Tag Archives: Nelson Cruz

Cano, Cruz, Hernandez – What To Do, What To Do

So here we have the three most prominent and important players currently on the Seattle Mariners.

Of the three, only Nelson Cruz is performing at an acceptable level.  Robinson Cano is in the midst of an 80 game suspension and has become a disappointment to both his team and Seattle Mariner fans.  Felix Hernandez is a ghost of what he once was, a seasonal potential Cy Young Award pitcher.

There is going to be a lot of talk of what to do when Robinson Cano returns from his suspension.  Just how much can he contribute in a 6-week stretch to perhaps get the Mariners to the playoffs for the first time since 2001?  If he does help a lot, we lose his bat for the post season since he won’t be eligible.  And if he doesn’t he takes away critical at-bats from players the Mariners will have to lean on during the stretch run and the aforementioned playoffs.

There will also be a lot of talk of what to do after this year.  I suppose an optimist can view that what the Mariners have is a “happy” problem.  I’m not so sure.

Here is what I think is the best to do for this year and beyond for Cano, Cruz and Hernandez:

Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano started 2018 decently enough before his suspension.  The 6′, 210 lbs. was hitting .287 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI’s as well as playing 2B as smooth as anyone.

But right now, he isn’t the best 2nd baseman on the team.  That honor goes to Dee Gordon who, despite starting out in centerfield, transitioned perfectly back to a position in which he was a two-time All Star.  Granted, Gordon will need some days off and to have a player the caliber of Cano is fantastic.

But even if Cano goes on some sort of tear at the plate, the Mariners can’t keep Cano at 2nd because he can’t play in the playoffs.  Gordon will need to keep playing to prepare for the playoffs.

So that means Cano becomes a sub…but only at three spots:  2nd base, first base and designated hitter.

No problem with Cano playing 2nd or being the DH.  But he has never played first base in a major league game.  It shouldn’t be a problem for him though as he is a fine athlete.   But there are nuances at first that he needs to be aware of such as holding the runner, going to a different cut-off position, knowing when to stretch to help the infielders get a much needed out and the most obvious, searching for the bag on ground balls.

Ryan Healy has played a pretty good first base for the Mariners and has contributed decently at the plate, hitting .240 with 18 home runs and driving in 46.  As with Gordon, Healy will need some days off and Cano is a luxury to have.  However, I haven’t seen any news of him working out at first base and having a player learn a position on the fly during a playoff run isn’t a good idea even with the caliber of Cano.

Which leaves the third spot he can play:  Designated Hitter

Now you take the bat away from the Mariners most consistent and dangerous hitter, Nelson Cruz.

Cano and Cruz are pretty close statistically since 2015.

Since 2015 Age Avg. Hits HR RBI SLG %
Nelson Cruz 37 0.286 584 148 372 0.552
Robinson Cano 35 0.288 563 87 293 0.468

I guess the question would be is who do you want at the plate at the most critical junctions?  I’d take Nellie because he slows everything down at the most critical times.  With Cano, too often he strikes out, rolls a lazy grounder to second or flies out.  Nellie may get out but he always hits the ball hard.

The only luxury that Manager Scott Servias has is that Nellie is right-handed and Cano hits from the left side.  But there is no way I’d only use Nellie with left-handed pitching.

So what to do with Cano starting in 2019?  Not going to be able to trade him as is contract is too huge.  Mariners would have to pay him to play elsewhere and get little in return.  And if they release him, he still gets paid as his contract is guaranteed.

The most obvious choice would be move him to first providing Cruz signs next year.  But then you lose Ryan Healy who will be only 27 next year, has proven he can come up with some big hits as well as play a good first base at a fraction of the cost.  However, you could get a pitcher of value for Healy in a trade but in my estimation, you lose a superior first baseman over Cano…and with Cano a decade older, he will most likely start declining in production at the plate.

As stated before, Dee Gordon is the best 2nd baseman on the team.  He is six years younger than Cano, has far better range and has the knack for coming up with spectacular plays.  As far as offensive output, Gordon contributes way differently than Cano.  He steals bases and scores runs…he is a prototypical lead-off hitter whereas Cano is a typical 3-hole hitter who drives him in.

The edge goes to Gordon as the 2nd baseman for the Mariners based solely on his defensive skills and the fact he is six years younger than Cano.

Sorry folks, Robinson Cano’s days at 2nd base are over.

If Cruz does not sign next year, Cano becomes the DH, case closed.  But in my opinion, if the Mariners don’t sign Cruz, they are out of their fricking minds.

So Cano will either be the starting first baseman or the designated hitter for the next five years.

Nelson Cruz

Granted, Cruz is 37 years old.  But he has kept himself in fantastic shape and has remained consistent at the plate since joining the Mariners in 2015.

He is the most clutch hitter the Mariners have had since Edgar Martinez.  And don’t think that Cruz hasn’t picked the best designated hitter on the planet for all he’s worth.

Nelson Cruz is always prepared.  His exercise regime is borderline neurotic.  Check out this story from the Seattle Times for insight on his workouts:  Nelson Cruz Workouts.

The only blight on Cruz’s remarkable career was a 50 game suspension for his connection with the Biogenisis PED scandal in his last year with the Texas Rangers which also involved Alex Rodrigues and Jesus Montero.  Cruz has never tested positive for PED and accepted a 50 game suspension in lieu of a 100 game suspension after MLB had threatened to out him.

What is not generally known is that for the most part, the reason was medical and not a way to increase performance.  In 2012, Cruz had lost about 40 lbs. with no explanation.  Doctors couldn’t find out what was going on until they had discovered a parasite and doctor’s prescribed steroids to resolve the issue.  The full story can be found here, courtesy of the Seattle Times:  Cruz PED Suspension

Outside of that one “transgression,”  Cruz has been an exemplary player and teammate.  The Mariners would do well to sign him to a two-year contract and let him finish his career as a Mariner.

Unfortunately, if that occurs, Ryan Healy will be the odd man out as Cano would most likely become the everyday first baseman.

Felix Hernandez

One thing that almost everyone can agree upon is that Felix Hernandez is not the pitcher he once was.

I know that both GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais have said that Felix is a vital part of the Seattle Mariners.  However, I think that is more for Felix’s benefit than it is for us fans.

Everyone lays some importance to statistics and I agree that they tell part of the story.  For instance, from 2005-2014, Felix complied a 125-92 record with a 3.10 ERA.  And he pitched for some pretty awful Seattle Mariner teams, most notably the 2010 season where the Mariners lost 101 games and the 2011 team that posted a 67-95 record.

Place Hernandez with the Boston Red Sox in that same time frame and everyone would be talking about Hernandez as a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.  He probably would have won 20 games at least 3 times and been in the post season within the first 3 seasons of his career.

But if there is one redeeming quality about Hernandez is the loyalty that he has shown the Mariners and they rewarded him in 2013 with a 7 year, $175 million dollar contract.  He has never wanted to be with any other team other than the Mariners and, at the time, it was one of the best things the Mariners could have done.

The only thing that the Mariners haven’t done for him is get him to the post season, something he could have easily accomplished since most likely, if had decided to go elsewhere, it would have been with a contender.

Felix’s contract is up next year.  And quite honestly, he is no longer the ace of the staff.  That belongs to James Paxton who has deferred to King Felix and rightfully so.

In fact, if the Mariners do re-sign him, it would have to be at a reduced rate and he would have to accept that he might be, at best, a number 3 or 4 starter.

No one can discount that Felix has given the Mariners everything he’s had for the past 14 years.  But at age 32, he is starting to break down and has had trouble getting out of the first inning of games.  He is not the strike-out artist that he once was (Side note here:  To all those in the King’s Court, please stop yelling “K,K,K,K” every time he get’s 2 strikes on a batter.  It only encourages him to do something he can no longer do:  Blow a fastball past a hitter) and has resisted changing his ways in order to extend his career.

Both Felix and Seattle Mariners fans need to face reality.  Felix is, at best, a number 3 starter.  And with the extension given Wade LeBlanc, I see the starting rotation for next year to be:

  1. James Paxton
  2. Marco Gonzales
  3. Felix Hernandez
  4. Wade LeBlanc
  5. Mike Leake

Even if the Mariners let him walk away, there is no way he’ll be the Ace of the staff again.

Seattle Mariners have some tough choices when Cano comes back from his suspension and ever tougher ones starting in 2019.

Let’s hope they make the right choices.

 

Seattle Mariners – Do Not Even Think About Trading Edwin Diaz.

Future Closer of Seattle Mairners
Future Closer of Seattle Mairners

Every time I see Edwin Diaz enter a game, I get the chills.  His stuff is absolutely electric and at 22 years of age, has the savvy poise of a seasoned veteran.

Since being called up from AA Ball, Diaz has appeared in 21 games, pitch 21.2 innings and struck out 44 batters.  That’s about an average of striking out 2 batters an inning.  He reminds me of Mariano Rivera, the great Yankee closer.  Not in style as Diaz has one all his own.  His fastball his in the 98 – 100 mph range and has thrown 101 mph.  Even  more devastating his slider which has become a very effective out pitch for him.

He reminds me of Rivera in the fact that he could tell a batter what pitch was coming, where it’s going to be placed and the batter still wouldn’t be able to hit it.

So here is a message to GM Jerry Dipoto:  Mark Edwin Diaz as untouchable…do not trade him even if Mike Trout is available.  Do not lose him to free agency and do not even think about changing his style.

Mariners have a history of letting players go that have gone on to have great success on other teams:  Adam Jones to Baltimore, Randy Johnson to Houston (who went on to win 2 Cy Young awards and a World Series ring with Arizona), Jason Varitek to Boston and, as much as I hate to say it, Alex Rodriguez to the Rangers then to the Yankees.

The Mariners have had some special players…Alvin Davis, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson and of course, the soon to be Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr. who in my opinion, is one of the best players to have ever played the game.

Felix Hernandez is also a special player and the Mariners owe it to him to keep Diaz in a Mariner uniform as I see him as the closer of the future.  And not just for a couple of seasons.  This kid has the stuff to be an elite closer for at least a decade.

Granted, he isn’t always going to be able to throw 100+ mph pitches…his awareness of that is evident of his developing a devastating slider now while he can hit 100+ fastballs.  At some point, I wouldn’t doubt that he develops a cutter like Rivera that would be just as knee-bending as his slider and mystifying as his fastball.

Dipoto talks about building for the future.  With current stars of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Felix, the Mariners have an exciting core group on the rise in players like Leonys Martin, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino and Ketel Marte.

Let’s peak into the future, say 2018, just as a pitching staff:

Starting rotation:  Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Nick Neidert, Luis Gohara.

Closer: Edwin Diaz

I don’t know how to address the rest of the bullpen since set-up pitchers and long-relievers are always in a state of flux.  But I do see the starting rotation being pretty close to that and Edwin Diaz, the Electric One, being the closer who could average 40-45 saves per season.

While this season may not shape up to what we hoped it would be, the future is in good hands.  And future leads will be protected by one Edwin Diaz.

 

 

What’s Different About the 2016 Seattle Mariners? Team Chemistry!

Seattle Baseball\

The Seattle Mariners are in first place. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

While it may be only the end of May, at this time last year the Mariners were 24-26 in the midst of a 7-game losing streak and by all indications, really weren’t going to get any better as the season went on.

Now, with a sparkling 27-18 record that includes an 18-7 road record, the best in the majors, they sit atop of the American League West division with a 1-1/2 game lead on the Texas Rangers.

What’s different? Statistically, not much from last year. Mariners have scored 21 more times than 2015, have 30 more RBI’s, increased walks by 13 and reduced strike outs by 62. Not significant increases that indicate a magic bullet for the improvement over last year.

Pitching stats show a better picture: Lowered ERA from 3.78 to 3.20, allowed 80 less hits and 54 less runs scored and decreased the walks by 31. Pitching staff has done a real nice job keeping opposing runners off base.

Perhaps it is the change in philosophy from the Jack Zduriencik/Lloyd McClendon days. The 2015 Mariners had high expectations picked by some to be in the World Series. But after 7 disappointing seasons, the plug had to be pulled.

No sense in going over what happened last year…we all know that last year’s team was uninspired to put it mildly. It seemed to me that players didn’t care about winning…and part of that could be the decisions to play players out of position such as Brad Miller and Dustin Ackley. It can be important to one’s morale to play a position they want to play and feel they are good at instead of being placed anywhere on the diamond.

I also would have to blame a lot on Jack Zdurencik’s ability to evaluate players:

  • Justin Smoak, in the five years he played for Seattle, had a batting average of .226, struck out about 87 times a year and while he showed flashes of power, more often than not, he ground into double plays.
  • His replacement, Logan Morrison, wasn’t much better. He did have a solid season in 2014 hitting .262 with 11 home runs but only drove in 38 runs in 336 at bats. His performance dropped considerably in 2015, hitting a paltry .225, showing more power with 17 home runs and driving in 54. But he was more known for assisting Fernando Rodney in shooting make-believe arrows.
  • Ackley, a highly touted player coming out of college, hit decent in his 4 years with a .250 batting average. But he never looked comfortable at the plate and getting moved around defensively probably messed with his head.
  • Mike Zunino is perhaps Zdurencik’s biggest mistake. Evaluated him correctly but promoted him way too fast. Drafted in 2012, he zoomed thru A to AAA ball and with a mere 159 minor league games under his belt (59 at AAA level), he became the Mariners starting catcher in 2013. 2015 was epically bad as Zunino hit .174 and struck out 132 times in 350 at bats. He was able to hit 11 home runs and played great defense at catcher. But he was a black hole in the line-up.

So what is different between this year and last year? For one thing, after the initial 3-6 start, they have gotten off to a way better start over the first 46 games. First place in the American League West with a game and a half lead over the Rangers. Last year? At the end of May, they were 24-26, in fourth place, 6 and half games behind the Houston Astros.

I also am a big believer in how Jerry Dipoto and his team with the type of players they brought in, those with good on base percentage and getting more balls in play. Dipoto and first-year manager Scott Servais also did a real smart thing when spring training opened.

Early in camp, each day, Servais had players stand up during the morning meetings to discuss their backgrounds. It could go from explaining how they got into the big leagues, who they admire the most and what difficulties they overcame to get where they are. They also spoke about any hobbies they might have. That’s important in a team environment. It shows that players may have common interests and could form bonds outside of baseball which in turn, can form a high level of trust on the field.

Some examples of how this brought the team together:

  • Reliever Tony Zych said he liked to play pool. Servais asked if he was any good and Zych said yes. Servais tasked Zych to get a pool table in the clubhouse the next day. Second baseman Robison Cano ponied up to cover the cost. The next day, Servais and Zych played. Servais played the first shot, sank it and then missed his next. Zych never gave his manager another shot as he ran the table, much to the delight of the team.
  • Comedian Domingo Ayala delivered one liners and jokes for a day.
  • Pitcher Danny Hultzen was assigned to deliver a world daily report which later expanded to Nori Aoki doing reports on Japan and Nelson Cruz on the Dominican Republic.
  • When Cano’s team beat Cruz’s team in a situational hitting contest, Cruz had to buy steak and shrimp for the entire Mariner complex

Team chemistry, one of the most overlooked aspects of the game, was being developed. And it starts with Servais whose style is to keep things positive. He likes to keep it loose but when it’s time to work, you have to be ready. Servais made it a point to spend almost 95% of spring training on team-building with the goal to develop equity and trust with players.

I’d say he’s achieved his goal.

We all know the crux of this team is Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. None have disappointed this year and Cano, now healthy, is putting together a monster year. But other players, like Leonys Martin. He is hitting .262 with 9 home runs, which is already a career high. Prior to coming to the Mariners, he had 20 career home runs…he keeps hitting like this and he’ll have 20 by mid-July!

How about Seth Smith, playing solid defense out in right field and an OPB of .376 which is great for the number 2 guy in the line-up.

And Chris Iannetta, brought in until Mike Zunino can claim his spot back, with some timely hits including one walk-off home run.

And how about those situational players such as Dae-Ho Lee, whose walk off home run against the Rangers in April snapped a 6-game losing streak. Or Franklin Gutierrez who smacked a monster home run against the Reds last week.

These players have brought an attitude that we haven’t seen since 2001 Mariners when they won 116 games.

And the pitching! Did anyone expect Wade Miley to be 5-2 and be such an innings eater? Or that Nathan Karns would beat out James Paxton for the number 5 slot and be 4-1 with a 3.53 ERA?

How about a bullpen that was much maligned last year, coming in with a 2.62 ERA with 13 saves and 32 holds and an average of 9.87 strikeouts per nine innings.

This team is getting runs, making opposing pitchers work, playing good defense and not letting the other teams score.

We know that the major league season is 162 games…we also know that at some point during the season, the Mariners are going to go thru a tough patch. But I think with the make-up of this team and the chemistry it has, that tough patch will be a short one.

This team has a chance to be in the playoffs…and if they get there, I’d put some money on them getting to the World Series and winning it.

Seattle Mariners – Smart Move Bringing Edgar In As Hitting Coach

Edgar Martinez

First, let me say that the Seattle Mariners screwed up my idea for an article to bring Edgar Martinez in as a hitting coach.

Reason why I am so late in writing this article is because I needed to check my home, my car and all of my clothes for any listening devices or hidden cameras because surely someone is tapping me for all the great ideas I have!

All kidding aside, I really did have an article in mind about having Edgar come in as a hitting coach.  My wife and I went to the game Friday night between the Mariners and Astros and as we were watching the game, witnessing some of the futility the Mariners have at the plate is just painful.

Granted, they did win the game…but the margin of victory should have been much greater than the final score of 5-2.  Especially when, in the first inning, they had the bases loaded with no outs and can only manage to score 2 runs.   And even those were gifts by the Astros…Logan Morrison hit a pop-fly to left that should have been caught to start the game and Nelson Cruz drew a bases loaded walk to drive in the first.

After Kyle Seager struck out on 3 straight pitches, Mark Trumbo grounded out to the right side to drive in the second…Seth Smith struck out with men on second and third for the second out and Brad Miller flew out to the end the inning, perhaps the hardest hit ball of the inning.

But what really got me thinking about Edgar as the hitting coach was watching the futility of Mike Zunino.  If it wasn’t for his outstanding defensive abilities, Zunino would be toiling somewhere in Double-A ball.

Zunino, who’s averaged dropped to .160 after yet another 0-4 night, was pitiful with 3 strike-outs.  And what’s frustrating is you can see he has the tools to be at least a .240 to .260 hitter.  He also has enough power to hit at least 18-22 home runs a year and the capability to drive in 70-80 runs a year.

But right now, he is a black hole at the bottom of the Mariners line-up.  That’s not to say that Zunino is the problem to all of the Mariner offensive woes…our highest paid player, Robinson Cano, prior to this year, was a perennial .300+ hitter with some good pop in his bat.

Prior to this year, Cano had a .310 career batting average along with averaging 184 hits, 90 RBI, 22 home runs and an OPB of .357.  This year, he is woefully below all of those averages and yet McClendon still has him in the three hole hoping he will battle his way out of it.

And let’s not even get into the mental errors he’s had on the base paths.   I can remember at least 3 times he’s been picked-off or caught in a rundown that has ended an inning that could have been big.

Will the hiring of Edgar Martinez fix any of the Mariner woes?  Perhaps not right away…but I was encouraged by the fact that Edgar didn’t waste anytime yesterday getting with Zunino to work with him.  I don’t expect immediate results but I’m guessing if Zunino really pays attention, we’ll see his average start to rise by the end of the year.

But in the end, hiring Edgar isn’t going to resolve the hitting woes…unless the hitters put in the work.  Edgar isn’t the one batting anymore but I would dare say that even at 52, he could still hit for better average than any of the current Mariners.

Welcome back Papi!

Seattle Mariners – What’s Going On With You Guys?

Mairners Logo

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with these guys…But I strongly believe that they need to be scared.

Anyone remember the classic scene from Bull Durham where the manager is lamenting to Crash that he’s tried everything he can think of to motivate the players?  Crash’s simple resolution is to “scare em.”

Next scene, the manager throws some bats into the showers and starts screaming what a bunch of “lollygaggers” the players are.

Here is a clip for those who want a good laugh:  Bull Durham – Lollygagger Scene

Now I don’t expect to have Lloyd McClendon to throw this kind of fit…but something has got to be done to get this team motivated.

I doubt benching Robinson Cano or Kyle Seager is going to do any good.  But I would like to see how Cano would react to say dropping to number nine in the line-up.  After all, he’s hitting like he belongs in the nine hole right now.

Some good things I have seen over this lousy home stand is the starting pitching has been outstanding.  Over the past 7 days, opposing teams have batted .255 against the pitching of J.A Happ, Taijuan Walker, Roenias Elias and Felix Hernandez.  Take out Hernandez’s .333 and hitters are going at a .229 pace.  I do believe that any major league team would take that in a heartbeat.

However, the relief pitching, the strength of last year, has just been abysmal.  Over the same seven game stretch, opposing teams have hit .272 with an on base percentage of .395.  Along with 11 walks and 10 extra base hits, that’s not what you expect from last year’s best bullpen in the majors.

I don’t have any faith in Fernando Rodney…in fact, I wasn’t to happy when the Mariners acquired him.  He has some good stuff but is unreliable.  I think we have all had enough of the “Rodney Experience” for a while.

McClendon should give Carson Smith a shot at closing.  He has an ERA of 1.13, has struck out 25 and walked only 5.  In comparison, Rodney’s ERA is 6.94, has struck out 20 with 12 base on balls.  McClendon has been reluctant to give the ball to Smith but just how many times does he give Rodney a chance?  I admire loyalty to a player but what about loyalty to the team and more important, to the fans?

We were hopeful at the end of last year when the Mariners missed getting into the playoffs by 1 game.  We were lifted even higher when Jack Z. went out and got Nelson Cruz to give some much some much needed power to the line-up.

No one expected to see Cano hitting only .243 right now.  And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  He’s has several notable base running gaffe’s, the last one against the Yankees, getting picked off at first after driving in a run.

I don’t see a need to panic just yet…but I do see a need to shake things up a bit.  As a team, they are hitting just .212 for the season with runners in scoring position.  They have struck out 212 times.  And it only gets worse with 2 out with runners in scoring position.  .212 along with 60 strike outs.

And it was typical in the game against Tampa Bay last night.  Down 1-0 in the ninth inning, Austin Jackson hits a leadoff triple….and stays there while Brad Miller struck out, Mike Zunino hits a shallow foul ball to right and Dustin Ackley flew out to left to end the game.

Pitiful…With Jackson on third and no outs, the Mariners could not get him in, not even with a productive count.

So what can be done?  With the exception of Cruz, change the line-up.  Drop Cano down in the line-up, get Seager in the 3 slot, let Miller lead off and put Ackley on the bench.

It may not produce wins but it could get these guys going.

Seattle Mariner Fans – Relax Will Ya? It’s Just The First Week!

No Need To Panic Yet...Mariners are just getting warmed up!
No need to panic yet…Mariners are just getting warmed up!

After Felix Hernandez’s opening day gem, the Seattle Mariners went on to lose three straight games.

Reading articles and posts of fans who respond to them, as well as listening fans who call in or test to sports radio shows, I get the sense that this city is having a panic attack.

I suppose some of that can be attributed to all the hype that has been heaped upon the Mariners with many folks predicting they will go to the World Series.  Even I made the bold prediction they will win 93 games.  I still stand by the prediction and I am not going to change it after only seeing them play five games.

This is baseball.  This game has highs and lows that are going to occur during the course of a 162 game season.  Granted, it would have been nice to have the Detroit Tigers or Kansas City Royals 5-0 start.  But last time I checked, no major league baseball team has gone undefeated.

This Seattle Mariner team is going to be in the thick of it.  And let’s all remember they need to do well enough to make the playoffs, where every team, regardless of what they did during the regular season, start the playoffs with an 0-0 record.

Mariners are stacked with a good, solid pitching rotation, anchored by Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez and two veteran pitchers in J.A. Happ and Hisashi Iwakuma.  Also in the mix are two young rising starts in Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.

The bullpen, one of the best in baseball last year, is back with essentially the same staff of Danny Farquhar, Charlie Furbush, Yoervis Medina and closer Fernando Rodney.  New additions Carson Smith and Tyler Olsen will only make them stronger.

The line-up is stronger despite what folks think of the first five games.  Gone is Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, Nick Franklin and Kendrys Morales all who were supposed to bring the pop the Mariners have been so desperately seeking.

Mariner front office made the commitment last year to Robinson Cano and that signing told Mariner fans they wanted to build a winner.  GM Jack Zduriencik, who had been under fire, had to breathe a lot easier when the team won 87 games last year.

This year, they deepened their commitment and started to build around Cano.  The signed budding superstar third baseman Kyle Seager to a long-term contract and brought it last year’s home run leader Nelson Cruz from the Baltimore Oriels.

The rest of the team is pretty solid with Dustin Ackley and Logan Morrison.  They are still a little weak in right field with the platoon of Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith.  And I am still not convinced that Austin Jackson is the true lead-off hitter they need.  He’s more of a number two guy but as of right now, Mariners don’t have a solid lead-off guy they can depend on so Jackson is it.

The point of all this?  This town cannot expect the same type of energy each and every game as they do for Seahawk games.  If they do, then the Mariners will be done before June.

What we can do is keep supporting them and understand that it’s a long season and anything can happen.  And I suspect there is some magic in this team that will surprise all of us.

Keep the faith and relax…The Mariners are going to be just fine.

Beer Thinker Prediction – Seattle Mariners Win 93 Games

Seattle Baseball

On Monday, the Seattle Mariners open their 2015 season against the Los Angles Angels of Anaheim.  It’s really the first time in many years that I am officially excited to see how this team does.

Last year, with expectations low, a new manager and one very high-profile free agent signing of Robinson Cano, many predictions were the Mariners would finish no better than .500 with yet another season of no playoff hopes.

Manager Lloyd McClendon, newly hired from the Detroit Tigers staff, had other thoughts.  I’m pretty sure he endeared himself to Mariner fans when he stood up for Robinson Cano when a Yankee official commented on Cano’s hustle.  “What’s he doing talking about my player?” has to go down as the best response to the uncalled criticism.  It was almost Piniella-esque!

With the guidance of McClendon and the leadership of Cano, the Mariners came within one win of getting into the playoffs.  Felix Hernandez had a record setting year and Kyle Seager proved himself to be one of the best all-around third baseman in the league with some great defense and clutch hitting.

You have to think the Mariners are going to do better this year.   They finally have an official big-bopper in the #4 spot in Nelson Cruz and the line-up is pretty much set.  I have concerns over the lead-off spot as well as getting offense from the shortstop position.  Defensively, the Mariners are going to be one of the better defensive teams in the majors.

I was listening to the Danny, Dave and Moore show on ESPN’s 710 Sports in Seattle on the way home from work.  They were doing a segment on bold predictions for the Mariners.  It got me to thinking just how many games the Mariners will win this year.

Jim Moore’s prediction is they will win 100 games this year.  Personally I think that’s a bit far-fetched but you got to admire Moore’s spunk.

Mariners went 87-75 last season and were in the playoff hunt until the last day of the season.  With the pitching they have and a much more dependable lineup, I think the Mariners will go 93-69.

As for other predictions, such as the number of home runs Cruz will hit or if Felix will win 20 games, I don’t really want to go there.

What I want to see is that the Mariners play good, solid baseball, score more runs than the other team and get into the playoffs.

If Nelson Cruz hits only 20 home runs but gets 120 RBI’s, I’m fine with that.  In fact, if Cruz, Cano, Seager and Mike Zunino all get 20 home runs each and drive in at least 80 runs each, I’d be more than happy with that production.  And it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that could occur.

I believe this team is going to be special this year.  With 3 bona-fide superstars in Cano, Cruz and Felix along with some superstars in the making such as Seager, Zunino, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, the Mariners have few weak spots.  Add to that players in supporting roles in Dustin Ackley, Austin Jackson and Danny Farquhar only makes them a solid and deeply talented team.

They still need to play the games and with McClendon, he won’t allow them to get to full of themselves nor let them wallow when things aren’t going well.

93-69 has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Go Mariners!

So, How About Them Mariners?

Pitchers and catchers have reported to Peoria, AZ at the Peoria Sports Complex.

With last years surprising season, coming within in one win of making the playoffs, expectations are pretty high for this team.  Some MLB pundits have the Mariners going to the World Series this year.

It’s that time of year when everyone goes to sabermetric mode, looks at every single possible statistical analysis available and points to all the trends and indicators and puts forth a prediction that Stephen Hawking would be proud of.

I hate statistics.  Yes, I will use them to find some interesting things but stats take the joy out of watching the game and takes away the real understanding of it.

I played baseball in high school and for the most part I was pretty good.  Had a decent bat, pretty good speed and prided myself at being a good defensive center fielder.  Like most kids at that age, I considered going to the major leagues until I discovered that I had and never will have, a clue on how to hit a curveball.

But there is something about putting that mitt into your face and inhaling the leather, shagging fly balls with your teammates on a clear, cloudless day and smelling the fresh cut grass that statistical information will never give you.

So here is my gut feeling on the Mariners for 2015.  They are going to be right in the thick of it and I can see them taking the American League West this year.

It appears the first 4 spots in the pitching rotations is set with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton and J. A. Happ (acquired in a trade with Toronto for Michael Saunders).  The fifth spot is up for grabs.

In my eyes, Taijuan Walker is the front runner for the fifth spot.  He had some good outings last year and being only 22 years old, has his career in front of him.  Mariners have been very careful with Walker but sooner rather than later, they are going to have to see what he has to stay at the major league level.

I’m not sure about the feel good story of the first half last year in Roenias Elias.  He is too much in love with his curve ball.  Granted, it is one of the best in the MLB but the more hitters see it, the more they will get used to it.   He needs to work on setting hitters up with his fastball…and to be honest, if he can develop a slider, he could be the sleeper for 2015.  If the Mariners were smart, they should hook him up with Randy Johnson who had one of the best sliders in the majors.

The bullpen, the strongest component of last years team, is pretty much the same this year with Fernando Rodney coming back as the closer.  Not a big fan of Rodney but can’t deny he had great success last year with 36 saves.  Along with Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina, Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsman, the Mariners have little to be worried about with leads after the 7th inning.

As for the lumber, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Mike Zunino and newcomer Nelson Cruz provide plenty of pop.  Cano will have his usual .300-plus, 20-25 home runs and 100 plus RBI year.  Seager could struggle a bit this year as pitchers are now aware of him.  I don’t see Zunino putting up 20 home runs this year but I do see him becoming a more dangerous hitter.  He was under .200 for batting in 2014 but I suspect he’ll be a .260 to .265 hitter this year and use the whole field.  And Nelson Cruz, who hit 33 home runs last year will solidify the middle line up.

Mariners are lacking a good lead-off man.  Austin Jackson, a very good outfielder, didn’t do very well with the Mariners after being traded from the Detroit Tigers.  Too many strikeouts and not enough walks.

For me, a leadoff batters main focus is to get on base.  Too accomplish that, the hitter needs to be patient at the plate, work the pitcher deep into counts and learn how to foul off pitches until he gets the one he likes.  Jackson, in 578 bats last year, struck out 138 times and only walked 50 times.  He has got to cut down on his K’s by at least 30% and walk in the 75 to 90 range for the year.

Dustin Ackley will have a solid, consistent year in 2015.  Everyone seems to want to write him off but I like this guy.  He has the ability to carry a team as he showed last year during an outstanding three week stretch.   He’s improving as an outfielder and has found a home in the lineup in the number eight hole.

The one spot where the Mariners have a real concern is shortstop.  Not so much from a defensive standpoint since both Brad Miller and Chris Taylor made some outstanding plays.  Miller is the more refined defensively and Taylor is probably the better hitter but not by much.  But if the Mariners concede that whoever plays shortstop will be no more than  a .220 hitter with a good glove, then they need to accept that and take whatever offense comes out is a bonus.

Manager Lloyd McClendon will keep this team on track, not allow them to get too high or too low.  He is, right now, the best temperament this team needs.  He’ll back his players 110%, won’t embarrass them to the media and won’t be afraid to sit a player down regardless of the player’s status on the team.

And as poet Alexander Pope once said “Hope springs eternal,” I look forward to sunny days listening to Mariners on the radio kicking some butt and taking names this year.

Go Mariners!