Month: May 2016

Assessing trades at the quarter pole: Adam Lind

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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?

 

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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.

 

Assessing trades at the quarter pole: Leonys Martin

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Martin fills in the taped outline of his faceplant to make an amazing catch at the wall against the Royals on April 29th at Safeco Field

When the Mariners traded Tom Wilhelmsen, James Jones and Patrick Kivlehan for Leonys Martin and pitcher Anthony Bass, I confess I was a little bit bummed. The Mariners desperately needed a center fielder, but with Martin’s struggles in 2015, and the M’s bullpen already looking a little thin, it was hard to let go of Wilhelmsen, one of my favorites, and Kivlehan, a prospect  I really liked.

Let’s see how that turned out.  First of all, Bass opted to pitch in Japan this year, which didn’t exactly endear me to the deal. I’ve bitched repeatedly that the Mariners bullpen is thin, and giving up a guy who might have contributed to mix did to a foreign country was not in the trading plans.

On the Texas side of things, James Jones did not make it through spring training. He is currently at AAA Round Rock where he is hitting a Jones-like .237/.291/.328.  Jones has six 2B , three 3B, zero home runs,  four stolen and been caught an equal number of times.  At age 27, it’s hard to see a path forward to the major leagues for Jones unless all the Texas outfielders are accidentally struck by lightning in a golf tournament.

Kivlehan is also struggling at Round Rock with a .191/.260/.272 slash.  After a pretty decent year in Tacoma in 2015, I thought he’d perform better. Both he and Jones are getting regular playing time, but simply not producing.  For an organization like Texas, when all of their major leaguers seem like they are made of glass, this cannot be encouraging.

However the biggest disappointment of all has been The Bartender. Wilhelmsen was envisioned as quality depth for a bullpen that was pretty decent in 2015.  Instead, the Texas bullpen is more like a hazardous waste dump, and Tommy is the most toxic of all the elements. By any measure, traditional or advanced, Wilhelmsen was terrible. 9.98 ERA, .378 batting average allowed, walks up, strikeouts down, HR/9 of 3.5, 39.5% of his batted balls were hit hard, about twice his career average.  Wilhelmsen was arguably the worst reliever in baseball when he was sent to Round Rock on May 16th.

For this mess of pottage, the Rangers made sure Leonys Martin appeared in a Mariners uniform.  And at first, second and last glance he looks good in Mariner colors. I’ve written a brief history of Mariner center-fielders since Safeco Field opened, and when the Mariners acquired Martin, it seemed he could be the real deal: a guy who could go get a ball with a strong throwing arm, who might hit just enough to stay on the field.

Defensively, Martin has not disappointed. So far he has four Defensive Runs Saved (DRS,) made 25 plays out of zone (OOZ) and has a UZR 150 rating of 10.7, in line with his career numbers. By contrast, 2015 centerfielder Austin Jackson had conflicting defensive data, with -1 DRS but an 8.9 UZR 150 with 0 being average.

The surprise isn’t that Martin can play center field; we knew that.  It is what he brings to the offense.  Martin had a poor year at the plate last year and finished the season with injuries and off the major league roster in a rancorous disagreement with Rangers management. As a hitter, Martin has been all or nothing.  Didn’t walk much, struck out a lot, .252/.304/.367 lifetime slash.  The Rangers insisted on batting him leadoff. Not really set up to be successful in that spot, when Martin faltered last year and was injured, they turned to Delino DeShields to fill the center field spot, which DeShields did admirably.

Martin expresses in interviews his repeated appreciation for coming over to the Mariners and Safeco Field where he enjoys the challenges of playing in a more expansive ballpark.  He’s made some great catches most of the players who preceded him could not have made. But we expected that.

Martin homer
Martin’s laser shot in the second inning gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead in their 4-0 whitewash of Cincinnati on Saturday. His eighth home run, it tied Martin’s season high for dingers, and it’s only May 21.

It’s the offense that is looking more and more interesting. Martin is currently slashing .231/.315/.454. For much of this season Martin struggled just to keep his nose over the Mendoza Line. However, he’s batting at the bottom of the order, instead of at the top. This seems to have relaxed him enough to be himself. But the last 15 games he’s absolutely caught fire at a .286/.379/.490 rate. His eight home runs ties his career high–on May 21st at the quater pole.  Do I think he’ll hit 30+ home runs for the season?  Not likely.  But there is little question the adjustments he is making have improved his offense and value to the Mariners. Not to be forgotten in all this, is that Martin is the Mariners chief source of speed.  He leads the team in stolen bases with seven and is an excellent base runner.

So, in exchange for three guys working in Round Rock, all of whom have questionable big league futures, Leonys Martin is making some noise as an above average center fielder, and a guy who is improving his game at the plate.  Deal looks good to me.

Winning is contagious: I’ve got the bug.

Today is May 21st and your Seattle Mariners continue to lead the American League West after 41 fun-filled, if sometimes harrowing, games. Yesterday they thumped the sad, sorry Cincinnati Reds, picking up win 24, to go 24-17 on the season.  Today they’ll play for win 25, with Felix on the mound.  By comparison, in 2015, the M’s won their 25th game on June 6th to end a seven game losing streak.  The streak happened after clawing back to .500, 24-24 on May 28th.  Bad stuff can happen in baseball.

Even so, it is fun to watch this team, Mariners v. 40.0, play.  Winning makes all the difference. So what makes them better than last year’s execrable version?

Blake Woods
Reds Manager Bryan Price removes reliever Blake Woods from the game. His line:   0 IP, 2 H, 4 ER. All Mariners Woods faced in the 7th inning, statistically the M’s most prolific scoring inning, scored.

Grit

So there’s a sabermetric term for you.  Offensively, these guys just wear you down.  They don’t give up at bats.  The Mariners aren’t always successful.  They had a very hard time scoring against the Angels last weekend with piles of base runners.  But they are so much better than Mariners v. 39.0 who seemed lost, confused, and out of their element at the plate in high leverage situations. This team has quality at bats and wears out enemy starting pitching.  In yesterday’s thumping of the Reds, the M’s had 110 pitches on starter Dan Strailly, who really had them in check, and prompted the entrance of the Red’s bullpen.  For former M’s pitching coach, and current Reds manager Bryan Price, that’s like opening the door to the 7th level of hell. Seven runs later the M’s called it a day with victory 24.

A certain amount of this can be attributed to the team’s controlling the zone philosophy, which can only be successful if they players buy in and they have the skills. As a comparison between this year’s successful team and last year’s unsuccessful version, the M’s are league average or above in Swinging Strike Percentage (17.2%,) Fouled Strike Percentage (28.5%, 2nd in league,) and Pitches Per Plate Appearance (3.89.) Though these aren’t vastly better than last year’s numbers: S/Str 18.3%, F/Str 27 %, Pit/PA 3.88, it seems to be enough to allow the M’s to wear down opposing pitchers a bit more than in the past. That’s offensive toughness and grit.

Late game heroics

Last year’s team could score runs.  Sometimes they’d score lots of runs.  These things happen in baseball. Even the Twins, the Braves and yes, the hapless Reds will have games in which they can smile and know they just flogged their division leader. It’s only one game in their 19 game season series and they may lose all the rest of them, but it’s something to smile about for today.

The M’s have definitely had teams like that.  For recent M’s teams, they’ve had to get ahead early and hope the pitching holds on.  This team is different.  It scores early, often and late. In 2016, at the quarter mark, the M’s biggest scoring innings are the 1st (25),  5th (26), 6th (27) and 7th (20) innings. Yes, there will be games when the M’s lose in shootouts, or are simply dominated by a great pitching performance.  But if you like comebacks, this is the best Mariners team to be watching in years. Just for the record, this team is on pace score 768 runs, the most since 2007, a year their pitching staff also allowed 813.

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Dae-ho Lee hits a two run single to right field to give the Mariners a 5-3 lead.  Lee would later hit a solo home run for three RBI’s on the day.

Dae-ho Lee

When the M’s signed Korean/Japan League slugger Dae-ho Lee to contract leading up to spring training, I chortled, I snorfled, I scoffed.  I did not believe a really big Korean guy was going to make the team and have an impact.  I was wrong.  I was really wrong. Lee has appeared in 25 games, often as a pinch hitter or in a platoon swap and managed to slash .273/.322/.600.  He’s hit six home runs.  By my count he’s won three games with late RBI’s including last night’s game against the Reds. Through a quarter of the season, in very limited duty, Lee has a WAR of .7.  He is a good hitter.  Yes, he’s big and strong, and sometimes gets badly fooled as he learns major league pitching, but Lee is a veteran, smart, makes adjustments and is unafraid to hit to right as he did last night, if it helps the team win.  While it is my firm hope Adam Lind begins to awaken from his early season embalming, it is possible Lee is your future M’s first baseman.

The Bullpen

Statistically and on the field, there is no comparison between the 2016 bullpen and last year’s arsonists. These guys-Steve Cishek, Joaquin Benoit, Nick Vincent, Mike Montgomery, Vidal Nuno, Joel Peralta, Steve Johnson, Tony Zych-have pitched surprisingly well and the results show it.  The team is seven games above .500, winning a lot of close games, and there has been very little drama. Statistically, this team is in the top five or better in the league in virtually all traditional and advanced stats.  It leads the league in ERA, in WHIP, in BABIP,  and batting average against. They’re 2nd in K%, 3rd in xFIP.  They’ve performed well despite a pile of injuries. I believe those injuries really took their toll during the Angels series, when the bullpen seemed ineffective due to overwork.  It really points out the need for at least one more proven power arm in the bullpen after Tony Zych’s return.  Maybe a deadline deal.

There will be burps

In closing, there will be times when this team struggles, as all teams do at some point this season. The Orioles, White Sox, Nationals, and Giants-all the division leaders, except the Cubs-have had their losing moments this season.  The Cubs will almost certainly have theirs.  It’s a long season.  Earlier I mentioned the M’s were on pace to score 768 runs, but their pitching is on a track to allow only 596, one of the lowest marks in Mariners history. It’s looking like the Mariners are in this for the long haul.  They look good as long as they can stay healthy.  That doesn’t mean they won’t lose games, lose series or have a bad week.  121 games left to play.  Let’s win as many as we can.

Go M’s

 

The National media is missing a good story

Iannetta
Chris Iannetta’s walk off homer in yesterday’s 11 inning victory of the wins the appreciation of his teammates. If only he could throw short relief . . .

 

Look, I’m a lifetime Puget Sound resident, a from-the-beginning Seattle Mariners fan; I root for them always.  That’s who I am.

I like this team, I like what they’re doing, I love that they are winning and how they are getting it done.  But forgive me if I’m not all in on them at this point.  I have too many scars and burn marks from past teams to believe this is the one that will take Seattle to the promised land (the World Series) or the even the playoffs at this point.  Looks good so far.  But I’m still waitin’ and seein’. But if they are still hot at game 50, count me in.

They’ve accomplished so much to date.  Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs has a nice story about their improvements defensively and in the bullpen. But I’m still skeptical about the bullpen, especially the Steve Johnsons and Mayckol Guaipes of this world.  By many measures-ERA, WHIP, BABIP, K%-the M’s are functioning as one of the best bullpens in major league baseball, but I’m just not a believer, or at least I just don’t believe they can keep it up. I hope they prove me wrong.

The fact remains, they are winning. A lot of the teams they’re beating aren’t very good. Doesn’t matter, because any team that wants to win has to beat the bad teams too. Remember 2014 and the trouble the M’s had beating a bad Houston Astros team (10-9 against an Astros team that went 70-92.) May is a really good month for them schedule-wise. The Mariners play a bunch of stinkers.  They get the Angels, A’s, Twins and Padres at home.  They play the Reds on the road.  Their only real test this month is a three game series against the division-leading Orioles in Camden Yards, May 17-19.

Whether the M’s end up a playoff-bound team or not, their winning is a pretty well-kept secret at the moment. ESPN may mention the Mariners on their twitter feed, but they certainly don’t seem worthy of a story.  Max Scherzer’s 20 K game, Stephen Strasburg’s contract extension and Bryce Harper’s one game suspension have generated far more words than the Mariners run of series wins.  On SI.com, the M’s are nowhere to be found. MLB.com included Ianetta’s 11th inning walk-off of the Rays in their top ten moments yesterday, but far more space went to Red Sox, Rangers and Rockies victories than the surging Mariners.

The M’s are a legit story.  With 17 games remaining in the month, the Mariners only need four wins to be 25-25 at the 50 game mark.  If they continue to win at their current pace, that’s 30-31 wins. If they beat up the bums they are going to play, who knows?

It’s clear the M’s real competition in the division is the Rangers, while the Angels, Astros and A’s are all around .400, 7.5 games out.  It may change, they may get hot, but I only have concern of the Astros turning things around at this point. They’re the team with real talent, if they remember how they pitched early last year.  The A’s are bad and the Angels are a hospital ward.

If the Mariners can restock their bullpen with healthy relievers-Benoit,  Furbush and Zych, I’ll like their chances better.  Perhaps Ryan Cook and Edwin Diaz might not be far behind. If the M’s can keep their bullpen healthy and stocked with the best arms available, they can be in this thing.

The Cubs and White Sox are off to a great start.  The Mets and Orioles look good too.  But there’s a pretty good team, right now, in the Northwest.  We’re worth a look too.

 

 

Why the Mariners must win now

kingfelix

The Mariners are cruising right now.  They have a solid starting rotation, and a bullpen that is performing at an unexpectedly high level. They are among the league leaders in fewest runs allowed, and are second in the league in runs scored.  Kyle Seager is one good game away from crossing the Mendoza Line to join the rest of his teammates. The Mariners lead the league in home runs, and not just the solo variety so prominent in 2015. The M’s are winning, and they look good. Things are almost perfect.

Almost.

After six outings a blind man can see that our leader, our King, our spiritual center is not the same. I am worried about Felix Hernandez. For the past couple of years, pundits have commented on Felix’s decline in velocity.  But the strikeouts kept coming, and wins if his teammates deigned to score a few runs for him.  He should have won the Cy Young award in 2014.  But despite the 18 wins in 2015, it was clear something was different.  With several big melt downs, Felix showed difficulty getting out of some big innings.

Velocity is down a couple ticks.   Increasingly Felix is having difficulty with command as the movement on all his pitches seems to be-everywhere.  Loss of speed can be managed with command, but lose both and there is potential for, well, yesterday. Four innings, four earned runs, nine hits.  In his 36.2 innings, Felix walked 18 batters, and struck out only 29.  His swing and miss rate on his fastball is only 8%. Yesterday in Buster Olney’s podcast, Felix’s decline was the subject of conversation.  It is the topic of discussion on Lookout Landing in a heartfelt story by Nathan Bishop. .

This doesn’t mean the King is done, or washed up, or ineffective, but it does mean that at least right now he isn’t the same king we’ve always known. You know him, the guy we went to Safeco to watch while fools like Bill Bavasi and Jack Zdurencik gave him Erik Bedard and Milton Bradley as teammates. No, I still believe Felix will contribute to this team, but the results may not be a given. He will be tough, he will compete, but his rule may not be quite as complete or easy as it has been. Felix may not be Edward III in his dotage, but he may not be the victor of Crecy either.

But this team looks like one that can give Felix what he’s always wanted–a chance to pitch in the playoffs.  Robinson Cano may carry him there all by himself as he begins to assemble an early case for AL MVP. M’s management should pull out all the stops to help this team win today.  Find ways to bolster the bullpen, if this team is still streaking at the trade deadline, do whatever needs to be done to help the M’s win.  They should do it for Felix.  They should do it for our King.