One could ask if anyone has a future with the Seattle Mariners, but sarcasm aside, the Mariner brain trust, such as it is, has committed to a youth movement. And though the youth movement has had more ups and downs this season than a bi-polar patient off his meds, the plan can not be blown up. At least not now.
Consider Dustin Ackley. There were high expectations for Ackley after a mediocre 2012. He had to get better. But he didn’t. At the all-star break he was batting .205. With Nick Franklin taking his spot at second base, Ackley disembarked from the Good Ship Mariner and took a tugboat to Tacoma where he learned to play the outfield, and regain confidence in his hitting.
In the 49 games he has played since the all-star break, he leads the team in hitting, batting .312. That is a big turnaround from .205.
Does it mean anything?
I think the second half of the season has preserved a roster spot for Ackley in 2014. What anyone does in August or September is not a guarantee they will succeed next year. But Nick Franklin has struggled. He is batting .193 since the break with 71 strikeouts in 197 at bats. A 36% strikeout rate is not good. On the plus side he leads the Mariners with 25 rbis since the all-star game. Just as Ackley’s post break success does not guarantee 2014 success, Franklin’s struggles does not mean he will struggle next year. But Ackley, if still destined for the outfield, is also insurance in case Franklin falters at second. That is why Ackley will be back.
The problem facing the Mariner front office, other than wondering if they will have jobs once the ownership question is settled, due to the death of owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, is the majority of Mariner hitters are young and there is no track record to base expectations on. You know what you will get with Raul Ibanez or Kendrys Morales, but with rookies and second year players, one does a lot of wishing and hoping.
I doubt the 2014 season will show a quick turnaround. I fully expect they will finish 4th again next year. But there is still wishing and hoping. And praying or making deals with the devil.
In my previous blog 7/11 I suggested the Mariners goal the second half of the season should be to pass the Disneyland Angels and finish third in the AL West. In closing out the first half of the season at the all-star break the Mariners took three big steps, sweeping a three game series from the Angels, 8-3, 6-0, and 4-3. At the break Seattle is 43-52, two games back of the Angels. This is their pennant race, and the sweep get them within striking distance.
Above is the weeping angel. If the Mariners finish ahead of the Angels, the statue will continue to weep.
This is the first sweep of the season for the Mariners. The last time they swept the Angels was 2006 and the last time in Seattle was 2005. They play the Angels six more times, three in each city.
In the first 13 games of July the Mariners are 8-5, with three of those losses to the Red Sox. They took two of three from Texas; two of three from Cincinnati; and now the sweep of the Angels, so they are hot.
How hot? They have homered in 22 straight games, a team record, (115 on season) and are five away from tying the MLB record of 27 set by Texas. Kyle Seager in July is hitting .458. Justin Smoak is batting .386 with 2 homers and 9 rbis (22 on the season). Raul ‘Babe Ruth” Ibanez .367, 5 homers, 11 rbis and Kendrys Morales .300, 5 homers, 12 rbis. Michael Saunders is getting hot as his .297 average for July, 2 homers, 9 rbis indicates.
As for the Mariner kids, Brad Miller .260 in July, .246 for season. Zunino .233, .230 on season and Nick Franklin .195, .268 on season. Miller is improving his average, Zunino is steady, and only Franklin is in a bit of funk.
The Mariners are playing well, scoring runs, hitting homers, but guess what? Sunday was their last game until Friday when they begin a three game series in Houston to play those pesky Astros. Then three at home with Cleveland and four with the Twins. The question is will their baseball muscles atrophy over the next four days? The second half of the season will tell its own story and we shall see how it unfolds beginning Friday.
Forget websites, press guides, birth certificates. Raul Ibanez is not 41. Players his age do not hit home runs every 12 at bats. But, as you will learn, he is not younger, but actually older, much, much older.
Recently discovered manifests, logs, and ship roster show that one Juan Raul de Ibanez sailed with Ponce de Leon, who while searching for the fountain of youth, discovered Florida. Ironic in that a search for the fountain should take place in a state full of retirees. But that might be the key. Florida is overwhelmed by aged people who are growing older, all the while looking and playing younger.
Reports that De Leon never found the fountain are undoubtedly misleading. Cross checking documents on this Juan Raul de Ibanez indicate that he never died, but dropped the Juan and the de from his name. Along with the previously mentioned discovered material is a code book, that when broken by cryptologists indicate the fountain was indeed found, not by de Leon, but by an exploratory crew of three led by Ibanez. It is they who partook of the fountain, closely guarding its location to this day. Due to conflict between de Leon and the local natives, Ibanez and his crew were separated from de Leon, and were believed killed, and left behind.
And today, though Raul is 4th on the Mariners in at bats, he leads the team in home runs with 17 and RBIS with 42. He is 12th on the team in on base percentage, because he does not draw walks, but hits home runs, so as to take it easy on his body. A simple jog around the bases is easier than running around them. He slugs at a .524 pace.
Raul still plays the field like a 41 year old, but when you consider his true age of over 500 years he does well. The History Channel is currently producing a documentary in which all evidence will be presented in a three hour program detailing everything I have here attested to. Rumors are that Major League Baseball is investigating to see if the fountains waters could be classified as ‘performance enhancing.’ Stay tuned for more on this growing and explosive story.
Michael Saunders celebrated his return from his rehab assignment by hitting a home run in the first inning against Baltimore Monday night. His bat and defense will help Seattle, but one must question why Carlos Peguero was send back to Tacoma.
The outfield is Michael Morse, Endy Chavez, and Saunders. When Gutierrez is healthy again, Chavez will either return to Tacoma or head to the bench. Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay are the reserves. The latter two, provide the Mariners with the magic ‘veteran leadership.’ But if the Mariners want the young guys to come through, then Peguero should be in Seattle as the fourth or fifth outfielder.
Peguero was 2 for 6 with a home run in his two games with Seattle. I don’t know what he could do if he played more often with Seattle, but he is sure to hit more than .161, which is what Raul Ibanez is hitting. I know Raul is a fan favorite, is good in the clubhouse, but he is 40 years old and is playing the outfield like a 40-year old. Age has caught up with Raul. He may have a flash or two, but over the long haul Peguero would help Seattle more than Ibanez.
In 2012 Peguero had 56 at bats with Seattle, hitting .179 with 2 homers. Even worse he struck out 50% of the time. In 2011 in 143 at bats, Carlos had 6 homers and hit .196. Not good numbers and the strikeouts are alarming. Still he hit over .161, has more power than Ibanez, and is slightly better defensively.
The sad thing is the choice is between a 40 year old on his last legs who can’t hit and a younger player who strikes out a lot. If Morse or Saunders go down for any length of time, the depth chart for outfielders is scary. At the moment Ibanez and Peguero are bodies, not players. Perhaps the Mariners need to send out an S.O.S.
Franklin Gutierrez strained his hamstring Monday in Houston. It is not unusual for ball players to have injuries, but with Franklin injuries and illness seem to plague him. He has missed 192 of the last 324 games. For stat freaks, that is 59% games missed. That percentage does not reflect an everyday starter, but a fourth outfielder. When in the lineup-and healthy-he is one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball. The Mariners are lucky to have Endy Chavez to take his spot as his glove work is Mariner ship shape.
Health was not an issue in 2009 and 2010 when he played 153 and 152 games for Seattle with 629 plate appearances each year. In 2009 he had his best season with 18 homers, 70 RBIS and batted .283. His average dropped in 2010 to .245, hitting 12 home runs, driving in 64.
But in the last two seasons he has spent more time with doctors than a hypochondriac. In Franklin’s case his problems are real. Last year Franklin had a severe stomach disorder that baffled doctors for the longest time. He has also had a torn pectoral muscle, suffered a concussion, and strained an oblique muscle. In another time players would avoid Franklin as he would be the “Jonah” someone to avoid at all costs. Players would fear fallout, that getting to close to the “Jonah” might jeopardize one’s own health, that his bad luck would fall within too close a radius.
Franklin is likely headed to the DL and if so, then Carlos Peguero might be called up. He is batting .246 in Tacoma, has had call ups the last two seasons, exhibiting great power when not striking out. But when veterans Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez are not hitting what is the point of that ‘veteran presence?’ If a young player can hit .246 for the M’s they are better off than having two aging, ineffective veterans.
Michael Saunders will be back soon and his bat is needed because the other Michael, surname Morse, is slumping, no doubt due to his broken pinkie. Wait a minute! Morse started the season in left and broke his finger, and Saunders started the season in right, got hurt, and went on the DL. Gutierrez started the season in center field. The two Michaels flanked the ‘Jonah.” Maybe it is true and not a superstition. Be careful Carlos!
Seattle scored a run in the first inning Sunday in Texas. That ended a 20 inning scoreless streak, but did not prevent the Mariners from being gunned down by the Rangers, 11-3, and getting swept in the three game series. Sunday the Mariners were 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position The high hopes for a better offensive attack has hit rocky shoals for the Good Ship Mariner. The entire lineup is in a funk.
It is not just the young guys who are not hitting, but the veterans as well. Going into Sunday’s game, Kendrys Morales was batting .254 with one homer and while Michael Morse has hit 6 home runs, his average has dropped into the 230’s. His broken pinkie may be worse than he is letting on. Raul Ibanez is below .200 and Jason Bay barely above the Mendoza line.
Are Mariner hitters pressing? If so, they have been pressing for two years. It is not surprising attendance keeps dropping. Other than watching Felix Hernandez pitch, there is not much reason to go to a Mariners game. Nobody wants to watch a dozen or two ground outs.
Before Sunday’s game they were hitting .218, 29th in the majors. They had scored 58 runs, 25th in the majors. At least they were 17th in home runs with 16. Kyle Seager, on a 12 game hit streak, homered in the 9th. But one guy hitting does not help.
Firing the hitting coach is not the answer. The Mariners have hired a few hitting coaches the past few years and none have made a difference. What that tells you is that the Mariners have players who can not hit with consistency. Coaches can teach, can guide, can suggest, can go over video, but if you have poor students, you get no results.
Firing the manager is not the answer. The manager can not will players to hit. Nor is there another manager out there who can magically transform this team to win.
But one can look to the general manager, Jack Zduriencik. He is the one responsible for drafting the players and trading for players. He is the talent evaluator. He traded for Justin Smoak who is a failure. He signed free agent Chone Figgins. That was a disaster. He brought Brendan Ryan to Seattle. I love his glove and arm, but he has no bat. He drafted Dustin Ackley; he traded for Jesus Montero. His list of failures are growing.
The young guys may yet begin to hit, at least Kyle Seager has the best chance. Ackley, Smoak, and Montero have been in a funk far too long.
Is there hope? If there is, it is getting as thin as an anorexic super model.
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.