July in Review (and then some)

July 31, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 58 Comments 

Record: 11-13
Overall: 52-53, 3.5 games back of Oakland

Hitting: .255/.308/.391 (AVG/OBP/SLG), 4.21 runs/game
Pitching: 119 runs allowed, 4.46 ERA

(Major) Roster Moves
In: CF Adam Jones, DH Eduardo Perez, DH Ben Broussard
Out: “DH” Carl Everett, DH Roberto Petagine, OF Jeremy Reed

The Good
People may harp on the M’s for failing to make a big splash at the trading deadline, but swapping out Carl Everett’s rotting carcass for the platoon tandem of Perez and Broussard is one of the best moves they could have made. This pair not only provides a great deal more offense, but strengthens the bench as well. It also means the horror flick “Carl Everett’s 2007 Option,” rated R for grotesque batting performance, will not be playing at a stadium near you.

The most surprising development of the month has to be the emergence of Mark Lowe as a dominant reliever. Despite not having pitched above AA, Lowe has been unflappable since he arrived, sporting an 11:3 K:BB ratio and no runs allowed in ten innings. Perhaps even more surprising is Mike Hargrove’s willingness to use Lowe in late-game, high-leverage situations despite the hurler’s lack of experience.

Ichiro! hit .317 for the month, posting a .384 OBP while stealing nine bases without being caught. Yuniesky Betancourt also had a big month, hitting .374 to push his season mark over .300 and getting on base at a .387 clip.

The Bad
After hitting a robust .287/.343/.497 in June, the offense as a whole fell off dramatically. Jose Lopez (.263/.322/.263) and Kenji Johjima (.250/.280/.361) in particular had very poor months.

Jeremy Reed’s wrist injury put the M’s in the unfortunate position of rushing prospect Adam Jones to the majors. While clearly talented, Jones has been overmatched at the plate and is still learning to play the position. Without a viable option on the roster, Willie Bloomquist was also given four starts in CF.

In the course of a year, Julio Mateo has gone from above-average reliever to long reliever to being a guy you don’t want to see in the game at almost any cost. And yet, Hargrove continues to use him late in close games at the expense of his more talented relievers. Mateo lost three games in July while allowing close to two runners per inning.

Injuries to Rafael Soriano and Chris Snelling have left us shaking our heads, wondering if these two players will ever live up to their potential in the major leagues.

The Ugly
After ending June with a bit of momentum and a 41-40 record, the M’s dropped six straight at home to Colorado, Anaheim, and Detroit, getting blanked once and scoring a lone run on three occasions. That slide put them back in a hole they then struggled to climb out of all month.

Gil Meche, Jamie Moyer, and Joel Pineiro combined to start 15 games, throw 85.2 innings, and post a 6.62 ERA with 21 homers allowed. Oddly, each pitcher allowed exactly 21 earned runs for the month.

Going Forward
The M’s have a better run differential than either Oakland or Texas, trailing only Anaheim, er, Los Angeles, in the division by that metric. They also trail in the actual standings, meaning there’s still work to be done.

Despite their history of second-half surges and current division lead, Oakland doesn’t scare me—they’re injury-prone up and down the lineup and are getting very little production outside of Nick Swisher and Frank Thomas (and the Big Hurt isn’t exactly the model of health). The rotation is good, but they’re still too reliant on the health of Rich Harden and the performance of Esteban Loaiza.

Texas helped itself in a big way with the acquisition of Carlos Lee, but was unable to bolster a thin starting rotation. Off-season acquisition Adam Eaton, who has missed the entire year with an injury, made his 2006 debut last week but subsequently missed his next start due to food poisoning. He could be a boost down the stretch, but it’s not as if his career is full of healthy and/or dominant seasons.

That brings us to the aforementioned Angels, who despite their early-season struggles are the class of the division. Their top-notch farm system has already contributed this year, with more help on the way if needed. Further, even without Bartolo Colon they have the best rotation in the division, a rotation which should be strong enough to cover for their supposedly weak offense… an offense which has scored more runs, incidentally, than either Seattle’s or Oakland’s.

Game 105, Mariners at Orioles

July 31, 2006 · Filed Under Game Threads · 244 Comments 

Game 1: Can the M’s beat the Orioles?
Game 2: Can the site hold up?

4:05, FSN.

RF-L Ichiro!
2B-R Lopez
3B-R Beltre
LF-L Ibanez
1B-R Sexson
DH-R Perez
C-R Johjima
SS-R Betancourt
CF-R Jones

Pitching, Gil “The New and Improved” Meche

For Baltimore:
2B Roberts
LF-L Fahey
3B-R Mora
SS-R Tejada
DH-L Gibbons
1B-R Conine
CF-L Patterson
C-R Hernandez
RF-L Markakis

and pitching, Adam Loewen.

Q13 in Review

July 31, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners, Off-topic ranting, Site information · 29 Comments 

Hey all,

Well, what a roller-coaster ride that trade deadline day was for the Mariners! As it turns out, Jason’s show-opening prediction (“I don’t see them doing much of anything”) bore itself out.

To boost my post-per-TV-appearance ratio, which is close to 1:1 these days, I figured I’d bust out a behind-the-scenes recap of what I thought went well at Q13 and what I thought could’ve gone better.

Didn’t use any profanity, ducking FCC violations

Didn’t work in a reference to Nietzsche’s notion of eternal recurrence, losing a $10 bet for a friend

Called for Hargrove to be fired, called (indirectly) for Carl Everett to be euthanized

Everett could catch on with Bellingham Bells. May then have to change appearance, check windows before leaving house, could end up with Barbaro’s head in bed

Got to see Derek dressed in his smooth suit

No cosmetic artists on hand to make up Derek; digital camera/blackmail opportunity lost

Talked with Adrian Hanauer, the very nice G.M. of the Seattle Sounders, backstage in the green room

After I mentioned how much I got into the World Cup this year, Vinnie pontificated on how boring soccer is (“I’m used to it,” said Hanauer)

Saw Q13’s spacious men’s bathroom, which actually has a sizable shower facility attached to it

Now Derek wants to spend all the site contributions on a shower-centric interview facility for USS Mariner labs (Kidding; he already squandered the proceeds on that new tie)

Had great food and drinks at the Tap House (thanks, Dan)

Had to drive back to Bellingham, so couldn’t safely quench prodigious thirst. Another time.

In all seriousness, we had a great time, and everyone at Q13 was super-nice. Hopefully we’ll get to do it again sometime. Also, I’m being real about ramping up my posting schedule, both here and at my new personal blog, which I’ll fire up tomorrow. It’s going to be an Aug. 1, 2006-Aug. 1, 2007 chronicle of my time in Okinawa. Check it out if you’re so inclined.

Today’s outages

July 31, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on Today’s outages 

You may have noticed we’ve been up and down for a while, despite having a new box and having pushed out another back-end change to reduce server load.

I’m not sure, frankly, that there’s anything that could be done to survive today.

I don’t know what happens now. I’m working on it. If I seem a little depressed, well, yeah.

Deadline Day

July 31, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 202 Comments 

The trade deadline has come and gone, and the M’s have made no moves. Which I’m totally fine with.

USSM on Fox “Game Thread”

July 30, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 86 Comments 

Seeing as how I’m geographically challenged, I won’t be appearing on KCPQ 13 with Derek, Jeff, and Jason tonight, when they join New York Vinnie and Dan Devone at 10:30 on Q It Up Sports.

I know many of our readers won’t be able to view the program either, so, for those of us who won’t get the joy of watching this unique blend of characters interact for half an hour, here’s a thread for those of you who want to interject comments during the show.

And if you live in Seattle, you really, really want to watch this. The comedy potential is out of this world.

Update: Reader and all around good guy PositivePaul has put the video online for those who want to watch Dan Devone call us statheads 894 times.

Second Update: Now it’s on Youtube, so we’ll spare Paul’s server’s the wrath of USSM overload.

Day 2 back up

July 30, 2006 · Filed Under Site information · 20 Comments 

The first day up facing traffic and we did fairly well. The game thread got up to 150 and I saw some delays, but it never took more than a couple of seconds to get back to me, and we didn’t see any timeouts, which is good.

That said, I have to admit that I was nervous all day as the delays went from 1s to 2s to 6s. And for a 150-comment game thread? I’m not convinced we’re safe yet.

In any event, I’m going to be doing some tinkering with the site to try and help, and we’ll see how tomorrow goes. If you notice anything wonky with the site behavior in the next couple of hours, please drop me a line and let me know what happened, with as much information as you care to include. Or throw it in the contents there.

Like, for instance, seeing a blank page the first time you load anything and only getting served a real page on reload. That would be a problem I’m having right now. WTF is that about?

Update: seriously, wtf?
Update: That’s it, I can’t easily figure out why caching results in blank pages being served the first time, so I’m turning it off while I research

In the meantime — the plan’s to take the donation buttons down tomorrow and see what we want to do from there, so if you want to support USSM with cash, here’s your chance:
Read more

Jeff and Derek on Q It Up Sports tonight

July 30, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 23 Comments 

UPDATE: Jason’s in, too.

With Derek’s heroic efforts to revive the site having borne fruit, we’re off to dabble in other forms of media again. We’ll be on Q13’s Q It Up Sports show tonight at 10:30. Evidently, we’ll be discussing Mariner (in)activity in advance of the trade deadline.

It’s live television, so there’s always the possibility of unhinged hilarity. Those of you who have been to feeds know that Derek and I usually have bets about who can better work certain obscure references into public appearances, too, so there’s that.

The lineup: me, Derek, New York Vinnie and Dan Devone. We’re trying to talk Jason into coming as well, but we’ll see Jason Barker makes it a USSM triumvirate. We’ve got the others outnumbered.

Tune in, or don’t. I’ll still respect you in the morning either way.

Scouting the 2007 Mariners

July 30, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 52 Comments 

I started to kick this around today and it’s interesting, particularly with the trade deadline near. Bavasi’s thinking about this as he works on trade possibilities for this year, and you’ll see that some of the possibilities start to cascade into others.

Position players
RF: Ichiro!
I suspect many columnists, on and off-line, have macros or column templates they use on the looming, imminent fall of Ichiro. I’ll believe it when I see it.

2B: Jose Lopez
He’s here to stay.

SS: Yuniesky Betancourt
Same deal. Barring injury, those two are going to anchor the lineup for a while

C: Kenji Johjima
Under contract and a steal for the price

LF/DH Raul Ibanez
He’ll retire a Mariner unless the team’s sold.

Challenging at those positions:
C Jeff Clement but he’s not forcing the issue just yet.
LF/RF/DH Chris Snelling he can hit, he’s still only 24, but forcing his way into the lineup’ll be tough

Less certain
CF Adam Jones
I’m still going to argue he was rushed. His defense is erratic, but we have to remember that he only converted from shortstop in the last Arizona Fall League – considering how long he’s been out there, he’s progressing well. Offensively, he’s obviously struggling, and I’d have let him spend more time in Tacoma working on both sides of his game… but he’s up now. If he’s overmatched all season, they might consider having him start 2007 back in the PCL.

CF Jeremy Reed
The only way I see him on the 2007 squad is if Jones does really badly for the rest of the year.

Possible moves
1B Richie Sexson
So they get the first, cheap year of his contract, get great production and now facing the remainder (which was, if you recall, what we were really worried about). Free-agent first-basemen are almost never a good deal, and finding replacements is not so hard. If there’s a chance to move him, would they take it?

3B Adrian Beltre
The enigma. There’s no one to take his place internally, and it’s a lot harder to find a good replacement. And yet — this too has to be tempting.

1B/DH Ben Broussard
If the team keeps him, he can be one half of a deadly platoon. He’ll likely only get a couple million in arbitration.

You’re starting to see where one of the weird problems is: Snelling, Broussard, and Ibanez are all looking at the playing time for two positions as long as Sexson’s still here. Defensively, you’re best off putting Snelling in left as much as you can and spotting Ibanez out there, but then you’ve still got one of the three on the bench every day, and they’re all good enough hitters that they should be playing versus right-handers.

Overall, though, you can see something really heartening: this is a much younger and improving team, especially compared to the decrepid debacles we saw for a couple of years.

The rotation


Good bets
Jamie Moyer will likely get offered a one-year deal again. If he wants to come back, it’s there for him.

Gil Meche leaves after the team offers him less than he thinks he can get as a free agent, and some dumb team wildly overpays for him.

Joel Pineiro’s gone if he doesn’t dramatically improve starting… well, now would be good. They could haul him to arbitration, but why bother? Really.

Let’s figure, for a second, that Moyer comes back. The team would have two spots open.

Obvious candidates, especially if they don’t reconfigure the fences, are left-handers like Barry Zito. Or that Daisuke Matsuzaka guy, who, if he’s available, will probably end up a Mariner.

Figure Daisuke Matsuzaka does come over. Then you have four: Felix, Moyer, Matsuzaka, and Washburn. There’s one spot to be filled through free agency or promotion from within.

We still might see Soriano challenge next year. It seems unlikely right now, given his nagging shoulder problem, but with more time between him and surgery and Putz firmly established in the closer role, he might go for it next year.

The only other pitcher I see pushing for a rotation spot next year is Cruceta, who’s been quite good (for stretches) in Tacoma this year, even as he’s struggled at times.

The bullpen’s going to be fine – I’m not worried about that at all. If both Soriano and Cruceta don’t head to the rotation, it’ll be even better, but there’s no need to look for additional help there, even if one of them did.

The whole picture
That’s a nice team. It’s certainly a lot younger, better, and more interesting to watch than some of the squads we’ve seen trotted out these last few years. While the 1B/LF/DH issue is likely more interesting to hardcore fans who worry about roster construction, it’s the rotation that will determine the outcome of the season even if they do nothing with the rest of the roster. If they make good choices on the free agent market, that’s a team that can compete and win a pennant. If they can make a move that gets them some more pitching, all the better.

Game 104, Mariners at Indians

July 30, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 154 Comments 

Joel Pineiro vs Cliff Lee, 10:05 am PDT. Standard line-up vs lefties. No Willie, shockingly enough.

Trade deadline is in 27 hours, and the M’s are unlikely to do anything else. There was talk about Jose Cruz Jr yesterday, but they weren’t interested. The only team likely to make a serious run at Meche would be the Mets, and Zito is still the guy Minaya really wants. The M’s won’t move Meche unless they get a guy they could replace him with immediately (either directly or in a 3-way deal), so Aaron Heilmann would have to be part of the package, and the M’s won’t do it one for one.

There’s just nothing else brewing that looks likely. We’re probably going with the team we got. And I’m okay with that.

However, I’m disappointed that the Orioles turned down the Angels reported offer of Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar for Miguel Tejada. Yes, I’m disappointed that the Angels didn’t get Tejada, even though he’d obviously help them right now. Erick Aybar is their Betancourt, but more talented – I wouldn’t trade him for Tejada straight up, and tossing in Ervin Santana? That’s a crazy price to pay. If the Angels had made that deal, they’d have been significantly worse in the future and only moderately better in the present. Oh well.

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