Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Welcome Wlad the Destroyer


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Winnin' yoo-glee

I went to my first M's game last night, and although I sat in the third deck overlooking left field, enjoyed watching Bedard pitch. He wasn't overpowering (the gun showed his fastball to be in the 89-92 range), but he seemed to keep the A's hitters off-balance all night long. His line was good: 6 2/3 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 4 K's, 4 BB's, albeit against a lineup that features a hell of a lot of Triple A hitters. It was the perfect opponent to tune up against.

The lineup was painful to witness, even if the results were what we wanted. After the average-to-above-average top four of Ichiro, Lopez, Ibanez and Beltre, McLaren trotted out the following: Norton, Sexson, Wilkerson, Burke, Betancourt. Crap, crap, crap, crap and decent. Three games behind first notwithstanding, the M's are not going to be able to keep up with the lack of overall talent they have offensively. There are just too many holes in the lineup, even when regulars Johjima (.194) and Vidro (.195) are in it. Maybe especially when they are in it, at least at this point. If Greg Norton is batting fifth in your lineup (even though he did go 3-for-4 with 3 RBI's last night), you know you have issues.

And then there's the bullpen. I admit that I still believe this is an area of strength for this ball club. Corcoran, Green and Morrow have been pretty solid, with opponents hitting .211, .213 and .083 against them, respectively. Green's 10 BB's in 12 2/3 IP are a large blemish, though, portending bigger problems for him. Speaking of problems, JJ Putz was just awful last night. I know he is rusty, but it was painful to watch him walk three and give up two hits in his one inning of work, turning a 5-1 game into a nail-biter. I was annoyed that Morrow wasn't left in the game - partly because he only threw 11 pitches in the 8th, mostly because he was in line for a cheap save for my fantasy team - and my annoyance grew as Putz struggled. Had the M's faced a team with a real lineup, this could have been a devastating loss.

I was grateful to see the Mariners hold on for the win and Bedard was a treat to watch, but with the offense Seattle has and the over-compartmentalization McLaren performs as manager, it's going to take divine intervention for this team to stay in the race all season long. Or a real GM.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


In April. What the hell?

I am a huge fan of DirecTV. Way better than cable. Unless it snows.

Then you miss a tremendously exciting early season game with first place on the line.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Felix is fun!

There was nothing that was not fun about last night's performance from Felix. The way he pitches, his enthusiasm, his interaction with his teammates. Just awesome.

And that wasn't even on of his best performances! He had 7 flyballs and only 8 K's. Super Felix is a ground ball/strikeout machine.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Things we've learned after two weeks

1. Eric O'Flaherty has some issues right now. Normally, I'm in the he'll be fine, keep rolling him out there camp, but he is really struggling. Expect him to get sent down today.

2. Mike Morse cannot play the outfield. He's really, really bad. When you end up injuring yourself trying to make a reasonably simple dive, well, you may not be in the right position.

3. The total lack of depth and bench hurts this team badly. If you want to give anyone in the outfield a day off, with Jimerson inexplicably cut, our only options are Morse, Norton, and Bloomquist, all converted infielders. Beltre is hurting, so we have to start Cairo? That was a really pathetic lineup we ran out there yesterday.

Okay, okay we knew most of those things before the season even started, but the first two weeks have really crystalized those points. Despite everything though, we are what we thought we were, an around 500 ballclub hoping for some breaks.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

45 or 6-2-4

I've discussed this before, but in the absolute sense, is strong pitching enough to overcome weak hitting on a baseball team?

Through the first 11 games of the year, prized #1 starter Eric Bedard has performed fairly well in his first two starts: 1-0, 3.27, 10 K's in 11 IP. His control has been off (8 BB's), though he's never been known as that type of pitcher anyway. If career stats are any indicator, he should end up averaging about half that many walks over the full season. Led by Bedard and King Felix, the Mariners' pitching staff is currently 7th in the AL in ERA (3.99), 5th in K's, third-highest in BB's, and tied for second-worst in HR's allowed. I don't believe these cumulative numbers satisfy the "strong" premise of the thread as of yet, but it's early.

Brad Wilkerson, Kenji Johjima and Jose Lopez represent a cross-section of an offense that is hitting an anemic .237 so far - last in the American League. Wilkerson is at .148/.185/.324, Johjima .100/.133/.206 and the red-hot Lopez .308/.341/.513. Other key team metrics include being tied for third in HR's (13), 7th in runs (48), 8th in slugging, 8th in SB's and T-1 in BB's. Other than BA, the rest of the numbers wallow in general mediocrity.

So what is the lesson learned? Nothing - it's too early to tell. The bullpen has skewed some of the pitching stats the wrong way, whereas certain cold bats have done the same offensively. However, amidst the jumble appear to be certain stats that may be bellwethers for later in the season: team speed, batting average, slugging percentage. Nobody who follows this team would be particularly surprised to see them continue to struggle in these areas. What will be very interesting to see is if baseball, circa 2008, can work as it did in the 1960's, when pitching could lead a team to the promised land. As the steroid era slams shut and the home run diminishes in importance, it's gone from a de minimis possibility to unknown territory. The Mariners had better hope so, as they've banked their season on it - not to mention a big chunk of their future.

That is, unless they juice the balls once again. Chicks dig the long ball.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Towel, part deux


If you go 2-5 at some point in May it is no big deal. 2-5 to open the season just feels worse somehow. I also contend strongly that late inning losses are bad for a team's morale. Although I tend to discount chemistry type arguments, I do think that a series of bullpen blows can lead to the rest of the team trying to "do to much" to win games on every swing, every pitch.

Still, there is every likelihood that the 2008 Seattle Mariners have plenty of near .500 baseball left in them this season. If simply left to their own devices they should eventually start playing their way back to the mean.

The real danger is if this poor start becomes a really poor start. How does management react to that? Does a couple of bad games get O'Flaherty sent to Tacoma? Does the team trade Clement for a veteran reliever? If they go 9-20 in April does the McLaren death watch start up? What about Bavasi? Does he get to hang around and blow a couple more farm chips in a quixotic quest for contention?

We could sweep the Rays this week and everything could die back down. But if we get swept, keep your eye on things. They could get interesting in a hurry.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Too early to start looking for the towel?

So, we're at the end of week one. Putz is hurt, Big Sexy still can't hit, and we've swung from last to first in the division in a matter of a couple of games.

Sure, sure. It's too early to panic. (Well--not really. After all, this is just what we expected, right?) "Last place" is a mere 1.5 games behind the Angels, and I'm strangely comfortable with that.

I'm going to continue to attempt to keep the Pollyanna glasses on, but I'm just so beaten down as a Mariners fan by the current regime. The bizarre expectations of national talking heads (you know the ones...those who apparently agree with the front office that the team was an Erik Bedard away from playoff contention) just set up unrealistic targets for fans to attach themselves to.

I guess I should be happy that the team has been IN most of their contests. Up next: close battles against the O's (again), the new and improved Rays (the Devil has apparently been exorcised in Tampa Bay), and then next weekend we host the Angels. This could get ugly before we even escape April.

Sorry. Sorry. Not panicking yet. Go M's! Yeah! Woo hoo!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A rented mule

Ever heard the taunt I'm going to beat you like a rented mule?

Wikipedia attributes that bit of slang lexicon to Mickey Redmond, a former NHL player and current Detroit Red Wings color commentator. It's my current pet phrase. I'm a fair ping pong player, and prior to most of my recent string of victories over a friend of mine, I've frequently loudly employed it - much to his amusement (and chagrin).

Thus, instead of beating a dead horse, I'm going to bastardize the theme slightly, especially since the M's have continued their recent dominance over the hapless Texas Rangers, indeed beating them like a rented mule.

Let's look at the ages of the Mariners' opening day lineup and starting staff:

Ichiro! - 34
Lopez - 24
Ibanez - 35
Sexon - 33
Beltre - 28
Wilkerson - 30
Vidro - 33
Johjima - 31
Betancourt - 26

Bedard - 29
Felix - 21
Silva - 28
Washburn - 33
Batista - 37

That is one old team.

Compare it to the positional counterparts of the Cleveland Indians, who (unlike the Mariners) pulled the plug completely and did a full rebuild - returning to prominence sooner than Seattle, for that matter:

Sizemore - 25
Cabrera - 22
Peralta - 25
Martinez - 29
Hafner - 30
Garko - 27
Gutierrez - 25
Dellucci - 34
Blake - 34

Sabathia - 27
Carmona - 24
Westbrook - 30
Byrd - 37
Lee - 29

I haven't bothered to include the bench and relief pitchers, but based solely upon these lists, which team appears built for the long haul?

Having beaten the horse, mule or whatever equine creature suits your fancy sufficiently, spring is the time for optimism, not criticism. The Mariner starters are humming along in the first three games, the hitters seem willing to work the count instead of lunging at everything, and the bullpen is solid - the loss of J.J. Putz notwithstanding.

161-1, baby.

Ahhhh, 161-1, anybody?

And the optimism is tempered a bit. M's blow a won game on Felix's watch. Yikes.

And to make matters worse, J.J. Putz is felled by an injury I can't even pronounce.

We're seeing exciting baseball, to be sure, but I'm not very reassured that its exciting baseball involving a really, really bad team. (The Rangers...sorry I failed to clarify.) What happens when we play good teams?

What happens when Bedard and Felix aren't starting?

Well, for now (as of right now, the Jackal is inexplicably cruising against said bad team in the Safe), we can hope to continue enjoying exciting, and possibly even winning, baseball. The bullpen is certainly weakened by the injury, but there aren't a lot of less critical positions to lose than closer. I hope that Putz's injury is less awful than it sounds, but I refuse to give in to despair.