A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.
Dates we play them: 5/6-5/8 and 8/26-8/28 @ Seattle, 6/6-6/8 at home
Offense: Ichiro Suzuki-RF, Chone Figgins-3B, Milton Bradley-LF, Miguel Olivo-C, Justin Smoak-1B, Jack Cust-DH, Michael Saunders-CF, Brendan Ryan-SS, Jack Wilson-2B. Bench: Adam Kennedy-UTIL, Ryan Langerhans-UTIL, Adam Moore-C.
You're actually still watching this team? Really? You must not like yourself too much. Oh well. Our old buddy Eric Wedge is now the manager out in Seattle. He seems to be doing a good enough job, especially when it comes to changing relievers roles. Ichiro continues to age and not change at all. It's almost as frightening as it is impressive. The 37 year old still plays stellar defense in right and still possesses one of the most impressive arms in the game. It's only been a month, but as noted elsewhere, Ichiro currently has the best BB% and K% of his career. AS A 37 YEAR OLD. I hope the Mariners are in Chicago in 2014 when Ichiro records his 3,000 MLB hit. Chone Figgins gazed into the abyss last season and it must have gazed back hard. He posted career worsts in almost every category other than OBP and SB. Looking at his numbers, it doesn't seem to make much sense. And then you remember he relies heavily on speed and defense to contribute value. The M's better hope he turns it around, seeing as their on the hook for him until the 2014 season (the option probably isn't getting picked up). He's moved back to third base, but still looks completely lost at the plate. One has to wonder how much longer Wedge will leave him this high in the batting order. Milton Bradley is coming off of yet another suspension because, well, he's Milton Bradley. If one was trying to come up with the perfect example of a person who will never be given the benefit of the doubt in any situation and one was in the company of baseball fans (I try to not be in the company of anyone who does not fit this description), one could use the name Milton Bradley to sum it all up cleanly. The only reason Bradley isn't DHing is because Jack Cust is even worse defensively than Milt. I like to think he was just being a good teammate last year and that is why he batted so incredibly poorly (.289 wOBA). He was just trying to fit in! He won't be nearly as awful as he was last year again, but to expect anything better than an averagish bat with iffy defense is unrealistic. 15 homeruns doesn't even seem possible at this point in his career. At least he provides entertainment value.
Miguel Olivo returned to the team that traded him to the Padres for a handful of bench players. Olivo is an all or nothing power hitter, as evidenced by his low OBP (.282 career) and high SLG and K% (.423 and 27.9% career). Safeco isn't the best place in the world for a man of that skill set. He'll hit at least ten homeruns this season, but probably not more than fifteen. He'll also throw in his strange and random five or so stolen bases. He's had trouble with baserunners and thieves so far this season, but hasn't struggled much with them in the past. Expect him to gun down at least three White Sox players this weekend. Maybe the Wiz was right. Maybe we should have taken Justin Smoak. Since returning from the unfortunate and saddening death of his father, Smoak has been on a tear. He currently leads the team in HR (4), RBI (19), OBP (.394), and SLG (.518). If he keeps up this improvement on last season's numbers, he could wind up being a Mitch Moreland or Ike Davis type player for the M's. He's probably not going to be an All-Star any time soon, but there's nothing wrong with being a reliable 3-3.5 WAR player. Jack Cust seems to love the Pacific Ocean. Despite playing for three teams in the past five years, he hasn't left the West Coast over that period for any home games. Cust is even more Adam Dunn-like than Adam Dunn. That being said, when he does make contact, it is terrifying. You may wonder how a player known almost exclusively for being a Three True Outcomes type of player hasn't managed to go yard yet this year. That would be because somehow Cust is hitting over half of the balls he puts in play on the ground. Once his fly ball percentage regresses back to normal, the fans in the bleachers will start receiving more souvenirs.
Michael Saunders is manning center field until Franklin Gutierrez makes it back from the disabled list for his frightening stomach issues. Saunders is usually a corner outfielder, but is more than capable at playing up the middle. The Canadian is practically a hometown hero for the team, hailing from Victoria, British Columbia. He has the skills of a fourth outfielder (good defense and speed, mediocre bat), making him only a minor concern while batting. He strikes out far too much (29.8 career K%) for a player with as little power as he shows (minor league season high of 15 homers). The middle infield consists of two grindy lunch pail type players. You know, white guys who aren't amazing at baseball. Brendan Ryan moved to short stop so that Jack Wilson can be more easily replaced when Dustin Ackley realizes the minor leagues aren't supposed to be that difficult. Ryan is a better short stop than he's shown so far this season. He's a better hitter for that matter too. He's quick, but lacks power completely and doesn't draw enough walks to reach even an average OBP. I think Jack Wilson and Jason Kendall have some sort of last man standing contest going on. Which ever former Pirate can somehow stay in the majors the longest despite providing minimal value wins some sort of fantastic prize. Now I need to now what the prize is.
Pitching: Felix Hernandez-RHP, Erik Bedard-LHP, Michael Pineda-RHP, Jason Vargas-LHP, Doug Fister-RHP, Brandon League-CL.
Felix Hernandez is a scary, scary man. The 25 year old flamethrower won the Cy Young Award last season and is off to a similarly powerful start this year. He doesn't give up homeruns, keeps the ball on the ground, and still records over 200 strikeouts a season. Unfair. He throws a sinking two-seam fast ball in the low to mid 90's, a fast yet stunningly effective changeup, a curveball, a slider, and a four seam fastball in the mid-90's. They're all plus pitches. Like I said before, unfair. Erik Bedard seems to finally be back from his numerous injuries. His effectiveness did not seem to return with him though. He gets less strikeouts and groundballs than he did in his heyday back with the Orioles, but is still worth a spot in most rotations. He's already managed to give up seven homeruns this season, which is a bit surprising. Bedard throws a curveball, a four seam fastball and a two seam fastball both in the low-90's, and a changeup. His fastball and curveball have been plus pitches in the past. Michael Pineda came into this spring as a long shot to make the rotation and the team's number 2 prospect. Pineda has good control, doesn't give up many homeruns, and gets a good deal of strikeouts. He's also younger, taller, and richer than me. Uncool. He's pretty much a two pitch pitcher, using a high-90's fastball and a strong mid-80's slider.
Jason Vargas is little more than back of the rotation filler that happens to be left-handed. He doesn't keep the ball on the ground more than the average pitcher, nor does he strike out more hitters. But he limits his walks and pitches in an extreme pitcher's park with a great outfield defense behind him. He uses a high-80's fastball, a changeup, a curveball, and a slider. The changeup is an above average offering. Doug Fister rounds out the rotation. He absolutely does not get strikeouts and is highly unlikely to get more than 100 in any given season. But as you'd expect someone who doesn't get many whiffs, he keeps the walks down and gets a good amount of groundballs. He would not succeed as well on any other team or in any other stadium. Fister throws a high-80's fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. I don't get how a guy with that little speed variation between fastball and changeup can have such a successful changeup, but it seems to work for Doug. Brandon League is filling in as closer until David Aardsma comes back. He keeps the ball down using a heavy high-90's fastball, a splitter, and the occasional slider.
Outlook: Seeing as we completely dominated this team a year ago and they seemingly hadn't improved a great deal and we supposedly did, I should feel more optimistic than I do. I do not. 4-5 season record. Go visit Lookout Landing if you haven't recently.