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.
I hate to pick on a carcass for I am not a buzzard, vulture, or any of the animal kingdom that eats what other’s kill. My intent is to analyze the offseason moves prior to the 2015 season and not to cast blame, for others could be at fault. More about that later.
Lets us begin with the good. The free agent signing of Nelson Cruz, whose batting average and home run blasts have proven that it is possible for a free agent to succeed and flourish, which is not always the case. Seth Smith has been a solid player, not great, but consistent. As I write, a .251 average, 27 doubles, 5 triples, 10 homers, and 35 rbis in 327 at bats. Certainly the numbers of a good fourth outfielder.
But then there are the other players. Justin Ruggiano who was to platoon with Smith was released early in the season, cleared waivers, ended up in Tacoma and was recently traded to the Dodgers. Richie Weeks, a veteran whose career was on the decline, but had a connection with Jack from his Milwaukee days, was released early in the season as well. No hits, no runs, two errors.
JA Happ did not turn out to be this years version of Chris Young and was traded to Pittsburgh. One can only take so many line drives heading into the gaps and over fences. Mike Montgomery looked like a great find when first called up, but teams caught on to him and he was hit worse than a batting practice pitcher. Starting pitchers should go more than 2.1 innings. Dave Rollins, a lefty reliever, was Rule V pick from the Astros, and that meant, once his suspension for using a banned substance was over, he had to remain with Seattle or be returned to the Astros. In 21 innings, 36 hits, 20 runs, and the question of why he is still with Seattle. Mark Lowe was outstanding, so good that he was traded to Toronto for their stretch drive. So he along with Cruz and Smith made three positive additions. But as you can see, the bad outweighed the good by a large margin.
Was it Jack’s fault? Or was it the two cross-checkers who were let go the same day Jack was terminated. Jack, as the GM, must take responsibility for he has the final word. But the larger problem is perhaps, the scouts who cover the major leagues. The scouts who cover amateurs in high school and college is another story, but they too must accept blame for the failure to provide major league players. The problem with the Mariners is larger than Jack’s failure to be more consistent in trades, and his failure to rebuild the Mariners minor league system. The problem lies in the Mariners system itself, and some of the people who populate it.
Scouts, minor league coordinators and coaches, advisors, ownership; they are all part of the problem, one not easily changed.
All sports fans have heard the preseason predictions, just like Seattle Mariner fans heard national baseball writers say Seattle would compete for the pennant, with some predicting the Mariners would play in the World Series. I never bought into it because, though these baseball pundits said ‘they look good on paper,’ paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, then poof the paper is gone.
And so it has been for Seattle. Poof, their season is long gone. Many baseball writers pointed to the Mariners starting pitching and bullpen. The ace of the staff is King Felix. But despite a 14-8 record, Felix is 3-3 with a 6.26 RERA and a .343 batting average against in his last seven starts. At this rate he would have one of his worst seasons. Who could predict that, nor could anyone predict Hisashi Iwakuma missing a large part of the season with injuries; the same for James Paxton. Mike Montgomery, called up from AAA, who started so brilliantly is 0-3 with a plus seven ERA since the all-star game. Roenis Elias who was sent to Tacoma long ago, was recently recalled and though he may yet start, he has been relegated to the bullpen.
Then there is the bullpen, nearly flawless in 2014, but deeply flawed in 2015. To this date the bullpen has blown 17 saves and are in large part the reason the Mariners lead the majors with 22 losses with the opposition winning in their last at bat. And having 20 extra inning games already, the bullpen has been taxed. Fernando Rodney who closed 48 games last season has been released. Yoervis Medina, the 8th inning pitcher last season was gone after 12 innings, though his pitching numbers did not merit the M’s parting with him so early, not with a 3.00 era and a win and save.
Danny Farquhar, Dominic Leone, and Joe Beimel, stalwarts all in 2014, have failed in 2015 and Tom Wilhelmsen was sent to AAA for a spell. The Mariners have tried Tyler Olsen, 5.40; Mayckol Guaipe, 7.50; Dave Rollins 7.85; and Robert Rasmussen, 16.71, and though their inning pitched is low, their numbers tell the story.
Their one reliable reliever, Mark Lowe, was traded at the deadline for prospects-or suspects if you wish. Charlie Furbush, solid from the left side, pitched 21 innings before an arm injury.
And now you know why looking at paper is a folly; why believing the paper is foolish, a chimera, a distorted hopeful dream. Paper tends to go up in smoke. Just ask the Seattle Mariners.
Forget that the Mariners are 8.5 games from the Wild Card. They would have to pass nine teams to get a wild card slot and that has no chance of happening; none, zero, impossible. Nor can they climb out of the cellar and pass all teams in the West for a division title. They are dead in the water with no paddles to row to shore. So it is time to unload some players at the trade deadline.
One player to unload is Fernando Rodney, a great teammate players will say. But fans are not on the team. Despite what people think Rodney has not failed as closer as he is 16 for 20; rather it his how he has pitched. He has given up 41 hits in 37.2 innings along with 17 walks. Seven home runs allowed does not help his cause either; nor his .279 batting average against and 5.73 earned run average.
Rodney will be a free agent next season and he will not return to the Good Ship Mariner. Carson Smith has claimed the closer role for now. He will have the job next season or the M’s will sign a free agent (Tyler Clippard and Sergio Santos are free agents) or make an off season trade for one.
So who would want Rodney with those numbers listed above?
The answer is any team in contention for post season play because pitching is always wanted. He would not close but be an arm in the 7th or 8th innings.
Because of his poor numbers he will not bring much in return, but does it matter. He will not pitch for Seattle in 2016 so most any player in return, like a back up catcher will do.
JA Happ could bring something a little better in a trade than Rodney. Happ is a lefty starter and will be a free agent next season. He is a one year stop gap just as Chris Young was in 2014. He is 4-5 in 18 starts with Seattle, posting a 4.12. Since the Mariners are out of the running, lefty Roenis Elias can be recalled from Tacoma to take his spot in the rotation.
It is time to get something for these guys.
I did not do the math, but I trust 710 ESPN Seattle who gave out the information. The sports talk host said Felix had 118 starts where the Mariners had given him one run of support.
At this writing Felix has 319 starts, so 118 starts equates to 37% and with Felix averaging 34 starts in his career, three years would be 102. That leaves 16 starts. So for three and one half years Felix has had one run to work with and that means a lot of stress innings trying to hold the opposition close while waiting-and 37% of the time waiting in vain-for his team to score runs.
I do not know what pitcher has had the worst run support in his career, but King Felix must be at or near the top. And consider we are talking only run for three and a half years. What about two runs?
To go out and pitch the way Felix does requires great determination and desire knowing he can’t afford any mistakes every five days, week after week, month after month, year after year. And Felix never complains, never carps, never bitches, remaining as positive as Seahawk coach, Pete Carroll. The difference of course is that Carroll has reason to be optimistic, Felix has none.
Perhaps the closest pitcher to Felix, if not surpassing him for frustration, is Hall of Famer Walter Johnson. He pitched 21 seasons for the Washington Senators from 1907-1927, one of the worst teams of that era (like the Mariners). Walter won 416 games, 110 by shutout, a major league record never to be broken. He shutout the opposition in 26% of his wins. And his record in shutouts has set records. Consider that 38 of his 110 shutouts were 1-0 scores, a major league record. And he was the losing pitcher in 65 shutouts, a major league record, and 26 of those were 1-0 games. His record in 1-0 shutouts was 38-26. Sixty-four games of 1-0 duels is also a record. 110-65 in overall shutouts. And not all of his career was in the dead ball era.
Walter got to the World Series in 1924 and 1925 when he was 37 and 38. I doubt Felix will pitch that long. And the way the Mariners fail to hit year after year, Felix, like Ernie Banks, may have a Hall of Fame career but no World Series.
For those unaware of Mike Montgomery he will be 26 on July 1st. He was the first round draft choice of the Kansas City Royals in the 2008 amateur draft, 36th overall. In 2012 he was traded to Tampa Bay in the deal that sent James Shields to the Royals. Tampa was not happy with his development and this spring were trying to convert the left handed starter to a reliever.
But then the Rays traded him to Seattle for Erasmo Ramirez at the end of training camp, March 31st of this year. The Mariners needed a starter at triple A as insurance should one of their Major league pitchers get an injury. When James Paxton went down, Montgomery got the call, making his major league debut against the New York Yankees June 2nd, allowing one run in six innings.
Tuesday night at Safeco Field, pitching against his former organization the Kansas City Royals, Montgomery pitched a complete game 4-hit shutout striking out ten, walking nobody. It evened his record at 2-2 with a 2.04 ERA. In 35.1 innings he has allowed 26 hits, 8 walks, struck out 22 and given up one homer. He also has shown the ability to get out of jams. The Royals had the bases loaded in the first, no outs, and did not score. In the second inning they had runners at first and second, no outs, and Montgomery struck out the side.
The thing is there was nothing in his unremarkable minor league career to indicate how well he has pitched at the major league level. Before his promotion, he was 4-3 at Tacoma with a 3.74 ERA. He had pitched 53 innings in his nine starts, not quite six per start. But the batting average against was .240. His entire minor league career shows a 46-50 record with 4.24 ERA in 159 starts and 5 relief appearances. More remarkable is he had only two complete games in his 159 starts and not one shutout. Not one, none, zip, never happened. His shutout of the Royals was his first professional whitewash.
They say-and we know who they are-that lefties develop later and it could be the Mariners have a steal and for once another organization, or in Mike’s case, two, are the ones getting fleeced not the Mariners. Seattle has lost Adam Jones, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo to name but three they should have kept.
The Mariners currently have five starters doing well, though Felix in June has struggled. The King will not come out of the rotation, so it will be interesting what happens when Iwakuma and Paxton are once again healthy. Who leaves the rotation and where do they go? Tacoma? Unlikely. Bullpen? Stay tuned. But General Montgomery in command of all his pitches doesn’t look to be going anywhere.
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said after 50 games he would know what kind of team he had. They have played 51 and are three games below .500 and twice of late have failed to rise above that mark. They are not a playoff team at present and most likely will not be. Even with over 100 games to play there is no sign they will get better.
In 2014 the M’s hit .244 next to last in the American League. After 51 games they are hitting .236 and only the Brewers .227 average is worse. Their .297 on base percentage is 28th in baseball. On the positive side they are slugging at a .396 clip, 16th in baseball. But since they are 28th in runs it means most of the home runs are solo blasts.
They are also 5th in baseball in batters striking out. That means not putting the ball in play; at least fly balls and ground balls have the chance to advance runners. Mike Zunino is striking out at a 42% clip. He is batting .183 and while I would loved to see him begin to hit, no team can carry a catcher, no matter how good is defense, if he is an offensive liability. An occasional home run does not help. Hitting below .200 for two consecutive seasons will bring into question of what to do with him in 2016.
Currently the Mariners have three hitters above .500. Nelson Cruz .333, Kyle Seager .277, and Seth Smith .262. Robinson Cano keeps swinging at balls out of the zone is batting an un-Cano .246. Dustin Ackley can catch the ball, can not throw it home, and is hitting .185.
Ackley and Zunino are the new Justin Smoak. Whenever Smoak got on one of his rare one week hitting binges, Mariner broadcaster Mike Blowers and others would bring out the old line, “it looks like he has it figured out now.” Of course Justin would go into a hitting funk lasting a month, then another brief fling of hitting brought out the tiresome cliché. When the 2015 season started and Ackley was hot, the cliché came out again, “it looks like Dustin has it figured out.” Wrong! When ever Zunino has a two hit game, we hear it again. Enough already. Neither has it figured out-as yet.
When the season started the Mariners wanted either Brad Miller or Chris Taylor to take the shortstop job. Neither has. Taylor, now in Tacoma, couldn’t hit, and Miller’s throws to first are not unlike a Fernando Rodney experience. And now Miller is not hitting.
Last season the Mariners got by with the best pitching in baseball, but that is not the case this year. Iwakuma is disabled and it is questionable whether he will return to his former self. James Paxton on the DL with a finger strain weakens the starting five and the bullpen has been inconsistent. Danny Farquhar, now in Tacoma is being stretched out to become a starting pitcher. It is a fail safe move in case Mike Montgomery, starting tonight against the Yankees, is not the answer with Paxton gone. So much for Mariner depth, the illusion of spring. The bullpen has been charged with 13 of the 27 losses.
The truth is there are no signs this is a playoff team. A weak hitting catcher, no shortstop, no left fielder, lack of hitting, too many players striking out, no depth in starting pitching, and an inconsistent bullpen are not signs of a playoff team. Wait till next year.