Free Agent Watch: Mariners Sign Bonderman, Ibanez

Jeremy Bonderman.  I literally ALWAYS remember him being shitty.  Even in his prime, if you can call it a “prime”, you’re talking about a guy who was never any fucking good (his best season still saw him with an ERA over 4).  Now, he’s old (30, okay, so SOMEWHAT old), he’s coming off of two years where he didn’t play in the Majors thanks to Tommy John surgery, and what?  We’re supposed to believe he’s figured everything out?

Look, I’m not upset or anything.  It is a minor league deal, after all.  It’s just, as a fan, there’s always the concern that the manager will fall in love with a player’s intangibles and ignore the fact that they are finished as a baseball player.  I remember a final go-around for Dennis Martinez in 1997.  He somehow won a starting job out of Spring Training and had nine of the very worst starts I’ve ever seen before being released.  Nobody needs to see that again!

On the flipside, Jackie Z has been on fire lately when it comes to reclamation projects.  Wilhelmsen, Delabar, Oliver Perez.  If Bonderman turns out to be a cheap and effective starter for this team, we could be looking at a special season.  Wouldn’t get my hopes up, though.

Raul Ibanez.  Part 3.  As of the moment I’m writing this paragraph, I only know the particulars from the local media:  1 year Major League deal worth a shade under $3 million, with a chance for it to be worth as much as $4 million with incentives.  I haven’t yet read the blogs, so unfortunately I don’t know how I should feel about this move.

My gut reaction:  What’s The Big Fucking Deal, Bitch?

Again, it’s like the Jason Bay signing.  We come into this thing with no high hopes whatsoever.  It’s a one year deal, so it’s not like we’re forced to become attached to the guy.  If he stinks, he’s gone.  But, to make like he doesn’t deserve to be here, that’s just lunacy.

Who on this Mariners team has earned ANYTHING?  Felix, Jaso, and Seager.  That’s it.  Everything else is fucking up for grabs.  If Ibanez proves in Spring Training that he has something left in the tank, I would rather he be on the team helping us win at the Major League level.  Instead of throwing The Kids out there in some never-ending attempt at some hypothetical future filled with winning seasons and world championships.

This move doesn’t block anyone, because there’s no one to block (for the love of God, don’t say Casper Wells, because he hasn’t proven to be worth two shits), and this shouldn’t stop the team from going out and signing another outfielder if the price is right.

Now, I pause to read the blogs.  Be back in a moment.

OK, yes, his defense.  It’s terrible … but what are you gonna do?  Our best-case scenario with this signing is he plays 1-2 times per week.  Our worst-case scenario is that everyone else who plays where he could possibly play all fall off the cliff and he’s forced into a more regular role of 5 days per week.  At that point, the season is already lost anyway, so what are we lamenting?

I guess I might have more of an opinion on this signing when the team is finished making moves.  If this is the end of the moves, then you better fucking believe I’ll have some words for them.

The Major Moves Of Jack Zduriencik

On October 22, 2008, Jack Zduriencik was hired by the Seattle Mariners to be their General Manager.  Here are the major player personnel moves the Mariners have made in that time.

For the 2009 Season:

12/3/2008 – Signed Russell Branyan to 1-year contract
12/10/2008 – Traded J.J. Putz, Jeremy Reed, Sean Green, and others for Jason Vargas, Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp and others.
1/20/2009 – Traded for David Aardsma
1/29/2009 – Signed Mike Sweeney to 1-year contract
2/18/2009 – Signed Ken Griffey Jr. to 1-year contract
7/29/2009 – Traded for Jack Wilson & Ian Snell

For the 2010 Season:

11/11/2009 – Re-Signed Ken Griffey Jr. to 1-year contract
12/8/2009 – Signed Chone Figgins to 4-year contract
12/16/2009 – Traded for Cliff Lee
12/18/2009 – Traded Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley
12/23/2009 – Traded Brandon Morrow for Brandon League
1/7/2010 – Traded for Casey Kotchman
1/21/2010 – Re-Signed Felix Hernandez to 5-year extension
1/29/2010 – Signed Eric Byrnes to 1-year contract
2/6/2010 – Re-Signed Erik Bedard to 1-year contract
2/12/2010 – Re-Signed Mike Sweeney to 1-year contract
6/27/2010 – Traded for Russell Branyan
7/9/2010 – Traded Cliff Lee & Mark Lowe for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan & others

For the 2011 Season:

12/2/2010 – Re-Signed Erik Bedard to 1-year contract
12/10/2010 – Signed Jack Cust to 1-year contract
12/12/2010 – Traded for Brendan Ryan
1/3/2011 – Signed Miguel Olivo to 2-year contract
1/10/2011 – Signed Adam Kennedy to 1-year contract
7/30/2011 – Traded Doug Fister for Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, & others
7/31/2011 – Traded Erik Bedard & others for Trayvon Robinson & others

For the 2012 Season:

11/27/2011 – Traded Josh Lueke for John Jaso
12/8/2011 – Claimed Lucas Luetge in Rule 5 Draft
12/21/2011 – Signed Munenori Kawasaki to 1-year contract
12/30/2011 – Signed George Sherrill to 1-year contract
1/5/2012 – Signed Hisashi Iwakuma to 1-year contract
1/18/2012 – Signed Oliver Perez to 1-year contract
1/23/2012 – Traded Michael Pineda & Jose Campos for Jesus Montero & Hector Noesi
1/24/2012 – Signed Kevin Millwood to 1-year contract
7/31/2012 – Traded Steve Delabar for Eric Thames.  Traded Brandon League for others

For the 2013 Season:

11/2/2012 – Re-Signed Hisashi Iwakuma to 2-3-year contract
11/3/2012 – Re-Signed Oliver Perez to a 1-year contract

These by no means comprise ALL of the moves, but if I tried to list ALL the moves I’d be here all fucking month.  These are the guys who, more or less, made some kind of an impact on the major league ballclub.  I left out anything related to the draft, because it’s not draft season and that’s not really the point of this post.

What has Jackie Z done to improve the Major League ballclub?

You can see on the timeline where it all went awry.  Just about all of his major moves before the 2009 season were solid gold!  And, of course, what happened in 2009?  The Mariners ended up with 85 wins and somehow found themselves contending to the last month (or so).  It was only natural to think, given a few tweaks here and there, the 2010 season could be pure magic.

So, what did Jackie Z do?  He brought out the whuppin’ stick.  Within a 10-day period, we had our first MAJOR major signing of the Jack Zduriencik era:  Chone Figgins, 4 years.  No one at the time thought that was a stupid idea.  Piggybacking on that, in the aforementioned 10-day period, we brought in Cliff Lee to have one of the better 1-2 punches of all baseball starting rotations; and THEN we traded the dead weight of Carlos Silva for a possible reclamation project in Milton Bradley!  Hell, a bag of turds would’ve been better than Carlos Silva, so either way, there’s no losing THAT deal, right?  To top off his offseson, Jackie Z traded for League (to bolster the back-end of our bullpen), Kotchman (to give us some defense and decent pop at first base), and re-signed Felix to a 5-year extension.

I mean, my GOD, if Jackie Z wanted me to suck his dick after that string of moves, I gladly would’ve closed my eyes and opened my mouth.  THIS is exactly what we’ve been missing out of our baseball GM all these years!  He was doing it, he was really doing it!  There could be no downside to these moves!

Except, Figgins turned to crap.  Kotchman continued being crap.  Bradley continued being crap.  Griffey fell off the map.  Cliff Lee was hurt for the first month of the season.  League was nothing special (and Morrow still might be for someone else).  Byrnes was a fucking disgrace to the game of baseball.  We eventually had to bring back Branyan in a mid-season trade (and even THAT couldn’t prevent our offense from being the worst in the modern era).  And, since we weren’t contending, there was no point in holding onto Cliff Lee; we traded him for what looks like utter shit and disappointment.

Every move for that 2010 season (save re-signing Felix) COMPLETELY backfired.  And yet, at the time, every move was completely defensible!  The only thing you could possibly argue is:  the Mariners didn’t go far ENOUGH.  Of course, that’s the story of this franchise (see:  1996-2003).

After that, the organization put a total and complete halt on trying to contend whatsoever.  Going into 2011, the Mariners signed two veterans at the minimum (Cust & Kennedy), traded for a defense-only shortstop (Ryan), and their only major signing was Olivo on a 2-year deal with an option for a 3rd (that has since been denied, because Olivo).  That was it!  Four guys!  One of which was released before season’s end!

2012 was no picnic either.  Three more veterans at the minimum (Millwood, Sherrill, Perez), a backup shortstop (Kawasaki) who was somehow worse at the plate than Ryan, a Japanese pitcher coming off a major shoulder injury (Iwakuma), a Rule 5 reliever (Luetge), a backup catcher who somehow turned into the cream of the crop (Jaso), and another backup catcher in trade (Montero) who will hopefully be a future designated hitter for years to come.

It’s been two straight years of sifting through a muddy river of shit hoping to find a few tiny flecks of gold.

Now, with enough money off the books, and with the fanbase completely up in arms over all the losing, the Mariners are ready to spend money and hopefully try to compete once again.

Which got me to thinking.  Well, this blog post by Geoff Baker got me to thinking.  The money quote:

Towards the end of the call, I asked Zduriencik about the Chone Figgins experience and whether it caused any hesitation for him going forward when it comes to this winter’s crop of free agents — especially when it comes to inking longer-term deals of more than three years. I wasn’t doing it to rub his face in the Figgins mess — which no one really could have seen imploding as badly as it did — but rather to gauge whether this current administration is prepared to go longer than three years on any deal this winter.

The two biggest free agent acquisitions of the Jack Zduriencik era (not counting Felix, since he was already under contract) before this offseason’s Iwakuma deal have been Chone Figgins (4 years, $36 million) and Miguel Olivo (2 years, $7 million).  That’s IT!  The rest of his moves have either been in trade or of the bottom-feeding veteran minimum variety.

Obviously, this has been by design.  The organization wanted to rid itself of burdensome contracts.  The organization wanted to let some of the young kids play, to see if a “youth movement” could jumpstart things.  But, also, the organization was patently unwilling to increase payroll for the types of free agents that were becoming available the last two offseasons.  Let’s call a spade a spade here; the Seattle Mariners were pushing the Reset Button on this whole thing and starting over from scratch.  I don’t mean that literally, of course; it’s not like they could just waive everyone they didn’t like and bring up all new guys.  But, essentially, the Reset Button is what they did.

Up until now, I would say that the Figgins contract had little to do with the Mariners’ overall plan (except, obviously, they needed to fill their third base position with a rookie).  I don’t think being gunshy about Figgins’ 4-year deal prevented the Mariners from signing other guys to long-term contracts.  I think it was all the reasons I stated above.  That having been said, though, if the Mariners don’t sign someone to a long-term contract THIS off-season … then I’d have to say the Figgins deal is weighing on them.

It would only be natural, after all.  I mean, who WOULDN’T be gunshy?!  From the day Jackie Z took this job, give me the names of the free agents who have worked out beyond even a decent first season?  Yeah, the answer you’re looking for is ZERO.  Hisashi Iwakuma would be the first, if he comes back in 2013 and does well (which is no guarantee, let me tell you).

So, yeah, they SHOULD be apprehensive!  They SHOULD do as much due diligence as humanly possible on this offseason’s free agent crop.  Because it’s fucking NASTY out there!  You’ve got lemons and land mines all OVER the place!

Seattle Mariners 2012 Postmortem, Part 2 (Pitchers)

See Part 1 HERE.

Some interesting similarities between 2011’s starters and 2012’s.  Obviously, the two constants were Felix and Vargas.  For no discernible reason whatsoever, both were remarkably better in 2012.  Felix’s ERA dropped from 3.47 to 3.06; Vargas’ ERA dropped from 4.25 to 3.85.  This is reflected in their records, as they combined for 3 more wins and 7 fewer losses.

As chance would have it, both will likely return for 2013.  Can we expect continued improvement?  Will there be regression?

Obviously, Felix is smack dab in the middle of his prime, so I would expect any worsening of his ERA to be completely random (or due to injury, knock on wood).  As for Vargas, I think he’s going to be a crapshoot for the rest of his career.  A dependable crapshoot, but a crapshoot nonetheless.  I do wonder, though, what he’ll look like without the security blanket of Safeco.

Vargas Home/Road splits in 2012:

  • Home:  98.2 IP, 2.74 ERA, .592 OPS against, 9 home runs allowed in 14 games
  • Road:  118.2 IP, 4.78 ERA, .809 OPS against, 26 home runs allowed in 19 games

Look, not for nothing, but if you were planning out your pitching rotation, and you had a guy like Vargas – with such EXTREME home/road splits – wouldn’t you try to do the math and figure out a way to maximize his home starts?  Just something to consider.

I’m told by people smarter than myself that giving up a shit-ton of home runs is kind of random, so that’s likely to improve next season.  Nevertheless, you’re talking about a flyball pitcher who is considerably worse on the road.  He gets knocked around!  He’s likely going to leave Seattle after next season and he’s likely going to struggle for the rest of his career (except for the few times he comes to Safeco to pitch against the Mariners, that is).

It’s pointless to complain about Vargas (besides, I’m not complaining anyway); just know that we’re stuck with him.  Of course, there’s talk of trying to extend him on a 2-3 year deal for a reasonable amount of money.  I wouldn’t be against it.  Granted, he’s not the sexiest thing in baseball cleats, but about half the time he gets the job done, and he eats up a lot of innings.  You know EXACTLY what you’re going to get from Vargas, so in that sense, it’s nice to have something you can rely on.

Plus, you know, it’s not like we’re asking Vargas to be anything more than he is.  After all, we DO have a number 1 pitcher.  And he just so happens to be the best, most fearsome pitcher in all of baseball.

It’s funny, because I can clearly remember when Randy Johnson was a player on the Seattle Mariners.  I can close my eyes and picture him with the hat and the jersey and the mullet, staring down the batter from behind his glove, going into his wind up, burying a slider in the dirt on a right-handed batter for another strikeout.  It’s all there in my memory bank.

What’s not there is the feeling I had watching him as an M’s fan.  That confidence, that swagger, knowing that we’d be in for an amazing show every time he took the mound.  Knowing that other teams feared facing him above all others.  Knowing the best left-handed batters in the game would actively boycott his starts.  It’s hard.  Even though I knew Randy was one of the best in the game, it’s hard to be over-confident when your team has never really won anything ever.

I do know the fear, though.  Of opposing pitchers.  Coming in here and absolutely DESTROYING the Mariners.  If I had to pick a pitcher in his prime who I feared above all others, it’s hands down Pedro Martinez when he was with Boston.  Good LORD!  Remember, we had some out-of-this-world offenses back in the day.  And he would come here and we’d be lucky to get AH run, let alone many runs required to beat a Pedro-backed Red Sox team.  In fact, every time he started against us, I’d wonder, “Is this the time he no-hits us?”

The numbers bear this out, by the way.  In 14 career games (seriously, it felt like 144), the M’s only hit .177 against him.  That’s the second-best batting average against of any team he ever faced.

Anyway, this isn’t a post about Pedro, but I just want you to keep him in mind.  Because every time Felix faces, oh I dunno, the Rays or the Twins (who have batted .188 and .191 respectively against Felix in his career), they look at Felix the way I looked at Pedro.  With fear and awe and frustration and sometimes murderous rage.

Felix is great.  He’s AMAZING!  I don’t care what anyone else says, he’s hands down the best pitcher in baseball.  If I’m lucky enough to see Felix stick with the Mariners through his entire career, I will die a happy man.  And in 2012, Felix got his first Perfect Game.  Remember that?  Remember all the warm fuzzies on that Wednesday afternoon back in August?  That event single-handedly made my 2012.  Considering we’re talking about a team that was going nowhere, at least I got SOMETHING to enjoy.  Something to look back on with extreme fondness.

Anyway, that’s Felix and Vargas.  That’s 40% of your 2012 starting rotation and 40% of your 2013 starting rotation.

You thought you were finished with Blake Beavan after 2011?  You thought, “Oh, he’s a long relief bullpen guy at best!  No way he cracks the rotation AGAIN!”

Well, you thought wrong, my friends.  Because not only was he back in the 2012 rotation, he made 11 more starts than in 2011!  And he gave us EXACTLY the same type of production.

Blake Beavan is who he is and that’s all he’s going to be, it appears.  A guy with an ERA in the 4.50-range.  A guy who strikes out approximately 4 batters per 9 innings pitched.  A guy who is always in or near the strike zone.  A guy who pitches to contact.  And a guy who doesn’t get enough groundball outs to be an effective pitcher in the American League.

You want the typical Beavan start?  Here it is:  6 IP, 3 ER, 7 hits, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 1 HR, 101 pitches.  You want to see that 26 times in a season?  Be my guest.

Most M’s fans hope we’ve seen the last of Beavan in the rotation.  As it stands, three of the five spots are currently locked up in Felix, Vargas, and Iwakuma.  Many believe Erasmo is one solid & steady Spring Training away from locking down that 4th starter job.  Which just leaves ol’ number 5.  Without question, the Mariners are going to bring in a free agent or two to compete for that 5th spot.  Likewise, guys like Hultzen will get a crack (and even if he doesn’t win it outright, he’ll be heavily considered for a May or June call-up, if he dominates AAA as he should).

Have we seen the last of Beavan?  I’m going to say yes, because I’m tired of straddling this fence all the time.

Speaking of Iwakuma (was I?  speaking of him?), he’s back!  On a 2 or 3 year deal, depending on how well he does in those first two seasons.  This is most-excellent.  Iwakuma was a definite gem when he was allowed to start last season.  As a starter, over 16 games, he had an 8-4 record with a 2.65 ERA.  In 14 relief appearances to start the season, he had a 1-1 record with a 4.75 ERA.

First, it should be mentioned that Iwakuma had all of five appearances in the months of April and May.  For reasons that haven’t been fully explained, Iwakuma was buried in the bullpen and only allowed to pitch in the most controlled (or emergency) circumstances.  Either he wasn’t ready to pitch in the Majors, or the team didn’t believe in his stuff.  Either way, when thrust into a starter’s role, Iwakuma rewarded the team with a bevy of dominant performances.

Second, it should be mentioned that the primary reason Iwakuma got to start at all was because Hector Noesi is a thing.

There have been some extremely shitty starting pitchers for the Mariners over the years.  Scott Sanders comes immediately to mind; don’t ask me why.  Sterling Hitchcock was a real sore thumb.  I recall Paul Spoljaric getting some starts early on.  Ken Cloude, of course.  Good ol’ Mac Suzuki …

Anyway, without hyperbole, Hector Noesi completely out-shits them all!

The only reason he didn’t have the highest ERA on the team is because George Sherrill had a 27 ERA after two appearances before being lost for the season to injury.  Noesi was a complete and total waste, in every sense of the word.  And the frustrating thing?  Unlike those other stiffs I listed above, Noesi actually has STUFF!  He’s got a live fastball with lots of movement, he’s got some sick breaking stuff … I mean, if he could harness his own power, he could be a Top 20 pitcher in this league.

But, it’s absolutely a fact that he doesn’t have the mental capacity to succeed.  I mean, just look at his numbers in various counts.

I’m going to split this up.  I’ll give you Noesi’s numbers, and I’ll give you Felix’s numbers.  The guy Noesi was in 2012 vs. the guy Noesi should aspire to be.

  • BA against in an 0-0 count:  Noesi – .300, Felix – .403
  • BA against in an 0-1 count:  Noesi – .244, Felix – .310
  • BA against in an 0-2 count:  Noesi – .319, Felix – .101

I could go on and on, but you probably get the idea.  If you don’t hit Felix early in the count, odds are you’re not hitting him at all.  When Felix gets ahead of you in the count, you’re fucking doomed!  When Noesi gets ahead of you in the count, just sit on something in the middle of the plate, because THAT’S where he’s going to throw it!

And it’s not like the media didn’t make a huge deal about it during the first couple months of the season.  It was a nasty little trend that never went away.  It’s also not like the coaches didn’t harp on it in public and private, ad nauseam!  Noesi just, for whatever reason, couldn’t adjust his game.  Which leads me to believe he’s not ready mentally.  Which makes me question whether he ever will be.

I don’t think we have to worry about Noesi in 2013; he’s firmly in the Tacoma Rainiers camp.  That doesn’t mean we won’t have some other huge embarrassing failure clogging up our 2013 rotation; it just means it won’t be the SAME huge embarrassing failure.

Finally, to finish off this little spiel on 2012 starters, we had Kevin Millwood.  Somehow, we got a full season out of the guy, which is a shock considering he was always coming up with some minor malady or another.

I’m not going to kick the guy as he’s being shown the door – obvs, he won’t be back for 2013 – but he wasn’t great.  He wasn’t as bad as I thought going into the season either, though, so that’s something I guess.  I’m not overly upset that we were forced to watch him nearly every fifth day.  And, he gave me probably my second-favorite memory of the 2012 season:  the 6-pitcher no-hitter.

Hell, if it weren’t for his decomposing body, he probably would’ve stayed IN that game and eventually given up a hit!

So, good on you, Millwood.  You made it through another season.  Happy trails and I wish you good fortune in your future endeavors.

***

The bullpen was a definite bright spot, especially once we cleared out all the trash.

For as shitty as the Mariners have been over the past decade, they’ve still been blessed with some solid closing performances.  Tom Wilhelmsen kept the streak alive in 2012.

I don’t have a lot to say about the guy, except that he’s great.  Atomic fastball, crazy-sick curve ball, and he’s working on a change up.  He’s either going to be a bigtime trade chip this offseason, or he’s going to be a lockdown closer for us in 2013.  Either way, I’ll take it.

Other than the Bartender’s bossness, the major bullpen storyline was Brandon League totally falling apart, losing his closer’s job, then getting traded to the Dodgers for a couple guys who will probably never see the light of day in a Mariners uniform.

Just to beat this dead horse one more time:  we drafted Brandon Morrow over Tim Lincecum (obvious step down in talent, 2012 season notwithstanding).  THEN, we traded Morrow for League and another guy.  The other guy continues to struggle for us in the minors.  THEN, we traded League for two more guys who will struggle in the minors.  In short, we passed over Tim Lincecum and drafted NOBODY in the first round that season.  Thanks Bavasi.  Thanks Jackie Z.

League went on to play in 28 games for the Dodgers.  He had an ERA of 2.30, with 6 saves and a serious uptick in K’s per 9 innings (8.9, vs. the mid-6 area for the Mariners).  League was rewarded with a fairly massive 3-year extension (with a vesting option for a 4th, if he meets a quota of appearances) that could be worth, all told, upwards of $28.5 million over said 4 years.

For the record, I don’t think there’s any way that fourth year sees the light of day.  Enjoy your inconsistent ball of aggravation, Dodgers!

The Mariners also traded Steve Delabar in 2012, which brought us Eric Thames, so I’d say that’s a win.  Thames wasn’t superb, but he had his moments.  Delabar was just another fireballer who wasn’t in the long-term plans either way.

Lucas Luetge, however, IS very much in our long-term plans!  He was a Rule 5 guy we picked up and made our lefty specialist.  And what a lefty specialist he was!  It’s not often that Rule 5 guys stick with a team for a full season; but if they do, it’s likely because they’re bullpen guys.  Luetge wasn’t just buried, though.  He was put in some tough situations and made it through pretty much unscathed.  63 appearances (though, only 40.2 IP), 3.98 ERA, with 38 strikeouts and 24 walks.  Not bad for a guy who was in the minors the year before.

Luetge is a guy we throw in there late in games to mostly get just one guy out.  Furbush, however, is a lefty we throw in there to be dominant late in games.

Furbush was a starter we got in the Doug Fister trade.  He stunk as a starter in 2011, so he was converted into a reliever (or back into a reliever, as I believe he’s had experience in that role before).  Furbush as a reliever in 2012 was lights fucking out, so it’s nice to have him back as well in 2013.

Oliver Perez, as I wrote about a little while ago, was re-signed.  He’s our third left-hander in the bullpen.  He’s got a live fastball and produced at a high level in 2012 (2.12 ERA in 33 games).

To even things out, we’ve got fireballers in the form of Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps.  They combined for 44 games, struck out a ton of guys, and both had ERAs near 4.  2012 was their first season in the Big Leagues (not sure if they played in enough games to qualify as “rookies” or not), so we’ve got that going for us.

Rounding things out, we’ve got Shawn Kelley.  Another big fastball, another productive season.

The bullpen for 2013 looks amazing, I’m not gonna lie.  If we trade no one, here’s what it looks like in list form:

  • Tom Wilhelmsen – Closer
  • Shawn Kelley – Righty
  • Charlie Furbush – Lefty
  • Stephen Pryor – Righty
  • Oliver Perez – Lefty
  • Carter Capps – Righty
  • Lucas Luetge – Lefty Specialist

As I sit here looking at it, I’m wondering who our Long Man is going to be.  I’ve never known a team to have a bullpen of all 1-inning-or-less guys.  Seems to me someone will HAVE to be traded, or left behind in Tacoma.  We’ll see.

Obviously, Wilhelmsen is the proven talent, so he’ll probably be pretty easy to move.  Made even easier since it looks like we have two more closer types (Pryor & Capps) with longer team control.  Those two guys are probably more valuable (due to said team control), so it wouldn’t shock me to see one, or even both, of them go to help bring in a bat.  However, let’s not go crazy and trade all three, huh?  I’d like to try to get Felix over the 15-win mark at SOME point in the near future!

In short, there was a lot to like (or at least not a lot to hate) about the pitching in 2012.  With the young ‘uns in Double-A itching to get their opportunity, we’re an organization rich in pitching.  Obviously, some will be traded to bring in a bat (or bats).  Hold onto your nuts this offseason, it’s going to get mighty interesting.

Mariners Trade League, Delabar For Player & More Players

Well, I guess we won’t have Brandon League to kick around anymore.

I’m on record as having been a fan of League.  I’m also on record as being sick and tired of League.  Right now.  Right now I’m on the record as having said that.  I also think we hosed ourselves on the League for Morrow trade, so there you go.  Brandon Morrow was drafted over Tim Lincecum, then he was traded for Brandon League and minor leaguer Johermyn Chavez, then League was traded to the Dodgers for minor leaguers Logan Bawcom and Leon Landry.  Will these three guys amount to anything?  Chavez is currently hitting .232 in AA with 8 doubles and 4 homers.  Logan Bawcom is a AA closer who projects to being some sort of middle reliever (kind of like what League was, minus his upside that never really materialized).  And Leon Landry is still playing in single-A ball (i.e. he’s a LONG way away).

So, that’s that.  Moving on.

The more exciting of the two trades is the one we just made for Steve Delabar to the Blue Jays for corner outfielder Eric Thames.  #1 – we picked up Steve Delabar for nothing (he was out of baseball, then made a miraculous comeback).  #2 – Thames is ready to play in the Majors right now, having played a spell for the Blue Jays before being sent down to AAA, where he proceeded to kick a whole mess of ass.  And #3 – Thames means we don’t have to watch Carlos Peguero strike out any more (for now).

I look forward to watching Thames compete for an everyday outfield spot alongside Saunders and Wells (and Guti, whenever he gets healthy again).  I look forward to at least ONE of the other prospects (hopefully not the reliever) hitting it big, helping me to believe in Jackie Z wholeheartedly again.  And, I won’t exactly miss what we gave up in League and Delabar.  League has been as frustrating as a pitcher can be with his ability.  And Delabar was on a permanent shuttle between Seattle and Tacoma, back and forth, with excellent whiff rates but terrible home runs allowed … rates.

The rest of today should be interesting …

2012 Seattle Mariners 2-Month Review: April & May

And, you know, I guess March too.

I needed something to write about today.  Today just so happens to be a day on the calendar very close to the end of the month of May.  Ergo, a review of the first third of the season.

Officially, this is going to be kind of cheating because the stats I’m about to throw out will include yesterday’s game against the White Sox, but sue me, because I don’t feel like doing the math involved with eliminating yesterday’s contest.  Besides, I feel like yesterday is a pretty good sample of what the season has been so far for the Seattle Mariners.

I broke up my Season Preview into two parts:  Hitting & Pitching.  I’ll keep this as a single post, but first I’ll look at the hitting and try to refer back to my original work to see where things are going compared to my initial opinion of things.

And I’ll kick things off with Dustin Ackley.  He’s the one guy I was convinced we wouldn’t have to worry about on this team.  And, truth be told, I’m still not worried about him.  Though, let’s be honest, there’s certainly room for improvement.

His .254 batting average is third on the team.  In looking at the second part of that sentence – third on the team – you might think, “All right!  Not bad!”.  But, if you take your frame of reference outside of the Mariners’ Level of Hell we’ve been mired in for the past three seasons, then you’ll know that .254 is NOT an acceptable batting average.

Except for a lull in early April where he was as low as .231, Ackley has been right around his current average all season.  That’s not gonna work for me.  Ideally, he will find a way to improve by about 50 points between now and the end of the season.  Failing that, I would like to see him sit around .275 or so.  With the way he’s able to keep his OBP up, that should put a nice finishing boost on his overall OPS going into next season.  At that point, with a year & change under his belt in the Majors, I think we can expect that Ackley will have figured out all the adjustments he needs to figure out to be a .300 hitter for the bulk of his career.  Outlook:  bright.

Following Ackley, as he has in the batting order for so much of his baseball career since college, let’s look at the most pleasant surprise on this Mariners team:  Kyle Seager.

Seager leads the team in batting average with .283.  Now THAT is where you want to be at this point in your career!  And don’t let the fact that he looks like a male version of Punky Brewster fool you, this guy has a future in Major League Baseball!  He currently leads the team in OPS at .806, which is just … *sniff* … there are no words.  It’s so damn beautiful I could cry!  What?  No, I’m not crying right now!  There’s just something in my eye!

Also, Seager leads the team in RBI with 31.  That puts him in the Top 20 in the AL.  It’s not much, but it’s a start.

I was pretty high on Seager to start the season, putting him in my catagory of Guys We Have Reason To Hope Will Be Good.  That may have been jumping the gun a little bit, but for whatever reason I’ve always liked this guy.  He’s just a pure hitter, plain and simple.  He’ll never lead the league in power numbers, but he’ll be an important piece for this team for a long time.

Next on the list, I’ll discuss Jesus Montero.  This is his first full season in the Majors, so I don’t want to be too hard on the guy, but let’s just say he’s not There yet.  A .251 batting average, a most-unimpressive .294 OBP.  What’s keeping his OPS from being a total disgrace are his power numbers.  He’s second on the team in Homers with 7 and fifth on the team in doubles with 9.

Make no mistake, I’m not down on the guy at all!  He’s still learning how to be a regular catcher (not necessarily an “every-day” catcher because … Olivo), he’s still technically (I believe) a rookie, and there is still a LOT of promise in his bat.  The way he’s able to go the other way with power.  The way he’s occasionally able to rip mistakes down the left field line to keep pitchers honest.  I think he very well COULD be the next Edgar Martinez for this team.  But, Edgar wasn’t Edgar overnight.  I would still look for big things out of this guy in the coming seasons.  Let’s just get through this one healthy and with some semblance of momentum at the end.

Next, let’s take a look at the guy I’m (so far) most proud of on this team.  Justin Smoak.

This guy was getting KILLED in the press earlier this season, and for good reason.  As late as May 9th, Smoak was hitting .173 thanks to a 3 for 30 stretch to open up the month.  From there, over the next 21 games (of which he played in 19), Smoak has raised his average 65 points!  He’s had 6 homers in that stretch (compared to 3 in our first 33 games), 18 RBI (compared to 10 before), and he’s raised his OPS to a somewhat-respectable .688 (compared to a downright Figginsian .493 up until that point).

In short, Smoak has been on a tear.  And you know what I think?  I think this is just who he is gonna be.  He’s going to be a streaky player who is insanely hot for a month, and ice cold for a month.  What he’s got to take better control of is exactly HOW cold he gets.  He can’t be hitting .173 for very long and expect to retain his Major League status.  “Cold” for him needs to be around .225.  And “Hot” for him should start approaching .300 or .325.  It looks like he’s got his shit figured out so far, but I’ve been fooled by Smoak before.

One of the other more pleasant surprises this season (after Seager) has probably been Michael Saunders.  Granted, his .241 batting average isn’t lighting the world on fire.  But, he’s far from the total disaster he’s been the past three seasons in the Majors.  Hell, compare his numbers this year to last and you will see across-the-board improvement.

He played in 58 games last year; this year he has been in 51.  So far, his average is almost 100 points higher.  He has 13 doubles compared to 5 last year; 4 homers compared to 2; 16 RBI compared to 8; and he has already walked more as well as stolen more bases.  Whatever he did to improve his swing in the offseason has CLEARLY worked.

That having been said, what Michael Saunders has been over the first two months isn’t what you would consider to be a “starting calibre” outfielder.  I don’t care how good his defense has been.  But, at least he has shown he’s a bona fide Major League reserve outfielder.  He currently has probably another month or so before Franklin Gutierrez comes back from the DL.  In that month, I would REALLY like to see him make a push to improve that batting average and slugging percentage.  He could make Wedge’s life a lot more difficult if he’s able to make the push from Major League Reserve to Major League Starter.

Finally, I’m just going to run through a few other guys.  Alex Liddi has been nice to see.  He’s done some impressive things.  And I wouldn’t mind seeing more of the guy.  Mike Carp has had a tough go thus far, what with landing on the DL.  He’s sub-Mendoza right now, so he’s going to have to pick that up.  As it is, he’s losing significant playing time to Liddi (who isn’t even a natural outfielder, but the Mariners are trying to shoe-horn him into being one).  Olivo, Figgins, and Ryan have all been fucking disasters and I can’t wait until they’re all out of my life.  And, of course, Ichiro has been Ichiro (except for the fact that his batting average is about 50 points below his career average).  He’s still a starting-calibre guy for us, but he’s clearly at the end of his career.  Maybe one or two more years TOPS.  Here’s to hoping those lame duck seasons are in another city.

***

On the pitching side of things, I don’t have nearly as much to say.  That’s mostly because we’re talking about a group as a whole where most of them won’t even be on the roster next year, if not the year after.  Guys I expect to be gone after 2012 (if not sometime mid-season):  Kevin Millwood, Jason Vargas, Brandon League, Hisashi Iwakuma, George Sherrill, Steve Delabar.

And, when you look at the starters, I would expect to see four new guys behind Felix next season.  I think Beavan is destined for a long relief role (in which he will continue to Beavan his way through until the team finally gives up on him and trades him for scraps).  I think Noesi will be flipped in a trade (either as a throw-in, like he was in the Pineda deal, or for more scraps).  And I think we’re looking at the rise of the kids for 2013 (with probably one veteran signing a la Kevin Millwood, just to cover our asses).

But, I guess this is commentary for another time.  Right now, let’s look at the starters.

Felix has been Felix.  Yeah, he’s had some struggles of late, but he’s still Felix and I still expect him to turn things around.  He’s had some duds against the White Sox, Angels, Indians, and Yankees, but those are all really good teams.  Anyway, it’s June now.  This is traditionally the time where Felix turns on the ol’ Wiggum charm.  Moving on.

Vargas has been Vargas, in that he has – for the most part – been very good the first couple months of the season.  We’ll see if he turns back into a pumpkin as he has the previous two seasons.  His contract with whoever he signs with this offseason kinda depends on it.

Millwood has gone from being the fucking Holocaust in his first 6 starts (posting a 5.88 ERA in the process) to actually being a guy you can be proud of having in your starting rotation the last 4 starts (lowering said ERA to 3.56).  Including a 2-hitter in Colorado!  This gives me real hope that we can actually GET something for him come July 31st.  Fingers crossed this Renaissance continues!

Beavan … ugh.  I have absolutely nothing to say about Beavan.  Turn into Doug Fister already so we can trade you!

And Noesi.  This guy, I hate.  One could argue I haven’t given him a chance to win me over, but I could counter with:  what reason has HE given ME?  I don’t want to look at his pitch location, I don’t want to talk about whether or not he has been “unlucky”.  I want results.  I care about wins and losses and how many runs this guy has given up.  Give me the bottom line or get the FUCK off my team!  He leads the team in homers given up, he hardly strikes anybody out, he has no real command of his pitches so he has no idea where they’re going to end up.  The guy is a joke.  The Mariners have been cursed with guys like Noesi since the mid-90s.  Guys with plus fastballs, guys with lots of movement on their pitches, but for whatever reason, guys who can’t hack it on game day.  I want Noesi gone.  I want him gone yesterday.

As for our bullpen, the main story is obviously Brandon League blowing his way out of the closer’s job.  True, he’s had a rough go, and a rough go at the most inopportune time for him (when he’s about to be a free agent).  Likewise, it’s the most inopportune time for the Mariners as well, because we were looking to trade this guy at the deadline.  There’s still time, but for the time being he’s going to be working his way back to respectability in a set-up role.

As for the others, there’s been a lot to like about Wilhelmsen.  I don’t think he’s our “Closer of the Future” or anything, but his K/9IP rate is off the charts!  Luetge still hasn’t given up a run in 18 appearances (spanning a meager 11.1 innings), so it’s safe to say this Rule 5 guy has been a nice story for this team as our sometimes lefty specialist.  Furbush, after a quick sojourn to Triple A, has bounced back as another lefty arm in the bullpen with flying colors.  Delabar was recently sent down to Tacoma for giving up too many homers (and not getting enough right handers out in spite of the fact that he throws with his right hand), so we might not be seeing him for a while.  Iwakuma has appeared in 5 games even though he’s been on the team since Opening Day.  That says a LOT about what the team thinks about his abilities.  Then again, maybe they’re just saving him up to give him a bigger load in the second half of the season.

***

The Seattle Mariners ended the month of May with a 23-30 record.  We were tied for last in the AL West with the Oakland A’s.  We were 9 games back of Texas.  We were the 7th worst team in all of baseball.

There have been surprises here and there.  For instance, we’re 5-5 against the Rangers and 5-1 against the Tigers!  Of course, we’re also 1-4 against the Indians and got swept in our only series against the Angels, 4-0.  We’ve had a perfect game pitched against us and we’ve had a 7-game losing streak.

However, all that having been said, this team just FEELS better.  Even though as of the end of May in 2011 we were 27-26 and only 1.5 games out of first.  We’re hitting better (perfect game notwithstanding), we’re scoring more runs.  Hell, we put up 21 on the Rangers just a few days ago!

Obviously, this Mariners team isn’t going to contend for shit.  But, it’s not TOTALLY impossible for the Mariners in 2013 to make some noise.  Gets me all hard just thinking about it.

The Mariners Had One Of Their Best Pitching Nights Ever Last Night

While overall it may suck to be a Mariners fan this year, there are still individual games worth watching.  Worth getting excited about.  And worth dwelling upon in morning-after posts.

Invariably, these games almost exclusively involve Felix Hernandez in some way.

I’m visiting family this weekend, which means I get to be around cable television for a few days.  Which means I get to see the Seattle Mariners play baseball for free.  Which means I made it home in time on Friday to watch that 7th inning meltdown of epic proportions.

It also means I made last night’s game Appointment Television.  6pm, I would be parked on the couch in front of our flat screen as the Mariners sought to end their 7-game losing streak against the Minnesota Twins.  Felix Hernandez was taking the hill vs. Some Dumb Skank for the Twins, and boy did this game not disappoint!

I seem to be good luck for this team when I’ve had a few many beers.  A real fan would notice this trend and become a full-blown alcoholic for his team.  Just sayin’.

The night started out as a Very Mariners Kind Of Game.  Five shutout innings for both sides, with the Twins being let off the hook thanks to three double play ground balls.  FINALLY, Some Dumb Skank made one mistake too many and Kyle Seager of all people pounded that mistake back up the middle for a 2-run single.

From there, the bullpen took over.  And in the 7th inning, the Mariners exploded.  Walk by Carp, bunt single by Saunders, walk by Ackley, sac fly by Brendan Ryan (who I’d been killing on Twitter all night, so good job there, I guess).  Then, the big guns took over.  Those big, small, Japanese guns attached to the torso of one Ichiro Suzuki.  He absolutely dismantled a pitch into the right-center gap for a 2-run triple to blow the game wide open (and give guys like me hope that Felix would be allowed to finish the game in the 9th if things kept going his way, which they most certainly would have).  Kyle Seager finished the barrage with a 2-run homer, firmly implanting himself into this lineup every day for the rest of the season.

The Mariners won this game 7-0.  They were rotten for a while, then they were special, and then they cruised to victory.  One man who was NOT rotten was Felix Hernandez.  He was everything I ever could’ve asked for in an Ace and then some.

I’m not gonna lie to you, I went into this game thinking No Hitter.  Truth be told, I go into just about every Felix start thinking No Hitter, but that’s because this has been building up since his Cy Young season of 2010.  Hell, this has been building up since he made his very first start in the late summer of 2005!  I can only describe the feeling as being like having your first-born spend 10 months in the womb … COME OUT OF THERE ALREADY AND PITCH THAT FUCKING NO-NO!!!

The anticipation is killing me, God damn it!  Of course, I’m not blaming Felix or anything, because I have no doubt that it’s going to happen eventually.  I just want to get it out of the way so we can see half a dozen more before his career ends!  And, for crying out loud, I want to see it in a Mariners uniform!

Anyway, I think there was a little extra juice for my no hitter hopes last night because of the Twins (and the fact that they’re so bad AND they’ve already been no-hit this season).  Of course, what you have to realize is, with Felix, when it finally happens, it’s not going to be against the team you expect.  It’ll be someone like the Red Sox or Royals or Rockies.  Some out-of-nowhere kind of situation where he’ll do it and it won’t be ENTIRELY unexpected … just not as expected as it would be against teams like this year’s Twins, last year’s Padres, or any year’s Athletics.

With 9-up and 9-down last night, I finally let myself get a little more excited.  But, that fucking 10th batter knocked a clean single between first and second base and that was that.  No big, suspense-filled evening.  No sitting on the edge of my seat.  All that was left was wondering how the Mariners would blow another gem of a start from their King.

As I described above, that didn’t happen.  The second half of this game was quite enjoyable.  All that remained was seeing if that 1 hit would hold up.

9-up and 9-down over the first three innings.  15-up and 15-down from innings 5-9.  Felix never got the opportunity to finish the game, but he did go 8 innings having given up just the 1 hit, walking 2, and striking out 9.  The 1 hit and 2 walks were all in the 4th inning.  Given the final score, you can see how that scoring threat concluded.  At only 107 pitches, Felix easily could’ve gone out in the final frame and finished what he started, but what would be the point?  I have a feeling if the score was still 2-0, Wedge might have left Felix in (remembering what happened the last time League tried to save a Felix start).  But, who knows?  I’m almost certain Wedge would have left Felix in if our season meant anything more than giving experience to our youthful hitters, but that’s neither here nor there.  Felix came out, and Steve Delabar shut the Twins down in the 9th.

1 hit.  2 walks.  10 strikeouts.  Of the 17 other outs, 11 of them were grounders.  1 was a sacrifice bunt.  5 were fly ball outs.  3 total base runners, all of them in one inning.  I don’t have an extensive history of individual pitching performances (or combo performances with relievers), but I have to believe this was one of the very best we’ve ever seen!  Right up there with the two no-hitters and Felix’s 1-hitter against the Red Sox in 2007 against Dice-K.

History.  It may not be the kind of history that will be remembered forever, it may not be the kind of history we WANTED to see.  But, it’s the kind of history we deserved.  I’m Batman.

Mariners Sweep Tigers, All Is Right With The World For Now

They say about baseball, “Don’t look at the results,” and for the most part I’m inclined to believe ’em.  You can pitch a terrible baseball game, yet come out with a quality start based on luck and amazing defense.  Just as you can win a baseball series while starting guys like Olivo and Figgins more often than not.

But, when you go into another team’s stadium and sweep them in three games, I think you can let yourself be satisfied – if only for a minute – with the fact that your team won (regardless of how you got there or the logic behind some of the managerial moves).

Granted, the Mariners didn’t have to face Verlander or Smyly (who are both better than the three guys we DID face), and we dodged Fister thanks to his injury, but still.  That was a serious Major League lineup we were up against.  And in three games, we out-scored them 21-9.  Hold your opponents to a 3-runs-per-game average and you will win more series than you lose.  Of course, score 7 runs per game and you get the idea.

A lot to like about this series, starting first and foremost with our bullpen.  NINE shutout innings!  Hot damn!  In game one, the offense staked us to a nice lead, but Vargas did everything in his power to give it right back.  He went six, giving up four runs, and left with a 1-run lead.  The bullpen shut them down over three innings, striking out three while scattering two hits and two walks.

In game two, things weren’t nearly as dire.  Felix had a 9-1 lead when he left after 7 innings, but still.  Nice job not letting them back into the game those last two innings (especially considering that Cleveland botch-job from last week).

Game three was the most impressive, because we had Hector Noesi going.  He sucks.  That’s all there is to it.  He’s a long reliever at best in a starter’s role.  For now.  He went five, gave up four, striking out only two, walking one, and giving up five hits (including a 2-run homer in the sixth to seal his fate).  Luckily, we had guys like Furbush, Delabar, Luetge, Wilhelmsen and League there to completely dominate.  Four innings, 3 hits, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts.

Of course, you can’t talk about this sweep without praising the hell out of our offense.  In game one, we jumped out to an early lead and played add-on in the later innings to make the save not-so-difficult.  Game two, same thing.  Early lead & add-on.  And this morning, we jumped all over them once again, then let the lead get away from us, but in the end we got a run in the top of the 7th thanks to a Figgins RBI double and that was enough.

Individual efforts were critical.  Ichiro had six hits this series, including a double.  Montero had five, with 3 RBI.  Alex Liddi of all people got the start in all three games and rewarded the team with two homers among his six hits.  Saunders came through in the clutch in the first couple games.  And Justin Smoak woke up today with a 3-run jack.

This was nice.  We needed this, as Mariners fans.  And, really, the team needed this.  They need to be able to do this from time to time this season to prove to us and to themselves that they’re a team on the rise.  Here’s to kicking Toronto’s shit in this weekend.

The Mariners’ Bullpen Is Not Very Good Right Now

I won’t go so far as to say it sucks quite yet, because I still have hope for some better results.  Some of that hope resides in Tacoma right now, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

  • Game 1 – Tom Wilhelmsen 2 innings of shutout ball; Brandon League 1 inning of shutout ball
  • Game 2 – Shawn Kelley .1 innings, 1 earned run, 1 home run; George Sherrill 0 innings, 1 earned run, 1 home run; Steve Delabar 1.1 innings, 1 earned run, 1 home run
  • Game 3 – Delabar 1.2 innings of shutout ball; Wilhelmsen 1 inning, 1 earned run; League 1 inning of shutout ball
  • Game 4 – Luetge .1 innings of shutout ball; Delabar .1 innings, 1 earned run, 1 home run; Wilhelmsen & League 1 inning of shutout ball each
  • Game 5 – Erasmo Ramirez 3 innings, 1 earned run, 1 home run; Delabar .2 innings of shutout ball; Sherrill 1.1 innings, 3 earned runs, 1 home run
  • Game 6 – Wilhelmsen 1.2 innings of shutout ball
  • Game 7 – Delabar .2 innings, 2 earned runs, 2 home runs; Luetge 1.1 innings of shutout ball; League 1 inning of shutout ball
  • Game 8 – Ramirez 1.1 innings, 1 earned run

At the top of the heap, we have League and Wilhelmsen who have combined for 9.2 innings of relief and 1 earned run.  Not far behind, there’s a goose egg for Luetge in his 1.2 innings of relief.

AND … there’s everyone else.  Kelley only had one game to prove that he “deserved” to be in Tacoma.  Sherrill has had two games and has the same ERA (27.00).  For all intents and purposes, Delabar isn’t that far behind with his 7.71 ERA over five games, considering he’s given up a whopping 4 home runs!  And, in looking at Ramirez, you just have to wonder if he’s ready.  I think in retrospect, it was probably a stupid idea to keep him on the Major League roster out of Spring Training.  Probably should’ve let him get some more confidence in Tacoma before destroying it with this Texas series.  Maybe “destroy” isn’t accurate, but he certainly didn’t do much to help this team in his two appearances except to eat up some innings.

If Delabar still has options, then it is irresponsible to keep him on the Major League roster.  He is getting HAMMERED out there, and it’s not just Texas!  But, even if it was, a reliever with his stuff shouldn’t be getting shelled like he has.  If he absolutely must remain on this team, then he’s the number 1 candidate to take a week or two off if I’ve ever seen one.  Give him the ol’ Jeff Gray treatment and bury him in that bullpen and maybe let Iwakuma get his feet wet.  He certainly can’t be any WORSE.

If it were up to me, I’d bite the bullet right this second.  Replace Delabar with Kelley and replace Ramirez with Furbush.  You can’t go around throwing games away this early in the season if you want to generate even one iota of fan interest.

Thus far, the bullpen has helped in costing us today’s game (Ramirez gave up the fourth Vargas run as well as his own), and the second Japan game.  The bullpen (or at least parts of it) has been monstrously bad in three others whose outcomes they didn’t affect.  It’s time to nip this right now, before things get too out of hand.

And I’ll tell you this for free, if Sherrill keeps getting pounded the way he has, then they better cut his over-the-hill ass asap!  I’m tired of watching his bullshit get turned around for moon-shots!

The Seattle Mariners’ Finalized Roster

Well, this didn’t last long.

With Mike Carp taking a short trip to the DL and Shawn Kelley boasting a 27.00 regular season ERA, things apparently had to shuffle.  In Carp’s place, for the time being, is Chone Figgins.  In Figgins’ place, for the time being, is Kyle Seager.  On the bench, temporarily keeping Carp’s roster spot warm, is Alex Liddi.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Liddi didn’t see one inning of action over the next week while Carp’s on the road to recovery.  You figure Figgins is getting every opportunity in this first month of the season to lock down that leadoff spot in the order.  And, you figure Seager is getting every opportunity to prove that he’s not just a Minor League & Spring Training Dandy.  Figgins, because he’s so expensive, and Seager because he’s potentially our future at some infield spot going forward (if he proves he can hack it).  Then, you gotta figure Kawasaki will have a shot before Liddi based on how he torched in Spring.  The 25th man is a lonely, boring life to lead.  But, that’s what Liddi is going to be for this first full week of the season.

As for Kelley, he’s a victim of the numbers game.  Iwakuma wasn’t going anywhere.  Luetge is a Rule 5 guy, and a left hander.  Delabar is essentially the same pitcher, but I’m guessing he didn’t have any options?  It came down to a 3-man race between Kelley, Furbush, and Erasmo Ramirez.  For the life of me, I can’t fathom why the team chose to keep Ramirez over the other two (considering he’s a starting pitcher and him pitching every 12 days will probably stunt his growth), but that’s what’s happening.  Obviously, these things aren’t set in stone.  People struggle and get sent down (or waived), people get injured, people get traded.  It’s not like this is forever.

So, Furbush and Kelley are in Tacoma.  Life goes on.

What’ll be interesting is when both Guti AND Carp come back.  We all know Liddi is a seat filler, but who’s the other guy?  Conventional wisdom dictates it’ll be either Saunders or Wells.  The question is:  will Wells get a shot?

It sounds like Guti is going to be back sooner than we anticipated.  That’s good news for Guti – and fans of Guti – but it’s not necessarily good news for Casper Wells.  With Figgins getting this one final month to prove he’s still a Major Leaguer, you know he’s going to play early and often.  If Seager hits like he’s capable of hitting, that pushes Figgins to Left Field.  Saunders is the better defensive outfielder, so you’re looking at what?  One game a week for Wells to prove he belongs?  That hardly seems fair (especially when you and I and every other Mariners fan out there knows Figgins is going to suck major dick like he always has in a Mariners uniform).

On the plus side, both Wells and Saunders have options.  So, when the team FINALLY gets sick and tired of Figgins, we can bring back the guy who was sent down.  Fret not, Casper!  You’ll get your chance yet!

And with that, let the Regular Season begin (for real this time)!  Vargas & McCarthy!  Feel the excitement!

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!