Justin Smoak this week:
10 for 21, 1 2B, 3 HR, 4 BB, 4 K, .476/.560/.952
When he came over from Texas, Smoak was overly aggressive, chased pitches out of the strike zone, and generally not anything like the hitter he had been in the minors. Since coming back to the big leagues, he’s been more patient and focused on swinging at pitches he can do something with. This is the kind of hitter he can be, though obviously he won’t hit this well on a regular basis.
The sample is way too small to mean anything, but it’s nice to see Smoak actually showing the skills he’s demonstrated at every step of his career before the big leagues. The power and patience combination should allow him to be one of the team’s best hitters – he just has to use both in order to make the package work.
Fister vs Gonzalez, 7:10 pm.
The final series of the year begins with Doug Fister taking the hill. I don’t think anyone thought he’d be able to pitch this well with his collection of mediocre stuff, but he threw enough strikes to make it work. The margin for error on guys like this is pretty small, so he might not be able to repeat this kind of season going forward, but 2010 can’t be considered anything other than a big success for Fister.
Josh Wilson, SS
My new post is up over at Brock and Salk’s blog, and it deals with why, in the end, the Cy Young award doesn’t really matter.
Also, I’ll be on with ESPN 710 with the boys at 11:30.
Vargas vs Harden, 11:05 am.
As Jason Vargas takes the mound for the final time this year, lets take a quick look at his “breakout” year compared to last year.
2009 – 2.36 BB/9, 5.30 K/9, 36.6% GB%, 12.7% HR/FB%, .286 BABIP, 70.2% LOB%
2010 – 2.56 BB/9, 5.50 K/9, 36.3% GB%, 6.4% HR/FB%, .285 BABIP, 71.6% LOB%
In the three main areas that a pitcher can control, Vargas was nearly identical in both years. He even got the same amount of outs on balls in play, which often fluctuates quite a bit from year to year. The only difference between last year’s Vargas and this year’s Vargas in terms of results? How often his flyballs went over the wall. He gave up just two additional home runs while allowing an extra 157 flyballs.
He was better than his ERA indicated last year. He’s not as good as it indicates this year. He’s a solid back-end starter who benefits greatly from Safeco Field, but don’t take any comments about his breakout too seriously. He’s the same guy he was a year ago, just with better luck.
This season was horrible. You were better than ever.
Thanks for everything, Felix.
Oh, and Mr. Brown – the fans deserve a chance to say thanks on the last day of the season. One inning on Sunday won’t kill him. Let him have the standing ovation. It will be a good moment in a season that had none.
Hernandez vs Feldman, 5:05 pm.
Happy Felix Day, maybe for the last time this year.
The Mariners won’t say if Felix will pitch on Sunday, which would be his last scheduled start of the season. He’s thrown 241 innings already, and they don’t want to burn out their franchise player in a game that doesn’t mean anything. They haven’t said that they won’t let him pitcher, either, however, so it seems like they’re hoping that the team can get him a win tonight, he can wrap up the Cy Young award with a dominating performance, and they can send him out on a high note.
And yes, I think that if Felix dominates the Rangers tonight, he’ll basically wrap-up the Cy Young award. The conversation about the value of wins has gone on for over a month now, and besides the oldest of the old school, pretty much everyone has seemingly come around on how flawed the number is. If Felix shuts down the Rangers tonight, on the road, and gets his ERA below 2.30 while throwing nearly 250 innings, he’s going to get a lot of votes. Enough votes to win the award, I think.
And he’s earned it. Over the last two years, King Felix has been the best pitcher in the American League. He deserves a trophy.
In an article written by Ken Rosenthal, Armstrong said that he’s “not thinking about changing the general manager at all.” Rosenthal’s headline, “Mariners to retain Zduriencik as GM” is more declarative, and its likely that Rosenthal has some extra information that wasn’t quotable that led him to making that kind of statement. The piece reads as confirmed news, in fact, where Rosenthal is essentially reporting that Zduriencik won’t be fired as factual. He has more sources in baseball than anyone else, and his reports are almost always correct, so we can probably expect that the team will not shake up the front office this winter.
That said, there’s a reason that Rosenthal had to write this story in the first place. Ever since the Cliff Lee trade, rumors have been swirling that Jack was on thin ice with upper management, and I know quite a few people in the game who didn’t think he’d survive this. The dreaded vote of confidence is often a two-edged sword, as it essentially means that they’re not firing him right now, but if it wasn’t a possibility, they wouldn’t have had to issue the statement in the first place.
I’m sure Jack knows that his rope is not as long as it was last winter. He won’t survive another disastrous season. If the 2011 team isn’t significantly improved, he will almost certainly lose his job. They don’t necessarily have to win the division, but they can’t be terrible again. He’ll need to be able to point to the success of some good young players and new acquisitions as evidence that the team is going in the right direction. Even if catching Texas next year may be unrealistic, putting a respectable team on the field is not. Just like in his first season, he’ll have to balance building for the future with putting out a big league product that fans will enjoy watching.
Only now, he’ll have to do it without a safety net. And we’ll have to see how that affects the decision making process this winter. Most of us think next year is a non-contending year with a focus on young players, and the team should prioritize building for the future, but Jack probably needs the team to finish around .500 or better to keep his job. That’s a factor, even if just a subconscious one. Will he be willing to take risks on guys with little or no track record, knowing that if they don’t perform, he’s out? I don’t know. We’ll find out, I guess.
Update: Larry Stone gets confirmation that Jack will return, and a few additional quotes, including this one: “In Jack we trust — isn’t that what the button says?”
Pauley vs Wilson, 5:10 pm.
A week left until our long national nightmare is over. For tonight, we (mostly) get the kids. Huzzah.
Josh Wilson, SS
Figure we might as well get this out of the way early – yesterday, Prince Fielder played what is probably his final home game in Milwaukee. The Brewers are pretty likely to move their first baseman this winter, as he only has one year left before he becomes a free agent, and Scott Boras is looking for a huge paycheck for the slugger, having already rejected an offer reported to be worth $100 million over five years. Fielder won’t exactly be a low cost bargain next year, either, as his final arbitration payout will probably come in a little north of $15 million for 2011. Given his cost and the fact that he’s going to sign elsewhere in a year, the Brewers pretty much have to shop him this winter.
And so, inevitably, he’ll be linked to the Mariners. Jack Zduriencik drafted Fielder when he was the Brewers scouting director, so there’s history between the two. The Mariners will obviously be in the market for some offense this winter, and Fielder will be one of the best hitters available. They have an opening at DH, and he could even provide some insurance at first base in case Justin Smoak gets injured or fails to pan out. His left-handed power would play well in Safeco, and he’d give the team a legitimate “big bat” that the traditional fan base has been craving for several years. There are enough reasons to think it makes sense to get the rumor mill churning, and churn it will this winter.
However, there are quite a few reasons it doesn’t make sense, either, and we need to keep those in mind when we read the speculation that will come over the next month or two.
The obvious problem is cost. At $15+ million for 2011, the Mariners might not even have room in the budget to bring him in. If they expanded the budget a bit (not a given by any stretch of the imagination), traded David Aardsma, and filled out the roster with league minimum guys, they might be able to make it work, but even then, it would be tight. He’d have to be the only significant salary addition the club made all winter, and they might have to shed some money beyond just Aardsma to make it work. Given that guys like Jack Wilson and Chone Figgins won’t be easy to move, that’s a pretty big challenge.
Beyond just next year, however, there’s the issue with Fielder’s asking price and his actual value. Yes, he’s a good hitter, but he’s not a legitimate superstar that is worthy of the contract that he’s asking for. He’s basically Matt Holliday without any defensive value or baserunning skills, more of a +4 win player than one of the game’s elite performers. The rejection of a 5/100 offer when he was 2 years away from free agency shows that they’re not interested in giving out any kinds of discounts. Boras has his eye on Ryan Howard’s ridiculous 5 year, $125 million contract, and will likely aim to come out above that, given that Fielder is the same kind of player, only younger.
He’s just not worth that kind of money. There’s no way the Mariners should be interested in paying $20+ million a year for Fielder in 2012 and beyond, especially as he’s likely to end up as a DH sooner than later, and guys with his body type have traditionally aged poorly. If Boras is really set on getting that kind of money for his client, teams in the market to trade for him this winter will almost certainly have to see him as a one year rental. And the Mariners just shouldn’t be making that kind of short term move.
Fielder would make the team better, but by himself, he’s not nearly enough. While the organization could use a bat like Prince Fielder in the line-up, they can’t afford to put all their eggs in his overweight basket, especially considering how much money he’ll want after next year. There will be other, more cost effective ways for the Mariners to bring in a DH this winter. Don’t just assume that it’s a fit just because Jack Z drafted him.
Dan Cortes, pitch by pitch, today:
Fastball, 95, strike one
Fastball, 95, strike two
Fastball, 97, ball one
Fastball, 96, strikeout
Fastball, 98, ball one
Slider, 84, strike one
Fastball, 96, ball two
Fastball, 96, strike two
Fastball, 97, strikeout
Slider, 85, ball one
Fastball, 97, strike one
Fastball, 97, strike two
Slider, 86, ball two
Fastball, 97, foul
Fastball, 98, strikeout
He’s pretty good.