Let’s start with the starting lineup and reserves. 1b will be Logan Morrison. Willie Bloomquist, if he can make the team, could be back up. But, though top minor league prospect D.J. Peterson is listed at third base, that position is manned by all-star Kyle Seager. Peterson has started 19 games in the minors at first and no doubt will get a good look this spring. He bats right handed and would be a good platoon with Morrison. He made one error in 171 chances in the minors. I think Peterson will make the team. Logan and Peterson are two.
Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager are no brainers. that is four.
Catcher will be Mike Zunino. The back up will either be Jesus Sucre or John Hicks. That is six
Shortstop is anyone’s guess. The Mariners have said they do not want to platoon Brad Miller and Chris Taylor. They want somebody to win the job. If that position remains will they let the other, probably Miller be the utility player and let Willie Bloomquist go. I think youth will prevail and Miller and Taylor both make the roster. That is eight.
The outfield is more interesting. Austin Jackson is slated for center. The Mariners have said Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith will platoon in right. That leaves Dustin Ackley in left. But Dustin has failed to live up to his potential. A bigger bat would ne nice. Nelson Cruz can play left, not as well as Ackley, but Cruz’s bat will make up for that. What about Cruz as DH you ask. Jesus Montero, a right handed bat with potential power, has lost 30 pounds and is set to revive his career and live up to his potential. If his bat makes noise this spring, then he is DH. Ruggiano, Smith, Jackson, Cruz, Ackley, and Montero is six. That is 14.
That leaves 11 pitchers. Problem here as I think the M’s will carry 12 pitchers. More later.
Starting pitchers are King Felix, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and J.A. Happ. There is also a chance that Roenis Elias or Erasmo Ramirez could dazzle , but it will be hard not to go with Paxton and Walker. That leaves six relief pitchers, unless I drop an everyday player of course.
The bullpen with have Fernando Rodney, Tom Wilhelmsen, Carson Smith and Danny Farquhar. From the left side it will be Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge, or perhaps Mike Kirkham. That leaves out Dominic Leone, Yoervis Medina, and lefty David Rollins. I don’t want to leave them out, but it will be a battle during spring training because the M’s have a lot of good arms. The bullpen is their strength. I think they will go with 12, so I must cut an everyday player. I think that battle will be between Montero and Ackley.
And did you know that Franklin Gutierrez and Endy Chavez have been invited to spring training. For the first time in some years the question is not where can they find players to make the team, but who can they keep. There will be some excellent players left off the roster on opening day. The team now has talent to compete at a higher level.
In his last thirteen starts Felix Hernandez has pitched seven innings or more allowing 2 runs or less; a stretch that only Hall of Famer Tom Seaver has accomplished. If Felix does it again in his next start he will be alone in the record book for perhaps the greatest pitching stretch his history.
How many wins should a pitcher get if he allows two or fewer runs in 13 games? If the pitcher has a good offense perhaps all 13. Not for King Felix. He has won five with five no decisions and three losses. It is indicative of a woeful offense that has reverted to the futility of previous seasons.
The Mariners who were nine games above .500 have dropped to 53-50 and in 11 of the 50 losses they have been shut out. They have scored one run 12 times and two runs 14 times. My math tell me that is 37 games 2 runs or less in 103 games.
It is said one should never kill the Golden Goose. There is no such goose in Seattle, but they need to find whatever goose is haunting the Mariners and stop him from laying all those goose eggs on Seattle’s line score.
The Mariners have scored 113 runs fewer than Oakland, 105 fewer than the Angels. In fact they are 14th out of 15 in the American League only two runs ahead of Houston. I believe pitching and defense win games, but goose eggs on the scoreboard drag a team down.
Zunino .202; Hart .213; Miller .204; Morrison .204; Romero .198; and Ackley .242 are the primary villains for the goose eggs. They have 140 rbi’s between them an average of 23 each. Chavez has ten and Jones eight rbis, but they bat one and two in the order and no one at the bottom of the lineup gets on base that much. Seager and Cano are carrying the team and two hitters is not enough.
King Felix is acknowledged as one of the best pitchers in the game. He is 11-2, a 1.99 ERA and a batting average against of .197. If Felix won 10 of those 13 great starts, he would be a 16 game winner. By years end he could be a 24 0r 25 game winner. But with this offense he will be lucky to win 20.
Stop the goose from laying his eggs!
One could ask if anyone has a future with the Seattle Mariners, but sarcasm aside, the Mariner brain trust, such as it is, has committed to a youth movement. And though the youth movement has had more ups and downs this season than a bi-polar patient off his meds, the plan can not be blown up. At least not now.
Consider Dustin Ackley. There were high expectations for Ackley after a mediocre 2012. He had to get better. But he didn’t. At the all-star break he was batting .205. With Nick Franklin taking his spot at second base, Ackley disembarked from the Good Ship Mariner and took a tugboat to Tacoma where he learned to play the outfield, and regain confidence in his hitting.
In the 49 games he has played since the all-star break, he leads the team in hitting, batting .312. That is a big turnaround from .205.
Does it mean anything?
I think the second half of the season has preserved a roster spot for Ackley in 2014. What anyone does in August or September is not a guarantee they will succeed next year. But Nick Franklin has struggled. He is batting .193 since the break with 71 strikeouts in 197 at bats. A 36% strikeout rate is not good. On the plus side he leads the Mariners with 25 rbis since the all-star game. Just as Ackley’s post break success does not guarantee 2014 success, Franklin’s struggles does not mean he will struggle next year. But Ackley, if still destined for the outfield, is also insurance in case Franklin falters at second. That is why Ackley will be back.
The problem facing the Mariner front office, other than wondering if they will have jobs once the ownership question is settled, due to the death of owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, is the majority of Mariner hitters are young and there is no track record to base expectations on. You know what you will get with Raul Ibanez or Kendrys Morales, but with rookies and second year players, one does a lot of wishing and hoping.
I doubt the 2014 season will show a quick turnaround. I fully expect they will finish 4th again next year. But there is still wishing and hoping. And praying or making deals with the devil.
I don’t know if Dustin Ackley was shocked about being sent back to AAA Tacoma, but I was mildly surprised. It was however, a good decision, a wake up call if you will. Eric Wedge jokingly said Ackley was a bit stubborn. Two days later Ackley was sent down. Perhaps Wedge wasn’t joking. One could read into Wedge’s comment that Ackley was resisting coaching suggestions.
He seems to have woken up with the Rainiers. True it is only seven games, but Ackley is 13 for 32, a .406 average with an on base percentage of .513 thanks to seven walks. It is one thing to be aggressive, but his walk ratio is much better at AAA in those seven games than it was for Seattle, where he walked only eight times in 45 games.
It is too early to tell if Dustin got the message and got his game into high gear, or if it is just the mediocre pitching he might be facing. But at least he is hitting, no doubt with an eye to returning to the Mariners. What happens though if Nick Franklin does not stumble, plays his position, and hits between .250 and .280? He already has a two homer game. Ackley had one lone homer in his 45 games.
I feel the Mariners are watching both Ackley and Franklin closely. One of them could be the second baseman of the future, not that the Mariners seem to have a future, at least if the last decade tells us anything. But we can pretend can’t we?
Nick Franklin does not have a shortstop arm, but he does have one for second. Ackley could play the outfield next year, if the Mariners feel Franklin is for real. Of course they said that about Ackley in 2010. It would not surprise if the Mariners traded one of them at the deadline in July. It does not make sense on the surface, given the Mariners stance on building a team with young players for the long term. But consider in the past they traded young players like Adam Jones, Shin-Soo Choo, and Asdrubel Cabrera. All three made all-star teams. So if a trade is made, then watch that player make an all-star team or two, while the player the Mariners keep becomes the next Mario Mendoza.
The Mariners have a dilemma brewing at third base.
They signed Chone Figgins to a four-year, $36 million, free agent contract prior to the 2010 season. In his first year with the Mariners he hit .265, but needed a hot second half to reach that number.
This year he is hitting .188.
It is safe to say the deal is a bust-at least to this point. One hopes he makes a come back in 2012 and be the player he was with the Angels.
Trader Jack not smiling at Figgins 2010 signing. Was he seeing the future?
But down in Tacoma is 22-year-old Alex Liddi, a free agent signing out of Italy when he was a teenager. At High Desert in 2009 he hit .345 with 23 homers and 104 rbis. Last Year at West Tennessee he hit .281 with 15 homers, 92 rbis. In Tacoma this year, a .263 average, 25 homers and 88 rbis.
He is still young and might be in Tacoma another season.
I expected he would be called up instead of Kyle Seager. Kyle had been promoted to Tacoma and hit .387 in 24 games. The Mariners drafted Seager in the third round of 2009, the year they drafted his North Carolina teammate Dustin Ackley in the first round; so maybe because he is older at 23, and highly touted , the Mariners wanted a closer look at Seager.
Even if they like Seager better than Liddi, will either one be able to displace Figgins when teams feel the need to play high salaried stars no matter how poorly they play.
Seager smiling at his future?
Seattle could always trade either Seager or Liddi in the off-season. They might even be able to unload Figgins, though that is unlikely as teams would not want to pay big money for a struggling player.
It seems more likely they will keep all three as Seager and Liddi provide insurance if Figgins gets off to another slow start in 2012.
Will the Mariners feel a need to play Figgins, or continue to go youth as in Ackley, Carp, Robinson, Halman, and Liddi or Seager?
That is a dilemma.
They call Los Angeles the City of Angels, but to Seattle it is the Den of Demons. Not only did they loses four straight in Lucifer’s lair, but have lost 16 of their last 18 in the Dizzyland of Satan.
A demon with a Mariner skull. (artwork by Eric Leidecker)
The good ship Mariner is sinking into the briny and before long may be lying on the bottom of the Pacific.
It is a familiar litany. The worst batting average in the league, worst in on base percentage, worst in slugging. They can’t hit. The question is why.
You can not blame the hitting coach Chris Chambliss. The Mariners tried two coaches last season and neither helped. So what goood is a hitting coach?
Chris not smiling of late.
I would think a coach looks at film, sees the the flaws, helps the player make adjustments. It is up to the player to follow through, but for some reason many Mariners are unable to get things going.
Two of the three best hitters, Ackley and Halman are rookies, though neither has had a lot of at bats.
But blowing the series in Hotel California where you can check out but never leave, gives them five straight in the loss column. After the all-star break they play four at home with division leader Texas. In order to get back in the race they must win three of the four. A split does no good and losing three or four will in all honesty do in their season.
The hiting MUST improve as the bullpen is showing a few cracks and the pitching can not continue to dominate every night. Pitchers are being overly taxed and hitters must begin to make contributions.
But at least Ackley, Halman, Peguero, and Seager are getting a baptism; if nothing else they will be ready for next season. Just don’t head to Hotel California without garlic around their necks, or take silver bullets, or whatver is used to kill demons.
Kyle Seager has been promoted to Seattle and most likely will get playing time at third. Chone Figgins is hitting .183 and making frequent errors in the field.
Kyle looks happy to be a Mariner
If Seager doe swell Figgins may walk the plank. Kyle was a teammate of Dustin Ackley at North Carolina and both were drafted in 2009; Ackley in the first round, Seager in the third.
At Double A Jackson he hit .312 with 25 doubles, 4 homers and 37 rbi’s. He was promoted to Tacoma and in 12 games hit .455 with 2 homers, 4 doubles, and 12 RBIS.
The Mariners could have promoted Alex Liddi, but they may feel Seager is another piece of the future. Ackley at second; Seager at third; Peguero on left, and Halman in center. Or Peguero at DH and Halman in left.
Gutierrez missed spring training with mystery stomach problems. The ailment was resolved and he has had enough time to get back in the swing of things. But the swing is missing. I love the way he plays, but a .180 batting average is only good for bowling-and even that is problematic. If the team was hitting .265 or so Seattle could get by, but with the worst team hitting in baseball, they need bat’s with hits in those swings. And Halman is hitting over .300.
He may be struggling with the bat, but not with his glove
Fortunately Jack Cust has been sitting. Again. The last time he got back in the lineup he had two hits and then went back to striking out. In his last ten games, 23 at bats and 13 strikeouts. There are 108 red stitches on a baseball. One would think Cust could hit one of those stitches.
The odd man with Seager’s arrival is sadly Jose Yepez, who was here for insurance for Bard and Olivo. The thirty year old did not get an at bat, but at good seats for ten days. He was designated for assignment, so if no other team is interested he could return to Tacoma.
In the AL West anyone has the chance to win the division. Unless a trade is made, the kids may carry the team. The way Ackley, Pineda, and Halman have played. as well as Peguero at times, Seager may fit in quite well.