Category: Competition

Mariner Fans, Pray for Pitching

Mariner Fans, Pray for Pitching

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in two weeks. It’s an exciting time of year, no matter what team your root for. Everybody is full of hope and optimism that their team can reach whatever goal they feel fair. Pacific Northwest baseball fans are anxious to see new additions to the Seattle Mariners. In 2017, Mariner’s fans should be praying for pitching.

In 2016, the starting pitching is what caused the Mariners to miss the post season by a two and a half games. The rotation was never healthy. The team was forced to use 13 starting pitchers. The woes started when Felix Hernendez went to the 15-day disabled list. Wade Miley followed suit. Nate Karns hit the shelf in July. Taijuan Walker was sent to Tacoma in August.

The Mariner offense was one of the best in baseball last season. The team hit the third most home runs in the league, swatting 223 balls over the wall. They drove in 735 runs (sixth), and had 768 runners (sixth) cross the plate.

Fans can’t help but fantasize about what could have been with healthy arms. Jerry DiPoto has retooled the pitching staff for 2017. Karns, Miley and most notably, Walker will wear different uniforms this season. He’s added Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo to go along with Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton.

The King was dethroned by injury for the first time in his career in 2016. Hernandez went to the DL on June 1 with a calf injury. He missed a month and a half before returning to the Mariners. The King made 25 starts, posting an 11-8 record. He had a 3.82 earned run average over 153.1 innings. It was his highest ERA since his second full year in the bigs in 2007. He missed throwing 200 innings for the first time since he threw 190 innings in both of his first two seasons as a Mariner.

Fan’s are hopeful for a second coming worthy of praise.

Iwakuma was Seattle’s best starter last season. In 33 starts, Kuma was 16-12 with a 4.12 era. He threw 199 innings, striking out 147 betters while walking 46. Kuma’s ERA jumped .6 points from his last full season in 2014. He gave up  51 more hits in 2016 than he did in 2014.

Signs are showing that Kuma is on the downslope of his career as well. His health was crucial to the M’s being in a playoff race towards the end of 2016. That same consistency is the desired outcome for Iwakuma.

Paxton may have turned the corner in 2016. Between Triple A and the Majors, the Lefty pitched the most innings of his career, throwing 171 frames. Mariner coaches tweaked Paxton’s arm slot, and the results were great. He had a 3.79 ERA, throwing 117 strikeouts while walking 24 batters. The M’s need his fifth season in the bigs to be his best.

Smyly is searching for a second chance in Seattle. The left handed pitcher threw 175.1 innings, giving up a 4.88 ERA while going 7-12 for the Tampa Bay Rays. The guy throws strikes, punching out 552 batters while walking 161 in his big league career.

He’s been labeled as a fly ball pitcher, which should benefit him in spacious Safeco Field. Well, not exactly. Safeco was the best home run producing ball park last season. An average of 2.89 baseballs left the yard as 234 total dingers were hit. If Smyly can keep the ball low, he could be a useful addition to the club.

Gallardo rounds on the opening day starting five for the Mariners. At one point in his career, Gallardo was a Cy Young candidate. Before 2016, Gallardo consisted made more than 30 starts every year since 2009. Last season as an Oriole, he started 23 games, lasting just 118 innings.

Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager have been mainstays in the Mariner offense the past two seasons. The team added the National League hits leader in Jean Segura over the offseason. They also added speed in Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger. The only questions fans should have is starting pitching.

So God, please help King Felix return to form. Help Iwakuma maintain the the level he’s pitched at. Please let Paxton continue to improve and perform all season long. Help Smyly keep the ball low in the zone, and let Gallardo have a bounce back season.

In Your name I pray, amen.

 

Selfish Seahawks

Selfish Seahawks

The 2016 Seattle Seahawks are proving me does exist in team.

Here we sit with the final week of the National Football League’s regular season upon us. The Seattle Seahawks are the NFC West Champions. The Seattle Seahawks have clinched a spot in the playoffs. The Seattle Seahawks have a chance to be the number two seed in the NFC. But that isn’t what people are talking about.

The past month has been littered with individuals creating divide. In week 13, the Hawks waylaid  the Panthers 40-7. The win came at a price, as safety Earl Thomas broke his leg when he collided with teammate Kam Chancellor. While the game was going on, Thomas was moved to tweet during the game.

“This game has been so good to me no regrets,” Thomas wrote. “A lot is running through my mind including retirement thanks for all the prayers.”

In what should have been a boring week, Thomas turned the attention to himself. There is no reason the 27-year-old should retire. No surgery was needed to repair his leg. He’s made five pro bowls in seven years. Thomas has a couple good, productive years left in his body. All the tweet did was take attention away from the team and transfer it to Earl Thomas.

After a disappointing loss in Green Bay, the Seahawks returned home to face the Rams. The Rams headed to Seattle with an interim head coach on a short week. The Hawks were expected to roll and they did. Seattle beat Los Angeles 24-3 on Thursday Night Football. It should have been another boring week for northwest football fans.

Richard Sherman served as the pot-stirrer on this occasion. With 4:03 left in the third quarter, the Seahawks attempted a pass from the one yard line. Russell Wilson targeted Jimmy Graham, but the play nearly resulted in a interception. Richard Sherman exploded on the sideline, becoming visibly upset head coach Pete Carroll.

“I’m upset about us throwing from the 1,” Sherman said.”I was letting [Carroll] know. We’ve already seen how that goes.”

Sherman pathetically poked at old wounds. The cornerback was referring to the interception thrown by Wilson at the one yard line in Super Bowl 48. Sherman chose to disregard the play made by Malcolm Butler, and shift it towards his own teammates and coaches.

The play call made total sense. Sherman shifted the attention on himself with unnecessary and unprofessional behavior during and after a blowout win.

Last weekend, the Seahawks hosted the Arizona Cardinals. The two teams tied in Arizona in October. The Cardinals came into Seattle and beat the home team 34-31. The loss moved the Seahawks from the number two seed and a first round bye in the NFC playoffs, to the four seed. It was a terrible loss at this point in the season. On top of all that, wide receiver Tyler Lockett broke his leg catching a touchdown pass.

In steps Earl Thomas to make the save tweeting this after the game.

“I’ll def be back next year..”

Oh. Suddenly, nobody was talking about the loss the Hawks had suffered earlier in the day.   It’s tiresome to watch athletes put themselves over the team. Pete Carroll allows his players to be themselves, and this is the backlash from it.

It could be a masterfully crafted attempt to build personal brands. It could be a pair of aging players trying to stay relevant. Regardless both players are taking attention away from on-field activity and placing it on themselves. There is no I in team, but the Seattle Seahawks are proving there is a me.

 

 

 

 

DiPoto Guys Wanted

DiPoto Guys Wanted

Sound the alarm, the Mariners have made the their first move nearing the trade deadline. Jerry DiPoto struck a deal that sent Mike Montgomery and Jordan Pries to the Cubs in exchange for Dan Vogelbach and Paul Blackburn. Montgomery being traded could be an indication of the players who could be on the move before the trade deadline.

The Mariners have picked up a first baseman and a relief pitcher. Vogelbach is a large, large man. The 23-year-old stands at six feet tall, and weighs 250 pounds, with 78 pound forearms. Vogelbach’s numbers are as impressive as his stature. The left-handed hitting first basemen is hitting .318 with 18 doubles, 18 home runs and 64 runs batted in in triple A Iowa. Scouts say Vogelbach is ready to contribute to the big league club right now. It will be interesting to see how soon that happens.

The M’s also picked up a reliever. Blackburn has pitched 102.1 innings in double A, giving up a 3.17 earned run average. The righty can get the punch out, accumulating 72 k’s to his 26 walks. If that doesn’t scream “DiPoto guy” I’m not sure what does.

The Mariners gave up a do-it-all pitcher in Mike Montgomery. Montgomery was 3-4 with a 2.34 ERA with 54 strike outs and 18 walks. Montgomery had been solid for the Mariners and will be an asset for the Cubs. Pries was pitching well in triple A Tacoma. Pries had recorded a 3.65 era in 24.2 innings pitched.

The trade makes sense for the Mariners. The M’s had a surplus in left-handed pitchers in James Paxton, Wade Miley, Wade LeBlanc and Montgomery. Of the four lefty’s Montgomery had performed the best. The Cubs may have only been listening to deals involving Montgomery, but there could be more to it.

DiPoto retooled the roster over the offseason. When the M’s hit the field in spring training, 31 of the 60 players in camp where new to the organization. Montgomery was a player who was brought in by the old regime, and isn’t a Dipoto guy. From a performance standpoint, it makes more sense to give up both Miley and LeBlanc, but both of those players were brought in by DiPoto.

DiPoto has traded Mark Trumbo away from team’s he’s ran twice. Trumbo is the league leader for home runs in 2016. If you ain’t a DiPoto guy, you’re gone.

The return sees a left-handed hitting first basemen come to the ball club. Adam Lind becomes a free agent at the end of 2016. Apart, from his 15 home runs, two being walk-off’s, Lind’s .231 batting average hasn’t been stellar. This move could have been made for 2017. Lind could also be another piece that’s moved before the trade deadline.

Montgomery has pitched well all season long. Numbers show he’s been better than all other left-handed starting pitchers the Mariners have. The Cubs may have only been listening to offers involving Montgomery. History also shows that you have to fit the mold the Mariners General Manager wants. If you don’t, you may need a real estate agent soon.

Bullpen Blowup

Bullpen Blowup

Wade Miley pitched well enough to pick up a win for the Mariners last night. The M’s would eventually fall 6-1 to the White Sox. The bullpen pitched well, until an explosion in the ninth inning.

Miley pitched 6.1 inning allowing three earned runs, with six hits and four strikeouts. Tom Wilhelmsen came in and pitched 0.2 of an inning keeping the sox scoreless. Edwin Diaz was remarkable, getting all three outs in the eighth by strikeout. The game was in reach entering the ninth inning with the score at 3-1.

Joaquin Beniot hasn’t been sharp all season long, and he continued that trend Tuesday night. Despite striking out two, Beniot gave up a two run homer, pushing the score to 5-1. Beniot left the game with a runner on first when David Rollins took over. Rollins gave up an RBI double, and the run was charged to Beniot.

A comeback was feasible entering the ninth inning with the game at 3-1. Beniot and Rollins put the game out of reach. The M’s look to rebound This afternoon when Felix Hernandez makes his return to the mound. The team can not afford another bullpen blowup.

Walk-Off Dingle Bingle

Walk-Off Dingle Bingle

I was irritated. I was frustrated. After watching the Mariners play the their worst game of the year on Sunday, the M’s were being shut out on Monday night. Chris Sale had done Chris Sale things against the M’s, pitching eight innings of one hit ball, with six strike outs. When I was ready to move on, the Mariners pulled me back in.

“It’s really easy to give up, say, ‘Ah this isn’t our night,’ and move on,” manager Scott Servais said. “And we don’t do that. This club doesn’t do that.”

Through 53 of the 54 outs of Monday’s White Sox vs. Mariners game, nothing was fun for M’s fans. The Mariners trailed 3-0 when the Sox brought in closer David Robertson. With two runners on and two out, Kyle Seager drove in a run to cut the lead to two. Adam Lind came to the plate in a pinch hit spot, and for the second time this season, Lind hit a walk-off three run home run when the team needed it the most.

It was an incredible piece of hitting by Lind. The pitch was practically in Lind’s armpits, but Lind was able to get the barrel of his bat to the ball, and drive it over the wall. I could hardly believe it.

Lost in the excitement of the walk-off dingle bingle, is Wade LeBlanc’s performance on the mound. LeBlanc turned in a quality start, going seven innings, striking out six, while giving up three earned runs. LeBlanc scattered nine hits throughout those seven innings, and did well in preventing the damage that could have been. The Sox went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position, and left seven runners on base.

The Mariner’s came from behind to win in dramatic fashion. Lind helped the Mariners walk off the Cardinals on June 24. The team went 7-3 in their next ten games including that night. The team needs this type of run to solidify themselves as a playoff contender, and to make moves for now at the trade deadline.

After 53 of the 54 outs of last nights game, I was ready to move on. Servais was right, its easy to give up. I’m not ready to move on, because the Mariners have pulled me back in.

Buy or Sell… Try Now or Later

Buy or Sell… Try Now or Later

With a couple weeks left in July, the sports world is focused on the Major League Baseball trade deadline. At this point in the 162 game season, teams determine whether they are in a playoff race, or if they are completely out of it. The labels teams are given are buyers, or sellers. Buyers are acquiring valuable assets from losing teams. Sellers are trading assets for prospects. Personally, I can’t buy into the terms buy or sell.

There are returns on both sides of any trade. Throughout history, we have seen trades where the seller gets a better return than the team that bought. In 2008, the Mariners bought Erik Bedard for Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and three other minor league players. Bedard had an earned run average that was just over three in 2007 and finished in the top five in cy young voting. In Seattle, Bedard never piched more than 83 innings in two short seasons. Adam Jones has blossomed into an all-star outfielder, batting .277 on his career while hitting double-digit home runs in all but one of his nine years of Baltimore. Chris Tillman was the Mariners minor league pitcher of the year in 07, before turning into an all-star with the Orioles.

In this example, the Mariner’s bought, but lost everything. The Orioles sold, and it could be one of the greatest trades in their franchises history with what they got in return. Connotatively, buy and sell promotes the idea that the team that is buying will always win the trade.

Teams are facing the decision to play for right now, or for the future. Similar to a draft, you can’t truly tell how a trade will affect a franchise until two or three years after the fact. The only way of knowing is if the instant gratification of a championship is won by the team playing for now.

If your team is selling this trade deadline, it isn’t a reason to be down on the franchise. Those getting rid of valuable assets, may be doing what is best long term. The MLB trade deadline is usually the most exciting of the four major sports in the United States. I’m not buying into buyers and sellers. I am excited to see who will be wearing a different uniform in August.

All-star Importance, Lack-Luster Presentation

All-star Importance, Lack-Luster Presentation

The Minnesota Twins secured home field advantage in the World Series last night. A pair of Kansas City Royals each drove in two runs, giving the American League the win in the Major League Baseball All-star game. The problem with the all-star game is not that the winning league receives home field advantage in the World Series, it’s the presentation.

The MLB All-star game has consequences even though it is an exhibition. The National Football League and National Basketball Association all-star games are hardly worth watching. No part of the game resembles and actual contest between the best players from each league. Robinson Cano got one at bat in last nights all-star game. Cano worked a full count, eventually drawing a walk. That approach and effort was no different from any regular season game.

The image of the all-star game has yet to evolve with the significance of the game. During the regular season, players talk to each other while they are on  the field. However players may cover their mouth with their glove, or cameras cut away from the conversation. During an all-star game broadcast, the on field banter between players is glorified, making it feel less intense than a regular season game. If players weren’t mic’d up, or the playful nature wasn’t glorified, this game would feel like any other.

The pageantry that comes with an all-star game is to be expected. The players in the game are the best in the world at what they do. Events such as fan fest, as well as the red carpet do not take away from the game being played. Moving forward, the hoopla should take place the night before during the home run derby.

The Twins are 32-56, 20 games back in their division, and 17.5 games back of the second wild card spot. If the Twins can turn their season around, game one of the World Series will be in Minnesota. Opposed to popular opinion, I have no problem with the all-star game deciding where game one of the World Series takes place. However, the presentation of the event should match the magnitude of the outcome.