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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

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.

Paying for Points

Paying for Points

If you’re a quarterback in the National Football League, you get paid. Quarterbacks average 3,840,017 dollars, 1.2 million more than the next closest position. Teams are paying for points, even if they overpay their comodity. On Wednesday, the New York Jets proved that mediocre play can still lead to excellent pay.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was laughing all the way to the bank on Wednesday. The Journeyman is making 12 million dollars next season. Eight of that 12 million dollars can be credited to his beard. Fitzpatrick has been on six teams in 10 years. Fitz has played in 112 games, throwing for 154 touchdowns, but giving up 116 interceptions.

Fitzpatrick is coming off of his best season in his career. The Jets quarterback passed for 3,905 yards, with 39 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The team also had no leverage in the situation, not having a better option in the organization. All the ingredients were there for Fitzpatrick to have a nice payday.

Michael Bennett has championed the campaign against the pay disparity. Not with Fitzpatrick in particular, but quarterbacks in general. What Bennett says makes more sense with every quarterback contract signed.

“Quarterback is the only position in the NFL where you could be mediocre and get paid. At every other position, you can’t be mediocre,” Bennett said. “If I was Ryan Tannehill and the most games I ever won was seven, how could you get a $100 million for that? I guess that’s the value of the position.”

Why is that position so valued? The Houston Texans made the playoffs in 2015 with Brian Hoyer taking snaps. The Texans feature a defense that ranked third in the NFL last season in total yards allowed. The super bowl champion Denver Broncos top that list. The 2014 champion Seattle Seahawks led the league in total yards allowed the season they won the super bowl.

Several NFL quarterbacks make too much money for not doing too much. Matt Ryan makes $20,750,000 a year, and is 1-4 in the playoffs. Tony Romo makes $18,000,000 a year, and is 2-4 in post season play. At $16,000,000 a year, Andy Dalton is 0-4 after the regular season.

Defense can be linked hand in hand with successful teams. A team could focus their money on the opposite side of the ball and make average quarterbacks on opposing teams even worse. Every team is going to have flaws. It’s a shame that half of the NFL is over paying theirs.  Quarterbacks dont have to play well, but well enoguh to get paid well.

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.

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.

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.

 

Seattle Mariners Position Battles Answered

Seattle Mariners Position Battles Answered

With a week left in spring training, questions that Seattle Mariners fans have been asking have been answered. Two position battles have left fans curious as to who is going to be chosen. The Mariners were in need of a fifth starting pitcher, as well as a right handed hitting first basemen. The battle turned out to take place between familiar faces, and new ones. Should fans really be surprised in who was chosen?

New general manager Jerry DiPoto brought in what seems like thousands of new players to the Mariners organization. 31 of the 60 players in Mariners were spring training were new to the organization. DiPoto was on a mission to retool the roster in a way he saw fit.

The fifth spot in the Seattle Mariners pitching rotation came down to James Paxton and Nathan Karns. Paxton has been a part of the Mariners organization, but has never lived up to his potential. Paxton has worn a Mariners uniform in three seasons, but those seasons have been broken. Paxton has never pitched more than 75 big league innings. I considered the fifth starting pitcher job to be Paxton’s to lose, which he did. Paxton boasted a 10.80 earned run average, which is never great when attempting to win a job on a Major League roster.

Nate Karns was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Karns completed his first major league season in 2015 with the Rays, pitching 147 innings, striking out 145 batters and only walking 56. Manager Scott Servais has said that the M’s want to control strike zone both offensively and defensively. Karns did that last year, striking out 89 more batters than he walked. Karns has posted a 6.75 earn run average in the spring of 2016. Theres virtually no difference between a 6.75 ERA, and a 10.80 ERA. If a pitcher on your favorite team has either of those ERA’s, your favorite team loses.

The other position battled that had fans intrigued took place on the infield. DiPoto traded for first baseman Adam Lind. Lind is a proven, left handed hitting first basemen. The team needed a right handed bat to possible platoon or be the designated hitter while facing left handed pitching. The battle came down to three players. Those players were Jesus Montero, Stefen Romero, and the free agent signing Dae-Ho Lee.

Romero has spent his career as an outfielder, however he was added the first base mix as a guy with versatility. Romero had a hot spring, batting .357 while learning a new position. Romero had a minor league option, making him the odd man out, and the easiest to send down to triple A Tacoma.

Jesus Montero sent Mariners fans on a roller coast throughout his career with the Mariners. Montero was brought over in a trade that sent Michael Pineda to the Yankees. Troubles with performance enhancing drugs as well as his weight fluctuation kept Montero from the Major Leagues. Montero batted an incredible .355 with 18 doubles and 18 home runs in triple A Tacoma in 2015. However that success did not carry over to the spring of 2016 as Montero hit a poor .237 in 38 at-bats. Having no minor league options forced the Mariners to place Montero on waivers. Montero was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays a day later.

That leaves Dae-Ho Lee, the mystery man from South Korea. Lee was a superstar in Japanese and Korean Leagues. Lee was the Korean Baseball Organization’s MVP in 2010, a three-time batting champion, and a two-time home run king. Lee hasn’t played much better than Montero, registering a .239 batting average with just one home run. So why did Karns and Lee win jobs with the new-look Mariners roster?

Karns and Lee are both hand picked by Jerry DiPoto. Neither of those players truly beat out those who they were competing with. DiPoto has choses to ride with the guys he brought in himself. The only of remanence of former general manager Jack Zduriencik are players the new GM would be an absolute fool to give up. It makes you wonder if these so called ‘battles’ were ever really that to begin with. Fans, it’s no surprise that players who were chosen by Jerry DiPoto have made the opening day roster.

Opportunities Provided by Youth Baseball

Opportunities Provided by Youth Baseball

Youth baseball has played a major role in my life. From the time I was able to walk, I wanted to be playing baseball. With age, my roles in youth baseball have changed. I have gone from player, to umpire. Being the regulator of little league drama has been difficult at times, yet rewarding all the while. Through umpiring, I have been presented an opportunity that I would be an absolute fool to turn down.

I have been an umpire for Federal Way National Little League for a little more than four years. Through the little league, I was able to work a couple select ball tournaments. The Federal Way Knights hold a pair of tournaments, that I have worked for the past few years. During the tournaments, I have learned more about the game than I could have imagined. Those kids play spectacular baseball that is incredibly fun to watch.

In January, I received a call from one of the higher ups in the Federal Way Knights organization. Every couple of years, the Knights participate in a tournament in Cooperstown New York. About a thousand teams participate in this tournament each year. Each team is required to bring an umpire, and the Knights chose me.

The organization will take care of my travel, room and board, as well as my food for the week. Every umpire who works the tournament will be inducted into the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame. By September, I will be in a baseball Hall of Fame. You better believe I will wear that out.

As part of the trip, I will get a pass into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I will take a walk through Cooperstown, just months after Ken Griffey Jr. will be inducted. The Hall of Fame is something I figured I would get to when I was 60 or 70 years old. Just a few days after my 21st birthday, I will be in New York, seeing baseball’s greatest museum.

Baseball is providing me with incredible opportunities. Being willing to work any game for Federal Way National has payed off. Taking what I do seriously during the Federal Way Knight tournaments has lead to great things. For the rest of my life, I will be grateful for what youth baseball has given me.

Dae-Ho Lee: Who Are You?

Dae-Ho Lee: Who Are You?

On Wednesday the Seattle Mariners signed Korean first basemen Dae-Ho Lee to a minor league contract. The contract includes a spring training invite. Jerry DiPoto has tried to add four new first basemen to the roster. The deal with Travis Ishikawa fell through, leaving three players competing for one spot. One of the new players is Adam Lind, who we know will be on the opening day roster. With the acquisition of Lee, the back up role is still a question.

Jesus Montero had fans begging for a call-up in 2015. Montero batted .355 with 18 doubles, six triples and 18 home runs. Jesus Montero’s roller coaster career now has fans cheering for him. Montero started the 2013 season as the Mariners primary catcher, but received a 50 game suspension for performance enhancing drugs. When Montero arrived to spring training in 2014, he was 40 pounds over weight. Montero cut the weight in 2015, and his performance for the Tacoma Rainiers was beyond impressive. Montero seems like the perfect fit to play a platoon role at first base with Adam Lind.

Earlier in the offseason, Jerry DiPoto signed Gabby Sanchez to a minor league deal. In his seven-year career, Sanchez has hit .254 with 126 doubles and 61 home runs. Sanchez played the 2015 season in Japan as a member of the Rakuten Eagles. Sanchez hit .226 with an on base plus slugging of .720. Sanchez hit 12 doubles, seven home runs and drove in 18 runs. By the numbers, Montero has a much better chance of playing in Seattle in 2016 than Sanchez. However another player has been added to the mix.

Dae-Ho Lee was signed to a minor league deal on Feb. 3. Lee turns 34 in June, and provides a right handed power bat to the Mariners organization. Last season for the Fukuoka Softbank, Lee posted a .282 batting average, with 31 home runs, 20 doubles, 98 runs batted in and had an OPS of .892. In four seasons in Japan, Lee hit .293 with 98 home runs, 112 doubles and 348 RBI’s in 570 games. Lee was the league’s most valuable player in 2010, and is a three-time batting champion. Lee is a huge human being, standing at 6 feet 4, and weighing more than 280 pounds. The Korean exchange student who lives with my family described Lee as a Korean Prince Fielder. Like Montero, Lee has struggled with fluctuating weight, but his statistical numbers make up for the numbers that appear on a scale.

What separates the two? Jerry DiPoto and Scott Servais are in love with the walk. Offensively, the club wants to draw as many walks as possible. Defensively, the philosophy is to avoid giving the opponent a free base. Montero has struck out 172 times and drawn 48 walks in 865 plate appearances in five seasons at the MLB level.  Lee has been to the plate 7,103 times, striking out 998 times, while drawing 711 walks in 15 seasons in Korea and Japan.

Lee’s ability to draw walks may put him over the top in comparison to Jesus Montero. However Montero is out of minor league options. If Dae-Ho Lee does beat out Jesus Montero for the back-up first basemen job, the club would have to designate Montero for assignment. Montero being out of options makes the job Montero’s to lose. Spring training begins in just two weeks. The acquisition of Dae-Ho Lee has increased the questions surrounded the back-up first basemen role. The only question answered, is who Dae-Ho Lee is.

First Impressions: Seattle Mariners 2016

First Impressions: Seattle Mariners 2016

Anticipation and excitement fill the air for baseball fans in the northwest as pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than a month. A disappointing 2015 campaign for the Seattle Mariners resulted in the firing of Jack Zduriencik and a majority of the coaching staff. Jerry DiPoto was brought in, to lead the Mariners in a new direction. Mariner fans hope that direction leads to post season play in Seattle.

Jerry DiPoto was hired in late September. Since Dipoto was brought in, the Mariners have made 10 trades, bringing in players that fit the mold of Jerry DiPoto’s plan. It makes sense that new players would follow a new general manager. Plenty of questions were answered at the Mariners spring training press conference.

The outfield defense has been improved dramatically by the acquisition of Leonys Martin, and Nori Aoki. Martin was added from the Texas Rangers. Martin is known for his range and throwing arm. Aoki was signed as a free agent to play either corner outfield spots. Aoki plays tremendous defense, and is one of the toughest outs in all of baseball. in 2203 career plate appearances, Aoki has struck out only 169 times. The pesky outfielder will lead off for the Mariners in 2016, almost guaranteeing the first out of the M’s line up will not be an easy one.

Adam Lind wad added to the Mariners to play first base. Lind is has batted .274 with 166 home runs and 228 doubles in his 10 year major league baseball career. Lind provides solid contact from the left side of the plate to the Mariners line up. I am interested in the back up first basemen role. Jesus Montero has had a roller coaster of a career in baseball. Montero proved that he can hit at a triple A level last year. In 98 games, Montero hit .355 with 18 home runs, and 18 doubles. Montero makes the most sense to back up Lind at first base, but Gabby Sanchez and Stefan Ramero could also find their way on the roster. It will be interesting to see who earns one of the last spots on the roster this spring.

New Manager Scott Servais anticipates several one run ball games. The 2015 Mariners played in 57 one run ball games, posting a record of 28-29 in those games. Only Charlie Furbush remains of a bullpen that was the best in baseball in 2014. Jerry DiPoto has brought in veteran players like Joaquin Beniot and Steve Cishek. Their experience could be a crucial factor in coming out on the winning side of those one run games.

“We have 6 to 9 candidates for the 5th spot in the pitching rotation.” – DiPoto

As a fan, it is not comforting to have nine possible players who could potentially fill one spot. With so many options, first time manager Scott Servais has plenty of opportunities to choose the wrong guy. The front runner for the position is James Paxton. Paxton’s biggest problem has been health issues. The lefty has never thrown more than 75 innings in a season. However Paxton has a career 3.16 earned run average in his short sample size. Paxton has lost 25 pounds over the offseason. Carrying less weight on his six foot five inch frame will hopefully lead to more innings and more success from James Paxton.

“It’s paramount that we understand that we are here for that player. This season is going to be about what is best for Mike Zunino.” – DiPoto

The offensive play of Mike Zunino has left a lot to be desired. In 295 games, Zunino has batted .193 and struck out 339 times. Mike Zunino’s greatest offensive attribute is his power. However Zunino has only hit 38 home runs in his major league career, averaging 12 bombs a year. Zunino’s high strike out rate does not fit well with DiPoto’s philosophy. The Mariners organization is committed to starting Zunino in triple A Tacoma. It would not surprise me one bit, if Zunino had outstanding numbers in triple A, leading Dipoto to use him as trade bait. Defensively Zunino is as good as catchers come. Hopefully, Zunino can find his swing in Tacoma, and become the Mariner catcher for years to come.

The offseason has been extremely interesting to watch. Jerry DiPoto took the general manager position with a plan, and appeared to never stray from it. The team has been retooled entirely, leaving questions unanswered. Spring cannot come soon enough, as the new look Mariners fight to stay alive come fall.