At the moment Nori Aoki will bat leadoff and play left field. Both Jerry Dipoto, Mariner’s GM, and Scott Servais, M’s manager, have pretty much given him that job. That will be against right handed pitchers as Aoki bats left. The number two hitter could be Ketel Marte, but a 2-3-4 of Seager-Cano-and Cruz might be better at the beginning of the season. Marte impressed in his call-up last season, hitting .283 in 57 games, but the two slot puts a lot of pressure on a 22-year old to get on base for the big bats. And seasoned hitters batting 2-3-4 should create more offense.
Adam Lind at first will bat fifth giving a L-L-L-R-L in the first five batters. The sixth slot is likely Seth Smith, another left handed bat, and he would be in right if Cruz is at DH or the DH with Cruz in right.
That leaves catcher Chris Iannetta in the seventh slot with every Mariner fan hoping he will hit better than his .188 showing for the Angels in 2015. He bats right, but the only other catcher is backup Steve Clevenger who bats left, but he is also in the mix as a back up at first and occasional DH. Dipoto and Servais want Zunino to begin in Tacoma, but you never know. He has trouble with major league pitching, not much trouble in AAA, so even if he starts well in Tacoma, that is no guarantee he will hit in Seattle.
The eighth and ninth slots are likely to be Marte and Leonys Martin. Both are speedsters and base stealers and have potential for creating RBI opportunities for Aoki and Seager.
The lineup against a southpaw pitcher is harder to figure. Franklin Gutierrez and Jesus Montero-if they like his defense at first- should see playing time, meaning Aoki and Lind would sit. In that case they might bat Marte leadoff, a switch hitter, to give him the opportunity to hit higher in the lineup and depending on how he does, ease him into the second slot as the season progresses. Gutierrez in the second spot? could be. Then Cano and Cruz which would give you R-R-then L-Cano-R-Cruz, then Seager fifth from the left side. Montero sixth at first, Iannetta or Clevenger seventh, perhaps Chris Taylor as DH if makes the team and Martin ninth.
Dipoto has said there are only three spots open on the team. One is the utility player, the second is the backup first baseman, and the other is in the bullpen. The lineup looks better than the 2015 version, but then everything looks good on paper, or on the Internet.
What is wrong with the Seahawks?
I think they caught whatever disease plagued the Mariners this past season. Perhaps the Center for Disease Control should be notified to find a solution.
The Mariners were predicted to win their division, some even predicting they would play in the World Series against the Washington Nationals. That prediction was not close and proves why predictions should be taken with a grain of sea salt. Preseason predictions are worthless. Nonetheless there were high expectations for the Mariners, and of course, having gone to two consecutive Super Bowls, the expectations for the Seahawks were also high.
One of the Mariners big problems was the bullpen that blew games in late innings. They were charged with 36 losses and looked rotten doing it. And now the Seahawks are playing great for three quarters, then in the 4th quarter play like an expansion team, though I must pause here, because if you have watched them in the fourth quarter, they play more like dudes picked out of the stands who had a few beers too many. Who are these guys? If I were a conspiracy loony tune I would suggest, like the 1919 Chicago Whites Sox, the Hawks are throwing games.
But that can’t be. It is a mystery though, one that has local sports radio shows scratching their heads, covering everything they can think of, except that maybe they are tired. How was their off-season condition? Are the players being rotated enough so that they are not tired in the fourth quarter?
In the end it is the coaches that are the problem. It is their job to prepare players for 60 minutes, not 45. It is their job to fix the problems that arise. Seattle could be 5-1, but the fourth quarter has killed them and their 2-4 record could easily be 1-5 with the Lions game a shaky win on the last play that perhaps should have given Detroit the win.
Super Bowl hangover from blowing the lead against the Patriots? Has it gotten into their heads? Who knows.
As I said the coaches are their to fix problems and as yet they have not and the Mariner coaches and manager had trouble correcting the pitching. At least Edgar Martinez solved the hitting woes that beset them the first half of the season.
If the Seahawks lose to the 49’ers Thursday night in Santa Clara you might as well say, “Wait till next year.” I know Mariner fans are waiting. Will the Seahawks continue to follow their neighbors?
You are a diehard, statistical loving, all out baseball fanatic, if you, by the following stats know who these two pitchers are. Pitcher number one has 20 starts with a 4-6 record and 4.64 ERA. In 108.2 innings, he has given up 121 hits, has a .279 batting average against with 82 strikeouts and 32 walks. The second pitcher has nine starts, is 6-2 with a 2.28 ERA. In 51.1 innings he has given up 48 hits with a .242 batting average against with 58 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Pitcher number two is a strikeout pitcher with 10.17 per nine compared to pitcher one with 6.79. Or so it would seem. You see both those stat lines statistics belong to the same pitcher, one J.A. Happ. His bad numbers came from his time with the Seattle Mariners this season before they traded him to the Pirates, where he has the good numbers.
What happened to Happ?
He is averaging only slightly more than five innings per start with the Pirates, indicating perhaps, they want to get him out of the game while the getting is good. Still his numbers are impressive, especially those strikeouts.
It could be that being in the American league this year and his previous seasons with Toronto that the National League teams are having a period of adjustment. It could be his Pirate pitching coach, noticed something that Happ corrected. It could be anything. It even could be a mirage. That given time Happ will return to Happ form.
I’m sure the Pirate brass is happy with Happ with his six wins in nine starts compared to the Mariners four wins in twenty starts.
Of course there could be another answer. Back in my youth there were two catchers in the National League named Hal Smith, and both at one time or another played for the Pirates. I think they did. But there were two Hal Smith’s. Maybe there are two J.A. Happ’s.
Seattle Mariners Fernando Rodney gave a up a game tying 2-run homer in the 8th today. This has been happening a lot lately; July 7th to Yoenis Cespedes in the 8th (game tying) and two days later to Kole Calhoun, again in the 8th (not game tying). On July 19th Mark Teixeira, again in the 8th (game winning homer). And Sunday the 25th to Ezequiel Carrera in the 8th (game tying).
Here is the problem.
I do not remember if the famous quote came from Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, or Taylor Swift. No matter I can’t remember the exact quote anyway. But it has to do when someone tries something and it fails, yet the person keeps doing the same thing in the same way expecting a different result. Lloyd McClendon keeps putting Rodney in the 8th inning and he keeps giving up home runs in close ballgames.
In his last eight games he has pitched 6.2 innings, 7 hits, 2 walks, 8 runs 7 of which are earned.
Lloyd! You’re not going to get a different result. Stop using him in these situations. Pitch him in mid innings when you are losing and nothing matters. Expecting success from Rodney when he continues to fail is a fool’s hope. Being loyal to veterans has its limits and the idea is to win games, keep the confidence of the team up. When players continue to see game winning and game tying home runs thrown by any pitcher in crucial situations they may not say it, may not show, but inside a little of them gives up. The fans certainly have.
McClendon told his players in his first spring training with Seattle that he has a family to feed and he needs to win games and the players who give him the best chance to win plays. Maybe Lloyd forgot he has to feed his family.
But the way things have gone for Seattle, Jack Zduriencik, the Mariner’s GM, and McClendon may both be gone next season. The problem is the higher ups in the organization care more about profit than winning. It will be interesting to see what happens in the offseason.
I always get irritated listening to Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon in his post game interviews, when all to often I hear him say “We have to get better.” No kidding. But how Lloyd? Any ideas? After the Mariners last game before the break, Lloyd finally said that he had been giving the players some rope, but it hasn’t worked, and “we have to make changes.”
Change players? Be more demanding of players? Choke them with the rope?
They will not win the division, nor will they be a wild card; both avenues are blocked by multiple teams, and not all teams ahead of them are going to go south at the same time. Not being close to the scene I can not blame McClendon. At least not entirely. I do believe it is a managers job to get a team ready to play, to play consistently fundamentally sound baseball. The way the Mariners have played it does not look like they care that much. The enjoy playing the game, but despite players protestations, they don’t’ seem to have the fire to win. Players say what people want them to say.
If Lloyd gets part of the blame, Jack Zduriencik, the general manager, gets some blame for not being able to scout non-pitchers in the amateur draft. Kyle Seager was a find, but Dustin Ackley and to this point Mike Zunino have been a bust. And their shortstops Chris Taylor and Brad Miller are only holding the job until 21-yeard old Ketel Marte, switch hitting shortstop, is ready. According to an article on MLB.Com, Marte was to be brought up at the end of May, but an injury shelved him.
It could be that Marte comes up when the Mariners realize they must see if he is their shortstop for 2016. That is one thing they should do. Another is trade Trumbo to a contender for a relief pitcher. Find a backup catcher. At the end of the season, on fan appreciation night, have two dollar hotdogs and a fan ballot on whether to fire or keep Jackie Z. But the best thing is to get Paul Allen to buy the team.
My fictional account of the New York Giants and Charlie Faust in 1911
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.