Week 15 Recap
|Date||Away Team||Score||Home Team||Score||Result|
The Mariners head into the All-Star break after taking two of three from the division leading Athletics. This week seemed like a good way to gain some momentum for the second half but a stinker of a series against the Twins put a damper on any hope of a hot streak. In the two series against the White Sox and Twins, the Mariners scored a grand total of 9 runs in 7 games. We owe our two wins to excellent pitching performances by Felix, Iwakuma, and the bullpen. The two wins over the Athletics were pretty decisive. It definitely felt good to get two strong wins against the best team in baseball right before the break..
For this week’s recap, I’m going to go through each position group and give a mid-season report. The stats included will be to-date season performances instead of the normal two-week period.
Player Performances These are to-date season performances for each position group.
Mike Zunino has taken his role as starting catcher and run with it. It’s amazing that he’s been more valuable behind the plate this year than as a batter. As a prospect, everyone raved about his offensive skill set so its great to see him developing into an elite backstop. He does have a bit of work to do at the plate. The easy power is evident—he leads all AL catchers in home runs—but he’s still having trouble making consistent contact and still doesn’t show much patience. Nevertheless, he should continue to be a valuable piece on this team in the second half.
Jesus Sucre recently replaced John Buck as the backup catcher and it’s evident why. Where Buck was on the team because he could hit a home run every once in a while—he didn’t—Sucre is on the team because he’s arguably a better backstop than Zunino. It’s pretty obvious that the front office has seen how the pitching staff has reacted to Zunino’s presence behind the plate and have started to value catching defense much more than before.
All you need to know about the state of first base on the Mariners is the first name on the list above. Jesus Montero, who played in just 5 games, is the leader in WAR at first base. Yikes.
Logan Morrison has flashed power recently and should maintain his spot on the roster through the year, whether that’s at first base or designated hitter is up to Justin Smoak. Still showing no improvement, Smoak is suffering though his worst season yet. His walk rate and strikeout rates are at career extremes, and moving in the wrong direction. It seemed like the front office had given up on him after his injury, he was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, but was quickly called up after Michael Saunders got injured. If there are any upgrades to the offense this season, Smoak will probably be the first to head back to Tacoma.
Corey Hart has also been a disappointment but we could have assumed something like this would happen after he missed an entire year. Now all we can hope for is an injury-free second half as he hasn’t shown much promise past what he’s already done.
Robinson Cano has been as valuable as advertised, he’s just been valuable in a way we never expected. He’s tied for the league lead in WAR for second basemen and his league and park adjusted Runs created (138 wRC+) is higher than his career average. He’s also on pace for his lowest power numbers in his career (.127 ISO). Even if he continues to spray line drives around Safeco, he’s been a pleasure to watch. The amount of confidence he plays with is off the charts and he makes everything on the field look simple.
Nick Franklin still can’t figure out major league pitching. His 40% strikeout rate is pretty telling, although it was earned in just under 50 at bats. I would expect him to be traded by the trade deadline.
Kyle Seager is enjoying his best season yet and he’s still just 26-years-old. His bat usually gets the most attention but he’s also putting up the best defensive numbers of his career. He absolutely deserves to be an All-Star and might even earn some MVP votes if he continues to play at this level in the second half.
After a rough start to the season, Brad Miller has righted the ship in June and July. He still hasn’t reached the promise he showed last year but, if he continues to improve, he’ll be an asset down the stretch. If he craters again in the second half, the Mariners have a number of options in the minors who could be called up to have their chance at short—Nick Franklin, Chris Taylor, or Ty Kelly could all be called on in case of disaster.
This is arguably the worst position group on the team (first base might be worse). Outside of Michael Saunders, there isn’t a single above average player in our system who can play outfield. James Jones has been a revelation at the plate but his skill set has a limited upside and he’s actually posted negative defensive numbers this year. Dustin Ackley has been largely disappointing between spurts of promise. None of Abraham Almonte, Endy Chavez, or Stefen Romero can be counted on to hold down a starting role either. Our hope is that this position group will look vastly different by August. Josh Willingham, Ben Zobrist, and Marlon Byrd have all been linked to the Mariners. Each of them would be an upgrade over any of our outfielders. This team is not fielding a playoff caliber outfield right now. If we’re serious about contending this year, this is where the most help is needed.
|Felix Hernandez||144 1/3||20||556||154||9.60||25||1.56||5||0.31||0.271||2.12||2.04||5.2|
|Hisashi Iwakuma||96 2/3||14||372||80||7.45||8||0.74||11||1.02||0.286||2.98||3.21||1.9|
|Chris Young||111 1/3||19||449||63||5.09||38||3.07||16||1.29||0.206||3.15||4.95||0.4|
This team has been carried by its pitching staff, both the starters and the bullpen. Felix is on track to secure his second Cy Young award, posting career bests in first half strikeout rate, walk rate, ERA, and FIP. Hisashi Iwakuma returned from his early injury to pickup right where he left off last year. His home run rate is still pretty high but as long as he’s keeping people off the bases, solo home runs shouldn’t hurt too much.
Chris Young is an enigma and he seems like he’s about to implode at any moment. His defense independent WAR is just 0.4 but, if you use runs allowed, his 2.7 RA-9 WAR is in the top 20 in the majors. The difference between his FIP and his ERA is huge but, when he had the chance to organize his rotation in a do-or-die series against a division rival, Lloyd McClendon turned to Chris Young as his number three pitcher.
After racing out of the gate, Roenis Elias has fallen back to earth with three rough starts in a row to end the first half. He’s on pace to throw over 170 innings this year, his previous high was 148 in Single-A in 2012. Hopefully James Paxton will return by the end of the month to take Elias’ spot in the rotation, giving him some much needed rest after hitting his innings cap.
Taijuan Walker’s two starts this year were a mixed bag but he’s shown the skills to be a dominant pitcher. With him and Paxton reinforcing the rotation, I’d expect this to continue to be a strong group to carry us through the end of the year. I’m a little bit worried about our contingency plans if Walker and Paxton don’t pan out or if any injuries strike. I hope we pick up some depth before the trade deadline to bolster this group.
|Fernando Rodney||36 1/3||38||149||42||10.40||12||2.97||1||0.25||0.304||1.98||2.34||1.9||1.1|
|Dominic Leone||39 1/3||34||162||45||10.30||15||3.43||2||0.46||0.283||1.83||2.73||1.0||0.7|
|Danny Farquhar||40 2/3||38||171||45||9.96||14||3.10||2||0.44||0.315||2.88||2.74||1.0||0.6|
|Yoervis Medina||32 1/3||37||131||31||8.63||15||4.18||2||0.56||0.210||2.23||3.60||1.2||0.2|
|Tom Wilhelmsen||49 2/3||34||204||43||7.79||25||4.53||3||0.54||0.214||2.54||3.82||0.9||0.1|
|Stephen Pryor||1 2/3||0||8||1||5.40||2||10.80||0||0.00||0.200||0.00||5.54||0.5||0.0|
|Lucas Luetge||3 1/3||4||14||2||5.40||3||8.10||1||2.70||0.125||5.40||8.54||0.4||-0.1|
This has been the real surprise this year. The Mariners bullpen leads the majors in ERA and is third in FIP. Despite some minor grumbling about usage at the start of the year, Lloyd McClendon has gotten every inch possible out of this group in the first half. Fernando Rodney has been lights out as closer and leads the AL in saves with 27. Dominic Leone has been a revelation and Farquhar, Furbush, Medina, and Wilhelmsen have all pitched in varying roles to great success. It’s pretty telling that the average leverage index when entering the game for all of our middle relievers is very similar. That tells me that McClendon is leaning on all of his relievers equally in high leverage situations and that each of them have earned his trust. We are also blessed with a pretty deep reserve in the minors as well. I’d expect us to deal from that reserve at the trade deadline to bolster our offense.
AL West Standings
AL Wild Card Standings
The Week Ahead
|Date||Away Team||Probable Pitcher||Home Team||Probable Pitcher|
|7/15||National League||R Adam Wainwright||American League||R Felix Hernandez|
|7/18||Mariners||R Hisashi Iwakuma||Angels||TBD|
|7/19||Mariners||R Felix Hernandez||Angels||TBD|
|7/20||Mariners||R Chris Young||Angels||TBD|
The Mariners have four representatives at the All-Star Game this year. When play resumes, the Mariners travel to Anaheim to face the red hot Angels. We’ve got our top three pitchers lined up for this important inter-divisional series as well. Let’s hope for a similar result.