Game 73, Mariners at Dodgers

June 26, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 122 Comments 

Art Thiel had a piece today – well, I suppose I should say last night, since that’s the timestamp and now that the P-I’s only online, it’s not like there’s “today’s edition” of the paper to talk about – on how Ichiro is getting no media attention. Selfish Ichiro, waiting until the media have other things to focus on (Griffey!) before giving them something to write about.

Really, I’d argue that based on performance so far, it could even be his best season ever. The hitting is up there with hit-record-breaking 2004, except it’s not all singles all the time like it was then. If you want to find fault, though, he’s not walking (at all – only 5 unintentional) and his base-stealing has been subpar.

There’s also a peculiar sequence in which Thiel gives Ichiro’s responses to some apparently uninspired reporter questioning. The frequent cliche-ness of interview questions is really a shame with somebody like Ichiro, because we know he has interesting (insightful, quirky, quasi-literary) things to say, not just the stock answers you usually see. But what caught my eye was this comment, about how he feels compared to last year:

“I don’t remember how I felt last June.”

Maybe it’s because he was drowning his sorrows. And if you imagine that time as an employee, which he is, and your company is in the toilet, people around you getting laid off, others making veiled threats, your bosses being fired, that’s a pretty traumatic numbing experience. Anyway, apparently things are much happier now by all accounts. As nice as it would be for Ichiro to put the team on his back and carry it while being a clubhouse leader and catering to the media, can we get him some help?

Can you remember how you felt about the team back then? Has it changed? Should we be happy now or still frustrated?

The Litmus Test

June 26, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 31 Comments 

So, as you’ve probably heard once or ten thousand times, the M’s upcoming road trip is going to be a challenge. The Dodgers sport the best record in baseball, and if they aren’t the best team in baseball, then that honor probably belongs to the Red Sox or Yankees, who we just happen to play after we finish up this weekend. You won’t be seeing Josh Geer or Wade LeBlanc anymore.

It sounds like hyperbole, but this road trip, followed by a seven game homestand that finishes with four games against Texas before the All-Star break, will essentially determine the rest of the M’s season. They play 16 games in 17 days against four teams who would make the playoffs if the season ended today, and they have to fly across the country a couple of times in order to do it. This isn’t just the hardest stretch of schedule for the M’s – this is about as tough of a 2 1/2 weeks of baseball as you could possibly have to play.

So, the M’s did well to load up on wins against San Diego and Arizona, as they’re about to get much tougher to come by. Realistically, 8-8 would be a huge accomplishment and send the team into the all-star break at 45-43, presumably still without shouting distance of the lead in the A.L. West. At that point, if Bedard actually has made a couple of starts without breaking down again and the team had just finished holding their own against the best teams in baseball, Zduriencik would have some reason to try to add pieces to help this team win this year. Anything better than 8-8 (assuming that LA/Texas don’t go nuts over the same stretch) will make it very easy for the M’s to keep the roster intact and make a run at it this year.

However, we also have to acknowledge that there’s a real chance that the M’s just get their butts handed to them between now and then. Honestly, 4-12 or something wouldn’t shock me. They could easily get steamrolled by this stretch of schedule. This isn’t the kind of pitching staff that you want to throw at Boston or New York on the road – the flyball oriented nature of most of these guys means we could see a lot of home runs allowed on the road trip, and the M’s don’t have the offense to play big ball with those boys.

Really, over the next couple of weeks, we have to change our expectations of what success is. If they can win as many as they lose, the team should have a party. This is one of those times where you just try to survive.

Game 72, Padres at Mariners

June 25, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 122 Comments 

Betancourt to the DL, Lopez is back to take his spot on the roster. Washburn v. LeBlanc, 1:40.

RF-L Ichiro
1B-L Branyan
3B-R Beltre
DH-R Sweeney
2B-R Lopez
CF-R Gutierrez
C-R Johnson
SS-R Cedeno
LF-R Balentien

So, Balentien ninth? Maybe he hasn’t exactly been tearing the cover off the ball, but he’s at least hit better than Johnson (I’m looking forward to having Johjima back), to say nothing of Cedeno. I remember Betancourt was saying he couldn’t fix his approach because he had to bat in front of Ichiro, maybe Cedeno has a similar issue? It doesn’t make any sense to me, but that’s selfish Ichiro for you. If only things were that simple.

Two M’s to Futures, Int’l Signings a Week Away

June 25, 2009 · Filed Under Minor Leagues · 18 Comments 

Cheers to 3B Alex Liddi and CF Tyson Gillies, two current High Desert Mavericks who will be headed to the Futures Game during the All-Star Break next month. Liddi, who will be twenty-one in August, logged nearly 1200 at-bats in the minors with the M’s, most of which came in Wisconsin, before breaking out this year. While any gaudy numbers produced in the California League should rightly be met with some suspicion, he’s shown improvements in his batting eye off and on throughout the season and may be legitimately improving. The darling of the Mariners spring training camp this year, Gillies has handled the jump from Everett quite well and continues to show off solid defensive tools (despite being legally deaf) and the hitting potential of a future lead-off man. He hails from the Vancouver B.C. area and, after the season ends, he will also turn twenty-one.

If you’re fond of world baseball, you might also want to note that the international signing period opens a week from today. Currently, the M’s are rumored to be hot after Dominican OF Guillermo Pimentel, a sixteen-year-old outfielder who has plus power from the left side. The Rangers were originally the frontrunner for Pimentel’s services, but the M’s recently pulled away and have been keeping him active at their facilities for the past few weeks. The Mariners are also said to be scouting a Venezuelan outfielder pretty heavily, who is known to have impressive physical tools that haven’t transferred to games yet. I feel like we’ve heard that profile a few times before.

More information will come in as players begin to sign, but the M’s are expected to be big spenders yet again, likely eclipsing last season’s totals given to the likes of Julio Morban, Francisco Valdivia, Jose Martinez, Bertin Sanon, and Junior Nunez.

Will The M’s Miss Yuni?

June 25, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 30 Comments 

Last night, Yuniesky Betancourt pulled a hamstring, and Wak said after the game that there’s a strong chance he’ll land on the disabled list. Given how bad Yuni has been this year, both offensively and defensively, this looks to be an addition by subtraction thing. With a .270 wOBA and -8.6 UZR, Yuni has been worth almost a win less than a replacement level shortstop, so the M’s should actually hope for better production from Josh Wilson/Ronny Cedeno than they got from Yuni the first couple of months.

However, as much as we’ve bashed Betancourt for his reverse development, regressing every year since he got to the majors, over the last few weeks, it looked like Wak might have actually been getting through to the guy. There have been multiple plays recently where I found myself shocked that Yuni got to the ball – grounders up the middle, balls in the hole, slow rollers that he’s had to charge. He’s made plays defensively that he simply wasn’t even getting close to in April and May. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has spent the last few weeks saying “ahh, crap, base hi – wow, Yuni, where’d that come from?”

UZR agrees with my shocked eyes, too. After the May 24th update on FanGraphs, Yuni’s UZR stood at -9.1, on pace for a -30 season and easily the worst mark of any shortstop in baseball. A month later, he stands at -8.6. Yes, UZR is prone to noise in small samples, but it’s heartening that the best defensive metric we have thinks that he’s been making more plays at the same time we’re watching him and saying “hey, he didn’t make that play a month ago”.

It’s not just on defense, either. After swinging at nearly 40% of pitches outside the strikezone the first two months, he’s only chased 26% out of the strike zone this month. Yes, it’s small sample size, but after getting benched and lectured repeatedly about his lousy approach at the plate, an improvement in his decision making about which pitches to swing at shouldn’t be ignored. The results haven’t been what you’d hope for, but the process is more important than the results, and if Yuni’s process at the plate is taking steps forward at the same time that he’s putting a little more effort into his defensive play, well, that’s reason for optimism.

So, amazingly enough, I’m not convinced that Yuni to the DL is a good thing. Two months ago, it would have been a pretty big help, but I’d have been interested in seeing if he could keep showing improved range and discipline at the plate. Instead, now we get to watch Cedeno and Wilson fight over who can make more outs.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but hurry back Yuni.

Game 71, Padres at Mariners

June 24, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 106 Comments 

Morrow, still up, still in the rotation.

USSM Goes To Safeco Reminder

June 24, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 19 Comments 

A few weeks ago, we told you about our next USSM event, which is going to be held at Safeco Field on Saturday, August 8th, prior to the Mariners-Rays game that night. The response has been tremendous, as we’re closing in on 200 tickets sold, which leaves about 100 spots left. Given how good the response has been, I’ll be shocked if we don’t sell out, so if you’re planning on attending, I’d suggest buying your tickets sooner than later.

For those that missed the original announcement, here’s the description of the event.

Saturday, August 8th, 5 pm, Safeco Field. We have reserved 300 seats in sections 321/323 for a USSM group outing to Safeco Field for the Mariners-Rays game that evening. In addition, when you purchase a ticket to join our group for the game, you’re also invited to join us for a pre-game Q&A with the Mariners front office and your local blogging community (Derek, myself, Jeff Sullivan, Matthew Carruth, and Graham MacAree will all be there). One week after the trade deadline, the guys who run the baseball club will be spending a good portion of time talking to us and answering your questions. After that, we’ll all head upstairs and watch the game together.

The total cost for the event, including your ticket to the game, is $25. This is, quite frankly, a steal. You get to watch the M’s play the defending American League champs and get a chance to talk to the decision makers of the ballclub for the price of a normal ticket. We’re happy to partner with the Mariners to provide this opportunity for you guys.

To buy tickets to the game/event, go here and follow these instructions:

2. Select “Find Tickets” then enter USSMARINER as your promo code and click “Verify” (ignore the “e-mail address” option).

3. You will need to use the “Create an Account” option on the right side of the following page. This is a Seattle Mariners Group Account (NOT a Ticketmaster account) and will consist of your e-mail address and a unique password that will enable you to order tickets for future Mariners events. Note: If you have previously purchased through this system and already have an account created, please proceed with your existing account information.

4. You will be able to locate your seating, purchase your tickets, and print your tickets instantly- all from your home or office computer!

5. Join us for a pre-game event from 5:15-6:45pm in the Ellis Pavilion! Please enter through the door along 1st Avenue located next to the Third Base Entry. Entry into this pre-game event is limited so purchase your tickets early!

6. To order more than 25 tickets or if you require wheelchair seating, please call Yoko McCann at (206) 346-4505

Your tickets will have a special marking on them which will allow you entrance to the pregame Q&A. The room where we’re having the pregame Q&A can only hold 300 chairs, so we’re going to have to restrict entrance to the Q&A to people who have purchased tickets through our group event. If you’re a season ticket holder and already have tickets for that game, my advice would be to sell them and just buy a ticket to come hang out with us. We’ll be more fun, even if your seat might not be as good.

Once you’ve purchased a ticket for the event, you’re almost done. In order to be able to communicate with everyone and keep a firm head count for the chair setup, we’re going to ask that you fill out the form below with your name and email address for each person you buy a ticket for. If you’re bringing someone but don’t know who yet, just add a “Your Name’s Guest” entry, so that we can know that your contact information accounts for more than one person. If you’re bringing multiple unknown guests, just number them “Your Name’s Guest 1”, “Your Name’s Guest 2”, etc…

Finally, when you’ve done that, and you have a ticket in hand and have let us know you’re coming, we’d like to ask you to consider potentially kicking in a few dollars via paypal to help cover our costs for the event. When we have done these in the past, we added our overhead into the cost of the event, but since we’re having you pay through ticketmaster this time, that’s not an option. I’m forking out a decent amount of cash to fly out to Seattle, and Derek, Jeff, Matthew, Graham, and myself are all paying our way into the event just like the rest of you. If you feel like you want to send $5 our way to help defray some of our costs for this, that’d be great. We love hosting events like this, and we think you enjoy them too, so it will be easier for us to keep doing them if we don’t go in the red in order to pull them off.

So, that’s the USSM event in August. Pregame Q&A with the M’s front office and a ticket to watch to the M’s-Rays game with 300 other USSM readers for $25, plus suggested $5 donation to help offset our costs, and don’t forget to fill out the form so that know how many to plan for and can communicate with you guys if need be.

See you all in August!

Game 70, Padres at Mariners

June 23, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 132 Comments 

Gaudin v Olson. Didn’t we just see this game? There’s the wonder of interleague play for you.

Condolences to the Lopez family

June 23, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 6 Comments 

As Geoff Baker reports, Jose Lopez was not able to reach Venezuela before his sister died. Unlike with his brother’s tragic motorcycle accident, he was at least able to attend her funeral. To lose two siblings, both so early in life, must be incredibly heartbreaking for the entire family. And in the case of Lopez, who should return in the next day or two, the kind of travel challenges these situations present highlight just how far away Latin American players are from the support network most of us take for granted, and why the cultural hurdles they deal with should not be discounted.

The ’09 Pulaski Mariners, In Brief

June 23, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 7 Comments 

The last of the Mariners affiliates, the Pulaski Mariners, will start up in a few minutes. The latest roster for them can be found here. Dave will likely chime in with some details as the season goes on, as they play some games in his neck of the woods, but here are a few brief bullet points on what to expect from them.

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