Tag Archives: Michael Saunders

Mariners Begin Season, Let’s Review!

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

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

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

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

Ted S. Warren

Ted S. Warren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some thoughts on individual players after the jump.   Continue reading

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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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Cautiously Optimistic?

Last year the Mariners started 2-0.  Then they lost 7 games in a row.  In 2010, the Mariners won their first game and then lost 6 of their next 7.  In 2008, Seattle won their first game and then lost 5 of their next 6.  I’m going to stop there.  The point is the Mariners have started every season since 2007 by jumping out to grab at least a share of the division lead and then promptly losing it.

Now, keep that in mind while you read the rest of this post so I don’t look like a fool once the Mariners go get swept by Texas.

The Seattle Mariners have scored 15 runs in the last 2 games.  Yes, they won and that’s the most important thing but take a second to reflect on all of the times in the last 2 0r 3 years that this team has been on the verge of unwatchable because of the inept offense and that will make you appreciate these last 2 games even more.  Everyone got a hit.  Chone Figgins had 6 hits, and 2 of them were for extra bases.  Michael Saunders hit a double and a home run.  The bottom of the order was good.  The top of the order was great.  The middle was decent but it didn’t have to be anymore than that.  This won’t continue but these 2 games showed us what the offense could be.  Singles galore with a few extra base hits thrown in.  If Montero and Smoak show off some of their upside this offense could be (dare I say it) good.  Not great, or anywhere close to it, but good.

I’m going to go player-by-player in the lineup, tell you what I see and then jump to the bullet points.

Chone Figgins looked like a completely different hitter.  He hasn’t swung with that much authority since his days with the Angels.  Yes, the bunts were nice and well done but that’s not what had me excited.  At times in the last 2 years I honestly couldn’t picture a hard hit ball coming off of Figgins bat.  Chone hit 5 line drives in 2 games.  Not soft liners either.  He tucks his shoulder in, loads up and swings hard at hittable pitches.  He was measly swinging through pitches right down the middle last year but the last 2 days there was no sign of that guy.  I’m not saying this is a turning point or even close to it.  It could just be apparition in the Figgins awful span as a Mariner.  His last gasp of trying not to get cut.  But, confidence is an impossible thing to gauge and this psychological move to lead-off (because surely you wouldn’t  move him there for any other reason) may actually work.

I could write a whole post on Dustin Ackley’s swing alone.  It’s a thing of beauty and sooner or later, all left-handed hitters will begin to take his approach to hitting.  Instead, I’ll just leave it at this.  Dustin Ackley is really good, and will probably be great before too long.

Ichiro is Ichiro.  I was never too worried about him and I’m still not overly concerned.  His line drive rate last year was a bit alarming and it seemed like he hardly ever hit the ball hard.  But, for all the people who say that he’s selfish, Ichiro is one of the hardest workers in the majors and he’s not going to be held down like he was last year.  It doesn’t matter what Jon Heyman, talk radio, and fans who don’t pay attention to actual baseball say, Ichiro is good and has been so valuable to this franchise.  I don’t see that changing this year.

Justin Smoak is having a little trouble with the inside fastball.  I’m fine with this.  I know it sounds weird to say that it’s okay that the teams cleanup hitter is getting jammed by 90 mph fastballs because he’s behind them but stay with me.  Smoak would get in trouble last year because he would pull off of pitches and be way out ahead.  He wouldn’t make a commitment to hitting to left field and wouldn’t stay behind the ball.  We all learn in little league that you need to hit the ball where it’s pitched and that’s what Justin Smoak is doing, or trying to do now.  He’ll get around on the inside fastball soon, but I’m happy to see him hitting line drives to the left side of the field (which he’s done if you go back and look).

Jesus Montero is hitting the ball fairly hard but it seems like he may be out in front of the ball a little bit.  I think he grounded out to the shortstop 4 times in the last 2 games which happens while trying to pull an outside pitch.  Could he be a little anxious?  I think it’s likely.  His power is there, you can see it, but he just needs a few games to calm down and remember he’s going to be the next Edgar because he drives the ball to right center.

Kyle Seager is good too.  He’s like Dustin Ackley in that he’s drilling line drives everywhere.  He may not have the power Ackley has but he’s going to hit the ball and hit line drives.

Miguel Olivo is still Miguel Olivo but I’m okay with that.  He’s valuable in his own right  just not as valuable as some catchers.  I like the guy as frustrating as he can be at times.

Michael Saunders is… Wait, that was Michael Saunders?  He can’t hit home runs off of lefties.  Tonight Saunders worked the count against good ol’ Jerry Blevins and then drilled a home run deep to right field.  His swing is a little shorter and a little more compact but the key really is that he’s more aggressive when he’s in the right count.  His double to center last night was a beauty and just another example of him taking advantage of a hittable pitch.  Him being aggressive with hittable pitches is the biggest change I saw but I’m no scout.

Brendan Ryan had to use the uncomfortable hotel pillow last night and hurt his neck but before that he was tucking his front shoulder in and drilling the ball to left field.  He was also swinging with authority and just looked good.  If he can hit .280 or close to it and play 120-135 games he’s going to be a huge asset.

Munenori Kawasaki is kind of cool.  Jeff Sullivan said he could be a bad version of Ichiro which is just fine.  That’s valuable for a middle infielder.  Plus, did you see how slick he is with the glove?  He looks good and I think the M’s will try to find him more at-bats as the season goes on.A few bullet holes after the jump.  Continue reading

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It’s Game Time!

Almost.  It’s almost game time.  On the weirdest opening morning ever, Andrew and I are hanging out, watching the underrated classic Orange County, with The Sandlot on deck.  I hope the Mariners never have another 3 AM opening game, but it’s kind of like the Alamo Bowl was: not particularly pleasant, but pretty fun and well worth the memory.

So, what to expect from these Mariners?  The playoffs aren’t impossible, but they’re pretty unlikely.  It would take almost everyone developing like you would dream, Ichiro and other veterans having huge comeback years, and probably a lot of luck on top of it.  Stranger things have happened, but I’m not betting on it.  Call 81 wins the more reasonable goal.  Even that might be wishful thinking, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

This will really be a season about watching for signs of hope for the future.  Ideally this year would provide a couple of guys who can be counted on as future franchise cornerstones, a veteran or two taking a step forward, and the emergence of new prospects to replace those who are now or will shortly be in the big leagues.

More specifically, here’s a few things I’d love to see:

  • Justin Smoak hitting the ball (and staying healthy).  The future Mariners offense looks much better now than it did a year ago, but it still has questions.  Ackley and Montero are reasonably sure things given their inexperience, but few others fit that description.  If Smoak can consistently flash his talent, he becomes a third middle of the order guy and makes the offense much easier to build.
  • Ichiro bouncing back.  I love Ichiro.  I hope he goes back to his pre-2011 level and gets a contract extension and reaches 3,000 hits in Seattle.  Don’t know if it’ll happen, but I’m hoping.
  • One of the outfielders emerging from the pile.  The most likely bet here is that Mike Carp solidifies himself as a viable outfielder who can hit, but I’m personally hoping Michael Saunders can do something.  Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Franklin Gutierrez: any of you can take this opportunity to do something.
  • I’d really love for Chone Figgins to not be on the team in August.  That would mean they’ve either bit the bullet and released him, or he’s played well enough to be traded.  I’m good with either.  Sorry, Chone, but I’m just tired of watching you.
  • It’ll be great when/if the trifecta of Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker make their debuts, but I’ll be watching before that to see if Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan or Erasmo Ramirez can make an impression.  Pitchers flame out and get hurt, so banking on three prospects is always risky.  The Mariners need to develop some depth.
  • It’s been a long time since we’ve had one of those bullpens of death like the 2001 team or the Padres always seem to have.  I don’t expect this year’s team to change that, but I would love to see a few young relievers emerge to move them in that direction.

So that’s mostly it.  A few of those things happen, the M’s score a few more runs, and we get some good memories, and I’ll be fairly satisfied with this year.  Not saying I wouldn’t love a surprise run for that 2nd wild card spot, but if I’m trying to be realistic, there are worse things than a young team with lots to prove.  Like a team of Miguel Batista, Carlos Silva and Jose Vidro.  That is not a fun team.  This can be so much better than that.

Go Mariners! Believe Big!

-Matthew

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A Couple Of Thoughts On The M’s

As I write this, the Seattle Mariners are on a plane headed to Japan.  A week from now, they’ll have two regular season games under their belt and will be headed back to the states for another week of wonderful spring training baseball (sarcasm).  I’ll try to catch us up on some Mariner news.  If you have anymore questions about the M’s put them in the comments and we’ll address them.

  • As I said, the Mariners are on their way to Japan at the moment which means that they had to cut their roster to 30 for the trip.  Kevin Millwood (who we’ll discuss later) is not on the trip but will be in the starting rotation to start the year.  Him and Japan don’t get along.  This all gets a bit confusing as far as the rosters go for this trip, so stay with me.  I think I understand them.  30 players are on the trip and they’re all allowed to play in the exhibition games against the Japanese teams.  I’d have to take a look at the Japanese teams rosters but it’s hard not to imagine that the Mariners carrying Casper Wells AND Carlos Peguero for these games won’t give them an insurmountable advantage over the Tigers and Giants of Japan.  Unless they are actually Japanese tigers and giants.  Anyway, back on track.  After the exhibition games the Mariners then have to cut down to 28 players for their games against the Oakland A’s of Japan.  That has to be the day Guillermo Quiroz is dreading.  Of those 28 players, only 25 of them will be able to play in the actual games against Oakland.  Kevin Millwood, and any other players they left at home who they expect to open the season with the big-league team (there probably aren’t any), must count against the 28 players but not against the 25.  So, the Mariners may have a different 25 players available in the season opener than their first game stateside.  It’s a bit confusing, really and probably not worth your time to understand.
  • Anyway, here’s the 30 guys going to Japan by position:  Starting Pitchers – Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez (although he may be used in the bullpen for the M’s) Relief Pitchers – Hisashi Iwakuma, George Sherrill, Tom Wilhelmsen, Shawn Kelley, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, Chance Ruffin, Steve Delabar, Charlie Furbush Catchers – Jesus Montero!, Miguel Olivo, John Jaso, Guillermo QuirozInfielders – Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley!, Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Kyle Seager, Munenori Kawasaki, Alex Liddi  Outfielders – Mike Carp, Michael Saunders, Ichiro Suzuki, Casper Wells, Carlos Peguero.
  • So, you have those 30 plus Kevin Millwood to choose from for your final 25.  We know the starting rotation (Felix, Vargas, Noesi, Beavan, and Millwood), so I would imagine Erasmo Ramirez starts in Tacoma.  I think Furbush will also start in Tacoma.  Then, the M’s will chose between Luetge, Delabar and Ruffin for the last 2 bullpen spots.  I think Ruffin starts in Tacoma.  That puts the team at 12 pitchers and 28 players.  Quiroz and Alex Liddi will almost surely start in Tacoma.  So, I’d say the last roster spot comes down to Peguero and Wells.  I really hope that the front office picks Wells and I think they probably will.  There’s your 25 man roster.
  • I mentioned the starting rotation above and don’t really have any objections with those 5.  Blake Beavan is a little boring and Iwakuma is somewhat intriguing but I was never high on Doug Fister either and he proved me wrong plenty of times.  Beavan is in the same mold and could do the same.  Marc at USSM had a good article on the argument today.  Really we don’t know if any of these guys, aside from Felix, will be here the whole year.  Vargas has always been a subject of trade talk and the others could just be passed by better, younger pitchers.  For now though, I think these five will do.
  • Last time Matthew posted on the M’s, Michael Saunders was a big topic of conversation.  Since he has hardly done anything in the games (blame Matthew).  He finished the spring with a lower batting average than he had last spring.  I’m not saying he didn’t improve because I think he did, I’m just not a belie
    Bad Guy of the Day

    Bad Guy of the Day

    ver yet.  Here’s to hoping he proves us wrong.

  • Spring training stats are meaningless, so stop looking at them.
  • Today, Jon Heyman who reports for CBS Sports had an article on Ichiro.  The main idea was that Ichiro should not be back on the Mariners next year because he holds too much power over the organization.  To put it plainly, I think it was a ridiculous piece.  Yes, there needs to be a discussion about what the M’s should do with Ichiro and maybe they should let him go.  They definitely need to agree to a smaller contract after this year but that’s because of his age and performance last year.  Heyman mentioned his on-field performance but chose to focus on issues that came up in the 2008 season.  Heyman had a ‘source’ (Carlos Silva, anyone?) who said Ichiro caused problems in the clubhouse because of his egos.  All of these things were mostly taken care of in the 2009 season and have been non-issues since.  By the way, the person who called Ichiro out during the 2008 season was Carlos Silva, who said Ichiro was selfish.  Ichiro hit .310 that year and had 214 hits.  Carlos Silva was 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA that year.  Heyman finishes the article by saying Ichiro refused an interview before his spring training game and still treats himself like a superstar even though he isn’t playing like one.  He has never granted interviews before the game.  There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact I’d say that means he’s focusing on the actual baseball being played, which is something Heyman needs to do.
  • All of that to say, be cynical with what you read in sports especially when it comes to the national media.  Heck, be cynical when it comes to what you read here, if you think I’m on Ichiro’s side too much I understand.  There’s enough good Mariner blogs that don’t form opinions of players without actual stats supporting them.  Jeff Sullivan and Matthew at Lookout Landing are the best at this, and the best at trying to understand things from all the points of view.  Try to do that as well, it’ll make you a better fan.
  • The last bullet holes I have are just informative things around the blog (I doubt anyone has made it this far in the reading anyway!).  If anyone’s interested in forming a fantasy baseball league, I would gladly be the commissioner.  I don’t know if any of the other Good Guy writers will join but if you want to leave a comment or email me at andrew.long09@northwestu.edu.  Also, we will be watching the season opening game next Wednesday live at 3 AM.  If any of you are interested in joining us, shoot me an email and we’ll try to have a good time watching some very early morning baseball.

Thanks for reading!

Andrew

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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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Mariners-2 Must Make Moves

To the surprise of everyone, here in early June, the AL west is wide open and the M’s could very well contend into the summer. Let that sink in for a moment. What this means is as long as the division is within reach, the team can’t afford to roll out all their youth at the cost of losing, and in case you had not noticed, the Mariners are not getting production out of left field. I suppose that statement has been true for the last 30 years, but now more so than ever, LF has been a joke. Ken Rosenthal sums it up well in a tweet I saw today- “Least productive OFs in majors by OPS. Mariners-30th, Tigers-29th, Angels-28th.”

Cutting ties with Milton was the right move, and initially I liked the platoon idea of Peguero and Mike Wilson. Well, despite a monster home run and a game winning hit (if Hunter’s sun drop counts as a game winner), Peguero really has been bad. He is batting .169, and striking out nearly 40% of the time. Also, his defense is sub-par, and that’s being generous. It isn’t fair to make too many conclusions on Mike Wilson, because he only has 25 at bats, but he has just 4 hits. I want to think these guys will get it going and they have only been major leaguers for 1 month, but here’s the bottom line: Carlos Peguero is not ready for the big leagues, and Mike Wilson has been a minor leaguer for 10 years, and there’s probably a reason for that.

The M’s want to know what they have in their young outfielders, particularly Saunders, Peguero, Wilson, Carp, and Halman, especially heading into an off season where Jack will have money to spend. I think the M’s now realize that 3 of those guys, Peguero, Saunders, Wilson are not going to be their starting LF in 2012. So, you keep shuffling the cards, bring up Carp, and maybe later give Halman a shot. If those guys are also hitting .160 in a month, and the team is still contending, then you make a trade when the market opens up. Is this too simple in my head?

There have been compelling arguments made around the Mariners blogosphere, regarding this LF dilemma. Should the M’s call up Ackley, and stick him in the outfield, where he played in college? What about Kennedy, can he play LF? How about trade options, like Chris Denorfia or Carlos Beltran? I suppose anything is possible, but my hope is that Mike Carp is roaming around in the outfield this weekend, or in the very near future. Carp is hitting .330 in Tacoma, with 15 HR and 45 RBI in just 50 games. And contrary to what Dave Cameron says, “Mike Carp is a 1B/DH, and if Wedge won’t use Cust or Wilson out there, he’s certainly not going to use Carp” Carp has actually played 35 of 50 games in the outfield this year, and been the DH in the other 15! So to say he is just a 1B/DH is not true, and actually, his defense has looked decent according to the people who know this stuff.

Oh, and Carp is just 4 months older than Smoak, so it’s not as though he can’t still turn into something. If he does, that JJ Putz trade looks better and better (Guti, Vargas, Carp). In this scenario, I still like Mike Wilson starting against southpaws, and for now the team needs Saunders to back up Guti, pinch run, and be a defensive sub. Ultimately, Saunders needs to play everyday in the minors to fix that swing, and I suspect this will happen if and when Halman is ready for a call-up.

The other must make move? Giminez down, Bard up. I wish I knew what the M’s see in Giminez, to justify him backing up Olivo instead of a proven veteran like Josh Bard. Giminez seems like a cool guy, but he is a career .165 hitter. Bard is 33, a career .260 hitter, with 40 HR. He has some pop, and normally I could care less who the backup catcher is, but when you have 2 options, and one clearly makes more sense, I can’t help but be annoyed that the team chooses the other.

Soon enough, Dustin Ackley will be here too, which presents another tough decision, and one that could spell the end for Jack Wilson or Luis Rodriguez. But for now, Peguero down, Carp up; Giminez down, Bard up.

-Dan

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