Dipoto Becomes Bored Waiting For Ohtani, trades for Dee Brown.

As with every other Mariners fan, I’ve been following the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes with great hope and trepidation.  We know that General Manager Jerry Dipoto and company presented to the Japanese star and his representative on Tuesday, but little else. The Cone of Silence has descended over the proceedings, and we don’t even have an idea who was in the Seattle entourage, let alone what the big guy might be thinking.

But the sludge-like stream that is driving the Hot Stove League seems to be breaking loose a bit. The Angels signed Braves refugee prospect Kevin Maitan.  Trade rumors regarding Giancarlo Stanton are heating up.  The Rangers signed reliever Mike Minor today, after reaching a deal with starter Doug Fister last week.  The Cubs inked pitcher Tyler Chatwood to a three year contract. News tonight that Detroit is nearing a deal for Astros starter Mike Fiers.

And then there is the perfectly weird as former major leaguer and disgraced steroid user Rafael Palmeiro announced he would attempt a major-league comeback. Palmeiro faces some important challenges. The first is that he is 53, not exactly a spring chicken.  The second is that he is an idiot. My last memory of him is waving his finger at members of Congress assuring them he is clean.  Within months he tested positive for PED’s .  What a dope.

However, for many of us,  the winter baseball market is constipated, and today Dipoto provided the enema.  Just as I was heading out the door right after school ended to a student staffing, MLBTradeRumors announced the M’s traded for Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon.

Just to be clear, Dee Gordon is not chopped liver. In 2017 he slashed .308/.341/.375, leading the NL with 60 stolen bases while scoring 114 runs. Gordon provides the Mariner with a top of the order hitter with great base-running talent.  In 2015 Gordon led the league in hitting with a .330 average, and led the league in hits and stolen bases. Gordon received MVP votes in 2014 and 2015.

But things are not perfect.  In 2016 Gordon was suspended for 90 games for a positive PED test.  His game isn’t perfect either.  Though he is a hitting machine, he isn’t much of a walker.  Only 25 walks in 695 plate appearances last year. Gordon doesn’t strike out a ton, but enough to be noticed, 93 K’s in 2017.

Most noticeable is that Dee Gordon plays second base.  That’s a position that is the property of one Robinson Cano, future Hall of Famer. Cano stakes his claim each year with a contract worth $24 million. With outfield experience in only 13 winter league games in his career, major and minor league, Dipoto annointed Gordon as the M’s 2018 center fielder.

Unquestionably, Gordon is a fine athlete, swift of foot, but outfield, let alone center field, is not an easy position to just slide into.  While this doesn’t sink to the level of some of Jack Zdurencik’s moves to the outfield, Mike Morse, Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, anybody?  It will take some time for Gordon to figure it out.

According to MLB.com The Mariners will take on Gordon’s contract, which with three years guaranteed for a total of $37.9 million and a fourth year with an automatic $14 million if certain playing incentives are met.  It isn’t a cheapie. Definitely costs more than bringing back Jarrod Dyson, but the offensive ceiling is higher even if the defense is unknown.  It’s a big savings to signing Lorenzo Cain, who is likely to earn $80 million over five years.

It also cost the Mariners minor league pitcher Nick Neidert.  Neidert was recently rated the Mariners number two prospect, and their best pitching prospect. He is accompanied by infielder Christopher Torres, and Class A pitcher Robert Duggar. In addition to Gordon, the M’s receive a million dollars in international bonus money they can throw at Ohtani.

This deal represents pretty out-of the-box thinking by Dipoto, and it’s hard not to like it.  He could have re-signed Dyson, but the former Mariner is three years older than Gordon, and age and experience, don’t always play well in baseball when your chief attribute is speed.  He could have thrown cash at Cain, but hanging on to money to address the M’s pitching woes is a smart move.  Make no doubt about it, Gordon is a really good hitter who brings a lot to a Mariners team of poor base runners, and that don’t use their speed wisely. Hitting with Jean Segura in front of Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz should be pretty interesting.

It’s a great trade, if it works. If Gordon adjusts to an outfield move, and is able to play the position, all is well. He began his career as a shortstop, and made himself into a gold glove second baseman, so he is certainly capable of adaptation.   An example of a similar success story is Delino DeShields, Jr., who went from being a pretty decent second baseman, to being a pretty good center fielder, good enough to knock Leonys Martin out of his starting job. But it took a year, for DeShields to figure it out going from a -5.7 UZR in 2015, to a 3.9 UZR in 2016. If the M’s are forced to play Gordon in a corner outfield position, he’ll be a pretty light hitting LF/RF in an outfield that is already pretty light hitting.

That Gordon is open to the change makes it all that much better. Gordon, in an interview after the trade confessed his surprise at the deal, but acknowledged the important role Cano has on the team.  Most importantly, he had no doubt he could make the move to center.

“I’ll be fine. I consider myself a fast learner and I want to help this team win. Gordon said”

So I confess to a little finger crossing, due to my role as many-times burned Mariners fan.  But this was a creative solution to answer one of the team’s most pressing needs, a center fielder with excellent offensive skills.

Hey Ohtani, what do you think? dee gordon

 

 

 

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While we’re waiting on Ohtani, some Hall of Fame notes

shohei-otani-pitching-getty-1

The M’s were busy Wednesday, following their meeting with Shohei Ohtani and his representatives on Tuesday.  They traded minor league catcher David Banuelos to Minnesota for a international bonus money, a cool million dollars, to further sweeten the pot to entice the Japanese star to sign in the Emerald City. We’ll see if that works. Banuelos was rated 10th on the M’s prospect list, which is comparatively weak.

Ohtani has now met with all seven of the finalists he is considering signing with.  Now it will simply come down to decision-making and an announcement. The Mariners have emerged as a favorite to sign Ohtani, so the collective breath of Mariners fans is held until something happens.

Baseball Hall of Fame

Meanwhile, ballots are beginning to trickle in to Ryan Thibodeaux’s Hall of Fame Tracker.  There are currently 27 public ballots and one anonymous ballot, so 28 or 6.6% of the votes likely to be cast.

The good news is that Edgar Martinez has 21 of those votes, or 78.6% of this very small sample.  Last year Thibodeaux was able to share 314 of the ballots or 71% of the vote.  Remember that Edgar’s vote in the public ballots was about five percent higher than that not shared. In any case, there is a long way to go.

Breaking down this vote, even though it is early is interesting.  Here are a few things I’ve observed:

  • A pretty persistent criticism in the voting is that writers don’t vote for enough hall-worthy candidates.  In the early count, the number of votes per ballot is 8.93 (though Jim Livingston just submitted a ballot with only two votes.) This represents a significant increase from last year’s 8.43, and 2016’s 8.23.  That’s a good thing–unless there are more Bill Livingstons out there. Note–Livingston only checked Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel.  An Indian lover and someone who needn’t have a vote in the future. He left his contact information blank. Pity
  • Though the numbers have subsided recently, there definitely seems to be an uptick toward Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.  Clemens was all of the first 21 ballots.  He hasn’t been on one since and sits at 75%.  Bonds has 19 votes and 67.9%.  Again, early in the process, but will be interesting to see if this pattern continues.
  • The big winner so far is Jim Thome with 100% on the ballots thus far.  Chipper Jones is at 92.9%, Vladimir Guerrero is 89.3% and Trevor Hoffman is at 78.6%.  Together with Edgar and Clemens, they are the only nominees that are at the qualifying mark.
  • Mike Mussina has 64.3%, Curt Schilling is at 57.1%, and Vizquel is at 53.6%.  They are the only other candidates above 50%.  For both Mussina and Schilling, the early votes represent an increase in support over 2017.
  • Johnny Damon and Johan Santana are currently being shut out with zero votes.

More to come, I’m sure, as the votes trickle in and Ohtani continues his big tease.

Hall of Fame Time Again

 

HOF tracker

It’s Hall of Fame voting time again.  Fifteen ballots are in and they hosted on Ryan Thibodeaux’s Hall of Fame Tracker.   Ryan includes a tremendous amount of information on this Excel spreadsheet, and a look shows things are already interesting.  Not to get too excited, these represent only 3.5% of the 416 votes that will be cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

While tallying the totals of who got the most votes and if any of the nominees can get into the Hall, is always exciting,  concerns about voting and how it is done remains an on-going conversation in the sports world.  Last year, members of the BBWAA voted to make all ballots public.  Unfortunately the Hall board of directors nixed the idea.  Last year, about 56% of hall votes were public.

The ballot was released last month.  There are some quality sure-things for this year’s vote, as well as some interesting candidates likely to make things messier for our favorite former Seattle Mariner DH.

Sure Things

Chipper Jones-Atlanta-3B.  Chipper is a no-brainer who had a fine career on some really good Braves teams.  He has 14 votes and 93.3%

Jim Thome-1b/DH-Thome hit 612 home runs over a 22 year career.  One would think he’s a shoo-in, but given his time at DH and playing during the steroids era, who knows. So far Thome is running the table with 15 votes

Last Year’s Leftovers 

Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman just missed on the 2017 ballot. With Hoffman missing by just five votes, and Guerrero receiving 71.7% of the 75% of the votes needed for induction, my guess is they slide in with Chipper and Thome. Currently Hoffman has 12 votes for 80%.  Vlad has 14 votes for 93.3%

The Black Sheep

Last year boosted voting for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.  They are unarguably two of the greatest players the game produced, and very likely PED users.  Their vote percentages went from 45.2-54.1% for Clemens and  44.3-53.8% for Bonds.  My guess is their vote totals will continue trending upward with eventual election to the Hall. Both have five more years of eligibility, so plenty of time for those totals to creep up to 75. Today Clemens has all 15 votes, while Bonds has 13 for 86.7%.  Not my choice, but it has a feeling of inevitability.

Scrambling for footing

Pitchers Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling continue to hang around the 50% mark with 51.8% and 45.0% respectively.  Both were great, why they aren’t being rewarded for their on-field performance rather than dinged for their Twitter escapades (Schilling!!!) is beyond me. However they both have time to put together a push. Mussina currently has 11 votes for 73.3%, and Mr. Bloody Sock has nine for 60%

The New Guys

There are some intriguing new adds to the ballot.  They are guys who aren’t locks to get in, but could make a case in a long campaign for votes. First up as Scott Rolen who was a wonderful third baseman for many teams over many years. He has attracted three votes for 20%.  Former Mariner shortstop Omar Vizquel, with a very long playing career, is on the ballot.  He’ll have to make his way in with Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio as a defensive whiz.  He currently has seven votes for 46.7%. Last on the list is Johan Santana, who for about eight years was one of  the best pitchers in baseball.  He’s gotten zero, nada, nothing, 0%

The Edgar Factor

I follow this closely for Edgar Martinez, in his ninth year of eligibility, and thus has to receive a 75% vote by 2019.  Just for a snapshot, he currently has 12 votes for 80% and only needs 300 more for election.  He has received four new voters so far, but he will need many more for election. He hasn’t lost any voters.

I’ll post more as time goes on.  My IBWAA ballot arrived yesterday and I will let you know how I voted for the Hall in our alternative universe.

 

Mariners Hot Stove Barely Smoldering

hot stove

With this third year of off-season activity by Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto, we’re used to seeing a kind of hyperactivity that led the M’s to the most trades in the major leagues over the past two seasons. Though the M’s have made three deals, and likely lead the majors in 2017-18 off-season deals, things really haven’t gotten started.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself and what we really need to start with is what the Mariners need to do to improve for the coming season.  These aren’t improvements that will necessarily put them in the division race, or win a World Series, but it might get them back in the conversation about a Wild Card spot.

Starting Pitching

The first, and most obvious concern, is pitching, particularly starting pitching.  Virtually the entire 2017 spring training starting rotation ended up on the DL or was sequestered due to ineffectiveness at one point or another last year.  That’s Drew Smyly, Hisashi Iwakuma, Felix Hernandez and  James Paxton on the DL for prolonged, or season-ending periods.  Yovani Gallardo and Ariel Miranda were both benched for ineffectiveness. A parade of AAA pitchers took turn getting pounded, or at least showing dramatic levels of inconsistency until September kind of settled out with a rotation that looked like this:

Erasmo Ramirez  RHP

Andrew Albers  LHP

Marco Gonzales  LHP

Andrew Moore  RHP

Mike Leake  RHP .

They were joined by Hernandez and Paxton as they struggled to get into mlb game shape.

Though the group that finished the season offered stability, nobody can be content that this is a group that can be effective and stay healthy for an entire season.  I was pleasantly surprised by Ramirez and Leake.  Moore is still very young and should not be asked to do too much.  Gonzales is still recovering from TJ surgery.  I’m not a great believer that Albers at age 31 has discovered the fountain of effectiveness (but I’m a big Jamie Moyer fan, so who knows.)

I no longer believe that James Paxton has the makings of an ace because he simply can’t stay on the field. His 24 starts and 136.0 innings pitched were the most of his career, but he still had two stints on the DL There is no question that the big Canadian was very effective when healthy, but when your team can’t count on you to take the ball every fifth day, you’re not the Big Maple, just the big Question Mark.

King Felix’s crown is looking pretty droopy these days. He just completed his second consecutive year with fewer than 200 innings, or in this new era of pitching, a second consecutive year of under 180 innings to qualify for the ERA crown. And let’s just cut to the chase.  Since 2014 when he should have won a Cy Young Award, Felix has been in a tailspin. It could be that his arm is simply cooked. 2,502.1 innings will do that.  It could be that it is a combination of knowing the stuff he has today and not quite being able to use it effectively.  It doesn’t matter what the problem is, until he shows us otherwise, Felix Hernandez is not a pitcher the Mariners can count on for regular solid performances.  Too many baserunners allowed, too many homers, not enough effective innings. (God, it pains me to write this.)

It’s unclear where Ariel Miranda fits into the picture.  Will he contend for a thstarting spot, where he was fairly effective until June.  Or does his leap into bad after June make him a candidate for the bullpen or a trade piece?

Dipoto has suggested this team doesn’t need much more pitching.  I think Dipoto is a really smart guy and that he’s pulling our collective leg.  His intensity around possibly acquiring Shohei Otani demonstrates that acquiring at unique talent, one that can pitch, is crucial.  And I can’t believe there isn’t a plan B to acquire more pitching, and not of the bargain basement variety. This team needs a horse, and they don’t have one.

The only starting pitcher the M’s have added to their team at the time of this writing is Hisashi Iwakuma, still gamely rehabbing his shoulder.  He is signed to a minor league contract.

First Base

This is a spot the M’s seem to have filled, trading RHP Emilio Pagan and infielder Alexander Campos to the Athletics for righty-hitting Ryon Healy.

Healy will be 26 when the season begins, and has had one full year in the bigs.  The good news-Healy hit 25 home runs and is a 1.0 WAR player.  Last year’s first base duo, Danny Valencia and Yonder Alonso combined for -.6 WAR.  Healy also doesn’t suffer from the big platoon splits that has plagued numerous Mariners first basemen.  He shouldn’t need a partner, freeing up a roster spot.

The bad–the man can strike out with the best of them (142,) walks rarely (3.8%), and isn’t much of a defender.  Oh, and the other thing, he’s cheap and controllable, two of Jerry’s three mantras. Maybe hitting coach Edgar Martinez can help out with strikeouts and on base percentage, maybe not.  But Healy is under team control for the next five years and at the major league minimum salary, allows the M’s to funnel money to pitching or other areas that need addressing.

Like . . . Centerfield. 

The Mariners lost Jarrod Dyson to free agency, which leaves them Mitch Haniger,  Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia from the 2017 roster. Dyson left a big mark on the team, offering elite level defense and speed on the basepaths.  Dyson was among my favorite players on last year’s team.  A late season injury to Dyson left Haniger and Heredia to play center, though the latter also succumbed to a shoulder injury.

Look, the Mariners made some big improvements in the outfield for 2017.  All three of the players above are 26 or younger.  They are better defenders than the 2016 outfield trio of Nori Aoki, Seth Smith and Leonys Martin.  Their ceiling is still not clear.  But Heredia struggled, perhaps the result of fighting a season long battle with shoulder dislocation.  Haniger spent two unwanted vacations on the DL.  Gamel, after leading the league in batting for a stretch into June, fell off a statistical cliff until bottoming out in September. It’s clear the Mariners need another outfielder, and especially a centerfielder.

With free agent starting pitching at a premium, and a need to make a splash, perhaps this is where the M’s put their splash cash. They could bring back Jarrod Dyson, platooning him with a healthy Heredia.  Dyson, as a part time player was never costly, but after having a solid season, if a little light with the stick, will command real money. Not sure how much, but more than the $2.6 million they paid in 2017 when they spirited him away from the Royals

But maybe they go all in the M’s back up the armored car to a vault marked Lorenzo Cain. The Royals centerfielder is entering his age 32 season and will command a pile of cash from some lucky suitor. Cain is a brilliant defender, with good speed.  and a solid stick, though with limited power. His 2017 slash was .300/.363/.440 with 15 dingers.   MLB trade rumors project his future earnings at four years for $70 million. That’s a lot for a guy who is getting on.  You’re betting on health and a very slow decline of speed skills.  But if Jerry isn’t going to chase Yu Darvish, this is still a way to dramatically improve the team in exchange for cash money.

A reserve catcher

Don’t know if the Mike Zunino that finished 2017 is the real deal, or not, but I’m thinking we are seeing the true Z.  Hopefully he can allay everybody’s fears in March and April, rather than waiting to show us what he has in July. In any case, the M’s will need a backup dude to keep our shiny penny from wearing down.  Chooch Ruiz hasn’t retired, but I’m thinking its a good year to try someone else, preferably a someone not named Tuffy.

The Really Big Unknown

Looming over all the inaction is the league holding its collective breath as Shohei Ohtani decides where he will end up.  Because money really isn’t an issue, the M’s have as good a shot as anybody. But clearly, the team that is able to successfully lure Ohtani will likely have to have a chance at winning, and be able to offer the young superstar at bats as well as innings pitched.  What might that look like in Seattle?  It might mean outfield innings for Nelson Cruz and his aging knees.  It might mean taking at-bats away from young Mr. Healy.  I can’t say I’m against picking up the multi-talented youngster, but it certainly would make things interesting.

 

 

I’ve Been Gone

Mariners-patches-620

My last post was June 7th.  I wish I had a great explanation, such as my desperate case of cholera or the terrible car accident that put me in traction for five months.

No, unfortunately the only car wreck I observed was the 2017 Mariners baseball season. Don’t get me wrong, I never gave up on the team.  I made it to a couple of games, and probably watched 120 or so on television.  It was among the most frustrating seasons I can remember.

This was a team that could never quite find its footing. With constant injuries to the pitching staff, both starters and relief staff, there simply wasn’t the kind of pitching consistency needed to put together a prolonged win streak. Yes, the M’s would put together some nice four and five game win streaks, leading me, at least, to believe they were about to turn the season around. But they were almost always followed by an equal or longer losing streak. Momentum gone, excitement deflated.

This was the hardest season.

There were the endless string of pitching injuries that was followed by the endless terrible performances by the pitiless starts by various Chris Hestons, Chase DeJongs and Dillon Overtons. Though they were eventually replaced by the less godawful Christian Bergman and Sam Gaviglio, it was clear every night, this team was on the verge of being blown out.

It also became clear that Jerry Dipoto had not learned the lessons from 2016, when the M’s likewise suffered pitching mayhem, and the depth problems he “solved” during the 2016 hot stove season were not solutions at all.  Having lots of arms isn’t enough.  They have to be MLB ready.

But it wasn’t just the pitching.  This was a bad baserunning team whose exploits cost its team runs and games.  They were a tick below average defensively.

From a fan’s perspective, there were definitely some things to enjoy.  The M’s could score more runs in different ways.  They were a somewhat better defensive team, especially in the outfield.

But the pitching was often frightening, and it sometimes seemed like their heads were someplace else than out on the diamond.

And the core guys–Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz–just seemed to scuffle more. Cano was a 7.3 WAR player in 2016.  He was a 3.4 WAR player in 2017 (Baseball Reference.) Seager likewise struggled, hit 30 points less, fewer dingers, and went from 5.3 WAR to 2.7.

Nelson Cruz seemed, at times, to struggle more than in his two previous seasons with the Mariners.  Maybe some nagging 36 year-old guy dings. But he also seemed to do more with less, leading the league in RBI’s despite a slight drop in home runs, but more timely singles and sacrifice flies.

More than anything this team left me scratching my head.  This 2017 version of the Mariners should have competed for a Wild Card berth, and they did sorta, kinda, at moments. But the moments lasted for a flash and then were gone.

And worst of all . . . what now?

The most troubling result of what was a troubling season is seeing a way forward for this team.  The World Champion Houston Astros are the the Mariners’ division.  They are not only incredibly talented, but very young.  They have a solid farm system, while the M’s minor league stock of talent ranks in the bottom 25% in major league baseball.  The Mariners, with Cano, Seager, Cruz, and Hernandez have some pretty hefty contracts while the window on their abilities is beginning to close. Not a lot of young talent and an aging core does not make for a winning equation.  Throw in some really bad luck in the shape of Drew Smyly’s TJ injury and will take some very heady off-season magic by Jerry Dipoto to get this team ready for a shot at a wild car as it fades quickly into Houston’s rear-view mirror.

I’ll be reporting my views of the M’s off-season deals as the Hot Stove League gets hot, as well as an early look at Hall of Fame voting

Jimmy Piersall played for all of us

Jimmy Piersall

Jim Piersall died Sunday at the age of 87.  Many folks won’t remember his name.  He was a good ballplayer who played the game for parts of 17 seasons for the Red Sox, Indians, Senators and Angels. Piersall was known on the field chiefly for his excellent outfield defense.  He wasn’t bad with the stick either compiling a .272/.332/.382 career slash.  He hit .332 in 1961 for the Indians.  Hit 19 home runs for the Red Sox in ’57.  Not Hall of Fame numbers.  But he made a couple of All-Star teams, won a couple of Gold Gloves, and received some MVP votes.

When I was a kid, I’d watch the Game of the Week Saturday mornings with my Dad. Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese were the announcers, and it wasn’t unusual to hear Pearsall’s name come up in discussion. Even sainted Dave Niehaus would raise his name in remembrance when deep in some 8-0 whoopin’ by the Bash Brothers in 1989 and reminisce with soul brother Ron Fairly.

Pearsall was known publicly not so much for his performance between the lines, but his on-field antics.  He mimicked the movements of teammates and his manager. He was often ejected for arguing with umpires. He is best known for hitting his 100th home run and running around the bases backwards.

He was a bonus baby and signed with the Red Sox in 1950.  He quickly rose through the ranks and became a regular Red Sox in 1952.  Piersall began demonstrating erratic behavior and alienated his manager, Lou Boudreau and many of his teammates.  He was sent down to Birmingham, but his behavior continued and resulted in a series of ejections and suspensions

G.M. Joe Cronin, alarmed, took a personal interest in Piersall’s situation and had his situation diagnosed by a psychiatrist.  Jimmy was found to be suffering from bipolar disorder. Piersall recounts his behavior, diagnosis and treatment quite candidly in his 1955 book “Fear Strikes Out.” A second book followed in 1985, “The Truth Hurts.”  Piersall was never entirely free of his demons.  Though considered an on-field showman, his career is littered with outbursts and ejections. Yet, he continued playing until 1967.

Piersall went on to have a very productive life after baseball in broadcasting and coaching.

Mark Armour wrote a great article about Piersall for SABR, updated on his death June 3. It will provide far more detail than I can.

Piersall is one of those career good ballplayer kinds of guys. His 28.6 career WAR slots him in between Don Baylor and Tino Martinez.  We often overlook his baseball accomplishments in favor of his more “colorful” moments. The man could and did play, played the game well at a no-nonsense point in the game’s history.

But let’s not forget for moment what he overcame and when. I married into a family riddled with mental illness and bipolar disorder.  I watched family members struggle most of their adult lives with the condition, aided by the modern knowledge of brain chemistry and treatments that helped them lead productive lives.  That Piersall managed to play baseball at the highest level of competition, travel from city to city, change of place to sleep, change of food, away from the support of family and at a time when understanding and treatment of mental illness was in its infancy is remarkable.  His story serves as a reminder that anything is possible.

Jimmy Piersall 2

Ariel Miranda is a thing

Ariel Miranda
Dude. Miranda wins complete game shutout against the Rays 7-1, strikes out nine.

With so much of the intended Mariners rotation scattered around so many trainer’s beds like ungathered bits of cord-wood, the M’s have plumbed the depths of their minor league system to burn innings.  If it’s Tuesday, insert Chase De Jong here. It’s been tough.

Smyly,  gone.  Felix’s mushy arm. Paxton, forearm messed up. Iwakuma, inflamed whatever.

All that is left of the original starting five is Yovani Gallardo, and we could only WISH he was gone. But that would leave yet another hole in a rotation that seems to have found some stability (except when Gallardo pitches.)

If there is one guy I would point to as an anchor to the rotation in the horrifying no-mans land that has been the 2017 season, it would be Ariel Miranda.

Look, before we take apart Miranda’s numbers and hail his solid season, just a nod to Christian Bergman and Sam Gaviglio. When the various collections of Chris Hestons, De Jongs, Dillon Overtons, and Evan Marshalls all exploded figuratively, and in the case of Marshall, literally, those two were called up and have literally served as doorstops.  Their stuff will never be confused with Koufax or Gibson (Bob not Kirk.) They will never be remembered with Joe “Iron Man” McGinnity, but they’ve kept the M’s in games long enough to score. They’ve given the Mariners and their fans an opportunity to remember there are still 104 games left to play, and they are only 2.5 games behind in the wild card standings, and they are only five teams left to jump over.

You might remember that Miranda came over in a trade with Baltimore. The M’s sent an overpriced and underperforming Wade Miley to the Orioles for the Cuban refugee who had struggled as both a reliever and as a starter at the major league level. Miranda finished 2016 trying to find himself, but it was my belief he’d pitched his way into the 2017 starting rotation.

Not so fast. By the end of spring training Miranda was ticketed for Tacoma until Smyly went down with his injury. And given how things have turned out that’s been a good thing.

Let’s be clear, Miranda isn’t perfect, but as depleted and challenged as the Mariners starting rotation has been in 2017, he may as well be. Miranda can throw too many pitches and burn up his available innings in a game, and he allows too many home runs. But since his May 9th start in Philadelphia when he was basically incinerated in a 3.1 inning outing, Miranda has been pretty good.  Two short starts in National League ballparks in close games when Servais decided to pinch hit, but he has allowed two or fewer runs in the five games since Philly, including Sunday’s masterful complete game victory over Tampa Bay.

Here are some of Miranda’s accomplishments thus far.

  • He’s made each of his scheduled starts, 12 to be exact.
  • Miranda is 25th among the 80 pitchers ranked at ESPN for WHIP at 1.16
  • He’s ranked 30th on ESPN and 20th on Fangraphs for WAR among pitchers at 1.5 and .9 respectively
  • He has passed Wade Miley in walks, wins, WHIP, and FIP.

If James Paxton stays healthy and remains in the rotation as its ace, there is little reason to think Miranda isn’t a reliable lefty partner.  Maybe not a number two guy, but as close to it as this team may get this year.  It’s also likely hitters will begin to know him a little better and he may struggle more as the year continues.

I don’t believe Sunday’s complete game win was an accident. I still don’t think we’ve seen the best of Ariel Miranda yet, and he’s a guy worth watching.

Now, a word about Yovani Gallardo.