Rainiers Game Thread, 7/28

July 28, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 9 Comments 

Well, the M’s have an off night, and Dave’s radio hit on KGA’s done… how about checking in on the Rainiers?
Nate Robertson faces off against Carlos Hernandez of Sacramento at 7pm, but you should follow along anyway. No, Wily Mo isn’t in uniform yet, but the Rainiers have several familiar faces in the line-up, and it’s a good chance to check in on the A’s Chris Carter, Michael Taylor and Adrian Cardenas.

If, on the other hand, you’re not ready to deal with Carlos Peguero again so soon, I won’t be offended.

Gameday’s here, it’s on 850AM in Tacoma, and it’s on MiLB.tv too.

Rainiers’ line-up= Seager, Saunders, Liddi (3B), Peguero, Wilson, Limonta, Tuiasosopo (1b), Henriquez, Kazmar.

Dave On The Air

July 28, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 12 Comments 

Not going to let a little thing like leukemia keep me from talking with Toby and the guys over at 1510 KGA in Spokane tonight. I’ll be on their airwaves at 4:40 pacific time, and I’m going to try to work in at least one hospital related joke.

M’s add Wily Mo Pena

July 28, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 17 Comments 

This morning, the Jays acquired CF Colby Rasmus from St. Louis, picking up one of the best available talents in a three team deal. Undaunted, the M’s got to work and signed OF/DH/COMEDY Wily Mo Pena, who’d been cut by the Diamondbacks a week ago.

Pena was out of affiliated ball for a while, then bounced back in 2010 after signing with the Padres and playing in the PCL for Portland. This year for Reno, all he did was hit .363/.439/.726. Yes, Reno’s a bandbox, but he hit better on the road. Yes, the PCL is suddenly a collective bandbox, but that’s still quite impressive. After Juan Miranda struggled, Arizona called him up for just shy of 50 plate appearances. He didn’t draw a walk, struck out often, and hit five homers. As he’s a defensive liability, that wasn’t enough to maintain the D-Backs interest. They’re in a vastly different situation, as they had a 1B trapped in AAA (Brandon Allen), and another 1B mashing in AA (Paul Goldschmidt), and they play in the National League. Pena’s meant for the AL, and he’s meant for a team that’s not getting a lot of production from the DH spot (or any other spot).

Pena’s only 29, and he’s been a lefty masher in the minors, but his MLB splits aren’t anything out of the ordinary. For the moment, he’ll head to Peoria for a bit while the M’s figure out how to fit him onto a AAA roster that includes DH Luis Jimenez, Carlos Peguero, Matt Mangini, Matt Tuiasosopo and Mike Wilson. Jeff at LL hypothesizes that he could replace Jack Cust as the primary DH. He could also platoon with Cust if the club wanted to commit to Carp in LF and move someone else back to Tacoma.

This is a minor move; Pena hasn’t been an effective MLB player since 2007, and his eye-popping PCL stats didn’t exactly translate to the National League (see? It’s not just Mariners that do this). If the pick-up blocked someone, it’d be odd. But this is a no-risk, low-reward move that shows that the M’s are going to try their best to put a decent product on the field down the stretch. Pena is basically Carlos Peguero’s 99th percentile projection, but he comes to a team that’s repeatedly used an aging Adam Kennedy at DH, and which splits its clean-up spot between an enfeebled Justin Smoak and a catcher with an OBP in the .260 range. M’s fans are tired of watching the team struggle to score runs, and I’m tired of repeating that a call-up or waiver-wire flotsam HAS to be better than the incumbent in Seattle. So here’s to incremental improvement. Here’s to a guy who generates some excitement. Here’s to the team reminding me more of the 2004 M’s and less of the 2010 M’s, which is somehow, inexplicably, a compliment.

Wily Mo Pena

An Open Letter to My Losing Streak

July 27, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 16 Comments 

I know you’re gone, and I know you’re eager to forget all about your home here and start your new life in a place like Houston, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to say a few words about what you’ve meant to me, and how you’ve changed my life. I couldn’t be more proud of you, streak.

Before you came around, I was a lot different. I had totally different priorities; I was hanging around with Texas and LA… I just…look, I thought I might be a contender. No, no, seriously. Don’t laugh. I was hanging out with those guys at the Division Race every single night. You probably can’t imagine it, but it’s true. We’d get bored of the daily grind, and we’d just start pushing each other – I dared Texas to have Hamilton slide head first into home, and boom, they were messed up for a while. Los Angeles kept using Jeff Mathis, and we all thought that was hilarious, so I would occasionally use Chris Gimenez, and then LA came back with Bobby Wilson, and we’d all just fall over laughing.

I think over time, I just gradually lost control. The bartender there asked me one day, “Hey, Gutierrez doesn’t look right,” and I mumbled something like “Your FACE doesn’t look right,” and I went back to beating the A’s again. In retrospect, I was just ready for a change. I remember feeling strangely empty after just unloading on some hapless Padre back around the first of the month, but I didn’t think much of it. I noticed Texas wasn’t hanging around as much once they had Hamilton back, but I didn’t put the pieces together. Then, it happened. It was July 6th, and we were facing Guillermo Moscoso. We got blanked on two hits, and there you were. There, in the sterile environment of the whatever-they-call-it-now Oakland Coliseum, everything changed.

The next day, we went down to Anaheim to face Weaver and the Angels. Of course, they didn’t know that I’d changed. At some point, LA said, “Hey, what’s up with Smoak? You might want to get that checked out.” I just smiled politely. We finished out the series and it was abundantly clear that we just wouldn’t be hanging around anymore. My priorities were completely different, and I didn’t care that I wasn’t down at the Division Race, competing with Texas (who was so *clearly* slumming it anyway). I haven’t seen LA since before the All-Star break, and I don’t miss them. I often wonder what would’ve happened if you hadn’t come along, and I was still down there with those guys, making a fool of myself. I probably wouldn’t have this Pineda anymore, I can tell you that.

At first, I was just stunned. After you were born, I had a feeling about you, but I just wanted to be sure – I called up Seager, I juggled the line-up. It may seem like I didn’t know what to do with you, and it’s true. But after we lost 9-3 in Anaheim, and Torii Hunter hit those two home runs, everything just fell into place. Maybe it shouldn’t have taken me that long, but it did. After that, I watched you grow and develop with pride. Texas came by, and we got along perfectly – gone was this silly competition between us; you rolled over and cooed, they patted you on the head and told you your pitchers were special. I was thrilled; I thought it might get awkward, especially since we’d just come from Anaheim, but Texas couldn’t stop gushing about you, and how they wished they didn’t have to go.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing, of course. Pretty much immediately after I took your Peguero away, you starting acting out. That 5-1 lead on July 19th in Toronto? I thought that was reckless, but you were so defiant, there was no use arguing. You kept scoring and scoring, and I know you were probably as frustrated with me as I was with you. Now, looking back, I just marvel at your self-confidence and your poise. You were so much more intentional than an adolescent has any right to be. I underestimated you, I think, and while I still didn’t approve of that ridiculous game-tying grand slam, I know now that you probably had all sorts of contingency plans up your sleeve.

I didn’t know how you’d react when you had the spotlight on you, but I guess I shouldn’t have worried. Better you than me, that’s for sure. For a little while waaaay back in 2010, I was in the spotlight a bit too, and I froze. Just collapsed. You’re a part of me, so I was nervous – any parent would be. Then I watched you swing through 86 MPH Freddie Garcia slop, then come back and nearly get no-hit by Sabathia and you didn’t break a sweat; I almost feel guilty about being nervous. Everyone’s watching, and you get *more* efficient. In pressure situations, you made it look like it was early July and we were losing to Joel Pineiro with almost no one watching. I love the way you always deflected attention – making it more about the other team, the other starting pitcher. You were never cocky, you were just easily impressed, and I (and the entire country) find that charming. There was no sniping, no upheaval in the clubhouse – it was a bit more sedate and businesslike, just like Eric Wedge’s face.

At this point, I can’t believe I created you, and neither can anyone else. Those days in the Division Race seem like another era, and I guess they were. I’m proud that whenever anyone thought of me, they thought of you. Still, all great things come to an end. I know you’re ready for a new challenge, and you’ve learned all you can learn from me. I can happily say that you don’t belong to me anymore – you belong to baseball.

It’s going to be tough on both of us for a while. Everyone knows me now as “the team with the losing streak” and I’m going to have to fashion a new identity. I’ll be focusing on education and mentoring in the community just to stay busy. You’re going to face a lot of rejection too. You’re so advanced, many teams don’t have the personnel to utilize someone like you. But it’ll happen; something’ll open up in Houston or Kansas City. Wherever you end up settling down, I hope you think about your time here fondly. We didn’t always agree, but I hope you understand that I made a pretty nice home for you. We didn’t have anything, but we had enough raw material for you to take your first steps and grow. You’ve changed me forever, and I’m so happy that you’ve given me such clarity. Thank you, and good bye. You’ll always be a part of me.

Game 104, Mariners at Yankees

July 27, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 113 Comments 

Happy Felix Morning! The King takes on Phil Hughes at ersatz Yankee stadium this morning at 10:05 PDT.

The line-up:
1: Ichiro
2: Ryan
3: Ackley
4: Smoak
5: Kennedy
6: Carp
7: Gutierrez
8: Cust
9: Bard

Be interesting, Mariners!

The Jackson Generals are already underway against Chattanooga; their media manager Chris Harris reports that the two teams had a bench-clearing near brawl last night (when the teams come out of the dugouts and attempt to look unified and menacing).
The Tacoma Rainiers are also playing an early game – an 11:35 start against Sacramento with Anthony Vazquez taking the ball.

Game 103, Mariners at Yankees

July 26, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 110 Comments 

Doug Fister versus CC Sabathia, 4:05 PDT

We got this one, you guys.

Sure, it looks like a mismatch on paper, with Sabathia having one of his best seasons and with the Yankees trotting out an elite offense. But the M’s were given the afternoon off by the kinder, gentler, less-hairy Eric Wedge, and they’ve had time to spend some time in a great city and put their current 16 game losing streak in perspective. After checking out the MOMA, will relievers face crippling self-doubt when facing the middle of the Yankee order in high-leverage situations? Maybe, but I doubt it.

The line-up:
1: Ichiro
2: Ryan
3: Ackley
4: Olivo
5: Smoak
6: Gutierrez
7: Carp
8: Halman
9: Figgins

Assuming the Yankees go down quickly and quietly, you’ll have time to check out the Rainiers who return home tonight to take on Sacramento at 7:05. James Paxton takes the hill for Jackson today, but the biggest MiLB story of the day concerns 2010 2nd round pick Marcus Littlewood. Drafted as a SS, the M’s have moved him to the catcher spot, and he’s already working with Roger Hansen. Expect one of the classic stories about the difficulty of Hansen’s workouts and how willing-to-learn Littlewood’s been.

Saying Thanks

July 26, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 23 Comments 

I don’t want to spend too many posts on introspection, but I did want to take a minute and just thank everyone for the remarkable outpouring yesterday. It meant a lot to me and my family to see all the kind words from people we’ve never even met, and to know just how many people are standing with us as we give leukemia a long losing streak of its own. The words written – publicly by the likes of Shannon Drayer, Larry Stone, Geoff Baker, and Ryan Divish, among many others – and privately by so many of you who bombarded my inbox were really encouraging. The personal stories, the tales of surviving, the thoughts and prayers… it all meant a lot. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Also, just to make this somewhat Mariner-centric, I’ll chip in on Chuck Armstrong’s comments from yesterday that a Brandon League trade is “not likely at all”. I know there’s been some talk that, since the Mariners don’t have an obvious closer-in-waiting, they should hang onto League and keep him for 2012, since he’s under team control for another year beyond this one. However, I’d argue that if the M’s keep League, they’re taking on an awful lot of risk.

Obviously, we saw this last year with David Aardsma, who got hurt in the off-season, nuked his trade value, and the team saw a potentially decent trade chip return nothing at all. However, just beyond injury concern, relievers are remarkably inconsistent, and there’s no guarantee that League will even be a valuable trade chip next summer. He’ll probably earn at least $5 million through arbitration this winter, and he’ll be a rent-a-player at the deadline next year. The higher salary and lack of long term value means that he’ll need to be pitching really well in order to be in demand, and given reliever volatility, he could easily pitch his trade value right out the window.

The only reason to keep Brandon League would be if you believed this team could contend next year. Three weeks ago, that might have been a decent assumption, but it’d be hard to find anyone who really thinks this team is only a couple of players away anymore. There’s a lot of areas that need to be addressed, and the team can start addressing them by moving League for value this week.

Armstrong was probably just trying to paint a public picture that the team didn’t have to trade League in an effort to generate better offers, but the team should not be serious about keeping Brandon League past this Sunday. He’s going to have value, he’ll fetch a decent return, and rebuilding teams don’t need proven closers. Trade League for something that could help you long term and be willing to go find another reliever who can become the next “proven closer” in the future.

Game 102, Mariners at Yankees

July 25, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 90 Comments 

4:05. Feels weird to put up a game thread today. Vargas versus Garcia! And Vargas gets

RF-L Ichiro!
SS-R Ryan
2B-L Ackley
C-R Olivo
3B-L Kennedy
DH-L Carp
1B-S Smoak
CF-R Gutierrez
LF-R Halman

Two back to back lefties! Nooooooooooooooooooo! And since so far I’m 100% for Olivo having good games when I doubt him, let me just try our luck: you stink Olivo! Don’t worry, he’s a professional, this stuff washes right off him.

He still shouldn’t be hitting #4.

SS-R Jeter
CF-L Granderson
1B-S Teixeira
2B-L Cano
DH-S Swisher
C-R Martin
RF-R Jones
3B-R Nunez
LF-L Gardner

So here’s where the isolation pod problem comes in. I gotta go look at the Yankee roster to figure out — wait, Andruw Jones? How.. I have to go read a transaction log. I will note that I still hate the Yankees, so I can’t be that far out of things.

Minor League Wrap (7/18-24/11)

July 25, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 10 Comments 

Some of the draft and IFA stuff broke loose this week, like C/IF Jack Marder signing for $200k and getting himself assigned to the High Desert Mavericks. Marder had some leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore and could have very easily returned to school, so it’s good that we were able to add him as he sounds like the exact type of player the organization would love. I don’t know what this means for Marlette or the others of the top ten, but if a recent article that one of my readers found on third-round pick Kevin Cron is any indication, we’re probably going up to the deadline with this again. As for the July 2nd guys, we’ll get to that in a moment…

To the jump!
Read more

When Statistics Are Not Helpful

July 25, 2011 · Filed Under Mariners · 254 Comments 

Here on USSM, we talk a lot about probability and likely outcomes. When making a decision, we think it’s generally wise to understand historical precedent, and to learn from history rather than repeat it.

But, there are times in life that you’re not making a decision, and knowledge of the probability of outcomes just doesn’t help at all. You are just rooting for one specific result, even if you don’t have any control over whether it occurs or not.

I’m now in one of those situations. Last week, I was informed that I have Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a particularly nasty member of the cancer family. History has given my doctors all kinds of data about cure rates and life expectancy, and statistical analysis is helping them decide just what kind of chemotherapy I’ll be taking in a few hours, which I’m really thankful for.

But really, those numbers do nothing for me. I’m not going to be making very many decisions over the next few months. I’m just going to be rooting like crazy for the drugs to work. I need reasons for hope, and I won’t find much of that in the harshness of raw data.

Data isn’t always what is needed. If you’re a Pirates fan right now, does it help you at all to know that your team probably won’t keep this up? You’re not going to be making any decisions that will change the outcome anyway, so why not root for the outcome you want, even if it isn’t statistically probable?

Thats what I’m going to spend the next few months (and years, in reality) doing. Save the odds for the doctors; I’m planning on living a long time. I’m planning on beating this thing. I’m planning on watching the Mariners win a game, and at this rate, that might take years. I want to be around to see it, though, and I just don’t care what the odds say is likely.

For the rest of 2011, I’m unsure of what my involvement here will be. You probably noticed that Derek has returned – I asked him to come help when I found out I had leukemia. The hospital has wi-fi, so if I feel good, I might write ten posts a day. If the chemo sucks, you might not hear from me for a few weeks. At this point, I just don’t know what is going to happen, but I know the outcome I want, and the fact that the data suggests it may not happen is irrelevant to me.

Statistics can be powerful, useful tools, and at times, they can be critical to understanding what to do. Other times, though, they’re useless, and so, for this situation, I say screw the data; I choose hope instead.

I know many of you are going to want to know how you can help. For now, I’ll just ask that you strongly consider donating both blood and platelets to the Red Cross – they have a critically low supply of both at the moment. Thankfully, my wife is an oncology PA; we have great health insurance and are in the trusted care of her friends and coworkers, so financial assistance isn’t needed at this time. If that changes, I’ll let everyone know, but for now, send prayers in lieu of cash.

See you all when I can. Don’t get too used to not having me around.

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