Mariners Jackie Z on top of trade game

I was concerned early in the day when Seattle sent Abraham Almonte to San Diego, along with a minor league pitcher for Chris Denorfia, a 34 year old outfielder with no power. He does bat from the right side, but is at best a 4th outfielder, perhaps a platoon in left or right with Ackley and Chavez. I assume Stephen Romero will be send back to Tacoma.

It was not a bad trade, just not one that would improve Seattle that much. On the other hand they received a veteran outfielder and gave up no players that figured in the Mariners future.

Then the rumor hit that Seattle was involved with two teams where the Rays David Price was the centerpiece. It was true. Price went to the Tigers, who sent the Rays starting pitcher Drew Smyly along with a young A ball shortstop, 18 year old Willy Adames, the number three rated Tiger prospect. The Mariners sent the Rays Nick Franklin who did not figure in Seattle’s future with Robinson Cano at second and Brad Miller and Chris Taylor ahead of him at shortstop. In return the Mariners received centerfielder Austin Jackson from the Tigers. Jackson is not a big homerun hitter, but is a .277 career hitter and considered one of the top centerfielders in baseball. He is signed through 2015 and is 27. James Jones will likely be sent to Tacoma until September as Jackson will be the everyday centerfielder.

Whether Denorfia and Jackson can help the Mariners get a wild card spot is not the point. Seattle gave up no player that figured in their future, so no harm done. The two moves improve the Mariners without losing anything. They still have D.J. Peterson, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton.

There was no trade that Seattle could have made that would fill all there holes. But all in all, a good day for Jackie Z who definitely improved the team.

 

Should Mariners make a trade

I am not concerned about a deal where prospects are traded, though they need to keep D.J. Peterson, James Paxton, and possibly Chris Taylor, who may be the better shortstop long term, not Brad Miller. My concern is whether one player can make a difference for the Mariners to get into the playoffs.

Consider the Mariner offense. Logan Morrison or Justin Smoak at first. Neither has been consistent, both barely hitting over .200 and Smoak is in Tacoma. Corey Hart, whether in the outfield, at first, or DH has done nothing. Brad Miller is hitting around .180 in July and continues to flirt with the .200 mark. Mike Zunino despite his home run power is also flirting with the .200 Mendoza line. Endy Chavez and James Jones are both slumping.

The point is the Mariners do not have the chips to make enough moves to better the lineup. They could add one bat, but that one bat can not overcome the holes in the rest of the lineup. Even after adding Kendrys Morales, another bat will not make a difference. I would not mind another right handed bat, preferably an outfielder with power, but it would be a trade that improves Seattle for the long term, not just the short term. Seattle must battle the Yankees, Blue Jays, Indians, Royals, possibly the Rays and White Sox for the wild card and Seattle is slumping.

Pitching?

Another arm would be good, but the price of Price is too high. I had thought a couple of weeks ago another bat and another arm would help Seattle get that final wild card slot. And while anything can happen, Seattle can not add an arm to get them that final wild card spot because the Mariners will not give up what is needed and I don’t blame them. If the mariners were in the Angels position with a 7 1/2 game lead in the wild card race go for it.

The Mariners can make a trade for a pitcher, and like the bat they seek, it should be to improve the team in the long term. But right now, there are too many holes to fill.

Mariners King Felix getting goosed

In his last thirteen starts Felix Hernandez has pitched seven innings or more allowing 2 runs or less; a stretch that only Hall of Famer Tom Seaver has accomplished. If Felix does it again in his next start he will be alone in the record book for perhaps the greatest pitching stretch his history.

How many wins should a pitcher get if he allows two or fewer runs in 13 games? If the pitcher has a good offense perhaps all 13. Not for King Felix. He has won five with five no decisions and three losses. It is indicative of a woeful offense that has reverted to the futility of previous seasons.

The Mariners who were nine games above .500 have dropped to 53-50 and in 11 of the 50 losses they have been shut out. They have scored one run 12 times and two runs 14 times. My math tell me that is 37 games 2 runs or less in 103 games.

It is said one should never kill the Golden Goose. There is no such goose in Seattle, but they need to find whatever goose is haunting the Mariners and stop him from laying all those goose eggs on Seattle’s line score.

The Mariners have scored 113 runs fewer than Oakland, 105 fewer than the Angels. In fact they are 14th out of 15 in the American League only two runs ahead of Houston. I believe pitching and defense win games, but  goose eggs on the scoreboard drag a team down.

Zunino .202; Hart .213; Miller .204; Morrison .204; Romero .198; and Ackley .242 are the primary villains for the goose eggs. They have 140 rbi’s between them an average of 23 each. Chavez has ten and Jones eight rbis, but they bat one and two in the order and no one at the bottom of the lineup gets on base that much. Seager and Cano are carrying the team and two hitters is not enough.

King Felix is acknowledged as one of the best pitchers in the game. He is 11-2, a 1.99 ERA and a batting average against of .197. If Felix won 10 of those 13 great starts, he would be a 16 game winner. By years end he could be a 24 0r 25 game winner. But with this offense he will be lucky to win 20.

Stop the goose from laying his eggs!

Examining the Mariners John Buck curse

I believe in the Madden curse because John Clayton, football guru, believes in it. I believe in UFO’s because I have seen one hovering over a street one block away, then zoom straight up into the stars and beyond faster than any Star Trek warp drive. I believe in ghosts because I live in a house where someone died and I hear knocking on my bedroom door and was slapped on the back when I was alone.

But I will reserve judgment until the season is over to verify the John Buck curse.

Why did the Mariners release John Buck in early July? He was the veteran backup catcher they wanted to tutor Mike Zunino. Every source said he was doing just that. Zunino said he learned something everyday from John, the players loved him, he was a clubhouse leader with veteran leadership.

Was it his hitting that got him released? In 27 games, 84 at bats, he hit .226 with one homer and 6 rbis. But what more do you want from a backup catcher.  Zunino is currently batting .204, but he does have 14 home runs. On the other hand he strikes out 36% of the time. Of course he is young, he is learning, thus having Buck on hand was a good idea.

Was it Buck’s defense that got him ousted? In 19 starts as catcher he had one error and one passed ball. Pretty good I should think. He threw out only 3 of 14 base stealers, but pitchers who fail to hold runners take part of the blame. Runners stole bases at a .786 clip against Buck, .707 when Zunino is catching. The Mariners said they brought up young Jesus Sucre because he was throwing out around 50% of base stealers. Okay, but he is a back up catcher. The Mariners said it was just the right time. Why?

The release of John Buck is a mystery.

There are those who believe the Mariners will be cursed for releasing him, that the Mariner mojo has been disturbed, especially now that the Angels have picked him up. The numbers say that since his release the Mariners are 4-9. Okay that is scary I admit. Of the nine losses they have been shut out twice, scored one run three times, and two runs three times.

The good thing is that if the Mariners continue to slide downhill, Mariner fans have something to blame. It will be the Buck curse and I will believe.

Brandon Maurer, the Mariners Jekyll and Hyde

Brandon Maurer has changed roles in mid season, going from starter to relief pitcher and the change is dramatic.

In 2013 he made 14 starts in his 22 games. He was a disaster. A 5-8 record, 6.30 ERA, giving up 16 home runs in 90 innings. This season he started seven games, his last on May 29th against the Angels. He pitched 4 innings, 6 hits, 4 walks, 5 earned runs. Those numbers were close to his previous start against the Astros, another 4 innings, 6 hits, a walk, 6 runs. He lost both games.

He was sent to Tacoma and pitched out of the bullpen. A demotion? Perhaps in the old days it would be viewed that way, but not in this age. The Mariners were trying to get him going. His pitching was ugly, the Mr. Hyde of the Seattle Mariners staff.

But the change worked for Maurer.

Since his return to the Mariners on June 25th against Boston, he has pitched 14 innings, 6 hits, 17 strikeouts and 2 walks. He has pitched so well, he has been mentioned in trade rumors. It was rumored, though never confirmed by the parties involved, that the Tampa Bay Rays offered Seattle Ben Zobrist for Nick Franklin and Brandon Maurer. Seattle GM, Jackie Z, said no thank you.

Wise rejection as Zobrist brings nothing to Seattle. At the all-star break he was the worst hitter in baseball with runners in scoring position, an average barely over .100 thanks to a 1 for 44 streak at the break. He is a utility player and Seattle already has Willie Bloomquist. Seattle does not need to give up two players for Zobrist. Not when Dr. Jekyll, AKA Brandon Maurer, is proving a valuable asset. Maurer could be traded, but it would be in a package for someone better.

Maurer relishes the role. He does not have to think about executing a game plan, nor holding back his pitches. As a reliever he comes in and throws as hard as he can, his fastball in the high 90’s and a few times topping 100. As a starter he did not throw that hard, saving himself for the marathon of starting, not the sprint of a relief pitcher.

Some players are better suited for one role than another. For Maurer he seems to have found his niche. No more Hyde, only the good Dr. Jekyll.

 

Can Mariners make a trade; GM’s wonder

The Mariners are in a race for a wild card spot. The divisional race where Seattle bests both the A’s and the Angels remains a lovely dream for those not living in reality.

The A’s, already with great pitching, added two starters in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. They want not only to remain in first, but to set up a strong rotation for the post season. The Angels strengthened their bullpen by trading for Jason Grilli, Joe Thatcher,  and Huston Street.

Many feel the Mariners are now forced to make a trade to add a bat and a starting pitcher in order to compete in the divisional race. But there may be a problem as to whether Jackie Z, Mariners GM, will follow through.

Ken Rosenthal, Fox’s senior baseball analyst, who always wants the Mariners to trade away stars like Felix Hernandez ,as he pushed for a couple of years ago, has written that other GM’s have told him it is difficult to move Jackie Z  across the trade finishing line. Jack came to Seattle with a reputation for making trades in Milwaukee, thus the nickname Trader Jack.

But there is a perception in Seattle, rightly or wrongly, that every trade the Mariners make is a bad one. Mariner fans remember all the bad ones, never the good ones. Of course, there are more bad ones to remember and I won’t go over all those here; there is no reason to depress people in summer.

So maybe Trader Jack is reluctant in light of the history in the haunted Northwest to hit the trade accept button on his laptop.

But the Mariners need a right handed bat in left field and a starting pitcher, a good one, to give them three solid starters for the post season. Remember the famous football quote, “You play to win the game.” So make the moves to put you in a better position to win the game. Bring me the arm of John Lester. Bring me the bat of Marlon Byrd. Push that button Trade Jack.

Mariners magic number is three

Heading into the Mariners final game before the all-star break they have a 51-43 record. Major league pundits, radio heads, TV heads, columnists,  and people who love crunching numbers say the Mariners can not sustain their winning ways. They point out the team batting average, on base percentage, and tell you they are lucky. One person said they were getting cluster hits. It is another way of saying they hit well with runners in scoring position.

But they keep on winning. And the statistic under W is the only number that counts in the end.

Here is a statistic for everyone to think about. The Mariners magic number is three. When the Mariners score two runs or less they have a 5-27 record. I would wager any team scoring two runs or less will have a losing record. But when the Mariners hit their magic number of three, as in three runs or more, they have a 46-16 record.

So if the Mariners score three runs, chances are they will win. Friday night against Oakland they won 3-2 and Saturday night they won 6-2. I am going out on a limb and say if the Mariners score three on Sunday they will sweep the A’s, a good way to head into the all-star break.

But . . .

The second half is another season. It is the drive to get into the playoffs. With Roenis Elias struggling, probably on an innings limitation, and with Taijuan Walker having control problems, the Mariners need another starter. I think the Price is right for Seattle. It has been reported the Rays are scouting Mariner players and the Mariner scouts are doing the same with the Rays, indicating a possible multi player deal.

Of course it good be all smoke.

But if the Mariners land David Price they have another magic three, as in King Felix, Prince Iwakuma, and David Price. That is a staff set for the playoffs. And if the offense can score three runs or more during the playoffs . . .

 

 

 

Sinatra “That’s Life” McClendon “Thats baseball” and July

Nobody sang “That’s Life” any better than Frank Sinatra, a song about not getting down in life, but persevering,  “I thought of quitting, baby but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it.”

Throughout the baseball season when the Mariners hit a bad stretch, such as their 13 game losing streak, or their five game losing streak, or when they have been shutout twice in three games, scoring two runs in the other, reporters ask Mariner manager Lloyd McClendon questions like, “Are you worried?” or variations of that question.

McClendon’s answer is always the same. “That’s baseball.”

It is a true statement. He always says it is a long season, this is just one stretch of it. Also a true statement.

“You’re riding high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June”

For the Mariners they were riding low in April with a 7-13 record. But before last nights 2-0 loss to the Twins they had risen to nine games above .500 and have the best record in all of baseball since April 23rd.

“I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race”

And that is what the Mariners have down, they hit a bad stretch and bounce back. As McClendon say’s, “That’s baseball.” He is saying you don’t get too down,  and you don’t get too high. There are always good and bad stretches of baseball and don’t get caught up in either one. McClendon doesn’t  worry publicly, in fact when things are going well, he might nitpick wins, saying we have to get better. He does not get upset, maintaining a well balanced equilibrium during bad stretches. 

The song does end with  potential of a bad ending:” But if there’s nothing shaking come this here July
I’m gonna roll myself up in a big ball and die, my, my.”

So the Mariners, to avoid dying this month, should shake things up with a big trade, bring in a bat or pitcher. Because “that’s baseball” too.
Read more: Frank Sinatra – That’s Life Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

ESPN writer trashes Mariners manger Lloyd McClendon and Taijuan Walker

What’s up with ESPN senior baseball writer for ESPN.com Keith Law?

In an interview with Brock and Danny on 710 ESPN Seattle Law said Mariner manager Lloyd is a bad manager. He said Lloyd “can’t manage a bullpen, can’t manage his bench and with a bad offense the Mariners should no be playing small ball (which is something they don’t always do by the way, as anyone who saw their four homer performance in Houston will note).

Law also said they never should have hired McClendon because he failed in Pittsburgh, so why give him a second chance when he is a loser.

There was a baseball manager who managed the Mets for five years compiling a 286-420 record, a .405 winning percentage. According to Law’s law this man should not have been given a second chance, but the Braves did, so to did the Cardinals, and though never winning more than 89 games in his nine years with those two teams, he had some success  in his 12 years with the New York Yankees, so much so, that Joe Torre was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Law’s opinion on losing managers not deserving a second a shot is inane, if not downright stupid. And for those who follow the Mariners on a daily basis it is clear McClendon has managed both the bullpen and his bench with success. Maybe McClendon is lucky, or maybe he knows what he is doing. Law also said McClendon is a cold personality. Sounds like Law has something personal against McClendon.

Law also said Mariners top pitching prospect should be traded because he is damaged goods, has changed his delivery and now throws too high in the strike zone and his curveball is garbage. It must be said that Law was once a scout and has worked in the Toronto Blue Jays front office. So he has credentials, but having credentials does not mean having intelligence, nor even knowing what you are talking about. It is an opinion. He is entitled to his. The jury is out on Walker, but I am willing to bet that Walker, barring injury, will have a good career.

When it comes to Seattle Mariner law, Keith flunked his bar exam.

What will Mariners do with Smoak and Hart

I had thought that Jesus Montero, Endy Chavez, Logan Morrison, or Stephan Romero would be sent to Tacoma to make room for Justin Smoak, Corey Hart and Michael Saunders when they were eligible to return from their rehab assignment at AAA Tacoma.

Montero was sent down, as was Romero. Saunders came up, but so did Brandon Maurer, now a relief pitcher. Starting didn’t work for him, but he has been great out of the pen.

Things change though and a few things are keeping Hart and Smoak in Tacoma. One is that Chavez and Morrison both got hot; Chavez went from the .220’s to hitting in the .260’s and Morrison from .160’s to the 230’s. Meanwhile Hart in 33 at bats is hitting .273 with a homer and 4 rbis. Not bad, but Smoak is hitting .220 with a homer and 3 rbis in 41 at bats.

Besides Chavez and Morrison making big contributions there is one more reason why Smoak and Hart are stuck in Tacoma. It is the rule of  “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The Mariners are hot having won eight of ten. They are currently seven games above .500 at 45-38 and are in the wild card picture. The chemistry seems good, so why tinker  when there is no player who should be sent down.

Okay there is one and only one player. The Mariners currently have 13 pitchers and 12 position players on the 25 man roster. If they continue to keep 13 pitchers then only one player could be sent down and the only player not making contributions is Dustin Ackley. Batting .214 with 4 homers and only 27 at bats in 74 games, he is in a 2-28 slump and has not gotten a hit since June 22nd.

With Smoak floundering in Tacoma and Morrison hitting with Seattle that leaves Hart as a possible call up with Ackley-providing he still has options left-being sent back to AAA. He has been a huge disappointment since being the Mariners number one pick, second overall in the 2009 draft. (The number one pick was Stephen Strasburg). Ouch! That hurts like a 100 miles per hour fastball plunking your elbow.

 

 

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