For all intents and purposes it’s time to stop analyzing the 2012 Seattle Mariners team and start looking ahead to 2013. What does GM Jack Zduriencik have up his sleeve this off season?
The Mariners have spent some time hovering near the .500 mark this season and had youngsters get considerable playing time in 2012. But what Mariners fans really want to know, is if 2013 can be a turning point in the decade long rebuilding the M’s fans have endured?
This season was supposed to provide more answers than question marks for the Seattle Mariners. However, the 2012 roster has left fans with too many “if’s” going forward.
Two main questions revolve around players who figured to be cornerstones for the franchise, second baseman Dustin Ackley and first baseman Justin Smoak.
The latter is facing a bust label if he’s unable to rebound in 2013. Many fans already consider Smoak, the center piece of the Cliff Lee trade to be a bust. Smoak, got off to a solid start in 2011, before falling off in the second half of ’11 due to injuries and the death of his father.
Ackley on the other hand, has played well defensively this year, but he was drafted for his bat, which has seen a decline over his 2011 numbers. They both need to turn things around, especially with Brendan Ryan penciled in as a short term solution at shortstop until management determines that Nick Franklin is ready for the big club. The M’s can’t afford another year with one-third of their lineup hovering around the Mendoza line.
The outfield is faced with question marks as well.
Michael Saunders, Mike Carp, Casper Wells, Eric Thames, Trayvon Robinson, Carlos Peguero and others, have gotten prolonged looks with the Mariners this season. Franklin Gutierrez is a liability due to injuries and many fans wonder if he can be counted on.
None have truly impressed, although Saunders has improved over last year when he nearly played himself out of the organization. This outfield is still young and to be better in 2013 a couple players out of the fore-mentioned group needs to breakout.
Who will catch?
With Jesus Montero, John Jaso and Miguel Olivo currently behind the dish, questions revolve around who will be the Mariners backstop in 2013. Montero figures to continue to be plugged in at DH and first, while barring a trade/free agent signing or a breakout spring by first round pick Mike Zunino, Jaso figures to get the bulk of the time next year at catcher. The Seattle press and other Mariners bloggers have questioned whether or not Jaso has the durability to catch 150 plus games per year.
Filling out the rotation behind King Felix
Behind ace Felix Hernandez there remains to be some question marks. Jason Vargas has looked like a solid number two starter this season. Vargas, whose name was thrown around in a lot of trade rumors before the July 31 deadline, may be used in a trade package to further improve the team.
Although not disastrous, Blake Beaven’s season leaves some more to desire and will need to improve. The quickest and easiest way to shore up the rotation would be re-signing Hisashi Iwakuma.
Oliver Perez has been pretty good out of the ‘pen for Seattle this season and may warrant a look in spring training if he is still on the roster.
Many fans will be hoping for at least one of the “Big Three”–Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker–to make the major league roster.
My take is to leave the arms on the farm for some seasoning.
Where to improve an already solid bullpen?
This is one of the Mariners strengths. The M’s have some good young, power arms in the bullpen. Tom Wilhelmsen has been solid as the closer, converting 27 of 31 opportunities, to go along with a 2.32 ERA, limiting hitters to a .196 average, 1.09 WHIP and 79 K’s in 73.2 IP.
I always want to see something done to improve. But if the bullpen arms look the same in 2013 as they do now, I’ll be happy.
I want to know your thoughts. What should Jack Zduriencik do to improve the team for next year? What moves should be made? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.
Scene one: The Mariners are basking in the glow of a two-run lead. It’s been three innings since the opposing team manufactured a run, and with the first batter of the ninth inning, a fastball lands easily in the glove of the left fielder. The pitcher works an 0-2 count, then gives up a single to batter No. 2. The next batter receives a double; the fourth, a four-pitch walk. With the bases juiced, the last batter of the inning grounds into a double play.
Scene two: After eight scoreless innings, the Mariners trail by a single run. The ninth begins with a four-pitch walk, followed by a line drive off the pitcher’s glove. With runners in scoring position, the pitcher issues an intentional walk to the third batter, grabs a three-pitch strikeout with the fourth, and induces a double play on his 13th and final pitch.
In the first scene, the Mariners win. The lead is preserved, the crowd breathes a sigh of relief, and the feeling is one of pleasant, though not overt, surprise. In the second scenario, the Mariners lose. Despite an effective outing, the offense falters in the bottom of the ninth, and fans walk away from the game feeling unjustifiably disappointed in the closer.
Perhaps you guessed, and rightly so, that the pitchers in question are Tom Wilhelmsen and Brandon League. It may not be apparent from the scenes described, but the postgame emotions are relatively familiar to the Mariners fanbase. With six blown saves, League incurred wrath regardless of recent success. In equal measure, Wilhelmsen inspires unwavering trust with his knack for getting out of jams, even when he creates them.
Let me make this clear: Tom Wilhelmsen is not the new Brandon League. However, some of the situations he’s been entrusted with have reawakened feelings that, as one SoDo writer put it, are “League-like.” Could Wilhelmsen become the next League? Unlikely. Still, my feelings regarding both closers have been so colored by emotion and habit, rather than a solid understanding of their track records, that I’d like to put this to rest once and for all.
Without proper context, there are a few similarities between the two:
48 H 49 H
20 R/18 ER 20 R/18 ER
1 HR 4 HR
19 BB 23 BB
6 HLD 7 HLD
6 BS 3 BS
League’s allowed home run total is impressive, to say the least—even taking into account his 12 appearances for the Dodgers, he has just one homer on the season. On closer examination, League carries a ground ball rate of 46.8%, while just 25.7% of outs are made on fly balls, yielding a GB/FB rate of 1.82. By comparison, batters facing Wilhelmsen make 46.0% of outs on ground balls and 37.4% on fly balls for a GB/FB rate of 1.23.
Before you go burning those Bartender jerseys, however, let’s examine the next set of numbers.
.272 AVG .210 AVG
.307 wOBA .271 wOBA
38 SO 70 SO
9 SV 20 SV
3.63 ERA 2.64 ERA
3.46 FIP 2.82 FIP
1.42 K/BB 3.29 K/BB
The first two things that jump out at me are Wilhelmsen’s additional 11 saves and .210 AVG. While this paints him in a highly favorable light, seven of those saves were earned after Brandon League’s departure, not to mention League’s lack of save opportunities after losing the closing role to Wedge’s closer-by-committee approach.
With regard to batting average, Wilhelmsen outperforms League in every situation. Opponents are batting .227 against Tom and .274 against Brandon in their home parks. At Safeco Field, the numbers drop to .191 against Tom and .271 against Brandon. Aside from the Safeco fences doing their part, Wilhelmsen sees a strand rate of 79.0%, almost 10% higher than League’s rate of 69.9%.
Finally, keep in mind that League’s numbers are based on his three months with the Mariners (disregarding his 12 appearances, loss, and 6.00 ERA in Dodger blue). In that time, he recorded 46 outings and 44.2 IP, while Wilhelmsen has racked up 58 appearances and 61.1 IP so far.
Of course, Wilhelmsen’s dominance is just reflected in his results; you can find his pitch arsenal and its effectiveness analyzed in depth over here. Equally as valid is the point that Brandon League’s performances are rendered moot with his move to Southern California. Then again, this isn’t really an argument for either pitcher. I stand by the Mariners’ decision to send League to L.A.—while I wish him the best, I’ll take “Last Call” over “Closing Time” any day.
Sometimes we forget where baseball players come from. Most of us read about the signing of Tom Wilhelmsen with a form of mild curiosity. We read about Wilhelmsen’s back story, giving up baseball to escapade through Europe, and his days mixing drinks at the local bar. We stored it away in some compartment in our brains to be accessed at some later time. Most of us then forgot about him, we had other things consuming our attention at after all and Wilhelmsen wasn’t exactly a premiere prospect.
The Mariners were attempted to catch lightning in a bottle, hoping they were getting what they now have. But Wilhelmsen’s ascension was not free of a few lows. Upon his original promotion, Wilhelmsen didn’t preform all that well, in fact he was bad… really bad. So the Mariners demoted him back AA for a while until they decided to give him another shot late in the season. The results couldn’t not have been any different and he’s been running away with it ever since.
It’s strange to think that our current closer didn’t even come into spring training with a guaranteed roster spot. The majority of the bullpen was up for grabs and Tom was going to have to prove to be the caliber of pitcher the Mariners needed. The rest has been a blur. While Brandon League began the season as closer, he soon faltered leaving the position wide open. Wilhelmsen seized his opportunity taking the “closer by committee” decision out of Wedge’s hands. The Mariners have suddenly stolen a closer out of the reclamation bin. I’m not sure how easy that is to grasp. Tom Wilhelmsen gave up baseball to backpack through Europe and become a bartender. He gave it up completely, no practice, no soft toss with Grandpa, he makes it sound as if he didn’t touch a baseball throughout his entire five year hiatus. His comeback alone is incredeble, and to ascend to one of the leagues most dominant closers–it’s almost unfathomable.
The Mariners have been very good at creating a cost effective bullpen pieces this past decade, but this is even beyond that. The Mariners gave a pitcher a second chance and he has done everything to capitalize on his opportunity. To take a quote from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, “Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.”. The recent life of a Mariners fan has not been easy, we deserve what ever reward baseball feels fit to give us.
On June 2nd, 1990, my dad took me to a baseball game. I was five years old and we were going to see the Mariners take on the visiting Detroit Tigers in the Kingdome. Even at that age I went to so many ballgames that this particular day was no different than many others. But somewhere, amongst my collection of baseball-related things, I still possess a ticket stub from that contest. It’s unusually glossy, with a vibrant yellow trim, and weaves the Mariners’ alternate logo — a blue baseball stamped with “M’s” lettering — into its otherwise-white canvas. It indicates my preferred seating location — somewhere in the nether reaches of the Dome’s 300-level, on the first base side, directly across from the big screen, or DiamondVision to the initiated.
I don’t remember much about that particular evening. When you’ve only recently hit the halfway point of your single-digit years, memories tend to be fuzzy and shrouded in puffy, silver clouds. I’d like to say I recall every moment of that game, but that would be a lie. About the only distinct memory I do have is rising to my feet with a crowd, clapping and cheering as the ninth inning faded into oblivion. Next to me, my dad explained what was occurring. Baseball may not have done everything right in defining their terminology over the years, but the term “no-hitter” is pretty easy for anyone to understand, even a kid.
Much of what I know about that night and its place in history came in the following years. Tacked up on my wall, alongside my bed, hung a poster commemorating the events of that date. I studied that poster for more than a decade. Every time I rearranged my room, that poster found itself moving to a new location. I wanted to look at it always. It gave me something to focus on when I couldn’t sleep, something to think about when I needed to ease my mind, and most of all, it was just plain awesome.
The inset of that poster contained a box score from the historic game. Burned into my consciousness are all sorts of anomalies from that stat sheet that I won’t ever forget.
Ken Griffey, Jr., still just 20 years of age, had not yet endeared himself to the heart of the team’s order; he batted fifth that evening. Following Junior at sixth and seventh in the lineup? Third baseman Edgar Martinez and right fielder Jay Buhner.
Mike Brumley, who happens to be the team’s current first base coach, played shortstop and batted ninth. In the history of Mariners infielders, Brumley, a journeyman backup, was but a blip on the radar of relevance. Had it not been for this particular evening that he found himself penciled into the starting nine, few fans might retain any memory of Mike Brumley, the Mariner.
Scott Bradley, a left-handed-hitting backup catcher, was on the receiving end of every pitch thrown that night. He was spelling injured starter Dave Valle — a frequent visitor to the disabled list in his career.
Cecil Fielder, who would go on to hit a league-leading 51 home runs in the 1990 season, occupied the three-hole in the Tigers’ order. He didn’t manage a dinger, let alone a hit, on this night, however.
And at the bottom of that box, in the home pitching frame, read a line that will forever have meaning to Seattle sports fans. Having relinquished zero runs and zero hits, walked six, and struck out eight, Randy Johnson pitched all nine innings to record the franchise’s first no-hitter. Above those statistics, an image of Johnson surrounded by teammates and embraced by his catcher, Bradley, lay splashed in black-and-white across the vast majority of this work of art. Human emotion remained frozen in time. A man roared skyward, another grinned, a few more ran towards the embracing battery, and thousands of individuals cheered in the background. It was, in a word, significant.
Twenty-two years and six days elapsed between Seattle’s first no-hitter and its most recent. In this rendition of hitlessness, six hurlers combined to stymie the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.
Kevin Millwood started the game, then pulled his groin after six innings. He made way for southpaw Charlie Furbush, who would eventually yield to rookie right-hander Stephen Pryor. Pryor would issue two baserunners via walks to start the eighth, forcing manager Eric Wedge to turn to situational lefty Lucas Luetge to record an out, then the beleaguered (no pun intended) Brandon League to nail down the penultimate frame. In the ninth, newly-christened closer Tom Wilhelmsen set down the final three hitters in order, thus polishing off one of the rarer feats in sports: a combined no-hitter.
Much has been written about this moment already, so for me to recap it once more would be foolish. But the reality of the situation is that this game, for those who witnessed it, will never be forgotten. You can ask me where I was on June 2nd, 1990, and I’ll be able to tell you from now until the day I die. Likewise, for those in attendance at Safeco Field on June 8th, 2012, there will always be a certain importance attached to the date.
In the grand scheme of a season that may or may not end up being remarkable, Friday evening will stand out. And on the landscape of Seattle sports events, though it might not result in a championship or even have a direct bearing on the team’s performance from here on out, this no-hitter will resonate as a gigantic pick-me-up amidst a down era in the city’s athletic annals.
We needed this. I needed it. You needed it. If you’re a sports fan in this town of ours, what the Mariners did on one special night in June was a shot in the arm for all of us.
So to the Mariners and their six remarkable pitchers, because we don’t say it enough, and because it just feels good to say it sometimes, thank you. Thank you, M’s. You did great.
Filed under: Mariners
The Mariners played what I thought was there most solid game of the year tonight beating the powerful Detroit Tigers 7-4 to snap a four games losing streak. This game was just what we needed after the last several days, or perhaps it was just a tease to keep those of us who are still paying attention a reason to hang in there. Either way tonight we got a gutsy outing from Jason Vargas who got the start and the win against a powerful Tigers lineup which added Prince Fielder in the offseason to give Tigers skipper Jim Leyland even more ammo in his quest to get back into the playoffs and go a little deeper this year.
I sort of played a little game with myself tonight by handling other chores and fiddling around online while the game was playing in the background tonight just in case it was another blowout which would allow me to transition into civilian life easier without going through more grief. But our guys just kept pounding away tonight collecting a season-high 15 hits thanks to guys like Alex Liddi who had a big night with three base knocks including a huge solo homer in the seventh to give the Mariners a 6-4 lead at the time. Michael Saunders also had a nice game knocking in three runs with a couple of clutch 2-out doubles in front of 30,073 Tigers fans at Comerica Park in the Motor City.
The Mariners relief corps of Tom Wilhelmsen and Brandon League also were impressive tonight, especially Wilhelmsen who managed to get out of a jam in the eighth after both Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder singled to start the frame. But Wilhelmsen took control after that fanning the last two batters in the eighth showing some grit in a crucial situation before handing the ball off to Brandon League who hasn’t pitched since blowing that save the other night. It became apparent right away that League still doesn’t have a handle on his deadly splitter, but like a true pro he adjusted after walking the first batter and threw fastballs the rest of the inning to shut down the Tigers. League will have to find that elusive splitter soon if he is going to be the effective closer we have all gotten used to.
Alex Liddi’s big night at the plate raising his average to .368 in limited appearances may add another wild-card into the mix as far as who will eventually be sent down once Carp and Gutierrez come back. I don’t know about you guys but I’m getting a little tired of waiting around for Justin Smoak to produce at the plate and I think Eric Wedge may need to give Liddi another day at first to see if the big Italian kid can keep driving the ball. It would be nice to win this series to get things back on track and tonight’s solid game was a great start! Go Chuck and Howard! http://jeffsmariners.com
Just yesterday I was pondering how much longer the Mariners would wait to trim a few loose strings. Today those strings have been neatly trimmed…kind of.
Here is your Seattle Mariners 2012 Opening Day Roster.
Tags: alex liddi, Blake Beavan, Brandon League, brendan ryan, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chone Figgins, dustin ackley, Erasmo Ramirez, featured, Felix Hernandez, George Sherrill, Hector Noesi, hisashi iwakuma, Ichiro Suzuki, Jason Vargas, Jesus Montero, John Jaso, justin smoak, kevin millwood, kyle seager, Lucas Luetge, Mariners General, Michael Saunders, miguel olivo, Mike Carp, Munenori Kawasaki, Popular, shawn Kelley, Steve Delabar, Tom Wilhelmsen
I have a natural bias against acquiring relief pitching but there are always a few good things that you can say about just about any move. Hey, we all found the positive in a Miguel Olivo signing last year at this time. We talked about the fact he mashed lefties, hit for power that wouldn’t be hindered by Safeco and had a cannon for an arm that could potentially negate how terrible of a receiver he was.
Obviously we got hit by the reality truck shortly there after but that said there are some good things that we can focus on in just about any deal, just ask Blue Jay fans.
So let’s talk about one of the more odd persistant rumors out there in the country and that would be Andrew Bailey. Bailey oddly enough keeps being contected with the Mariners and while initially I was right with Jason Churchill in the mindset that they just were keeping tabs on him being they most likely (and sadly enough) had League on the market. It was either that or, being that Texas was interested, they were just attempting to drive up the price.
The problem with that theory is that it’s been going on for about roughly 3 weeks. I’m personally going out on a limb and say that I think there is sufficient interest by the front office at this point. Again, that’s just my opinion. I am frequently wrong and corrected all the time by multiple people smarter than me.
The question then begs to be asked, why would the Mariners have interest in Bailey? I’ve asked myself that repeated question for the better part of a week and the only way I could really answer it for myself was to go Liz Lemon and create a pro’s-n-con’s sheet.
Feel free to contribute if you feel I’ve left anything off.
Below you are about to be absorbed into my own little world. One that I’ve taken the better half of … oh well… let’s just pretend it’s been two weeks and not the last two months, because that’s just sad.
This is strictly of my own opinion, take it at face value, which is worth nothing. I understand no one cares how I would improve the Mariners and that in general most of my theories for roster construction are really just a mish mash of other brilliants minds at work.
Be prepared to be completely disappointed. I, like many others, love talking trades. I love discussing how to make this team better simply because, My Lord they are awful this past year, but really I can’t believe they are as bad as they really are. As I’ve previously discussed my sole goal for this team is to do the following:
- A) I want to give this team a trampoline. The goal is to give them the opportunity to bounce forward from this point. Start this coming year as a 77-80 win team and give them the opportunity to better themselves to becoming an 85-90 win team. Next year starts this year.
- B) You can’t move forward without talent. I’m not just talking about acquiring talent either, it’s about cultivating and helping it grow towards being healthy and productive. The Mariners are never going to compete, let me reiterate this for everyone, NEVER going to compete again unless they can eventually grow internal talent. Doug Fister was good, Dustin Ackley is of course way better, but there needs to be less gap time between the time periods and more players. Really, what this team needs to figure out is how to grow position players and while you need to give them time you need to have the talent to step in for if those young guys fail.
- C) With growing talent it means keeping it. My goal is to keep as much internal talent possible while moving forward. This is extremely difficult and it relies on… more risk. You can’t get premier talent without giving up premier talent but you can acquire certain individuals that are available around the league for less than they potentially could be worth. This takes a lot of time and is a huge risk. But the important thing is all your giving away is at bats. The talent you have to give up to get them was hardly negligible. Bottom line: I hate giving away young cost controlled arms for risk/reward situations. There is a time to hold ‘em and a time to … well deal them. I see few moves that could should be made by dealing away any of the young arms the Mariners have collected to this point.
- D) I know Seattle fans are looking at the potential 20 million dollars and they feel like finally they can spend it. Oh they have the money free right now and it’s already starting to burn a hole in their pocket. The unfortunate truth is we can’t just throw that at the “best” guy possible. They have to spend it wisely or be doomed to repeat more of the mid -2000’s. Likewise it means acquiring talent that is on the mend that other teams have deemed “too much time to invest or too pricey due to lack of production” some call it dumpster diving others call it investing. We need to come away from this season with more money in our pockets next year. As I continue to say getting to .500 is easy. Once we’re there it’s going to take money or prospects to make that last push. We’ll discuss that more as we get into the free-agent section.
Without further ado I give you my EPIC king of the off-season post.
Tags: Adam Moore, Blake Bevan, Brandon League, Casey Blake, Casper Wells, Chance Ruffin, Charlie Furbush, Chris Capuano, Chris Gimenez, David DeJesus, dustin ackley, Erik Kratz, Felix Hernandez, franklin gutierrez, grady sizemore, Ichiro, Jason Vargas, Josh Lueke, justin smoak, Kelly Shoppach, King for a day, kyle seager, Landon Powell, Matt Antonelli, Michael Pineda, Mike Carp, prince fielder, Ramon Hernandez, Raul Ibanez, Scott Rolen, Shawn Camp, shawn Kelley, Tom Wilhelmsen, Will Venable
When you look over the past month there has been no other reliever on this Mariner squad as good as Tom Wilhelmsen. This is kind of surprising because, to be honest, his previous experience at the big league level sucked and he’s sucked rather badly.
What was the cause for the suckage? Predominately, it was because he just couldn’t throw strikes. He couldn’t throw first pitch strikes, he couldn’t throw a 3-0 strike. He couldn’t throw his fastball for a strike and when you are in the business of pitching in major league baseball its currency is strikes.
Okay, he did throw a few strikes. But his command was often bad and his pitch locations were poor at very best and while he went sent down to AA-Jackson to be stretched out as a starter, I have to believe a contributing factor was how poorly he performed at the big league level.
Unfortunately, he sucked in AA too, though it wasn’t on the same level. Yet you did expect him to get better pitching in AA after coming back from the Major Leagues. Well, maybe that’s a wrong expectation. But, in a logical sort of way it makes sense.
In Jackson he continued to be able to show the ability to miss bats but continued to show a lack of command over his pitches. He maintained an ERA/FIP of 5.49/5.12 and this is with keeping his HR/FB ratio below league average and a league average BABIP. The only thing “luck wise” that you could point out was he had a LOB% of 65.4% which is under the league average; otherwise he just wasn’t any good.
Surprisingly enough despite his mediocre 60 innings in Jackson, the Mariners promoted him in early August. I can’t really speak for everyone but I personally just felt like it was a mistake. But hey, I’ve been wrong about a lot before.
See pictures and stuff after the jump…
I’m still a bit behind everything so just work with me here.
Even with the Royals game tonight, I still wanted to do a short recap of what happened in the Angels series. While it was only 3 games there was some interesting things that just went on and being that I haven’t been able to be on twitter I had some thoughts on it all.
Coming into this series I thought the Mariners would take 1 out of 3. With the best chance coming when Felix pitched. Sure, enough that’s how it went down. But, the Mariners really should have pulled out more than just the one.
There are a lot of things to look forward to as a Seattle Mariners fan. As of 9:00 P.M. tonight, Danny Hultzen is a Seattle Mariner. In 2010, Hultzen finished the season with a 10-3 record, posting a 1.59 ERA in 96.1 innings. This year, Hultzen made 18 starts, holding a 12-3 record and posting an ERA of 1.37. The Mariners are stockpiling arms. Taijaun Walker is climbing the ranks – with 113 strikeouts this year, his stuff is looking great, and scouts are starting to take notice of this up and coming star. The Mariners are stockpiling arms.
Tonight, the Mariners showcased two of their flame-throwing-arms in Tom Wilhelmsen and Dan Cortes. The lowly prospect Michael Pineda couldn’t fend off the feeble Tortonto Blue Jays, giving up five earned-runs in five innings. Wilhelmsen and Cortes had to hold down the fort. And they did. They made it look easy. With such giant arms as Wilhelmsen and Cortes, it’s easy to see that, yes. The Mariners are stockpiling arms.
All is well in the world of the Seattle Mariners. If baseball is an arms race, then the Seattle Mariners have secured the best weapons.
As I sit here watching the Mariners play their first game of the 2nd half of the season, I thought I should look back the first half and review a bit how we got to where we are. Here have been the major story lines from the first half of the … [visit site to read more]
It seems that there is nothing but Ackley-mania in the blogosphere today, so i thought I’d counter with something completely different. Well, sort of. He does play a roll in what I’m about to say, but only a small one.
The Mariners came into this … [visit site to read more]