Will Iwakuma’s pitching slump sink Mariners

In his last five starts Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle’s reliable number 2 starter, has been un-Kuma like. In 21  1/3 innings he has allowed 22 runs. That is a 9.28 ERA. Ironically, in those five games in which his ERA has gone from 2.57 to 3.42, he won two, lost one. That says more about the Mariners offense in getting enough runs to get Iwakuma the wins, showing that wins and losses do not tell the entire story about a pitcher.

His start against the Angels in Los Angeles was odd in that he retired the first eight batters before walking the number nine batter Navarro, then a single, another walk, and Pujols knocks in three. Kuma gets charged with 7 runs in 3.1 innings. This is not Iwakuma, this is Brandon Maurer in April, this is Erasmo Ramirez anytime, this is Aaron Harang in 2013, Joel Saunders in 2013. 

Iwakuma has walked 18 batters the entire season, but 5 have come in the last 13 innings. Iwakuma’s  slump is coming at the worst time as he needed to stop the skid that has seen Seattle lose five of their last six as they fight for a world card spot with 13 games to play. If his slump continues there will be no post season for Seattle. And because Kansas City rallied against the White Sox, the Mariners are two games back of the Royals for the final wild card spot.

Mike Blowers, Mariners TV analyst, says Iwakuma’s pitches are too high in the strike zone, that he must get his pitches lower where he is effective. That could be a mechanical problem or it could be the long season is taking a toll. True he has only started 25 games for Seattle, not making his first start until May 3rd because of an injury, so he should not be tired. But should not does not mean he isn’t.

But if the Royals stay hot and the Mariners offense continues to struggle, Seattle’s playoff hopes could be shipwrecked this weekend. Then Iwakuma’s next start may not matter. Seattle has scored three runs in three games. Pitchers need runs to work with especially slumping ones.


Despite losing series to Houston good news for Mariners

It is not good to lose two out of three to Houston at home when you are in a wild card race, but the Mariners did just that. For some reason Houston plays Seattle tough, especially against Hisashi Iwakuma. But all is not lost-pardon the pun.

Detroit an Oakland both lost so Seattle did not lose any ground, but there is even better news beginning Monday.

On Monday Seattle begins their last road trip and it is eleven games. Four against the Angels, three against the dreaded Astros, and four against the Blue Jays. That is good because the Mariners win on the road and lose at home It is a strange anomaly that defies baseball logic, but there it is. At home the Mariners are 37-38, but on the road they are amazing, and it is an amazing record of 42-28. That is a .600 winning percentage on the road. Who does that?

Today the Mariners have a day off before hosting Oakland for the weekend. Seattle needs to win two of three before hitting the road. They play Oakland well and Oakland has struggled of late, but that is scary because you expect them to snap out of it. The Oakland series is like a playoff series as both teams are battling for a wild card spot, so these games are huge.

So if Seattle can take two games before hitting the road they will be 81-67 heading into LA. If they can win 6.6-which is .600 percentage they would be the first to have a fraction of a win, so let’s downgrade to six wins. That is 87 wins heading into the last series of the season at home against those Angels, who are anything but. Being optimistic give the Mariners seven road wins and that is 88 with three to go.

If somehow Seattle and go 11-6 in their last 17 games that would give them 90 wins and most probably a wild card game. Even 10-7 might do it.

The countdown begins Friday at Safeco versus the A’s.

What Jackson and Denorfia have meant to Mariners

The numbers are not spectacular, in fact are average if not mediocre. Since being traded to Seattle Austin Jackson is batting .259 in 35 games with 11 rbis and 7 stolen bases. Chris Denorfia in 23 games is batting .206 with a homer and 4 rbis. The Mariners got the right handed bats they wanted to balance the lineup, but these numbers would not seem to translate to wins, but they do.

Since the trades the Mariners are 23-12 and have outscored the opposition 157-103. Maybe it is that elusive magic called chemistry; maybe it is the leadership of Robinson Cano and a few others; maybe it is a team that believes in itself; maybe it can’t be explained.

The Mariners have gotten lucky with hot bats at the right time. Consider Brad Miller who was flirting with the Mendoza line for most of the season. Chris Taylor came up and was red hot. Then the scouting reports caught up to him and he was pitched to differently, his average trailed off; then Brad Miller got hot. There has always been a few hot bats. Dustin Ackley who in the first half appeared to be playing himself out of Seattle, but since the all-star break has been the player everyone hoped he would be. Seager started cold then has been one of the best hitters in the game since May, made the all-star team, and has proven you can hit at Safeco with a .319 average, 16 homers, 53 rbis.

Since the all-star break the Mariners batting average is .251, 14th in baseball. Forget the early season. What is important is how they are playing now. They have 19 games left and one day off, that comes Thursday. I am betting Seattle will either grab second place from Oakland, or at worst be the second wild card. Detroit and Oakland are struggling, but in the baseball world that can change faster than a Lloyd McClendon trip to the mound.

However, Seattle has the best pitching in baseball, a better defense than Oakland or Detroit, and Jackson and Denorfia, and whatever that means.


How pitching will change in the future

In a previous blog I argued that if the National League adopted the DH they might as well eliminate the pitcher and use pitching machines. I doubt that will happen, but then I never thought I could watch a movie on my phone either.

But pitching will change. It as changed in my lifetime and will continue to change. At one time pitchers were expected to complete games, or at the least, go deep into the game. I am not talking about the old days when Charles Radbourne pitched in 75 of his teams 114 games, with 73 complete games, 59 wins, and 679 innings with 441 strikeouts. That was 1884. The year I graduated from high school, the year being none of your business, the complete games were down to a league leading 20 in one league, 18 in the other.

Saves? That statistic did not become official until 1969. Saves changed the game. First a closer usually went two or three innings like Rollie Fingers or Goose Gossage. It was not a big deal. Today a closer rarely pitches more than one inning. Now we have set up pitchers in the seventh and eighth innings.

Starters? A starter goes six, the magic number. Then we have to count pitches to make sure he can pitch the seventh. Many can not. Example: Eric Bedard. He came out of games after six when pitching with Seattle. I think the marine air tired him out.

The future will change because pitcher’s arms are being babied. Young arms are valued in the millions. King Felix of Seattle and Steven Strasburg of Washington are only two of dozens of young arms that must be cared for. Some pitchers get shutdown with innings restrictions.

So in the future a starting pitcher will go three innings, then sit down, and another pitcher will go two innings. That comes out to five innings. Then one pitcher for each of the next four innings, changing lefty for righty depending on batter of course. That is a minimum of six pitchers per game. A pitcher who pitched one inning will be the starter the next day and pitch his three. Rosters will expand of course. Teams will carry 30 players, 17 of which will be pitchers.

Complete games will be extinct and so will pitching duels like King Felix and Jon Lester yesterday in Oakland. Or in the old days like Sandy Koufax and Juan Marichal; Bob Gibson and Ferguson Jenkins; Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton. I  don’t think the future is all it will be cracked up to be.

Charles Radbourne must be laughing in his grave.

What’s wrong with King Felix

Where is King Felix? The person on the mound the last three starts is not the King who was being talked about for the Cy Young Award.

After setting a major league record for most consecutive starts pitching at least seven innings allowing two runs or less he is pitching not like Cy Young, but Eric Bedard. Sorry Eric.

In his last three starts Felix has pitched 17. 2 innings, allowed 22 hits, 6 of which are home runs, and allowed 10 runs, a 5.09 ERA. His ERA has jumped from 1.95 to 2.23. He has given up 6 of his 13 home runs in the last three games, 4 came last night against Washington.

And what is worse is that the Mariners gave Felix an extra day of rest. This season when given the extra day he had been 7-0 with a 1.77 ERA. Heck yeah, give him the extra day. Perhaps the law of averages caught up with Felix, or perhaps that is not the real Felix. Has the real Felix been kidnapped by gamblers and a celebrity look-a-like put in his place? 

Something is wrong.

In the August 14th game against Detroit and David Price, though Felix only gave up 2 runs in five innings he threw 92 pitches. That is what Felix throws in seven or eight innings, not five. Against Boston in 5.2 innings it was worse. He threw 116 pitches. He only threw 103 in his seven innings against Washington, but he gave up 10 hits and four homers.

The answer could be he has hit a dead arm phase that all pitchers seem to go through. It could also be that Felix, who has not pitched well in August or September the last couple of years is tired. In 2012 he was 0-4 in August and September, in 2013 he was 1-6. A 1-10 record down the stretch that last two years does not bode well if Felix continues. So far Felix is 2-2 in August, now comes September.

Felix must regain his Cy Young form otherwise the Good Ship Mariner will sink into Elliot Bay.


A modest proposal for those who want DH in both leagues

I confess at the outset I grew up, or rather grew older, during the years preceding the DH which was invented by Satan. Naturally being old school I prefer National League play, though I am cursed to live in an American League city. Another trick of Beelzebub.

I understand the younger folk prefer the DH because they want more offense and most pitchers can’t hit. However, baseball at its best is a thinking mans game, one for the literate, the intelligentsia.  I read an article years ago in the New York Review of Books about famous writers who were baseball fans. The list was extensive, ranging from Mark Twain to John Updike. Of course they grew up during real baseball. But from Twain to Updike, baseball, with it’s myths and legends, so close to myth in fiction-another long article for another time-baseball has been like a siren luring writers of every generation to the diamond.

It won’t do me any good to bring up the argument that the National League has more strategy, more options, more to think about. If you want offense watch Arena football, the only sport to rival soccer as boring. One has no scoring, or rather it has nil scoring, the other has scoring on every play. Both are dull for the dull witted.

The best thing for you future geezers is to wait until the last of us baby boomers has passed from the scene, then change and ruin the game the way you want. Of course those of us who love real baseball will come and haunt you no end. And there are thousands of us.

However, if it can’t be done and the DH is adopted by the National League, then the best thing to do, is to eliminate the pitcher all together. If  all you want is offense, then set up a 21st century pitching machine that can throw all types of pitching. It can even toss a rosin bag and walk around the mound when the electronic umpire’s calls do not go the robotic pitcher’s way. If the DH is in both leagues what is the need of a pitcher anyway? He has become pointless.

You young folk are just weird.

Seattle Mariner’s surpirse advantage to win a wild card slot

For the Seattle Mariners it is in the numbers to win a wild card spot in the playoffs. They have 32 games left. The good news is that eighteen are on the road, fourteen at home. That sounds odd because any other team would prefer playing games at home where they have an advantage.

But the Mariners are a weird team. At home, after losing to Texas 2-0 Monday night, they  are 34-33 at home, a .507 winning percentage. But on the road they are 37-26. Those numbers are the opposite of what most teams will do. Play .500 at home they say, and play winning ball at home. Maxims and adages are fine, but it does not always hold true, at least for the Mariners.

Now consider that the loss to Texas came on a night after a day game in Boston, so their body clocks were off Monday night and batting against a pitcher they have never seen, nor heard of, a pitcher with a 1-5 record and a plus 7 ERA. Of course he gives up three hits in eight innings. Blame it not on the Bosa Nova, but on studies showing reflexes are not as sharp when going from east to west. Thank God there is a reason to blame the loss from a pitcher nobody knows. I forget his name. I don’t want to know. Phil Humber was bad enough .

So let us say we forget that game and take their percentage of winning prior to the game and multiply that over 14 remaining homes games. It is 7.12 wins. Now take their road winning percentile and multiply by 18 road games and we get 10.56. My calculator says 7.12 + 10.56 is 17.68. We round up to 18, so Seattle at their current pace will win 89 games.

But throw that number out for the following reason. Since Seattle made the trade for Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia the Mariners are 15-7, a winning percentage of .681. That math, which I like better, and is more accurate to present time, gives the Mariners 21 more wins and 92 for the season.

The Mariners have recently changed their rotation so that King Felix with his new normal rest will pitch the wild card play-in game. Of course being the best pitcher in the American League he will win and the Mariners will go to the World Series and win that as well and Seattle will be home to the Seahawks and Mariners, champions of the world.

It’s in the numbers. At least mine.


Why did Boston pitcher Joe Kelly talk into his glove

Friday night against the Mariners Joe Kelly threw a pitch and though everything looked fine, Boston manager Brad Ausmus, along with the trainer, the umpire, and the players gathered around the mound to see if anything was wrong with Kelly.

I have never understood baseball players paranoia with lip reading. They are so worried that some strategy will be read by the millions of lip reading baseball fans or subversive spies in the enemies dugout that they must talk into their gloves. Pitchers and catchers do it on a regular basis.

There was no strategy here. But Kelly put the glove up to his face and talked into his glove. Or did he?

Perhaps he unloaded to Ausmus that he was worried Justin Verlander would find out about his date with Kate Upton. Maybe Joe’s glove is made of chocolate and he was snacking. Maybe he likes sniffing the leather. Is there glue in the glove? Maybe he had a smart phone in his glove and he was using his tongue to Tweet on Twitter about the game. Or maybe Joe Kelly is just a Twit.

What possible advantage could be gained from his talking with Ausmus and the trainer about any possible discomfort?

Glove talking has gotten out of hand. The superstitions of baseball players of yore has given way, they are gone; but glove talking is the 21st century version of superstitions. I doubt each team has a designated lip reader. And if they did, or do, so what. Baseball has been televised for decades and never did I see glove talking, not in the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties, and into the new century. How all of a sudden did these goofy trend develop.  If George Hendricks was the first to wear the long pajama pants and ruin baseball fashion, then who was the first glove talker.

Whoever it was I wonder if he is in a mental ward having a good laugh.


What is the story of 1911 Giant’s Charley Faust

Though many of the 1911 New York Giants wrote and talked about Charley Faust in their memoirs, letters, and interviews, what we know of Charley comes from newspapers and Gabriel Schechter’s book, “Victory Faust.” Despite Schechter’s deep research much of Charley’s life is elusive, most notably the mystery of his mental health.

Charley walked onto Robison Field in St. Louis before a game with the New York Giants in July of 1911. He told Giant’s manager John McGraw that a fortune teller in Kansas told him he would pitch the Giants to the pennant. For laughs McGraw gave Faust, in his early thirties, a workout. The players had fun with Charley as ran around the bases in his street clothes. They kept missing the ball and telling Charley to slide. Fun over, the fans loved Charley.  McGraw ditched Charley.

But to McGraw’s surprise when the team returned to New York there was Charley waiting for his team. What happened over the next few weeks was that Charley suited up for games, he kept asking for a contract, the Giants who had been in third place starting winning when Charley suited up, and Charley became a Vaudeville star. Baseball players were very superstitious at that time and when ever Rube Marquard pitched and Charley was there Rube won. He became the good luck mascot of the Giants and to Marquard.

The season went on, Charley had no contract, and the Giants played joke after joke on Charley, like sending him to look for striped paint, loading his suitcase with iron; most of the pranks and jokes would not be considered ‘politically correct’ today.

The Giants did win the pennant and Charley got into two games as a pitcher. But whether the players in those meaningless games tried to get hits or makes outs for Charley is another question. What has been and always will be elusive is whether Charley was a country hick, immature and uneducated beyond the norm, or whether he was mentally ill. One could make a case for either one.

Charley died in a sanitarium in Washington State, a hospital for the mentally ill, but the why and how of his getting there are clouded. He died shortly thereafter from tuberculosis. That was not unusual for the hospital also had tuberculosis patients.

I wanted to tell Charley’s story, did a lot of research, and wrote a fictional account of Charley’s summer as seen through the eyes of a fictional baseball player on the Giants, a young rookie dating a Broadway chorus girl. Since it is based on a true story, real people like Bat Masterson. Damon Runyon, George M. Cohan, John McGraw and the New York Giants players are part of the story.

If you are interested in old time baseball, history, Charley Faust, baseball fiction, my e-book for $2.99 is found on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Loonies-Dugout-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00EEN7YNA/ref=la_B00EEVHN38_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408642810&sr=1-3

Baseball needs to discipline umpire Randazzo

Umpires make mistakes. On occasion they miss a call, but the majority of umpires have integrity and do their best to be impartial and honor the game. Others abuse their power for personal reasons. This type of umpire needs to be weeded out because if an umpire is not impartial then he his dishonest.

Major League Baseball needs to look at umpire Tony Randazzo for his actions Saturday and Sunday in Detroit when he kicked out Seattle Mariner manager Lloyd McClendon in consecutive games. And the reason for the second run is ridiculous.

Saturday night Randazzo was calling balls and strikes and McClendon was not happy with the calls for his pitcher Felix Hernandez.  Nor was Felix happy. Watching the game with the strike zone box that allows fans to complain it was clear Randazzo was missing calls from time to time. Okay that happens. Keep in mind this was the third time Randazzo was behind the plate when Felix was pitching. His ERA in those three starts is over 8.00. I am not suggesting anything here, for Randazzo has nothing personal against Felix-that I know of-but he does against McClendon.

Randazzo ran McClendon from arguing balls and strikes, claiming that Lloyd said something from the dugout. I don’t know who said what, if anything, but I doubt Randazzo could distinguish whose voice he heard. Then Sunday Randazzo, umpiring third,  did not call a third strike  when Mariner catcher Mike Zunino pointed to third looking for the call. It did look like the Tiger batter swung, but Randazzo called ball. Then Randazzo ran Lloyd from the game again. Lloyd did not say anything, and if he had, he would not have been heard from third base.

Here is why he was kicked out according to Randazzo. He “shooed away my call with his hand.” What?

Crew chief Brian Gorman said after the game that hand gestures are a powerful statement. Again, what? Keep mind no middle finger was used in the hand gesture, Lloyd simply “shooed away the call” and he was sitting in the dugout. He never came out to argue. I have a feeling this happens every day in some game and nobody is thrown out.

Here is what got Lloyd ejected: http://i.imgur.com/ubwWv5s.gif

This is personal with Tony. He has only two ejections this season. Lloyd McClendon on consecutive days. That’s it. Last year he tossed one, the year before two. So he does not throw out managers or players lightly. Couple that with the fact that Randazzo was embarrassed by a bad call in 2005 when Lloyd was managing the Pirates-feel free to Google Pittsburgh Gazette and do the search. Randazzo is letting personal feelings get in the way of his job. I hope he will not umpire many Mariner games down the stretch. I would hate to think his antics could cost Seattle a playoff spot.

Baseball does not need umpires like Tony Randazzo.


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