Category: National league

Pitchers Not Pitches

To die hard fans, the beauty in baseball is that games take time. Average fans attending a Tuesday night game, may not have all night to watch a game. Commissioner Rob Manfred has used Minor League Baseball as a test lab to find out what would work in the Majors. Those changes in the Minor Leagues are having a minor effect on the intended goal.  

Six rule changes were implemented to the Arizona Fall league in 2014 to speed up the pace of play. The year prior, The average game with 77 plate appearances took 2:52 minutes. With new rules in place, the average game lasted 2:39 minutes. A whopping 13 minutes was shaved off. Worth it.

Fast forward to late 2016, when MLB voted one of those six rules to be adopted at the Major League level. The rule removed pitchers from physically throwing four balls in an intentional walks. In the 2016 season, there were 932 intentional walks. Amongst all games for all teams, that averages out to intentional walk every other game. Throwing four wide ones during an intentional walk takes one minute. That’s it.

In 1990, there were 1,384 intentional base on balls. That’s 452 less free passes on purpose than in 2016. There were 26 teams in 1990, four less than there are now. With fewer intentional walks happening every year, the timing of this rule change is odd. It’s change for change’s sake.

It’s not the pitching that’s holding up games, but the pitching changes. In 2016, the average team used 3.2 relief pitchers per game. That’s six pitching changes per game, counting both teams. With the 2:30 second limit to complete a pitching change, that’s nearly 15 minutes worth of empty time wasted. Add the 13 fewer minutes from 2014 AFL games, and a half an hour could be removed from baseball games. Now we’re talking.

Commissioner Manfred will never be able to limit the amount of pitchers team’s use in a game. The new intentional walk rule won’t do what it’s intended for. If baseball needs to move faster, the amount of pitchers needs to be limited, not pitches.

Struggling Storen Gets New Home

Struggling Storen Gets New Home

The Mariners had a reliever get ten years younger Tuesday night. Not really, but theoretically they did. Jerry DiPoto was at it again with his favorite transaction, the trade. The M’s found the fountain of youth by trading Joaquin Benoit  for Drew Storen. Both relievers have pitched poorly in 2016. If Storen can return to his old form on his new team, the back-end of the Mariner bullpen has been improved.

The Mariners are getting the 10th overall pick from the 2009 draft. In seven big league seasons, Storen has a career 3.31 earned run average, accumulating 353 strike outs to 106 walks. Storen has had three seasons with a sub 2.75 ERA, all coming as a member of the Washington Nationals. 2016 has been Storen’s worst year by far. In 38 games, the right hander has given up 43 hits, including six home runs and has allowed 23 earned runs.

“Obviously, this has not been Drew’s best season, but he is closely linked to a run of great success pitching in the back-end of very good bullpens,” Dipoto said. “Hopefully this serves as a change of scenery and over the next two months we can get him back on track.”

Benoit was also having one of the worst seasons of his 15 year MLB career. Benoit had posted a 5.18 ERA, giving up 20 hits and 14 earned runs in 24.1 innings pitched. If Storen continues to put up lousy numbers, not much was lost in this trade.

A new home jersey may be what Storen needs to get back on track. Tom Wilhelmsen was another reliever who struggled early. Since rejoining the Mariners, the Bartender has posted a 1.23 ERA in 7.1 innings pitched. A 180 degree turn around from the 10.55 ERA Whilhelmsen had in Texas.

At face value, the trade looks as though the Mariners and Blue Jays have swapped a pair of struggling relievers. The Mariners had a reliever get ten years younger. The M’s also got a former top ten draft pick. Storen’s best years came as a member of the Washington Nationals. Hopefully, Storen can find his old self, in a new Washington.

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.

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.

Astros @ Mariners 7/15-17/16

Astros @ Mariners 7/15-17/16

Baseball is back. After a long five days, the unofficial second half of the Major League Baseball season is underway. The first series after the all-star break has come to an end. The Mariners began the first of five series against teams above .500 against the Astros. Unfortunately for the M’s, the Astros took the series 2-1.

Game one of the three game set saw the Astros win 7-3. James Paxton got the start for the M’s coming out of the all-star break. Despite Paxton’s new-found velocity, opposing hitters are getting their bats on the ball. Paxton is allowing a .326 batting average against.

The Astros scored five runs in the fifth inning on three doubles and three wild pitches. Paxton was pummeled for nine hits over five innings.

“I feel like I was trying to pitch like a crafty lefty instead of pitching like a power pitcher, like I am,” said Paxton,”I need to embrace the fact I’m a power pitcher and not try to be too crafty. I can use that at times, but that’s not who I am.”

Game two was dominated by the bear, Hisashi Iwakuma. Kuma threw seven scoreless innings, striking out eight while giving up just two hits. Edwin Diaz struck out two in an innings worth of work. Steve Cisheck closed the door with a pair of K’s in the ninth.

Robinson Cano supplied all the offense the M’s needed to pick up the win. Cano drove in Leoney’s Martin in the sixth inning to take a 1-0 lead. Great pitching and just enough offense gave the M’s the win.

In Game three, defense was optional for the home team. The Mariners made four… yep, four errors on Sunday’s series finale. Kyle Seager led the way with two errors. Seager missed a throw from Jesus Sucre on a steal leading to a run for the stro’s. Seager then missed a grounder. A pair of bad outfield throws from Seth Smith and Martin put the Astros in great offensive positions.

Colin McHugh got the start for the Astros, and the Mariners could not touch him. McHugh struck out 10 Mariner hitters and gave up just four hits in six innings of work. Seattle still had their chances but went 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position, and left 10 runners on base.

“That’s hands down the worst game we’ve played all year,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Not a whole lot of positives to talk about today.”

Poor defense from the M’s, and McHugh’s great performance lead to a 8-1 victory for the Astros.

The Mariner’s did not play well in their first series back from the all-star break. Paxton’s wild pitches on Friday nigh, and four errors on Sunday afternoon handed a couple of games to the Astros.

The Mariner’s now sit at an even 45-45 on the season. The Chicago White Sox are coming to Seattle for a three game series. Felix Hernandez returns to the pitching rotation on Wednesday. Hopefully the King provides a spark the team needs to get momentum on their side.

 

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.