The Mariners enter tonight game against Texas at 20-27 after losing their final six games of a nine-game road trip (2-7). “Safeco” Joe Saunders (3-4, 5.64 ERA) takes his 9-0 mark in 13 starts in Seattle into Friday against Justin Grimm (3-3, 4.02 ERA). Grimm has lost three of his past four starts. With massive turmoil in Mariners land today, here are some storylines to track.
Andino designated for assignment
After a horrendous two-month stint as the Mariners’ utility infielder, Robert Andino was DFA’d today to make room for Jesus Sucre on the 40-man roster. Andino was placed on waivers but was not originally going to be DFA’d immediately. That was until the news broke on Twitter (thank Dave Cameron), and the Mariners rushed to make it officially.
Andino played in 29 games for Seattle this season, posting a .184 batting average and a homer-less four RBI. He racked up an on-base percentage of .253 and slugged just .237 with four total extra base hits, all doubles. He provided average defense, committing two errors while playing primarily shortstop, but also third and second base. Mariners fans won’t remember him fondly, but this is still one of my favorite baseball related pictures. See ya later, Bob.
Truinfel to Seattle
When Jesus Montero was sent to Tacoma yesterday, not many people expected that to signal the middle infield change so many of us bloggers have called for to happen as a result. But, lo and behold, Andino is gone, and Carlos Truinfel has replaced him on the 40-man roster as the Mariners’ utility infielder. As Geoff Baker reported earlier, Truinfel was on his way to Reno with the Rainiers when the Mariners made him turn around and come join the big club. Although not in the lineup and not expected to play tonight, Truinfel, who hit .300 with four home runs and 19 RBI in 44 games in Tacoma this year, could improve the horrid Seattle shortstop position.
Sucre making major league debut
The Mariners are throwing Jesus Sucre right into the fire tonight, as he will start at catcher and hit eighth. Sucre hit .302 in 14 games in Tacoma this year. Here’s the rest of the lineup ahead of the Mariner’s return home at 7:10 PT tonight.
- Saunders CF
- Ackley 2B
- Seager 3B
- Morales DH
- Morse RF
- Ibanez LF
- Smoak 1B
- Sucre C
- Ryan SS
Yesterday, the Mariners made a major statement by optioning Jesus Montero to AAA. Montero has struggled mightily behind the plate this season, and the team seems to have finally given up on him as a backstop. Catcher Jesus Sucre replaced Montero on the 25-man roster.
However, the Mariners still needed to make a corresponding 40-man roster move, since Sucre isn’t on the 40-man and needs to be as a member of the big league club. As a result, Dave Cameron of USS Mariner, Fangraph and ESPN Insider has reported on Twitter that Robert Andino will be DFA’d to make room for Sucre. Cameron believes that 40-man roster member Carlos Truinfel will replace Andino in Seattle.
However, Geoff Baker is refuting Cameron’s claim, saying he believes the Mariners will still DFA a minor leaguer and Andino will remain with the team, as he said yesterday when the Montero news broke. Cameron asserts that he has had “multiple sources confirm“ that Andino is in fact on waivers.
Most recently, Shannon Drayer dropped a big development on Twitter, tweeting that Brad Miller is heading to Tacoma from Jackson, likely indicating a middle infield move in between the AAA and MLB clubs. This is big, because Drayer is an insider. Baker, a fellow insider, had refuted the Andino news to this point and contradicted an outsider in Cameron.
Despite all of these rumors, one thing remains clear for the Mariners: they need to end their losing streak. They return to the friendly confines of Safeco Field tonight and have the man born to pitch there on the hill with Joe Saunders making the start. They face a red hot Rangers team with a pitcher in Justin Grimm on the hill who has lost three of four starts. They appear to be rid of roster problems like catching Montero and bad-hitting Andino. It’s time to get off the schneid and save the season by snapping the streak.
According to the Tacoma News-Tribune’s Ryan Divish, Jesus Montero will be optioned to Tacoma later today. Tacoma catcher Jesus Sucre will be his replacement at the big league level. Montero is hitting .208 with three home runs and nine RBI in 2013. No word has been given on what the corresponding 40-man roster move will be (since Sucre isn’t on the 40-man) or to whether Montero will catch or DH in the minors. We’ll update the story when we know more.
When 1B/DH Kendrys Morales was brought in this offseason, he was generally thought of as a power first bat, and for good reason. His OBP the year before was just .320, despite having a .273 average. .260 is a roughly average average, and .320 is about an average OBP. So his average was 13 points above “average”, but his OBP remained, due to a low walk rate.
Thus, it is easy to see why he is considered the way he is. Roughly 60% of his career .820 OPS has come from his slugging percentage, leaving about 40% to come from average. On average over the last three years (for the league), 56% of OPS has come from slugging, so Morales was a notch higher.
But he has changed as a player this year. His overall production is roughly the same as last year (.351 wOBA, 118 wRC+ career .346 and 122 this year), but how that production is coming to be is different. All of the sudden, he has been getting on base at a much higher clip, while losing a little bit of pop.
His OBP is at .356, which is one point above his career high (in what was by far his best season). And his .434 SLG% is a career low, with the previous low being the .467 he posted last year. And he is now getting just 55% of his OPS from his power, going from 3% above “average” to 1% below “average.” So clearly there has been a change in the kind of hitter he is, at least to this point.
Upon noticing this, I saw the opportunity for a post on the topic. So I searched and searched for some kind of deep explanation as to why this is happening. Turns out, there isn’t really a conclusive reason as to why he has become an on-base first guy this season.
I mean, there is the obvious explanation as to why his OBP has gone up. That being the fact that he has been way more patient at the plate, resulting in more walks.
|2006||Angels||30.9 %||68.4 %||49.9 %||71.2 %||89.3 %||83.8 %||50.8 %||63.3 %||7.9 %|
|2007||Angels||38.3 %||71.5 %||49.4 %||62.3 %||90.7 %||76.1 %||33.6 %||46.8 %||10.9 %|
|2008||Angels||32.6 %||68.7 %||48.3 %||71.4 %||94.1 %||85.5 %||43.4 %||43.9 %||6.6 %|
|2009||Angels||32.1 %||64.0 %||46.1 %||63.8 %||88.5 %||78.8 %||43.8 %||56.6 %||9.2 %|
|2010||Angels||30.8 %||62.9 %||45.3 %||61.1 %||90.9 %||79.8 %||45.2 %||51.2 %||8.9 %|
|2012||Angels||35.9 %||70.4 %||50.1 %||61.8 %||85.5 %||75.5 %||41.2 %||59.6 %||12.1 %|
|2013||Mariners||26.2 %||67.8 %||44.2 %||62.1 %||87.7 %||79.1 %||43.3 %||52.2 %||8.8 %|
|Total||- – -||32.9 %||66.9 %||47.6 %||63.5 %||88.2 %||78.6 %||43.3 %||56.1 %||9.8 %|
Take a look above at his plate discipline numbers, courtesy of FanGraphs. As you can see, all of his swing rates are down quite a bit. The most extreme of the three being his O-Swing%, which is down almost 10% from the year before, and 7% from his career. Obviously, that means he has not been swinging at as many bad pitches, which has led to more free passes.
So that explains his increase in walks and ability to get on base. But why is his power also down? The two aren’t inversely related in most cases, meaning as one goes up the other does not go down.
This part is not as easily explained. There really aren’t any glaring changes in terms of the amount nor the kind of contact he is making. As seen above, his contact rate is better than his career mark. And there also aren’t any significant fluctuations in his batted ball numbers. His LD% is 2.2% higher than his average, his FB% is down 1.8% (but is up from 2012), and his GB rate is right at his career average. None of those really suggest that his power should be zapped. If his line drive rate were way down, or ground ball rate way up, then maybe.
The best explanation I can find is that his HR/FB is all the way down at 11.6%, which is 5% lower than his career mark, and 9.4% lower than it was last year. But the problem with that is, it may not be a perfect explanation. It does tell us something, but its answer isn’t really specific.
Fangraphs says of FB%:
Was the player still hitting the same about of fly balls but with a lower HR/FB rate? This could imply that the player lost a touch off their power, which could be a result of an injury or the tell-tale sign of an aging slugger. Or did the player still have the same HR/FB rate, but he was hitting fewer fly balls? If a player goes from hitting fly balls to ground balls, that could be attributed to contact issues.
Kendrys falls into the first category, with a fairly similar amount of fly balls, but a crazy low HR/FB rate. And unfortunately, that likely speaks to a more permanent loss of power. We already knew he lost power, but now the numbers might suggest it is because of “an injury or the tell-tale sign of an aging slugger.” That certainly isn’t what we want to here, as I am sure most of us were hoping to find something that would suggest some regression to the mean, and an re-increase in power.
And it still might. HR/FB doesn’t stabilize until about 300 plate appearances, and he is only a little more than half way there. His slugging percentage has been on the rise recently, and that trend may continue until he reaches a more normal mark. Or, he may be sacrificing some aggressiveness and pop for more patience and contact. We don’t really know for sure.
At this point, thankfully, it doesn’t really matter all that much if he stays this way. He has been roughly the same player in terms of productivity, and that is what matters. If anything, this increase in patience and discipline is a blessing. Those traits tend to stick around, and walk rate is much quicker to stabilize — and he is about 20 PA way from that point — rendering a sudden revert to his old numbers unlikely. Conversely, as I said before, there is still a chance that his power returns a little, which would create a perfect situation. Kendrys prior power combined with this current on-base ability would make for a very valuable player. And we like value around here.
After pretty much the worst possible result in a four-game set in Cleveland, the 20-25 Mariners return west to play two games in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels (17-27) have struggled mightily in 2013, and lost three of four at Safeco Field a few weeks ago. Before the game, here are some news and notes to digest.
Harang back on the mound
Aaron Harang will toe the rubber tonight for the first time since May 7, after he missed his last start with back stiffness. Harang had strung together consecutive quality starts for the first time in 2013 in his two previous starts. Hector Noesi made the start for him in New York last Thursday and helped the Mariners to a victory. It was the Mariners most recent win. Harang, 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA, is still seeking his first road win of 2013.
Smoak quietly surging
With so many other offensive weapons garnering attention for the Mariners this year, Justin Smoak has flown under the radar. His .252 batting average with three homers and eight RBI don’t jump off the page, but he’s been hot lately. He has a five-game hittting streak, has reached base in 14 consecutive contests and hit two home runs this weekend, both in late game situations. His on-base percentage is solid as well (.366) and he has a 2-t0-3 walks to strikeouts ratio, way up from his sub-1-to-2 ratio from 2012. The Mariners have to stick with Smoak as their future at first.
Here are some interesting numbers from the Mariners’ game notes press release today:
- Tom Wilhelmsen has not allowed a hit to a right-handed batter in 2013. Righties are 0-for-31 against the Bartender.
- Raul Ibanez has six home runs in the last eight games he’s played. Because, you know, he’s Raul.
- The Mariners rotation is tied for the American League lead in quality starts with 26, despite having just one this weekend (Brandon Maurer).
- Brendan Ryan has raised his batting average 66 points to .178 with a 9-for-25 clip on the current road trip. He hit his first home run on Saturday.
- The Mariners rank last in the league with a .213 batting average with runners in scoring position in 2013. They hit .190 with RISP on the road.
Brandon Maurer takes on Jerome Williams at 7:05 PT.
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.
Most people know that I am one of Raul Ibanez‘s biggest critics. Being of the sabermetric-mold, I do not place very much value in a 40 year old DH-in-the-outfield, who can only hit in Yankee Stadium. I don’t know why, but that just isn’t appealing to me. More traditional fans do not necessarily focus on that though, and will point to his veteran leadership. And that is just fine. Raul seems like a great guy, and might be able to mentor some of the kids. But there are problems with that too.
In reality, there is not much he can do. Sure, he can tell people to keep their head up or whatever, but it comes down to the players ability. Encouragement is great, but it doesn’t really matter if the recipient just can’t hit. Raul follow me around day and night, giving me words of wisdom and encouragement. Doesn’t replace the fact that I am an out of shape, slightly lazy 17 year old, who stopped playing select baseball at 14 because I just was not that great anymore. If I would have worked my butt off like my friends who kept playing, then maybe it would be different. But it still comes down to what I can do, not what someone is telling me I can do.
So those are the basic reasons why I disagreed with the Raul signing, especially for $2.75M. That and the fact that I knew he was still going to get a lot of playing time despite being a veteran presence. My reasoning for that belief? See Miguel Olivo over John Jaso last year.
But, over the last week or so, things have changed a bit. Raul is no longer hitting below the interstate (that’s .190 for those who do not get the reference), and in fact, is crushing the ball. After today’s tough loss in Cleveland, he has 6 homers in 7 games. And dating back to May 4th against Toronto he has slashed a ridiculous .375/.394/1.031. This streak has led many to start talking about how good Raul really is, in addition to his veteran presence.
While it is nice to see him hit like this, it is not going to continue. I am sorry, but it just won’t. He now has a .839 OPS on the season, which is 328 points higher than the .511 he had before the streak. There are a few different reasons why there is no way he sustains the .839:
- 6 of the his last 8 games, when the success started, have been on the road. Raul thrives in hitter-friendly parks. Yankee Stadium is a prime example. He had a .343 wOBA there last year, compared to .223 on the road. And that pattern continued this year, and 4 of his hits and 3 of his home runs came in New York. He won’t have the luxury of playing in that little league field they call a big league stadium anymore.
- .562 points of his .839 OPS have come from his slugging percentage. Hitting 6 home runs in a week will do that for you. Raul does not have that kind of power anymore, or ever really. That would be the highest SLG% of his career, and he obviously won’t sustain it. Plus, it is hard to have any long term success with a OBP under .300.
- Raul just is not that good, plain and simple. He used to be, but at his age, he is not the same. He will probably have another one of these stints where he crushes the ball. That is what hitters like him do. But I would not think they will last much longer than this one has.
There is also another big point that I think needs to be made, despite it’s “elementary” feel. Defense is still a part of the game. I know it sounds simple, but people ignore it. Everyone sees the dingers and forgets that Raul is the most gif-able player in the league. Before today’s game (because it isn’t updated as fast) Raul’s WAR was a -0.1. He was costing the team 1/10th of a win with his play. That will probably go up a tad, maybe to an even 0, or a positive decimal. So despite this show he has put on at the plate, his overall value is extremely low. He can’t field, he can’t run, and he can only kind of hit sometimes.
Hot streaks are fun. It is good to see a fan favorite like Raul kill the ball, especially against a team like the Yankees. But do not take this for more than it is. An anomaly. A rather exciting one, but an anomaly nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong either. I like Raul and respect the player he was for the Mariners. But the key word is was. He is not that same player, and if I had it my way, he probably wouldn’t be on the team.
I know a lot of what I said will seem pretty obvious to most of you. But there are a lot of people who overreact to things like this, and do not understand how things like this work. In fact, I would say most traditional-thinking fans would fall into this category, so I still think this was a point that needed to be made. You probably won’t see USS Mariner or Lookout Landing making this sort of post, but they do not appeal to the casual fan as much as we do at Sodo Mojo.
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 fell to the Indians 6-3 in 10 innings last night, as Jason Kipnis ripped a walk-off three-run blast off of Lucas Luetge. Seattle missed out on their first opportunity to reach the .500 mark since the second week of April, and fell to 20-22. This morning, the Mariners get underway at 10:05 PT, with Joe Saunders taking on Zach McAllister. Before they get
underway in Cleveland, here are some things to look out for.
Woeful road Joe
Ladies and gentlemen, Joe Saunders’ four starts on the road in 2013:
April 3, Oakland: 4 IP, 4 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, 3 K
April 19, Texas: 4.2 IP, 7 ER, 9 H, 3 BB, 0 K
April 24, Houston: 5 IP, 8 ER, 11 H, 2 BB, 2 K
May 5, Toronto: 5 IP, 7 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 0 K
All four of these are horrid starts in their own special ways, and all four are Mariners’ losses by wide margins. The closest game of the bunch was the first one, a 6-2 loss to the A’s. Anything can happen in baseball, but starting Joe Saunders on the road this year has been akin to a forfeit for the Mariners. Part of that may be that he only has five strikeouts in 18.2 road innings this year. He’s relying on contact too much and paying the price. His 12.54 road ERA has to come down today for the Mariners to sniff success.
Saunders gets day off
Endy Chavez is leading off and playing centerfield today, a role Michael Saunders has occupied in every game since returning from the disabled list. Eric Wedge and my northwest.com’s Shannon Drayer played it off like a regular day off, but Saunders has been slumping lately. Three of his last four games resulted in 0-for-5 performances, and in those three games, he totaled seven strikeouts. That doesn’t equate to quality lead off hitting, and Saunders’ time in that slot could be limited if Chavez or Dustin Ackley can keep hitting.
Morse returns from eye trouble
The official word on Michael Morse’s eye irritation last night was that he poked himself in the eye some time leading up to Friday’s game and had issues with a dislodged contact and blurred vision for the rest of the night. The Mariners could have used his hot bat yesterday, as runs were few and far between. Hopefully the eye issue doesn’t derail Morse’s hot streak, during which he has racked up nine hits in his past four games.
Here’s the lineup for today:
- Chavez CF
- Ackley 2B
- Seager 3B
- Morales DH
- Morse RF
- Ibanez LF
- Smoak 1B
- Montero C
- Ryan SS
After taking two of three from the Yankees in the Bronx, the Mariners head to Cleveland for four games Friday to Monday against the Indians. Tonight’s game features Mariners’ rookie Brandon Maurer starting against Indians’ veteran Ubaldo Jimenez. Before the action gets underway, here are some pregame notes to digest.
Morse scratched with an eye irritation
That pretty much sums up exactly what we know. Michael Morse, who has nine hits in his last four games, will miss tonight’s game with an eye injury. Endy Chavez will play right field in his stead. That is a big blow to a Mariners lineup that will need to show support for Maurer.
Noesi to Tacoma
A day after he made his first start of 2013, the Mariners sent Hector Noesi to AAA Tacoma today. They promoted reliever Danny Farquhar in his stead. Every reliever on the 25-man roster besides Charlie Furbush pitched last night, and with two game in less than 24 hours upcoming, Eric Wedge must have felt he needed additional relief help.
Farquhar makes some sense, since he has succeeded in medium to short relief in 2013. He boasts a 2.25 ERA in 15 appearances. He racked up 20 innings pitched in that time, and also has six saves for Tacoma. He has struck out 30 batters while walking just four.
Noesi, on the other hand, probably couldn’t pitch for the next few days anyway, after he started and threw upwards of 80 pitches yesterday. I would be surprised to see him pitch in Tacoma, and he might be back with the big club by next week, especially if Aaron Harang can’t make his next start.
Pestano returns to fold for Tribe
Vinnie Pestano, perhaps Cleveland’s best relief pitcher, was activated from the disabled list today and will be available for duty out of the ‘pen tonight for the Wahoos. Pestano, who pitched for the US in the World Baseball Classic in March, went on the DL on May 1 because of a sore right elbow. Pestano had posted a 2.25 ERA with no record so far in 2013. The Indians sent lefty Nick Hagadone back to AAA Columbus to balance the roster.
Maurer looking for first career road win
Maurer has only made two starts on the road so far in 2o12, and he took the loss in both contests. In his most recent road start, he recorded a quality start against Texas, but the Mariners didn’t score any runs to support his cause. The first inning hasn’t been his strength, so getting off to a good start will be important for Maurer. Maybe if the Mariners show him some support by scoring in the first inning before he even takes the hill, the early going will run smoothly for Maurer.
Here’s the lineup trying to help Maurer against Jimenez at 4:05 PT.
- Saunders CF
- Ackley 2B
- Seager 3B
- Morales DH
- Smoak 1B
- Ibanez LF
- Shoppach C
- Chavez RF
- Ryan SS
I did an email interview with Brian Heise of Wahoo’s on First, the Fansided Indians blog, as a preview for the Mariners’ series in Cleveland this weekend. Here’s a link to the interview on their site. I’m also going to publish the answers here.
Brian Heise: The Mariners have spent the past few years stockpiling young talent, especially for the everyday lineup, but have yet to see real results from Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, etc. Is it just growing pains or is something else going on here that is cause for concern?
Me: Some of it is growing pains, but some of it seriously worrying. Montero especially has struggled behind the plate and with the bat, so his days at catcher appear numbered. Smoak and Ackley have improved their approaches at the plate this year, but as the number show, there’s still a ton of room for growth, especially relative to their expectations. Smoak has hit well from the left side of the plate in 2013 (he’s a switch hitter), and his walk numbers are way up.
BH: There’s a lot of hype surrounding Mike Zunino. Do you think we’ll see him with the Mariners this season and, more importantly, is the hype warranted?
Me: Zunino is an interesting case, because he was tearing it up in AAA before strikeouts launched him into a massive slump. He’s not ready for the bigs as of yet, but he might see time later in the summer, depending on how the Montero situation plays out. I fully expect him to be the organization’s catcher of the future once the Montero experiment ends.
BH: How did you feel about the recent extension the Mariners gave to Felix Hernandez? Sound financial investment, or are they playing with fire by committing so much to a player with a lot of mileage on his arm even though he’s still only 27?
Me: It’s hard to quantify how much Felix Hernandez means to this organization in dollar value. He IS the Mariners. So when the big seven year extension came down this winter, nobody in Seattle was too concerned. The Mariners need Felix, not only from a baseball standpoint, but from a financial and perception standpoint as well. In my opinion, no dollar amount was too much to lock up the Seattle sports superstar for the foreseeable future.
BH: What were your expectations for the Mariners heading into 2013 and how do you feel about them midway through May?
Me: I expected them to show improvement, and so far, I’m content with where they are. They come into this weekend at 20-21, in second place in the AL West and having won five of their last six series. I said 80 wins would be an ambitious goal for this team, and they are right on track so far. The difference from the 2012 team is they have two MLB middle-of-the-order mashers in Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse that make them competitive from a hitting standpoint. If they can win games with their three through five spots in the rotation, they could contend for a wild card spot.
BH: What’s your prediction for the series?
Me: The easy prediction here is a split, with the Mariners winning the two games started by Felix and Iwakuma Sunday and Monday. I’m most looking forward to the Felix vs. Justin Masterson match-up Sunday. Masterson looked great in game one of the doubleheader against the YankeesMonday, and Felix will be battling a stiff back. I’ll stick with a split, but I think the Indians beat Felix and the Mariners beat Ubaldo Jimenez tonight.
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.
Breaking news out of Mariners land, as Aaron Harang will not make his regularly scheduled start Thursday due to stiffness in his lower back. Instead, former Yankee Hector Noesi will make his first start of the season.
Harang has struggled mightily so far in 2013, posting a 1-4 record with a 7.30 ERA. However, his last two starts had been better, as he went 1-1 in two six inning, two run performances.
Hector Noesi makes his first start of 2013 for the Mariners. Noesi posted a 2-12 record with a 5.86 ERA in 22 games in 2012, which included 18 starts. In 2011 with New York, he posted a 2-2 record with a 4.47 ERA in 30 apperances (two starts). In 2013 out of the bullpen, Noesi has allowed four runs in nine innings of work.
Whether Noesi can get it on track as a starter remains to be seen, but the Mariners are undoutasbly behind the eight ball, as they oppose left-hander Andy Pettitte tonight in the Bronx. The game starts at 4:05 PT. Here is the Mariners lineup:
- Saunders CF
- Bay LF
- Seager 3B
- Morales 1B
- Morse RF
- Ibanez DH
- Montero C
- Ackley 2B
- Ryan SS