Category: Mariners

Who follows Nori Aoki in Seattle Mariner 2016 lineup

At the moment Nori Aoki will bat leadoff and play left field. Both Jerry Dipoto, Mariner’s GM, and Scott Servais, M’s manager, have pretty much given him that job. That will be against right handed pitchers as Aoki bats left. The number two hitter could be Ketel Marte, but a 2-3-4 of Seager-Cano-and Cruz might be better at the beginning of the season. Marte impressed in his call-up last season, hitting .283 in  57 games, but the two slot puts a lot of pressure on a 22-year old to get on base for the big bats. And seasoned hitters batting 2-3-4 should create more offense.

Adam Lind at first will bat fifth giving a L-L-L-R-L in the first five batters. The sixth slot is likely Seth Smith, another left handed bat, and he would be in right if Cruz is at DH or the DH with Cruz in right.

That leaves catcher Chris Iannetta in the seventh slot with every Mariner fan hoping he will hit better than his .188 showing for the Angels in 2015.  He bats right, but the only other catcher is backup Steve Clevenger who bats left, but he is also in the mix as a back up at first and occasional DH. Dipoto and Servais want Zunino to begin in Tacoma, but you never know. He has trouble with major league pitching, not much trouble in AAA, so even if he starts well in Tacoma, that is no guarantee he will hit in Seattle. 

The eighth and ninth slots are likely to be Marte and Leonys Martin. Both are speedsters and base stealers and have potential for creating RBI opportunities for Aoki and Seager.

The lineup against a southpaw pitcher is harder to figure. Franklin Gutierrez and Jesus Montero-if they like his defense at first- should see playing time, meaning Aoki and Lind would sit. In that case they might bat Marte leadoff, a switch hitter, to give him the opportunity to hit higher in the lineup and depending on how he does, ease him into the second slot as the season progresses.  Gutierrez in the second spot? could be. Then Cano and Cruz which would give you R-R-then L-Cano-R-Cruz, then Seager fifth from the left side. Montero sixth at first, Iannetta or Clevenger seventh, perhaps Chris Taylor as DH if makes the team and Martin ninth.

Dipoto has said there are only three spots open on the team. One is the utility player, the second is the backup first baseman, and the other is in the bullpen. The lineup looks better than the 2015 version, but then everything looks good on paper, or on the Internet.

The Big Unit vs. Mark McGwire, 6/24/97 in the Kingdome

I would like to describe the weather that June day, but since I was watching in the Kingdome from section 311, row 17, seat 10, all I saw was a gray dome. The Mariners who were good that year winning 90 games had Randy Johnson 11-1 pitching against Oakland’s Steve Karsay, 1-7.  I thought it would be an easy win for the Big Unit, but this is baseball and nothing is a given.

Randy struck out Jason McDonald leading off the third, giving him six strikeouts in the first ten batters. Rafael Bournigal then singled, scored on Geronimo Berroa’s double, who then scored on Mark McGwire’s double, before Randy whiffed Jose Canseco and former Mariner prospect Patrick Lennon.

Mariners down 2-0 when McGwire comes up in the 5th with two down, both on strikeouts. What happened next is what occurs when speed meets power at a precise spot in the bat, the sweetest of the spots, unless of course you are a Mariner fan. I was sitting down the left field line and saw the ball jump off McGwire’s bat with such velocity that when the ball reached it’s apogee, I heard a thundering crack, or was it an explosion. I would like to say I saw the ball after that, but it disappeared from my view as it headed for the scoreboard high on the wall, above the bleachers, and so far away from the plate it was unreachable. I looked at the scoreboard to see what lights the ball would break. But alas, the ball did not get there. In my mind’s eye, however, it got close, real close.

It was estimated to have gone 538 feet into the second deck of the bleachers just below the scoreboard. Naturally it was the longest homerun hit in the Kingdome. And I was there to almost see it.

George Williams homered for the A’s in the 9th to take a 4-0 lead. Randy went the distance striking out 19 and walking zero while giving up 11 hits. He was the fifth pitcher at the time to have struck out 19 in a game. The others being Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, and David Cone. Carlton, a lefty like Johnson also was the losing pitcher in his 19 K performance. The 19 K’s by Randy was an American League record for a lefty and a Mariner team record.

The M’s lost 4-1, scoring a run in the bottom of 9th on Griffey Junior’s leadoff triple, scoring on Edgar Martinez groundout. Junior had a single, double triple, and walk in the game.

It was memorable game of course as you do not see 19 K’s every day, nor a 538 home run, nor Junior going 3-3 (a homer would have been nice though), but it still burns me 18 years later that Randy had 19 K’s and lost.  I did not know at the time, how could I, that the 538 blast may have been chemically induced. No matter. I lost the ball in the dark gray of the dome.  

I give up, what is Jerry Dipoto doing

Hisashi Iwakuma is gone, now a Dodger with a three year contract at the age of 35. I wish him well and I hope he stays injury free. Seattle GM, Jerry Dipoto, had to strengthen the starting staff so he traded fireball reliever Carson Smith and starter Roenis Elias to the Red Sox for Wade Miley and minor league pitcher Jonathan Aro.

Miley can’t replace Iwakuma in the rotation. In 2012 he had a solid year with Arizona with a 16-11 record and 3.33 ERA. The next season he was 10-10 with a 3.55 ERA. But the past two seasons with Arizona and Boston he is a combined 19-23 with ERA’s of 4.34 and 4.64. Not the numbers of a number two starter. He gives up 9.3 hits and 3 walks per inning, but does not give up a lot of homers and will pitch around 200 innings.

Still look at the entire moves. In essence you added Miley while losing Iwakuma, Smith and Elias. Miley has two years left of a three year deal worth 19.5 million, so he comes cheaper than Iwakuma. Dipoto saved a lot of money by dumping Mark Trumbo’s salary, money that could have been used for Iwakuma, but perhaps Dipoto was scared off my Kuma’s age and injury history. Can’t fault him there.

But on the other side of the diamond he does seem to be stockpiling players who have taken a down turn in their careers and others coming off injuries. I know Dipoto has not finished his head spinning trade a day refashioning of the team, but there are a lot of players that you see on the roster and the one word that comes to  mind is ‘hope.’ As in I hope he can bounce back.

Elias was inconsistent to be kind, but Smith was a strong late inning reliever with a high upside. As of today the bullpen is full of unknown arms that we ‘hope’ can pitch and a starting staff that we see and ‘hope’ they can go deep and eat innings.

Dipoto does not have to make a blockbuster deal, but getting a few players that don’t make you say, ‘I hope’ would be nice. Mariner fans are tired of hope.

 

 

 

 

Are Mariners brewing a move on the Hot Stove

The Seattle Mariners roster is changing daily. That is because Mariners new GM Jerry Dipoto is in the kitchen tossing out ingredients whose expiration date has expired. He is in the midst of creating a new dish and is looking for fresher ingredients. Here is what Chef Dipoto has done so far, though things may have changed even as I am typing. as he is a fast and furious chef.

Gone                                                                           Added 

Brad Miller                                                                Nathan Karns-starter

Logan Morrison                                                      Boog Powell-outfielder

Danny Farquhar                                                     Daniel Robertson-outfield

Tom Wilhelmsen                                                    Joaquin Benoit-closer

James Jones                                                             Leonys Martin-CF

CJ Riefenhauser added and departed           Anthony Bass-pitcher

Mark Trumbo                                                         Luis Sardinas-infield

Ramon Flores                                                         Chris Iannetta-catcher

Patrick Kivlehan                                                    Andy Wilkins-1b                                  

                                                                                      Steve Clevenger-catcher/1b

                                                                                      Nori Aoki-outfield

                                                                                      Justin De Fratus-pitcher

 

What Dipoto has thus far done, is add players coming off bad years or injuries, or players with potential, but have yet to show much. But dumping Trumbo’s salary of $9 million gives Chef Dipoto more money; more money to do what?

Repeat after me. Free Agent Signing. But who is the question. I can not imagine him cutting the payroll without adding someone.

At present Dipoto has said that Jesus Montero and Andy Wilkins make a nice platoon at first base and that Montero deserves a shot. I agree, but GM’s always say that until they have an alternative of someone they think is better. The chef also praised Brad Miller, then traded him. Dipoto is also big on defense, and Montero is average at best. Justin Moreau, 34, coming off an injury (Dipoto’s favorite), hit .310 in 168 at bats. Is Jerry thinking of Justin. Or Mike Napoli? Or perhaps Johnny Cueto for a starting pitcher. Or is he saving the money to resign Hisashi Iwakuma. But something is cooking.

The winter meetings start Monday, the 7th, so stay tuned to the Mariner Food Network to see what Jerry will do next.

                                                                              

 

 

Is it important that Scott Servais has no managerial experience

The Seattle Mariners, as every baseball fan knows by now, hired Scott Servais as the Seattle Mariners new manager. The concern was that he had no managerial experience. It sounded scary to many. What, he has never done this before. My God, what will happen?

It seemed the hidden thought behind any one who mentioned it, and brought it up as a concern, was I wonder if he knows as much about baseball as I do. As we know the people who know the most about baseball are fans and media people. Why else would Tom Verducci criticize Terry Collins in the World Series about a pitching change? Sorry Tom, but I don’t care what you think. Can we have someone like John Smoltz in the booth who knows far more than Verducci and Harold Reynolds.

Obviously Tom knows what moves to make.  And why else would fans call sports talk radio and complain that their manger can’t run a bullpen, that the manager used the wrong pinch hitter, and on it goes. We all know better, right?

What fans and some in the media forget at times is that there is more to managing than going by the book pinch hitting a lefty against a righty, and all the so called obvious moves based on percentages. The thing with numbers is that they tell you what happened, not what will happen. In baseball games, odds are beaten in every game by somebody doing something where the odds indicate otherwise.

In-game moves by a manager have more to do with the obvious and in the end those moves are not the main reason he is in the dugout. A manager today must be a leader, must have the respect of his players, must be a good communicator, and must be firm in his resolve. When a superstar jogs halfheartedly to first on a grounder, bench him, don’t cater to his status. A leader leads, not letting players dictate the goings on.

Scott Servais has been in baseball as player all his life. I don’t care how he manages during a game (not yet anyway), but if he is a leader and the players respect him, that is what matters most.

 

 

What can Mariners expect in 2016 from Seth Smith

If history is an indicator in 2016 Seth Smith will hit 31 doubles, 5 triples and 12 homeruns. I cite with confidence because those are his numbers for each of the last two years. Yes, he hit 31 doubles in both 2014 and 2015 along with those 5 triples, and 12 homers. His average season, based on 162 games is 31-5-16. The 33 year old outfielder has been consistent, though his .248 average was down from his .266 2014 season.

But there is a possibility he may be traded. Is his defense the type that Jerry Dipoto, Mariners GM, is looking for? Probably not as his range is not that great. He may be the fourth outfielder and if so, those projections will drop.

The outfield is still in flux. They received a young player Boog Powell in a trade, but he may not make opening day roster. Seattle also picked up outfielder Daniel Robertson on waivers from the Angels, but he is not guaranteed a job.  Neither Powell or Robertson have power. Franklin Gutierrez has resigned, but I have heard that that his contract is contingent on making the team next spring.

There are some free agents like Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon, and Justin Upton, but their contract expectations will not fit within the budget because of the contracts of Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz. Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra, or Denard Span are affordable free agents, or another trade, might be looming. I like Parra who is 28 and has a great arm and is considered a top outfielder. Span is a good second choice.

The baseball winter meeting will be held in Nashville December 6-10. What will Dipoto to then, and maybe before?

Dipoto makes first player move-analytics please

Mariner fans were told new general manager, Jerry Dipoto, is big on analytics, though he is quick to say that is only part of his assessment of talent. So in his first player move he claims pitcher Cody Martin, 26, on waivers from the Oakland A’s and releases pitcher Logan Kensing to make room for Martin.

I don’t know the secret analytics involved with the two players, but I know the numbers. Martin made the opening day roster of the Atlanta Braves, pitched in 25 games and went 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA. He struck out 24 and walked 3. The A’s purchased Martin from the Braves on July 2nd and we know the A’s Billy Beane loves analytics. So there must be something with this Martin guy right?

At Oakland he appeared in four games, two of which were starts, amassing only 9 innings, 16 hits, 5 walks, and 14 runs. Ouch! In his 30.2 innings with Atlanta and Oakland he gave up 8 homers, or 2.3 per 9 innings. Another ouch!

The samples are small and it is unfair to some extent to judge a pitcher on 30+ innings. In his minor league career he is 31-29, 3.24 with 9.2 strikeouts per nine. That covers 118 games, 84 of which were starts. The good news only 0.7 home runs per nine. The bad news is that the major leagues are not the minor leagues. They are called minor for a reason. Projecting baseball talent is the hardest to judge because the gap between AA or AAA and the majors is much larger than College football or basketball and the NFL and NBA.

Logan Kensing made 19 relief appearances with Seattle and was 2-1 with a 5.87 ERA. The big difference is that Logan is 33 and Cody is 26. The Mariners just got younger and that is a good analytic.

Dipoto did not make big splash like throwing a boulder into the pool to get Mariner fans to go “Wow!” He barely made a ripple with a small pebble  in a puddle of water. And that’s good thing. He has patience. More moves are coming. We know that.