Can we call the Seattle Mariners a surprise playoff team in 2015? Considering they haven’t been to the postseason since 2001, I think it is.
I’m predicting in 2015 the Mariners sneak into the postseason. In 2014, they were only one game away from tying for a wild card. They managed to do this with a roster not as good as the one they have now.
What I really like about the Mariners is their pitching. Of course, there’s Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the front end. It’s the younger guys like James Paxton and Taijuan Walker that will make them more than a team with just two aces.
An under the radar move, the Mariners also traded for J.A. Happ. Certainly Happ isn’t the kind of pitcher to challenge for a Cy Young Award. However, he is still someone who can win you a dozen games.
Of course, the biggest move the Mariners made this offseason was signing free agent outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz. He’s the reigning AL home run champion and should continue his slugging in Seattle.
Slugging in Seattle…it sounds like a nice romantic comedy for Cruz to star in when things go real good.
How do the Mariners make the playoffs?
Winning the division is unlikely with the Los Angeles Angels around. Since I’m predicting a fall for the Oakland Athletics, as you should too, the Mariners are the obvious choice to step in and find themselves playing October baseball.
A one-game wild card for the Mariners is a good situation for them too. I could see a scenario similar to last season when the San Francisco Giants called upon Madison Bumgarner to get them past the Pittsburgh Pirates. Instead, the Mariners would use King Felix for this task. For the Mariners’ sake, they better hope they clinch the wild card earlier than the last day of the season.
Once in the playoffs I don’t see the Mariners doing very much. Aside from Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager there aren’t many bats I like at all. Austin Jackson is so absolutely “meh” and much of the others on the roster swing so hard they loo like they’re going to fall over. Mike Zunino has the pop, but can he actually make contact?
I’m guaranteeing the Mariners make the playoffs this year. I’m guessing their opponent in the wild card game is someone from the AL East. The Toronto Blue Jays, perhaps?
On January 6, 2015 pitcher Randy Johnson was officially voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Selecting him was as automatic as receiving your monthly electric bill or your wife deciding to randomly nag you about something you forgot to do two years ago.
Other than preparing a speech and finding an airline that can provide enough room for his incredibly long legs on his flight to Cooperstown, Johnson has one major decision ahead of him. Johnson will have to decide if he goes into the Hall of Fame wearing a cap of the Seattle Mariners or Arizona Diamondbacks.
Johnson began his career with the Montreal Expos before he was sent to the Mariners with Gene Harris and Brian Holman for Mark Langston and a player to be named later. That player to be named later was Mike Campbell who didn’t come close to making this a fair trade.
His second full season with the Mariners in 1990 was Johnson’s first where he began to truly shine. Johnson finished 14-11 with a 3.65 ERA and was selected to his first All-Star game. By the end of the 1993 season, Johnson had established himself as a star.
Those first folders, binders, and stickers kids had with Johnson on them included him wearing a Mariners’ jersey. An appearance in the film ‘Little Big League’ was just one more image that helped us associate him as a Mariner forever.
In July of 1998, the Mariners did the unthinkable and traded Johnson to the Houston Astros. Johnson was 34-years-old at the time and a free agent at the end of the season. At the time it may have been a reasonable decision. Most men at that age are already slowing down and asking their doctors questions they would have been too embarrassed to normally do. The way it turned out may have them still regretting it.
Before the 1999 season, Johnson signed a contract with the Diamondbacks. Still a young team with only one season in franchise history, Johnson put them on the map by winning his second career Cy Young Award. Four years earlier he had won the same award in the American League with the Mariners in 1995.
Johnson continued his dominance in the National League by winning the Cy Young Award each season through 2002. His four consecutive awards are tied with Greg Maddux for the most of any pitcher.
When retirement came, Johnson spent parts of 10 seasons with the Mariners and 8 full seasons with the Diamondbacks. His record as a Mariner was 130-74 along with a 3.42 ERA. As a Diamondback he was 118-62 with a 2.83 ERA. His ERA was inflated due to his poor 2003 season where he pitched in only 18 games and had a 4.26 ERA.
Johnson’s overall numbers better with the Diamondbacks than with the Mariners, there are three other reasons why he should go in as a Diamondback.
The first is that he was a big part of the Diamondbacks winning the 2001 World Series. The second is that it will make him the first Hall of Famer to wear a Diamondbacks’ hat into Cooperstown. If he chose the Mariners this would also be the case, however, this leads into the third reason.
The final reason Johnson should select a cap with a snake on it is because next year the Hall of Fame ballot will include Ken Griffey Jr. Equally as important to the history of the Mariners, the honor of being the first in the team’s history should go to him. He was possibly more electrifying than Johnson was and made the team important around the country. You could not walk into an elementary school in the 1990s without seeing Griffey Jr. somewhere. He’s certainly not going to go in as a member of the Cincinnati Reds.
Choosing the Diamondbacks over the Mariners should be an easy decision. Griffey Jr. will give fans in Seattle a reason to travel to New York next summer anyway. Plus, the way things are going the team will land its first pitcher in Cooperstown five years after Felix Hernandez retires.
If there was ever a man who brought dignity to the designated hitter it was Edgar Martinez. Having spent his entire career with the Seattle Mariners, the professional hitting DH saw only a very limited time on the baseball diamond with a glove. There won’t be any fielding statistics here so get ready to see a lot about what one man can do with a baseball bat.
Only in his final season back in 2004 did Martinez ever strikeout more than 100 times when he went down 107 via the K. Consistently, Martinez was a guy striking out in the 90s. Martinez however walked 100 or more times on 4 separate occasions–each season from 1995-1998.
100+ Runs and 100+ RBIs
Primarily a guy meant to drive in runs, Martinez also could score them thanks to having some good lineups around him through the years he spent in Seattle. Four times Martinez scored 100 or more runs and knocked in 100 or more of his teammates. In 1995 he led the league in runs scored when he crossed the plate 121 times. In 2000, he led the league with 145 RBIs.
Martinez won two batting titles. The first came in 1992 when he hit .343 and led the league with 46 doubles. The next time Martinez would win a batting title was in the slightly shortened 1995 season when he hit .356 in 145 games. Once again, Martinez led the league in doubles, this time with 52 of them.
Martinez would play in 34 total postseason games as a big league player. His Mariners never made it beyond the ALCS, losing to the Cleveland Indians once and New York Yankees twice while he was there. Martinez hit 8 home runs in those 34 games, but with only a .266 batting average. Martinez hit much better in the ALDS (.375) than he did in the ALCS (.156).
Okay I lied. Big deal! Mentioning Martinez’s minimal fielding statistics might be more important though to truly understand why he was told to burn his glove. The only two positions Martinez was ever allowed to play were first base and third base. Martinez actually came up as a third baseman so his games played there far exceeds first base. In 564 games played at third base in 4605.1 innings, Martinez had only a .946 fielding percentage. This isn’t as bad as it sounds however looking at the number of errors he made is a little upsetting. The 1990 season was Martinez’s first full year and one where he made 27 errors. He would make 15 the following year then 17 in 1993. It was in 1995 when finally it was decided for Martinez to focus on his hitting and only really care about fielding during interleague play.
The Seattle Mariners got as close to the playoffs without actually making it in 2014. Because of this, they have been busy this offseason trying to do what they can to improve. Unlike the band geek who gets a sniff of the popular girl’s hair then gives up on trying to ever get more, the Mariners are making an active effort to build a better roster.
The projected lineup still does have some weaknesses, however, the middle of the order is near perfect. Robinson Cano remains a great all-around hitter who can do a little bit of everything. Now that he has Nelson Cruz hitting behind him and Kyle Seager after that, Cano could potentially have his best season yet.
Austin Jackson as a leadoff hitter is rather unimpressive. In my opinion, Jackson may be better suited hitting at the bottom of the order. Unfortunately for the Mariners their biggest weakness, like with most teams, is the 7-9 hitters. As you can see in RotoChamp’s prediction, none of the guys slated to bat low in the order are expected to have very good batting averages. Mike Zunino‘s power should be appreciated, but it will get frustrating to see all of the outs he makes.
The starting rotation remains one of the better ones in baseball. Felix Hernandez is always a Cy Young Award candidate with the younger arms in the starting rotation behind him improving each season. Holding the opponents’ runs per game down shouldn’t be a problem at all.
More than anything, the Mariners may be dependent on Cruz to have a big year. He’s the first big power hitter the team has had since Richie Sexson so it should be interesting to see how many home runs he can hit.
The newly acquired Seth Smith should also provide them with some much needed offense. Seeing as he was the best hitter for the San Diego Padres last season, said as a compliment with no sarcasm, this shouldn’t be a problem.
The Mariners will still have their work cut out for them. The Los Angeles Angels remain strong and there’s no expecting what the Texas Rangers can do when healthy. The Mariners will need to lean on their pitching and an increase in power to get to the postseason.
I challenge you to name any baseball player more universally known throughout the 1990s than Ken Griffey Jr. Some guys stole the show in the beginning of the decade while others finished off this ten-year span with home run highlights. Only Griffey Jr. was there throughout making highlight reels and making kids in Florida root for the Seattle Mariners. One of the greatest overall baseball players of all-time, here are five statistical facts about the man simply known as Junior.
Never Reached 200 Hits
The most hits Griffey Jr. ever had in a season was 185. For a guy with such great overall skill, I find this a bit shocking. Consistently though, Griffey Jr. was in the 170-185 range. Injuries of course played a made role in his inability to reach 200 hits as he only played in 150 games or more in 6 of his 22 seasons.
4 Home Run Titles
Griffey Jr. owns 4 home run titles. He achieved this in 1994 (40), 1997 (56), 1998 (56), and 1999 (48). His best season was that 1997 season when he also led the league in runs with 125 and RBIs with 147. Surprisingly, this was Griffey Jr.’s lone MVP season.
210 Home Runs with the Cincinnati Reds
For the most part, we remember Griffey Jr.’s time with the Cincinnati Reds as futile. Other than his appearance at the end of that dreadful movie ‘Summer Catch’ I barely remember him wearing the team’s uniform. He was still there for 9 seasons and managed to hit 210 home runs.
The Mariners were rarely good when Griffey Jr. was there, but he did get to play in the postseason three separate times. This happened in 1995 and 1997 with the Mariners then in 2008 when he found himself on the Chicago White Sox’s roster. In 1995 Griffey Jr. hit 5 home runs in the Division Series against the New York Yankees in 5 games and another in the League Championship against the Cleveland Indians. His postseason success fizzled after that as he would only ever get 4 more hits in 25 at-bats.
Not a Base Stealer
We may remember vivid images of Griffey Jr. chasing down deep fly balls and leaping high in the air to make the play. What appeared to be speed may not have been. Until looking over his statistics, I was always under the impression that Junior was a base-stealer. He did manage to steal 184 bases in his career, but this is only an average of 11 per season. In fact, from 2000-2010 Griffey Jr. only stole 17 bases. His career high came in 1999 when he swiped 24 bags.
The free agents continue to vanish from the market on an almost daily basis.
Today, it was outfielder Nelson Cruz finding a new home. After spending a season with the Baltimore Orioles on the cheap, Cruz decided it was time to take his talents to the Northwest when he inked a deal with the Seattle Mariners.
I’m not surprised in the least bit to see Cruz join the M’s. A team that narrowly missed the playoffs in 2014, they were in obvious need of a big bat. Of the available free agents, Cruz owned the biggest.
Cruz’s 40 home runs in 2014 is more than the team’s two best hitters, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, combined for last year. Suddenly, with the decline of the Oakland Athletics, stagnant thinking of the Los Angeles Angels, lost Texas Rangers, and whatever-they-are Houston Astros–the Mariners may be on their way to a Division Title.
There’s no arguing the Mariners just got a lot better. They already had the pitching to compete with anyone. Now with possibly the best slugger in baseball plugged into the middle of the lineup, they look a lot more appealing as a team overall. Cruz will help the Mariners a lot in the coming years, but they will hurt him as an individual performer.
At this point, Cruz shouldn’t care much about his statistics. This new contract could very well be his last and his main motivation now should be winning. It’s still something worth paying attention to as there could be some ego-bruising or frustration when Cruz suddenly sees his home run numbers drop. Home runs are not everything, however, for Cruz they are what define his success most.
Safeco Field is a place I consider a pitcher’s park and playing half of his games there should cut Cruz’s home runs down significantly. The last time someone on the Mariners hit 30 home runs in a season was Russell Branyan back in 2009. The organization has been pretty much void of a superstar slugger in recent years so it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise at the lack of power.
Perhaps a more important statistic to look at is how Cano’s home run totals split in half last year; his first with the Mariners.
In 2013 with the New York Yankees, Cano hit 27 home runs. His first season with the Mariners in 2014, he only had 14. The 27 home runs was not a fluke either as this had been about the amount to expect from him on a yearly basis.
This fact may have as much to do with hitting in Yankee Stadium as it does hitting at Safeco Field. At the same time, the “Russell Branyan Argument” should be taken into account to further prove the point that batters struggle at Safeco–at least when it comes to hitting home runs.
Statistically, Safeco Field is not ranked as one of the more difficult stadiums to hit a home run. From all of the numbers I have seen, it’s about in the middle. Using Felix Hernandez as the control in the experiment, we will see there is no real difference between pitching at home or on the road.
In 1046.2 innings, he has allowed 83 home runs at Safeco Field.
In 1014 innings on the road, he has allowed 78 home runs.
Half of the numbers say one thing and the other half say something else. The pitchers for the Mariners don’t see any difference, but many of their hitters do.
Maybe the more important thing to consider is which side of the plate the batter swings from. Since Cano bats left-handed it may be fair to assume the ballpark is friendlier to righties. I would have to completely dive into this theory beyond the allotted time I would like to use on this topic so I’ll leave this as a hypothesis without a real answer.
I still believe Cruz will fail to hit 40 home runs next season. It’s completely realistic too considering last year was the only time he did do it.
There are so many factors that could go into predicting how Cruz will perform in 2015. My guess is he helps the Mariners at the sacrifice of fewer home runs and in doing so, makes everyone think he was a waste of money.
Sometimes there’s just no winning even when you are helping your team do it.
Mike Morse was almost 30-years-old when he finally played in what one might consider a full major league season.
As a member of the 2011 Washington Nationals, Morse played in 146 games while hitting .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs. This chance brought him a lot of attention around baseball and even without quite playing up to the level he did then, general managers have held out hope.
Most recently, Morse played for the 2014 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants before becoming a free agent. His season was a productive one, hitting .279 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs. The numbers were nothing remarkable however baseball in general had a down year offensively as did the Giants as a team as they won with pitching.
Although versatile with the glove as he can play first base and both corner outfield positions–he also came up as a shortstop originally–Morse is better suited as a designated hitter. Not an absolute butcher, Morse is simply another player who at times needs a teammate ready to substitute him in the field during those important late innings.
Available on the free agent market, I see Morse as possibly the next big designated hitter on an American League team.
It’s ridiculous to believe Morse will be back to the 30 home run guy he was in 2011. On the other hand it’s not completely silly to write him off completely. Knocking 25 balls out of the park is nothing jaw-dropping and I believe enough in Morse to expect this from him.
Given the chance to focus almost entirely on his offense, Morse may thrive. In his career as the designated hitter position he has done very badly. In 123 at-bats he’s hitting only .220 without a home run. This is a still a small sample size so don’t completely negate my argument–please.
Other players have put up far greater numbers once they only had to worry about hitting the ball, not fielding it. One extreme example of this is David Ortiz who primarily only ever made the lineup as a designated hitter when he joined the Boston Red Sox. Suddenly he was an All-Star and a constant MVP candidate. This is an extreme example and comparison. I don’t expect Morse to be near the level of player Ortiz has been. Still, it’s not how good rather how much better a player can become once they are a specialist. Each has a ceiling and Morse may not fully be at his.
If relief pitchers can only pitch against certain batters and have success then Morse can only swing a bat and do the same. The only way this could be a failure is if there’s something mental about it like Morse having too much time to think. Knowing what we do about baseball players, how crazy and superstitious they can be, this is something to actually consider.
Since there are 15 teams in the American League there are 15 who could implement my idea. Well, fewer than that as many already have a designated hitter or a player like Morse wouldn’t fit into their plans. There are still suitors though and the worst thing that happens is he ends up in the National League continuing to do what he does best: tempt me into promoting him as a designate hitter.
On the verge of a possible $100 million contract, the Seattle Mariners’ third baseman Kyle Seager has the opportunity to make superstar money. No matter what your job or skill-level, when someone guarantees you $100 million it’s a big deal.
Seager is an interesting player. As a member of the Mariners, a team that has not made the playoffs since 2001, he isn’t exactly on the cover of too many middle school binders. This shouldn’t stop us from appreciating what he can do if he can indeed live up to the money he’s getting paid.
At 27-years-old, Seager still has a good decade of baseball left in him. He is entering the prime of his career and has a chance to be a leader for the Mariners over the next few seasons. Certainly the heart of the team along with ace Felix Hernandez, is Seager really worth $100 million?
So far in three seasons and a handful his rookie year, Seager steadily gotten better. His home runs increased in 2014 to a career high 25 and he fell just 4 RBIs short of 100. Yet to reach 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, or even a batting average of .270, I don’t see Seager as someone worth the $100 million the Mariners are probably about to pay him.
To be fair to Seager, this is probably what his value actually is. Seager is a Top 10 third baseman, but I’m not sure about Top 5. Third base is an incredibly weak position now and I’m not quite sure people realize how few good ones are there. When Chase Headley, a guy with literally one good season in his career, is the second best free agent at the position and now THE best since Pablo Sandoval is going to be a member of the Boston Red Sox–there’s a problem. Seager has only made one All-Star team and already he will be getting paid like he makes it every year.
Paying Seager on a Bell Curve though, $100 million is a fair price. I’m not exactly sure what the financial term for it would be, but I’m sure it exists. When your choices are limited though, it won’t matter how much someone pays. All that matters is outbidding your opponent. Over time, everyone gets paid a little too much.
The bigger and maybe overlooked benefit of Seager might be his glove work. The 2014 winner of a Gold Glove, Seager committed only 8 errors all season long. His fielding percentage was way above the league average and his range was better too. Although he’s a middle of the order guy, look for Seager to eventually be better known for what he does at the hot corner with the leather than his bat.
Considering Sandoval’s deal with the Red Sox appears to be worth $88 million over 4 years, giving Seager $100 million over 7 years sounds like a bargain. This equals out to a little over $14 million a year. When you put it like this, Seager’s definitely worth it–at least for a professional athlete where everyone eventually becomes a millionaire.
After narrowly missing the playoffs last season, the Mariners will be increasing their payroll for 2015. Showing they are willing to pay guys like Seager early could backfire, however, in baseball sometimes you need to spend a little too much to get to where you want to be.
And right now, the Mariners want to be playing baseball in October.
Second to only the Arizona Diamondbacks with the worst record in baseball, the Colorado Rockies had a miserable 2014 season. A plethora of injuries along with a lack of pitching depth gave them another forgettable year of baseball.
Not everything about the season was dreadful. They did score the third most runs, have the second most hits, and nearly had the best team batting average. Plus there was the National League Batting Title winner Justin Morneau at first base, a breakout season from outfielder Charlie Blackmon, and a 28-game hitting streak from Nolan Arenado.
Even before Troy Tulowitzki ended his year early due to yet another injury, he was on pace for an MVP season.
Everything they could have done on offense they did. This is just how it seems to be for the only team in baseball located a mile high.
However with all of the great offense, the pitching once again struggled. You can blame the thin Colorado air, sure, but when Franklin Morales is basically your number two starter you shouldn’t expect much in the first place–or to be anywhere near first place.
Always a team built on their offense and power, I wonder, what if they did something different? What if they were to put an average offense on the field and focus on winning with really good pitching?
Using the current free agent class, I’m going to lay out a few scenarios and why this could possibly work.
The first thing to do would be to trade Carlos Gonzalez IF anyone is willing to take him. He makes far too much money to get as injured as he does. Coming off as season where he played in only 70 games, and did pretty poorly, there are fewer suitors than ever for CarGo. Perhaps a desperate team willing to overpay or take a risk would be willing to give up two or three mid-level prospects. I’m doubtful they could get much, but this may be necessary to save some money and hope you get something in return. Eat part of the contract if they have to. This is a move about going forward.
Next, the team would make two big moves on the same day. The purpose of this is not to disgruntle the fans too much as it involves trading away Tulowitzki. The new Todd Helton as the face of the organization, he’s clearly not happy and like Gonzalez is prone to injuries.
In this scenario, Tulowitzki is traded to the New York Mets. In return, the Rockies would receive Jacob deGrom and/or Zack Wheeler. I doubt they could get both however one is realistic. They would also need to receive a few other pieces if only one of them is sent to Colorado. The main thing though would be receiving a new young pitcher who can strikeout a lot of batters as both had more than a strikeout per inning in 2014.
While bringing a new young pitcher with a lot of talent would get fans excited, more would need to be done to make up for the loss of Tulo. That’s where an even bigger move takes place on the same day. The Rockies would then announce the signing of starting pitcher Max Scherzer.
Getting Scherzer to sign with the Rockies is much easier said than done. Who would want to pitch for a team like them? After offering him a lot more than everyone else was willing to pay plus giving him a pinky swear they are ready to do more and seeing it happen with the same-day trade that brought in deGrom or Wheeler, Scherzer may see the bigger picture and agree to join the next great team in the National League.
Let’s say all of this works out. Gonzalez and Tulowitzki are gone. Teady to play at the big league level are two new and very talented pitchers who would not be too affected by the dangers of Coors Field. Scherzer only gave up 18 home runs each of the last two seasons in over 200 innings. We can expect more pitching for the Rockies however since he will pitch quite a bit at ballparks like PetCo Park where a home run is rarer than a four leaf clover, luck will not need to poke its head out.
Depending on when the above transactions take place would be the test of what happens next. A clear plan laid out, the Rockies make one final big decision. Jon Lester or James Shields would be the top choices however another lesser pitcher like an Ervin Santana would supplement. Seeing that the Rockies have a direction and a plan to rethink their strategy, one of these guys MAY consider letting their ERAs inflate for the sake of winning. Someone like Shields is not used to great run support may enjoy having such big bats to help him out.
Hypothetically, and this ALL is, Shields is the one to sign with Colorado for a rather large contract. The pitching rotation has suddenly become Scherzer, Shields, deGrom/Wheeler, Jorge De La Rosa, and whoever they want at number five. By this point, it wouldn’t matter and would likely be someone ranked as high as second in the rotation last year.
The other pitchers from last season’s rotation are then moved to the bullpen, which could or could not backfire. My guess is pitching in this format would be more of a benefit. It’s rare a starter is moved to the bullpen and it is an utter failure. They could even discover Jordan Lyles is the perfect closer.
At this point the team has improved a lot and only really lost a great player in name. Tulowitzki is very talented, but he has only ever knocked in 100 runs once. Any shortstop put into this lineup would suddenly have a batting average jump 15-20 points. They also don’t really need Gonzalez now either since Blackmon along with Corey Dickerson and Drew Stubbs have the outfield covered. Should they feel the need to find some help, like a right handed bat for the outfield, there is almost always some outfielder available late into spring training to sign. Something as simple as trading Dickerson for a right handed batter of equal or only slightly lesser value could even easier. The Seattle Mariners need offense and maybe Austin Jackson would be a guy who could benefit in another environment. In this case, there are many possibilities.
This is a long process and would take some convincing of players, fans, agents, and even the current team. It’s a new direction and way of thinking.
Many may dismiss this, however, I believe it would work.
It’s at least better than what they did last year. There’s no arguing there.
So why don’t they do it?