The Mariners Played More Baseball In Japan This Morning

The fuck?  Bartolo Colon???  Really???

Well, this didn't last long, did it?

That game was going swimmingly until the bottom of the seventh inning.  Mariners had a 1-0 lead, both offenses were being shut down so the game was going by super-quick.  Had I been so inclined, I could’ve taken a 90-minute nap after this thing ended!

Then the bullpen rode in on its shit-colored horse and ruined the hell out of my morning.

I can’t argue with the logic.  Eric Wedge got 6.1 solid innings out of Jason Vargas (2 hits, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts), there were a couple of right-handed bats coming up, why wouldn’t you bring in Shawn Kelley right there?  He gets a fielder’s choice, then serves up a slider down the middle of the plate for the go-ahead 2-run homer and that was that.

It made just as much sense to bring in George Sherrill after that.  A couple of left-handed bats, why wouldn’t you bring in your lefty specialist?  0 outs and 3 hits later (including a solo homer), Sherrill is out of the game and it’s Chinatown after that.

Using the bullpen was the smart move.  They just didn’t get it done, plain & simple.

Of course, maybe if this offense actually came to play, we would’ve had a different ballgame.  Justin Smoak had a solo homer to left and that was IT.  Montero & Olivo got their first hits of the season (both singles) and Saunders worked a walk.  That was the offense, those four guys.  Pathetic, that’s all I can say about that.  They made Bartolo Colon look like Felix Hernandez out there!

So, we’re 1-1.  In two games, during the regulation-portion of those games (i.e. the first 9 innings) the Mariners have scored a total of 2 runs, both on solo homers.  Suffice it to say, I’m SUPER excited about this team’s chances this year!

I can’t believe I woke up at 2am for this …

2012 Mariners Preview Part II: The Pitchers

FYI, this one isn’t going to be nearly as wordy as yesterday’s post.

While you could argue that my views on the hitters are marginally optimistic – I’m generally hopeful about five of our potential regulars, and not entirely against the idea of a couple others – my views on this season’s crop of pitchers is pretty darn negative.

Aside from Felix, of course.

I would like to point out, with 100% bias, that if I had my choice of any one starting pitcher in all of the Major Leagues, I would hands-down choose Felix over everyone else.  And I don’t necessarily think that’s too crazy!  His numbers are comparable to anyone else’s in baseball, he’s an insatiable innings glutton, and he’s got a winning personality that makes you glad he plays for your team (if you’re a Mariners fan, that is).  Not only that, but he’s easily the most coveted pitcher on or off the market; it makes me happy knowing the best teams out there want our guy, but they can’t have our guy!  Fuck you, Yankees!

Felix aside, though, YE GODS!  It’s a tremendous step down to our number two starter, Jason Vargas.  Now, I’m not as down on this guy as most Mariners fans are.  I will say that I don’t necessarily think he’s worth the money he’s getting this season (and I REALLY don’t think he’s going to be worth the money he will command on the open market next season).  But, it’s not like the Mariners were just going to cut ties with a guy who is a durable left-hander.  And it’s not like anyone was going to want to trade for him considering this was his last season of club control (and if they did trade for him, we wouldn’t have gotten squat for him anyway, so whatever).

Essentially, we were stuck with Vargas, we were stuck with his $5 million paycheck, and there’s nothing we could’ve done to change that so stop crying over spilled milk.

With Vargas, you’re going to get some games where he looks as dominant as they come (relatively speaking, for a guy who throws in the mid-to-high 80s), where he’ll shut out a few teams, give up only a handful of hits and striking out upwards of double-digits.  That’s when his change up is on and his fastball is located well.  You’re also going to get some games where he looks like he belongs in the Independent Leagues, where he’ll get shelled and won’t escape the third inning (or worse).  This is when his change up is dead and his fastball catches too much of the plate.  Both of these scenarios – the dominant and the inept – will be in the vast minority of his overall output.  In general, Vargas will go 6-7 innings and he’ll give up 2-4 earned runs.

If I had any memory at all, I’d track how many times he has a game in that exact range.  I guess we’ll see.

Vargas is the least sexy pitcher I’ve seen in ages.  Which makes him truly the epitome of the Seattle Mariners.

Then we’ve got Hector Noesi and Blake Beavan.  They make Jason Vargas look like Don Draper’s new wife.

Her.

I know enough about Blake Beavan to know that I’m not crazy about him.  I don’t despise the guy, but let’s just say I’m not looking forward to watching him make 30 starts this season.  He’s another low-90’s fastball right hander who’s certainly NOT as sweet as Doug Fister.  Whereas with Fister I saw potential in a guy who – with pinpoint command – could be great; with Beavan all I see is a 4.50 ERA.  For every great start he’ll give you five duds.

I know next-to-nothing about Noesi, so in that respect I guess he’s marginally more interesting than Beavan.  But, I’m sure as his own ERA hovers around 4.50, the novelty will wear off quickly.

And then there’s Kevin Millwood.  You know how the guys you hate the most tend to be the most durable?  Like they stay healthy just to spite you, while much more talented and enjoyable players (*cough* GUTI *cough cough*) can never seem to stay on the field long enough to live up to their vast potential.  That’s exactly what I’m looking forward to dreading with Kevin Millwood.  I guarantee you that while our younger phenoms (Ramirez, Hultzen, Paxton, Walker) are all dominating at their various levels of play, Kevin Millwood will not see one day of the Disabled List.  Bank on it.

Speaking of which, if there’s one thing to be hopeful about with the starting pitching of 2012, it’s that this will HOPEFULLY be the last season we’ll have to watch guys like Vargas, Beavan, Noesi, and Millwood infecting our starting rotation with their mediocrity.  If one thing absolutely needs to happen this season, it’s that our Big 4 (and Felix) need to stay healthy.  If two things need to happen, it’s that they also need to develop into Major League regulars.  I want 2013 to be the most exciting season ever; that’ll happen if the Big 4 make the jump to everyday Major League starters.

As for the bullpen, I like Brandon League.  I’ve said all along that I think the Mariners would be smart to sign League to a long-term extension.  He looks like he’s durable (in that he doesn’t have a crazy arm motion that’s going to put undue stress on his shoulder or elbow), he’s got a dominant sinking fastball that approaches 100 miles per hour, he’s got a devastating out-pitch in his split-fingered fastball, and he’s shown he’s got what it takes after the past two seasons of playing at a high level.

On the downside of Brandon League, he has that annual stretch of five-or-so games where he gets battered around by the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles.  I say this season, we just leave him back in Seattle for that road trip.

A not-insignificant reason to sign League to an extension is this:  we gave up what could very well be a monster starting pitcher in Brandon Morrow for him.  It would be nice to not get totally hosed in that deal by losing the other Brandon.  Yeah, Morrow hasn’t exactly put it all together yet, but he’s shown enough flash with some of his dominant high-strikeout games to make me a believer that ONE DAY he will figure it out.  And he’ll be awesome for years thereafter.

After League, who the fuck knows?  Wilhelmsen looked pretty good last year once we brought him back up (after his miserable initial stint with the team), but will those great late-season appearances translate to him being the real deal in 2012?

We got George Sherrill back, so I guess that solves our problem in the bullpen from the left side.  Then again, does it?  He’s pretty old at this stage of his career.  Most fans believe he’s got at least one more season left in him; let’s hope so.  Not that it matters.  Sherrill isn’t exactly a long-term solution at the end of our bullpen (not that the phrase “long-term” ever really applies to bullpen guys, but that’s neither here nor there).

We’ve also got Shawn Kelley back from a seemingly never-ending string of injuries.  Who has confidence this guy has seen the last of his woes?  My bet is he’s back on the DL before the end of May.  Who wants action?

And, we’ve got other arms, but who really cares about those other arms.  A couple of nobodies and a dude in Iwakuma who couldn’t even beat out Blake Beavan for a starting job … hey, look out for these guys!

My Predictions For the 2012 Season

74-88, fourth place in the AL West.  I think our Team ERA will be in the bottom third of the American League.  I think our Runs Scored will be marginally better than last season’s (no more than 25 runs scored).  I think one of our major stars will suffer a season-ending injury (please not Felix, please not Felix, please not Felix).  That having been said, I think the Mariners will have one of the best records in Baseball in the month of September when all of our awesome starting prospects get called up and start mowing through the competition.

That’s that.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to bed early so I can wake up at 3am to watch a stupid fucking baseball game.

Seattle Mariners Roster Explosion 2012!!!

When I try to wrap my head around something, I like to make lists.  I like to listen to instrumental rock and I like to make lists.

So, without further ado …

For starters, let’s look at the 40-man.  You can see it all laid out here in an official capacity, but I would like to break it down thusly:

Guys Already Sent To The Minors:

  1. Danny Hultzen (SP – Left Handed)
  2. Yoervis Medina (SP – Right Handed)
  3. Mauricio Robles (RP – Left Handed)
  4. Francisco Martinez (3B – Right Handed)
  5. Carlos Truinfel (Inf – Right Handed)
  6. Johermyn Chavez (OF – Right Handed)
  7. Chih-Hsien Chiang (OF – Left Handed)
  8. Trayvon Robinson (OF – Switch Hitter)

Guys Destined For The Minors:

  1. Chance Ruffin (RP – Right Handed)
  2. Charlie Furbush (SP – Left Handed)
  3. Adam Moore (C – Right Handed)
  4. Alex Liddi (Inf – Right Handed)
  5. Carlos Peguero (OF – Left Handed)

Guys On The Disabled List Who Will Eventually Be In The Majors:

  1. Franklin Gutierrez (CF – Right Handed)

Now we’re getting somewhere!  Forget those 14 guys even exist, because they won’t matter until the season is well out of hand.

Now, how about we get to your Starting Nine, in what appears to be the order Eric Wedge will have them batting (at least initially):

  1. Chone Figgins (3B – Switch Hitter)
  2. Dustin Ackley (2B – Left Handed)
  3. Ichiro (RF – Left Handed)
  4. Justin Smoak (1B – Switch Hitter)
  5. Jesus Montero (DH – Right Handed)
  6. Mike Carp (LF – Left Handed)
  7. Miguel Olivo (C – Right Handed)
  8. Michael Saunders (CF – Left Handed)
  9. Brendan Ryan (SS – Right Handed)

Now, if I were convinced that these guys would be good, I’d say that’s one helluva lineup to post against a right handed pitcher.  But, I digress.  Those are your starting 9 to start the season, barring some fluke.

Guys Who Figure To Start The Season On The Bench:

  1. John Jaso (C – Left Handed)
  2. Munenori Kawasaki (Inf – Left Handed) (also:  not yet on the 40-man, but will be)
  3. Casper Wells (OF – Right Handed)
  4. Kyle Seager (Inf – Left Handed)

Assuming, of course, the team goes with a 4-man bench.  I’m also assuming that Casper Wells makes the team over Carlos Peguero (which, let’s be realistic, is the way it SHOULD be).  If Wells continues to struggle as he has in Spring Training, then when Guti comes back, it’ll be a matter of either Wells or Saunders going back down to Tacoma.  But, that’s an argument for another time.  This brings our 40-man total to 27.  Let’s look at the pitchers.

Starting Five:

  1. Felix Hernandez (Right Handed)
  2. Jason Vargas (Left Handed)
  3. Kevin Millwood (Right Handed) (also:  not yet on the 40-man, but will be)
  4. Blake Beavan (Right Handed)
  5. Hector Noesi (Right Handed)

So, it doesn’t really diversify all that much (4 righties & a lefty), but it’s what we’ve got, so we better get used to it.  I fully expect Millwood to be the 3rd starter, because I doubt very much that Wedge is going to keep on a veteran like Millwood and not put him right in the middle of the order.  Then again, who really cares?  The last four pitchers on this list inspire fear in exactly no one, so take my order with a grain of salt.

This brings us to our 7-man bullpen:

  1. Brandon League (Closer)
  2. George Sherrill (Left Handed)
  3. Tom Wilhelmsen (Right Handed)
  4. Lucas Luetge (Left Handed)
  5. Shawn Kelley (Right Handed)
  6. Steve Delabar (Right Handed)
  7. Hisashi Iwakuma (Right Handed)

Yeah, I guess we’ll see.  I think the bullpen might be the biggest wildcard on the team.  Who knows WHAT you’re going to get?

And at this point, you might be thinking, “Hey!  That’s only 39 guys!”  And you’d be right.  I don’t know if they need to right now or not, but if they had to they could always put Erasmo Ramirez on the 40-man to make things a little more complete.  Although, if he’s not on the 40-man now, and we’re past the point of the Rule 5 Draft, I don’t see why the Mariners have to go to all the trouble right now.  Seems like they could easily wait until the end of the season (or whenever he earns his way up to the Big Club) to add him to the 40-man.

Anyway, that’s it.  I feel better informed already!

2010 Seattle Mariners: We’re Halfway There!

Actually, we’re a little more than halfway there. At 35-53, we’re 7 games past halfway. But, shit man, this is the All Star Break, and everyone pretty much considers this the halfway point, so suck it math nerds.

35-53. Can’t say there were a lot of us who thought (when the season started) that’s where we’d be right now. In our wildest dreams, we probably imagined that record reversed; but likely we were just hoping for a few games over .500 with no one in particular running away with the division. Well, unless you’re the Seattle Mariners, no one indeed is running away with the division:

Texas: 50-38
Anaheim: 47-44 (4.5 GB)
Oakland: 43-46 (7.5 GB)
Seattle: 35-53 (15 GB)

For good measure, we’re 19 Games Back in the Wild Card race. The only teams in the AL who are worse are Cleveland and Baltimore. The only teams in the NL who are worse are Arizona and Pittsburgh.

Out of 30 teams in MLB, we’re 28th in Batting Average and Home Runs; we’re 29th in RBIs and Hits. With that, let’s get down to the business of dissecting this team.

If I were just shooting from the hip – ignoring anything related to numbers or concrete evidence – I’d say that the offense has woefully underperformed. In other news, ice is DUH. Along with that, the bullpen has downright sucked. Granted, part of that might be affected by the woefully underperforming offense creating unnecessary pressure on the bullpen because it’s unable to pad a lead of any sort. No ‘pen is ever going to be perfect; they’re going to give up hits and runs and dingers over the course of a season. Had this offense generated more big leads, then maybe the ‘pen could afford to give up some runs and not look like the bastard step-child of this team. Still, at some point you’ve got to do your job. Let’s face it, there are a lot of ERA’s over 5 on this team; and most of them are (or were) in our bullpen.

Finally, though, in my thoughtless overview of the team, the starters have been splendid (for the most part). In spite of a defense that hasn’t NEARLY been the world-beaters they were supposed to be coming into the season.

Let’s start with the Offense, as that’s the primary culprit in our ineptitude. Can you name for me the number of hitters who have played for the 2010 Mariners – whether an everyday regular or a guy with just a handful of at-bats – with a Batting Average over .300?

I’ll give you a second.

The answer is 1. Ichiro. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have Ichiro in my life every day. I imagine it’d be a day without oxygen. Here’s the breakdown: .326 BA, .377 OBP, 118 hits, 35 runs, 22 stolen bases, and 17 doubles (which is tied for the team lead … your leadoff hitter is tied for the team lead in doubles). He’s a miracle, plain and simple.

Who’s got the next-highest batting average, you ask? Try Josh Wilson at .265. He started off the season not even good enough to be in the Major Leagues, yet since being called up he’s had 189 at-bats and has the 2nd-highest batting average on the team. Good for him, but seriously that’s pathetic.

For me, the mark of a mediocre hitter is .250. Being mediocre is going 1 for 4 in every game. (for the record, I put the mark of an average hitter at .270, so it’s not like I’m harboring some kind of unrealistic goal for most major leaguers). Do you know how many of our regular players are WORSE than mediocre?

I’ll give you a second.

OK, let’s count ’em out. Jose Lopez (.240), Chone Figgins (.235), Casey Kotchman (.218), Michael Saunders (.216), Milton Bradley (.210), Rob Johnson (.205). That’s 6 out of 10 players who’ve had at least 100 at-bats, WORSE than mediocre. Not counting the likes of Ken Griffey Jr. and our plethora of backup catchers and other AAA also-rans who are no longer with the big club. All of which, mind you, are under the aforementioned threshold.

By the by, Jack Wilson is AT the threshold exactly. Guti is at .256. Mike Sweeney (with 99 at-bats and I wouldn’t be surprised if he never saw 100) is batting .263. With Josh Wilson’s .265, that means 4 guys are OVER .250.

I remember back in the day when I harangued the team for keeping David Bell around, with his perennial .265 average. Now, I’d gladly welcome a team FULL of David Bells!

All right, I’m done bashing the hitters. It’s time to look over the pitchers.

Out of 30 teams in MLB, we’re 9th in ERA and WHIP (Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched), but we’re 24th in saves and 26th in strikeouts.

Our team ERA is 3.89, which is very good. For a team. You figure, if you’re holding your opponent to less than 4 runs per game over the course of a full season, you’re likely to be IN a lot of ballgames. With a chance to WIN (if you have any offense whatsoever, which we don’t).

For an individual, I place an Average ERA at 4.00. Exactly half (9) of all the pitchers who’ve thrown an inning for the 2010 Mariners have ERAs under 4.00. That’s very good. Considering 3 of those guys over 4.00 are gone, you won’t find me complaining too much. Of course, 2 of the guys under 4.00 are gone too; including one very very good man recently traded.

Here’s how we stand with our starters. Felix is awesome, at 2.88 ERA and 131 strikeouts. If we manage to get him 10-12 more wins, he should be Cy Young calibre. Likewise, Jason Vargas is also awesome, at 3.09 ERA and 2nd on the team in Quality Starts with 13 out of 17. Douglas Fister has been an eye-opener with his very own 3.09 ERA (and a lot of hard-luck No Decisions thanks to the ‘pen). Cliff Lee was Fantastic for us and he will be missed (2.34 ERA, 11 Quality Starts out of 13). Had we had all of these guys for an entire season – and a somewhat competent batch of hitters – we’d certainly be running away with this division. Unfortunately, we only had Lee for May & June; we lost out on a month with Fister due to his Dead Arm, and their replacements have been ordinary at best to disasters at worst.

At the moment, we have for the rest of the season Felix, Vargas, Fister, Rowland-Smith (who’s been pretty terrible) and Fill In The Blank. Erik Bedard might come back, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he was inevitably shut down for the season sooner rather than later. David Pauley started a game and was okay. Luke French has dominated in Tacoma and has not in Seattle. And, of course, Ian Snell is no more.

In other words, what’s been the strongest asset to our 2010 team is sure to be much worse going forward. With the crappiness of our 4th & 5th starters, combined with the question: can Vargas & Fister REALLY keep this up over a full season? Fister’s already had issues with dead arm, and they’re talking about limiting Vargas over the 2nd half as this will be his heaviest load to date at the rate he’s going.

And now, the Bullpen. Here’s how it shakes out:

David Aardsma – Closer
Brandon League – 8th Inning Set-Up
Shawn Kelley – DL
Sean White – Crap
Chad Cordero – Crap
Garrett Olson – Left Handed Crap
Brian Sweeney – Long Relief (and surprisingly effective for a 36 year old coming off two seasons in Japan)

By the way, just because I listed “Closer” and “8th Inning Set-Up” next to Aardsma and League doesn’t mean that they aren’t also “Crap”.

There’s nothing more to really say. Aardsma has been much more hittable this year. League has a devastating split-fingered pitch he’s most reluctant to use since he doesn’t want batters to “get used to it.” So, he’s either wild or he’s hittable with his fastball/sinker. Kelley might be our most effective reliever (now that Lowe is gone) but he can’t stay healthy for a full season, so what’s the point? He’s the Mike Sweeney of our bullpen, minus about a decade. Chad Cordero ceased being a Feel-Good Comeback Story when his ERA ballooned to over 6.50 with a fastball in the high-80s. Sean White and Garrett Olson just need to go.

And that’s it. As for defense: our outfield is solid and spectacular. Short Stop has been a strength. 2nd and 3rd base have been underwhelming. Casey Kotchman is the best 1st Baseman alive, but he can’t hit his weight. Catcher is attrocious.

We’re 7 games past the halfway point and doing our damnedest to not lose 100 ballgames. At this point, losing only 99 games would be like winning the World Series. I’m not looking forward to the second half. Felix & Ichiro are the only reasons to care at all. But, even with all the losing and disappointment, you can’t say 2010 hasn’t been interesting