Author: Christian Bond

No Ace, No Problem

No Ace, No Problem

The Seattle Mariners starting pitching rotation isn’t great, and they just lost their ace.

James Paxton has been outstanding for the Mariners this season. Entering Thursday’s start, he was 12-3 with a 2.70 earned run average. He’d pitched 113.1 innings, striking out 132 batters while walking 32. He’d only given up five home runs in 19 starts. He sits high 90’s from the left side and has far and away been the best pitcher in the organization.

Paxton left Thursday’s game with an injury in the top of the seventh inning after throwing 107 pitches. It’s one hell of a blow, considering the team had just taken sole possession of the second wild card spot. The rest of the rotation is made of up guys who would be a team’s fifth starter at best. What are they going to do?

For as old as baseball is, people haven’t learned much about it. Sure, saber-metrics have caught fire over the last decade, but are organization’s truly committed to them?

Nope.

The only reason starting pitchers are used the way they are is because starters used to finish games. In 1910, 62 percent of all starters finished the game. In 2014, there were 114 complete games thrown in the bigs. Just two percent of games are being finished by starters.

Starters are usually more talented than relievers. Would you rather watch Clayton Kershaw pitch an inning, or Blake Parker?

Are you kidding me?

However, starters have higher earned run averages than relievers. From 2003-2014, starters have had a 4.28 ERA, while relievers have a 3.92 ERA. That would change if they were used differently.

There are several starters that have found a second life in the majors as relievers. *Wade Davis had a 4.57 ERA as a starter, he’s got a 1.43 ERA as a reliever. Andrew Miller had a 5.70 ERA as a starter, now it’s a 3.02. As a starter, Zach Britton gave up 4.86 runs per game. As a reliever, he has a 1.72 ERA. You get the point.

Every pitcher is successful the first time through the order. It’s the second and third time through the order that pitchers struggle with. What if the first time through the order, was the only time a pitcher had to face that order?

Injuries would go down, and effectiveness would go up.

Does that make too much sense?

Team’s have batting orders. why not a pitching order?

Felix Hernandez and Paxton for three innings each. Then Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly for a game. Then Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo on the third day. Repeat. The strategy allows team’s use their starters more effectively, and continue to use their bullpens how they do.

Four of those six pitchers have spent time on the disabled list this season. If they were blowing gas for three innings at a time, they might not have even seen the DL.

It’s just a thought.

The Mariners sit in contention for a playoff spot with with a just a bunch of guys for starting pitchers. Realistically, a pitching order makes the most sense for this roster at this time.

Will they do it?

No chance. They’ll get crucified by people in baseball, as well as the media.

Why?

Because starters used to finish games?

That’s dumb. Numbers are numbers and you can never say that they are wrong. There is a way to use pitchers more effectively in baseball. Subscribe to it.

Yep, the Seattle Mariners just lost their ace.

Should it matter?

Not at all.

Will it?

Tremendously.

Baseball is old and numbers matter. The Seattle Mariners have to make sense of them, or they’ll miss the playoffs for the 16th straight year.

That won’t be great.

 

 

 

*Information supplied from “Ahead of the Curve” by Brian Kenny. The book challenges conventional baseball wisdom and makes sense while doing it. If you’re a baseball fan, give it a read. It’ll make you think about the game in ways you wouldn’t have before.

 

Dormant Deadline

Dormant Deadline

It’s what others did at the 2017 trade deadline that may help the Seattle Mariners make the playoffs.

Mariner’s general manager Jerry DiPoto is as active as any in baseball. He trades early and often. In July, he made three fairly minor trades acquiring David Phelps, Marco Gonzales and Erasmo Ramirez. All three moves were made with the team’s future in mind.

The Mariners needed help on the mound and were shopping for starting pitchers. They were linked to Oakland Athletic pitcher Sonny Gray. Gray was acquired by the Yankees for three prospects. Another starter on the market was Yu Darvish. He’s a Dodger now, as the Texas Rangers picked up a trio of prospects for him.

Why are those trades important?

In the final two months of the season, the M’s have 15 games against the Rangers and Athletics. You can assume the Mariners would have faced Darvish or Gray four times within those 15 games.

Every game matters, but those down feel extra important. At 2.5 games not having to face Darvish or Gray may be more important than acquiring one of them.

They Traded Him For Who?

They Traded Him For Who?

It started yesterday, but it got weird today.

The Seattle Mariners traded Tyler O’Neil, their third best prospect, to the St. Louis Cardinals for left handed pitcher Marco Gonzales. Gonzales was slated to be the next big thing in 2014 before he had surgery in 2015 to repair a torn left pectoral muscle. It got worse when he missed 2016 due to Tommy John surgery.

So Jerry DiPoto really just traded the third best prospect in the organization for a broken down pitcher?

What?

Gonzales was a the 19th overall pick in 2013. He attended Gonzaga, and lives in Seattle during the offseason. He’s spent this year in Triple A Memphis. The lefty has made 11 starts, going 6-4 with a 2.90 ERA. He’s struck out 57 batters while allowing 17 walks. Gonzales is controllable through the 2023 season.

It doesn’t get much more DiPoto than this trade. He’s getting what he wants out of a pitcher, a strike thrower that doesn’t walk guys. He’s also controllable for a long, long time.

Mariners fans had hoped that O’Neil was going to be the key piece in a major trade that landed a significant asset to this team. Realistically this team is floating around .500 and is playing for a shot at a wild card. A three month rental, especially with a player who pitches every five games doesn’t make a ton of sense. It’s something Dipoto has made obvious that he believes in.

The trade boils down to two teams needing something. The Mariners have become incredibly deep in the outfield. Jarrod Dyson, Ben Gamel, Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia have combined to prevent the most runs of any outfield in baseball. Gamel, Haniger and Heredia are guys who are controllable through the early 2020’s. There’s not a lot of room for any additional outfielders.

On the mound, the M’s need help. They’ve stitched together a starting rotation that has kept them in the hunt. Marco Gonzales isn’t the big name fans were hoping for, but he’s certainly a big gamble.

O’Neil was the Mariners third best prospect, but it doesn’t mean the Mariners organization is that great. The Mariners added depth to an area they desperately needed it, and took it away from a position where they didn’t. At the time of the trade, O’Neil for Gonzales is simply, weird.

Mariners Deadline Lid-Lifter

Mariners Deadline Lid-Lifter

Finally, let’s talk trades.

The Seattle Mariners finalized a deal to bring David Phelps from the Miami Marlins for four prospects. Those prospects are centerfielder Brayan Hernandez, as well as pitching prospects Brandon Miller, Pablo Lopez, Lucas Schiraldi. Phelps isn’t arbitration eligible until 2018. If all goes well, he’ll be a Mariner through then.

Phelps has spent his career as a starter before being converted to a reliever. In 545 innings pitched, he’s accumulated a 3.90 earned run average, striking out 509 batters while walking just 211. He’ll be a useful asset out of the bullpen.

It’s an interesting move. When used correctly, the Mariners bullpen, is one of the best in baseball. Since the all-star break, the M’s have gone 5-1, with closer Edwin Diaz saving all five wins. It goes back further. Since May 25th, the bullpen’s 2.75 ERA is the best in baseball.

That’ll work.

The starting pitching causes more concern. Everyone knows that injuries have bothered the rotation all season. Yovani Gallardo has been moved to the bullpen. Sam Gaviglio was solid early, but lately hasn’t been great. He’s 0-4 with a 6.65 ERA over his last four outings.

As of today, the team doesn’t have a starter for Monday’s series opener against the Red Sox. Maybe the idea was to add to a strength of the team and make the game shorter for a starting rotation that hasn’t been much better than serviceable.

Regardless, General Manager Jerry DiPoto has lifted the lid on trade deadline moves in the Northwest. The Mariners are one and a half games behind the New York Yankees in the wildcard standings. The two teams start a four game series tonight.

For now, we’ll wait and see how this trade works for the Mariners.

 

Myself as a Mascot

Myself as a Mascot

If you ever have the opportunity to be a mascot, take it.

In the fall, I’ll be a senior at Pacific Lutheran University. I’m an assistant in the sports information office. Work is slow during the summer months. My bosses dangled extra hours above my head. I’m fairly money motivated, so the hours were tempting.

The only way I was going to make that money was by being Lance-A-Lute, the PLU mascot at the Triple A Home Run Derby at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma. I was leaning towards doing it. Once they told me I’d be ‘competing’ in a mascot home run derby, I was all in.

The competition was going to be stiff. Blitz from the Seattle Seahawks was on hand. Cool Bird from the Thunderbirds was there. Rhubarb of the Rainiers was kind enough to host us. These guys were professionals, and I most certainly am not.

Before the derby started, Blitz made a remark on his 704 appearances he was scheduled to make this year. That’s insane. He also looked like he spent as much time in the gym as he had on appearances. Dude was buff.

As I got closer to my debut as a mascot, I continued to remind myself that no one could see who I was. They didn’t even know who I was to begin with. It was going to be fun to pretend to be something I’m not.

Our first assignment of the night was to go ‘shag’ baseballs in the outfield during the first round. The moment we left the locker room in costume, Blitz became Blitz. He walked with bounce, energy and enthusiasm. He clapped his hands, nodded his head and waved at every fan he saw. It was awesome.

I stumbled out of the locker room, adjusting to the goofy shoes I had to wear. It’s tough to see the ground while in the suit, which is a problem. Little kids love mascots. I had no idea they were underneath me at first.

It didn’t get real until a little boy approached me a pen and a baseball. He wanted Lance-A-Lute to sign his baseball.

What?

My mouth got dry as I nervously signed his ball. This kid had no clue who, or even what PLU is. It didn’t matter. He wanted autographs. He got them.

Shagging balls was an interesting experience. Professional baseball players were taking their best cuts while I stood with limited visibility in the possible path of the ball.

One ball was popped sky high. I followed the ball as it went up, but looked away. The ball dropped three inches to the left of me. I turned to some of the kids behind me and threw my hands out at them.

I was a little upset that no one had warned me that I was about to get drilled. Realistically, they probably would have told me heads up if they knew the name of the mascot costume I was in.

For the remainder of the first round, I spent my time getting out of the way of every ball I could. Blitz and Rhubarb were diving all over the field, attempting to make plays. There was no chance I was committing as much as they were.

The mascot home run derby happened just before the finals. It was explained that we would hit tennis balls off a tee from behind the pitchers mound. It was ruled a home run if the ball cleared the dirt on the infield.

Blitz was upset that we weren’t hitting from home plate. He went on to show video of how he hit legitimate homer at Safeco Field during Richard Sherman’s charity softball game.

I beat Blitz.

Blitz led off, trying crush tennis balls. It didn’t go well for him. I went second, taking a more relaxed approach to the plate. I did well and it felt good. I bat flipped after my round, because why not.

By the time our appearance was over, I was walking with a little bit of bounce. I got used to seeing the tops of little kids heads and waving in their direction. I had adjusted to the roll I was playing.

Before Monday night, I was weary of wearing the mascot suit. When Monday was done, I was thankful for the opportunity to do it. Technically, I competed at a Triple A home run derby. It was a fun night.

 

 

Brew Crew Bandwagon

Brew Crew Bandwagon

I think I need something new in my life.

I’ve watched my favorite team, the Seattle Mariners, lose eight consecutive baseball games at home. They’re slipping out of contention of a wild card berth. We all know that’s as good as it’s going to get for them. I love baseball too much to give up on it in the heart of the season. Something new, could be a new team.

Can’t be the same devision.

Probably shouldn’t be in the same league.

I got it.

The Milwaukee Brewers!

They normally aren’t worth watching, but this year is different. The Brew Crew are leading the National League east, and are nine games over .500. Their underdog history helps the Brewers become easy to like.

The majority of the Brewers roster are players you’ve never heard of. Oliver Drake, Carlos Torres, and Jimmy Nelson are as generic of names as MLB The Show gets. Their stars are the same stars they had in 2014. Ryan Braun, kind of a steroid douche, and Matt Garza, definite facial hair douche.

The like-ability factor starts to take place when you dig deeper into the Brewers roster. Eric Thames made headlines early in the season for crushing baseballs. The slugger was returning from a stint in the Korean Baseball Organization. Thames made massive improvements overseas. Back in the bigs, he’s doubled his career high home run total with 23.

He got off to a hot start. He gains were accused of being aided by steroids. The league drug tested him five times in a span of eight weeks. He wasn’t worried about it though.

“If people keep thinking I’m on stuff, I’ll be here every day,” Thames said. “I have a lot of blood and urine.”

Thames made the most of the awkward situation by humor.

There is more humor throughout the Brewers roster. Travis Shaw is another generic name in need of a nickname. He has one, and it’s way better than you thought. Shaw goes by the Mayor of Ding Dong City.

What?

Yes! You bet. Absolutely he does.

Shaw has hit a career-high in homers this season, with 18 and counting.

Those two, and winning have sold me to the Brewers. There is a bonus within the Brewers Organization. It’s Eric Sogard. The second basemen that looks like squints from The Sandlot is on the 40-man roster. Everyones favorite nerd is a Brewer.

Until the Mariners get it figured out, I’m taking my interests towards the midwest. Eric Thames, Travis “The Mayor of Ding Dog City” Shaw, and Eric Sogard make the Brewers fun. Moving forward, I’ll embrace the beer and cheer them on every step of the way.

Rebuild for What?

Rebuild for What?

Time to start over.

The Seattle Mariners are 41-45 with three games left before the all-star break. Currently, they trail the Oakland Athletics, who are 38-47, 7-1 in the top of the sixth. My buddy’s are clambering for the team to rebuild.

The team is on a frustrating run. They haven’t won a home game since June 23rd. They are 17 games out of first place in the west, and four games out of the second wild card spot. With a little less than half of the season left to play, should they already be thinking about next season?

No.

There is no significant player that makes sense to begin the selling process with. The Mariners infield is top-tier. It’s led by Robinson Cano, who has seven years left on his 10-year, 240 million dollar contract. Number 22 will play his final game as a Seattle Mariner.

A similar story can be told for Kyle Seager. He’s got four years left on a seven-year, 100 million dollar contract. His numbers are consistent and he’s been a durable asset for the team throughout his career. He’s finished inside the top 20 of most valuable player voting twice. He isn’t a player you get rid of.

Jean Segura was added to the M’s least offseason. He came to the team as the National League hits leader, checking in with 203 knocks last season. The Mariners felt Sagura would continue to produce, so they added five years to his contract in June. He’s not leaving the Northwest.

In the outfield, there is nothing to get rid of either. Mitch Haniger is a player the organization is incredibly high on. Early in the season, it was easy to understand why. He led rookies in nearly every category before being sidelined with an oblique injury. Haniger won’t become a free agent until 2023. He’s your right fielder of now, and the future.

In the opposite corner, Ben Gamel has been outstanding for the club. Acquired from the New York Yankees, the lefty is leading the league in batting average. Like Haniger, Gamel doesn’t become a free agent until 2023. That’s fine by me. Eventually, Guillermo Heredia will join the group as a part of the full-time outfield.

Mike Zunino continues to be a project for Edgar Martinez and Scott Brosius. Zunino is praised for his defensive ability behind the plate, while his offense finally seems to be getting closer.

Offensively, every other player on the roster is a guy.

The true problems stem from the pitching staff. It starts with Felix Hernendez. The King isnt what he once was, and it’s painfully obvious. He’s another guy with a huge contract attatched to him, that no team will be willing to take on, especially with his ability deminishing.

Hisashi Iwakuma was shut down last week after suffering a setback with his shoulder injry. It’s often forgotten that Iwakuma failed a physical with the Los Angeles Dodgers two years ago. Drew Smyly looked phenominal in the world baseball classic. In June, the M’s realized he need Tommy John Surgery, and will miss anywhere between 12-15 months of aciton.

All three of those guys are worthless in any trade market.

The Mariners staff has been made up of young arms who are holding their own. The bullpen, when used properly, is solid.

We’re midway through the eighth, and the M’s still trail Athletics 7-1. They’ll likely fall to 41-46, with three games remaining before the allstar break. However, the Seattle Mariners don’t need to, and are incabable of rebuilding their roster.

For the Seattle Mariners, it is time to start over.

That starts tomorrow.

 

Sanchez vs. Morrison

Sanchez vs. Morrison

We knew it was coming. At some point, Gary Sanchez was going to have to make a comment about the criticism given by Logan Morrison. Morrison, who has hit 11 more home runs than Sanchez was upset that he isn’t in the home run derby and Sanchez is. What Sanchez had to say was disappointing.

“They gave me an invitation,” Sanchez said. “That’s something I have no control over. It’s not my fault he didn’t get selected.”

That’s it? Really?

Sanchez did his best to wash his hands of the situation, but he didn’t have to. Professional athletes all have egos. The next time Sanchez hits a homer against the Rays, he’ll say something as he rounds first base. Morrison will do the same when he touches home plate after a tater against the Yankees.

Talk about it off the field please.

The National Basketball Association is showcasing how to take advantage of players having problems with each other. Draymond Green and Lebron James have been in a petty shirt war since the Golden State Warriors championship parade. Kevin Durant wore a hat with a cupcake on it to a charity softball event, taking a jab at Oklahoma City Thunder fans who called him a cupcake for leaving the team. That’s entertaining.

Politically, Sanchez did the right thing, but that isn’t the arena he is in. Emotion is cool. People become invested when they feel a certain way. With a chance to draw fans in to pay attention to baseball, Sanchez disappointed.

 

Talk That S***

Talk That S***

Sports thrive on rivalries. In most cases, it’s team verses team. North Carolina verses Duke, Celtics verses Lakers and Red Sox verses Yankees. The Sox and Yanks have the most historic rivalry in baseball. When is the last time baseball had a rivalry that was focused on player verses player? McGwire verses Sosa? Logan Morrison could be igniting the newest Major League Baseball player feud.

We are at the all-star break, and with that comes the home run derby. The league’s best sluggers meet the night before the all-star game to see who can swat the most baseballs over the wall. According to Morrison, one of the league’s best sluggers got robbed.

It’s him.

Morrison has hit 24 dingers this season, good enough to tie him for second most this season. Allstar weekend is held in Miami this year, and the former Marlin, now Tampa Bay Ray believes he deserves to be there, especially when compared to someone who did get the nod.

Gary Sanchez is in the home run derby. He’s hit 13 home runs this season, tying him for the 72nd on the home run list this season. By the numbers, Morrison has a point.

“I remember when I had 14 home runs,” Morrison said. “That was a month and a half ago.”

LOL

To be fair, Sanchez missed a month to a biceps strain. The majority of people will see the home run totals and side with LoMo. Morrison is creating beef between two American League East teams.

If some heat between the squads is generated because of Morrison’s comments, it’s good for baseball. The average fan loves a story they can sink their teeth into and root for either side.

Morrison has been healthy and raking. The argument can be made the if Sanchez didn’t miss a month, he’d have as many homers as anybody in the league. Regardless, rivalries are good for sports. Hopefully Lomo has created something to keep an eye on throughout the second half of the Major League Baseball season.

Former Mariners Turned Random All-Stars

Former Mariners Turned Random All-Stars

It’s hard to say goodbye in most cases. It wasn’t for me in 2015 when the Seattle Mariners finally parted ways with Justin Smoak. Smoak was an extremely average, switch-hitting first basemen in his time as a Mariner. It’s 2017, and Smoak is starting the all-star game for the American League as a Blue Jay. It’s tough to believe.

Average is the kindest way to describe Smoak as a Mariner. He spent 2010 through 2014 in  Seattle. In 2011, he had career highs in runs batted in with 55, and doubles with 24. In 2013, he hit 20 home runs, and hit .238, also career highs as a Mariner. The combined numbers of Adam Lind and Dae Ho Lee, the 2016 M’s platoon, blow him out of the water.

It’s strange. Last season, with Edwin Encarnacion in front of him, Smoak was a .217 hitter, who smacked 14 homers and 10 doubles on the year.  With a chance to play everyday, Smoak is batting .302 with 22 home runs and 12 doubles. He’s responsible for 52 runs the Blue Jays have scored.

Random.

Admittedly, Smoak is worthy of an all-star game appearance.

Something similar happened with another Blue Jay that was a Mariner previously.

Michael Saunders earned an all-star appearance in 2016 with what many thought to be a breakout year. His most significant time on the field came in 2012. A season in which he played 139 games and batted .247 with 19 homers and 31 doubles. The Canadian was incapable of staying healthy throughout his career.

Saunders earned a nod as an all-star in 2016, batting .298 while hitting 25 doubles and 16 home runs. Legitimately, those are all-star numbers. Saunders skidded hard in the second half of the season, finishing with a .253 batting average, 32 doubles and 24 dingers.

By the start of the 2017 season, Saunders signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. By the end of June, Saunders had been designated for assignment. He could be the most random all-star of all time.

Both Smoak and Saunders are former Mariners. Both were not anything special in their time in Seattle. The majority of Mariner fans weren’t upset to see either leave Seattle. The duo had somewhat random all-star nods. Saunders fell off hard. Will Smoak do the same? I mean, if history is a thing, probably.

Both of these guys appeared in an all-star game and it’s just as random now as it will be in the future.