Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Its a Start 

Over the past few weeks, the Mariners front office has done a nice job infusing new life into an anemic offense by bringing up Michael Morse, Jose Lopez, and amazingly, Rene Rivera. The team won 7 of 12 from the NL East, and have been very entertaining to watch.

The M's recognized that Wilson Valdez and/or Willie Bloomquist were not the answer at shortstop, and surprised us all by calling up Michael Morse, who has lit up major league pitching to a .400 average and 1000 OPS over his first 18 games. The gaping hole in the order that was Bret Boone has effectively been replaced by future All-Star Jose Lopez.

But lets not stop there. There are at least four or five other major league contributors currently playing in Tacoma who could continue the turnaround of the M's back to respectability. Lets look at holes in the Mariners roster, and how the M's could look to repair them.

1) Randy Winn. What?!?!?! Are you crazy? Winn is red-hot! He's a sparkplug. He's got great speed. Great defensive left fielder! And you want to drop him?

No, I want to make him a fourth outfielder, which is where he belongs. Randy Winn is a model of consistency, sporting an OPS of 771, 773, 762 over the last three years. 2005 comes with a little twist in that the slugging average has dropped from the 425 levels of the past two years to 395. Essentially, Winn is not hitting the long ball anymore (14, 11, 14 home runs in 2002-2004, but just 2 in 2005).

Of the 30 major league left fielders, Winn ranks 26th in OPS. A 770 OPS just does not cut it as a corner outfielder in the big leagues. 770 in center field, with stellar defense? I'll take it. But I need run production from my left fielder.

And look at it from a marketing standpoint. Who comes to the ballpark to see Dwight Randolph Winn? No one I know. He does not have a bubbly personality, he doesn't make highlight reels, he doesn't have a history of big hits. Frankly, he won't be missed.

Give the starting left field spot to Chris Snelling. He is a true spark plug, fun to watch, and absolutely murdering the ball in AAA. Move Winn to the bench and rotate him in 3 days a week for Snelling, Reed, and Ibanez. Improve the left field offense and the bench in one fell swoop.

2) Willie Bloomquist. His 12 game debut in 2002 was great, but he's done absolutely nothing since. He hustles, is willing to play multiple positions poorly, and is in the prime of his hitting career. At age 27, he's not likely to get any better. His on base percentage the past three years? .317, .283, and now .250. Well, at least he provides power, right, look at these slugging numbers - .321, .330, and .258. Okay, maybe not. Well, there are all those memorable clutch game-winning hits that Willie has racked up over the years. Nope.

Bloomie does not hit well enough to occupy the utility spot on the bench. His one talent is speed, having stolen 20 bases in 24 attempts over the past three years, but you know the old adage about not being able to steal first base.

We have better backup options in the outfield (Ibanez, Snelling!), corner infield (Hansen, Leone, Bucky!), and middle infield (Boone, Leone). To me, Bloomquist symbolizes the frustrations of the past four years, as the Mariners front office seemed willing to settle for mediocrity or worse. Its time for Willie to move on, or get back to the AAAA career that is rightly his.

Give his bench spot to Scott Spiezio, and give him a chance to provide a power bat off the bench. Or Jamal Strong if we want speed. Or Justin Leone if we want a utility guy. But please, lets just move on. Whoever we pick will likely be a placeholder until Bucky returns. Its time to turn the page on the Willie Bloomquist era.

3) Matt Thornton. Alright, we get it. He's a lefty who throws heat. He also can't find the strike zone, and has no business being in any close game. He has walked 19 batters in 24 innings spanning 22 games. Oh, and did I mention the 6 home runs to go with it. Lethal combination.

Imagine being a player in a close ball game, and then seeing them trot out this youngster who can't throw strikes? That's gotta be demoralizing.

Lets bring back George Sherrill, a lefty who was fantastic for us in 2004, and was fantastic in the one batter he faced in 2005. And did I mention how pumped up the crowd gets when Sherrill enters the game. He's a fan favorite and being completely wasted in Tacoma.

4) The 12 man bullpen. Enough already. We need a spot for Randy Winn on the bench, and it should come from one of our righthanders, Hasegawa or Nelson. Neither of these guys inspires confidence when they enter the game. Find a home for them elsewhere, or just let them go.

With that extra spot in the bullpen, insert a reliever we have learned to trust. Ryan Franklin. Dude makes a great long relief man. As a starter, he continually pitches just well enough to lose. With his assortment of pitches, he can provide a change of pace to just about any pitcher coming in out of the bullpen.

We need a fresh face in the rotation. El Cartelua is the natural choice, but if he is experiencing shoulder pain, then the team should tread very carefully.

Instead, lets bring up Jorge Campillo. He's proven himself at AAA with a 2.98 ERA in 11 starts. He has 38 strikeouts and 16 walks in 60 innings, so he's got command of the strike zone. And his nickname is Popeye. What a great bobblehead marketing opportunity!

Give him 4 or 5 starts to see whether he sticks. And once Felix is healthy, bring him up too. Bringing up Popeye puts the rest of the staff on notice that they are pitching for their jobs. The continued mediocrity up and down performances of our rotation will no longer be tolerated.

The M's have turned a corner in 2005. But there is more work to be done to turn this team into a playoff contender. The talent is there in Tacoma, as has been shown by the kids we've already brought up. Let the youth make the team a joy to watch once again, give much-needed experience for 2006, and who knows, you may just find that we can contend in 2005.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Jose Lopez Rejoins the M's 

Welcome back, Jose! He is starting at third base tonight.

Greg Dobbs gets the well-deserved boot back to AAA.

The offense gets a boost while Adrian Beltre heals up. The question becomes, then what? Does Bret Boone find his way to the bench? Does Lopez waste away on the bench or return to AAA?

Lets hope for a fast start from Lopez so that the M's are properly motivated to tenure Mr. Boone the Jon Olerud retirement plan.

In far worse news, Felix Hernandez will miss his next start with shoulder bursitis. Combine that with Jorge Campillo going on the DL and you get one big load of Oh Frickin No!

Thankfully, Joel Pineiro came through last night, so that a AAA callup is not needed this morning. Lets beat the Mets tonight, and go from there!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Pineiro Needs a Big Start 

While Aaron Sele continues to be THE MAN for the M's pitching staff, the team ace, Joel Pineiro, has struggled.

Joel is in the second year of a 3-year, $14.5 million deal, but he has not come close to earning his money.

In his last 5 starts, he has not earned a decision with 2 crappy starts (3.2 and 4.2 innings giving up 14 runs) and 3 decent starts (5.1, 6.1, and 6 innings giving up a total of 7 runs).

The disturbing thing is that even in his good starts, his is eating no more than 6 innings, handing over the game to the bullpen which blewup his last start in a 9-3 loss to the Nattys.

Here is the average start from the Mariners rotation over the last 6 games.
Pitcher    IP    ER   ERA 
Sele 40.1 7 1.56
Meche 36 14 3.50
Franklin 33.2 19 5.10
Moyer 33.1 19 5.17
Pineiro 33 27 7.38

With Felix Hernandez and Jorge Campillo dominating AAA and making their bid for a rotation spot, someone is going to have to go to the bullpen, or even back to Tacoma. Franklin's erratic starts and the fact that the team won't score for him make him a natural choice to go to the bullpen to make room for El Cartelua.

But if Joel doesn't get things righted and soon, I would have no problem with sending Mr. Pineiro to Tacoma to straighten things out there. He had a decent start last time, but he needs to get past the 6th inning with a quality start. Lets hope that begins tonight.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Aaron Sele DGS Update 

Fueled by the continued success of Aaron Sele, the Mariners have now won 8 of their last 11. Mr. Sele has won 3 of 4 including two shutouts!

So lets take this opportunity to update the Mariner "Darned Good Starts", which I last updated through May 12th. Since then, the M's have gone 13-11 and are providing us with some hope that they can still contend in 2005.

Pitcher (Darned Good / Quality / Ugly, 
M's record DGS , M's record QS, M's record US)
Jamie Moyer (8/6/4, 6-2, 4-2, 1-3)
Aaron Sele (8/6/4, 6-2, 5-1, 0-4)
Ryan Franklin (7/6/4, 3-4, 3-3, 0-4)
Gil Meche (7/5/5, 5-2, 4-1, 0-5)
Joel Pineiro (5/1/4, 3-2, 0-1, 2-2)
Other (0/0/2, 0-0, 0-0, 0-2)
Mariner Total (35/24/23, 23-12, 16-8, 3-20)
Since the last update, 9 of our 24 starts have been Ugly (2 each from Franklin, Meche and Pineiro), but finally the M's have won an Ugly start, going 3-6 when the M's starter implodes.

Moyer, Sele, and Franklin are holding the staff together, getting two good starts for every ugly one, while Pineiro and Meche seem to alternate between good and ugly starts. At least Good Meche is Quality Meche. Joel Pineiro has gone more than 6 innings and allowed less than three runs just once in nine tries this season.

But the offense at least seems to show up for Mr. Pineiro, as the M's have won 2 of his 4 Ugly Starts, while they have won only 3 of 7 Ryan Franklin Darned Good Starts.

Interestingly, the M's win at the same rate whether it is a Quality Start (.667) or a Darned Good Start (.657). However, my definition of an Ugly Start (3-20, .130) seems more predictive than a non-Quality Start (10-24, .298)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Lefty-Mashing DH 

Grrr... the M's let a potential lefty mashing DH (and backup catcher) get away as the Orioles traded a non-prospect A-ball player to the Royals for the recently DFA'ed Eli Marrero.

But there is still hope. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Tuesday DFA'ed 27-year old Josh Phelps. Over the last three years, Phelps has put up a nice 272/340/486 line. And best of all, against lefties, those numbers jump up to 309/373/535 with 20 HRs in 346 at bats.

This is a guy we could platoon with Raul Ibanez at DH, and would immediately be our best bat off the bench. His one downside is that he is redundant when Bucky Jacobsen returns as both play the DH/backup 1B role.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Soriano at the All-Star Break? 

How's this for some good news. The Times is reporting that Rafael Soriano believes he'll be able to return to the Mariners for the second half of the season.

He has joined the Mariners after pitching 12 innings in extended Spring Training, where he reportedly was throwing fastballs 90 to 94 MPH. He had his first bullpen session yesterday, and is expected to have two more on the current road trip.

In a bullpen where Putz has imploded and Jeff Nelson is looked to as the right-handed setup man, the addition of a healthy Soriano would be a welcome sight indeed.

And then we could start all the fun Soriano "rotation vs bullpen" arguments all over again. Sigh... I miss those.

Get well soon, Rafael!

The news is not as good for infielder Pokey Reese, who is also traveling with the team, but is at least 6-8 weeks away from returning, putting his timetable at August at the earliest.

Finally, let me just say that I have no baseball draft expert, so I won't pretend to be. May I refer you to good stuff on our new draft picks over at the Sportspot forums.

M's Dominating the NL East Through One 

Great start for the Mariners last night, as they put together just enough pitching and offense to capitalize on Marlin mistakes and win 4-3. The win pulls the M's within 6 games of .500. And on a night when every other team in the AL West lost to a NL East team, the M's are back within 7 games of the first place Texas Rangels of Anaheim.

The M's have now won 7 of 9, with 11 upcoming games against NL East foes. Everyone keeps saying how strong the NL East is, and all I have to say to that is ... Poppycock!

The Marlins have padded their .500 record with a 10-3 bit against the Reds, Rockies, and Astros, three of the worst teams in baseball. Washington? C'mon y'all, its just the Expos! In a new uniform! They've been SWEPT by the Reds this season! Ditto the Mets. And the Phillies? Don't get me started. These are four mediocre teams who would be crushed by a schedule that featured 32 of 56 games against the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Angels, Rangers, Twins, and White Sox.

And they are about to feel the wrath of the 2005 Mariners. A team that has been held down since the end of 2003, is starting to feel good about themselves, having won 5 of their last 7 series.

Tonight, Gil Meche faces off with Dontrelle Willis. At the surface, this looks like a Marlin edge, with Meche sporting a 4.57 ERA and 33/27 K/BB ratio over 65 innings while Willis has a 1.85 ERA and 60/18 K/BB ratio over 78 innings.

But over their last three starts, Meche has stepped up a bit, while Dontrelle has come back to Earth.

In 17 innings, Meche has given up just 5 runs on 13 hits with 7 strikeouts. The danger sign is still there with Gil, as he gave up a horrible 11 walks during this stretch. In 22 innings, Willis has given up 7 runs on 24 hits with 14 strikeouts and 7 walks.

The M's could help Gil a ton by putting a run or two on the board early, and allow Gil to pitch instead of nibble.

Monday, June 06, 2005


Back on May 27th, I lamented over the Mariners lack of come from behind wins. It seemed like once they were behind in a game, they stayed behind. Since then, the Mariners have won 6 of 8 games, including 3 come-from-behind wins. They have climbed back to within 8 games of .500, but more importantly, they have given us a reason to stay tuned to the ballgame even when the M's are down after 5 innings.

Everyone seems to think we are in for a whooping as we head out to Florida to face the excellent pitching of Brian Moehler (I'm not a believer, but he does have a 2.59 ERA this year), herky-jerky lefty Dontrelle Willis (9-2, 1.85 ERA), and Josh Beckett (7-3, 2.58 ERA). They just don't scare me.

The M's just got done beating two of their biggest nemesisesesses (didn't know how to end that word) of the past.

In the past few years, rookies have owned the Mariners. If the M's don't have years of footage on a player they are apparently useless against them. The MLB debut of Doug Waechter (2-hit shutout in September 2003) was the most memorable example, but we have seen it continue this year with rookie Chien-Ming Wang beating us twice in a span of a week. And we know how lefties have owned the Mariners this year.

So imagine my fear on Saturday when a LEFTY ROOKIE took the hill against the Mariners. And with Scott Kazmir pitching a 3-hitter with a 5-2 lead in the 7th, it looked like another loss for the M's. But, we pushed him past 100 pitches, and we got to face the Devil Ray bullpen, and lo and behold! A comeback!

And then on Sunday, we had to face another nemesis, Former Dodger Stud Asian Pitcher Who Has Sucked Since Leaving Dodgertown. Yes, our first look at Hideo Nomo, he of the 6.61 ERA, had me trembling. He looked like the second coming of Chan Ho Park to me. Park has been 14-18 with a 5.85 ERA since leaving the cozy confines of Dodger Stadium. But the M's always brought out the Dodger Blue in him, as he owned a 4-1 record with a 2.29 ERA.

If we can beat a LEFTY ROOKIE, and a FDSAPWHSSLD, AND overcome deficits in both games to do it, then the Marlins have nothing that I fear.

Bring them on.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Bucky Timetable 

According to the Seattle Times, Bucky Jacobsen made an appearance in the Mariners clubhouse yesterday, and gave us a long-awaited update on his status.

He says he sees and feels improvement in his surgically repaired knee every day. Next week, he'll be heading to Arizona to being running and doing work in the field. He hopes to be in rehab games by the end of the month.

That would have him returning to the Mariner lineup as a much-needed lefty-mashing DH at the All-Star Break.

I can't wait!

Other injured Mariners have been sighted recently as well. Mike Hargrove hopes to have Pokey Reese back for the team's next road trip, that begins June 7th. Michael Morse's time to impress the team may be limited.

Wiki Gonzalez will also make the team's next road trip, though whether he will be ready to be activated remains in question. His return would free Rene Rivera to work on his game every day in the minors.

Scott Spiezio is likely to go on an injury rehab assignment in the near future. You can read into this that the M's don't feel any particular need to rush Spiezio back, as he does not fill a vital role with the 2005 M's. We can hope that he would at least provide a solid bat off the bench.

Rafael Soriano has also completed a rehab assignement, and will begin pitching at Class A Inland Empire soon. Don't be looking for him to return to the Mariners anytime soon, though. Reports have him low on velocity and movement, and the M's don't want to do anything to rush his rehab. He'll build up arm strength with 1 and 2 inning outings.

Move Beltre From the 3-Hole 

I have every faith that Adrian Beltre is going to start hitting sometime. But right now, he is killing us in the #3 spot in the batting order. Lets move him outta there!

In his monster 2004 season, Adrian Beltre batted #3 all of 15 times. He started the season slow, and was relegated to the #7 spot and slowly worked his way up the order (68 ABs at #7, 64 ABs at #6, 96 ABs at #5) to the cleanup spot. For the two years before that he hit 5th through 7th most times.

Big contract or not, he is not doing us much good in the 3 hole most nights. Perhaps a move down in the order will help take some of the pressure off of him because we already have a lead by the time he comes to bat.

A lineup that looked like this might shake up the offense, and keep our currently hot hitters (Winn, Reed, Sexson, Ibanez) batting more often with runners in scoring position.

RF Ichiro! (L)
LF Winn (S)
CF Reed (L)
1B Sexson (R)
DH Ibanez (L)
3B Beltre (R)
2B Boone (R)
SS Morse (R)
C Borders (R)

With our current lineup with Beltre 3rd and Reed down at 7th, we are hitting the black holes of Beltre and Boone with runners on base, making it runners on base and two outs for our hotter hitters, or worse, having Beltre and Boone ending innings.

A lineup shakeup is overdue. Its 2005 and Adrian Beltre has stunk at the plate. Lets try the same remedy that worked in 2004 and move him down in the lineup.

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