Game 152, Mariners at Tigers

September 18, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 14 Comments 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Justin Verlander, 4:08pm

Sure, the M’s lost the first two games of the series, but they were closer than you/I would’ve thought given the two were started by Joe Saunders and Brandon Maurer. Now, the M’s turn to ‘Kuma, one of the unsung heroes of the club and one of the more valuable pitchers in the AL by fielding-dependent metrics, or even by xFIP. Great, right? Oh yeah – now the M’s get to face Justin Verlander.

I know, I know: this is not vintage Verlander. With his velocity dipping and his slider sliding a bit less, Verlander’s looking at 3.5-4 fWAR this year, down from the 6.8-7 of 2011-12. Still, it’s *Justin Verlander* and he’s still pretty impressive. Iwakuma’s xFIP and ERA are better, but given Verlander’s death-to-lefties arsenal (his change and curve are both plus pitches; he last allowed a wOBA to lefties above .300 in 2008), it’s not like you’d bet all your money on an M’s win here. This is even more true given the bullpen’s struggles of late. Carter Capps looks like he can’t get anyone out at the moment, Yoervis Medina has slipped in the second half, and Oliver Perez looks a bit miffed he didn’t move to a contender in July.

1: Ackley, CF
2: Gutierrez, RF
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Smoak, 1B
6: Saunders, LF
7: Franklin, 2B
8: Blanco, C
9: Triunfel, SS
SP: ‘Kuma

What are all of you looking for in the last week+ of this forgettable season? Is there anything you could see/hear that would alter your opinion on the M’s 2014 standing, or change your mind about whether to bring back Zduriencik and/or Wedge? If so, what is it? If not, have you just tuned out completely, or do you watch because Baseball! and inertia?

Loved this piece by Dave on the A’s. I for one welcome our new divisional overlords, as the A’s have an interesting combination of seeming vulnerability and superior talent and roster construction. I’ve talked from time to time about the A’s ability to extract every drop of value from their players, and the bizarre way that value aligns (Reddick sucks? OK, Donaldson’s turn. Cahill’s gone? OK, McCarthy instantly turns good. McCarthy’s gone? Fine, Bartolo Colon does whatever voodoo trick he’s doing, etc.). This article by Sam Miller focuses solely on their bullpen – the A’s have pieced together a top-shelf ‘pen with spare parts and trade throw-ins. Amazing, right? Except that the A’s have run through something like 50 similar players to find the right seven guys. It’s not like they’re clearly, demonstrably better than the Rangers (or M’s) at finding scrap-heap guys. Part of the equation seems to be that they simply don’t stop acquiring them and distilling these guys down until they have a workable unit. Need a 2B? Ok, Jemile Weeks Scott Sizemore Grant Green Eric Sogard/Alberto Callaspo. They don’t stop trying different people, because they have almost nothing tied up in any player. I’d say the stakes are lower, but they’re the team in the playoffs and the M’s are the team doing…this. It’s an odd combination of platooning, relentless churn, sequencing, and savvy deployment of resources. Some of that (especially platooning) is something the M’s can learn from. Some of it seems serendipitous, and some of it doesn’t seem like it would quite apply (the M’s aren’t simply going to DFA Dustin Ackley when he starts off slow, any more than they’d ditch Carter Capps and promote…I don’t know, Brian Moran). But, like the A’s of 2000-2001, they certainly make you think.

Mariners End Disappointing First Half

July 12, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 8 Comments 
MARINERS (40-52) ΔMs ANGELS (44-46) EDGE
HITTING (wOBA*) 4.0 (11th) 13.0 56.3 (3rd) Angels
FIELDING (RBBIP) -16.7 (23rd) -2.5 -7.6 (19th) Angels
ROTATION (xRA) 5.6 (13th) -3.5 -31.0 (27th) Mariners
BULLPEN (xRA) 2.2 (14th) -3.4 -9.0 (26th) Mariners
OVERALL (RAA) -5.0 (12th) 3.5 8.6 (11th) ANGELS

The final series before the All-Star Break begins today and despite actually being about 57-58% through the season, it’s considered the mid season mark. The record is a disappointment for sure but a lot of the underlying factors are trending positive.

For the first time in a long while, the offense ranks as above average. Sure, a lot of that is Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales, but Smoak, Seager, Franklin and Miller are producing and after a stint in Tacoma, perhaps Ackley will get back on track as well.

That the Mariners’ -5 overall run mark ranks 12th shows a bit how the teams are slightly lopsided this season, tilted toward some legit powerhouses like Detroit, Boston, St. Louis and, somehow, Pittsburgh.

I’m out and about again this weekend so this is yet another abbreviated commentary preview. Here are some bullet points.┬áThis series I’m feeling:

Most optimistic about┬áKyle Seager. There’s nothing to pick out as a problem.

Most pessimistic about Nick Franklin. Franklin’s one walk and 19 strikeouts in the past two weeks is a blaring klaxon PTSD’ing me to Ackley.

Mariner I’m most looking for to not being a Mariner is Raul Ibanez. At this point, it’s actually about the potential return in a trade than anything else, but I’m also not sure who takes his playing time in the outfield. Which is itself a horrible and predictable result of this winter’s terrible roster planning.

Rainier I’m most looking forward to being a Mariner is no longer Erasmo Ramirez so, I don’t know, Brian Moran?

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Mariners and Angels Battle for Third

June 17, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 7 Comments 
MARINERS (31-39) ΔMs ANGELS (30-39) EDGE
HITTING (wOBA*) -8.2 (17th) 4.7 32.1 (5th) Angels
FIELDING (RBBIP) -10.2 (22nd) -4.9 -21.0 (25th) Mariners
ROTATION (xRA) 21.5 (5th) 3.3 -28.4 (28th) Mariners
BULLPEN (xRA) 3.3 (11th) -0.8 -6.0 (28th) Mariners
OVERALL (RAA) 6.4 (14th) 2.2 -23.3 (19th) MARINERS

I’m traveling this week so today’s series preview comes with very abbreviated commentary. Just the facts, ma’am, as some old person might have said on some old TV program.

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Huzzah, More Baseball as Mariners Travel to Anaheim

May 21, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 7 Comments 
MARINERS (20-25) ΔMs ANGELS (17-27) EDGE
HITTING (wOBA*) -5.6 (19th) 1.4 4.4 (14th) Angels
FIELDING (RBBIP) 2.3 (16th) -5.6 -17.1 (27th) Mariners
ROTATION (xRA) 11.0 (7th) -2.6 -24.4 (29th) Mariners
BULLPEN (xRA) 5.6 (8th) 1.2 -7.5 (28th) Mariners
OVERALL (RAA) 13.3 (14th) -5.7 -44.5 (27th) MARINERS

Heartbreaking. It’s the word easily at hand for such a series as the one the Mariners just experienced. It’s hyperbolic, of course. Nobody’s heart was literally broken, I hope. Figuratively? I don’t know. Those weren’t the results that most of us were daring to think of after the Mariners seemed on the verge of .500 and had just reached second place in the division.

One thing I wonder is how it might feel to be an Indians fan right now and gone through that series. Have the Mariners had such a series go in their way? They must have, at some point, but if so it’s faded from my memory. This will fade too. Baseball is a long haul and in a sport where they say that failing 7 times out of 10 is a success, at the end of the year there aren’t a whole lot of people celebrating. So go find your light where you can. I’m sad the Mariners were swept. But I’m sad because I cared, so that’s something.

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State of the AL West, March 2012

March 28, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 1 Comment 

The season kicks off tonight/tomorrow morning with an AL West battle. Sure, it’s not the AL West battle most baseball fans are interested in, but it’s a divisional game nonetheless. The experts are split on the particulars, but everyone’s got the Angels and Rangers very close together at the top, and the Athletics and M’s very close together 15 wins or so back. Let’s take a quick look at the division as the curtain rises on the 2012 season – we’ll look at each team’s projections, their top prospects, and what could go wrong/right in this campaign.

(Note: The composite runs scored/runs against and wins are simple averages of PECOTA, CAIRO and Davenport projections. You could certainly quibble with the inclusion/exclusion of one or many of these, but I had them at hand.)

Los Angeles Angels:
Composite RS: 721
Composite RA: 657
Composite Wins: 88

The Angels rode strong pitching to a surprisingly good 2011 season, as Dan Haren and Jered Weaver both notched top-five seasons by FIP in the American League. Their run production was mediocre, as the disastrous acquisition of Vernon Wells combined with Mariner-esque production from the catcher spot prevented the Angels from fully taking advantage of their pitching. They looked like a pretty good team with a top-heavy but thin farm system and poor management, but this off-season produced a massive overhaul that, coupled with a lucrative TV deal, puts the Angels on (essentially) even footing with the two-time AL Champion Rangers.
First, the Angels fired the man responsible for the Wells deal (Tony Reagins) and replaced him with Jerry Dipoto. Dipoto flipped hard-throwing but hittable pitcher Tyler Chatwood to Colorado for C Chris Iannetta, who’s nothing special but represents a massive upgrade over 2011 starter Jeff Mathis. To ensure that this move produced tangible results, Dipoto then traded Mathis to Toronto to prevent manager Mike Scioscia from being tempted to use his beloved, hitless wonder. Then, utilizing the new TV revenue, Dipoto acquired the biggest FA hitter AND pitcher on the market, bringing in a 1B named Albert Pujols along with the Rangers top starter in 2011, CJ Wilson.
The addition of Wilson makes their top three starters the envy of baseball, as only the Phillies and Rays (and possibly the Giants) can boast similarly talented troikas. THis is reflected in their composite runs-allowed which is easily the best in the division. There’s still some question marks on the offensive side, though adding Pujols helps answer many of them. Wells was atrocious last year and Torii Hunter will turn 37 this season. Mark Trumbo, the surprise of 2011, no longer has a position (he’s playing a lot of 3B, where he may share time with Alberto Callaspo). Erick Aybar had a great year, but he’s been wildly inconsistent, following a 3.8-win 2009 with a 1.4-win 2010. Overall, they figure to improve on last year’s runs scored, and they project as an average to above-average defensive group.
Last year, I mentioned that Peter Bourjos’ was something of an enigma at the plate, and could turn into an elite, Franklin-Gutierrez-in-2009 level hitter, or add a bit of value as a disappointing Franklin-Gutierrez-in-2010 hitter. Unfortunately for M’s fans, Bourjos had a fantastic 2011, and is poised for the career we all thought Guti would have back in March of 2010. Bourjos is a phenomenal defender and he projects as a bit above an average hitter. Factor in the positional adjustment, and that makes Bourjos a 4-6 win player. The Angels also have one of the best prospects in all of baseball in CF Mike Trout. Trout struggled a bit in his call-up to the Angels last year, though the Angels cannily gave him several starts against an awww-F#%@-it Mariners team; he made his MLB debut against Seattle and then featured in a late-season series at Safeco where he was able to feast on Anthony Vasquez pitching. Trout’s the classic five-tool player and while he’ll begin the year in the minors, he could rack up several WAR spelling all three Angels OFs over the course of the year.
After Trout, however, things get a bit muddled. The Angels 2nd best prospect, Jean Segura, missed most of 2011 with hamstring issues. He’s a solid 2B/SS with contact skills and surprising pop, but the 22-year old hasn’t played above the High A California League (brief fill-in stint in AAA notwithstanding). Scouts seem to love his potential – and he ended up in the middle of BA’s top 100 prospect list – but there are a lot of question marks there. To be fair, the same could be said of the M’s Nick Franklin, who lost much of 2011 to a head injury and mononucleosis. Behind Segura, the Angels have starting pitcher Garrett Richards, a hard-throwing righty who made his debut in 2011, and then made his debut on the DL shortly thereafter. Presumed 5th starter Jerome Williams has battled injuries this spring, so Richards could end up starting the year in the Angels rotation, but his projections are pretty bad for 2012.
If everything goes right, this is an elite team – a 95-100 win behemoth that will go toe to toe with the Rangers and Yankees for the AL crown. The rotation’s top-heavy, but solid production from Williams/Richards/Ervin Santana would give them a league-leading runs-allowed, and if the Angels get some growth from Bourjos and Trout along with continued contributions from Trumbo and Hunter, the offense could score quite a bit more than they did last season. Vernon Wells could bounce back, and the bullpen could be better as the Angels allocate high-leverage innings away from Fernando Rodney and towards Jordan Walden. The Rangers get quite a bit of (deserved) credit for building an organization the “right” way, while the Angels have been harder to get a handle on – they swing from dumping Mike Napoli for one of the worst contracts in baseball to drafting and developing Bourjos and Trout.
If things go wrong, the back of the rotation will become an anchor, and a moribund Vernon Wells could become a distraction. Mark Trumbo could struggle at 3B and Iannetta’s hit tool could mean he’s not quite as big of an upgrade over Mathis as many thought. If any of the starting pitchers goes down, the team could suffer. The starters (and back-ups at certain positions) are neck and neck with the Rangers; it’s really only depth that separate the two teams. With Dipoto at the helm – and their revenue – this is an elite team, and one that can compete with Texas in every facet of the game except for the farm system. Damn it.
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April 6, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

First pitch is a little over four hours away, and regardless of the fact that we’re generally construed as overly negative stick-in-the-muds, I’m fired up for the 2004 baseball season, and will be rooting like mad for the Mariners. While I’ve gone on record as predicting an 86 win, 3rd place finish for this current roster, everyone realizes how much things can change from opening day, and unforeseen outcomes occur all the time. So, without further ado, here is my top ten list of things that could sway the division in any direction, with the lone exception of Texas winning the division.

Dave’s List Of Really Important Things That Could Affect The Outcome Of The Division

1. One of Oakland’s Big Three could fail to throw 200 innings. I’m completely unimpressed with Mark Redman and Rich Harden as anything more than end-of-rotation starters, and if Hudson, Mulder, or Zito come up lame, the A’s suddenly look weak. Their offense is okay, but not good, and the bullpen is solid (side note: Arthur Rhodes will have more saves and a lower ERA than Eddie Guardado this year, and everyone who thinks Arthur can’t handle pressure is insane), but this team lives and dies with their rotation. They need 600+ innings from the Big Three, and if they don’t get it, they won’t win the West.

2. Anaheim is infused with a storm of young talent not seen at one time in a generation. While we discuss the weaknesses of their offense and their need for another pitcher, they have three legitimate impact prospects scheduled to start the year in the upper levels of the minor leagues, poised to make a Miguel Cabrera-like impact on the second half of the year. No other team in the division has Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, Ervin Santana, and, to a lesser degree, Alberto Callaspo knocking on the door. The Angels young talent gives them the lead in scary-good potential. In my mind, this is the only team in the division that could win 100 games. It probably won’t happen, but…

3. Rafael Soriano gets inserted into the starting rotation before the end of April, starts 30 games, and is the Mariners best pitcher by the summer. Replacing a very-likely-to-suck Ryan Franklin with a dominating Soriano in the rotation could mean as many as five wins in the standings, and drastically change the outlook of the club. If Franklin experiences the disaster of a season I’m expecting, and Soriano continues to pitch like he’s trying to lock up a hall of fame birth by age 25, then this is a real possibility.

4. The legs of Edgar Martinez finally give out, causing him to spend at least half the season on the shelf. This would absolutely cripple the M’s, as they have no one in the organization capable of resembling even a competent DH, and the front office has shown no ability to evaluate offensive ability. The M’s simply cannot afford to lose Edgar’s bat for any length of time, because the dropoff between Edgar and his replacement is vast enough to consume the western world.

5. The Angels outfield defense is so godawful that their pitching staff turns into a disaster zone. Jose Guillen and Vladimir Guerrero have great arms, and Garrett Anderson has more range than most corner outfielders, but there isn’t a center fielder in the bunch, and fly balls will find large alleys of uncovered space. Depending on how bad it gets, we could see Darin Erstad back in center field by June.

6. Billy Beane makes another ridiculously lopsided trade, robbing someone blind and replacing the giant sucking hole they currently call second base. Jon Adkins for Ray Durham, anyone? Never underestimate Beane’s ability to steal talent away from unsuspecting GM’s.

7. The talk of Ichiro becoming more patient isn’t really talk, and he becomes a Rickey Henderson-style tornado at the top of the order. Ichiro with a .400+ OBP and his ridiculous stolen base rates from the 2001 season would instantly become one of the most valuable players in the American League, and be a huge boost to an offense that desperately needs one.

8. Bobby Crosby falls flat on his face, becoming just the next in the long line of hyped shortstops who struggles through a rough rookie season. His translated numbers from last year aren’t that spectacular, and those expecting a .280/.360/.450 line from him are going to be disappointed. If he goes through an Alex Gonzalez (either one, really) type development, the A’s are going to have a terrible time finding a way to replace the offense that Miguel Tejada took to Baltimore.

9. Troy Glaus is healthy for the entire season and makes Vladimir Guerrero the Angels’ second best hitter. When he’s 100 percent, Glaus is as near a dominant hitter as there is in the American League, and he’s going into his free agent season. I have this feeling that he’s going to take the Carlos Delgado leap from good player with big time power to dominant, offensive wrecking ball.

10. The Mariners, in a desperate bid to stem the negative publicity of yet another trade deadline debacle, pry Carlos Beltran from the hands of the fading Kansas City Royals, install him in center field, and watch the team rise from mediocrity to a legitimate force behind their new franchise player. The Mariners need Beltran, have the resources to acquire him while fitting him into the budget, and he will likely be available when the Royals are unable to repeat their miraculous 2003 season. Beltran is the impact player that would put the M’s over the top and change the tide of the division. If he ends up in Safeco Field for August and September, and disaster has not struck at some other position, there will be a better than nil chance that I’ll be flying back to Seattle in October to witness the World Series parade.

None of these things can be considered likely or even probable, but all are certainly within the realm of reason, and could have tremendous impact on the 2004 season. As it stands now, I don’t like our chances, but it never turns out how it stands on opening day.