It’s Still the Offense, Stupid

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Last night, when Fernando Rodney walked his fourth batter, most Mariners fans thought what my wife said aloud— “I hate him!”. Why did manager Lloyd McClendon leave his closer in, whom was obviously struggling? 32 pitches, 10 strikes. A four-pitch walk to score the winning run.

Good grief.

Yet as much as we want to blame Rodney, or McClendon, the fact remains: Seattle pitching deserves no complaints. After all, this was 3 runs allowed over 10 innings. That’s a 2.70 ERA for the game. There’s an emotional argument to make, but not much of a rational one.

Because as we’ve witnessed all year, the Mariners failed to score enough runs. On a bad night for Fernando Rodney, the Mariners pitching staff still did their job exceptionally well. Yet the offense again disappointed. Out of their 67 losses this year, 47 of them were in games when the Mariners failed to produce more than 2 runs. Combined with the 7 games the Mariners did win with 2 runs or less, that’s a total of 54 low-scoring games.

That’s 37% of all games in which the Mariners gave their pitching little chance to win. This is a topic that’s long been covered, but still continues to haunt. Consider, if the Mariners had won just 5 more of those 47 losing games of 2 runs or less, their record right now would be 85-62, clearing the field for the first wild card spot, and flirting with well north of a 90-win season.

Again, this conversation always ends with the “Jack Z, get some hitters this off-season!”. And then the obligatory optimism that says, this team is very close to being a dominating force. The offensive problem is a fixable, and next year looks to be a very exciting year for Seattle baseball.

Oh and hey, Matt Kemp just hit his 20th home run of the season. Raising his OPS to .839 for the year. And Nelson Cruz has 39 home runs, for an .858 OPS.

Both sound great right about now. No?

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

The Future of Chris Young in Seattle

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Chris Young’s last two starts were brutal. A combined 8 earned runs in 4.1 innings. It remains to be seen if this is just the ebb and flow of baseball, or if Young has exhausted himself for the season.

Fans pointed out that Young’s fastball was topping out around 83-84 mph on Monday. Velocity was never an aspect of Chris Young’s skill set, but it’s still a convincing indicator that he’s tired. And for a 35 year old guy—  who’s only occasionally topped 100 innings per year since 2007— it wouldn’t be surprising if Young is shut down after his excellent 150 inning season of 3.46 ERA baseball this year.

If so, Young will have contributed 2.6 WARs to the Mariners this season, according to Baseball-Reference. That’s a very respectable achievement for a middle-rotation pitcher. (Interestingly, Fangraphs has given Young only a 0.8 WAR for this season. Quite a contrasting number. I assume anyone who’s watched 2014 Mariners baseball will agree with BR over Fangraphs. Except maybe Jeff Sullivan, who will find any reason to talk negatively about the Mariners.)

Chris Young, of course, is a free agent this winter. He will certainly receive offers from the marketplace, yet I have little doubt he’ll return to Seattle. Why? Here’s why:

Young 2014 ERA at Safeco Field— 2.35
Young 2014 ERA everywhere else— 4.71

As an up-in-the-zone flyball pitcher, the distant meadows of Safeco’s outfield seem custom designed for Young. Surely there are other ballparks— like San Diego— that also appeal to Young. And perhaps he’ll want to return to San Diego. But with Seattle solidly contending these next few years— not to mention their stellar defense, plus Mike Zunino and Jesus Sucre’s excellence— it just makes so much sense for Young to come back.

It also should be noted that Young’s intelligence and creativity in his pitching approach should be of extra value to the Mariners. As a Princeton graduate, it’s no secret that Young is an analytical guy. His game theory and intense preparation have been reported to be perhaps his greatest skill. (I remember watching a game where he so effectively pitched Mike Trout up and away fastballs, that on each of Trout’s three consecutive at-bats, he generated fly balls to the precise spot where the right fielder was standing.) This type of veteran presence should pay dividends on Seattle’s young pitching staff.

So here’s hoping we get more miles out of the big man. But if we don’t, his contribution should be celebrated. Let’s hope his career as a Mariner has only yet begun.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

The September Stretch

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With two outs in the 9th inning, and your team rallying, you quickly understand the importance of each at bat. Whether it’s a walk, a bloop single, or a big RBI double—none of them exist without the previous non-out.

The great Boston comeback rally I’m referencing (from last week) was cause for a celebration. It was fun. Baseball is supposed to be fun! And if we know anything about the Mariners 2014 season, it’s that we’re supposed to be having fun while watching this young team grow. Anxiety can wait for next year, when we’ll contend for the division.

Yet it’s hard to avoid bittersweet feelings when the Mariners excel offensively. Because we know this team cannot put runs on the board the way we wish. But boy, when those bats get hot, you just imagine how good this team could be with solid offense.

To think, the Mariners have a +96 run differential, the 4th best in baseball. That means if run distribution were exactly perfect, Seattle would be the 4th best team in baseball. That’s including their lackluster offense. It’s fascinating, because these guys have the 3rd worst on-base percentage in baseball.

Conclusively, this pitching staff has been world class. And while the front office did make nice mid-season acquisitions to support the pitching, those players haven’t immediately helped the equation. (In a twist of fate, Abraham Almonte is batting .300 in his first 21 games as a Padre.)

That’s just how baseball rolls.

To be fair, it’d be silly to fault the Mariners system for being unable to fully capitalize on such an effective pitching and defensive campaign. Nobody can honestly say they predicted this team to pitch so well in 2014. Consider: The Mariners bullpen gave us a 4.58 ERA in 2013. This year, they have a 2.42 ERA.

Now we enter the final month of 2014 baseball… The Mariners may or may not reach the Wild Card playoff. It’d sure be fun if they did. But the truth is, on September 28th, when the camera pans across the Mariners dugout, you’ll see Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, Chris Young, James Paxton, Roenis Elias and Taijuan Walker. Next to them will stand Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, Austin Jackson, a hopefully-healthy Michael Saunders, Mike Zunino and Chris Taylor.

The camera cuts over to the bullpen. You know the names. You know the beards.

These are the faces of a solidly successful 2014 season. And better yet, they are also the faces of 2015.

(The camera flips back to the dugout. It focuses on Dustin Ackley. The question haunts you: Who is this guy gonna be in 2015?)

Yes, the September Stretch is upon us. It’s the final days of a fun season, yet only the beginning of a new successful era for Seattle baseball.

This is awesome.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

And All is Well

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The sky is no longer falling, Mariner fans.

Sunday’s series finally against the Nationals began with a reoccurring theme from the past three days: Washington jumps out to an early lead on solo homers by ______. When Bryce Harper‘s fourth inning home run cleared the center field wall, it really did feel like the game, and honestly, the season.

The Mariners, once again, were in a place of no momentum. They had just been embarrassed by the worst team in baseball, their ace had a career worst night, the was bullpen gassed after a week of overuse, and now the Washington Nationals had just hit their tenth home run in the three game series.

But I should know better than to doubt these Seattle Mariners. Whether it’s snapping an April 8-game losing streak, or rallying for five, two-out runs in the ninth inning against the Red Sox, these Mariners do not quit. Dustin Ackley‘s fifth inning, three-run home run gave the Mariners a lead they would not relinquish.

Sure, a three game sweep at the hands of the best team in baseball would not have been damning. It’s conceivable that they could have gotten hot down the stretch, and snuck into the playoffs.

But instead, the Mariners sit ready to pounce. With both Detroit and Oakland losing on Sunday, Seattle sits just 0.5 games behind the Tigers, and just 4.5 games behind the Athletics. The Mariners travel to Oakland Monday to face the struggling A’s in a three game series, and could make up some serious ground in the playoff race.

So no Mariner fans, the season is not over. In fact, it’s just starting to get interesting. Sit back, and enjoy meaningful September baseball, for the first time in God knows how long.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Seattle Mariners All-Time Team: Designated Hitter

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Catcher: Dan Wilson

First Base: John Olerud

Second Base: Bret Boone

Third Base: Adrian Beltre

Short Stop: Alex Rodriguez

Left Field: Raul Ibanez

Center Field: Ken Griffey Jr.

Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Seattle Mariners’ All-Time Team: Ichiro

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I haven’t posted one of these in quite some time, but I plan to finish what I started.

Ichiro Suzuki is simply one of the best players to ever play the game of baseball.

After an amazing nine year career in Japan, Ichiro decided to bring his talents to Seattle in 2001. That season, he hit .350/.381/.457, with 56 stolen bases, and 242 hits. Alongside winning Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player, Ichiro helped lead the Mariners to 116 wins, an MLB record.

This was just the beginning of Ichiro’s tremendous career with the Seattle. In 12 seasons with the Mariners, he hit .322/.366/.412, with 483 stolen bases, and 2533 hits. Between 2001 and 2010, he was named to ten straight All-Star teams, won 10 straight Gold Gloves, and recorded 200+  hits (an MLB record). In 2004, he had one of the greatest seasons in history, hitting .372, and breaking George Sisler‘s single season hit record, with an astounding 262 base knocks. Had he played his entire career in the United States, it’s conceivable that Ichiro may have broken Pete Rose’s career hit record, as he’s recorded 4,102 base hits between the two countries. Even still, he has the opportunity to reach 3000 hits in the Untied States, sitting just 176 shy of the feat.

While it’s quite obvious Ichiro is one of the greatest slap hitters of all-time, he may have been an even better defender. While defensive metrics are a fairly new stat, Ichiro owns the best defensive WAR among outfielders with at least 6000 innings, as well as the 5th best ARM rating. His 10 Gold Gloves are fourth among outfielders, only behind Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, and Ken Griffey Jr. (another All-Time Mariner).

Ichiro’s amazing defense, alongside his unique offensive approach, make him one of the best Mariners’ of All-Time, and a future Hall of Famer.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Two Grown Men Fight Over Ice Cream Sandwich

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Cleveland Indians

The title perfectly summarizes this post. Two grown men fought over an ice cream sandwich Thursday night at a minor league baseball game in Boise. Even worse, they were both Mariner employees.

Jesus Montero has found a new low. I would call it rock bottom, but I thought he’d found that countless times in the past. No, not banishment to the minor leagues after drastically underperforming, not getting suspended for PED use, not even showing up to camp 40-pounds overweight. Jesus Montero’s latest transgression involves attacking a Mariner scout, armed with a bat and an ice cream sandwich.

I’ll give you a brief recap. Jesus Montero is currently on a rehab assignment with the Everett Aqua Sox. In Thursday night’s contest against the Chicago Cubs’ Class A Short Season affiliate, the Boise Hawks, Montero was reportedly being heckled throughout the game (even though he was coaching first base). This isn’t out of the ordinary, other than the fact that the heckles were coming from Butch Baccala, the team’s national crosschecker. Even that’s not too crazy. But, according to reports, Baccala decided to take it back to high school, and had an ice cream sandwhich sent down to Montero, taunting his weight. What a dumbass.

Montero, obviously not taking too kindly to this, stormed out to where Baccala was sitting, firing curses, threats, spit, and eventually, the ice cream sandwhich. Montero, armed with a bat, was eventually restrained by the coaching staff.

If this was any other Mariner season, I would not have been surprised at the events that unfolded Thursday night in Boise. But in the success of the 2014 Seattle Mariners, I have completely forgotten what idiotic acts typically highlight a Mariner season.

Jack Zduriencik has restrained from commenting on until he can gather more information on the happenings.

Baccala blatantly denied antagonizing Montero, sounding like a teenager who’s clever joke sounded better in his head than it did on Twitter.

“Of course I wasn’t,’’ Baccala said. “Why would I? I work for the Mariners. I’ve worked my ass off for the Mariners. Why would I do anything to hurt anybody? That wasn’t even close to the intention.”

This is obviously not good for anybody involved. Baccala has likely seen the end of his time with the organization, and Montero has excluded himself from any hope of getting a September call-up.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

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