Monday, April 13, 2009


So...who expected this Mariner team to be 5-2 going into the opening homestand? I'm sure a lot of us thought one of the few positives of the first two weeks of play would be Ken Griffey, Jr. stepping to the plate in Safeco Field in a Mariner uniform. Instead, we'll be getting that along with a team that isn't 2-5 or 1-6 or 0-7. I saw an FSNW graphic that this was the best start since the Mariners' best start since the 2001 season. The first thing that popped up in my mind was that that doesn't say much for 2002 and 2003 (both teams were 4-3 after seven games). The second thing is that this team definitely will not end up like the 2001 team, though if they somehow win 15 of their next 17 games like that team did, I'm not going to complain. Of course, the side effect of that happening would be that it might convince management to hold onto an Erik Bedard or a Jarrod Washburn. This might be a season where I would fully advocate a white-flag trade. Let's say they could maybe have a sort of chance now, or they could take a step back now to take one forward next year or the year after and get further.

Oh, the game. I can't really talk much about the hitting here thanks to the pitching being so good in this game, but I'll try. The teams combined for six hits in the game, three per side. Endy Chavez, Adrian Beltre, and Mike Sweeney accounted for the Mariner hits, with Sweeney's double being the only one that went for extra bases. The team was 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Chavez stole a base, which isn't so unusual, but Russell Branyan managed to steal second, which was very unusual.

I'll talk about the Mariners' starting pitching below and talk about the other guy that pitched today, David Aardsma. Brandon Morrow had closed out the game the day before, and Aardsma closed the game before that. Maybe we have a Closer A and a Closer B on this team? They both bring the heat, though Morrow seems to have more fluid mechanics. Having Aardsma able to get these outs now is good if Morrow's arm explodes or Morrow (hopefully) has a change of heart and doesn't mind going back into the rotation. With Aardsma and Morrow, the Mariners have two guys that can nail down games. With Batista, the Mariners have a guy who was Toronto's closer for a year, but who these days can't be trusted with leads of less than four runs and those kinds of things. Maybe the Mariners can shoot a hole into the whole "you need a closer and you need to make a decision as to who it will be" philosophy.

1) Erik Bedard
The only way Bedard could have been any better would have been to get the complete game. Unfortunately for him, things started to get a little hairy, so Wakamatsu brought in the righthanded Aardsma despite the fact that the next hitter, Jason Giambi, was lefthanded. Nonetheless, it's nice to know that the ceiling for a Bedard start is in fact something close to a complete game. He threw 102 pitches over his 8 1/3 shutout innings, walking only one and striking out seven while scattering three hits (all singles). He split evenly between groundouts and flyouts at nine apiece. He recorded 25 outs and faced only 29 batters, four over the minimum. While there's no way I expect this out of Bedard in his next start, I wouldn't mind a strong seven innings every time out, not that I expect him to do that. I'd be feeling pretty good about 3/5 of the rotation if Bedard could go seven innings every time.

2) Mike Sweeney
I still get uncomfortable watching Sweeney swing the bat, but I can't argue with a double that goes to the wall and drives in the only run of the game. The worthwhile on-field and in-boxscore contributions from Sweeney have slowly become a little less rare. That's a good thing. He hit sixth in the lineup in this game, and I guess I can understand that. I'm not really high on the idea of Griffey batting third, but as I look at this boxscore, it's pretty apparent Wakamatsu was going for a left-right-left-right thing which held up through the first two-thirds of the lineup. Honestly, I'd rather see Branyan hitting third instead of Griffey, but that's just me. In other news, the left-right thing could have gone all the way through the lineup if, say, Jeff Clement was on the roster. Rob Johnson was the catcher in this game and hung and 0-for-3. All in all, Sweeney is hitting .250 so far this season in not-quite-everyday duty. Let's hope the .250 thing goes up and the not-quite-everyday thing stays the same.

3) Endy Chavez
The Mariners' stand-in leadoff hitter was 1-for-2 in this game with two walks, declaring himself an on-base machine who happens to hit .379. If, God Forbid, Ichiro falls just short of 200 hits this season, can we just add Chavez's hits to Ichiro's total and call it 200 anyway? While it'd be sad to see the 200-hit streak gone, I'd sacrifice it for playoff baseball. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here, though, because this team will have to keep this pace for about a month and a half before I start dreaming big dreams. Big dreams are a bit hard to dream when I trust only two or maybe three guys in the starting rotation. I do wonder which phase of the Mariners is going to fall off the face of the earth first. I have a feeling the rotation will be 2/5 good every time out and probably the offense will give out first, I think. It's maybe bad that I see the offense hitting a drought before I see the bullpen imploding for a week or two. Back to Chavez, though, I hope he can keep up even 80% of what he's doing right now when Ichiro draws back into the lineup.

Franklin Gutierrez
Okay, largely he's in Seattle for defensive purposes, and I've enjoyed the fact that he's chipped in a couple times during this first week of play. There were tons of 0-fers in the lineup for this game since Trevor Cahill pitched so well, but Gutierrez not only went 0-for-4, he managed to ground into two double plays, both times doubling off Chavez on the front end. At this pace, I think it's probably a good idea to slot Gutierrez seventh or eighth and bat Chavez second when Ichiro comes back. I say leave Betancourt at ninth unless somehow you have the cojones to bat him second. Of course, another byproduct of Gutierrez having a cold bat might be the possibility of Cedeno spelling him in centerfield, but right now that's an argument between .185 with awesome centerfield defense and a .143-hitting utility guy. I think that's probably the only scenario right now where Gutierrez could possibly get benched. I don't see anyone else drawing into centerfield. In a different-positions note, poor Matt Tuiasosopo still hasn't seen the field after seven games of play.

The Mariners return tomorrow, which is nice. Griffey returns in a Mariner uniform, which is fun. It may all come crashing down to earth since Carlos Silva will be on the mound. Can he be good just this once?

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