When I woke up this morning I considered writing a blog on Danny Farquhar, Mariner reliever, who appeared to be on verge of taking over the closer role from Tom ‘The Bartender’ Wilhelmsen. One of the first things I heard on the radio was that Wilhelmsen was optioned to AAA Tacoma after Monday nights game. I guess that question has been answered.
The closer role is the most precarious spot on the roster. A position player like Brendan Ryan can afford to bat .190 because of his great defense, at least until another young player is ready to take the job. Justin Smoak can struggle for two and a half years before he gets really hot. A starting pitcher like Aaron Harang can survive in the rotation for God only knows what reason. But a closer can only afford a few blown saves, any struggles and he loses his job.
Wilhelmsen was outstanding in 2012, and for the first half of this season looked to be the closer for many years. But in his last ten games, though he has six saves, he pitched 9.2 innings, allowed 11 hits, walked 9, and gave up 8 earned runs. That is how you lose your job.
Now it is Danny Farquhar, 26 year old, 5’9″ fireballer, who in July was the most unlikely candidate to be the closer. During a four game stretch he lasted 3.1 innings, gave up 8 hits, and 7 runs. He was overmatched, a bus ticket to Tacoma just waiting to be placed in his locker. But he began throwing his 12-6 curveball more often and hitters couldn’t adjust. He says his cutter is his best pitch, but the mixture is working. In his last 11.2 innings, only 2 hits, no runs, and 18 strikeouts. That is what gets you the closer job.
But how long will he last? Injury to former Mariner closer David Aardsma derailed his career; Brandon League, good for over a year became ineffective; Wilhelmsen has now hit bottom, sent to Tacoma to work things out. The closer role, unless you are Mariano Rivera, takes its toll. It is the one position in baseball, that like football, is next man up. Is Yoervis Medina warming up behind Farquhur?
While the Mariners have been playing well of late, winning three straight series before splitting two games in Pittsburgh, there is a move Seattle must make to fill a gaping hole in the lineup, a hole so big you could sail the Titanic through it, provided that ship was still around. But the Titanic is an apt metaphor for the disaster at shortstop.
I hinted in my blog the other day about possible changes the Mariners could make with the young crop of players down on the farm in Tacoma. The move to be made is at shortstop. Neither Brendan Ryan, nor Robert Andino are getting the job done, at least offensively. While most Mariner fans would like to see Ryan walk the plank taking his .137 batting average with him, his defense is strong enough to keep him on the roster. Andino is another matter.
Andino is hitting .169 (if you call that hitting), but his defense is 20,000 leagues under the sea. Rather than Ryan taking the plank, Andino should drop into the sea and play for Davey Jones Locker. Every team needs an infield utility player, but Andino is not, was not, the answer. So who in Tacoma should replace Andino on the roster and play the bulk of time at shortstop?
Many people expect Nick Franklin to play shortstop, but I believe it should be Carlos Triunfel. Franklin is hitting better with a .344 average. Triunfel is at .311. Both have three home runs and Triunfel has two more rbis.
There are two reasons Triunfel would be better now. One is that he is on the 40 man roster and Franklin is not. If Franklin is promoted to the 40 man roster, then a player must go. It is possible, but Triunfel is the safe move for now.
The second reason is that Triunfel had a brief fling last year on the good ship Mariner, going 5 for 22. So he had his cup of coffee. Now it is time to see him percolate.
Every new season is different. Or is it.
After 17 games in 2012 the Mariners were 8-9, while the 2013 edition is 7-10. Only a one game difference. It is early, the polls are still open, the networks have yet to declare a winner. The new edition can still be better than last years crew.
Are Mariner fans excited about Kendry Morales and Michael Morse, the power in the middle of the lineup? The first 10 home games in 2012 drew an average of 20, 837. the new, improved, stronger lineup playing in a park with shorter fences, have drawn an average of 18, 549. Apparently Mariner fans are like the Show Me state of Missouri, and they have yet to see anything different from last year. Either that or they want more bobblehead nights.
The Mariner brass have said they wanted to build a solid team centered on youth. During the 10 game home stand Justin Smoak, who continues to disappoint, hit .216. The North Carolina infield, Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager, hit respectively .212 and .211. Catcher Jesus Montero hit .231. The good news is that their averages are climbing, but climbing like new ivy at Wrigley, in other words, very slow. But they are getting better. At least it is hoped they are not leveling off.
However, Brendan Ryan is headed south, as his .071 average in the home stand indicates. All Mariner fans who are religious should to a church, light a candle, thank God for Ryan’s defense and pray he starts to hit.
So far this years edition is showing the same lack of offense as last year. The fences were brought in, but in the 10 game home stand, the Mariners hit 6 home runs and the bad guys belted 11.
And the lack of offense shows up when Felix pitches. He has an ERA of 2.20, but is 1-2. They did not give him runs in 2012 and the same is true this year.
Yes it is early, the samples are small, but the show does look familiar. I think I saw this one before.
The Seattle Mariner‘s are hot, having won ten straight by beating the Rockies 16-6. Carlos Peguero is 8 for 19, scoring 8 runs, hitting 2 doubles and 3 home runs, while striking out only 6 times. Does it mean anything? I would like to say yes, but the answer is probably no.
In 2012, Peguero was 15-51 in spring training games, with 5 homers and 13 rbis, so he had a good spring, except for his 18 strikeouts, that is. Cutting down on his whiffs this spring is good, but no matter how hot he gets, one wonders if it will do him any good.
Spring is funny. Last spring Brendan Ryan batted .333. That translated into a .194 regular season average. Justin Smoak hit .378 and is currently batting .500, but his .378 average, like Ryan’s spring average, did not mean anything for the regular season, as his .217 average indicates.
Making the roster is a matter of numbers, but the numbers are not necessarily stats. Options factor in, as it will for Casper Wells (see below); versatility also is a factor, being able to play multiple positions only enhances a players chances; and balance, trying to get left-handed and right-handed bats to compliment each other; then there is attitude, how a player ‘goes about his business,’ a trite phrase players and broadcaster love to toss out.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Casper Wells, despite currently hitting .227 should get one of two reserve outfield spots. He is out of options, can play all three outfield positions, and has a strong arm. One can argue that Peguero is battling Raul Ibanez for the fifth spot, and there is something to that, since both are left-handed bats. But Ibanez is an organization favorite, making his third tour of duty on the Good Ship Mariner, and even at 41, he can still hit. He is 7-13 with 3 doubles, 2 homers and possesses that veteran experience and leadership that is so prized by clubs.
Best of luck Carlos. If Pete Carroll was the Mariners manager, it would be open competition, the job going to the best man. But this is baseball where players make the team for all sorts of reasons.
Since Seattle lost the opener of their spring training schedule to San Diego they have won eight straight games going into Sunday, March 3rd, which ties their longest spring training win streak, set back in 1994.
They have been winning with an offensive juggernaut that places them at the top of the major leagues with twenty home runs in nine games. Sure the ball flies in the Arizona desert, but they still are the leader. I don’t expect them to lead during the regular season, and I don’t expect long winning streaks, but it is fun to enjoy this run, even if it is spring training.
Justin Smoak in a make or break year is batting .533 with two homers. He has had hot streaks before, but they were few and far between, so I am not holding my breath. Jason Bay, fighting for a roster spot is 3-6 with two homers, Carlos Peguero who wants to play in Seattle, not Tacoma, is hitting .429 with 3 homers in 14 at bats with only four strikeouts.
If those numbers do not convince you that the Mariners are hitting in a parallel universe, consider that Brendan Ryan is 3-6 with a home run.
None of this seems real, and it probably isn’t. If you follow the Mariners it is impossible to get your hopes up because the good ship Mariner, like some car in the final lap of a NASCAR race, is bound to crash. They always do.
I imagine the beginning of an old 1960’s television show, The Twilight Zone, and Rod Serling, the shows writer and host, comes on and says, “What you are about to see may seem like the resurgence of a mediocre and nearly forgotten baseball team, one that has been ridiculed, one that has been a joke for a decade. But appearances can be deceiving, especially when unseen forces are at work, when things are happening in another dimension, and that dimension is the twilight zone.”
So enjoy spring baseball because Mariner hopes, like The Twilight Zone, will be cancelled, once the good ship Mariner comes back to reality.
Maybe the M’s should just stay in that zone, twilight and all.
All things being equal, the Seattle Mariners will win 88 games, but all things are not equal. I am not backing down from my prediction, but there is always a chance King Felix will have a season ending injury, or that a meteor will crash into Safeco Field, or that Brendan Ryan will make 88 errors. Short of calamity Seattle hits the magic 88.
Okay there is nothing magic about 88, but one big reason they will improve is that the Houston Astros will be in the division. They are a bad; go ahead name one player on the Astros. If you compare their team payroll with the other 29 teams, they are an indigent at an exit sign asking for money. God Bless.
The 2012 Mariners could have won 10 to 12 games against Houston. This year the Mariners have added two power hitters in Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse, and the fences at Safeco have been moved in giving a nice power alley to right-handed hitters. Morales, like Smoak is a switch hitter, so pray for lots of visiting team left-handed pitching. In fact, pray extra for Smoak. He needs all the help he can get.
The Mariners roster has flexibility and depth, a great bullpen with hard throwing young arms, and a starting rotation, equal to, if not better, than 2012.
The downside is that the Angels will win 100 or more games, with Texas and Oakland not far behind. Because of the Astros of course. So, even with 88 games the Mariners would get 4th place. The Seahawks had Sodo Mojo working this past season, so maybe some of that mojo will rub off on the Mariners. If the mojo karma is still in the air hovering over Safeco like seagulls in the 7th inning, then the good ship Mariner could move up in the standings.
But if a passing Astro-oid takes aim at the left field power alley at the Safe, then the 88 win will be 86’st.
Can you imagine Ty Cobb strutting through the Field of Dreams cornfield and learning that a player in today’s game who hit below .200 would nearly double is salary to over $3 million. The shock would kill him. Moonlight Graham would ask for a tryout.
Baseball fans are accustomed to seeing large contracts go to .300 hitters, big boppers who drive in runs, muscle men who launch rockets over fences. pitchers who win 15 games (it would be 20 some years ago), flamethrowers who make batters look silly and put up low ERAS. We expect those guys to get raises. In some cases the contracts are so big they could cover the national debt. But defense?
Granted, Ryan’s contract is not a monster number. $3 million is a small salary in todays pay scale, walking around money for guys like A-Fraud and Pujols. The point is his salary was nearly doubled, not for his bat, but for his glove.
He won defense awards and had all those sabermetric numbers indicating his value in wins, how many outs per game he accounted for, wins above replacement, and other numbers only math gurus can understand. But baseball fans do not see those numbers during a game.
It is easy to see the hits, the homers, the rbis, and see that player is earning his money. It is easy to see wins pile up for pitchers, see batters look foolish waving their bats in futility. We know how to measure those numbers. We yet do not understand defensive numbers. We do not see them during a game the way we see offense and pitching, the sexy stats that get baseball fans excited. In young boys fiction books, even in movies, it is the big strikeout, the big hit that wins the championship, not a routine ground out.
Defensive numbers are simply not sexy. Perhaps they should be. I will settle for Ryan hitting .250. Just get those outs like you did in 2012. It is SoDo Mojo.