The Mariners Really Need to Trade Felix Hernandez

The Upper Echelons of Major League Pitchers-

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. David Price, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver
  3. Matt Cain, RA Dickey , James Shields, Zack Grienke, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez
  4. Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg,  Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Johnny Cueto
  5. Ian Kennedy, Anibal Sanchez, Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo, Trevor Cahill, Jordan Zimmerman etc.

Those, in a nutshell, are the top pitchers in baseball. Notice the placement of RA Dickey and James Shields. Both have been traded in the last month, yet both are ranked below (in my estimate) Felix Hernandez. In addition to those two big offseason moves, the Angels signed Josh Hamilton. I say this for one reason, Texas isn’t going anywhere,  and Los Angeles just added Hamilton to their team. The other team in the division is Oakland who, I might point out, was probably the second best team in the AL playoffs last year.

Regardless of Seattle’s current talent (meh,) the team is in a stacked division. Anything besides last place is probably a miracle (barring an Angels’ season-long flop.)

The team isn’t going anywhere soon. Thus it makes sense to trade Felix Hernandez, especially since their top two pitching prospects (Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen) are ranked fourth and eighth in terms of the top 100 prospects in the game per Jonathan Mayo.

There are two, if not three, (James Paxton could be special as well) potential Hernandez replacements waiting in the system. Yes, the fences are being moved in and the Mariners need to sell tickets, but dealing Hernandez makes sense.

Let’s put a few things out there. One, Hernandez is four years younger than Shields and twelve younger than Dickey. Not surprisingly, King Felix is a much better pitcher than both. The point on Shields, or even Dickey, is that Shields fetched the number three overall prospect (again all this per Mayo,) Wil Myers, who has at least “star” potential if not more. Another prospect that went to Tampa was starter Jake Odorizzi, ranked the 30th best in all of baseball. Tampa also picked up two other prospects who are ranked in the top 20 of their system.

New York got the 11th and 83rd best prospects in the game by selling high on a 38-year old.

What I’m getting at, if you haven’t gotten there first, is that the Rays and Mets got some of the better packages of prospects that the trading market has seen in the past few years. I would think that the Mariners would want to cash in with a haul of that kind.

The Mariners need a hitter to lead them into the next phase of the franchise (hopefully contending.) I’m sure they’d jump at a package of Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt (not that Texas would consider that seriously.) But Seattle needs a corner stone. They need the next Miguel Cabrera or Evan Longoria. They need someone who can carry a team on his backs/bats. Maybe Felix Hernandez is the way to find that player.

Surely if James Shields and RA Dickey can fetch outstanding hauls of prospects, then a younger and better pitcher (Felix Hernandez) can get a better one.

What do you think? Should the Mariners trade King Felix or should they keep him and try to contend?

Max Scherzer is the Key to the Tigers’ Success

I certainly don’t mean offensively, because that’s a terribly small sample size in interleague play, but Scherzer is the key to the Tigers’ success. I’ll tell you why. Well, scratch that, I won’t tell you now, but that line sounded snappy so we’ll stick with it… Moving on.

Number One- Streak continuer-thing-a-ma-jigger. The point here is that Scherzer is the bridge in the Tigers’ rotation. Yes, he has been a bit like Galloping Gertie at times, but when he’s on, he is really hard to beat. When the rotation turns over, Justin Verlander is going to give you either a chance to win, or a win period. After him you’ve got Doug Fister, who is really, (and I can’t stress this enough) really underrated. If Fister keeps pitching the way he has, then he too will likely give you a chance to win. After him in the rotation comes “Mad Max”. That was stupid…sorry. It was probably some corny title for some headline or another, but we’ll keep rolling with the punches.

 Anyways, after Fister is Scherzer, who I’m guessing probably pitches better when the teams has the opportunity to win three in a row than when the team is on a losing streak. That being said, if Scherzer pitches well, that small instilment of confidence gets passed on to the next guy, another streaky potential gold mine, Rick Porcello. All of a sudden, Porcello and Scherzer are in a groove, everything starts to click, and the Tigers start to play like (cue Dennis Green) who we thought they were.

Number Two- Starting Pitching Depth. Yes I’m saying this: with Scherzer on his game, the Tigers have the nice problem of having young-gun Drew Smyly (who, by the way, has pitched pretty well this year), phenom in waiting Jacob Turner and fellow top prospect Casey Crosby  battling for the last rotation spot. Now all of a sudden, the biggest question mark has turned into one of the bigger strengths. The team would have an air of being somewhat “injury resistant,” which God knows that they’ll need if the injuries continue.

Number Three- The Sheer-Domination-Factor. People have compared Scherzer to AJ Burnett. This comparison is mainly based on the fact that both are really good when on their game, and not so outstanding when they get into a funk. I think Scherzer is better than Burnett, and a lot of other pitchers league-wide when he’s on. Throw out Burnett for a minute. Seriously, when Scherzer is pitching the way he should, there is maybe only a handful of guys (Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and maybe a few others) that can match up to him.

Here’s another thing, if I asked you which starter in the league had the most starts with nine or more strikeouts in those starts, who would you reply with? Probably the three listed above, maybe Matt Cain, maybe R.A. Dickey, but the answer is Scherzer. That was probably obvious because this whole thing is about Scherzer, but still, pretty baffling. What’s more baffling is the fact that, as good as Dickey has been, which is really good, Scherzer has been a little more erratic. The point here is because of a bad start here or there, “Mad Max” (again, corny, I know. But did you really want to read “Scherzer” for the umpteenth time?) has thrown a little over twenty fewer innings than Dickey. What I want to drive home here (pun intended) is that Dickey has 103 strikeouts and Scherzer has 100. In twenty fewer innings pitched! I should also point out that Justin Verlander leads the AL in those all-important punch-outs with 106. That’s only six more than Scherzer in almost thirty more innings pitched.

Underlying-theme-spoiler-if-you-haven’t-figured-it-out, Max Scherzer can be one of the best pitchers in baseball, and can strike out a hell of a lot of people while doing it.

The Real Deal or Not So Real: Early Season Contenders and Pretenders

It’s early in the season. Perhaps too early to make assumptions and what not, but here goes anyway.

Every season some teams get off to fast starts, and somewhat slower ones. A fast start could propel you to a successful year (‘06 Tigers) or send you on your way to a horrendous one (‘08 Tigers).

The following teams are off to scathing starts and could very well be contenders…or pretenders:

Candidate Numero Uno- The Texas Rangers

The Rangers are a very deep squad. They feature a rotation that has possibly five front-line starters, when their stuff permits. They also feature two more pitchers who would make most clubs rotations in their bullpen: Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman.

To continue with the pitching, Texas’ ‘pen could be hit or miss (pun completely intended). Joe Nathan could be one of the better signings of the offseason, or one of the worst. If he doesn’t work out, the bullpen could go into a tailspin without a defined closer.

(Side note, the Rangers are 10-2 and Nathan has both losses.)

If you live under a lake or something, you’ll be surprised to know that the Rangers’ pitching rotation isn’t even their “strength”. That “strength” would be the offense. Yes, Texas’ offense is very good. Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Mr. Eye Brows himself Nelson Cruz are all guys who could hit .300 with at least 20 bombs. To be fair, David Murphy, Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland aren’t terrible either.

So if you haven’t reached the conclusion, the Rangers are CONTENDERS.

 

Candidate Numero Dos- The Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have Matt Kemp and Andre Etheir going for them. That’s almost it. Clayton Kershaw is the Cy Young winner, and rightfully so. But after that there isn’t a ton to be excited about.  Dee Gordon and James Loney are nice pieces. Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly are very good rotation options. There are some young, talented arms in the bullpen, but I’m running out of huge positives here.

Yes, the Dodgers are off to a hot start, but they beat up Pittsburgh and San Diego. There, go ahead, let that sink in a little. They crushed teams that they should be crushing, so to speak, which is what you’re supposed to do anyways.

The Dodgers might have shown their true colors against Milwaukee, who might not even get second in the NL Central. The Dodgers lost the first two games and, as I write this during the third game, it doesn’t look amazing.

Overall this might just be a fluke, or the Dodgers simply beat teams they should. Until they can start beating the big boys I’m labeling them PRETENDERS.

 

The Third Candidate is the Montreal Expos Washington Nationals

I write that because the Nationals haven’t been good in DC. Period. But that could change here soon. Right now as it is the Nationals look very good on paper. They have really good youth and talent at most positions in the field. They seem to have a strong bullpen with the likes of Henry Rodriguez, Brad Lidge and All-Star Tyler Clippard holding down the fort until Drew Storen comes back. Stephen Strasburg leads a rotation that includes, get this, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and Jordan Zimmerman. Granted Jackson is in town on a one-year deal, but regardless that’s an exciting first four.

Their offense is led by Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and a seething Adam LaRoche. That middle of the order is pretty good even without the currently injured Michael Morse and the long-awaited-and-still-waiting-for Bryce Harper.

Sounds pretty scary.

After all this I still think the Nationals are a year away. They will no doubt be playing meaningful games late, and it wouldn’t totally surprise me to see them sneak in. But with Strasburg’s innings cap and Harper’s late arrival… Next year they definitely will be a force. This year, second or third in the division is more likely.  Verdict: PRETENDERS (for now).

 

Saving the Best for Last- The Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are legit. The only possible questions of concern for Detroit entering the season were their infield defense and the back end of the rotation. Those questions aren’t really of concern much anymore. Miguel Cabrera has been turning in pretty good glove work at the hot corner and Prince Fielder isn’t a terrible fielder to begin with (again, pun completely intended). Jhonny Peralta should have won a Gold Glove last year and Brandon Inge is one of the better defensive players in the game wherever you put him.

The back end of the rotation has been quality as well. And when I say quality, I mean to use it as the worst transition known to mankind to get to the fact that Adam Wilk and Drew Smyly have posted quality starts. They have helped fill the short-term void of Doug Fister’s rotation spot as well as the fifth spot in the order.

The only glaring question now is the back end of the bullpen. Jose Valverde has been shaky this season, but really, anything is shaky compared to his perfect campaign of 2011. He’ll get it together. Other than that the rest of the team is loaded. And with Austin Jackson finally raking at the top of the order, the Tigers will propel themselves to a deep October run. Verdict- (If you haven’t guessed yet) CONTENDERS.