It just kept going and going and going and going…the score traveling north for the Seattle Seahawks when they used the Arizona Cardinals as a doormat in route to a 58-0 win on Sunday. This comes as perfect timing for Seattle as it gives them the ultimate confidence booster (cliché, but true) going into their last “road” game of the season as well as their final three games overall, which will be split between Buffalo (in Toronto) and the Clink (the 49ers and Rams come to town) respectively.
But, this is what we learned from the game-
- Russell Wilson deserves due consideration for Rookie of the Year. Yes, Andrew Luck is great and RGIII lights up teams with his arm and legs, but that was expected out of the top two picks in the NFL Draft. I don’t think anyone outside of the Puget Sound expected this out of a quarterback who didn’t even have his name in the starting quarterback battle “hat,” if you will. (Remember Matt Flynn and Tavaris Jackson? Flynn got his first snaps of the year in mop-up duty and Jackson is in Buffalo.)
- More Wilson praise. According to Pro Football Reference, Wilson has the same number of touchdown passes as Dan Marino had in his first full season. That number would be 20. That’s also more than Troy Aikman, Joe Montana, John Elway, Steve Young and Joe Namath had in their respective first full seasons.
- The team is finally legitimate. The Seahawks were the laughing stock of the league when they qualified for the playoffs with a losing record at 7-9. But we took it to the league and the Saints in the wild-card round by stunning the defending Super Bowl champs at home. Nonetheless, the “laughing stock” talk is nonexistent as Seattle sits at 8-5 and will likely make the playoffs as either a wild-card team or as a division winner.
- Quality Wins. Back in 2010, during the 7-9 season, Seattle beat one singular playoff team in the regular season, the Chicago Bears. Their only other out of conference win was against the pre-Cam Newton era Panthers. This season is loads different. The team walloped contenders such as the Cowboys, Jets and Vikings as well as securing close wins over Super Bowl hopefuls Green Bay, New England and Chicago.
- Home Field Advantage. Seattle is really good at home. 6-0 in fact. Part of that has to do with Russell Wilson being phenomenal at home. He’s only thrown one interception there all season (Eli Manning had two picks at home last week alone.) And the other part has to do with the team being so good and the crowd being so loud. The Seahawks beat Green Bay, New England, Arizona, Dallas, New York and Vikings at home. I’d be cautious if I were an opposing team thinking they could come in to the Clink and get a win, especially in the playoffs.
So what do you think? Are the Seahawks Super Bowl worthy?
(Hint: I think they are.)
Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball.
After that you have some question marks. I don’t think the pitchers who follow Verlander two-through-five are bad, there are just some concerns.
The first concern is Doug Fister. Like I said, it’s not as big of a concern with him as it might be with some other pitchers. At the very worst Doug Fister is going to be a reliable number three option in the rotation. At the very best however, you’re looking at a shutdown number two option that can cause opposing fans to throw their TV remotes through windows in frustration. You know, due to the fact that Detroit would be up two games to nil in a playoff series, after Verlander and Fister each win.
Last year we saw total brilliance. In the second half of the 2011 season, the best pitcher in baseball, at the time, was a member of the Detroit Tigers. And it wasn’t Verlander. Down the stretch, Fister posted a stellar 8-1 mark with a desirable 1.79 earned run average. Combine that with the fact that through the little-over 70 innings that he threw, he struck out 57 batters to a modest four walks. Holy Smoltz. That, if you didn’t major in some form of math at an Ivy League school, equates to an 11.40 strikeout-to-walk ration. I’m going to say it again, holy Smoltz. I should mention the fact that he gave up the fewest home runs per 9 innings among all qualified pitchers with a 0.5 per game clip. Some of that is probably attributed to the fact that he pitched in two of the bigger parks in the league (Safeco Field and Comerica Park), but most of it is due to fact that he can pitch.
This year however, the numbers and results haven’t been as encouraging. Almost every statistical category’s numbers have ballooned. He gave up 11 homeruns all of last year, eight with the Mariners, in 216.1 innings pitched. This season he’s given up the same number he gave up in a Seattle uniform last year. However this year he’s thrown only 67.2 innings. The concern is there, but so is the potential.
Look at his earlier start against Seattle in the Pacific Northwest earlier this year. It was Fister’s first full start of the season after going down with a side injury in his opening week start against the Red Sox. He threw 7.0 innings of four-hit ball, sent three of his former teammates back to the dugouts on third strikes , but was the victim of a botched save attempt by the bullpen and saw his win and two run lead vanish in the ninth as the Mariners scored three runs. I was at that game, and it was a travesty to see him not factor in the decision positively.
But overall, Fister’s so-so numbers are a victim of a couple bad starts and bad run support.
After the Seattle disappointment he took the mound in Oakland and gave up one run and five hits over 6 innings while fanning 8… and was charged with the loss. After that he gave up four runs (three earned) in six innings against Minnesota, charged with the loss. He again put up a solid start in his next outing, but let the wheels fall off at the end as the Indians scored twice in his last inning to spoil the game. Overall, he gave up a mere six runs in his first 29.1 innings but was knocked around for that same number against a potent Boston offense during the next outing. The point here is that the ERA is where it’s at because of three bad starts against Texas, Boston and the Twins. A rough go around is explainable against the first two clubs, but not the third. Then again, everybody has a bad day right?
Moving on after that long analysis.
At number three in the rotation is Max Scherzer. He really hasn’t pitched all that bad despite spotting a 4.84 ERA. A lot of that is probably attributed to the beating he took in the opening series against Boston. He was the victim of 7 earned runs in a mere 2.2 innings pitched. And, as stated, it seems his ERA is gradually, with the exception of one start, coming down from that.
Rick Porcello is another kettle of fish entirely. He’s probably the one pitcher that I’m more than a little worried about. Let me come off that ledge a bit. I’m not saying he needs to pack his bags for Toledo, he just needs to throw with some consistency. His only terrible-ish starts were against LA of Anaheim, Seattle and an ugly one inning affair against the Rangers where they crossed the plate 9 times (8 of those runs earned) in the one inning. Again, LA and Texas are explainable, but he had a bad game against the Mariners.
Which for some odd reason happens a lot — the Tigers struggle against Seattle. That’s awesome, because I live in the greater Seattle area, more or less.
Again, moving on.
We’ve seen Drew Smyly be outstanding holding down the fort as the fifth starter at times. We have also seen a slightly more sporadic Smyly throw the ball. We’ve seen good things from Casey Crosby as well as flashes of brilliance from Jacob Turner. We’ve also seen Adam Wilk and the occasional Duane Below. The underlying theme here is that we could probably use another starting pitcher.
Here’s a sample size of the market for starters as it is-
- Cole Hamels, Phillies
- Zack Greinke, Shawn Marcum, Brewers
- Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Cubs
- Jason Vargas, Kevin Millwood, Mariners
- Bartolo Colon, Athletics
- Wandy Rodriguez, Astros
Take the list in, go ahead, I’ll wait. Are you done thinking of trade scenarios? Good. Ok, these guys obviously aren’t the only pitchers that will be available. Jeremy Guthrie and Francisco Liriano could be options as well, but these are the main guys, probably. That is unless some contender who wouldn’t normally be in it, but is thanks to this new wild card mumbo jumbo, goes 0-10 in the next two weeks and falls miserably out of it. Then they might sell.
Moving on, Guthrie and Liriano are probably too wild to warrant either serious interest or investment. The selling-the-farm tactic is probably a no-go for Dave Dombrowski and friends as they develop their system. So that’s two more “NOs” on missers Hamles and Greinke. Garza and Marcum would be worth a look, but might cost a top pitcher like a Smyly or Crosby. So again. No. Wandy Rodriguez is probably a little expensive for the Tigers’ taste, so for the umpteenth time… No.
That leaves Dempster, Vargas, Millwood and Colon.
I’d say no to Colon mainly because the A’s will need him if they’re still in it come whenever. If I were Dombrowski, I’d probably only invest a PTBNL or an A-ball pitcher two on Millwood, or frankly Colon for that matter. That whittles it down to Vargas and Dempster. You’ve seen the Seattle-to-Detroit pitcher pipeline work out brilliantly. See my above paragraphs on one Doug Fister, and horribly, see Jarrod Washburn.
I would think that each could be had for a price, and I would think that that price wouldn’t be too obnoxious. I’d say a B-level prospect or two would probably get it done either way. Let’s also not forget that if we get Dempster, he’s bringing a 33-scoreless-innings-pitched streak to Comerica. Can I get a “Winning”?
As I write this, Doug Fister now has won his third start in a row. So maybe they don’t need to give up the farm for a Cole Hamels-like pitcher. But regardless, pitching help is needed, and in that case Dempster’s the guy.
Here are a couple names for you: Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney, Fauntino De Los Santos, Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone, Derek Norris, AJ Cole, Josh Reddick, Miles Head and Raul Alcantara.
Now I’ll give you one other name, Nick Swisher.
With the addition of Andrew Bailey in a trade with Sweeney to Boston to get the last three, all of those players are the byproduct of one Nick Swisher. Now you’ve validated the title of this piece yourself. Most likely because that’s what just flashed through your head. (Minus the “Billy Beane and Friends” part obviously.)
The first trade has Mr. Beane moving Swisher, who didn’t have an amazing year, to Chicago for Sweeney, Gonzalez and De Los Santos. Swish wasn’t coming off a bad year, nor was there any statistical reasoning for Swisher being dealt. It was just tabbed as a “rebuilding effort”.
Sweeney contributed right away as a fourth outfielder/platoon type in Oakland. He provided fourth outfielder/platoon-guy production in most categories except batting average, posting BAs of at least .286 in three of his last four years in the Bay.
The wait with Gonzalez was a little longer. He struggled in a ten-game stint in ’08. He followed it up with a pedestrian 2009 in which he only won 6 games in 20 appearances. Also his ERA was a worse-than-a-pedestrian 5.75. Then we saw the transformation, or rather the revelation. Gio Gonzalez posted 31 wins in 2010-2011. His ERA in both years was under 3.25. That and an All-Star nod last season vaulted Gio into being one of the premier pitchers in the game.
With Oakland going nowhere fast, Beane took advantage of Gonzalez’s high-for-awhile stock and moved him to the Washington Nationals for near-Majors-ready-potential-frontline arms Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone and AJ Cole. They also received do-it-all-power-hitting catcher Derek Norris. It should be noted that all of them, with the exception of Milone, (with the big league club as we speak) are seated in the club’s top-seven prospects as well as top 100 in baseball overall, according to Jonathan Mayo.
If you’ll remember, Beane acquired Gonzalez and Sweeny along with De La Santos for Swisher. Which brings us to back to Sweeney. He was dealt, along with bullpen arm Andrew Bailey, to Beantown for Josh Reddick and two more minor leaguers, listed way above. Not only is Reddick a younger alternative to Sweeney, he leads the rebuilding A’s in a Shaq-sized handful of categories. I should point out that we haven’t heard the last of the minor league prospects either. Odds are they’ll contribute to the parent club at some point.
De Los Santos is still kicking around as well. The bullpen arm is currently with the A’s AAA squad in Sacramento. Just like the minor league prospects, you haven’t heard the last of him either.
Bottom line, here is the baffling thing. Over the course of five plus years, Billy Beane, albeit unintentionally, has turned one outfielder into three potential frontline starters, a potential All-Star catcher, a useful bullpen arm, a 25 year-old outfielder who currently leads the team in almost every offensive statistical category you can shake a stick at (pun completely intended), another potential starter as well as a possible third baseman.
Yes, he did that.
Felix Hernandez might be the best pitcher in baseball not to win an MVP and Cy Young in the same season.
For a prime example of his skill look at the 2010 season when he won only 13 games to 12 losses and still won the Cy. But to be fair, Hernandez not only led the league in ERA, but also pitched the most innings, faced the most batters and had the fewest hits per 9 innings pitched of any pitcher in the league.
It should be noted that the Mariners offense was a complete juggernaut, ranked at an un-godly 28th in the league.
(Sarcasm, sarcasm and sarcasm)
But to be honest, ranking 28th is probably juggernaut-like for the Mariners, who have ranked last in the league in offense the past two seasons.
During those seasons, Hernandez won the aforementioned Cy Young and then followed it up with a 14-14 year in which he had an almost identical campaign to the Cy Year, but allowed 19 more runs in one less start.
I was talking with a friend about why Justin Verlander was the best in baseball from a pitching standpoint. I started with his 24 wins mainly because that’s what you see on the stat line. I got a response somewhere along the lines of “that’s talking like a kindergartener.”
That is how far the concept of wins has fallen. And to a degree I agree that winning games isn’t everything, but winning 24 is completely ridiculous. We haven’t seen a ton of twenty winners in the past couple years, and the one that we have seen have been along the lines of 20 or 21. Barely scratching the surface, barely getting across the line.
Wins are on the way out in baseball people’s eyes
But here’s my take on it, if you have 13-17 wins like Felix Hernandez, and then do so much more statistically that it blows people away, then the win total certainly doesn’t bear as much weight.
On the other hand, if you have do have the number of wins like a Verlander, and do everything else, then it’s no contest.
Back to King Felix, let’s not forget that in the past three years, he has not only pitched on a horrendous team (’09 is an outlier), but has received historically, maybe the worst run support ever.
Even in the Mariners best season of those three years (’09), the teeth of their lineup included Russell Branyan (another use of the word “outlier” as Branyan had his best years in Seattle and hasn’t been the same sense – who knew Safeco could do that to a hitter?), Jose Lopez, a struggling Adrian Beltre and a declining Ken Griffey Jr.
Their certainly were other attempts to get the King run support, Milton Bradley was one, Jack Cust another. But the future does look a bit brighter in the Emerald City with youngsters Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero ready to hit their primes in Mariners uniforms.
The point here is that Felix Hernandez was spectacular, even winning a Cy Young without a steady supply of run support. He has established himself as a top-3 pitcher in the entire-freaking-league without it.
Now what if he gets run support?
• Seattle- The Mariners have a decent pitching staff with Felix Hernandez and Micheal Pineda headlining a surprising rotation, all with pitchers with ERAs under or hovering around 3.00. Doug Fister and Jason Vargas both have low ERAs (3.09 and 3.49 respectively). Both have been the brunt of no-run support, which is an area that Seattle needs to improve if they want to contend in the future. They are last in the AL in runs scored (MLB too) on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (On base and slugging percentage) , batting average, extra base hits and total bases.
• Possible Scenarios- Jack Cust has a 2.5 million dollar price tag, so the M’s might look to save a little money with that. Jack Wilson makes 5 million and could also be moved to save money to a team looking for defensive-minded middle infielders. One of the aforementioned Vargas or Fister could be dealt. They probably would have to be blown out of the water offer-wise to get a deal done, but it’s not out of the question. Erik Bedard is also in the same blown-out-of-the-water boat. It seems very unlikely that reigning Cy Young contender Felix Hernandez is moved, but a quick note: the last three AL Cy Young winners have all been traded within two years of them winning the award. I’m not saying he will be moved, but just a note.
Every year there is a big deal. Last year the Rangers got Cliff Lee. A couple of years ago the Brewers landed CC Sabathia. A deal like this can propel a team into the playoffs and in some cases the World Series.
But every year there are the somewhat smaller deals that can equally help a team. For example, last year the Yankees picked up Kerry Wood. Kerry Wood had a 0.69 in 26 innings, which is only 2 earned runs given up total. This didn’t help the Yankees win a title, but it solidified their bullpen and their bridge to Mariano Rivera. In a crucial situation getting to Mariano Rivera with a lead still intact could make a difference between a championship and not a championship.
The point here is that a smaller tier could make a big difference, and often those are the first deals to take place. Here are a couple of smaller deals that have already happened that could make the difference for some contenders. These deals also serve as a bit of a table setter, if you will, or a suspense builder for the big-time deal.
• Jeff Keppinger- The Giants got the multi-positional infielder in Keppinger who can help them at second and shortstop where the Giants haven’t exactly gotten defending-champion-like production.
• Wilson Betemit- The Tigers got him supposedly as an upgrade over Brandon Inge. This season Betemit has been better offensively and good defensively, but there aren’t a lot of players at the hot corner who can bring it defensively like Inge.
• New York – The Yankees seem pretty solid everywhere, except for a short-term replacement for Alex Rodriguez who could miss a month, and potentially an arm or two at the back of the bullpen.
• Possible Scenarios - Start Eduardo Nunez at the hot corner and see if he might be a possible heir apparent to A-Rod, and stick with the bullpen they have. The pitching staff, as a whole for the Bronx Bombers, currently has the fourth lowest ERA in the AL, so maybe they don’t make any moves. The Yankees could also try to deal for an established player to play third base while Rodriguez is out. The Yanks have used a lot of rentals in the past and seem to favor them to longer term additions. In this situation a rental makes a lot of sense seeing that it is not finding an A-Rod long-term replacement, but rather finding a short-term fix. This situation may provide the Yankees a chance to find the former though. Jamey Carroll and Mike Aviles are possible stop-gap players. Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes and Leo Nunez are also potential trade candidates here.
This is the beginning of a series of American Leauge teams and their lables, like buyers, sellers, or tweeners (basically teams that, with a hot streak, could contend or with a prolonged losing streak could fall out of it). And possible moves they could make.
- Detroit – The Tigers are in first place in the AL Central. They have a half-game lead on Cleveland at the present time and look to keep it that way. The Tigers have a solid lineup that is 5th in the Majors in batting average and 8th in scoring runs. They could use another starting pitcher though, with Phil Coke’s almost 5 earned run average. Coke is much better suited as a relief pitcher where he had
a 3.76 earned run average that should have been much lower. A couple of bad outings pushed the ERA up.
- Possible Solutions - We have heard that the Tigers have monitored Hiroki Kuroda, and that would be a good fit. I’m not downplaying Kuroda, but the last time the Tigers acquired players for the stretch run they got an 8 and a half ERA out of Jarrod Washburn and a minor-league-like line from Aubrey Huff. They could stand pat and keep Ryan Raburn at 2nd because of his tendency to go bonkers in the first half after an ok first half. They could but Phil Coke back in the bullpen and call up Andy Oliver, Jacob Turner or Charlie Furbush again to fill that fifth spot. Whichever one of them fits can pitch without the Tigers worrying about an innings cap. It’s only a half season, and they aren’t going to use him as a horse like Justin Verlander. Kuroda could work, but the Tigers have been said that they are reluctant to deal their young players, so we’ll see.
- Another note is that Carlos Guillen is back, which could help them more than a new addition. He can play the outfield and second base, both somewhat areas of need for Detroit. Josh Willingham could be a fit, but it would make the outfield a bit crowded.
Detroit will contend, but there is a possibility they could deal lefty Brad Thomas regardless of their record. They have two lefties already in David Purcey and Daniel Schlereth, plus Adam Wilk. So they have depth and could get a
return for the 33 year-old Aussie.