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.
Many relief pitchers have a problem coming into the 9th in non-save situation. It is likely that thinking the lead is safe the pitcher throws strikes to get outs, but the strikes are too good and hits come, not outs; or the pitcher is relaxed and throws balls just out of the strike zone. It is only a surmise; the truth is a mystery.
But that is not the problem Sunday when Fernando Rodney came into the 9th with a 7-3 lead on Oakland. Lets look at the last of the 9th. Reddick a leadoff double, Semien a walk, then Sam Fuld 2-run double, 7-5. Canha infield single, Zobrist walks. McClendon visits mound and then Butler hits into double play, a run scores, 7-6, but two outs. The last out is the toughest and Sogard singles, Canha scores, 7-7.
Here is the problem. Rodney had pitched Saturday night so he was not in need of work and by bringing him in on Sunday throwing 25 pitches in a non save situation, it is unlikely he will be used for the Monday game against the Dodgers. Would it not have been better to start Medina in the 9th and if he gets into trouble, then bring in Rodney?
Managers tend to go with their closer and rarely take him out when he is not pitching well. The manager will, like the captain of the Titanic, go down with the ship, and the closer is the managers ship. That is why Rodney was allowed to either get out of the jam or lose the game. But if he lost, this would be one of those games you look back on and say this game was one that got away. And the M’s missed the playoffs by one game in 2014. Even early in the season you don’t want to let games slip away.
Nelson Cruz bailed the M’s out with a 10th inning homer and medina pitched a 1-2-3 9th for the save. Rodney got an undeserved win.
Closers are best in save situations.
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 numbers are not spectacular, in fact are average if not mediocre. Since being traded to Seattle Austin Jackson is batting .259 in 35 games with 11 rbis and 7 stolen bases. Chris Denorfia in 23 games is batting .206 with a homer and 4 rbis. The Mariners got the right handed bats they wanted to balance the lineup, but these numbers would not seem to translate to wins, but they do.
Since the trades the Mariners are 23-12 and have outscored the opposition 157-103. Maybe it is that elusive magic called chemistry; maybe it is the leadership of Robinson Cano and a few others; maybe it is a team that believes in itself; maybe it can’t be explained.
The Mariners have gotten lucky with hot bats at the right time. Consider Brad Miller who was flirting with the Mendoza line for most of the season. Chris Taylor came up and was red hot. Then the scouting reports caught up to him and he was pitched to differently, his average trailed off; then Brad Miller got hot. There has always been a few hot bats. Dustin Ackley who in the first half appeared to be playing himself out of Seattle, but since the all-star break has been the player everyone hoped he would be. Seager started cold then has been one of the best hitters in the game since May, made the all-star team, and has proven you can hit at Safeco with a .319 average, 16 homers, 53 rbis.
Since the all-star break the Mariners batting average is .251, 14th in baseball. Forget the early season. What is important is how they are playing now. They have 19 games left and one day off, that comes Thursday. I am betting Seattle will either grab second place from Oakland, or at worst be the second wild card. Detroit and Oakland are struggling, but in the baseball world that can change faster than a Lloyd McClendon trip to the mound.
However, Seattle has the best pitching in baseball, a better defense than Oakland or Detroit, and Jackson and Denorfia, and whatever that means.
A record of 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA sounds good, but the numbers, as often can be in baseball, are misleading.
In his first four starts King Felix was 3-0, winning his first three before a no decision. He pitched 28 1/3 innings, allowed only 18 hits and 6 runs. And he struck out 39 walking only 3. His ERA was 1.91. Those are kingly numbers.
But in his last four starts, he pitched 24 1/3 innings giving up 29 hits and 10 runs. He struck out 14 and walked 9. He was 0-1 with 3 no decisions. What is really worrisome is that in his last start against Oakland 6 1/3 innings and zero strikeouts. What? King Felix not getting a strikeout. That has not happened since 2008 against the White Sox when he tossed 5 innings.
Strikeouts and King Felix go together like strawberries and cream, like chocolate and peanut butter in a Reese Cup, like jam on toast, like maple syrup on pancakes. Can you tell it I am hungry?
The crazy thing is that his downslide occurred during the Mariners hot streak that saw them erase an eight game losing streak, winning 9 of 11 before losing the second game of the doubleheader in Oakland.
A couple of starts Felix was reportedly sick, struggling to get through innings. He even took himself out of the Houston start after five innings as he was too tired, too sick to go on.
In his next start against Oakland he was well, but still struggled, as mentioned with the zero K’s. It could be his strength is not yet back. It could be Oakland has already seen him twice and are making adjustments.
In the past Felix carried the Mariners, truly an ace. But the Mariners have displayed clutch hitting of late, especially in extra innings. Justin Smoak leads the majors with 19 two out rbis. He is batting over .350 from the 7th inning on. Seager, Cano, and others all contributing late inning heroics. And Roenis Elias is quickly becoming a reliable starter to go with Felix and Iwakuma.
If Felix can get back on track and the M’s clutch hitting continues the Mariners should have a nice season. But is Felix well?