Tag: Dustin Ackley

Felix Hernandez

2015 Preview: Seattle Mariners


Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Seattle Mariners.

The Big Question: Did they add enough offense?

The Mariners surprised in 2014, but man, if they just got a lick of offense, they could’ve surprised a lot more. Their 87 wins and near-wild card birth was achieved almost totally on the back of their pitching staff. Overall, the M’s had the best staff in all of baseball, allowing only 3.42 runs a game. The offense, however, was forgettable at best. Seattle scored 3.91 runs a game, which was third to last in the American League.

Robinson Cano is back, of course. As is third baseman Kyle Seager, who was the only other regular besides Cano to post an OPS+ above 100 in full-time play. Other positive offensive contributors in 2014 included Michael Saunders, who only played have the season and who is now gone, and Logan Morrison who played in 99 games. To improve upon 2014’s performance, the M’s needed more offense. So they went out and tried to get some.

The biggest addition was Nelson Cruz, who hit 40 homers and slugged .525 for Baltimore last year. Also added was Seth Smith, who hit .266/.367/.440 for San Diego in 2014. Given that Austin Jackson only played in 54 games last year you can think of him as an addition too. Rickie Weeks was acquired as well, though he’ll be riding pine and hitting against lefties mostly.

I sort of don’t think that’s enough. Taking Cruz out of Camden Yards and putting him in Safeco Field is going to cause him to take a step back a bit, and that’s before you acknowledge that he likely overachieved a bit last season in the first place. Seth Smith is not a cure-all, and full seasons of Morrison and Jackson could, based on their track records, mean full seasons of anything from good production to less-than-mediocrity. For the M’s to take that next step, they’re probably going to need more than this. They’ll need better production from Dustin Ackley, Brad Miller and Mike Zunino or they’ll need to add a bat at some point during the season.

None of which is to say the Mariners are in trouble. Heck, with their pitching staff (discussed more below) they’re almost instant contenders. But they were a flawed team last season which, while likely better on offense as 2015 begins, may not be quite good enough.

What else is going on?

  • The pitching is, of course, ridiculously good. Felix Hernandez needs no introduction. Hisashi Iwakuma has been one of the best kept secrets in baseball over the past three years. His late-season falloff last year is a bit worrisome, but given how James Paxton came on late in the season, the M’s may not need him to be a number two starter like he was before. Paxton has an injury history, of course, but he has gobs of talent. But wait, there’s more! Taijuan Walker has dodged injury and perpetual trade rumors to, presumably, earn a slot in the rotation following a spring in which he has tossed 18 scoreless innings with a 19/4 K/BB ratio. J.A. Happ at the back of your rotation is way better than J.A. Happ at the front of your rotation, and pitching in Safeco should help him. Roenis Elias is hanging around when someone needs a break, gets injured or forgets how to pitch. An extremely solid crew.
  • The bullpen was every bit as strong as their rotation last season, with Fernando Rodney, Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmsen, Yoervis Medina and Charlie Furbush all pitching well and all returning. Rodney is occasionally heart-attack inducing, but if he implodes, Farquhar can handle the job. Expect a bit of a step back for this crew, as all bullpen performances fluctuate from season to season, but it’s a strong unit.
  • Adding Rickie Weeks was fun. Because he’s a second baseman and the Mariners, you may have noticed, have a pretty OK second baseman. That makes Weeks a super-utility guy, who will probably get looks in the outfield. Which is hilarious given that one of the reasons he was on the outs in Milwaukee was because he basically refused to play in the outfield when they asked him to. One presumes that Weeks was aware of Mr. Cano’s presence before signing his deal with the M’s, so one presumes that he’s on board with the move to the outfield now. Should be fun, though. He’s only ever played 2B and DH.
  • Another smallish addition: Justin Ruggiano, who could platoon with Seth Smith and/or Dustin Ackley. Or maybe Weeks can platoon. A lot of flexibility here, it seems, and if Lloyd McClendon feels comfortable with doing some plate-spinning with this lineup, he may be able to squeeze a bit more production out of it even without another big name addition.

Prediction: It’s hard not to like this club’s chances to to compete for a playoff spot. I think they still have enough questions on offense to where the Angels get the nod, but I think the Mariners are contenders. Second place, American League West.

Baseball is trashing the paper All-Star ballot

Los Angeles Dodgers v Philadelphia Phillies

I’m sure someone, somewhere is lamenting this, with said lament being nothing more than an exercise in nostalgia, but good for baseball for joining the 21st century: Major League Baseball is getting rid of the punch card paper All-Star Game ballots.

As the story notes, a memo was sent out to team presidents to this effect. All balloting will now be online. Which is fine given that over 80 percent of all All-Star votes were submitted online already and tens of millions of printed ballots went unused. Getting rid of the ballots saves paper. It also saves the labor of the poor stadium workers who had to toss all of those discarded and unused ballots which littered ballpark aisles and concourses after every game between April and June. Really, we’re all disgusting pigs who treat ballparks like they’re our own personal trash cans. It’s good that some of our slop is being taken away.

I’m guessing some of you, in addition to the nostalgia stuff, will lament the loss of paper ballots by arguing  that the online ballots have made a mockery of All-Star voting. To which I’ll say (a) paper ballots lend themselves to ballot box stuffing too, even if it’s a slightly more quaint version of it; and (b) the continuing insistence of Major League Baseball to tie home field advantage in the World Series to the results of the All-Star Game does far more to make a mockery of baseball than some hacker in Pacific Northwest creating a program to shoot 50,000 votes to, like, Dustin Ackley ever will.

Mariners considering free agent Melky Cabrera

Toronto Blue Jays' Cabrera heads to the batters box during the first inning of their MLB baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco, California

The Mariners are hot on the trail for another outfielder after adding Nelson Cruz earlier this week. They’ve been reported as having trade interest in Justin Upton of the Braves and Matt Kemp of the Dodgers. The Mariners may also consider free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, Bob Dutton of The Tacoma News Tribune reports.

Dutton quotes GM Jack Zduriencik as saying, “A switch-hitter would be tremendous.” Dutton adds that manager Lloyd McClendon prefers a hitter who can slot into the second spot in the batting order between Austin Jackson and Robinson Cano, which would allow Dustin Ackley to be moved lower, perhaps eighth. Cabrera, obviously, fits that mold as he batted second in 112 of 139 games with the Blue Jays during the 2014 season.

Settling the Score: Friday’s results


Latest Standings

Latest Wild Card Standings

With two days remaining in the regular season, the Mariners are still alive. Kendrys Morales, Michael Saunders, and Dustin Ackley all homered as Seattle hung on for 4-3 win over the Angels last night in Anaheim.

All of the offense came against Jered Weaver, who lasted six innings in his final tuneup before the postseason. Hisashi Iwakuma allowed two runs (on back-to-back solo homers from Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout) over 6 1/3 innings for his 15th victory. Fernando Rodney made things interesting in the ninth by giving up a out-out RBI double to Erick Aybar which put the tying run on second base, but he was able to get the final two outs to wiggle out of the jam and finish off the win.

The Mariners are currently two games behind the Athletics for the final Wild Card spot in the American League. The Athletics beat the Rangers 6-2 last night and have a magic number of one to clinch a postseason berth. That means the Mariners can’t lose another game and need the Rangers to take the next two from the A’s. They need a lot to go their way, but they still have a shot.

Your Friday box scores:

Angels 3, Mariners 4

Marlins 0, Nationals 4/Marlins 15, Nationals 7

Orioles 2, Blue Jays 4

Braves 4, Phillies 5

Twins 11, Tigers 4

Astros 3, Mets 1

Yankees 3, Red Sox 2

Pirates 3, Reds 1

Athletics 6, Rangers 2

Cubs 6, Brewers 4

Royals 3, White Sox 1

Cardinals 7, Diamondbacks 6 (10 innings)

Rockies 4, Dodgers 7

Padres 4, Giants 1

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Yankees 1, Tigers 0: When the story is told of the 2014 Wild Card winning Yankees, someone is gonna talk about back-to-back great starts by Chris Capuano and Shane Greene, of all people, against the Detroit Tigers. Or maybe I’m nuts, but if the Yankees haven’t been killed yet, maybe they’re impossible to kill? Ever think of that? Huh?

Nationals 5, Mets 3: Bryce Harper with the walkoff two-run homer in the 13th inning. Not bad for a guy who, less than 48 hours ago, was at the center of a little blowup about whether he should be sent to the minors. Leave the kid alone. Let him get healthy. He’s gonna produce.

Reds 4, Indians 0: I guess Bryan Price calling out his players after Monday’s game was effective, because they turned around and took the next three from the Indians. Homer Bailey with seven shutout innings and eight Ks. Billy Hamilton had an RBI triple and scored a run. The guy he knocked in was Bailey. But then he was thrown out rounding third too far. Speed is great, but sometimes speed kills, man.

Pirates 7 Marlins 2: Gregory Polanco drove in four and Edinson Volquez pitched one-hit, shutout ball over seven. But all of this was overshadowed by a scary moment in the seventh when Marlins reliever Dan Jennings was hit in the head by a line drive comebacker. Our friend Old Gator provides some detail:

“The ball came off of Jordy Mercer’s bat at 101 MPH, caught Jennings on the upper right side of his head and bounced straight up and then back in an arc far enough to be caught on the fly by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria for the out. That’s a hard hit ball.”

It was hard to watch. He got hit, popped up and then was clearly dazed before falling again. In some ways it’s almost more unsettling to see that than to see a guy stay down. Thankfully he was able to make it to the trainer’s cart under his own power and wave to the crowd. But he sure as hell looked out of it while doing it. Figure a lot of time off for Jennings to come back from this.

Phillies 6, Astros 5: Ryan Howard has certainly woken up this week. A grand slam here, which capped a five-run rally in the eighth when the Phillies were down 5-1. A three-game sweep for the Phillies, who overcame two homers from Chris Carter.

Cubs 6, Rockies 2: Two more homers for Javier Baez, who is certainly having a nice opening series. To be sure, he opened in Colorado and has been facing pitchers who, arguably, are not as good as the guys he was facing down in Iowa. But rather than consider that some sort of detraction from his accomplishments, let us consider that a testament to the Cubs for putting a guy in the right place to succeed.

Orioles 2, Blue Jays 1: A tightly pitched game and a rather tough luck loss for J.A. Happ, who struck out 12 over eight innings. One mistake, though: Caleb Joseph hit him up for a two-run homer early and that was all the O’s would get. But it was all they’d need as Miguel Gonzalez and the Orioles pen was just better.

Brewers 3, Giants 1: Wily Peralta is the first pitcher in baseball to reach 14 wins this year as he tosses six and two-thirds of one-run ball while striking out a career-high nine. Jake Peavy is now 0-12 in his last 18 outings. That’s just– man, that’s just.

Royals 6, Diamondbacks 2: Jeremy Guthrie scattered seven hits and allowed only two runs will pitching a shutout as the Royals sweep the Dbacks. Randall Delgado pitched three shutout innings in relief. Which is weird, because I was positive that he got a suspension for intentionally hitting Andrew McCutchen last weekend. It is most irregular that he was allowed to play.

Cardinals 5, Red Sox 2: Adam Wainwright with seven solid innings. His final out came after Mike Matheny came to the mound to check on him. Matheny let him face Yoenies Cespedes. From the game story: “[Cespedes] took a third strike on a full-count curveball and catcher Tony Cruz sprinted to the dugout before home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom raised his right arm.” Oooooh . . . The Unfair One!

Athletics 3, Twins 0: Meanwhile, the guy who was traded for Cespedes, Jon Lester, tossed a three-hit shutout. I’d say that was a good pickup at the deadline.

Mariners 13, White Sox 3: Roenis Elias took a no-hitter into the fifth and notched his fourth straight good start in a row and then he got optioned to Tacoma. Oh well, that’s life for guys on innings limits. Dustin Ackley had four RBI and Endy Chavez, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager each had two-run homers. And, while I didn’t see this, reader CMP78 writes in to tell me we had some grit-in-action. In his words: “The Mariners hit Jose Abreu twice this evening, both unintentionally. The White Sox in retaliation hit Kendrys Morales. The very next hitter, Kyle Seager, hit a two-run home run to make it 13-3.”

Dodgers 7, Angels 0: Hyun-Jin Ryu with seven two-hit shutout innings. Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez each had two-run singles. A lot of people in L.A. think there’s a great chance that the Dodgers and Angels will meet in the World Series. If they do, the Angels had better figure something out, because they just dropped three of four to their freeway rivals.