Updated May 15, 2013 - 4:54 pm
High Heat from the Hill
Monday, August 19, 2013 @ 10:11am
By Gary Hill
A few notes on third baseman Kyle Seager, the Mariners' bullpen, their starting rotation and more:
• Seager is one of just eight players in their age-25 season or younger with at least 300 at-bats who maintains an OPS above .800.
Mike Trout, 1.004
Paul Goldschmidt, .939
Freddie Freeman, .864
Domonic Brown, .860
Justin Upton, .849
Brandon Belt, .830
Kyle Seager, .828
Jean Segura, .803
• Dustin Ackley is hitting .385 in August with three doubles and one triple. His slash for the month is .385/.415/.513.
• The three worst bullpens in baseball according to ERA reside in the American League West.
28th: Angels 4.54
29th: Mariners, 4.64
30th: Astros, 5.24
• Speaking of the bullpen, here is the evolution of Danny Farquhar:
First 17 MLB games: 8.77 ERA, 32 H, 12 BB, 37 K
Next 13 MLB games: 1.08 ERA, 8 H, 5 BB, 25 K
• M's starters ranked by average innings pitched per start in August:
Hisashi Iwakuma, 7
Felix Hernandez, 6.25
Erasmo Ramirez, 5
Joe Saunders, 4.8
Aaron Harang, 4
• M's starters ranked by total innings pitched for the season in the American League:
1. Felix Hernandez, 178.2
6. Hisashi Iwakuma, 171
27. Joe Saunders, 144.1
56. Aaron Harang, 107.2
• Seattle owns the season series versus Oakland 8-5. The Mariners are the only team below .500 who have the season series advantage over the A's.
The Mariners have played 69 games against teams above .500 and are 30-39. They've played 54 games against teams below .500 and are 27-27.
The Blue Jays have met teams above .500 an MLB-high 91 times. They have only faced sub-.500 teams in 33 games. The Braves have only faced above-.500 teams 37 times while 87 of their games have come against teams below .500.
The Mariners are 29-25 against the AL West.
• Outfielder Michael Saunders has vastly different splits in wins compared to losses.
Saunders in wins: .301/.401/.559, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 11 SB, 9 2B
Saunders in losses: .174/.251/.256, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 1 SB, 6 2B
• Reliever Charlie Furbush has faced 102 left-handed batters this season and they are only hitting .138 against him. Here is the list of pitchers who have faced at least 60 left-handed hitters this season, sorted by batting average:
Paco Rodriguez, .134
Charlie Furbush, .138
Luis Avilan, .140
Chris Sale, .146
Clayton Kershaw, .147
Francisco Liriano, .148
Drew Smyly, .158
Madison Bumgarner, .161
Friday, August 16, 2013 @ 1:16pm
Russ Davis was trying desperately to avoid the tag from Cleveland's Enrique Wilson between first and second base. The attempt by the Mariners' third baseman was in vain as umpire Larry Barnett called him out. The call was costly for the M's as their ninth-inning rally was instantly snuffed out.
Lou Piniella responded to the perceived injustice by explaining his case to Barnett. After a brief conversation, Piniella retreated to the dugout only to learn that he had actually been tossed from the game during the exchange. Piniella shot onto the field like he was launched from a cannon. The rampaging bull went nose to nose with Barnett. He tore his cap from his head, wound up his leg and kicked his hat like he was trying to put it through the uprights for a 60-yard field goal. The kick of the cap was followed by another ... then another ... then another. The hat received a complete kicking tour across the right side of the diamond at Jacobs Field. Simply mentioning Piniella's antics beckons a sweeping smile across the faces of most M's fans.
However, epic blowups like those from Piniella may be a thing of the past. It is clear now that instant replay is coming to MLB in a much more expanded capacity in the very near future. Running on the field to start a dustup with little chance of actual success will be replaced by a mere indication of a disagreement so the call can be reviewed. A manager may still disagree even if a call is not overturned, but it will be difficult for a skipper to muster up the gumption against video evidence.
No more Piniella un-anchoring first base and heaving it into the outfield. No more Billy Martin kicking dirt on a home-plate umpire. No more Earl Weaver turning his cap backwards to stand as close as humanly possible to his target. No more Lloyd McClendon storming off into his clubhouse with a base under his arm.
There is no doubt that big-league managers often put on a display under the guise of disagreeing with a call. They could be trying to send a message to their team. Perhaps they are attempting to shake things up during a tough stretch. The motivations for such a public display are numerous.
It is somewhat strange that fans can receive so much entertainment from two grown people yelling at one another. It is even more bizarre when you consider one of the participants is a roughly 60-year-old man wearing baseball pants. The fact is that arguments between managers and umpires have been a colorful part of baseball history for a long time.
Perhaps the game will be better without the on-field tussles, especially in the context of attempting to be as accurate as possible with calls.
Whatever the case, it is difficult to have an entertaining quarrel with a video machine.
Thursday, August 15, 2013 @ 1:51pm
By Gary Hill
Felix Hernandez achieved perfection exactly one year ago to the day. The King baffled 27 Tampa Bay hitters in a row on his way to becoming just the 23rd player in Major League Baseball to ever reach the amazing feat.
It is staggering to comprehend all that Hernandez has accomplished at such a young age. The 27-year-old ace has won a Cy Young Award and secured four All-Star births. He has earned MVP votes in three different seasons and has won an ERA title. He has led the American League at one time or another in innings pitched, wins, starts, innings, hits per nine innings and home runs per nine innings.
No pitcher in the game has thrown more innings than Hernandez since 2008.
Felix Hernandez, 1,328.1
CC Sabathia, 1,324
Justin Verlander, 1,313.1
James Shields, 1,282.2
Cliff Lee, 1,266.2
Matt Cain, 1,245.2
Hernandez boasts the sixth-longest current streak of seasons with 200 or more innings pitched.
Mark Buehrle, 12
CC Sabathia, 6
Justin Verlander, 6
James Shields, 6
Matt Cain, 6
Felix Hernandez, 5
Cliff Lee, 5
Hernandez has already tossed 23 complete games in his brilliant career, which places him in a tie for ninth among active pitchers. He is only two complete games behind both Andy Pettitte and Tim Hudson. It took Hernandez 262 starts to get there. Pettitte and Hudson have started a combined 938 games.
Hernandez maintains the second-best ERA in the game since 2008 for a pitcher with at least 100 starts.
Clayton Kershaw, 2.64
Felix Hernandez, 2.84
Cliff Lee, 2.93
Adam Wainwright, 2.94
Chris Carpenter, 3.01
Roy Halladay, 3.03
Hernandez has also fanned the third most hitters in MLB since 2008.
Tim Lincecum, 1,320
Justin Verlander, 1,294
Felix Hernandez, 1,247
CC Sabathia, 1,212
Clayton Kershaw, 1,148
Since Hernandez entered baseball in 2005, no pitcher has thrown eight innings or more while yielding one run or fewer more times than him.
Felix Hernandez, 59
Roy Halladay, 54
Cliff Lee, 51
CC Sabathia, 45
Hernandez has thrown a perfect game against Tampa in Seattle. He has hurled a one-hit shutout against the eventual World Series champion Red Sox in Boston. He has fanned 12 Rangers in a game while giving up three harmless singles in nine innings. He has routinely dominated the Yankees at their place, including winning a 1-0 game while chucking a brilliant two-hitter. He has allowed two hits or fewer in games against the White Sox, Twins and Padres. His domination has spanned from coast to coast.
Hernandez has already pushed himself towards the top in numerous pitching categories in Mariners history. He is second in strikeouts, third in wins, starts and innings pitched, and second in shutouts in club history. He is tied for ninth among active pitchers with those nine shutouts.
The city of Seattle was fortunate to watch Randy Johnson transform himself from a raw thrower to Hall of Fame pitcher during his time in Seattle. He made hitters' knees quake and their hands tremble. Left-handed hitters who did not come up with an impromptu gameday backache were merely looking to survive at-bats. Success against the Big Unit was an unexpected pleasure best credited to Lady Luck.
Lightening has struck twice in Seattle. Hernandez was a baby-faced flamethrower when he first took the mound for the M's. His high-90s heat overwhelmed hitters as he worked to harness his natural abilities. As the pages of the calendar have turned, Hernandez has carved himself into one of the top pitchers in the game.
His changeup has evolved into one of the deadliest weapons in baseball. It dances like it is being influenced by remote control from the stands. The speed and grace of the pitch combine to form a freak of nature that leaves batters muttering to themselves. His variety of fastballs, devastating curve, and filthy slider combine to form an arsenal that makes trying to hit him nearly impossible. It is difficult enough to figure out what is coming next, let alone trying to put the ball in play with some sort of faint hope of reaching base.
Hernandez is, of course, at it again this year. He leads the league in ERA and innings and is second in strikeouts. He has thoroughly hurled himself into another Cy Young Award race. There have only been 16 pitchers in baseball history to take home multiple Cy Young Awards. Hernandez is looking to join the exclusive list featuring names like Carlton, Maddux, Koufax, Johnson, Seaver, Gibson, Perry and Palmer.
Hernandez is in the midst of another special season in what has already been a tremendous career. The suggestion is to enjoy it to its fullest.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 @ 2:59pm
By Gary Hill
Here is a quiz: Which player would you rather have for the 2013 season?
• Player A: .270 BA, .367 OBP, .450 SLG, .817 OPS
• Player B: .261 BA, .353 OBP, .434 SLG, .787 OPS
Want more information?
• Player A: 12.7 walk rate, 23.2 K rate, 27.2 PA per HR
• Player B: 11.5 walk rate, 17.7 K rate, 30.6 PA per HR
There are some differences between the two players this season.
• Player A: 354 PA, 13 HR, 31 RBI
• Player B: 521 PA, 17 HR, 81 RBI
Players B has taken 167 more plate appearances on the season and has batted almost twice as many times with runners in scoring position (155 plate appearances to 89).
If you have not guessed by now, Player A is Justin Smoak and Player B is Prince Fielder.
The counting stats sway towards Fielder thanks to a wide gulf in 2013 plate appearances. The massive disparity has to do with the plate-appearance gap in general and chances to hit with runners in scoring position specifically. As it turns out, hitting behind Miguel Cabrera has some serious advantages. Three of the top seven hitters with the most plate appearances with RISP play for the Tigers.
• Dustin Pedroia, 170
• Mike Napoli, 158
• Prince Fielder, 155
• Miguel Cabrera, 152
• Jay Bruce, 152
• Brandon Phillips, 152
• Victor Martinez, 150
The other major factor in the RBI gap is that Fielder has been much more productive with his RISP chances. Here are their numbers with RISP:
Fielder: 36 for 131 (.275), 5 HR, 61 RBI, 19 BB
Smoak: 17 for 73 (.233) 1 HR, 16 RBI, 16 BB
However, the RBI difference should not mask the fact that Smoak is having a better season than the hulking Detroit first baseman in terms of percentages. Smoak has quietly made impressive strides in his offensive game over the most recent calendar year.
Over the past 365 days, Smoak is hitting .275 with 19 homers and 24 doubles. He boasts the 38th-best OPS (.827) in baseball during that time for all players with 300 at-bats or more. He finds himself ahead of big names like Pujols, Pedroia, Zimmerman, Holliday and Napoli.
Smoak has been one of the best first basemen in the game for the past month. He maintains the second-best OPS in the American League (.896) behind only Edwin Encarnacion (.952) for all players at his position the last 30 days. He is hitting .361 with four homers in his last 10 games.
What has made the difference?
The approach Smoak has taken has been the catalyst to his offensive awakening. His 12.7 percent walk rate is among the elite in MLB.
• Joey Votto, 16.7
• Shin-Soo-Choo, 14.1
• Miguel Cabrera, 14.1
• Adam Dunn, 13.5
• Mike Trout, 13.5
• Dan Uggla, 13.5
• Dexter Fowler, 13.3
• Paul Goldschmidt, 13.2
• Carlos Santana, 13.2
• Jose Bautista, 13.1
• Justin Smoak, 12.7
• Billy Butler, 12.7
• Edwin Encarnacion, 12.5
• Joe Mauer, 12.4
His previous high in walks came in 2011 with 55. He has already been issued 45 free passes this season and there is still a month and a half to go.
When the ball is in the zone he is whacking it with more authority. His line-drive rate is sitting at a career high 23.6 percent, according to FanGraphs.com. The rate was 18.2 percent last season and 13.8 percent the year before.
He needs just eight doubles and six homers to match career highs in both categories. His batting average is 30 points over his previous high.
What does this mean?
Smoak has clearly secured the first base job for the Mariners moving into next season. Not only should his production over the past calendar year warrant confidence, but his continued progression could land him among the top 10 offensive first basemen in the game in the very near future.
Here are the top first basemen in 2013 according to OPS (miminum 300 at-bats):
1. Chris Davis, 1.054
2. Joey Votto, .943
3. Paul Goldschmidt, .927
4. Edwin Encarnacion, .903
5. Freddie Freeman, .867
6. Allen Craig, .833
7. Kendrys Morales, .818
8. Justin Smoak, .817
9. Brandon Belt, .815
10. Adam Lind, .811
12. Adrian Gonzalez, .809
14. Prince Fielder, .784
15. Ryan Howard, .784
16. Mike Napoli, .778
17. Eric Hosmer, .775
19. Albert Pujols, .767
20. Anthony Rizzo, .764
21. Mitch Moreland, .752
22. Mark Trumbo, .749
23. Justin Morneau, .743
25. Nick Swisher, .735
Smoak is still only 26 years of age so it is reasonable to assume there could be plenty of room for growth moving forward. However, he still maintains tremendous value to the M's even if his progress stalls and he's simply a league-average first baseman.
This is the list of somewhat prominent upcoming free-agent first basemen:
• Lance Berkman
• Jason Giambi
• Travis Hafner
• Paul Konerko
• Casey Kotchman
• James Loney
• Justin Morneau
• Mike Napoli
• Lyle Overbay
• Carlos Pena
• Kevin Youkilis
Not only is it likely Smoak will be better than everyone on the list moving forward, but he is under team control and is not expensive.
The Mariners benefit more from rolling into 2014 with Smoak at first while funneling funds to clear places of need such as spots in the outfield. The more places they can fill now the more resources they can focus in specific positions.
The Mariners are certainly hoping that Smoak will continue to develop into the middle-of-the-order bat they have be salivating for. He has already done enough, however, to earn him the job for 2014.
Sunday, August 11, 2013 @ 1:45pm
The Mariners and their fans spent the weekend celebrating the astonishing career of Ken Griffey Jr. – the dazzling defense, the majestic blasts, the smile, that sweet swing.
Griffey is a first-ballot Hall of Famer who thrilled Seattle baseball fans for over a dozen years. Click on this link to relive some of the greatest moments from Griffey through the wonderful calls of Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizzs.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013 @ 12:12pm
By Gary Hill
The stealthy Kyle Seager has engineered one of the best offensive seasons in the American League this year as he has been silently terrorizing big-league pitching.
Seager and the Mariners returned home Monday after taking two of three from the Orioles in Baltimore. One of the beauties of the Baltimore series was to watch two of the best third basemen in baseball expertly apply their craft.
Kyle Seager is quietly having one of the best offensive seasons among AL hitters. (AP)
Scouts lusted after Machado's talents during his high school days in Miami as he drew favorable comparisons to younger versions of Cal Ripken Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. He was drafted third overall in 2010 behind Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Jameson Taillon of the Pirates. He rocketed through Baltimore's minor-league system before vaulting over Triple-A and landing in Baltimore last season. The high-profile Machado has received national acclaim from coast to coast for his impressive play this season.
On the other hand, the attention has been slow to roll in for Seager. He was a third-round draft pick out of North Carolina in 2009. He was overshadowed in his college career by super prospect Dustin Ackley, who was taken by Seattle in the first round of the same draft. Seager only spent parts of three seasons in the minor leagues as well, but his quick flight through the minors barely sent ripples through the baseball community at large.
Despite popular perception, Seager is actually having a slightly better offensive season than Machado.
Seager: .295/.363/.486, 17 HR, 51 RBI, 27 2B, 44 BB, 63 R
Machado: .296/.326/.456, 10 HR, 52 RBI, 40 2B, 20 BB, 65 R
The point of this comparison is not to take anything away from the season that Machado is having. He is in the midst of a truly special year in every sense, especially considering his young age. The intention is to alert the baseball world to Seager.
The case is easily made that Seager is actually having a top 10 to 15 offensive season in the AL. Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis and Mike Trout have separated themselves as the elite of the league. David Ortiz, Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Beltre, Jason Kipnis, Joe Mauer and Robinson Cano occupy the next tier thanks to spectacular seasons.
Seager is listed among the next group of standout players this year. He maintains the 12th-best OPS in the league (.849). He is 14th in batting average (.295), 14th in on-base percentage (.363) and 14th in slugging (.486). He has tallied the ninth-most hits (127) in the league along with the 11th-most doubles (27). He is 17th in homers (17) and 12th in runs scored (63).
Here are his numbers in comparison to other high-profile AL hitters:
Kyle Seager: .295/.363/.486, 17 HR, 51 RBI, 27 2B, 44 BB
Evan Longoria: .268/.345/.489, 21 HR, 59 RBI, 24 2B, 50 BB
Prince Fielder: .259/.353/.434, 17 HR, 76 RBI, 23 2B, 57 BB
Dustin Pedroia: .294/.373/.411, 8 HR, 66 RBI, 26 2B, 57 BB
Ian Kinsler: .271/.345/.422, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 19 2B, 34 BB
Albert Pujols: .258/.330/.437, 17 HR, 64 RBI, 19 2B, 40 BB
Ben Zobrist: .276/.362/.401, 7 HR, 53 RBI, 26 2B, 52 BB
As long as comparisons are being made, there is one more to come. Seager is 1,334 plate appearances into his big-league career, which spans parts of three seasons. Here is a look at the start of his career compared to an all-time Mariners legend:
1,334 PA, .272 BA, 328 H, 40 HR, 150 RBI, 75 2B, 150 RBI, 103 BB
1,494 PA, .296 BA, 380 H, 27 HR, 131 RBI, 76 2B, 131 RBI, 181 BB
Those 1,494 plate appearances belonged to the first few seasons of Edgar Martinez's career.
Friday, August 2, 2013 @ 8:17am
By Gary Hill
The Mariners suffered their most brutal loss of the season at the hands of the Boston Red Sox Thursday night at Fenway Park. The Sox stormed from behind to plate six in the ninth to sully another brilliant outing from Felix Hernandez.
The bullpen has been an issue for the Mariners this season as they lug the second-worst ERA from relievers to Baltimore. Seattle's 4.65 bullpen ERA is only better than the lofty 5.12 number for the Houston Astros.
Tom Wilhelmsen only yielded two earned runs during the entire first two months of the season. He limited opponents to nine hits while walking just eight. His first 22 outings were bliss, but his most recent 25 have been the complete opposite. He has yielded 21 earned runs over that time frame, including 25 hits and 18 walks. In his first 35 appearances this season, Oliver Perez allowed only five earned runs. He has coughed up nine runs in his last eight games. Yoervis Medina has allowed four earned runs in his last four appearances. Stephen Pryor has been injured for most of the season and Carter Capps was jettisoned to Tacoma after his ERA ballooned to 6.37.
The short-term condition of the bullpen is alarming. There are not many trustworthy options to summon in close games at this point. Charlie Furbush continues to be impressive. He featured a 2.08 July ERA while fanning 16 hitters in 13 innings. Danny Farquhar has pitched very well as of late. He has not been scored upon in his last five outings while accumulating 15 strikeouts in fewer than 10 innings. Furbush or Farquhar may be asked to close games as soon as this weekend in Baltimore.
What about the bullpen in the long view?
Bullpens are a very interesting animal. They are the most volatile instrument on any baseball team and performance can fluctuate wildly from year to year. Here is a look at the top five bullpens from the last three seasons according to ERA:
1. Atlanta Braves, 2.55
2. Kansas City Royals, 2.90
3. Pittsburgh Pirates, 2.91
4. Milwaukee Brewers, 2.96
5. Minnesota Twins, 3.01
1. Cincinnati Reds, 2.65
2. Atlanta Braves, 2.76
3. Tampa Bay Rays, 2.88
4. Oakland Athletics, 2.94
5. Baltimore Orioles, 3.00
1 Atlanta Braves, 3.03
2. San Francisco Giants, 3.04
3. San Diego Padres, 3.05
4. New York Yankees, 3.12
5. Washington Nationals, 3.20
The Atlanta Braves are the only team that shows up on the list more than once. There are 15 teams listed and 13 of them are different.
The Milwaukee Brewers feature the fourth-best bullpen ERA in baseball this season with a 2.96 mark. They were dead last a year with an MLB-high 4.66 ERA. The Baltimore Orioles finished 2011 with a 4.18 bullpen ERA, which was 27th in baseball. They climbed to fifth best last season with a 3.00 mark and they have sunk to the middle of the pack this year (15th at 3.66). In 2011, the Twins had the worst bullpen in baseball according to ERA (4.51). Minnesota finished 17th last season (3.77) and have risen to fifth best this year (3.01). Tampa Bay was third best last season (2.88), but 17th this season (3.70).
The Tampa Bay case emphasizes a common issue with bullpens. The key pieces from the Rays' stellar pen returned nearly intact, but the performances have not come close to equaling their production from just a year ago.
2012: 2-2, 0.60 ERA, 74.2 IP, 5 ER, 15 BB, 76 K
2013: 3-2, 3.92 ERA, 43.2 IP, 19 ER, 28 BB, 59 K
2012: 2-6, 3.63 ERA, 67 IP, 27 ER, 17 BB, 84 K
2013: 1-4, 2.96 ERA, 45.2 IP, 15 ER, 21 BB, 47 K
2012: 5-2, 1.95 ERA, 55.1 IP, 12 ER, 11 BB, 73 K
2013: 2-3, 4.46 ERA, 40.1 IP, 19 ER, 28 BB, 59 K
2012: 1-6, 4.00 ERA, 27 IP, 12 ER, 14 BB, 25 K
2013: 2-0, 5.46 ERA, 28 IP, 17 ER, 7 BB, 18 K
2012: 3-2, 3.03 ERA, 62.1 IP, 21 ER, 12 BB, 42 K
2013: 2-1, 3.52 ERA, 46 IP, 18 ER, 16 BB, 44 K
Fernando Rodney is the greatest current example of bullpen performance varying from year to year.
Injuries are always a major factor when it comes to bullpen performance. Jason Motte, Eric O'Flaherty, Andrew Bailey, Jonny Venters, Ryan Madson, Sean Marshall, Joel Hanrahan and Brian Wilson are just a handful of the high-profile back-of-the-bullpen pitchers who have been severely affected by injury this season. There are estimates that nearly 35 percent of relief pitchers will hit the disabled list in a given season.
There is also the burnout issue with relievers, which seems to affect closers in particular. Over the last 10 seasons there have been 116 different pitchers who have saved at least 20 games in a season. Mariano Rivera (10 times), Jonathan Papelbon (nine), Joe Nathan (eight), Francisco Cordero (eight) and Billy Wagner (seven) are the exceptions. Heath Bell (three), Frank Francisco (two) and Rocky Biddle (one) are closer to the rule. As quickly as Matt Mantei, Yhency Brazoban, Chris Ray, Eric Gagne, Danny Kolb, Derrick Turnbow or B.J Ryan burst onto the scene is as swiftly as they fade away.
It is all about the timing
Joel Hanrahan was the All-Star closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates the previous two seasons as he collected a total of 76 saves. His ERA was 1.83 in 2011 and 2.72 in 2012. The Pirates dealt their lock-down closer to the relief-starved Boston Red Sox for Stolmy Pimentel, Ivan De Jesus, Mark Melancon and Jerry Sands.
Melancon struggled mightily with the Red Sox (0-2, 6.20 ERA) last season. He was an effective closer for the Houston Astros down the stretch in 2011, but his struggles in 2012 earned him a one-way ticket out of Beantown. Melancon has been an All-Star this season with Pittsburgh. He has only yielded five earned runs on the season in more than 51 innings. He has fanned 49 batters to go along with his tidy 0.88 ERA. He gave up more runs in his fourth appearance in Boston (six earned runs) than he has in his entire run in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates elected to sign veteran reliever Jason Grilli to replace Hanrahan and he has turned himself into an All-Star as well. Before going down with an injury he saved 30 games and has struck out 66 hitters in 42 innings. His season ERA sits a 2.34.
The Pirates also snagged Vin Mazzaro from the Kansas City Royals in the offseason. Mazzaro spent two years in Kansas City as a not-very-effective starter and reliever. His ERA was near 7.00. He has become an effective part of the Pirates' pen this year (6-2, 2.92 ERA). Tony Watson and Justin Wilson are two lefties who have come up through their system who complete the pen.
The Pirates finished the 2012 season with the 11th-best bullpen ERA in baseball at 3.36. They proceeded to trade their All-Star closer during the winter. Now they feature a pen with the third-best ERA in MLB at 2.91.
Effective bullpens can be built quickly and the key is to time it with contention. The Pirates are sitting in first place in the National League Central with an impressive 65-43 record. They boast the best winning percentage in the game.
How does it apply to the future for the Mariners?
Despite the excruciating nature of the bullpen failure Thursday night in Boston, it should not affect how you view the overall direction of this team.
This is obviously easier said than done given the crushing nature of late-inning losses, but Tom Wilhelmsen not recording an out has no bearing at all on Kyle Seager developing into one of the best hitters in the American League. If you feel fantastic about Brad Miller and Nick Franklin as the double-play combo of the future then the fact that Oliver Perez struggled should not dim your optimistic view. If you think Mike Zunino is the catcher of the future then Yoervis Medina not being able to put out the fire does not change that. If you felt good about the direction of this team three days ago then what happened in Boston should not change that.
There is nothing more frustrating for fans than a bullpen that consistently coughs up leads and the point of this exercise is not to squelch your anger after a game like Thursday night's. The bullpen has the second-worst ERA in baseball and all indications are that it will continue to struggle in the near future.
However, the bullpen struggles have no bearing on what will potentially make this team good in the long term. The remainder of this season will continue to be about growing the young core.
Thursday, August 1, 2013 @ 1:10pm
By Gary Hill
Not only did Kyle Seager tie the game against the Sox with a solo homer in the eighth inning Wednesday, but he pushed his July batting average over the .400 mark. Alas, Seager would not stay above the line for long as the game wandered deep into the night. Seager would strike out in his final at-bat of the game to sink his average slightly below .400.
However, it was an incredible month for the Mariners third baseman. Seager hit .396 with six homers and 14 RBIs. He cranked five doubles and scored 21 runs along the way. His 1.100 OPS was second best in the American League for July behind Mike Trout (1.108).
To celebrate Seager's sensational month, here is a look at the greatest offensive months in the history of the Mariners:
10. Alvin Davis, April 1984
Davis did not start the season with the Mariners and made his debut April 11 against Boston. He smashed a three-run homer off of Dennis Eckersley in his second Major League at-bat and he never looked back. He piled up seven homers and 17 RBIs despite missing half the month. He hit .369 and his 1.223 OPS is 12th best in Mariners history for one month. It was one of the best debut rookie months in baseball history and A.D. used it to propel him to a landslide victory in American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Alvin Davis, SEA: 134 points (25 first-place votes)
Mark Langston, SEA: 82 points (3)
Kirby Puckett, MIN: 23 points (0)
Tim Teufel, MIN: 5 points (0)
Mike Young, BAL: 3 points (0)
Roger Clemens, BOS: 2 points (0)
9. Ken Griffey Jr., July 1996
Griffey missed a significant portion of the month with a broken hamate bone and did not take his first at-bat until July 14 against the California Angels. He made up for lost time by belting 11 homers and driving in 30 runs in just 18 games. He went for multi-homers three times in the month and drove in three runs or more seven times. He also hit a superb .361 for the month. Think about the numbers he would have accumulated had he been healthy and played a full month.
8. Jay Buhner, September/October 1995
Buhner cranked 14 homers and drove in 33 runs during the close of 1995. The home-run total stands as the second most in a month in Mariners history and the RBI tally is tied for the lead. At one point Buhner launched bombs in five straight games. He homered in seven of nine games during one stretch and the Mariners went 7-2 during that time. The Mariners would eventually tie the Angels for the division and Buhner's massive production was a big reason why.
Ken Griffey Jr. started his MVP season in 1997 with a bang, hitting .340 with 13 home runs and 30 RBIs in April. (AP)
Griffey started the year in style with a .340/.420/.786 slash line. He smashed 13 homers and drove in 30 runs for the month. He scored 25 times and took 12 free passes. When the fifth game of the season was complete he had already hit five homers. On the final day of the month the Mariners boasted a 16-11 record and held a half-game lead over the Rangers for first place in the AL West.
6. Edgar Martinez, June 1995
Edgar hit an incredible .402 while driving in 32 runs. He clubbed eight homers and nine doubles and also walked 28 times. He lived on base and his .537 on-base percentage proves it. Griffey missed the entire month of June that season, but Edgar more than picked up the slack and set up the late-season heroics for the Mariners.
5. Ichiro, August 2004
Ichiro set a Mariners record by pounding out an eye-popping 56 hits in a month. He also secured a Mariners record with his .463 batting average. In 27 games he went 56 for 121. He also mixed in four homers, three doubles, three triples and four stolen bases. He began August hitting .346 and ended it at .371. He would finish the season at .372, which won him his second batting title.
4. Ken Griffey Jr., May 1994
Griffey smashed a club-record 15 homers for the month. He drove in 25 runs and walked 16 times. His 1.244 OPS is sixth in Mariners history in month for players with at least 75 at-bats. He also hit .333. Griffey hit 40 homers for the season, which led the American League, despite only playing in 111 games due to the strike.
3. Alex Rodriguez, August 1996
A-Rod surged towards the 1996 batting title with a .435 month. He whacked nine homers and 11 doubles. He drove in 28 runs and scored 30 on his own. He managed 11 walks while compiling a total of 54 hits. His slash line was a silly .435/.474/.758.
2. Edgar Martinez, May 2000
This was an absolutely beautiful month of hitting. Edgar tallied at least one hit in all but two games for the entire month. He hit .441 while crushing 10 homers. He launched eight doubles and found time to walk 15 times. His slash line of .441/.508/.814 would be difficult to replicate in a video game. His 1.322 OPS for the month is the second best in Mariners history. He drove in 32 runs and scored 24 of his own. Edgar was a monster in 2000, hitting .324 with 37 home runs, 145 RBIs, 31 doubles and 96 walks. He was a big part of the foundation for an offense that reached the ALCS.
1. Edgar Martinez, August 1995
The suggestion is to frame these numbers and hang them on the wall. They should be looked at often. Edgar steamrolled pitching to the tune of .398/.560/.786 for the month. Edgar drew an amazing 31 bases on balls and hit nine homers. He ripped 11 doubles and scored 31 runs. His 1.345 OPS is the best an M's player has ever produced in a month with at least 75 at-bats. It can be argued that August 1995 was the most important month in franchise history and Edgar rose the occasion and help lead the Mariners' fierce comeback. He reached bases an incredible 77 times in just 29 games. He drove in more than a run a game and scored more than a run a game. Players have only topped a 1.300 OPS for a month 148 times since 1916. His OPS for the month is 43rd since 1916 for players with at least 120 plate appearances. He truly put together one of the best offensive months in the history of the game.
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