Tag Archives: Robinson Cano

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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Opening Day! Mariners! Get Excited!

Opening Day is here.  I was going to say it’s finally here, but it feels like it snuck up on me this year. Usually spring training turns into a slog in late March, but for whatever reason I never felt that this year.  Anyway, Opening Day, the best sports day of the year, is here.

The Mariners and King Felix face the Angels tonight.  Jered Weaver’s on the mound for the dumb Angels.  If you’re in Anaheim and can find tickets near third base, Josh Hamilton will keep you cool with his many swings and misses.  Albert Pujols might even come sit with you after he reinjures his foot.  Mike Trout will do stuff with his monstrous neck. The Angels are no Oakland Athletics, but they’re still dumb.

It feels like more casual Mariner fans really want to root for the team, but they just can’t quite bring themselves to do it.  I don’t blame them, given the ineptitude the team has shown over the last decade plus. Still, if we all can find it in our hearts to let go of the dismal memories, we just might find a little magic this year. Henceforth, nothing but positive thoughts!  The Mariners could be good!  Just start with that.  You don’t have to plan on the playoffs yet.  There’s always next year for crazy talk like that.  Just look for some little things.  This might be the year a young player finally does something right.  Maybe Felix won’t lose any 1-0 games.  Just start small and enjoy what you find, and soon enough, we will all believe big together. Go Mariners.

If that’s not working for you, here are a few real reasons to be excited for this season:

Robinson Cano is really good.  He’s the closest thing we’ve had to Edgar since we had Edgar, plus he plays a mean second base.  The only position player close to him in talent Seattle has had recently is Ichiro, and as much as I love Ichiro, Cano’s power is a better fit for this young group than Ichiro’s speed and contact could ever be.  Don’t be surprised if he makes a run at the MVP, but even on an average year, he’s the best second baseman in baseball and one of its best hitters.

The (healthy) rotation is tremendously talented. Once Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker return to the field, this rotation will have as much potential as nearly any in the league. The problem is, outside of Felix and Kuma, it may take a season or two for guys to begin to reach that potential.  I expect many bright flashes from Walker, Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez (or whoever fills that last spot), but we could really be in for special things in 2015. This rotation has four guys with legitimate ace-level stuff, and a slew of kids waiting to fill in behind them. Plus, the 2013 rotation set the bar low, and even an inconsistent season for the kids could bring significant improvement.

Brad Miller is starting to look like a folk hero who will become an all-star.  Miller was not a first round pick, but since he was drafted, he’s done nothing but hit and improve at shortstop. Where many thought he’d have to move off the position, he’s now a solid defender. And he still hits. How good he’ll be remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised if he holds down short for the next decade with a few all-star games thrown in.  Add in his “crazy legs” running and team captain attitude, and he should be a fan favorite soon.

This is the year some young guys should break out. Ackley looks ready to shine. People who know seem excited about Smoak. Saunders had jumped a level before his injury last year. That’s not even counting the really young guys. What if Mike Zunino hits even decently? He’ll be the best Mariners catcher in 20 years, that’s what! There’s big upside with most of the roster. They won’t all reach it, but some should. And if they don’t, at least for the Ackley, Smoak, Saunders group, it’ll be time to move on. That means seeing a new crop of young guys come up. Who wants to see Jabari Blash get a chance to knock some dingers? Me, me! I do!

Lloyd McClendon’s a man. He’s funny, interesting and no-nonsense, without seeming over the top. Eric Wedge acted no-nonsense, but I think there was plenty of nonsense going on there. The season will show whether the switch will make any difference, but it’s certainly improved the manager interviews (and pictures. No more Wedge eyes!).

It feels like there’s one more big move coming. The Mariners are still sitting on salary and big trade chips. Nick Franklin is an excellent trade piece, and there’s plenty of young talent in the majors and minors.  Maybe they move some guys to finally get an outfielder or another piece.  Maybe they make a huge move at the trading deadline or next offseason for David Price or Cliff Lee or Giancarlo Stanton. There’s never any guarantee with trades, but the Mariners will be able to make offers very few teams can top for nearly anyone who hits the market.

 

Hopefully, some of those things get you pumped up.  If not, just stop worrying about the M’s and go to Safeco, or your local minor league or high school stadium, and watch some baseball.  There’s nothing better than sitting on a nice day watching some ball.  Get a hot dog or some peanuts or sunflower seeds. Play catch with your nephew.  Have a home run derby.  If the M’s season goes bad, as it usually does, find your baseball enjoyment elsewhere. Baseball’s here, and apparently so is spring. And hope springs eternal, as they say.  So don’t let the man get you down. Believe big.

Go Mariners!

-Matthew

 

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2014 AL West Team

To be quite honest, creating a “Preseason All AL West Team” is a futile exercise.  If you are looking for an MLB season preview, full of sound analysis and predictions, this isn’t it.  But I’m a visual learner, and there is some value in seeing where the power is in the division, position by position.  Of course this isn’t an exact science, no predictions are, and only 2 players are selected per position, so you have a guy like Kyle Seager, the M’s second best position player, not making this list thanks to Beltre and Donaldson.   So ya, take this for what it is.  A quick snapshot of the division headed into 2014.  Although I should point out, by forecasting who has the most 1st and 2nd teamers, I correctly guessed the order of finish in the division last year!

My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as projections for the upcoming season, and anticipated playing time. Some of the picks are obvious and others are less obvious, so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

2014 AL West Team

Taking the visualization one step further, here’s a super scientific bar graph intended to show the separation between teams, by awarding 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection.

2014 AL West Graph

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by | March 15, 2014 · 9:05 pm

The Mariners Rebuilding is Getting Easier (Maybe)

The Mariners have spent more money this offseason than at any time in their history, and it’s not even close.  Robinson Cano’s $240 million is more money than the team had spent in the last 8 offseasons combined.  It doesn’t appear the team is done with the spending, either. There are rumblings they will heavily pursue Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, who will command between $100-150 million.

The competition will be thick for Tanaka, but there are other options, should the Mariners decide to pursue them.  Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana form a solid trio of free agent starters who should require less than half the money Tanaka will likely receive.  On offense, Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales are still on the market, and there are a number of possible trade targets. I expect the Mariners to add another impact player, as well as some filler for the bullpen, before spring training begins next month.

The Mariners sudden spending has received some skeptical and even negative reviews.  Some of that is justified.  Cano’s contract will likely be a bit of a burden toward the end of the deal, and the team once again has a bit of a logjam at the 1B/DH slots.

I think more of the consternation comes from the idea that the Mariners don’t know what they’re doing, however.  They’ve spent so long building with youth, many see the big free agent moves as desperation, an abandonment of a plan that wasn’t working.  I don’t know if the Mariners have any clue what they’re doing, but I don’t think the sudden spending is a sign of abandoning the youth movement.  I actually think it’s the next step in making the youth successful.

If Mariner fans have learned anything over the last five to ten season, it’s that young players frequently fail. Outside of Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager, there haven’t been many Mariner prospects who have come to Seattle and performed as hoped.  Some players have become decent contributors after a few seasons, but that only illustrates the other problem of a rebuild: prospects usually take a while to become players with which a team can win.

Those dual restraints, young players’ elongated timetables and frequent failure, are why so many teams rebuilding solely with youth never improve much.  There are just too many holes to fill, and if a player doesn’t improve into a solid starter, the team has wasted two or three seasons in the waiting.

What the Mariners hopefully did with the Cano signing and potentially another long-term deal or two, is remove some uncertainty. They now employ one of the best players in baseball at a position that was previously something of a question mark.  Add in the dependable Seager, and that’s two of the tougher positions to fill now ably manned.  If Brad Miller and Mike Zunino can solidify shortstop and catcher, respectively, the line-up is starting to look good for the future.  Maybe Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak and/or Dustin Ackley move from mediocre to league-average or better.  Suddenly the team only has a a couple of positions that are question marks. Instead of relying on seven unestablished players, they’re only relying on two, which is much easier to focus on and fix.  And while they’re being fixed, the team is still getting production from the other spots.

There’s no guarantee any or all of those players will work out, but the point is that established performers are hugely important for rebuilding teams.  It’s the difference between buying furniture for a whole house versus just one room.  Not only is the cost so much higher for the whole house, it’s also overwhelming and harder to decide what to focus on. Some rooms (or positions) will not receive the same attention or resources.  Narrowing the scope to one room (or position) is much easier to deal with.

Establishing solid starters has one other benefit.  Eventually, those solid starters will need to be upgraded, or maybe replaced as they hit free agency.  When that time hits, the team can now focus their farm system on the trade market.  It’s hard to make trades when all of the prospects are needed to fill holes.  When there’s only one hole, it can either be filled with a prospect, or if that’s not possible, prospects can be moved in trade.  Nick Franklin a good current example of these benefits.  With Cano taking his starting spot, Franklin is now a great trade piece, or he could possibly be moved to the outfield to fill a hole there.  Prospects have no inherent value. They only exist to make the big league team better, whether by their own performance or by being used in a trade for someone else.  There’s no reason the Mariner farm system should get worse as the team gets better, unless there’s a change in the scouting department.  A strong farm system is the best way keep a competitive team good. It keeps payroll down and lets the team move on from aging starters before they begin to decline with a big salary.

Even as the Mariners improve, their prospects will still fail at fairly high rates. That’s just the way it works.  What free agent signings can do is relieve the sting of those failures. The team can be more patient with prospects, who won’t feel the pressure to be immediately successful and carry the team.  There’s no guarantee the Mariners will be successful with these moves, but anyone saying they don’t make the team immediately better or have benefits in a youth movement has too narrow a view of the situation.  Plus, Mariner fans now get to watch Robinson Cano, and no one should complain about that.

-Matthew

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New Mariners! Lots of Them!

The Mariners have become the center of the baseball news universe.  Some of the news is bad (see Andrew’s post below), but most of it is quite good.  This is going to be a fairly quick recap of the M’s moves so far, with a look at what else they might have in store.  I would expect more moves within the next week, so I’ll have a more comprehensive look at the 2014 Mariners once the dust settles.

Additions

As I write this, there are three new Mariners.  The big one is 2B Robinson Cano.  He reportedly agreed to a 10 year $240 million deal last week, and will likely be announced in Seattle on Friday or so.  A week later, I am still in a bit of shock that Cano is a Mariner.  He is the best second baseman in baseball, and has been the centerpiece of the Yankees’ offense for the last five years plus.  That he will likely play out the remainder of his career in Seattle is a testament to money, both as the deciding factor for most player and the amount of it the Mariners have to spend if they’re so inclined.

Cano supplants Nick Franklin and/or Dustin Ackley (trade chips, but not sure to be moved).  As much as one might like those two guys, Cano is a massive, massive upgrade.  He’s the first major line-up threat Seattle has had in years.  His offensive game is reminiscent of Edgar’s, and he plays Gold Glove caliber defense.  It’s likely the last 3-4 years of the contract will be a drawback, but I’m not especially worried.  The immediate benefits are huge, and it’s likely baseball’s changing economics will render the dollar amounts less shocking by 2020 or so.  This is a stunning addition, unlike anything the Mariners have ever done.

Today, two separate deals brought DH/1B/maybe outfielders.  The first was a free agent deal for former Brewer Corey Hart.   Continue reading

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Are The Mariners Really ‘Dysfunctional’?

On Saturday night, news broke that Geoff Baker, of the Seattle Times, had just dropped some, well umm, news on us.  Baker has recently moved off of the Seattle Mariners beat and into a columnist/investigative role.  His first story was this one.  As far as reporting goes, this was a bomb.  The story was about problems in the Mariners front office, and reflected especially poorly on Jack Z, Howard and Chuck.  Baker interviewed a few former employees and that is what the story was based on.  It was a very well-written piece and Baker was simply doing his job, and doing it well.

With all this being said, I think there are some problems with the way this article is being received.  Seattle media and fans have a way of really eating any information up and reacting to it in the most negative way possible.  That’s what happened here.  Admittedly, I’m not a huge Geoff Baker fan.  I’m not going to go into why, but I do think he’s an extremely talented writer and reporter.

I’m writing this post, not as an attack on Baker, but because I think the story needs to be questioned in the way of who the quotes came from and the relevancy of today’s team.  I will be going straight through the article, paragraph by paragraph, and talking about some problems I have with it.

Before I begin with that, I think the timing of this article is noteworthy.  Ryan Divish did say that this article has been in the works for over a month and I have no reason to believe him.  But, the story came out 2 days after the Mariners finalized the deal with Robinson Cano and people were feeling optimistic about Seattle for the first time in years.  The Mariners were a hot topic and this story came out about 36 hours after the big news.  Coincidence?  Possibly.  Great for Seattle Times subscriptions?  Definitely.

Let’s move on to the story.  If you haven’t read it, please do that before you read the rest of my post.  I don’t want to use many quotes of the story in here because Baker should get the views for his work, so the rest of this post won’t make much sense if you don’t read that.  (Here’s a link to the article)

The article begins by telling a story of former manager, Eric Wedge, getting yelled at by Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln after the 2012 season had ended.  Apparently, the meeting got heated as Wedge fought back.  In short, Wedge didn’t like getting yelled at, as the team had improved, and he didn’t like that Z didn’t warn him it was going to happen.

If what Eric Wedge said is true in this part of the story, that really is too bad.  The team did improve and Wedge couldn’t have done a ton more with the players he had.  But, this is professional baseball.  Eric Wedge made a lot of money and his team finished 12 games under .500.  Employees have been yelled at by their bosses for a lot of worse things.  Also, Wedge was probably angry at this point in time and may have overdramatized what was said in his mind.  Probably not, but that is something that should be taken into account.   Continue reading

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Would You Rather?

Last week, Dan put up a post with his pre-season all-AL West team.  Matthew, in the comments, alluded to the lack of star power in the division.  When you look at the list Dan has assembled (which I think is pretty accurate, especially the first team) the amount of stars on the team are a bit underwhelming.

With that in mind, I thought I’d compare Dan’s list to the best players in the AL East (which is the strongest division in my opinion).  These are all my opinions and I’ve based them on prior season stats, sabermetrics, and potential.  I choose to just assemble a first team for both divisions because the topic is star power, not depth.

1st Base
AL West:  Kendry Morales, LAA
AL East:  Adrian Gonzalez, BOS
The Winner:  Gonzalez (AL East)

Overview: I’m pretty high on Morales, I think he is vastly underrated, but Adrian Gonzalez is one of the top players in the game.  Gonzalez edges out Teixeira for the 1st baseman in his division.  Teixeira would be a first teamer in the AL West.

2nd Base
AL West:  Ian Kinsler, TEX
AL East:  Robinson Cano,  NYY
The Winner:  Cano (AL East)

Overview: This one’s a fairly obvious choice also.  Kinsler is a good player, and is an all-star when completely healthy, but Cano is the best 2nd baseman in the league (edging out Utley).  Cano posted a 6.4 WAR in 2010 (he hit .319 with 29 homers while playing decent defense).  Kinsler can post similar offensive numbers when healthy but he’s only played over 130 games once in his career.  Cano has played 159 or more the last 4 seasons.  Maybe in a couple years we’ll be seeing how Ackley stacks up against Cano.  Here’s to hoping.  A healthy Pedroia enters into this conversation, also.

Short-Stop
AL West:  Elvis Andrus, TEX
AL East:  Yunel Escobar, TOR
The Winner:  Andrus (AL West)

Overview: I might take some heat for putting Escobar over Jeter but I put him there because Jeter is one of the worst defensive short-stops in the league, while Escobar is pretty sharp.  The AL East is pretty weak at short-stop and Andrus wins this one easily, based on potential alone.  Both Escobar and Jeter put up WAR’s in the 2’s last year and Andrus put up a WAR of 1.5.  But, if I had to choose one of those 3 players to be on my team this year, I’d take Andrus without question.  His bat will continue to get better, while his defense is superb (unless he has a Yuniesky-type flop).  J.J. Hardy could also sneak into the picture for the East.

3rd Base
AL West:  Adrian Beltre, TEX
AL East:  Evan Longoria, TB

The Winner:  Longoria (AL East)

Overview: The East shows their dominance in this position.  They have Longoria (a top-5 player in the league), A-Rod (a future hall-of-famer, who’s put up at least 30 HR’s and 100 RBI’s each of the last 7 seasons), and Kevin Youkilis (who’s more annoying than A-Rod, but just as effective) who each have a strong case to be picked over Beltre.  I love Adrian, he’s one of my favorite players in baseball, but Longoria wins this one easily.

The rest of the positions after the jump.  Continue reading

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