The Mariners Won That Series In Kansas City

It’s been a really busy week, so I’m keeping this brief.  After blowing the Minnesota home opener, the M’s routed the Twins on Saturday behind some solid Mike Leake pitching and a ton of hitting up and down the lineup.

Sunday’s game was snowed out.  It will be made up at the end of a road trip in mid-May.

On Monday, the Mariners were destroyed 10-0 in the series opener with the Royals.  The M’s got exactly 2 hits – both singles – and 2 walks.  On top of that, Marco Gonzales got absolutely murdered and wasn’t able to get out of the third inning.  2.1, 8 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts.  Meanwhile, Tyler O’Neill is motherfucking tearing shit up in AAA for the Cardinals, so GREAT FUCKING TRADE DIPOTO.

Don’t think I’m not going to bring up this trade each and every time Gonzales takes a dick in the ass this year, before he’s either ultimately traded for peanuts on the dollar or given his outright release.  What a crock of shit deal.

Anyway, the M’s were able to shrug that off and come back strong, winning 8-3 on Tuesday.  Felix had an okay start (5.2, 3 runs, 6 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts), and the top of the lineup did top of the lineup things.  Shout out to Jean Segura, who was a homer short of the cycle in this one.  Also, shout out to Seager for starting to bust out of his early-season slump in this one, with a 2-RBI double to really sock the game away.

Then, on get-away day yesterday, the Mariners earned a hard-fought 4-2 victory.  Paxton got the no decision, going 6, giving up 2 runs off of 6 hits & 1 walk, with a whopping 10 strikeouts.  Safe to say he’s rounding into mid-season form (so his DL stint should be any day now).  Seager was the hero in this one, kicking off the scoring with a sac fly in the first, then homering in the go-ahead runs when the game was tied 2-2.  Rock solid bullpen work followed, with Nick Vincent getting the win, Juan Nicasio getting the hold, and Edwin Diaz getting his 4th save of the new year.

The Mariners are now 6-4 and have easily played the fewest games in the AL West.  Another off-day today only exacerbates that figure.  Predictably, the M’s are in third place.  The Angels are on a hot streak, at 10-3, and the Astros are the Astros, at 9-4.  Shohei Ohtani is annoyingly amazing, and I hate every single person on the planet.

I do think there’s reason for optimism with the way the Mariners have played so far, but let’s not go crazy.  Lots of off-days have us as a very well-rested ballclub; let’s see what this team is made of when it has to play 20 games in 20 days or whatever bullshit this schedule has in store.  Also, we’ve yet to see a fifth starter in the rotation.  Is anyone excited by Ariel Miranda’s minor league mediocrity thus far?  Is anyone even remotely confident in Erasmo Ramirez, whenever he returns from the DL?  We’ve already got Marco Gonzales stinking up the joint at least half the time, and Felix is going to be an adventure every time out, so all the problems we had heading into the season are still there.

But, yes, 6-4 with the imminent return of Nelson Cruz, Mike Zunino, and Ben Gamel is pretty fun.  Also, this early-season schedule has been pretty easy.  Going forward, aside from the games against Houston and Cleveland, the rest of the month of April looks do-able.

Oakland’s coming up this weekend.  Let’s just keep winning and see what happens, huh?

Mariners Offense Continues Humming Along

With Nelson Cruz joining Mike Zunino, Ben Gamel, David Phelps, and Erasmo Ramirez on the DL, I’ll admit I didn’t have the highest of hopes for the Mariners yesterday.  We’re rolling with two nobodies at catcher, left field and first base haven’t provided a whole lot on the offensive side of the ball, and there we were in San Francisco, playing in a National League park.  With Seager’s usual early-season struggles in full effect, it seemed like a day where the offense might shit the bed.  And, with Marco Gonzales on the mound, I more than have my doubts that he can hold it together this season.

Happily, my fears were unfounded, at least for a day.  Though, with these injuries to Cruz and Zunino, the bottom of the order is pretty pathetic.  The bulk of the damage yesterday was done by hitters 1-5 (Gordon, Segura, Cano, Haniger, Seager).  Sure, Healy & Heredia both had their first hits of the season, but neither is really going to be an offensive force this year (or ever); more like complementary players who might chip in some production here and there.

While it was nice to see Seager get a couple hits and a walk, the top four guys are really dominating so far this season.  Dee Gordon was 3/5 with 2 stolen bases and a run scored.  Jean Segura was 3/4 with a walk and 2 runs scored.  Cano was 1/4 with a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored.  And Haniger continues to be this team’s MVP through four games, going 1/5 with a run and 2 RBI.  Here’s hoping his hot streak continues at least until Cruz can come back.

Marco Gonzales looked about as impressive as I’ve ever seen him through 6 innings yesterday.  At that point, he’d only given up 1 run off of 4 hits, 0 walks, and 1 strikeout on a measly 80 pitches.  So, it made perfect sense to try to squeeze one more inning out of him.  Heading into the bottom of the seventh, the M’s were up 6-1.  Gonzo struck out the leadoff hitter, but that was followed by a single and a 2-run homer (on a pitch that was about as middle-middle as they get) to unceremoniously end his day.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great way to start his season (probably the most important season of his professional career), but God damn would it have been a lot cooler to see him only give up the 1 run.  Not that I think a late-game 2-run homer will completely shatter his confidence, but I do think confidence is his friend, and the more of it he has, the better off we’ll all be.  Don’t forget, he’s out of options.  It’s not like we can just stash him in Tacoma for another season to work on his craft.  It’s now or never!

Nick Vincent got us out of the seventh with a couple scary-looking fly-outs.  Juan Nicasio struggled in his second consecutive appearance (giving up 3 hits and 1 run to make things interesting and get Dan Altavilla warming up in the bullpen).  It did look like he was starting to throw harder than before, so maybe he’s still rounding into shape.  I’m still sort of expecting him to land on the DL any day now with arm issues that will explain away why he’s looked so mediocre through three outings.  Thankfully, Edwin Diaz is still red hot, as he closed out the game with no trouble.

I still have a lot of concerns about this offense as we continue on this week without two of our biggest boppers.  Things look okay now, because we’re 3-1, but after we leave Frisco we’ve gotta go to Minnesota and Kansas City before we start to see some guys return.  In that time, we’re gonna need some of these guys who aren’t hitting to pick it up in a big way.  I don’t think cluster luck is going to be our friend for too much longer.

A Cool Thing Happened At The Mariners Game Last Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 2-Part Mariners Preview: My Expectations For 2018

Wish in one hand, shit in the other.  You get the idea.

And so here we are, Opening Day.  We’re all overflowing with optimism.  Well, not all of us.  Super annoying baseball fans are overflowing with optimism, but what do they know?  They’re just excited baseball’s back, as if it’s not the longest death march every fucking year.  Six months of this shit, plus a month of playoffs (or, hell, maybe more).  It starts today and lasts the rest of our fucking lives.

You want my opinion on the 2018 season?  MOOD.

I dunno, I feel like I’ve written this same exact fucking preview every year for the last decade.  Honestly, I can see this season going one of two ways:  either the Mariners do shock the world and break the playoff-less streak, or they completely and totally fall apart and end up with a Top 5 draft pick next year.  I don’t think there’s a middle-ground, at all.  And, if I were a betting man, I’d bet the ol’ farm on the latter.

So, let’s get into it.  Let’s talk about the plan; the bundle of twine and duct tape holding the season together.  Let’s see how Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais try to MacGyver their way to contention.

The Rotation

  • Felix Hernandez
  • James Paxton
  • Mike Leake
  • Marco Gonzales
  • Erasmo Ramirez
  • Ariel Miranda
  • Andrew Moore
  • Rob Whalen
  • Chase De Jong
  • Wade LeBlanc
  • Hisashi Iwakuma?

Normally, I just hit you with a 5-man rotation (in this case, the top five names, whenever Ramirez gets healthy), but why bother stopping there?  Ramirez is ALREADY injured, and while they say they won’t need the fifth spot in the rotation until April 11th or some damn thing, you know he won’t be healthy by then, so that puts Ariel Miranda (blessedly starting the season in Tacoma, where he belongs) in line for at least one start.  Quite frankly, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if he’s called up sooner than April 11th because someone ELSE got injured.  I’m looking at Felix, I’m looking at Paxton, I’m looking at Marco Gonzales.  Pick your poison!

And believe me, they’re all poison.  I’d start aligning your expectations with mine pretty soon, because there’s no saving this rotation.  It’s abysmal.  Felix is not the Felix of old and he’s never going to be.  He’s going to give up annoying dingers with his nothing fastball, he’s going to walk a ton of guys because hitters have been told to lay off the changeup, and he’ll kinda sorta keep the Mariners in a lot of games, but only if the offense comes to play.

Paxton is great, but obviously can’t stay healthy and never will.  It’s always some damn thing, and the saving grace has always been that it’s never anything really serious.  It’s never a bad shoulder or elbow injury … but you know they’re coming.  It’s only a matter of time.  And, when those injuries hit, his career is pretty much over.  Maybe just rent property in the Maple Grove, don’t buy.

I like the IDEA of Mike Leake more than I think I like the actual pitcher.  I think he’s just okay, but far from special.  He’ll be like Felix in a different way; he’ll probably keep this team in a lot of games (again, if the offense shows up), but he’s rarely going to wow you with his stuff or blow other teams away.

I don’t even really like the idea of Marco Gonzales, much less the actual pitcher.  I think it was a bust of a trade that brought him here, I think he’s only in the rotation because he’s out of minor league options, and while he had a good Spring Training, we all know that means nothing.  These types of pitchers (go ahead and throw Erasmo Ramirez into the mix – who had a great stretch of starts last year, but don’t expect THAT to last), who are just gifted a spot on a 25-man roster due to being out of options, RARELY end up panning out.  If they were worth a damn, they would’ve solidified their status as bona fide Major Leaguers a long time ago.  What are the odds they manage to put it all together – COINCIDENTALLY – the same year they run out of minor league options?  You see my point.

The rest of those guys are just guys.  Iwakuma will never pitch in the Major Leagues again.  Wade LeBlanc has been brought in to be a long reliever, but I could see him getting a spot start or two.  Andrew Moore sucked last year, and didn’t really wow anyone with his Spring.  Chase De Jong is just a guy.  And, while Rob Whalen turned some heads (until his disaster of a final start back on the 18th), he also appears to be just a guy.

The plan with this rotation is to try and limit their innings to 5-6 per start, in the hopes of keeping guys fresh and healthy, and limit the damage opposing offenses can do the third & fourth times through a lineup.  So, the day-to-day management on Servais’ shoulders is going to be pretty hefty.  That’s also going to put a high burden on the bullpen to pick up the slack.  And, since Major League Baseball has stubbornly refused to expand gameday rosters beyond 25 players (in spite of the fact that the game is obviously going in this direction, and therefore teams will need more arms than ever before), that either means over-working your ‘pen, playing with a smaller bench (as it is, there’s usually room for no more than 4 players on your bench, and 1 of those guys has to be a backup catcher), or running guys back and forth from Tacoma to Seattle.  The problem, of course, is when too many starters have too many games in a row where they’re not pitching enough innings, the bullpen is gassed, there aren’t any off-days, there aren’t any guys to bring up from Tacoma, and you’re essentially throwing games away because you just need the starter to pick the team up, regardless of how terrible he is.  With a team like this Mariners team – that often finds itself (in recent seasons) only a handful of games out of the playoffs – they can ill-afford to just throw games away.  Sure, it’s a marathon and all that, but it’s a marathon that ultimately comes down to a couple seconds at the finish line.

I think the Mariners are doing the best with what they have, and the plan is sound in my mind.  But, the pitchers just aren’t good.  And the ones that are good aren’t reliable.  It’s easy for me to see a similar deluge of injuries happening this year, and the whole season just falling apart.

The Bullpen

  • Edwin Diaz
  • Juan Nicasio
  • Nick Vincent
  • James Pazos
  • Marc Rzepczynski
  • Dan Altavilla
  • Casey Lawrence
  • Wade LeBlanc

There are obviously a number of guys starting out in Tacoma, so I’ll stick with the Opening Day 8 for the time being.  Right off the bat, the Mariners lost David Phelps for the season, as I believe he’s going in for Tommy John surgery.  That was going to be a huge part of our late-inning dominance.  Recall we just traded a bunch of prospects to the Marlins for his services before the deadline last year, where he made all of 10 appearances before being shut down with an injury.  Now, he’s out for all of 2018, and this is the final year of his deal before he’s a free agent.  So, not only did we throw a bunch of prospects away, but we wasted $5.5 million dollars this year, just so he can go out next year and pitch for somebody else.  Why would he stay?  Why would the Mariners commit to spending more money on him?  This is Drew Smyly all over again.  GREAT TRADE DIPOTO!

As for the guys who are here, there’s a lot to like about Edwin Diaz and Juan Nicasio.  But, of course, when will Diaz turn back into a pumpkin?  All our other closers – dating back to, I want to say, Kaz Sasaki – have had 1-2 good years before falling apart.  Well, Diaz has been up here for around 1.5 years, so it’s time for him to suck.  As for Nicasio, I’m getting a real Joaquin Benoit vibe.  Remember that guy?  He was around forever, never got hurt, was always a reliable 8th inning guy?  Then, when he donned a Mariners jersey, he was hurt within the first month of the season?  I’m just saying, let’s see the guy do something for a couple months before we get too excited.

Nick Vincent was a workhorse and our most reliable pitcher in 2017.  Of course, he got tuckered out in September, due to all the overuse, so they took it easy on him this Spring.  Yeah, I feel like that’s a bad sign.  If he’s not an arm injury waiting to happen, he’s certainly a terrible pitching season waiting to happen.  Pass.

Lefties Pazos and Scrabble should be okay, but you never know.  Tony Zych was finally shit-canned because he can’t stay healthy; that’s a bummer.  I loved his stuff and thought he had really dominant potential.  In his place, Altavilla has won a job.  He was all over the place last year, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him settle down and have a good year.  Might take a while for this team to realize how much better he is than someone like Vincent (who I expect to struggle early and often), but they’ll probably have no choice but to use Altavilla in some high-leverage situations before too long.

Then, we’ve got a couple of long relievers.  The Mariners brought in Wade LeBlanc, who I guess has been converted to relief?  He’s got no minor league options, so either he comes here and eats up innings like a champ, or he’s cut.  The problem with this signing is, if he’s not absolutely terrific, I have a hard time seeing him stick on the 25-man roster.  This team likes to bring guys up from Tacoma far too often, and needs relievers with minor league options so they can dick them around.  That’s why I like the chances of someone like Casey Lawrence (who I assume still has options, but I refuse to go online to research).  Lawrence had a bonzer Spring Training and essentially came out of nowhere to win a job in the Bigs (he was a starter last year, brought up & down a few times when guys got injured, but wasn’t anything special).  I assume if he does well, he’ll STILL be sent back and forth to and from Tacoma, because Mariners gonna Mariners.

Having a couple of innings-eaters in your bullpen is going to be critical, so here’s hoping those guys manage to keep us in enough games to be relevant.  But, the more of our back-end of the bullpen guys get injured or otherwise have terrible years, the higher the chances this entire house of cards comes crashing down.  To make the playoffs, the Mariners will need to have one of the 5 best bullpens in the American League (maybe even Top 3), to compensate for that disaster of a starting rotation.  Do these guys inspire that sort of confidence?  I gotta say, replacing David Phelps with Wade LeBlanc is a BAD start to this season that’s only going to get worse from here.

The Everyday Players

  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. Ichiro (LF)
  • Mike Marjama (C)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B)
  • Guillermo Heredia (OF)
  • Andrew Romine (INF)
  • Ben Gamel (OF) – DL
  • Taylor Motter (OF/INF) – Tacoma

I like that lineup.  I like it a lot more with Ben Gamel in the fold, but we probably won’t see him at his best for a while.

I expect Gordon to be fine defensively, but I do expect him to struggle at the plate.  That’ll be rough.  I think Segura will be fine.  I think Cano will be okay (I think we’re still in the gradual stage of his decline; I don’t believe the cliff is here yet).  I think Cruz will have his ups and downs (I could see him succumbing more to injury this year than his past 4 years combined).  Kyle Seager is what he is and I’m going to stop trying to wish into existence another level to his game.  I think Hangier will be good when healthy, but again I think he’ll rarely be healthy.  I think Healy is sort of a nothing guy who might have a few good games here and there, but for the most part will be mediocre.  I think Zunino will be great!  I like him to make a big jump in his game!  Not only will he NOT be sent down to Tacoma to work on his swing, but I think he’ll be in the conversation for the All Star Game (and might even make the team as a backup).  As for Ichiro, I can only see it ending badly.  Final year with Griffey bad.  Like, waived in the first month or two bad.  He’s got no power, he’s down in speed, he had pretty much no Spring Training, and he’s coming off of a minor injury.  Just seems like a recipe for immediate disaster.

I’m interested to see what Marjama brings; I have no opinion one way or the other on what his season will be like.  Vogelbach is the story of Spring Training, but that won’t last.  He won’t get much in the way of playing time, and when he does get a start, he won’t make the most of his opportunities.  Heredia is a nice bench outfielder; hope he’s fully healthy.  Romine is a guy; I could see him getting waived in favor of Motter (who also is just a guy, but a younger, cheaper guy).

This season will go down the toilet in a hurry if guys like Cano, Cruz, and Seager all struggle.  I like Segura to hit, but I could see his power continue to be limited by Safeco and this cold Seattle weather.  And, of course, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that younger guys like Haniger and Zunino do struggle at the plate (injuries aside) and this team is left scrambling.  For the most part, I believe the offense will be okay, and I don’t think ALL those bad things will happen, but I don’t think the offense is good enough to compensate for the shitty pitching.  Frankly, I don’t think ANY offense would be good enough to compensate for the shitty pitching on this team.

The last couple times the Mariners really bottomed out, we went 61-101 (in 2008 & 2010).  I could see something around that number yet again.  My prediction?

65-97

The 2018 Seattle Mariners:  Feel The Excitement It’s Faaaaannnn-Tastic Suck Our Dicks, You’re Just Here For The Beer & Fried Crickets Anyway!

Ichiro! Is Back!

So, I’ve been less than totally invested in the Mariners’ Spring Training this year, because Mariners.  I follow a bunch of beat writers and the like, and during their press conference tweet storms, I catch glimpses of what’s going on.  Erasmo Ramirez got injured pretty early on.  Mitch Haniger swung a bat too much and got sore?  Jesus Christ!  Other guys, like Heredia, Vincent, Phelps, and many others I’m forgetting right now are coming back from offseason injuries or a 2017 season of gross overuse.  Felix got hit on an arm, and so on and so forth.

The latest fucking tragedy to befall this cursed team is Ben Gamel straining an oblique somehow (again, I don’t care, about any of this).  He’s out “4-6 weeks” which really means “6-8 weeks, and will continue to suck as he tries to work his way back into shape, so probably count on him being useless and actively hurting this team for a full 12 weeks”.  For those of you counting at home, that’s three outfielders – Heredia, Haniger, and now Gamel – all dealing with injuries of varying severity.  Our only remaining starting-calibre outfielder is Dee Gordon, who has literally never played an inning of outfield in a regular season Major League game.

Neat, huh?  So that means the team really needed to go out and get another guy.  Preferably a guy with Major League experience, a guy who’s prone to stay healthy, a guy who won’t cost a whole lot, and a guy who’s had recent success at the Major League level.  And yeah, I guess you could argue Ichiro checks off all those boxes.

  • Major League experience?  How about 17 years?
  • Healthy?  I really only remember one or two bad years where he had some injuries with the Mariners, but he’s certainly not a guy living on the DL.
  • Won’t cost a lot?  How’s $750,000 for a 1-year deal?  That certainly won’t break the bank.
  • Recent success?  Well, that’s debatable.

Let’s dig into that a little bit.  Obviously, we’re not getting Prime Ichiro.  He was past his prime when we traded him away to the Yankees back in 2012.  It’s 6 years later!  He’s essentially been a part-time player ever since, with his plate appearances dwindling every season for the last 3 years.  He had a couple decent years with the Yankees, one really bad year with the Marlins in 2015, then bounced back to have a pretty good year in 2016.  Last year, he had that dreadful first half, but bounced back with a second half that saw him hit .299.

Obviously, he’s got zero pop in his bat whatsoever.  I mean, he was never all that big a power hitter, but this is insane.  Nevertheless, he’s never really tried being a power hitter; that’s not his game.  He knows his game, and so he should be fine doing what he does.  We won’t be counting on him to leadoff; he’ll almost certainly be batting 9th in any regular season lineup he’s in.  He keeps himself in great shape, he still plays quality defense, and honestly I take great comfort in having another solid professional in the locker room.  I don’t care about leadership or anything like that – though, I’m sure he won’t shy away from helping out a teammate when asked – I just want a guy who goes about his business, does his job, and will hopefully come up big in big moments like he used to.

And, when those other guys come back healthy, he’s a nice 4th or 5th outfielder to have.  Because none of these fucking guys (especially Haniger) can stay healthy for a full season.

This isn’t the same as Griffey returning.  This isn’t a PR stunt to sell tickets and get fans to sit around remembering 1995 all over again.  Ichiro can still play.  Not as Ichiro!, but sort of as Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back.  Old, wise, a little loopy (I mean, seriously, playing until he’s 50?), but can still school your ass on occasion.

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 Signed Reliever Juan Nicasio & Other Things Happened

Juan Nicasio (2 years, $17 million) is a 7-year pro, starter-turned-reliever from the right side, who had a very good year last year.  He was great for Pittsburgh, was waived at the end of August for some reason, picked up by Philly, and was traded a week later to St. Louis for minor league prospects.  I don’t know and I don’t want to know.  He averaged a strikeout per inning and apparently has pretty good stuff (mid-90s fastball, good slider, not-so-good change).  Throw him on the pile of potential late-inning relievers with closer Diaz, Vincent, Phelps, Zych, and sometimes Altavilla from the right side; with Scrabble and Pazos on the left side, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty good bullpen.  Not great, not out-of-this-world or anything, but pretty good.  Potentially.  Or maybe not.  Maybe some of them are good, some are bad, and some are injured.  That’s the way the cookie crumbles in this thing, doesn’t it?  It’s all one big, stupid, pointless crapshoot.

Yeah, sure, I like the move, but bullpens are so volatile and random, it’s hard to get too excited about anything anymore.  “We’ll see.”  That’s gonna be my motto with this Mariners team, this year and forever.  We’ll see.

The Mariners also traded away some of their International Slot Money to the Rays for a minor league reliever they’d originally traded TO the Rays last year for God knows what.  So, that’s something.  They also traded some slot money to the Indians for a reliever by the name of Shawn Armstrong.  He’s actually got some Major League experience, so I feel like he’s actually worth mentioning.  But, not a ton of experience, so let’s go ahead and store that name and move on.

And, the Mariners took Mike Ford in the Rule 5 Draft from the Yankees’ organization.  It was to be expected that the M’s would go after someone in the Rule 5 Draft this year, as they had ample roster space, but I figured it would be for a pitcher (most likely a reliever), because you need to keep anyone you pick in the Rule 5 Draft on your roster for a full season, otherwise the player’s rights revert back to his original team.  Considering there’s been all this chatter about the M’s going with a 6-man rotation for at least part of the season, or an 8-man bullpen for a lot longer, it made sense.  What doesn’t make sense is that Mike Ford is a first baseman.  A first baseman who has never played an inning of Major League ball.  Who, indeed, has only 25 games’ worth of AAA experience.

Now, of course, it’s always possible the Mariners and Yankees work out a trade, if indeed 25 games’ worth of AAA experience isn’t enough to land you on a Major League roster for a full season, but it’s a puzzling move any way you slice it.  Obviously, when we’re talking about Rule 5 players, we’re not talking about an organization’s best prospect.  This is a guy the Yankees felt they could leave off of their 40-man roster and risk losing to another club.  Maybe they figured – as most anyone would – that no one would bother with a 25 year old 5-year minor league first baseman whose numbers aren’t really all that eye-popping.  But, that’s the Mariners for you.  The same Mariners, mind you, who just traded for first baseman Ryon Healy.  It didn’t look like he needed a platoon partner, so again, I guess we’ll see.

In yet other minor news, Andrew Albers was granted his release so he could go play in Asia.  That’s one less useful AAA starter we could spot start in a pinch.

And finally, I’ll end with this:  Drew Smyly ended up signing a 2-year, $10 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, which I guess was more than we were willing to go.  He gets $3 million this year just to recover from surgery, and another $7 million in 2019, with $6 million in incentives if he returns to starting.  Thus ends the Drew Smyly era in Seattle.  He never threw a pitch in a regular season game, he earned a little under $7 million, and he cost us three prospects.  If that isn’t the epitome of the perfect Seattle Mariners transaction, I don’t know what is.

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!

The Mariners Finished 78-84

Tied for 14th-worst record in baseball, with the Texas Rangers.  And, by virtue of the Rangers having a superior record than the Mariners in 2016, that means we win the tie-breaker!  Hurrah!  We’re drafting 14th!

Hey, it could’ve been worse.  Sure, it could’ve been a lot better, but I guess we just HAD to win those three games in the final week!

I have nothing to say about the series against the Angels.  I’m just going to run through some numbers.  I’ll have a proper End Of Season Recap when I’ve had time to digest everything that’s happened.

78-84 is good for 3rd in the A.L. West, behind the division-winning Astros and the nothing Angels.  The Astros were 23 games better than the Mariners.  Go ahead and let that sink in.

78-84 is good for 7 games back of the second Wild Card spot.  The Twins ended up taking that, as I believe I’ve mentioned before.  The Royals, Rays, and Angels all stood in our way as well.  Oddly enough, every team out of the playoffs was under .500 in the American League (there were two teams in the N.L. with winning records that failed to make the playoffs).

The Mariners finished 40-41 at home; 38-43 on the road.  The Mariners finished with a -22 run differential (by the Pythagorean winning percentage, we should’ve been about 1 win better).

Here are the Mariners’ records by month:

  • April:  11-15
  • May:  14-14
  • June:  15-12
  • July:  14-12
  • August:  12-15
  • September:  12-16

The Mariners’ peak was 3 games over .500, which I believe they achieved twice; the nadir was 8 games under .500.  The longest winning streak and losing streak were both 6 games.  The Mariners were 7-5 in extra innings games.  They were 26-15 in 1-run games.

Here are the Mariners’ final records against their A.L. West foes:

  • Houston:  5-14
  • Anaheim:  7-12
  • Texas:  11-8
  • Oakland:  12-7
  • Total:  35-41

That means the Mariners were 43-43 against everyone else.  Not great, considering every other American League division had a minimum of 2 playoff teams; we really should’ve done a better job cleaning up in our own division.

Jean Segura led the Mariners in batting average with an even .300.  Nelson Cruz led the team in OBP with .375, and Slugging with .549 (it would stand to reason, then, that he led in OPS with .924).  Cruz led the team in homers with 39, and in runs scored with 91; he led the entire American League in RBI with 119.  Robbie Cano had the team lead in hits with 166.  Cano and Seager tied for the team lead in doubles with 33.  And Ben Gamel took the team lead in triples with 5.  Jarrod Dyson was your stolen base king with 28.

The less said about the pitching, the better, but here are a couple of nuggets.  You want to know who led the team in innings pitched?  Ariel Miranda, with a whopping 160!  Paxton led the team in strikeouts with 156 and in wins with 12.  Yovani Gallardo led the team in losses with 10.  Nick Vincent, naturally, led the team in Holds with 29.  And Edwin Diaz finished with 34 saves.

The Mariners finished 7th in the A.L. in runs scored with 750.  8th in ERA with 4.46.

I could go on and on, but I’ll call it a day right there.  All told, the offense was worse than I expected, and the pitching was as bad as I feared.  Of course, I hoped for the best with the pitching, and it indeed may have been better had everyone not gotten injured.  But, overall this is probably the record the Mariners deserved.  This is probably the best indication of who these Mariners were.  Sure, they might’ve been a bit better with a full season out of Paxton and Felix, and with ANY season out of Smyly, but with their flaws, this was no playoff team.  Not now, not ever.

You want to hear something really sad?  In two years managing the Seattle Mariners, Lloyd McClendon was 163-161.  In two years managing the Seattle Mariners, Scott Servais is 164-160.  Over these last two years, the Mariners are exactly 1 game better than they were the previous two years.

God I hate baseball.

The Mariners Unsurprisingly Win When It Does Them No Good

But don’t worry, next year when it matters again, they’ll get right back to the losing!

James Paxton got the start and did about as well as you’d expect:  5.2 innings, 3 runs, on 6 hits, with 5 strikeouts.  Suffice it to say, he’s still rounding into shape from his latest DL stint, and should be back to his old dominating self next week sometime.  Just in time to watch the playoffs from his couch.

The offense picked him up today, so at least he was able to salvage a no decision.  Gamel had 3 hits and an RBI in the leadoff spot.  Alonso and Valencia each had homers and combined for 5 RBI.  And, the Mariners’ bullpen did their job to round out the 6-3 victory.

It’s been a while since this team was able to go Pagan-Vincent-Diaz, with them all throwing shutout innings.  Brings back fond memories of better Mariner times.

This may or may not be James Paxton’s final start.  We know Felix is done, and we got word that Mike Leake is also being shut down to rest his arm or some damn thing.  We’ve got Erasmo going today, Marco Gonzales going Friday, and Andrew Moore going Saturday, with Sunday TBD.  Could be Albers, could be Paxton, could be a bullpen day.  I guess we’ll see.

If this was Paxton’s final start, we might as well congratulate him on his very best season as a Mariner.  Oh yeah, in spite of all the injuries, he’s hit career highs in appearances (23, all starts), innings (130), strikeouts (147), wins (12), and WAR (3.5).  This was, officially, the year that James Paxton became the Ace of the Seattle Mariners’ pitching staff.  And, if he hadn’t missed 10 starts, we might be talking about a really special season.

Look at it this way:  as it stands, the Mariners won a little over 60% of his starts.  If you tack on 10 more starts, and give the Mariners 6 more wins, BOOM, we’re right there in the thick of that second Wild Card spot.  And that’s not even taking into account how poorly he’s pitched in the first few games after returning from the DL those two times!  I mean, just this month alone he took two hard-luck losses because he was building up arm strength and therefore was stuck on a low pitch count.  Every time he came back from a leave of absence, he had to get his mechanics back in line; if he was just healthy all the way through, he never would’ve had those mechanical issues and a reduction in arm strength.  It’s not out of the question, with the way he was going, for the Mariners to win up to 70% of his starts if he’d been fully healthy all season!

You want a reason why the Mariners didn’t make the playoffs?  Well, there’s 1 of about a billion right there.

The Mariners have fallen to 16th in the draft order with last night’s victory, so that’s just fucking great.  There’s only one more game for the A’s to roll over and fucking die for us, then we go to Anaheim to close out the season.  Hopefully on a nice, fat, juicy 3-game losing steak streak.