Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.
May 17, 2013 at 10:24 AM
Are Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma the best one-two starting combo in the majors? (with minor league report)
(Here is today’s Mariners minor league report)
(It appears that Danny Farquhar is coming up from Tacoma to fortify the Mariners’ bullpen after it was emptied last night in their 3-2 victory at Yankee Stadium. Hat tip to Ryan Divish for first reporting the pending transaction. Hector Noesi will be the odd man out after going 4 1/3 solid innings in an emergency start against the Yankees. With six straight games, the M’s will need a fresh arm in the pen, so Noesi goes down. Lucas Luetge went down under similar circumstances earlier in the year. Farquhar, who came to Seattle in the Ichiro trade, is not on the 40-man roster, so a move will have to be made. This will not be his major-league debut — Farquhar pitched in three games for the Blue Jays in 2010).
The question in the headline is starting to be heard more and more. The numbers are undeniable: Hernandez is 5-2 with a 1.53 ERA in nine starts, with a 0.93 WHIP, a .215 opponents average, and a strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 64-10. Iwakuma is 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA in nine starts, with a 0.78 WHIP, a .183 opponents average, and strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 55-8. (Above, Dan Plesac of MLB Network talks about Iwakuma on MLB Tonight, comparing him to Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling).
Pick the statistic, and Hernandez and Iwakuma most likely rank in the top 10 in the major leagues. To have two such pitchers on one staff is a tremendous asset for a Mariners’ club in search of a .500 record, and beyond that, contention. It makes you realize how close they would be if the other three pitchers performed even at a league-average level. But that’s a story for another day.
The question on the table now is whether Hernandez and Iwakuma are the best one-two punch, among starting pitchers, in the major leagues. And a strong case could certainly be made.
May 14, 2013 at 2:25 PM
With shortstop non-production, Mariners essentially fielding National League lineup in American League
Here is today’s Mariners minor-league report.
I admit I’m a little surprised that the Mariners didn’t make a move at shortstop before heading out on this nine-game roadtrip. After all, Brendan Ryan has dipped to .122 and doesn’t yet have a hit in the month of May. Robert Andino’s average is down to .159; he has one hit in May. For the Mariners, shortstop is a position that has become virtually a non-entity on offense.
How much of a non-entity? Glad you asked. Here are the combined statistics of Mariners shortstops this season:
May 13, 2013 at 2:08 PM
(Here is today’s Mariner minor-league report).
There’s no doubt in my mind that Felix Hernandez gets extra fired up to pitch in Yankee Stadium. He’s 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA in five starts in the Bronx. Two of his greatest performances occurred there — a two-hit shutout on June 30, 2010, in which he struck out 11 in a 7-0 Seattle victory, and last year’s two-hit masterpiece in which Hernandez and the Mariners prevailed 1-0 on Aug. 4.
If you’ve forgotten, their run scored in the second inning on a two-out single by Mike Carp off Hiroki Kuroda, scoring John Jaso, who had doubled. Neither of those guys are around to help Felix this time around. Eric Wedge raved about Hernandez’s performance, calling it the best he’d ever seen by a pitcher while he was managing — pretty high praise considering he managed Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia during Cy Young seasons.
“This ballpark, that lineup, the swings and misses, the mis-hits, with so many good hitters over there, the efficiency in which he did it, in a 1-0 ballgame — it doesn’t get much better than that,” Wedge said.
May 10, 2013 at 2:25 PM
(Here’s today’s Mariner minor-league report).
Jesus Montero is an intriguing fellow — albeit frustrating at times.
When the Mariners acquired him from the Yankees, we heard all about what a hot mess he was behind the plate, but what a prodigy he was at the plate.
Now, it seems, we’re barely seeing either side of Montero. He has started 19 games at catcher, compared to 16 for Kelly Shoppach, but eight of those came in the first 11 games of the season. Since then, Montero has started two fewer than Shoppach. Jon Heyman of CBS wrote a piece last week claiming there was a debate in the organization about Montero’s playing time, with some in their front office wanting manager Eric Wedge to play Montero more.
I asked Wedge about that in Pittsburgh, and he said that he and general manager Jack Zduriencik are on the same page, though he said he hadn’t heard about Heyman’s article.
May 7, 2013 at 10:59 AM
Here it is, courtesy of Kelly Munro of the Mariners.
One player on the rise is outfielder Jabari Henry, a 16th-round pick last year out of Florida International. The 6-1, 200-pound Henry hit eight homers and drove in 42 runs in 58 games last year in the Appalachian League to lead Pulaski, and now is tearing it up with the Class A Clinton LumberKings of the Midwest League.
May 6, 2013 at 2:40 PM
Unfortunately, I’m covering the Mariners’ series with the Pirates in Pittsburgh. It’s not that I have anything against Pittsburgh (an underrated city with a fantastic baseball stadium); it’s unfortunate because I was called into unexpected duty when Geoff’s mom died Friday in Montreal, as many of you have probably heard by now.
I never got to meet Marilyn Baker, but I’ve heard Geoff talk about her enough to know she was a formidable dynamo of a woman, and that he thought the world of her. It is gratifying that just by fate, really, he got to spend time with her last week during a visit to Montreal before the Blue Jays series in Toronto. The Mariners make just one trip to Toronto this season. How fortuitous that it happened now, bringing Geoff to Montreal for one last visit with his mom. I’m hoping there’s some solace for him in the fact that he was with her all week, and provided comfort to her on the morning of her emergency heart procedure.
May 3, 2013 at 12:17 AM
When the Mariners closed out their homestand on Wednesday night, the plan was for John Stearns to accompany the team to Toronto to continue his fill-in stint as third-base coach while Jeff Datz undergoes treatment for cancer. At least, that’s what everyone thought. Obviously, there was a late change of plans, because on Thursday the Mariners announced that Tacoma manager Daren Brown, and not Stearns, would be going to Toronto to take on the role of extra coach and third-base fill-in for Datz. Brown flew out Thursday night. Under this new plan, Stearns is instead taking over for Brown as manager of the Rainiers.
As fate would have it, I was scheduled to be in Tacoma anyway tonight to talk to Nick Franklin for a column that will run Sunday. So, naturally, I dropped into the manager’s office to chat with Stearns, who was marveling over the whirlwind course his life has taken this week. The upshot is that he’s very happy with his new gig. Stearns would go on to manage the Rainiers to a victory over Tucson tonight (Thursday) that extended their winning streak to nine. They have the best record in the PCL at 18-10.
May 2, 2013 at 12:24 PM
Mariners trying to change initial perceptions about their offense (w/minor-league report, and coaching update)
Here’s today’s Mariner minor-league report, with news of another strong start by Taijuan Walker.
The Mariners just announced that Tacoma manager Daren Brown will be joining the team in Toronto as an extra coach, essentially filling in for third-base coach Jeff Datz while he’s being treated for cancer. John Stearns, the Mariners’ minor-league catching coordinator, had been slated for that role, and in fact coached third the past three games against Baltimore. Stearns, however, will now take over as the manager of Tacoma. Brown managed the Mariners for the final 40 games of the 2010 season after John McLaren was fired.
The stereotype is still ingrained in the consciousness of baseball fans: the Seattle Mariners can’t hit. Feeble offense. Poorly constructed. Filled with busts. Spring-training mirage.
Those perceptions are well-earned, mind you. For the past three seasons, the Mariners have been the worst hitting team imaginable. No need to go over the numbers — you all know how it was. And that image was reinforced by the early part of this season, in which the Mariners quickly sank to the bottom of MLB in just about every offensive measurable. The young core of Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak looked, once again, like they were hopelessly overmatched by major-league pitching. A “here we go again” vibe definitely settled in.
May 1, 2013 at 9:27 AM
Sometimes, a player simply can’t be denied. And Nick Franklin is starting to look like that player.
Franklin’s 2013 season got off to a provocative start when he showed up in camp as a non-roster invitee, and told Geoff the story of his 6,500-calorie-a-day winter diet, all in the pursuit of reaching 200 pounds. Franklin wanted more strength and better stamina after feeling that he had hit a wall the previous season. Eyebrows were raised, wisecracks were made. The Mariners got him to tone down the binge eating, but perhaps Franklin knew what he was doing in his preparation for this season.
He has been a monster in Tacoma. After missing the early part of the season with illness, Franklin has been just about the best hitter in all of the minor leagues. In 17 games, he’s hitting .410 (25-for-61), after going 3-for-3 last night (five days after going 5-for-5). He has 16 walks and just eight strikeouts, good for a .538 on-base percentage. He has three homers and four doubles, helping build a .623 slugging percentage. His OPS is 1.161. He’s stolen four bases in four attempts. A switch-hitter, he’s hitting .571 against left-handers and .389 against right-handers. He’s hitting .400 at home, .419 on the road, .400 in day games, .412 in night games.
April 30, 2013 at 9:07 AM
A couple of thoughts from Monday’s game:
- Michael Saunders‘ return is welcome for a number of reasons, but one that might be overlooked is that it adds some much-needed speed to what tends to be, in spots, an excruciatingly slow lineup.
Saunders made a splashy return with a home run on his first swing last night, but I was more taken with his sprint around the bases in the sixth to score on Kyle Seager’s triple. Saunders is a guy who could have 30-30 potential, and the Mariners really need that speed element, particularly with Franklin Gutierrez on the DL. Endy Chavez, Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan have decent speed, but Saunders is really their only stolen-base threat. In fact, the Mariners have just two players on their active roster with stolen bases, Saunders with three and Ryan with two. Their two other steals this season, one apiece, belong to Carlos Peguero (currently in Tacoma) and Gutierrez (on the DL).
The seven steals rank 30th — dead last — in the majors. They are tied for first in grounding into double plays, with 30 in 28 games. Not exactly the “Go-Go Mariners.”
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