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.

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Freedom & Free Passes

Freedom & Free Passes

July just started, so it’s time to celebrate freedom. In my book, it’s tough to find a holiday better than the Fourth of July. Sun is shining, beer is flowing and baseball is all over my TV screen. For the Seattle Mariners, two unassuming pitchers have been denying freedom this season, and it’s the only time I can dig it.

 

Sam Gaviglio is quietly putting up the best numbers amongst Mariner starting pitchers. The 27-year-old has made nine starts, throwing 51.2 innings. He’s gone 3-3 with a 3.48 earned run average. There is nothing intimidating about the rookies repertoire. He touches low 90’s, and allows hitters to make contact. He allows eight hits per nine innings, but it doesn’t prove catastrophic for Giviglio and his squad.

Arial Miranda wasn’t in the projected opening day rotation, but he probably should have been. The left hander has started 17 games, replacing Drew Smyly who will miss the remainder of the 2017 season, and most likely the start of 2018 after having Tommy John Surgery. Miranda is sitting 7-4 with a 3.82 ERA. Miranda gives up 7.1 hits per nine innings.

Both guys toe the line of staying in the strike zone too often. They give up a fair amount of hits, but hardly walk anyone. Gaviglio is giving up 2.8 walks per nine, while Miranda gives up 3.2 free passes per nine. If batters are getting on base, its by their own merit. Nothing comes free from Gaviglio or Miranda.

The Fourth of July is arguably the best holiday on the calendar. Everyone in the country gets to celebrate freedom. On the diamond, Gaviglio and Miranda have hardly given anything up for free. Low walk totals are the only form of oppression I can get behind.

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Day One in Cooperstown

Day One in Cooperstown

In January, I was asked if I would be willing to go to Cooperstown New York, to umpire in a youth baseball tournament. Without hesitating, I took advantage of the opportunity. The first thing that needed to take place, was getting to Cooperstown Dreams Park.

I am 21 years old, so I can’t rent a car. My age means that I would have had to make the trip with somebody. I asked my dad to come with me. Dad has made the trip. We won’t be staying together during the week, but traveling across the country with him has been enjoyable so far.

We took off from Seattle at 6 p.m. on Thursday night. Our flight took off for Salt Lake City, Utah. Having live TV in the headrest of the seat in front of you is a luxury I was happy to have. The toughest part of the trip, was the landing. I believe the ground snuck up on the pilot, as the wheels hit the pavement aggressively. The plane landed in Utah at 9 p.m. local time.

After a two hour layover, we took off towards Boston. The plane went wheels up at 11:50. The ride was turbulent, so much so that in flight service was hardly provided. Sleeping wasn’t an option, so I struggled through a USC documentary, sports center, and other tv shows. The plane landed at 6 a.m. eastern time.

The journey wasn’t complete, as our final destination was in New York. We rented a car, and pointed the car west. I was excited to see the city of Boston but our route took use on Ted Williams Tunnel. As you can imagine, the Tunnel took us under the city. I caught a glimpse of Fenway Park, but it wasn’t much.

Tolls. The only toll I’m used to paying is the Tacoma Narrows toll. On interstate  93, we encountered several tolls. The fee wasn’t much, but it happened often enough to annoy a pair of tourist such as ourselves.

Four hours after landing in Boston, we arrived at my dads hotel. It didn’t have the same name as was listed previous, which was a little nerve racking. Dad committed to staying here for the week. The hotel is about 40 minutes out from the facilities.

After a nap, or sleeping, however you would categorize it, we went to check in at the park. On arrival, we were awe struck at the sight of it all. The park features 22 ball fields, dorms for players and umpires and a cafeteria. We were allowed to drive down to the umpire bunks, and get all of my equipment in a living space.

We met a handful of the other umpires. Most of my peers are retired and make CDP their home for the summer. The facility holds a tournament for 13 straight weeks.

While signing in, I learned a little bit about what I would be doing for the week. Umpires work with the same people, on the same field all week long. They gave me tow umpire shirts, a jacket, an undershirt, a hat, a water bottle, two baseballs and a bag full of pins.

Pins. Each team brings their own pins, and the kids trade, trade, trade and trade. As I was moving in, thousands of kids were asking other kids to trade their pins. It’s a sight to behold.

The first two days of the trip are complete. Work begins tomorrow, but I’m ready for it. I’m happy to be here, and can’t wait to see what the week has in store.

Football is Here, but Don’t Forget About Baseball

Football is Here, but Don’t Forget About Baseball

Football is back. The Seattle Seahawks play their first preseason game of the year this afternoon. So many questions surround the team. How will the Seahawks perform without Marshawn Lynch? Is Jimmy Graham healthy? Will they remain a run-first offense, or will Russell Wilson be allowed to throw the ball often?  In a month from now, the games in the Seattle will count for real. But games in Seattle already count, and haven’t been more important than right now. Football is exciting, but please don’t forget about baseball.

On July 31, the M’s were 52-51, good enough for third in the American League West, eight and a half games away from first place in the division and five games out of a wild card spot. Momentum swung as the team had one of the best home stands all season. The Mariners went 8-2, while sweeping both the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Detroit Tigers. Manager Scott Servais credited Ken Griffey Jr. weekend, and the message he sent to the 2016 team.

“Keep fighting,” Junior said. “because we’re all rooting for you.”

Fight is what they did. On August second, the M’s trailed the Red Sox 4-0 with their Win Expectancy at a mere 3.2 percent in the eighth. Robinson Cano capped a five-run bottom of the eighth with a three-run home run, proving to be the game winner. The team won 5-4, and a tone was set from the Mariners superstar.

On August fifth, Felix Hernandez gave up a three run homer to Mike Trout in the top of the first inning (W.E. 21.6%). The M’s answered with six runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning. With the game tied at three, Mike Zunino smashed a three-run dinger over the left field wall to give his team the lead. A couple days later, Seattle saw another comeback win, as the M’s won 6-4.

August sixth was Ken Griffey Jr. night, as the number 24 was officially retired in the Mariners organization. That game saw the exact same start as the previous night. Trout hit another three-run home run, putting the Mariners in an early 3-0 hole. Win Expectancy sat at 8.7 percent after four innings. The Mariners chipped away at the lead until the bottom of the seventh. Shawn O’Malley smacked a go-ahead three-run home run to put the team up 8-6. Another gritty, come from behind win.

August ninth was the middle game of the three-game series with the Tigers. The M’s trailed 4-1 entering the bottom of the eighth (W.E. 4.7%). Kyle Seager hit a clutch, three-run home run to the tie game. The two teams put up zero’s until the 15th inning, when Victor Martinez hit a home run putting the tigers up 5-4 (W.E. 10%). Seager answered with an RBI single. Runners took advantage of a fielding error, moving to second and third with one out. Zunino supplied a sacrifice fly to win the marathon of a game. The M’s won again.

August 10 saw a classic pitchers duel between Justin Verlander and King Felix. The aces kept their opponents to just one run as the score was knotted at one entering the bottom of the eighth. Nelson Cruz hit a solo blast over the center field wall, giving his team the lead. Six straight for the M’s.

The Mariners lost the first game of a three game set with the Athletics. As of today, the team has moved into second place in the AL west. As the Mariners were streaking, the Rangers were too, winning five straight games. The M’s are seven and a half games out of the division lead. The Wild Card race is where Seattle should be focused. Five games out at the beginning of August, now the M’s are two games out of the second wild card spot.

The team took Juniors words to heart. A majority of the wins that came on this remarkable home stand were made in come from behind fashion. Junior also had words for the city of Seattle.

“To the fans, keep supporting these guys,” Griffey said. “They’re trying to support this city. When you have a friendly face in the stands, that means everything. When you’re going through a bad spell and some guy says, ‘Hey, keep your head up,’ that goes a long way. We’re out here playing, but we’re playing for this city.”

Football is exciting. The Seahawks have recently won a Super Bowl, and have been a good team since Pete Carroll’s arrival. Baseball has been here for a while in 2016, but it has never been more intense, or exciting as it is right now. One of the greatest athletes that has ever worn a uniform that belongs to Seattle, is asking fans not to forget about baseball. The M’s have a great shot at making the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years.  Seattle, please don’t forget about the Mariners.

W.E. – Win Expectancy

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.