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

September 17, 2008 at 4:14 PM

Rowland-Smith tries to play stopper

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The Mariners are getting set to take on the Royals about an hour from now, with one of this season’s pleasant surprises, Ryan Rowland-Smith, heading to the mound. Rowland-Smith has enjoyed five consecutive solid outings, facing some pretty good teams in the process. Think that isn’t huge for a Mariners club that has no idea whether Erik Bedard will be ready for Opening Day of next season? This is like a gift dropped into Seattle’s lap. Few people in the M’s organziation expected Rowland-Smith to achieve as much as he has so soon.
Right now, he’s pitching like a mid-rotation starter –going six or seven quality innings each time out — and not the back-end guy everyone thought was going to show up. What could get him into trouble is if he gives up more than a couple of walks per outing. Had a 2-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio as a reliever and that’s OK. As a starter, with the small sample size available, he’s dropped below 1.5-to-1. He’s yet to be the strikeout-per-inning guy as a starter that he was as a releiver, so he has to limit the baserunners he allows. Otherwise, as a guy who yields a ton of fly balls, he’ll have to be pinpoint accurate in his command to avoid home runs, doubles to the gaps and big innings. We’ll see how the numbers adjust as he gets more outings in. So far, he’s largely avoided those big innings as a starter, but why tempt fate? Start by limiting the walks. Rowland-Smith isn’t terrible in that regard. He’s actually OK. But he gives up a hit per inning, so he can’t afford to supplement that with a four-walk day like he had against New York two starts ago.
That takes time when adjusting to being a starter at the big league level because the command isn’t always sharp. But as I said, RRS had done a good job as a starter so far. There’s little to complain about. As Meagain and RagArm point out in the comments thread, he even has a blog of his own. About time he updated it, no? I’ll remind him on Friday when I see him in Oakland.
The interesting thing about RRS is that he does get righthanded hitters out. It’s lefties who have given him the most trouble this season. Usually, the southpaws win lefty-on-lefty matchups. Did a better job last year under more spoon-fed circumstances. This year, he continues to baffle righties with his change-up, but the lefties have hit for an .878 OPS off him and that’s far too high. Ask Carlos Silva.
So, those are some of the things I’d look for today. How does he do against lefties? And can he spot the ball where he wants, without walking guys? Third thing? How hard are those fly balls off him being hit? If they look like glorified pop-ups, chances are he’s on and his walk totals will be low as well. If the balls are being driven hard, he’s not putting his pitches where he wants. Could also use a few more strikeouts, like he used to get as a reliever. Let’s see if they come against this free-swinging squad.
For those who missed it earlier, here’s my Talkin’ Baseball segment from KJR 950 AM’s Mitch in the Morning Show this morning.
For Bill, WTF and whoever else, the Times pays me to cover the team with interesting items, whether they be game stories, features, investigative pieces or blogs. I’ve done my best to keep it interesting with multiple blog posts per day as a nightmare season drags on and people lose interest in the daily happenings with the Mariners. We could have shut things down and thrown up a paragraph or two per day until the games started. But we’ve tried to avoid mailing it in and are working hard every day to keep things topical, different and fun for everyone. We have the highest-rated baseball blog in the Pacific Northwest and one of the highest in the nation numbers-wise, so we’re doing something right. And we’ve had our share of acclaim and citations from others around the country, both in the newspaper industry and outside of it. Our morning blog post today, which drew seven comments, has been refered to by other sites around the country. And our MLB 2K post from this afternoon, which drew double the comments, was not just a matter of playing a video game. If anyone thinks editing that footage into a four-minute package was anything but work, try it out sometime.
Judging by the hits we keep getting, plenty of you like it. We try to make this fun for everyone. Baseball is a game and supposed to be fun. The Mariners, the past week, have been anything but fun for fans. Life is not meant to be serious all the time. One suggestion I’d make is to stop taking the Mariners so seriously until they put out lineups that can compete beyond the No. 4 hitter. It will save you stress. We’ll all have plenty of time to dissect the agonizing goings-on with this team multiple times per day in the weeks and years ahead.
Fow now, try to enjoy Rowland-Smith tonight. If he looks anything like cyber-Bedard, we’ll all be in for a treat.


The lineups:
MARINERS
Ichiro RF
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Raul Ibanez DH
Jose Lopez 1B
Jeremy Reed CF
Wladimir Balentien LF
Matt Tuiasosopo 3B
Kenji Johjima C
Luis Valbuena 2B
Ryan Rowland-Smith LHP
ROYALS
David DeJesus CF
Mike Aviles SS
Jose Guillen RF
Ryan Shealy 1B
Billy Butler DH
Mark Teahen 3B
John Buck C
Alberto Callaspo 2B
Esteban German LF
Gil Meche RHP

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