Who follows Nori Aoki in Seattle Mariner 2016 lineup

At the moment Nori Aoki will bat leadoff and play left field. Both Jerry Dipoto, Mariner’s GM, and Scott Servais, M’s manager, have pretty much given him that job. That will be against right handed pitchers as Aoki bats left. The number two hitter could be Ketel Marte, but a 2-3-4 of Seager-Cano-and Cruz might be better at the beginning of the season. Marte impressed in his call-up last season, hitting .283 in  57 games, but the two slot puts a lot of pressure on a 22-year old to get on base for the big bats. And seasoned hitters batting 2-3-4 should create more offense.

Adam Lind at first will bat fifth giving a L-L-L-R-L in the first five batters. The sixth slot is likely Seth Smith, another left handed bat, and he would be in right if Cruz is at DH or the DH with Cruz in right.

That leaves catcher Chris Iannetta in the seventh slot with every Mariner fan hoping he will hit better than his .188 showing for the Angels in 2015.  He bats right, but the only other catcher is backup Steve Clevenger who bats left, but he is also in the mix as a back up at first and occasional DH. Dipoto and Servais want Zunino to begin in Tacoma, but you never know. He has trouble with major league pitching, not much trouble in AAA, so even if he starts well in Tacoma, that is no guarantee he will hit in Seattle. 

The eighth and ninth slots are likely to be Marte and Leonys Martin. Both are speedsters and base stealers and have potential for creating RBI opportunities for Aoki and Seager.

The lineup against a southpaw pitcher is harder to figure. Franklin Gutierrez and Jesus Montero-if they like his defense at first- should see playing time, meaning Aoki and Lind would sit. In that case they might bat Marte leadoff, a switch hitter, to give him the opportunity to hit higher in the lineup and depending on how he does, ease him into the second slot as the season progresses.  Gutierrez in the second spot? could be. Then Cano and Cruz which would give you R-R-then L-Cano-R-Cruz, then Seager fifth from the left side. Montero sixth at first, Iannetta or Clevenger seventh, perhaps Chris Taylor as DH if makes the team and Martin ninth.

Dipoto has said there are only three spots open on the team. One is the utility player, the second is the backup first baseman, and the other is in the bullpen. The lineup looks better than the 2015 version, but then everything looks good on paper, or on the Internet.

Will the Mariners NEW bullpen be better in 2016

A great running line in the Newman/Redford classic, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” was “Who are those guys?” It was said by Cassidy/Newman when no matter what Butch and Sundance did to ditch a posse, they could not shake them. Well Seattle GM, Jerry Dipoto has shaken up the Mariner bullpen and brought in a new posse. But will it be better? At the moment it looks to be their biggest weakness.

Frankly at the moment it scares me. I think Dipoto has secret Freemason analytics unknown to the rest of us. Something found in ancient knowledge of necromancy, alchemy, and witchcraft. Looking at his acquisitions I ask, “Who are those guys?” 

There are 20 pitchers on the 40 man roster, six of which are starters, those being Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Nathan Karns, and two lefties, Taijuan Walker and Wade Miley. That leaves 15 relievers, including one recently acquired for another reliever, also acquired during the offseason. By spring training all the following pitchers could trade as Trader Jerry likes to deal like a riverboat gambler.

Their are only six pitchers returning who spent any time with the Mariners and four of those are lefties. Charlie Furbush, 29,  appeared in only 33 games due to an injury; Vidal Nuno, 28, another lefty was 1-5, 3.74 in 35 games  (3 with Arizona), 10 starts; Mike Montgomery, 26,  who began 2015 as a starter was 4-6, 4.60 and though he had two early shutouts, his 16 starts indicated a five inning pitcher at best; Dave Rollins, 26, the fourth lefty was 0-2, 7.56 and was dreadful. From the right side is Mayckol Guaipe, 25, 21 games, 5.40 ERA and Tony Zych, 25,  who only appeared in 13 games with a 2.45 ERA.

Based on the five returnees Furbush and Nuno are likely to be in the pen, with Montgomery being a starter in Tacoma. Guaipe will have to compete with seven new righties and all have question marks.

Staring at the end with Steve Cishek, 29, the likely closer with 39 saves in 43 opportunities in 2014, but between two teams last season was 4 of 9 with 3.58 ERA. So a question mark as to health and if he can regain his previous form. The setup man is likely Joaquin Benoit whose only question is age at 38 as his 2015 ERA was 2.34 in 65.1 innings with San Diego. He also has closing experience. They should make the team. That makes Cishek, Benoit, Furbush, and Nuno. Along with 5 starters, that makes nine pitchers.

Assuming a 12 man staff that leaves three spots open between seven pitchers-at the moment. The odd man out of the rotation, baring another Iwakuma/Paxton/Other injury, is Karns. If he stays in the bullpen as long reliever, that leaves two spots. Besides Zych there is Jonathan Arno, 25, 6.97 in six games with Boston in 2015; Ryan Cook, 28, 8.2 innings between two teams allowing 20 hits, 18.69 era in 9 games. An aberration as he had three good years with Oakland and can also close games. Another former Oakland A is Evan Scribner, 30, 5-2, 4.21 career marks; Justin DeFratus, 28, 6-1, 5.51 with the Phillies in 2015; Cody Martin, 26, 7.92 between Atlanta and Oakland; and Joe Wieland, soon to be 26, two bad starts with Dodgers in 2015, career record 1-5 5.85 in 11 games. Anybody’s guess, so I pick Cook and Zych, or Cook and Scribner, or draw two names out of a batting helmet.

Dipoto has remade the pen and they can make or break the 2016 team, just as the 2015 pen sunk the Good Ship Mariner. I am at the moment a bit seasick and must get below deck.

 

 

Who said Houston was two years away and why

I recall hearing on sports radio in Seattle last season one of those baseball ‘experts’ say Houston was two years away, would not be in the playoffs , and yada, yada , yada. I also heard the same statement made at the all-star game. Houston will fall, they are too young, blah, blah, blah. It was said by many. Based on what?

My question is what sabermetrics, what algebraic calculations  made Houston two years away. First off the statement is vague. Two years from what? The playoffs, the World Series, moving to Tahiti? What will happen in two years? That is what I wanted to know, but nobody thought to ask.

Did this person, and he was not the only one, have a crystal ball? Or did he read tea leaves, or perhaps it was tarot cards.

In an era when talking heads say any dumb thing to get Twitter followers and more gigs on radio and TV sports shows in order to get a higher profile, there are many who simply repeat the prevailing thoughts of the day without questioning what everyone is saying.

Does it occur to anyone to wonder  what it is in two years that would make a difference. Are there more young players in the minors to put them over the hump? What happens to injuries of minor leaguers, injuries to major leaguers, trades, off seasons by those who were highly touted, and oh no, suspensions.

The facts are that teams expected to win will lose, teams expected to lose will win, teams two years away are relevant now. In sports nothing can be calculated over a period of time because each year is different, each season presenting surprises.

What is consistent are talking heads whose hot air blustering sounds like Rosanne Barr singing the National Anthem.

My fictional account of Charlie Faust and the 1911 New York Giants is found here in E-Book form on Amazon.

 

 

The Big Unit vs. Mark McGwire, 6/24/97 in the Kingdome

I would like to describe the weather that June day, but since I was watching in the Kingdome from section 311, row 17, seat 10, all I saw was a gray dome. The Mariners who were good that year winning 90 games had Randy Johnson 11-1 pitching against Oakland’s Steve Karsay, 1-7.  I thought it would be an easy win for the Big Unit, but this is baseball and nothing is a given.

Randy struck out Jason McDonald leading off the third, giving him six strikeouts in the first ten batters. Rafael Bournigal then singled, scored on Geronimo Berroa’s double, who then scored on Mark McGwire’s double, before Randy whiffed Jose Canseco and former Mariner prospect Patrick Lennon.

Mariners down 2-0 when McGwire comes up in the 5th with two down, both on strikeouts. What happened next is what occurs when speed meets power at a precise spot in the bat, the sweetest of the spots, unless of course you are a Mariner fan. I was sitting down the left field line and saw the ball jump off McGwire’s bat with such velocity that when the ball reached it’s apogee, I heard a thundering crack, or was it an explosion. I would like to say I saw the ball after that, but it disappeared from my view as it headed for the scoreboard high on the wall, above the bleachers, and so far away from the plate it was unreachable. I looked at the scoreboard to see what lights the ball would break. But alas, the ball did not get there. In my mind’s eye, however, it got close, real close.

It was estimated to have gone 538 feet into the second deck of the bleachers just below the scoreboard. Naturally it was the longest homerun hit in the Kingdome. And I was there to almost see it.

George Williams homered for the A’s in the 9th to take a 4-0 lead. Randy went the distance striking out 19 and walking zero while giving up 11 hits. He was the fifth pitcher at the time to have struck out 19 in a game. The others being Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, and David Cone. Carlton, a lefty like Johnson also was the losing pitcher in his 19 K performance. The 19 K’s by Randy was an American League record for a lefty and a Mariner team record.

The M’s lost 4-1, scoring a run in the bottom of 9th on Griffey Junior’s leadoff triple, scoring on Edgar Martinez groundout. Junior had a single, double triple, and walk in the game.

It was memorable game of course as you do not see 19 K’s every day, nor a 538 home run, nor Junior going 3-3 (a homer would have been nice though), but it still burns me 18 years later that Randy had 19 K’s and lost.  I did not know at the time, how could I, that the 538 blast may have been chemically induced. No matter. I lost the ball in the dark gray of the dome.  

I give up, what is Jerry Dipoto doing

Hisashi Iwakuma is gone, now a Dodger with a three year contract at the age of 35. I wish him well and I hope he stays injury free. Seattle GM, Jerry Dipoto, had to strengthen the starting staff so he traded fireball reliever Carson Smith and starter Roenis Elias to the Red Sox for Wade Miley and minor league pitcher Jonathan Aro.

Miley can’t replace Iwakuma in the rotation. In 2012 he had a solid year with Arizona with a 16-11 record and 3.33 ERA. The next season he was 10-10 with a 3.55 ERA. But the past two seasons with Arizona and Boston he is a combined 19-23 with ERA’s of 4.34 and 4.64. Not the numbers of a number two starter. He gives up 9.3 hits and 3 walks per inning, but does not give up a lot of homers and will pitch around 200 innings.

Still look at the entire moves. In essence you added Miley while losing Iwakuma, Smith and Elias. Miley has two years left of a three year deal worth 19.5 million, so he comes cheaper than Iwakuma. Dipoto saved a lot of money by dumping Mark Trumbo’s salary, money that could have been used for Iwakuma, but perhaps Dipoto was scared off my Kuma’s age and injury history. Can’t fault him there.

But on the other side of the diamond he does seem to be stockpiling players who have taken a down turn in their careers and others coming off injuries. I know Dipoto has not finished his head spinning trade a day refashioning of the team, but there are a lot of players that you see on the roster and the one word that comes to  mind is ‘hope.’ As in I hope he can bounce back.

Elias was inconsistent to be kind, but Smith was a strong late inning reliever with a high upside. As of today the bullpen is full of unknown arms that we ‘hope’ can pitch and a starting staff that we see and ‘hope’ they can go deep and eat innings.

Dipoto does not have to make a blockbuster deal, but getting a few players that don’t make you say, ‘I hope’ would be nice. Mariner fans are tired of hope.

 

 

 

 

Are Mariners brewing a move on the Hot Stove

The Seattle Mariners roster is changing daily. That is because Mariners new GM Jerry Dipoto is in the kitchen tossing out ingredients whose expiration date has expired. He is in the midst of creating a new dish and is looking for fresher ingredients. Here is what Chef Dipoto has done so far, though things may have changed even as I am typing. as he is a fast and furious chef.

Gone                                                                           Added 

Brad Miller                                                                Nathan Karns-starter

Logan Morrison                                                      Boog Powell-outfielder

Danny Farquhar                                                     Daniel Robertson-outfield

Tom Wilhelmsen                                                    Joaquin Benoit-closer

James Jones                                                             Leonys Martin-CF

CJ Riefenhauser added and departed           Anthony Bass-pitcher

Mark Trumbo                                                         Luis Sardinas-infield

Ramon Flores                                                         Chris Iannetta-catcher

Patrick Kivlehan                                                    Andy Wilkins-1b                                  

                                                                                      Steve Clevenger-catcher/1b

                                                                                      Nori Aoki-outfield

                                                                                      Justin De Fratus-pitcher

 

What Dipoto has thus far done, is add players coming off bad years or injuries, or players with potential, but have yet to show much. But dumping Trumbo’s salary of $9 million gives Chef Dipoto more money; more money to do what?

Repeat after me. Free Agent Signing. But who is the question. I can not imagine him cutting the payroll without adding someone.

At present Dipoto has said that Jesus Montero and Andy Wilkins make a nice platoon at first base and that Montero deserves a shot. I agree, but GM’s always say that until they have an alternative of someone they think is better. The chef also praised Brad Miller, then traded him. Dipoto is also big on defense, and Montero is average at best. Justin Moreau, 34, coming off an injury (Dipoto’s favorite), hit .310 in 168 at bats. Is Jerry thinking of Justin. Or Mike Napoli? Or perhaps Johnny Cueto for a starting pitcher. Or is he saving the money to resign Hisashi Iwakuma. But something is cooking.

The winter meetings start Monday, the 7th, so stay tuned to the Mariner Food Network to see what Jerry will do next.

                                                                              

 

 

What was the lucky charm that got Rube Marquard into the Hall of Fame

Rube Marquard spent 18 years in the majors and though he pitched for Brooklyn, Cincinnati and Boston of the National league he is known for his time with John McGraw’s New York Giants. From 1911-1913 he was arguably the best pitcher in the NL, along with teammate Christy Mathewson of course. In those three years he went, 24-7, 26-11, and 23-10. He was 73-28 in those three years. His career record was 201-177 and if you do the math the other 15 years he was 128-149. Not exactly a Hall of Fame career and many think he does not belong.

But there is something remarkable, perhaps magical, about those three years with Giants, something that defies common sense, and that was his lucky charm. It was not a lucky coin, nor a rabbit’s foot, nor horseshoe, but one Charlie Faust.

In the summer of 1911 Charlie walked onto the field in St. Louis where the Giants were warming up before a game with the Cardinals. He told John McGraw that a fortune teller that he would pitch the Giants to the pennant. To this day nobody knows if Charlie a country rube, mentally challenged, or a bit loony, but he became the Giants mascot, though he often got distracted by his lack of contract, leaving the team, or appearing on the New York vaudeville stage regaling people with his impression of baseball players.

But the truth of the matter is that when Charley was with the Giants in uniform sitting on the bench or warming up in the bullpen, they won over 80% of their games and during one stretch it was over 90% and the biggest beneficiary was Rube Marquard. During that period, Marquard was 33-3 and two of those losses came when Charlie was absent.

Baseball players back then were highly superstitious and Marquard believed he pitched better when Charlie was there. Of course he was right, and that power of believe no doubt gave him confidence and with confidence anxiety is abated; no tension, confident in victory, Rube loved Charlie’s presence.

Without those three great years Rube would not have made the hall of Fame and without that stretch with Charlie he would not have had those three great years. As it was, Rube was not elected until 1979 when he was 92. He would die the next year.

But there is one interesting note for those two players. Both Marquard and Faust were born on October 9th, Charlie in 1980 and Marquard in 1886. Could there be some sort of symbiotic karma with the two who shared a birthday that gave Rube his obvious luck? Faust died in 1915, Fort Steilacoom, Washington, in a sanatorium, from tuberculosis. In the 100th year of Faust’s birth year Marquard died. Maybe it was just in the numbers.

I wrote a fictional account of that year with Charlie. It is an e-Book on Amazon you can find here.

A non-fictional book on Faust by Gabriel Schechter is here

 

 

 

Is it important that Scott Servais has no managerial experience

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.

 

 

Did Seattle make right move in trading for Leonys Martin

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.

 

What can Mariners expect in 2016 from Seth Smith

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?

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