Mariners Monthly Roundup: June “We’re Not Dead Just Yet” Edition

King Felix was nearly untouchable in June.

Felix was nearly untouchable in June.

Record: 15-10 (39-37 overall)

AL West Standings: L.A. (42-33); Texas 1.5 GB; Seattle 3.5 GB; Oakland 10.5 GB.

Top Hitter: Ichiro continues to tear the cover off the ball, hitting over .400 in June including a streak of 7 straight multi-hit games. He has hit safely in 35 of his last 37 games and looks ready to run away with the AL batting title for the third time in his career. Ichiro also scored 18 runs and stole 8 bases in June, his highest monthly totals of the year in those categories. More importantly, Ichiro looks relaxed around his teammates this season and the talks of him being a clubhouse cancer have quieted down (at least while the Mariners keep winning). Despite missing the first two weeks of the season to a bleeding ulcer, Suzuki is still on pace to become the first player in baseball history with 8 consecutive 200+ hit seasons.

Top Pitcher(s): Felix Hernandez is finally starting to pitch like a king ready for his crown, coming off a stellar month of June in which he went 3-0 with a 0.94 (yes, 0.94) ERA while striking out 35 in 38 innings. With the Mariners’ offense struggling to score on a nightly basis the team has needed Hernandez to be a stopper and so far the 23-year-old hurler has answered the call. King Felix has rebounded nicely after a bumpy May and should have a shot at making his first AL All-Star squad. Just as important to the Mariners’ resurgance has been the continued dominance of off-season acquisition David Aardsma. The stud of the Mariners’ pen was perfect in June, converting all 8 save opportunities while not allowing a single run and striking out 20 in 11 innings (and only 4 walks). If Aarsdma can continue to keep his walk total low he should be a long-term answer for the Mariners because he certainly has the stuff to be among the game’s elite closers.

Is Junior finally starting to turn the corner?

Is Junior finally starting to turn the corner at the dish?

Biggest Surprise: Despite a negative run differential (296 runs scored/314 runs allowed) the Mariners are two games over .500 and only 3.5 games out in the division. First year manager Don Wakamatsu should receive praise for his effective use of the bullpen which has allowed Seattle to grit out one run games and stay competitive despite the club’s offensive woes.

Biggest Disappointment: It’s never a good thing when a player gets hurt—it’s probably something much worse when you’re actually glad a player a did. But such is the case with the perpetually underwhelming chipmunk-cheeked SS for Seattle, Yuniesky Betancourt. The M’s shortstop has been nothing less than mediocre the past three seasons, playing average defense at short while hitting around .280 with little power and even less plate discipline (70 BB in 2088 career ABs). Betancourt had been even worse this season, hitting .250 and getting benched by Wakamatsu for his poor work ethic and struggles at the plate. Betancourt was placed on the 15-DL over the weekend with a pulled hamstring, an injury that would be much more exciting if his replacement Ronny Cedeno wasn’t hitting .133. Where the heck is Felix Fermin when you need him? Should the M’s think about giving the Rays a call and asking about Triple-A shortstop Reid Brignac?

The M's won't be able to replace Beltre's defense at third.

The M's won't eaily be able to replace Beltre's defense at third after his surgery.

Griffey Watch: The Kid continues to “heat up” as the season progresses, improving to a line of .238-4 HR-11 RBI in June (he just missed hitting his 10th HR of the season off Mariano Rivera last night). It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s good to see that there’s still some life left in his bat and Mariners fans hope that he can continue to turn the corner and add some pop to an otherwise listless lineup.

Injuries: Endy Chavez (torn ACL–out for year); Adrian Beltre (bone spurs in left shoulder–6 to 8 weeks); Erik Bedard (left shoulder inflammation–due back July 4); Yuniesky Betancourt (hamstring–mid July return); Carlos Silva (nauseau, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea–no return expected, ever).

July Schedule: 2 @ NY; 3 @ Boston; 3 vs Baltimore; 4 vs Texas; All-Star Break; 4 @ Cleveland; 3 @ Detroit; 3 vs Cleveland; 3 vs Toronto; 2 @ Texas.

Overall Grade: (A) June was a step in the right direction for Seattle, as the team continued to win close games and the offense began to show some signs of life. The next few weeks will be very important to the Mariners as they will determine whether the team becomes buyers or sellers with the trade deadline looming. Don’t forget to vote for your favorite Mariners to send them to the All-Star game in St. Louis!

Cards are Stacked: Can Albert Pujols Capture the NL Triple Crown?

Man or Machine? Either way, Pujols is the game's best.

Man or Machine? Either way, Pujols is hands down the game's best hitter

Well, the secret is finally out. Albert Pujols is a machine. Although ESPN may have been first to officially break the news, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has followed baseball since 2001. After all, in 8+ seasons Pujols has been the best in the game, averaging a batting line of .334-43 HR-129 RBI-124 R; a feat unmatched in the history of baseball and an accomplishment unthinkable for any mere mortal. Even though Pujols is stuck in a rather pedestrian St. Louis Cardinals’ lineup (though the recent addition of Mark DeRosa should help), last year’s NL MVP continues to prove that he is the best hitter in the game today, and arguably one of the greatest right-handed hitters in the history of baseball (move over Greg Vaughn Jimmie Foxx). After going deep twice against Minnesota on Saturday, Pujols was hitting .328 with a league leading 28 HRs and 78 RBIs, despite already drawing 59 free passes.

As the season moves closer to the midway point, and Pujols continues to mash at the plate, is it time for the Triple Crown talk to begin? It seems every few seasons there’s a player in baseball who jumps out of the gates quickly only to fade in the dog days of summer (i.e. Derek Lee in 2005), but Pujols is clearly in a league of his own and shows no signs of slowing down (12 HRs in 88 ABs in June). It’s been 72 years since the last NL Triple Crown winner, and strangely enough it was another Cardinal. Joe “Ducky” Medwick had a season for the ages in 1937, hitting .374 with 31 HRs and 154 RBIs (numbers which, besides the HRs, would probably still lead the league today). So, is it in the cards for St. Louis to have another Triple Crown hitter in 2009, or will Pujols find leading the lead in the three major batting categories impossible even for a machine?

Pujols will have to stay on fire for the NL's first Triple Crown since '37.

Pujols will have to stay on fire all season long for the NL's first Triple Crown since '37.

Let’s take a look at his current numbers, main competitors in each category, and Pujols’ chances of leading the league in HRs, RBIs, and batting average:

Homeruns (28-1st in NL): Believe it or not, Pujols has never led the league in HRs, although in his defense he did play in the NL during the peak of Barry Bonds’ accidental steroid usage power barrage. The closest Pujols has come is finishing tied for second in 2004, hitting 46 HRs to Adrian Beltre’s 48 (loud groan from Mariners’ fans). Pujols’ current HR rate puts him on pace for 59 longballs which would almost assuredly lead the NL. His closest competition at this point in the season are Padres 1B Adrian Gonzalez (24 HRs), Phillies OF Raul Ibanez (22 HRs), Diamondbacks 3B Mark Reynolds (21 HR) and Phillies 1B Ryan Howard (20 HRs). Ibanez has been on fire all season long but is currently stuck on the DL, and at the age of 37, is not likely to keep up with Pujols as the summer drags on. Reynolds definitely has some pop in his bat when he hits the ball (his 102 Ks lead the league by a wide margin) but is too inconsistent and will have too many slumps to lead the league in longballs. Gonzalez will probably set a career high in HRs this season but has little protection in the San Diego lineup (he leads the league in BBs) and has slowed considerably since hitting 20 HRs in the first two months. The player with the best shot out of this group to keep Pujols from topping the NL in HRs is Ryan Howard. Howard is one of the game’s best sluggers, averaging 51 HRs a season over the past three years, while leading the league in 2006 and 2008. He plays in a homerun friendly ballpark and hitting between Chase Utley and Ibanez sure doesn’t hurt, but like Reyolds he is prone to the punchout and is already 8 HRs behind Pujols.

Odds Pujols leads league: 75%

Will the world's biggest vegetarian play spoiler this season?

Will the world's biggest vegetarian play spoiler this season?

Runs Batted In (74-1st in NL): RBIs are another statistical category that Pujols has never led the league in due in large part to the Cardinals lineup(s) and the fact that he draws so many walks (24 intentional walks already); he has finished 2nd three times (2002, 05, 06). His 74 RBIs have him on pace for 157 total, yet he leads Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder by just one RBI. Besides Fielder, no one in the league is within 15 RBIs of Pujols, with Ibanez (59) and Howard (59) the closest behind. It will likely be a two-horse race all season long and could come down to which player has more chances with runners in scoring position. As mentioned before, Pujols hits in an average Cardinals’ lineup, typically manning the #3 spot behind leadoff hitter Skip Schumaker (.358 OBP) and Colby Rasmus (.307 OBP). Fielder on the other hand hits in a solid Brewers’ lineup and is entrenched in the cleanup spot behind Craig Counsell (.368 OBP), JJ Hardy (.299 OBP) and Ryan “Brains &” Braun (.416 OBP). Neither hitter has great protection behind them in the order, leading to their inflated walk totals. This might be the most difficult leg of the Triple Crown for Pujols to capture but his chances have been bolstered thanks to the Redbirds addition of Derosa.

Odds Pujols leads league: 60%

Batting Average (.328-8th in NL): Despite the fact that he is currently behind 7 other players, Pujols will probably have the easiest time winning the batting average portion of the Triple Crown. Why? Well, for one thing Pujols’ career .334 average is the highest among all active players and he’s already captured a batting title (2003) and finished 2nd two other times. Additionally, despite the fact that he is hitting a robust .328 on the year, Pujols has suffered from bad luck so far. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is only .277 this season, which is 40 points lower than his career .317 BABIP meaning that Pujols should be due for an upswing in average soon. Most of the players ahead of him in batting average (Pablo Sandoval, Miguel Tejada, Cristian Guzman and Carlos Beltran) are hitting well above their career numbers, and are likely to regress in the coming months. Pujols’ primary challengers for the batting title are Mets 3B David Wright (.342) and Florida SS Hanley Ramirez (.333). While Wright has sacrified his power for contact this season (just 4 HRs), the results have paid off so far. However, a recent 0-11 slide has chopped 14 points off his average and he seems to be coming back down to earth after a torrid May and early June. Ramirez is no slouch either, a .311 career hitter who topped out at .332 in 2007. He has been hitting well since a slow start, but his .360 BABIP will be difficult to maintain throughout the course of the year.

The NL's last Triple Crown winner, Ducky Medwick.

The NL's last Triple Crown winner, Ducky Medwick.

Odds Pujols leads league: 90%

Pujols definitely has the career numbers, positive statistical trends and talent to put him on pace for the NL’s first Triple Crown in 72 years. He’s proved season after season that he is a special talent and is virtually peerless at the plate in baseball. However, there is a reason that no one has captured the NL’s Triple Crown since 1937–it’s not easy. It will be an uphill battle all season long for Pujols, with heated competition in all three categories, but if any player in the game today can do it, it’s Pujols. Because, if a machine can’t do it, who can?

Overall odds Pujols wins Triple Crown: 40.5%

Rocky Mountain High: Surging Colorado Back in NL Playoff Hunt

Tulowitzki's resurgence in the field and at the plate are a big reason why the Rockies are back in the hunt.

Tulowitzki's resurgence is a big reason why the Rockies are back in the NL playoff picture.

When the Colorado Rockies took the field against the Houston Astros on June 4th, they were 12 games under .500 and mired at the bottom of the NL West. They couldn’t hit, they couldn’t pitch and their defense was more porous than Nick Nolte’s face. The Rockies could have easily given up and mailed in the rest of the season, after all the Dodgers were running away with the division and Colorado looked dead in the water. But as they had already shown in their incredible finish to the  2007 season, the Rockies are a team that can never truly be counted out. Since a loss to the Astros on June 3rd, Colorado has been absolutely incendiary, winning 17 of their last 18 games on the way to a 37-33 record that has them tied with Milwaukee atop the Wild Card standings.

So what flipped the switch for the Rockies and turned them from afterthoughts to serious playoff contenders? Well, a lot of the credit has to go to interim manager Jim Tracey who took over after Clint Hurdle was fired on May 30. Tracey has revitalized Colorado with his positive attitude and, more importantly, got the offense back on track by shaking up an underperforming lineup. The new manager has made sure to get playing time for third baseman Ian Stewart (13 HRs in only 180 ABs) who has replaced the struggling Garrett Atkins (.207 BA). Second baseman Clint Barmes has thrived since Tracey cemented him in the #2 hole (.349 BA in June) and his decision to move Troy Tulowitzki up in the lineup has done wonders for the young shortstop’s confidence (.909 SLG since June 8). With Brad Hawpe likely to set career highs across the board, Todd Helton once again looking like one of the best hitters in baseball and Chris Ianetta rounding into form, the Rockies suddenly have one of the best offenses in the National League.

Street has dominant over the past two months.

Street has dominant over the past two months (0.82 ERA in May).

Just as important to Colorado’s turnaround has been the success of their pitching staff. The Rockies looked to have a solid bullpen heading into the season, with Manny Corpas and the newly acquired Huston Street battling for the closer’s role. However, both struggled in the early going and late game implosions cost the team numerous games. While Corpas has continued to pitch poorly, Street has turned the corner and given the Rockies some much needed stability in end game situations. Since a terrible April (6.10 ERA), Street has been lights out, converting 16 of 17 saves and striking out more than a batter per inning. He finally looks to have regained the form that made him the 2005 AL Rookie of the Year, and continues to emerge as one of the elite closers in the NL with each outing. Just as impressive as the bullpen has been the starting pitching of the Rockies. Long criticized for having a great offense but little pitching (see: the Blake Street Bombers) this year’s Colorado staff features three starting pitchers with ERAs of 4.00 or below. Aaron Cook, Jason Marquis and Ubaldo Jimenez have combined to give the Rockies a solid rotation, and if they can get any a little more consistency out of Jorge De La Rosa (82 Ks in 75 innings but a 5.85 ERA) the team might conceivably have one of the top 5 rotations (2nd in the NL in quality starts) in the league to match their potent offense (1st in runs).

One of the worst teams in all of baseball coming into June, the Rockies are suddenly looking like a dangerous matchup for the playoffs (they have risen from #28 to #15 in ESPN’s Power Rankings over the past three weeks). With a prolific offense and a solid pitching staff, Colorado has made a statement to the rest of baseball that they need to be taken for real. If the Rockies can keep up this torrid pace, the front office may soon remove the interim from Jim Tracey’s manager title (18-5 since he took over for Hurdle), and the LA Dodgers might have to start looking over their shoulders. Once again, the Colorado Rockies have shown why the MLB season is 162 games long…because no team (besides the Pittsburgh Pirates of course) is ever a winning streak away from contention.

Can the Rockies repeat their ’07 run to the World Series, or are they destined for a return to earth? Regardless, it should make for a fun summer in the Mile High City as the team continues to make Rockies’ fans forget about their slow start.

Showing Some Love for Jose Vidro

th_2000AVidroViva La Vidro is taking its disdain love for Jose Vidro to the next level by sponsoring his page on, a website that gives you all the information you need (341 career doubles), and a lot you don’t (like his 8th place finish in AL sacrifice fly leaders in 2007) about the Puerto Rican Punisher. Check out Jose’s career hitting, fielding and minor league numbers all in one place while supporting a mediocre your favorite baseball blog:

Report Indicates That Sammy Sosa Tested Positive in 2003: Sosa’s Response “No Se”

Wait, this guy used steroids? Couldn't be!

Wait, this guy used steroids? Couldn't be!

Well, perhaps after yesterday’s news, it won’t be such a calm wait for induction into the Hall-of-Fame. The anonymous report, which proved what had long been suspected, indicated that Sammy Sosa tested positive for a banned substance in 2003, joining Alex Rodriguez as the two players whose identities have been leaked from the list of 104 names.

While the specific substance Sosa used wasn’t revealed, the indication is that it was some sort of performance enhancing drug (i.e. STEROIDS, STEROIDS, STEROIDS). Sosa’s legacy had already been tarnished from the corked bat incident and it certainly seemed to the naked eye that Sosa grew rather unnaturally throughout his time with the Chicago Cubs (see photo above).

Despite the fact that his career numbers are outstanding (609 HR, 1667 RBIs, 2306 Ks) this latest revelation destroyed any chance that Sosa had of being elected to the Hall-of-Fame. After all, Mark McGwire hasn’t been able to garner anywhere near the number of votes necessary for induction in the HOF, and there is nothing against McGwire but anecdotal evidence (and one very poor appearance in court).

Sosa rose to national prominence in 1998 when he and McGwire engaged in an epic assault on Roger Maris’ single season HR record. While McGwire eventually won the race to 61 and ended up hitting 70 longballs, Sosa smashed 66 HRs on his way to capturing the NL MVP and winning over the hearts of fans in both America and his native Dominican Republic. Between 1999 and 2002, Sosa continued his prodigious display of power hitting 63, 50, 64 and 49 HRs respectively.

In 2003, Sosa received immense scrutiny after he was caught using a corked bat in a game, but was quickly forgiven by his ardent fans and the Wrigley faithful (give the guy a break, he did say it was an accident, and he seems honest). Sosa spent one more year in Chicago before toiling in Baltimore and Texas during his final seasons. He didn’t play in the major leagues in 2008 and just recently had announced his retirement from baseball, ending his career sixth on the all-time HR list.

The Sosa allegations are just another sad chapter in baseball's steroid era.

The Sosa allegations are just another sad chapter in baseball's steroid era.

Sosa was part of the group of players including Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco and McGwire that testified before congress in 2005 about the use of steroids in baseball. During the hearing Sosa mysteriously lost the ability to speak English but through his lawyer issued the statement “to be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs.” This statement, so blatantly erroneous on the surface, actually has some truth to it. Sosa, a native of the Dominican Republic, could have easily acquired steroids in his home country where they’re not illegal. More than anything, Sosa was guilty of a lie of omission, and this report finally brought the truth to the surface.

In an interview about the allegations, Bud Selig seemed to ignore the past, and professed his affection for Sammy Sosa and repeatedly brought up the fact that baseball now has the toughest drug testing of any sport. Selig wasn’t exaggerating, baseball’s testing is extremely stringent and effective (just ask Manny Ramirez), but he can’t simply gloss over what has happened in baseball during his regime.

If the sport is to truly move forward and leave the Steroids Era, baseball will need to continue to purge itself of cheaters, past and present. Revealing the players on that list from 2003 is an act of carthasis for baseball, the only the way the sport will be able to regain its reputation. Exposing Sosa and A-Rod is a step in the right direction…now let’s bring those 102 other players forward.

Washington Nationals Expected to Lose Remaining 100 Games: Bryce Harper to Skip Final Two Years of High School

Based on his raw talent, Harper might have gone #1 in this year's draft.

Based on his raw talent, Harper might have gone #1 in this year's draft.

Just about a week after being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, phenom Bryce Harper drastically altered the 2009 baseball season without so much as picking up a bat or throwing a ball. On Sunday, Harper’s father made an announcement that Bryce would be forgoing his final two years of high school to enter the 2010 MLB Draft. In order to be eligible, Harper plans on attaining a GED and then enrolling at a community college (somewhere in Ohio, Lebron James wonders why he didn’t come up with the same idea). Harper would conceivably be the number one pick of the Washington Nationals, who at 16-45, are the worst team in baseball by nearly 10 games. That would give the Nationals back-to-back number one picks after selecting Stephen Strasburg in last week’s draft, and might finally give Washington baseball fans something to get excited about (other than waiting for the inevitable Elijah Dukes implosion). But with this recent development, and Harper’s once in a generation talent, it might not be long before teams start throwing games like the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2002-03. If any team signs Jose Lima or Denny Neagle as starting pitchers, the battle for inferiority could get ugly.

After reading Tom Verducci’s article in the June 8th Sports Illustrated, it became clear that Harper had little left to prove at the high school levelAs a sophomore Harper hit .626 with 14 HRs, 55 RBI and stole 36 bases; numbers most people would struggle to post in a season of Wiffle Ball against the cast of The Biggest Loser.  At only 16 he already looks like a major leaguer, standing at 6’3″ and weighing 205 lbs, in addition to throwing 96 miles-an-hour and hitting 500+ foot longballs. He draws rave reviews for his defense at catcher and his speed and strength are unheralded for a player his age. Against top international talent in the 16U Pan Am Championships last year, Harper was named MVP after hitting .571 and slugging 1.214. To put it quite simply, Harper is ready for a new challenge.

At only 16, Harper's bat speed has been measured at over 100 mph.

Harper's bat speed has been measured at over 100 mph.

Although he will probably receive criticism for his decision to skip high school, Harper won’t be the first player under 18 to ever sign with a major league team. The majority of these players have been foreign born, so Bryce will be breaking new ground in a sense, but what motivation does he have to play two more years of high school? Talented players from Latin America can sign as soon as they turn 16, the same age that Miguel Cabrera was when the Marlins signed him for over $1 million. Of course that contract will look like a bargain compared to what Harper will receive after being drafted in 2010; his agent is the hellspawn infamous Scott Boras. Harper has nothing to gain by staying in high school, risking injury or plateauing as a player by continuing to compete against inferior talent. His stock will likely never rise higher than it is now, and with Boras asking around $50 million for Strasburg, the question becomes: what ungodly sum of money will Harper receive from the Nationals in 2010? $75 million? $100 million? By making himself eligible for next year’s draft, Bryce Harper puts himself in a position to be set for life…at the age of 17.

Big Unit Joins Exclusive Fraternity: Will There Ever Be Another 300-Game Winner?

Will Randy Johnson be the last 300-game winner?

Will Randy Johnson be the last 300-game winner?

With a prostate the size of a honeydew and a head full of bad memories, Randy Johnson strode to the mound last night as defiantly as ever, zipping fastballs by hitters and glaring like he needed a new prescription. After six strong  innings of 2-hit ball, Johnson handed the game off to the Giants bullpen, and when Beach Boy closer Brian Wilson shut the door on the Washington Nationals in the 9th inning, the surly southpaw became only the 24th member of the 300-win club. At the grizzled age of 45, the Big Unit became the second oldest player to reach 300, coming in just a hair younger than the immortal Phil Niekro. Although he was already a sure fire Hall-of-Famer, win number 300 cemented Johnson among baseball’s all-time greatest pitchers. With 5 Cy Young awards and 6 seasons of 300+ Ks, it could be argued that Randy Johnson was the most dominant left-handed pitcher ever (and only the 6th to ever win 300 games).

As a young hurler for the Montreal Expos and Seattle Mariners, the Maestro of Mullets never looked destined for greatness; a late start to his career and erratic control lead to only 64 wins in Johnson’s twenties. But with perserverance and a face only a mother could love, he continued on unfettered, becoming nearly unhittable in his thirties (a decade in which he averaged 16.4 wins per year). Johnson has continued to defy father time this season at an age when most men struggle to do anything more athletic than change the channel to Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Incredibly enough, the Big Unit has won more games in his 40’s than in his 20’s, a mind boggling stat.

Halladay is on his way to 300 wins, but it won't be easy.

Halladay is on his way to 300 wins, but it won't be easy.

Yet while the night belonged to Randy Johnson, and rightfully so, much of the talk following the game centered around whether another pitcher would ever cross the vaunted 300-win threshold. Many baseball experts contend that it will never be done again, citing pitch counts and 5-man rotations as factors why today’s starting pitchers won’t be able to accumulate 300 wins.  Consider that a pitcher would need to win 15 games a year for 20 seasons in order to rack up 300 wins; that kind of consistency just isn’t found in baseball anymore (where are you Greg Maddux?). Throw in unpredictable bullpens and homerun friendly ballparks, and it’s easy to see why the odds are stacked against pitchers in this era.

So will any pitcher ever crack this elusive milestone, or did the door to 300-wins swing closed behind Randy Johnson? Let’s examine, in order or probability, the five current pitchers that have the best shot at joining the Big Unit in this exclusive fraternity:

1) Roy Halladay (32-years-old): One of the most consistent and durable pitchers in the game today, Doc Halladay has averaged just over 16 wins a season the past 7 years. Like Johnson, Halladay didn’t blossom until his mid-20’s, but he has been a workhorse ever since. He’s currently sitting at 140 wins and if he continues his year-to-year improvement, and can fight off the injury bug, Halladay has a reasonable shot at joining the 300-win club…in 2019.

2) CC Sabathia (28-years-old): The hefty lefty has been a mainstay in major league rotations since he was 21, giving him a head start on most MLB pitchers. Sabathia has averaged nearly 15 wins a year since his career began in 2001, and joining a potent Yankees team should add some wins to his total over the course of the next few seasons. C.C. has piled up a boatload of innings over the past few years (including 253 last season), and it will have to been seen if this leads to breakdowns/injuries later on, but with 122 wins before his 30th birthday Sabathia could join the Big Unit as the 7th lefty to 300 wins.

Sure he's less exciting than a box of rye crackers, but Buehrle has quietly been piling up the W's.

Sure he's less exciting than a box of rye crackers, but Buehrle has quietly been piling up the W's.

3) Mark Buehrle (30-years-old): The darkhorse of this group of starters, Buehrle has quietly plugged away in Chicago, winning between 10 and 19 games every season from 2001-2008. His career total of 128 doesn’t blow anyone away, but consider that Randy Johnson had just 64 wins at the same point in his career, and Hurley Buehrle’s shot at 300 doesn’t seem so far fetched. Plus he’s left handed, and thanks to the trailblazing efforts of dinosaurs like Johnson and Jamie Moyer, Buehrle will probably pitch into his 60’s.

4) Johan Santana (30-years-old): Johan has been one of the most dominating pitchers over the past 6-7 years, and shows no signs of slowing down this season thus far, with a 2.00 ERA and 89 Ks in 72 innings. Satana has already racked up 116 wins, a number that would surely be higher if he hadn’t been handing the ball off to Aaron Heilman and Co. last season. There were some concerns about the Voracious Venezuelan’s shoulder at the beginning of the year, but he has quited those doubts with his strong start. Santana definitely has the stuff, but it remains to be seen if he has the drive to pitch into his 40’s for a shot at 300.

5) Carlos Zambrano (28-years-old): Sure he’s crazy (just ask Michael Barrett), but he also knows how to pitch, and with 100 wins at the age of 28 Killer Z is already a third of the way to pitching immortality. Zambrano has an electric pitching repertoire, and should get even better if he can learn to control his emotions. He has struggled with injuries the past two seasons, and that should be a concern moving forward, but so far Zambrano has put himself in a good position to challenge for 300 wins.

What are your thoughts? Will there be another pitcher who wins 300 games? Who do you think has the best shot at the milestone? Will Steven Strasburg win 300 in his first season in the bigs? Should Jamie Moyer pitch into his 50’s for a shot at 300?

Mariners Monthly Roundup: May “Well, That’s More of What We Expected” Edition

Aardsma has proved a capable closer for the Mariners.

Aardsma has proved a capable closer for the Mariners.

Record: 11-18 (24-27 overall)

AL West Standings: Texas (30-20), LA 4.5 GB, Seattle 7 GB, Oakland 10.5 GB.

Top Hitter: While it doesn’t take much to stand out in the Mariners’ rag-tag lineup, Ichiro enjoyed a very productive month at the dish during May. Suzuki hit .377 in the month, riding a 24-game hitting streak that raised his season average to .354. The Japanese Juggernaut also contributed 3 HRs, 10 RBIs and 5 SBs. While he still doesn’t draw any walks, and his speed is on the decline, Ichiro is still one of the lone bright spots for an offense that ranks near the bottom of the American League in nearly every category (12th in BA, 14th in Runs, 14th in OBP, 13th in Slugging). If the M’s are going to have any chance at competing in the AL West, Suzuki is going to have to continue to play as well as he did in May.

Top Pitcher(s): Besides having the distinct honor of appearing before aardvark in the dictionary, David Aardsma has also thrived as the Mariners’ closer since he took over for the erratic Brandon Morrow. Most fans (including myself) probably didn’t think Aardsma had a chance to be a successful stopper because the former 1st round draft pick came into the season with a career ERA near 5.00. But besides his Jose Mesa-eqsue implosion on the last day of May (2/3 IP, 3 R, 4 BB), Aardsma proved his mettle, converting 5 of 6 saves with a 2.25 ERA. The former Rice closer has electric stuff; Aardsma dials up a mid-90s fastball and dares hitters to catch up to it—so far they haven’t been able to (18 Ks in 16 May innings). He still needs to cut down on the walks (12 BBs in May), but otherwise Aardsma looks like one of the Mariner’s best offseason acquisitions. Another pleasant surprise for Seattle has been lefty Jason Vargas who came to the M’s in the J.J. Putz trade. Since his call-up at the beginning of May, Vargas has gone 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA between the bullpen and starting rotation. If he keeps this early season success going, Don Wakamatsu will have a tough decision to make when Ryan Rowland-Smith returns to the team.

Big Russell Branyan--the Mariner's lone source of power.

Big Russell Branyan--the Mariner's lone source of power.

Biggest Surprise: Russell Branyan has proven to be the only consistent source of power in the Mariner’s lineup, leading the team with 11 HRs on the season. Even more shocking is that the .237 career hitter followed up a .333 April by hitting .317 in May with 7 HRs and 13 RBIs. Branyan has predominately been a three true outcomes (HR, K, BB) player throughout his career, but has pulled a page out of Ichiro’s book and his ability to hit singles and doubles this year has kept his average above .300. Given the chance to play full-time for the first time in his career Branyan has thrived, and while undoubtedly his average will fall, he at least gives the Mariners one player in their lineup that pitchers need to respect.

Biggest Disappointment: The last time Adrian Beltre entered a contract year he went bananas, hitting .334 with 48 HRs and 121 RBIs. So far this season, Beltre has made Mariners’ fans long for the day of Russ Davis or David Bell, hitting .250 in May with 3 HRs and 11 RBIs (not to mention his 4/21 BB-to-K ratio). Seattle would probably like to trade Beltre when if they fall out of contention, but he sure isn’t making it easy on them. While he plays Gold Glove caliber defense at third, he hasn’t been able to rediscover the steroids swing that made him an MVP-caliber player with the Dodgers.

Griffey Watch: Junior hit .214-3 HRs-9 RBIs in May, which suprisingly enough, was better than his April. Mr. Zduriencik, Jose Vidro is on line one…

Injuries: Kenji Johjima (15-day DL, fractured big left toe); Ray Corcoran (15-day DL, sore neck, early June return); Ryan Rowland-Smith (15-day DL, triceps tendinitis, early June return); Carlos Silva (15-day DL, general terribleness, teammates/fans hope for extended stay on DL).

June Schedule: 3 vs. Baltimore; 3 vs. Minnesota; 3 @ Baltimore; 3 @ Colorado; 3 @ San Diego; 3 vs. Arizona; 3 vs. San Diego; 3 @ LA Dodgers; 1 @ NY Yankees.

Overall Grade: (C) After a hot start the Mariners have come crashing back to earth and unless their offense improves there is no reason to expect a change anytime soon. Their pitching staff has been superb, but an utter lack of run support will leave the Mariners struggling to stay around.500. Hopefully they can use interleague play as a springboard back towards contention, but don’t bet on it.