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.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 @ 7:51am
The last time Felix Hernandez toed the rubber in the Bronx he befuddled the powerful Yankees for nine innings. The King spun a complete-game, two-hit shutout as the M's made their lone-run stand in his memorable masterpiece. Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Ichiro were all helpless as the Yankees only managed to get one base runner as far as second base.
It was another in a line of dominant efforts at new Yankee Stadium for Felix. He is 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA in five starts in the Yanks' new home. He has thrown 39 2/3 innings, fanning 40 while only yielding one homer in their cozy confines.
Felix Hernandez is 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA in five career starts at the new Yankee Stadium heading into Tuesday's start. (AP)
Felix's numbers this season are nothing short of spectacular. He's 4-0 with a 0.71 ERA in his last five starts. That's three runs in five starts. He has the best ERA in the American League (1.53) and the second-best WHIP (0.90). He's tied for second in innings (58 2/3) and ranks eighth in strikeouts (56) and ninth in batting average against (.213). He's been completely dominant on the road, with a 4-1 record and a 1.25 ERA.
The pinstripes will look familiar to Felix tonight, but the faces have dramatically changed. Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis and Curtis Granderson are all on the disabled list.
However, several current Yankees have turned back the clock and have helped New York climb to the top of the AL East. They are tied for the best record in the league and second-best record in baseball and despite the heavy losses they are still sixth in MLB in homers.
They still feature slugger Robinson Cano, who is 15-for-41 (.366) all-time against Felix. Vernon Wells has dipped himself into the fountain of youth (.299/.349/.526), but he has not found much luck against The King, going just 6-for-28 (.214) against him. Travis Hafner (7-for-29, .259), Lyle Overbay (2-for-15, .133), Brett Gardner (5-for-19, .294), Jayson Nix (5-for-10, .500) and Ichiro (2-for-5, .400) are the thrust of the new Yankee order.
On the other side, CC Sabathia is 12-4 with a 2.46 career ERA against the Mariners. He is riding an eight-game winning streak into tonight against the M's and has not lost to them since 2009. Keep this in mind for the game tonight: The top-three batting averages for the M's against Sabathia belong to Brendan Ryan (.400), Robert Andino (.357) and Kendrys Morales (.357).
It is a marquee matchup in the Bronx tonight. Felix will look to keep the roll going and get the M's off to a strong start on their nine-game trip.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 @ 11:33am
• The Mariners are undefeated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They are 3-0 in Philadelphia and 3-0 in Pittsburgh.
• The Mariners have only played the Pirates six times in their history, which is the least amount of games against any team. After this series, eight games against them will still be the least.
• The Mariners are also undefeated in Cincinnati – 3-0.
• Oliver Perez took the loss the last time the M's won in Pittsburgh. Jason Bay played in left, Jack Wilson was at shortstop and closer Jose Mesa pitched in the game.
• The Pirates are 17-14 this season. The last time they finished above .500 was 1992.
• The last time they finished above .500, Tim Wakefield was a rookie. He went 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA down the stretch.
• Since the least time Pittsburgh made the playoffs, two players from the 1992 team have had children make it to the majors: Doug Drabek (Kyle Drabek) and Andy Van Slyke (Scott Van Slyke).
• The Pirates are currently second in the National League Central. They have not finished as high as second in their division since 1997.
• Felix Hernandez will pitch Wednesday. He has pitched once against the Pirates. His line: 8 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 Ks. Jason Bay had two hits.
• Aaron Harang has won more games against the Pirates than any other team he has faced – 15. He has pitched 12 times at PNC park and has won nine of them.
• Here is the impressive list of the top five Pirates in terms of games played: Roberto Clemente (2,433), Honus Wagner (2,433), Willie Stargell (2,360), Max Carey (2,178) and Bill Mazeroski (2,163).
• The Pirates have won five world championships and nine pennants.
• The first ever MLB game broadcast on radio was between the Pirates and Phillies on Aug. 5, 1921.
• The Pirates will not be wearing their box hats today, but they should be.
• The Pirates have had 17 different opening day starters since they last made the postseason. Current or former M's on the list are Erik Bedard, Ian Snell, Oliver Perez and Ron Villone.
• The All-Time Pirates Lineup would be score a lot of runs:
LF, Paul "Big Poison" Waner
3B, Pie Traynor
SS, Honus Wagner
RF, Roberto Clemente
1B, Willie Stargell
CF, Max Carey
2B, Bill Mazeroski
C, Jason Kendall
P, Wilbur Cooper
• Find a pic of Kent Tukulve. Looking at it will make you happy the M's are playing the Pirates.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013 @ 2:29pm
You can't blame Joe Saunders if he would rather stay home this weekend instead of jetting off to Toronto.
Why would Saunders ever want to leave Safeco Field? He has only given up two earned runs in 22 1/3 innings pitched there this season while allowing 19 earned in just 13 2/3 on the road. He also happens to boast the best ERA for any pitcher who has started at least 10 games in the history of The Safe (1.75). He is a perfect 8-0.
Here are some other random fun facts about pitching at Safeco Field:
• Hisashi Iwakuma has a 2.09 ERA in 13 career starts, which is fifth-best for pitchers who have started at least 10 times. Saunders, Bartolo Colon (1.91, second), Dan Haren (2.00, third), CC Sabathia (2.09, fourth).
• Matt Perisho has the worst ERA in Safeco history – 162.00. He started on July 21, 2000 against the M's and only retired one hitter while yielding six earned runs. Rickey Henderson, Carlos Guillen, Edgar Martinez and John Olerud all singled to start the game.
• Felix Hernandez has thrown the most innings in Safeco history – 845.2. Jaime Moyer (808) and Joel Pineiro (526) are behind him.
• J.J. Putz has pitched the most games (173) and saved the most as well (64).
• Felix will pass Moyer in games pitched the next time he takes the mound at home (122 now).
• Moyer has the most wins at Safeco (55). Felix is three behind.
• B.J. Ryan has the Safeco record for most games pitched without giving up a run (12).
• Juan Rincon is 0-2 at Safeco Field despite only yielding two earned runs in 18 innings.
• Saunders has the most wins without a loss and Roy Corcoran has the second most (five).
• The pitcher who has coughed up the most homers without ever appearing as a Mariner is Barry Zito with 11.
• C.J. Wilson has pitched in the most games at Safeco without ever playing for the Mariners.
• Lefties for the M's maintain a 3.86 ERA, compared to 3.78 for righties.
• The Mariners have started 1,115 games at Safeco winning 600 of them with a 3.81 ERA.
• The Mariners started 1,755 games at the Kingdome, winning 852 of them with a 3.81 ERA.
Thursday, April 25, 2013 @ 10:16am
It has been a sluggish start to the season for several of the Mariners' young hitters. For fans who fret about their future, there is a beacon of hope to turn to. He is not a phenom who is clubbing homers at a ridiculous pace in the hitting-friendly Pacific Coast League. He is not a can't-miss prospect who is swatting sliders in the Southern League. Strangely enough, he has no connection to the Mariners at all.
He is the left fielder for the Kansas City Royals, Alex Gordon.
Gordon was the strapping young corn-fed third baseman out of Nebraska who spent his college years feasting on NCAA pitching. He swept every collegiate award in sight on his way to being picked second in the 2005 draft behind Justin Upton.
The expectations were sky high. The terms "savior" and the "next George Brett" were so commonplace that you would not fault a person for thinking his full name was Alex Gordon George Brett. Simply being compared to George Brett is the highest compliment any ballplayer can receive in Kansas City.
Before 2006 Baseball America named him the 13th-best prospect in baseball. He went on to spend a season crushing Double-A pitching, hitting .325 with 29 home runs, 101 RBIs and a 1.016 OPS. He climbed the ladder to No. 2 on the Baseball America prospect list going into the 2007 season. He bypassed Triple-A all together and spent the entire 2007 season in the big leagues, but his rookie campaign and the next three seasons to follow did not go according to plan.
He struggled with production and injuries while yo-yoing his way from the majors to the minors and back again. The optimism for Gordon had completely withered away. The following are samples of what was written about Gordon in 2010:
• "Gordon is a former college player of the year and No. 2 overall pick, but he's 27 years old and has mostly been a bust."
• "Is Alex Gordon earning the label of Quadruple-A player? Gordon's future is definitely in doubt."
• "Alex Gordon Faces Make or Break Year."
• "He was supposed to be an All-Star by now."
• "He was supposed to be the savior."
And so on ...
Then 2011 happened. Gordon shook off the shackles of struggle and put together a season that landed him 21st in MVP voting. He hit .303 with 23 home runs and 87 RBIs while boosting his OPS to .879. He followed with another strong season in 2012 by hitting .294 with 14 homers and 72 RBIs while leading the league in doubles with 51.
He is off to a blistering start this year as well, hitting .338 with a .370 OBP and a .506 OPS. Taking a look at Wins Above Replacement on BaseballReference.com reveals that Gordon (14.4) is fifth among all position players since 2011 behind Ryan Braun (15.8), Miguel Cabrera (15.8), Ben Zobrist (15.3) and Robinson Cano (15.1). Gordon has overcome his early career struggles to become one of the most productive hitters in baseball.
How long did it take Gordon to get there in terms of plate appearances before his 2011 breakout season and how does the timing compare to the young hitters for the Mariners?
Gordon was picked second in the 2005 draft and ranked as high as second in the Baseball America prospect rankings. Dustin Ackley was selected second in 2009 and reached 11th in the BA prospect rankings. Justin Smoak was the 11th pick overall in 2008 and rose to No. 13 in the 2010 BA prospect rankings. Montero was signed as an amateur free agent and was ranked fourth, third and sixth in consecutive years by BA.
The backgrounds are all very similar. The early struggles are similar. The big question for the fans of the Mariners remains: Will the results end up being similar as well?
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 @ 1:00pm
If you take the time to scroll through a list of endangered species, you are sure to find the California condor, Asiatic cheetah, Chinese giant salamander, and the 300-game winner. Only four pitchers have joined the exclusive 300 Club since 1990. Three-hundred wins has traditionally been seen as the automatic key to open the Baseball Hall of Fame lock, but the prestigious mark seems to becoming more elusive as each year passes.
Felix Hernandez claimed his 100th MLB victory Monday night in Houston thanks to another dominant effort. His fastball was furious and his changeup danced like famous ballerina Anna Pavlova. Felix became just the 67th pitcher in MLB history to reach the 100-win mark by his age 27 season, which begs an important question: Is 300 wins possible? Let history be our guide for the answer.
The following is the list of all 24 300-game winners along with their age when they captured their 100th win. Note: Some ages appear as age seasons instead of actual age. For example, a player could have won 100 as a 28-year-old, but still considered in his 27-year-old season.
It should be noted that only five other pitchers since 1969 have reach 100 wins at a younger age than Felix, and none of them reached 300. In fact, only Bert Blyleven (287) won more than the 209 of Vida Blue.
Clearly, longevity plays a key role in climbing to the 300-win summit. Since 1982, all 10 pitchers who have made the list pitched into their 40s. None of the 10 (Maddux, Clemens, Carlton, Ryan, Sutton, Niekro, Perry, Seaver, Glavine or Johnson) reached 100 wins before the age of 27. The 10 pitchers as a group retired at an average age just a touch above 43. Phil Niekro spun his knuckler to the dish until he was 48. Randy Johnson won more games in his 40's than he did in his 20's.
It is interesting to examine how all 10 racked up wins as their careers progressed. Johnson, Clemens and Ryan all maintained superior stuff ridiculously late into their careers. Ryan's last year was 1993, and his strikeout rate per nine innings the previous two seasons were 8.98 and 10.56. Johnson maintained a rate of 8.46 and 11.44 the years before his finale. Clemens sat at 8.10 and 7.88 before he called it quits.
Niekro did not win his 100th game until the age of 34, but the knuckle ball carried him to 300 wins before retiring just short of 50 years old. Glavine and Maddux were ultra-control freaks. Perry and Sutton leaned to the control/spitter side of the equation. Seaver and Carlton are more difficult to classify because they went through more of a pitching transformation late in their careers than did the three flamethrowers mentioned previously.
If history is the guide, then Felix will need to pitch into his 40s to get to 300. In 2005 he threw his fastball at an average of almost 96 miles per hour. This season his fastball has been sitting at 90.5 mph. Yet he's more effective than ever thanks to his changeup. He has already made the transition from a young thrower who relied on pure octane to a pitcher who uses his change as his primary weapon. Can Felix get to 300? It is possible. He will need to pitch for a long time and ride his changeup all the way there.