Mortensen v Morrow.
Saunders in left, Hannahan at first. Johjima gets a turn behind the plate. Griffey DHs, so prepare for another night of will-he won’t-he commentary. If we’re really lucky, we’ll get to see Branyan pinch-hit. And Batista. Just to make things exciting, you know.
We are now a few weeks removed from the historic event of Ichiro recording his ninth consecutive season with two hundred or more hits. Aside from the usual bumps leading up to the milestone, these events have become commonplace, and so itâ€™s strange to think now that a decade has passed since the second wave of Japanese imports started proving themselves in the states. While something of a curiosity then, met with some initial derision from the scouting world, theyâ€™re well on their way to becoming an institution.
Free agency and the posting system have not yet proven to be the death of the NPB or any of the surrounding leagues, a claim that was perhaps exaggerated at the time, but it has become increasingly common for teams to bypass the usual limitations by finding some way to grab prep players. This has been talked about in Korea and Taiwan for years as being a talent drain, but recently itâ€™s come up as an issue in Japan as well, where the Mariners signed Kenta Suda out of Hideo Nomoâ€™s baseball program a few years ago and the Red Sox made waves by signing Junichi Tazawa, who snuck through by joining up with a lesser unaffiliated league and then insisting that he not be drafted. The trend looks to continue this winter as left-hander Yusei Kikuchi is deciding between the MLB and the NPB, a move that is will have some repercussions as heâ€™s eighteen, whereas Tazawa was twenty-two at the time, and he would be going number one in their draft otherwise. The Mariners, as ever, are linked to Kikuchi.
Though baseball has again been nixed from the Olympic schedule, losing out to rugby and golf for the 2016 games, the international presence is ever on the rise, with the World Baseball Classic essentially filling that role on the stage. South Africa and China have both funded programs to popularize the game in their own countries, India recently produced its first two prospects, and the Caribbean Leagues continue to go strong all throughout the winter. The relationship with Japan, however, is still quite different, with its own established history going back more than half a century and a schedule that conflicts with the MLB season. You canâ€™t blame players like Tazawa and Kikuchi for wanting to come over, but their choices are putting a strain on the current arrangement. Along with the emergence of new markets in the coming decades, weâ€™re also likely to see a restructuring of the setup between the MLB and NPB, if the latter is going to remain competitive.
Felix Day. Oh how I love Felix Day.
Versus Trevor Cahill. Might be a fine, cold night to see some quality pitching.
SS-R Josh Wilson
Tonight, the M’s open their final home stand of the season. The last six games don’t mean a whole heck of a lot, but even still, let me encourage you to make it to Safeco Field this week. The reasons are numerous.
1. Felix is pitching tonight and Sunday. As much as we don’t want to talk about it, there is a non-zero chance that the M’s could trade him this winter. This might be your last chance to watch Felix pitch as a Mariner in person.
2. Adrian Beltre is probably not coming back next year. He’s been unfairly maligned his entire career here, but he’s been a tremendous player for the M’s for the last five years. He deserves a proper send off. Standing ovations, loud “Thank You” chants, all of it. You know Red will be there with his massive head-on-a-stick. Let’s make sure there’s not just one crazy Beltre fan at Safeco this week. He deserves to know that what he’s done here has been appreciated.
3. This has been the most fun year to be a Mariner fan in a long, long time. The organization worked extremely hard to make this a team worth rooting for again, and they succeeded in less than a year. As much as we can, let’s pack the place this weekend as a reward for their hard work.
4. In all likelihood, this is Junior’s swan song. Sunday’s game is going to be one that you’ll remember how you felt for the rest of your life. Go.
My first post of the day over at FanGraphs is dedicated to looking at the M’s defense, which has been the best in baseball by a mile this year. No one’s even close. The M’s have been 84 runs above an average defensive club this year, which is why their mediocre pitching staff (9th in the AL in FIP) can lead the league in ERA.
We’ve talked about it all year, but in case you had any doubt, this is the best defensive team the Mariners have ever put on the field. This is one of the best defensive teams anyone has ever put on the field.
I don’t know if you’re as tired as I am of seeing box scores with the incredibly unhelpful notation:
SS Wilson, J
But in case you’re struggling to tell them apart, here’s a little game to play. For each of the following numbers, guess whether it belongs to Jack or Josh (Mariners statistics only in all cases).
Batting average: .224
At bats: 107
Sacrifice bunts: 2
Double plays grounded into: 2
Plate appearances: 116
The correct answer? All of the above. That’s right – in addition to their similar names, the Wilson boys have managed to put together impressively similar batting lines. It doesn’t mean much, and Jack is still the better defensive shortstop (sample sizes are too small for metrics to mean much for Josh, although UZR likes him as a Mariner, not so much two years ago with Tampa Bay). And as far as the stars aligning in the heavens, it’s got nothing on Tuiasosopo’s maiden home run. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting coincidence.
I don’t have much to add to this. Just follow the link, listen to the two audio clips Shannon provided, and smile.
A few weeks ago, as Dave was going over the list of players heading to the Arizona Fall League, questions were raised about the again-defunct Hawaii Winter League and whether there was going to be an alternative league in the works for younger/less experienced players. The good news is that ongoing discussions have led to the formation of the Arizona Parallel League for this season. The bad news is, unlike other parallel leagues in winter baseball (Venezuela, Colombia), the league is quite informal, and itâ€™s highly unlikely that much news or statlines will be coming of it.
The gist of it is that the player development people for the teams that have complexes in Arizona all got together and decided that they were going to try for something a little more competitive than instructs. The teams that own the complexes, the Padres and the Mariners in Peoria, for example, will send out teams of roughly twenty players, each team sending five pitchers and five position players. The rules, however, are rather loose and if the Mariners only want their pitcher throwing to their catcher, thatâ€™s perfectly fine.
Games will be played at 12:30 pm on every weekday except Wednesday. If youâ€™re already heading down for the Arizona Fall League, you may as well stop by and check it out, as you might see recent college draftees or various guys too young for the AFL, but too old for traditional instructs, so roughly High Desert, Clinton, Everett level.
And before anyone asks, no I donâ€™t have a full list for the instructional leagues yet, just a few names.
I don’t have time for an in depth analysis, but I wanted to put this up here real quick – Matt Tuiasosopo is playing his way onto the 2010 team right now. He may not have a defined position right now, but he’s showing significantly better footwork and reactions than he has earlier in his career, and he’s got enough power to do some damage at the plate, even while he’s learning. Given his strong spring training, his monster second half in Triple-A, and the improvements he’s showing Wak in September, I’d suspect that the M’s are going to build a roster that leaves room for Tui, and potentially in a spot where he gets significant playing time.
Is he a second baseman long term? No. But he’s handling the position well enough that the team could afford to experiment with him there next year if they decided to sell high on Jose Lopez. It’s unconventional to have a guy his size play up the middle, but as long as he keeps showing that he has the lateral movement to make the plays, he can play there. For 2010, at least, he’s an option at second base.
It’s a surprising development, to say the least. I never expected Tui to play the middle infield as well as he has, but now that he’s shown some competency at the position, he has to be in the plans for next year.
Yesterday marked the remarkable occasion of Ichiro’s first ever ejection in either league he’s played in. This particular event was triggered by a called strike three that Ichiro did not agree with. Turning towards home plate umpire Brian Runge as Runge was making his signature call, Ichiro seemed to feel slighted, and proceeded to draw a line in the box, either disputing Runge with his own conception of the strike zone or indicating an intention to duel him should he cross said line, either of which would be grounds for immediate ejection. Whether the call was accurate or not, as far as what is typically called ball or strike, is debatable. The will of Ichiro is not. Runge, watch your back.
Snell also threw a good game, which he lost, and Saunders played the field. Further proof that even with a week left, you can still manage to see something new. Baseball: you know you’ll miss it in two months.
Rowland-Smith, pitching for the #2 spot in the rotation according to the official site, vs. Tallet.