Category Archives: James Paxton

Mariners come home in last place; is it time to panic?

They were supposed to challenge for first place this season.

Twenty-eight games into the season, the Seattle Mariners are in last place, seven games out of first in the AL West. They’ve lost six of their last seven.

What’s up?

“I think the baseball gods are testing us a little bit,” said manager Lloyd McClendon following a second straight walk off loss to the Anaheim Angeles on Wednesday.

I wonder if McClendon believes in the Church of Baseball? You know, the one Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) talked about in the movie “Bull Durham.”

Annie’s philosophy:

I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring… which makes it like sex. There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I’d never sleep with a player hitting under .250… not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle. You see, there’s a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I’ve got a ballplayer alone, I’ll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. ‘Course, a guy’ll listen to anything if he thinks it’s foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe, and pretty. ‘Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball – now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake? It’s a long season and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried ’em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.

Baseball gods or no baseball gods, other than Nelson Cruz (,333, 14 HRs, 26 RBI) and Felix Hernandez (5-0, 1.73 ERA ), there’s not a lot to get excited about right now when it comes to the Mariners.

Annie Savoy wouldn’t have a lot of choices when it comes to finding a hitter to sleep with. Other than Cruz, Robinson Cano (.263), Kyle Seager (.255) and Seth Smith (.250) are the only players hitting above .250.

This is a bad baseball team right now. Fernando Rodney has eight saves, but a 5.56 ERA. Hishaski Iwakuma is on the DL, Taijuan Walker (1-3, 8.74 ERA) and James Paxton (0-2, 5.08 ERA) were thought to be can’t-miss prospects, and now you know why they play the games.

It’s frustrating for the fans because the franchise had such lofty expectation coming into this season. The Mariners were considered, by just about everybody, a pretty good bet to advance to the postseason for the first time since 2001.

Seattle opened the season as 12-1 favorites to win the World Series, one of the four favorites in MLB according to the sports book Bovada. The odds have dropped to 33-1 and the Mariners now own the fourth-worst record in baseball.

Is it time to panic?

The Brewers (9-19, .321), Phillies (10-19, .345) and Indians (10-16, .385) are the only MLB teams with worst records than Seattle (11-17, .393).

Catcher Mike Zunino is hitting .177 and the strikeouts (31) keep coming.

Dustin Ackley is off to another slow start, hitting .182.

The team is hitting .236 with an American League-worst .289 on-base percentage. Only San Francisco (63) has scored fewer runs than Seattle (65). That’s an important statistic, right? Scoring runs is the name of the game.

Only Toronto (109) and Boston (95) have walked more hitters than Seattle (90) pitchers. Opponents are hitting .256 against the Mariners; the league average is .251.

Seattle’s also not getting it done on defense. The Mariners are tied for 10th in fielding percentage (.982) and have made 19 errors in 28 games.

I repeat: Is it time to panic?

Will Zunino figure it out at the plate?

Will Cano find a semblance of a power stroke? He’s on pace to hit 6 home runs.

Will Smith, Seth Ruggiano and the Rickie Weeks — three off-season acquisitions — come to life. So far, only Smith has produced and his numbers are marginal at best.

Austin Jackson’s on the DL with an ankle injury, but the center fielder wasn’t getting the job done anyway.

The M’s have already started making moves. Chris Taylor was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and is now starting at shortstop. Brad Miller is reportedly not happy about being turned into a super utility player. And if Miller is the super utility guy, where does that leave Willie Bloomquist? Can a team afford to carry two super utility guys?

What happens to the offense if Cruz goes into a slump, and you know it’ll happen at some point. What happens if Hernandez hit the wall at some point? Will others step up?

Is it time to panic?

As bad as the results have been thus far, I think it’s too early to throw in the towel. Check back after the upcoming home stand. The Marineros play Oakland three times, the Padres visit for two and Boston invades Safeco for a four-game series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Day: Thoughts and links about the Mariners

Before you hear the umpire yell “Play Ball!” today at Safeco Field, here’s some thoughts about the Seattle Mariners, one for every inning of today’s game (1:10 p.m., ROOT TV):

1, The Skipper: After going through Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove, John McLaren, Jim Riggleman, Don Wakamatsu and Eric Wedge, I think the Mariners have finally found the right guy to lead this club in Lloyd McClendon. He seems to have that right mix of fire and steadiness. He knows how to keep his veteran stars like Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano happy, and instill confident in the role guys. He’d been a manager before in Pittsbugh, and worked seven years under Jim Leyland in Detroit. Seattle improved 16 games in the win column in McClendon’s first year. He’s got more talent to work with now. It should be, as all of the pundits are telling you, a fun season.

Here’s a really good story by Jerry Crasnick about McClendon carrying the torch as the only African-American manager in the majors.

 2, If Fernando Rodney stumbles, and I don’t know why I think he might, I’m not worried. Yoervis Medina, Carson Smith, Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmsen — part of a bullpen that was as good as any in baseball a year ago — all have what it takes to be closers. Farquhar saved 16 games in 2013 when he was thrust into that role. Here’s an analytical look at why some think Rodney, who had 48 saves in 2014, might fall off a bit in 2015.

3, Expecting big things:   When Taijuan Walker got an opportunity last season, he wasn’t ready for it. Physically, yes, but mentally, no. Now he’s ready to take steps toward establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Walker’s delivery is so smooth and the ball just flies when he releases it. You wonder how he generates so much power. It’s kind of like a Freddy Couples drive. Effortless. He starts the season as Seattle’s No. 4 starter. He might be No. 2 by the end of the year.

4, Reason for caution: I wrote about it last month, and several others have made the same point. The outfielders are going to have to prove to me that they can produce on a consistent basis. Based on what we saw a year ago I think it’s justified to be a little concerned about center fielder and leadoff hitter Austin Jackson (.229/.267/.260 slash line after coming over from Detroit). And, OK, I don’t follow baseball like I used to but I’d never heard of Seth Smith or Justin Ruggiano until the Mariners acquired them. Dustin Ackley? He’s a career .245 hitter. Rickie Weeks is the one piece I’m reasonably confident about. To borrow a quote from Lou Piniella, “He’s a professional hitter.”

5, Experience: I like the fact that the Mariners are no longer a young team. This is a veteran team, with stars like Hernandez, Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Hiashi Iwakuma. There are no rookies on the club. Art Thiel of sportspress.nw writes that the Mariners have no one younger than 24 or older than 34 in Monday’s starting lineup. I also like the fact Seattle won’t be counting on Justin Smoak this season.

6, Speaking of Iwakuma: With King Felix and Walker, and talented lefty James Paxton and  newcomer J.A. Happ garnering a lot of preseason attention, Hishashi Iwakuma tends to get   overlooked at times. We forget how good he is. When he’s got the splitting diving, he’s one of the premier pitchers in the game. Remember 2013 when he was 14-6 and finished third in the Cy Young balloting (Felix was eighth that year). Kuma ranked second in the AL in WHIP (a club-record 1.006), third in ERA (2.66), innings (219 2/3) and opponents’ batting average (.220), fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.40) and quality starts (23), and fifth in opponents’ OPS (.630). He battled some arm issues a year ago, but still managed to make 28 starts and finished with a 15-9 record and 3.52 ERA. The arm was strong this spring, and I think you can look for another All-Star type of season out of the right-hander, who is in the final year of a 3-year, $20  million deal.

7, Beer: Yes, it’s expensive, but the options at Safeco Field are endless. I bet you can’t sample one of each before the end of the season.

8, In case you missed it: This is the preview about the Mariners from Sports Illustrated, Lookout Landing, and a prediction column by Larry Stone of the Seattle Times about the Mariners putting it all together after years of disappointments (there are also links to other previews stories). And Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune (his stuff also appears in The Sun) had a good story on Opening Day starter Felix Hernandez.

9, Road trip: The Mariners are in San Francisco to play the defending World Champion Giants on June 15 (Monday, 7:15 p.m.) and 16 (Tuesday, 12:45 p.m.), and the Giants are in Seattle June 17 (Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.) and June 18 (Thursday, 7:10 p.m.). That’s a four-game series I’d like to see.

 

 

If it comes down to pitching, M’s have a chance if they reach postseason

Take a look at these starting rotations and tell me which one do you want for the postseason. And consider that it’s possible to get by with just three starters in a seven-game series. I’d put the staffs in this order. It’s no guarantee for success, but if the Mariners get to the postseason, I like their chances. In addition to those top three starters, Seattle’s bullpen has been baseball’s best.

OAKLAND A’S

Jon Lester 11-7, 2.59 ERA

Jeff Samardzija 4-8, 2.91 (2-7, 2.83 with Cubs; 2-1, 3.09 with A’s).

Scott Kazmir 12-4, 2.53

Sonny Gray 12-5, 2.87

Jason Hammel 9-9, 3.70 (8-5, 2.98 w/Cubs; 1-4, 7.15 w/A’s)

SEATTLE MARINERS

Felix Hernandez 12-3, 1.97

Ishashi Iwakuma 9-6, 2.94

Chris Young 10-6, 3.27

Roenis Elias 8-9, 4.19

James Paxton 2-0, 2.76 (5-0, 2.01 in seven career starts)

DETROIT TIGERS

Max Scherzer 13-4, 3.24

David Price 11-8, 3.11 (0-0, 3.24 in one start w/Tigers after being traded by Rays)

Justin Verlander 10-10, 4.74

Rick Porcello 13-6, 3.06

Anibal Sanchez 8-5, 3.37

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

Garrett Richards 12-4, 2.58

Jared Weaver 12-6, 3.59

C.J. Wilson 8-7, 4.74

Matt Shoemaker 9-4, 4.02

Tyler Skaggs 5-5, 4.30 or Hector Santiago 3-7, 3.84

 

And then there’s the Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting rotation, the best in baseball and the reason why the Dodgers will be favored to win the World Series:

LA DODGERS

Clayton Kershaw 13-2, 1.82

Zach Grienke 12-7, 3.77

Hyun-Jim Ryu 12-5, 3.39

Dan Haren 9-9, 4.57

Josh Beckett 6-6, 2.88 (Beckett, brought in as the fifth starter,tossed a no-hitter in May)

My Oh My: M’s starting pitching could be so good, but right now it’s not

It was April 2 and what was I thinking?

I predicted the Mariners were going to win the AL West.

I think I might have gone off my meds that day.

I said the M’s were pitching rich.

Well, 15 games into the season, we now know that’s not true. Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker have yet to throw a pitch, and James Paxton has joined those two on the disabled list.

If — and I hate to use that word because, well, you know why — those guys can get healthy, I still think the Mariners have a shot at winning the AL West. A rotation of Felix Hernandez, Iwakuma, Walker, Paxton and Roenis Elias, the Cuban left-hander who continues to show that belongs in the show, matches up with any in baseball.

When I made that April 2 prediction, I said we’d know a lot about this team after the first 16 games — all of them against AL West rivals. Well, one game was rained out, and the Mariners came out of gate 7-8. Seattle’s lost thee straight and is three games behind first-place Oakland, which won four of six against the M’s mostly because Seattle’s bats went quiet.

So what do we know?

Oakland’s clearly the team to beat. Texas and Anaheim don’t look like playoff teams to me. The A’s have the best pitching in the division … but I think Seattle’s starting rotation could be even better.

I’m not talking about Hernandez, Roenis, Erasmo Ramirez, Chris Young and whomever their fifth starter is at the moment. Ramirez should be erased from the rotation and sent to Tacoma, but I don’t know if the Mariners have anybody better right now.

Seattle’s gone from pitching rich to pitching poor in a hurry, but I’m sticking to my guns. If Iwakuma, Walker and Paxton ever get healthy — sooner, rather than later — I still believe the M’s have a chance to win the AL West.

UPDATE: The M’s announced Brandon Mauer would start on Sunday against Miami. Excited? Didn’t think so.