TBT: September 20th, 2009

By Blaidd Drwg

I was looking through some old scorecards that I have saved and I came across one from 2009, September 20th to be exact, for a game between the Mariners and Yankees. That season, the Yankees would win 103 games and the World Series and the Mariners would win 85 through shear dumb luck (they had a -52 run differential but happened to go 35-20 in one run games.) It was a stellar pitching matchup between Ian Snell, who seemed to managed to stay in the M’s rotation despite being horrible and Joba Chamberlain, who was a mega-prospect at the time and the Yankees were in the process of trying to turn him into a starter.

The Yankees lineup was an impressive one:
Jeter, Damon, Teixieria, Arod, Matsui, Posada, Cano, Melky Cabrera, Gardner

The Mariners, not so much:
Ichiro, Gutierrez, Lopez, Griffey, Beltre, Hall, Carp, Moore, Jack Wilson

So predictably, the Mariners jumped all over Chamberlain, scoring 7 runs in 2 innings and chasing him out of the game. Somehow Snell managed to limit the Yankees to 1 run in 5 1/3 innings despite 4 hits and 4 walks allowed. The M’s bullpen shut down the Yankees the rest of the way and the final score was 7-1.

Why is this game of note, well, because the pitching line for the Yankees bullpen, specifically Sergio Mitre (who was the only Yankees pitcher to appear after Chamberlain was chased) caught my eye:

IP H R ER BB SO Pitches-Strikes
Mitre 5 1 0 0 1 5 65-43

There was an error on the scorecard which I had Mitre throwing 5 no-hit innings, which is why I was even interested. If you don’t remember Mitre, he was a Cubs and Marlins prospect who never quite put it together in the bigs. Coming into the game on the 20th, Mitre had been the Yankees 5th starter and had a 7.63 ERA and had given up 18 runs in his last 2 starts.

Pitching down 6 runs in this game, Mitre got Ichiro to bounce out, gave up a single to Guti, struck out Lopez, walked Griffey and then ended the inning on a Beltre fielder’s choice in his first inning of work. Nothing spectacular and then he proceeded to do what you expect that Mariners lineup to do the rest of the game – nothing. He put down the next 12 hitters in order. It is how he ended the game that I thought was interesting – the last 4 hitters he faced were strikeouts. So Mitre recorded 13 consecutive outs – the first 9 were on balls in play and the last 4 were strikeouts. Nothing earthshaking or anything that is ever going to appear in a record book, but just one of those little weird things about baseball that I love. I reminded me of this game that I wrote about a few years back.

The Mariners and Their Playoff Chances

By Blaidd Drwg

There are Mariners fans out there who are still entertaining hopes of getting into the playoffs despite a 50 – 59 (as of August 5th) record and being 7 games back from the 2nd wildcard spot. Why not. The AL is very mediocre this year and the 2 teams that currently possess the wild card spots are sporting .533 and .523 winning percentages, so one good win streak puts they M’s into contention.

The problem here is that the Mariners need to pass 7 teams just to reach the 2nd playoff spot and that is no easy feat with 53 games remaining, although it has been done before. Here is how the M’s remaining schedule breaks down:

15 games vs. teams with a record worse than the M’s – 9 vs. Oakland, 3 vs. Boston and 3 vs. Colorado. They really need to come out of those 15 games with a 10-5 record.

13 games vs. Texas – the Rangers are currently 5 games ahead of the M’s in the standings (and 6 ahead in the loss column) and significantly upgraded their starting pitching, so making the assumption that both teams play at the same level for the rest of the season (let’s just say .500 for the sake of argument), the M’s need to go 9-4 just to pass them in the standings.

7 games vs. Chicago – it is surprising that the White Sox are still in this, just 4.5 games back of the 2nd wild card despite being horrible. This is the team that the M’s first need to pass, but once again, despite being just 2.5 games back of the Pale Hose, the M’s are 4 back in the loss column (how have the M’s managed to play that many more games than the other teams in the league?) It would take a 5-2 record in those 7 games to catch the Sox assuming they both play .500 ball the rest of the way.

3 games vs Baltimore – the O’s are 6 games up on the M’s and just 1 game back of the 2nd wild card. They do have a brutal schedule the rest of the way though – 28 of their remaining 55 games are against teams with better records and that doesn’t count the 14 games against teams that are within 2 games of them in the wildcard race. The M’s probably need a sweep here or at least winning the series and then hope that the O’s split most of the games against the teams that are ahead of the M’s in the wild card race. If the O’s go into freefall or go on a tear, it will pretty much end the Mariners season.

6 games vs Houston – the Astros lead the M’s by 10 games in the division and are 2 up on the first wild card spot. The ‘Stros have been tough to figure out so these games don’t help the M’s other than potentially swapping the Angels and Astros as division leader/1st wild card team. A couple of important series, but the M’s would do far more damage to themselves if they come out of those 6 with a losing record than the Astros would.

6 games vs. LA – They are up 8 on the M’s for the first wild card spot. Same as the Astros – the 2 series against the Angels could do more harm than good to the M’s chances, depending on how they play out.

3 games vs. KC – Same as the LA and Houston series, but just 3 games so it wouldn’t be the end of the world for the M’s as long as they don’t get swept. KC is really good, so there is no guarantee there.

The M’s have no games remaining against the following teams ahead of them in the wild card standing: Toronto (currently in the 2nd wild card spot, but a brutal schedule to end the season), Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Detroit. All of those teams are at least 3 games up on the M’s in the standings and at least 4 up in the loss column.

It is a long road for the M’s to even think about making the playoffs and they are going to need a ton of help.

My prediction: the M’s make a brief run in the last 2 weeks of August and then fall apart, finishing somewhere around 78-84 for the season. McClendon will be looking for a new job but Zdrenzick will be safe for another year.

Bye, Bye Bloomquist

By Blaidd Drwg

The Mariners *finally* DFA’ed Lloyd McClendon’s favorite waste of at bats utility player and called up Chris Taylor, who frankly can’t be any worse than Willie and should, in theory, be at least slightly better. Bloomquist posted a 159/194/171 slash line with his usual lack of power, producing a whopping 8 OPS+ and -0.3 WAR is 72 plate appearances. While I appreciate the versatility that a guy like Bloomquist has, he is the worst kind of guy to have on a roster – an all-glove, no-hit veteran that plays multiple positions. For some reasons managers love to find ways to get these guys in the game far more often than they should, probably because most managers were the same way as players.

Now if the M’s would just do something with Mike Zunino…

Time to Hit the Panic Button

By Blaidd Drwg

I had mostly written a post about how it was time for the Mariners to hit the panic button and then the Mariners went and did it in the worst possible way – they went out and traded for Mark Trumbo, which is exactly what the Mariners did not need to do. Granted, the Mariners traded a bunch of spare parts to get Trumbo (contrary what people may say, Gabby Guerrero, Vlad’s Nephew, is probably not going to be anything beyond a 4th OFer in the majors.

David Schoenfield wraps up the Mariners issues really well in this article. Basically, the team doesn’t get on base. The team has spent most of the Zdrienick era near or at the bottom of the AL in OBP which is why this team is consistently near or at the bottom of the AL in runs scored and near or at the bottom of the standings. This is a fundamental flaw in organizational philosophy. How many hitters have the Mariners developed into all-star caliber players under Z? One – Kyle Seager, despite having multiple top 10 picks. Ackley is looking like a 4th OFer, Zunino can’t hit a curve ball and looks like he will struggle to get to .200 every season, Brad Miller is really a league average SS as a hitter, Chris Taylor looks like he is going to be the same, Nick Franklin, who was traded to TB last season is looking like a 4A player and there isn’t much hope on the horizon.

Those who know me know that I wasn’t high on the Mariners coming into 2015 – they didn’t fix their on-base issues in the offseason and they were historically good last season at preventing runs, which meant that regression in that capacity is likely. Any offense that they added was going to be offset by a bigger increase in runs allowed, which is exactly what has happened so far this season.

Back to Trumbo. The guy has power, which puts him in 30 HR territory. That is great, except that the Mariners already hit a ton of home runs. Trumbo has a career .299 OBP which is horrible. He is a terrible defensive OF (although he isn’t bad at 1B, but it seems that the Mariners are convinced that Logan Morrison is the answer there). He probably ends up as a full time DH and occasional 1B, which is probably about right for him. The other thing that Trumbo has going for him is that he hits right handed. The M’s have an incredibly left handed heavy lineup and this will help balance it out. It doesn’t solve the issue of getting on base.

While we are at it, it is past the time where Fernando Rodney is the Mariners closer. Rodney has converted 14 of 17 save opportunities, which makes him look better than he has been. He has managed to compile an ERA of near 7 and in 7 out of his last 9 save opportunities, he has given up at least 1 run. The scary thing is that he has entered every one of those games at the start of the inning with no runners on. I can’t imagine that the Mariners even remotely trust him to come in with runners on at this point, yet McClendon still says Rodney is his closer.

I figured the Mariners were an 80-83 win team this season. I am willing to bet if they finish anywhere below 81 wins, that you will see a new manager and GM for the 2016 season.

Don’t Look Now, But The Mariners Aren’t Terrible

by A.J. Coltrane

Gene Brabender. Just because.
Gene Brabender. Just because.

Every conversation I had about the Mariners this summer seemed to go the same way:

Me: “How about those M’s.. they’re doing ok!”

Them:  “The M’s suck.”

Me:  “No, they’re really about a .500 team. They’re average.”

Them:  “Eh. I’m pretty sure they suck, or they’re going to suck soon.”

Me:  “No, the franchise has finally begun to recover from the damage that Bill Bavasi did.”

Them:  *Shrug*

(You’ll notice it was always me initiating the topic. That shouldn’t be a surprise, since I’m one of the handful of people that pays attention at all to the M’s results.)

In all seriousness though, they’re not bad. They have some good starting pitching, headlined by Felix. They have three position players that could be the base of a solid team in Cano, Seager, and Mike Zunino. The bullpen was excellent overall this year, though I always view the status of the bullpen as “transitory”.

I’ll be interested to see the Vegas line for wins next year. I’d guess it’s going to be somewhere between 78 and 83 wins. 81 wins would be .500.

That sounds about right to me.

M’s at the Trade Deadline

By Blaidd Drwg

Congratulations to the Mariners for pulling of the single most underwhelming trade of today so far in getting a 34 year old replacement level outfielder to add to their collection of replacement level OFers in exchange for a 24 year old replacement level OF and a spare part MILB Pitcher. At least Denorfia hits right handed. This trade does nothing to improve the team other than adding a RH bat to the bench. Of course, I can almost guarantee that McClendon is going to give Denorfia regular playing time instead of platooning him.

Mariners and the Trade Deadline

By Bliadd Drwg

Somehow, the Mariners find themselves in the playoff hunt. Granted, this is more a result of luck than skill, but it is happening so the Mariners need to start thinking about making some sort of a move before the deadline. It won’t be easy because there are only about 8 teams in the majors who are truly out of contention. What the Mariners really need is 2 bats and an arm if they want to have any really serious shot at winning a playoff series. Why two bats and an arm? Well let me tell you.

Pitching – their bullpen has been lights out but bullpens are a fickle thing, especially one that gets used as much as the Mariners have relied on theirs. Hernandez and Iwakuma are a tough 1-2 combination but the rest of the rotation is a mess:

Chris Young is due to turn back into a pumpkin at some point; his numbers are just not sustainable as his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) ERA is 1.74 higher than his actual ERA. He is also sporting a mutantly low BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .219. Let’s put it this way, the MLB average BABIP is .298. For a pitcher who does not strike out that many hitters to have a .219 BABIP means that he is incredibly lucky. At some point those outs will become hits and that will be the end of Chris Young as a viable starter.

Roenis Elias has been figured out by the league. After a decent April, he basically is sporting an ERA pushing 5 since then, and with the diminished offense in the league, that is not acceptable anymore. They will keep trucking him out there, but that is eventually going to have to change.

The #5 starter is a real problem right now. Ramirez is terrible as a stopgap, Maurer showed he can’t handle it, Walker can’t seem to throw strikes, is back in Tacoma and is probably still hurt and Paxton can’t stay healthy enough to pitch more than once a month. Just a reminder why TNSTAAPP. Things are so bad that they ended up using Tom Wilhelmsen to start a game.

You don’t need David Price here, although he would not hurt. You really just need a middle of the rotation guy – just like what the Yankees did when they picked up Brandon McCarthy. You don’t want to go into a 7 game series with the prospect of getting only 2 or 3 starts out of Hernandez/Iwakuma. The M’s won’t win in that scenario.

More after the jump…

Continue reading “Mariners and the Trade Deadline”

A Tough Week on the Waiver Wire

By Blaidd Drwg

It has been a bad couple of weeks for former Mariners. The transaction wire is just full of bad news:

June 25th – Washington National – Designated 1B/3B Greg Dobbs for assignment.

June 21st – LA Angels – Requested waivers on OF Raul Ibanez for the purpose of granting him his unconditional release

June 20th – Arizona Diamondbacks – Designated RHP J.J. Putz for assignment.

Raise your hand if you had any idea that Greg Dobbs was still in the majors. JJ Putz, at age 37, suddenly could not get a MLB hitter out, posting a 6.59 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in just 13 innings. I am pretty sure that someone will sign him once he clears waivers since the D’backs are on the hook for the roughly 7 million they owe him for this season. It wouldn’t be a bad risk to take, especially if he suddenly becomes effective again.

I thought Ibanez, despite the good month and a half he had last year, was done and I was confused why the Angles signed him and expected him to be more than a bench guy. I always had a healthy respect for Raul and Dave Schoenfield wrote a nice tribute to him here. If Raul is really done (and I hope he realizes he is done), he should sign a 1 day contract with the M’s, retire and get to throw out the first pitch sometime before the season ends.

Revisiting Expectations

By Blaidd Drwg

I said in this post that I would revisit the points I made about the Mariners at the end of the month, so that is what I am doing.

The team went 5-9 in the interim, losing 8 in a row and then winning 4 out of 5, so this team is definitely going to be Jekyll and Hyde all season.

My points for review:

1)      These boots are made for walking – Zunino and Miller specifically were my targets and they had combined for 1 walk in 84 plate appearances in the original article. Well, they improved to 3 walks in 159 – 2 for Miller and one for Zunino. It actually should be 2 in 159; the Zunino walk was intentional, when they were playing in Florida, with the pitcher due up next. So Mike Zunino has exactly 0 unintentional walks this season in 74 plate appearances. That is terrible. About the only thing keeping him in the lineup at this point is pitchers continue to throw him pitches near the strike zone and he has turned them into hits. At some point they will figure out the guy can’t hit or lay off a curve ball out of the zone. Miller probably would have played himself back to Tacoma at this point if it weren’t for the fact there is no better option. Nick Franklin can’t play short and Willie Bloomquist can’t hit, so you are stuck with Miller and his 3 for 32 slump, except when you get to see Willie Bloomquist in the lineup, which is much too often these days. The walks have been a team issue – they are 14th in the AL in runs, just 9 ahead of the Astros and last in the league in walks.

2)      Under pressure – Cano won’t be allowed to hit with runners on base. I was wrong; he has only drawn 5 walks in 34 PA with runners on, and has hit a whopping .241 in those situations. Maybe teams will pitch to him as long as he continues to not do anything with guys on.

3)      Round and round – the M’s OF is a mess. It continues to be a mess. Ackley is the best of the bunch with a .256/.298/.372 slash line. Romero/Saunders/Almonte have shown nothing at bat and the fielding has been less than stellar. Time to trade Nick Franklin and an arm for Andre Ethier and his insane contract. He can’t be worse than what the M’s are trucking out there right now.

4)      Hot mess – the M’s rotation. Iwakuma is still a couple weeks from coming back, Walker has been shut down indefinitely, Ramirez and Maurer have pitched their way out of the rotation and even Felix hasn’t looked great in his last few starts. It will probably get worse before it gets better when it comes to starting pitching.

Are we having fun yet? Lets revisit again at the end of May.

Tempering Expectations

By Blaidd Drwg

I am writing this on a Monday and it will be posted on a Friday, so I am issuing the disclaimer that things may change in-between, but this makes my point.

The Mariners spent the first 12ish days of the season in first place. Everyone here was overly excited that they started the season 3-0 and that the team was poised to make a playoff run. Let me put that into perspective for you. Three games is roughly 1.8% of the baseball season. It would be like declaring that your team has turned it around and is making a playoff run approximately 1 quarter into the first game in the NFL season. Sample size people, sample size.

Well, since the Mariners torrid 3-0 start, they have managed to go just 3-5 to drop 1.5 games behind the A’s. Did you realize that the M’s had 4 winning streaks of at least 3 games last season, including an 8 game winning streak. No one got excited over those.

I think that the last 8 games are a better indicator of this team than the first 3, based on my predictions earlier this year, but there are a few very disturbing trends that should start sending out warnings to the management of this team. Yes, we are dealing with sample size issues here, and they shouldn’t start really being a concern until the end of the month, but they are things that an eye should be kept on.

1)      The Mariners aren’t drawing any walks lately – particularly Brad Miller and Mike Zunino. Actually that is a bit of an understatement, because Zunino and Miller have combined for exactly 1 walk in 84 plate appearances. An average hitter will draw a walk in roughly 9% of his plate appearances, which means that these guys should have drawn about 8 walks by now. This is a potentially dangerous stat for the M’s because Zunino already has a reputation for chasing breaking stuff out of the zone. Things will probably change as the sample size increases, but if the walk rates for these guys stay this low, they are going to have to both hit over .300 just to be getting on base at a reasonable rate of around .320. It is a team issue too – the M’s drew 15 walks in their first 3 games and scored 26 runs (there is a significant correlation between walks and scoring runs). In their last 8 games, they have drawn 18 and only scored 19 runs, including being shut out twice. Pitchers tend to make mistakes with runners on base, so with guys not getting on, pitchers have the advantage.

2)      Robinson Cano is not going to be allowed to hit with runners on base unless the bats behind him wake up. Cano has just 4 RBI and 2 extra base hits in 11 games and has been walked intentionally 3 times already this season. It may not seem like a lot, but it is in this small sample size. Justin Smoak lit up spring training and was hot the first 3 games of the season and then his bat fell asleep once pitchers made adjustments. Seager is batting .121, Corey Hart is hitting a wearing his sunglasses at night .188, Logan Morrison is batting .150. Granted those averages will regress to the mean, but how long will it be before Robby gets pissed off that this is happening.

3)      The M’s need to figure out the OF situation. The entire outfield rotation of Romero/Hart/Morrison/Saunders/Almonte has looked lost at the plate and in the field this year (although Ackley is looking better than he has since his rookie season). They need to sort out who should be getting the bulk of the playing time and just stick with them and let them figure it out.

4)      The pitching staff, despite some nice starts, is a mess. Iwakuma and Walker are out longer than anticipated (and I don’t think you will see Walker back before the middle of May). Paxton is on the DL and I am sure they are being cautious with him also. You never know what you are going to get from Ramirez and Elias and the back of the rotation is Chris Young, who hasn’t pitched in 2 years and Blake Bevan, who has never really shown any ability to get MLB hitters out consistently. This is why I have cautioned Mariner fans not to get overly excited about their pitching – they went from it being strength to a weakness in a hurry. Just takes a pulled muscle here and there and you lose 60% of your starters.

Let’s revisit this in a couple of weeks and see if the M’s made any real adjustments to fix the situations described above before they really become issues.