With the Seattle Mariners, the phrase ‘wait till next year’ begins before schools let out for the summer. By July, Seattle sports fans turn their attention to the Seahawks-if they have not already done so. Then of course there are those green scarfed Sounders creatures. But for Mariner fans let us look to 2013.
Kyle Seager surprised with his power-18 homers-with 9 games to go-and has driven in 81 runs. His .258 average should improve next season, provided of course, he can adjust to how pitchers will pitch him next year.
His North Carolina teammate Dustin Ackley had a down season, but it is too early to write him off. 2013 should tell a lot about his future.
They will be in the infield, but Brendan Ryan and Justin Smoak could be walking the plank of the good ship Mariner. Ryan is a great fielder, but has no bat. Mariners need offense. Short of a trade or free agent signing, Nick Franklin or Carlos Triunfel will be in the mix.
To borrow from Deep Purple, Smoak on the water; please let him walk the plank. He may be 25, but has shown nothing. He is beloved by Trader Jack though and that scares me. He can swim to a deserted island and play Robinson Crusoe with Chone Figgins.
In the outfield, Franklin Gutierrez-if healthy-can be a force both defensively and offensively. Michael Saunders continues to improve and has power. I am thinking Casper Wells will be gone and the other fly chasers, Eric Thames, Trayvon Robinson, Carlos Peguero, and Mike Carp (also plays 1b) are up in the air. I look for a free agent signing or trade to fill an outfield spot.
Jesus Montero and John Jaso will return as catcher-dh. Jaso had key hits and rbis. Miquel Olivo is unlikely to return. It is tempting to say Mike Zunino will compete, but he is unlikely to be brought up until June, provided he continues to hammer minor league pitching. He may start the season in Tacoma, but if doesn’t, he will get their quickly.
Thursday a look at pitching.
In my previous blog I wrote that Mike Carp had to be coming back as his rehab in Tacoma was coming to the end of his twenty day limit. I wrote about the option the Mariners had about who would go down.
Sometimes things work themselves out and in this case it did when Miquel Olivo went on the disabled list with a groin injury. That means that Montero will catch and Carp will most likely DH. That works for the short-term, and if both thrive, the term will be extended.
It is bad for Olivo, because he was starting to hit the ball. He said he was having trouble early in the season seeing the ball. How does a player have trouble seeing the ball anyway? But it is something many hitters complain about from time to time.
It is a good sign for Montero because he is 9 for 20 with three home runs when he is catching. So the sampling shows he hits better when catching. His number when he is DH are not so good.
Another question arises because Carp can also play left field and first base. He is needed at either spot. Justin Smoak is batting .200. He must pick it up or eventually lose his job to Carp. Figgins in left is batting .209. Same old story with Chone. If Carp gets his swing back, he will force changes to be made.
The good news regarding the Mariner hitting problems is that, despite being 22nd out of 30 in hitting at .238 and 28th out of 30 in on base percentage at .288 they are 13th in runs scored. Runs win games, not hits, and the Mariner’s are making the most of their limited opportunities.
So for the Mariner fans still onboard the good ship Mariner, they are looking to see Carp add a spark to the lineup. Hitting, it is said, is contagious. Maybe Carp’s bat has the bacteria that can instigate the virus through the Mariner bat rack.
Football fans tend to love the backup quarterback, especially when the starter is struggling, throwing interceptions, not touchdowns. And baseball fans love the bench player, especially when he hits and the regular doesn’t.
Which is why Mariner fans wanted to see John Jaso behind the plate after going 3-8, a triple and homer, while Miguel Olivo was trying to raise his average to .150. The Mariners have three catchers when you include Jesus Montero, whom the Mariners want to give more time behind the plate.
Olivo, 33, has gotten a reputation for running to the backstop chasing balls he can’t catch. In 957 games he has 93 passed balls. In addition he was unable to block 364 wild pitches. While you can not always blame a catcher for a pitchers wildness, good catchers block pitches, something Olivo has had problems doing. That is offset by Olivo’s throwing out 34% of would be base stealers.
Jaso, 28, has only played 181 games with 11 passed balls and 57 wild pitches charged to pitchers. He has thrown out only 19% of base stealers. Jesus Montero has no passed balls, 3 wild pitches, but he has only played six games as catcher and has thrown out 1 of 7.
Defensively the advantage might be to Olivo, despite problems with passed balls. Throwing out runners is a priority for most managers.
Offensively Olivo has a .242 lifetime average, Jaso .246. Olivo has a little more power, but not much difference between the two with the bat. Olivo, however, hit .224 in 2011 and has never hit well at Safeco Field.
While Montero needs to work into the position, if Olivo continues to struggle, manager Eric Wedge will have no choice but to play Jaso, who like the third string quarterback, is just hanging around.
Wedge likes Olivo, so he gets the nod. He will hit better. How much better is the question. He was brought in last season to help mentor Adam Moore, thought to be the Mariner catcher of the future, but Moore had a season ending injury shortly after the season started and he has recently suffered another serious injury playing in Tacoma. Some players are injury prone and Moore has litle to no future as a catcher.
Now Olivo is mentoring Montero. All Mariner fans hope he is a quick study. Meanwhile Jaso holds a clipboard.
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.
With Gimenez on the DL and Olivo banged up the Mariners brought up veteran catcher Josh Bard and Jose Yepez from Tacoma to strengthen the backstop position. Bard played Wednesday and got two hits, but who is this Jose Yepez?
He is not a prospect. Not when you are a 30 years old catcher , having spent years toiling in the minors and Independent leagues. Medicine Hat, Dunedin, Charleston, Gary, Pensacola, West Tennessee, High Desert and Tacoma are some of his stops.
In 28 games at Tacoma this season he hit .276 with one homer. He is not a power hitter, hitting 35 homers in 611 games. Career minor league average is .268. But now he is in the Bigs, something he can tell his kids about. He is here for an emergency, to back up Bard until Olivo is ready.
Then there is Jeff Gray. Manger Eric Wedge has set roles for pitchers and Gray is long relief. But the Mariner starters have been so adept at getting deep into games Gray doesn’t pitch much. In fact he has not been on the mound since June 11. Some managers would have used Gray just to keep him sharp. Not Wedge.
It is not a criticism. It is just his style. At the moment the Mariners have ten pitchers. There are five in the bullpen and with Pauley, Laffey, and Wright, getting most of the work trying to set up League, that Ray and Gray sit and wait.
Wedge is not following the book, the expected way of managing, though whoever wrote ‘the book’ on managing is one of those mysteries, and he may have been wrong in the first place.
I like managers who use players to win and Wedge has juggled the lineup and position of players to get the maximum out of a team with the worst offense in baseball. It must be frustrating, but he has steered a good course.
The Mariners salvaged what could have been a leaky voyage home by beating the Tigers in Detroit 7-3 thanks to a pair of homers by Miquel Olivo, one a two run shot, and another thanks to a two run homer by Justin Smoak .
Smoak now has 12 homers and Olivo 1o. So there is some power in the middle of the lineup beginning to flex itself.
Admiral Felix, now 7-5, pitched eight innings giving up three runs. There could have been more had not the Mariner defense turned three double plays.
The win split the four game series with Detroit and sail home with a 3-4 record on their recent briny sea voyage.
For the second outing in a row Michael Pineda struggled and has allowed 13 runs, 7 earned, in the last 12.1 innings with two losses on his debit ledger. He pitched two no decisions prior to that, though pitched quite well.
Every pitcher, like every hitter, hits a stretch where things are going wrong. It could be teams are adjusting based on scouting reports, or it may be mechanics. Or he is just out of rhythm.
And after sitting out Friday nights game, Ichiro in the worst slump of his career, having gone 3 for 36 before sitting, had two hits Saturday and two hits Sunday. The M’s need their best ever lead off hitter to keep getting hits and scoring runs if the M’s want to continue to be in the race.
Chone Figgins continues to below the water mark with a .189 average.
A big three series at the Safe beginning Monday night with the Angels currently in third place behind the M’s and Seattle wants to keep them there. So Vargas, Fister, and Bedard, get the call to keep the Angels down. Thursday is an off day with the Phillies coming in for the weekend to face Pineda, Felix, and Vargas.
Two tough teams at home, but good match ups for baseball fans. A good time to fix a leaky ship, to batten down the hatches, and fatten up some batting averages.
The Mariners had to go extra innings to beat Chicago, but Miquel Olivo hit a two run double in the tenth, then later scored on a Franklin Gutierrez suicide squeeze, to give the Mariners a 7-4 win, stopping a nine game losing streak in Chicago. The last win came in 2009.
Olivo homered in the 8th giving Seattle a 4-2 lead, but Carlos Quentin hit a two run homer off Jamey Wright in the bottom off the inning to tie it up. The good ship Mariner now sails to Detroit.
Meanwhile I am scaring myself.
Last week I saw that Greg Halman came off the DL in Tacoma. With Michael Saunders hitting in the .160’s I thought Greg might get a week or so to get his swing back, but he got a call-up after a few days. Then I wondered if the Mariner brain trust would call up Mike Carp, batting .348 with 19 homers and 58 RBI’s. He plays first, but I thought he could DH and Jack Cust who has not done much would get released.
Mr. Carp did get the call, but Mike Wilson, another recent call-up but little used, was sent down. Cust will be riding the bench for the most part. Carp will get the opportunity to be the full-time DH. If he hits-and continues to hit-Cust will be sitting a lot.
So it appears the Mariner brass is anticipating my every move.
Now if it were up to me, my next move would be to bring up second baseman Dustin Ackley. Eric Wedge has been using Jack Wilson, Luis Rodriquez, and Adam Kennedy and I am thinking if that does happen, then Luis Rodriquez will be odd man out.
I am not saying this will happen soon, but it will and should happen.
And what to do about Chone Figgins? He is hitting as often as a sunny day during a Seattle December. Not much help in Tacoma, unless they want to bring up Alex Liddi. I don’t think the Mariners are willing to do that. Not yet anyway.
All in all the new look Mariners are fun to watch, being in nearly every game with strong pitching and clutch hitting.
Tame those Tigers