First Half Reflections…

A lot of the focus of the M’s first half has been on the ungodly home/road splits ~ and for good reason! Take a gander at these unbelievable differences – as a team…

at home .195 / .273 / .289 / .562
on the road .256 / .305 / .410 / .715

Believe it or not, the M’s scored the second most runs(220) IN THE MAJORS on the road and were at or above average in most major offensive categories (except OBP).

But, at home, it was the opposite (only worse – the FEWEST runs in the majors).
Something about that “home cooking” that just didn’t resonate – here are a couple of real extremes

at the plate

Michael Saunders
home .189 / .263 / .264 / .527
road .299 / .358 / .517 / .875

Kyle Seager
home .157 / .265 / .261 / ,526
road /313 / .343 / .548 / .891

As for the starting pitching, definitely not as strong as in previous years. They posted just a smidgen better (4.35) than AL average (4.39) in ERA and a whole lot worse (22) than AL average (32) in wins.

on the mound

Felix had a ‘blip’ but recovered well and was the lone Mariner representative at the All Star Game in Kasas City (though he didn’t pitch)

Felix and Jason Vargas both recorded 11 quality starts and each have  a winning record (6-5 and 8-7 respectively)

Kevin Millwood suffered with a groin injury but, despite his record, has pitched very well when healthy.

Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi have both been sent to AAA Tacoma (Blake in early June, Hector in early July) as they both struggled mightily.

Erasmo Ramirez has been inconsistent to say the least. He started the year in the pen and was so-so but was sent down to build starting strength and has had mixed results since coming back up in mid-June and then suffered an elbow injury (not serious).
Hisahi Iwakuma only had one start ( a win vs. BAL) but will likely be used more to start the half (due to Hector’s demotion and Erasmo’s injury)

And the surprise of the first half (both good and bad) had to be the Bullpen!
Let’s get the bad out of the way. Brandon League started out great – didn’t allow an earned run till April 19th but, after that was the epitome of inconsistency (not a good quality in a ballplayer, especially a closer) and he lost his closing role toward the end of May. Originally, Wedge didn’t name a closer (‘t was going to be the preverbal “closer by committee”) but, it didn’t take long for one of the guys to take the bull (pen) by the horns…

in the ‘pen
Since being installed as closer, Tom Wilhemsen (aka: The Bartender) was 2-0 with 7 saves and hadn’t given up a run … until the last game before the break in Oakland where he gave up 2 and blew his first save (but, hey, it happens, even to Mariano).
The lefties have been a nice surprise. Lucas Luetge and Charlie Furbush have really contributed nicely. Lucas didn’t give up a run until well into June and Charlie posted the third longest scoreless streak (23 innings) in Mariners history

Oliver Perez, seldom used, was pretty effective until that last series in Oakland when he gave up three runs in two games.

Up and down/ In and out were the rest…
Shawn Kelley had a slow start back from rehab but, has pitched well lately – hasn’t given up a run since June 20th.  Steve Delabar has already been sent down and called back and hasn’t been real reliable. Stephen Pryor, called up in early June, was pitching well but, only appeared in six games before suffering a groin strain (began a rehab stint at the ASB). George Sherrill wasn’t right from the start and we soon found out why – he’s was out for the season on April 9th and underwent Tommy John surgery.

Now THIS is where the Mariners shone brightly ~ their defense was OUTSTANDING. 

gold glove D

Brendon Ryan was the standout. While punchless with the bat he is an absolute wizard with the glove – web gem after web gem. The rest of the infield has been really good – at one point, Justin Smoak had a nice errorless streak going and the biggest surprise defensively was Kyle Seager at the hot corner.

As for the outfield, Michael Saunders did a bang up job filling in for Guti in CF,Casper Wells has really done well in his limited chances in LF (really strong, accurate arm) and Ichiro, clearly not what he used to be but seems he’s performing a bit better defensively than he was last season.

Behind the plate – definitely an area of opportunity. Miguel Olivo still has his usual passed ball issues and Jesus Montero clearly has a lot of learning to do (though certainly not the disaster that many predicted) but he does have the “no-hitter” under his belt – a great accomplishment!

Really hard to find stars among this young group who is dying for some veteran leadership (IMHO). The hitters show flashes of brilliance (especially on the road) but can’t seem to bring it with any consistency. Their travel schedule has been brutal – from the Japan trip and back to playing on the road a good 5 – 10 more times than most teams for a good majority of the first half. Not an excuse but, a definite contributor.

first half stars
I would probably give the first half star to a couple of the pitchers…
Felix, of course but, not for the usual reason. He had a period of adversity and the fact that he was able to recognize the issue and fix it shows his maturity and character.

Wilhelmsen, Luetge and Furbush deserve at least an honorable mention – all with ERAs under three (Lucas under 2!) and as many (or more!) strikeouts as innings pitched.

Saunders and Seager deserve some recognition. Even though they both have been abysmal at home – Saunders has definitely found something in his new approach and Seager, despite his low BA, actually leads the majors in RBI with 2 outs and RISP (27)

oh, super kudos to John “Mr. Clutch” Jaso … 7 game winning RBI’s!

2011 Retrospective

Obviously, 2011 was a transition year for the Seattle Mariners.
It was a time to take a good, long look at the youth in the system to learn what’s what and who’s who.
And lots a looks they got…

  • 18 different rookies started
  • 13 rookies made their major league debut
  • 59 games were started by rookie pitchers

My thoughts on what some of our “baby M’s” have the chance to become


* Michael Pineda
He pitched much better and much more than anyone expected and, one gets the feeling that he is the type that will totally live and learn from adversity in his pursuit of stardom.

* Dustin Ackley
He look like he belongs in the bigs – despite finding himself there after only one + seasons in the minors. AND, he certainly appears comfortable at his new position … pretty much like he’s been playing it for years.


* Mike Carp had a breakout season…
Amazing what some can do when given a chance to play everyday.

* Justin Smoak had a heartbreak season…
How much can one guy take?  After a hot start, personal tragedy struck when he lost his father.  Then, he suffered a thumb injury and just when he was getting back into the swing, a ground ball hits him in the face, breaking his nose and cheekbone.  Only way to go is up.

* Blake Beavan seems to have been a bit overlooked…
Granted, his ERA is not much to write home about but, that was elevated from a couple of really bad outings.  Overall, he had a pretty solid freshman year – averaging over six innings/game and posting 11 quality starts out of his 15 total (including a stellar outing vs. the Rangers: 8 innings, 4 hits 0 runs)


* Josh Lueke had some growing pains…
Mostly against the A’s (three of his really bad outings came against Oakland) but he definitely showed progress so it will be interesting to see how a year of experience under his belt and a more defined role will help.

* Kyle Seager was up and down and up in more ways than one…
His first cup of coffee didn’t go so well.  Then, after tearing the cover off the ball in Tacoma he was up again and began to do the same in Seattle.  He showed a bit of versatility – playing mostly 3B but had a handfull of games at short as well.

And, there were some nice surprises as well…

* Brandon did a superb job in his unexpected role as closer…
37 saves is a decent amount no matter how you slice it but, for a team that only won 67, it’s down right heroic.  Sure, Brandon had a few blips but he always rebounded nicely – what doesn’t kill ya makes you stronger.

* Brenden Ryan played some pretty fancy shortstop…
and, despite being new to the team and not exactly a wily vet, showed a great deal of leadership in the clubhouse.  Heal that neck fast and well, BR!

* Tom “the Bartender” Wilhelmsen was a great story…
Slinging drinks in an Arizona bar one spring, slinging pitches from a major league mound the next.

And, of course, the old favorites….

* Felix had a bit of a down year (for him)…
but, he’s still a star, very much a leader and THE Ace of the Seattle Mariners

* Jason needs to be more consistant…
but, he has definitely proved durable and was always willing to talk – win or lose.

* Ichiro obviously wasn’t his typical self and it will be interesting to see if he is able to bounce back or if 2011 was the beginning of the end

* Guti had a really rough season…
His health issues were finally diagnosed sometime in May and it took him awhile to come around, which he was just starting to do when he strained his oblique and missed most of September.  I’m thinking he’s going to come back stronger than ever (at least he knows what he’s dealing with now, unlike the mystery he had to deal with all last off season)

* Shawn had a great return from surgery late in the season…
and, would it be a huge lift for the ‘pen if he is able to pick right back up where he left off come this spring.

Looking forward to the off season to see what Jack Z has up his sleeve to improve this team…
Will there be a big splash? Or just a couple of ripples?  Realistically, no matter the volume of water movement under the Good Ship Mariner this winter, it’s still going to take some time before they are under full sail.
But, as always, I have faith and patience.

Melancholy Mariner Matters

Yes, it was indeed a backward season…

Unfortunately, being swept in the last home series was a fitting end to one of the worst seasons in Mariners history.  There was so much hope after the rather remarkable turnaround last year from the 101 loss season of 2008.  During the ‘winter of our content’ Jack Z snared Cliff Lee for a song, rid the rotation of Carlos Silva (even though acquiring Milton was a bit of a risk), signed Figgy who was sure to provide more speed on OBP at the top of the lineup.  And then there was Junior – yeah, his 2009 season wasn’t great, but his presence seemed vital to the clubhouse kumbaya.

But then it all went horribly wrong…   
~ Cliff was out with an injury for the first month of the season and while they were able to tread water at 11-11 during his absence and fans and players alike were dazzled by his outings in his short but sweet stint with the M’s, run support wasn’t only hard to come by, it was nearly impossible – for Cliff and every other M’s hurler.
~ Milton’s emotional problems weren’t hidden for long and soon he was on ‘restricted status’ (a status few even knew existed) while undergoing therapy (meanwhile, Silva was tearing it up for the Cubbies) and even when MB returned, he was unable to contribute and was eventually placed on the ‘normal’ DL
~ Figgy’s bat dropped off the planet as it never had before and the dream of two lead-off hitters became a nightmare – especially after his blowup in the dugout when he was benched during a game vs. the Red Sox in which Wak didn’t appreciate the perceived lack of effort on a ground ball.
~ And, then there was the Junior situation.  It started with nap-gate and ended in a way no one could have imagined at the start of the season – with a call to Chuck from Montana on his way home to Florida – for good.
~ Then there were the many players who were playing so far below their career norms, it was unbelievable that the team collapse could be so … complete.
~ The bullpen dominos began to fall beginning with Mark Lowe (injury and subsequent surgery, then traded with Cliff Lee to the Rangers).
~ Fundamentals seemed to be a thing of the past – defensive miscues and base running blunders were almost the norm instead of the exception.
~ All this and then, firing of the manager.  The one who a year before was heralded for his calm, direct leadership and praised for his handling of superstars and rookies alike.

What a difference a year makes.

But, I wouldn’t be Compass Rosy if I didn’t point out that amid the horror that was 2010, there were actually some bright lights.

Our “King” is contending for the Cy Young award despite the abysmal performance of his team.  It IS an individual award, after all.  And, even some of the old school national guys are coming ’round to the the reality that “pitcher wins” are NOT the end all be all.  In fact, wins are something out of their control – particularly Felix’s – as he had the LOWEST run support in the MAJOR leagues (93rd of pitchers with at least 160IP)

Another 200-hit season.
The first player in major league history to record at least 200 hits in TEN straight seasons.

While his bat wasn’t up to par, his defense shown more than ever.
He became the major league record holder for an outfielder with the most total chances (415) without an error.  Death to Flying Things, indeed.

Like Felix, Jason was not blessed with run support (he is 88th on that same list).
But, this was really his first full, healthy season in the bigs and seemingly he made great strides.  He pitched more than double the innings than ever before and gave a lot of credit to Cliff Lee whom he learned a lot from in the short time they were teammates.

Some parting photos of my last day at The Safe….

Goodbye Section 331, Row 8, Seat 15 – see you next year!
Filing out of Safeco Field for the last time in 2010
Our fair city from the upper concourse
please, Please, PLEASE, Jack …. get a supporting cast for these characters!

09 reflections

What a day…
Ever seen a team so happy to finish third?
I haven’t, but boy, am I sure glad I was there to witness the joy in person as no player went “un-hugged” 🙂

What a series…
A series win to end the season and two more one-run victories

What a season…
Obviously, successful teams must have talent and depth to produce the numbers that make a difference. But, when a team has had 5 managers in 6 years, loses WAY more than they win in that stretch (including 101 games in the previous year) and has a seriously fractured clubhouse – the road to recovery is neither quick nor easy. The intangibles of cultivating confidence, adjusting attitudes and, as Wak would say, establishing a “belief system” are all “vital signs” along the way.

What a career…
Whether he’s going to call it a career or come back for more, Griffey’s contribution to this team this season goes WAY beyond what he did (or didn’t do) on the field and won’t soon be forgottten. Above all, Junior reminded everyone, to a man, in that clubhouse, how to have fun again. This was VERY evident in their post-game celebration on that last day of 2009.