Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Streak Ends; But The Questions are Just Beginning

Before diving into the article, allow me to introduce myself.

My name is JJ, and I will be assisting Brian moving forward on the Mariners Latest blog. I've spent the last few months covering the Mariners for Bleacher Report, and have now decided to expand my Mariner related talents to other outlets. So allow me to extend my thanks to Brian and the rest of the readers when I say thanks for having me. Feel free to follow me on Twitter as well here, where you will also get to see me rant about the Mariners, for better or for worse.

Hisashi Iwakuma : The Streak Stopper
After an encouraging extra innings come from behind win against the rival Texas Rangers, the Mariners can finally go to sleep with out the sour taste of a loss in their mouths. Hisashi Iwakuma was brilliant again, going eight innings while striking out eight without walking a single batter.

Kendrys Morales continued his hot streak, including a game-tying home run in the sixth inning, and the double that set the table for Jason Bay's walk-off single. Raul Ibanez continued his clutch hitting, rescuing the Mariners from another extra innings loss by hitting a game-tying solo shot in the 11th inning.



Unfortunately, that's about where the good news stops. The reality is the Mariners are currently sitting at 21-29 and are still closer to the basement than they are to the top of the division. The Mariners have have a laundry list of problems, many of which from the offense.

Michael Saunders continues to struggle at the plate, as he has watched his batting average from .300 on May 4th to .216 after today's game. Saunders is batting .211 for the month of May with only five extra base hits (three of which came against Toronto on May 4th).

This Looks Very Familiar...
Dustin Ackley, similar to Michael Saunders, was batting .255 (his season high) on May 4th against
Toronto. Since then, Ackley has proceeded to go 6-49 and watched his batting average plummet. In fact, Ackley now sports a lower batting average AND on-base percentage than the much maligned Brendan Ryan. Ackley looks like a lost puppy at the plate, with no signs of improvement on the horizon. At this point, Ackley maybe better served to get the Jesus Montero treatment (I'll get to that later), and take a trip to Tacoma.

Justin Smoak has shown some improvement, and actually sports a very respectable .352 OBP, but is still batting .242, and still has a lower slugging percentage than on-base percentage. Needless to say, that is not what you're looking for from your starting first baseman.

Finally, we get to Jesus Montero.

The Jesus Montero experiment has finally come to an end with his demotion to Tacoma, but his poor execution behind the plate may have done just as much damage offensively as well. Once heralded as a can't miss offensive prospect, Montero was batting .208 with only five extra base hits at the time of his demotion. Montero will see the majority of his time at first base while in Tacoma, as he spends time trying to find his swing again. In all reality, I would not be the least bit surprised to not see Montero again until September, and even then, if the organization is truly devoted to making Montero into a full-time DH slash part-time first baseman, we may not see Montero again until 2014 barring any injuries to the big league club.

As I said earlier, I personally believe Montero isn't the only one who deserved a ticket to Tacoma. Dustin Ackley has under-performed vastly, and was just as responsible for being a black hole in the offense as Montero was. If Ackley gets sent down, it would lead to the inevitable call-up of Nick Franklin, which will lead to much rejoicing amongst Mariner nation. But let me make myself clear, Franklin's call-up should only come in the event of Ackley being sent down, or in September when rosters expand.


Fans have been calling for Franklin to replace Brendan Ryan at shortstop; but people seem to forget that Franklin has been playing second base for the majority of the last year. Brad Miller is the short stop of the future for the Seattle Mariners; not Nick Franklin. Calling up Nick Franklin to replace Brendan Ryan now would make no sense at the big league level for several reasons.

First of all, Nick Franklin will not be the difference between the Mariners making the playoffs or not this season. Secondly, Brendan Ryan is still the best defensive short stop in baseball. Those same runs that Ryan saves would be equivalent to what Nick Franklin theoretically would score. At this point, the Mariners are better set leaving Ryan at short, and waiting until 2014 to unveil a potential Franklin-Miller up the middle combo.

Now that we've covered the majority of the offensive issues (trust me, there are others) we can dive into the pitching issues too.

The "Joe Saunders is a carbon-copy of Jason Vargas" theory has been proven wildly incorrect, as "Safeco Joe" was finally shelled just as badly at home as he has been on the road. Saunders has given up more than four or more runs in six of his ten starts this season, and has only managed to pitch seven or more innings twice.

Brandon Maurer continues to show he was not ready to make the jump to the big leagues, but not all of the blame can be put on him for that one. If it wasn't for an injury to Erasmo Ramirez, I still believe Maurer would have started the 2013 season in Tacoma.

Then there is the fifth spot in the rotation which I won't even try to discuss. When it comes down to it, the worst part about the fifth spot in the rotation is that the Mariners don't have any options to make it better. The Mariners are essentially in limbo until Danny Hultzen and Erasmo Ramirez can get healthy enough to make their ways on to the roster.
Even Aaron Harang Misses Jon Garland

I never thought I would be saying this back in March, but I would do anything right now to have Jon Garland at the end of the Mariners rotation, and that is saying something seeing as how he sports a 5.05 ERA in Colorado this season. Believe me when I say, there is no way Aaron Harang will be a member of the Mariners roster by the end of the season.

So sure, the Mariners finally ended the losing streak on Sunday. Sure they finally got to experience the euphoria of a walk-off win, instead of watching the opposition jump up and down in joy. But that was the only thing the Mariners ended on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the questions for the Mariners are just beginning.





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