Tag Archives: Rob Johnson

Catchers

Given a bit of time, everything develops its own mythology.  Baseball is one of the best examples of this.  There’s Babe Ruth calling his shot, and Jackie Robinson stealing home, and “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” and so much more. The mythology is always there, as deep as one wants to look, and it only makes the game richer and more fascinating.

Part of the mythology is the archetypes ingrained in the game. I’ve written before about the importance of shortstops, but that’s only one example. Centerfield might be the most legendary position on the diamond, and I think it’s solely because most seats face toward the centerfielder, and we look out there and see him running down everything near him, going over the fence and deep into gaps, all long strides and grace.  Because it’s most demanding position, it draws the most talented players, and so the mythology becomes self-perpetuating.  We have Mickey Mantle and Joe Dimaggio and Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr.  We have songs about it. Everyone wants to play centerfield.

Shortstop and center field are identified with grace, but that doesn’t fit for catchers.  Catchers are some combination of bulldog and point guard.  They’re a coach on the field, the dependable captain who hoists it all on his shoulders.  A catcher is someone for all others to follow.  He’s an ambassador to the umpire, a counselor to pitchers, and a slugger in the batter’s box.  He’s a font of wisdom, like Yogi Berra.  Often, he’s the best player on the field, like Johnny Bench, but he always get a little less credit than he deserves, because he spends his life squatting down instead of racing into the gaps. We close our eyes and we can see the perfect catcher.

There’s always debate over whether teams, to be successful, need players who fill these traditional roles. Teams try to play a bad glove shortstop for his big bat, or they put a left fielder in center, or a guy know one respects at catcher.  Sometimes it works.  Usually it doesn’t.  We have the images in our head for a reason, and it’s because they are successful.  Even if that’s not the case, we can say teams and players need to get over the mumbo-jumbo of it all, but that’s not going to happen.  The mythology has become reality, whether it deserves to be or not.

The Mariners have not had a catcher who came close to fitting the traditional catcher archetype since Dan Wilson.  Miguel Olivo had the toughness, but he was sufficiently undependable and untalented to prevent him from filling the role.  Kenji Johjima had a couple of great seasons with the bat, but language and culture issues kept him from ever being the leader everyone would like.

I never understood how Rob Johnson kept a job.  He couldn’t catch and he was a terrible hitter, but somehow he started a lot of games over a few seasons.  A lot of that was a lack of better options, but not completely.  A few years ago I went to Mariners Fanfest, and we sat down to listen to a Q & A session with a handful of players, Rob Johnson among them.  It became clear within minutes why he was the Mariners catcher.  He controlled the moment and was obviously well-liked by his teammates.  He had a sense of command and confidence that was exactly what we want from a catcher.  Johnson didn’t have enough skill to supplement his presence. Ultimately, production wins out, but that he held the job as long as he did says a ton about what teams want from their catchers.

In the first inning of his first game, Mike Zunino stood up for a pop fly and threw off his mask, and it was clear at that instant that he is a Catcher, the kind you dream about.  He didn’t even make the play.  The camera cut away from him almost as soon as his mask was off, but by some combination of his eyes and the sureness of his movements, his control of the game was obvious.  He looks like a catcher, tall and solid but still athletic-looking.  You see him move and think, oh, this is what the scouts see, this is why he was the third pick in the draft.  There is a stillness and confidence to his movements that makes obvious what Jesus Montero was missing.

This is not a guarantee that Zunino will be a success.  Remember Rob Johnson.  He will have to hit, and his first at-bat exhibited the questionable strike zone judgement about which so many have fretted.  He has plenty of time to work on that, though, and fans can rest easy knowing that he already has those intangibles the Mariners have lacked for years.  Maybe finally having a real catcher will be the first step to making the Mariners a real baseball team.

-Matthew

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Your 2011 Mariners- Catcher

I guess I’ll get this position over with so we can look at some slightly less depressing spots on the roster.

Catcher

On the Roster

Adam Moore- Not having paid much attention to the last couple of months of the season, I busted out Moore’s monthly splits.  I was under the vague impression that his bat was a little better after he returned to the Mariners.  I was wrong. He did show a little more power, with three homers from August on, but that’s the extent of anything promising.  His best stretch of the season was for about three games right before he got injured.  Lots of rookies struggle, especially if they’re catching, but it’s not looking good for Moore.  I’d be curious as to how his defense looked by the end of the year.  Any thoughts?

Rob Johnson- Just going to move on.

Contract is Up

Josh Bard- Technically, Bard is a free agent, but I’m sure the Mariners could resign him if they want to.  Bard was probably the best catcher on the roster, but that’s not saying a lot.  He’s a decent backup, which is all he should be.  Unfortunately, in 2010 he was frequently the best option to start that the Mariners had. Continue reading

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Moore Up, Johnson Down

The moment we’ve all been waiting for.  Adam Moore is rejoining the Mariners, which isn’t unexpected.  To make room for him on the roster, Rob Johnson is being sent to Tacoma!  I wasn’t really expecting that, although looking back at management’s comments and line-up moves, it’s not too surprising.  It’s not clear whether Moore will play for Tacoma tonight, but the move will happen before tomorrow’s M’s game.

Adam Moore, please hit the ball.  Or just catch the ball.  Either one would be great.  Do both and I’d say you’re instantly the most important position player on the team.  Believe big!

-Matthew

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Mariners Weekend Recap — 5/29-5/30

Some games feel bigger than the one W or L that they represent on the schedule. When the M’s win in dramatic fashion on a Saturday night in front of 40,000 at Safeco, it seems odd that that win means just as much as a 10 am weekday win against Kansas City, in front of 11,000 fans. Likewise, a loss like yesterday kind of feels like 10 losses, rather than just one. The fashion in which the Mariners blew a 7-2 lead in the 5th inning yesterday, although not surprising based on how this year has gone, left me feeling frustration that should be reserved for only the most painful, playoff losses; not a regular season game in May.

I should be talking about a Mariners team that is miraculously just 5 games out of first place today. The M’s should have won yesterday, and should have won Saturday. The streak of horrible weekend games should have come to a halt, but alas, the M’s lost on Saturday and Sunday, providing further proof that while good teams find ways to win games, Seattle finds ways to lose them. Thus, they are not a good team. I have so many thoughts, opinions and observations from this weekend series because I saw every inning, and both games had so many layers. Rather than recap both games in typical style, I think I will just bullet point the good and bad that stood out.

The Depressing Stuff:

  • Ian Snell pitched well through 3 innings, but then I jinxed him by noticing this, and his control went haywire. I’m sure Snell will be gone at the end of the season, if not before then, and with Jack Wilson on the shelf and probably never returning to his old form, it’s probably accurate to say we lost that trade with the Pirates. I would have done it myself, and the trade won’t set the organization back much, but Jeff Clement at least has some potential, whereas Snell and Wilson don’t appear to.
  • Felix pitched well enough to win on Saturday, 8+ innings of 1 run ball, but the M’s offense was MIA and Brandon League showed again an inability to keep the ball in the park when it matters most.
  • On Sunday, Jesus Colome and Kanekoa Texeira pitched the 5th and 6th innings, and despite yielding just 2 hits, neither pitcher had much control. Of the 40 pitches they threw, 25 were balls. 4 walks were issued, plus a catcher’s interference, and suddenly the Angels had scratched out 3 runs off 2 singles, and the score was 7-5 heading into the 7th. This felt like the turning point in the game.
  • Yesterday, David Aardsma entered the 9th with a 1 run lead. The odds of winning may have been 75%, but in reality, it felt like a 50/50 game at this point. Aardsma had Matsui struck out on a full count, but the ump called it a ball, which was a horrible call. Once Matsui walked, I felt things slipping away. Rivera proceeded to crush a ball that somehow stayed in the yard, but it felt like a foreshadow of things to come. A fluke infield hit followed, and the wheels were coming off. Kendrick then blasted a fastball (of course) the other way and the game was over. But back to why things never feel safe when David Aardsma enters the game…

    The fact is, Aardsma usually has decent control, but everyone knows he will throw a 93-96 mph fastball about 90% of the time. If that pitch is not located perfectly, it’s a meatball. There really isn’t any deception to Aardsma’s pitching. The hitters just have to sit dead red, make a nice swing, and hope the ball lands in a good spot. Effective closers need not have 3 great pitches, but if he chooses to throw 1 pitch 90% of the time, it had better be a great pitch. Aardsma’s fast ball is not a great pitch, especially if it is not properly located. Aardsma will continue to get hit well for this reason, and sometimes the ball stays in the park or he gets lucky with a ball hit right at someone, but a lot of time the outcome is what we witnessed yesterday. It’s just really frustrating, but really, who didn’t expect him to regress this year? His true colors are showing. Aardsma depends on location and luck, and often one or the other fails him. He seems like a really cool guy though, for what it’s worth.

  • Our 3rd base coach is awful. I talk to Andrew about this often, and yesterday’s send of Wilson was his worst of the year. Base coaches are like referees in that if no one is talking about him, he is probably doing a good job. We have talked about Mike Brumley way too much this year, thus, he is doing a bad job.
  • Saturday and Sunday has not been kind to the Mariners this year. Seattle is 3-13 in weekend games, including 6 straight Saturday losses, and currently the team has won just once in its past 13 weekend games. In their 13 losses, 6 have been walk-offs, and 9 have been the crushing loss type, whereby the M’s were either tied or leading in the 8th inning.
  • 9 times the M’s have given up a walk-off hit. Conversely, Seattle has just 1 walk-off hit this season.
  • The Mariners are 0-6 in extra inning games this year.
  • Only 3 teams in baseball have a worst record than the M’s.

    Do I enjoy digging up these stats? Actually, no. I don’t drink alcohol, but this team brings me closer each weekend!

    Positive notes, plus hero and goat after the jump Continue reading

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    Mariners Recap — 5/21/2010

    Mmm, 15 runs, it always goes down smooth. Beating up on San Diego brings to mind many Anchor Man quotes, but I’ll try and resist. First off, Sween Dog and Bard were fun to watch and cheer for last night. That is a scientific fact! Ok, I’ll stop with the Anchor Man fun. But really, who could have ever guessed those 2 vets could rack up 6 hits, 16 total bases, 3 home runs, and 9 RBI, in one game! Get used to seeing Bard behind the plate, because he has surpassed Hips and Moore’s combined performances in about 5 games.

    This game was littered with statistical oddities, which is typical for a game where the teams combine for 30 hits and 23 runs. Baseball is a funny sport. The M’s scored 12 runs in 8 games between April 30th, and May 8th, a 78 inning stretch. Last night they scored 13 runs in 4 innings. Of course, they weren’t facing Wade LeBlanc during any of those abysmal 78 innings. I don’t understand how LeBlanc is good but I guess it helps pitching in the NL. It is also fun to look at how batting averages can change from one game to the next, when 15 hits are collected. The first number is the player’s average prior to the game, the second number is the new current average-

    Sweeney- .226, .276
    Bradley- .221, .244
    Bard- .333, .400
    Wilson- .239, .255

    Here are a few more notes and hero/goat-

  • Milton Bradley had a great game. He worked the count, and his 3 hits were all stung. I could see him having a great rest of the year.
  • 347 pitches were thrown between both teams. I think that’s a lot.
  • I doubt Cliff Lee ever gets another win in a Mariners uniform when giving up 7 earned runs. But that’s what happened last night. Cliff didn’t have his best stuff, but even still, he didn’t walk a guy. His control is ridiculous.
  • The Padres didn’t draw a walk, and the Mariners scored 15 runs, but it was San Diego that had 3 more at-bats. Is this weird? I don’t know. I’m not sure why I’m typing this.

    Hero: Mike Sweeney and Josh Bard. Gotta go with co-heroes in this one. Those two were monsters last night.
    Goat: Jose Lopez. Lost in the fun and hugs from last night is the 0-5 night Lopey had. His defense has been great and with so many others struggling at the plate, Jose has flown under the radar. It’s tough to imagine Lopez gets anywhere near his 25 HR, 96 RBI from last year.

    Finally, if you didn’t read the live blog that Jeff Sullivan was doing over at LL, it is worth a read. I have pasted a few of my favorite lines. That dude is funny, and between the humor he recaps the game nicely too. Check that out after the jump! Continue reading

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    The Worst Case Scenario? Pretty Close…

    Following the ridiculous 6-5 loss to Baltimore on Thursday, I was listening to Brock and Salk on 710 ESPN, and Dave Cameron from USSM was on the show. Cameron said the pre-season likelihood that the M’s would have finished the first 34 games at 13-21, would have been about 7-10%. This number is not a scientific fact, but anyone who knows a thing about baseball can look at the roster Seattle assembled, paired with the weak division they play in, and conclude that a 13-21 start would have been tough to imagine. Is this the worst case scenario? Well, of course it’s not the absolute worst case. That would be a winless team with multiple injured starters, a manager soon to be fired, and a clubhouse that is fist fighting. But this is pretty close to the worst possible scenario I could have thought up back in March. Here are 5 reasons why the M’s are where they are. (And sorry, this gets a little lengthy)

    1) Bad luck (aka sucking in crunch time)
    Last year, the M’s made hay in 1-run games. Despite giving up more runs than they scored, the M’s won 85 games, which by most standards, was an anomaly. The odd that Seattle could have racked up 85 W’s last year was slim when the year began. It was a pleasure seeing my team hang on in close games and show grit time and time again. This year, the Gods have not been so kind in similar games. In fact, in 9 of Seattle’s 21 losses, the M’s either led or were tied going into the eighth inning. That is a staggering result. If the Mariners could have won even just 4 of those 9 games, we would be talking about a 17-17 team heading into the Tampa series. The worst part is that in most cases, one minor miscue has been the difference between a win and a loss. The Byrnes whiffed bunt. The Johnson passed balls. The poor execution of bases loaded in extra innings. Those are the type of missed opportunities that has defined this team through 35 games. If you care to look at just how those 9 gut wrenching games played out, take a look at the quick summaries Shannon Drayer put together-http://www.mynorthwest.com/category/mariners_blog_articles/20100513/Too-Many-Tough-Losses

    2) Slow start offense
    In addition to the close losses, the Mariners are not hitting. Figgins, Kotchman, Griffey, Lopez, Bradley, Moore, Johnson and Jack Wilson are all off to slow starts. Typically you assume a few regulars will start slow, but it’s hard to win when all but 2 starters are hitting around .200 or lower. The offense is without a doubt the biggest reason the M’s are sitting where they are.

    3) The Bullpen
    The Mariners have a solid bullpen. I’d bet as many as 4 of our relievers could be closers on some major league teams. But despite good overall stats, some untimely blow ups have resulted in numerous losses. Lowe, League and Aardsma have combined to give up 6 home runs. That’s not the astounding number though, as 6 home runs between 3 relievers in mid-May is not unreasonable. What is astounding is that all 6 of those home runs were either game tiers or game winners, and all came in the 8th or 9th innings. Ouch. Often times home runs are not all the pitchers fault, because even perfectly executed pitches can be hit 400 feet by major league hitters. A lot of the bullpen’s failures are just plain bad luck. That’s just baseball. The bullpen is not a major concern for this team.

    4) Off the field issues
    The Bradley fiasco and the Griffey nap have been the two biggest off the field incidents thus far. The Milton thing was almost to be expected, considering his past, while the Griffey thing has snowballed from a minor issue to headlines on ESPN. That whole thing is just weird. You could include injuries in this category I suppose, to Cliff Lee, Mark Lowe, and Jack Wilson.

    5) Inconsistency
    The problem with this team is similar to the problem with my golf game. If I’m driving and putting well, my irons and chipping are failing me. If my short game is on, my drives are erratic. For the Mariners, the offense, starting pitching, and defense was great on Thursday. The bullpen was not, and so despite playing well in 3 out of 4 facets of the game, that one poor area bit us hard. It seems like that’s how it has gone all year. We just can’t play well in all aspects, and even when we play well in 2 or 3 areas, the 1 that we suck at ends up costing us the game.

    Reason for hope after the jump! Continue reading

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    A Tale of Two Miserable Weekends…and some ridiculous stats!

    I didn’t think things could get more painful than watching the Mariners give up 3 late game homeruns on route to being swept last weekend in Chicago. All 3 games were 1 run losses, and I remember thinking the M’s should have legitimately taken 2 of 3 in that series. Despite the frustration, those losses were a product of a few hiccups, albeit in consecutive games, by our usually solid bullpen. There wasn’t too much analysis required, and while it sucked to have them happen in a row, that’s baseball. We moved on.

    This past weekend, however, had many more layers of dreadfulness. To condense this mess, I’ve bulleted 5 events that were pretty unbelievable (not in a good way), and another 5 RIDICULOUS facts that may require reading with a puke bucket by your side…

    1. Sweeney’s double play: When a walk, sac fly, base hit, or really anything past the infield would have won the game, Mike swung at the 1st pitch from Darren O’Day, a slider low and away, and ended the bases loaded threat in the bottom of the 10th on Friday. Although I must say, none of this surprised me.
    2. Byrnes whiffed bunt: This oddity captured the short Eric Byrnes era well. With the bases juiced just one inning after Sweeney failed in the same situation, Wak called on Byrnes to just make contact on a bunt attempt. I liked the call because asking Byrnes to not strike out or pop it up to an infielder is a tall task. Still, he failed…and then struck out for good measure.
    3. Bradley’s blown pop up: Many say Milton just gave up on this play, while some argue the sun got in his eyes. Regardless, this ball needed to be caught, because it allowed 2 runs to score with 2 outs after Felix had fought back from bases loaded and none out.
    4. Aardsma’s blown save: For the 2nd consecutive game following 8 dazzling innings by “Can’t buy a break Fister,” Aardsma surrendered a lead-off walk, then after a stolen base and a base hit, the game was tied, the save was blown, and Fister was given another no decision. I’m scared every time Aardsma enters the game and starts firing fastballs. This past week reminded me why I have this fear, despite his league leading 8 saves.
    5. 2 passed balls in 1 inning by Rob Johnson: Perhaps the previous events are explainable, but this one is not. Andrew touched on “Hips” and his lack of catching in his recap from yesterday’s game, so I won’t ramble. This tweet from Dave Cameron pretty well sums it up-

      “Rob Johnson had as many passed balls in 1 inning yesterday as every non-Mariner AL team has all season.”

    What is especially disappointing about all this is that if ANY one of these scenarios hadn’t happened, the M’s would likely have won the game. But it all happened, and as the wheels came off, it was like watching a bad horror film that started off decent, turned frustratingly unrealistic, and ended up humorous. The snowball of unfortunate events that overcame this team could not be stopped, and this team was coming up with new ways to blow games.

    And now, grab your bucket… Continue reading

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    Mariners Recap – 5/2

    It was an interesting day in Mariner land.  Some roster moves along with a game make for a lot to cover in shorter post.  I’m going to tell the story of this game largely through my goat and hero:

    Hero:  Doug Fister.  Wow, this guy is incredible right now.  He’s been legitimately better than Felix so far this season.  Think about that.  I know this high level of pitching probably won’t last all season but he’s shown that he’s a quality starter and has rightfully earned his spot in the rotation once Bedard is back.  The most amazing thing is he’s doing this with basically one pitch, his fastball.  Fister is throwing with Maddux and Moyer like control right now and is reaping the benefits.  Today he threw 8 shutout innings and didn’t give up a hit until the 6th inning.  He was helped with a beautiful catch by Ichiro that brought a home run back but that’s the benefit of pitching for this team.  For those keeping track, Fister has took no-hitters into the 6th and 7th inning this year.  I was at both games, so naturally I’m going to take the credit.  I keep waiting for Fister to flounder but it hasn’t happened yet and he’s not showing many warning signs that it will happen.  Unfortunately, he didn’t get the win today but this rotation looks crazy good.  Think about this:  Lee-Felix-Fister-Bedard.  I don’t know if it’ll be in that order but, admit it, you smiled when you read that.  After watching this game we all need to smile a little bit.  That leads me to…..

    Goat:  Rob Johnson.  I don’t get very vocal during Mariner games.  I mean, I’ll cheer and clap just as much as anyone else but I don’t out many yells, and I hardly ever yell at our own players.  There will always be my sarcastic comments like, “Bases loaded, no out, Eric Byrnes up.  Time to take a nap.”  but these comments don’t usually make it out from under my own breath.  Today was different because Rob Johnson can’t catch a frickin’ ball.  In the top of the 11th, with the game tied and a guy on 1st, Elvis Andrus squared to bunt.  Mark Lowe threw a fastball a little off the plate, but not far from where Johnson set up.  Hips (I’d call him Robo Rob but a robot could catch a baseball better than he could, a dead robot could catch a ball better than he could, my sister could catch a ball better than he could) moved his glove a little bit and then the ball simply bounced off his glove and headed for the backstop.  The runner advances to second.  I yell, “Rob, you suck!” probably scaring the people I’m sitting with.  This pitch didn’t have a lot of movement.  It was a fastball just off the outside corner.  I could write about how much this play changed the game but instead I’ll get on to the next passed ball.  With a run in already and a guy on third Rob made absolutely no effort to stop a slider that broke off the outside corner.  This one was tougher to stop than the prior passed ball but, there’s a guy on third for crying out loud.  Move your feet and block a ball, don’t stab at it.  I let out another, “You suck Rob!” and buried my head in my hands.  Rob Johnson is not a good catcher.  People will argue that he called a good game today but I tend to disagree.  I guarantee you Rob didn’t put much more thinking into the game than, “Hey, people still aren’t hitting Fister’s fastball because he locates better than any pitcher I’ve ever caught.  I’ll call it over 80% of the time because that’s what’s working.”  Stop giving credit to our catchers for calling great games and start giving credit to our pitchers for hitting their spots just about every single time.  Hips did drive a ball to the centerfield warning track which is the farthest he’s ever hit a ball.  Ever.  Otherwise, he was useless at the plate again.  I can’t stand Rob Johnson.

    As for the rest of the game, well, it was more of the same.  We didn’t hit very well, caught some bad breaks, and ended up losing a close one.    We did hit some balls hard but most of the time they were right at people or the cold air kept them in the ballpark.  Lopez hit a hard, line drive to the first baseman which got Figgy doubled off second.  Guti hit one to the wall in right that didn’t carry as far as I thought it would.  Rob hit one to the centerfield warning track that would be a home run in most ballparks.  Kotchman hit the ball hard several times but they were all right at someone.  This is more than we can say in the past few games.  Unfortunately, the team doesn’t hit  many balls hard and when they do it’s right at someone right now.  The Rangers’ pitchers were good this series.  Credit where credits due I guess.  The bullpen was a little shaky but not enough to worry about.  Lowe was a victim of Rob Johnson and a perfect bunt.  Aardsma was a victim of a ground ball placed in the right spot.  It happens, and it seems like it happens a lot to this team. 

    Notes on the roster moves after the jump.  Continue reading

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