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Fun With (Fun) Mariners Numbers

When this blog was resurrected (Happy Late Easter) I had big plans for a post. That certain post may still happen so I won’t spoil it, I’m sure my mere mention of said post is causing people to sell off their Avengers: Endgame tickets for this weekend, opting to sit in front of a computer screen in anticipation instead. It’s been a long time since I’ve written about sports as I’ve focused on writing about other things recently. Fortunately, this should come back to me like riding a bicycle. Speaking of, I took my bike out of the garage the other day and was going to go for a short ride. I hopped on, pedaled a few times and then almost fell of immediately. My bike was walked back to the garage and I went inside.

The Mariners have been the subject of the Good Guys (although it’s really only been Matthew so far as the rest of us watched in shock) getting back together. I don’t want to speak for Matthew, but writing about baseball has always come easier. I think both of us care most about the Huskies, especially football. Maybe those games are too personal or maybe we don’t know as much about the sport to ever be completely comfortable in covering it hence the writing about baseball.

Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

 

As the season was about to begin, my excitement level was pretty low. Matthew would tell me how he was looking forward to the season and I’d nod while thinking “Who’s Cory Gearrin and why is he a staple in the Mariners bullpen?”  Then the year began, I watched nearly every inning of the games in Japan and thought, “Tim Beckham is awesome. Who’s Cory Gearrin and why is he a staple in the Mariners bullpen?” After two wins in Japan, the Mariners continued to play well, blowing past the lowly(!) Red Sox and Mike Trout’s middle school friends (that’s the only explanation for the team the Angels have assembled). Then they destroyed the bad teams in the AL Central on the road. After having a frustrating week against the top 5 finishers in the 2019 AL Cy Young Award voting, they went back to bashing the Angels.

It’s all been good, weird fun. Having no expectations for a team can be a freeing experience for a sports fan. The four-hour games are always filled with twists and strange moments. The hitting approach has been a fresh sight. The bullpen has been pretty awful but it’s fun to laugh at. Before the season began, I was annoyed at the ‘Step Back’ because of the wide open AL Wild Card. I believe that the team Jerry blew up would have been the fifth best team in the AL and probably could have snuck into the playoffs. I still believe that but I’ll freely admit that watching this team has been more fun.

I have problems with the Mariners Front Office, ownership and coaches. Even with a hot start, I think they’re better at talking about how smart they are than actually showing those skills off. But that’s a post for another day. As the first Mariners off-day in a few weeks come to a close, it’s time to look at some of the weirdest numbers a baseball team could put up. Most of these statistics are WAR (Fangraphs) based and I completely understand that this is an absurdly small sample size. But our stated goal is to have fun with numbers, not to look at numbers then add caveats to be annoying. The 2019 Mariners aren’t here for your negativity! They’re here for dingers and spitting in Rob Manfred’s dumb pace-of-game initiatives. To the numbers based bullet points!

  • The Mariners are 16-9 and only have one full-time player who has a positive defensive WAR value! That one player is Dee Gordon, who has been solid in the field but not spectacular. He’s 193rd in defensive value in the majors. Tom Murphy and Ichiro are the only other players with a positive defensive value. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of defensive metrics especially in this small sample but I find this pretty hilarious. I wonder if a team has ever had a winning record with all of their full-time players having a negative value over the course of a season? The eye test certainly backs this stat up as the M’s look dreadful playing defense. It’s somewhat endearing and the obvious comparison is the Oakland moneyball approach earlier this century. Those teams were much better defensively than this one though. Ryon Healy’s -9.1 defensive value is really something to marvel at and not at all surprising if you’ve watched him.
  • To help offset those lousy defensive numbers, the Mariners have hit. And then walked. And then hit some more. Sticking with the offensive and defensive value in terms of WAR, the Mariners are currently at 45.2 on the offensive side. The next highest is the Dodgers at 31. The next highest after that is 23.9. Everyone else is in the teens or below. The 2018 Mariners put up a .6 in the offensive value category. The 2010 Mariners were at -148.8 in the same stat. Naturally, the 45.2 number this year’s squad is at could go down if they slump for a few weeks. But, it’s been an absurd start.
  • Somewhat surprisingly, the Mariners offensive run hasn’t been BABIP fueled. Their team BABIP is .298, 13th highest in the majors. They have been lucky in terms of Home Run/Fly Ball percentage running at an absurd pace but that’s about the only stat that seems ‘lucky’. The offensive pace they’re on isn’t sustainable but it’s not as far off as one might think.
  • Getting into individual stats things get… Uhh… Weird. King of the weirdness is Jay Bruce. He’s struck out 31% of the time. Doesn’t have a high walk rate and only has 16 hits on the season (.208 batting average). Pretty bad start. Oh, but 9 of those hits are home runs! How does this happen? Well, Bruce has been fairly unlucky in terms of BABIP with a .167 average there leading to his only 16 hits. He won’t keep that up, just like he won’t keep up the home run every 10 plate appearances rate. Well, maybe he will and it will be the strangest season in baseball history.
  • On the opposite end, anytime Tom Murphy hits a baseball it falls in for a hit. That has led to his .6 WAR in 24 plate appearances! His .429/.500/.857 is really something. The Mariners catching platoon has a 1.4 WAR already this year, with Narvaez checking in with .8 WAR but done in a much more sustainable way.
  • You knew the last fun with numbers bullet point (I could go all day but we’ll hold off on that) had to be about Daniel Vogelbach. The best DH Seattle has ever had (I’m joking… Sort of) ranks 6th in baseball in WAR with 1.3 all while having at least 10 fewer plate appearances than the players ahead of him. His wRC+ is second in baseball, only trailing Cody Bellinger. Vog’s base on balls percentage is over 20% while his strikeout rate is under 25%. The slash line sits at .327/.472/.836. The weirdest part is that it doesn’t seem completely unsustainable. Yes, he won’t keep at this pace but there is no number that jumps out as extremely lucky. His strikeout rate is a little high relative to other top hitters but that’s expected from a power hitter. His BABIP, likewise, is a slightly inflated .323. His HR/FB percentage is in the top 10 in the league and likely won’t stay at 40% but his plate approach is what really has impressed so far this year. While he won’t hit at this rate going forward, much of his game seems to translate to a successful DH. Maybe my favorite Vogelbach number – his not terrible -.1 baserunning value.

I’m fully aware that the Mariners could come crashing down as soon as tomorrow. The offensive output has been bonkers and the starting pitching has been surprisingly decent. Maybe this post is the jinx they need to start sucking. Or maybe they’ll just keep hitting dingers.

– Andrew

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Reasons Why (I’m Excited to See the Mariners Play Meaningful Baseball)

As Matthew and Staind have said, it’s been a while.  What is the best way for us to get the good times rolling again here on the blog?  A thoughtful piece on what it will be like when playoff baseball makes its way back to Seattle?  That sounds nice, but no.  A thorough recap and discussion on the Mariners off-season?  That would make too much sense.  A season preview?  That’s coming.  After much contemplating the best way to welcome ourselves (the Good Guys) back to the internet while showing off our incredible knowledge and writing skills is A list! Why wax poetic when I can write a post inspired by scribbles someone takes to the grocery store?

Okay, okay.  I admit, this is the easy way out.  But, each and every day that April 6th creeps closer brings more and more thoughts of why I’m excited about the Mariners season.  That’s exactly what this list is – reasons why I’m excited about the Mariners season.  These are in no particular order and some may be more general baseball reasons.  Others might be things that I’ve missed watching the Mariners do since last September.  Get off my back, I’m a little rusty when it comes to writing about sports!  Before the list, here’s a song called Reasons Why.  It’s about a break-up, not baseball.

Without further ado, here’s my list of reasons why I’m excited for the Mariners season (presented in bullet-hole format in honor of Jeff Sullivan’s late, great game recaps).

  • King Felix fist pumps.
  • Lloyd always wearing that sweatshirt he wore everyday last season no matter the temperature and me thinking, ‘does he have anything on under that sweatshirt?’
  • Logan Morrison running in from first to watch Rodney’s arrow fly.  I love this even when Rodney forgets that he’s there.
  • Dustin Ackley doing weird but effective things in left field.
  • Mike Zunino dropping his head and then barking at the umpire as he runs out to the pitcher after a blown strike call.
  • Robinson Cano being the most relaxed professional athlete in the world.
  • Following minor-league baseball.
  • Jesus Montero running the bases.
  • Seeing a real middle order of the lineup instead of Jose Vidro, Justin Smoak, and Adam Kennedy (no, they weren’t all together but it felt like they have been for the last 15 years).
  • Eating a Torta at Safeco Field.
  • Following the maturation of James Paxton and Taijuan Walker (hopefully).
  • Lloyd getting thrown out of games.
  • Nelson Cruz hitting the ball really, really hard.
  • Kuma’s stretches before every inning followed by pin-point control.
  • Some awkward Jen Mueller interviews.
  • The King’s Court.
  • That amazing Fernando Rodney entrance.  I really hope that hasn’t changed.
  • Felix doing everything else along with those inning-ending fist pumps.
  • Safeco Field having a buzz that’s been missing since the early 2000’s.
  • Having a pennant race in Seattle.

There’s more but you have to be getting bored at this point.  Add your own in the comments!  Go M’s!

Safeco field

– Andrew

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5 Stages of (Mariners) Grief

1.  The Heartbreak

I arrived at my seat, with some family members, about an hour before game time.  I was in such a hurry to buy tickets last night, they weren’t at all where I thought that’d be but we had a great view of the Seattle skyline and we were sitting by people who cared in game 162 of the season so it didn’t really matter.  As we took our seats, Oakland took a 2-0 lead.  Not the best start to the day, but it didn’t seem to be a crippling blow as it was only the second inning in that game.  There were a lot of people there but the energy in the building was definitely a nervous one.

The first ‘moment’ of the day was when Felix came in from the bullpen after his warmup tosses.  As has been customary this season, Aloe Blacc’s ‘The Man’ blared through the Safeco PA as Felix walked in, Zunino by his side.  My wife had just ran in to a friend from her hometown that I’d met a few times before.  She stood and talked to her, while I stood behind her.  As they were having a conversation the crowd rose to it’s feet, saluting the man who’s been here when these games didn’t matter.  The yellow towels were swirling and the crowd was roaring.  Felix didn’t flinch, he just kept walking.  A man on a mission.  I slowly backed away from my wife and her friend so that they didn’t see the tear in my eye.  I’m not sure why I got emotional.  Maybe it was the Dave Niehaus call I had heard about half in hour earlier that I had been reflecting on ever since.  Maybe it was the stress from the last 2 weeks in my personal life finally having an outlet.  Most likely it was the realization that my favorite player was pitching in the last game of the season and it finally mattered.  Felix and Seattle have been joined at the hip for a long time and I think we’ve started to empathize with each other.  Whatever it was that got to me, I brushed it aside and got in my seat.

Watching the game was a mix of waving my yellow towel around when the game necessitated it and following the A’s-Rangers game on my phone.  There was the joy of seeing Felix rise to the occasion and the Saunders double.  There was the hope of the Rangers having first and third with no outs followed by chants of ‘Let’s go, Rangers!’ by the Safeco crowd.  But, in the end it wasn’t enough.  The Rangers just couldn’t get anything off of Sonny Gray.  As the Mariners were taking care of business, the sobering thought that this was the last game of the season took hold faster than a Felix fastball reaches Mike Zunino’s glove.  The A’s had scored 2 more in the top of the 9th.  It was all over and it was only the 5th inning.

2.  Anger/Sadness

Once the shock wore off, it was followed by a wave of sports depression.  The Rangers game was just about to go final, they weren’t mounting a comeback, and thoughts of all the missed opportunities wandered over to my head.  Just one more game.  If the M’s had just scored 2 runs for Walker on Wednesday.  Or if Brad Miller hadn’t flipped the ball over Cano’s head on an April night in Arlington.  Maybe if John Buck had been better at catching baseballs.  What if Rodney had been able to throw strikes in the 10th against the A’s a few weeks ago?  Or what if he hadn’t prematurely shot an arrow over the Anaheim dugout right after the All-Star game?  Never mind on that last one, that was cool.

Maybe it’s the Seattle fan in me.  I think the long-time Seattle fans fit in well with the Legion of Boom.  We always feel slighted, regardless of if we should.  I truly believe we don’t catch half as many breaks as other teams do.  I believe that we get jobbed by umps more than any team.  I have no idea if it’s true but I believe it is.  What if we had just caught a few more breaks or had a few calls go our way.

The Texas-Oakland game went final.

Those were only some of the games where the Mariners had a chance.  And as the brain thought about those terrible wasted games, it moved on to players.  Did Kendrys Morales not pick up a bat all winter long?  Did he just eat the whole time?  Why have Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia not had an extra base-hit in what seems like 2 months?  Why was James Jones playing so much after it was apparent he was ineffective?  Why was Sean Barber a major league umpire?  There were so many things to be upset about but it clashed with another emotion. Gratitude.

3.  Gratitude

In the midst of the sadness that there wasn’t going to be baseball in Seattle tomorrow, there was a whole lot of appreciation to.

I was 5 years old when Edgar hit ‘The Double’.  I was an 11 year-old who didn’t have cable TV at his house during the 2001 season.  2007 was okay but I was busy playing baseball myself and then there was that terrible losing streak.  And Jose Vidro.  2009 was the season I remembered best.  I still love that team but they were built on nostalgia, quite a bit of luck (check out that run differential), and they were never really in the pennant race despite their parade around the field after the last game.

This was finally my team.  A team I followed through thick and thin.  Whether I was in a cabin in the mountains without internet or in a theme park in Orlando I always knew what this team was doing.  There were so many moments to remember.  Watching Opening Night with the rest of the Good Guys, followed by a sweep of the Angels.  There was the Seager walk-off and resurgence after the 8 game-skid.  Roenis Elias’ complete game against the Tigers, those routs of the Red Sox in Safeco, and Felix’s unbelievable run.  There were the 2 times the Mariners came back to score 5 runs in the top of the 9th when they were down to their last out.  There was the Robinson Cano home run in front a sell-out crowd that tied the game up against the A’s.  And there were the last 3 days.  As much as the last road trip hurt, the last 4 games were a joy.  They also described this team.  A young, resilient team with character that just didn’t quite have enough.

Felix Hernandez was pulled from the game shortly after Oakland had clinched a playoff spot.  He received an ovation fit only for royalty.  That’s what he is in Seattle.  As he left the field I (and I’m guessing any Mariner fan) felt so many things – pride, sorrow, joy, hope, anger, gratitude.  We felt those things for Felix and Felix felt those things for us.  Empathy between the king of a city and his loyal subjects.

Robbie came off the field a few outs later and as I watched him and Felix embrace I felt more hope and gratitude than I did sadness.  Although, the sadness was still there.

4.  Letting go (or not)

As I was driving home after a few stops, the Mariners post-game show was wrapping up.  Gary Hill and Shannon were talking about how it was all over, they sounded a little shocked still.  It was time to end the season, let go and get ready for next year.  As the show ended they played a montage of moments throughout this season.  All the great moments from this season came through the car’s stereo one last time.  I could have listened to that all day.  I wanted to get home to watch highlights from my favorite games.

During the game, once the Mariners chances at the playoffs were gone, I cracked a few jokes.  “This will probably be the last time I see Kendrys hit in a Mariners uniform!”  “Hey dad, what dates are you taking me to Spring Training again?”  It was my way of getting over this season and looking ahead to the next one.

I’m probably not going to let go of this team though.  Depending on the next few years, this will either be the team that jump started it all or missed a big opportunity.  I probably won’t be letting go of this team but I will look ahead because the future is pretty bright.

5.  Hope

At the end of the day, the Mariners missed out on a big opportunity.  But at the end of my day, I went to go see my nephew who was born 3 months early in the hospital.  I got to see him open his eyes for the first time.  It makes sports seem pretty small and puts them in their place.  Sports are important to me but they can’t ever bring me the joy that I have when I get to see that little guy.

Selfishly, I hope the Mariners just decided to wait until next year.  That way my brother can enjoy the run more than he was able to this year, and he can do it with his son on his lap.

Surely, this was disappointing but there’s reason to be hopeful.  We have a manager who understands his team, which might be more important than I thought.  We have a star second baseman and third baseman.  We have the young pitchers who were promised to us that came up big down the stretch, Paxton and Walker.  We have Ackley, LoMo, and Saunders who all look like they’ve found something in the last few months.  We’ll have those same arms in the bullpen.  And there’s a good amount of talent aside from that too.  There’s also Felix.  He’s ours.  The foundation was laid this year, now it just has to be built upon.

I’ll save an off-season post for later hopefully, but the age old Seattle Sports Insider question of ‘Can this player win me a pennant?’ is turning more and more in the Mariners favor.  So, I’ll look forward to next year.  I’ll be sad tomorrow night around 7 when I wish I could hear Dave Sims say goofy things and Blowers come back with his increasingly good insight.  But for now, I just look forward to the off-season and next year.  Go M’s!

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Why Are The Pitchers Always Better – Part 1 (Are we just making this up?)

A few days ago, our friend and Good Guys supporter, Chris, posed a question on Twitter.

‏@judojudd
Can someone explain to me why our farm system can churn out quality pitchers year after year but our hitting prospects come up and suck?

Chris is a knowledgable sports fan and this question seems to be common one among Mariners fans.  I saw the question, one we’ve all pondered, and decided it was time to address it.  I’m going to try to find an answer and I’m going to do it in a series.  This is the first post in that series.

Before we dive into possible answers, we have to figure out if the question is right in its assumption.  All Mariners fans have had this sentiment but maybe it’s unjustified and all of this is normal?  That’s what we have to figure out before the answers come.  First, I’ll see the amount of successful pitchers the Mariners have had that have come from their farm system and compare that against the hitters.  In the next post, I’ll compare those numbers to other teams around the league.

We’ll use a sample size of the last 10 years and my sampling of a player being successful is going to be a little bit subjective.  I’m not looking for guys who were good for a season and then dropped off but rather guys who have prolonged success over at least 3 seasons.  I will make exceptions to that for recent guys (Hello, Roenis Elias).  I also will factor in players who were traded once they graduated from the Mariners farm system (I’m looking at you Adam Jones).  I won’t count a player more than once.  With all of those caveats out-of-the-way, let’s get into the data.

2004 Seattle Mariners
Successful Pitchers (home-grown):
Joel Pineiro, Freddy Garcia, J.J. Putz, Rafael Soriano, Matt Thornton.
Gil Meche is right on the cusp here too, so include him if you’d like to.  Freddy Garcia wasn’t technically home-grown but he hadn’t pitched in the major leagues until he was with Seattle.  There’s a lot of talent here and all of these guys were 27 or under at this point.
Successful Hitters (home-grown):
Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, Raul Ibanez, Jose Lopez
This is right at the end of the Mariners run with some great players.  This was Boone’s second stint with the Mariners.  It’s hard to qualify Lopez as a success at times but he did have a pretty solid 5 years stretch.  Willie Bloomquist and Miguel Olivo are right on the cusp but I mean, come on.

2005
Successful Pitchers:
King Felix, George Sherrill
Most of the guys from the year before were still around and not many graduated from the minors.  Obviously, Felix should be viewed as more important than George Sherrill (who later was traded to Baltimore) but for now they’re both just viewed as 1 point each towards the pitchers.
Successful Hitters:
Mike Morse, Shin-Soo Choo
Both hitters who went on to succeed with other teams.  Choo has been a very consistent borderline all-star.  Morse struggled here and there but overall has had a pretty solid career.  Yuniesky Betancourt would have fallen under this year but… Who am I kidding, no one likes that guy.

2006
Successful Pitchers:
Eric O’Flaherety
Mark Lowe was good for a while, and he would be considered here, but I wouldn’t term him as a success.
Successful Hitters:
Adam Jones, Asdrubal Cabrera
Moment of silence.

2007
Successful Pitchers:
Brandon Morrow?
He’s had a really interesting career but, all in all, I guess it was successful.  I guess?  The other two who could possibly qualify are Sean Green and Sean White.
Successful Hitters:
Crickets.  The closest we come is Jeff Clement, Wladimir Balentien, and Rob Johnson.  I’ll wait for you to stop laughing.  Okay, let’s move on.

2008
Successful Pitchers:
Nope.  Roy Corcoran anyone?
Successful Hitters:
We’ve definitely entered the ‘You suck, Bavasi!’ zone.

2009
Successful Pitchers:
Shawn Kelley
He was fine but this might be a stretch.
Successful Hitters:
There is nothing available to stretch here.

2010
Successful Pitchers:
Doug Fister
He wasn’t successful right away but then he really was.
Successful Hitters:
Michael Saunders has been the toughest consideration so far.  I’m not going to consider him a success yet but he is right on the cusp.  By the time I’m done with this series, I may change my mind.  Aside from Saunders, there were barely any home-grown hitters on this team.

2011
Successful Pitchers:
Charlie Furbush, Tom Wilhelmsen, Michael Pineda
All three of these are a little bit questionable.  Pineda due to health and the others due to consistency issues.  For a while though each of these guys were completely dominant.
Successful Hitters:
Kyle Seager
Seager is clearly the crown jewel of the recent position player farm system graduates.  Here’s where we start to see a bunch of hitters who haven’t had consistent success in the majors, most notably Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley.

2012
Successful Pitchers:
A pretty down year all the way around.  Carter Capps, Stephen Pryor, and Blake Beavan all could be considered but aren’t there yet, if they ever will be.
Successful Hitters:
The only one I considered has been a colossal failure so far in Jesus Montero.

2013
Successful Pitchers:
Danny Farquhar
He’s not actually home-grown but he came out of nowhere after spending time with the Rainiers.
Successful Hitters:
Mike Zunino
If I’m going to consider Roenis Elias a success than Zunino definitely needs to be treated as such.  He’s got a lot of room to improve but he’s still one of the best catchers in baseball already.  There was also Brad Miller and Nick Franklin from this year but neither can be viewed as successful yet.

2014
Successful Pitchers:
Roenis Elias
Yoervis Medina is right on the cusp but really annoying to watch pitch so I’m not going to count him.  Elias is a sensation and incredible so far.
Successful Hitters:
James Jones could get there but is not quite to the sample size I’d like yet.  Stefen Romero and Abe Almonte were the only other options and were not options.

Looking to the future:

A lot of this sentiment that we’re investigating comes from the pitchers that are waiting in the wings in the minors.  We’ve seen glimpses of how good Paxton and Walker can be.  Danny Hultzen was moving quickly through the minors before his injury.  On the hitting side, there isn’t much to be excited by.  I like the Ji-Man Choi a lot.  Jabari Blash is exciting.  D.J. Peterson is by far the Mariners best hitting prospect but hasn’t played above A ball.  With three great pitching prospects waiting to get healthy, the pitching in the minors appears to be well ahead of the hitting and that is only magnified after you watch Nick Franklin, Justin Smoak and others strike out constantly while Roenis shuts out the Tigers.

Final numbers over the last 10 years:
Successful Pitchers: 16 
(not including Gil Meche who should probably be included over Shawn Kelley)
Successful Hitters:  10

The hitters include Edgar Martinez (who’s biggest contribution was in the 90’s),  Bret Boone (who was amazing in 2001, over 13 years ago), Raul Ibanez (who spent half the time with another team), Jose Lopez (who flamed out at an incredible rate), Morse, Choo, Jones, Cabrera (who all succeeded with teams other than the Mariners).  In other words, the Mariners have had 3 successful position players that were home-grown in the last decade and 2 in the last 5 years.

When you break it down like that for the pitchers there are about 8 who are left.

To conclude, this isn’t just in our heads.  Putting out 3 successful position players in the last decade that had a long stint with your team is a real problem.  If anything, this shows us that the pitchers aren’t quite as successful as it may seem but the organization has been better at finding talent to fill holes.

My next step is comparing this to other teams and I’ll put that out in the next few days.

Thanks for reading!

– Andrew

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The Sad, Strange Case of Ji-Man Choi

Baseball’s a funny game. You can love your team. Then, if you love them enough, you’ll love their top prospects. If you love the top prospects enough, you’ll start to learn about the top performers on each farm team. It goes on and on until you start reciting the Clinton Lumberkings lineup numbers to your friends at a dinner party. Some people say it’s a waste of time and that’s fine.

In 2009, the Mariners sent some scouts to South Korea to take a look at a group of pitchers, namely Seon Gi Kim.  The Mariners ended up signing that pitcher and brought him stateside.  Catching Kim that day was a converted third basemen who not many knew about.  The Mariners liked what they saw in the short tryout and decided to sign him, as well.  This happens fairly often.  Teams take flyers on guys and this third basemen-turned-catcher happened to be one.

Once stateside in 2010, these 2 players joined the Arizona rookie league.  Kim had good stuff but sported a ballooned ERA.  The other South Korean didn’t have any trouble though.  He hit .360 with a .440 OBP and .517 slugging percentage.  He was eventually promoted to the high-A team, High Desert, and posted an .822 OPS all as a 19-year-old.  Mariners prospect nerds became enticed with this player who was unknown a year before.  The legend of Ji-Man Choi was born.

While Choi was hitting everything in sight, the Mariners were slowly breaking him into the catcher position.  He played most of his time and first base and DH but every third or fourth day he’d be behind the plate.  Needless to say, a left-handed hitting catcher who drew a ton of walks was pretty exciting.

2011’s spring training rolled around and there was Choi, working out with the catchers.  Then, all of a sudden, he was just gone.  Following minor-league baseball is hard to do in this day and age because we, as fans, are so used to getting all the information we want right away.  When a low-minors baseball player disappears from box scores there’s only so much a common fan can try to figure out.  This was the case with Choi.  Eventually it came out that Ji-Man had back pain.  The pain was so extensive that he didn’t play a game in 2011.  They eventually found a broken bone and then inserted a rod and two screws into Choi’s back.

The first few months of 2012 came and went and there was no sign of him in the box scores.  He had the rod and screws removed and later showed up in Clinton in late May.

Missing your 20 year-old season as a baseball player is a big deal.  That’s one of the formative years for prospects.  Choi hadn’t played in a baseball game in almost a year and a half.  He was inserted into the Clinton lineup and on his first day back he went 2-4 with a double.

Ji-Man looked as if he hadn’t missed any time at all.  He split that time in 2012 rotating between first base and DH and ended.  He wasn’t great but he was good and, as a 20 year-old, he put up an .895 OPS.

As prospect lists became to come out over that off-season, Choi was left off.  There were two reasons for this:  One, he had just been injured for a year and a half.  Two, he didn’t have enough power to be a major league first baseman. Ji_Man_Choi_1280_kju6a1er_qc4gs806

2013 came and Ji-Man started the year at High Desert.  A hitters paradise.  In his 48 games there Choi posted a .337/.427/.619 slash line.  He had more extra base hits than singles and walked 27 times while only striking out 33 times.  Naturally, he was promoted to Jackson, the Mariners AA team.  The average dropped off some there but not much else did.  He sported .862 OPS in his stop in Jackson, a much tougher league to hit in, at the ripe age of 22.  My favorite stat from there?  His 32 walks and 28 strikeouts.  At the end of his great season, he got the call up to Tacoma for a handful of games.  It was the cherry on top of a great season.

Choi started appearing on more prospect lists over this off-season.  One complaint remained.  Yep, you guessed it.  He can’t hit for enough power.  Still, the Ji-Man train trudged on.

He started 2014 in Tacoma.  Guess what he did there?  Hit.  He hit a lot.  In 10 games he posted a .395/.500/.545.  Granted, it was 10 games but anyone who had followed his career wasn’t surprised.  The guy had already overcome so much, being only 22, that it wasn’t a surprise that he was, well, a surprise.

Maybe the Mariners finally had a guy to push Justin Smoak.  A guy who maybe didn’t have the power potential but actually had some consistency.  A guy who could possibly do what John Olerud did on the last successful Mariners team, get on base, hit doubles and play great defense.

Word broke this afternoon that Ji-Man Choi had been suspended 50 games for the use of a performance enhancing drug.  The drug was methandienone, a type of anabolic steroid.

It just made so much sense.  A guy who was constantly knocked for his lack of home run power at a power position was taking an illegal substance to make him stronger.  He’s only like 195 pounds, for crying out loud.  Then, this came out, via Choi:

“A banned substance was detected in my urine sample,” Choi said. “I do not know what I could have taken that caused me to test positive. I have not and never would knowingly use anything illegal to enhance my performance. However, I also understand that without an explanation I must serve a suspension and I accept that. I look forward to putting this behind me and to returning to help the Mariners ballclub once my suspension has ended.”

Maybe it didn’t make sense at all?  Why would a guy who has never been the ‘star prospect’ but overcome that with pure skill and a disciplined approach break from that?  Choi is a smart baseball who makes up for his lack of home runs by taking his walks and hitting the ball into the gap.  Why would a smart guy do this when he was so close?

The only person who knows if Choi took this steroid is Choi himself.  He said he didn’t and many people probably don’t believe him.  He’s probably used to people doubting him anyway.  Hopefully, he doesn’t care.

Baseball’s interesting.  You know 25 guys and then you read about the next 25 guys people think you might see in a few years.  It goes on and on until someone tells you to shut up at a dinner party.  For some reason, I love Ji-Man Choi’s story and today it took another turn.  My favorite prospect, a guy I’ve never seen play a game, is out for a while because he possibly did something bad and I’m upset.  I’ll look forward to early June when Choi will show back up in the Tacoma box scores and Mike Curto will send out tweets about his 2-4 nights, with a double and a walk.  In the mean time I’ll just keep envisioning Choi as the next John Olerud.  That’s ending of his story that I like the best.

I wonder how Jabari Blash is doing.

– Andrew

 

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Mariners Begin Season, Let’s Review!

At the start of the baseball season I had this idea to write a recap of each series the Mariners played.  Then the season started and I got busy, tired, sleepy, or lazy.  So now here we are, 12 games into the season and I think it’s time to recap what happened so far.  If I do that then I could maybe do a series recap starting Thursday!  Probably not, but maybe.  I’ll keep you on your toes.

For now, I’m going to give you a very short series recap of the 4 series the Mariners have completed and then take a closer look at the lineup.  Let’s get started!

March 31-April 2:  Three game sweep of the Angels!

What a way to start the season.  I hate the Angels so it was nice to pummel them.  The offense battled against some pretty good starting pitching and then destroyed a pedestrian bullpen.  The pitching was very good all series.  The closest game of the series was an 8-3 victory.
Star of the Series:  Justin Smoak – Smoak came up big all series long.  He hit a big dinger in the first game and rocketed a bases clearing double off of CJ Wilson in the second game.
Goat of the Series:  No one – I searched through the box scores.  There was no one to pick.  Every single position player got on base and no pitcher had some crazy meltdown.

Ted S. Warren

Ted S. Warren

April 3-April 6:  1-2 in a 3 game series against the A’s

The A’s seem to be pretty even with the Mariners, actually probably a little better.  This was a strange series.  Erasmo threw a clunker.  Elias was screwed over by the worst umpiring I’ve ever seen.  Felix threw a gem.  The Oakland grounds crew did something ridiculous and a game was postponed.  The series was annoying and really weird.  The offense was able to squeak out 8 runs over the 3 games.  The A’s pitching is really good and the offense hasn’t figured them out yet.
Star of the Series:  Felix Hernandez – I think Felix is the right choice here.  He threw a fantastic game and got the Mariners their only win of the series.
Goat of the Series:  Hector Noesi – Noesi threw 2 pitches and gave up a walk off homer.  It was as predictable as things could get.  He’s now gone.  Other goats considered were Sean Barber, Oakland grounds crew, and Coco Crisp (he really was terrible for the Mariners).

April 8-9:  1-1 in a 2 game series against the Angels.

The season opener was electric.  Paxton recovered from a rocky first inning and threw a great game before coming out with an injury.  Hart had his best game of the season to date, homering twice.  The next game was ugly, as the Mariners were shut out by Garret Richardson.  Roenis Elias threw well but not well enough to overcome the offense being shut out.  That’s pretty much impossible to overcome.
Star of the Series:  Corey Hart – He didn’t do much on Wednesday (although he did get on base) but his two dingers won the game on Tuesday.
Goat of the Series:  Dustin Ackley – Ackley didn’t record a hit in this series.  A small blemish in an otherwise very good year to date.

April 11-13:  1-2 in a 3 game series against the A’s

It sure is annoying playing the A’s all the time.  Each game against them feels like a struggle.  It really is.  They don’t make many mistakes and their pitching is so good that you just have to scratch out some runs.  Friday night was an extremely fun baseball game.  Saturday and Sunday the Mariners scored a total of 1 run.  Thankfully, the Mariners don’t play the A’s very many more times before September.
Star of the Series:  Dustin Ackley and Felix Hernandez – After the performance that Felix put up on Friday, I have to include him.  Ackley went 5 for 8 in the series with 2 doubles and quickly bounced back from his lackluster series against the Angels.
Goat of the Series:  Justin Smoak – Smoak didn’t get a hit all weekend, even though he did hit some balls hard on Friday.

That left the Mariners with a 6-5 record after 11 games.  They won tonight (7-5) and I think anyone would have taken a 7-5 record to start the season.

Some thoughts on individual players after the jump.   Continue reading

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The Good Guys 2014 Baseball Predictions

Happy Opening Day!  The Good Guys got together and tried to predict the future (actually we just sent a few emails and tried to predict baseball).  So, as you enjoy baseball throughout the day and King Felix tonight, jot down some of your predictions in the comments.  Or just make fun of ours.  Whichever works.  Here are some predictions for the 2014 season for baseball, in general, and the Mariners.

AL West Champion:
Andrew, Dan:  Oakland
Matthew, Joe:  Texas

AL Central Champion:
The Good Guys:  Detroit

AL East Champion:
Dan, Joe, Matthew:  Boston
Andrew:  Tampa Bay

NL West Champion:
The Good Guys:  LA

NL Central Champion:
The Good Guys:  St. Louis

NL East Champion:
Andrew, Dan:  Washington
Joe, Matthew:  Atlanta

World Series:
Andrew:  Detroit over St. Louis
Dan:  Boston over Washington
Joe:  LA over Texas
Matthew:  Detroit over LA

AL MVP:
Andrew, Dan, Matthew:  Mike Trout
Joe:  Robinson Cano

NL MVP:
Andrew:  Andrew McCutchen
Dan:  Freddie Freeman
Joe:  Yadier Molina
Matthew:  Paul Goldschmitd

AL Cy Young:
Joe, Matthew:  King Felix
Andrew:  Justin Verlander
Dan:  Yu Darvish

NL Cy Young:
Andrew:  Clayton Kershaw
Dan:  Stephen Strasburg
Joe:  Jose Fernandez
Matthew:  Adam Wainwright

AL West final standings:
Andrew:  1.  Oakland (91-71)  2.  Texas (89-73)  3.  LAA (85-77)  3.  Seattle (85-77)  5.  Houston (bad)
Dan:  1.  Oakland (92-70)  2.  LAA (89-73)  3.  Texas (88-74)  4.  Seattle (82-80)  5.  Houston (60-102)
Joe:  1.  Texas  2.  Seattle  3.  Oakland  4.  LAA  5.  Houston
Matthew:  1.  Texas  2.  Oakland  3.  Seattle  4.  LAA  5.  Houston

Mariners Cy Young:
The Good Guys:  King Felix

Mariners MVP:
The Good Guys:  Robinson Cano

Mariners MVP (other than Felix, Cano and Kuma):
Andrew:  Kyle Seager
Dan:  Dustin Ackley
Joe:  Brad Miller
Matthew:  Brad ‘The Bomb Squad’ Miller

Biggest Mariners Surprise:
Andrew:  I think it will surprise people how much a legitimate all-star in the middle of your lineup will help a team.  Since that’s a cheap one, I’ll also say that I think James Paxton makes a run at Rookie of the Year.
Dan:  Dustin Ackley
Joe:  Justin Smoak
Matthew:  Ackley bats .300 & Jesus Montero meaningfully contributes

Mariner Player that you’ll want to punch in the face by April:
Andrew,  Dan:  Willie F. Bloomquist
Joe, Matthew:  Joe Beimel

Mariners leader in Batting Average (guess the average):
Andrew:  Cano (.312)
Dan:  Cano (.305)
Joe:  Cano  (.327)
Matthew:  Cano (.318)

Mariners Home Run Leader (guess HR):
Andrew:  Cano (27)
Dan:  Smoak  (26)
Joe:  Cano (31)
Matthew:  Cano (34)

Mariners RBI Leader (guess RBI’s)
Andrew:  Cano (104)
Dan:  Cano (95)
Joe:  Cano (107)
Matthew:  Cano (109)

Mariners ERA Leader (guess ERA)
Andrew:  Danny Farquhar (1.89)
Dan:  Danny Farquhar (2.15)
Joe:  King Felix (2.20)
Matthew:  King Felix (2.34)

Mariners WAR Leader (guess WAR)
Andrew:  Robinson Cano (6.7)
Dan:  Robinson Cano (6.5)
Joe:  Robinson Cano (6.4)
Matthew:  Robinson Cano (7.8!!!!!)

 

I hope you all get a few moments to soak in some baseball tonight.  Two things before I go:
1.  We miss you, Dave.
2.  Happy Felix Day

dave in kings court

–  Andrew

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