In my post of April 16th I said there were two things wrong with the Mariners, one of which was their poor on base percentage. That was after nine games. They have now played 25 and that has not changed. They are hitting .238, 12th in the American League and their on base percentage is .292, ahead of only the Angels of Disneyland.
It does not matter how many home runs Nelson Cruz hits as solo homers aren’t as good as three-run shots. Austin Jackson who twisted his ankle Sunday has an on base percentage of .294, not what you want from a batter ahead of Cano and Cruz in the lineup. The M’s need a rally starter and Jackson is not the guy. Ruggiano has a .344 OBP and Seth Smith is .333. After that it drops to .308 from Richie Weeks and Brad Miller’s .301. The first three names are the new guys in town.
As bad as the M’s lack of hitting and OBP is, the pitching has gone sour. Their 4.35 ERA is 11th in the league. It took a hit in Houston when the M’s came in trailing by 4 games, got swept, and gave up 11 homers in four games. I think it was 11, though it felt like 20. Now they are 8 games out.
The problem with pre season predictions is that when you listen to the experts before the season they look at what was added and figure, as in the Mariner’s case, that they would improve with the additions of Cruz, Weeks, Smith, Ruggiano, and Happ. On paper that makes sense, but what everyone forgets is that what players did last season, how a team played last season, does not carry over to the next year.
The starting pitching may not be as good, as in the Mariners case. Two young pitchers James Paxton, and especially Taijuan Walker have struggled; Iwakuma has back problems. The bullpen has not been as untouchable as 2014. One can not expect the same numbers every year.
The exception is the OBP of the Mariners. At least that has been consistently bad.
The M’s must improve this month to keep close to the streaking Astros. If they keep falling, then June will see Seattle fans talking Seahawks.
Seattle has won on opening day eight consecutive years. They open at home with King Felix Hernandez on the mound before a full house and a jammed packed King’s Court. Felix is 6-0 on opening day. It looks like the Mariners have everything in their favor.
Normally home field advantage in baseball is not as strong as home field in the NFL and neither is as strong as home court in the NBA. But the King’s Court always pumps up Felix and he will also be pumped up for the opening of the season. If he can settle in during the first two innings he should be alright and that will be the key.
The Angels and Mariners should battle for the division title all season, so the game will be important as any game in September and the Angels will pitch Jeff Weaver who always seems to pitch well against Seattle. But Weaver is not the reason the Angels will win. No I take the blame for the loss by pointing out the obvious.
The obvious is that everything is in Seattle’s favor. Playing at home; eight game win streak on opening days; Felix 6-0 on opening day; an excited sellout crowd at Safeco; the rapid King’s Court. When everything is in your favor karma rears its head like a cobra and strikes you in the caboose. That’s why.
All that and the fact I am revealing everything in the M’s favor will be a jinx, a hex, a win killer.
So it will be my fault. I will take the loss.
On the other hand it could be that blaming myself for what has yet to happen may upset the karma cart. By telling you that karma will change for the M’s and they will lose might make karma show me up by changing its mind and making the M’s win. As a baseball fan I know the players have nothing to do with winning or losing. It is which fan base is using or abusing karma; how we work sub-rosa trying to outfox karma.
Monday will tell if I am right or if I am right.
Putting words ‘happy’ and ‘Mariner fan’ together is an unlikely a pairing as Obama and republican endorsement. It doesn’t sound right, it is unbelievable, it does not follow, there is no such thing. Mariner fans were happy in 2001 when Seattle won 116 games. Yes children that really did happen, it is not a fairy tale.
But the 2014 Mariners down the stretch did what they had to do. Granted they stumbled on the road where they had success, granted that James Paxton and King Felix had back to back pitching disasters. But the team rebounded winning their last four games, including a sweep of the Angels, the same team they swept at the start of the season. They fell one game short of playing the A’s for a wild card spot.
Bill Russell, Hall of Fame Boston Celtic legend, once made a statement that is true. I will paraphrase because it is an old quote, but one I have never forgot the meaning of. No matter how a team loses at the end of the game, the ‘what if’ game can not be played over the closing minutes. The reason he correctly said is that there are plays in the first quarter, the second quarter, and in the third that could have turned the game. It is wrong to selectively look at the closing minutes. A game is one or lost in its entirety.
So it is for a season. What if Paxton and Felix had won those games does not matter, nor what if Fernando Rodney did not walk four batters in the 10th inning against Oakland in September, giving the A’s that one win that got them the wild card. It does not work because both Seattle and Oakland can play the larger ‘what if’ game over the entire season.
The larger picture is the Mariners, whom nobody expected to win 87 games, were playing a meaningful game on the last day of the season. They won. But so did Oakland. I repeat, the 162nd game of the season meant something and they won. For once the Mariners season was not over in May or June. It was a fun ride and they should be even better next season. More on that in coming blogs.
For now Mariner fans should be happy and that is not an oxymoron.
The Mariners have seven games left to win a wild card spot and are 1.5 behind Kansas City and 2 behind Oakland. Still time, but the numbers indicate Seattle in a September slump with no signs of a reversal.
In the month of September Oakland is 7-12, but have an ERA of 3.08. Kansas City is 10-9 with a 3.27. The Mariners who had strong pitching all season, the best in baseball, are 10-10 with an ERA of 3.81. The M’s high ERA is attributed to the following pitchers, Hisashi Iwakuma 9.35; Yoervis Medina 9.00; Chris Young 8.59; and Fernando Rodney 5.63. Between them they have a 1-8 record. The way the rotation is set up Iwakuma, Paxton, and King Felix are slated to pitch at home against the Angels in the last series of the season.
If the Mariners are to make any headway they must win three of four in Toronto. Paxton, Felix, Walker, and Young will start.
But there is more than Pitching that is troublesome for the Mariners as their hitting is also in a slump. Kansas City is hitting .252; Seattle .221; and Oakland .220. The culprits this month for Seattle are Dustin Ackley .116; Chris Denorfia .148; Kendrys Morales .169; Chris Taylor .185; and. . . I could go on, but lets us say that Logan Morrison is batting .320 Robinson Cano .293; Endy Chavez .292 then it drops to .268 for Brad Miller and .264 for Kyle Seager.
Oakland, though 7-12 in the month, leads Seattle by two games with seven to play. Seattle plays better on the road, but are 3-4 after playing at Los Angeles and Houston. Kansas City is playing the best of the three wild card contenders and they travel to Cleveland to play four, one a suspended game, and the Indians are only 3.5 behind the Royals for a wild card so they have incentive to win. Oakland hosts Los Angeles and Mariner fans will be rooting for the Angels, which might be a first.
That is why Seattle needs to win 3 of 4 against Toronto. It is a good time to make a strong showing with Oakland in a slump, battling Los Angeles; and with Kansas City playing a Cleveland, a team eager to get in the race.
It is not good to lose two out of three to Houston at home when you are in a wild card race, but the Mariners did just that. For some reason Houston plays Seattle tough, especially against Hisashi Iwakuma. But all is not lost-pardon the pun.
Detroit an Oakland both lost so Seattle did not lose any ground, but there is even better news beginning Monday.
On Monday Seattle begins their last road trip and it is eleven games. Four against the Angels, three against the dreaded Astros, and four against the Blue Jays. That is good because the Mariners win on the road and lose at home It is a strange anomaly that defies baseball logic, but there it is. At home the Mariners are 37-38, but on the road they are amazing, and it is an amazing record of 42-28. That is a .600 winning percentage on the road. Who does that?
Today the Mariners have a day off before hosting Oakland for the weekend. Seattle needs to win two of three before hitting the road. They play Oakland well and Oakland has struggled of late, but that is scary because you expect them to snap out of it. The Oakland series is like a playoff series as both teams are battling for a wild card spot, so these games are huge.
So if Seattle can take two games before hitting the road they will be 81-67 heading into LA. If they can win 6.6-which is .600 percentage they would be the first to have a fraction of a win, so let’s downgrade to six wins. That is 87 wins heading into the last series of the season at home against those Angels, who are anything but. Being optimistic give the Mariners seven road wins and that is 88 with three to go.
If somehow Seattle and go 11-6 in their last 17 games that would give them 90 wins and most probably a wild card game. Even 10-7 might do it.
The countdown begins Friday at Safeco versus the A’s.
The Mariners are in a race for a wild card spot. The divisional race where Seattle bests both the A’s and the Angels remains a lovely dream for those not living in reality.
The A’s, already with great pitching, added two starters in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. They want not only to remain in first, but to set up a strong rotation for the post season. The Angels strengthened their bullpen by trading for Jason Grilli, Joe Thatcher, and Huston Street.
Many feel the Mariners are now forced to make a trade to add a bat and a starting pitcher in order to compete in the divisional race. But there may be a problem as to whether Jackie Z, Mariners GM, will follow through.
Ken Rosenthal, Fox’s senior baseball analyst, who always wants the Mariners to trade away stars like Felix Hernandez ,as he pushed for a couple of years ago, has written that other GM’s have told him it is difficult to move Jackie Z across the trade finishing line. Jack came to Seattle with a reputation for making trades in Milwaukee, thus the nickname Trader Jack.
But there is a perception in Seattle, rightly or wrongly, that every trade the Mariners make is a bad one. Mariner fans remember all the bad ones, never the good ones. Of course, there are more bad ones to remember and I won’t go over all those here; there is no reason to depress people in summer.
So maybe Trader Jack is reluctant in light of the history in the haunted Northwest to hit the trade accept button on his laptop.
But the Mariners need a right handed bat in left field and a starting pitcher, a good one, to give them three solid starters for the post season. Remember the famous football quote, “You play to win the game.” So make the moves to put you in a better position to win the game. Bring me the arm of John Lester. Bring me the bat of Marlon Byrd. Push that button Trade Jack.
Lloyd McClendon could be altering the Mariners outfield. Abraham Almonte has already been sent to Tacoma and James Jones has been recalled. But what does this mean for the six outfielders on the roster, when most teams carry five?
Following Seattle’s dreadful eight game losing streak, they have now won eight of ten and coming from behind for some of those wins. At 15-15 the Mariners are 3 games out of first and should they sweep the next three games against the first place A’s it will send the AL West spinning. The Mariners are only two behind second place Texas and a half game behind the third place Angels.
Now is a good time to keep momentum going. Michael Saunders is 10 for his last 23 with three straight two hit games batting leadoff. Will he stay in center or be moved to right for Jones to play center? Does Hart stay at DH?
Rookie Stefen Romero is 6 for his last 17. Will he platoon with Dustin Ackley in left?
If McClendon so chooses, he could have an entire platoon outfield. Left handed bats Ackley, Jones, and Saunders against right handed pitchers and right handed bats Romero, Hart, and Gillespie against lefties, but the problem here is no center fielder.
But if Jones can hit and Romero continues to impress, McClendon will have some juggling to do? Jones and Romero will get more playing time if Ackley, batting .154 in the last ten games, continues to falter. As Pete Carroll says, it is about competition.
And consider that left handed bat Logan Morrison is still on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring and has yet to begin running. He has not played in a game since April 14th and one wonders if the Mariners are keeping him on the DL because they have no need for him at the present time.
Many teams play games with the DL, a way of hiding players until they are forced to make a decision.
It may be only May, but they are playing Oakland and if they can win at least two of the next three they are making headway. The games you win or lose now are just as important as August and September. And who plays in the outfield in the coming weeks may be the big story.