Mariner closer Tom Wilhelmsen has lost the helm of the Good Ship Mariner, struggling with location and control. Though he may regain his form and get his closer job back, he is not the only reliever on the M’s staff floundering in the choppy Elliot Bay waters.
Kyra Sedgwick pictured above new how to close.
Carter Capps has gotten knocked around recently. He has given up 35 hits in 30 innings. His strike out numbers are good with 36, but his ERA has climbed to 5.16. Partly his fault, and partly relievers who replace him and let in runners he put on base.
Danny Farquhar, though pitching 14 innings with 20 strikeouts, has seen 11 of the 18 base runners he allowed (13 hits, 5 walks) score. Again he put them on base, but also when he was relieved, the runners he left ended up scoring thanks to the pitcher who replaced him.
Blake Bevean when he was recalled looked great, then tanked in a recent outing.
Some of the pen is doing the job. Oliver Perez, Charlie Furbush, and Yoervis Medina have done well, though tend to walk batters. But the bottom line is who can be trusted out of the pen. Right know, no one. With a struggling offense, pitching and defense must keep the team in the game, and in the last two games the M’s have been blown out. The pitchers could hardly be overworked based on innings pitched. It is just another omen involving the cursed Mariners.
There have been stretches during losing streaks where the Mariner hitting was awful from top to bottom. Now the bullpen is getting knocked around. Had Steven Pryor not been injured he may have taken Wilhelmsen’s closer job. Pryor was the closer in waiting as Wilhelmsen was the closer in waiting for Brandon League.
There is no happy ending to this story. The Mariners have made recent changes to their starting lineup with Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino. Making changes in the bullpen is not as easy. They must simply get better or sink the ship.
The Mariners have not given up on their young kids, with the possible exception of one, but there is a shift going on, a shift that may take place this year.
The Mariners must believe that Nick Franklin is the second baseman of the future because Dustin Ackley is in Tacoma getting playing time in left field and in center. Going into Sunday’s game he was batting .411 in 73 at bats with two home runs and eleven driven in. It has been rumored he will be recalled soon to play the outfield.
One player in Tacoma who may be called up is Brad Miller to play shortstop. Brendan Ryan is a gold glove shortstop without the gold glove, which has more to do with his lack of hitting. The Gold Glove voting is, for the most part, a popularity contest. But Ryan has raised his average dramatically. Before the trading deadline a team may be looking for a good fielding shortstop and Ryan would certainly be available. Miller began the season in Jackson, hitting .294 in 42 games with 6 homers, 25 RBIS, and an on base percentage of .379. In Tacoma he is batting .346 in 19 games with 4 homeruns, 23 RBIS, and a .430 on base percentage.
What all this means is that before the season is out the Mariners will have their 2014 lineup on the field. Zunino catching, with Franklin at second, Miller at short, Seager at third, and first base the question, as in “whos on first? Justin Smoak is on the disabled list, a good place for him to be. Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse could be splitting time between first and DH. If Jesus Montero is healthy and not suspended by baseball he could play first. But I am unconvinced the Mariners want him.
The outfield will have Ackley in left, or perhaps center if Morse stays in left. Endy Chavez is playing well, he should stay in center for now. Franklin Gutierrez for three seasons has spent more time with doctors doing rehab, than in the starting lineup. 2014 should see him elsewhere. Michael Saunders, whether in center or right is in a horrific slump that has seen his average drop from the .280′s to the .190′s. He can not continue to flounder if he wants to stay in Seattle in 2014.
With recent rookie call ups and shifting of other young players, the M’s are preparing for 2014; blending in new kids with the old kids. I like the idea. I would rather watch these kids develop than watch Milton Bradley, Wally Backman, Jeff Cirillo, and other veterans the Mariners picked up who washed ashore.
The best laid plans of mice and men and of course the Seattle Mariners. A teams plans for the season do not always, in fact, rarely go, according to plan. The plan for the Mariners at catcher was Jesus Montero and Kelley Shoppach, then probably in June Mike Zunino would be brought up. The decision then is what to do with Montero or Shoppach.
Montero proved he is no catcher, struggled with the bat, was sent to AAA Tacoma to learn how to play first base, tore is meniscus, then got on baseball’s hit list for PED users. Jesus is not having a good year. Will he even be with Seattle next year is another question. To replace Montero, another Jesus, this one named Sucre, Zunino’s back up in Tacoma was called up. He was clearly in Seattle to back up Shoppach because Sucre is not much of a hitter.
But then Sucre good hurt, went on the DL and Brandon Bantz, who started the season far down the Mariner minor league food chain, but was promoted to Tacoma to back up Zunino when Sucre was called up, was promoted to Seattle to be the emergency catcher in case something happened to Shoppach. Bantz made an improbable rise for a backup catcher at every level. A dream come true. For the Mariners, however, it was a nightmare. They never expected to see Bantz in a Mariner uniform.
Today the Mariners have two new catchers. Mike Zunino was called up and he will be the everyday catcher. That part of the plan is coming true. He hit his first home run Friday night, a blast to dead center in Oakland, not the most home run friendly park. Shoppach has been designated for assignment, Bantz was returned to the minors, and the Mariners back up catcher is recently signed free agent Henry Blanco who is 41 years old.
Shoppach was let go because, among other things, he was 8 for his last 60 with 28 strikeouts. And for some reason the Mariners lost a lot of games when he was behind the plate. Blanco is not a better hitter. His carrer average is .226, but he is known for throwing out base stealers. He has gunned down 41% of would be thieves. Manager Eric Wedge said Blanco has experience, leadership, and mentoring skills. I think that is said of every long-toothed back up catcher throughout history. Did they not say the same about Shoppach?
It is half way through June and the Mariners have had six catchers. If Zunino and Blanco stay healthy and Zunino can hit, the Mariners are set for the rest of the season. They better hope so. They have few options left. Is Miquel Olivo active?
I don’t understand Mariner manager Eric Wedge. Monday night against Houston he let Aaron Harang pitch the ninth with a 4-0 lead. I applaud that. When a pitcher is dominating as Harang was, then why bring in another pitcher to finish the game. It was probably a good thing the score was not 3-0, for if it was, Wedge may have brought in struggling closer Tom Wilhelmsen in the 9th. But there is no save with a four run lead. Harang gave up two hits, walked no one, and struck out ten. He deserved to complete the game.
But Tuesday night Wedge did not do the same for Jeremy Bonderman. He pitched eight innings, allowed three hits, walked two and struck out five, throwing only 89 pitches in a dominating performance. Instead of letting Bonderman finish the game, giving the Mariners a chance for two consecutive complete game shutouts from two journeymen pitchers from whom little was expected, he was taken out for Tom Wilhelmsen the Mariner closer.
It is something push button, robotic managers do. Its the ninth inning, closing situation, so bring in the closer. I raise the question again. Why change pitchers when your starter is dominating? If the closer is Mariano Rivera, I give him the ball. But Wilhelmsen has been struggling. Coming into the game Wilhelmsen had given up eight hits, and walked eight in 10 1/3 innings. His earned run average jumped from 0.47 to 2.22 in those 10+ innings. After Tuesdays blown save in which he gave up 3 hits, walked two and was tagged for five runs, his ERA is 3.77. The Bartender is having one bad month.
It happens, all players slump, and Wilhelmsen is the closer, and should close games. But not a 1-0 game when the starter is sailing along, doing fine, thank you very much. Bring in Wilhelmsen with a three or four run lead when he has margin for error. Don’t let him work out his kinks in a one run game. That is tempting the devil called fate.
The Mainers had five hits on the night, three from recently called up rookie Nick Franklin, and one from expected savior and star catcher Mike Zunino. It would be more fun to talk about those two kids and their future than a dumb pitching change from Eric Wedge.
For some time Mariner fans have complained about Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, and Jesus Montero. But there might be a reason why General Manger Jack Zduriencik keeps them in the lineup, when they are not sent to the minors, of course. He might be haunted by the legacy of previous GM Bill Bavasi.
Does this man have a satanic look? He still haunts the Mariners today.
Bavasi single handedly ruined the Mariners with terrible trades. How terrible? He traded away five young players, all of whom ended up on all-star teams, and in return got zippity-do-dah.
The biggest trade was Adam Jones to Baltimore, where he has become the Orioles franchise player. Jones, George Sherill, lefty reliever, and Chris Tillman, starting pitcher were shipped off for Erik Bedard, who liked to pitch six innings, then take the rest of the night off.
In 2006, Bavasi made two separate deals with Cleveland, sending them Shin-Soo Choo for Ben Broussard in July after trading Asdrubal Cabrera in June for Eduardo Perez. Broussard never cracked the Mariner lineup and has disappeared off the baseball radar. Perez, an average utility player, retired after playing 43 games with Seattle, getting hits as often as Brendan Ryan. (Truthfully, Ryan hit better).
Matt Thornton, the White Sox number one lefty out of the bullpen for years, was traded from Seattle to Chicago for Joe Borchard, who followed Broussard into baseball oblivion. And relief specialist Rafael Soriano left Seattle for Horacio Ramirez, a starting pitcher as exciting as Carlos Silva or James Baldwin.
Recapping those stalwart Bavasi trades shows he traded away five all-stars for Erik Bedard. He is the only one who made even a negligible contribution. In three years and 46 starts for Seattle he was 15-14. Bedard was not well liked by fans or players (so it was rumored).
Those were not the only mistakes by Bavasi, but due to time constraints we must move along. He did draft Brandon Morrow instead of two time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum though. Just saying.
The point is that the legacy of Bill Bavasi, is a dark funereal shroud that stares at Jack Zduriencik every day. Jack does not want to give up players who may star for other teams, a rich Mariner tradition, so he hangs onto them, hoping, willing, and praying that Ackley, Montero, and Smoak succeed. Trader Jack is either patient or stubborn, maybe both, but Jack will stay with them, going down with the Good Ship Mariner if he must. He won’t blink in the face of Bavasi and trade them away.
Kyle Seager is doing well, he looks legit. Nick Franklin could be as well, time will tell. But in the end the Mariners can’t win. They trade young talent and come up short; they keep young talent and they come up short. It makes you wonder if the Good Ship Mariner is a cursed derelict drifting in the waters of the Twilight Zone.
The Mariners made two good off season moves, adding Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales to bolster the offense. Coupled with the expected improvement of Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero, Seattle was expected to get better, around .500 or so. I thought with the addition of Houston the Mariners could win 88 games. So where are they one year later.
Last year through June 9th they were 27-34. This season they are 27-37. I don’t see improvement, do you?
The expected power bringing in the fences has helped. Seattle is 8th in the majors in home runs. But it has not translated to wins. In 2012 they hit ..234, this year .237. On base percentage was a pitiful .296 in 2012, still woeful this season at .304. Slugging also has slight increase from .369 to .382. And like 2012, the Mariners still can not hit with men in scoring position. Kendrys Morales being the exception with a .364 average. Raul Ibanez .300 and Brendan Ryan is hitting .296. The worst with men in scoring position are Kelley Shoppach at .054, Michael Saunders at .087 and Justin Smoak at .111.
See ball, hit ball!!!
You know things are bad when Ryan has more runs batted in than Montero, Ackley, Smoak, and Saunders. He gets paid for his glove, the other names get paid for scoring and driving in runs. At least Ryan is earning his salary. Montero and Ackley are back in triple A, with Montero being on DL as well as being investigated for using PEDS. Smoak is also on the DL, but if he were not injured he should be triple A. Saunders is in one horrific slump with no light at the end of his tunnel.
So it would appear that with offensive numbers about the same as last year, it makes sense their record is about the same. My hopes for an 88 win season is gone, so too is any thought of a .500 season. This offense is not making progress and is unlikely to do so. Manager Eric Wedge and GM Trader Jack preach patience with these young guys. I think if Eric and Jack were still with the Mariners-and they won’t be- when these young players reach 30, they would preach the same thing.
The only difference from last year is that attendance continues to decline. I wonder why?
Major League baseball could, if all the legal wrangling is on their side, suspend twenty players . The list I saw had only fifteen, but they included known liars like Alex Rodriquez and Ryan Braun. Obviously with the numbers they have put up, their performance was enhanced.
This is Honest John. He never used performance enhancing drugs
If Dr. Frankenstein‘s lab down in Florida had beakers full of chemical enhancers that increase a players ability to hit for a higher batting average, hit for more power, throw the ball harder, then how can Jesus Montero be guilty of taking anything. I doubt he has even been eating Wheaties.
One could posit that in 2012 he was hitting under the influence. In his rookie campaign he batted .260, hit 15 home runs, and had 62 runs batted in. But are those the numbers of a young rookie hooked on a needle? Many baseball talking heads expected he would have had a better year. Was he not given a syringe in his PEDS swag kit? Did he have second thoughts about using a needle? If the enhanced power was in pill form, maybe lost the bottle, or hearing a knock on the door late at night, he flushed them into the sewer. Clearly if the drugs were working, he would have hit better and with more power.
In spring training this year his name surfaced in connection with Tony Bosch and the Frankenstein fountain of hits lab. Montero denied knowing anything about Bosch, the lab, PEDS, and was believable in his denial, unlike A-Fraud and Braun-Fraud. Besides he was a Seattle Mariner, a team in need of enhancement and what kind of teammate would he be if he did not share? If Marshawn Lynch can share Skittles, Montero can share his candy.
This season began and Montero struggled, so much so, that after 29 games and 101 at bats, he was sent to AAA Tacoma to learn how to play first base because he can not catch with major league proficiency, nor could he hit, as his .208 average reflected.
One could deduce that he was playing under stress with PED allegations over his head and how it would affect his career if the truth surfaced like a mobster victim in the East River. Then again, knowing he had to get rid of evidence he cleaned up his act, quit the juice, flushed the candy, and played under normal conditions.
So he flopped like a beached whale, was sent to the minors, tore his meniscus after seven games, placed on the disabled list for at least a month, probably longer. Now he is idle and under scrutiny by Major League Baseball investigators, maybe the Feds, and even worse by the Seattle Mariner brain trust (and I use brain trust loosely) who wonder why they traded for this guy in the first place. Jesus is having one bad year. It turns out he fits in with the Mariners after all.
I don’t know if Dustin Ackley was shocked about being sent back to AAA Tacoma, but I was mildly surprised. It was however, a good decision, a wake up call if you will. Eric Wedge jokingly said Ackley was a bit stubborn. Two days later Ackley was sent down. Perhaps Wedge wasn’t joking. One could read into Wedge’s comment that Ackley was resisting coaching suggestions.
He seems to have woken up with the Rainiers. True it is only seven games, but Ackley is 13 for 32, a .406 average with an on base percentage of .513 thanks to seven walks. It is one thing to be aggressive, but his walk ratio is much better at AAA in those seven games than it was for Seattle, where he walked only eight times in 45 games.
It is too early to tell if Dustin got the message and got his game into high gear, or if it is just the mediocre pitching he might be facing. But at least he is hitting, no doubt with an eye to returning to the Mariners. What happens though if Nick Franklin does not stumble, plays his position, and hits between .250 and .280? He already has a two homer game. Ackley had one lone homer in his 45 games.
I feel the Mariners are watching both Ackley and Franklin closely. One of them could be the second baseman of the future, not that the Mariners seem to have a future, at least if the last decade tells us anything. But we can pretend can’t we?
Nick Franklin does not have a shortstop arm, but he does have one for second. Ackley could play the outfield next year, if the Mariners feel Franklin is for real. Of course they said that about Ackley in 2010. It would not surprise if the Mariners traded one of them at the deadline in July. It does not make sense on the surface, given the Mariners stance on building a team with young players for the long term. But consider in the past they traded young players like Adam Jones, Shin-Soo Choo, and Asdrubel Cabrera. All three made all-star teams. So if a trade is made, then watch that player make an all-star team or two, while the player the Mariners keep becomes the next Mario Mendoza.
I thought when the Mariners invited pitcher Jeremy Bonderman to spring training as a non-roster invitee, that he would not make the team. He was 30 years old, but had not pitched since 2010. When he was sent to Tacoma, I figured the M’s were desperate for pitching. As it turns out, they were.
In his first appearance in three years in the big leagues, Bonderman struck out the first Twins batter he faced, and retired the next two for a perfect inning. Then the Twins realized who was pitching and pretended it was batting practice. Bonderman lasted 4.2 innings, 9 hits, one walk, and the one strikeout, giving up 9 runs. Both Mike Blowers and Dave Sims, the Mariner broadcasters naturally gave him kudos. Blowers said he saw a lot he liked. (Is he a Twins fan?) He liked the movement on Bonderman’s fastball, liked the movement on the curve ball, and apparently the Twins also liked his pitches, since they hit them all over the park.
Bonderman is a Washington native, coming from Kennewick and Pasco High School. He was a first round draft pick (26th overall) of the Oakland A’s in the 2001 amateur draft, but was traded to Detroit in 2002 as past of a three way trade, with the Yankees also involved.
He was with the Tigers as a 20 year old in 2003 and finished 6-19 with a 5.56 earned run average. One could write off the year as being young and learning at the major league level. He did have a couple of 14 win seasons, but his lowest ERA was 4.08 when he was 14-8 for the 2006 Tigers. His career record coming into this season was 67-77 with a 4.89 ERA. Not something to warm a Mariner fans heart, especially when he has not been in the majors since 2010.
He started 11 games in Tacoma, going 2-4 with a 4.52 ERA. Bonderman will always be a mediocre pitcher and has no future for the Mariners. So why is he up? Because it is in his contract that he had to be brought up June 1st or be released.
But why when you preach about young kids, about the youth movement, why bring up a veteran with no future. And in the process release 24 year old Vinnie Catricala, the Mariners 2011 Minor League Player of the Year. Vinnie has not fared well since then, hitting .229 in Tacoma in 2012 and .253 in Jackson this year. Maybe he, or Francisco Matinez, another third baseman, whom the M’s got from Detroit in the Doug Fister trade, recently traded back to Detroit, will not amount to anything. But why promote Bonderman, dumping two young players?
Bring up one of the young arms to see what he can do. We already know Bonderman and what we know is a high probably of a loss every time he pitches. Mariner decision making is often a mystery.
In 2001 when the Seattle Mariners won 116 games (did this really happen?) the M’s batted .295 with runners in scoring position, the second best average in the majors with runners in scoring position. The next two years they won 93 games each year, hitting .280 (7th in RISP) in 2002 and .297 (3rd in RISP) in 2003.
In the year the Mariners began their decline, 2004, they were 17th in the league at .263. They won 63 games. In 2005, winning 69 games, they were 21st in the majors at .260.
In 2007 when the Mariners won 88 games, they were 6th with a .284 average. 2009 was an aberration, a big one. They won 85 games, yet finished last in baseball with a .234 RISP average.
The last four years have been true to form. 2010, 61 wins and a .226 RISP average, dead last. In 2011, 61 wins and a .222 average, next to last. In 2012 75 wins, a .239 average, 25th of 30th.
I suppose it seems an oversimplification to say there is a correlation between hitting with runners in scoring position and winning baseball games. Obviously if you hit with men on base ,you score runs and wins games. But going through the numbers, even with an aberration here or there, it is remarkable in its consistency. Teams that win hit with consistency, teams that don’t, like the Mariners lose more often than they win.
It does not mean if you lead the majors you will win the World Series. The Giant were 24th and 13th the two years they were champions. In fact many teams this past decade were not in the top 10. Pitching and defense are big contributors to winning baseball, not just hitting.
The Mariners this season are last with a .214 RISP average. Now you know why the Mariners are where they are.