Tag Archives: Bullpen

The Seattle Mariners, reclaimers of optimism

The Mariners recently decided to take 3 of 4 games from the Oakland A’s. They wrapped the series with a completely unnecessary doubleheader yesterday brought on by a situation earlier in the year where Oakland’s poverty literally leaked on to the field of play, turning it into a Swamp of Sadness-equivalent and resulting in several of the Mariners’ ponies losing the will to live, languishing in the muck adrift in their own sense of desperate apathy, the faint call to carry on muted through the mufflers of their own helplessness until they were utterly submerged.

 

Yesterday’s doubleheader played itself out in about the oddest way imaginable. The Mariners picked up a win in the first game, going to extras following a weird start by Felix Hernandez in which we didn’t appear to have any of his pitches working. Felix surrendered eleven hits and 3 runs, yet the Mariners, behind a couple well-timed dingers by team strongmen Hart and Zunino managed to make it out alive from a game where Yoervis fucking Medina was credited for the win. Oddness.

 

The second game saw a resurgent Erasmo Ramirez return briefly from AAA in order to turn in possibly his most serviceable effort of the season, going 6 innings and allowing only 2 earned runs in the process. The problem in this second game was offense, which seems to hardly be surprising when the lineup includes the corpse of Brad Miller, Willie Bloomquist, John Buck, Cole Gillespie and Stefen Romero. I understand we want righties in the lineup but you need to have quality right handed hitters for this to make sense. If I want beer but don’t have any beer I don’t start fermenting my own urine. The Mariners are fermenting their own urine. It smells like Bloomquist’s grit.

 

A big positive to come out of the 1st of these two games is James Jones’ play in center field. The guy looks infinitely superior to anybody else the Mariners have wheeled out there since Franklin Gutierrez was patrolling center. He made a fantastic diving catch in the seventh inning and made a few excellent plays in the early innings besides. His routes look rather…sober…compared to those we have become accustomed to with Abe Almonte scurrying about. To cap it all off he flashed a plus throwing arm and was able to reach base a few times as well.

 

I still have no fucking clue why McClendon went ahead and slotted him in the 2 hole for his first start in the Major Leagues, but I am willing to suspend my disbelief if the guy continues to play well because frankly, the Mariners need good defensive outfielders to man center and if he can make the tiniest bit of noise at the plate and on the base paths I think he could be a valuable addition moving forward. The tools are there, if the polish can come with it on the job, then welcome to the squad Mr. Jones.

 

The Mariners are heading home following a road trip that took them to a game above .500 where they will be taking on the Kansas City Royals who presently mirror the M’s location around the mythical .500 line. Royals fans probably expected more from their squad moving into 2014—they experienced one of their better seasons in recent memory last year and have been posturing as though gripped by a win-now mindset as evidenced by their (probably idiotic) trade of former No.1 prospect in all of baseball, Will Myers, for serviceable former Rays’ starter James Shields.

 

The trade reeked of the same desperation-spunk surrounding the Mariners’ trade for disgruntled Canadian injury-enthusiast Erik Bedard in which we gave up Adam Jones, now a perennial All-Star for the Orioles and emerged no closer to “winning now” than we had been before, with the added caveat of lacking even the “winning then” that perhaps Jones could have helped with.

 

In that sense—I feel for the Royals’ fan base as a similarly afflicted bunch. The Royals also have several home grown positional prospects-turned-regulars who have taken forever to develop and often developed into something that rested well below their perceived ceilings as prospects. Eric Hosmer never became really as cool as he seemed, Alex Gordon didn’t figure it out until he was like 26, etc.

 

I suppose both of those players are better than their Mariners’ counterparts in Smoak and Ackley, but regardless, the results have not been there with a similar organizational approach.

 

So hey Royals, throw us a bone here. We can’t both make it to the playoffs can we? And you had George Brett once! Your franchise has even won/been to the World Series before!

 

At this point, as a Mariners fan, it is cool to even be able to care still. I have seen optimism dwindle so much faster than it has this season and for the team to remain afloat at this point in time is a revelation. I look forward to going home and seeing the Mariners play baseball and I have been able to do this for more than a month. I think this is what it must feel like to be a fan of a team that is good. I like the feeling. It makes it easier to sleep at night and it saves me money on liquor.

 

Go Mariners.

Brad Miller and Nick Franklin. The time for change is meow. Nobama.

Count me among the bajillion people who, in regards to their expectations for Brad Miller, allowed their optimism to grab them by the balls and lead them to the bedroom only to emerge the next day with a rash of regrets as well as just the normal, medical kind of rash.

Brad Miller is absolutely lost at the plate this season. He is only the most recent example of a promising Mariners’ position prospect coming to the Majors to briefly impress only to fall victim to the disturbing trend of trying to pull everything. This, as with every other player to whom the curse has lent its sinister shadow, has resulted in Brad sucking. He is, as they say at times, “in-between pitches.” He has adopted a tendency towards taking called strikes on hittable fastballs until he falls into pitcher’s counts, only to readily offer at off-speed pitches out of the zone, resulting in a 26.7% K-rate and a putrid .534 OPS.

What’s worse is that he is allowing his disappointing season at the plate to leak into his defense, where the mental miscues are beginning to aggregate into a serious concern. These miscues, when coupled with Brad’s expected above-average offensive production at the position seemed like charming hiccups. Those charming hiccups have turned into foam burps which have then turned into aggressive projectile vomiting session post-franzia-night all over your white carpet.

Let’s pull a spray chart for Mr. Miller real quick.

brad miller spray

See all of those stupid magenta squares over by where the 2nd baseman pretty much always is? Those are groundouts to the second baseman. Brad used to be a guy whose main positive trait was the ability to spray line drives to all fields, resulting in a projectable batted ball profile that would indicate a high BA and likely doubles power. He bulked up over this past offseason in an effort to ass a little power and meat-titan-ness to what was before a slight frame and it seemed that in the process he may have become pull happy in an effort to put those muscles to work. This strategy has not yielded dividends.

I wrote a piece earlier disparaging Dustin Ackley from falling into this trap. I also recently wrote an article basically forgiving Seager for doing the same thing. The difference here, however, is the way the players pull the ball. Seager launches baseballs into the air like it’s his job. He is a fly ball hitter and he has consistently shown that, though he pulls the ball a bit more than you would like, he gets the ball in the air, some of those balls leave the yard, and the result is a productive major leaguer.

When Ackley and Miller fall into this trap, their production declines precipitously. They let pitchers get ahead of them in counts and then, when they are at the pitcher’s mercy, they expand the zone and either whiff or pull a pitch off the plate on the outside off the end of the bat to the second baseman for an easy out, or a double play. Yippee.

The suggestion here: send Miller down and bring up either Chris Taylor or Nick Franklin in an everyday role and see what they can do. I know people are not crazy about Franklin’s defense at SS. That being said, however, I think Miller’s performance in the field has declined to the point where their defense is comparable. Franklin struggled during his previous call-up this season, but he was playing in spot-duty at an unfamiliar position with inconsistent at bats. In layman’s terms, he was not given a chance to really prove that he had figured out major league pitching or that he was ready to do so.

Franklin has an OPS of 1.079 to go along with 2 dingers in the past 3 games down in AAA. He has nothing left to prove at that level. It seems at this point that the Mariners, given the framing paradigm of a team seeking to win games NOW should use the depth at their disposal in order to keep afloat.

Having a black hole at the bottom of your lineup is bad. This problem is exacerbated by the volatility up and down the rest of the lineup.

It is one thing to have a bad apple among a bunch of kickass apples. It is another to have one obviously bad apple surrounded by a bunch of organically grown apples (read: no preservatives or whatever wait can apples even have those?) that might be left in a microwave or something at any given moment, becoming bad apples themselves!

There have been some who have been clamoring for Chris Taylor to be the guy rather than Franklin to get the call. I understand this desire as we have yet to really see what Taylor can do in a Mariners’ uniform and therefore he still has that new-prospect smell that always seems to elicit the grass-being-greener-over-there mentality from the fan base. This makes sense as we have all been getting pretty tired of recycling the same prospects only to have them sent back down and replaced with similar prospects who were probably recently sent down for similar reasons themselves blah blah blah.

The fact of the matter is, Taylor is new to AAA and isn’t on the 40-man roster. If they bring up a guy it is going to be Franklin and I do not have a problem with that. The move serves multiple purposes that make sense given the Mariners’ situation. The Mariners do not benefit from Miller’s continued struggles and for a team looking to contend (even if that is wildly unlikely) he weighs down the rest of the lineup too much in his current condition. Moving to Franklin almost certainly helps them in the near-term as they try to piece together a lineup capable of winning as many games as possible. Further, the move rewards Franklin who has been doing nothing but mash in AAA and has absolutely nothing else to prove at the level. Finally, the move is in Brad’s best interest as the SS of the future for this club. Continuing to scuffle and lose confidence at the major league level is only going to make him press that much more.

Nick has earned a shot. Miller needs time to collect his thoughts and get his confidence back. The Mariners need another bat capable of making the occasional impact.

Brad Miller AAA party now plz.

Go Mariners.

 

James Jones, Michael Saunders, Abraham Almonte and the Mariners changing up the outfield situation

The Mariners went ahead and blissfully released their fans from the Sisyphean self-flagellation brought on by having to watch Abraham Almonte handle leadoff responsibilities for the month of April. Almonte struggled in spring training but had caught the eye of Manager Lloyd McClendon for reasons that seemed somewhat unknown but in light of recent events are actually probably a little more known.

Almonte is a player who is too unrefined at this point in his career to figure things out at the Major League level. That being said, Lloyd McClendon has been around the game a long time, and despite what ivory tower-bound writers immersed in statistics and data may want to believe, there is some value in experience and the old-fashioned eye test. This is a game played by humans. Other humans have to look at said humans and make decisions based on a number of factors including past statistical performance as well as potential room for growth and improvement. Almonte was a player who had not been great in the Minor Leagues for long, but he had played well there for a while. He was also a player with whom it could be easy to fall in love with as a Manager like McClendon presented with a roster otherwise devoid of any traditional center fielders.

The Mariners have done 1 of the 2 things that many fans have been calling for. They have freed Michael Saunders from his concrete-bound aviary and allowed him to soar in an expanded role as a leadoff man. I have always liked Saunders (It is not hard to become infatuated with Saunders’ raw tools and potential) and many believed that his disastrous stretch during last year’s campaign was as much a result of a kamikaze condor-dive into an outfield fence than a sign of mediocrity or true regression from his 2012 campaign that saw him break out for a 2.5 WAR season that could have actually been closer to 4 WAR had his defense in centerfield not counted against him (although then he would have lost the weighted value WAR gives to players out in center field that is much lower in the corners, which is why Trout’s value this year is already so high despite the fact that his offensive numbers pace to be more or less the same and perhaps a tad worse. WAR as a catchall stat is weird like this because it is super convenient but the internal numbers are actually pretty fucking confusing).

Which brings us to our next point and the reason why Jones’ call-up was somewhat of an inevitability.

It is regarded by many (certainly defensive statistics indicate this) that Michael Saunders will never be more than a slightly below-average defender in centerfield. These same defensive metrics, however, consistently point to him being excellent in right. Looking at last year’s Rtot/yr (the number of runs above or below average a player is worth per 1200 innings), Saunders in centerfield sat at -18 runs, in left he was at -24 runs and in right he ditched that negative number bullshit and went straight up to 9 runs above average.

This means in pretty basic terms that, if we trust the way defensive metrics are taken over at baseballreference.com than we can assume that a year of condor-action over in right field is a 27 run defensive swing over a year of Saunders out in center (provided an at-least-adequate defensive replacement is taking over in center). Despite what many believe, the people who work in the Mariners’ organization are not idiots. Wealthy people do not like to hire idiots, and I can say with a fair degree of certainty that the people making these decisions are probably a hell of a lot more qualified than I am. If I can spot this, they have probably already spotted it, circled it in red and subsequently paid an intern sub-minimum-wage to make a fucking PowerPoint out of it to present at a conference.

So yeah, the same team that allowed Raul Ibanez, Michael Morse and Jason Bay to share outfield duties AT THE SAME FUCKING TIME, actually had a fairly decent reason to keep Saunders out of center. Almonte has one loud tool and that is his ridiculous speed. Speed profiles well in center and they felt for a time that Almonte’s offense as well as his defensive approach in the field could improve quickly enough in the Major Leagues to turn that speed into value out in the field and at the top of the order.

That didn’t happen.

Almonte’s struggles at the plate this season were catastrophic. He led the league in strikeouts with 39 in the month of April- this despite being a leadoff hitter whose sole purpose is to put the ball in play and use his aforementioned speed to get on base and subsequently be a chubby pain-in-the-ass running hither and thither to the detriment of non-Mariners nationwide. You can’t get on base if you strike out. You also can’t steal first base. This isn’t ‘nam, you can tell because of all the fucking rules.

This all leads one to believe that though the Mariners believe in Saunders at the top of the order, they may not also believe in him as a defensive centerfielder. The logic eventually leads us straight to James Jones who can absolutely fucking fly down the line and out in the field. In the few innings I have seen of him in Spring Training and in a few Rainiers’ games, he doesn’t take the same “Leonardo DiCaprio on Quaaludes” routes that made Almonte such an adventure out in center, either. It is true that Jones has actually logged more time in the corners than he has in center during his minor league career– but it is also true that he has more or less always been an outfielder. He looks like an outfielder. He quacks like an outfielder. The quacking will ensure that he and Ackley have a solid rapport in the field. Gone are the days of the all-second-base Mariners’ outfield. Two of our outfielders are outfielders now. Hooray for small miracles.

So basically what we have is a Frankenstein’s monster comprised of Condor’s bat sewed horrifically to the center-field-defense of James Jones, murmuring “kill me” as Lloyd cackles maniacally. Another way to put it is we have swapped in Jones to provide defense, allowed Saunders an expanded offensive roll and perhaps incidentally cut out some at-bats for Ackley and/or Romero. I don’t mind this horribly, as I still expect to see Condor patrolling Center every now and again. It isn’t his best position, but it is hardly a disaster and I think at this point even if Saunders does not continue to hit .400 as he has been doing the past couple of weeks, he has shown enough to warrant everyday inclusion in the lineup.

This also probably spells a bit of doom for Logan Morrison in the outfield. That shouldn’t bother anybody. If Morrison plays, he should be playing at DH or first base anyway. 2 cents provided.

Worst comes to worse, we have a shiny new fast player to care about for a couple of weeks until he develops Krohn’s disease, can’t hit, or swan dives down a flight of stairs into his wife’s face.

Welcome back to the squad, Mr. Jones.

 

The Mariners’ bullpen situation examined through a lens of misery

New and exciting way to quantify Mariners losses for the diehard fan!

Lock a loaded pistol into your nightstand or any such desk that has a locking drawer in it.

Take the key. Lose it intentionally. Perhaps give it to a friend to hide. Perhaps lose it in a river. Throw it into the ocean. Tie it to a piece of bread, feed it to a duck and then scare the duck away. Feed it to Anna Paquin and have her construct some sort of homemade dirigible to guide a herd of geese into the southern hemisphere. She loses her father in the process, but gains an experience and an adventure that is timeless, classic. Jeff Daniels. Deff Janiels.

I don’t actually remember if her dad dies in that movie, but they are flying Ultralights. Ultralights are a death sentence. Thus, they both died in that movie.

I’m in love with a stripper.

Once the key is thoroughly lost, a friend or other observer be they psychiatrist, truant or parole officer, can gauge the Mariners’ success (read: failure) by the number of claw marks left near the handle of the drawer in which the pistol (representative of the sweet release of the NFL season) is locked.

Experiment end.

Since my fingernails are all filled up with splinters typing is kind of hard.

The Mariners have suffered through what is the first, but will not be the last, prolonged stretch of ineptitude in the long, long MLB season. Yesterday the Mariners brought up a guy who struggled mightily in a starting role in Brandon Maurer.

Maurer was already well on his way to being transitioned into a reliever. They brought him up, not fully stretched out, in a starting role. He proceeded in delivering 4+ solid innings in which he surrendered 1 ER, walked 2, struck out 4, and generally looked solid all around. Maurer looked to be throwing free and easy, his fastball touching 97 on multiple occasions with some great late movement. He kept the ball out of the middle of the plate, thusly limiting the hard contact that made him suck last year. His changeup looked far better than the minus offering we saw in his starting appearances last year. Basically, his performance was everything the Mariners could have asked for. He left the game with a lead and the Mariners’ bullpen merely had to come in and seal the deal.

Unfortunately, this bullpen is tired. And this bullpen is kind of bad. The walking of the bulls.

What even is this?

McClendon initially brought in Joe Beimel who took care of his batter in short order.

Then McClendon brought in short person and relief pitcher extraordinaire Danny Farquhar, who walked a batter but otherwise got out of his inning with a relatively minimal dose of drama.

Then the Furbush arrived. And in this case, the carpet totally matched the pubes as Furbush proceeded to issue a hit to one of the two batters he faced, leaving a guy-on-second-fire to be put out by…

…Tom Wilhelmsen, the bartender. Alcohol is flammable. Alcohol is also inflammable.

I am generally against bringing Wilhelmsen into the game in most situations. I am categorically against bringing him in for high leverage situations in which a runner is already on second and the Mariners are clinging like Leonardo DiCaprio to a one run lead.

The Bartender is broken. There is no doubt to this. The guy goes 3-0 to every batter he faces. The stuff is still there, but his mind just is not right and has not been since the beginning of last year when he was more or less untouchable.

As a Mariners fan, it is one thing to lose a few games to a team that is objectively shitty. It is another thing entirely to go out and blow leads over and over in the 8th inning to said teams. The offense is one thing. The Mariners have not scored that many runs. But still, playoff teams win games where they take leads into the 8th. Winning teams win games that are winnable. What a stupid fucking sentence!

The best course of action for the Mariners is to continue to dip into a deep farm system for help. That help is there. The help is named Carson Smith.

Can I help? I am The Help. Who helps The Help? The Illuminati.

Similar to Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps, Carson Smith and Dominic Leone are two guys who I have always imagined as being super best pals. This is probably because they were linked in terms of both their Major League expectations as well as their timetables. Leone is up, pitching in the Mariners’ bullpen and doing a solid job thus far. Carson Smith has spent limited time in AAA but, in the past 2 seasons has posted a better-than 11 K/9 rate with stuff that projects as ready for a Major League bullpen ASAP Rocky.

So please Mariners. Stop putting out bushfires with alcohol. All of my fingernails and 1 of my toenails are already embedded into a wooden drawer in my apartment. Scrabbling at locked doors is hard to do with your feet. Don’t send help (to me, that is). Do bring up Carson Smith though. That would be an excellent idea!