Sayonara Ichiro and thanks for the memories!

So, I finally have a moment to contemplate the era that was Ichiro.

Without question, Ichiro brought a new excitement and unique style of play to major legue baseball and Mariners fans were lucky to call him their own for nearly 12 seasons. From his burst on to the stage winning the MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001 to his shattering of George Sissler’s single season hit record to his ten consecutive seasons with 200 hits and countless other records and milestones (more listed here), it was quite a ride.

Unfortunately, despite all his individual successes through the years, the team failed to make the playoffs since that first magical season. Many blame the FO for the floundering, in their mind not spending enough and/or not spending wisely. Others think the brass cares more about attendance and the bottom line than winning. Some, believe it or not, actually place partial blame on Ichiro for being “selfish” – caring more about his individual accolades than the team’s success.

Of these reasons noted above, the only one I really buy into for the lack of success this decade is the lack of spending wisely (well that and a couple of ill-fated trades, mostly in the Bavasi-era).

All that being said, I believe that Ichiro’s departure will prove to be a win-win-win…
~ a win for Ichiro, as he will be finally playing for a contender
~ a win for the Yankees, as his skill set, even in a slightly diminished capacity, can help a potent lineup offensively and is still an upgrade for them defensively
~ a win for the Mariners, as they can finally turn the page and focus fully on their young talent evaluation and have more freedom in both tactical and financial realms, as they move forward with their rebuilding plan.

Sayonara Ichiro…

courtesy From the Corner of Edgar and Dave
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g100 | scored early, not often

Mariners 2 | Yankees 5

‘t was 2-1 M’s by the end of the first.
The Yanks wouldn’t score again until the 8th – the M’s wouldn’t score again at all.

Likely it was a pretty strange feeling for those at the game to know it might be the last time they would see Ichiro at Safeco Field – for sure for this year, as this was the Yanks one and only visit to Seattle this season.

Aaron Lavinsky | Seattle Times

 

Aaron Lavinsky | Seattle Times

g99 | the King vs. the Chief and goodbye to Area 51

Mariners 4 | Yankees 2

OK, the minor intrigue of Felix pitching against his long-time idol and good friend, Freddy Garcia, for the first time was over-shadowed (just a bit) by the whole Ichiro is now a Yankee deal… I was extra glad I already planned to attend, even before the news broke.

Oh, a couple of roster moves to mention between last night and game time tonight…
Justin Smoak and Trayvon Robinson switch places between Seattle and Tacoma and Mike Carp is activated from the DL

The jerseys were still regular price…

But most other Ichiro-related items were on sale…

I’ll admit to being a little wistful…

There he was, in his old familiar place, except he had run out of the other dugout and was wearing a different uniform….

So, the first at bat that I saw Ichiro take as a Yankee…

was against Felix Hernandez (a pop-up to 3B)…
I took a little walk around the concourse, as the M’s were taking the lead in the third…

Felix won without his best stuff (in fact, the 8th inning was kinda scary as he hit a couple of batters, including A-rod (who we heard immediately after the game had suffered a broken hand and was going to be put on the DL). Lucas and Tom were awesome (as per usual!) and the offense was able to do just enough against Freddy and the seemingly endless bullpen arms that Girardi cycled through.

On my way out of the ballpark, I lingered a bit longer than normal, knowing some things would be a bit different next time I visited…

 

 

Still collecting some thoughts….

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!

g87 | of unsupported aces, seagulls and wild pitches…

Mariners 1 | Athletics 2 (in 13)

Both starters pitched very well…
Felix went 7.2, Colon went 8.2
each only allowed ONE earned run and, obviously, neither received any run support

The A’s committed 2 errors and were even more inept with RISP (1/12 compared to 1/6)… 
but still were able to come away with the win when Weeks (who is as pesky as Figgins was when he was with the Halos) singled and Reddick (who the Red Sox are lamenting having traded) doubled in the 13th for the walk-off win.

Couple of close calls with the gulls…
for instance, Michael Saunders was able to get to 2B on a hit that was “lost in the gulls”
and, Ackley never spotted a pop-up amid the birds that Ichiro was able to snag at the last minute

One of the scariest things was Charlie’s WP while attempting an IBB…
especially since there was a guy (Weeks) on 2B who made it to 3B as Charlie was trying to throw 4-wide ones. What’s even more scary is that this isn’t the first time he has had a bit of a struggle to throw an intentional walk … I hope he’s not getting a version of the ‘yips’. Shawn Kelley came in to strike out the next batter for the third out but, looking back, seems it was a fore-shadowing of the game’s eventual outcome.

Break time …
relax
regroup
refresh
rebound

g86 | “Tonight’s what we are looking for.” —Eric Wedge

Mariners 7 | Athletics 1

Yes indeedy – more of THIS please!

  • steller starter
  • sparkling defense
  • hits and runs aplenty

VARGAS GOT IT STARTED AND FINISHED IT OFF
Way to go, Jason! 9IP – 7H – 1R – 1BB – 6K

Erza Shaw | Getty Images

HOW ‘BOUT THAT DEE?!?

OFFENSE, WHO KNEW?
All kinds a ways: with none on, with some on, with RISP, with two out…

  • Seager + Ryan + Wells = 2 doubles, 1 home runs and 5 rbi
  • Ichiro + Jaso + Saunders + Smoak + Wells = 1 double, 1 homer 1 stolen base and 7 runs scored
  • Ichiro broke his career high hitless streak at 23, batting in the 2-hole for the first time in his career
  • more 2-out w/RISP RBI’s for Kyle Seager (leads the AL with 27)
Erza Shaw | Getty Images
Jeff Chiu | AP Photo