Saturday Cup of Mojo: Felix the Copy Cat, Steve Balboni and More


It’s Saturday morning. You’ve got your paper and eggs. All you need now is your Cup of MoJo to wake up and seize the day!

In this edition we’ll look at:

  • Felix the Copy Cat?
  • Mariner Flashback: Steve Balboni
  • On the Farm: Vinnie Catricala
  • Thank you, Divish.
  • Felix the Copy Cat?

I was watching SportsCenter a couple nights ago, and they were showing a recap of a Reds game in which Johnny Cueto started. Now, I’m a Mariners fan, not a Reds fan. So I typically can tell you more about the little details of Mariners players, but when watching these highlights, something stood out as different.

Look at these videos and tell me if something looks similar:

Johnny Cueto 2010

Johnny Cueto 2011

Does anything in the 2011 clip look familiar? I don’t know, maybe something like this? I’m no pitching mechanics guru, and I see that where each guy starts with the ball during their wind is different, but the actually wind and follow just look so similar to my eyes.

I’m not saying Cueto is doing anything wrong. Heck, if I was going to mimic someone, Felix is probably the guy I’d mirror. I wonder if this is similar at all to the story about Charlie Morton taking a page out of Roy Halladay’s delivery book.

Not that Morton has transformed into Halladay, but he is enjoying the best season of his career. Cueto is also having a good season with a sparkly ERA under 2, but his peripherals indicate that he hasn’t found the recipe to Felix’s special sauce. This could be a total coincidence, but who knows? It’s fun to examine at any rate.

  • Mariner Flashback: Steve Balboni

In 1988, the Mariners signed first baseman Steve Balboni as a free agent after he had been released from the Kansas City Royals after he ran a triple slash of .143/.156/.270 with two homers in 20 games.

In his 96 games with the M’s, he’d finish the season atop several offensive categories. He led the team in homers (21), was third in ISO and RBI and chipped in 1.3 WAR.

It’s not like this was the most amazing in-season free-agent pickup ever, as Balboni only batted .250 and had an OBP below .300. His power was nice, but he wasn’t an all around great hitter. He didn’t run the bases well, either, and was an average fielder in limited time as a non-DH.

Still, though, it was a league minimum pickup for a team who needed help to win games (they finished 68-93).

Balboni is more famously remembered for the “Curse of Balboni.” After he hit 36 homers in the regular season en-route to a World Series victory with the Royals in 1985, it would take 16 seasons before any team that won the World Series had a player with that many dingers. Luis Gonzalez did it for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 to break this curse.

  •  On the Farm: Vinnie Catricala

The Mariners currently have a farmhand down in AA Jackson raising some eyebrows. Vinnie Catricala was drafted in the 10th round of the 2010. The 22 year-old has split time between third and left with the Generals. He’s made 8 errors at the hot corner, and the outfield could stand to be his long term landing spot.

The offense is what’s really intriguing, though. Having put up a slash line of .351/.421/.574 in 71 games for High Desert, there was surely reason to believe those numbers would regress once promoted out of that bandbox. However, the numbers are nearly identical with Jackson.

He hit 14 homers in A ball, one every five games, and has 5 so far in AA, good for one every seven games. The overall slugging production has actually gone up a small tick, though. His strikeout and walk rates are both reasonable but have both gone in the wrong direction since the promotion. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts as he moves in the upper minors.

The other thing to note is his BABIP of .405, up from an already high .374 in High Desert. That number isn’t going to continue, but that he’s making good contact and getting on base shouldn’t be totally pushed aside as pure luck.

We’ll see how the kid develops.

  • Thank you, Divish.

Ryan Divish is a dude I’d like to have a beer with. He’s been on the Mariners beat for the TNT for a few years and has been one of the more accessible and kind guys who cover the team. That unfortunately came to an end last night.

Divish posted on his blog about his change of assignment. While this is a bummer for us, it’s part of their business. Hopefully this means he’ll gain more exposure and further his career. I know of one specific job that he could step into and qualify as a massive upgrade, but this piece is about saying thanks and being kind.

So, hey Ryan. If this article finds you: Thank you! Thank you for being so kind on twitter when I was *this* close to gaining press box access with the Mariners. It would have been a pleasure to work along side you, but I’m holding out hope that it can still happen.

Oh, and how about that beer? Just not a Montana Corona, though, ok?

That’s it for this Cup of MoJo. Have a good weekend, folks.