If you’d told me a week ago that the Mariners bats would come alive in Colorado, I’d call you the least talented psychic since Miss Cleo was filling space on late-night infomercials. Everybody’s bats come alive in Colorado. Colorado is a launching pad with an expansive outfield with a lot of acreage.
What I didn’t expect though was for the Mariners pitchers to get well at Coor’s field.
Kevin Millwood threw a two-hit shutout on Friday, and Jason Vargas was more dominant than his final line would indicate. And Blake Beavan—who is not a strikeout pitcher by any means—struck out seven in five innings today. Beavan missed 10 bats in only 82 pitches, and got three grounders. Of the 15 outs he got, 10 were good process outs.
I felt that Eric Wedge made something of a tactical error in the fifth inning though in the way that he handled pulling Blake Beavan from the game. It’s not really that he didn’t pinch hit for Beavan in the top of the sixth, or that he didn’t allow Beavan to record an out in the sixth—only letting him face one batter—but that he did both. If Beavan was one Michael Cuddyer double away from being pulled in favor of Shawn Kelley to face the bottom of the Rockies order, Wedge should have just pinch hit for Beavan in the top of the sixth.
Ultimately Beavan hit a pretty hard line drive that was right at Michael Cuddyer, and the Mariners ended up winning, but I think that choosing to pinch-hit for Beavan is a move that would yield positive results more often if there is any urgency to pull him from the game in the following inning. Beavan had a reasonable pitch count, and had fared pretty well against the bottom of the Rockies order. Whatever, Mariners win.
I’ve been pretty bullish on the idea that Justin Smoak is actually developing into a better hitter. I still don’t see him hitting the ball particularly hard, and it seems like all of his homeruns are barely out. I’d be really happy to see Justin Smoak put a ball about 25 rows deep. I’m sure everyone including Smoak and Mariners hitting coach Chris Chambliss would also like to see that. It’s starting to look more and more like Smoak’s ceiling is something along the lines of Daric Barton or James Loney. Those guys are alright players, but not great offensive first basemen. That being said, at the beginning of the road trip Smoak had a slash line of .173/.229/.264 and at the end of it he’s rocking a much-improved .218/.258/.333. His homerun against the Yankees, though, snapped a 14 game streak without an extra base hit.
For everyone that says with a sarcastic snotty smirk on their face that the Mariners are on pace to score barely any more runs than last year, shut up. Runs are scored at different paces through different periods of weather, opponents, and ballparks. The Mariners have scored 164 runs in 43 games this year. Through 43 games last year they had scored 149. The Mariners are younger and better on offense this year, quit whining.
My girlfriend kept laughing when they’d show the super slow-motion of Jesus Montero attempting to catch a foul tip. When the ball was hit by the batter he’d close his eyes and look afraid. It’s really hard to catch a 90+ MPH fastball. It’s even harder to catch that same fastball when it changes direction 15 inches from your glove. Jesus Montero is a really bad catcher, but criticizing him for closing his eyes on foul tips is silly. It’s like judging someone for the way they look like when they are about to sneeze. The coolest looking pre-sneezer still looks like more of an asshole than Brendan Ryan doing a Robert DeNiro impression.
There has been a whole bunch of talk about moving Ichiro in the lineup. He’s not an ideal No. 3 hitter, that’s true. But putting him anywhere but leadoff seems silly. The guy has been one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball for more than a decade, and would be there right now if the team didn’t take one last stab at coaxing value from Chone Figgins. There’s no bigger Ichiro-doubter than me, but putting him anywhere but leadoff in a move at this point is to intentionally choose to be a worse team, or to intentionally choose to alienate one of the franchise’s icons in what is a meaningless season that could be his last in Seattle. Eric Wedge would be a big dummy to move Ichiro anywhere but leadoff. He proved with the way he handled John Jaso before Miguel Olivo got hurt that he’s at least a medium-sized dummy. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s kept Brendan Ryan on the field despite his hitting struggles, he’d be an enormous dummy.
I’ve always liked Eric Young, Jr. He can play some second base and is a very good outfielder. To me he’s like a much younger version of Willie Harris. I have always felt that Willie Harris was under-valued, I feel the same way about Young. I don’t think he’s necessarily an every day guy on a great team, but a leadoff hitter that switch hits and plays left field, center field, and second base is everything that everyone wanted from Chone Figgins this year. If Young ends up out of a lineup spot again in Colorado I’d be totally unsurprised to see the Mariners in on him.
Brandon League is a disaster right now. There’s no two ways about it. Guys are hitting the hell out of the ball off him, and they’re laying off his splitter. League is the kind of guy who will have a tough time getting lefties out because of his three-quarters arm angle and a fastball that moves right out on to the fat part of a lefty’s bat. He has to be able to locate his fastball and draw swings on his splitter. He’s doing a poor job of both right now. I’m not going to say that something is wrong with League. League has been a bit of a shaky closer for some time. That it is finally coming back to bite him seems like it was an inevitability. At this point the Mariners would sacrifice all value he has if they took him out of the closer role. Stephen Pryor needs to be at the big league level soon, but for the sake of Super 2 status and League’s trade value, the team is best-suited to keep him in the closer role and hope he figures it out.