Category Archives: Mariners

Posts dealing with the Mariners

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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Mariners Moves Recap

It’s been a long time since we wrote anything on this blog, but I’ve wanted to bring it back for a while. I’m out of practice and have no idea if this will last, or if anyone will read it, but we’ll give it a shot. To any of you still subscribed to our posts or who stumble upon us, welcome back!

The Mariners conducted one of the wildest offseasons I’ve ever seen, as most probably know by now. While they certainly took a step back, the tone from spring training, and throughout a lot of the fan base, is pretty positive.

That comes largely from having new, young talent to follow. Youth is always invigorating. Unfortunately, youth doesn’t always turn into good players. I think this rebuild is worthwhile and unique, but whether it is successful or not will only be known for 2-4 years.

I’m hoping to put out a few posts to recap the offseason and put the rebuild into perspective before the season starts. Today is just a recap of all the moves they’ve made. I was going to rank them, but that got confusing, so I’ll just go in chronological order. I’m focusing mainly on the (many) trades. With all respect to Tim Beckham, Hunter Strickland, and the minor league contract guys, there’s not a lot of potential impact there. Strickland has a chance to be something again, but he’ll likely be traded if he reverts to being a solid closer or set up man.

Just a reminder, in case you’ve somehow missed it, the Mariners have stated their goal is to be competitive in 2020 or 2021. 2020 seems overly optimistic, but who knows. And as always with Jerry Dipoto, there will likely be a billion more moves in the next year or two, so this might all be irrelevant before long.

Mike Zunino for Mallex Smith

This trade started off the frenzy so long ago, I hardly remember it cost one of my favorite M’s to add Smith in center field. I’m as concerned about letting Zunino go as any other player this offseason. His upside is a perennial all star if his bat ever stabilizes at all, and even if it doesn’t, it’s hard to find a solid catcher. Still, it’s probably the right move at this point, given his ongoing offensive struggles. Mallex is a lightning bolt in the outfield and the kind of on-base and speed threat this team needs. The M’s also gave up Guillermo Heredia and young lefty Michael Plassmeyer, likely inconsequential losses, and got OF prospect Jake Fraley, who has turned heads this spring but is no sure bet.

The Paxton Trade

Entering the offseason, I expected a Paxton trade regardless of what else the team did. It never felt like Paxton would sign long term, or that he’d even be a guy the team would feel comfortable giving a big new deal. For all his talent, he never became the dominant, dependable ace that was expected. Nonetheless, he’s a huge loss and will be missed, for both his performance and personality. The return was LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Erik Swanson, and OF Dom Thompson-Williams. Sheffield’s the prize, a guy with plenty of talent who could be a solid 2nd or 3rd starter, if he finds better command. He’s looked good this spring and should see Seattle this summer. Swanson has a lower ceiling but could be a dependable back-end starter or impact multi-inning reliever. He should also be in Seattle sometime this year. DTW is a lottery ticket, a great athlete without great results until this past year.

Colome for Narvaez (aka A New Catcher)

A somewhat forgotten move that could have as much impact as any. Alex Colome, while a big part of last year’s pen, was expendable. Omar Narvaez will be this year’s starting catcher. The polar opposite of Mike Zunino, Narvaez has great on base skills and a solid lefty bat. He’s okay controlling the running game, but is not the dominant receiver Zunino was. I could see him washing out if the bat regresses and his defense stagnates, but he also has a chance to become one of the better catchers in the league if he maintains his offense and improves a reasonable amount behind the plate.

Goodbye Cano and Diaz

For posterity, this move was Cano, Diaz and a lot of money to the Mets for OF Jarred Kelenic, RHP Justin Dunn, RH reliever Gerson Bautista, OF Jay Bruce, and RH reliever Anthony Swarzak. I’ll miss Cano, but moving that salary was a big deal. I’ll really miss Diaz, but trading him was an inevitability once they started down this road. Bruce and Swarzak are just veterans included to offset salaries, although they should play a role on this team and will hopefully bring in more prospects at midseason.

Thankfully, the rest of this trade is very fun. Kelenic has the highest ceiling of anyone they added. He’s an athletic center fielder with an advanced hitting approach for a teenager. The power’s not all the way there yet, but he’s the type of guy who usually adds it as he matures. He has all the tools and good personality, and if this offseason produces an eventual superstar, it’ll likely be him. Dunn is a former first rounder with lots of talent, but he hasn’t dominated yet. Some see a future as a dominating reliever, but he could be a middle of the rotation or better starter if he can put it together. Bautista is a flamethrowing reliever who hasn’t put it together yet, but should see Seattle this year. This is a good return, but they gave up a lot of talent to get it.

Segura for JP Crawford

This deal, which included Juan Nicasio and James Pazos going to the Phillies and Carlos Santana to Seattle, was the most puzzling of the offseason. It wasn’t a shock to see Segura go, but most expected a better return for an all star shortstop. Santana was largely a salary exchange (more on him in a minute), and Crawford was a prized shortstop prospect who underwhelmed in Philadelphia last year. There’s potential there for him to still become an above average starter, but there’s a greater likelihood that he never amounts to much. An interesting gamble, but one that shows Segura’s attitude issues may have sunk his value around the league much lower than fans could have imagined.

Santana for Edwin Encarnacion

This was a weird move that saw the Mariners exchanging expensive veteran 1B/DHs, and buying a draft pick in the process, if I remember right. I’m sure the Mariners thought they’d trade Encarnacion by now, but it looks like he’ll be on the team for a while, which isn’t a horrible thing. Hopefully he puts up a big first half and brings in a decent trade return.

Ben Gamel for Domingo Santana

An exchange of left fielders, this was the Mariners buying low on a guy with a ton of potential who had lost his spot with the Brewers. After a 30 homer season in 2017, Santana essentially got replaced by Christian Yelich and regressed last year. If he can rebound, he’ll be a huge steal. This is the kind of move that is either forgotten in two years, or is the foundation of a playoff contender. You have to get lucky at some point, and this seems a likely place for it to happen.

Hello Yusei Kikuchi!

This seems like the big win of the offseason. Kikuchi should be an immediate middle of the rotation starter, and could be more than that. The contract is favorable, with little risk for the M’s. He looks like a fan favorite and maybe the most likely addition to be a part of their next playoff team (if there ever is one).

Shed Long Becomes a Mariner (or Rainier)

This was a fairly minor move, but I’ll throw it on here because Shed has been one of the stars of training camp. The second baseman, who is also seeing time in the outfield and potentially third base, came from Cincinnati in what was essentially a three way deal, with the M’s sending OF prospect Josh Stowers to the Yankees. Stowers is an interesting prospect who could eventually make an impact, but Shed is closer to the majors, and the Mariners badly need infield depth. He has great offensive potential, especially for a second baseman, but his defense is still a work in progress. But the important thing here is that the Mariners now have a player named Shed.

So, there you go. Nothing like restarting a blog with 1500 words about guys who may never play for the terrible local baseball team. Go Mariners!

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2016 Mariners-Crown Em’

Besides being humans and playing baseball for the Seattle Mariners, can you think of something in common between Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, and Seth Smith? This group are the only Mariners that will take part in the opening day ceremonies next week that did the same last year with the M’s. The other 18 men were not on the M’s opening day roster in 2015. A lot can, and has, changed in the past few months for the Mariners and many other teams around the league. Though I would imagine a 72% overhaul of opening day rosters from one year to the next is higher than league average, by a considerable margin. If I had the time I’d like to know if it ranks as the most changed roster, which it well may. It’s all to be expected when a new manager and general manager are brought in, as is the case with Seattle. But is all the change a good thing? Time will tell, but in this case, I think it is.

A year ago I couldn’t go a day without reading a new predictions tweet or article that had the M’s in the World Series. It was all a bit surreal. This year, most pundits see the M’s extending their 13 year postseason drought another year. This makes sense given how 2015 played out, to say nothing of the prior decade. But aside from expectations, there is good reason to think the M’s actually look a good bit better today than April, 2015. Below are how the opening day rosters compare. The 18 new faces all have a player they are essentially replacing, as the chart shows. As for the impact column, that is my opinion whether the current player is an upgrade (+), downgrade (-), or no real change (o).

2015 2016 Impact
James Paxton Wade Miley +
J.A. Happ Nate Karns o
Danny Farquhar Nick Vincent +
Charlie Furbush Mike Montgomery
Yoervis Medina Joel Peralta o
Tyler Olson Vidal Nuno +
Fernando Rodney Steve Cishek o
Carson Smith Joaquin Benoit o
Tom Wilhelmson Tony Zych o
Mike Zunino Chris Iannetta +
Jesus Sucre Steve Clevenger +
Logan Morrison Adam Lind +
Brad Miller Ketel Marte +
Willie Bloomquist Luis Sardinas +
Dustin Ackley Nori Aoki +
Austin Jackson Leonys Martin +
Justin Ruggiano Franklin Gutierrez +
Rickie Weeks Dae-Ho Lee +
Felix Hernandez Felix Hernandez o
Hisashi Iwakuma Hisashi Iwakuma o
Taijuan Walker Taijuan Walker +
Robinson Cano Robinson Cano +
Kyle Seager Kyle Seager o
Nelson Cruz Nelson Cruz o
Seth Smith Seth Smith o

There are dozens of variables and caveats to an exercise like this, and we can differ on opinion, but I see the M’s upgrading in 14 spots this season, downgrading in 1 (though Furbush is still on the roster), and staying even in 10. Each spot is a case by case assessment but in general I’m looking at the performance of the 2015 player versus the reasonable expectation/projection of the 2016 player. Let’s dig in a little further.

Starting Pitching
The rotation is deeper and projects better in 2016. Felix is Felix, no reason to expect he won’t be an ace and in the thick of Cy Young contention. A year ago Paxton broke camp as the #2 starter, this year he is healthy but in Tacoma. Not many teams have a #6 guy like James, who still has a high ceiling. Wade Miley was brought in to replace Iwakuma, but then Iwakuma returned after all, which was a bonus. Taijuan returns to the rotation and is poised to build off his rookie campaign. Tai was terrible in April and May last year, but found his rhythm in the summer. Happ for Karns feels like a wash for 2016 but Karns will be a key piece for years to come.  Few may realize he actually started the third game for Tampa Bay last year, and was a key piece of their rotation all year. Thanks to retaining Kuma and adding Miley, I think the rotation is significantly improved.

Bullpen
There’s no disputing the bullpen is the biggest question mark. I won’t try to convince anyone that the pen will be good, but honestly can it be worse than last year? I don’t know that it can and I like Dipoto’s strategy of completely overhauling the pen and bringing in a heap of arms which will sort itself out as the season goes. I wouldn’t be surprised if the M’s give 15+ guys a chance in the pen this year. Whether the depth is any good is TBD but there are reinforcements if a couple guys get hurt (Scribner, Cook, Furbush) or potentially suck. Last year few alternatives existed, which is a huge reason why the bullpen went from bad to disastrous. Cishek and Benoit will go a long way in determining the success but I feel a little better about the bullpen with Vincent’s acquisition today. The bullpen can’t be worse and maybe it isn’t a ton better, but ’16’s version looks poised to improve on ’15.

Lineup
Gone are LoMo, Brad Miller, Austin Jackson, and Ackley. In are Lind, Marte, Leonys, and Nori Aoki. Gimme that 4 for 4 trade any day! Beyond the areas of change, the lineup, at least at present, does not look to have a black hole (Zunino is in Tacoma). Seager, Cruz, Cano, and Seth Smith are all back, and while Cruz may not match last year’s incredible season, Cano is finally healthy and I imagine Seager and Smith will continue their career norms as above average players. I have some worries about this lineup, given the offensive woes that seem to haunt the M’s, but on paper it looks league average and capable of 4 runs/game.

Bench
Say goodbye to Rickie Weeks, Ruggiano, Sucre, and WFBloomquist. They’ve been replaced by Dae-Ho Lee, Gutierrez, Steve Clevenger, and Luis Sardinas. Again, anyone not willing to take that 4 for 4 trade? Seems like a no brainer. The bench will be better, quite significantly in my opinion.

Defense
The theme of Dipoto’s offseason was constructing a roster built for Safeco Field. That hadn’t happened in a long time. To do so, Jerry brought in guys who get on base and can field their position, above average in most cases. Aoki and Leonys are instant upgrades to the outfield, which had been a glaring weakness during the Jack Z era. Marte isn’t flashy but he makes all the plays you’d expect at short stop, something that cannot be said of Brad Miller. Sardinas is a terrific defender, WFB is not. The defense is vastly improved.

Depth
MLB is a 162 game season, so depth is pretty important. Jack Z learned the hard way that you can never have enough pitching and catching. Dipoto is all about accumulating guys who can play in the majors, particularly if they’ve tasted some success. You need depth, so in addition to the 25 guys who will take the field in Arlington next week, there had better be a plethora of other options. Paxton, Zunino, Taylor, Romero, Blash, O’Malley, Furbush (DL), are all still in the organization and can step in. You also have Daniel Robertson, Boog Powell, Efren Navarro, and Rob Brantly, plus another 5-8 bullpen candidates (Roach, Parker, Guaipe, Aro, De Fratus, Scribner, Cook) . Last year, that sort of depth simply did not exist, particularly in the bullpen and at catcher.

To recap, I feel better about all areas of the 2016 Mariners as compared to last year. Most fans probably feel the same about their team, hope springs eternal and all that. But last year’s team won 76 games, so it will take a big jump forward to be in playoff contention. The rest of the AL West, mid-season acquisitions, how Servais adjusts to managing, and of course injuries, slumps and so many other factors will help determine how the season shakes out, but the Mariners should not be bad. In fact, they should probably be good.

Dipoto makes some tasty Kool-Aid, and I’m drinking it. Crown em’.

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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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Mariners Draft Outfielder Alex Jackson

Three years ago, the Mariners held the second overall pick in a draft considered to be loaded with talent. There were quite a few players on the radar, from pitchers like Dylan Bundy and Gerrit Cole to high school outfielder Bubba Starling. I wanted college third baseman Anthony Rendon, the presumed top pick until some injuries slowed him. It looked like the M’s would luck into an impact bat.

Cole went first, and while Rendon wasn’t a lock, all of the options were attractive. And then the Mariners went slightly off the board and picked Danny Hultzen, the last of the realistic options I expected. Hultzen wasn’t a bad pick, he just lacked a bit of the upside of the other names. Perhaps unfairly, he was seen as the safe pick, which is fine until the safe pick blows out his shoulder two years later and is still rehabbing now with no guarantee to ever be an impact pitcher again. Meanwhile, Rendon is having a solid season in his first full year in the majors, and looks to be a solid starter and maybe much more in the future.

I tell this story because today’s MLB draft was setting up for another let down. The Mariners picked sixth in a draft commonly thought to have four or five players true impact players at the top. Personally, I loved lefties Brady Aiken and Carlos Rodon, but both seemed sure to go before they reached the Mariners. My top choice among the possibly realistic options was high school C/OF Alex Jackson from San Diego, considered the top hitting prospect in the draft.

For a few weeks, most thought Jackson would go second to the Marlins, but that started to change in the last week. People started saying if Jackson wasn’t picked in the top two, he could fall to the Mariners. Mock drafts and rumors are never right so I was trying to keep my hopes from getting up (also important because I have never watched Jackson and it’s possible he never even makes it to Seattle, but that’s beside the point).

Amazingly, the experts were right. Aiken went number one, fellow prep pitcher Tyler Kolek went two, Rodon three. No one knew what the Cubs would do, but they surprised a bit and took Indiana catcher/OF Kyle Schwarber. The Twins took prep shortstop Nick Gordon, and suddenly the Mariners had a chance to make me happy, which they don’t do that often. More importantly (maybe), they had a chance to get a potential hitting star, which they’ve needed for literally more than a decade.

At this point, I still assumed they would pick someone else, a la Hultzen over Rendon. It would be just like the Mariners to get our hopes up and then do something totally unexpected to ruin them. But in a move I’m taking to be a sign of their changing ways, the M’s made Jackson the pick. The tide is turning, Seattle. Five game winning streaks and big time hitting prospects. This is the stuff of which good baseball teams are made.

****************************

There are lots of better places to read scouting reports of draftees, so I’ll keep mine to a minimum. Jackson is 6’2″ 210 lbs and hits and throws right handed. He plays catcher in high school but he was announced as an outfielder and Jack Zduriencik said afterward they’ll put him in an outfield corner in an effort to let him move up the ranks as quickly as his bat will carry him. With Zunino being the man, there’s really no reason to waste time on developing Jackson as a catcher, even though most think he could be at least passable there.  He boasts a rifle arm and enough athleticism to be an average or better right fielder.

The bat is what is really special. He’s above-average with both the hit and power tools, and I’ve seen a line of .285/.350/.500 with 25-30 homers as completely realistic, and he could do a lot more than that. Strike zone judgement is always the concern for prep hitters, and it’s hard to know how they’ll react in the pros, but he’s given no reason to worry yet. It’s just an area where we have to wait and see. Zduriencik compared the pick to drafting Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in Milwaukie, so that’s encouraging. The MLB draft is always risky, especially when drafting high schoolers, but Jackson is the cream of this year’s crop.

Jackson immediately becomes the M’s first or second best prospect (not counting Taijuan Walker), depending on how one feels about DJ Peterson. They have similar bats, with Jackson having more home run power and a higher upside, but Peterson being a lot closer to the majors. If Jackson becomes a reliable outfielder, he’ll likely have more positional value as well, since Peterson will probably play first base in Seattle. However you look at them, they’re a good duo, and with the way some guys like Austin Wilson and Gabriel Guerrero and Jabari Blash are hitting, they might have some company soon.We probably won’t see Jackson in Seattle before 2017 at the earliest, but it’s hard to say for sure.

While I’ve been writing this, the M’s selected another righty power-hitting outfielder in the extra little round after the second. This one is Gareth Morgan, a big boy from Canada. I haven’t had time to read much on him yet, but he evidently has monstrous power but some work to do overall as a hitter. Canadian hitters tend to be pretty raw due to the lack of year-round ball there. Think Michael Saunders and his long, winding path to consistent production. That means they can really blossom with more and better coaching, and they sometimes slide in the draft because they’re not seen by scouts to the same degree as players in warm weather areas. It can also mean they’re just not good enough for the majors and never will be. Only time will tell. Without knowing really anything, it seems like a good pick. The Mariners need outfielders, and they picked up two with a lot of promise today.

Tomorrow and Saturday bring the rest of the draft, with rounds 3-10 tomorrow and 11-40 Saturday. I will not know any of the players anyone picks, but it’s fun to learn about them and hear all of their different stories. I might check in with an update on Sunday, but check Baseball America or your usual Mariner sources for more (and probably better) info. Go Mariners!

-Matthew

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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 Mariners are (Maybe) Not Bad

Riding a surprising three game winning streak, the Mariners are back over .500 at 29-28.  It seems like they’ve hovered within a game or two of .500 for most of the season, so it seems pretty fair to consider them an extremely average team right now. Luckily for them, most of the league is in the same boat. Before today’s win, they were only a game and a half out of a wild card. Unfortunately, that only puts them tied for 5th in the wild card standings. Still, the potential for playoff baseball is there should the M’s improve over the summer.

It’s hard to get a handle on this team. The rotation has sustained a ridiculous amount of injuries, but it’s performed surprisingly well, at least outside of the Brandon Maurer/Erasmo Ramirez slot. The bullpen was shaky early before turning into a pretty solid unit. The defense is better than last year, especially in the outfield, although it suffers from lapses occasionally.

As usual, it’s the offense that most often holds the team back. There always seem to be at least three regulars slumping badly, while it’s rare for the team to have more than one guy on a hot streak at a time. The right-handed hitting outfielders have mostly failed miserably. Corey Hart never got going and then got injured. Robinson Cano is on base all the time, but he has yet to bring his usual burst of doubles and homers. In short, the offense is too inconsistent. It will bust out with ten runs, like in New York today, and then struggle to get ten more total in the next two series.

I honestly have no clue how the season will go from here. Typically, it gets easier to hit in Seattle as the weather gets warmer, but who knows. If Taijuan Walker and/or James Paxton can return, it could be a huge boost. But of course, they might also have no real impact this year. This season has a wide range of possible outcomes, and each of them seem as likely as the next. A few more thoughts on the season  and what’s to come after the jump.

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