Month: May 2016

Revenge is a dish best served with homers

Adam Lind Homer
Adam Lind hits the last, and longest, of the Mariners home runs in their rout of the Padres 16-4 in Tuesday’s Safeco finale.

Awww, I go away for a few days and the M’s find a way to get swept by the Twins?  Are you kiddin’ me? I dunno how this stuff happens.  The M’s have been swept three times this year, all at home.  They’ve been swept by the A’s.  The A’s are terrible and injured.  They’ve been swept by the Angels.  The Angels can barely find 25 unwounded guys to put in a uniform.  They’ve been swept by the Twins, a team playing sub-.300 ball who don’t even have the excuse of being injured.  How does this happen?  I have no freakin’ idea; it’s just baseball.

So the only thing to do is take it out on the next team in, the equally hapless San Diego Padres, our fierce rivals in the N.L.

It was certainly nice to get a decent pitching performance from starting pitcher Nate Karns on Monday after three consecutive clunkers from Felix Hernandez, Nate Miley and Taijuan Walker.   Mariner hitters took out their frustrations first on starter Andrew Cashner for four runs in the sixth inning, and then pounded former Mariner Brandon Maurer for five more in the eighth inning to leave no doubt the M’s were pissed and the Padres pitchers better come to Safeco with their steel helmets for the two game series.  Kyle Seager homered off Cashner, and Dae Ho Lee went deep off Maurer, but five of ten Mariner hits were of the extra-base sort, including two doubles by Seth Smith, a career first.

Today’s game was a daylight send-off to a brief road trip to San Diego and Texas.  But it was like the guys in the home dugout really needed to make amends to the Seattle fans.  They did. Scoring early and often, they drove starter James Shields out of the game after 2.2 innings, scoring ten times.  Turning their attention to reliever Luis Perdomos, the Mariners scored another six runs, taking a 16-0 lead before taking a little breather and allowing starter Hisashi Iwakuma to polish off the Padres, with the help of Vidal Nuno and Mike Montgomery, 16-4.

It was great day for Mariners hitting.  Every starting Mariner stater had at least one hit, except Robinson Cano, who was walked three times and scored twice. The 14 Mariner hits combined with ten free passes for congestion on the base paths and required an occasional cleaning.  Kyle Seager, Seth Smith twice, Franklin Gutierrez, and Adam Lind were happy to provide domestic service, driving the ball out of Safeco Field, driving in 12 of the 16 runs. Only Smith’s second homer was a solo blast.

The Mariners now lead the major leagues in home runs with 78. Though the M’s left a path of rubble while waltzing through the Padres’ pitching staff, they remain tied with the Rangers for the AL West Division lead with the Rangers leading the Cleveland Indians 3-0.

Isn’t this the way it’s supposed to be?

me and dave

I am a Mariners fan.

I am also a high school teacher.  My colleagues are regularly bedecked in Seahawks blue and Sounders green to support their successful teams.  I have an aged Mariners windshirt I bought from a street vendor back in the day.  I have a blue, misprinted Mariners jersey, and a gorgeous teal Ichiro jersey I picked up cheap(er) when the team store was closing them out.  I bought a tacky, but lovely Mariners sweater at FanFest.  I wear them all proudly.  All my colleagues know where my sporting loyalties lie.

But this year it’s different.  My buddies stop me in the hall in the morning before students arrive and want to talk baseball.  Inevitably the questions start with, “Did you stay up late enough to. . .?”, because of all the come back wins.

Usually my answer is no.  I suffer from insomnia, and when I start to feel sleepy at nine or nine thirty at the very latest I have to go to bed. But because I wake up very early–say at 3:00 or 3:30, I follow the game news–ESPN,, Lookout Landing–I usually know what transpired.  Sometimes my iPad on my night table wakes me up with news.  “Leonys Martin’s walk off homer beats A’s 6-5.” I usually sleep better those nights.

I find myself giving inordinate amounts of time to this baseball season and the Mariners.  I’ve made 15 posts in May.  Most posts take me a couple of hours. That’s a lot of hours. In 2015 I wrote 79 posts for the entire year.

If my behavior seems obsessive, my guess is that if you’re taking the time to read this then you’ve become a bit of a Mariners nut yourself. Watching the games, following storylines on the ‘web, maybe trying to figure out the new stats–what the heck is BABIP, xFIP and dWAR anyway? Why the heck is Adam Lind’s fWAR so bad?

But that’s the way it’s supposed to be, isn’t it?  That’s what happens when your team is winning. In 2001 when it seemed the M’s couldn’t lose, we still read the print paper.  But we looked at the box scores, all of ’em. We read Larry Stone and Larry LaRue every day.  And there was a Post Intelligencer to give us a third view. I never missed a game on television, and I spent a fair amount of cash to take my wife to games at Safeco.

I still look at the Times and News Tribune coverage-until my free views run out.  I check FanGraphs, MLBTR, anything I hope will give me a little more insight into my beloved Mariners.  Winning teams inspire their fans to do that.  And it sure feels good.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

I’ll be away, playing games with toy soldiers this weekend, trying to sneak in views of the M’s vs. Twins in the bar. Go M’s.

Why the next seven games are critical

Mariners win

The Mariners will look back on May and remark, “damn we were good.” Or at least they will if they finish the month strong.  They are currently 15-8 in May with three games against the Twins and two more against the Padres at Safeco Field.  They head out on the road for the first two games of June against those NL rivals, the Padres for the second leg of the home and home series.

These seven games are absolutely critical. May is a month in which they’ve been able to beat up on a lot of the weak sisters in both leagues.  They’ve pounded the A’s and the Astros, as well as the last place Reds.  The M’s stumbled against the Angels, but they managed a 5-1 record against the Orioles and the Rays, really good and fairly decent respectively.

The Twins are terrible at 12-34, the worst record in the American League.  The Padres, in their continuing effort at rebuilding under A.J. Preller, also are not good 19-29, 10.5 games behind the Giants in the NL West basement. The M’s improved their record and held on to the top spot in the AL West beating up bad teams and they need to continue doing that to the Twins and Padres.

Things get much tougher for them in June.  First, they have 15 games on the road and only 12 games at home.  Of course, the way things are going, that may be a good thing.  But they play some very good teams on the road next month.

After the Padres series, it’s on to the Rangers, their arch rival for the top spot in the division.  Then they come home to face a hot Indians team for four games, and three more against the Rangers.

Then it’s back out on the road to face the Rays, a weekend series against the Red Sox run-scoring machine, and four against a very hot Tigers team. But wait, before they get an off day the M’s come home to for an interleague series in Seattle against the Cardinals. No gimmees in this 13 game pilgrimage. This may be a couple of weeks that makes or breaks their season.

But it doesn’t get any easier. June closes out with a series against the Pirates at Safeco, and begins a series against the Orioles that overlaps into July.

From their June schedule, only the Rays have a losing record at the present time.  The Red Sox lead their division.  The Pirates, Tigers and Indians are currently blazing hot. We’ll get a chance to see what the Mariners are really made of.  They can’t afford a June swoon, because July doesn’t look any better.

Assessing trades at the quarter pole: Nate Karns

Karns 2

The Mariners got out of the gate in the trading period early. On November 2nd they announced the first deal in major league baseball, and their biggest trade of the season.They swapped shortstop/outfielder Brad Miller, 1b/DH Logan Morrison/ and reliever Danny Farquhar for right-handed starter Nathan Karns, reliever C.J. Riefenhausen, and minor league outfielder Boog Powell.

The trade implemented General Manager Jerry Dipoto’s view the Mariners needed a deeper rotation, to lengthen and deepen the bullpen, and to acquire younger, more athletic players who would play well at Safeco Field. In order to that, Dipoto traded, arguably, the Mariners most valuable, but expendable chip in Miller, and included pieces, Morrison and Farquhar, who failed to contribute to Mariner success in 2015.

So let’s take a quick look at the new Rays.  Beginning with Farquhar, the news is not good. Danny has had trouble staying with the big club.  He’s compiled only 5.1 inning in Tampa, while spending considerable time in AAA Durham. His Tampa Bay line isn’t terrible, a 3.38 ERA on 7 hits.  But he’s also give up two walks and two home runs for a WHIP of 1.668, a BABIP of .313 and xFIP of 4.08, s0 he’s not exactly keeping guys off the bases. He was DFA’d on May 14th as the Rays try to sneak him through waivers in a bid to control their 40 man roster.  It’s not clear what his final destination will be.

Logan Morrison got off to a horrendous start. When the Rays swam into Seattle to be beaten up by the Mariners on May 9th, Morrison was hitting a frigid .122/.188/.149.  Yes, do the math, that’s a .271 OPS. I didn’t know they made OPS that low. Like Leonys Martin, and others, Morrison has improved. as the season has progressed. He has a big hole to dig himself out of, but his current slash is .206/.309/.280, adding a couple of home runs to his repertoire. LoMo has clearly heated up during the last four weeks.  What isn’t clear is if this is sustainable improvement or if it is simply similar teases we’ve seen from him in the past. First base remains a weighted offensive position, and though the Rays lead the American League in home runs, they are only tenth in runs scored.  They need all hands on board.

Brad Miller became expendable when Ketel Marte demonstrated he could handle shortstop, hence his cross country trip to Tampa Bay. Like Morrison, Miller started out slow. Though he’s now slashing .233/.303/.434, it’s been a slow rise from his nadir of .106/.176/.213 on April 23rd. Offensively, Miller is rated above average with an OPS + of 105, and a wRC+ of 106.  Defensively, the story is a little different.  The shortstop is rated unequivocally bad at the present time, with -8 defensive runs saved, and a UZR 150 of -28.7  These are MUCH worse ratings than he posted as shortstop with the Mariners.

For the Rays, its still a bit early to determine how successful this trade was for them.  They’ve put their eggs in the Miller basket for shortstop, but clearly that has some defensive ramifications.  In the case of Logan Morrison he hasn’t shown much yet. Farquhar looks to be a throwaway.

On the Mariners side of the ledger, C.J. Riefenhausen didn’t remain a Mariner property for long.  He was included in the Mark Trumbo trade, and never donned Mariner teal.

Nathan Karns struggled during much of spring training, but in his last few starts, showed enough consistency to win the 5th starter’s job. Karns is 28, but a young 28 and does not have a ton of time in the big leagues.  2015 was the first season he spent much time in the majors.

Karns has some great numbers, starting with 4-1.  He has a great K/9 ratio in 9.0, and solid ERA of 3.53.  But all is not perfect. His WHIP of 1.294, while not fatal is not great.  Though he allows some baserunners, at least he doesn’t give up piles of homers.  He’s had difficulty getting deep into games. In only one of his starts has he gotten as deep as the seventh inning.  Five of his starts ended 5.0-5.1 innings. Overall his rating is above average.  His ERA+ is 108, BABIP is .294, and xFIP is 3.75. Plenty of room for improvement, but probably better than most of the fifth starters most teams are running out once a week. Karns earned .7 WAR, which is pretty darn good for May 25th.

Boog Powell 2

Boog Powell is in Tacoma. Powell was brought to the Mariner organization to be a lights out, balls for leather defensive outfielder, with the expectation he would likely make the majors as a fourth outfielder.  I have no actual evidence to share about Powell’s defensive prowess, only anecdotal observation that he plays hard and is a classic dirty shirt guy. He can hit a little too. His slash in the offense-happy PCL is .280/.341/.373. with six doubles, a triple and two homers. Just to be clear that’s twice as many extra base hits as Logan Morrison.

It feels like the Mariners half of the trade is out-performing the Rays at this time.  It will be interesting to see how this pencils out in, say, August.  Is Powell a candidate to take Nori Aoki’s spot if he continues to struggle?  Can Karns make progress and lengthen his outings? Will Miller turn around some of his defensive woes?  Lots to learn as the season goes on.

Checking in on old friends


Once a Mariner always a Mariner? Well, no, probably not. Still I often like to check in on former M’s to see how they’re doing in their post-Seattle careers.

Ichiro Suzuki

When last we left the future Hall of Famer, Ichiro signed a deal with the Miami Marlins to be a part-time outfielder.  That the Marlins extended him before the 2015 was over was a pretty big surprise. But Ichiro is rewarding their faith with pretty Ichiro-like year in limited playing time. Though he’s lost most of his speed and almost all of his pop, Ichiro is slashing an incandescent .385/.444/.431 in 73 plate appearances.  He’s walking a little (7) and striking out even less (3).  Defensively, the Marlins have played him in all three outfield position, but he’s at his best in left field.  He currently has 3 DRS and a cumulative 11.2 UZR 150 in the outfield.  Ichiro’s seemed to be in decline in the teens, but he turned in a strong performance with Miami last year.  He currently sports a .7 WAR, while last year he had a -.8 WAR.  Good news for him as Ichiro steams toward the Hall of Fame “promised land” of 3,000 hits. He has 25 in 2016 and needs 40 more. Great story on Ichiro in Five Thirty Eight.

Justin Smoak

On April 22nd Chris Colabello was suspended for PED’s, insuring old friend Justin Smoak would be the regular first baseman.  Smoak’s 2015 season was very Smoak-like, but with more thump.239/.299/.480.  Lots of strikeouts, not a lot of walks. 16 doubles and 18 homers.  Not bad, but not brilliant. Smoak was able to fit in very well with Toronto as a role player.  He didn’t have to be the show. This year, the native of Goose Creek, S.C. is showing a different side of Justin Smoak.  Not as much pop, but with a .282/.398/.417. His batting average is the highest of his career, and his OBP is the highest on a team of pretty good hitters. Only three homers so far, and the Jays have him hitting sixth.

Chris Young

Chris Young is one of my favorite former Mariners.  He had a decent year with the world champion Kansas City Royal.  Working as a swing man, Young posted an 11-6 record with a 3.06 ERA. But this year the 6’10” Princeton graduate stumbled out of the gate.  Young started seven games and was pounded, going as deep as six innings only once. He assembled a dubious 1-5 record with a 6.68 ERA.  In 32.1 innings, Young struck out 31, walked 13 and allowed an incredible 13 home runs. He was added to the fifteen day disabled list on May 10 with a right forearm strain.  He is scheduled for a simulated game later this week.

Dustin Ackley

Together with Smoak, Dustin Ackley might be the most polarizing figure of the Jack Zdurencik era. At the end of the 2015 season, he was traded to the Yankees, where he spun some pretty good numbers, .288/.333/.654.  As the season ended, many Mariners fans grumbled about what happened to former Mariners when they left the team.  Yankees fans wondered about where Ackley would play.  But honestly, Ackley has not performed that well. He’s only played in 23 games and earned 47 plate appearances. His slash is a meager .163/.276/.163.  That’s right, all of Ackley’s five hits are singles. Though his splits seem to show he may be getting off the snide, we’ve seen this kind of performance from Ackley before–sustained mediocrity, sprinkled with glimpses of something more.  Nice to see it in pinstripes instead of teal.

Michael Saunders

After missing most of 2015 with a serious knee injury, Michael Saunders came back to the Jays with a vengeance.  He is hitting a robust .314/.379/.556 with eight home runs. Saunders is in his age 29 season, and is leading his offense-heavy team in average. He’s also has more than a few strikeouts with 43.  Saunders has managed to stay away from the disabled list, a chronic situation that has followed him around throughout his career. Always liked Saunders.  I’m hoping he can use his health and talents to beat up some Yankees and Red Sox.


What happened to Leonys Martin?

Leonys Martin
Seattle Mariners’ Leonys Martin hits against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning of a spring training baseball game, Tuesday, March 15, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Every year the Mariners have a player with a great story.  For me, I love those players who have a tale of redemption.  Sometimes it’s a guy who becomes a star.  Often it’s a guy who was lucky to catch on and make his role work.  In 2014 the story was Chris Young.  In 2015 it was Franklin Gutierrez.  They are both players I keep tabs on, because they both remind me of what a tough game baseball is, and when a player has additional physical challenges it takes real courage to fight through those issues and succeed. I will always admire Young and Guti.

The M’s have lot of great stories on this team.  Robinson Cano’s out of the blocks beginning after fighting with illness and injury for an entire year is a great story.Steve Cishek’s emergence as a legit closer after a year in wilderness is another. But my absolute favorite story is Leonys Martin and whatever it is he might become.

Let’s be clear.  I love great defensive outfielders, especially great centerfielders. When I lived in the Bay Area in the early 70’s I loved the Giants with their outfield of Bobby Bonds, Garry Maddox and Gary Matthews.  It was a stable of greyhounds who could really go get a ball.  They could hit a little too. One of my all time favorite Mariners is Mike Cameron. Cammie was a thrill to watch.  I’m hoping he’s still got that home run ball he swiped from Derek Jeter in his first Safeco series.  Cameron is ranked number 12 among the greatest center fielders of all time in Michael Humphreys’ quirky little book Wizardry about the greatest defensive players in baseball history. I had dreams last summer about the Mariners acquiring Kevin Pillar or Kevin Kiermaier.

Didn’t happen. But instead the M’s took a chance on Leonys Martin. Let’s be clear what Martin is and what he is not.  Leonys Martin is ranked third in the AL among regular center fielders in dWAR at .7.  Yes, it’s Pillar and Kiermaier ahead of him.  He is an elite defender, and he’s been a defensive standout throughout his career.

Martin has not been a great hitter.  His career slash is .255/.308/.371.  Last year he was deemed expendable because the Rangers insisted he lead off despite his low on-base percentage, which was exacerbated by injury and his generally lousy year. Martin is not a power hitter. The most home runs he’s ever hit in a season is eight. You know why I spell out eight?  Because it’s less than 10.  Fewer than 10 home runs home runs makes you less of a power hitter than Brad Miller.

So what the heck is happening with Leonys Martin? One thing that’s happening is he has suddenly emerged on May 24th as a power hitter with eight home runs, tying his season high. That’s in 139 at bats as opposed to 457 at bats required in 2013, the last time he achieved that feat.  Does that mean he’s going to hit 25-30 home runs? I don’t think so, but clearly Jeff Sullivan is impressed.

No, what I find impressive, is that on May 9th Martin was hitting .198. with five homers and 37 strikeouts. 11 games later his slash is .259/.335/.468. He’s struck out only six times.  In the last seven games his slash is .600/.660/1.100.  with two K’s.

There will be plenty of folks who are super impressed with the idea of a Martin with power. I am much more impressed with a Martin who can be a legit leadoff hitter with speed. With Ketel Marte injured and Nori Aoki slumping, Martin offers the M’s an enfant terrible of their own.  A guy who can get on base, can run, drive pitchers and catchers nuts, and I’ll take the occasional homer just for good measure.

Will Martin’s success continue?  Will his average continue to rise?  Will he continue to suppress his strike outs?  Damned if I know.  But that’s baseball.  Pitchers will try to figure him out and he’ll have to continue to make adjustments.

Look, we know what to expect from Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager.  We’ll continue to hope Chris Iannetta hits enough to supplement his good defense. But I’ll be rooting for Martin to continue hitting and provide the kind of production the Mariners haven’t had in a very long time.


Assessing trades at the quarter pole: Steve Clevenger

On December 2nd, when the Mariners traded Mark Trumbo and C.J. Riefenhausen for left-handed hitting catcher Steve Clevenger, I was astounded. This looked like an NBA trade.

Thomas Nast Boss TweedThe trade always reminded me of this Thomas Nast depiction of Boss Tweed.

Trumbo was a lifetime .253/.303/.465 hitter with high strikeout and low walk rates.  He was defensively impaired at any number of positions.  Most importantly, he was going to be due between $9-10 million in arbitration.  Though Trumbo made progress in some of his all or nothing approach at the plate working with Edgar Martinez in 2015, it was just as clear that given his defensive limitations, Trumbo was someone Dipoto already traded once to Arizona, and he wouldn’t be afraid to do so again.

Clevenger has filled in capably as a back up for Chris Iannetta. In  43 plate appearances he’s hit .175/.233/.250.  He had a big hit to win yesterday’s game in Cincinnati.  Defensively, he isn’t horrible.  FanGraphs has him at -2 DRS.  No other ratings at all in his small sample size.

But the big part of the trade was the salary relief.  The M’s saved the $9.1 million Baltimore negotiated with Trumbo’s people prior to arbitration.  Undoubtedly the M’s put that savings elsewhere, like re-signing Hisashi Iwakuma.


How has that worked out?  Though he has cooled off in recent days, Mark Trumbo is off to a hot start, slashing .293/.345/.573 with 13 home runs and 31 RBI’s, good for wRC+ of 150.  These far exceed his career numbers. It’s unclear that he continue, and indeed his performance has cooled considerably in his last 24 games.

In retrospect, should the Mariners have held on to Trumbo, given his early season success? Hanging on to Trumbo likely would have meant the M’s could have avoided their current platoon situation at first base.  However, hindsight is always 20/20.  Trumbo’s quick start was not foreseeable; it is clearly out of line with his career performance. It’s also not clear that it’s sustainable, and we see that in his splits on Baseball Reference.

It was a strange move.  The M’s have a serviceable back-up catcher and cash. The Orioles have a serviceable outfielder with gigantic pop.  It’s a trade that seems to have worked out for both teams.

Assessing trades at the quarter pole: Adam Lind

Adam Lind tosses aside his bat as he follows the flight of his solo home run in the 6th inning against the Houston Astros. The Houston Astros played the Seattle Mariners in the third of a 3-game set Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at Safeco Field. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

When the Mariners traded Logan Morrison to the Rays for Nate Karns in the opening shots of what would be busiest Hot Stove season in Mariner history, it was an acknowledgment the M’s situation at first base was far from optimal.  General manager Jerry DiPoto confirmed that when he traded away Mark Trumbo, another first base candidate

It’s been a long time since the M’s have had a solid first base candidate.  Maybe 2009, when the M’s had a full year of a quality Russell Branyan.  Justin Smoak was a disappointment and eventually run out of town.  Morrison was engaging on Twitter, but never more than, meh, at the plate. DiPoto dug up a hole at first and had to fill it.

The M’s avoided the gargantuan free agent contract dangled by Chris Davis and opted instead for the trade route, and on December 9th traded for Adam Lind. Seattle sent minor leaguers Carlos Herrera, Freddy Peralta, and Daniel Missaki to Milwaukee for one year of Lind, who will make $8 million in 2016.

The players sent to Milwaukee were all quite young, under 20 years old.  Of the three, only Peralta has a current assignment in the United States.  The 19 year old right-hander is currently pitching for the Wisconsin (Appleton) Timber Rattlers, A ball. Hard to know what happens to the others.  Difficult to know if Peralta will turn in to anything special. But Milwaukee, in a semi-rebuilding mode, was happy to part with Lind and his salary.

In picking up Lind, Dipoto acquired a righty-masher. Lind carries a career .290/.350/.502 slash with 147 home runs against right handed pitching. Against lefties it’s only .214/.263/.329 with 22 home runs.  Three quarters of Lind’s career at bats are against right-handed pitching, so, coming to the Mariners, he was comfortable in the knowledge he would be hitting in a platoon. The M’s did due diligence in their search for a right-handed platoon partner, settling on Japan League star Dae-Ho Lee to partner with Lind.

Of all Dipoto’s off season moves, Lind’s performance has provided the least satisfying results to date. At the plate, the big Hoosier has slashed a meager .221/.252/.327.  That’s good for an OPS+ of 64, wRC+ of 57. 100 is average for both. He has only thee home runs and 12 RBI’s in 113 plate appearances. Lee has six home runs and 12 RBI’s in only 69 plate appearances.  Lind’s K rate is a career high 24.4%, and his walk rate is about half his career average. In the last week, he’s slashed a slight .176/.263/.353. Combined with being a below average defensive first baseman, Adam Lind grades out at -.8 WAR according to FanGraphs.  Because first base is considered a premium offensive position, Lind suffers penalties in these evaluations.

So what’s the deal?  Lind isn’t traditionally a slow starter.  He doesn’t have a history of terrible Aprils and Mays.  It also isn’t like he hasn’t contributed to the Mariners success.  He had four RBI’s in a 9-7 loss to the Angels on May 14th, a game the M’s should have won, except for a rare bullpen meltdown. His home run in Baltimore won the final game in that series on May 19th.  However, there is no arguing the fact that Lind is not producing consistently, or at a rate Dipoto envisioned when he acquired him.

It’s still early, and I certainly hope Adam Lind is able to turn things around more in line with his career averages. Because Mariners offensive production is so well distributed, not having Lind’s full contribution isn’t killing the team.  But if this performance continues, pressure will mount to give Lee more playing time against right-handed pitching too.  Could it be worse?


M’s sweep Reds, eye A’s, Twins and Padres

The M’s come home from a highly successful 5-1 road trip against a very good team in Baltimore and a pretty stinky one in Cincinnati.  The Mariners go nine games over .500 for the first time in 2016. Because the Rangers are destroying the Astros (again,) their western division lead will remain 1.5 games over the Texans.

The Mariners escaped one of Wade Miley’s less impressive outings, and to sweep the host Reds 5-4.  6.0 innings, 8 hits, with most coming in the first few innings, one walk and 6 K’s.  The bullpen pitched three innings of perfect relief, with Steve Cishek picking up his 12th save.

The offensive show today was provided by Leonys Martin.  The center-fielder, hitting lead off after Ketel Marte went on the DL with a sprained thumb, had four singles.  The M’s had to come from behind to win, with catcher Steve Clevenger driving in the winning run. It was more of a struggle than the previous two games, but an exciting win.

So the M’s come home, leading their division to open a series against the A’s, an off day and then a series against the Twins and two games against the “rival” Padres.  All of these teams are struggling, so it’s important the M’s take as many games as possible. The Mariners really caught a break with the schedule in May.  They’ve played mostly struggling to terrible teams, including the A’s (twice,) Astros, Angels, Reds, Twins, and Padres.  Only the Rays and Orioles had decent records.

The schedule gets much tougher in June as the M’s play the Rangers (home and away,) the Indians, Red Sox, Tigers and Orioles. June could be the critical month in their summer itinerary. The M’s are playing well right now, but they’ve been able to be the bullies on the block.  We’ll see how they do when the competition gets more intense.

Last post of the weekend.  Thanks for reading

Go M’s!

Assessing Trades at the quarter pole: Wade Miley

Miley  2

When Jerry Dipoto allowed Hisashi Iwakuma get away to the Dodgers, I lost my mind. Temporarily. Sort of.  My wife and students might disagree with the temporary part. In any case, I wrote an incendiary post, with an even more incendiary title. The response from readers wasn’t good.

The next day, Dipoto traded for Red Sox lefty Wade Miley.  I was incensed.  Because Iwakuma wasn’t signed, the M’s were taking on a lefty with questionable results at Fenway, and in the process sending away arguably the organization’s best relief pitcher in Carson Smith as well as useful Roenis Elias, representing the organization’s pitching depth.  I did not have a good couple of days-in print or otherwise.

Of course, Trader Jerry knew best, and when the Dodgers wavered in their commitment to ‘Kuma, the M’s were there to scoop him up. A nice ending to a complicated story.

So how has that worked out for everybody?  Let’s start with the Red Sox first. Let me be as honest as I can-the Red Sox are one of my least favorite organizations.  I used to be a fan, when they were making it to the World Series, but not quite getting over the top.  I cherish my Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Carl Yastrzemski baseball cards, and have a book on the Impossible Dream season signed by Jim Lonborg. But since Red Sox fans morphed into the insufferable community of whining and entitlement calling itself Red Sox Nation, travel the country insulting fans in their home ballparks, they could fall into Dante’s Inferno and I’d be fine with it. The tragedies of Pesky’s Snooze and the Buckner Bobble are replaced by the mythos of Schilling’s Bloody Sock, and we’re all supposed to buy into this universal love for all things Red Sox. With all apologies to my much loved Virginia family, and their predilection for New England sports, the Red Sox are right there with the Yankees, Archer-Daniels-Midland, and Donald Trump.

So let’s see, who, if anyone won this deal. The Red Sox are having a great year.  They are tangling with the Orioles for the top spot in the American League East. They can flat out hit. They lead the American league in almost every hitting category.  Boston has a team OPS of .843.  Baltimore is in second place nearly 60 points behind.  They’ve scored the most runs in the American League and lead the AL in run differential at +63.

But their pitching is pretty middling.  Carson Smith was seen as a guy who could help Boston put together a lock-down bullpen as the Royals and Yankees assembled.  They saw him as a live arm, with closer potential, young and controllable. Unfortunately things haven’t worked out too well for Smith or the Red Sox.  Envisioning Smith as a set-up guy for closer Craig Kimbrel, Carson has thrown exactly 2.2 innings for the Red Sox. Smith was identified with a strained flexor tendon in his  right forearm March 20th and began the season on the DL. He returned to duty in early May and made only three appearances before heading back out on the DL with the unresolved forearm problem. At the quarter pole, Carson Smith has been about as useful as Curt Schilling’s bloody sock.

Roenis Elias began the season in Pawtucket, appeared in six games, mostly as a starter. When Red Sox starter Joe Kelly went down with injury, Elias was recalled and pitched 1.2 innings on April 23.  He allowed three runs on four hits and two walks, and was optioned back to Pawtucket.

So just to wrap up the Boston portion of this deal, the Sox have a pitcher who is broken, and another who hasn’t been very good.  They’ve gotten 4.1 major league innings out of the two of them put together.

Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro came over to the Mariners in the trade.  Aro, a reliever, with a brief appearance in Boston in 2015, is in Tacoma.  He is pitching quite well in relief for the Rainiers.  In 13 games Aro has allowed four earned runs on 16 hits, 7 walks and a couple of homers.  His ERA is 1.71 and his WHIP is 1.095.  Those numbers indicate Aro is probably the pitcher the M’s thought they were getting. In the hitter-happy PCL, not bad and maybe a guy who could eventually help out the big club.

But the real prize is Miley. He will start his ninth game against the Reds this morning.  He is a fun pitcher to watch because he is such a quick worker and nothing seems to fluster him. He also fulfills an important role because he’s the only left-handed starter in the rotation after James Paxton’s flame-out in spring training.

It has not been all smooth sailing on the good ship Mariner for the Louisiana native. Miley was pretty well pounded in his first three starts, against Texas (twice) and Cleveland. But since April 24th, he has gradually reduced his ERA from 8.04 to 4.32. Miley has thrown two shutouts, including the team’s only  complete game against the Royals on April 30th.

Miley typically pitches into the sixth inning, doesn’t walk a lot of guys or give up a lot of hits, though it seems as though they may come in bunches.  Hence the feeling that Wade is cruising out there and all the sudden he falls into a deep dark pit of trouble.  No flares, no warning, something bad just happens.  Servais generally limits his pitches to 95-100, hence he doesn’t typically get really deep into games. In his last three games, Miley threw six innings of good ball and was done.  It would be nice to see him use his pitches a little more efficiently and get a bit deeper into games. Miley has also given up eight homers, which is a bunch.  Three homers in his 6-4 win against Tampa Bay, all of the solo variety.

At the quarter pole Miley’s stats look pretty pedestrian at 50.0 IP, ERA of 4.32, WHIP of 1.200, BABIP of .274, and xFIP of 4.28.  Over his last five starts, he’s 4-0 with a 2.62 ERA. It’s likely Miley’s numbers continue to improve as the season continues and he heats up with the weather. Miley, thus far, has earned .3 WAR, a number I would expect to grow as the season continues.

Despite the fact I detest Miley’s beard, I think he’s been the player the Mariners hoped they were getting when Dipoto made this trade. He’s a reliable starter every fifth day.  From a financial point of view, given the value of pitching, he’s a great pickup.  The Mariners owe him $6 million for 2016, $9 million in 2017 and hold a $12 million option for 2018.  Given the value of one WAR at $8 million, that’s a pretty good deal.