Saturday, August 28, 2004

Seattle Inning Summary

-J. Affeldt relieved D. Reyes
-B. Boone doubled to deep center
-W. Bloomquist hit for S. Spiezio
-W. Bloomquist struck out bunting foul
Quick update on the Kendry Morales situation. On Friday, MLB declared Morales a free agent making him eligible to receive offers from interested teams. Morales will hold his first workout for interested teams this coming Wednesday, September 1st, in the Dominican Republic. A team I left off a list of possible suitors, Cleveland, is currently showing the most interest in the 21 year old Cuban, at least publicly. The Morales watch has officially begun.


A few home run-related facts:

  • The last time the Mariners hit back-to-back-to-back home runs was September 21st, 1996

  • The nine home runs tied a SafeCo Field record, originally set against Cleveland two months ago

  • Miguel Olivo hit two home runs in a game for the first time in his career

  • The six home runs allowed tied a Royals record

  • This was not the first time that Zack Greinke had allowed four homers in a game

  • The Mariners record for home runs in a game is seven, set four times: 4/11/85, 7/31/96, 7/5/99, and 5/2/02

  • Based upon their Major League careers so far, the odds of Olivo, Lopez, and Bocachica hitting consecutive home runs were 0.00000821, or once every 121,800 times they batted in order. And you thought Spiezio going deep was a rare spectacle.

Indeed, a promising matchup featured neither starter at his peak, as Greinke very conspicuously hit the wall in the fifth, while Meche also struggled to reach six innings after having some early success. I've discussed the idea of sending Meche to the bullpen a few times, and DMZ brings it up again after Gil's latest start. At first glance, you'd think such a move would be strictly performance-based - Meche, for his career, clearly starts running on fumes around 70-75 pitches - and that shifting a young, promising starter into a relief role so early in his career would only serve to truncate his value (not that there isn't a precedent for this). However, setting aside the immediate statistical benefits of moving Meche into the bullpen, there are more pressing long-term health concerns to consider. Gil has a unique injury history and should be handled with care until he proves that he is a durable and dependable starting pitcher. Instead, the organization let him start 32 games in 2003, and is now putting even more stress on his arm in 2004. Let's take a look at Meche's last ten ML starts, with the number of pitches thrown followed by the number of innings:

May 8: 105 pitches, 5 IP
May 14: 38, 0.2
May 21: 118, 6
May 27: 69, 3.1
June 1: 73, 2
August 4: 108, 6
August 10: 125, 8
August 15: 112, 7
August 22: 111, 6.2
August 27: 122, 6

The clear trend here is that Meche has been throwing a bunch of pitches in high-stress situations, which put more stress on a shoulder and elbow than, say, the last pitch of a 1-2-3 inning. Over this ten-game span, Gil's thrown 19.4 pitches per inning, and his 18.8 mark for the season is the highest average in the Majors. What we have here is a reckless disregard for a talented player's health, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the team's medical history regarding young pitchers (note: add Soriano and Pineiro to the displayed list). Meche is in the top-5 most abused pitchers 25 and under (so is Pineiro), which is absolutely deplorable, given his past health woes. The smartest thing to do in order to ensure Gil's long-term well being would be to move him to the bullpen, if not shut him down altogether. When you consider the state of our rotation, though, along with the organization's steadfast stubbornness to change anything that doesn't demand immediate attention, you just have to cross your fingers and hope that Meche is strong enough to survive the season in one piece.

There was one other thing that I wanted to bring to everyone's attention. See if you can find it:

That's right; after pinch-running for Bucky Jacobsen in the eighth (and scoring on Boone's home run), Ramon Santiago was actually slotted as the team's designated hitter. This is a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle not unlike Halley's Comet, and come August 27, 2079, enthusiasts will be meticulously perusing Major League box scores to see if the phenomenon repeats itself.

Today's Winner goes to Miguel Olivo, who had his first career multihomer game, putting the Mariners on the board in the fifth and tying the game in the sixth. He's hit .245/.306/.500 in 102 at bats since arriving in Seattle, and - much like DMZ - I'm still completely in shock that we were able to land him and Reed (and Morse) in the Freddy deal. He's got his problems with balls in the dirt, and while this isn't the kind of weak point you like to see in your catcher of the future, Olivo's got a strong bat and a strong arm, and should show up in an All Star Game or two before he calls it a career.

Today's Loser is difficult to pick out, as everyone in the starting lineup had a hit, and neither Meche nor Sherrill were bad enough to qualify. Therefore, the unfortunate honor has to go to Scott Spiezio, who - despite going 2-for-4 with a home run - blew an easy double play ball in the third inning, failing to record a single out and allowing Kansas City to get on the board. Sure, it's nitpicking, but there are worse problems to have than struggling to identify a poor performance in a game.

There's a twinbill on the schedule for tomorrow, the first in Seattle since August 30th, 1986. Bobby Madritsch goes up against Darrell May at 1:05, and Clint Nageotte takes on Ichiro-killer Jimmy Serrano at 4:35. I won't be around to recap the games, but the two young starters should provide more than enough entertainment to cover for me.

Friday, August 27, 2004

The Mariners claimed another pitcher today - Brett Evert, from the Atlanta Braves.

Historical Stats
2004 Stats

The following is a table showing his peripherals at each level:
Level K/9 BB/9 HR/9 H/9 K/BB
AAA* 7.40 5.18 1.85 9.62 1.43
AA 8.24 3.40 1.14 9.06 2.42
High-A 8.72 2.49 0.48 8.03 3.50
A 7.31 1.78 0.75 9.79 4.11
Rookie 7.21 1.66 0.00 6.84 4.33

*-Just 24.1 innings pitched

Evert is a 6'6 23 (24 in October) year old right-hander out of Oregon who was selected in the seventh round of the 1999 amateur draft. Taken out of high school, Evert rose steadily through the organization, putting up a 2.87 ERA in the low minors and reaching AA as a starter at 21. He struggled to repeat his 2001 success, though, and saw a spike in his home run rate while having trouble with command. Things didn't get much better in 2003, as Evert was moved into the bullpen later in the year (where he had mild success as a high-leverage relief arm). Hoping that some solid innings out of the bullpen had restored Evert's confidence, the Braves sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he once again struggled as a starter. Only after tossing 73 decent innings at Greenville in 2004 did Evert get bumped up to AAA, where he tossed a handful of ineffective innings before being released (and subsequently claimed by the Mariners).

Evert is a big kid, which will grant him a few extra opportunities, but his size hasn't translated into high velocities. Evert's fastballs spend most of their time in the 89-92 range - occasionally reaching the mid-90s - and he compliments the pitch with a sharp curveball that he struggles to locate with any consistency. When he's got good command he's difficult to hit - there's a reason he's been able to maintain such high strikeout rates in the upper minors - but far too often he leaves a pitch over the plate, where it gets crushed. A pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach ballpark was able to mask some of Evert's hittability, but Greenville proved to be a rude awakening, and Evert's hit and home run rates took off as he continued to miss his spots.

Given that he comes with a two-pitch repertoire (his offspeed stuff is underdeveloped), it seems likely that any future Evert has in the Majors will be in the bullpen. For now, though, he certainly brings an interesting arm to the Rainiers, one worth watching.

Update: two things. First of all, ignore that "2.03 combined ERA" bit in the article; it's a typo. Secondly, Evert will take up a spot on the 40man roster, but we had a spot to burn.

Update Part Deux: Luis Ugueto being on the Restricted List opens up *another* 40man spot, as well, although Ugueto could return at any time (nobody's sure what's going on).
How quickly things can change.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Top Arizona draft pick Stephen Drew enrolled in classes at Florida State on Thursday, a move similar to the one made by older brother J.D. Drew.

Should Drew fail to sign with Arizona, then it becomes much more likely that they go after Upton with the first overall pick.

As many of you have noticed, the Mariners have had a pretty bad season. How bad, you ask? Well, they're on pace to finish with their worst record since 1980, when the franchise was just four years old. At 46-80, Seattle is winning games at a .365 clip, good for third-worst in the Majors (tied with the Royals in the loss column, thanks to tonight's performance).

-but wait, it gets worse. The team is 13-26 (.333) since the All-Star Break, around which point they started playing with the current roster. They are also now without Joel Pineiro, Justin Leone, and Eddie Guardado, all of whom participated earlier in the second half, and all of whom have inferior replacements. Indeed, with a severely depleted roster and the final seven series of the season coming against playoff contenders, continuing to win 33% of our games looks like a best-case scenario.

Were this to play out, the Mariners would finish with a 58-104 record, second-worst in franchise history. Given that we conceded the season back in May (if not March), why should anyone care about this?

I'll tell you why (or Peter White will, anyway): Justin Upton. Not that you didn't already know that. Everybody is well aware of Upton's promise, and so the rest of the season looks like a race to the basement, to see who gets to nab him in the draft. Not that anyone is going to catch Arizona, but they drafted shortstop Stephen Drew last year and already have a bunch of middle infield depth in the minors, so it seems like they might have more pressing needs come draft time - and thus could very well pass on Upton with the first overall pick.

Which leaves us against the Royals, who are *also* playing .333 ball in the second half. The two teams are on pace to finish with almost identical records, essentially rendering each of the remaining games of this rarest-of-the-rare five-game series a Must-Lose. Nothing was proven in the recent two-game set at Kauffman Stadium (other than the fact that Royal pitchers need to work on not beaning guys), so it all comes down to this.

So, what's the good news? Even if something were to go horribly wrong and the Mariners end up winning this series, not all hope is lost; Seattle is just 12-26 against the rest of the West, while the Royals have gone 23-29 versus their own division foes. Therefore, it is possible for the Lovable Losers v2.0 to mount a serious late-season rally and take over the cellar of the league. They'll probably *have* to in order to get their hands on Upton, as the Royals have soured on last year's ROY.


Unfortunately, our ballgames are no fun to watch in the meantime. Sure, it's great to see Madritsch on the hill, or the New And Improved Gil Meche attempting to physically challenge each and every joint in his body, but the team is flat, and there isn't very much to look forward to during games. Hell, the most exciting player on the roster is outrageously overmatched, and probably needs another full year in the minors before he becomes a legitimate Major Leaguer (be sure to read Dave's Lopez analysis while you wait). Other than hoping against hope that Ichiro!'s amazing streak carries into September, there's hardly any reason to pay attention to this team until October 2nd. Personally, I blame Matt Kinney.

You'll notice that the blogosphere has slowed markedly during the summer months. Some blogs have kicked the bucket entirely. You simply run out of new things to talk about. Not that I intend for this particular site to slow down - it just becomes a matter of looking at certain things in new ways, and discussing what you find - but it's a damned shame that this dreadful season, triggered by a kooky general manager, has shattered what was a booming, vibrant community just nine months ago.

I'm beat. Even though Dan Wilson, Jose Lopez, and Willie Bloomquist all managed to reach base two times, Today's Winner goes to Ichiro! for clubbing a Jeremy Affeldt delivery over the fence for his 200th hit of the season. Today's Loser goes to Jamie Moyer, whose ERA is up to 4.78 (increasing for the fifth consecutive start). At the start of the year, did anyone seriously think that Moyer's $7.5m 2005 pricetag would look so ridiculous?

Zack Greinke goes up against Gil Meche tomorrow at 7:05. Between Greinke and Kazmir, that's two phenoms in five nights. At least it's a reason to watch.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma edged Portland, 3-2 (8). Remember this?

Devin: "Ward's going to suck tonight. Guaranteed."
Jeff: "I think he'll do pretty well, actually. He's keeping his stuff down and around the plate."

Apparently, Jeff can predict starts pretty well if you give the pitcher in question a one-game warm-up. Bryan Ward was excellent tonight as he effectively shut down the Beaver hitters for six-plus innings. A.J. Zapp homered, doubled and drew a pair of walks to lead the offense. Notables:

Jeremy Reed: 1-4.
Ryan Christianson: 1-4, 1 double.
A.J. Zapp: 2-3, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 1 RBI.
Greg Dobbs: 1-4, 1 RBI.
Josh Ellison: 0-2, 2 K.

San Antonio swept a doubleheader against Wichita, 1-0 and 2-1. King Felix = dazzling. Almost no trouble blowing through the Wichita lineup, though he did walk a couple. Also, everyone should be tipping their cap to Denny Bautista who, while not a dominating, didn't give up a run until the final frame (seventh). Notables:

Felix Hernandez: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K.
Dustin Delucchi: 1-3.
Shin-soo Choo: 1-3.
T.J. Bohn: 1-3.
Rob Gandolfo: 1-2, GW RBI.

Game two was yet another pitcher's duel as Chris Key went up against Thad Markray. Key was good but Markray was awesome. Didn't matter at all though as his pen couldn't hold it as the Missions went on to win. Notables:

Chris Key: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K.
Dustin Delucchi: 0-3.
Shin-soo Choo: 0-3.
T.J. Bohn: 0-3.
Rob Gandolfo: 2-3, 1 triple.

Inland Empire had the day off.

West Michigan beat Wisconsin, 2-1. Jason Mackenzie was on tonight as he went eight solid innings giving up only a couple runs on four hits with seven punchouts. Despite the effort, the Rattler offense was another story as they had problems getting anything going the entire night. Notables:

Jason Mackenzie: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HR.
Adam Jones: 0-4.
Nick Orlandos: 1-3.
Bryan LaHair: 1-4.
Chris Colton: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 3B.
Josh Womack: 1-3.
Justin Ruchti: 1-3.

Boise swept Everett in tonight's doubleheader 12-2 and 4-1. No boxes yet. Up soon.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Lately I've been browsing through my CD collection, recalling forgotten favorite songs of yore. One of the albums I came across was Urban Hymns, released in 1997 by The Verve.

I've always enjoyed a number of the tracks, but none more than #4 - "The Drugs Don't Work" - because it invariably reminds me of Manny Alexander.
Those of you who are waiting for a game recap might as well get some rest - I'm not feeling my best right now. I'll get back to them when I am over the weather (or however you'd say it).

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

As promised, I picked a couple of the emails from readers and will take the time to answer some of the questions that were asked over the next few days.

I'd love to get a few comments on the current status of Kendry Morales, the 21 year old Cuban power hitter. Any ideas on his potential? Signability? Current status? Could the Mariners use the legendary Kaz-cash on signing him? Should they?

I touched a little bit on Kendry Morales a few weeks ago and not a whole lot has changed this then. Morales obtained citizenship in the Dominican Republic in early August after defecting from Cuba in early June after several failed attempts. Morales has hired agent Henry Vilar and is currently working out and is scheduling workouts for interested teams, which should begin in the next week or two. Morales hasn’t played competitive baseball since he was cut from the Cuban National team in December, 2003, as Cuban officials feared he would try to defect during the pre-Olympic tournament.

Morales played for Cuba’s Industriales, Cuba’s version of the Yankees. He was one of the youngest players to ever start for the team and was in the league leaders in batting average and power numbers all three years he played for the team. He plays a solid OF and third base, but first base appears to be his natural position. Described as a five tool player with a line drive stroke and good idea of the strike zone, Morales has the potential to develop into a special player. He has drawn some comparisons to a young Albert Pujols, which I think might be setting the bar too high. My best educated guess, might be something comparable to Adrian Beltre or Miguel Cabrera.

The teams that have shown strong interest in Morales’ services so far are the Mariners, Red Sox, and Marlins with the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, and Angels showing some interest. The Yankees have had horrible luck with Cuban ballplayers, (Adrian and Orlando Hernandez, Contreras, Andy Morales) and with both corner OF and first and third base locked up with large contracts, the Yankees are probably going to pass on Morales. The Marlins have shown interest, but probably won’t be willing to open the purse strings. The Mets have big contracts at first and LF and super prospect David Wright at third. At this point, I think their focus is to get Kris Benson signed long-term. If the Dodgers feel they have no chance of bringing Adrian Beltre back next season, they could make an offer, although it seem unlikely. Anaheim has to be considered the real dark horse of all the teams involved. The Angels came out of nowhere to snag Vlad Guerrero and with Art Moreno at the helm, they have to be considered as a possibility. But much like the Yankees, both corner OF spots are filled with talented ball players and they have a plethora of good young talent at the corner infield positions. This leaves the Red Sox and Mariners as the top teams hoping to add Morales. The Red Sox though are in a similar situation as most of the teams on this list, too much money invested in the corner outfield and infield positions. The Red Sox have Manny Ramirez, Trot Nixon, Kevin Millar, Doug Mientkiewicz, Kevin Youkilis and Bill Mueller (if he gets 60 more PA this year) under contract for next season. This leaves Seattle at the head of the teams interested. They have huge holes to fill at third, first, DH and possibly LF and the money to spend to fill these holes. The ball is in the Mariners court on this one. They clearly have to be considered the favorite as they have the leverage of offering him the money he seeks as well as the possibility of claiming a starting position in 2005.

According to some articles that discussed the situation, a sizable portion of the legendary “Kaz cash” has been spent, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the M’s over the last few years. The money the team had set aside for trade deadline acquisitions is also gone, as it should be. The money to sign Morales will have to come from the normal player acquisition budget, unless management decides to use the mysterious foreign player fund to sign him, the same fund they had talked about using when they made the offer to Jose Contreras. Morales, who might be the best player to ever come out of Cuba, will be hard pressed to get a contract anywhere in the neighborhood of Jose Contreras’ albatross. He could command a contract somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 years at $20-28 million although it depends greatly on the interest he receives and any bidding war that might ensue.

Personally, I’m excited about the possibility of landing a player of Morales’ caliber. This is the perfect time for the organization to start acting like the financial powerhouse they are and make an impression on the rest of baseball, which could only help their chances of attracting better talent this off-season.
Reality Notice:

Is this the Ron Villone that Seattle management wants to bring back next season?

Since Bavasi talked to Scott Boras about the possiblity of an extension, Ron Villone has a stat line of (including the first three innings tonight):

22.0 IP
32 hits
26 runs
25 ER
14 walks
14 strike outs

That's a 10.23 ERA and a 2.09 WHIP. Yea?
I'm finally back from a week and a half on the road. I began the vacation with a brief stay in Los Angeles - getting my first Dodger Stadium experience - but most recently I spent five days in the Tacoma area with Devin, attending a plethora of sporting events (relatively speaking, of course, given the time frame of the trip). As these experiences are Seattle-relevant, and thus suitable for the blog, allow me to run through something of a recap.

We went out to Cheney Stadium last Thursday for my first Minor League experience (save for the Padres/Pirates game I had attended about a week earlier). Now that the Mariners have taken most of the talented players - and some of the lousy ones - from the Rainiers, we were left with Gustavo Martinez taking the hill against Fresno's similarly depleted lineup. Gustavo struggled through a ball-filled first inning, allowing four runs before retiring the side to a chorus of boos. He would eventually settle down and make it into the seventh inning, but he didn't do a single thing that screamed "potentially useful Major Leaguer" all night long. AJ Zapp, on the other hand, kicked off a tremendous pair of games with a game-tying homer in the seventh, the first of four runs scored by Tacoma in the inning. Tim Christman (who has better peripherals than you think) sailed through the eighth and ninth innings to pick up his second save, as the Rainiers rallied back from a 5-0 deficit to a 9-6 victory. Mickey Lopez and Jeremy Reed flashed some quick, line-drive strokes, but nothing else really stood out. That is, other than a brief discussion Devin and I had with a nearby fan named Cranky Yankee:

Cranky Yankee: "(Seattle) has taken 15 of our players so far."
LeoneForThird: "15? That doesn't sound right."
CY: "15, really."
L43: *counting on fingers* "Leone, Bucky, Sherrill, Madritsch...Putz...Nageotte, Blackley,, Borders - although I guess Borders doesn't really count."
CY: "Why not? He was here, and they called him up."
L43: "But he's not really a useful prospect like the others."
CY: "He's twice the player of most of 'em."
L43: *moves to other seats*

Just when you thought it couldn't get any better than Dollar Hot Dog/Soda/Beer/Ice Cream Night, Friday's game was to be followed by a fireworks show (which the Rainiers do after every Friday home game, I soon learned). Bryan Ward was scheduled to get the start against Legit Prospect James Garcia - not a thrilling matchup, but with the current Tacoma rotation, you've got an 80% chance of seeing someone awful starting the game. Devin and I watched Ward throwing his warm-up tosses in the bullpen, and we got different impressions:

Devin: "Ward's going to suck tonight. Guaranteed."
Jeff: "I think he'll do pretty well, actually. He's keeping his stuff down and around the plate."

...Ward would go on to allow seven runs in 4.1 innings of work. Entering the bottom of the fifth, Tacoma trailed Fresno 7-2, needing to put together another five-run comeback in order to salvage the game.

Which is just what they did.

AJ Zapp hit his second home run in as many days, a two-run shot off Garcia in the bottom of the fifth to make it a 7-4 ballgame. The Rainier bullpen (Hoerman, Williams, Simas) kept Fresno from extending its lead, and after a Zapp RBI double and a Jim Horner sac fly in the eighth, it was a one-run game entering the ninth. Problem was, Fresno was all set to bring in Legit Prospect David Aardsma to close it out, and Tacoma had the noxious trio of Ugueto/Guzman/Lopez due to face him in the ninth.

...somehow, Ugueto singled. Guzman followed with a walk. Not one to go all Bunting Bob on us, Dan Rohn let Mickey Lopez swing away, and he hit a liner to center field (his sixth hit in two days) that gave Jason Ellison a little trouble. Ugueto scored, tying the game, and an intentional walk to Jeremy Reed loaded the bases with nobody out. However, Ryan Christianson whiffed and AJ Zapp quickly got himself into a two-strike count. Devin and I cringed, simultaneously recalling his enormous strikeout total, but AJ was able to draw a few balls and get to a full count.

Devin: "He's got to serve up a strike, now - I really don't want a walk-off walk."

Zapp hit an absolute bomb to right field. Never any doubt about it. 11-7, Rainiers win. The fireworks capped off what had been the most magical night of live baseball I've ever experienced.

Unfortunately, my lasting memory of the two games will almost certainly be Jeremy Reed's comical defense. His routes may be labeled peculiar at the best of times, and on at least three occasions he took horrible angles on liners hit to the gap. He overran one double, falling on his ass as the ball scooted behind him towards the wall. Reed failed to handle even a single moderately challenging fly ball very well, and I came away convinced that my prior suspicions were accurate - he doesn't have much of a future in center field.

...Saturday didn't go so well. I was looking forward to seeing my first game at Qwest Field - a preseason match between the Seahawks and Broncos. We bought tickets off a scalper for a moderate discount, but it promptly began to rain, which would serve as an appropriate harbinger of things to come. The stadium was outstanding, and we had no problems moving to better seats (away from the open 'Hawks Nest), but the Seahawks came out flat. Everything that had gone right a week earlier in Green Bay went wrong, as the offense couldn't do a thing behind Matt Hasselbeck, and managed to accomplish even less behind Seneca Wallace. Wallace entered the game with a bang, completing a long (albeit underthrown) pass to Koren Robinson and soon after tossing a picture-perfect spiral into the end zone, only to have the ball glance off Darrell Jackson's fingertips.

Those were the positives.

Granted, the offensive line was lacking. The starters were without perennial holdout Walter Jones and tackle Chris Terry, triggering a chain reaction in which backup linemen were bumped up a level, B-teamers playing with A-teamers, C-teamers playing with B-teamers, and Seneca Wallace fearing for his life. That said, he didn't do a thing after his second pass of the game. On at least three occasions, he ran backwards away from blitzing defenders, once getting sacked for a loss of about 23 yards. It was enough to make any self-respecting Seahawks fan long for the days of Travis Brown, Third-String Superstar, who made the University of Northern Arizona proud with every snap he took. Dilfer can't get healthy soon enough.

As Devin posted a few days ago, part of our postgame walk back to the car was spent directly behind Bill Bavasi and his family. We didn't notice this until we were almost to the SafeCo Field parking entrance, where they veered off. Even when we *did* realize the identity of the leather-clad bald guy in front of us, we were too dumbstruck to say anything, other than mutter a little something about Carlos Guillen's performance that night against the Mariners (two bases-clearing doubles and the winning run). Had we seen Bill on Monday, rather than Saturday, we would have asked him to autograph our Fire Bavasi T-shirts.

Dude's got a hot daughter, though.

The last game we attended was the Monday night thriller between the Devil Rays and the Mariners. I was pleasantly surprised by the news that Scott Kazmir would be making his ML debut, as it helped ease the disappointment of Justin Leone's guaranteed absence (as it turns out, though, he was hanging out in the Tacoma bullpen during Friday's game, I just didn't know it at the time). A Kazmir - Madritsch matchup was easily the most alluring potential duel between the two teams - not to mention completely unpredictable. Honestly, who'd have thought in March that those two pitchers would be facing off in SafeCo Field in late August?

We didn't walk behind anyone infamous outside the park this time, although we did pass a Deuce Bender flier - a guy who wrote 16 songs about the Mariners and, in his own words, "took advantage of his hometown’s musical depth and talent to put together a team of top-notch artists to bring his baseball music dream to life." Seriously, go check them out; you can listen to samples of the stuff and - if you're so inclined - order the CD off the website. I've already got mine.

Madritsch looked very strong for five innings before he fell off the map. His changeup was as close to devastating as I've seen it all summer long, and he was consistently throwing strikes. It wasn't until a few balls started to fall in that he ran into trouble, and before I knew it Jose Cruz was hitting the fair pole and it was a 4-0 ballgame. Clint Nageotte didn't do much to ease the pain, as he got slapped around in the eighth. It used to be that Nageotte could miss bats with the best of 'em, occasionally having bouts of wildness, but remaining pretty unhittable in the meantime.

Then he started to miss the plate a little bit more, and his pitches in the zone started to find a few bats here and there, but it was still all right, because no one was making very solid contact.

Now he's all over the place, and on the rare occasion that he *does* throw a strike, it gets pounded. It's been a rough year for Clint, and his manager is making noises like the kid is doomed to wind up in the bullpen with another of our highly-touted arms (who's out until 2006, coincidentally). I'm all for the youth movement - I always have been - but I didn't expect the growing pains to be so frequent and so severe. If you think it's been a tough year for the fans, just imagine how Travis Blackley must feel, having dominated the minors before getting lit up by each and every opponent following his promotion to the Majors. A pitching-rich organization is now seriously contemplating signing a big-name FA pitcher this winter, something that nobody thought this team would need to do any time soon.

As for Kazmir, he was clearly fighting with the strike zone, tossing 101 pitches in five innings of work, but still keeping the Mariners scoreless by escaping a number of jams (thanks, Boone). He was up around 90 pitches after the fourth, and was taxing his arm by throwing so many pitches in stressful situations, but Lou wanted to try and get the kid a decision, so he went back out there for the fifth. It's easy to see why scouts drool over him - 20 year old lefties who reach 97 on the gun are few and far between. It was also difficult to identify just what the Mets (Rick Peterson, specifically) were worried about, as Kazmir looked to have pretty polished mechanics for a kid his age. He throws across his body a little bit, putting some extra torque on his elbow and hip, but he wasn't herky-jerky in the least. Personally, I don't have any more doubts regarding Kazmir than I do with any other pitcher his age.

A good time was had by all during the trip, and I'm glad that I've managed to bookend my summer with enjoyable vacations. Now it's back to the horrible reality that is the 2004 Seattle Mariners, but even *that* will be over in five or six short weeks.
I have side stepped the issue of Bob Melvin and his questionable decisions and line-ups for the majority of the season, but last night was the perfect example of why he has lost the faith of so many Mariner fans. In the ninth inning, Edgar led off with a single. Following an Ibanez strike out, Boone doubled moving Edgar to third. Spiezio flied out for the second out. Melvin had Bucky pinch hit for Wilson, which paid off as Bucky drove in Boone and Edgar on a single, bringing the Mariners with two. Now it’s time to play a little game I like to call, You Be the Manager. I will give you a real life situation and you pick the option that best suits the situation. The Mariners have the tying run at the plate and Bucky at first. Bucky is not exactly light on his feet, so you obviously have to pinch run for him. You look down your bench and see three players, Miguel Olivo, Hiram Bocachica and Ramon Santiago, and have to decide who you will use:

A). Miguel Olivo. Since Bucky pinch hit for Dan Wilson, it makes sense to use Olivo as the pinch runner to replace Dan Wilson’s spot in the line-up card. It’s easier that way, especially if we go to extra innings on the bat of Jose Lopez or Willie Bloomquist.
B). Ramon Santiago or Hiram Bocachica. Recognizing the fact that the best hitter left on your bench is Miguel Olivo, you have Santiago or Bocachica run for Bucky keeping Olivo available to pinch hit for Lopez or Bloomquist.

Which letter did you pick? Most intelligent readers probably picked B, but our fearless leader went with option A. The result was a RBI single for Jose Lopez after Olivo went to second on fielder’s indifference, only to have Bloomquist strike out looking to end the game. Is there a worse way to end a game than on a backwards K?

In continuation of the Melvin head hunting theme, when I read this article last night, I wanted to punch a wall. Clint Nageotte is currently being viewed as a reliever by Bob Melvin, despite Nageotte’s minor league success as a starting pitcher and his desire to be a starting pitcher. Here are the meat and potatoes taken from the article:

"If it was up to me, I'd definitely want to be a starter," he said. "I think pretty much every pitcher would want to start or close, because you've got a routine and you can keep the routine."

It's a different challenge being prepared to pitch at any time, rather than knowing exactly whom you'll be facing and when.

"It does take some time to acclimate to that role, and I still think he's got a chance to be a nice reliever," Melvin said. "He needs a little better command of the fastball, but he's got nice sink to it, he's got a breaking ball he can throw in off counts -- two good pitches for that role."

What?!? This will be two of the organizations top arms who have been plugged into the bullpen without having a chance to prove that they couldn’t handle starting duties. Nageotte, despite his struggles thus far in the majors, is still one of the organizations top arms. Rafael Soriano was dominant in his stint in the minor leagues, but was never really given the chance to prove that he couldn’t handle a starting role. Like I indicated before, I’m not so sure moving him into the bullpen after he was a starting pitcher in the minors wasn’t a contributing factor to his elbow problems. Preparing for a game every four days and pitching every other day is as similar as apple and oranges. Nageotte deserves a real chance to fail before he is delegated to bullpen duty. Besides, good starting pitchers are harder to find than good bullpen arms.

Couple of quick notes:
~The team has announced that Joel Pineiro will not return this season. The team is considering sending Pineiro, who started throwing from flat ground before last night’s game, to the Arizona Fall League in October. ~Eddie Guardado underwent successful surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus tendon. Guardado, who is out with a torn rotator cuff, is confident he will be ready for spring training. Personally, I am not as confident in Eddie’s shoulder holding up next season. Ask Shawn Green and Jeff Bagwell how rotator cuff injuries have affected them over the past few years. Green has admitted that the nagging soreness and discomfort that has plagued for the last year and a half, is finally gone. Neither player plays a position which put as much stress on your shoulder as Guardado.

I want to thank all those who sent me an email or left a comment. I will have another post this afternoon when I will discuss a couple of those topics, specifically Kendry Morales, who is close to arranging workouts for interested teams.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Portland toppled Tacoma, 7-4. It took them awhile, but the Portland offense finally got around to blowing it open against Gustavo Martinez in the sixth inning right after Tacoma scored three in the top half to take the lead. Elpidio Guzman, Ryan Christianson and Greg Dobbs all had multi-hit nights. Notables:

Gustavo Martinez: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.
Elpidio Guzman: 2-4, 1 BB.
Jeremy Reed: 1-4, 1 BB.
Ryan Christianson: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 RBI.
Greg Dobbs: 2-4, 1 double.

No Texas League action.

Rancho Cucamonga beat Inland Empire, 4-1. The 66'ers were lost against Steven Shell as he went seven strong innings against Thomas Oldham. Oldham wasn't anything real special, but keep in mind that the homerun he gave up was against a guy named Troy Glaus. Notables:

Thomas Oldham: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HR.
Juan Gonzalez: 1-4.
Jesus Guzman: 0-2, 2 BB.
Josh Ellison: 2-4.
Michael Garciaparra: 0-4.

Wisconsin edged Quad Cities, 3-2 (11). Nick Orlandos homered in the top of the eleventh to push the Rattlers over the top. The game also included yet another solid performance by Michael Moorhead. Notables:

Michael Moorhead: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K.
Adam Jones: 2-5, 1 double.
Nick Orlandos: 3-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI.
Bryan LaHair: 0-5.
Justin Ruchti: 0-4.

Boise took care of Everett, 3-1 (8). Aaron Trolia wasn't horrid but it didn't really matter and the Aquasox offense was stymied by a tough Boise staff. Notables:

Aaron Trolia: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.
Matthew Tuiasosopo: 1-4.
Oswaldo Navarro: 0-4.
Asdrubal Cabrera: 0-2, 2 BB.
Omar Falcon: 0-1, 2 BB.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I know it's a question that has been asked time and time again, but why in the hell is Bloomquist still on the roster?
Remember that great match-up I was talking about last night? Well it was a very good game for about five and a half innings, then things started to get ugly. The DRays thumped the Mariners 9-0 tonight, getting Scott Kazmir his first major league win.

Bobby Madritsch, who has just about staked claim to a rotation spot in the 2005, was on cruise control until the 6th inning when Tampa Bay was able to put four runs on the board. Bobby went seven innings, giving up four runs on five hits and 2 walks, along with 6 strikeouts. Tonight illustrated the one aspect of Bobby’s game that differentiates him from the rest of the rookie arms that Seattle has used so far this season is his ability to focus on the task at hand and not let his emotions get the best of him. In the third inning, Randy Winn misplayed a deep fly ball in center field and had the ball hit is glove and B.J. Upton was awarded a double to start the inning. Bobby then proceeded to get Tino Martinez to pop out to Olivo, Jose Cruz Jr. lined out to Ibanez and Jorge Cantu popped out to Bloomquist. Often times, a rookie pitcher would allow the misplayed ball to affect him. In Bobby’s case, he laughed it off and got the job done. This has been what has set Bobby so far ahead of the rest of the Mariner’s rookies. He is not allowing his emotions to get the best of him and in turn, he is having a tremendous season.

Scott Kazmir made his first major league start tonight and gave Mariner fans a glimpse as to why so many Mets fans were screaming for Jim Duquette’s head following the July 31st trade deadline. Kazmir lasted just five scoreless innings, but in those five innings, he allowed four hits, three walks and four strikeouts. Kazmir has tremendous stuff, with fastball in the mid to upper 90’s, and was able to pitch out of trouble a couple times over the course of his start. Scott Kazmir reminds me a lot of a left handed version of Rich Harden, both in size and repertoire. If tonight is any indication, Kazmir will have a very successful major league career.

Once again, the offense failed to show any sign of life, stranding 16 base runners and collecting only 5 hits against the Devil Rays. One of those hits was an Edgar Martinez double that hit off the yellow line in right centerfield and came back into play, which would have tied him with Jay Buhner for second in Mariner history with 307. The 5-9 hitters in tonight’s line-up went a combined 0-18 with 5 K’s. It’s been a long season for us fans, but I can’t even begin to fathom what it must be like in that dugout and clubhouse this year, the season where nothing has gone the Mariner’s way.

Ryan Franklin faces Rob Bell in what could possibly be the most important pitching match-up since, well, August 18th when Franklin faced Jimmy Serrano. Tomorrow night is also Jay Buhner Hall of Fame Night, as Buhner will be inducted into the Seattle Mariner Hall of Fame.

And finally tonight, is anyone getting else getting as tired of the reading the same repetitive material as I am writing it? It seems like the majority of the posts consist of the following topics:

~The Mariner pitching was mediocre
~The Mariner offensive offense
~The Mariner bullpen sucks

So as a change of pace, I’m going to steer clear of the game updates for a while, although I am sure Jeff will pick them back up when he gets back from his vacation. Instead, I will focus more on other aspects of Mariner. To start this new trend, I’m encouraging all our readers to leave a comment or send me an
email and let me know what you might want to see more of or if you have any questions you want us to answer or get our opinions on.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

While the rest of America is enjoying their Sunday morning, I had the privilege of going to work at 7 AM. So for the second day running, I was unable to watch a Mariner game on television and forced to watch the M’s Gameday feed on The M’s won another game on the road, their fifth road win since the All-Star break, and defeated the Tigers 5-3 by the big bat of Willie Bloomquist. What?!?

Willie Bloomquist might be the worst player currently playing for any team affiliated in the state of Washington, but you have to give credit where credit is due. Bloomquist hit his first home run since July 13, 2003, a three run shot in the fifth inning, to put the Mariners ahead for good. Bloomquist also added a single and a double, to raise his season line to a healthy .265/.285./340. Normally this spot is reserved to bash Wee Willie’s deficiencies on the diamond, but because of his solid game, I found it in my heart to grant him a one day reprieve.

Gil Meche continued to impress in his fourth start since returning to the majors and collected his third win since rejoining the Mariners. The stat that is sticking out like a sore thumb since his return to the majors is the number of walks he has issued. In 27.6 innings he has issued three walks. This in comparison to the 29 walks he issued in 56 innings before being sent down. Who does Meche credit with his new found confidence and control? None other than Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish. That’s right, a 78 year old special assignment coach with a career record of 92-92. Whatever works, as long as he can pitch to the ability that so many of us think he is capable of. The boys over at USS Mariner have opened up a comment section about whether or not we should keep Gil Meche around next season, which is a good read. Personally, I think the M’s should consider trading him in the off-season and at least see what type of market exist for his services. If the market is minimal, keep him around, as he will be a better option than the other possibilities (Franklin, Villone) at the back of the rotation.

Rookie Scott Kazmir gets the ball in his first ever major league start tomorrow night against Bobby Madritsch. I have become a BIG Madritsch fan and I am equally excited to see Scott Kazmir take the mound for his first ever ML start. Should be a very good game.
It's been an extremely busy weekend for Jeff and I which is the reason why there was no wrap-up for last night. We did attend the Rainiers game and saw Zapp's walk-off grandslam, so I'm glad Jeff's first (well, second) experience in Cheney was a good one.

Of course, that wasn't the weirdest thing we saw. Just tonight as we were leaving Qwest Field after the Hawks abysmal performance against the Broncos, we decided to walk along Royal Brougham and get a good look at Safeco. In front of us was a tall, bald man with a family. We didn't pay much mind to it until the man turned around, which immediately caught our attention. For a half mile, we were walking about three feet behind Bill Bavasi. Both of us looked at each other in amazement trying to cope with just how bizarre such a moment was. Here is a man we despise relentlessly and we were in punching distance. Sadly, other than a probably unheard reference to how well Carlos Guillen did this evening, Bavasi didn't catch any of our wrath. We blew our one shot of ending at least some of the misery that is the M's front office.

On that note, I present to you the...

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma eeked by Portland, 1-0. Wow, and we all thought Jeff Harris wasn't any good. At least for tonight he proved us wrong as he went seven spectacular innings. The same can't be said about the Rainier offense but when the staff doesn't allow any runs, you don't need much to win. Notables:

Jeff Harris: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K.
Jeremy Reed: 0-2, 1 BB.
Ryan Christianson: 0-4.
A.J. Zapp: 0-3.
Tony Zuniga: 1-3, 1 BB.

San Antonio slammed Tulsa, 12-3. Pretty solid start for Chris Key who went six innings to grab his fifth win. The Mission batters went absolutely nuts as SEVEN players had multi-hit nights. Notables:

Chris Key: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K.
Dustin Delucchi: 3-4, 2 BB, 2 RBI.
Shin-soo Choo: 2-5, 1 BB, 1 RBI.
T.J. Bohn: 2-5, 1 HR.
Rob Gandolfo: 3-4, 1 BB, 2 RBI.

Modesto beat Inland Empire, 6-5 (11). The 66'ers jumped out to an early lead but the pen couldn't hold it despite Troy Cate's OK day. Jesus Guzman led the way for the offense with four hits, including a double. Notables:

Troy Cate: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR.
Juan Gonzalez: 0-5.
Jesus Guzman: 4-6, 1 2B, 1 RBI.
Carlos Arroyo: 1-6.
Josh Ellison: 1-3, 2 RBI.
Michael Garciaparra: 1-5, 1 RBI.

Quad Cities shut out Wisconsin, 1-0. Ryan Feierabend was excellent, but it didn't matter as the Rattler offense couldn't get anything going. Notables:

Ryan Feierabend: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K. Took the loss. Ouch.
Josh Womack: 1-5.
Nick Orlandos: 0-4.
Adam Jones: 1-4.
Bryan LaHair: 1-4, 1 double.
Chris Collins: 0-2, 2 BB.

Everett sailed by Salem-Keizer, 6-3. Aaron Jensen took the hill, and while he struggled a bit with his control at times, what as solid as the Sox needed him to be. Matt Tuiasosopo had two RBI to help pave the way to victory. Notables:

Aaron Jensen: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.
Casey Craig: 2-3, 1 BB, 1 RBI.
Asdrubal Cabrera: 1-3, 1 BB.
Matthew Tuiasosopo: 2-3, 1 BB, 2 RBI.
Omar Falcon: 0-4.