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.
Many fans buy advance tickets based on Mariner promotions, most of which target kids. Little League day, run around the bases Sunday’s, and so on. Here is a list of promotions for the upcoming season. See if you can tell what is missing.
Bobbleheads are popular. My friend had his Felix bobblehead stolen from under his seat two years ago. He thought a father may have stolen it for his son. I told him it probably sold on E-bay, a notion he agreed was more probable. I often pray to Satan to take the thief’s soul to the dark world. No not Hades, but Oakland. Anyway there will be another Felix bobblehead night on April 18th. Other bobbles will be May 9th for Fernando Rodney; June 2nd for Kyle Seager; July 11th is Nelson Cruz; August 8th for Jaime Moyer who will be inducted into the Mariner Hall of Fame; and August 22nd for Robinson Cano.
Once again there will be a beard night. This year it is April 17th. I will pass on this one, thank you very much; but I want to be there for Kuma bear hat night. Hisashi Iwakuma’s nickname is ‘kuma’ which in Japanese is bear. The hat looks cool. I won’t show you one because I don’t want you to get excited and get there before me.
Nelson Cruz gets a second promotion, that being bat night for kids 14 and under May 30th. No word on whether the bats are laced with steroids, HGH, or any similar banned substance. I will pass on this one.
I do like Mariner fedora hat night May 15th. It will give me an alternative to the Kuma bear hat for when I go clubbing.
The Mariners will have their traditional family nights, senior specials, military specials, college nights, and King Court games. They will have four fireworks nights, May 29th Cleveland; June 19th Houston; July 24th Toronto; and August 21st Chicago. Those games will also have a theme. I Love the 90’s-Cleveland (I assume they mean 1990’s, not 1890’s); Star Wars-Houston; Sing Along-Toronto; and Songs of Summer-Chicago.
I noticed their are no ladies nights. Years ago teams had ladies day-or nights-when women had special discounted ticket prices, they even had doubleheaders for the ladies. But the Mariners have no special promotions directly targeting women. Big mistake. Nor do they have special days targeting seniors. Yes I know there are days discounted for seniors, but no promotions for men 60 and over. Why not a lap dance for senior men given by the Sea Gals. That would get sell-out crowds.
I guess I will settle for the fedora and Kuma hat.
Over the winter the Mariners had a projected rotation anchored by two all-star pitchers, King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma. The third and fourth starters were to be two rookies, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker, both of whom had strong showings in September of 2013. The question was who would be the fifth starter. The leading candidates were Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Maurer, free agent Randy Wolf, Blake Beavan, and Hector Noesi. Surely one of those five would step up.
But the best laid plans of mice and men, along with baseball general managers, often go wrong. Iwakuma had an injury and would miss the start of the season, Walker developed arm problems and Paxton, two starts into the season, went on the DL. Randy Wolf did not want to sign a forty day contract for the beginning of the season and the only other potential starter to step up was Ramirez.
Seattle was lucky to pick up Chris Young, released by Washington just prior to end of spring training. He is 5-2, lucky indeed for Seattle.
So Seattle was left with Felix, Ramirez, Young, and surprising rookie Roenis Elias, a 25 year old Cuban refugee who had not pitched above double A. Seattle also got lucky with Elias.
Iwakuma is back; he, Felix, Elias, and Young are pitching well. But the fifth spot remains a black hole. Maurer was 1-4 in seven starts with a horrendous 7.52 ERA before the Mariners put him into a tugboat and sent him to Tacoma. Erasmo Ramirez has been recalled and is pitching today against Atlanta. He is 1-4 in six starts with a 6.00 ERA.
Where would the Mariners be with a fifth starter who could at the least be a .500 pitcher? The Mariners are 29-28. Take away the 2-8 combined records of Maurer and Ramirez and they are 27-20. It shows how important a fifth starter is. If Felix is the ace, the pitcher who can end losing streaks, then Maurer and Ramirez are the jokers in the deck, killing chances for a win streak.
It is well known the Mariners have no number four hitter and are truly in need of a bat. But a fifth starter might be the real need.
Despite the Mariners beating Toronto 9-7 Wednesday, what the Mariners need to fix in 2014 was apparent in the first two innings. It is not Aaron Harang and the seven runs he gave up in his two innings of work, but what he represents, that being what Jack Zduriencik has done the last two seasons.
Jack has looked for that veteran pitcher to be a fifth starter. It has been a move of desperation, indicating that young arms in the minors are not ready, and that Jack was unable or unwilling to make a trade for a better option.
In 2012 it was Kevin Millwood, 37 years old, in his last season in the majors. His 4.25 earned run average was not bad, but his 6-12 record was, as well as the fact he averaged slightly less than six innings a start. This season the sacrificial fifth starter is another ancient Mariner, though two years younger than Millwood, at 35. Harang is averaging 5.4 innings per start, allowing two homeruns per nine innings. His record is 5-10 with a 5.79 ERA.
Unless, the Red Sox, Yankees, or Blue Jays are in town; or there is a bobblehead giveaway; or you are season ticket holder, why would anyone go when Millwood or Harang were pitching. Maybe if you are a masochist.
The Mariners must get away from the Millwoods, Harangs, Bondermans, etal. Pitchers on the downside of a long career, or coming off devastating injuries.
At the moment Seattle should have King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma as solid starters, both of them All-Stars. Joe Saunders will have a spot with another year on his contract. Erasmo Ramirez is pitching well at the moment, so he will be in the mix. So too should Danny Hultzen and perhaps Taijuan Walker. Maybe even Brandon Maurer.
I hope Trader Jack has learned his lesson and will stay away from broken down war horses in 2014. They are not working out.
Seattle looked great in their first two games. King Felix and the bullpen shutout Oakland. Obviously pitching will be a strong suit. It was also evident in game two in which Hisashi Iwakuma dominated like he did last season. And Michael Morse powered two home runs, the offense generating six runs in the win.
True Seattle lost game three to Oakland, but Joe Saunders was pitching and the last few years have not been kind to him. The Mariners were not going undefeated, but they improved enough in the offseason to show in the early going they are heading to the World Series to face the Washington Nationals.
The reason I wrote those two opening paragraphs is based on what I heard on radio shows Monday and Tuesday. After New York lost to Boston on opening day, I heard a national sports talk radio host ask a national baseball writer a question. He wanted to know if Yankee ownership would be worried enough about that loss that Yankee manager, Joe Girardi, should be worried about his job. After a brief pause the writer said no. He went on to explain that it was only one game, that the Yankees had all their star players on the DL and so on.
The tone of the question by the radio host, the concern in his voice sounded like he was serious. I also heard some concern from a radio host in Seattle who was worried about the lack of offense in Seattle’s opening day 2-0 win.
In mulling over this overreaction to one game from these two samples, as well as few others, I have come to the conclusion that people bring a football mentality to baseball. That does not work. Football is played once a week, it is more an event than anything. In a sixteen game schedule more is at stake every Sunday. Not so in baseball.
A baseball team can not be judged on one or two games. Football is a sprint, baseball is a marathon. If football was a meal it would be a starving man tearing into barbecued ribs like it was his last meal. Baseball is a nine course black tie dinner where guests chew each bite 32 times and savor each and every mouthful of sumptuous food.
You can not judge what kind of baseball team you have until after forty or fifty games. I will not worry about losses, but I will savor each win. But they better win today, otherwise we need to look at call ups or trades.
Garland’s release was a bit of a surprise considering he was pitching well. In 12 innings, he allowed 10 hits, walked 5, struck out 4, and had a 2.25 ERA. Not bad for a pitcher trying for a comeback after missing all of 2012 and only making 9 starts for the Dodgers in 2011. At 33, missing all that time, having had surgery, all may have played a part in the decision. If Maurer had not pitched well, perhaps Garland would still be around.
Blake Beavan was hammered Saturday and I don’t mean with alcohol. He has allowed 29 hits in 19.1 innings. The good news is that he has not walked a batter and struck out 12. He is a great control pitcher, he throws strikes. Unfortunately the strikes have been too good this spring, allowing 5 home runs among those 29 hits.
Jeremy Bonderman is still in camp, though he too is attempting a comeback after sitting for two years, and he has given up 8 runs in 10 innings.
There really is no one left to challenge Maurer. Though Charlie Furbush has started games before, he was effective in the bullpen last season and that is where the Mariners like him.
No official announcement has been made, but unless there is a trade hiding in the desert cactus, King Felix, Joe Saunders, Hisashi Iwakuma, Brandon Maurer, and Erasmo Ramirez have locked up the five starting jobs.
There are two types of baseball fans, those who love home runs and offense, and those who love pitching. I am in the latter camp. I love seeing pitchers dominate hitters, unless of course they are dominating my team. And I like seeing young pitchers earn their way onto a roster. And like them even more when they succeed. Nothing against Garland, but I am looking forward to seeing Maurer.
King Felix will be the opening day starter. No surprise there, nor should it be a surprise that the second and third starters will be Hisashi Iwakuma and Joel Saunders, though who is second and third is a toss up. Fourth and fith starters should be, if what I have been hearing is true, are Erasmo Ramirez and non roster veteran Jon Garland, attmpting a comeback from shoulder surgery. He has looked quite good, impressing the Mariner braintrust (this could be an oxymoron). The M’s like three veterans to start the season, while keeping their eyes on the young guns, all of whom are nearly ready.
What this does is cause a shakeup. Garland must be added to to the 40 man roster if he makes the team, so somebody has to go. It could be a minor leaguer, or, if he does not get untracked, Hector Noesi, who is getting hit like a batting practice pitcher, could be gone. Jeremy Bonderman, another non-roster invitee attempting a comeback after a two year hiatus most likely will be released.
That leaves the young guns, Danny Hultzen, Brandon Mauer, Jimmy Paxton, and Taijaun Walker heading to the minors. I expect at least three to start for AAA Tacoma, possibly Walker going to AA to start the season.
That leaves Blake Beavan. He could be the long man in the bullpen, or he could be sent down to Tacoma. In order for him to make the starting five, either Garland or Ramirez must falter and Beavan gets hot.
If the M’s are not in the hunt come July, and one or two of the young guns are doing well, expect Garland to be traded. But that is a long way off, so let us not count our rosin bags this early. The crew of the good ship Mariner may just be in the hunt come July.