Series Preview: Mariners Limp to Cleveland... And It's Farther Than They Thought

 

I’m away at a confrence this week so I don’t have much in the way of time to prep this and put it together the way I usually do. The Indians are a team that I think many of us underrate in general. They have an average pitching staff and a better than average offense with a bullpen that can hold it’s own. Are they able to beat the Tigers and take the AL Central crown? Maybe, maybe not.

What I know is that the Mariners are going to need for the bats to show up. We’re over a month and a half into the Season and we need more than one hot hitter going at a time. Otherwise they are going to strand more runners and we’re going to lose more games than we should.

Seattle Mariners (16-22) Cleveland Indians (20-16)
84 wRC+ 100
9.3 Fielding -12.9
4.08 FIP 4.14

Pitcher Previews

Wednesday, May 16th, 4:05 pt

Felix Hernandez vs Urbaldo Jimenez

 

Thursday, May 17th, 4:05 pt

Hector Noesi vs Zach Mcallister

 

Defensive Alignments

Seattle Cleveland
C Jesus Montero C Carlos Santana
1B Justin Smoak 1B Casey Kotchman
2B Dustin Ackley 2B Jason Kipnis
3B Kyle Seager 3B Jose Loepz
SS Brendan Ryan SS Asdrubal Cabrera
LF Mike Carp LF Shelly Duncan
CF Michael Saunders CF Michael Brantley
RF Ichiro Suzuki RF Shin-soo Choo
DH John Jaso DH Travis Hafner
B Chone Figgins B Aaron Cunningham
B Casper Wells B Jason Donald
B Alex Liddi B Johnny Damon
B Munenori Kawasaki B Lou Marson

 

 

 

Bullpen

Seattle
Tom Wilhelmsen
Brandon League
Charlie Furbush
Shawn Kelly
Steve Delabar
Lucas Luetge
Hisashi Iwakuma
Cleveland
Jeremy Accardo
Jairo Asencio
Nick Hagadone
Chris Perez
Vinnie Pestano
Tony Sipp
Joe Smith

 

 

 

Series Preview 3-on-3 questions featuring

Fansided’s Senior Editor of Wahoos on First, Lewie Pollis

 

Harrison Crow: If I would have told you before the season started that you would be in first place after the first month would you have believed me?

 Lewie Pollis: Absolutely. It was clear before the season started that Detroit was the favorite in the AL Central, but I can’t understand why everyone was (and still is) so skeptical about this team. Last year the Indians suffered from ineffective veterans youthful inexperience, and being absolutely hosed by injuries, but they were still basically a .500 team. So doesn’t it make sense that they’d be good with an improved roster, more experience, and better health? The lead might not last, but anyone who completely wrote off the Tribe this winter wasn’t paying attention to what was happening in Cleveland.

HC: Does Urbaldo Jimenez ever become worth the trade and what Cleveland gave up for him?

LP:  At this point it’s hard to say that he will. Ubaldo has just looked awful this year—his velocity is down, he’s not getting enough strikeouts, and he’s walking almost seven batters per nine. Is there a chance he turns things around in the next year and a half? Sure. In terms of pure stuff he’s up there with the best pitchers in baseball. But he just hasn’t been the same pitcher since coming to Cleveland, and at this point I’m sure Chris Antonetti would be very happy to call “tradebacks” and reclaim Drew Pomeranz and Alex White.

Indians fans can take some solace (I guess? I don’t like to celebrate young players struggling.) in the fact that White and Pomeranz have been less than impact players in Colorado thus far. White gave up 12 homers in seven outings for the Rockies last year and started 2012 in the minors, while Pomeranz has been demoted after struggling with his control in his first five starts. That said, it’s way too soon to count either of them out. Even forgetting salaries and service time I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that at least Pomeranz will emerge as a better pitcher than Jimenez before Ubaldo’s contract expires.

 

HC: Do you think the Cleveland front office learned its lesson about buying into fast starts too soon, or do you see them trying to find help in sustaining their early success.

LP: I’m not sure what you mean by “learned its lesson.” The Jimenez deal was definitely an attempt to improve our playoff hopes last year, but he’s under team control through 2013. He wasn’t a half-year rent-a-player, the Indians acquired him to help out for (at least) three pennant races. Other than that the only “buyer” moves they made last year were the trades for Kosuke Fukudome and Jim Thome, neither of whom cost anything of value—not to mention that bringing back Thome bought the team a tremendous amount of goodwill. Anyway, it’s not as though the front office overreacted and bet the farm on a fluky start.

That said, the Indians could definitely look for some outside help if they’re still in the race come July. It’s possible they could go after another impact arm if Jimenez and Justin Masterson continue to struggle and Josh Tomlin’s health is still in question, but they have plenty of capable (if subpar) arms waiting in Triple-A. Going after a bigger bat at first base is a definite possibility—the team loves Casey Kotchman’s defense, but he’s not hitting well at all.

The other place the Tribe might want to upgrade is left field. The Johnny Damon experiment looks like a bust so far and for some reason the team doesn’t seem to have any faith in Shelley Duncan; unless someone steps up before June the Tribe will be betting on Grady Sizemore, but even if he’s really healthy this time he’s nowhere near the player he once was.

————-

LP: Entering Tuesday the Mariners are in third place in the AL West. Can they stay out of the basement all year?

HC: Really, the Mariners aren’t a .500 team. The Angels have too much talent to finish below the Mariners, should they continue playing as badly as they have been it’s going to be such a story the likes of baseball has never had. I believe it’s only a matter of time before they eventually eclipse the Mariners over a full 162 games.
As for the Athletics, who are similar a similar team, they aren’t terrible but they aren’t good either. So it’s hard to say what really comes from this season. I don’t expect the A’s to be a .500 team, but I didn’t expect them to end April above .500 either. It’s a great story line to watch the rest of the season.
The Mariners have had some ups and downs and it’s been a Jekyll and Hyde type season. The M’s could very well walk into Progressive Field and sweep the Indians or they could just lay down and be swept. It’s about what hitters decide to show up.
LP: How have the Mariners matched up with your preseason expectations so far? When do you see them getting back into contention?
HC: They haven’ t quite lived up to [my] expectations. But it’s early and I think we all expected a few road bumps a long the way. Part of the problem is the Mariners offense is dependent upon line drives and luck. They aren’t a team that are going to hit a ton of home runs. They aren’t the most power deprived team out there but certainly aren’t among the better teams.
The Mariners are going to contend when their pitching returns to being among the best in the league and they are able to start getting a little extra from this offense (i.e. Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley).
LP: Dustin Ackley is off to a slow start this year. Are you worried about him?
HC: I think that’s a fair question as he came out on a rocket start last year and now this year his numbers as a whole have stepped back. But, if you look his BABIP is down but he’s making more contact and still driving the ball plenty. Right now, I’m alright with just marking it up to some bad luck.
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