The Long Shadow of the Randy Johnson Trade

I moved this to my Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings heading HERE.

Wedge Hates Walks

The only thing Mariners manager Eric Wedge hates more than the offense sleeping through Felix Day is when his batters walk.  He would rather see a hardly-hit out than a base on balls.

You’ll best find Wedge’s feelings on the matter here.  The argument being:  extra-base hits are more important and beneficial than walks.  It’s why Ryan Langerhans was sent down even though his on-base percentage was very VERY good (with respect to his batting average, which was very VERY bad).  On the one hand, I guess I can understand that.  On the other hand:  I’d rather have the guy on base instead of out.

Let’s face it, all Major League batters are going to make significantly more outs than they are able to get on base.  That’s just the nature of the beast.  A good baseball player still makes an out 60% of the time.  An average baseball player will make an out around 65% of the time.  Strung out over 500 or so plate appearances, those outs really add up.  Why WOULDN’T you want to trade some of those outs for walks?

My guess is:  there’s a risk/reward thing at play.  For a guy like Jack Cust, one would expect him to hit a good chunk of home runs and doubles (since’s he’s a big, fat Designated Hitter who was brought here for one reason two reasons:  home runs & doubles).  If he’s, instead, walking too much, that is taking chances away that might otherwise have been attributed to improving his slugging percentage.  You’d rather have him take the RISK of swinging away in order to recoup the REWARD of awesomeness.

The obvious problem with that is, essentially, you’re asking your batter to hack away at pitches that might not be ideal for said awesomeness.  After all, Jack Cust can’t FORCE the pitcher to pitch inside the strike zone.  Touché.  Nevertheless, I find it hard to believe there aren’t a few more hittable pitches mixed in that he’s just taking for strikes because he’s ahead in the count and expecting the walk.

So, in the case of Cust, I can see the argument a little bit.  By walking more, he’s improving his on-base percentage; but he’s also hurting his slugging percentage.  And, since Cust was brought here with the intentions of slugging the ball, this is not good.

Where the argument falls flat with me is in the case of Chone Figgins.

A Cust walk is not the same as a Figgins walk.  The two are completely different players; Figgins was brought in to get on base, steal bases, score, and generally make life miserable for opposing pitchers with his antics on the base paths.  Figgins, as you’re all probably well aware, can hardly hit the ball out of the infield as it is.  For Figgins, a walk is the exact same thing as a hit, because he’s never going to give you much more than a single anyway!

We just need Figgins on base; we don’t care how he does it!  We don’t care if he’s batting .120, as long as his on-base percentage is .320!

And yet, this philosophy Wedge has installed – where hitters are encouraged to be as aggressive as possible – is counter-productive to what Figgins can ultimately bring to the table.

We don’t WANT Figgins to be aggressive!  We want him taking pitches, fouling off pitches, getting deep into counts, and ultimately hearing the umpire call out, “Ball Four!”

The more Figgins is aggressive, the more he grounds out right to an infielder (or the more he pops up to an infielder, or the more he strikes out swinging).  He’s not going to hit the ball hard, so he’s less likely to find holes; and he’s not going to hit it too soft, because everyone plays him close because they know he can’t hit the ball hard.  Furthermore, the outfielders are right on top of the infield because – HEY, broken record, we get it!

While I commend Wedge on all of the seeming good he’s done for this ballclub – this ballclub that’s not very different from 2010’s 101-loss squad – I don’t agree with his blanket Aggressiveness campaign for all the players.  Some, like Figgins, are better served being who they are:  a walking machine.  The walks will turn into him getting better pitches, which will hopefully turn into hits; but that’s not necessarily important.  Just as long as he gets on base.

Talkin’ Tacoma Rainiers

I’m not gonna lie to you, this post is more for me than it is for you.  There are tons of other sites (probably) that can give you some real quality Rainiers analysis.  So, go there for the hard-hitting whathaveyou.

If you’re like me, you live in Tacoma and almost never end up getting out to a Rainiers game even though, every year before the season starts, you and your friends talk about “getting out to a few games this summer”.  Then, summer arrives, and you never think to head over to Cheney.

Also, if you’re like me, you find minor league baseball to be an enjoyable experience when you DO go to a game … but you don’t really follow the teams all that closely.  Aside from a few players touted as “up & coming”, you just don’t give too much of a shit.

However, with all the players who’ve made it up to the big ballclub, and with the player or players soon to come, I thought I’d take a look at the Tacoma Rainiers.

The Rainiers currently stand in 3rd place in the Pacific North Division (with a 28-35 record), 9 games behind the first place Reno Aces.  The two teams appear to be pretty comparable in their pitching (Tacoma is 12th in the PCL in ERA, Reno is 13th), but there looks to be a hitting discrepancy (with Reno 2nd in batting average and Tacoma 10th).  Obviously, this doesn’t tell the whole story, because the Rainiers are in the top 5 in both Home Runs and Runs Scored, so really I don’t know what to tell you.

From what I understand, the new park configurations make it tremendously easier to hit home runs to both left and right field (the high center field wall remains from Old Cheney Stadium), which probably explains why Tacoma is so much more improved in their power numbers.  And, why the ERA is so high.

Here’s all you really need to know about the pitching:  just hope and pray that none of the Mariners’ starters get injured.  Luke French – the odd man out of the rotation coming out of Spring Training once Pineda won a spot on the team – has been truly awful this year.  He’s got a 6.16 ERA and has given up 18 home runs in 13 games started.  Chaz Roe – who we got for Jose Lopez in the trade with the Rockies – has a worse ERA and an 0-5 record.  Blake Beavan – who we got in the Cliff Lee Trade – appears to be the best of the three, but his ERA is still 4.76 and he too looks like he’s nowhere near ready to break in with the big club.

The other notable names include Nate Robertson.  He’s been bad thus far, coming back from injury, but he’s only made two starts, so the book is still out on him.  In the bullpen, it looks like Josh Lueke has bounced back nicely with his return to triple-A.  He’s got a 3.33 ERA in 17 appearances.  Dan Cortes, on the other hand, has a 5.21 ERA in 15 appearances.  He’s got good strikeout numbers, but he’s being hit around quite a bit.  In other words, he’s probably a year away at least.

On the hitting side of things, I’m seeing a lot of really good numbers (a testament to the fact that so many of these guys have already been called up).  Dustin Ackley is batting .291 after a horrendous start to the season.  He’s got 9 homers and 16 doubles, and he’s walking considerably more than he’s striking out.  Ackley will be Seattle’s starting second baseman before the month of June is over, I guarantee it.

Other familiar names include Matt Tuiasosopo and Ryan Langerhans.  Tui looks like he’s struggling mightily with his .236 batting average.  Factor in that he’s playing primarily at first base, with his paltry power numbers (7 homers, 10 doubles), and I think you’re looking at a guy who’s not long for this organization.  I anticipate when his contract expires, it will not be renewed.  As for Langerhans, he’s playing just like you’d expect Langerhans to play.  In a pinch, he’ll be back with the Mariners this year (“pinch” being:  multiple injuries to our outfielders).

You might be wondering how Michael Saunders has been doing since being sent down.  Well, in 8 games, he’s batting .343 with 8 RBI, a homer, and a double.  That sounds about right:  kills triple-A pitching, sucks in the Majors.

Mike Wilson, you probably remember (if you were paying attention).  He actually played with the Mariners this year in a blink-and-you’ll-miss it one-month stint.  In that month, he got into 8 games even though we were told that Left Field would be a strict platoon between him and Carlos Peguero.  Granted, we ran into an inordinate number of right-handed pitchers, but still.  I remember some instances where Wilson could’ve pinch hit or something and was instead left riding pine.  I guess he didn’t make enough of an early impression with Wedge.  Anyway, Wilson’s leading the team in batting and has 4 hits in 3 games since being sent back down.

Real quick:  Josh Bard is doing good at catcher (of course, not good enough to be called up because he’s an everyday guy and Gimenez – the Mariners’ current backup catcher – isn’t an everyday guy); Matt Mangini is also doing good, but he’s coming back from injury.  Alex Liddi still has some major power at the third base position – something the Mariners are SORELY lacking – but he’s remarkably struck out 81 times in 61 games.  So, he’s still got some seasoning to do.

All in all, it’s nice to see there’s some talent down in Tacoma, but aside from Ackley, I don’t think there’s too many guys left down there who you’d want to count on with the Mariners.  However, if you’re looking to go see an entertaining, high-scoring ballgame (something you won’t get in Seattle), based on these numbers I would highly recommend going to a Rainiers game.

I REALLY gotta get out to a few games this summer.

Goodbye Uncle Milty Jagerbombs & Uncle Milty

**UPDATE #2** nevermind again.  HA!

**UPDATE** nevermind.  Ryan Langerhans, we kinda knew ye.

The Mariners just called up a right-handed slugger who plays the corner outfield spots.

The Mariners also just played a weekend series where Milton Bradley played like his usual ass-clown self.  Getting ejected on Friday, letting balls fall in on Saturday and Sunday; somehow looking both like he doesn’t give a shit and gives TOO MUCH of a shit.

Yes, he’s obviously still a better option at the plate than Saunders or Langerhans, but that says WAY more about Saunders and Langerhans than it does about Bradley’s rate of success.

As much as I – a Mariners fan – wanted to “win” the Carlos Silva Trade, I just gotta face facts:  when you’re talking about Silva and Bradley, there ARE no winners.  Yeah, Bradley gave us a little something the first couple weeks of the season (more than the Cubs got out of Silva this year, anyway), but now it’s time to cut and run while we’re still within shouting distance of .500.

Bradley, you won’t be missed.  Here’s to the Mariners doing the right thing and severing all ties.

Michael Saunders & Brendan Ryan Are Making Me Ill

I can’t watch these guys anymore!  I’m tired of watching guys from the NL come over to our team and suck dick, I’m tired of prospects given every chance to play and ultimately fail, I’m tired of all the 0 for 3’s and 0 for 4’s!

Last night, Brendan Ryan had 3 at bats.  In those 3 at bats, he saw 5 pitches.  With those 5 pitches, he managed to make 5 outs thanks to his back-to-back double plays.  The only thing you can say about Ryan’s game is, at least he didn’t injure one of our successful players.  Except, I gotta think the stench of failure has to be making the guys around him queasy.

The month of May is just starting, we’ve only played 3 games so far.  Yet, Michael Saunders has still managed to go 0 for 11 with 5 strikeouts.  He has absolutely no other stat in these three games.  At what point do we cut our losses and declare Michael Saunders a bust?  Because, seriously, I’m getting tired of watching him whiff.

Maybe it’s because these guys seem to always come up to bat with runners on.  Yet, Brendan Ryan hasn’t had an RBI since April 19th!  It’s been 11 games since Ryan has contributed to the team in any kind of meaningful way.  And Saunders?  Forget about it, he hasn’t had an RBI since April 15th!  That’s 15 unproductive games in a row.

With Ryan, I almost understand his struggles.  I mean, it’s not like he was a big ol’ bat when we got him, and now he’s got to learn a whole new set of pitchers.  Elite pitchers at that.  With Ryan, I’m more angry with management for saddling us with him.  I know Jackie Z is a National League guy, but he’s gotta start making trades with AL teams or my head is going to explode.

As far as Saunders is concerned, I’m done.  Every once in a while he flashes something brilliant – a homer to deep center, a double the other way, an amazing catch in the outfield – but then it’s right back to sheer incompetence for the next 10-14 days.  I can’t take it!  Turn the fucking corner or get out of the fucking car!  If Saunders doesn’t start figuring it the fuck out like Smoak seems to have done, then I’m sorry, but I’d rather watch Langerhans and Bradley platoon in left field when Guti comes back.  The promise of Saunders isn’t going to cut it anymore.  He’s going to have to deliver.

Michael Pineda Wins His Home Opener

I don’t really have a whole lot to say about the game last night.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a good one; these are the kinds of games the Mariners will need to win if they’re going to avoid 100 losses.

Pineda looked damn good.  He was hitting the upper 90s on his fastball in the 8th inning, no worries there.  He flashed some nastiness with his curve and change up.  In short, he’s looking more and more like the stud we hope he’ll be.

Olivo, on the other hand, looks exactly like the guy we thought he was.  Jesus.  He couldn’t find a wild pitch to his rear right to save his life in the 8th inning.  THEN, when he tried to throw out a runner trying to steal second, he threw it into fucking right-center field!  The guy single-handedly tried to blow the game for us!  Not to mention all the guys he’s leaving on base in his at-bats!  Christ, give that guy a fully loaded set of bases and just watch him do nothing with ’em!

This guy is batting smack dab in the middle of our order.  Right now, I’d rather have Langerhans in there batting cleanup.  Hell, he’s got three home runs to lead the team!  I’m pretty sure at least two of those are off lefties!

Anyway, good win.  Good win against a tough pitcher.  I’m pretty much of the belief that there’s no starting pitcher out there who’s untouchable.  There are a precious few who are tough; the toughest of the bunch in the Majors is our man Felix.  So, really, there isn’t any reason why we can’t get 3 runs off of any and every starting pitcher in the AL.  We already have the advantage of not facing the best starter in the game! 

Yeah, Ricky Romero is good and all, and I’m glad we actually DID get 3 runs off of him, but he’s exactly the kind of pitcher who normally holds us to 0 runs over 8 innings.  That can’t happen.  EVERY pitcher can’t be Cy Young!

Now, I know today’s Toronto starter is supposed to be an up-and-coming stud, but I don’t care.  Mariners, go out there this afternoon and take care of fucking business.  And, for Christ’s sake Vargas, let’s make up for that opening night disaster, huh?

Two Interesting Developments

The first would be:  we saw Jack Wilson start a baseball game at second base.  He went 0 for 4 at the plate, had zero errors, and then was pinch-hit for late in the game.  Looks like Wedge really DOESN’T hold a grudge.  How about that.

Really, that’s not so interesting, I just thought I’d comment on it (and how wrong I was in the title of this post).  Still, you know he’s going to be traded at some point this season, so let’s move on.

The other thing is:  Guti’s back!  Well, not BACK back.  But, he’s up in Seattle, he took batting practice yesterday, and he’s soon to be exploring the minor leagues in a rehab assignment.  Down 15 pounds – and still without a formal diagnosis as to WHAT the fuck he actually has wrong with him – Guti’s at least feeling better.  He can eat again, which is pretty important, I’d say.

So, that’ll be exciting, huh?  Having our Gold Glove center fielder back out there?

Well, here’s something slightly troubling:  whose spot is he going to take on the roster?

Michael Saunders has seen increased production at the plate since his new batting stance AND he leads the team in RBI.  Ryan Langerhans is the prototypical 4th Outfielder type; a guy who can sit on the bench for days and days, then come in and play any spot in the outfield AND handle his business at the plate.  The guy leads us in Home Runs for Christ’s sake!

I don’t want to see either one of them leave, but what are you gonna do?  You can’t have 5 outfielders on your team!  Or can you?

Ideally, one of our bullpen guys (Wilhelmsen) would be sent down to Tacoma to make room for Guti; but I don’t think anyone has any reason to be confident in our starters’ abilities to go long in ballgames.  We can’t get rid of any of our bench infielders – Kennedy or Rodriguez – as they’ve both been incredibly productive.  And, if we’re ever going to rest our infield starters, we’re going to need both of their bodies on this team.

I’m afraid there’s just no other options.  It’s either Langerhans or Saunders.  I know for a fact Saunders still has an Option left (and I’m pretty sure he was going to get chopped before the season anyway had Guti not had a relapse).  But, I dunno.  I wish there was a way to pass Langerhans through waivers and hang onto him for later in the season.

I mean, shit, you just KNOW Milton Bradley’s going to get injured at SOME point.  I’d really like to know I had Langerhans on this team when that certainty happens!

A Roster Full Of Slow Starters

I’m a little under the weather at the moment; what better time to curl up with a netbook and look at a ton of stats?

For this exercise – as I sit in my pajamas watching the Mariners down 2-0 in the 7th against the Indians – I’ll be looking primarily at Batting Average in the months of March/April.  And primarily at the starters (or, at least those who are starting now).

Ichiro – Probably the guy most famous for his slow Aprils.  That’s a little tough, because you’re talking about a guy who’s batting .298 in that time.  But, you’re ALSO talking about a guy with an average well over .300 in every other month (including his best month, May, where he bats .363).  So, look for him to hover in the mid-to-upper .200’s, then to turn it on when the calendar page flips.

Langerhans/Saunders – This is impossible to gauge, as combined they’ve played less than 50 games, so I’m not even going to get into them.  However, if Guti was here and healthy, you’d CERTAINLY see more production out of your center field spot in the order (career .283, by far his best month; so I figure it’ll be gangbusters when he comes back to the team).

Bradley – In his career, April has actually been one of his BETTER months (.273).  We’re kind of seeing that thus far (though the month is young), but he was a LONG way off last year for us, batting .211.  Milton has always struck me as a streaky hitter and a guy who plays with his heart on his sleeve.  When things are going good for him, they tend to continue; until they stop going good, then they fester.  He hasn’t started festering yet, but we’ll see how the next three weeks go.

Olivo – This guy has been known to start poorly (.232 in April) and finish poorly (.229 in Sept/Oct).  That isn’t to say he’s all that great in between, but you’re looking at upwards of a 40-point swing.  He’s been pretty steady thus far in 2011, so I don’t know what to tell you.  If he keeps this up and still posts an above-average May as he’s traditionally done, we might actually get some production out of this cat!

Smoak – Again, this is another guy with not enough games under his belt to factor in this discussion.  He seems to be doing okay so far though.

Kennedy – Here’s a guy who’s been known to do fairly well in April, with a .278 average.  Maybe this whole Jack Wilson fiasco was a blessing in disguise.

Ryan – Well, here’s a pisspoor April guy; doesn’t look like he gets out of bed until August, but his Aprils are particularly brutal with a .213 average.  So, I guess we can’t say his sub-.200 start to 2011 is really much of a surprise.

Figgins – Our third baseman is a bad April guy and an even worse May guy (.266 and .249 respectively).  So, we probably shouldn’t be TOO concerned with this 0 for 25 stretch he’s been mired in this first week.  Nevertheless, there’s always the concern that he’s too old to hit his way out of it.  Right now, he looks like a skinnier version of Jose Vidro circa 2008.

Cust – One more time for the Worst April Batters!  Try .214 on for size.  Last night, when he was up to bat, a fan behind me told his buddy that Cust is the best free agent signing we’ve had since Richie Sexson.  I had a good laugh at that one.  On the plus side, his average should skyrocket 44 points next month.

So, what have we learned?  In a month where we have arguably our softest schedule, we also have our hitters playing their worst.  Hitters who are already pretty bad to begin with.  Yikes.

After last night, this team was batting .226.  We’ve got 4 guys batting under .200, with Cust right at that mark.  Others, like Olivo, Bradley, and when he was alive Jack Wilson, have done fairly well.  But, it’s tough when no one’s getting on base for them to hit in.  Ichiro’s still Ichiro and I’m never going to worry about him.  Smoak has been a pleasant surprise thus far – especially with his doubles hitting – so let’s hope he can keep it up.

2011 Seattle Mariners Opening Day Roster

I’m by no means going to make it a habit of posting Seattle’s roster before every game.  But, since today is Opening Day, I’m making an exception.

Aren’t you curious as to what our Final Day Roster will be and how different it will look from today’s?  Aren’t you at all curious as to what our average overall 2011 roster will look like by taking the people who played the most and putting them in the proper order?  Wouldn’t it be weird if every game’s roster was the same?

Anyway, here it is.  Don’t think I WON’T be looking at how our roster shifts and morphs throughout the season:

  1. Ichiro – RF
  2. Chone Figgins – 3B
  3. Milton Bradley – LF
  4. Jack Cust – DH
  5. Justin Smoak – 1B
  6. Miguel Olivo – C
  7. Ryan Jagerbombs – CF
  8. Brendan Ryan – SS
  9. Jack Wilson – 2B

By the way, did you know we closed last season with a 4-game series loss to the A’s?  AND, did you know we STARTED last season with a 4-game series in Oakland where we went 1-3?  Maybe a regular ol’ 3-game series against the A’s will make things seem less daunting.  I dunno.  1-7 in the first and last series against the A’s … no WONDER we lost 101 games!

For your personal reference, here’s what Opening Day looked like last year:

  1. Ichiro – RF
  2. Chone Figgins – 2B
  3. Casey Kotchman – 1B
  4. Milton Bradley – LF
  5. Ken Griffey Jr. – DH
  6. Jose Lopez – 3B
  7. Franklin Gutierrez – CF
  8. Rob Johnson – C
  9. Jack Wilson – SS

QUITE THE MURDERER’S ROW YOU’VE GOT THERE! 

This was the last time Kotchman was ever good.  Also, it’s fun to see Jack Wilson is so highly regarded as a hitter.

Looks Like We’ve Got A Roster

Sorry for the website sucking dick; at least I can finally start posting again. 

Josh Wilson is gone.  I guess I didn’t really see that one coming.  Then again, it’s not shocking.  I’m not falling out of my chair in disbelief.  He’s a poor man’s Willie Bloomquist; you can find them on any street corner for two bits a gander.

Luke French has been sent away.  Again, nothing we haven’t come to expect over the last couple weeks when Michael Pineda started asserting his dominance like a rottweiler over a poodle.

Some crappy relievers were pushed aside to give young bucks who like to fuck a chance to show their smoke.

It’s Wednesday, a little after 7am, and thus far no word on any trades coming down the pike.  It LOOKS like … we’ve got an Opening Day Roster!

The Batters/Fielders:

C – Miguel Olivo
1B – Justin Smoak
2B – Jack Wilson
SS – Brendan Ryan
3B – Chone Figgins
LF – Milton Bradley
CF – Michael Saunders
RF – Ichiro
DH – Jack Cust

The Bench:

C – Adam Moore
Inf – Adam Kennedy
OF – Ryan Langerhans
Inf – Luis Rodriguez

The Starting Pitchers:

1. Felix
2. Vargas
3. Fister
4. Bedard
5. Pineda

The Relievers:

Closer:  Brandon League
Set Up:  Chris Ray
Set Up:  Jamey Wright
Set Up:  Josh Lueke
Lefty:  Aaron Laffey
Long:  Tom Wilhelmsen
Long:  David Pauley

Disabled List:

CF:  Franklin Gutierrez
Closer:  David Aardsma

It’s certainly going to be interesting to see who gets chopped once Guti is ready to come back.  Before this whole stomach cancer thing (or whatever it is got Guti so gone), Michael Saunders was all but a lock to start the season in Tacoma.  Meanwhile, Ryan Langerhans did everything to play his way into the 4th Outfield slot in Spring Training.  However, Saunders has showed greater discipline and greater ability to hit the low-and-away fastball over the last couple of weeks since he adopted his new stance.  If he continues this torrid streak into the first week or two of the regular season … who knows!

I’ll get to position breakdowns in the next couple of days (website or no website) with my official 2-part Seattle Mariners Preview.  In the meantime, I’ll just say this:  from a pure aesthetic standpoint, I like looking at this team more with Pineda over French and Wilhelmsen over Cesar Jimenez.  Now if we could only do something about Jamey Wright.