I’ve been trying to decide how to do these series previews. I’ve yet to really work out what I think looks best and what garners the most eyes on these sort of things. Anyways… so lets get too it.
After escaping out of Tampa Bay, the opposite way they started this road trip, the team seems to be going through a rough patch. But it certainly doesn’t come from a lack of trying.
They put runners on base, had some good pitching performances and just had a little bad luck overall. The good thing about this trip is that we get Mike Carp back and even better Miguel Olivo isn’t going to be around for awhile. This will force manager Eric Wedge to play John Jaso more and with the Mariners seeing three right handed pitchers hopefully we’ll see plenty of him during this series.
Much the organization turbulance centers around Brendan Ryan, Justin Smoak and to a lesser extent Hector Noesi. Smoak, I certainly get –despite how much I don’t want too– he’s had a bit of bad luck but hasn’t looked all together exciting at the plate either. Marc W has a fantastic take on him that he posted last night. I’m sure if you come to this site you read it.
The problems around Brendan Ryan is silly. He’s consistently having good at bats even if he’s been swinging through too many pitches. He still is able to get one base and has been one of the most valuable pieces of this team early on simply because of his defense. Giving Kyle Seager more starts are short would be more of a bad thing than a good.
Hector Noesi has been looking slightly better with each start. My biggest problem is that he falls behind hitters too often, uses his two seamer too often and doesn’t rely upon the strength of his slider and change-up enough, both being plus pitches for him.
The Twins are having just as much problems early on this season as the Mariners, if not even more. Their pitching has been a sore subject and even with headed to Seattle it doesn’t profile to get that much better.
Mariners do need to be wary of Justin Morneau who has been rocking out early on this year and after Josh Willingham transition from the NL last year he seems to like Safeco just fine too. If Mariner pitchers can neutralize those guys and Joe Mauer this should be a few easy games at the Safe.
Let’s take a look at the two teams, pitching match ups and defensive alignments.
|Seattle Mariners (10-16)||Minnesota Twins (6-18)|
May 3rd, Friday Night — 7:10pm
Series Preview: Cool fact, Pavano used to pitch for the Expos.
Series Preview: Vargas never pitched for the Expos but did pitch for two other NL East teams (Marlins and the Mets)… so there is that.
May 4th, Saturday Night — 6:10pm
Series Preview: This one time Marquis talked bad about Felix winning the Cy Young… we don’t like Jason Marquis.
Series Preview: Remember when Marquis talked about Hernandez, this is where he gets out pitched by him. Statistically and by “just watching”.
May 5th, Sunday Afternoon — 1:10pm
Series Preview: Blackburn throws strikes… lots of strikes. Swing the bats today guys.
Series Preview: Ugh, let’s see if he can continue to improve.
|C||Jesus Montero||-1||104||0.1||C||Joe Mauer||-1.4||131||0.6|
|1B||Justin Smoak||-0.8||55||-0.6||1B||Chris Parmelee||-1.5||69||-0.3|
|2B||Dustin Ackley||-1.9||73||-0.1||2B||Alexi Casilla||3.1||81||0.4|
|3B||Kyle Seager||2.8||124||0.9||3B||Danny Valencia||0.5||63||0.1|
|SS||Brendan Ryan||3.4||47||0.3||SS||Jamey Carroll||2.3||56||0.3|
|LF||Chone Figgins||-4.9||59||-0.7||LF||Josh Willingham||-4.6||198||0.9|
|CF||Michael Saunders||-1.1||123||0.6||CF||Denard Span||2.2||121||0.9|
|RF||Ichiro Suzuki||4.7||110||1.0||RF||Trevor Plouffe||-1.2||42||-0.3|
|DH||Mike Carp||0.3||-54||-0.1||DH||Justin Morneau||110||-0.6||0|
|B||John Jaso||0||192||0.3||B||Ryan Doumit||-1.5||58||-0.2|
|B||Casper Wells||0.1||95||0||B||Clete Thomas||1.0||22||-0.1|
|B||Alex Liddi||-0.5||127||0.3||B||Drew Butera||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Series three-on-three with:
Fansided Editor, Puckett’s Pond very own Nate Gilmore
Harrison Crow: Joe Mauer is off to a great start. I realize that the Twins are paying him $23 million, but do you think that people are scrutinizing ‘ol Joe a bit too much? It’s as if the fans/media have this love-hate thing going on here and they don’t know what to do with it sometimes. I know that Mauer’s got the back problems but is that really his fault? Can you hold him accountable for stuff beyond his control or is he just not putting for the effort to keep it from being a long term problem?
Nate Gilmore: I understand the Mauer booing, but I’m not a fan of it. To be honest, I think the Mauer booing is really meant for the team as a whole, but since Mauer is the most visible player, the face of the franchise, he just happens to bear the brunt of the criticism. If the Twins were 19-6 instead of 6-19, nobody would have a problem with Mauer at all. But as it is, he’s the easiest target for criticism. My personal opinion is that Mauer’s quiet demeanor doesn’t help. He is not the most charismatic player in the Major Leagues, in fact he’s very soft-spoken to the point where he comes off as aloof. I think it’s hard for some people to relate to him.
Still, I think much of the criticism is unfair. The way some people complain about his salary, you’d think they’re paying him out of their own pockets. And everything that he was criticized for last year is completely untrue this year. He has been durable, playing in all but one game so far, and his bat has been incredibly strong so far. I would like the criticism to wane over time, but as long as the Twins are such a pitiful team, I am sure it will continue.
HC: Speaking of Mauer the Twins have the #2 pick right in front of the Seattle Mariners. At this point do you think the Twins are ready to pick up someone like Mike Zunino who has Buster Posey-like upside, a great back-stop and legit guy at the plate with little time in the minors, to try and either move Mauer off the plate to keep him from starting more than 90 games back there and keep him healthy? Or do you see the organization, with hardly any top pitching prospects — basically praying Kyle Gibson heals and maybe Hudson Boyd turns out to be as awesome as advertised — go after one of the many top end college arms. Guys like Mark Appel, Kyle Zimmer or Kevin Gausman that all site near the top-5 picks that should give a boost to any starting rotation within a matter of a year or two?
NG: This team needs pitching, and there’s no way around that. Even top draft picks are chancy at best, but the Twins have to take a shot at getting a future ace. I am a big fan of Appel’s work, though I understand his stock has fallen a bit this year. Zimmer would be my next favorite. I’d be happy to see either one drafted by the Twins.
HC: What are we to make of Francisco Liriano, at this point? His velocity is basically the same as it was last year but he has absloutely NO command and his slider is hardly the whipe out pitch it had been the past few years. What do the Twins do with this guy? Do you stick with him, do you move him to the bullpen? He’s a free-agent at the end of this year, do you just cut your losses?
NG: If Francisco Liriano were an ordinary pitcher, I do not think the Twins would have kept him this long. But he happened to have one amazing half season back in 2006 before he blew out his elbow (I actually remember Liriano faced off against Felix Hernandez that year, and a bunch of baseball pundits were predicting it would be the next great pitching rivalry for years to come). The memory of that season has caused the Twins to keep trotting him out to the mound after years of repeated failure.
Right now he has what appears to be a terminal case of Steve Blass Disease. Liriano has completely lost his confidence, and hitters have no reason to respect him on the mound. I highly doubt that moving him to the bullpen would help, and anyway the Twins do not need another left-handed reliever. Maybe a short stint in the minor leagues would help. But the Twins don’t really have a lot of options for starting pitching right now, so they’ll probably keep throwing Liriano out there every fifth day.
Nate to Harrison:
NG: Texas and Los Angeles both have lucrative television contracts, and both went out and lured some high-priced talent in the offseason. Is it starting to feel like the AL West is another AL East? Do you think the Mariners can be competitive in a division like this one?
HC: The AL East has a real rivalary that can’t and won’t, unfortunately, ever be duplicated. I’ve wished for a long time that Mariner fans would harden up and we’d generate some fun sports hate between us and the Rangers, Angels and Athletics. But it’s never happened and realistically it probably won’t for multitude of different reasons.
Can the Mariners compete? Absloutely, but it’s not going to be easy. As it’s been pointed out in several places the Mariners are primed for a sale, not to mention a new TV deal before 2015, which is going to hopefully enable the Mariners to once again spend money. While they have been playing with payrolls in the 90-100 mil range, it’s been four years for team cut backs and drawing player salerys down.
Money isn’t the source for which the Mariners retrun to prominence resides, rather it will be a way of keeping it. The Mariners are in a strong position with young pitching and young hitters who as soon as next year could start making a move towards that second wild card.
Hopefully we’ll start to see some of what is needed to compete, blossom this season. Guys like Justin Smoak, Mike Carp, Jesus Montero, Alex Liddi, Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley and maybe even Kyle Seager. Are all very capable of being solid major league hitters and providing for this line-up. Three possible front of the rotation pitchers to a rotation that already includes one of the best pitchers in all of baseball and you start buying into the company line: “Anything is possible”.
NG: As you noted in your question to me, the Twins draft right before the Mariners this year. Who are you hoping will fall to the number three spot? Is there anyone you would hate to see taken by the Twins or Astros?
HC: There are a lot of rumors about the Mariners being extremely interested Carlos Correra, and Kyle Zimmer. Both of which are premium talents in my estimation, though I am no expert, but I think if the Mariners front office had their way they would like to see someone like Mike Zunino slip through the cracks.
If it’s not already, it will be soon –thanks to Miguel Olivo– the Jesus Montero will be able to be a catcher isn’t a good one. Mike Zunino could possibly allow the Mariners to push Montero to the DH spot or even to another spot on the field.
That said a few of us had talked about the possibility of the Mariners even still drafting Lucas Gilitto. Though, I doubt that happens, it would help the organization keep a premium arm down in the lower level the minors as well as there little real pressure to move him any faster than he would be ready. Enabling him to be 100% healthy and returning from such a serious arm injury this spring.
I think if I were to set the Mariners at #1 and give them 5 choices of the field I think it would be something like: Buxton, Zunino, Correra, Zimmer and Max Fried (the lefty from High School kid from Florida). But, I’m not in Tom McNamara’s head so who really knows how things work out.
NG:I think that watching Ichiro play would be one of the greatest things about being a Mariners fan. He is a one of a kind player. How long do you think he can keep going? Will he retire as a Mariner?
HC: I love, Ichiro. My 2-year old son has an Ichiro jersey. My wife loves Ichiro. Ichiro is a very unique and distinctive talent when it comes, not just to baseball, but the Pacific Northwest in general. He’s be a true joy to have around and I –for one– would love the see him stick around for the rest of his career. I think it will be a really odd feeling when he’s no longer in the club house or out on the field. Regardless of when that happens, I hope he calls it quits as a member of the Seattle Mariners organization.
That said he’s a free-agent at the end of the year and while I don’t see him going anywhere right now. I wouldn’t be surrpised if he said “this is it, I want to go out at the top of my game” and he stepped away into retirement or maybe he said “I plan on retiring, I want to go to a playoff team that needs an outfielder so I have a shot at a ring.”
I think Mariner fans in general don’t truely appreciate what he’s done over the course of his career with the emerald city nine. Not only has he set MAJOR LEAGUE records in hits but he’s displayed some of the most amazing defense ever shown in spacious Safeco field.
His time is growing closer to an end but that’s life. I am hoping to be able to enjoy him for this season and we’ll handle the off-season when it happens. My hope and dream is that he works out something with the Mariners where he doesn’t handicape the finances but is still returns to the organization.