Category: Pitching

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Can the Mariners Live with Mike Zunino?

Can the Mariners Live with Mike Zunino?

Mike Zunino doesn’t fit into the brand of baseball the Seattle Mariners would like to put on the field, but they can live with it?

On June 7, 2017, Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino hit two home runs. The first happened in the third inning, getting the Mariners on the scoreboard. The second, was a two-run walk-off shot that gave the M’s a 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Zunino was drafted by the Oakland Athletes in the 29th round of the 2009 MLB draft. He chose to go to the University of Florida, where he improved his stalk. In 2012, se was drafted third overall by the Mariners. He made his Major League debut in 2013.

Throughout his career, Zunino has posted numbers that make you ask if he swings with his eyes close. He’s played 388 games, hitting .197 in 1246 at bats. He’s hit 54 home runs, but has struck out 457 times. He’s drove in 150 runs, but has only walked 85 times.

In each of the last two seasons, Zunino has spent time in Triple A Tacoma, working on his swing. The results haven’t changed much. He strikes out a ton and hits home runs on occasion. This is what Mike Zunino is.

As a team, the M’s have an on base percentage of .335, good enough for fifth best in the Majors. They’ve driven in 175 runs, good enough for ninth best. They don’t do it with the long ball, only hitting 65 homers through the first 61 games of the year.

Zunino doubled his 2017 home run total on June 7. If he runs into one every couple of games, it should be considered success for him.

Only time will tell if the M’s can live with Mike Zunino

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.

 

Taking a Walker to Arizona

Taking a Walker to Arizona

Taijaun’s taking a walk; he isn’t coming back.

On Wednesday, November 23, Mariners General Manager Jerry DiPoto sent Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to Arizona in exchange for Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis. I’m not sad to see Walker leave.

For years, Walker was dubbed the Prince of Seattle. The right hander was supposed to be the protege to King Felix Hernandez. He played like a dunce.

Walker was drafted 43rd overall in 2010 amature draft out of Yupaica High School. He made a start in 2013, five more in 2014 before becoming a part of the rotation in 2015. In his first full seasons in the majors, Walker hasn’t had an earned run average under four.

How long does a player have unlimited potential, until they don’t? Walker showed above average velocity while working his way to the majors. Last season, he lost it. The fastball went from 95 miles per hour, down to 93. Hitters took advantage of it, as Walker gave up 129 knocks in just 25 starts. Over his career, He’s allowed more hits than strikeouts. Is he really capable of being a team’s ace? Doesn’t look like it.

Mariners fans should be rejoicing in this move made by DiPoto. Walker hasn’t shown signs of becoming the guy the pundits thought he could be. He spent time on the disabled list in June last season. He spent time in Triple-A last season. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. was always tweaking his delivery. 

Walker is only 24 years old, and will be when takes the mound in a Diamondback uniform next year. There is time for him to figure it out, but will he in Arizona?  I doubt it.

According to ESPN’s park factors, Arizona is the second best baseball stadium for hitters in the Major Leagues. Chase Field in Arizona featured a plus rating for hitters in home runs, singles, doubles, triples and walks. Almost every outcome a hitter can have, is in their favor in the Grand Canyon State.

With the core of the Seattle Mariner’s being in the prime of their career, Taijuan Walker doesn’t belong on a team. He can not help a team right now, and that’s what the M’s need to do.

There will be times when Mariners fance grimace when they see that he struck out 12 over eight innings of shutout ball. The bad far outweighs the good. Until then, Taijuan’s taking a walk and he’s leaving for good.

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.

Winning is a Privilege

Winning is a Privilege

It’s tough to lose privileges. Having something taken away from you isn’t a good feeling. On Saturday, Chris Sale lost several privileges. Sale lost the privilege to pick what uniform his team wore. Sale lost the privilege to start in a Major League Baseball game. Sale lost the privilege of trying to help his team win. In the process, Sale became a hypocrite.

Sale was scratched from his start Saturday Night. The ace was removed from the lineup for a “clubhouse incident… which was non-physical in nature.” Not only was Sale scratched, he was also sent home from the ballpark. How the White Sox ace earned expulsion for the night was still in question.

“Really Silly”

That’s how a source described what had took place. Throughout the season, White Sox starters are allowed to pick the uniform that the team wears on the games they pitch. Saturday was not one of those nights, as the team was set to wear a throwback uniform. Sale insisted that the team not wear the uniforms the night of his start, saying the uniforms were not comfortable. The White Sox were having none of it.

During batting practice, Sale went inside the clubhouse and cut the throwback uni’s. He really did that. Sale’s frustration was because he felt the organization was more concerned with public relations and jersey sales being more important than winning.

This is where the all-star game starter becomes hypocritical. Rather than competing though the discomfort of the uniform to help his team win, he threw a fit. Power and privilege were taken away from Sale. The lefty reacted in one of the strangest ways I’ve ever heard of.

The White Sox are 1-7 since the all-star break. The Sox sit 46-50, and are 10 games out of first place in the American League Central. Sale is 14-3 with a 3.18 earned run average in 19 starts. A solid outing from Sale could have been what the team needed to get off the snide. We’ll never know.

Losing privileges is never a good feeling. Sale lost privilege, and reacted in a bizarre way. With motives rooted in winning, Sale’s actions lessened his team’s chance to win. All Chris Sale wants to do is win… as long as he does in the clothes he wants to wear.

 

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.