Friday, July 16, 2010
[partial post for now]
Truthfully, once the Angels put three runs on the board, it didn't feel like a game, and I just felt resigned to the fact that the Mariners wouldn't be scoring many runs, if any, on this night. The one thing that gave them a glimmer of hope was Justin Smoak's first home run as a Mariner. That nice-looking swing cut the Angels' lead to 3-2, and the Mariners got no closer. Thus, Felix Hernandez threw an eight-inning complete game and lost despite giving up only three runs. There's only so much Felix can do. He can't just go three months of giving up a run or less per game. That's superhuman. Anyway, the starting pitching was very good and the offense was crap. Not like that's ever happened this season.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed in the gameballs
-- the bullpen got the night off, so going into Saturday's game, Brian Sweeney, Jamey Wright, and Garrett Olson will have a day of rest, while Brandon League, David Pauley, and Chris Seddon will be rested due to the All-Star break
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Chone Figgins had the only hit or run between the two players. The Mariners remain 12-6 when both players score and 17-27 when both collect hits.
1) Justin Smoak
Needless to say, this was Smoak's best game as a Mariner, though he hasn't even played a handful yet. He ripped a nice base hit before putting good wood on a Jered Weaver changeup in the seventh to finally make a game of it for the Mariners, cutting the Angels' lead to 3-2. Unfortunately for the Mariners, that capped their scoring as well as the scoring for the entire game. Still, after three innings of offensive doldrums where it totally looked like ho-hum, no-chance Mariners, Smoak gave the team a little jolt, if only temporarily. Smoak's 2-for-3 night only pushed him to .208 on the season, but he did drive in both Mariner runs on the night. After nearly hitting a homer the night before, Smoak made good this time around, and hopefully it's the first of many that Smoak will have while wearing a Mariner uniform. If he's even half of a Mark Teixeira clone, I think I'll be happy with over five years of that.
2) Felix Hernandez
Maybe if his hit total were a little lower, I might have put him in the number-one gameball spot. Felix gave up 10 hits in a game for the second straight start. He won the first of those starts, however. All in all, it still demonstrates the real travesty of this team -- the offense (surprise). Felix's hit totals aside, there is no way the Mariners should be losing games where Felix goes eight innings and gives up three runs. That should absolutely not happen. Still, Felix has given up three earned runs or less in all but three of his starts, yet his record is only 7-6 thanks to the putrid offense. I hope Felix isn't regretting signing that extension in the offseason. Hopefully he has faith that the team will field an offense that's actually worth a damn in the Majors. Looking at his game log, you could make the argument that Felix should have lost maybe four starts this season at the most (out of 20) and won nearly all the rest. Of course, if you factor in no-decisions, that means at least one of the possible losses has to go away... if this team fielded an average hitting team, I think Felix would have a record of about 13-3, and that's throwing in six no-decisions just for the hell of it.
3) Michael Saunders
He and Smoak are tall, but one's Canadian and not a switch hitter. Saunders went 2-for-3 in the game, singling twice to raise his batting average to .228. One of the rumor-mill churnouts during the whole Cliff Lee thing included the possibility of Angel Pagan coming back in a trade and playing leftfield immediately. If anything, the fact that they didn't immediately trade for a Major-League ready leftfielder means that Jack Zduriencik and his staff have a fair bit of confidence in Saunders. Ultimately, hitting .228 won't keep you in the Majors, but if the Mariners have truly decided there's no chance in hell of them making the playoffs, you might as well give Saunders and Smoak all the time and at-bats they need unless they end up dipping below .200. Then it'd just be embarrassing both for the fans and the team playing. For now, though, I just like to see Saunders stinging the ball all over the diamond. Like Ichiro, I want Saunders to hit .400 for the rest of the season. Actually, that's pretty much impossible for him to do.
Away goes the hitting streak for the Mariners' leadoff hitter and rightfielder. His 0-for-4 day left him at 119-for-370 (.322) on the season, putting him on pace to finish with 214 hits. It's getting a bit serious now, folks. Ichiro can't get less than 220 hits in my mind, and he sure as hell better at least get to 200. I keep waiting and waiting for the Ichiro tear to happen, but it never seems to happen. This season's going to seem even longer than it already does if Ichiro doesn't get on another tear. We don't have many things left to hold onto when it comes to this team. We get Ichiro every night, Felix every five days, and I guess now we get to see how Justin Smoak develops. Baby steps, sure, but Mariner fans are still left wondering when, if ever, are they going to get to the top of the steps. Anyway, Ichiro needs to get hot or at least incrementally better to set the table for the rest of the team behind him. Someone needs to be on base when Milton Bradley and Jose Lopez are busy striking out.
Rowland-Smith. Saunders. Saturday night.
The roster upheaval has continued for the Mariners as they brought up Chris Seddon from Tacoma and signed Jamey Wright as a free agent. To make room, the Mariners mercifully sent Sean White back to Tacoma and offered Chad Cordero the same fate, but he instead chose free agency. It's really too bad it didn't work out here for him. He'd come a long way to make it back to the Majors, and that's a victory in itself. As for the logjam in leftfield, at first base, and at designated hitter, part of that problem was made a little easier thanks to a freak Russell Branyan toe injury involving a hotel table (thanks to Geoff Baker for that tidbit). Thus, Milton Bradley got the at-bats at DH in this game while Michael Saunders played left and Justin Smoak played first. As for the game itself, the offense was confined to one inning, and after getting back on the horse after early troubles, Doug Fister lost control of the game again and the Angels put it away.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed toward the end of the post
-- Brian Sweeney was the first man out of the bullpen. He entered the game with a runner on first and two out in the sixth inning and the Angels leading 5-3. He fought back from a 3-0 count only to allow a double to Howie Kendrick that moved Erick Aybar to third, followed by a Bobby Abreu single on a 1-2 pitch that drove both runners home to make it 7-3. In the seventh, he allowed a one-out infield single but got two outs. Jamey Wright then made his first Mariner regular-seaosn appearance, though he nearly made the team out of spring training a couple years ago before being shuffled off somewhere else. He gave up a walk and a single to make it 8-3, capping the scoring before he got the final out of the inning. Garrett Olson then pitched a completely meaningless 1-2-3 eighth.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Sweeney, Wright, and Olson threw in this game. Brandon League, David Pauley, and Chris Seddon are rested coming off the All-Star break.
-- the offense had one inning of glory. It came in the fifth. It started with Michael Saunders laying down a perfect bunt along the third-base side. Rob Johnson then managed a single to move Saunders to second. Jack Wilson then hit a soft liner that barely eluded the shortstop, but Saunders scurried back to the bag thinking it would be caught. As a result, Saunders only got to third. Thus, the bases were loaded with nobody out for Ichiro. That's good timing. He doubled to the wall in rightcenter, clearing the bases and cutting the Angels' lead to 4-3. That's when the futility began. With Ichiro on second and nobody out, Chone Figgins grounded out to second to move Ichiro to third. Franklin Gutierrez then bounced to third, but Ichiro went toward home and didn't stop, and the play ended with him being tagged out on his way home. That was pretty much the end of the threat.
-- as for other blown chances, Jose Lopez doubled to lead off the second and stayed there. In the fourth, Gutierrez led off the fourth with a single but was erased on a fielder's choice, virtually ending the threat. In the eighth, Gutierrez doubled with one out and didn't score, but the Mariners were down 8-3 at that point, so nobody cares.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had the only hit or run between the two players. The Mariners remain 12-6 when both players score and 17-27 when both collect hits.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' centerfielder had a two-hit game. One of the hits was a double. This was his first multi-hit game since July 4th. After that game, he went hitless over the next five games (0-for-19) before scratching out a hit in the third game of the Yankee series (the Felix game). Even with this two-hit game, he's only a .259 hitter. That's too bad, considering he pretty much carried the team's offense for the first month and a half of the season. Of course, if you're depending on Franklin Gutierrez to carry your team's offense, you're pretty much screwed. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you how the Mariners fared as a result of Gutierrez being the only one hitting consistently over the first month and a half of the season.
He only had one hit in the game, but it was clutch and accounted for all the Mariners' runs. The 1-for-4 day pushed him to 119-for-366 (.325), putting him on pace to finish the season with 217 hits. Ichiro kept the hitting streak going, and it now stands at 14 games. He has gone a mere 17-for-63 (.270) during the streak, so while the length of the streak is Ichiro-like, an average of .270 over two weeks isn't very Ichiro-like. Imagine if Ichiro had hit his season average of .325 during the hitting streak, the Mariners would have probably won...okay, maybe one more game during that hitting streak. If that. I still want Ichiro to hit .400 for the rest of the season. Quick math says there's 73 games remaining, and if he got four at-bats a game, that'd make it 292 at-bats for the rest of the season. That'd shape out to about 117 more hits. Add that to his current total, and he'd finish the season with 236 hits, which would be an awesome thing.
3) Michael Saunders
The Mariners' leftfielder had the bunt single that started the rally in the fifth inning, and he also drew a walk. The lineup had Justin Smoak hitting seventh and Saunders hitting eighth, and when they're facing righties, they both look like tall lefthanded hitters who are capable of drilling the ball. Now if they could just drill the ball more often, those two guys could be a huge asset. Smoak, for example, nearly homered in this game, but also struck out three times for yet another hat trick. Hopefully he's actually good and doesn't end up like a lefthanded Richie Sexson (the bad version, that is). If Smoak and Saunders got up to .260 before the season ended, that's just be grand, and it'd give me a little optimism about the future of this team.
He absolutely has not been himself since he came back from the disabled list. It's a shame, since he was among the league leaders in ERA before he got hurt, but since then, he just hasn't gotten it back. He hasn't gotten through six innings in four starts since returning from injury. In his 11 previous starts, he went seven or more innings eight times. Now the ball is always up in the zone and getting crushed. The six runs and 12 hits were season worsts for Fister. He averaged 16.1 pitches per inning in this game, which needless to say was worse than many of his pre-disabled list starts. There's a lot of 13s and 14s in the earlier starts. I certainly hope Fister can figure it out before in his next few starts or else there's another question mark about next year's starting rotation.
Hernandez. Weaver. Tonight.
Monday, July 12, 2010
[actual post Wed 14 Jul ~11:05p]
It was Lose Fly Balls in the Sun Day for the Mariners, which made for quite the Sunday afternoon. Oddly, the Yankees didn't seem to have any problems finding the fly balls in the sun, but part of the reason for that is CC Sabathia kept the amount of fly balls down. The Mariners hit into 14 groundouts and 11 flyouts, whereas the Yankees hit into eight groundouts but 15 flyouts. Sure, they're all outs, but Ryan Rowland-Smith always has flyball tendencies, usually leading to home runs, though he was lucky this time. Still, that led to a couple of sun balls that dropped for hits. That was more than enough adversity for the Aussie to fall apart at the seams. Over the last few years, there have been quiet a few games where if you saw the score afterward, you probably wouldn't feel like watching the game if it was rerunning on FSNNW. Of course, if you saw the full boxscore to this game, you probably wouldn't even want to watch the highlights. The Yankees were done scoring after the fifth inning, but they were up 8-0. The Mariners aren't coming back from that.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed toward the very end of the post
-- as for the bullpen, Brian Sweeney was the first man out of the pen. Robinson Cano doubled to rightfield (I don't seem to remember Ichiro losing a ball in the sun, so this was more than likely a clean double), and two hitters later, Marcus Thames went very yard to the tune of 409 feet, capping the Yankees' scoring at 8-0. From there, the Mariners trotted out a pitcher per inning the rest of the way and threw three scoreless innings. Sean White, Brandon League, and David Aardsma finished out the game. White and League gave up a hit apiece (League also walked one) while Aardsma threw a completely meaningless 1-2-3 ninth.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: they'll all be rested sufficiently, which includes David Pauley, who had the spot start in Friday's game.
-- as for the offense...two runs on seven hits. Casey Kotchman had three of those hits, leaving four hits for the rest of the lineup. Of course, after the Felix win, it would have been foolhardy to somehow expect the Mariners to (a) win in a game where Ryan Rowland-Smith started, and (b) beat CC Sabathia en route to that win.
-- Ichiro went 1-for-4, pushing him to 118-for-362 (.326), putting him on pace to finish the season with 217 hits. Ichiro goes into the All-Star break on a 13-game hitting streak during which he's gone 16-for-59 (.271) with exactly zero extra-base hits. He was hitting .338 before going hitless in the game before this current hitting streak, and that hitless game left him at .333. Only Ichiro could go on a 13-game hitting streak and drop in batting average from .333 to .326.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had a hit for the only run or hit between the two players. The Mariners remain 12-6 when both players score and 17-27 when both collect hits.
1) Casey Kotchman
Since the whole asking-for-playing-time thing, he's actually been tolerable at the plate and even kind of good. He went 3-for-4 in this game with a double and a home run. The homer accounted for one of the Mariners' two runs in the game. Since July 3rd, Kotchman has gone 12-for-29 with two doubles, four homers, and seven RBIs. I sure never thought I'd see a stretch like this from him for the rest of the season. Of course, part of that was that I never thought he'd step into any more truly consistent playing time. Of course, now with the addition of Justin Smoak, there's a logjam for pretty much everybody that could possibly play first base, designated hitter, or leftfield since Russell Branyan was brought into the fold, and the Mariners now have Justin Smoak, who should be getting oodles of playing time. Maybe the Mariners can get some A-ball prospect for Kotchman or something.
2) Michael Saunders
The Mariners' young leftfielder went 1-for-3 in the game and scored one of the two Mariner runs. While he hasn't been much of a hitter for average, he did manage to double three times and homer five times in the month of June. Though he only hit .215 in June, those extra-base hits I mentioned put his slugging percentage at .492 for June. In July (11 games), Saunders has only one extra-base hit, that being a double. Of course, he only has seven July hits to begin with, so maybe the lack of extra-base hits isn't so surprising given that. It's fun to watch him at the plate when he's really getting a hold of a ball, but that seems to come and go. He's young, though.
3) Justin Smoak
All welcome the Mariners' first baseman of the future. He switch hits and has some pop in his bat. In this game, he had a solid single. Hopefully there's more of those coming from Smoak in a Mariner phone. Actually, we're hoping for a ton more extra-base hits out of the guy, too, but we've got a lot of time to wait for Smoak to come along. Why nto make every season a 40-homer 120-RBI season? That'd be all kinds of run. If he's Smoak, who is the Bandit? That's a question for which we don't know the answer.
The balls in the sun weren't really his fault, but he didn't help himself when it came to covering up after the sunny runners got aboard. He gave up six runs (four earned) on six hits in four innings. The bullpen had to throw five innings, so it's good the Mariners didn't have to play the next day. The Mariners have a record of 3-13 when Rowland-Smith is the starting pitcher. The Aussie is 1-9 by himself. I was hoping he'd turned the corner, but it hasn't quite happened yet. Hopefully his second half is way better than his first.
Fister. Pineiro. Thursday.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
[actual post Wed 14 Jul ~8:31p]
A late-inning clutch hit? Whaaaaa?! A home run, at that? Oh yes. The Yankees, until the bottom of the eighth, had scored the only run of the game and Mariner fans were left wondering if a great outing by Felix Hernandez was going to go to waste. Thankfully, Jose Lopez crawled out from offensive hibernation, if only for one night, and rocked Joba Chamberlain for a grand slam in the eighth, making the Mariners and their fans happy for the first time since the mathematical halfway point of the season, nearly a week earlier.
-- the starting pitching will be addressed in the gameballs
-- the bullpen? Cliff Lee may be gone, but the bullpen still got their rest in this game, getting the night off.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: going into Sunday's game, David Pauley and Chad Cordero will have a day of rest though Pauley will be done until the break since he threw five innings in a spot start. Brandon League and Garrett Olson will have three days of rest, and Sean White will have four days of rest.
-- the offense had its night punctuated by one big blow, a timely grand slam. It was the Mariners' only hit on the night with runners in scoring position, and it came late enough in the game that the Yankees couldn't come back from a 4-1 hole with only three outs remaining.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. They had a run and a hit apiece. Thus, the Mariners are now 12-6 when both players score and are 17-27 when both players collect hits.
1) Felix Hernandez
This definitely wasn't the most efficient start for Felix, but even as he labored a bit through the ninth inning and with his pitch count getting higher, Don Wakamatsu kept a long leash and let him finish out the game. Really, between two walks and ten hits, Felix really scattered the baserunners in this game. It's almost a miracle he only gave up one run, but I guess that's why he struck out the nine hitters. Those strikeouts really came in handy. Felix goes into the All-Star break with a per-start average line of 7 1/3 innings, 2.6 runs (2.3 earned), 6.2 hits, 2.2 walks, 6.9 strikeouts, 111 pitches (71 strikes), 9 groundouts, 5.7 flyouts. He averages 15.3 pitches per inning.
2) Jose Lopez
His biggest hit of the season. He definitely reacted like he'd mashed the crap out of the ball right after he'd hit it, but he actually didn't get enough under the ball to really be sure of such a thing. The ball itself traveled on more of a line-drive trajectory than a moon shot befitting of the "yeah, I just smacked the tar out of the ball" reaction he gave. Still, you can't argue with the results. A grand slam is a grand slam, no matter the reaction of the hitter. Couple that with the fact that the grand slam came off of Joba Chamberlain, whom I've heard of way too many times over the last four or so years thanks to the East Coast media that I really don't care if I ever hear of him again, and you can count me among the happy Mariner fans.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter went 1-for-4 and while he actually erased Jack Wilson with a fielder's choice for the first out of the eighth inning, Ichiro remained on base and was the tying run when he came home on the Lopez grand slam. His hit came in the sixth inning, an infield single with two out off Javier Vazquez. He is now 117-for-358 (.327) on the season and is now on pace to finish the season with 218 hits. Not since Tony Gwynn has there been such a non-correlation between a huge accumulation of hits by one hitter and their win total. Still, even Gwynn got to a World Series, though the Yankees swept the living crap out of them that year.
Yeah, it's a bit low to goat him in his first game as a Mariner, but he did strike out three times for the hat trick. It's been said his ceiling is a Mark Teixeira-type player, which would leave me simply overjoyed. I'll settle for a healthy version of Russell Branyan that hits for a little more average. If the Mariners get anything close to Mark Teixeira out of this for three months of Cliff Lee (and ultimately a rickety Mark Lowe, as much as I liked having him around), we can call this a huge win.
Sabathia. Rowland-Smith. [already happened].