Baseball, more than any other sport, is all about numbers. This was the case even before the sabermetric craze that divides analysts today and inspires numerous a JJ Keller column on this website. In this new segment, I take a look at the numbers that shaped a series, beginning with the disastrous sweep in Cleveland this past weekend.
75 – Percent of the games that ended in Cleveland walkoffs. Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes all delivered game-ending hits against Mariner relievers in the series. This brutal stretch of three paintful defeats in four actually isn’t unprecedented for Seattle, who suffered a similar feat at the hands of the Orioles and Indians back in May of 2011. Avoid Cleveland in May is good advice for Seattlelites. Actually, just avoid Cleveland in general.
5 – Earned runs allowed by both Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in their Sunday-Monday starts. Felix took his third loss of 2013 while the Mariners continued to hit for Iwakuma, and he earned a no decision. The Mariners cannot win wiht their one-two punch leaking runs like both did this weekend.
3 – Home runs Mariners hit off of Chris Perez in his two appearances in the series. When Perez came in with a two run lead and quickly retired the first two Mariners he faced, the game was assumed over. But back-to-back jacks from Raul Ibanez and Justin Smoak gave the Mariners new life (which they would soon extinguish). In Monday’s ninth inning, Perez served up a lead-off, pinch-hit homer to Endy Chavez of all people.
11 – Hits allowed in 5.1 innings by Joe Saunders Saturday in what Root Sports analysts were calling “a good start” from the veteran lefty. No! That was a terrible start! Are you crazy? The wind knocked down a home run and gifted him a double play and he still gave up a home run to the next batter he faced! No more road Joe please.
430 – Pitches thrown by Mariners starters, in appearances that ranged between five and six innings in length. Only Brandon Maurer produced a quality start of the four. All four threw over 100 pitches.
2 (but really 3) – Errors committed by pitchers in Monday morning’s horrendous 10-8 loss. Iwakuma made an early error and Charlie Furbush screwed up a late sacrifice bunt play but the error was charge to Smoak. But none was more glaring or costly than Tom Wilhelmsen’s clank job as he stepped on first for the game’s final out. That error marked Wilhelmsen’s first blown save of 2013 in 12 chances.
7 – Batters retired consecutively by Danny Farquhar in his first appearance with the Mariners. He struck out five of them, but his great performance will be lost in the shuffle of an overall terrible series.
1 – Home run on the season for Brendan Ryan, who turned the corner in Cleveland. He went 5-for-13 with his first two extra base hits of 2013. Will he go on a tear and fight his way over the Mendoza line now? Who knows?
The Mariners play at 7:05 PT in Anaheim tonight and will try and snap the four-game skid this horrific series put them on.
On April 24, the Mariners lost 10-3 in Houston to fall to 8-15 on the young season. This was the low point for the 2013 season, and the team knew they had to respond to have any chance of contending. They responded in earnest, winning five of six series to get to 20-21 on May 16. They had a chance to surpass the .500 mark and make a run at Texas with a good series in Cleveland.
Unfortunately, that dream scenario for the Mariners simply did not play out. They lost a nail biter in extra innings Friday, as an exhausted bullpen yielded a walk off homer to Jason Kipnis. They lost in similar fashion Saturday, on a walk off infield hit after they had stormed back with homers in innings eight and nine. When an up-and-coming team like the Mariners loses two games in devastating fashion, they need their best players to come through and dig them out of the hole.
Felix Hernandez was in perfect position to do just that Sunday morning, as he took the mound against Justin Masterson. Instead, Felix put together his worst start of 2013 and Masterson dominated, sinking the Mariners even deeper in a 6-0 loss.
Hernandez lasted just five innings and surrendered six runs (five earned) on eight hits. He walked two and struck out eight. The big blow came off the bat of Michael Brantley, who ripped a three-run homer to centerfield in the second inning to put Cleveland up 5-0.
The Mariners didn’t do anything to help themselves offensively either, as Masterson dominated for seven incredible innings. He allowed just three hits, walking two and striking out 11. At times, the Mariners had absolutely no idea against Masterson. The loss dropped the M’s to 20-24, and Cleveland can finish the sweep tomorrow.
All that equates to gut check time for Seattle. They need to win tomorrow with Hisashi Iwakuma on the mound to salvage something from this series and prepare for two games against the Angels in LA. They cannot get discouraged by watching Felix get shelled today. That happens to Felix from time to time as it does to all pitchers. Felix especially struggles at Progressive Field, where he is 3-5 lifetime with a 4.50 ERA in nine starts. He had a similarly horrendous start right around this time last season (on May 16, 2012, Felix gave up eight runs on ten hits in just 3.2 innings at Progressive Field). This bad start and loss doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
But it could if the Mariners let it get them down. If they refuse to plod forward like good teams do and dwell on these three consecutive losses, they may never scrape .500 again in 2013. Iwakuma can win tomorrow, and the ship will be right back on track for the best Mariners team in a few long years.
For the fifth time in 2013, Joe Saunders failed to record a quality start on the road, as the Mariners lost 5-4 to the Indians in Cleveland Saturday. Saunders went 5.1 innings, allowing four earned runs on 11 base hits while walking and striking out two. All things considered, it was probably Saunders’ best road start of the season. Still, he laid out a blueprint of how not to make a quality start with a few key things he did or did not do.
Don’t mess around with two outs
Too often during Saturday’s start, Saunders failed to close the book on the Indians after recording two outs. As a matter of fact, Ryan Divish pointed out on Twitter that Saunders has zero 1-2-3 innings in road starts this season. This inability not only costs the Mariners precious runs but also runs Saunders’ pitch count way up. Today proved no exception.
In the first inning, Saunders quickly retired Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis with just eight pitches. When Asdrubal Cabrera stepped in, Saunders gave up a base hit on his fourth pitch of the at-bat. This small crack in the armor proved lethal for Saunders, who threw seven balls to the next two hitters, Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds, walking Swisher and giving up an RBI single to Reynolds. All told, he threw 17 pitches with two outs in the first inning.
The second inning almost mirrored the first one, except that Saunders survived unscathed. He only needed seven pitches to retire Mike Aviles and Jan Gomes, but ran into trouble with Drew Stubbs and Bourn. Saunders walked Stubbs and Bourn singled. Kipnis ended the threat with a come-backer to the mound, but Saunders’ pitch count took another huge two-out hit. He threw 16 more pitches with two outs, running his count to 48 through two innings.
Saunders only threw two two-out pitches in the third, stranding a runner at second and throwing only 18 pitches. He threw ten pitches with two outs in the fourth, allowing a single to Bourn before retiring Kipnis. However, he ran into two-out trouble again in the fifth. Swisher basically hit a home run to left field, except that the wind knocked it down and Raul Ibanez made the catch. Cabrera, at first after a lead off single, was totally fooled and the Mariners doubled him off. Yet Saunders apparently learned nothing from Swisher, as he left another pitch out over the plate to Reynolds, who hit it in almost the same spot as Swisher, except this one carried out for a solo home run.
To notch a quality start on the road, Saunders cannot afford to mess around with two outs like he did today.
Don’t sacrifice an early edge in the count
Saunders threw a ton of first pitch strikes today, especially early on. Of the 29 batters he faced, Saunders threw them 20 first pitch strikes. That doesn’t even include at bats where Indians’ batters put the ball in play on the first pitch. Saunders took control of most of the hitters he faced right from the get go, which should foreseeably help him.
However, of those 20 first pitch strikes that didn’t end up in play, Saunders followed 13 of them up with second pitch balls. Saunders would frequently get ahead and immediately surrender his advantage with the next pitch. He needed to stay aggressive and make things happen to keep his pitch count down. Instead, he ended up with 120 pitches in a weak 5.1 inning start.
Don’t heavily rely on balls in play
In five road starts this year, Joe Saunders pitched 24 innings. He struck out seven batters in those appearances. Seven! In 24 innings! Sure, Saunders isn’t a strikeout pitcher, but that’s just horrendous. His inability to get batters out on his own hurts him significantly, as it did today. Saunders allowed 11 hits and recorded 14 outs on balls in play. That’s a horrendous BABIP against, but when you only strike out two batters of 29, that kind of stuff happens. Quality starts are built on commanding the strike zone and batters, and Saunders did neither with effectiveness in the loss.
The Mariners took a major step forward this week, winning a series in New York for the first time since 2004. They improved to 20-21, taking sole possession of second place in the AL West (still seven games behind Texas, though). Perhaps most impressive, they did it while losing a Felix Hernandez start and winning a game started by Hector Noesi. Here are five things the Mariners showed in the three-game series.
1. Born this way
This catchy and horrid Lady Gaga anthem could easily become Raul Ibanez’s walk-up music at new Yankee Stadium, as he showed in the first two games that he was born to hit in the Bronx. In those two contests, Raul went 4-for-9 with three homer runs and eight RBI. Sure, he threw up a nasty 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Thursday, but the guy kills in Yankee Stadium. Brian Cashman is probably kicking himself about not re-signing Raul this offseason.
2. Morse back on his horse
Michael Morse now has two hits in each of his last four games, and has raised his batting average from .225 to .261. On Thursday, he hit his tenth home run of the season, a massive swat that carried way out to right centerfield and held up as the game-winning run in a 3-2 victory. On Monday, Geoff Baker called for Morse to pick up his game. Morse did just that in the Bronx, consistently putting the Mariners in positions to score runs, or in the case of Thursday, taking matters into his own, gigantic, beastly hands.
3. Bullpen one of baseball’s best
Disclaimer: I have no statistical evidence to back this up. The Mariners are 19th in bullpen ERA, eighth in batting average against and eleventh in saves. None of that really jumps off the page. But when Charlie Furbush blew the game for Felix in the seventh inning Tuesday, it was only the second time the Mariners bullpen had blown a save all year. Fast forward to Thursday, where the bullpen amounted for all nine innings in a win no baseball realist expected.
The Mariners have a rising young setup man in Carter Capps, and lethal left-handed out pitcher in Oliver Perez, and a closer with perhaps baseball’s nastiest 12-6 curve in Tom Wilhelmsen. Couple that with Yoervis Medina’s solid middle relief, Lucas Luetge’s lefty specialty and Noesi in spot starts, and you have a ‘pen that can hold it together in crunch time, like they did all throughout Thursday’s win. When Stephen Pryor and Josh Kinney come back, the M’s might just have one of baseball’s premier relief squads.
4. King and Kuma the best around
This one doesn’t come attached with a debate: Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma have formed the best 1-2 punch in baseball so far in 2o13, bar none. Felix’s 1.53 ERA ranks him first in the American League; Kuma’s 1.84 mark has him third. Felix leads the league in innings pitched; Kuma ranks sixth. Felix is third in the AL in WHIP at 0.93; Iwakuma’s 0.78 WHIP leads the pack by a wide margin. For sabermatricians out there, Felix is tops in AL starter WAR, while Kuma is third. They are the prized thoroughbred horses at the top of the Mariner rotation, and the M’s would be nowhere without their success.
5. Middle mark looming tonight
Another result of the series win, the Mariners’ fifth in their last six, is the chance to reach the .500 mark for the first time since the first series of the season with a win in Cleveland Friday. Brandon Maurer takes the hill against Ubaldo Jimenez, as the rookie tries to save an exhausted Mariner bullpen with his first career road quality start. First pitch is at 4:05 PT.
The Mariners defeated the Yankees 12-2 Wednesday behind a massive surge of offense that began with a seven-spot in the top half of the first. Hisashi Iwakuma improved to 5-1 in the victory while Phil Hughes, who lasted just 2/3 of an inning, fell to 2-3. The real story was Raul Ibanez though, as he hit his fifth and six home runs of 2013, swatting a grand slam in the first and a two-run homer in the fifth.
When the Mariners signed Ibanez in late December, most Mariner fans didn’t exactly shout with glee at their Christmas present from Jackie Z. My reaction, and what I perceived as the general consensus reaction, was “oh, that’s nice.” Not many thought Ibanez would make a significant impact for the Mariners in 2013.
Now, Raul has played in only 22 games, still doesn’t hit lefties well and can’t play a competent left field. However, in flashes, he has provided the Mariners with the necessary pop to get over the hump and win big games.
He displayed his pop in a big spot in the first inning of Wednesday’s win. With the bases loaded and the Mariners already leading 2-0, the Mariners could not afford to take their collective foot off the gas and let the Yankees off the hook. Ibanez, a 40-year old 18-year veteran, knew that. He capitalized on a Hughes hanging breaking ball and crushed it into the Yankees bullpen to put the game out of doubt before it really even got started.
The Mariners have certainly improved offensively in 2013. Having real, major league, middle-of-the-order hitters like Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse has helped them immensely. But the killer instinct it takes to clear the bases when the game is there to be put away still eludes the Mariners sometimes. It did on Tuesday, when they failed to knock insurance runs across up 3-1 with first and third in the top of the seventh and lost the game in the next inning.
But in a huge spot, with a chance to bury one of the best teams in the American League before Iwakuma even took the mound, Ibanez demolished one to bring out the rye bread and mustard. It was grand salami time.
Other news and notes from Wednesday’s win:
- Kyle Seager pounded a pitch from Yankees reliever Brett Marshall in the sixth inning for a three-run homer to right-centerfield. It was Seager’s fifth jack of the season, and he may have locked down the third spot in the order for a few more weeks.
- Speaking of Marshall, he made his major league debut Wednesday, and manager Joe Girardi didn’t make it easy on the rookie. Marshall entered in the fourth inning and racked up 5.2 innings pitched and a whopping 108 pitches. He threw 56 strikes and 56 balls and allowed five runs, nine hits and five walks while saving the rest of the Yankees bullpen for more meaningful appearances.
- So committed to preserving his bullpen was Girardi, that when Marshall made it clear he was tapped out in the ninth, Girardi moved shortstop Alberto Gonzalez to pitcher. Gonzalez got the one out he needed, inducing a pop out from Robert Andino. Andino apparently can’t even hit position players.
The Mariners and Yankees play the rubber match of the series at 4:05 PT Thursday. Aaron Harang takes the mound for the Mariners against Andy Pettite. Harang will have to hope the bats come back and support him Thursday for the Mariners to take two of three in the Bronx.
The Mariners lost a game they probably should have won Tuesday, falling to the Yankees 4-3 in the Bronx. Former Mariner Shawn Kelley got his second win of 2013 while Charlie Furbush earned his second loss. Mariano Rivera, the man, the myth, the legend, notched save No. 16 in the same number of chances. Here’s what I observed in Tuesday’s loss.
Questionable umpiring mars result
The worst bit of ump-work didn’t even cost the Mariners a run. That took place when Felix Hernandez and Kendrys Morales both decided to cover first on a really weird play made on a ground ball to Robert Andino hit by Lyle Overbay. Andino’s throw arrived in plenty of time, but Felix didn’t get out of Overbay’s way. The umpires huddled and incorrectly ruled Felix interfered with Overbay, allowing him to reach base. Here’s the rule on interference from the MLB rule book, per @KJRMitch on Twitter:
“OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball impedes the progress of any runner”
So maybe Felix technically did that, but Overbay was already called out, so it shouldn’t have mattered. Throw in Charlie Furbush getting squeezed at least twice in the costly seventh inning and Mike Morse striking out for the final out on a pitch Rivera threw at least a foot inside, and the umpiring in this game was atrocious.
Ibanez born to play in new Yankee Stadium
As a rule, Eric Wedge avoids playing Raul Ibanez against lefties. Raul only had 11 ABs against southpaws in 2o13, with just one single to show for it. But Wedge rolled the dice on Ibanez Tuesday, knowing his prowess in dealing with the right field short porch in New York. And boy, was he right. Raul hit a sharp line drive to right off of Sabathia in the sixth inning that probably would have left one out of thirty parks in the majors. Fortunately, that one park happened to be the one the Mariners were playing in at the time. Ibanez can provide a big lift with his spurts of power, and as long as he does that every once in a while, he’ll stick around for all of 2013.
Felix’s leg “issues” cost Mariners
Felix was in top form tonight. Any time runners would threaten in scoring position, he pitched out of it with his dominant changeup. But he suffered two leg injury scares, once in the fourth and again in the sixth. The second not only threw off his rhythm and cost him a mistake pitch to Overbay resulting in an RBI double, but convinced Eric Wedge that he had to pull Felix after the inning. Then Wedge pulled a perfectly fine Yoervis Medina for “lefty-specialist” Charlie Furbush, who didn’t get any lefties out unscathed. You have to think Felix’s massive contract was weighing on Wedge’s mind at that point. The move cost the Mariners the game, as Felix could have pitched the seventh inning.
The Mariners fell to 18-21 and throw Hisashi Iwakuma against Phil Hughes tomorrow at 4:05 PT
On Tuesday, the Mariners begin a three-game series New York against the Yankees before opening a four-game set in Cleveland against the Indians Friday. On Monday, the Yankees and Indians split a morning and afternoon doubleheader at Progressive Field.
In game one, Justin Masterson shined for Cleveland. The former Red Sox pitcher threw a complete game four-hit shutout and struck out nine Yankees while walking three. Cleveland got on the board in the first with a solo shot from second baseman Jason Kipnis, and that’s all they would need or get, as they won 1-0.
David Phelps pitched well for the Yankees, allowing just the Kipnis home run and four other hits in 6.2 innings. He struck out seven and walked five.
In the second game, Yankee pitchers Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren combined for a shutout of their own. Nuno started the game, allowing just three hits and striking out three for his first win of 2012, while Warren surrounded just two base knocks in four innings of work for his first career save. The Yankees broke out the bats late in the game, and won the finale 7-0.
Indians starter Trevor Bauer shook off an early first inning run and went six solid innings before running into trouble in the seventh. Austin Romine chased Bauer with a one-out RBI double, and Nick Hagadone surrendered five more runs as the Yankees blew the game open.
A few takeaways. First, the Yankees game two lineup is hilarious, both because of who they played and the fact that they won convincingly. Have a look:
- Brett Gardner CF
- Jason Nix 3B
- Robinson Cano DH
- Vernon Wells LF
- Lyle Overbay 1B
- Ben Francisco RF
- Corban Joseph 2B
- Alberto Gonzalez SS
- Austin Romine C
Look at that! This is the NEW YORK YANKEES! A starting infield of Nix, Overbay, Joseph, and Gonzalez? That’s a AAA lineup by most standards. Yet the Yankees keep winning, scored seven runs, and improved to 24-14. It’s inexplicable to me how they are playing so well.
Second, The Mariners will likely see both Masterson and Bauer in next weekend’s series, probably on Saturday and Sunday. Masterson looks dangerous, and he’ll likely face Joe Saunders ON THE ROAD. So chalk that one up as a loss for Seattle. Bauer looked decent, but ran out of gas in the seventh. That’s not a huge problem, except he’ll need everything he can muster when he faces Felix Hernandez Sunday. That game looks a little better for the Mariners.
Felix takes the mound Tuesday night in New York against CC Sabathia at 4:05 PT.
The Mariners won their third series in four Sunday, as they defeated the Oakland A’s 6-1 to the delight of mothers everywhere. The team improved to 18-20 behind 6.1 solid innings from Joe Saunders and home runs from Kendrys Morales and Jason Bay. Personally, it was the first game I’ve attended this year after getting home from college on Saturday. Here are a few things I observed from section 146, row 4.
“Safeco Joe” lives up to his nickname
Saunders continued his absurd splits trend by turning in another dominant home win to improve to 3-4 in 2013. He allowed just one run over 6.1 innings, striking out a season high six batters, including Brandon Moss three times. He struggled with control at times, walking three batters, but good defense from Brendan Ryan got him out of a big jam in the second inning. He improved to 9-0 in his Safeco Field career in 13 starts. Saunders will only start once on the next road trip, and I’m sure he’ll tank again.
Moved-in fences help M’s play long ball.
Morales set the tone for the Mariners with an important three-run big fly in the first inning and Bay carried one out to straight away center for an insurance run in the seventh. What did both homers have in common? Most likely, neither would have cleared the fences in 2012 Safeco. Both of them were well hit and well-deserved the runs they produced, but both went out to previously extremely difficult parts of the park to homer in. Morales hit his to right-center, and without his big time swing, Saunders may not have had the confidence to pitch boldly in his second-inning jam.
Andino and Ryan hit the ball hard a few times
Sure, starting Brendan Ryan and Robert Andino at the same time seems like a horrible idea. And it played out that way, as the two middle infielders combined to go 0-for-7 with a walk and two strikeouts. But in both of their first two at bats, Ryan and Andino hit the ball hard. Both flew out to deep center in the second inning. In the fifth, both men flew out again, with Ryan’s poke forcing Michael Taylor to make a sliding catch in left. With their averages dropping to .159 (Andino) and .122 (Ryan), Carlos Truinfel and Nick Franklin are looming in AAA as legit possibilities. Today, both Ryan and Andino were unlucky not to improve their averages somewhat.
Perez showed off A-plus stuff
The game was over when Oliver Perez took the hill in the ninth inning, but he sure pitched like he had a lot to prove. Perez struck out the side, victimizing Nate Freiman, Moss and Michael Taylor with a hard sinker and nasty slider. The Mariners bullpen has shined in 2013, and the late-inning combination of Perez, Carter Capps and Tom Wilhelmsen helps the Mariners hold slim leads with regularity.
The M’s are off Monday before heading to the Bronx for a three-game set with the American League East leading Yankees.
The new alignment structure in Major League Baseball, where interleague games are played on nearly every day of the season, was bound to cause some scheduling oddities. This week marked the first time the Mariners felt the strain of those changes.
Seattle split with the NL Central’s Pittsburgh Pirates in a pair of games played at 4:07 pm PT Tuesday evening and 9:35 am PT Wednesday morning. Besides the fact the players likely slept last night, they essentially played a doubleheader in between days off Monday and Thursday. While the games proved an odd sandwich of battles, here’s a few things the Mariners taught the casual observer over the course of less than 24 hours.
The Mariners aren’t built to win in the National League
The nine-hole is already a throwaway spot in the order for the team with Robert Andino/Brendan Ryan combining for around .150. Add in the pitcher spot instead of a useful designated hitter position, and that’s two throwaways. Unsurprisingly, the only time these spots produced hits in the series was when Raul Ibanez had an RBI double in game one while pinch hitting. Also unsurprisingly, the Mariners only put up three runs on eight hits in the two games.
The King stay the King
Shoutout to “The Wire” for that one, but Felix Hernandez truly pitched his rear end off today. He battled back from surrendering a first-inning run to allow just four hits over his final seven innings of work. A spectacular Felix was the only way the Mariners were coming out of Pittsburgh with a win, and he delivered, improving to 5-2 with a 1.53 ERA on the year. The game marked Felix’s fourth consecutive victory.
Montero shines when Felix pitches
The 2013 season has not treated Jesus Montero nicely, but he has shined in spots. In today’s win, he made two huge plays to win the game for the Mariners. First, he hit the game-winning home run in the seventh inning off of A.J. Burnett, who pitched extremely well in defeat. Montero also picked off Startling Marte in a huge spot to end the eighth inning. It was perhaps his best performance of the season, with the possible exception of April 28′s 3-2 win over the Angels, when Montero hit a big tying home run in the sixth inning. The pitcher that day? Felix Hernandez. The Mariners are 3-0 this season when Montero homers.
The Mariners are off Thursday before Hisashi Iwakuma takes the mound Friday night at Safeco against Oakland.
On Friday night the 2nd night of the NFL Draft some of the big name specialty players finally started coming off the board after a predominantly trench player 1st round. There was only 1 Quarterback taken in the 1st round and zero Running backs.
The Tennessee Titans made the first trade of the 2nd round by moving up into the San Francisco 49ers spot and Drafting the Physical Wide Receiver Justin Hunter from Tennessee. The Eagles then
Drafted Tight End Zach Ertz from Stanford who could really develop into a nightmare for defenses to cover in Chips Kelly’s up tempo high speed offense.
After day one there was not a single Running Back taken, although by the end of the 2nd round 5 Running Backs had come off the board. The first to be taken was Giovani Bernard from North Carolina selected by the Cincinnati Bengals followed by Le’veon Bell selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then came the selection of the all-time NCAA Touchdown record holder Montee Ball selected by the Denver Broncos. It wasn’t until the 61st pick that the number 1 rated Running Back came off the board when Eddie Lacy was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. With the last pick in the 2nd round of the Draft the Seattle Seahawks made their first pick when they picked the highly talented Christine Michael out of Texas A&M.
Another player that slid out of the 1st round was Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o who was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 38th pick in the Draft. The Chargers are hoping they selected the playmaker that they have been missing since Shawne Merriman left.
In the 2nd round the New York Jets finally selected what they hope will be their Quarterback of the future when they picked Geno Smith from West Virginia. Smith was predicted to be the first Quarterback selected but after EJ Manual was picked by the Buffalo Bills in the 1st round the slide continued until he was picked with the 39th pick in the Draft.
Also selected on day 2 was the Honey Badger Tyrann Mathieu from LSU who was selected by the Arizona Cardinals. Mathieu was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 2011 but after being in trouble with the law and team policies in the spring and summer of 2012 he didn’t even step foot on the football field in 2012.
Now that most of the big names are off of the table after an exciting 2nd and 3rd round of the NFL Draft it is time for teams to fill their rosters up and attempt to find the next Russell Wilson of the 2013 Draft. Matt Barkley is the one big name still on the board so we will have to wait until this afternoon to see who gets the once prized Quarterback from University of Southern California after his huge slide down the Draft boards.
With the 1st pick in the 2013 NFL Draft the Kansas City Chiefs Select Andrew Luck. Not exactly, this year’s NFL Draft doesn’t have the flash or the instant star player’s in it like the 2012 Draft. The 2013 NFL Draft was full of meat and potato players, 6 of the 1st 11 players Drafted in the 1st round were Offensive Lineman.
The Kansas City Chiefs used almost every second of their 10 minutes on the clock and after months of film study and listening to possible trades they selected Offensive Tackle Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan, Fisher is slated to protect Alex Smith’s blindside. The Jacksonville Jaguars knowing that is would get to take whichever Offensive Tackle the Chiefs didn’t take, took Offensive Tackle Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M. Joeckel was thought by many to be the 1st pick although in the last few weeks his hold on the top Draft pick slot weakened.
The Miami Dolphins continued their aggressive off-season by trading their 1st and one of their 2nd Round picks with the Raiders for the right to the 3rd pick of the Draft which they used to select Dion Jordan Outside Linebacker from Oregon. Another notable trade was made by the St. Louis Rams who jumped in front of the New York Jets to snag speedy Wide Receiver Tavon Austin from West Virginia. Buffalo Bills who moved back in the draft after completing the trade with the Rams and made the biggest surprise pick of the Draft by selecting EJ Manual Quarterback from Florida State. Manual who has the size and speed to be a starting Quarterback, although he was projected as a 2nd or even a 3rd round pick, thus leaving Geno Smith the Quarterback from West Virginia still on the board when all of the 1st round selections were completed.
The San Francisco 49ers moved up from the 31st pick to the 18th pick after swapping with the Dallas Cowboys and also throwing in an additional 3rd round pick. The 49ers looked to fill the void at Safety left by Dashon Goldson when he left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Free Agency. That void was filled by selecting hard hitting Eric Reid out of LSU.
The Minnesota Vikings were able to Draft three players between the 23rd and the 29th picks. The Vikings selected Shariff Floyd Defensive Tackle from Florida selected 23rd, Xavier Rhodes Cornerback from Florida State selected 25 (pick received in the Percy Harvin Trade with Seattle Seahawks), and with the 29th pick from the New England Patriots they selected Cordarrelle Patterson Wide Receiver from Tennessee.
The 1st Round of the 2013 NFL Draft didn’t have the high profile names or the marketability of recent Drafts but it did give teams plenty of opportunities to fill needs both on the Offensive and Defensive Lines. Many teams ditched the best player available motto and went after players of need. With plenty of specialty players available in the 2nd Round of the 2013 Draft there could be almost just as much excitement on day Two and there was in round One.
Given the Seahawks lofty status of playoff team and being ranked as the 2013 preseason NFL’s best team, it’s easy to forget where this team stood last year at this time, a week before the draft. Here we are in mid April again, wondering who the Seahawks may draft starting with the second round after having traded their first round pick to Minnesota for Percy Harvin. The Seahawks are widely said to have “won” free agency after having gone blow for blow with the San Francisco 49ers in signing big name players. And the likely answer to the question; “who will the team pick in the second round”?, is a resounding – “Who cares? Let’s PLAY”!
The team has already improved itself so much that any player they pick up in the draft will be the sprinkles on the frosting of the cake. In one year the team has gone from just recently having achieved the “respectable” moniker, to “Super Bowl favorite”, and that’s BEFORE the 2013 draft even takes place! There is really some question as to whether any draft picks will even make the team. While the draft may seem a bit anti-climactic after the free agency blitz the team just put on, just remember it was exactly a year ago we were almost positive Matt Flynn would be the Hawk’s starting quarterback in 2012. In other words, with John Schneider and Pete Carroll calling the shots, expect the unexpected. Expect a player or three who can not only make this team, but who can make this team better.
Just for fun, let’s review a few stories Seahawks fans were reading and hearing about their team exactly one year ago.
- Fans of the Seahawks were being told by football writers that;
- We should take heart in the fact that although the Seahawks started 2011 with a 2-6 record, they finished well with a 5-3 record and matched their 2010 mark of 7-9.
- The Seahawks of 2011 were competitive in all but one of their losses.
- The Seahawks had released their big 2011 free agency catch Robert Gallery.
- Excitement for the “two tight end set” grew with the signing of tight end Kellen Winslow from Tampa Bay.
- The team had released and re-signed Marcus Trufant.
- The team was happy to have locked up Marshawn Lynch for the next 4 years and Red Bryant for 5 years.
- Breno Giacomini had done such a good job filling in at right tackle for the injured first rounder James Carpenter, he was re-signed and talk began of moving Carpenter to the guard position.
- The names Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner, and Earl Thomas were not yet “household names”, much less the “best secondary in football”.
- Matt Flynn was the “crown jewel” of the Seahawks free agent class. His position with the team would require him to beat out Tavaris Jackson and whatever rookie quarterback the team may pick up in the 2012 draft. Consensus was the QB job was Flynn’s to lose. Nobody, except for a few die hard college football junkies or Wisconsin fans had ever heard of Russell Wilson…
Seahawks fans should understand it’s OK be excited about the 2013 draft, even without a first round pick. Last year the team picked up a franchise quarterback, a starting linebacker, an excellent backup running back, and a future starting offensive lineman converted from defense…all AFTER the first round.
This Super Bowl was just plain weird. Not that I really cared who won, but I’m glad San Francisco lost. I don’t like Jim Harbaugh and I don’t like San Francisco fans, at least the ones I have had contact with, and you know who you are… Just kidding! Seriously! You’re great people, really…
Since the Seahawks got totally screwed by the NFL with that early morning game in Atlanta I didn’t really have a dog in this fight (so much for journalist impartiality). The way the 49ers fans thought they deserved to be in this game after the butt whoopin the Hawks handed them in Seattle was just ignoring the truth. The Niners backed into this game by not having to face Seattle and they know it. Sure they beat Atlanta…barely. Try doing that at 0-dark thirty west coast time. And if not for SF’s tie against the Rams the Hawks would have had your conference title and your bye week. But I digress…
Did anyone else go get a pedicure during the national anthem? MAN that was long! Well done, but tooooo looooong. And that whole halftime show was BOOOOORING. Sorry. Beyonce is a lovely and talented singer/dancer but I think she sang the same word for something like 15 minutes! Besides that, it was like watching a 30 minute Bud Light commercial. Where’s a good marching band when you need one?
The power outage was interesting. I’ve seen a QB change make a game turn. I’ve seen a snow storm make a game turn. But I’ve NEVER seen a power outage totally turn a game around like this. The Seahawks should remember that trick next time they find themselves down by 20 at home. In the end, the 49ers got screwed by the refs on that last non-call for holding; so welcome to Seattle’s world SF. One wonders if they might have gotten “Bettised”; you remember the love-fest the league and network was giving the retiring Jerome Bettis before the Seattle/Pittsburgh Super Bowl in which Seattle suffered a number of bad calls. It’s heart warming to think the refs might have been “letting them play” for Ray Lewis, a guy who plea bargained away a double homicide a few years back, getting 12 months probation instead of double life in prison. (There I go digressing again! Dang!) Yes, getting hosed by the refs in the Big Game is great fun, and now the Niners know how it feels. And so ends their 5-0 Superbowl streak.
Now it’s on to the NFL draft and next season. I fully expect it’ll be the Seahawks and Russell Wilson who will get it done next year. With his learning curve well in the past, Wilson will be unstoppable. I wish I could have seen him in this game, but next year will be even more incredible. Seattle was the team no one wanted to play the second half of the year. Next year, it will be that way from week one on because Russell is ready. As for the rest of the NFC West, don’t get too excited. You’re getting better, but as long as Wilson, Carroll, and Schneider are in the picture it’s going to be tough going to get past Seattle.
I just got back from a weekend of skiing and finally feel like I can look back at the Seahawks’ 2012 season without feeling too large a pang of disappointment. Sometimes it takes stepping away to gain some perspective. The only football I watched was the third quarter of the NFC Championship game and had to walk away because I saw two teams Seattle could certainly beat.
If someone had asked me nine months ago how I’d feel if Seattle were to go 11-5 with a playoff win on the road I would have taken it in a heartbeat. However, winning makes a person greedy and leaves them craving more. Once it was apparent all the talent and potential that John Schneider and Pete Carroll had stacked onto a roster that still had some significant weakness, I set my sight on an even further horizon. When Seattle wasn’t able to reach it, it left the city in somewhat of a state of shock. Especially with the emotional whiplash that took place in the fourth quarter of the game in divisional game.
All cities are unified when their sports teams do well. It’s one of the great things that sports teams bring to communities. I believe that Seattle is a little different from cities like Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, and Miami. Every team has their true fans, but Seattle itself seems to suffer when the Seahawks don’t do well (everyone is used to the Mariners sucking). It’s easy to lose sight of that when the team has a few rough years but is obvious when look at the incredibly civic pride and enthusiasm that takes place when the team succeeds. In that regard Seattle is like a Cleveland, Kansas City, or Green Bay. Labeling Seattle fans fair weather is ridiculous and ignorant. Fair weather fans don’t cause seismic activity last time I checked.
The Seahawks over 2012 reminded Seattle why they stuck with a team that had been disparaged and struggled for the last six years. The team from South Alaska that was always too small, too hurt, too slow, too whatever became big, strong, loud, and a force unto themselves. Win or lose, a team was going to remember that they played Seattle last Sunday. Watching that and experiencing it with a great community of 12th Men made it that much hard to realize it was over. Even my dad who can be very jaded and reserved when it comes to sports (game 7 of the 1993 Western Conference finals between the Sonics and Suns is still very much remembered) couldn’t help but get excited at what just might be.
The reason I bring up these seemingly random aspects of the 2012 season is because they are what stand out in my mind looking back. Seattle became a team that would walk up to anybody and punch them in the mouth. Led by a calm, cool, and incredibly talented quarterback a team comprised of many castoffs and unknowns turned into a wrecking ball and the 12th Man was the crane that swung it. The connection between the team and fans in Seattle can’t be overstated. From completely open training camps to showing up at Children’s Hospital every week the connection is real. That is what I love. I realize I’m not part of the team but to feel part of it is either the greatest marketing gimmick ever or a true community-franchise connection. I choose to believe it’s the latter in this case. (Every article I write, I have to go and take out any “we’s” and replace them with “Seahawks.”)
Fortunately, Seattle doesn’t have many free agents going into the off-season which means that many of the personalities and people that the make up this great team will be back. And they will be hungry; hungry to prove to themselves and the 12th Man that they are good enough to win a Super Bowl. For that, I am just as excited as I was this season.
Well Seahawks fans, I don’t know how this could have turned out worse for us. It’s bad enough that the 49ers and their king sized jerk of a coach got to the Superbowl when the Seahawks are a better team, but now we have another Harbaugh in it…Brother John. The only good thing about this is by all accounts John is not quite the turd in the punch bowl his brother is.
It’s too bad the NFL won’t have the Superbowl on the east coast and make the 49ers play at the equivalent west coast time of 7:00 AM after getting up at 4:00 AM like they did to the Seahawks in Atlanta. Yes, I’m still bellyaching about that even though it goes against the Pete Carroll philosophy. I think it borders on unethical of the NFL to give the first seed team both home field advantage and a time zone advantage and then force the west coast visitors to play the early game on top of that!
I heard Carroll on the last Seahawks Saturday talk about “if we had just gotten ONE of those 4 road losses other than the 49ers loss”. Yes, it sucks. My column on “4 plays that could have made the Seahawks the #1 seed” comes back to haunt us again. Just ONE play of ONE of those games would have given them the NFC West title and at least one home game. What difference would it have made not to have to fly to the east coast TWICE in 8 days? How much more would the Hawks have had in the tank in the 4th quarter against Atlanta? We’ll never know. I just know it sucks. Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now…
Well, so as not to be a Negative Nellie for this entire column and acting on instructions from our fearless leader Keith, I’m supposed to do some kind of look back on the year. I thought I would take a look back at what some pretty widely read sports personalities and writers had to say about Russell Wilson at the beginning of the year.
Wes Bunting – formerly of the National Football Post: Wilson is a plus athlete who can spin the football and gives you a nice run/pass threat. However he’s undersized, is going to struggle to consistently make plays from the pocket and is still learning how to work his way through defenses. He is worth a pick late, but I don’t see the guy as a potential starter in the NFL. Reserve only.
Well, he was a little right and a lot wrong. Yes he wasn’t a great pocket passer, but everything else Wilson nailed down by mid-season.
Tony Softli – former personnel evaluator for the Panthers and Rams said; Wilson is an “immediate threat” to Flynn, and called Wilson “future star”. ”Flynn will have his hands full in a training camp competition against this star in the making”.
That’s more like it! He saw in Wilson what I saw. A guy who will simply overcome his height disadvantage and win on brains and preparation.
Matt Bowen of the National Football Post - I’m curious about this one. Flynn was just handed some new money to come over to Seattle as a free agent and Jackson has plenty of starting experience in this offensive system. Maybe the rookie eventually can jump Jackson on the depth chart, but to beat out Flynn? That’s tough.
Well, you can’t blame Matt. There was the assumption Flynn would be “the guy” and all that money is hard to watch sitting on the bench.
Tom Fortenbaugh of National Football Post - Time to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve got nothing against Russell Wilson as a person. He’s dedicated, hard-working and intelligent. But I believe he’s a vastly overrated quarterback and I think the twitter universe is putting way too much emphasis on what he’s done in meaningless preseason games. Wilson isn’t a fourth quarter closer (Oregon & Ohio State games in 2011, Virginia Tech game in 2010) and is going to struggle once the games start counting. I’m going to sit tight for a few days to see if the hype forces oddsmakers to adjust north before I lock this one in, but rest assured, I’m making this play.
Tom actually KNEW about Wilson and still got this wrong! To Fortenbaughs’ credit, he fessed up to this forecast of Wilson’s career in a recent column, admitting his article was a “Swing and a Miss”. Funny stuff!
John Clayton of ESPN – “I see Matt Flynn as the starter. They brought him in at $6 1/2 million dollars a year , he’s a quick decision maker, he can make all the throws, and he seems to be very accurate. He just hasn’t wowed anyone yet…, but I expect that to happen.”
Clayton is pretty consistent in giving the conservative or “conventional wisdom” aspect of any story. With Pete Carroll one thing you can never do is assume “conventional wisdom”.
Don Banks of SI.com nailed it with this prediction - ”With Russell-mania raging out of control early on in the season, the Seahawks will feed off the energy and veteran-like execution of their rookie quarterback (Russell Wilson) and emerge as one of the surprise teams of the year in the NFL. Seattle will compete with San Francisco for supremacy in the NFC West all season, before settling for a wild-card slot. While Wilson will be a huge part of the story, the Seahawks’ stout young defense will come to the fore down the stretch.”
I was hoping to find more totally off the mark predictions on Wilson, but they have mysteriously disappeared from the web…. Oh well… If anyone can remember the big shot former NFL General Manager who smugly forecast Wilson as a “career backup” at best, feel free to name names, I know I heard that in the pre-season. It’s not enough to say that the Seahawks were THE surprise team this season. They started in the power rankings at around 19th, and ended it in the top 6. Had the Seahawks been anywhere near their week 9 form earlier in the season this season would have been ridiculous. Which brings me to looking forward to next year.
The 49ers are the 7th oldest team in the league. OK, I guess they’re still pretty good this year, and adding Kaepernick made them better, but how long will Gore and Justin Smith be around? One-two more years? The Seahawks are one of the youngest teams in the league and will get younger, and better, next year with Hill and Trufaunt most likely gone. This is a team growing up together, getting good together, and realizing they can be something special together. With the addition of a true #1 receiver and some youth in the defensive backfield the Seahawks are a legitimate rival to the 49ers starting immediately. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Seahawks the preseason favorite to win the NFC West even if the 49ers win the Superbowl. Most people know next September the Seahawks will be far ahead of where they started last September. That’s got to be worth at least 2-3 more wins on the road. I also expect another 8 win home schedule too.