Tag Archives: Kevin Millwood

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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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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Are the M’s an 80 Win Team?

The Mariners are only 13 games, or 8% into their 2012 campaign. It is hard to make many conclusions yet, other than the obvious ones like Ackley is a budding star, and Olivo should be in another profession. Again, its just too soon to guess what the remaining 92% of this year will hold. But already we are starting to see the identity of this team, the good and the bad. In short, I like what I see. I’ll take it one step further and suggest, albeit prematurely, that this could well be a team that wins 80 games, just as I had hoped when I wrote about my expectations for Year 4 of this rebuilding process.

My optimism is rooted in 3 observations.

1-The top of the order has been solid. Figgins, Ackley, and Ichiro are all stinging the ball with consistency. Hitting the ball hard does not guarantee results, but it means the batter is not being fooled, he is using is lower half to generate power, and he’s getting the barrel on the ball. I’m seeing this out of all 3 guys, which is extremely encouraging.
2-The starting pitching is just fine. All 5 guys have had at least 1 great outing, and only twice has a starter been pulled before the 5th inning. I was especially worried about the back of the rotation, and my fears still remain, but I think our 3-5 guys will be alright, at least until help arrives in the summer…Paxton! Hultzen! The exception may be Millwood, who I could see getting torched on any given day.
3-No insurmountable weaknesses. If the M’s win 80 games, it can’t have a glaring weakness. Okay, so the offensive woes we’ve watched for the past years have not been totally solved. The M’s are still 14th in average and OBP in the AL, but they are 14th in MLB for runs, and that’s what counts. The offense is still the single biggest reason why this team won’t contend for the playoffs, but when Carp returns and the weather warms up, this is a middle of the league line-up. The rotation, defense, and bullpen are also not glaring weaknesses.

Most of us would be pleased with 80 wins, maybe even ecstatic, given the 67 and 61 win Mariner teams of the past 2 seasons. Others would say 80 wins is not a playoff team, therefore not relevant. These are mainly casual fans, but their perception matters a ton to the M’s, because these are the bandwagon fans that fill Safeco when the team is winning. Side note: M’s average attendance is 22,110 according to ESPN, which ranks 28 out of 30 teams. Oakland is ahead of us, averaging 24,630 but I’m assuming that counts the Japan games which Oakland was the home team. Anyways, the point is, 80 wins does not mean you are a good team, but it also does not mean you a bad team. For me, that would be progress, and more importantly, it would keep the plan on track to contend as soon as next year. It’s always next year isn’t it?!

Finally, we can turn on ROOT each night and watch a young, promising Mariner team. This team is not build on sand like the ’08 squad, nor are they world beaters. If you ask me (and admittingly I’m a homer), they are an 80 win team on the rise. So go Enjoy Felix tonight, seriously, tickets are dirt cheap. Just bought me a seat for $20, 12 rows up behind first base. You might see me when a lefty comes to bat, I’ll be the guy drinking the Mariner Kool-Aid!

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Review and Look Ahead

Last time we met, Dan was talking about how the Mariners pulled off a minor miracle in Texas.  Since then, nothing too exciting has happened.  The club did what we expected (maybe even hoped for them to do).  With that being said, I think we all have different feelings about the team right now.  I’m encouraged because the team won the games they were supposed to and that’s with the bats not being close to where they’ll finish the season (although, how many times have we said that in the last few years).  Dan is slightly happy with the team but can’t get over Miguel Olivo’s inept play.  They’re the team Matthew thought they’d be but he’s still annoyed about seeing his 3rd abysmal home opener in a row.  Joe?  He’s trying to hunt down Chuck Armstrong and make him write a letter that says if Seattle doesn’t have an NBA team within a year that he has to sell the Mariners immediately.*  So, with all of those different opinions in mind I’ll try to write a quick review of the Oakland series and a preview of the next one.

* I don’t actually know if that’s how any of them are feeling.  It is a fairly educated guess except for the part about Joe.  That’s what Joe wants to be doing, not what he is doing.

The Mariners took 2 of 3 from Oakland this weekend and won’t play them again until late June.  Some people think that’s a good thing.  It’s a good thing for entertainment reasons.  For winning purposes, this is a terrible thing.

On Friday night the M’s lost to Oakland 4-0.  I’ve heard the pre-game ceremonies were classy, as usual.  The video of the boy stealing 2nd base and finding his dad home from Afghanistan is touching and extremely well done by the organization.  Otherwise, it couldn’t have gone worse for the home team.  This is three years in a row that Seattle has played a terrible game in their home opener.  The stadium also had their debit/credit card system break down and could only accept cash for a large portion of the game.  These things happen but it was an unfortunate night for it to happen.  Otherwise, Felix looked pretty good.  His groundball rates still aren’t where they usually are but they progressed as the game went on so lets hope that trend continues.  I still think he’s perfectly fine.  The offense disappeared so there’s nothing to recap there.

On Saturday nights game, it was the Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi show.  Also, I guess it was the Michael Pineda show because without him the Mariners wouldn’t have those guys.  Maybe anytime Jesus or Hector do anything good the Mariners should flash Pineda’s picture on the big screen with the word “THANKS” written across it.  Or they could do that with the Yankee logo instead.  That’d be cool.  It could be done for all trades even.  I’d laugh, along with 3 other people in the stadium.  Anyway, Noesi pitched 8 shutout innings with 6 K’s.  When he came over, it seemed like he’d be a fastball/slider guy but it’s easy to see his 2nd best pitch is his change-up.  His fastball velocity is good and I think he’s going to be just fine after that rough, first outing in Texas.  Jesus hit his first home run as a Mariner and added a double just for kicks.  His home run was a shot to straight-away center showing off his power.  The guy can hit and he’s only going to show off more power as the year goes on.  He also looked good defensively behind the plate.

On Sunday, it was the Cliff Lee trade that paid off.  Justin Smoak homered.  Blake Beavan pitched pretty well.  John Jaso sat on the bench (he’s a product of this Lee trade if you pay close attention.  Josh Lueke for John Jaso!).  Those were the storylines but Brendan Ryan homered and Ichiro doubled home the winning run.  It’s good to see those guys do things.

So all in all, it was a successful weekend.  These are the series that the Mariners have to win and they did.  Sure, a sweep would be nice but we can’t really complain about a series win.

Some actual thoughts instead of a recap and a preview after the jump.

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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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2012 AL West Team & Winter Wrap-Up

Unlike NCAA sports, pro sports don’t come out with pre-season 1st and 2nd teams, but if the AL West had its pre-season team, this is how I think it would shake out. My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as potential this upcoming year, and often I use the sabermetric WAR to break ties. Some of the picks are obvious (Pujols), and others are less obvious (DH), so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

A quick analysis shows that Texas is the class of the division, with more 1st team selections than the rest of the west combined. Anaheim has good 2nd tier depth, solid pitching, and balance. Texas and Anaheim each have 8 1st or 2nd team selections of the possible 10 positional categories, and of the 14 pitching spots, a whopping 11 are Rangers (6) and Angels (5). The M’s are a distant 3rd, but a ways ahead of the re-building A’s, who are loaded with average players but no star power whatsoever.

I wanted to take this chart one step further, and visually quantify the separation between teams based on these picks. To do so, I’ve simply awarded 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection. Here’s how it shakes out on a bar graph.

Lastly, here are team by team offseason wrap ups, after the jump… Continue reading

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It’s Almost Mariners Time!

This has been a weird offseason for Your Seattle Mariners, but it’s surprisingly almost over.  Pitchers and catchers report to Arizona in a few weeks, with the season just over two months away.  Actually, since the Mariners open the season in Japan, their season starts a couple of weeks early.  Yes, the season opener will be at like 3:00 in the morning on the other side of the International Date Line.  Plan your lives accordingly.

Anyway, if you haven’t been paying attention or haven’t stopped to think about what the team looks like, I’ll try to help you out with a little fake Q & A.  I’m making up the questions and I probably won’t have any answers, so don’t expect too much, but this will still be a pretty good time.

Who’s new this year?

Well, Jesus Montero’s the big one.  More on him in a minute.  Then there’s John Jaso, the mediocre young catcher acquired from Tampa Bay, who could actually be a pretty big upgrade.  Not a lot after that.  There are a bunch of relievers who may or may not make the team.  More importantly, the Japanese pipeline is back open, with Hisashi Iwakuma likely to join the rotation and Ichiro’s workout buddy Munenori Kawasaki vying for a backup infield spot.  Iwakuma could be pretty good.  Kawasaki is good with the glove but unlikely to hit, so that’s nothing new.  They just signed Kevin Millwood for rotation depth as well. Continue reading

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The Mariners Obvious Moves

Note- I started writing this over a week ago, but I don’t think anything has happened since then to change anything.  Consider it an indirect response to Joe’s earlier payroll post, although I didn’t originally intend it that way.

Coming into the offseason, everyone agreed that improving the Mariners to the point of playoff contention was a long shot.  Crazy things happen, and Jack Zduriencik has done crazy things before, but to improve the team that much with a very limited budget didn’t look like it would be in the cards.

What was apparent was moves that could be made.  Coming into the offseason, here’s what I would have laid out as the obvious moves I would look at if I were in Jack’s spot:

  • Find a DH with some power
  • Look hard for an upgrade at catcher
  • Find a middle infielder who could start at second and then shift to short when Dustin Ackley is ready or Jack Wilson gets injured
  • Find a right-handed bat who could platoon with Michael Saunders and ideally play some first base if needed
  • Find a starting pitcher who could be counted on to throw a lot of decent innings
  • Upgrade the bullpen Continue reading

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