Tag Archives: Charlie Furbush

Bullpen Decisions in Walk-Off Losses

The Mariners have fallen victim to walk-off losses what seems like countless times.  Whenever they play in Chicago, Baltimore, or Washington D.C. I just count on the game to be a walk-off loss.  This season has brought even more of these.  As of the afternoon on August 20th, the Mariners had suffered 10 walk-off losses in 124 games.  Over 8 percent of the Mariners games have ended in a walk-off loss this season.  Furthermore, walk-off losses can only happen on the road, although the M’s might find a way to make it happen otherwise.  There have been 61 road games with 10 walk-off losses.  Over 16 percent of Mariners road games have ended in a walk-off, and not the fun Zoolander kind. Seattle sports…

Eric Wedge (and Robbie Thompson) aren’t exactly known for their bullpen usage.  With this in mind, I went on a journey to find out in what situations these walk-off losses happened (pitcher vs. batter match-ups).

Below, you will find the score of each walk-off loss, a little summary of what happened, who was pitching, hitting, and left in the bullpen.  I will also add a little bit of analysis.  Of course, my research isn’t perfect.  There were days when some bullpen arms weren’t available and I don’t have all of that information.  I’ve tried to make my analysis as fair as possible.

Walk-off loss #1:  April 7, – Chicago White Sox 4, Mariners 3

The Matchup: RH Kameron Loe vs. RH Dayan Viciedo
Who Was Left In The Bullpen:  RH Tom Wilhelmsen, LHP Charlie Furbush, RHP Stephen Pryor
Summary:  A walk-off solo dinger.
Analysis:  This wasn’t all that bad of a decision.  Pryor had pitched the two nights before so I’m guessing he wasn’t available.  Furbush wouldn’t have made sense as a lefty.  Wilhelmsen probably should have been in the game but the Mariners like to keep their closer available.  I don’t agree with this but this decision wasn’t atrocious other than the fact that Kameron Loe was bad and shouldn’t have been on the team.  Robert Andino and Brendan Ryan did start this game at SS and 2B though…

Walk-off loss #2:  May 17th – Cleveland Indians 6, Mariners 3

The Matchup: LH Lucas Luetge vs. LH Jason Kipnis
Who Was Left In The Bullpen:  Not many guys available, everyone had thrown the day before.
Summary: 3-run walk-off dinger.
Analysis:  Not a bad process here aside from maybe leaving Luetge in too long.  You want the lefty on lefty matchup and Luetge is typically good against lefties.  Furbush had already pitched and Perez had pitched over an inning the night before.  Luetge was probably the best option to pitch against Kipnis.  Wilhelmsen (arguably the best reliever at the time) did not pitch in this game.

Walk-off loss #3:  May 18th – Cleveland Indians 5, Mariners 4
The Matchup:  RH Yoervis Medina vs. RH Mark Reynolds
Who Was Left In the Bullpen:  Wilhelmsen, Furbush, Luetge, Loe (I think)
Summary: Jesus Montero forgot to keep his foot on the plate and the winning run scored as he pulled his foot off of it.  You can’t make this stuff up.
Analysis:  Probably the right match-up.  Perez was bad before Medina came in to face Reynolds.  It was a really exciting game aside from the horrible ending!  Medina is a good guy to face Reynolds.  Cleveland is so stupid.  Wilhelmsen, again, wasn’t used.  Instead they went to a rookie in his first week in the majors.

Walk-off loss #4:  May 20th – Cleveland Indians 10, Mariners 8
The Matchup: LH Charlie Furbush vs. Yan Gomes
Who Was Left In the Bullpen: LH Lucas Luetge, RH Farquhar (maybe)
Summary:  Wilhelmsen blew the save in the 9th while dropping the final out at first.  Then, Furbush came in for the 10th and gave a up a 3-run walk-off dinger.
Analysis:  Many people believed he should have come out for the 10th because he was pitching well, hadn’t pitched in 4 days and a few righties were coming up.  I’m one of those people.  Leaving Furbush in to face righties was dumb.  This may have been the worst decisions of the walk-offs, so far.  Andino and Ryan started this game at SS and 2B.

Walk-off loss #5:  May 29th – San Diego Padres 3, Mariners 2
The Matchup:  RH Yoervis Medina vs. LH Will Venable
Who Was Left In the Bullpen:  All of the lefties
Summary:  Wilhelmsen blew the save in the 9th and Venable hit a walk-off single in the 10th, after loading the bases and not getting an out.
Analysis:  This one is bad.  Medina faced 3 lefties (2 were switch-hitters, although they have better splits from the left side) and one righty.  Furbush had pitched the night before but there was no sign of Perez, for some reason.  Medina to start the inning may have been fine but he should have been out after the first hit.  The pitcher spot was coming up in the batting order, which may have caused Wedge to not change guys.  This is a constant in the bullpen decision-making: playing for the hypothetical instead of putting yourself in the best situation right now.

Walk-off loss #6:  June 1st – Minnesota Twins 5, Mariners 4
The Matchup: 
 RH Wilhelmsen vs. S Ryan Doumit
Who Was Left in the Bullpen:  RH Noesi, RH Farquhar, RH Medina
Summary:  Wilhelmsen walked 3 guys and then gave up a walk-off triple.
Analysis:  Managers have a way with sticking with a closer in the 9th, no matter what.  I don’t blame Wedge for this philosophy but why does it exist?  Wilhelmsen should not have been in the game after walking 3 straight guys.  This one is a baseball problem, not a Mariners problem.  By the way, that was 5 walk-off losses in 15 days.  There was also a homestand in that stretch.

Walk-off loss #7 :  July 31st – Boston Red Sox 5, Mariners 4
The Matchup:  LH Luetge vs. LH Stephen Drew
Who Was Left In the Bullpen:  RH Wilhelmsen
Summary:  Drew hit a walk-off single in the 15th inning.
Analysis:  Luetge had thrown 2 innings before coming out for the 15th and he almost made it through that inning, as well.  He had also thrown the night before.  He seemed a bit fatigued.  Wilhelmsen hadn’t pitched in either game.  I know the options are limited in the 15th inning but I don’t know why you don’t put your best pitcher out there.  Or put in a starter.

Walk-off loss #8:  August 1st – Boston Red Sox 8, Mariners 7
The
 Matchup:  LH Perez vs. S Daniel Nava
Who Was Left In the Bullpen: LH Luetge, RH Farquhar
Summary:  Felix is awesome.  7-2 heading into the 9th.  Wilhelmsen sucks, doesn’t get an out.  Wrong pitcher is called in by Thompson (accidentally called for Perez instead of Medina).  The wrong pitcher gives up runs.  Medina isn’t good either.  This one sucked.
Analysis:  The Mariners meant to do the right thing and accidentally failed at that.  Medina was supposed to be called in to face Victorino and Pedroia.  Instead Perez was called in and was bad and then Medina was left in too long due to the accident.  This is a dumb rule in baseball and a brain fart by Thompson.  It was an awful game too.

Walk-off loss #9:  August 14th – Tampa Bay Rays 5, Mariners 4
The Matchup:  
RH Farquhar vs. LH Matt Joyce
Who Was Left In the Bullpen:  LH Luetge, RH Capps, LH Perez
Summary:  A leadoff triple and then a walk-off single.
Analysis:  A few bloops and one hard hit led to a walk-off.  Sure, they could have taken Farquhar out to play the match-ups but he’d been pretty good  and, as I’ve said, managers stick with the closers.  This one isn’t too bad.

Walk-off loss #10:  August 19th – Oakland A’s 2, Mariners 1
The Matchup:  RH Capps vs. LH Brandon Moss
Who Was Left In the Bullpen:  Everyone but Furbush.
Summary:  Capps gave up a walk-off ding-donger to a lefty.
Analysis:  This was really stupid.  Capps has been the worst guy out of the pen against lefties.  He faces one in the bottom of the 9th (with Perez and Luetge available) and gives up a dinger.  This is one of the least defensible.  Luckily, no one really cared because the Mariners fell to 10 games under .500.

Conclusion:  Yes, the Mariners bullpen is terrible.  Some of these losses are inevitable no matter how good your bullpen.  But, some of the decisions that were made were pretty ridiculous and a few of these outcomes probably could have been avoided.  In-game management has been a struggle this year and, while that is not the only job of a manager, Wedge and Thompson should be held accountable for some of these decisions.

– Andrew

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The Rebuilding Process, Year 5

One year ago I asked your reaction following Prince signing in Detroit. One year later, I’m curious what your take is on Josh Hamilton signing with a division foe, for nearly $100 million less than Prince got.

This is my 5th installment in a series of posts I’ve done recapping and forecasting the Mariners Rebuilding Process, since Jack Z took over as GM. You can find the prior posts here: Years 1 and 2 Year 3 Year 4

Let’s recap the 5 year rebuild plan I laid out in October 2008.

    THE BLUEPRINT

2009, Year 1: Shed dead weight, Begin overhauling the farm
Summary: Traded Putz for Guti, Carp, Vargas, and managed to get rid of Silva, Betancourt, and Johjima, while also using 3 of first 5 picks on Ackley, Franklin, Seager.
Grade: A+

2010, Year 2: Shed dead weight, Continue building the farm (and lock up Felix)
Summary: Signed Griffey and Sweeney, locked up Felix and acquired Cliff Lee, then swapped him for Smoak. Could have done without the Morrow trade and of course the Figgins contract. Selected Walker, Paxton, Pryor in rounds 1, 4, 5.
Grade: B-

2011, Year 3: Bring the youth up, Evaluate potential, Acquire more young talent
Summary: Hired Wedge, traded for Brendan Ryan, picked up Wilhelmson at a local bar, and signed low cost vets such as Cust, Olivo, Kennedy. Fielded an even mix of youth and vets, but loads of young talent in the pipeline for the first time in forever. At the deadline traded Fister for Furbush and Wells. Hultzen chosen with #2 pick.
Grade: B

2012, Year 4: continue youth movement, achieve .500 record
Summary: Swapped Pineda for Montero and made some shrewd acquistions in Jaso, Iwakuma, Luetge, Millwood, Perez, then saw a young roster come up 6 games short of .500, while improving by 8 games from prior season. Picked Mike Zunino #3 overall.
Grade: A

2013, Year 5: add 1-2 big pieces, contend for playoffs
Summary: Thus far we’ve seen a few low cost signings in Bay, Ibanez, Bonderman, and a 1 for 1 swap of Vargas-Morales.
Grade: ???

I’ve said this before, but in 4 1/2 years on the job, Bill Bavasi set this organization back 5 years, minimum. Last year I stated

“For the first time on Jack’s watch, I think the on field W/L record is important. .500 ball is a reasonable expectation this year, which would be a welcomed site for our eyes.”

Well, The M’s flirted with .500 in 2012 and showed noticeable improvement, albeit without much offense yet again. Entering year 5 the talk of laying the foundation and replenishing the system should be over, and playoff contention ought to be close. Zduriencik has said as much if you’ve heard any of his recent interviews.

If the blueprint holds form, the M’s will be adding 1-2 big pieces this offseason, and assembling a playoff capable team in 2013. This sounds great but it is nearly January and almost all the big name free agents have signed elsewhere, and the only acquisitions Seattle has made are Robert Andino, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and a swap of Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales. Not exactly blockbuster moves capable of propelling the M’s from 75 wins into contention. I suppose the big moves we hoped for are still possible if Jack can, for example, land Justin Upton and Michael Bourn, and add a veteran pitcher to round out the rotation. That would certainly be a competitive team, but is that the best route to take?

Given how the AL West is shaping up, it may be best to hang onto the prospects, add a couple decent pieces, and shoot for a respectable 80-85 wins in 2013, while waiting until next year to make the big splash. I don’t see a scenario, at this point, for the M’s to overtake Texas or Anaheim in 2013, and probably not Oakland either. So why go all in? I’m not suggesting Seattle give up any hopes they had for next year, just because the division rivals are pulling away, but I don’t want the M’s to mortgage the future to field a better team next year, but one that cannot be sustained.

Keeping a positive trajectory is crucial next year, seeing an improved offense is also important, but that’s about all we can reasonably expect in 2013. This puts real contention off until next year, and adds a year to the original 5 year blueprint, but taking the path that leads to sustained success is what is most important. We’ve seen the Washington Nationals do this, and Tampa Bay also, and with much less money. It may not be popular, given the fractured fan base, plummeting attendance, and a decade of bad baseball, but Seattle has never given a player a $100 million contract, and unless it is a Felix extension, I don’t see it happening for at least another year. And surprisingly, I’m fine with that.

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Charlie Furbush – Shut-down Reliever or 3rd Starter?

I started this post before Dave Cameron at USS Mariner published his post about Furbush.  We think along the same line, although I believe Furbush may have a little higher upside.  Anyway, go read that and sorry we doubled up on topics today! 

Lately, Mariners starting pitchers not named Felix and Kevin have been bad.  Jason Vargas was awful yesterday and has already given up 20 home runs this year.  Hector Noesi shows flashes of potential has his moments but then gets lit up on 0-2 counts – although his location isn’t terrible and sometimes he’s just a victim of good hitting, regardless of what Geoff Baker would have you believe – and Erasmo has struggled thus far (although I believe he’s a lot better than what he’s shown).  The Mariners rotation is in trouble.

There is help on the way!  Danny Hultzen is finally in Tacoma and Taijuan Walker is still one of the top 2 prospects in the Mariners system.  James Paxton and a few others aren’t too far behind those guys.  Those guys (excluding Hultzen) are still probably a year or so away though so the M’s need to take steps to fix the pitching now.  That’s where Charlie Furbush comes in.

When Charles Roderick Furbush was traded to Seattle for Douglas Wildes Fister he was labeled a starter but after surrendering too many home runs and not impressing the front office, he was moved to the bullpen to be a middle reliever.  He started out by throwing several innings out of the bullpen, but has been used more as a LOOGY and has been quite successful at that.

Through his limited innings, his strikeouts have been higher (although he’s always had a pretty high K rate), his BB’s have been lower and his HR/9 have gone way down.  While starting, Charlie struggled against right-handed batters.  As Cameron points out in his post, last year Furbush gave up 2.08 HR/9 to right-handed hitters.  This year, in facing 48 right-handed hitters he’s only given up 2 home runs.  Sure, it’s a small sample size but it’s not like he’s been getting lucky and just avoiding home-runs either.  Right-handers have a slash line of .130/.167/.283 against him.  That’s an OPS of .450.  Oh, and against lefties he has a .341 OPS against.  Pretty good.

In a small sample size, his OPS against has been better on the road then in home games as well.  So, his progress can’t be attributed to Safeco (although, no doubt the park would help if he became a starter).

With Furbush’s pitches he could be a lock-down reliever for the next 10 years.  I have no doubts about that but with the way he’s pitching right now he could be a good middle-of-the-rotation starter, which is way more valuable to the team.

There’s more on why Furbush would succeed after the jump, including pictures! Continue reading

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Seattle Mariners Throw No-Hitter

This won’t be a long post.  At least, I don’t plan on writing for very long.  We don’t usually do game recaps here at the Good Guys blog, usually we just focus on bigger ideas and lately we’ve been focusing on prospects.  Tonight though is cause for a little something to be said.

If you haven’t heard, six Mariners pitchers combined to throw a no-hitter.  Kevin Millwood started and was awesome but then he came out with a groin injury at the start of the 7th inning.  It’s a shame he couldn’t keep going because, from what I saw (I did miss the first few innings), he had a real chance to do it all himself.  But, fate had him coming out and, for some reason, that just seems fitting.

These Mariners are different then most teams we’ve seen before.  In the last couple of years they’ve started with a mix of veterans and young players and went from there but this year they started with mostly young players.  The young players have shown promise, but they’ve taken their lumps as well.  They’ve taken more lumps than anything else.  Over the course of the last road trip the team became exciting though.  They struck for 21 runs.  They kept games close, even when they lost.  They came back and won.  The Mariners were actually improving and getting better.

I remember around the third or fourth year of the Tyrone Willingham era in UW football.  We’d go to the stadium every week and after giving him the benefit of the doubt for the first few years, it was easy to see that the coach wasn’t getting his team to improve each week.  In fact, they were getting worse every week.  This is exactly how the last few Mariner last few seasons have been.  This is the first time we’ve seen real improvement.  Sure, we’ve seen winning streaks but not definite improvement.

The Mariners will continue to take their lumps.  They’re still young and will suffer a few more losing streaks throughout the season.  Justin Smoak will go through a cold spell (in fact, he’s going through a mini one right now).  Michael Saunders won’t continue to look like Josh Hamilton.  Kevin Millwood won’t throw 6 innings of no-hit ball.  But, I’m betting that the good times will start to outweigh the bad.

For a second tonight, I thought about the M’s making a run at the playoffs this year.  It’s most likely not going to happen and that’s okay because I’m truly starting to believe in the future of this club.  I have for a while now, but it seems that all of Seattle is starting to buy in.  Tonight the Mariners, Tacoma (AAA), and Jackson (AA) gave up a total of 4 hits combined.  It’s not just happening on the major league level right now, there’s encouraging signs everywhere.  Are you starting to believe?  This team is growing up in front of our eyes and tonight was another major step in the right direction.  Go M’s!

Andrew

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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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Welcome to Spring Training!

While Seattle is alternating between snow and sun, the Mariners are already a few weeks into spring training in Peoria, Arizona.  Talking to people and reading different thoughts about this year’s team, it seems there are two predominant reactions.  For those who are fans but don’t necessarily get deep into following the team, there’s a lack of knowledge and sometimes interest.  And who can really blame them?  If you don’t care that much about the offseason stuff, the onfield play has given no reason for hope.  These people also tend to blame almost everything on Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln, but that’s a different issue.

The second reaction is that even the people who know this team well aren’t sure what to expect.  Part of that is natural, as the Mariners have a lot of guys who could rebound significantly, as well as a plethora of young players who could improve dramatically.  None of that is certain, though, so outside of Felix, this is a tough team to predict.  I think another factor in the uncertainty is that this is a team unlike any Mariners fans have seen in some time.  It’s legitimately build on solid young talent.  There are some veterans, but they’re either young, like Felix, or will not likely be here long, like Ichiro and Miguel Olivo.  The core of this team is young.  The last time I remember that being the case is probably back in the early and mid 90’s.  They’ve had quality prospects since then, although many haven’t panned out, but those kids were joining veteran-dominated teams.

Now the focus is squarely on the Ackleys and Smoaks and Monteros, and it’s a little hard to know what to expect.  This year should start to indicate who will be part of the team longterm and who won’t cut it, but until then, there is plenty of room for knowledgeable fans to disagree on what to expect in 2012.  Young teams are unpredictable, and most of us haven’t watched one on a daily basis in a long time.

Just for fun and as a general catchup for those who haven’t been paying a lot of attention to spring training, here’s a little fake Q & A post.  If you have real questions, put them in the comments and we’ll give you any thoughts we have.  People’s real questions would be more fun to answer than these ones I’m making up!

Any big stories so far?

The biggest has probably been Franklin Gutierrez.  This was good at first, as he reported in great shape and seemingly fully recovered from his GI issues of last season.  All anyone could talk about was how great he looked, and then he went and hit a homer off Felix in an early intrasquad game.  Unfortunately, a couple of days later he tore a pectoral muscle, which sounds terrible, and he will be out at least 4 weeks before he does anything baseball related.  Don’t expect him back before May.  In fact, if you want to be safe, don’t expect him back at all.  He should come back at some point, but given his recent struggles, it seems smarter to just keep the hopes as low as possible and then get excited if he suddenly does return and play well. Continue reading

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Mariners 2011- What Still Has My Interest

I can’t imagine there are that many people still watching the Mariners on a regular basis.  I’ll turn them on once in a while, but I haven’t watched a full game in weeks.  Still, they’re an interesting team at the moment, just not a terribly watchable one.  I have a few posts in mind I’m hoping to get to before the season ends.  This offseason could be fascinating, so I’m going to try to work through the roster before we get to that point.

First up: what would I be watching for if I were still watching games regularly.  I’ll try to keep these short and simple, because they’re not terribly surprising and if we’re being honest, not that exciting either.

  1. Alex Liddi’s debut.  I’ve made my Liddi love quite clear on this blog, but it’s based almost entirely on his Italian-ness.  His baseball skills are intriguing but incomplete.  He has solid power and reportedly plays an improving third base, but like many Mariner power-hitting minor leaguers, he likes the strike outs.  Nonetheless, he’s joined the Mariners and should make his debut soon, which makes me happy.  He’s not likely to do much, this year or next, but sports are for fun, and Italian baseball players are nothing if not fun.  On a related note, how will Kyle Seager finish out the year?  Can he be the main man at third next year?
  2. The Mariners suddenly have a glut of talented outfielders.  Unfortunately, none of them is close to a sure thing.  Casper Wells and Trayvon Robinson could be starters next year, or they could be trade bait.  Michael Saunders, the forgotten man, is back with the big club, filling in for Franklin Gutierrez and his strained oblique.  Has he finally found a swing that will translate to the majors?
  3. Tom Wilhelmsen.  When Wilhelmsen was sent down early in the season to work as a starter, the move made sense.  He wasn’t pitching well, and starting would give him more innings to work on his stuff, and if they got lucky, he might turn into a solid middle of the rotation guy.  He didn’t seem to get much better in the minors, but then he was recalled anyway, and he’s been okay.  If you haven’t noticed, the rotation is potentially a little shallow next year.  I have my doubts about Blake Beavan and Anthony Vazquez.  If one of them is my fifth starter, I can live with it, but I’d really like Wilhelmsen or Charlie Furbush to bring actual strikeout stuff to the rotation.  I doubt September will give an answer to whether they can, but we might catch some glimpes.
  4. Justin Smoak has had a season from hell.  After a thunderous first month, he fell apart at the plate.  Also, his dad died, his nose got broken and he possibly had a serious thumb injury.  Who knows how much all that influenced his decline, but it can’t have helped.  I’d love to see him get hot this month.  I like the guy, and he clearly has talent.  Here’s to a better September and a breakout season in 2012.  He’s still the key to the future, in my mind.

There are some other things going on, like Ichiro and the young relievers, but this is my list.  What are you watching (or not watching) for?

Next up: a breakdown of where each position stands going into the offseason.

-Matthew

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The Deadline in Review

The trade deadline has come and gone and the Mariners were very active.  In case the folks reading this blog haven’t got enough of a fill on reading about the trades, or actually wanted to know our opinions, here’s one more review.  I’ll get right down to it, as straight forward as possible.  (If you want more, all the Mariner websites have some sort of reveiw.  Here’s Lookout Landing’s.  Here’s USS Mariner.  SSI has several posts about the new prospects.)

Trade #1:  What We Lost:

Doug Fister – Of the three players we’ve lost, Fister is probably the most valuable.  The most talented?  I would say no, but he is the most valuable because he is cheap and under team control for several more years.  Fister doesn’t have the best stuff and that gave him the ‘over-achiever’ label.  What he did have was excellent control and the ability to take advantage of good defenses put behind him.  Fister was always intriguing and I always enjoyed him more than Jason Vargas, just because he didn’t have plus stuff to get people out but still held down the number 3 spot in the rotation and was very successful.  Fister could be successful for a long time, I hope he is, or his lack of dominant stuff might catch up to him.  Time will tell, but he served the Mariners well in his 2 years with the big league club.

David Pauley – David Pauley was a solid reliever for most of the year for the M’s.  With that being said, he wasn’t part of the teams future and isn’t much to write home about.  He’ll provide some bullpen help for the Tigers and that was why he was a part of this deal.

What We Got Back:

Casper Wells – Casper Wells is a 26 year old corner outfielder who came up to the Tigers’ big league club last Summer.  In his debut year his OPS was at .901 in 93 at-bats.  This year his OPS is .765 in 117 at-bats. He’s hit 8 home runs in 210 at-bats in the big leagues but has shown good power in the minors.  He is primarily a corner outfielder but can also play center.  His defense will be average in center (maybe a little better) and plus in one of the corner spots.  He was a 4th outfielder in Detroit because they were in a pennant race but he’ll be the starting left fielder here for the remainder of the season.  He could into a a little better than league average outfielder.  At the very least, I think he’ll be a good 4th outfielder.  At the most, the Mariners may have found their left fielder for the next couple years.

Charlie Furbush – I’ll refrain from any Furbush for Fister jokes…. Charlie Furbush is a left-handed pitcher who is being utilized in the bullpen at the moment.  His fastball is 90-92.  He also has a decent slider and throws a change-up.  He has a deceptive delivery which has drawn comparisons to George Sherril. While he is in the bullpen right now, he will eventually see time in the starting rotation.  Furbush’s ceiling is a number 3 starter.  He’s 25 and has played in AAA and with the Tigers this year.

Francisco Martinez – Francisco is a 20 year old who has already made his way to AA.  He has drawn a lot of comparisons to Carlos Triunfel, which I don’t think is very fair.  Triunfel is a 21 year old who is AA but arrived there when he’s 19.  He was injured, fell off many people’s radar and is still in AA (but he’s putting up decent numbers and is still young).  I think it’s an unfair comparison because they speak of Triunfel like he’s a disappointment.  He’s not yet.  Martinez has been in AA for 2 years and has been solid but not spectacular in those stints.  This year he is hitting .282 with seven home runs in the league this year.  He projects to have solid power but so far his plate discipline isn’t great (that’s where the Triunfel comparison comes from).  Francisco could make it to the majors in the next couple years.  He was the 4th ranked prospect in the Tigers system by a few people, which is pretty exciting.

PTBNL – Cool name, huh?  This player will be one the Tigers’ top 2010 draft picks.  We won’t find out who it is until August 20th.  It should be a good prospect though.

Overview of deal:  Losing Fister is a big deal.  He could have been a mainstay in the rotation for a long time.  But, this isn’t like losing a Felix or Pineda.  Fister won’t ever be an ace.  Losing Pauley is not big deal at all.  With these things in mind, I love the return the Mariners got.  Of course, evaluating trades isn’t fair until a couple of years down the road but at worst the Mariners got back a good 4th outfielder, a good lefty reliever, and two interesting prospects.  At best they got back a starting left fielder who will hit 15-20 home runs, a number 3 or 4 starter, a third baseman with some power, and something else.  I like that upside, but I also like the practicality.  Even if things don’t break right we’ll get something out of this deal.

Deal #2 What We Lost:

Erik Bedard – I love Erik Bedard.  He’s the type of pitcher I could watch for days.  He thinks while he pitches and is crafty.  He’s has all kinds of talent and, when healthy, he’s one of the best pitchers’ in the league.  With that being said, I didn’t know how much trade value he had because of how often he is injured.  I’ll miss Erik but dealing him was a no-brainer because he was going to be a free agent and there was no need for him to be here.

Josh Fields – Josh Fields was a former first-round draft pick who is bad.  Really bad.  I don’t know why the Red Sox wanted him.  Maybe someday he’ll put it all together and not walk every other batter but we didn’t lose anything to be worried about there.

What We Got:

Trayvon Robinson – Trayvon came to us via the Dodgers.  He’s a 24 year old who’s been playing for LA’s AAA affiliate in Albuquerque, which is a hitter’s park to put it lightly.  This discredits some of the 26 home runs Robinson has hit this year.  But, it doesn’t discredit them the way many people on the blogosphere are.  He hit 12 of those home runs on the road and Robinson still would be hitting home runs even if he wasn’t in a dumb park.  He swings and misses a lot, but still can take a walk.  Robinson is a center-fielder with a lot of speed.  SSI compared him today to Curtis Granderson and you can see the similarities in their swings.  Trayvon could be a September call-up.  I’m looking forward to watching him play and he could push Guti out of the door.

Chih-Hsien Chiang – Awesome name.  This guy is another outfielder, although he plays in a corner position.  Chiang is 23 and is absolutely killing AA pitching.  He has a 1.046 OPS right now in his second go around in AA.  He has 58 extra base hits on the year and will move up to AAA soon, I imagine.  He doesn’t have a lot to prove in AA anymore.

Overview:  This trade is great.  2 months of Erik Bedard in a lost season or a top-5 organizational talent along with another interesting prospect.  These guys may not work out, but Pete Carrol would be proud of the way Jack Z has built a competition for an outfield position.

All in all, it’s been a great deadline for the Mariners.  Even with all the bad luck the team has had, you have to think that one of these guys in the outfield competition will turn out.

The team has also won the battle for the coolest names dealing Doug, David, Erik and Josh for Casper, Charlie (Furbush), Francisco, Trayvon and Chih-Hsien.  That doesn’t even take into account PTBNL.  That name doesn’t even have any vowels in it.  There’s a chance the player they acquire may be named Chance.  But, if I was Jack Z, I’d just stick with this PTBNL guy if he’s focusing on coolest names.

I know it’s tough to be a Mariners fan right now but Jack Z has done a good job, he’s just run into a city full of bad luck.  I’m sure he wouldn’t use that as an excuse but the guy knows what he’s doing.  By acquiring all of these outfielders, I think he’s starting to try to make his own luck.

Andrew

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