May 26, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 56 Comments 

I believe that according to announced attendance, the Sounders have outdrawn the Mariners every time both teams have played at home on the same date this year. Today, playing at night while the M’s went early, they got within shouting distance of doubling the M’s total.

4/17, Mariners 31,647 to Sounders 35,924
5/1, Mariners 30,225 to Sounders 36,219
5/8, Mariners 30,446 to Sounders 36,273
5/26, Mariners 22,422 to Sounders 40,122

I don’t know what MLS’ standard for sales is, but MLB uses tickets sold and not butts in seats.

Tenn for Tenbrink

May 26, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 12 Comments 

Dave may be missing out on seeing the system’s best pitcher in Michael Pineda (Robles isn’t a bad consolation prize), but one player of interest that he will be seeing is LF Nate Tenbrink, who was promoted on the off day with Joe Dunigan hitting the DL.

Tenbrink is one of the bigger stories in the minor league system right now because he was hitting .379/.452/.649 for the High Desert Mavericks while going fourteen for fifteen on stolen base attempts. With a month and a half in the books, he’s maintained a 1.100 OPS after he hitting only .282/.357/.431 last season. He’s nearly surpassed his triple and home run totals for all of last season in just forty-three games played, and is on pace to increase his walk totals by 50%. So what in the blue blazes is going on with him?

Coming into the ’08 draft, Tenbrink was lauded for his physical tools, but was regarded as a guy for whom the game didn’t come naturally. Brilliant in batting practice, he’d show a mediocre approach in the games. On the field, he’d make a flashy play one inning and then botch the next grounder. His arm was strong, but he threw too many balls away. If tools had been the main criteria for judging a player, he would have easily gone in the first five rounds, but as it stood, he slipped to the M’s in the seventh.

So what can we say about Tenbrink’s performances now? For two straight months, Tenrbink has run a BABIP of over .400. His overall line drive rate is around 12.5%, if the splits are to be believed, but he seems to be hitting everything hard and the balls are dropping in for him. Ordinarily, there would be reason for a great deal of caution in evaluating these stats, but here are a couple of reasons why Tenbrink might be different.

One is the home/road splits. We’d expect that he be able to hit in Mavericks Stadium, because frankly, everyone competent does. The unusual thing with Tenbrink though is that he hits better on the road. In Adelanto, he’s posting an average of .395/.490/.556, with a BABIP of over .450. While touring the rest of the California League, he’s hitting .366/.416/.731 noticeably lower walk numbers and a drop in BABIP, but it’s accompanied by a spike in power. Unlike Poythress on the other side of the diamond, these aren’t necessarily park aided either. Where Poythress has five or more dingers in a known hitters haven in Lancaster, two of Tenbrink’s home runs have come in San Jose, which has a park factor of 81 of 100 for home runs off left-handed bats.

Another reason to think that Tenbrink might be turning into a legitimate prospect is his left-right splits. Acknowledging that the left-handed sample is only 53 at-bats, there’s no BABIP difference between the two and he only loses about fifty points of OPS against southpaws. He does seem to hit them a bit differently, with a 17% line drive rate and 56% fly balls, compared to less than 11% line drives and 39% flyballs on right-handers, but that and eye numbers aside, the results are close, and normalizing for luck only brings them closer.

Tenbrink’s true level of talent is not likely going to be this kind of production going forward, but a .900 OPS at the minor league level doesn’t seem unreasonable for him. Aside from whether the offense is sustainable or not, one major question I do have for him is what position he’ll play in the future. He has all the tools to play the infield, but inconsistencies have pushed him primarily to left, where he’ll likely spend most of his time for the D-Jaxx.

It’s not easy to place his performances in a good context just yet, but his stock is certainly on the rise.

Game 46, Tigers at Mariners

May 26, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 157 Comments 

Bonderman vs Vargas, 12:40 pm.

The M’s look to win their first series since playing Kansas City a month ago. Also interesting – Jason Vargas’ xFIP is now slightly higher than it was a year ago, 4.71 to 4.68. So much for all those early strikeouts he was racking up. That 3.08 ERA won’t last much longer, but he’s still a perfect fit for Safeco, so like Washburn, he can be expected to outperform his peripherals to an extent.

Ichiro, RF
Figgins, 2B
Gutierrez, CF
Bradley, DH
Hot Streak Hero, 1B
Lopez, 3B
Bard, C
Josh Wilson, SS
Saunders, LF

Game Forty-Five Recap

May 25, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 30 Comments 

Yay, 17-28.

Milton Bradley makes this line-up better. Having him hit clean-up, where he can actually drive in Ichiro and Gutierrez, is the best possible chance this team has of scoring runs on a nightly basis. Let’s hope his two big hits off of Verlander convince Wak of that, and Bradley sticks around in the #4 spot for the rest of the season. It’s where he belongs.

Doug Fister wasn’t great tonight, but he again showed the power of throwing strikes. Even with breaks not going his way, his willingness to pound the strike zone limited the damage that the Tigers could do. He’ll never be an ace with his limited ability to strike batters out, but there’s room in a rotation for a guy who just never walks anyone. For a back-end starter, the Mariners could do a lot worse.

How good is Franklin Gutierrez? Another opposite field home run, a huge eighth inning walk off Verlander to get Bradley to the plate, and the hard hit single in the first where he got on base in front of Milton before the home run… he was part of all three rallies the M’s had, and his development as a hitter just continues. Our star defensive center fielder can now hit a little bit too.

People love to talk about things that don’t show up in a box score – Chone Figgins slide on the throw home in the eighth inning is one of those things. Ordonez’s throw was pretty good, and if Figgins takes the normal “slide before you get to the plate and try to touch it with your foot” approach, I’m not sure he gets in there. Instead, he smartly runs directly to the plate, then hooks behind the catcher and catches the plate with his hand. By the time Avila went to swipe where Figgins foot would have been, he’d already passed him and been called safe. Just a tremendous piece of baserunning by Figgins there, scoring on a play where probably 90 percent of runners would have been thrown out.

Nice to see the M’s pick up a win against Justin Verlander. Even if the Tigers didn’t have Miguel Cabrera, this was still a game they could have easily lost, but that they need to win to keep their season alive. Here’s to hoping they can get another one tomorrow afternoon.

Game 45, Tigers at Mariners

May 25, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 82 Comments 

Verlander vs Fister, 7:10 pm.

Credit where its due – we get the good line-up tonight. You might quibble with Saunders hitting behind Josh Wilson or something, but realistically, given this roster, this is the best team the Mariners can put on the field. Here’s to hoping they can put some runs on the board and convince Wak to stick with it going forward.

Ichiro, RF
Figgins, 2B
Gutierrez, CF
Bradley, DH
Lopez, 2B
Kotchman, 1B
Bard, C
Josh Wilson, SS
Saunders, LF

Rainiers game thread 5/24

May 24, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 40 Comments 

The M’s are off tonight, but the Rainiers are playing Oklahoma City in Tacoma in a few minutes.
Chris Seddon takes the hill for Tacoma, who are coming off a sweep of New Orleans.

Oklahoma City features some of the top arms in Texas’ system, with Tanner Scheppers, Pedro Strop, and Alexi Ogando anchoring the bullpen.

Tune in to Mike Curto on 850am, or catch the broadcast at MiLB’s gameday audio site.

The starting line-up for Tacoma:
1: Chris Woodward – 2B
2: Jack Hannahan – SS
3: Brad Nelson – RF
4: Tommy Everidge – DH
5: Mike Carp -1B
6: Greg Halman – CF
7: Matt Mangini – 3B
8: Eliezer Alfonso – C
9: Ezequiel Carrera – LF

Dave on KGA and going to Zebulon

May 24, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 12 Comments 

Two quick notes – my weekly radio spot with Toby, Danny, and the guys at KGA will be at 5:05 pm tonight. You can listen online at

Also, on Wednesday night, I’ll be in Zebulon, North Carolina with USSM alum Conor Glassey to watch the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx play the Carolina Mudcats. Michael Pineda is scheduled to take the mound for West Tenn, plus the game should feature Dustin Ackley, Carlos Triunfel, and the regression to the mean show sponsored by Carlos Peguero. We’ve already had one USSM reader express interest in meeting up at or before the game, and if there’s enough interest, we’ll put something informal together. RSVP in this thread if you’re interested.

Minor League Wrap (5/17-23/10)

May 24, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 5 Comments 

Instead of an intro this time out, I’d like to do something different. Alert readers have probably noted Wes Littleton’s coming and going from the West Tenn roster. Well, a few days ago, I found out why, via a blog. As it turns out, he and his wife had a son recently, and the kid has been going through an awful lot of medical trouble early on, with diagnoses of bacterial meningitis and a form of hemophilia. These are both very serious health issues for a kid so young, and so Wes has been flying back and forth between the team, which seems to have been fairly understanding, and the hospital. Of course, if there are any comments you want to leave or any support you might be able to provide them as they go through this, I’m sure they’d appreciate it. Even at the minor league level with eight innings in the books, he’s still part of the Mariners family.

To the jump!
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Large Item Pickup Day

May 23, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 65 Comments 

The part of North Carolina that I live in is a pretty interesting mix. Wake Forest University is one of the more uppity schools in the country, and the combination of rich white college kids with the old money homes that surround the area make the town feel more well off than your traditional southern town. However, there are days when the area reminds me very quickly that I now live in the south. Today is one of those days.

It’s officially called “Large Item Pickup Day”. It’s my neighborhood’s turn to have the city come by and collect items that are too large for us to haul away, but that we don’t want around the house anymore. It’s a pretty nice service, actually. Between appliances and furniture, it seems like something big and heavy gets replaced every year, and not having to try to borrow a friend’s truck to take it to the dump is pretty convenient. You just hang onto whatever you don’t want until your neighborhood’s turn comes along, and then you put your large items by the curb and the city takes them away.

At least, in theory, the city comes by and takes stuff away. In reality, Large Item Pickup Weekend is one of the most hilarious, insane, can’t-believe-what-you’re-watching activities of the year. Before the cities trucks ever make it around to collect your items, people come to see what they can grab first. And by people, I mean the cast members of Deliverance. And by collect, I mean “grab as much useless junk as they can haul”. Generally, within 15 to 20 minutes of putting something out at your curb, a man in a truck (with a low probability of wearing a shirt and a very high probability of smoking) will have stopped, loaded up the whole pile, and driven away. Sometimes, he’ll have a partner who will pick through your junk, deciding which of the things you want to discard isn’t good enough for his home, but in the end, they usually take everything.

A few years ago, I was helping a friend by taking his stuff from his garage to his curb the day before Large Item Pickup Day, since he was under the weather. I took the first thing (a broken kiddie pool, I believe) to the curb, walked back to the garage, grabbed the second thing, and by the time I got back to the curb, the first thing was already gone. These people are like hawks. Hawks of trash.

Today, when observing the folks who deemed my crap nice enough to load up in their remarkably nice truck (perhaps if they spent a little less on their trucks they wouldn’t need my broken screen door?), I had an epiphany – the Mariners constructed their roster using the baseball version of Large Item Pickup Day.

The rest of baseball left Mike Sweeney, Milton Bradley, Ian Snell, Jesus Colome, Josh Wilson, Josh Bard, and Ryan Langerhans on the curb this winter. That’s 28 percent of the current active roster that no one else wanted, and we’re not even counting Griffey (who wouldn’t have gotten another job had the Mariners not brought him back), though we probably should. Essentially 1/3 of the roster the M’s are running out on a daily basis are rejects from other organizations who have either cleared waivers recently or would clear waivers without a problem. The Mariners, in their shiny new truck, went around the league and rounded out their roster with discards.

There can be value in things left at the curb. Today, I put out a bookshelf/armoire/dresser thing that my wife hated and we didn’t have room for, but it was in pretty good shape and I probably could have gotten $30 or $40 for it had I put it in on Craigslist. It has some value, and the fine (marginally clothed) people who took it got a good deal with that free piece of furniture. But they had to pick up a lot of crap to get to that relative diamond in the rough, and when they get home, they’re going to have to find places to put all their junk (and my armoire). There’s a pretty decent chance they’d have been better off just buying an armoire on craigslist and not have to sort through and store the rest of the crap they left with too.

And that’s kind of how dumpster diving in baseball works as well. You can do it effectively to fill out a couple of roster spots and take some gambles on guys – if it works, great, if not, you just dump them and try someone else. But when your starting catcher, starting shortstop, starting left-fielder, starting DH platoon, fifth man in the rotation, and your long reliever are all guys that you picked up on the curb, well, then you just have too much crap on the roster. And when you can’t cut bait on experiments gone wrong because it will upset the clubhouse or cause you bad P.R., then you have no business owning that particular large item in the first place.

If the Mariners want to make up the significant hole they’ve dug themselves, they’ll have to stop hoping to find a marginally useful free armoire, go to the store, and buy something that actually makes the place look nice. Or, in this roster’s case, buy a few somethings in a hurry, or you might as well starting preparing for the garage sale in July when you sell off everything that was too nice to leave at the curb.

Game 44, Padres at Mariners

May 23, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 296 Comments 

Latos vs Hernandez, 1:10 pm.

Happy Felix Day.

Line-up presented without comment.

Ichiro, RF
Figgins, 2B
Gutierrez, CF
Small Sample Size Hero, 1B
Bradley, LF
Griffey, DH
Tui, 3B
Johnson, C
Josh Wilson, SS

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