Jerry Dipoto, Mariners GM, made a trade for the type of player he wants in the outfield, that being a ball hawk with speed. In his two full years with Texas in 2013 and 2014 Leonys Martin hit .264 and .270 with 67 steals, being caught 21 times. He has speed and is considered an excellent defender with an Ichiro type arm. The 27 year old Martin lost his centerfield job to Delino Deshields, partly because of injures, and ended up playing 95 games, 288 at bats with a .219 average.
But with a career .305 on base percentage who strikes out a lot-over 100 times in both 2013 and 14, he is not your leadoff hitter, or at least, should not be. He looks better suited for the 9th spot.
The centerfielder Seattle gave up was James Jones who as a rookie in 2014 hit .250 in 312 at bats, stealing 27 of 28 bases, but he barely hit .100 in 2015 in limited playing time. He does not have Martin’s arm, but is a solid outfielder with speed. However, there is something about him the M’s just don’t like.
If Martin returns to form following his injury season that saw him have surgery to remove a hamate bone in his right hand, it could be a good move, but consider that Seattle gave up Tom Wilhelmsen who has saved 67 of 81 games for the M’s with a 2.97 career average in 267 games. He has been in long relief, a setup man, a closer, and spot started, all of which show his value to Seattle.
In return Seattle received 28 year old Anthony Bass with a 4.50 career ERA. mostly a reliever he has made 12 starts, but his value is far less than Wilhelmsen.
So on paper, or in this computer age, perhaps digital cyberspace, Seattle’s bullpen is weaker after this trade, something Dipoto wanted to build up along with the outfield. But he is not done yet, has said so in fact after stating he sees a platoon of Franklin Gutierrez and Seth Smith in left, Martin in center, and he is looking for an outfielder to play in left when Nelson Cruz is at DH.
If Martin is a bust, then so is this trade.
Seattle’s 2014 bullpen had an ERA of 2.59, an improvement of nearly two runs over their dreadful 4.58 bullpen ERA in 2013. It was the fourth best one year improvement in the last 20 years. Not only was the 2.59 ERA the best in baseball it was the sixth best since 1973 when the DH infected the American League.
But how will the bullpen look in 2015?
Joe Beimel an important situational lefty has pitched for seven teams and is a free agent. He had a 2.20 ERA for the M’s in 45 innings and is only 37, which for a lefty reliever is like 31 in right handed years. Another lefty, Charlie Furbush, who was 1-5 with a 3.61 ERA, is in first year of arbitration so his contract will be negotiated. The other lefty Lucas Luetge pitched 9 innings giving up 5 runs and is not eligible for arbitration.
Danny Farquhar 3-1, 2.66 with 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings is not eligible for arbitration until next season. The same is true for Dominic Leone, 8-2, 2.17. Yoervis Medina in two years as the setup man in the 8th inning has a 2.81 ERA. He is illegible for arbitration in 2016. He may be pushed for the setup job by last season’s rookie surprise Carson Smith. He only pitched 8.1 innings, but had 10 strikeouts, walking three and giving up two hits. A small sample to be sure, but he has the arm the Mariners love and he threw strikes.
Tom Wilhelmsen had a bounce back year, his ERA improving from 4.12 to 2.17 and in 79.1 innings only gave up 47 hits. He is arbitration eligible. And of course Fernando Rodney who led the majors with 48 saves is returning.
On paper it looks like the bullpen could be intact with all those young arms, but even if all are signed and none traded, do not expect the same numbers. relief pitchers frequently have up and down years, some fall out of favor and are traded away or sent to the minors. Seattle has a lot of good young arms and that means they may have to part with one or two if they make a trade as teams always need bullpen help and that is Seattle’s strength. But I would hesitate to think twice about giving up more than two, in fact I would part with one. Too much promise in that pen and that’s no bull.
All major league teams can expand their rosters in September. And after September 2nd, when Tacoma closes out their season, the Mariners will call up a few prospects. Who will be called up the Mariners have not said. But one thing is certain, there are players on the 25 man active roster who will be fighting for playing time-and jobs. The young prospects will want to impress, and if someone does, they will get their chance.
Pitchers will, I am sure, be among those heading to Seattle. Logan Bowcam saved 19 games for Tacoma with a sub 3 ERA. He is a 25 year old right hander and everyone can use pitching, especially in the bullpen.
Seattle could also bring up those who have been on the I-5 shuttle like Tom Wilhelmsen, Bobby LaFromboise, Hector Noesi, or Blake Beavan. A bigger question would be Taijuan Walker, 21, who was 4-3 in 10 starts. He struck out 55, walked 25, with a 3.86 ERA in 51 innings. Do they want to begin his major league clock with a September call-up? There really is no point.
Babe Ruth can not be called up. He is dead. But Seattle should look into cloning rights should they become available.
One name to remember for the future because you will not see him come September is Tyler Pike, a 19 year old left handed pitcher. He is 7-4, 2.35 in 21 starts. Not a strikeout pitcher, but he has three pitches, one is good curve ball. Batters hit .194 against him. He should move up the minor league chain next summer.
As far as hitters, Abraham Almonte, a 24 year old outfielder, is likely to be called up. Between Jackson and Tacoma he is batting .297 with 14 homers and 63 rbis while stealing 24 bases. A young outfielder with speed and some power needs to be looked at closely.
Stefan Romero, is a 24 year old whose future is undecided because hey keep moving him around. Most of his career was at third base, but Seager seems to have that locked up. Romero has also played second, but Nick Franklin has looked good there. Outfield? he has played there some, but the M’s, if they want to keep him, must find a position. He is batting .281 with 7 homers and 64 rbis.
It would be great to see someone catch September fire, like Almonte. But who would notice? Once football season starts, with the Seahawks more popular than a free day at Starbucks, no one will notice anthing the Mariners do, and that might be a good thing.
When I woke up this morning I considered writing a blog on Danny Farquhar, Mariner reliever, who appeared to be on verge of taking over the closer role from Tom ‘The Bartender’ Wilhelmsen. One of the first things I heard on the radio was that Wilhelmsen was optioned to AAA Tacoma after Monday nights game. I guess that question has been answered.
The closer role is the most precarious spot on the roster. A position player like Brendan Ryan can afford to bat .190 because of his great defense, at least until another young player is ready to take the job. Justin Smoak can struggle for two and a half years before he gets really hot. A starting pitcher like Aaron Harang can survive in the rotation for God only knows what reason. But a closer can only afford a few blown saves, any struggles and he loses his job.
Wilhelmsen was outstanding in 2012, and for the first half of this season looked to be the closer for many years. But in his last ten games, though he has six saves, he pitched 9.2 innings, allowed 11 hits, walked 9, and gave up 8 earned runs. That is how you lose your job.
Now it is Danny Farquhar, 26 year old, 5’9″ fireballer, who in July was the most unlikely candidate to be the closer. During a four game stretch he lasted 3.1 innings, gave up 8 hits, and 7 runs. He was overmatched, a bus ticket to Tacoma just waiting to be placed in his locker. But he began throwing his 12-6 curveball more often and hitters couldn’t adjust. He says his cutter is his best pitch, but the mixture is working. In his last 11.2 innings, only 2 hits, no runs, and 18 strikeouts. That is what gets you the closer job.
But how long will he last? Injury to former Mariner closer David Aardsma derailed his career; Brandon League, good for over a year became ineffective; Wilhelmsen has now hit bottom, sent to Tacoma to work things out. The closer role, unless you are Mariano Rivera, takes its toll. It is the one position in baseball, that like football, is next man up. Is Yoervis Medina warming up behind Farquhur?
Idaho and Washington would meet each September in Husky Stadium. Idaho, after getting vandalized by the Husky’s 36 out of 40 games, tying two, winning two, they cried uncle, choosing to abandon the series. Who can blame them? Too bad, the Husky’s always got a win, and the Vandals had cute cheerleaders.
Seattle should do the same with the Boston Red Sox. Thankfully they are done with them for 2013. The Mariners won the first meeting July 8 in Seattle 11-4 which at that time gave Seattle five wins in seven games. But Boston won the next three of the four game series by scores of 11-8, 11-4, and 8-7. The losing streak to the Red Sox is now six after being swept in Boston. The Mariners lost 8-2 Tuesday, then lost a heartbreaking 15 inning game Wednesday, 5-4.
That set up the fiasco of Thursday. King Felix pitches 7 innings allowing one run. Mariners led 7-2 going into the bottom of the 9th and Tom Wilhelmsen, Oliver Perez, and Yoervis Medina faced 10 batters, got one out, and blew the game for Felix as Boston’s six run inning gave them a shocking 8-7 win, torpedoing the Good Ship Mariner. It is bad enough that frequently King Felix gets no runs to work with, losing games 1-0, or 2-0, or drawing a no decision. The three members of the bullpen who pitched the ninth in Boston sabotaging Felix’s great effort should walk the plank in shark infested waters.
What Brendan Ryan is to hitting is what Wilhelmsen is becoming to closers. The waters he is navigating, if he keeps this course, will find him out of a job next season.
The Mariners should cry uncle to Major League Baseball, call Commissioner Bud and get Boston off the schedule next year, and every year that Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are there. It is a mismatch. Seattle and Boston may both be in the American League, but the Mariners are clearly not in the same league competitively. Seattle are the Vandals to Boston’s Husky’s. The Mariners are the new Vandals, but without cute cheerleaders.
Mariner closer Tom Wilhelmsen has lost the helm of the Good Ship Mariner, struggling with location and control. Though he may regain his form and get his closer job back, he is not the only reliever on the M’s staff floundering in the choppy Elliot Bay waters.
Kyra Sedgwick pictured above new how to close.
Carter Capps has gotten knocked around recently. He has given up 35 hits in 30 innings. His strike out numbers are good with 36, but his ERA has climbed to 5.16. Partly his fault, and partly relievers who replace him and let in runners he put on base.
Danny Farquhar, though pitching 14 innings with 20 strikeouts, has seen 11 of the 18 base runners he allowed (13 hits, 5 walks) score. Again he put them on base, but also when he was relieved, the runners he left ended up scoring thanks to the pitcher who replaced him.
Blake Bevean when he was recalled looked great, then tanked in a recent outing.
Some of the pen is doing the job. Oliver Perez, Charlie Furbush, and Yoervis Medina have done well, though tend to walk batters. But the bottom line is who can be trusted out of the pen. Right know, no one. With a struggling offense, pitching and defense must keep the team in the game, and in the last two games the M’s have been blown out. The pitchers could hardly be overworked based on innings pitched. It is just another omen involving the cursed Mariners.
There have been stretches during losing streaks where the Mariner hitting was awful from top to bottom. Now the bullpen is getting knocked around. Had Steven Pryor not been injured he may have taken Wilhelmsen’s closer job. Pryor was the closer in waiting as Wilhelmsen was the closer in waiting for Brandon League.
There is no happy ending to this story. The Mariners have made recent changes to their starting lineup with Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino. Making changes in the bullpen is not as easy. They must simply get better or sink the ship.
I don’t understand Mariner manager Eric Wedge. Monday night against Houston he let Aaron Harang pitch the ninth with a 4-0 lead. I applaud that. When a pitcher is dominating as Harang was, then why bring in another pitcher to finish the game. It was probably a good thing the score was not 3-0, for if it was, Wedge may have brought in struggling closer Tom Wilhelmsen in the 9th. But there is no save with a four run lead. Harang gave up two hits, walked no one, and struck out ten. He deserved to complete the game.
But Tuesday night Wedge did not do the same for Jeremy Bonderman. He pitched eight innings, allowed three hits, walked two and struck out five, throwing only 89 pitches in a dominating performance. Instead of letting Bonderman finish the game, giving the Mariners a chance for two consecutive complete game shutouts from two journeymen pitchers from whom little was expected, he was taken out for Tom Wilhelmsen the Mariner closer.
It is something push button, robotic managers do. Its the ninth inning, closing situation, so bring in the closer. I raise the question again. Why change pitchers when your starter is dominating? If the closer is Mariano Rivera, I give him the ball. But Wilhelmsen has been struggling. Coming into the game Wilhelmsen had given up eight hits, and walked eight in 10 1/3 innings. His earned run average jumped from 0.47 to 2.22 in those 10+ innings. After Tuesdays blown save in which he gave up 3 hits, walked two and was tagged for five runs, his ERA is 3.77. The Bartender is having one bad month.
It happens, all players slump, and Wilhelmsen is the closer, and should close games. But not a 1-0 game when the starter is sailing along, doing fine, thank you very much. Bring in Wilhelmsen with a three or four run lead when he has margin for error. Don’t let him work out his kinks in a one run game. That is tempting the devil called fate.
The Mainers had five hits on the night, three from recently called up rookie Nick Franklin, and one from expected savior and star catcher Mike Zunino. It would be more fun to talk about those two kids and their future than a dumb pitching change from Eric Wedge.