Friday, May 24, 2013 @ 11:25am
Baseball has entered the era of the pitcher. Offensive numbers have been sliding for the past several seasons, which leads to a re-examination of what an "average" hitter actually looks like.
First of all, take a look at where batting averages have moved the past 24 seasons:
Here is a look at OPS over that same span:
It is obvious that offensive numbers are trending down, and as they do, the definition of "average" needs to change.
In 2013, Major League hitters own a combined .253 batting average, a .318 on-base percentage and a .403 slugging percentage.
Who is Mr. Average in MLB for 2013 thus far?
Andy Dirks of the Detroit Tigers! Dirks has put together a nearly identical slash line to the average of .254/.319/.408. He has hit five homers while driving in 15. He has collected three doubles, one triple and 13 bases on balls.
It can be a valuable exercise to define the middle because it may actually change some evaluations of current Mariners. Are you more impressed with the season Kyle Seager is having (.275/.344/.468) in comparison to the average? Does this change your opinion of Justin Smoak (.240/.355/.349) or does it confirm what you already thought?
Thursday, May 23, 2013 @ 6:46am
By Gary Hill
The Mariners took two of three in New York to start their most recent road trip, only to drop the final six games. At one point on the trip they climbed into second place and within a game of .500. They now sit seven games back of the even mark and four and half behind Oakland for second place.
Despite some popular opinion, the primary culprit for the Mariners' recent woes is not the offense. They've swatted 53 homers this season, which is eighth in baseball. They've drawn 153 bases on balls, which is seventh. Their offense is 21st in MLB with a .699 OPS.
A team OPS of .699 does not put them in the class with the 1927 Yankees, but it is good enough to win with. Here is a list of teams huddled with the M's in OPS rankings:
21. Mariners, .699.
21. Padres, .699. San Diego is 16-9 in its last 25 and pulled to within four games in the NL West.
20. Pirates, .701. Their record (28-18) is tied for third in the National League.
19. Royals, .704. Kansas City is just a game back of .500 (21-22).
18. Cubs, .712. Chicago is 18-27.
17. Cardinals, .716. St. Louis has the best record in baseball (29-16).
16. Diamondbacks, .718. Arizona is tied for the NL West lead (26-21).
15. Blue Jays, .718. Toronto is 19-27.
14. A's, .721. Oakland is 25-23.
13. Yankees, .725. New York is first in the AL East (28-18).
There is one thing that separates the Cardinals, Yankees, Pirates and Diamondbacks from the Cubs and Blue Jays on the previous list: Pitching.
The Mariners have scored 74 runs and are 8-10 in the month of May. The Pirates have scored 72 runs and they are 13-6. The Mariners' ERA in May is 4.45 while the Pirates boast a 2.41 mark.
Starting pitching, in particular, has been the chief issue for the Mariners. The rotation owns a 4.47 ERA for the season, which is 21st in baseball. It is a surprising mark considering they have arguably the best one-two punch in the game right now.
Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma have combined to go 10-4 with a 2.21 ERA. They have fanned 133 hitters while only walking 23. They have only allowed 103 hits this year in 20 starts.
Meanwhile, the rest of the rotation has combined to go 6-15 with a 6.64 ERA. In seven more starts than the dynamic duo, the rest of the rotation has only thrown 5 1/3 more innings. They have yielded a whopping 77 more hits and 13 more homers. They have walked 43 and only fanned 89. Felix and Iwakuma are throwing almost seven innings a start. The rest of the rotation is averaging just over five frames a turn.
Joe Saunders: 3-4 record, 5.64 ERA
Brandon Maurer: 2-6, 6.80
Aaron Harang: 1-5, 8.58
Blake Beavan: 0-1, 8.27
The number 4 is the most important number for the Mariners right now. They are:
12-3 when scoring four or more;
8-24 when scoring three or fewer;
1-24 when allowing four or more;
19-3 when allowing three or fewer.
In three turns out of five, the Mariners are not even consistently getting the opportunity to hit the magic four mark. During this six-game slide, the rotation owns a 9.62 ERA. To make matters worse, the rotation has struggled right out of the gates in games. They have yielded 33 runs this year in first innings, which fifth-worst in baseball.
The tone is being set early when Felix and Iwakuma are not on the hill. The bullpen is also being overworked, which can have severe effects for multiple days. Here is the inning breakdown for the month of May:
Felix and Iwakuma: 54 innings
Bullpen: 50 1/3 innings
Rest of the rotation: 49 innings
The Mariners must have more consistent pitching from the final three in the rotation. They were dealt a blow to start the season when Erasmo Ramirez (1-3 record, 3.36 ERA) was not ready to go. They hit another bump when Danny Hultzen ran into injury woes just as it appeared he was hitting his groove at Triple-A Tacoma. Maurer is a rookie, so riding the roller coaster is not surprising. Saunders has been sensational at home, but struggled on the road. He needs to straighten out his road issues. Harang has struggled with injury and ineffectiveness. The other in-house options:
Jeremy Bonderman: 2-3 record, 3.79 ERA in Tacoma. He is scheduled to pitch Thursday.
Blake Beavan: Struggled with the M's this year, but pitched well his last time out for Tacoma (one earned run over 7 2/3 innings).
Hector Noesi: Pitched well in a spot start for Seattle in New York, but was hammered his last time out for the Rainiers (six earned runs over five innings).
Whoever ends up in the rotation, it is essential that the Mariners find consistency at the back end. Consistency from the rotation will be key to make another run at Oakland and the .500 mark in the short-term.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 @ 7:41am
The 2013 MLB season was supposed to be all about games like Tuesday night for the Angels.
They pounded out 15 hits and went deep three times on their way to a 12-0 rout of the Mariners. Mike Trout became the youngest player in American League history to hit for the cycle. He drove in five, scored twice and added a stolen base for good measure. Angels starter Jerome Williams scattered six hits on his way to eight shutout innings.
Unfortunately for the Angles, this pristine blueprint has not been followed nearly enough during the 2013 campaign. Despite the win Tuesday night, the Angels enter play Wednesday tied for the fourth-worst record in baseball.
The expectations for the Angels were sky-high given the staggering $483 million they handed out during the last two offseasons in free agency. Their lavish spending spree has netted them Josh Hamilton, Joe Blanton, Sean Burnett, Ryan Madson, Albert Pujols, LaTroy Hawkins and C.J. Wilson. The results have not followed. They are stuck in fourth place in the AL West, 10.5 games out of first. The Angels won 89 games a year ago, but missed the postseason.
The Angels' "crosstown" rivals, the Dodgers, were the only other team in baseball to outspend them during this past winter. The Dodgers shelled out a whopping $185.85 million for Zack Greinke, J.P. Howell and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The results for the Dodgers have nearly been identical as well. They are sitting in dead last in the NL West with a record of 18-26.
It is interesting to examine to the top seven spenders from each of the past four offseasons. Not one of them has won a World Series, although two of them have made it. Fourteen of the 21 teams never appeared in the postseason at all.
Major League teams are becoming much more efficient at locking up their stars before free agency hits. Joey Votto, Justin Verlander, Buster Posey, Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels, Evan Longoria and Matt Kemp are a few who have signed extensions to keep them off the free-agent market for years to come.
The early signings have resulted in thin free-agent classes in recent years. It has left more teams fighting for less top-tier talent and led to teams rolling the dice with big-money deals on question marks. Looking at the upcoming free-agency class is a prime example. Here is a look at the top names:
The list gets thin quickly and is full of question marks. Relying on free agency alone can truly be detrimental to the health of a franchise.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 @ 6:27am
The Mariners wing their way to Los Angeles thirsting for a much-needed victory after a devastating four-game series in Cleveland. Seattle was swept aside by the red-hot Indians as three of their four wins came in their final at-bat.
Albert Pujols is off to another slow start, hitting just .241 though 43 games. (AP)
The splashy offseason acquisition of Josh Hamilton so far has not worked out as hoped. Hamilton has scuffled through a .216/.271/.351 start. Albert Pujols has struggled through a May where he is hitting .224 with four walks. It is the second year in a row where he has started the season decidedly un-Pujols like.
Despite a few offensive warts to start the season the Angels still are 14th in baseball in runs scored. They have launched 48 homers as a team, which is 12th, and are hitting .256, which is 13th. The offense has been average, but well short of lofty expectations considering the names of Hamilton, Pujols, Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick that stuff the lineup.
However, the major issue for the Angels has been pitching. They are 28th in all of baseball with a 4.77 ERA. They own the second-worst WHIP (1.47) in MLB. The Angels' staff is 27th in batting average against (.270) and 28th in walks allowed (165). The ace of the Angels staff, Jared Weaver, has only started two games this year due to injury. Barry Enright, Michael Roth, Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams have all been pushed into rotation duty with less than stellar results. Joe Blanton has started nine games and boasts the worst ERA in the AL (6.62).
The Mariners will see Williams (2-1, 3.05) and (3-3, 3.72) in these two games. Williams and Wilson have been two of the more consistent pitchers on the Angels' staff. Wilson beat the Mariners at Safeco earlier this season, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with two walks and nine strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. It was the only win the Angles had in the four-game series. Williams pitched once out of the pen, but did not draw a start last time around. He has been an effective weapon out of the pen for skipper Mike Scioscia, but mass ineffectiveness by other starters have shoved him into the rotation. Williams is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 21 innings out of the pen this season. He is 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in 17 innings as a starter.
The Mariners were rolling along in the six series previous to the stop in Cleveland (5-0-1). They will look to recapture the momentum in Los Angeles tonight.
Sunday, May 19, 2013 @ 9:32pm
The Mariners have been shoved through a Cleveland buzz saw in the first three games of their four-game weekend wrap-around series. The Indians are scorching hot. They have won four in a row and have the best winning percentage in baseball since April 20 (20-7). They have played nine consecutive series without a loss.
Their offense is severely menacing. They own the best .OPS (.793) in all of baseball. They bash a homer every 25.2 at-bats, which is the best in MLB. The Indians are also the top slugging team in the game.
This offense has racked up enough runs to pin losses on R.A Dickey, David Price, Chris Sale, Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez this season. They have scored 44 runs in nearly 44 innings pitched by former Cy Young Award winners.
Their pitching has been superb. Since April 20, the Cleveland rotation boasts a 13-4 record with a 2.97 ERA. Their pitchers have fanned the second-most hitters in baseball in the month of May and they have the fourh-best ERA (3.45) for the month in the American League.
Despite the impressive credentials Cleveland boasts, the Mariners could be sporting a 2-1 series lead instead of a 0-3 deficit going into the finale on Monday. The M's lost in walk-off style on the first two days of the series despite going 1-15 with runners in scoring position. Four runs has been the key for the Mariners so far this season. The M's are 8-22 when scoring three runs or fewer. They are 12-2 with four runs or more. Seattle is 19-3 when allowing three runs or fewer and 1-21 when allowing four or more.
The Mariners will look to salvage the final game Monday morning.
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 7:38am
Tom Wilhelmsen slammed the door on another foe Thursday night in the Bronx to lock down his 11th save of the season. He is perfect in save situations as he continues to whittle down his ERA (0.50) to nearly nothing.
The numbers are ridiculous. Right-handed hitters are 0 for 30 against Wilhelmsen on the season. Lefties are not much better (6 for 30, .200). He has yielded a grand total of zero extra-base hits on the season. He coughed up a run to the White Sox in his second outing of the year, but has hurled 16 1/3 scoreless innings since.
M's closer Tom Wilhelmsen is 11 for 11 in save situations with a 0.50 ERA this season. (AP)
He has been a man of his word. Since the outing against the White Sox on April 5 he has allowed one walk and five singles. In the ninth inning Thursday Brett Gardner singled and proceeded to steal second and third. He is the first baserunner to reach third during the entire stretch that has lasted nearly a month and a half. Only two other runners have even reached as far as second.
"Any inning in the big leagues is a great inning, but it is nice to get the last out and seal the deal and take the ball home", Wilhelmsen says.
He has racked up 11 saves on the season, which is fifth in the American League. With nearly half of them, he entered the game with only a one-run lead. In his short time as the closer for the Mariners he has already climbed the ladder to 10th on the club's all-time saves list. He needs 12 more to catch Brandon League and Bill Caudill for eighth. He needs 16 to catch Bobby Ayala for seventh and 19 to reel in Eddie Guardado for sixth.
"Everyone's got the stuff to be up here," he says. "It's between the ears that matters the most, I guess, to stay up here."
Wilhelmsen has been wildly successful since taking the mound for the M's starting in 2011. He has now pitched in 115 games the past three season. He is 6-3 with a 2.42 ERA. In 130 innings he has fanned 130 and only 22 hits against him have gone for extra bases.
The 6-foot-6 Wilhelmsen has been firing a fastball averaging a touch over 96 mph this season. He has the ability to reach back and blow it by hitters at nearly triple digits if need be. He has mixed in his hammer curveball to the detriment of hitters. He has also increased the frequency of his changeup from 0.4 percent of the time in 2011 to 7.1 percent this season, according to fangraphs.com.
He needed his entire arsenal Thursday night. The Mariners were ahead of the Yankees 3-2. Wilhelmsen was standing on the hill with the tying run on third base and only one down. With the game and the series on the line, he reached back and punched out Jayson Nix and followed that by coaxing slugging second baseman Robinson Cano into a harmless groundout.
Brendan Ryan captured the crucial moments beautifully after the game.
"That's as fun as it gets there at the end with Tommy on the mound," Ryan said. "For him to get behind on Nix there and throw two fastballs by him, I mean, that just shows how awesome he is. He can do it all."
The Mariners will hope to see more "Closing Time" in Cleveland starting Friday with game one of four against the surging Indians.
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 9:01am
Raul Ibanez bashed two homers and drove in six as the avalanche of runs buried the Yankees 12-2 Wednesday.
Ibanez has caught fire after scuffling through an April where he hit .158 with 15 strikeouts in 57 at-bats. He has already launched four homers in May while boasting a blistering .421 batting average. In the first two games of the series against the Yankees he has clubbed three homers and driven in eight.
The former Yankee has put himself in the top-10 in homers at the new Yankee Stadium (19). He also became the 28th-oldest player in baseball history with a multi-home-run game. Julio Franco tops the list when he hit two in 2005 with the Braves as a 46-year-old. Edgar Martinez appears on the list at No. 16 when he smashed two homers off of Cliff Lee in a game against Cleveland in 2005. Eric Wedge was the skipper for the Indians at the time. Stan Musial socked three home runs in a game as a 41-year-old.
Raul Ibanez homered twice Wednesday. (AP)
1. Julio Franco, 46.3
2. Carlton Fisk, 43.3
3. Carlton Fisk, 43.2
4. Enos Slaughter, 43.1
5. Barry Bonds, 42.3
6. Barry Bonds, 42.2
7. Dave Winfield, 42.2
8. Darrell Evans, 42.0
9. Barry Bonds, 42.0
10. Ted Williams, 41.4
11. Ted Williams, 41.3
12. Greg Nettles, 41.3
13. Darrell Evans, 41.3
14. Greg Nettles, 41.3
15. Ted Williams, 41.2
16. Edgar Martinez, 41.2
17. Stan Musial, 41.2
Ibanez has now has two multi-homer games over the age of 40 and only 16 players have accomplished that. Hank Sauer went deep multiple times in a game over the age of 40 a record eight times. Here is the list:
Hank Sauer, 8
Barry Bonds, 6
Carlton Fisk, 4
Moises Alou, 4
Dave Winfield, 3
Ted Williams, 3
Jim Thome, 3
Greg Nettles, 3
Stan Musial, 3
Reggie Jackson, 3
Darrell Evans, 3
Edgar Martinez, 2
Raul Ibanez, 2
Rickey Henderson, 2
George Brett, 2
Harold Baines, 2
Thanks to the two homers by Ibanez, the Mariners' outfield now has more homers than any other outfield in baseball:
St. Louis, 20
Chicago (AL), 19
The outfield last season for the M's swatted 54 home runs for the season, which was 18th in baseball. Michael Saunders (19) and Casper Wells (10) were the only outfielders to hit more than seven a season ago. Meanwhile, Michael Morse (nine), Ibanez (six), Jason Bay (four), Saunders (four) and Franklin Gutierrez (four) are all on pace to crack double figures this season.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 @ 11:02am
It was all going according to plan.
Raul Ibanez smashed a two-run homer to supply the Mariners with a commanding three-run cushion. Three runs might as well be 300 when King Felix is on his game. Felix was mowing down one Yankee after another as he continued his dominant run at new Yankee Stadium. He rolled until the sixth inning when he finally coughed up a run and tweaked his back along the way.
There was no reason for Eric Wedge to be worried. His bullpen had only blown one save on the season, which was second-best in all of baseball. The one blown save did not even result in a loss. Stephon Pryor allowed the White Sox to tie the game in the seventh during the Mariners' fifth game of the year. The Mariners wound up winning 8-7 in 10 innings.
The M's came into Tuesday's game 14-1 when leading after six innings, 16-0 when leading after seven and 17-0 when leading after eight. They entered the game with an ERA of 2.80 in innings seven through nine, which was seventh-best in baseball.
The plan went poof as the Yankees stormed from behind and hung a three spot on the board in the seventh. New York held on to the 4-3 win and handed the Mariners' pen just its second blown save of the season.
It is significant that the M's fell 4-3.
• When the Mariners score three runs or fewer they are 7-20.
• When the Mariners score four runs or more they are 11-1.
• When the Mariners allow three runs or fewer they are 17-3.
• When the Mariners allow four runs or more they are 1-18.
• Michael Morse has gone five for his last seven after a 1-19 spell.
• After yielding one run in six innings, Felix's ERA at new Yankee Stadium actually went up from 1.13 to 1.18.
• Hisashi Iwakuma has pitched once at Yankee Stadium (five innings, seven hits, three earned runs).
• Iwakuma coughed up a two-run homer to Raul Ibanez.
• Felix and Iwakuma have given up two homers between them at new Yankee Stadium and both were to Ibanez.
• Mariano Rivera saved his 35th career game against the M's, tied for ninth among MLB teams.
• Rivera owns a 2.70 ERA against the Mariners, which is his ninth-highest.
• The M's have hit eight homers against Rivera, which is the second-most he has yielded against any team.
• The M's who have hit homers off Rivera are Edgar Martinez (twice), Luis Sojo, Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner, Roberto Kelly, Adrian Beltre and Ichiro.
• Edgar Martinez had five extra-base hits off of Rivera in 23 plate appearances. The Tigers have eight in 215 PAs and the White Sox have nine in 302.