The Seattle Mariners, as every baseball fan knows by now, hired Scott Servais as the Seattle Mariners new manager. The concern was that he had no managerial experience. It sounded scary to many. What, he has never done this before. My God, what will happen?
It seemed the hidden thought behind any one who mentioned it, and brought it up as a concern, was I wonder if he knows as much about baseball as I do. As we know the people who know the most about baseball are fans and media people. Why else would Tom Verducci criticize Terry Collins in the World Series about a pitching change? Sorry Tom, but I don’t care what you think. Can we have someone like John Smoltz in the booth who knows far more than Verducci and Harold Reynolds.
Obviously Tom knows what moves to make. And why else would fans call sports talk radio and complain that their manger can’t run a bullpen, that the manager used the wrong pinch hitter, and on it goes. We all know better, right?
What fans and some in the media forget at times is that there is more to managing than going by the book pinch hitting a lefty against a righty, and all the so called obvious moves based on percentages. The thing with numbers is that they tell you what happened, not what will happen. In baseball games, odds are beaten in every game by somebody doing something where the odds indicate otherwise.
In-game moves by a manager have more to do with the obvious and in the end those moves are not the main reason he is in the dugout. A manager today must be a leader, must have the respect of his players, must be a good communicator, and must be firm in his resolve. When a superstar jogs halfheartedly to first on a grounder, bench him, don’t cater to his status. A leader leads, not letting players dictate the goings on.
Scott Servais has been in baseball as player all his life. I don’t care how he manages during a game (not yet anyway), but if he is a leader and the players respect him, that is what matters most.
Jerry Dipoto, Mariners GM, made a trade for the type of player he wants in the outfield, that being a ball hawk with speed. In his two full years with Texas in 2013 and 2014 Leonys Martin hit .264 and .270 with 67 steals, being caught 21 times. He has speed and is considered an excellent defender with an Ichiro type arm. The 27 year old Martin lost his centerfield job to Delino Deshields, partly because of injures, and ended up playing 95 games, 288 at bats with a .219 average.
But with a career .305 on base percentage who strikes out a lot-over 100 times in both 2013 and 14, he is not your leadoff hitter, or at least, should not be. He looks better suited for the 9th spot.
The centerfielder Seattle gave up was James Jones who as a rookie in 2014 hit .250 in 312 at bats, stealing 27 of 28 bases, but he barely hit .100 in 2015 in limited playing time. He does not have Martin’s arm, but is a solid outfielder with speed. However, there is something about him the M’s just don’t like.
If Martin returns to form following his injury season that saw him have surgery to remove a hamate bone in his right hand, it could be a good move, but consider that Seattle gave up Tom Wilhelmsen who has saved 67 of 81 games for the M’s with a 2.97 career average in 267 games. He has been in long relief, a setup man, a closer, and spot started, all of which show his value to Seattle.
In return Seattle received 28 year old Anthony Bass with a 4.50 career ERA. mostly a reliever he has made 12 starts, but his value is far less than Wilhelmsen.
So on paper, or in this computer age, perhaps digital cyberspace, Seattle’s bullpen is weaker after this trade, something Dipoto wanted to build up along with the outfield. But he is not done yet, has said so in fact after stating he sees a platoon of Franklin Gutierrez and Seth Smith in left, Martin in center, and he is looking for an outfielder to play in left when Nelson Cruz is at DH.
If Martin is a bust, then so is this trade.
If history is an indicator in 2016 Seth Smith will hit 31 doubles, 5 triples and 12 homeruns. I cite with confidence because those are his numbers for each of the last two years. Yes, he hit 31 doubles in both 2014 and 2015 along with those 5 triples, and 12 homers. His average season, based on 162 games is 31-5-16. The 33 year old outfielder has been consistent, though his .248 average was down from his .266 2014 season.
But there is a possibility he may be traded. Is his defense the type that Jerry Dipoto, Mariners GM, is looking for? Probably not as his range is not that great. He may be the fourth outfielder and if so, those projections will drop.
The outfield is still in flux. They received a young player Boog Powell in a trade, but he may not make opening day roster. Seattle also picked up outfielder Daniel Robertson on waivers from the Angels, but he is not guaranteed a job. Neither Powell or Robertson have power. Franklin Gutierrez has resigned, but I have heard that that his contract is contingent on making the team next spring.
There are some free agents like Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon, and Justin Upton, but their contract expectations will not fit within the budget because of the contracts of Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz. Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra, or Denard Span are affordable free agents, or another trade, might be looming. I like Parra who is 28 and has a great arm and is considered a top outfielder. Span is a good second choice.
The baseball winter meeting will be held in Nashville December 6-10. What will Dipoto to then, and maybe before?
The Seattle Mariners will have a different look next season, and it will be a big one as Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, and Danny Farquhar, are headed to Tampa Bay. Morrison played 146 games, hitting 17 home runs, but his .225 average made his days numbered. And though new GM Jerry Dipoto said he liked Miller, Ketel Marte is the shortstop of the future and Miller is only adequate in the outfield. Farquhar had a great 2014, but struggled in 2015.
In return the Mariners received starting pitcher Nathan Karns, 27, who was 7-5 in 147 innings with a 3.67 ERA and 145 strikeouts. CJ Riefenhauser will be 26 when the 2016 season starts. He is a lefty who made 17 appearances, was 1-1 with a 5.52 ERA. The third player the Mariners received is 22 year old minor leaguer Boog Powell (no relation to the great Oriole first baseman). Powell was drafted by Oakland and traded to the Rays as part of the deal that sent Ben Zobrist and Yuniel Escobar to Oakland . Powell is a left handed hitting centerfielder who hit .295 with a .385 on base percentage, belting out 16 doubles, 9 triples and stealing 18 bases between double A and triple A last year. He did serve a 50 game suspension in 2014. Shame, shame.
But Dipoto is high on Powell, seeing him as a catalyst at the top of the order. Time will tell, but Dipoto is not shy about changing the roster, getting the type of players he believes will change the Mariners style of play. Pitching and outfield were his priorities and the changes have begun.
Mariner fans were told new general manager, Jerry Dipoto, is big on analytics, though he is quick to say that is only part of his assessment of talent. So in his first player move he claims pitcher Cody Martin, 26, on waivers from the Oakland A’s and releases pitcher Logan Kensing to make room for Martin.
I don’t know the secret analytics involved with the two players, but I know the numbers. Martin made the opening day roster of the Atlanta Braves, pitched in 25 games and went 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA. He struck out 24 and walked 3. The A’s purchased Martin from the Braves on July 2nd and we know the A’s Billy Beane loves analytics. So there must be something with this Martin guy right?
At Oakland he appeared in four games, two of which were starts, amassing only 9 innings, 16 hits, 5 walks, and 14 runs. Ouch! In his 30.2 innings with Atlanta and Oakland he gave up 8 homers, or 2.3 per 9 innings. Another ouch!
The samples are small and it is unfair to some extent to judge a pitcher on 30+ innings. In his minor league career he is 31-29, 3.24 with 9.2 strikeouts per nine. That covers 118 games, 84 of which were starts. The good news only 0.7 home runs per nine. The bad news is that the major leagues are not the minor leagues. They are called minor for a reason. Projecting baseball talent is the hardest to judge because the gap between AA or AAA and the majors is much larger than College football or basketball and the NFL and NBA.
Logan Kensing made 19 relief appearances with Seattle and was 2-1 with a 5.87 ERA. The big difference is that Logan is 33 and Cody is 26. The Mariners just got younger and that is a good analytic.
Dipoto did not make big splash like throwing a boulder into the pool to get Mariner fans to go “Wow!” He barely made a ripple with a small pebble in a puddle of water. And that’s good thing. He has patience. More moves are coming. We know that.
What is wrong with the Seahawks?
I think they caught whatever disease plagued the Mariners this past season. Perhaps the Center for Disease Control should be notified to find a solution.
The Mariners were predicted to win their division, some even predicting they would play in the World Series against the Washington Nationals. That prediction was not close and proves why predictions should be taken with a grain of sea salt. Preseason predictions are worthless. Nonetheless there were high expectations for the Mariners, and of course, having gone to two consecutive Super Bowls, the expectations for the Seahawks were also high.
One of the Mariners big problems was the bullpen that blew games in late innings. They were charged with 36 losses and looked rotten doing it. And now the Seahawks are playing great for three quarters, then in the 4th quarter play like an expansion team, though I must pause here, because if you have watched them in the fourth quarter, they play more like dudes picked out of the stands who had a few beers too many. Who are these guys? If I were a conspiracy loony tune I would suggest, like the 1919 Chicago Whites Sox, the Hawks are throwing games.
But that can’t be. It is a mystery though, one that has local sports radio shows scratching their heads, covering everything they can think of, except that maybe they are tired. How was their off-season condition? Are the players being rotated enough so that they are not tired in the fourth quarter?
In the end it is the coaches that are the problem. It is their job to prepare players for 60 minutes, not 45. It is their job to fix the problems that arise. Seattle could be 5-1, but the fourth quarter has killed them and their 2-4 record could easily be 1-5 with the Lions game a shaky win on the last play that perhaps should have given Detroit the win.
Super Bowl hangover from blowing the lead against the Patriots? Has it gotten into their heads? Who knows.
As I said the coaches are their to fix problems and as yet they have not and the Mariner coaches and manager had trouble correcting the pitching. At least Edgar Martinez solved the hitting woes that beset them the first half of the season.
If the Seahawks lose to the 49’ers Thursday night in Santa Clara you might as well say, “Wait till next year.” I know Mariner fans are waiting. Will the Seahawks continue to follow their neighbors?
I hate it when batters stand an admire their home runs, then flip the bat in defiant contempt. It has nothing to do with those players who say “it is disrespecting the game.” I have no idea what that means, but if I were a pitcher I wouldn’t like to be shown up, which is what Jose Bautista did against Texas in game five of the ALDS.
But I would not hit Bautista the next time I faced him. Instead I offer another solution. Since batters continue to get away with it, the pitcher should be allowed the same opportunity. So the next time a pitcher strikes out Bautista, or any other batter who falls in love with his last homer, the pitcher can stare down the batter, then defiantly throw down his glove as the batter walks back to the dugout. It is the in-your-face equality rule.
The only problem I see is that hitters would not like it, they would complain and cry about disrespecting the game, they would cry and carp about showing up the hitter. And umpires would go along with it I am sure, as batters are allowed to admire their shots, but pitchers must be discreet and civilized because they are only on the mound to serve up towering homeruns.
And of course Joe Torre would not like it and would outlaw pitcher celebrations of strikeouts. He likes doing things that make no sense, like suspending Chase Utley during the playoffs, though there had been many previous hard slides where a player could have been suspended. When Joe says, “I can’t worry about the past only the present,” that tells me he could have done something, but chose not to until someone got hurt. Bad move Joe. The idea is prevention and that means taking charge before someone breaks his leg. Now you are being a sanctimonious politician.
But I like my idea as it brings equality to showboating. Please forward this blog to all major league pitchers and maybe we can see more defiant fun in 2016. We must get this trending.
Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners new GM, has a massive overhaul ahead of him. And his options are limited. Here are the problems he faces. Only two starting pitchers, a bullpen best known as an arson squad, no outfielders, no catching depth, and who’s on first. All of which are an Abbott and Costello routine.
Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker are his two starters. Hisashi Iwakuma is a free agent, will be 35 next April 12, and has had injuries each of the last two years. That being said, the Mariners should make a good offer to keep Iwakuma because they are desperate for starters. James Paxton can not be counted on as he has spent more time on the disabled list the past two years than on the mound. Strained dorsi muscle, a bad finger, and a split fingernail have plagued him and there is no reason to believe he can stay healthy. Elias can not pitch beyond the fifth inning and has yet to prove being anything other than a fifth starter at best.
The strength of the 2014 team was the bullpen, and those who dominated that year pitched more like batting practice pitchers in 2015. Consider Danny Farquhar who was 3-1, 2.66 in 2014 and allowed only five home runs in 71 innings. On 9/26 against the Angels he gave up a 9th inning walk-off homer. Two days later on the 28th against Houston he gives up the game winning homer in the 7th. Two days later on the 30th, again in the 7th, he serves up another homer breaking up 6-6 tie and M’s lose 7-6. On the 2nd of October against Oakland it is 4-4 when a 2-run homer in the 8th gives the A’s a 4-2 win. The M’s lost 9 of last 11 after getting within three wins of .500. Five of those nine losses were by one run, and four of the those losses charged to Farquhar who gave up four game winning homers. He finished 1-8. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “And so it goes.”
Dipoto said he wants athletic players and wants outfielders who can chase down balls in the gap, something that, for some reason, escaped Jackie Z, the former GM. Where does Dipoto get outfielders. He is high on Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, but both are former infielders and Miller has not proven that he can play centerfield. James Jones, effective in 2014, did not get enough playing time this past season, so his future is cloudy. The minor leagues have nobody major league ready if you believe what everyone has said.
Logan Morrison, the M’s first baseman, hit .225 and is a free agent, so his return is dubious, though the M’s may try to resign him because they have more pressing problems. Then there is catcher Mike Zunino, a defensive standout, who can’t hit .200.
The Mariners Robinson Cano’s zillion dollar contract will keep him in Seattle and Felix will not be traded due to pitching shortage, so the only tradable player is Nelson Cruz, at least one that brings back multiple players. Kyle Seager is too valuable at third to trade as there are not many gold glove third basemen who hit 26 homers. And Ketel Marte looks like a future star at short.
I prefer Cruz stays in Seattle, but if the M’s are going to get some players, he is the best fishing bait they have.
You are a diehard, statistical loving, all out baseball fanatic, if you, by the following stats know who these two pitchers are. Pitcher number one has 20 starts with a 4-6 record and 4.64 ERA. In 108.2 innings, he has given up 121 hits, has a .279 batting average against with 82 strikeouts and 32 walks. The second pitcher has nine starts, is 6-2 with a 2.28 ERA. In 51.1 innings he has given up 48 hits with a .242 batting average against with 58 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Pitcher number two is a strikeout pitcher with 10.17 per nine compared to pitcher one with 6.79. Or so it would seem. You see both those stat lines statistics belong to the same pitcher, one J.A. Happ. His bad numbers came from his time with the Seattle Mariners this season before they traded him to the Pirates, where he has the good numbers.
What happened to Happ?
He is averaging only slightly more than five innings per start with the Pirates, indicating perhaps, they want to get him out of the game while the getting is good. Still his numbers are impressive, especially those strikeouts.
It could be that being in the American league this year and his previous seasons with Toronto that the National League teams are having a period of adjustment. It could be his Pirate pitching coach, noticed something that Happ corrected. It could be anything. It even could be a mirage. That given time Happ will return to Happ form.
I’m sure the Pirate brass is happy with Happ with his six wins in nine starts compared to the Mariners four wins in twenty starts.
Of course there could be another answer. Back in my youth there were two catchers in the National League named Hal Smith, and both at one time or another played for the Pirates. I think they did. But there were two Hal Smith’s. Maybe there are two J.A. Happ’s.