Great Pitching on deck for the postseason but what about hitting?

   There is a lot of discussion online and in the mainstream media about the great pitching talent that will be on display starting this weekend. Yes indeed we have Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, and Roy Halladay combined with Mariano Rivera, Roy Oswalt and a large second tier of starters and relievers.  

  To hear everyone go on you might think that everyone just loves to see 1-0 and 2-1 games. Well despite the fact that my Grandfather GordonDustyRhodes was a pitcher from 1929-36, I never pitched and in fact don’t care for them much!

You see  I love the  sound of the crack of the bat on the sweet spot as a line shot jumps off the bat, and I would venture to guess quite a few of you do too. Don’t get me wrong I love a great pitchers duel now and then but I am hoping to see some high scoring games in the next week or so. The question is will it happen? The cards are stacked against the hitters these days with speciality relief guys, pitchers hitting 100 on the radar and parks like Safeco built for pitchers.

  So it’s only logical that everyone is just talking about the pitchers who will be competing rather than wondering which team will score more runs and actually beat another team by putting runs across the plate.

   As I was thinking about all this it occurred to me that there really are only a small group of players at any give time who are great hitters. This has been true throughout baseball history. Most batters have good bat-speed, hand-eye coordination and the ability to watch endless films and graphs on opposing pitchers to try and get ready, yet still will look bad against modern pitching. There are a few players that have the ability to read a ball coming out of the pitchers hand and adjust their approach instantly and make contact, Ichiro is one of these fortunate few. There also is a small group like  Vladimir Guerrero who seem to be able to hit any ball pitched anywhere using some bizarre combination of luck and daring, but again these guys are few and far between.

  Sadly most of the rest are just up there guessing and in that case are totally at the mercy of guys like Lee and Lincecum and will look dumb trying.

   But alas there is one other group of hitters some of who are involved in the postseason ie A-Rod, Michael Young, Derick Jeter and a few others, who possess the rarest skill amongst hitters known as:” Anticipation”. Anticipation is not guessing or adapting to a pitch as it comes in. Anticipation is more of a feeling or sense that great hitters have bases on their ability to calculate everything that has happened prior to the incoming pitch, a look on the pitchers face, and basically just instinct. Anticipation is also used on defense, for example  like Willie Mays would often begin moving towards where the ball is going to be hit even before the swing!

  As a player I can remember being “in the zone” so to speak from time to time and being able to anticipate both at the plate and on defense. It is one of those things that you either have or you don’t. Barry Bonds had it, Ruth had it and maybe 1,000 guys who have passed through the majors over the years “had It” to some degree or the other. The rest were mostly just guessing and batting .250 or less.

  This years Mariners featured practically a whole lineup of guys guessing and missing night after night. I believe Mike Sweeney was in the “Zone” off and on this year and it showed with his OPS. Hopefully Sweeney will get a chance to come off the bench for the Phillies this year in a clutch situation and connect for some paydirt using his gut intinct to let him know what is coming. You see if you are up at the plate and your full of fear and your mind is racing trying to outguess a guy like  

  Now I know the sabermetrics crowd probably considers this sort of talk heresy. But the reality is that great players end up with great stats offensively when they can anticipate the next pitch and be ready to slam it when it comes in. There may be no logical explanation for this unique gift or skill but it exists and is what seperates good hitter from Great Hitters

   So I have a feeling, maybe a hunch or perhaps anticipation that the bats are going to come alive in the next few weeks along with the great pitching and we may be in for some great high scoring games! http://jeffsmariners.com

Lee up in Smoak!

   Well it is finally over, the Cliff Lee sweepstakes ended today with Lee traded to the Texas Rangers along with Mark Lowe for Justin Smoak and three prospects. Apparently the Mariners are having to send over two million dollars as well to complete the deal. So once again we find ourselves in the familiar position of trading away another star for prospects so we can rebuild. Granted Justin Smoak is a young first baseman with some power but for us fans it is another reminder of our role as a farm-club for the rest of Major league baseball.

  As the day broke it looked like Cliff Lee was going to the Yankees in exchange for Jesus Montero and David Adams, but apparently the Mariners had concerns with the health of David Adams. The Rangers who are making a serious run for the play-offs threw-in pitchers Josh Lueke, Blake Beaven and AA infielder Matthew Lawson. Not quite sure how this helps the Mariners as we already have Russell Branyan and Casey Kotchman at first, but who are we to question why as ours is but to trade and cry.

  Mark Lowe though on the DL for the year was very effective last year coming in to set-up David Aardsma. I am not sure why we did not try to get some help for our current bullpen which is a disaster so far this year. But Jack Zduriencik has announced that we got the best deal possible and he had his eye on Smoak all along. I was also shocked to hear Jack Z. say our goal is to build a World Championship team. It is funny that the goal of reaching the World Series is never mentioned until we are in the rebuilding mode after a big trade, whereas the party-line is always “we are going to put a competitive team on the field”. Sounds like the old bait-n-switch trick to me in order to keep the fans buying tickets to support this never-ending rebuilding process.

  So now the spin will start….

 Will the local press get onboard and cheer for Jack Z. in order to keep their access like in the past? I don’t know but it is another sour day for the fans who have suffered through years of rebuilding and disappointment only to be reminded about the progress of ex-Mariners in the news, as if that somehow makes it better. I for one don’t want to read constant updates about Cliff Lee like we have had to with Griffey, Moyer, and Randy Johnson etc. after they were traded. The whole Cliff Lee saga has been agonizing and I am not excited about the final outcome but I am glad it is finally over.

  I am still going down to Safeco to watch the game though I hear that David Pauley is starting instead of Cliff Lee tonight against the Yankees. This trade is not as devastating as the Randy Johnson trade in 1998, but the state of this franchise is certainly in much worse shape after this trade than we were in 1998. Like a lot of you I enjoyed watching Lee pitch this year and wish him well in the future as we languish behind in AAA Seattle. http://jeffsmariners.com

Mariners bats provide fireworks in 8-1 win

  The Seattle Mariners offense exploded for 8 runs against the Detroit Tigers today allowing the Mariners to salvage one game of this series with the 8-1 win. Cliff Lee pitched another great game, going 8 innings and fanning 11 Tigers to tie his personal career high. Lee, who along with Ichiro were named to the AL All-star team today, had this one in control all day allowing just one run in the first. At this point it is getting hard to watch Cliff Lee pitch knowing each outing may be his last, sort of like the uneasy feeling I had as a young sailor prior to heading off to sea and trying to shut down my affection for my woman in order to carry-on without her once I left my home port. Lee is scheduled to make a start next Friday against the Yankees prior to the All-star break where he hopefully will still be wearing a Mariners uniform.

  It was nice to see the Mariners give their starter some backing today led by Russell Branyon and Casey Kotchman who each launched 3-run cherry bombs into the stands at Comerica Park. Branyon got the start as DH today and came up with Ichiro and Chone Figgins on base in the third, connecting for his second home run as a Mariner off of Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman. Casey Kotchman who apparently had a talk with Don Wakamatsu a few days ago pleading his case for playing time, launched his first home run since April 18th with two aboard in the fifth inning. Kotchman along with Figgins each collected three hits apiece today as part of a 15-hit barrage by the light hitting Mariners. Today’s game coupled with the 7-run outbursts against the Yankees earlier in the week feel almost like teases for a fan base that has been fed a steady diet of low-scoring affairs by the Mariners for most of the year. Today’s win sends the club home with a respectable 4-5 record from this road trip against three tough teams following a great home stand.

    Today marked the 81st game of the season and the official midway point of a year that as many of you fans know has been difficult to watch despite the relatively good ball we have been playing for the last three weeks. The Kansas City Royals are in town this week followed by another series with the Yankees where all the ex-pats from New York will be out in full force. Somehow I thought we would be in the thick of a pennant race at this point in the year rather than the usual routine of fading away into oblivion just as the sun comes out in Seattle.

   Either way I am going to hang in there and continue to write these posts till October as I grind my way through my rookie year as a Mariners blogger. I want to thank all of you who have hung with me through this voyage thus far despite all the spelling errors and sometimes odd threads of thought. If all goes according to plans I will continue to improve and upgrade this site including adding podcasts so you can hear the voice behind the curtain after the All-star break. We still have a lot of baseball left to play as the barometer starts to rise in the Seattle area with calm weather and sunshine ahead. http://jeffsmariners.com

Happy 4th of July!

Detroit motors over Mariners 6-1

   The Detroit Tigers led by pitching Ace Justin Verlander beat the visiting Seattle Mariners at Comerica Park by a score of 6-1 tonight. Verlander who had struggled in his two previous outings against the Mariners had his good stuff tonight striking out 10 and walking only 1 batter. The Tigers are in the thick of the AL central race along with the Twins and the resurgent White Sox. The Mariners had another poor outing by their starting pitcher, this time it was Jason Vargas who followed a weak performance by Doug Fister the night before. Vargas was no match for the powerful Tigers lineup and was charged with 6 earned runs tonight before handing the ball to Brian Sweeney.

  As you may remember coming into spring training both Vargas and Fister were considered  question marks as far as making the starting rotation. Both pitchers had great starts in the early part of the season with several great outings apiece. The big question now is whether the burst of brilliance by these two was just a fluke and that they are indeed just average vs. good pitchers? In baseball a game of statistics it is hard to escape reality over a significant period of time as the numbers don’t lie, especially in today’s world of advanced analytics.

   Are Vargas and Fister indeed just reverting to the sort of pitchers that they actually are? Only time will tell but if indeed these two were pitching over their heads early on, then the second half of this season could be really ugly indeed. As we all know this year’s offense is not much to brag about and tonight was no exception as the Mariners only managed the 1 run and went down on strikes a total of 12 times tonight. There were a few innings where we had a chance to rally such as the 4th and the 7th , but once again no one stepped up to deliver a clutch-hit. After a nice two-week period where we went 9-5 the lads seem to be lost at sea again.

    I was thinking about all the players I have watched and read about over the years and I have come up with a little rating system that I thought I would share with the readers. Now this is by no means a quantifiable saber metrics system, but it works for me in general to classify players.

  1: Poor players: Major League talent, inconsistent, low desire level. Ex: Rob Johnson

  2: Average players: Major League talent, desire to win but inconsistent: Ex: Jose Lopez

  3: Good players: Major league talent, desire to win, consistent: Ex: Franklin Gutierrez

  4: Great players: Major league talent, strong desire to win, consistent in the clutch: Ex: Cliff Lee

Of course there are variations of this but in my mind there are these 4 distinct categories of players, with the majority over the years leaning towards average or good. The poor players usually don’t stick around to long with the Mariners and coincidently the great ones seem to move on from the Mariners after awhile……hmmm

  So it does look like we will get to see Cliff Lee pitch at least one more game in a Mariner uniform as we try to salvage a game out of this series before returning home to play the Royals. I have heard conflicting reports of whether or not Eric Bedard is going to make his first start of the year on Tuesday or not. At this point it is almost anti-climatic considering he is coming back to a last place team rather than returning to help the Mariners down the stretch and into the play-offs like we all were anticipating a few months ago. Anyway happy Fourth of July everyone! http://jeffsmariners.com

Randy Johnson trade of 1998… Cliff Lee 2010…

The Mariners lost 7-1 tonight at the hands of the Detroit Tigers 7-1. This game was not very exciting for a Mariners fan with the exception of a lone home run by Franklin Gutierrez. The win puts the Tigers a game back in the AL Central, while the Mariners are stuck 14 back in the AL West. As many of you know there are really two Mariners games going on these days, one on the field and one surrounding the whole Cliff Lee situation.

   Tonight while I was watching the game I was reminded by the presence of Carlos Guillen in the Tigers lineup, of the infamous Randy Johnson trade in 1998 that Guillen was part of. While I realize this was a different situation and era there are still some parallels to the current Cliff Lee situation. I clearly remember being at the Kingdome on July 31st 1998 watching the home dugout all night to keep an eye on Johnson in the hopes we would not trade him. Sadly I remember in about the 6th inning Johnson leaving the dugout, then  hearing on the radio  that he had been traded to Houston. I am not sure the fans ever got an accurate story about why we traded him though there was talk about concerns over his back issues. There were also some derogatory comments floating around that Johnson was not giving 100% towards the trade deadline, which knowing Randy Johnson I never believed. It was definitely a difficult time for most of the fans I know and I still think it was a huge mistake which even Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln would probably admit today in private.

    When it was announced that the Houston Astros were giving us a young pitcher named Freddie Garcia and an infielder named Carlos Guillen along with a player to be named later, most fans were even more stunned. I recall  Ken Griffey Jr. saying in an interview: “I wonder what they would get for me, a bucket of baseballs?” Of course at the time the Houston Astros were making a run for the playoffs and gave up these two top prospects along with John Halama in order to try to get a World Championship. As it turns out the Astros did go on to win 102 games that year only to be knocked out by San Diego in the first round of the playoffs. Randy Johnson went  10-1 for the Astros after being traded though if I recall he wasn’t spectacular in the playoffs. The Astros took a gamble and lost, for even though Johnson pitched well they didn’t make it to the World Series or re-sign him the next year.

   The Mariners however did get a great year out of Freddie Garcia in 1999 as he went 17-8. Garcia would go on to be a big part of the Mariners success in subsequent years before being traded in 2004 to the White Sox with catcher Ben Davis for Mike Morse, Miguel Oliva, and Jeremy Reed. Garcia has been up and down since leaving the Mariners but is now back with the White Sox and having a good year at age 35 with a 8-3 record last I checked. Carlos Guillen was also a valuable asset to the Mariners at shortstop from 1998-2003 though it appears his trade in 2004 to the Tigers was another poor decision. Guillen has played well in Detroit being named to 3 All-Star teams and was rated at 6.7 WAR in 2006 along with accumulating  a career .287 average. The third player John Halama, stayed with the Mariners until he was traded to Oakland in 2003. Halama was 36-27 as a Mariner and was 14-9 in 2000 and appears to be trying to make one more shot as the 38 year-old  actually pitched a game against Tacoma in AAA this year.

   So to bring this all together it appears that the 1998 deadline trade as difficult and unpopular as it, turned out to be a decent deal   for the Mariners in the long run. And with a little luck and cunning Jack Z. should be able to  replicate with the Cliff Lee situation. Houston did make the play-offs though not the World Series in 1998, and the Mariners picked up some great talent in exchange for a player that only pitched part of a season. There are several teams out there that like Houston in 1998, may get just giddy enough with the thought of a World Series that they will mortgage the future for a shot at the glory of winning it all. Of course this was all in the pre-economic crash days when Americans loved to buy now and pay later hoping later would never come, and we all know where that sort of thinking got us….

   While I would love to keep Cliff Lee, I think it would be even sweeter to wait it out for the Mets, Reds, Dodgers, Twins or some other club to break down at the last-minute and give us some players like we got for Randy Johnson. So tomorrow is another day with a game against the Tigers on the field, as well as the Cliff Lee guessing game that will just get more interesting as the days go by. http://jeffsmariners.com

Mariners crush Yankees again 7-0!

Lee and Hernandez a pair of Aces

    The Seattle Mariners shutout the New York Yankees 7-0 in front of 46,309 stunned fans in the Bronx. Felix Hernandez used his wicked slider mixed in with his lively fastball to blank the Yankees giving up only 2 hits en route to his third complete-game of the year. Hernandez kept the AL East leading Yankees big bats silent for the second night in a row, following Cliff Lee’s similar performance in the first game of the three game series. Hernandez who had some rough outings earlier in the year is definitely hitting his stride in the month of June delivering perhaps his best showing of the 2010 campaign.

  The Mariners offense was back on track for the second night in a row as well giving King Felix a seven run cushion to work with. In a role reversal of sorts the Mariners came up with 4 long-balls tonight, including 2 from young Michael Saunders and one each from Milton Bradley and Russell Branyon. Bradley delivered the first bomb in the top of the second inning to set the tone for the surging Mariners who moved to 33-44 on the year with tonight’s sweet victory. In the next inning Michael Saunders came up with his first homer followed by an RBI single off the bat of Jose Lopez who is quietly finding his stroke, making it 3-0. Hernandez cruised through the middle innings toying with the powerful Bronx Bombers continuing to add to his strikeout total which would eventually reach 11.

  In the top of the 7th after Chone Figgins singled and stole second, Russell “The Muscle” Branyon blasted his first home run since returning to the Mariners and suddenly the Mariners were up 5-0. It was nice to see the burly Branyon hit his 11th homer of the year in only his second game back to help silence the critics who second guessed this move. But the night was not yet quite over for the Mariners offense as Michael Saunders went on to add another two-run blast in the eighth inning. Hitting two homers in one night at Yankee stadium will go a long way in boosting the confidence level for youngster from B.C.

   This past few weeks have felt like a new season for the Mariners, and for the last two nights the Mariners bats have given the run support to their Aces that hasn’t been there for most of the season. We still have eleven games to go before the All-Star break and it’s entirely feasible that our boys could pass-up the Oakland A’s in the standings before the second-half of the season starts. But for now it is one game at a time, starting with tomorrow mornings final of this series with C.C. Sabathia going against Ryan Rowland-Smith. You can bet the Yankees have had enough of losing to the upstarts from Seattle, Ryan Rowland-Smith will need to continue to pitch as well as he has done lately to give the Mariners a sweep in the Bronx.

    Meanwhile the Cliff Lee saga drags on one more day with the contenders posturing in the press with rumors, in an effort to try to see if they can get the Mariners to settle for prospects. The Mariners have let it be known through channels that we are looking for a Major League- ready middle of the order bat. I applaud Jack Zduriencik for playing his cards close to his chest, holding out for what we need. In reality if we can keep playing winning ball a good case can be made for keeping Cliff Lee. More will be revealed as the summer sun grows warmer……..http://jeffsmariners.com

Mariners beat Yankees 7-4

 

The Seattle Mariners won the first game of a three game series against the New York Yankees 7-4 tonight. The Mariners who are currently in last place in the AL West came into the Bronx as definite underdogs to the storied Yankees who currently sit on top of the competitive AL East. Cliff Lee got the start tonight against young Phil Hughes in front of 45,780 fans who produced a dull roar in the background tonight as the Mariners managed to have one of their best nights offensively of the season. Lee did not have his best stuff tonight as was evident early in the game where Cliff Lee started out several Yankees batters with a ball instead of his normal 0-1 count. Cliff Lee who is on everyone’s mind with the trade deadline approaching proved he was human tonight giving up a walk for the first time in 38 innings, as well as allowing 3 earned runs including two homers to Nick Swisher. Lee who was interviewed after the game tipped his hand regarding his desire to play for a winning team when he said “It is fun playing in front of a knowledgeable fan base that doesn’t need a tele-prompter to know when to cheer”. Well Cliff try sitting in the stands with them for 25 years! You do deserve to play on a winning team in the limelight and the Mets apparently want you. But hey can you just stick around for a few more starts to make things more interesting for those of us who do love the game and the way you do your job?
   Offensively the Mariners looked aggressive most of the night with the exception of a couple of base running gaffes early in the game that didn’t cost us anything but looked a bit bush-league. Russel Branyon was in the lineup tonight and though he didn’t do anything spectacular he did get a hit along with everyone else on the team tonight which is the first time I remember that happening all season. Franklin Gutierrez provided the only home run for the Mariners in the top of the fourth; otherwise it was a team effort in getting runs scored. Rob Johnson had a pair of doubles tonight and narrowly missed a third in his last at-bat, nice to see him produce. Another guy who produced was Jack Wilson who knocked in a couple of runs with a two-out single in the 6th inning. Wilson has come back from his injury playing good defense and has boosted his average up to .273 which is third on the club.
  The Mariners managed to keep the crowd subdued for most of this game until the bottom of the ninth when the Yankees put a little rally together. After Posada doubled in Robinson Cano making it 7-4 with one-out the energy in Yankee stadium changed as the fans smelled blood. However after a quick visit to the mound by Rick Adair, Lee settled down and got the final two outs sending the fans home shaking their heads wondering who those guys from Seattle were. Well to be honest it felt like a different team to me tonight as well and I believe the addition of a genuine power-hitter batting third made a difference. We shall see as this season moves along as the pressure is not only off the other hitters to be who they are not, but in all reality the pressure is off the whole team when you are in last place at the moment. Hopefully our team can play looser, have fun and win some more games like they did tonight. http://jeffsmariners.com

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