?

These are questions I can’t believe I’m asking.  Fortunately, we won’t have to worry about Hart for another few weeks yet.  Let’s hope, in the meantime, we can keep the good times rolling.  Let’s hope, when the time comes, they are actually tough decisions to make!  That would mean guys we have now are producing, fighting for their lives to stay on the big ballclub.  Or, you know, it would mean the Mariners actually managed to go out and find a bat in a trade.

The Mariners Lost To The Yankees Last Night, and I’m Predictably Upset

I really wish Tanaka had pitched yesterday, instead of tonight.  If we end up losing this series – which, I’m putting at about a 95% certainty – at least part of the blame can go to that FUCKING Kansas City weather on Sunday raining out their start against the Yankees.  Because, let’s face it, all along I was writing off that Tanaka start, no matter WHO went up against him.  But, knowing that he’s going up against Chris Young tonight makes it all the more scary.

Of course, we had no business losing LAST NIGHT, but that’s neither here nor there.  This team has a REAL problem winning games at home.  It’s what’s going to ruin this team if they don’t pick it the fuck up.

Ahh, but if only we could blame all of our problems on the Kansas City weather.  Alas, there is plenty of blame to go around for last night’s 3-2 defeat.

For starters, I was pretty hard on Charlie Furbush last night on Twitter, and for good reason.  He really only had one job last night, in spite of the fact that he ended up going 1.2 innings.  His JOB, was to keep that runner at second base from scoring, to keep the game at a 2-2 tie.  And, for two pitches, he was on point.  He got Jacoby Ellsbury into an 0-2 hole, and then served up the fattest, juiciest, most mouth-watering meatball I’ve ever seen.  Since Ellsbury is a human with two arms, two legs, and two eyes, he was easily able to discern that this pitch was, in fact, right in his wheelhouse.  He carefully lined a single into the outfield and that was the ballgame.  Furbush managed to get out of the inning – and through the next inning – without giving up any more damage, but that was it.  That was the ballgame.  The run was credited to Hisashi Iwakuma, the loss was even credited to Hisashi Iwakuma, but this game rested on the shoulders of Charlie Furbush and HE is the reason why this game didn’t go into extra innings.

Speaking of Iwakuma, boy did HE have a shitty first inning.  I’m not going to heap nearly as much scorn upon him – as he did a marvelous job of settling down after throwing over 40 pitches in the first two innings – but he knows better than to leave all those pitches up in the zone.  When he pitches up in the zone, he loses most of his natural movement.  And, besides that, he doesn’t have the strongest arm, so he’s not going to blow anybody away with his fastball in the upper 80s.

Lloyd McClendon, for the most part, at least in my estimation, has gotten a pass this year.  You have to do that when you’re dealing with a new manager.  Let him get his feet wet, give him time to give you a solid impression of what he’s about, and see if his wacky tactics end up paying off.

I generally like him.  I like the way he manages, I like the way he’s brunt and forthright with the media.  I’m not always crazy about his bullpen usage, but I feel like almost every manager has bullpen usage issues.  Last night, he did something else I liked:  he left his starter in the ballgame.  Iwakuma was cruising after that aforementioned second inning.  He put up zeroes every inning after the first and ultimately saw the Mariners tie the game at 2-2 in the 7th.  Each inning seemed to be getting easier than the last for Iwakuma.  He was right around 100 pitches, which by no means should dictate whether you take a pitcher out of a game or not.  Like some of these other old school guys, I long for the days where starters would throw 120-130 pitches.  Maybe that’s not safe, or to the benefit of a pitcher’s long-term health, but men were men God dammit!  Chewing tobacco and jock straps and tattoos and moustaches!

Anyway, I was all in favor of Iwakuma going out to start that 8th inning.  My only concern was the Yankee batting order turning over to the top of the lineup again.  They’d proven to give him fits in the first inning, and they’d likely prove to give him fits upon seeing him a fourth time in the game.  My strategy would have been:  leave Iwakuma in until he looks like he’s done.

And then Brett Gardner yanked a ball that was just a few feet foul.  What would have been a homer, was only a long strike in the count, but you could tell.  Iwakuma was leaving the ball up and out over the plate again.  Obviously, you don’t yank a pitcher in the middle of an at-bat unless he’s injured, but if you were EVER going to do that, immediately following that foul ball would have been the time.  Gardner eventually smashed a deep drive that was caught in center field.  He hit that ball on the button and just missed a double or a triple (with his speed).  Once we lucked into that first out, it was time.

Instead, LMC left him in to face Jeter, who also jacked a deep fly to left center.  This time, Jones couldn’t bring it down and it went for a ground rule double.  Iwakuma was pulled for Furbush, but the damage was done.

LMC also made a few bonehead decisions with the lineup that he’s regretting right about now.  Willie Bloomquist in the leadoff spot, for instance.  0 for 4 with a strikeout on 13 total pitches for the game.  Two foul outs to first in his first two at-bats, a fly out to center, and a strikeout in the seventh.  That’s the one that really got my goat.  With two outs, we’d just come up with a clutch RBI single by Ackley to tie the game.  Brad Miller followed with an infield chopper that he was able to beat out at first.  That turned over the lineup to the top of the order again.  Unlike the Yankees – who seem to know what they’re doing at the top of their lineup – the Mariners have been swinging their dick like a helicopter when it comes to the top of the lineup.  Just standing there, swinging their dick, making helicopter noises.

Regardless of what he’s done recently – and I can’t believe I have to fucking say this again – THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR WILLIE FUCKING BLOOMQUIST TO EVER BE YOUR LEADOFF HITTER!  Shit, there’s no excuse for him to ever NOT hit 9th in the lineup unless you’re in a National League park, and even then I’m not so sure!  You don’t give Willie Bloomquist the opportunity for the most at-bats in your lineup, I don’t care how shitty and inexperienced the other options are!  If LMC could get that one hint through his thick fucking skull, I’d die a happy man.

So, of course, bottom of the seventh, runners on first and second – go-ahead run in scoring position, meaning all we need is a harmless single to the outfield to take the lead and seal the win – Bloomquist strikes out.  Great.

Also, what was that shit with pinch hitting for Cole Gillespie in the 6th?  I understand that Dellin Betances is this smoke-throwing righty with insane strikeout numbers, but Cole Gillespie has not only been the team’s best right-handed bat over the last few weeks, he was the best right-handed bat LAST NIGHT!  1 for 1 with a walk and the team’s first RBI; leave him in there!  I like Endy Chavez as much as the next guy, but Gillespie is better than Endy Chavez right now!  Ride the wave!  You batted him cleanup in your lineup last night for a reason – AND IT PAID OFF – why are you second-guessing yourself later?  LMC is that fantasy football owner who tinkers with his lineup on the Saturday night before the playoffs, and then again on the Sunday morning before the games start.  Just let your best players play!

His final questionable decision I didn’t have a huge deal with.  Bottom of the 9th, two outs, Ackley walks, bringing up Brad Miller’s spot.  With a righty on the mound, some people would have liked to have seen what Miller was capable of.  He did just help us with a 9th inning victory down in Tampa the day before.  But, he’s batting .172 for a reason.  Maybe, if he could prove he’s capable of at least hitting above the Mendoza line, he’d get the benefit of the doubt more often.  Personally, I have no problem with pinch hitting for him there.  To be fair, I wouldn’t have had a problem with him hitting there either.

Others feel that pinch hitting was correct, but that John Buck was the questionable choice.  When you’ve got Stefen Romero also on the bench, why go with the old, slow catcher?  That’s LMC relying on the veteran just because he’s a veteran.  Granted, Buck recently hit that 2-run homer down in Atlanta to give the team the lead.  And also granted, just last year he hit 15 homers, so you know he’s got some pop in his bat.  And FINALLY granted, Romero isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire with his .210 average and his .355 slugging percentage.  Nevertheless, if I had to rank my choice for that at bat, John Buck probably would have been my third choice.  I’m still waffling on whether I’d go Miller or Romero, but I know Buck wasn’t it.

That having been said, going with Buck there isn’t the reason we lost this game.  It wasn’t even LMC’s worst move of the night (I think that still has to be leaving Iwakuma in there to face Jeter).  The move that probably backfired the most has been essentially glossed over and forgotten from history.

I’ve said it repeatedly, and I’ll say it again here:  I hate it when athletes “play through pain”.  If you’re in pain, you’re not helping ANYONE!  Just shut it down and get right.  YOUR presence isn’t the difference between making the playoffs and sitting at home in October (especially when it’s still early June and there’s still plenty of time left in the season).  I won’t belabor the point any more, but I have to wonder where Michael Saunders is at in his recovery from that shoulder aggravation.  Is he fine?  Is he 100%, or at least as close to 100% as can be expected in a sport where it’s a daily grind?  Or, is he 50% and trying to nut up and avoid a stint on the DL?  Are we going to find out that his playing on this shoulder is just making it worse, eventually requiring that DL stint he’d gone to such lengths to previously avoid?

Or, did he just have the shittiest game of any Seattle Mariners player last night?

I know at least that last part is true.  But, because he’s not Charlie Furbush or Lloyd McClendon (or Brad Miller in the bottom of the first, making a miracle diving stab at a grounder, only to throw wide of first base when he had PLENTY of time to nab the slow-footed Brian McCann – who is, in my estimation, one of the worst blocking catchers I’ve ever seen – thereby letting a second run score), Michael Saunders kind of gets lost in the shuffle.  Yet, if you’re going to blame any player for this loss – and ultimately, it’s the players who have to get the job done, regardless of bonehead manager decisions – Michael Saunders gets the biggest slice of that pie.

  • Bottom of the 2nd:  One out, Zunino doubles, then takes third on a wild pitch.  Saunders at the plate:  strikes out.  A fly ball could have tied the game; instead, Ackley closes out the inning harmlessly and we’re still down 2-1.
  • Bottom of the 4th:  One out, Gillespie walks, then Seager singles and Gillespie goes to third.  Zunino hits a shallow fly ball to left, can’t bring in the runner, but allows Seager to tag up and go to second.  Two outs, two runners in scoring position, Saunders at the plate:  Flies out to center.  A single into the outfield gives us the lead; instead, we’re still down 2-1.
  • Bottom of the 7th:  One out, Zunino hit by pitch, then advances to second on a wild pitch.  Saunders at the plate:  strikes out.  Ackley would go on to single in that run (himself avoiding the same overall misery as Saunders in this game); but, it eventually led to Bloomquist getting that final out.  Perhaps if Saunders had hit that run in and continued the inning, things would have been much different.  We’ll never know.
  • Bottom of the 9th:  One out, Saunders at the plate:  strikes out.

Three strikeouts on the game.  0 for 3 with runners in scoring position.  4 left on base.  Goat of the game:  your name is Michael Saunders.

And, tonight:  Tanaka.  I’ll be at that game, so let’s see if my in-person mojo has enough to keep this one close and turn it over to the bullpens.  But, I have my doubts.  I REALLY have my doubts.  We’re really close to getting swept in this series, with a 3-game series against the Rangers on the weekend.  All of that goodwill that came from last week’s 6-1 road trip could be slipping through our fingers like sand through an hourglass.  Pretty soon, if we’re not careful, we’ll be able to say, “If the season ended today … we’d just miss out on that Wild Card.”

P.S.  Fuck Derek Jeter.  I’m going to pick about a million fights tonight (and not just with my grandmother, who’s coming with me to the game) with Yankees fans in attendance.

Week Four Random Mariners Thoughts

The Mariners were well on their way to a ninth straight defeat with no end in sight.  Against the Astros of all teams!  If you look at the series we’ve played, going back to the 11th, we played Oakland (very good), then Texas (still good, but not as), then Miami (pretty bad), then Houston (the worst).  In that run of games, we beat Oakland once and Texas once and that was it.  Houston was officially two outs away from sweeping us and sending us into the weekend series against Texas officially reeling without any shred of a prayer.

And then, Kyle Seager busted out of his slump in a HUGE way!  He had already homered in the 7th inning to bring the game to within one (3-2).  With runners on first and second, Seager blasted one out to right field and ended our collective misery, if only for a couple days.

Friday saw another rousing comeback, where we plated four runs in the 8th inning to take a 6-3 lead.  Friday was notable for another mini-meltdown out of Fernando Rodney.  As soon as we took that lead in the bottom of the 8th, he proceeded to give away two more to make the score 6-5.  With the bases loaded, Adrian Beltre hit a screaming liner towards the right field line that was somehow miraculously caught by Justin Smoak, who walked over to the bag for the double play.

I’m gonna be honest with you, I gave up on that Friday game pretty early on.  Our hitters let some opportunities slip in the first few innings, and the Rangers didn’t.  The last straw was the RBI double out of Beltre; the last thing I want to watch is Beltre succeeding like he’s doing.  So, I shut off the game and went to bed and woke up to the most pleasant surprise I could imagine.

The Mariners actually managed to give Felix a 3-0 lead going into the fifth inning on Saturday, but wouldn’t you know it?  This just wasn’t Felix’s day.  It also wasn’t really the bullpen’s day either, as we ended up losing 6-3.  There were chances late to come back, but three runs would be too much on this night.  Still, nice to see another homer out of Seager in this game.  And, Michael Saunders became only the second player on the team to leadoff the game, pushing Almonte to the 2-hole.

That brings us to Sunday.  Going into that game, we were winless on Sundays, and yesterday looked to continue the trend.  We were down 5-0 in the blink of an eye thanks to Brandon Maurer just not having it.  Still, I liked how we looked at the plate pretty much all day.  They shot us down in order through the first three innings, but after that, we put pressure on them pretty much every inning thereafter.  Not an easy task when you’ve got Willie Bloomquist, John Buck, and Cole Gillespie starting for you.

We slowly clawed our way back with 1 in the fourth, sixth, and seventh, leaving us at 5-3 going into the bottom of the eighth, with our bullpen set on shut-down mode after Maurer left.  Two quick strikeouts figured to put an end to our fight real quick, but then Smoak doubled to left (that a better fielder probably would have caught), Ackley reached on an infield single just out of reach of Beltre at third running to his left, and once again Kyle Seager came up to bat with runners on, late in the game, with the Mariners down.

And once again, Kyle Seager won the game with a 3-run home run, his second of the game and fifth of the week (the most shocking part of all, a 1-2-3 ninth inning out of Rodney to close it out).

Let me tell you about Kyle Seager’s week, by the way.  He went into that final Astros game with a slash line of .156/.280/.219/.499.  Five days later, his line looks like this:  .228/.330/.468/.798.  That’s nearly 300 points of OPS in four games!  He had five homers (his first five of the season), 11 of his 12 RBI, and 9 of his season’s 17 hits over the last week.  In these six games, Seager went 9 of 22 and scored 8 of his season’s 10 runs.

He has these streaks in him.  That’s why everyone talks about how they don’t worry about Seager.  He’s a pro.  Like any pro, sometimes they dig themselves a huge hole.  But, if he’s worth his weight, he’ll dig himself out and make you forget all about the first three weeks of the season.  If Kyle Seager isn’t the A.L.’s player of the week, then I’ll be pissed.  I mean, he almost single-handedly won two of the last four games!

In other news, it’s nice that Almonte has finally been given a day off.  Not that I’m the biggest Michael Saunders fan in the world, but it would probably be a smart idea to go easy on the playing time of Almonte.

Stefen Romero is starting to really grow on me.  Here’s to hoping he gets more chances to play (and here’s to hoping he is actually allowed to hit against right handed pitchers once in a while).

Also, how about we scale back on the Willie Bloomquist, huh?  He’s giving me legitimate Chone Figgins flashbacks over here.

Hisashi Iwakuma can’t come back soon enough.  Right now, there are two MASSIVE black holes in our rotation.  Erasmo Ramirez probably shouldn’t be in the Major Leagues, and the same can be said for Brandon Maurer.  After today’s off-day, we play 17 games in 16 days (thanks inept Oakland groundscrew), so we might be stuck with one or both of them for the time being.  Given the way some of these starters are struggling to even go four innings, I bet we’re stuck with one of those guys as a long reliever until at least the middle of the month.

This bullpen has been plenty taxed of late.  On the plus side, if Sunday’s win against Texas is any indication, it looks like Danny Farquhar has supplanted Tom Wilhelmsen as the team’s 8th inning guy.  Baby steps for Lloyd McClendon.