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Mariners blog

Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

September 5, 2007 at 11:18 AM

On edge yet?

Seems this blog has seen more people on edge the past week than all season long. Not surprising, I suppose, considering a season hangs in the balance. At the risk of repeating myself, the M’s need this one tonight. You don’t want to fall three games back. The Detroit Tigers are only 3 1/2 out and look how gloomy things are getting in Motown. Funny how the next series for the M’s could be one featuring two teams trying to figure out which will deliver the death blow on the other. Could be both, since anything but a sweep enables the Yankees to gain wild-card ground.
If both teams are three or more out to start that series, the Yanks could run away with the wild-card before the weekend even ends. That’s why, the Mariners will save themselves and everyone else from some headaches tonight by winning. Hey, you’ve got to beat the other contenders in a series at some point late in a season. Almost every playoff team does it. A-Rod might miss the game after getting banged up at third base last night.
Win this game and all will live to talk about it another day. Even Carlos Garcia. Some of you are writing in, wondering how we could jump all over his decision in a 12-3 loss. Thing is, it was only a 1-0 game at the time. If the M’s load the bases with none out, we don’t know what Jose Lopez would have done. We don’t know whether Chien-Ming Wang would have pitched him differently. Or how Lopez would have reacted to the first pitch.
Maybe the M’s go on to a three-run inning and take a 3-1 lead. Maybe Wang leaves the game sooner. Perhaps Eric O’Flaherty gets the call to face Robinson Cano in the sixth if the M’s are up 3-2. Maybe the Yankees don’t put up three in the sixth. We just don’t know. The complexion of the game changed. And when you’re struggling to score off a dominant starter, you just can’t give runs and outs away like Seattle did by waving Adrian Beltre home on a high-risk gamble with nobody out.
“That was a huge momentum booster for us,” Yankees manager Joe Torre says of the play in this story, which also carries photos of that squirrell rapidly becoming a fixture at Yankee Satdium
Anyway, we’ve beaten that horse to death. Garcia is a good man, works hard. He told me he doesn’t care if the team wants to change him from being the third base coach, that he’s doing the best he can. These are frustrating times for everyone associated with the team — I can tell you that.
But that’s what it takes to compete in September. Every game has become meaningful. There is a pressure level associated with each contest that was not around before. The Los Angeles Angels are handling it well, having taken care of business last week in Seattle. Now a full 7 1/2 games up on the M’s.
We’ve all been wondering why the M’s waited so long for Richie Sexson’s bat to come around. I know they thought that having him find the home run groove he was in over the final six weeks last year would be akin to adding another bat. Sort of what the Angels have experienced with Garret Anderson.
Here is Anderson’s monthly OPS:
April — .654
May — Injured
June — .736
July — .881
August — .854
September — 1.444
First half — .710
Second half — .905
Yup, looks like a “new” player to me.
Arrived just in time for an offense that had begun to sputter as the Mariners kept closing the gap. There was talk in June that Anderson might not be around come season’s end, that he should be replaced in the lineup. He found his bat, though, and is producing now, when it counts. His over-all numbers won’t matter nearly as much as what he’s contributed these past two months. Obviously, the Sexson “arrival” never transpired and if this team fails to make the post-season, his bat, rightfully, will be a huge discussion point.
One last thing, now, on Adam Jones. Many of you have written in to point out to me a Derek Zumsteg item in USS Mariner yesterday outlining the number of Rookie of the Year candidates and winners broken in by the Atlanta Braves over the past 15 years. I agree that it is a remarkable achievement. In fact, if the Mariners don’t break Adam Jones in by next spring, we will all have a number of hard questions to ask.
But are the Braves a prime example of why the M’s should force Jones into the lineup right now? I don’t think so. As was mentioned, the young Braves were all Rookie of the Year contenders, which implies they got most of a full season to work their way in. With Jones, we’re talking about a 3 1/2 week “sink or swim” indoctrination, which is hardly the same discussion. Not even in the same ballpark.
I know some of you keep clamoring for me to provide numbers with every sentence, so here are some:
1.326
.878
.688
Those are the monthly OPS totals for Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur in his rookie season as a finalist for NL Rookie of the Year, beginning in July with 46 at-bats, continuing to August and ending in September and a couple of days in October. So, which of those monthly OPS totals would Jones bring to the table these final few weeks if the M’s throw him in the lineup every day? Don’t know? Neither do I. Neither does the team. If Jones were to put up a .688 these next few weeks, in-place of the .800 by someone else on the team, it would potentially be a disaster.
But as I said, maybe he puts up a .900. It’s a risk. And it doesn’t matter what his minor league predictor stats say. This is too small a sample period for anyone to predict how he’d do every day with any accuracy. At the beginning of the season, or even in July, it’s a different story because there is margin for error, or an off-month for a rookie trying to adapt. In Francoeur’s case, he took the league by storm, then cooled off. But who’s to say what order Jones would perform in. I know this is becoming a tired debate in some respects. But I’m just pointing out the issues I’ve yet to see covered and to explain my feelings on the Braves. I agree that any team loaded with young talent should try to use it or trade it. Just not right now, not this late.
Tonight’s lineups:
NEW YORK (77-62)
LF Johnny Damon
CF Melky Cabrera
SS Derek Jeter
3B Alex Rodriguez
DH Jorge Posada
RF Shelley Duncan
2B Robinson Cano
1B Wilson Betemit
C Jose Molina
RHP Phil Hughes
SEATTLE (74-63)
CF Ichiro
DH Jose Vidro
RF Jose Guillen
LF Raul Ibanez
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Ben Broussard
C Kenji Johjima
2B Jose Lopez
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
LHP Jarrod Washburn
UMPIRES
HP Larry Vanover
1B Tony Randazzo
2B Gerry Davis (crew chief)
3B Greg Gibson
NOTE: To “Adam” in the comments thread. I like the arguments you usually present, and your level-headed style, so I’m going to ask you a question. Which Class AAA numbers for Adam Jones will help us predict how he’d do over the next 3 1/2 weeks? And if they are projected as good numbers, how do we explain his .257 average and .687 OPS so far? Is it only a lack of playing time, or needing to adjust to the majors over a longer period? Because the M’s don’t really have room for rookie adjustments here. How many games does Jones have to play per week for the magic numbers to kick-in? And how certain can we be that they will kick-in quickly? As in, say, right now? Because we saw from Jeff Francoeur’s example that even a Rookie of the Year finalist can plunge statistically after six solid weeks of playing every day. I’m not aware of numbers that can make that prediction and am curious. So, are they out there? Or are they better-suited to projecting stats over a full season — in which case, this argument is best left for spring training?

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