C’s Get Degrees: Mariners Lineup First Half Report Card

Who needs plate discipline with a winning smile like that?

Who needs plate discipline with a winning smile like that?

Mike Zunino (B) The young catcher has been invaluable behind the dish for the Mariners as his stellar defense and pitch framing have been a major reason for Seattle’s staff success. At the plate Zunino shows above-average pop (13 HR) but his abysmal pitch recognition (11 BB/97) needs quite a bit of fine tuning.

Kyle Seager (A) After struggling out of the gate Seager has been nothing short of sensational over the past three months, launching himself into the upper echelon of American League players. He is currently third in the A.L. in WAR (trailing only Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson) and is on pace for career highs in nearly every statistical category. Get that man a long-term contract!

Robinson Cano (A) The 240-million-dollar man has been as good as advertised in his first half season with Seattle. Despite a slight drop in power numbers there’s little to complain about with a slash line of .334/.393/.462. His presence in the lineup seems to have a positive effect on the rest of Seattle’s hitters and he’s no slouch on the defensive side either. Will he finally break the curse of Mariners’ free agent signings?

Brad Miller (C-) Miller had a forgettable April (.173) and even worse May (.136) before turning in a solid June (.298) at the plate. He has struggled at times defensively but the numbers show him to be above-average at short despite some costly errors. The Mariners showed unwavering faith in Miller throughout his slump and he looks to be on the verge of repaying their trust in him.

Justin Smoak (D) The sun might be just about ready to set on the Justin Smoak era in Seattle as the first baseman continues to show little of the promise that once made him a top 10 prospect in baseball. Although he still flashes some pop at the plate, Smoak’s ongoing lack of ability to make consistent solid contact grade him out as a below average corner infielder. It’s a make or break second half for the one-time first round pick.

Willy Bloomquist (C) Willy Ballgame has done a little of everything for the Mariners this season in perfectly mediocre fashion. Although his .269 average in 119 AB is almost entirely hollow (just 6 XBH and 3 BB) WFB’s ability to play multiple positions has been crucial to a team with major roster construction issues.

The Condor's inability to stay off the D.L. has put a damper on the M's playoff hopes.

The Condor’s inability to stay off the D.L. has put a damper on the M’s playoff hopes.

Michael Saunders (B-) The Condor was quietly putting together the best season of his career (2.0 WAR in 65 games) before shoulder inflammation and serious oblique injury landed him on the disabled list. Saunders was Seattle’s third best hitter before the injury but his inability to stay healthy has thrown a major wrench into the M’s lineup and outfield defense. Fans hope he’s not becoming Franklin Gutierrez 2.0.

Stefen Romero (D) Romero crushed the ball in Spring Training but couldn’t carry that success into the regular season as he slashed just .196/.236/.324 in 148 AB with a ghastly 4 BB/40 K ratio. Still just 25-years-old, he has a chance to be a part of Seattle’s future with improvement in plate discipline and in the field, but he shouldn’t play a major role in 2014.

James Jones (C+) The speedy outfielder has been a pleasant surprise since being called up to replace the struggling Almonte. A spark plug atop the order, Jones has tallied 17 stolen bases while being caught just once. The left-hander makes consistent contact but will need to show more patience at the plate (just 11 BB in 245 AB) to become a long term fixture in the leadoff spot.

Abraham Almonte (F) Almonte got off to a hot start but quickly cooled down once the league’s pitchers figured him out. The switch-hitting rookie was unable to make any adjustments (40 K’s in 106 AB) leaving him as dead weight atop the lineup for the better part of a month. Almonte also struggled defensively in centerfield leaving many wondering why he stuck around as long as he did.

Dustin Ackley (D-) The former #2 overall pick in the 2009 draft has the third most at-bats on the Mariners this season with just 4 HR, 3 SB and a -0.5 OWAR to show for it. His defense in left has improved to the point where he is at least average at the position (despite one the worst arms in the game) but the player who was supposed to be able to roll out of bed and hit is posting an anemic .616 OPS for the year. It might be time to pull the plug.

Endy Chavez (C-) Chavez probably shouldn’t be in the majors right now, and he certainly shouldn’t be hitting leadoff, but the gritty veteran hasn’t been a complete disaster filling in for Ackley and Saunders. The 36-year-old has struck out just 12 times in 127 AB but his unwillingness to draw a walk and lack of extra-base pop make him unsuited for anything more than a 4th or 5th outfielder. If he gets significant playing time in the second half, the M’s are in trouble.

Logan Morrison (C) LoMo has been adequate at first base since his return from the disabled list, but it’s not tough to look good when you’re replacing Justin Smoak. He’s playing better than his .230 average suggests (due in part to a .252 BABIP) and a strong second half may allow the former top prospect to carve out a long-term role as the Mariners’ first baseman.

Corey Hart (D+) The Mariners were hoping they got the player who averaged 24 HR between 2007 and 2012 when they signed Hart in the offseason, but the ageing slugger has shown a considerable amount of rust after missing 2013 to  knee surgery. Since he can’t play the field anymore Hart is strictly a designated hitter so he had better start hitting before he’s designated (for assignment that is).

 

MLB to Immediately Replace All Pitchers with JUGS Machines

A five-year guarantee? Don't expect one of those with a pitching draft pick.

A five-year guarantee? Good luck getting one of those with a free agent pitcher.

Dr. James Andrews had better find a hobby because he’s about to have a lot of free time — and soon.

As the list of baseball’s Tommy John surgery victims reached epidemic levels (Jose Fernandez, Matt Moore, Jarrod Parker, Brandon Beachy, Patrick Corbin, et al.) commissioner Bud Selig, long revered for his quick responses to the sport’s big issues, decided something had to be done.

So he made the biggest change to the sport since the mound was lowered in 1969.

In a stunning announcement Selig revealed that following the All-Star break, Major League Baseball would replace all pitchers with JUGS brand pitching machines in an effort to cut down on UCL injuries and keep the sport’s stars off the disabled list.

The Commissioner’s Office released the following statement on Tuesday:

“After careful consideration, we believe that it is in the best interest of baseball to remove the traditional “pitcher” from the field. Despite an increased focus on pitch counts and proper rest, UCL injuries continue to rise and drastic action had to be taken to protect the future of this game. Although fans may initially be disappointed with this decision, the decrease in season-ending injuries will see their favorite players spending more time on the field and less on the D.L.  Baseball has adapted to major changes in the past and we are confident that it can do it once again. “

According to sources close to Selig, pitchers will still allowed to stand on the mound and select which pitch and how hard the machine throws, as well as field the position, but will not be allowed to throw any pitches themselves.

Players around the league were quick to voice their opinions about Selig’s decision.

I haven’t had much luck hitting against humans so I’m looking forward to taking my cracks at a machine,” said Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak. “I fixed things in my daddy’s workshop growing up so I got a good idea about how these machines tick. It’s go time for the ole Smoakamative.

Other players were less than enthused with the change.

I’ve been busting my hump every off-season to stay healthy while all these young guns blow out their arms,” seethed veteran southpaw Mark Buehrle. “I planned on pitching for a few more years but this latest stunt might be the last straw. How can they even call it baseball anymore?”

America’s pastime is trying to protect it’s future, but in doing so, has the sport sold its soul?

Is this the future of baseball?

Is this the future of baseball?

How long until robots replace umpires and technology allows for other so called improvements to baseball?

Perhaps the answer lies in the seminal 1991 video game Super Baseball 2020:

The game follows the basic rules of baseball, but there are several upgrades since the game takes place in the year 2020. The most obvious difference from real baseball is that some of the characters in this game are robots. All the human characters are equipped with powerful armor, computer sensors, and jet-packs for improved offense and defensive skills.

Jet-packs?

Powerful armor?

Brace yourselves baseball fans…it’s just six years away.

 

There’s Noesi Way Out: Mariners DFA Struggling Reliever

Yesterday’s game was yet another painful chapter in the book of Hector Noesi.

It turned out to the be last.

The Mariners found themselves locked in a 2-2 extra inning tie against the Athletics with a chance to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 1985. The offense had struggled all night but the pitching staff held Oakland in check despite the best efforts of home plate umpire Sean Barber. Seattle needed to hold the A’s off the board in the bottom of the 12th for a chance to extend their early season perfection, but manager Lloyd McClendon decided it was time to wave the white flag.

The white flag named Hector Noesi.

Instead of turning to $8 million closer Fernando Rodney, Noesi was summoned from the bullpen, and two pitches later, the game was over. It didn’t come as a surprise to Seattle fans who have been watching him serve up home runs since 2012, but it was apparently the final straw for GM Jack Zduriencik (can’t we just fire him already so I don’t have to spell his last name anymore). Noesi, along with Jesus Montero, was a part of the ill-fated trade of Michael Pineda to the Yankees.

The trade looked awful for both sides the past two years but now Pineda is poised to return to the New York rotation while Montero is just, well, really fat. That left Noesi as the only salvageable piece of the deal, which is probably way Zduriencik didn’t cut him long ago. No general manager wants to admit they made a mistake and boy was this a doozy!

Noesi ends his Mariners career with a 2-14 record, 6.13 ERA and approximately zero fans in the Pacific Northwest.

So rejoice Mariners fans, the long nightmare of Hector Noesi is finally over. Just don’t get too excited; the man who kept him well past his expiration date is still in charge…

 

Nightmare on Royal Brougham: The Chone Figgins Story

*Seattle – 2027*

A young Mariners fan carefully flips through a binder of his father’s old baseball cards as a thunderstorm rages outside their home in the shadows of Safeco Field. The boy smiles as he finds cards of Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez, players his dad cheered for in the halcyon days of baseball in the city and still speaks of fondly.

Those days are just a fairy tale to the boy who has never witnessed a winning season from the M’s in his lifetime. He sighs and continues to browse the cards for a sign that things might get better — for him and his beloved team — but finds none.

He starts to put the binder back in his father’s desk when curiosity gets the best of him. In the bottom of the desk is a binder covered in strange characters that reeks of pine tar and chewing tobacco. His father made the boy promise never to open the book, but what could one little look hurt? He glances to the next room to see if his father is watching before opening the binder…

The thunder rolls ominously in the distance as he stares at the lone card in the page. A chill runs up his spine as he reads the name of the strange creature with the beady eyes on the card. C-H-O-N-E…

“Dad, what’s a Chone Figgins,” the frightened boy asks.

A flash of lightning illuminates the man’s face in the adjoining room. His jaw is clenched and his hands are balled in fists at his side. He knew the time had come, that the boy was ready to know the truth, no matter how painful it was for him to recall. He takes a long swig from the bottle of whiskey he has been nursing all day and collects his thoughts.

“A Chone Figgins is a tiny, evil little goblin that haunts cursed baseball teams like the Mariners. It constantly complains and blames other people for its failures. It sticks around for years and costs millions of dollars to get rid of. It is evil incarnate.”

The boys furrows his brow. “Why would God make something like that?”

He wished the boy’s mother, Diane, was still there to help with big questions like this. He had never been able to deal with emotional issues. Maybe that’s why she left him and married Keith. Man he hated Keith.

“I don’t know son. I wish I had a better answer for you, but I just don’t know.”

The man takes another sip of whiskey and disappears into his thoughts. Why hadn’t he just thrown that dirty old binder away?

“We don’t have to worry about the Chone Figgins anymore…do we dad?”

The son’s words unleash a flood of deeply repressed memories to the father. His mind races back to that dreadful day so many years ago. He sees himself driving the wooden stake deep into the heart of the creature and remembers the terrible noise it made as it died and crumbled to ash. The father remembered the eyes. THOSE EYES. He didn’t know if it was fear or relief he saw in the waning seconds of the creature’s life, but he knew he would never be able to forget it. He also knew that he could never be forgiven for what he had done, but his son would never have to live in fear of Chone Figgins, and neither would the rest of his tortured city.

His thoughts return to the present and he realizes that his knuckles have turned white from squeezing the empty bottle of alcohol in his hands. He throws the bottle away and grabs two cans of Pepsi out of the fridge, handing one to his son.

“No. We don’t have to worry anymore.”

The boy breathes a sigh of relief and puts the binder away. “Can we turn on the game dad? It’s the season opener.”

“Sure thing kiddo.”

The two bask in the glow of the T.V. as Seattle’s leadoff hitter, a spindly rookie making his first big league start, lines a single into left field. Rain continues to fall on their roof, but suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so dark outside.

“Maybe this will be the Mariners year, huh dad?”

“Yeah,” the father smiles, “maybe it will be.”

Never again.

Never again.

 

Raising Arizona: Mariners Move to 12-4 in Spring Training

kings of spring copy

R-O-D-N-E-Y Spells Relief: Mariners Ink Closer, Fashion Trendsetter, Archery Aficianado to Two-Year Deal.

465-lKhN5.St.84Wearing baseball caps sideways is dumber than wearing them backwards which is dumber than wearing the forwards which is dumber than baseball and baseball is pretty dumb.” -nbdyfcnsqnc (Nissan 350Z Forums)

New Seattle closer Fernando Rodney clearly doesn’t have any supporters in the Nissan owners’ community, but can the demonstrative reliever win over notoriously fickle Mariners fans?

He passes the most important prerequisite — not being Brandon League. *shudders*

The rest of Rodney’s antics, including his trademark bow-and-arrow save celebrations, will be easier for Mariners fans to tolerate if he pitches like he did in his breakout 2012 season.

Up to that point Rodney had been a middling reliever for nine seasons, only twice posting an ERA below 4.00 before signing with the Rays and recording a combined 85 saves in 2012-2013. He was nothing short of unhittable in his first year with Tampa Bay, posting a 0.60 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and a SO/BB of 5.07 while finishing 5th in the AL Cy Young balloting. Rodney regressed significantly in 2013 as he blew eight saves (compared to just two in 2012) and saw his WHIP soar to 1.335 — right in line with his career average.

The Mariners, who already have a closer in-house with better peripherals than Rodney and an affordable salary, decided that giving a 2 year/$24 million dollar contract to a soon to be 37-year-old reliever with two good seasons on his 11 year resume is exactly what they needed to climb out of the AL West cellar (oh hi Houston).

It’s possible that 37 and 38 are the new peak ages for relief pitchers, but it’s also possible that the current Seattle regime just doesn’t know how to build a winning ball club. How many games will Rodney even have the chance to close with a lineup full of question marks?

Not enough to earn $12 million a year. Not enough to earn $1 million a year. Certainly not enough to mollify Nissan owners.

Rodney would be a great final piece for a club on the cusp of contention. That team is not the Mariners, and at this rate, it may never be…

Dino DNA: How John Hammond’s Jurassic Dream Lives on in Major League Baseball Pitcher Craig Breslow.

“It’s in your blood!”

They should all be destroyed.”

Unfortunately for the members of InGen (and their shareholders), that guy who got eaten in the bathroom (ed. note: Martin Gennaro) and batters everywhere, those cautionary words of big game hunter Robert Muldoon were never heeded, and John Hammond’s dinosaurs were left free to roam on the islands of Costa Rica…and in Major League Baseball.

One of those creations who is tearing through his sport like a pack of raptors tears apart a dilophosaurus–a hybrid of man and dinosaur–is Boston Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow. At first glance everything about Breslow seems in order; he doesn’t have a tail or scales and he’s never tried to eat Sam Neill, but there is something distinctively Tyrannosaurus-esque (Tyrannosaurusian?) about him.

Take another look at the picture of Breslow and you’ll notice his arms are short…very short. A graduate of Yale who majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, Breslow (who is often referred to as the smartest player in baseball) realized in college that a little “dino DNA” could go a long way towards helping him achieve his dream of becoming a MLB player.

Why didn't we listen?!

Why didn’t we listen?!

While studying his mechanics on film, Breslow realized that a shorter arm and slightly modified delivery would allow him to be equally effective against left and right-handed hitters; something that would have been impossible for him with fully “human” arms. As luck would have it, Yale was home to one of the largest collections of fossilized amber in the world–just what Breslow needed to gain a leg (err, arm) up on his competition. A little gene-splicing was small potatoes for a man of his intelligence and resources, and the results speak for themselves.

Breslow has carved out a successful eight year career in baseball as a lefty out of the bullpen, posting a 2.82 ERA over 402 innings including a 1.81 mark in 2013. Unlike many left-handed relievers who struggle against right-handed batters, Breslow’s unusual release point and genetically-modified dinosaur arm have proven potent against all big league hitters (righties own a career .222 batting average against him while lefties check in at .230). This unique ability to cut down hitters from both sides of the plate has allowed Breslow to amass nearly $7 million dollars in career earnings, something that might not have been possible without the help of a long extinct creature and a little insect trapped in sap.

As Dr. Ian Black reiterated to anyone and everyone throughout his visit to Isla Nubar: “life finds a way”.

Now life just needs to find a way to work itself out of a bases loaded jam…

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