Mariners Analysis

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Plenty of fans are wondering if this team is for real. What happens when Meche returns to form. What happens when Beltre returns to being the worst hitter in baseball. What happens when they play a good team... on and on, you can find reasons to worry.

But even the most jaded fan starts feeling a little better when he or she looks at the rest of the AL West. Sure, the M's have problems, but are they any more glaring then what Oakland, Texas or the Angels have? All of a sudden, you have to admit there is a reasonable chance the M's could make the playoffs. And with Felix pitching twice in a 5-game series... will the M's be playing to go to the World Series??

This team has holes, but unlike some of other teams, they are getting fantastic production out of a number of players. Right now in June the M's have one of the top players at their position in RF, 2B, 3B and C. Sexson is starting to return to form. Ibanez is on a tear, and has a good enough track record to make you think he could keep this up all summer.

Dominant bullpen.

Solid pitching outside of Pineiro.

A few prospects waiting in the minors.

This team should be in this all summer.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Nice to see Felix pitch well today

With the M's back to .500 before the All Star break, today would be a great time to see Felix push them over the top. For some teams, getting even in the win-loss column is a temporary victory. A few losses and before you know it, you never see .500 again. Being even a few games over .500 is a huge mental advantage not only to the players, but the fans. It's hard to look in the W-L column and worry about how many games back you are when you have a losing record.

But over .500 everything changes. You are now legit in the minds of many fans as being a playoff caliber team. You might not be hyped as World Series contenders, but you get mentioned a lot earlier in Sportcenter shows, and compared to where this team has been .500 is pretty amazing.

Arizona is reeling. Felix takes the mound. It sure would be nice to see him step up and keep this streak going.

It's good to be an M's fan again.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What are the M's doing with Jeff Clement?

As predicted, the M's are nearing .500 before the break. When you look at the schedule, it's not hard to see this is the time they can gain back lost ground. The fact they are doing it is again not that surprising- we KNEW Beltre wasn't a .200 hitter, or Sexson, we KNEW Ichiro wasn't a .240 hitter etc... and the offense has indeed come around and is carrying the club.

Are they a playoff caliber team? Plenty of teams have started off slow and then picked it up the second half. There is no reason the M's can't do it again. Remember '95? Sure we don't have 3 HOF players on the club, but they are worth watching again!

But on to Clement. I find it curious the team is fast tracking our best catching prospect.

To date, Jeff Clement signed with the M's roughly one year ago. In that time he handled himself well in the minors, and his bat looked to be as advertised. We were told his defense needs some serious work, but he still has a chance at least to remain behind the plate.

Starting the year off at AA, Clement played decent before injuring himself. Now that is is healthy again and ready to play, he suddenly is promoted to AAA.

What's up with fast tracking a guy just coming off an injury?

It seems odd to rush a star player in your system when you don't have a glaring need on teh big club. We have a catcher already in the majors who's signed for 3 years. We have a player in Clement who needs time before he catches in Safeco. Clement is at least one year away before you'd even think of making him an everyday player at the major league level.

So, what to make of this promotion? While Johnson is out with personal problems, that's no reason to rush a star player, so I dismiss this as a factor completely.

Upon further review, it seems like the team is giving themselves flexibility. If Clement plays well this month, he might make himself attractive to teams looking to make a trade. The M's have little to nothing they are willing to move on the big club, so perhaps this gives Bavasi options come the trade deadline.

It is possible Kenji could be dangled, but again Clement is no where near ready, so I doubt this is an option.

They could move Everett, but you don't bring up Clement just to DH. He'd lose all opportunity to work on his catching.

If they do indeed bring up Snelling, and move Ibanez to DH where he belongs, then this also rules out bringing him up for his offense.

I don't know, it just seems strange to me to rush Clement to AAA when he still has plenty to learn in an easier environment.

Perhaps the club has looked at his abilities and simply feels he is so talented he wasn't being challenged in AA.

That would be the best reason of all.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Any trade value on this team?

With games starting against the Dodgers tonight, the M's have a chance to gain some ground and actually end up at .500 by the break. The idea the M's can't catch Oakland or Texas is crazy, as both teams have giants holes themselves and will be looking to make deals every bit as much as the teams chasing them (us).

When you run down the roster, Sexson is the obvious choice as the position player with the most upside. Historically he's never been this bad, and he appears to be healthy. If he can remember what he was doing last year and return to form, he could carry this team to a few extra wins all by himself.

Felix is clearly the best pitcher to carry the M's into a late season race. If he pitches like he is capable, there is little reason to fear extended losing streaks. Combined with our outstanding bullpen, it's not hard to see how the M's can stay competitive all summer.

If the M's are serious about contending, the do need to address some serious issues though.

One-- Piniero. You can't stay in a race running a starter out there every 5 days who stands a good chance of losing the game and tiring your bullpen 3 out of 4 starts. Fix him, or get someone in there who can help your team. It's doubtful he's back next year anyway. No reason to fear hurting someone's feelings.

Two-- Outfield defense. When Willie plays center and Ibanez is in left field, you are killing your entire team philosophy. You've constructed this great infield of Lopez, Betancourt and Beltre, and then you trot this out behind it. It's like dragging a parachute behind a Ferrari. Watching balls misplayed, players diving for balls they should have caught with ease, opponents taking extra bases with no fear of getting thrown out... they need to stop platooning Reed and get Ibanez to DH.

If you do both of these, you now need an extra outfielder and an extra starter. If you run down the list, you simply aren't going to get any ML ready players for the likes of Eddie, Piniero etc...

If Everett starting hitting again, there are teams that might swap something resembling a useful outfielder. If he doesn't, you won't be able to give him away.

You know Beane is going to improve Oakland. It's not clear what options Bavasi has.

It's something for all M's fans to ponder over the next few weeks.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Oakland heating up

So the M's do what all .500 teams do. They lose series, play well, they get swept... they are impossible to predict. Going on the road againt the NL West, they should... who knows. Win some games, lose some games, and should be on the way to .500 before the all star break.

But, as good as the M's are playing right now, they still aren't as good as the A's.

At some point, Bavasi is going to realize this team, as it's currently constructed, cannot stay in the race all summer. For the first time since he's been in charge, Bavasi is going to need to pull off some trades if the M's are serious about trying to win the West. Not just improve the long term health of the organization, but improve the day-to-day play of the club this year. Getting AA prospects won't win the West this year.

If Piniero stays in the starting rotation and continues to show nothing, it is obvious the front office doesn't really believe this team can catch Oakland. (Yes, I'm annointing Oakland as the team to beat. Texas has improved, but not enough to win the division.)

There are teams like the Cubs who are going to need to make changes. As teams begin dropping from the race, players are available. In addition, teams jockeying for position look to make swaps and fill holes.

Do the M's have anything worth trading? The AAA talent is bare, and nothing worth trading on the ML club is going anywhere.

It will be interesting to see if the M's can actually swing a trade. Look for the rumor mill to swirl big-time as we enter July.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Oakland woes continue

The M's batters had the bases loaded, no one out in the first inning, then... aw who cares, they seem to find a way to lose in the bay area. Whether it's untimely fielding errors (Beltre) or bad routes to the ball (Reed) or being unable to throw strikes to #9 hitters (Pineiro) the team just finds a way to stink.

The A's are looking like the team most likely to put together a 15 game winning streak and really taking hold of the division.

But they also have Loaiza, who was scheduled to pitch today and was out driving his Ferrari at 3:30am!! Talk about not taking your job seriously. How many of us went to bed last night at a reasonable hour so we could drag ourselves to work? Well Loaiza feels he can still perform in front of tens of thousands of people while getting paid millions of dollars on little sleep and hungover.

The M's still would have found a way to lose, but at least Loaiza was taking the M's seriously...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Last nights game at Oakland was about as frustrating to watch as we've seen all year. The team played ok defensively, and Moyer pitched well, but the team's approach at the plate was painful to watch.

The results, besides yet another loss on the road at Oakland include-
- Blanton's ERA against the M's is .77
- Against the rest of the league, over 8 runs a game!!
- The M's continue to lead the league in shutouts

For those that didn't watch the entire painful loss, the 9th inning summed it up perfectly. Ichiro leads off the inning with a single, and Beltre doubles to leave runners at 2nd and 3rd and nobody out. This leaves Jose Lopez at the plate, perhaps our most clutch hitter this season, ready to tie the game.

So what happens next? Lopez is grazed by the pitch and gets awarded first, taking the bat away from him. The pitch never even made human contact, it literally grazed the jersey poking out of his belly and I immediately felt like this benefited Oakland.

Ibanez procedes to swing away at two marginal pitches, fouling off both. Maybe one of them was a strike, but both were down low and would have likely produced exactly the ground ball Oakland was looking for. With the count 0-2, Ibanez then procedes to watch a ball, belt high and tailing right over the middle of the plate go on by for the first out.

The rest of the train wreck includes Sexson striking out on a ball at least 2 feet outside of the zone with a half swing, and Everett lofting a ball to Center on the first pitch.

I can't believe I actually thought this team might do well in Oakland.

I will never make that mistake again. Let's see if they can win one of the next two, and we'll call it a success.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Can the M's play well in Oakland?

We all know the Mariners have not enjoyed much success playing down south. If the M's win one game that would be an improvement over the last trip, but we know expectations are higher.

Can the M's solve Blanton? The A's are coming home red hot as well, after sweeping the Yankees. For some reason Blanton has enjoyed much success against the Mariners, while the rest of the league tees off.

It is surprising to see the M's now possess a league average offense. After being in the cellar for so long, this is actually a huge improvement, and is a good reason to have faith in this team as it climbs back near .500

Ichiro's hot streak alone is reason to watch the game, but watching the M's steal a couple of wins will make up for past disapointments. I still expect this team to reach .500 before the All Star break.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Strange draft so far...

The more the M's pick, the stranger it becomes. So far the overall trend seems to be tall, college pitchers who throw hard. The stats on some of the picks are downright awful... you have to assume the scouts are seeing something that really makes them feel like they are worth the risk. By passing on Miller, the M's seemed to be choosing safe selections over high-reward, yet the entire draft past the first round has been the exact opposite- extreme risk in many cases.

Considering the M's have been having such a hard time developing position players, we would assume the M's would be looking hard at players who can hit the ball (power). Instead the draft has been tilted heavily towards pitchers in a way that really doesn't make any sense at all. It looks highly unlikely any position player of note will be selected this year in the draft, and yet that is our biggest present day need.

Why such an unbalanaced draft? Will we regret not having more promising position players in 2-3 years?

Perhaps the M's office feels they can supplement the position players via international players, and pitching is the best use for the draft.(?) I really can't explain how an organization that has our current offensive production could focus so heavily on pitchers. Even if the lower rounds are filled with every day players, they are highly unlikely to ever set foot in Seattle, so again this seems like a high-risk undertaking.

For an organization that is so risk averse, this sure is a risky draft.

We'd better hope Bavasi has a plan, because for the life of me I'm not seeing it.

Brandon Morrow... happy or sad?

Miller or Morrow? The M's faced this decision and chose Morrow. There are plenty of people screaming right now because the front office passed on Miller, who many consider the top pick in the draft.

So did the M's make a good choice in Morrow over Miller?

Of course we won't know for quite some time who ends up the better baseball player, but we can certainly take a look at the risk/reward scenario the M's faced while drafting.

On one hand you have Miller, who has the body type, command, poise and stuff every scout looks for.

In Morrow, you have a pitcher with a great fastball, but still in search of a 3rd pitch. He also is a diabetic, and while his numbers are good, are hardly eye popping.

So why would the M's take him?

Risk and character.

We should know more in the next several days, when Bavasi and crew are interviewed over their decisions, but the fact Miller is going to be hard to sign is a risk in the FO's view.

Having a long hold out who might not even sign until next spring is part of the draft. Signability is important. If you have a player who might hold out, you have to factor that into the equation. History is ripe with examples of players who held out and it affected their play.

So what about character? Does it say something that Miller would announce he is looking for $8-10 million to sign? Of course it does.

For most players, they rely on their agent to tell them how much is "fair" on draft day based on where they are picked. However Miller is telling teams this is about money, and he appears to be asking for more money than any other player in the draft.

Of the thousands of high school and college players who are draft eligible, Miller wants more money than any of them. I haven't heard of anyone else making the kind of financial demands that Miller has this year- Have you?

So the M's passed on Miller. (If it was all about marketing, the team would have selected Lincecum.)

Remember Ryan Anderson? He fell to the M's because of signability issues. It happens every year in baseball. We should not freak out because some pitcher thinks they need $8 million to sign before they play baseball.

I'll take a guy who just wants to play, and apparently the M's feel the same way.