Brad Miller oh man!

By: Jared Ellis

Follow @jarlyjarhead

There has been talk all spring on other blog sites and people in the know that Brad Miller is really good at baseball, possibly a top level SS already. He broke with the team late last year for a cup of coffee that lasted for 76 games and hit .265/.318/.418 while also smacking 8 HRs. All the while adding defensive and base running value. Early on, it didn’t take people in the know to be able to tell that Miller had a bright future.

To catch you up even further, the dude is awesome. He’s the classic, old school type ball player that fans love to follow. He wears stirrups guys! And you know what else!? He doesn’t wear batting gloves, that’s unheard of and he may be the only active player in MLB that doesn’t. Plus he’s a hard worker and plays the game the right way and all of that other shit we talk about with players like Miller.

Signs of his hard work showed up as he got bigger in the off season, he said that he was in the best shape of his life, another thing that is always said about players in spring. But he may have been right.

I didn’t watch the whole game last night, I was in school, but was tracking on my phone and noticed that he hit a HR earlier in the game and that the Mariners were up early. Here’s his first HR:

BradMillerHR (2)

I got home in time for the top of the ninth, just in time for his second HR. And the sound that it made, I didn’t even need to be watching to know that it was gone. The ball jumped off his bat and didn’t have the arc of the first one but with intense velocity. In fact, his second HR of the night in this young season is the third longest HR of the year in true distance at 427 feet and has the fastest speed off the bat so far as well at just over 112 MPH. He’s a shortstop.

BradMillerSolo (2)

Miller is definitely stronger, there is a noticeable physical difference since last year and these HRs show that the strength is useful. Not to mention he led all Cactus Leaguers in with a 1.314 OPS (i know, i know…it was Spring Training). But with plus defense and power at a premium position we could have a real special player on our hands.

Advertisements

Mariners fill my glass

Jared Ellis

Follow on Twitter @jarlyjarhead

I tell friends of mine, most of which are non-baseball fans, that the end of the World Series isn’t a joyous occasion. It most certainly is for the winners and the fans of the winning team, but while the unkempt Red Sox were celebrating last October I was in a somber mood. The final out of the World Series signifies the imminent wet, cold winter ahead. The final pitch is the start of a long break with no baseball.

After baseball, the sports landscape becomes dominated by the Neanderthal sports that rely more on sheer athleticism and size than skill; racing against a clock in confusing sports that is mostly defined by running in a straight line. Oh, and hit someone. Play physical.

But yesterday that all came to a crashing halt, sure basketball will still be played well into June and the general public shifts into football come September. But for the months in between, only the thinking man’s game remains and for many baseball fans, that is all there is.

***

I worked during most of the day games, another gentle reminder that I need to start taking that day off in the future. Yet I was available during the Mariner game, Felix day! and sunshine and lollipops (credit: Lookout Landing).

It was a weird feeling throughout the game, I’ve become numb to this team from year to year because…Mariners. So while a lot of the Mariner community is feeling optimistic about the signing of Robinson Cano, Taijuan Walker starting his first full season, Kyle Seager still being a boss and Brad Miller projected to be a high-end starting SS, I feel level. The glass isn’t half full or half empty, there is simply half left. The Steamer and Oliver projections that have this team around 80 wins seem fair. And through the first six or seven innings of the first game it felt exactly like that.

The Mariners boringly manufactured a run in the second after Justin Smoak doubled and was moved to third after a productive out, he later scored on a Saunders sacrifice. In the sixth Seager doubled off the wall and scored Smoak but Logan Morrison thieved a run from his own team with his glacial movements around the bases as he was thrown out at home. Mix in some suspect defense from Dustin Ackley in left and an error from Seager at third base and it was 2013 all over again. Especially when coupled with the fact that Felix was absolutely dealing while getting little support from his offense.

But then something happened, Mike Zunino TRIPLED! to bring home Ackley and was later scored by an Abraham Almonte hustle double. In the ninth Smoak absolutely crushed a 3-run homerun, no doubt stringing along the desperate fan base just a little bit longer. Ackley hit a bases loaded triple in the same inning to extend the lead to 10-3, also stringing along hopeful fans. (Man, the Mariners must keep a large supply of yarn in the basement of Safeco Field.) Even the bullpen looked dominant as Tom Wilhelmsen was able to complete four outs without completely imploding.

Sure it’s early and it’s wise to temper expectations especially given the extreme small sample size of only a single game. But maybe this was the long game of Jack Zdurienik, build up a strong prospect base, fortify the ever important bullpen, make a splashy signing and lean on your stars until the youngsters come along. Only time will tell if it’s sustainable, but my glass might be half full now.

***

On to some bullet points!

  • Almonte hit in the leadoff spot for most of Spring Training and there were thoughts about whether that would be a good move going into the season, especially with more appropriate choices (Miller). But Almonte worked a seven pitch at-bat in his first appearance and later singled in that at-bat. He finished the day 2-5 with a double and drove in a run. He also attempted to steal a base in the first inning, perhaps representative of how Lloyd McClendon plans to use him.
  • Mike Trout hit a 2-run homerun off of Felix in the first inning that seemed impossible. A breaking ball that landed in the lower inside corner. But dude is strong and good and shit man, why can’t he be in another division?
  • Smoak doubled in the second and nearly doubled again later in the game that went just foul. McClendon said during Spring Training that Smoak could lead the league in doubles. It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses.
  • Ackley took a horrible route to a ball hit by Albert Pujols in the third that ended up scoring a run. This defense will still be an adventure from time to time, although not quite as bad as Raul Ibanez.
  • Speaking of Raul, he K’d three times and looked silly doing it. At least they’re DH’ing him.
  • Cano’s first hit was cued off the end of his bat and went about 35 feet. He hustled to first and was safe. So much for that no hustle thing.
  • I hustled, lulz.
  • Morrison looked out of sorts. Missing everything thrown his way while striking out three times. To his credit, Jered Weaver is a crafty dude. And also, Morrison looks like Private Pyle.
  • Felix was, is and will always be the man. After the Trout homerun he got visibly mad and then mowed down most everyone in the Angels’ lineup. He threw 30 pitches in the third that included Ackley’s terrible route in left and Seager’s error but he still made it through six innings while striking out 11 hitters. His changeup was filthy all night.

CJ Wilson versus Erasmo Ramirez next time out, hoping the glass stays full. ‘Til next time.

Mariners trade for Logan Morrison

Jared Ellis

Follow on Twitter @jarlyjarhead

In my earlier post about the signing of Corey Hart, I mentioned that Hart’s signing could be the first step for the organization to cut bait with Justin Smoak. It seems that the Mariners have now taken another step in what looks like at least a competition for the 1B/DH platoon split.  Shortly after signing Hart, the Mariners then traded young reliever Carter Capps for Miami Marlins OF/1B Logan Morrison. While Morrison, like Hart, has played the outfield neither seems fit to do so any longer, at least not on a long term basis. Both players have a history with injuries and prevention is the best move going forward with players like this. Thus, both Hart and Morrison appear to be ideal fits for the 1B/DH slot. So either the Mariners are compiling a 2014 version of last year’s 1B/DH carousel or someone is leaving in one way or another. Further complicating matters is that Morales is still unsigned after having declined the Mariners’ qualifying offer and the only rumor including his name has been right back with the Mariners.

Let’s look at what this platoon situation would look like though. Hart is almost certainly the right handed version of this platoon. He has a proven track record, higher upside, Morrison is a lefty and Smoak is terrible from the right side. The real question is whether Morrison or Smoak would deserve the plate appearances from the left side. The table below doesn’t show the splits versus right handed pitchers but gives a good idea about who these players are.

Name BB% K% ISO AVG OBP WAR
Logan Morrison 11.40% 16.80% 0.133 0.242 0.333 -0.6
Justin Smoak 12.30% 22.80% 0.174 0.238 0.334 0.4

In case you were wondering, they are the same player. Both are limited defensively. Both players were once highly rated prospects and both players kind of suck. Neither is able to handle the offensive expectations at 1B which is where Hart comes in. This could be construed a couple of different ways. As mentioned above it could mean that Smoak is out the door but has not been officially dealt yet. Or this could spurn some competition between Morrison and Smoak when Spring Training comes around. Either way, expectations out of the lefty platoon split should be tempered. Neither are good players and nothing indicates that they will be anytime soon.

Mariners sign Corey Hart

Jared Ellis

Follow on Twitter @jarlyjarhead

The Seattle Mariners signed Corey Hart today on a one year deal for a base salary of $5 million. There are several escalators in the deal based on performance as well. Hart missed all of last season while with the Milwaukee Brewers but profiles as a good signing for the Mariners if they can keep him healthy. And a one year deal carries zero risk for the team.

In order for the Mariners to keep him healthy they will have to limit him defensively, this signing likely means that he will share the 1B/DH platoon with Justin Smoak and maybe Kendrys Morales*. It also creates the opportunity for the Mariners to rid themselves of Smoak, a player that has underperformed since his first days on a major league roster. Although I imagine moving Smoak would come in conjunction with another separate deal.

*If he accepts his qualifying offer.

Hart will supply some much needed right handed power in a punch less, lefty heavy, Mariners lineup while likely hitting behind Robinson Cano. Hart does strike out a lot and does not walk enough to balance his K% rate thus his better than average OBP is mostly sustained by batting average. But he does provide some pop with an ISO and Slugging percentage well above major league norms. At his best Hart has been worth close to 4 wins per year and Steamer projects that he will be worth about half of that in 2014.

Overall, this is a boom or bust signing for Seattle and the risk is low considering the one year deal. We know that Jack Zduriencik likes his homers, I imagine more moves are coming similar to this one to supply those.

Mariners do something!

Jared Ellis

Follow on Twitter @jarlyjarhead

So it finally happened. Not necessarily that Robinson Cano signed, which also finally happened as this rumor has been floating around for a week plus. But the Mariners finally signed a big name, high priced free agent. After two straight winters of the Mariners trying to give gobs of money away to several superstar baseball players, they finally succeeded. They failed last winter to give Josh Hamilton way too much money (thank god) and luckily avoided giving away half of their farm system for Justin Upton in the same offseason. The year before Prince Fielder got way too much money from Detroit. It started to feel like every Mariners rumor would end the same. The beaten down fans would get excited for a couple of weeks only to find that the Mariners were outbid again or the next superstar free agent in line would prefer not to come to the northwest corner of the United States. But it happened guys, it finally fucking happened. But Christ, what does it mean?

I don’t know. I’m still getting over the shock as it only happened a mere 6 hours ago. But I think it means that Seattle is finally trying. Or maybe it means that Jack Zduriencik is panicking and doesn’t want to lose his job. Or maybe this is just to put butts in seats as SAFECO Field has lost fans all but one year since 2007 and more than 20,000 less than the glory years of 2001. Shit, I don’t know. But this, Cano signing, feels different.

I am going to get the obvious out of the way first, Cano probably cost too much money. The 10 years for $240 million deal is a shit ton of years and money for a baseball player. Maybe he deserves it and maybe he will earn it but it does not change the fact that Cano could support my whole family and not even notice. He could probably buy the San Juan Islands for Christ’s sake. Yet, this is the way it had to be for a team and a market like Seattle to get someone as awesome as Cano. Rebuilding in an organic way can take a lifetime, or in the case of the Pirates it can take about 21 years. A lot of fans were probably running out of time and patience to wait that long for a winning season and it seemed that ownership is now starting to feel the same way. Bravo to the Mariners for taking a leap and a risk but desperation may not always be a bad thing. Thing is, I think this only scratches the surface on this offseason.

So in addition to their Cano signing in this offseason, the Mariners also signed…Willie Bloomquist. Ok, so maybe that is not the key that fans were hoping for. But if you dig a little bit deeper, the Mariners are linked to virtually every free agent that exists and even some more folks that are not free agents. The most rumored are outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz. Ellsbury has obviously signed with the Yankees, but similar to last season and most other recent seasons, the Mariners are interested in finding impact bats. And all of those rumors would provide that sort of impact. I’ll get into the specifics in a future post but the quick and dirty is that each rumored player has a wRC+ of at least 132, with Choo as the high of 151. The highest wRC+ for Seattle last year, Kendrys Morales with 116. Oh and Cano…wRC+ 142.

In addition to finding impact bats that are sorely needed on this team, Seattle has also been rumored on several pitchers to help improve upon a starting pitching group that was in the middle of the league in FIP. First and most importantly is the recent and widely talked about trade rumor that would bring David Price to Seattle. He would require a hefty price via trade but proves that the Mariners are interested in winning now. To accompany Price in the rumor mill are free agents Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Bartolo Colon. Whereas last year it looked as though they were looking for stop gaps, innings eaters and number three starters the Mariners are now looking to add a number two starter to complete a formidable trio with Felix! Hernandez and Hishashi Iwakuma.

All of these rumors are coupled with the fact that the Mariners have not done a terrible job of drafting and growing their own players. Taijaun Walker, Mike Zunino and Brad Miller all look poised to contribute in the coming years and were highly rated prospects. Kyle Seager is a boss and even the shit storm of Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders do not look so bad if they are platoon players surrounded by actual major league talent.

This is not new to Mariners fan though, we hear rumors every offseason and very few of them come to fruition. And the ones that do are usually uneventful. But Cano’s reach is longer than a baseball diamond. He was also signed to be a recruiter of sorts. A marketing ploy. So often players will sign with the intent of winning a championship and playing with the best. The Mariners announced to the league that after all these dreadful years, they are ready.

And you know what, maybe this has been the plan all along. The inside fan talk for years has been that 2014 was the year that the Mariners may make the leap and become ready to compete. But we also knew that the farm system has not produced as expected or as quickly. But if the Mariners could convince just one big time free agent to be a Mariner, it might be all it takes for the dominos to start falling. Cano is a pretty damn big domino, as a fan let us hope that the others are not too far off.