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 Traded For Dee Gordon

I don’t have a good space for this post, as the next day I anticipate having an opening will be next Thursday, which would make this beyond stale.  So, instead, I’m doubling up on a Friday.

The Mariners acquired Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins!  In return, the Marlins get three minor leaguers.  If you thought, like I did, that the Mariners traded away all their minor leaguers, you’d be wrong.  Indeed, considering Gordon’s talent level, I’m shocked the Marlins were able to find three guys they liked from our farm system, but that’s neither here nor there.

It looks like the Marlins are in salary dump mode, which isn’t something new.  Dee Gordon is set to earn $37 million over the next three years, with 2021 being an option year ($14 million if he stays, $1 million if we buy him out; the option vests automatically if he has 600 plate appearances in 2020, or 1,200 across 2019-2020).

If you don’t know who Dee Gordon is, he was a starting second baseman for the Marlins, who happened to play at an All Star level in 2014 & 2015.  He also won a Gold Glove in 2015, as well as a Silver Slugger award and had the National League batting title.  He had a down season in 2016, thanks to an 80-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs (which is cause for concern, because I’m sure the next offense is way worse than 80 games), but he bounced back in a big way in 2017.

The hitting talent is there.  He doesn’t have much in the way of power, but in his last three full seasons he’s had over 20 doubles per year.  He’s also going to sprinkle in a good number of triples, because the dude is fast.  He’s one of the fastest players in the Major Leagues.  In his last three full seasons, he’s averaged over 60 stolen bases per year!  He’s going to get caught from time to time, but still, that’s insane.  He could probably stand to walk more, but if he hits the way he’s capable of hitting, on-base percentage shouldn’t be an issue.

The biggest issue, of course, is what I mentioned earlier:  he’s a second baseman!  Robinson Cano, is also, a second baseman.  Dee Gordon also has experience as a short stop.  But, Jean Segura is our short stop.  He just signed an extension in the middle of last season!  Cano and Segura aren’t going anywhere.  Ipso facto, the Mariners are making Dee Gordon convert to center field.  Where he’s never played an inning of Major League ball.

And he’s got about 4 months to get it down.

Not that I have a choice in the matter, but I’m okay with the whole thing.  My biggest concern is how well he does in his defensive conversion.  I’ve seen plenty of players get shuffled around to other positions while at the Major League level, and it rarely has gone well.  Usually, we’re talking about going from DH to first base, or catcher to first base, or first base to second base to outfield, or third base to corner outfield, and so on and so forth.  The defense gets worse, and the hitting also suffers.  If anything, it takes about a year to get acclimated, if they get acclimated at all!  So, I wouldn’t say I’m on the bandwagon just yet.

I do like the idea, though.  I mean, the guy is super fast, why WOULDN’T he at least be passable in center field?  It’ll probably take some time before he gets to be elite, but that should come with experience.  In the early going, how about he just makes the routine plays?  Between that, and his elite bat at the top of the lineup, I’ll take it.

Speaking of that lineup, here’s a possibility:

  1. Dee Gordon (CF)
  2. Jean Segura (SS)
  3. Robinson Cano (2B)
  4. Nelson Cruz (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  7. Ryon Healy (1B)
  8. Mike Zunino (C)
  9. Ben Gamel (LF)

That’s pretty aces, from top to bottom.  Now, whether we still have Ben Gamel when the season starts, I guess we’ll see.  It’s probably a good sign that he’s featured in some of the promotional give-aways this season, but I guess they could always stop production on those.

Can’t have a trade without giving away some pieces.  The Mariners gave away Chris Torres (a low level minor league short stop prospect with a lot of upside), Nick Neidert (probably the top pitching prospect in the M’s system who projects as a mid-rotation starter with low velocity but good command and change-up), and Robert Dugger (a relief pitching prospect).  I don’t know if any of these guys will turn into anything, but that’s the risk, isn’t it?  You’ll probably see Neidert in a Major League uniform sooner rather than later (maybe even as early as this season, considering the tank job the Marlins are pulling), and if he becomes a quality starting pitcher, that one could sting.

To lessen that sting, the Mariners also got $1 million in International Slot Money.  Shohei Ohtani is a Japanese player who is both a quality starter and a quality hitter.  He has narrowed down his field of prospective teams to seven, one of which includes the Mariners.  Due to his very young age, he’s not entitled to the usual Free Agent money you’d see thrown around for posted Japanese players.  But, he’s determined to come to America, and right now is trying to figure out where he fits best.  The Mariners now have somewhere in the area of $3.5 million to offer him – which is the most among the seven remaining teams, by a small margin – but this was never really about money for Ohtani.  Although, I’m sure the Mariners are thinking that if all things are equal in that regard, it’ll come down to where Seattle ranks among his potential destinations.  The Mariners have a lot to offer, and many consider us to be the leaders of the pack, but I’m not gonna get my hopes up.  Easier that way.

Lots more moves to go this off-season.  One very important move could be coming in a matter of days.

UPDATE:  And the move has been made.  Shohei Ohtani to the Anaheim Angels.  Between them and the Astros, maybe think about cancelling Mariners baseball for the next 3-5 years.

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!

Final Felix Day Goes The Mariners’ Way

But, if you’re like me, and you’re hoping the Mariners lose out to improve their draft stock, it decidedly did NOT go our way.

The weekend went okay.  Could’ve been better; the Mariners somehow won on a walk-off homer in the ninth inning on Friday against the Indians.  But, they turned it right back around and were shut down the next two days (including the Oktoberfest game on Saturday, which I attended; I got some fried chicken from the Pen, some Oktoberfest beer, and some chocolate soft serve and we were out of there by the seventh inning; good 2017 season at Safeco, everyone!).  The two defeats dropped the Mariners to 14th in the draft order, still with some room to move down.

The real key was going to be this series in Oakland.  Heading into yesterday, only 2.5 games separated the two of us; an A’s sweep would’ve really flipped the script!  But, this series is shaping up to be a real ball-buster.

King Felix got the start last night, what we would come to find out was his final start of the season.  He owns the A’s.  Absolutely kills ’em!  25-9 is his record against them, easily the best of any team he’s faced.  2.60 ERA, the best of any team he’s faced at least 20 times in his career.  All this guy does, whenever he sees the A’s, is slam Quality Starts down their throats.  And yesterday was no different.

6 innings, 2 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, in 70 pitches.  Can’t get much more efficient than that.

This was, without question, the most challenging season of Felix’s career, with the injuries, the ineffectiveness, and the atrocities of aging.  That’s also a nice way of saying it was, without question, the worst season of Felix’s career.  86.2 innings pitched is nearly a career low (he threw 84.1 in his rookie season, in which he made 4 fewer appearances).  4.36 ERA is nearly a career high (he had a 4.52 ERA in his second season, before he became King).  6 wins is nearly a career low; 0.8 WAR is absolutely a career low; and the .468 slugging percentage given up is a career worst.  It’s sad!  It’s a sad thing to see and to experience, and I hope like hell that he can somehow turn it around, but it just doesn’t seem all that realistic at this point.

I don’t want to be rid of him, if that’s what you’re thinking.  For starters, it would be literally impossible to move him.  He’s making $53 million over the next two years; I know there are a lot of dumbass GM’s out there in the baseball world, but no one is dumb enough to take that on (or even a portion of that on).  Even if you ignored the injury risk, Felix just hasn’t been that good the last two years.  He certainly hasn’t been elite since 2014.  But, that’s neither here nor there, because you can’t ignore the injury risk.  You have to assume, going forward, you’re going to get – at best – half a season per year out of his arm.  And even then, it’s going to take a lot of babying from Servais to hold his hand through these 5-6 inning starts.  Gone are the 7-8 inning gems, I’m sorry to say.

But, besides that, I don’t want to be rid of him because he’s earned this.  Felix was amazing for 11 years.  He was one of the best pitchers alive, he was a homegrown kid, and he remained loyal to the Seattle Mariners through some of our WORST seasons in a franchise history chock full of some pretty shitty fucking seasons.  He deserves to go out a Mariner.  Hell, he deserves to do whatever the fuck he wants!  He can go out there and walk 50 batters per start and I wouldn’t love him any less.

I just have to adjust my expectations, and everyone else needs to too.  He’s not an ace.  He’s not even a #2 anymore.  On his best days, he’s probably a #3 starter, but more often than not he’s going to look like a #4 or a #5, and that’s when he’s not on the DL.  It’s sad how these superheroes age out of their sports, and we’re all going through it together.

So, when Felix has a start like he did last night, you sit back and enjoy it, even if it hurts the team’s draft stock.

Andrew Albers came in and mopped up the rest of the game for the elusive 3-inning save.  I’m starting to get a real strong long relief/bullpen vibe out of Albers for next season.  Either way, he’s a good guy to have around.

Mike Zunino jacked a 3-run home run to give him 24 on the year.  I’m telling you, this time next week when I’m writing my Season In Review post, I’m going to have PLENTY of good things to say about Z!

Mitch Haniger jacked a couple homers to give him 16 on the year, and I’m with the rest of you, I can’t wait to see what this kid is able to do with a full, healthy season.

Yonder Alonso hit a solo homer to improve his free agency stock next year.  Too little, too late, my friend.

Taylor Motter got the start in place of Segura, who injured his finger and might be done for the season.  A fitting end, if it is the end.

The rest of this series looks similarly dreadful for our draft prospects.  James Paxton goes for his final start of the year tonight, followed by Erasmo Ramirez tomorrow afternoon; he of 8 innings of 3-hit, 1-run, 10-strikeout ball against the Indians last Friday to allow for that walk-off home run.  He’s been the best pitcher on this team since August, so get ready for a useless Mariners sweep in Oakland you guys!

The Mariners Keep Winning & So Does Everyone Else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners Get Back To .500 Once Again; How Many More Times Can We Do This?

Mike Leake is going to be a legend in this fucking town if he keeps this up!

Three starts, three games where he’s at least pitched into the sixth inning, while giving up 3 runs or less.  Yesterday, it was a 5.2 inning affair, with just the 1 run given up on 5 hits, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts.  He’s 3-0 with the Mariners, with a 2.41 ERA!  I don’t know when the other shoe is gonna drop, but I hope to Christ I never have to see that shoe ever again.  What’s that shoe’s deal anyway?  Fuck that shoe!  Stop dropping all over the place!

This was a fun one, no doubt about it.  Zunino homered to kick off the scoring in the fifth, and a few batters later Segura hit a 2-run home run to make it 3-0.  The Rangers got one back in the bottom of the sixth, just in time for all hell to break loose in the top of the seventh.

Segura walked and Haniger doubled to put runners on second & third.  Cano was called out on a check swing by the home plate umpire, and after Cano – seemingly calm and rationally – asked why he didn’t check down with the third base umpire, he was ejected from the game.  It was apparently his first career ejection, which sounds kind of amazing, 13 years in.  With a lefty on the mound, Cruz was intentionally walked to load the bases for Seager, who worked a solid count and hit a good pitch the other way for a 2-run single.  Cruz ended up hustling into third when their third baseman was caught off the bag, then a bad throw allowed Cruz to rumble home and Seager to slide into third.  Valencia then hit a sac fly to score Seager, and Zunino concluded the scoring that inning with another solo blast, this time the opposite way.  Just like that, 3-1 turned into 8-1, and the rest was academic.

I keep saying it, and he keeps doing it:  Mitch Haniger is on a ROLL!  Two more hits, including that double; he is CRUSHING the month of September.  His line, through 12 games:

  • .451/.451/.745/1.196, with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homers, 9 runs, and 8 RBI

If you tack on the last game in August for shits n’ gigs, his line looks like this:

  • .472/.472/.836/1.308, with 6 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers, 11 runs, and 11 RBI

This is fun!  For context, his season numbers have climbed back up to this:

  • .282/.359/.485/.844, with 21 doubles, 2 triples, 12 homers, 50 runs, and 41 RBI

Oh man, I gotta tell you, that’s not bad.  Not bad at all, considering he missed about half the season to various injuries.  I don’t want to give him that out, because if he comes back next year and misses another half season to injuries, then he’s labelled Injury Prone and his numbers don’t mean jack shit; but I will say I’m cautiously optimistic for his future.

While we’re on this train of thought regarding the youth movement on this team, I’d like to call out Mike Zunino for really turning his season around and (hopefully) his career as well!  He’s hit career highs in doubles and homers this season, with 22 and 23 respectively.  More importantly, his slash line is almost EXACTLY where I’ve always said I wanted it to be:  .246/.327/.507/.834.  With his throwing arm, his pitch framing, his blocking ability, and his rapport with the pitching staff, I will take those numbers all day every day!  Now if he can just manage to not completely fall apart these last two weeks, we’re really talking about a season you can be proud of, and certainly something to build upon going forward.

I don’t want to spend all day going up and down the lineup, but I’ll toss in one more kudos to Kyle Seager.  That at bat in the seventh inning was truly remarkable.  Cano had just been thrown out, Cruz had just been intentionally walked, so I’m sure his emotions were all over the place.  He had this hot-head umpire behind him, and a difficult-looking lefty on the mound (who actually legitimately struck Cano out on that check swing; the issue there is – why not just check with the third base ump; it takes two seconds).  Seager got ahead in the count right away, took a vicious crack at an inside fastball that he pulled foul, the count worked its way full, and then the single the other way.  It wasn’t just a lucky swing, where a guy flails at something out of the zone and it accidentally hits the end of the bat and bloops into the outfield; this was a determined strategy and a purposed swing to line drive that ball the opposite way to bring in a couple of runs!  Seager is notorious for pulling the ball – it’s where he generates the overwhelming majority of his power – and he has one of the more pronounced defensive shifts to prove it.  The Rangers weren’t shifting on this play, with the bases loaded, but he still managed to hit it over the short stop’s glove on a line.  I mean, this is like something you’d see out of Ichiro in his prime!

2017 might go down as a bit of a disappointing year for fans when they think about Kyle Seager, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that he’s legitimately gotten better each and every season of his career.  So, to hold steady, or take a step back in a couple areas, it’s tough to swallow.  But, I’ve noticed this year more than any year before, a determined effort by Seager to hit more balls the other way.  To be a more complete hitter, as they say.  I don’t think he’ll ever have really tremendous power the opposite way – particularly with how Safeco is constructed, it’s REALLY hard for lefties to hit them out over the left field fence – but a Kyle Seager who can spray balls to all fields is a dangerous weapon.  Over time, I don’t think it’s crazy to think he could hit more doubles the other way, off the Safeco manual scoreboard and the like.

I dunno.  I’m just happy for him, I guess.  That must take just a ton of work to get better at when you’re at the Major League level.

If you haven’t heard it already, let me be the first to say Happy Felix Day!

Mariners Look Up “Too Little Too Late”, See Their Reflection

It’s nice to see Marco Gonzales have a little success, I guess.  He was still only able to go five innings, but I have to assume that’s because he’s coming from the bullpen and hasn’t yet been stretched out.  Still, 5 innings and 3 runs is far and away his best outing start of the season.  He got into a couple of mini-jams, but was able to get out of them without throwing away the game.  He struck out 6 and walked only 1, while spreading 8 hits around.  And, he got his first win in a Mariners uniform (and his first Major League victory since 2014).  When you tack that onto his 4 shutout innings from his previous appearance, let’s hope that’s the start of a nice, successful run to close out the season.

It’s nice to see the offense bust out in a big way.  Haniger continues to smoke the ball, with 2 more hits (including a double) and 2 more runs scored.  Cano had 3 hits (including a double), with a run and an RBI.  Cruz had 2 hits and 2 runs; Seager hit a 3-run bomb and also scored 2 runs; Ben Gamel also had a 3-run bomb as part of his 3-hit day.  On top of that, Zunino and Alonso both had 2 hits apiece to really drag this game kicking and screaming past the 3-hour mark.

And sure, it’s nice that the dregs of the bullpen mopped up the final four innings without giving up another run.  All in all, it adds up to a nice 10-3 victory for the Mariners, evening up the series, bringing their record to within one game of .500, and maintaining the 3.5 game deficit from the second Wild Card.

All of these are nice things, but they won’t mean a damn thing until the Mariners are able to manage a winning streak.

The encouraging thing is, the Mariners might FINALLY be able to do something here.  It’s going to take everything they have, and if I had to bet the family farm, I’d 100% bet against it happening, but as of the middle of September – with just over 2 weeks left in the season – the Mariners might have finally fleshed out a starting rotation.

I know, right!  But, go with me on this, I’ve had a long day week month life.

Mike Leake has looked awfully solid in his first few starts here.  If he can keep it up, he’s a nice little #3 pitcher for this rotation.  He goes tonight.

Then, there’s Felix.  The last time he came off the DL, he was able to make 8 starts before re-injuring the same body part.  Of those 8 starts, 5 were useable.  Given how late we are in the season, 5 good starts should be plenty.  He goes tomorrow (he’ll be on a limited pitch count for the first game, but that’s what we have all these long relievers for).

Then, we’ve got Paxton kicking off the Houston series.  The last time he came off the DL, he was able to make 14 starts before getting injured again.  Of those 14, 12 were useable.  That’s more than enough.

Then, there’s Erasmo Ramirez.  He never gets injured.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes you just wish he’d go on the DL for the rest of your life.  He’s riding a 6-game Quality Start streak that has to be the best run of pitching in his entire career.  He has almost single-handedly held this rotation together while Felix and Paxton have been gone.  If we have to go with a #4 starter, I’ve seen worse.

Then, there’s TBD.  I’m going to flip the fuck out if Ariel Miranda is still in this rotation come Sunday, because as we’ve clearly seen, both Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore have both pitched excellent in recent games.  Either way, you have to expect Miranda is on the world’s shortest leash; it’s really more of a Chinese finger trap at this point.  I have to expect, if he gets the start, there will be a man warming up in the bullpen right alongside him before the game even gets going.  If you consider the team’s fifth starter just a Bullpen Day for the month of September (knowing full well that if by some miracle the M’s make the playoffs, they’ll never need a fifth starter, and likely won’t even need a fourth), I’d be okay with that.

So, you know, the blueprint is there.  Decent starting pitching, lots of clutch hitting, and the bullpen needs to catch fire the rest of the way.  5 games against the Rangers, 3  against Oakland, 3 against the Angels:  all should be winnable games.  Then, there are 3 against the Astros and 3 against the Indians.  I know the Astros are our kryptonite, but we’re going to have to find a way to win at least 2 of those games this weekend.  And I know the Indians are riding an insane 20-game winning streak, but we just have to hope they cool the fuck off before we play them at home next weekend, and again take 2 of 3.

Realistically, I think the Mariners need to go 13-4 the rest of the way to lock up the second Wild Card.  That would put us at 85-77.  Right now, the Twins (who currently hold that spot) are 75-69, with 18 games to go.  If we went 13-4 and the Twins went only went 9-9, we’d beat them by 1 game.  So, yeah, that’s what we’re looking at.  And let’s not forget the three teams in between us and the Twins (Angels, Rangers & Royals), nor the two teams still hovering around just behind us (Rays & Orioles).

When you lay it all out there like that, it really looks daunting.  It’s different when you see the Mariners are 3.5 games back.  Theoretically, you can make that up in a week!  But, when you factor in how few games are left in the season, and you realize your fate isn’t in your hands anymore, it seems impossible, doesn’t it?  Crazier things have happened, but I have to admit this would be one of the craziest.

What a damn, fucking waste this season has been.

Ariel Miranda Needs To Be Done For The Year

Feel free to put him in the bullpen if you must, but I’m not even sure he’s good enough for that role right now.  Maybe in a blowout, in lieu of using a backup catcher to eat an inning, you can go ahead and throw Miranda in there.  But, at the VERY least, he needs to not be starting anymore.

And don’t give me this shit about how he threw 6 no-hit innings in his last start!  “No hitters” cease to mean a God damn thing when you walk 6 people and give up a run!  The fact of the matter is, Miranda hasn’t been worth a damn since the end of June; he’s only ranged from mediocre to Fucking God Awful, and it’s time to give him a break.  Yes, we all appreciate his good health this year, but it’s getting to be fucking ridiculous to keep running him out there when the world is destroying him.

Last night, the Mariners lost 5-3 to the Rangers.  Someone for the Mariners pitched six innings, giving up only 1 run.  That someone was Andrew Moore, in relief.  As you might have suspected, Ariel Miranda got the start, and couldn’t finish the second inning.  He gave up a 2-run double in the first, and another 2-run double in the second, and that was that.  1.2 innings, 6 hits, 3 walks and only 1 strikeout.  Fucking PATHETIC.

The Mariners did about as well as could be expected against Cole Hamels, getting 3 runs off of him in his 6 innings, but couldn’t crack the Rangers’ bullpen.  Haniger continued his torrid September, with 3 more hits (just a triple away from the cycle this time around) including a 2-run homer.  Seager had the other RBI on his solo homer in the second, his 23rd homer on the season.  While this year has been a step back for Seager compared to his 2016, he has quietly put up a very Kyle Seager-esque stat line when compared to his career numbers.  It’s a bummer to see his batting average, on-base percentage, and RBI numbers all down, but the power numbers are still there, which lessens my concerns about his future prospects.

Not a whole lot out of the rest of the lineup, though.  0 for 6 with RISP generally won’t get the job done.

Yeah, so anyway, time’s a wastin’, Mariners!  Now might be a good time to rip off a 10-game winning streak!

Do The Mariners Have One More Playoff Push In Them?

Last night, the Mariners beat the Angels 8-1 to come within one game of sweeping them in this 3-game series.  A 3-game sweep would, incidentally, put them in a dead heat with the Angels, if they can get there this afternoon.  After today, there are 18 games remaining in this absurd baseball season.  The Mariners are within striking distance at 3 games out, but this is it!  The time to strike is NOW!  The Mariners need to rip off a super hot streak the rest of the way and sprint to this finish line!

We got another impressive start from Andrew Albers, with 6 innings of shutout ball.  Even more impressive was the Mariners’ offense, who ripped off a 6-spot in the bottom of the fourth to put this thing away early.  After Albers, we made it the last three innings with our D-squad bullpen guys (Altavilla, Simmons and Lawrence) just giving up one garbage-time run.

Mitch Haniger was just a double away from the cycle (and one base-runner away from getting a fifth at bat to try to get that double), knocking one in and scoring three times.  Nelson Cruz added another mammoth 3-run homer and Robbie Cano had 3 hits, 2 RBI, and a run scored.  For what it’s worth, Haniger has come back to life lately.  I hope that means he’s fully healthy and getting back to the hitter he was in April (and not, say, just a fluke).

I don’t know how much longer we can ride this gravy train, but Erasmo Ramirez goes for his sixth consecutive quality start this afternoon.  Please, dear God, give this to me!

With The Astros Out Of Town, The Mariners Can Get Back To Winning Baseball Games

Mike Leake gave us a second quality start in as many outings and the bullpen was able to hold on to take a 4-3 series-opening win over the Angels.

I’ve had this series on my mind ever since the Angels came in last month and ruined Edgar Martinez weekend.  Revenge will be ours!  And, while their top four hitters were able to get theirs, it wasn’t enough, and the bottom of the lineup was laid to waste to keep things close.

Leake got through 6 innings, giving up 3 runs (2 earned), striking out 5 and walking 0.  From there, with the expanded bullpen, Scott Servais got to pull out his inner Mike Scioscia, using 3 relievers to get through the seventh.  From there, Vincent handled the eighth, and Edwin Diaz got right back on the trolley for his 32nd save of the season.

Ben Gamel was the hero offensively, hitting a 3-run home run.  Mitch Haniger hit the winning run in back in the third inning on an RBI single the other way.  The M’s had 11 hits in total, with Haniger, Zunino, and Gamel in the bottom half of the lineup combining for 6 of those hits.

The Mariners are still too far back to get into the Wild Card picture.  Get back to me if they sweep this series.

Tonight, we’ve got Albers on the hill, followed by Erasmo tomorrow afternoon.  Godspeed.

It’s looking like, if things keep going well, we’ll have Felix and Paxton back towards the end of next week.  Fingers crossed!

Let’s go on a big ol’ hot streak to end the season and really blow the world’s mind!