7/23-7/25 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

Fan Confidence Poll: July 23rd, 2012
The good and the bad of a weekend in Oakland
Mariner Moose has the third highest wOBA on the team. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Yankees just finished getting swept in Oakland and now move up the coast to Seattle. The Mariners are on their way back home from Tampa, which I assume is the longest flight in baseball. Well, Miami-to-Seattle is longer, but close enough. The Yankees took two of three from the Fightin’ Monteros at Yankee Stadium back in May.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Mariners took two of three from the Rays and have won six of ten overall since the All-Star break. At 42-55, Seattle is in last place in the AL West with the fourth worst record in the league. Their -13 run differential is fifth worst (by a large margin, actually) in the AL.

Offense

(Christian Petersen/Getty)

No surprise here, but it’s bad. Real bad. The Mariners average a touch under four runs per game overall (3.95 to be exact), but their home/road split is enormous. They’re hitting just .196/.275/.288 (!) as a team at Safeco Field this year (59 wRC+), which is unfathomably bad. That’s not quite as bad a nine Chris Stewarts (45 wRC+), but it’s damn close. The Mariners own a much more respectable team 98 wRC+ on the road this season.

Seattle’s best hitter this season has been Michael Saunders (110 wRC+), though John Jaso (140 wRC+) and Casper Wells (119 wRC+) have been productive in platoon roles. Kyle Seager (99 wRC+) has been league average and it drops off in a big way after the that. Ichiro (77 wRC+) and Dustin Ackley (77 wRC+) were supposed to be catalysts atop the lineup but have done very little on the year. Justin Smoak (60 wRC+) has over 1,250 career plate appearances telling us he’s a terrible hitter. Add in Brendan Ryan (59 wRC), Chone Figgins (48 wRC+), Miguel Olivo (40 wRC+), Munenori Kawasaki (34 wRC+), and the recently recalled Carlos Peguero (101 wRC+) and you get one serious LOLffense.

Then there’s Jesus Montero. The former Yankees farmhand owns a .261/.300/.401 (89 wRC+) batting line with nine homers this year, the vast of majority of which have come as a DH. He’s started just 35 of 97 games behind the plate this season. Montero has been hot since the All-Star break, reaching base in all eight games he’s played and hitting .394/.447/.606 overall. During the seven-game road trip through Kansas City and Tampa, he went 12-for-26 (.462) with four doubles, a homer, three walks, and three strikeouts. He’s probably their most dangerous hitter, at least right now, but he’s certainly shown the willingness to chase offspeed stuff off the plate this season.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Kevin Millwood
The 37-year-old Millwood frustratingly held the Yankees to one run across seven innings back in May, part of a nice little streak that included no more than one earned run in five of six starts. He owns a 4.15 ERA (3.57 FIP) overall, though his strikeout (6.62 K/9 and 17.1 K%) and walk (3.35 BB/9 and 8.7 BB%) walk rates aren’t anything special. Millwood gets ground balls (45.8%) and limits homers (0.53 HR/9) thanks in part to his home park. He’ll use two and four-seamers right around 90 to setup an array of offspeed stuff, including a low-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. An upper-80s cutter will also make an appearance from time to time.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Tuesday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. RHP Felix Hernandez
After a slow-ish start to the season, Felix is back to being the guy he was for the last few seasons. He’s allowed one earned run or less in six of his last seven starts and has pitched to a 2.82 ERA (2.78 FIP) overall. His strikeout (9.15 K/9 and 25.0 K%) and walk (2.30 BB/9 and 6.3 BB%) rates are both career bests, and his 0.58 HR/9 may as well be — he’s off his career low (0.57 HR/9 in 2009) by one dinger for every 900 innings. His ground ball rate (46.0%) is a career worst, however. Hernandez’s fastball velocity has been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now but still sits comfortably in the low-90s. His collection of offspeed pitches — upper-80s changeup, mid-80s slider, and low-80s curve — is probably the best in baseball. He’s really good. You know it, I know it, he knows it, and the Yankees know it.

Wednesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
After appearing in just five of the Mariners’ first 54 games, Iwakuma earned some trust in June and moved into the rotation full-time earlier this month because old pal Hector Noesi (5.77 ERA and 5.63 FIP) had to be sent to Triple-A. Iwakuma owns a 4.86 ERA (5.61 FIP) overall this season and has been a mixed bag in his three starts — one good (two runs in six innings), one not so good (four runs in five innings), and one in the middle (three runs in five innings). His strikeout (6.60 K/9 and 17.5 K%), walk (4.27 BB/9 and 11.3 BB%), and homerun (1.75 HR/9) numbers leave an awful lot to be desired, though at least he gets some ground balls (53.7%). Using the typical kitchen sink approach employed by so many Japanese pitchers, Iwakuma throws a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, a mid-80s splitter, a low-80s slider, and a low-70s curveball. The Yankees didn’t see him at all back in May.

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Bullpen Status
The Rays did the Yankees a solid by running through Seattle’s bullpen quite a bit over the weekend, including a 14-inning game on Friday. Unfortunately Blake Beaven went a full eight innings yesterday, so everyone but closer Tom Wilhelmsen (2.54 FIP) had the night off. He’s appeared in three straight games — including multiple innings on Friday — and figures to get tonight off if not tomorrow as well. Fill-in closer duties should instead fall on the shoulders of Brandon League (3.47 FIP), the former closer turned setup man.

Manager Eric Wedge has a pair of lefties at his disposal, including Rule 5 guy Lucas Luetge (2.80 FIP) and former laughing stock Oliver Perez (1.90 FIP). Both are just specialists and Perez has a big reverse split (.234 wOBA vs. RHB and .415 vs. LHB) in a small sample, though his velocity seems to be back. Righties Shawn Kelley (3.53 FIP), Steve Delabar (4.85 FIP), and Josh Kinney (6.92 FIP in limited time) round out the rest of the bullpen. Overall, Seattle’s relief unit has been middle of the pack with a 3.72 FIP.

The Yankees’ bullpen was used quite heavily in yesterday’s extra innings loss, but no one out there has appeared in two straight games. Everyone except maybe David Phelps — who worked 1.2 innings but only threw 19 pitches — should be available tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details. For the latest and greatest on the Mariners, we recommend Lookout Landing and U.S.S. Mariner.

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Fan Confidence Poll: July 23rd, 2012
The good and the bad of a weekend in Oakland
  • Robinson Tilapia

    I love it when matchups like Garcia/Hernandez wind up going the opposite of how you expect them to go.

    Here’s hoping to the past four days being a distant memory in a few days’ time.

  • jjyank

    I had no idea Perez was pitching in the Seattle bullpen.

    Let’s hope that LOLffense helps the Yanks get back to winning.

  • Eddard

    We need to end this skid tonight. The pitchers should have no problem shutting down this offense. With tomorrow’s lopsided pitching matchup tonight is a must win.

    • jjyank

      IT’S A TRAP!

      • Admiral Ackbar

        We have no choice, General Calrissian! Our cruisers can’t repel firepower of that magnitude!

        • Lando Calrissian

          Han will have that shield down. We’ve got to give him more time!

          • Yak Face

            ….

            • jjyank

              Not a Star Wars fan?

              • Robinson Tilapia

                Yak Face doesn’t actually have a line. He was just an incredibly rare action figure the first time around.

            • http://thecarsboneblog.tumblr.com Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

              Really? Lando, Akbar, I’m hoping both of you aren’t jjyank incredibly bored at work…even if so that was an awesome addition to my day.

              • jjyank

                Lando was me, not sure who my friend was.

                I am bored at work, but I don’t think I’d ever be bored enough to talk to myself :P

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  I was Ackbar. I can never go past the phrase “It’s a trap” without breaking out in full Ackbar mode. This is true in real life as well.

                  • jjyank

                    Heh same. You being Ackbar makes sense with you enjoying my Sweaty Freddy/Darth Vader comment below as well.

                  • http://thecarsboneblog.tumblr.com Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

                    I think anybody who has seen Star Wars and enjoyed it (and therefore has seen it multiple times) sees Admiral Ackbar in their heads when ever they hear the phrase “It’s a trap.” I know I do.

                    • Robinson Tilapia

                      Of course.

    • gc

      Must-win?? A week ago you were boasting that the division was over, that it was all in the bag, and now suddenly tonight is a must-win game? Didn’t take very long for you to get out on that ledge now, did it? Typical.

  • Kramerica Industries

    Freddy vs. Felix

    You talk about the definition of the reverse lock…

  • MannyGeee

    OK seriously, Cashman should seriously open the entire farm and get Felix in pinstripes AT ALL COSTS!!!!!!11!!!1!1!111!!

    #narrativefromeveryJuly

    F0r realz though, Felix is good. Really good

    • Knoxvillain

      I think I’m one of only a few who isn’t in love with him like so many other people are.

      • Kramerica Industries

        He’s the best pitcher on my fantasy team. I really have no choice.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I’m not in love with the kind of deal it would take to get him but, oh man, talk about a man who would look perfect in pinstripes.

      • Jacob

        Nah i’m not in love with him, I have a feeling his arm is goingto blow out

    • Jacob

      Yeah great idea the declining ground ball rate and v-Lo every year is a great sign

      • MannyGeee

        sarcasm detector broken?

        • Jacob

          I thought I hid it well

  • MannyGeee

    and by the way, i HATE the goatee Jesus. Dont get attached, you’ll be shaving it come 2016 when you are back in da Bronx!

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      +1

  • JonS

    ” That’s not quite as bad a nine Chris Stewarts (45 wRC+), but it’s damn close.”

    Had to get the obligatory Chris Stewart knock in eh?

  • jsbrendog

    ghost of mariners’ ace vs mariners’ ace.

    grampa sweaty vs young felix

    • Sweaty Freddy

      Felix….I am your father.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I laughed. Hard.

  • Jersey Joe

    After the A’s series they need to win the series here to get back on track. No question about it.

    Also, does anyone see Josh Willingham as a good acquisition? I know his defense is not quite average, but the Yankees need a RH hitter, not Victorino, Dickerson, or Span. I think the Twins would ask ~ the same for Span as for Willingham. He’s under a relatively cheap contract for 2 more years, and yes he is getting old, but he’s been quite durable throughout his career, and next year Gardner and Granderson will likely outweigh Hammer’s below average defense.

    However, if the Yankees are not going to acquire an outfielder, I would rather have Jack Cust up instead of Dickerson because the short porch could mean a new beginning for Cust after 2011 in Safeco, and also having Cust in right would limit the amount of ground that needed to be covered.

    • jjyank

      The problem with Cust is he has no place to play.

    • Get Phelps Up

      Putting Cust in the outfield would make Ibanez look like a gold glover.

    • Kosmo

      why not Victorino a switch-hitter ?

      • Jacob

        The phillies want too much for him.

      • Knoxvillain

        Because Victorino sucks ass this year, let alone the Filthies asking price.

    • Jacob

      Cust in RF would make our RF look like san fran’s RF

      • Jersey Joe

        Hmm, I’ll make same changes to this proposal.

        Only @ YSII with Granderson in center, Wise in left, and Cano playing 20 feet back from infield grass.

      • MannyGeee

        Cust in RF would make RF in YS3 look like Central Park, amirite?

        • Jacob

          There ya go

  • Gonzo

    Regarding Jesus Montero. Since the All-Star break, he’s been on fire. That’s eight games.

    However, since the All-Star break he’s faced one RHP starter. He went 0-5 with one BB in that game.

    They did knock out Jonathan Sanchez in one game early, but the the guy that soaked up 5 innings in that game for the Royals was a lefty.

    Montero Split this year:
    RHP OPS .553
    LHP OPS .997

    He had a split in the minors in 2011 too.

    • Gonzo

      Basically, if a RHP faces Montero this weekend, something went wrong.

      • Gonzo

        Meant LHP.

  • JohnC

    Yanks will wait til deadline day to see if prices drop. Phillies want too much for Victorino. Twins are asking a ton for Span, and everyone knows it’ll take a boatload to get Upton.

  • brian Stevens

    If the brewers start selling yanks should see about Corey Hart. He could play left then take over for swish next season

    • Gonzo

      I can see it now!
      Corey Hart Sunglasses NIGHT!

      • Robinson Tilapia

        He can come to the plate to “Never Surrender.”

    • Jersey Joe

      I actually really like that concept, I just wonder how much it will take to get him.

      Do you think the Yankees would part with Tyler Austin? He could play 1st base for them in the future and is likely a better option than Taylor Green.

      Maybe the Yankees could throw in Warren, possibly a C prospect like Mesa, and a few other pieces.

      Potential 2013:

      1. Jeter SS 2. Granderson CF 3. Teixeira 1B 4. Cano 2B 5. Rodriguez DH 6. Hart RF 7. Chavez/other defensively minded 3B, Callaspo comes to mind 8. Romine/Stewart/Cervelli C 9. Gardner LF

    • MannyGeee

      He’d never hsave and get a haircut though…

      -Johnny Damon

    • Jacob

      It’s like I didn’t already say this yesterday!

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    So batting 4th at Safeco with his #’s makes me think that batting 7th for the Yanks he’d have 15HR’s and 50 rbi’s now, playing the role of Chris Stewart/DH.

    Not bad for a 22 year old rookie Yankee making 500K.

    • Gonzo

      Russell Martin has a higher OPS against RHP’s than Montero does this year.

    • DM

      Who would he be taking DH ABs from on this team? And the Yankees traded for Stewart for his defense while demoting Cervelli who appeared to have a better bat — but Montero would be the 2nd catcher here?

      The Yankees have a better a lineup and stadium for his bat — but much less playing time available. I could see him getting demoted from Yankees more than playing enough to have 15 hrs/50 rbis. With A-Rod and the rest of the rotating DH, they didn’t need a DH against LH pitching/3rd string catcher.

  • Dean Winters

    New series new start

  • Big Mac

    @ Jersy Joe

    Hmmm…..
    Are the Brewers trying to sell Hart? Chavez doesn’t seem like the type of player that the Yanks would resign, as he gets injured way too much. Austin Romine just doesn’t cut it IMO.

    • Jersey Joe

      I think you should know that Chavez was resigned this past winter after playing just 45 games in the field before injury.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I would guess Eric Chavez can backup at third for the New York Yankees for as long as he’s willing to remain in the big leagues.

  • Big Mac

    @ Jersey Joe
    Yes, I konw that, but uf he gets injured too much, why would the Yankees continue to resign him?

    • Knoxvillain

      Because he’s cheap and he plays great defense and a pretty good bat. He’s been healthy this year so far. Perfect role for him.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Agreed. What luxury it is to have him. It’s amazing that we often forget how good a player he was.

    • Jersey Joe

      Also the Yankees have considerable depth at third with Brandon Laird, Corban Joseph, Ronnie Musteiler, Ramiro Pena, even Doug Bernier being able to contribute. Not to mention A-Rod could survive a few games at third as he has shown this year.

      I know Chavez is oft-injured, but when healthy, he’s quite a bargain.

  • Matt

    Not that I think anyone’s in a rush to try and deal with Seattle again, and I expect that the Yanks are going to more than happily convince themselves that Stewie’s a fine backup C, that it should be a defensively oriented position, etc…

    But I wonder if there’s any reason to be kick the tires on Jaso as a potential platoon partner and backup for Martin. Always tough when the defensively challenged catcher would actually be the long end of the platoon (i.e. same problem as Kotteras). But that said, Jaso’s had well over 737 PAs against RHP, and he’s hit them to a tune of .267/.359/.411, good for a .341 wOBA and 117 wRC+. Essentially useless against lefties, career 59 wRC+.

    Don’t know a ton about his defensive ability – only thrown out 20.5% of base stealers in his career, pretty awful, though it’s better than Cervelli’s career mark and it’s ballpark with what Stewie has done this year (not for his career),

    Obviously not going to give a prospect of any kind of significant value, just another name to throw in the mix.

  • FreeAgentSignee

    Good luck Yankees!