Archive for Seattle Mariners
Am I the only Yankees fan with an irrational dislike of the Mariners? I guess it dates back to the 1995 ALDS, but it’s really ramped up in recent years with the Cliff Lee non-trade and Michael Pineda‘s shoulder injury. On the bright side, Seattle has won just seven of 18 games at the new Yankee Stadium.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Mariners have actually been playing pretty well of late. They just took two of three from the free-falling Athletics and have won three of their last four games. They’ve also won six of their last nine and nine of their last 13 to bring their season record to 18-20 with a -20 run differential.
To no one’s surprise, the Mariners are a below-average offensive club. They’ve scored just 3.6 runs per game this year, and their team 94 wRC+ is a bottom ten mark in the game. Seattle’s only injured position player is CF Franklin Gutierrez (127 wRC+), who visits the DL on an annual basis these days. He’s out with a hamstring problem.
Manager Eric Wedge’s two best offensive players are CF Michael Saunders (144 wRC+) and 3B Kyle Seager (129 wRC+), and they usually bat first and second. Wedge doesn’t mess around. Offseason additions DH Kendrys Morales (118 wRC+) and OF Mike Morse (110 wRC+) anchor the middle of the lineup, but OF Jason Bay (131 wRC+) will get a prime batting order spot against southpaws.
Seattle’s trio of disappointing young positions players includes former Yankee C Jesus Montero (64 wRC+), who splits time behind the plate with C Kelly Shoppach (139 wRC+ in limited time). 1B Justin Smoak (99 wRC+) has been less awful than usual, but 2B Dustin Ackley (55 wRC+) has made up for it. SS Robert Andino (22 wRC+) is playing everyday over defensive whiz SS Brendan Ryan (-5 wRC+). OF Endy Chavez (71 wRC+) and former Yankee OF Raul Ibanez (80 wRC+) round out the everyday roster.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Felix Hernandez
Did you know the Yankees haven’t played a series against the Mariners without seeing King Felix since 2009? That’s a span of ten series, and they’ve face him in every single one. That’s kinda annoying. The 27-year-old Hernandez has been as good as ever this year, pitching to a 1.53 ERA and 2.16 FIP through eight starts. His strikeout (8.59 K/9 and 25.3 K%), walk (1.23 BB/9 and 3.6 BB%), and ground ball (50.6%) rates are all outstanding. It seems silly to say, but as Jeff Sullivan wrote recently, Felix has made the jump from thrower to pitcher. His three fastballs — four-seamer, cutter, sinker — all sit in the low-90s, and his all-world array of offspeed pitches include an upper-80s changeup, a mid-80s slider, and a low-80s curveball. The Yankees have seen Hernandez plenty over the years, but as you know, he usually dominates them.
Wednesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
Believe it or not, the Mariners actually have two aces this year. Iwakuma, 32, has pitched almost as well as Felix this year (1.74 ERA and 2.80 FIP), his second in MLB after spending last season as a swingman. His peripheral stats are excellent as well — 8.88 K/9 (26.7 K%), 1.39 BB/9 (4.2 BB%), and 41.5% grounders — so it’s not all smoke and mirrors. That said, his .198 BABIP won’t last forever. Iwakuma’s four-seamer and sinker sit in the upper-80s, and his top offspeed offering is a mid-80s splitter that falls off the table. He’ll also throw low-80s sliders and slow-70s curveballs. The Yankees saw Iwakuma twice last year, both times as a starter. He held them to one run in five innings the first time, then got tagged for four runs in five innings the second time.
Thursday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Aaron Harang
Harang, 35, is no longer the strikeout heavy workhorse he was during his prime with the Reds. He’s bounced from the Dodgers to the Rockies to the Mariners these last six weeks or so, but he’s only thrown a pitch for Seattle in 2013. Harang has been awful so far, putting up a 7.30 ERA (5.14 FIP) in five starts despite strong strikeout (8.39 K/9 and 20.7 K%) and walk (1.82 BB/9 and 4.5 BB%) numbers. The problem is his 35.8% ground ball rate and 2.19 HR/9 (15.8% HR/FB). These days Harang will sit in the upper-80s with his two- and four-seamer, and he throws the former roughly twice as often as the latter. A low-80s slider is his top secondary pitch, but he’ll also throw the occasional low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. Believe it or not, Harang has never faced the Yankees. I get that he was a career NL guy prior to being traded to the Mariners, but he’s been in the show for 12 years now. You’d think he would have run into them during interleague play at some point.
The Mariners were off on Monday for travel, so their bullpen is as fresh as can be this time of year. Closer RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (2.56 FIP) is one of the best least talked about relievers in the game, and setup men LHP Oliver Perez (3.76 FIP), RHP Carter Capps (4.72 FIP), and LHP Charlie Furbush (4.05 FIP) all rack up a ton of strikeouts. RHP Yoervis Medina (1.44 FIP in limited time) and LHP Lucas Luetge (2.64 FIP in limited time) handle the middle innings while former Yankee RHP Hector Noesi (2.67 FIP) is saddled with long relief duty.
Despite yesterday’s doubleheader, the Yankees are in pretty good shape bullpen-wise. Both David Robertson and Mariano Rivera had the day off, but they’ve also pitched in four of the last six days. Giving them the proverbial one extra day would be neat. If the Yankees send down one of their extra arms to clear a roster spot for Curtis Granderson, I’m guessing they would keep the fresh and available Brett Marshall and demote Vidal Nuno. I guess we’ll find out. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage. For the latest and greatest on the Mariners, I recommend Lookout Landing and U.S.S. Mariner.
Felix Hernandez is close to signing a mammoth seven-year, $175M contract with the Mariners according to Bob Nightengale. The deal rips up the final two years of his previous contract and takes effect immediately, so it’s basically a five-year extension that will keep him in Seattle through 2019. The Yankees and pretty much every other team have tried to trade for Felix at some point recently, but GM Jack Zduriencik steadfastly refused to discuss him. Don’t worry, I’m sure the Yankees will pay through the nose for whatever is left of his career in seven years.
According to multiple reports, the Mariners have re-acquired Mike Morse from the Nationals in a three-team trade that sends John Jaso to the Athletics and prospects to Washington. The Yankees had interest in Morse but apparently not enough to make a serious run at him. That’s a shame. Oakland designated catcher George Kottaras for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster, and New York should definitely look to bring him in. Here’s the now-outdated Scouting The Market post I wrote about him last summer. Makes too much sense to actually happen.
The Yankees will have a new DH next season. Raul Ibanez is headed back to Seattle, having agreed to a one-year deal with the Mariners according to multiple reports. He’ll earn a guaranteed $2.75M with another $1.25M in incentives. Just a few days ago we learned the Yankees were still talking to Ibanez about a return next season, but you can’t blame him for taking that deal. Great job by his agent. It’ll be Raul’s third stint in Seattle.
Ibanez, 40, earned True Yankee™ status with all of those ridiculously clutch homers late in the season and in the playoffs, but I was all for turning the page. I dig the idea of acquiring Jason Kubel to DH, but the free agent market has plenty of alternatives as well — Jim Thome, Travis Hafner, Jason Giambi, and Luke Scott just to name a few. I expect the club to seek a DH capable of actually playing the field in an emergency, so that probably rules out the Thomes and Hafners of the world.
Only three questions this week, but they’re good ones. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at any time. I might do a few mailbag posts next week since things will be slow during the holiday and I know I’ll have the itch to write but not the itch to think real hard, so submit accordingly.
Jimmy asks: So the Yankees traded A.J. Burnett and he had a good season for the Pirates. Can we get some analysis in terms of did his command and velocity improve? Or was it the transition to a weaker division and league combined with the effects of PNC Park and their defense? Why was he so good? Since they’re still paying so much of his contract, should the Yankees have seller’s remorse?
Burnett, 35, pitched to a 3.51 ERA (3.52 FIP) in 202.1 innings and 31 starts for the Pirates last season. His strikeout rate (8.02 K/9 and 21.2 K%) was almost identical to his career norms, though his walk (2.76 BB/9 and 7.3 BB%) and ground ball (56.9%) rates were his best in six and seven years, respectively. His homer rate (0.80 HR/9 and 12.7% HR/FB) also dropped quite a bit, but that was expected. He didn’t enjoy any BABIP luck (.294 after .294-.319 from 2008-2010) but surely got some help from PNC Park, which is much more pitcher friendly than Yankee Stadium.
For the most part Burnett did not change his pitch selection much. He scrapped the cutter he toyed with in 2011 and otherwise threw a few more sinkers at the expense of changeups, but nothing drastic. His fastball averaged 92.2 mph, continuing a slow and steady decline that is very normal for a pitcher in his mid-30s. Burnett did throw more strikes through, a lot more in fact. His 61.1% first pitch strike rate was his best in eight years and about five percentage points better than what he did in New York. More than half (51.1% to be exact) of his pitches were in the strike zone as well, his highest rate in the PitchFX era and nearly seven percentage points better than 2011. That could be an NL thing (weaker lineups), a mechanics thing, or a million other things. Who knows?
It’s probably worth noting that Burnett threw to Rod Barajas this season, who was his catcher during his strong 2008 campaign with the Blue Jays. Maybe the two just work together well, but if nothing else it probably helped the transition a bit. It was pretty obvious after 2011 that Burnett had to go and the Yankees would have to each a big chunk of his contract to make it happen, which sucks. I don’t think the Yankees have (or should have) seller’s remorse though. He had just had two of the worst seasons by a starter in team history in back-to-back years and was showing no signs of turning things around. Burnett worked hard, he tweaked his delivery every other start it seemed, but nothing was working. At some point a change as to be made, especially if you’re trying to contend.
Mark asks: It seems that the Mariners are looking for some outfield help and are most likely missing out on Nick Swisher, as they did Josh Hamilton. Do you think they would be interested in Curtis Granderson and possibly send something back of quality in return? Say a right-handed bat like Jesus Montero? What else would the Yanks need to add to get a return of that quality?
The Mariners added offense in Kendrys Morales earlier this week and are still looking for outfield help, but they have very little of value to offer the Yankees for Granderson. They aren’t getting Taijuan Walker or any of Seattle’s other big pitching prospects, and I doubt the M’s have soured so much on Montero that they’d trade him for one year of Granderson, or even one year of Granderson plus a prospect. Justin Smoak is awful and Franklin Gutierrez hits the undesirable trifecta (awful, injury prone, expensive), so forget them.
The Yankees could ask for infielder Kyle Seager or nominal catcher John Jaso, but I would expect a no to both. Right-handed hitting outfielder Casper Wells could probably be had and he’d make a ton of sense for New York, but he alone is not nearly enough of a return. As I’ve been saying for weeks, it’s very hard to envision a realistic trade scenario in which the Yankees move Granderson and actually improve the team. The Mariners could use the Grandyman, but they don’t have much to make it worthwhile.
Mike asks: Just wondering if you think the Yankees should have any interest in Kelly Shoppach. He has the AL East pedigree and would provide some desperately needed RH pop. Too expensive?
Shoppach, 32, has spent most of the last three seasons with the Rays and Red Sox, so he’s certainly familiar with the division. His overall offensive performance is pretty bad (even for a catcher) during those three years (.202/.294/.374, 85 wRC+), but that doesn’t tell the whole story. As a right-handed batter, Shoppach pounds lefties (.246/.336/.437, 115 wRC+) and gets completely dominated by righties (.156/.248/.301, 52 wRC+). It’s worth mentioning that since 2010, only one batter (Mark Reynolds) has made less contact on pitches in the strike zone than Shoppach (73.4%). His career 33.4% strikeout rate is ghastly for a player without huge power.
The various catcher defense rankings (2010, 2011, 2012) rate Shoppach as anywhere from average to above-average behind the plate, which surprised me. He’s also thrown out 31.5% of attempted base-stealers over the last three seasons, which is much better than the league average. For some reason I thought he was a butcher back there. The Yankees already have three right-handed hitting catchers in Frankie Cervelli, Chris Stewart, and Austin Romine, but that shouldn’t stop them from pursuing Shoppach at a reasonable (one-year, $3M?) price just so they could get some offense from the catcher position, even if it’s just against lefties.
Didn’t these two teams just meet? The Yankees took two of three from the Mariners in Seattle last week, but lost Alex Rodriguez to a hand injury in the process. Felix Hernandez hit him with a pitch. Will the Bombers retaliate? I’m guessing no, it’s not worth losing someone to a suspension.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Mariners haven’t lost a single game since the Yankees beat them last Wednesday. They took four straight from the Royals and four straight from the Blue Jays, all at home. This hot streak has moved them into … still last place. Seattle is 50-57 with a +3 run differential, well out of the AL West race.
Away from Safeco Field, the Mariners have been a completely different team this year. They’ve mustered a pathetic 65 wRC+ at home this season compared to a 98 mark on the road. They’re basically league average offense away from Safeco, a marked improvement over the last two or three years.
Seattle’s best hitter all season has been John Jaso (138 wRC+), who is essentially a platoon bat against righties. Michael Saunders (108 wRC+) and Kyle Seager (101 wRC+) have been solid as well, ditto Mike Carp (98 wRC+) and Casper Wells (98 wRC+) in smaller samples. Ichiro Suzuki came to the Yankees and has been replaced by the recently acquired Eric Thames (one homer in three plate appearances) and the recently recalled Trayvon Robinson (4-for-12). The rest of the roster is filled out by Dustin Ackley (79 wRC+), Brendan Ryan (67 wRC+), Chone Figgins (48 wRC+), Miguel Olivo (46 wRC+), and Munenori Kawasaki (28 wRC+).
And, naturally, we have to talk about Jesus Montero. The former Yankees wunderkind has hit .260/.305/.395 (89 wRC+) with ten homers this season, doing most of his damage against lefties (178 wRC+) and on the road (118 wRC+). He’s been abysmal against righties (47 wRC+) and at home (61 wRC+). Montero has been pretty awesome since the All-Star Break (.323/.400/.477), and he’s already homered once at Yankee Stadium this season. I highly recommend this Lookout Landing post breakdown his season.
Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Kevin Millwood
It’s the exact same three guys the Yankees saw in Seattle last week. Millwood held the Bombers to three runs in seven innings in the series opener, and overall has pitched to a 3.90 ERA and 3.46 FIP. He’s doing it with peripherals that don’t exactly jump out at you –6.48 K/9 (16.9 K%), 3.20 BB/9 (8.3 BB%), and 44.6% grounders. Millwood sits right around 90 with the four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter, backing them up with a low-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and a low-70s curveball.
Saturday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Felix Hernandez
Felix pitched pretty well when he wasn’t busy breaking A-Rod‘s hand last week, allowing two runs in 7.1 innings. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in eight of his last nine starts, leading to a 2.79 ERA and a career-best 2.93 FIP. The strikeout (8.88 K/9 and 24.4 K%) and walk (2.38 BB/9 and 6.5 BB%) rates are ridiculous, though the ground ball rate (46.3%) is down quite a bit from recent years. Felix is more low-90s with the fastball than mid-90s these days, but his secondary stuff — upper-80s changeup, mid-80s slider, low-80s curveball — is among the very best in the game. He’s nasty.
Sunday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
The Yankees scored just one run off Iwakuma last week, but they forced him out of the game after five innings due to his pitch count. The Japanese veteran will be making his sixth start since coming out of the bullpen, and overall he’s pitched to a 4.10 ERA and 5.27 FIP. The strikeout (7.58 K/9 and 20.2 K%) and ground ball (52.4%) rates are solid, but the walk rate (4.25 BB/9 and 11.5 BB%) is not. Iwakuma is a classic kitchen sink type, throwing a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, a mid-80s splitter, a low-80s slider, and a low-70s curveball. The Yankees will be the first team to see him twice as a starter, so hopefully that experience pays off.
Both clubs are coming off scheduled off days, so the bullpens are rested. The Mariners’ relief corps looks quite a bit different than it did last week following the trades of Brandon League and Steve Delabar, but it is still anchored by closer Tom Wilhelmsen (2.44 FIP) and LOOGY extraordinaire Lucas Luetge (2.14 FIP vs. LHB). Shawn Kelly (3.49 FIP) handles most of the right-handed setup work these days, though Josh Kinney (3.77 FIP) figures to see some late-inning time as well.
Two recently recalled rookies have taken the place of League and Delabar. Hard-throwing but erratic right-hander Stephen Pryor (5.33 FIP in limited action) is back off the DL and fellow righty Carter Capps is the third 2011 draftee to reach the big leagues behind Trevor Bauer and Cody Allen (a 23rd round pick by the Indians). The next appearance Capps makes will be his first as a big leaguer. The last guy in Seattle’s bullpen is Oliver Perez (1.80 FIP), who appears to have found some success in the great northwest. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details on Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, and check out U.S.S. Mariner and the aforementioned Lookout Landing for the latest and greatest on this weekend’s opponent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Yankees have won 11 of 19 games against the Mariners over the last two seasons, though I don’t think any club has caused New York as much off-the-field grief as Seattle. A series of trades and non-trades have left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, and it’s not anything that will be easily forgotten. A sweep of this three-game weekend series would be a nice first step, however.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Mariners wrapped up a seven-game losing streak about a week ago and have since gone on to win four of their last five games, including two of three against the Tigers earlier this week. They’re 15-18 with a -4 run differential this year and the massively underachieving Angels are the only thing keeping Seattle out of the AL West cellar.
Unsurprisingly, the Mariners are bad offensively. They average just 3.79 runs per game and are a bottom five club in batting average (.234), OBP (.289), and SLG (.368). They don’t hit many homers (27) or steal many bases (16), so they need a sustained rally and a total team effort to score runs. Their 85 wRC+ is ahead of only the Athletics among the 14 AL clubs.
Seattle has just three hitters with 100+ plate appearances who qualify as better than league average. Third baseman Kyle Seager (137 wRC+) hits for power (.212 ISO) but doesn’t reach base (2.8 BB%), so there’s a good chance his performance will come back to Earth as the season progresses. Like Derek Jeter, Ichiro (115 wRC+) is enjoying a bounceback season after being declared done a year ago, and now he’s hitting third rather than leadoff. Michael Saunders (116 wRC+) has changed his approach and is hitting for power now (.214), so the improvement may be real. He can still swing and miss with the best of them though (30.0 K%).
Dustin Ackley (81 wRC+) has been pretty awful to start the season, ditto Justin Smoak (39 wRC+), Brendan Ryan (48 wRC+), and Chone Figgins (61 wRC+). Figgins is going to get released at some point this summer, it’s inevitable. Part-timers John Jason (139 wRC+ in 44 PA), Munenori Kawasaki (38 wRC+ in 32 PA), Alex Liddi (108 wRC+ in 55 PA), and Casper Wells (84 wRC+ in 31 PA) have produced mix results as part-time players tend to do. Mike Carp (40 wRC+ in 25 PA) spent some time on the DL with a shoulder problem and was just re-added to the roster.
And then there’s Jesus Montero. The former Yankees wunderkind is hitting .268/.282/.420 (91 wRC+) in 117 plate appearances, which really isn’t what I expected when I predicted he’d win the Rookie of the Year award. Lots of season left though. Montero has been batting cleanup lately and he’s hit four homers so far, tied with Seager and Saunders for the team lead. He’s only drawn three walks (2.6 BB%) but isn’t striking out a ton either (20.5 K%). Miguel Olivo’s injury has Montero catching almost everyday at the moment, though he spent most of his time at DH earlier this season. I hope he hits about five homers this series and the Yankees win all three games. Can that be arranged?
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Felix Hernandez
The Yankees just can’t escape Felix. They managed to hit him pretty hard last September, but otherwise he’s completely shut them down over the years. There’s actually been some concern in Seattle because his fastball velocity is down noticeably, but it hasn’t mattered. Hernandez is still amazing. He strikes people out (8.77 K/9 and 25.0 K%), doesn’t walk anyone (2.41 BB/9 and 6.9 BB%), and gets ground balls (47.7%) with a diminished fastball or otherwise. Felix now sits in the low-90s with his heat, but his array of offspeed pitches is unmatched: high-80s changeup, mid-80s slider, low-80s curveball. He carves hitters up when ahead in the count, and unfortunately his 66.2% first pitch strike rate is one of the best marks in baseball. With all due respect to Justin Verlander, I don’t think there’s a tougher assignment in the AL than King Felix.
Saturday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Hector Noesi
The other guy in the Montero-Michael Pineda trade, Noesi’s career a full-time starting pitcher in the big leagues is off to a rocky start. His ERA (6.30) and FIP (5.65) are both unsightly and they’d be worse if it wasn’t for a pair of gems against the lowly Athletics (8 IP, 0 R) and Twins (7 IP, 1 R). Noesi hasn’t missed bats (5.40 K/9 and 14.0 K%), hasn’t limited walks (3.90 BB/9 and 10.1 BB%), and hasn’t gotten ground balls (33.0% and 1.90 HR/9). Just as he did in New York, Hector uses five pitches — low-90s two and four-seamers, mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, upper-70s curve — but will rely most heavily on the two-seamer and changeup.
Sunday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Blake Beavan
This has trap game written all over it. Everything about Beavan says the Yankees should pound him. He doesn’t miss bats (3.78 K/9 and 9.8 K%) and doesn’t get ground balls (33.3%), two traits that are very problematic despite a fantastic walk rate (1.08 BB/9 and 2.8 BB%). Beavan’s two and four-seamers sit right at 90, and he backs them up with a mid-70s curveball. His upper-70s slider and low-80s changeup are rarely used third and fourth pitches, so think of him as an approximation of 2011 Hughes. If someone is going to allow the Yankees to put the ball in the air that often, they shouldn’t make it out of the third inning. But like I said, trap game.
Part of the Cliff Lee trade, Beavan is actually a little questionable for this start after getting hit by a Miguel Cabrera line drive in his pitching elbow last time out. If he’s unable to pitch, the start will likely go to Japanese import Hisashi Iwakuma (6.75 ERA and 4.70 FIP). This one promises to be a blast with Andy returning.
The Mariners were off on Thursday for travel, so their bullpen is fresh. Michael Kay will surely drool over closer Brandon League’s power sinker-splitter combination, and he’s performed quite well this season (3.14 FIP). Setup man Tom Wilhelmsen (3.63 FIP) is one of the best keep secrets in baseball, a great back story will dominant power stuff. Lefty specialist and Rule 5 Draft pick Lucas Luetge has pitched well overall (2.73 FIP) and has manhandled lefties, holding them to two singles in 25 plate appearances. The six walks (one intentional) kinda stinks though.
The hard-throwing right-hander Shawn Kelley (9.85 FIP in 3 IP) is just getting back in the swing of things after having what amounts to his second Tommy John surgery in 2010. He originally had it back in 2003, but the latest procedure technically “re-secured the Tommy John graft to the bone,” whatever that means. Righty Steve Delabar (4.64 FIP) has some serious strikeout (11.25 K/9 and 31.8 K%) and walk (1.13 BB/9 and 3.2 BB%) rates, but he’s surrendered four homers in 16 IP. Iwakuma and the left-handed Charlie Furbush (4.05 FIP) both serve as multi-inning/long man types.
The Yankees did not have the luxury of an off day yesterday, but CC Sabathia gave them eight innings. Rafael Soriano will definitely be unavailable tonight after appearing in each of the last three games, but check out our Bullpen Workload page to see how the rest of the relief corps is holding up. There are quite a few good Mariners blogs out there, but make sure you check out USS Mariner and Lookout Landing.
Last week we took a nice long look at the teams who figure to be the Yankees’ primary competition this season, meaning the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Angels, and Rangers. There are eight other clubs in the American League though, and the Yankees are going to play those eight teams quite a bit more than the five other contenders. Most of those eight teams aren’t very good, but every game counts the same.
Rather than doing a boring old offense/defense/pitching preview for each of those eight non-contenders, I decided to have a little fun with this one and put together some haikus. I encourage you to leave your own in the comments.
No pitching, few bats.
Buck is all talk and no bite.
Don’t dare dis Flanny!
Chicago White Sox
Rebuild or contend?
Kenny can’t seem to decide.
I wish we had Danks.
Some funny names,
Asdrubal and Ubaldo?
Not winning this year.
Kansas City Royals
Hosmer is the shizz.
Young pitching ain’t quite there yet.
Mauer and Morneau
Used to be really awesome.
Now they are broken.
Yoenis is here.
Trade all of the pitchers!
Where are the fans?
Felix is the man,
The rest of the team sucks.
I miss Montero.
Toronto Blue Jays
AA the best,
Until he gets Jeff Mathis.
New unis do rule.
Just three games left in this unfortunate September west coast swing, everyone’s least favorite road trip. The Yankees got off the schneid yesterday thanks to Peter Bourjos’ error, but the offense certainly started to look more like its usual self. Three games in the Emerald City, coming right up.
What Have The Mariners Done Lately?
Unsurprisingly, a lot of losing. Seattle just split a four-game series with the Royals, and before that they won just one of six games against the Angels and Athletics. Over their last 19 games, they’re just 5-14. The Mariners are 64-85 with a -100 run differential on the season, the third worst record and run differential in the league.
Mariners On Offense
Obviously, it’s a bad offense. Seattle has scored just 500 runs this year, the fewest in baseball by 49 runs. They’ve scored more than two runs just twice in their last six games as well. Their entire attack revolves around two guys, and one of them is not Ichiro. The leadoff man is hitting just .275/.313/.339, easily his worst season in the States. Instead, those two guys are Dustin Ackley (.290/.367/.453) and Mike Carp (.274/.333/.465, but hot of late). Both are lefty swingers, so expect to see former Mariner Aaron Laffey a few times in the series if Boone Logan is still an no-go because of his dead arm.
The rest of the lineup is hit or miss, mostly miss. Brendan Ryan (.244/.310/.322) is one hell of a shortstop, but also a number nine hitter masquerading as a number two hitter. Justin Smoak is at .232/.318/.397 for the season, but has two homers and 13 hits in ten games since coming off the DL. Believe it or not, the DH platoon is Adam Kennedy (.241/.282/.391 vs. RHP) and Wily Mo Pena (.217/.217/.478 vs. LHP), which is sad. Miguel Olivo (.223/.256/.381) does the catching, and the duo of Casper Wells (.238/.316/.433) and Trayvon Robinson (.250/.293/.424) splits time in center field now that Franklin Gutierrez is out for the season with an oblique injury. Alexi Liddi (.125/.125/.250 in very limited time) and Kyle Seager (.265/.313/.364) split time at the hot corner. To call it a below-average offense would be an insult to below-average offenses.
Mariners On The Mound
Monday, RHP Felix Hernandez (vs. Phil Hughes): It doesn’t get any easier after that series in Anaheim. Felix has faced the Yankees twice this year, throwing seven innings each time (four runs and then one run) and beating them twice. His stuff is as nasty as it gets – a mid-90′s four-seamer, a mid-90′s two-seamer, a high-80′s changeup, a low-80′s curveball, and a mid-80′s slider – and he’ll throw pretty much any pitch in any count. All five are swing and miss pitches too. Hernandez is as good as it gets.
Tuesday, LHP Charlie Furbush (vs. A.J. Burnett): One of the pieces Seattle got from the Tigers in the Doug Fister trade, the Yankees have never seen Furbush before. He’s been pretty bad in seven starts with the Mariners, pitching to 5.79 ERA (~4.75 FIP) in 37.1 IP. Furbush is a rather generic lefty, with a high-80′s fastball, a low-80′s slider, and a mid-70′s curve. He’s not great at striking people out (6.24 K/9), not great at limiting walks (3.57 BB/9), and not great at generating ground balls (41.7%), so in other words, he’s exactly the kind of pitcher that will give the Yankees fits.
Wednesday, LHP Jason Vargas (vs. Ivan Nova): Another generic-ish lefty without great peripherals (4.30 FIP and a 4.57 xFIP), Vargas goes to work with a high-80′s fastball, a low-80′s changeup, and a low-70′s curve. He’s also cut and sink his fastball on occasion. The Yankees have faced him twice this year and smacked him around both times: six runs in three innings in May, then eight runs in four innings in July.
Bullpen: Like every other team, Seattle’s bullpen is full of September call-ups. Closer Brandon League (2.95 FIP) is easily their best arm, and he’s being set up by journeyman Jamey Wright (4.32 FIP). Righties Tom Wilhelmsen (3.84 FIP) and Shawn Kelley (3.27 FIP) will also see important innings late in the game. Cesar Jimenez (just 1.1 IP since being called up) is the lone lefty.
The rest of the bullpen is filled out by various nondescript righties. Josh Lueke (3.82 FIP) was part of last year’s Cliff Lee trade, Chance Ruffin (5.75 FIP in limited time) was part of the Fister trade, and Dan Cortes (5.92 FIP) was part of the (first) Yuniesky Betancourt trade. Steve Delabar made his big league debut yesterday, and Jeff Gray (4.86 FIP) is pretty terrible. That’s it, ten relievers in all.