Tag Archives: Brandon Maurer

Remembering Erik Bedard

As the Mariners got stomped by the Astros last night, I ended up in a discussion with the other Good Guys about Erik Bedard.  Bedard is, of course, a former Mariner and as such, the cause of much disdain.  He is now a member of the Astros and was last night’s starting pitcher.

Bedard is not well-liked by Mariners fans.  I personally always liked him, but I can certainly see his shortcomings.  He was divisive and frustrating at his best.  The argument against generally centers on four points:

  1. He was the object of a now horrific trade, where the Mariners gave up Adam Jones and more for Bedard before the 2008 season.
  2. He was constantly injured, losing large chunks of every season he played in Seattle.
  3. His dealings with the media were short and brusque, often given in one word answers. He often came across as a smug, rude jerk.
  4. He obtained a reputation of being unable to pitch deep into games, which, combined with the injuries, led to a reputation of frailty and disinterest.

The first point is indisputable but completely out of Bedard’s control.  The trade was not well liked at the time, but it would have been okay had Bedard stayed on the field. He was a legitimately excellent pitcher when he was on the mound.  Unfortunately, that rarely happened.  He was hurt early and often, missing time in each of the four seasons he spent in Seattle.

With most former players, an injury history like that would be the main memory, but judging by Twitter and blog comments during last night’s game, points three and four above have had a more lasting impression.  The issues with the media were real. He seemed unwilling to speak at any length, especially in response to questions he deemed unnecessary.  It’s understandable if fans were turned off by that.  It personally never bothered me, and I doubt it would have made much impact if he had been good on the field.  For what it’s worth, he was never considered or rumored to be a bad teammate.  Watching him in the dugout, he seemed like a good guy who was liked by his teammates.  That’s hardly conclusive data, but it’s something that runs extremely contrary to the popular narrative.  He also signed with the Mariners for virtually nothing after his first two years, out of loyalty for the way they stood by him during his first two injury-plagued years. Dealing with the media was not his strong suit, but he appeared to be far from a bad guy or a clubhouse cancer.

The reputation for not lasting deep in games is a little more difficult to wade through.  From what I remember, the reputation came from an inability to get through seven innings early in his Mariners career, combined with some comments he made saying that he was essentially a 100-pitch pitcher.  I’m going off memory here, so I apologize if I’m off slightly.  In my memory, the comments were more nuanced than simply saying he could only throw 100 pitches per start.  I remember him saying that he was at his best for 100 pitches, not that he would only throw 100.

Incidentally, this is true for nearly every pitcher in the history of baseball. Hardly anyone is especially good after 90-100 pitches.  A good rule of thumb is that once a pitcher reaches that range or faces the line-up for a fourth time that day, it’s probably time to think about getting him out of there.  There are exceptions, of course, but Bedard was just saying what is universally true. Incidentally, other than a couple of starts where he left early for injury or ineffectiveness, Bedard threw 6-8 innings in most starts that first year. He threw about the same innings as anyone else.

What Bedard did was put his limitations into words, and that’s not something we want out of our athletes.  However unspoken or unrecognized, there’s a level of hero worship with our favorite athletes.  We expect them to do what we can’t, and for good reason. Professional and college athletes can do ridiculous things. The worst player at any point in any of the major sports leagues is one of the greatest athletes to ever walk the earth. I was a moderately decent high school baseball player, but I would have no more luck pitching or hitting against a major leaguer than would my two-year-old nephew. Their talent is so far above anything we can imagine, we expect consistent greatness and lose touch with the limits of their ability.

We want our athletes to go to places we can’t reach. We don’t want to see them ever give up. We know that playing through an injury might actually hurt the team, but we still want to see them out there until their bodies actually prevent them from playing. We don’t want to see a pitcher leave the game until he’s failed.  There’s something noble in giving until there’s nothing left, in leaving only when failure of the body commands it.  It may not be smart, but it resonates with those of us who would have given up days ago.

Erik Bedard knew his limitations, and in many ways he was likely smarter for recognizing and dealing with them.  His problem, as it often was for Bedard, was in letting the rest of us in on the secret.  Communication was never his strong suit.  Pitching was, but since his body never let him do that, a promising career ended as nothing but disappointment.

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A few Mariners notes after the jump! Continue reading

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Garland’s Gone and Other Stuff

Baseball season is just over a week away, and if that doesn’t make you happy, you’re probably not a baseball fan.  The Mariners have had an uneventful spring training.  The roster, barring any last minute injuries or shake-ups, will be as projected.  The two open spots, back of the rotation and last position player, aren’t decided, but the rotation is a man closer to finalization.

Jon Garland came to camp as a non-roster invitee after missing last season with arm issues.  He was a slightly above-average starter before his injuries, so it was widely assumed that if he looked anything like he used to, he would take one of the two open spots.  He’s been decent but not terribly impressive all camp, but he was still expected to make the team.  Complicating matters was a clause in Garland’s contract allowing him to leave the Mariners yesterday if he wanted.  Basically, if the Mariners weren’t going to promise him a rotation spot, he was going to leave.  Much to the media’s surprise, that’s exactly what happened.  It’s a good reminder that, as excellent as much of the media following the Mariners is, no one knows what the Mariners will do except Jack Zduriencik, and he’s not telling anyone before he has to.

The move’s implications for this season are moderate.  Garland didn’t project to be great or terrible.  League-average or slightly better was probably the realistic best-case scenario.  His replacements are less predictable but similarly capable and likely to be in the same performance vicinity.  There appear to be four pitchers in the running for those two spots:

  •  Jeremy Bonderman is a veteran in a position similar to Garland’s.  I’d be shocked if he made the rotation.  I’m guessing the Mariners hope he will take an assignment to the minor leagues, where he can continue to build up arm strength after injury and a lot of time off.  He’d then be good depth for injuries or poor performance this summer.  He may decide to retire rather than go to Tacoma, though.
  • Blake Beavan is quite familiar to Mariner fans.  He might be slightly less recognizable this season with a revamped delivery aiming to mimic Doug Fister’s.  Seattle Sports Insider has a great breakdown of the windup and potential implications (start here).  I don’t particularly like watching Beavan pitch, but he’s a fairly reliable guy for the back of the rotation, and he’s still only 24.  Age is not a guarantee of improvement, but when combined with the revamped delivery, I’m open to seeing what he can do for a few months at least.
  • Erasmo Ramirez should be a lock for a spot, in my opinion.  He has the best stuff of the three mentioned thus far, excellent command, and good major league performance at the end of last season.  I don’t know if the Mariners have penciled him in yet, but I’d be curious to know their reasons if they haven’t.
  • Brandon Maurer is this year’s camp phenom.  After battling injuries early in his career, he stayed healthy at Double-A last year and showed enough ability and talent to jump into the conversation with his more ballyhooed rotation-mates (Hultzen, Walker, Paxton).  To some degree, I would say he’s a guy who does many things well without anything especially standing out.  He throws low- to mid-90s, has three other solid or better pitches, and shows good command.  Think Felix, on a much, much smaller scale.  He could probably succeed now, but given his lack of experience at even Triple-A and that past injury history, I probably would start him in Tacoma.  I’m kind of hoping the Mariners feel differently, however, because it’d be fun to see what he can do.

So, barring a big surprise, the opening day rotation will be Felix, Iwakuma, Joe Saunders, and two of the above.  That’s a decent rotation with a chance to be better.  Or it could be worse, if all of the kids fall flat on their faces.  That’s why the Garland decision is somewhat fascinating.  It’s entirely possible that Garland would have/will outperform at least one of the rotation slots.  Maybe, maybe not, but I’d bet on it.

So why is it good the Mariners let him go?  Because it looks like they’re ready to let the young talent they’ve been stockpiling make its presence known.  There is no guarantee Maurer, Ramirez and all of the guys still in the minors will be able to lead the Mariners to prominence.  If they can’t though, it’s going to mean a complete change of plans and likely management.  The future is roped to the Mariners’ youngsters, those both in the majors and minors.  It’s time to give them a shot.

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That other roster spot still looks life a fight between outfielders Jason Bay and Casper Wells.  Opinions are somewhat split on this one, including between the Good Guys.  The case for each:

  • Bay is not far removed from being an all-star, and is still a better hitter than Wells.  He’s unlikely to reach his 2009 numbers again, but it wouldn’t surprise to see him become a good spot starter or better.  He’s a solid defensive outfielder.
  • Wells is a better defender who can legitimately play center field.  He’s third on the depth chart at that position, but given that one of those ahead of him is Franklin Gutierrez, it’s a real consideration.  He has power and is young enough to project some improvement.  He’s also under team control for as long as the Mariners could conceivably want him.

Some people think that Wells could be a solid starter if given a shot.  Personally, I don’t see it.  I think he’s too limited as a hitter.  The center field issue is legitimate, but to me it’s not a huge deal.  If it comes to it, the Mariners can track down a center fielder for a while.  They have minor league options who could fill in for a couple of weeks in a pinch.  It’s not ideal, but to me, it’s not worth getting worked up about it if they choose Bay over Wells.  Wells offers security, Bay offers upside.  The Mariners appear to be favoring Bay, but as the Garland decision shows, we won’t know until one of them gets cut.

That’s about it for news right now.  Most of the people still in camp either have a spot or are just depth.  The only questionable position left is the bullpen, but it looks like Kameron Loe will win the last spot with Josh Kinney out for a while.  The most surprising player left in camp might be Brad Miller, the sweet-hitting shortstop who ended the year in double-A.  I don’t think there’s any way he makes the team, but that he’s lasted this long shows how highly the team thinks of him.  If he can improve his defense, he could take Brendan Ryan’s spot as soon as a year from now.

The season starts a week from Monday in Oakland, of course.  The Mariners are doing a cool open house at Safeco that night, where fans can come, see the changes to the stadium, and watch the game on the monstrous new scoreboard screen.  I think doors open at 6:00, and I believe parking is free if you get there in time.

-Matthew

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Down On The Farm

Have you ever thought about the confusion that most come with farmers who follow minor league baseball closely.  They might ask, “What’s going on down on the farm today?”  How does the farmers confused son answer?  It could be, “The cows are milked, the chickens are laying eggs, and the sheep dog is having a good time.”  He could also say, “James Paxton looked awfully good in his debut and Nick Franklin has started the season on fire.”  Both answers are correct, assuming the farmer has kept his farm in good health, but the father’s probably only looking for one answer.  Man, that would get confusing.  Of course you haven’t thought about that.  No one has because that’s stupid.  Well, maybe the select farmers who follow baseball make a good wise crack about it sometimes.

Hultzen, Paxton and Walker - The Big Three

There's our boys!

The Mariners farm has been making a good amount of noise in the last year.  How’s that for a transition?  Say what you want to about Jack Z, but he has truly brought the farm system to one of the highest levels it’s ever been at in organizational history.  Yes, that doesn’t mean definite success but that’s one of the reasons why Matthew, me and many others are big fans of his.

The minor league teams opened the season Thursday and I thought I’d give you a quick rundown of players you might be interested and where they’re at.  I’ll just go team-by-team through the system with the players I find the most interesting.  I will skip over some players because, either, I don’t find them interesting or I just simply miss them on accident.  Leave any player questions in the comments and I’ll get to them.  Also, Jay Yencich from USS Mariner has written a preview for each team that will be much  more detailed than my rundown so I’ll link it by the team name for all those hardcore fans  like the farmer in the first paragraph (ha! You thought I couldn’t tie that back in).

Tacoma Rainiers (AAA) USSM Preview

Triple-A teams often don’t have top prospects in them, at least for long.  It’s thought that AAA teams store all the depth for the big-league club and that includes many AAAA players (what I mean by that is players who have mastered triple-A but can’t quite cut it in the majors for the long haul).  No offense, Mike Wilson.  That holds mostly true this year.  The Mariners double-A team may have more talent on it, but Tacoma still has some very interesting names.  Here are the names that intrigue me the most in Tacoma.

Players to watch:

Maurico Robles and Forrest Snow (SP) – Tacoma’s starting rotation leaves a bit to be desired but these are the two most interesting prospects here.  Robles is a lefty who has a low-90’s fastball.  If he’s going to make the majors, it’ll be as a reliever.  I’m not sure why he isn’t in the bullpen already.  He struggles with control.  Forrest Snow is a UW alum and stands a bit more of a chance to get into the M’s rotation at some point.  He’s basically skipping the double-A level.  He doesn’t have the best stuff (good change-up but everything else is about average) but could be a decent back of the rotation starter.  Anthony Vasquez is in Tacoma too but he should never start a game for the M’s again.  Please.

Charlie Furbush – You know about him.  He’s a lefty and was with the Mariners most of the 2nd half last year.  He is in the bullpen but he could make a spot start here and there.  He has decent stuff and sometimes it’s even pretty good.  If he keeps the home runs down he’ll find his way up soon.

Chance Ruffin – Tacoma’s strength is their bullpen.  Ruffin is a righty with a mid-90’s fastball and good slider.  He was with the M’s at the end of last year and will be again, I imagine.

Shawn Kelley – Another good righty in the bullpen.  He lost a little velocity from Tommy John surgery and maybe they sent him down to try to get it back?  I don’t know, but he’s probably better than some of the guys in the Seattle bullpen.

Cesar Jimenez -Cesar is a lefty specialist and there’s usually a place on big-league clubs for players like this eventually.  He has gotten a little worse with his control and overall numbers the last couple of years.  Still, he’s worth keeping an eye on.  All four of these guys aren’t far from making the Mariners and I bet some of them will be up before the end of the month even.

Vinnie Catricala (3B) – Position players!  Vinnie is probably the best, actual prospect on Tacoma.  He can hit really well.  Vinnie made a push for the 3rd base job in the spring but lost out.  That’s probably good since he’s hardly played in AA, and has not played at all in AAA.  He has improved his strikeout numbers last year and hopefully will do so again this year.  He needs to improve his defense too.  The guy can hit and will find a place on the M’s soon if he can find a true position.

Carlos Triunfel (2B, SS) – Triunfel will probably play shortstop for Tacoma most of the time.  He used to be the prized prospect in the system but a broken leg kind of unhinged him and he hasn’t really regained his top status since.  His hitting numbers went down and his defense at shortstop is questionable.  He’s still pretty young and had a large improvement last year so maybe there’s still hope for him.

Carlos Peguero (LF) – Maybe I shouldn’t put him in here because if you follow what I write you know that I’m not a fan of his at all.  He swings and misses way too much, sucks at defense, and has no plate discipline.  That being said, he hits the ball a country mile and has started off the year on fire.

Trayvon Robinson (CF) – Trayvon strikes out too much but he hits for some power and has a good amount of speed (although his stolen bases have gone down a lot for some reason).  If he could up his contact rate, he’d be a really interesting player that would be fighting to the top of the centerfield pile.  Lets hope for some development.

That’s it for Tacoma, and I’m already over 1000 words.  Check out the most talented team in the minors after the jump!  I’m not kidding, extremely talented!

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