Monday, May 2, 2011

MARINERS: April Grades

Jack Cust and got a failing grade
The month of April was a weird one for the Mariners. The team started the season 4-11. Kind of what you expected, right? No offense, marginal pitching, and a few mental lapses here and there and you wind up with the worst record in baseball.

However, in the last 15 games, the team is 10-5 and only 3 games below .500. It’s kind of sad Mariners fans are getting excited about something Yankee fans would kill their team over, but the improvement is a positive nonetheless.

Anyway, here’s how the hitting, starting pitching, fielding, and bullpen did in the month of April.

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Hitting: Surprisingly, the Mariners finished 18th overall in total runs scored, with 109. This stat is kind of deceiving however. The M's gained double digit runs a couple times, which throws the ranking off a bit. One of the main reasons for the offensive deficit is the M’s slammed the ball out of the park a measly 16 times, good for a 26th ranked finish. The team AVG was also terrible, being ranked 24th.

So who are the culprits for this sad-sack offense?

1) Jack Cust: .193 AVG, strikes out 36% of the time, and has ZERO home runs. (FAILURE OF THE MONTH!)
2) Chone Figgins: .215 AVG. Really Chone? You’re our #2 hitter!
3) Milton Bradley: A team can’t do well when their #3 hitter only has a .200 AVG.
4) Miguel Olivo: Recently has been doing well, but still a black hole in the lineup hitting .217.

You know there’s a problem when your #2, #3, #4, and #6 batters are hitting below 2.17. There’s NO possible way to win consistently when a team is getting that kind of production from the heart of the lineup. Baseball doesn’t work that way.

Even if the rest of the team is struggling offensively, these two men have been producing.

1) Ichiro (duh): .328 AVG, 10 SB, a measly 5% strikeout rate.
2) Justin Smoak: .284 AVG, 4 HR, and a solid 17 RBI.

I could put Adam Kennedy in there (.279 AVG, 2 HR), but even the Mariners have to draw the “you’re doing exceptional” line somewhere.


Starting Pitching: Usually you determine a team’s pitching staff performance with ERA (M’s ranked 12th), but let’s look into some other stats for the true ranking.

Mariners are ranked 7nd in innings pitched (169), 7th in strikeouts (136), 19th in FEWEST walks (56), and 19th in WHIP (1.31).

So… what does this all mean? It means Eric Wedge believes these starters are capable of going longer innings to protect the bullpen from wearing out. These numbers are also a little deceiving because there have been a few cases where Jason Vargas and Erik Bedard blow up (spiking the ERA). So who have been the elite performers?

1) Michael Pineda: 4-1, 2.01 ERA, 8.92 K/9, .193 opponent AVG.
2) Doug Fister: 2-3, 2.70 ERA, 6.38 K/9, .252 opponent AVG.
3) Felix Hernandez: 3-2, 3.32 ERA, 7.75 K/9, .240 opponent AVG.

Wow! Who would’ve expected that kind of start from wonder kid Pineda? The 22–year old – according to the stats – strikes out a man per inning, and holds opponents at bay with his 98 MPH fastball.

Fister has been a nice surprise as well, keeping the ball in the yard so far this season and not getting in too many jams (except last Saturday vs. Boston, where he got in a couple bases loaded situations).


Fielding: Once the strength of the Mariners, fielding – at least it has during April – is now a weakness. The Universal Zone Rating, MLB’s most accurate fielding stat, has the Mariners ranked 29th.

Yes, second to last. There are two reasons why the Mariners can’t field the ball:

1) Gold Glove centerfielder Franklin Gutierrez hasn’t returned to the team
2) Our outfield without Guti has been a mess.

Milton Bradley and fill-in center fielder Ryan Langerhans have really brought the team down in UZR, both sporting -5.7 and -4.6 UZR ratings. Ichiro has a -3.6, but that is sure to rise in the coming months.

Brendan Ryan (-2.7) hasn’t been that great either. It may be a bit too early for us to be reading these UZR rating correctly (not enough data yet), but the M’s might want to look at improving in this department.

Grade: C-

Bullpen: I ratted on this group at the beginning of the season, and so far, a couple of the guys have proved me wrong.

Brandon League, the M’s intern closer until David Aardsma gets back, is 7/7 on save opportunities to go along with a 2.45 ERA. 36-year old Jamie Wright has been magnificent as the 8th inning setup guy, pitching a 14 innings while only giving up 2 earned runs. What I really liked about these guys is their 6 combined walks, which is a golden number for relievers.

David Pauley really took the show for April, as he pitched 16 1/3 innings and only gave up 2 runs. He had 5 walks, but also had 9 strike outs.

If we just counted these gentlemen, I would give the Bullpen an A+. But unfortunately, Chris Ray and currently AAA demoted Josh Lueke had to ruin it. In a measly 12 2/3 innings pitched, these destroyers have given up 24 earned runs.

GRADE: A- (Yes, something on the Mariners gets an A).

To sum it up… Hitting D+, Pitching B+, Fielding C-, and Bullpen A-.


Reach Nathan Parsons at