Monday, July 15, 2013 @ 6:09am
By Gary Hill
The Seattle Mariners steam into the All-Star break with a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The scorching M's offense steamrolled their division rival and stamped an exclamation point on an excellent July stretch.
Ranks in MLB for the month of July:
On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage -- .853, first
Slugging Percentage -- .499, first
On-Base Percentage -- .355, third
Batting Average -- .289, second
Home Runs -- 22, first
Runs -- 76, second
The blazing offense helped propel the M's to an 8-5 July record despite the fierce competition they faced during the month. The Mariners took two of three from the Cincinnati Reds (53 wins) and the Texas Rangers (54 wins) on the road to start the month. They dropped three of four in a slugfest against the Boston Red Sox, who stroll into the break with the best record in baseball. They finished the month by throwing cold water on the previously red-hot Angels.
The home run has been a primary weapon for this surging squad. The M's are now tied for second in all of baseball by swatting 115 homers. The Baltimore Orioles lead MLB with 132 long balls, with the Mariners and Blue Jays tied in the next slot. The feat is even more impressive when one considers that the Mariners hit a total of 109 homers in 2011 and 101 in 2010. They surpassed both of those totals by the All-Star break this season.
The Mariners have also slugged homers in 22 straight games which sets a club record. They are tracking the Texas Rangers for the longest streak in baseball history.
Consecutive Games with a home run:
2002 Texas Rangers -- 27
1998 Atlanta Braves -- 25
1994 Detroit Tigers -- 25
1941 New York Yankees -- 25
1953 Brooklyn Dodgers -- 24
2006 Atlanta Braves -- 23
2000 Toronto Blue Jays -- 23
1996 Oakland A's -- 23
2013 Seattle Mariners -- 22
2000-01 Arizona Diamondbacks -- 22
1956 Milwaukee Braves -- 22
Players have peppered positive contributions throughout the lineup for the Mariners.
Top performers for Mariners heading into the break:Justin Smoak -- Since April 22nd he is hitting .306 with a .920 OPS. His slash line in July is .386/.460/.659
Raul Ibanez -- He has already blasted more homers this season (24) than he has in all but one season in a Seattle uniform. His 16 home runs are already ninth most in a season at Safeco Field. Richie Sexson holds the Safeco record with 21.
Brad Miller -- He is hitting .268 with three doubles, six RBI and five walks as the leadoff man. The M's are 6-4 with him at the top spot.
Kendrys Morales -- In June he hit .235/.265/.306 with one HR and nine RBI in 24 games. In July he is .300/.352/.640 with five HR and 12 RBI in 12 games
Mike Zunino -- He went 7-22 (.318) with three RBI during the homestand.
Michael Saunders - The last 28 days he is hitting .288 with two HR, 10 RBI and five BB.
Kyle Seager -- He is hitting .458 with four homers and eight RBI in July. His OPS is 1.292 for the month.
Nick Franklin -- He maintains the second best OPS (.788) for all AL rookies.
The Mariners will look to keep the roll going in Houston after the All-Star break.
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 8:10am
By Gary Hill
Aaron Harang took the mound for the first time as a Mariner on April 16 versus the Detroit Tigers.
He was saddled with the loss after chucking five innings and yielding three runs. All three of those runs were driven in by the mighty Miguel Cabrera, who drove in a run with a single in the first inning and then blasted a two-run homer in the fifth. Cabrera has been munching on American League hurlers all season to the tune of a .366 batting average, 29 homers and 93 RBIs.
Mariners starter Aaron Harang has fared much better this season against teams from the National League, where he has spent the majority of his career. (AP)
"I think we really have to worry about not letting him beat us and making the rest of their team actually beat us. I think it was something obviously not having been in the American League and seeing these guys a lot might have changed my aspect of how I would have pitched to him."
Harang has spent 10 of his 12 big league years pitching in the NL for the Reds, Dodgers and Padres. All but 36 of his 308 Major League starts have come wearing the uniform of an NL team.
Keep the Cabrera comment in mind when you consider Harang's splits against NL and AL teams this season.
Against NL: 2-1, 2.17 ERA, 4 starts, 29 IP, 7 ER.
Against AL: 2-7, 7.17 ERA, 11 starts, 54 IP, 43 ER.
The Houston Astros are included in the AL numbers for Harang, but he has been facing them for over a decade as an NL team. Here are what the numbers look like when you add the Astros to the NL column:
Against the NL and Houston: 3-1, 1.66 ERA, 5 starts, 38 IP, 7 ER.
Against the AL without Houston: 1-7, 8.60 ERA, 10 starts, 45 IP, 43 ER.
Here is a breakdown of his opponents this year in terms of familiarity:
National League and Houston:
May 7 at Pirates: 26 career starts against
May 27 vs. Padres: 16 career starts against
June 11 vs. Astros: 27 career starts against
June 29 vs. Cubs: 27 career starts against
July 5 at Reds: 3 career starts against, but started 213 games for them as recently as 2010.
American League without Astros:
April 16 vs. Tigers: 4 career starts against.
April 21 at Texas: 5 career starts against.
April 26 vs. Angels: 6 career starts against.
May 1 vs. Orioles: 2 career starts against.
May 21 at Angels: 6 career starts against.
June 1 at Twins: 2 career starts against.
June 6 vs. Yankees: 1 career start against.
June 17 at Angels: 6 career starts against.
June 22 vs. A's: 2 career starts against (started 21 games for them, but none since 2003. No current A's player was on that team).
July 10 vs. Red Sox: 4 career starts against.
This may just be a case of a small sample size producing an interesting yet coincidental result. However, maybe there is more at play. Perhaps familiarity is helping breed positive results.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013 @ 6:00am
By Gary Hill
The Mariners are surging to start the month of July, having secured two series wins against formidable foes in the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds. The youthful infield has injected life into the 2013 cause and has visions of future glory dancing in the heads of fans throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Kyle Seager has established himself as one of the bright young third basemen in baseball. His slash line of .287/.352/.477 has been another step forward this season.
The start of Nick Franklin's career has even been a touch better than Seager's was at the same point. Franklin is .284/.340/.482 with six homers and 19 RBIs through his first 153 plate appearances. Seager stepped to the plate 201 times as a rookie in 2011 and posted a .258/.312/.379 line with three homers and 13 RBIs.
Brad Miller tore through the minors thanks to his hitting prowess and has already made an impact at the MLB level in just 11 games. Mike Zunino has handled himself in the big leagues despite the fact it has only been a year since he was taken third overall by the Mariners in the 2012 draft.
Justin Smoak has been a monster since leaving the disabled list last month, posting an impressive 1.047 OPS with four homers and nine RBIs. He has also walked eight times.
The more holes the Mariners can fill this season, the more resources they can distribute to the remaining needs this winter. It would be of significant help for the Mariners if they can roll into the offseason feeling confident about the current infield.
The future of the Mariners' outfield is murkier. Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders will spend the remainder of 2013 trying to establish themselves as everyday outfielders.
Former Oregon State Beaver Stefen Romero has made pitchers suffer as he has rocketed through the minors and could be an option as early as this year, but the former infielder is currently making the transition to the outfield in Tacoma.
Julio Morban is having a solid season with the Double-A Jackson Generals and could be a part of the future puzzle in the outfield.
The list of in-house options is not long and one way or another help will need to be acquired from the outside world.
The list of free-agent outfielders is not deep, but holds intrigue for the Mariners. Here are some of the highlights:
There are a couple of names on the list that will hold interest for the M's this offseason, and one of them is sure to be Jacoby Ellsbury. The Scott Boras client will require a significant fee for his services given the thin market. The Red Sox center fielder, who is in town this week, does not come without risk. He will be 30 when he hits the market this winter and impactful, although freak, injuries have cost him time. He was limited to 18 games in 2010 and managed to just play 74 last season.
However, he has been brilliant when healthy. He is a gifted center fielder who maintains the best UZR/150, according to FanGraphs.com, among all center fielders since 2011.
The speedster has led the American League in steals twice in his career, including a whopping 70 in 2009. He currently leads all of baseball with 36 steals. That happens to be six more steals than the Mariners have as a team this year.
Ellsbury is hitting .301 with two home runs, 30 RBIs, 20 doubles, and an AL-high seven triples. He also has matched the entire Mariners team for triples this season.
He nearly captured the MVP in his magical 2011 season. He launched 32 homers and drove in 105 runs while swiping 39 bags. He went to the All-Star game, finished second in MVP voting and took home Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. It is not realistic to expect a home run total that approaches 2011 since he has not amassed more than that in the rest of his combined career, though.
He is rolling right now after a sluggish start out of the gates. He is .345/.398/.466 in the last 30 days. He has compiled 40 hits and taken 13 bases.
He has worked his way to 12th in the American League in WAR (3.3), according to BaseballReference.com, which happens to be just one spot ahead of Kyle Seager (3.0).
Ellsbury was a star at Oregon State University and helped establish the best decade in college baseball history for a school north of California. He was born in Madras, Ore., located about two hours southeast of Portland, where he was a high school star before making his way to Oregon State.
The northwest native will most likely be a very popular target this offseason for MLB teams thirsting for additional offensive punch. Time will tell if the Mariners are among them.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013 @ 6:57am
By Gary Hill
The ridiculous Raul Ibanez renaissance continued at Safeco Field Monday night. Ibanez bashed his 22nd homer and added his 51st RBI on the season with a sixth-inning single as Seattle stormed by the boys from Beantown 11-4.
Ibanez has become the oldest player in baseball history to reach the 20-home-run and 50-RBI plateau before the All-Star break. The ancient Mariner seemingly swipes at history with every single swing. He has his sights firmly set on "The Splendid Splinter" for the most homers in an age-41-or-over season.
1. Ted Williams: 29, 1960 (41)
2. Barry Bonds: 28, 2007 (42)
3. Barry Bonds: 26, 2006 (41)
4. Raul Ibanez: 22, 2013 (41)
4. Darrell Evans: 22, 1988 (41)
6. Dave Winfield: 21, 1993 (41)
7. Stan Musial: 19, 1962 (41)
8. Carlton Fisk: 18, 1991 (43)
8. Carlton Fisk: 18, 1990 (42)
10. Carl Yastrzemski: 16, 1982 (42)
10. Graig Nettles: 16, 1986 (41)
12. Reggie Jackson: 15, 1987 (41)
12. Willie McCovey: 15, 1979 (41)
He also continues to establish himself as one of the best home run hitters over the age of 40 in history. Note: These are homers actually hit at 40 years or older and not simply in a 40-year-old season or older.
1. Barry Bonds, 78
2. Carlton Fisk, 72
3. Darrell Evans, 65
4. Dave Winfield, 59
5. Carl Yastrzemski, 49
6. Stan Musial, 46
7. Ted Williams, 44
8. Hank Aaron, 42
9. Graig Nettles, 40
10. Hank Sauer, 39
11. Edgar Martinez, 36
11. Harold Baines, 36
13. Raul Ibanez, 32
13. Julio Franco, 32
15. Rickey Henderson, 31
15. Craig Biggio, 31
15. Andres Galarraga, 31
18. Jim Thome, 30
19. Willie McCovey, 28
20. Brian Downing, 27
21. Reggie Jackson, 26
22. Eddie Murray, 25
There have only been 14 occurrences of a player in his 40-year-old season or older hitting 20 or more homers in a season. Edgar Martinez swatted 24 as a 40-year-old in 2003. Ibanez needs just two more to catch his former teammate. Darrell Evans holds the 40-year-old record with 34 homers in 1987 for the Detroit Tigers.
Ibanez spent his first five seasons in the big leagues with the Mariners. From age 24 to 28 he racked up 14 homers and 58 RBIs in 231 games. He is sitting on 22 homers and 51 RBIs in just 254 at-bats this season.
Here are his homer totals as a Mariner by year:
Ibanez continues to extend his home-run record at Safeco Field. He has hit 80 in his career, which vastly eclipses the 62 from Bret Boone, who sits in second. Fourteen of the 22 homers from Ibanez this year have been hit at Safeco Field. It is already the 11th-most homers hit at Safeco during a season. The record was set by Richie Sexson, who smashed 21 long balls at Safeco Field in 2005.
The quantity of homers has certainly been impressive for Ibanez this season and the quality has matched. Monday night marked the 12th time this season an Ibanez homer has either tied the game or propelled the M's into the lead. The homer also extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
Ibanez has helped Seattle surge to a sensational start in the month of July. They have won their first two series of the month and have boasted a 5-2 record. They feature the second-best OPS .891 in baseball and they have scored the seventh-most runs with 39. The Mariners have already hit 12 homers in the month, which ties them with Detroit from most in MLB.
Furthermore, since Brad Miller joined Nick Franklin to become the starting middle infield, the Mariners are averaging 5.3 runs per game.
The sample size is small, but the July start is promising. The Mariners will try and keep it going Tuesday as All-Star Hisashi Iwakuma takes the hill against the Red Sox.
Monday, July 8, 2013 @ 6:48am
Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez were named to the American League All-Star team over the weekend. It was the appropriate cherry hoisted onto what has been a delicious first-half pitching sundae.
Iwakuma boasts the best ERA (2.60) and best WHIP (0.88) in the AL. He has only walked a remarkable 18 hitters while fanning 103. He has hurled the sixth-most innings in the league and opponents are only batting .204 against him, which is fourth best.
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez has been named to the All-Star team four times, one shy of Randy Johnson's club record. (AP)
Felix has been named to the All-Star team for an impressive fourth time, which is only one fewer than the record for a Mariners pitcher:
Randy Johnson, 5
Felix Hernandez, 4
Kazuhiro Sasaki, 2
Freddy Garcia, 2
Hisashi Iwakuma, 1
Brandon League, 1
Michael Pineda, 1
Cliff Lee, 1
J.J. Putz, 1
Shigetoshi Hasegawa, 1
Jamie Moyer, 1
Jeff Nelson, 1
Aaron Sele, 1
Mark Langston, 1
Matt Young, 1
Floyd Bannister, 1
Rick Honeycutt, 1
There have been only four occasions that an M's pitcher has been named to the All-Star team and not pitched in the game. Rick Honeycutt in 1980, Randy Johnson in 1990 and Felix Hernandez the last two years never appeared on the mound in the game. Felix has actually only pitched in the game one time, throwing a scoreless inning in 2009.
Seattle pitchers have thrown 24 2/3 innings and yielded 10 earned runs in All-Star games. Four of those runs were scored on Shigetoshi Hasegawa in 2003. He only coughed up four earned runs in the entire first half of the season in route to his All-Star selection. He tossed 46 2/3 innings and carried a feathery 0.77 ERA into the All-Star break. He proceeded to match his entire first half of the season by yielding four runs in the mid-summer classic.
Freddy Garcia captured the only All-Star decision for a Seattle pitcher when he won the 2001 game in Seattle. Kazuhiro Sasaki locked down the only All-Star save for the franchise in the same game. There have been five occasions when M's pitchers have gone two innings in the game (Garcia in 2002, Johnson in 1997, 1995 and 1993 and Mark Langston in 1987).
Johnson earned his way to the All-Star game one time by 1993 during his age-28 season. Meanwhile, Felix will already be going to his fourth game in his age-28 campaign. Given his massive success at such a young age, here is the list of most appearances for pitchers in the All-Star game:
Warren Spahn, 14
Mariano Rivera, 13
Tom Seaver, 12
Roger Clemens, 11
Steve Carlton, 10
Tom Glavine, 10
Randy Johnson, 10
Juan Marichal, 9
Rich Gossage, 9
Carl Hubbell, 9
Whitey Ford, 8
Don Drysdale, 8
Bob Gibson, 8
Bob Feller, 8
Roy Halladay, 8
Catfish Hunter, 8
Greg Maddux, 8
Pedro Martinez, 8
Nolan Ryan, 8
John Smoltz, 8
Iwakuma broke into the Nippon Professional Baseball League at the age of 20 in 2001 and put together an impressive decade. He has pitched for Japan in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic. He has captured the coveted Eiji Sawamura, Most Valuable Player and Best Nine Awards. He has won 20 games in a season, which is incredibly difficult to do in Japan. He now adds a Major League Baseball All-Star selection to his resume.
In the meantime, the dynamic duo will throw in the first two games when the Red Sox invade Safeco Field starting tonight. The Mariners return home after an impressive 4-2 road trip in Arlington and Cincinnati as they try and ride their current surge into the All-Star break.
Thursday, July 4, 2013 @ 6:24am
A few Independence Day notes:
Break out the brooms
The Mariners are going for a sweep in Arlington for the first time since 2002. The M's took four in a row in Texas in April of that year.
Ruben Sierra went 9 for 16 in the series for the M's. He hit a grand slam in one game and went 5 for 5 in another.
The Mariners returned to Texas later in the season and swept the Rangers again in a brief two-game series. The Rangers returned the favor and swept the Mariners in the final four-game series in Texas between the two teams in 2002.
• Last three games: 6 for 13, 2 HR, 4 RBI.
• Previous five games: 1 for 23, 1 HR.
• Career in Arlington: .361, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 11 2B (most homers and doubles at any opposing ballpark).
• Career homers at Safeco Field: 9 in 595 plate appearances.
• At Rangers Ballpark: 4 in 88 plate appearances.
•Since coming off the disabled list he is hitting .309 (13 for 42) with three home runs, five RBIs and seven walks.
• On Wednesday he hit his 11th home run of the season, all of them solo shots. Ian Desmond of Washington was the last player to reach all-solo double-digit homers (10) in a season (2010). The record for most homers in a season being all solo was set by Ken Singleton of Baltimore in 1975 with 15. Singleton took Catfish Hunter (twice), Jim Perry (twice), Jim Kaat and Dennis Eckersley deep during that season. Strangely, six of his homers in a row came in a 0-0 game.
• Bay never hit more than 12 home runs in three years with the Mets.
• Five of Bay's homers have been hit in the seventh inning while three have been hit in the first.
• Last five games: 4 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K
In honor of the day here is the All Independence Day Team:
SS, Jason Bartlett
2B, Nick Franklin
DH, Reggie Jefferson
1B, Matt Adams
CF, Garry Hancock
C, Jimmie Wilson
LF, Hal Morris
RF, Bubba Morton
3B, Earl Williams
P, Bob Wolcott
Wednesday, July 3, 2013 @ 9:54am
Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox has not pitched since beating the Angels on June 8. He had a sensational start to the season (9-0, 1.71 ERA) until a neck strain derailed his impressive progress. His innings-pitched total has not budged in over a month (84 1/3). The Red Sox played their 85th game Tuesday night, which means that Buchholz has fallen below the threshold of at least one inning pitched per game played to qualify for the ERA title.
When Felix Hernandez toes the rubber in Texas Wednesday he will take the second-best ERA in the American League (2.70) to the mound with him. The intriguing aspect of the AL ERA situation is that Felix is now chasing down his own teammate for ERA supremacy. Hisashi Iwakuma will follow Felix on Thursday and now boasts the best ERA in the league (2.42).
The MLB season just inched over the halfway point and two pitchers from the same team are one and two in the ERA race. This raises an interesting question: How many times have teammates led the league in ERA?
It is certainly a rare feat, but not as infrequent as one might assume. For instance, there were only eight teams in the American League in 1944. The number has ballooned to 15 in today's game. Simple mathematics made the occurrence much more of a possibility from the establishment of the National League in 1876 through the 1960s.
The following is the list of teammates who have finished one and two in ERA:
2005 NL, Astros
1. Roger Clemens, 1.87
2. Andy Pettitte, 2.39
2002 AL, Red Sox
1. Pedro Martinez, 2.26
2. Derek Lowe, 2.58
2001 NL, Diamondbacks
1. Randy Johnson, 2.49
2. Curt Schilling, 2.98
1996 AL, Blue Jays
1. Juan Guzman, 2.93
2. Pat Hentgen, 3.22
1981 NL, Astros
1. Nolan Ryan, 1.69
2. Bob Knepper, 2.18
1979 AL, Yankees
1. Ron Guidry, 2.78
2. Tommy John, 2.96
1975 NL, Braves
1. Buzz Capra, 2.28
2. Phil Niekro, 2.38
1968 AL, Indians
1. Luis Tiant, 1.60
2. Sam McDowell, 1.81
1967 AL, White Sox
1. Joe Horlen, 2.06
2. Gary Peters, 2.28
1966 AL, White Sox
1. Gary Peters, 1.98
2. Joe Horlen, 2.43
1964 NL, Dodgers
1. Sandy Koufax, 1.74
2. Don Drysdale, 2.18
1963 AL, White Sox
1. Gary Peters, 2.33
2. Juan Pizarro, 2.39
1959 NL, Giants
1. Sam Jones, 2.83
2. Stu Miller, 2.84
1957 NL, Brooklyn Dodgers
1. Johnny Podres, 2.66
2. Don Drysdale, 2.69
1957 AL, Yankees
1. Bobby Shantz, 2.45
2. Tom Sturdivant, 2.54
1956 NL, Milwaukee Braves
1. Lew Burdette, 2.70
2. Warren Spahn, 2.78
1940s: 7 occurrences
The 1927 Yankees featured the top three pitchers in ERA: Wilcy Moore (2.28), Waite Hoyt (2.63) and Urban Shocker (2.84). It hardly seems fair considering the offense featured Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs and Tony Lazzeri.
The 1906 Cubs and 1925 Reds also featured the top three finishers in ERA.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013 @ 8:59am
Raul Ibanez swatted his 10th home run in the month of June on Sunday against the Chicago Cubs. The event marks the 25th time in the history of the Mariners that a player has hit 10 or more homers in a month. It is also the first time the feat has been accomplished in 10 years.
In May of 2003, Edgar Martinez belted 10 homers in his second-to-last season in the Big Leagues. The 40-year-old Martinez ended the season with 24 long balls, which tied his sixth-highest total in a season. Edgar crushed 13 home runs before June but managed just 11 the rest of the way. One of his June homers was delivered by current Mariners pitcher Jeremy Bonderman.
Raul Ibanez is the first Mariner since 2003 to hit double-digit homers in a month. (AP)
Ken Griffey Jr., 13
Alex Rodriguez, 3
Jay Buhner, 2
Edgar Martinez, 2
Raul Ibanez, 1
Bret Boone, 1
Jim Presley, 1
Steve Balboni, 1
Gorman Thomas, 1
Gorman Thomas was the first Mariner to swat double-digit homers in a month. He went the first nine days of July 1985 without hitting a home run, but made up for lost time by hitting six homers in the last five days of the month. Thomas pumped 32 homers into the seats in 1985 while hitting .215.
The Milwaukee Brewers are celebrating Thomas with "Gorman Thomas Bobblehead Night" on Sept. 1. Thomas famously maintained one of the most celebrated mustaches in M's history. However, some serious mustache competition presented itself in 1988.
Steve "bye bye" Balboni played for the Mariners for part of one season. In late May of 1988 he was released by the Kansas City Royals. The Mariners picked him up and he finished the season by clubbing 21 homers for Seattle. Ten of them came in a single month.
Jay Buhner whacked 14 home runs in the final month of the 1995 season. He hit eight homers in eight calendar days from the 5th to the 13th.
More on Raul
Eight of Ibanez's 19 homers have either tied the game or given the Mariners the lead. Fifteen of his homers have been hit in a two-run game or closer.
All 10 of Jason Bay's home runs this season have been solo blasts. Ken Singleton set the record for most homers, all solo, with 15 for Baltimore in 1975. All 10 of Ian Desmond's homers were solo shots in 2010. Jason Bartlett hit 14 solo home runs in 2009. There have been three players with 12, one with 11 and four with 10 solo-only-homers in a season.