Sunday, May 19, 2013 @ 3:02pm
Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma has been one of baseball's best pitchers in 2013, a surprise considering the Japanese export was relegated to the bullpen for the start of his MLB career in 2012. He's been so surprising heading into Monday's start against Cleveland that the right-hander not only ranks in the top three in the American League in ERA (1.62), WHIP (0.78) and batting average-against (.183), but he ranks ahead of Mariners ace and former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez in each category.
Hisashi Iwakuma ranks in the top three in the A.L. in ERA and WHIP, and could be a valuable trade piece this summer. (AP)
While Iwakuma's been blowing away hitters, the Mariners' offense is clearly in need of more run producers – something that could be acquired by trading away Iwakuma.
Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner told "Brock and Danny" last week that the Mariners will have to at least explore the option of trading the 32-year-old "Kuma" this season to bolster their offense for the future.
"If the Mariners decide that they are not ready to ... take over Texas and make a playoff run, I think there is an argument that can be made that in two months Iwakuma might be one of the most valuable trade chips you can possibly have on the market because no one is selling pitching this year," Cameron said. "In a couple of months, it is going to be an interesting decision whether or not the Mariners keep Hisashi Iwakuma or trade him for younger players."
ESPN baseball analyst and ex-MLB general manager Jim Bowden echoed those sentiments on "Bob and Groz."
"Yeah, I think you have to consider (trading Iwakuma)," he said. "I wouldn't want to. I think you've a got a nice two- or three-year run with him, and I'd love to see him and Felix and (prospects Taijuan) Walker and (Danny) Hultzen all in the same rotation, but I think you always have to listen."
Should the Mariners pull the trigger on a swap involving Iwakuma, it likely won't come until much closer to the July 31 trade deadline, when the team will have a better idea of its postseason chances.
"I think you have to see where the Mariners are at the end of July," Bowden said. "Iwakuma's gonna give you a better shot to win than anything you're going to be able to get back in return, at least for the next couple of years. Keep an open mind, but I also think Iwakuma can be a very helpful part of this team making the playoffs over the next couple of years."
Bowden is justifiably impressed with what Iwakuma has done over the last year.
"He's a 1 starter. I watched him some last year. I've seen seven of the eight (starts in 2013). This guy is a 1," Bowden said. "He pounds the zone, doesn't miss in the middle. It's just incredible to watch him. He's a strikeout-per-inning kind of guy. I just love the fact that he pounds the zone, doesn't walk anybody, he uses both sides of the plate, he changes eye level, he changes planes – He is a 1."
If the Mariners hang on to Iwakuma through the end of his contract (he's signed through 2014, though the team has a $7 million option for 2015), he could be in line for a free-agent deal similar to Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, 38, who signed a one-year, $15 million deal after going 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA in 2012. A contract like that, coupled with Hernandez's seven-year, $175 million deal, and the expected arrivals of Walker, Hultzen and fellow top prospect James Paxton to the majors, could very well push the team to pursue a trade.
"I don't know if I see the organization wanting to give Iwakuma the kind of money he is going to get in a couple of years," Cameron said. "Are the Mariners going to want to be in a position where they are signing Iwakuma to a long-term deal with the young pitching coming?"
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 2:50pm
UFC fighter and Parkland, Wash. native Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson stopped by the 710 ESPN Seattle studious this week to promote his upcoming fight against John Moraga in the main event of UFC on FOX 8 at KeyArena.
In the video below, Johnson talks with Bob Stelton about his training and what it will be like to headline a UFC event near his home town.
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 11:29am
Here are the rules for the "Bob and Groz" drinking game*.
Each of the following words/phrases is good for one drink.
When Bob says: "Alright" or "Exactly right" or "How 'bout that?"
When Groz says: "Uhhh" or "supposebly"
When John Clayton says: "Let's put it this way" or "But also, too"
Today's additional word: "Cleveland/Indians"
*We are not suggesting any drink in particular.
Thursday, May 16, 2013 @ 4:36pm
Jesus Montero entered Thursday's game with a .211 average, just five extra-base hits and plenty of doubts about his long-term outlook as a catcher. His work ethic has also been questioned.
But Jim Bowden provided some reason for optimism with Montero in the form of a reminder and an example when he joined "Bob and Groz" on Thursday.
Bowden pointed to Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion – whom he once traded for – as an example of a player who reached his potential later than anticipated. Encarnacion had a breakout season in 2012 at the age of 29, hitting .280 with a career-high 42 home runs and 110 RBIs.
"This game is really tough at the big-league level when you've got guys throwing 95 with nasty breaking balls and late life and they don't make mistakes over the middle of the plate like they do in the minor leagues," Bowden said. "It takes a lot of discipline and it take a lot of time to adjust, and for a lot of players they don't get it until they're 25, 26, 27, somewhere in there."
Bowden thinks that will be the case with Montero, who has hit .253 with 18 home runs in 160 games since he was acquired in a trade with the Yankees before the 2012 season.
"I would never give up on this guy because I think he's going to be a middle-of-the-order run producer," Bowden said. "I don't agree with Brian Cashman when Brian Cashman [compared him to] Miguel Cabrera; I didn't see that, but I did see a guy that I think's going to be a 100-RBI-type run producer in the middle of the Mariners' lineup.
"And if I had to bet on any of those kids – [Justin] Smoak and [Dustin] Ackley and him – there's no doubt which guy I'm betting on – that's Montero.
Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby react to Bowden's comments on Montero in the video below.
You can listen to Thursday's show here.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 @ 5:06pm
Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager was 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts against CC Sabathia heading into Tuesday's game against the Yankees and their ace pitcher.
Seager broke a scoreless tie in the third inning when he ripped a two-out RBI double to right-center field.
The left-handed-hitting Seager was in the lineup and hitting third despite a southpaw in Sabathia on the hill. As Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby discuss in the video below, that's a reflection of how important Seager has been to Seattle's lineup this season.
You can listen to Tuesday's show here.
Monday, May 13, 2013 @ 3:05pm
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com is among those who believe defensive tackle Jesse Williams is the Seahawks rookie with the best chance at making his way into the starting lineup this season.
"I say that because that's kind of where there is a hole," Farnsworth told "Bob and Groz" on Monday while recapping Seattle's three-day rookie minicamp. "Alan Branch, who started there the last two years, signed elsewhere in free agency."
Stelton and Grosby agree with that sentiment. In the video below, they share more thoughts on Williams and his chances of starting as a rookie.
You can listen to Monday's show here.
Saturday, May 11, 2013 @ 11:48am
By Brent Stecker
With the steroid era over, pitchers have taken over Major League Baseball. And according to ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian, the Mariners' resident King, Felix Hernandez, is at the forefront of the game's sea change.
Felix Hernandez's numbers in 2013 have been outstanding, including a 5-2 record and an AL-best 1.53 ERA. (AP)
While joining 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz," Kurkjian explained that the 27-year-old Hernandez is in elite company for his age.
"(With) this many innings pitched, this many wins ... this many strikeouts, this many dominant games, when you start looking at guys at this age that have accomplished this much, you start thinking two things -- he's going to the Hall of Fame if he keeps this up for any significant length of time from here, and he's got an outside, outside chance at winning 300 games," Kurkjian said.
That's high praise considering Kurkjian believes the days of 300-game winners may be over.
"We get asked all the time, 'Will anyone win 300 again?' My answer probably is no, but I think the best shot at it is Felix Hernandez, who throws this hard still, his stuff is still this dominant, and that's a lot of innings in there," said Kurkjian. "He's not Roy Halladay innings, but he's 10 years behind him (in age) and his arm is still going really, really well here, and that's an encouraging sign for the Mariners."
Hernandez has arguably been the best pitcher in the American League this year, as he sports a 5-2 record, a league-leading 1.53 ERA, 0.90 walks-hits per inning, 56 strikeouts and just eight walks. With his performance, he's helping set the bar during a historically dominant season for pitchers, who are striking out batters at an all-time high.
"It is really hard to hit these days. The pitching today is unlike any time that's I've seen in the 33 years that I have covered. We have more guys throwing in the mid-90s, more guys with not just one quality secondary pitch but two," Kurkjian said. "(Current Texas Ranger) Lance Berkman told me last year, 'Every night someone comes out of the bullpen throwing 95 miles-per-hour, and I've never even heard of him.' That's how many young, hard throwers we have. We used to just have hard-throwing right-handed starting pitchers. Now we have left-handed relievers, lefty starters who are in the mid-90s. That was unheard of to have this many or even close to this 30 years ago. Now they're everywhere."
Kurkjian said the combination of pitchers evolving and bad approaches by hitters are contributing to the dominant pitching numbers.
"Pitchers have just decided, 'Look, we can't do this anymore. We have to come up with something else.' I was talking to a pitching coach the other day who said that's where the cutter came from. So many pitchers were getting their brains beat out every night, because in the steroid era there were so many big, strong hitters, they said, 'OK, we gotta come up with something else.' Not necessarily something new, but different pitches have been perfected.
"The hitters aren't helping things by going up there saying I'm gonna swing as hard as I can on every pitch, or I'm gonna really work a deep count here. (They) try to draw a walk and before you know it they're 0-2 and the other guy has three pitches that they can't hit. And that's why the strikeout rate is at an all-time high right now."
Friday, May 10, 2013 @ 2:05pm
Tom Cable will have five new offensive linemen at his disposal after the Seahawks added three in the draft and a pair of rookie free agents.
"He's doing really well," Cable, Seattle's offensive line coach, told "Bob and Groz" on Friday before the start of the team's three-day rookie minicamp.
Carpenter, a first-round pick in 2011, was a starter at right tackle as a rookie before he suffered a season-ending ACL tear after the team's ninth game. He returned to the field in Week 4 of last season and started seven games at guard before reinjuring the knee in Week 13.
Carpenter remained in Seattle to continue his rehab and prepare for the upcoming season. Cable said he recently had a "cleanup" procedure on that knee and that it now "feels the best it's felt this whole time."
Cable also said Carpentrer is significantly stronger.
"He's had a monumental offseason in the weight room," Cable said. "For a big guy and coming out of Alabama you would think he was there in terms of strength numbers; he really wasn't, but he is now. So it's a real credit to him and [strength and conditioning coach Chris] Carlisle and those guys in the weight room."
Carpenter is among the four players competing for one of two starting spots at guard, the others being Paul McQuistan, John Moffitt and J.R. Sweezy.