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?

The Mariners Need to Stop Going After Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, Justin Upton and the Like

The latest news out of the Emerald City in sports besides Brandon Browner’s suspension or the ever-evident hatred of David Stern (see basketball season, team not in Seattle) is the fact that the Seattle Mariners are kicking the tires pretty heavily on multiple free agents. Those free agents not being the retired Ken Griffey Jr, Milton Bradley (the board game and the player, seriously the M’s could probably use the money) or Jamie Moyer (although that last one wouldn’t be terrible). No, the Mariners are going after the most high profile guys out there. Josh Hamilton. Michael Bourn. Nick Swisher. There are even reports that lead us to believe that the Mariners would trade for Justin Upton.

Let’s let that all set in for a moment before we move on. WHAT!?!?!?!?!

Does anyone who has even bothered to listen to the Mariners-themed section of the news remember Richie Sexson? Adrian Beltre? Carlos Silva (who then turned into Milton Bradley)? Miguel Bautista? These were ridiculous contracts that Seattle gave out. The first two to try and repair a dismal offense. Sexson had two years where his contract was probably deserved, but then he completely fell off the map and had two horrendous years. (Though I will say this, the Sexon TV commercials were pretty good.)

Beltre was solid for a couple years in Seattle and the sputtered to a dismal ’09 season. Because of that he had to go to Boston to reestablish his career and is now an MVP candidate with the Rangers.

What I’m getting at is that while Beltre and Sexson had some decent years in Seattle, the pair produced zero playoff appearances. One or two players don’t build a team. Continue reading

The Best in World of Sports: An Atlas of Atlases

In Greek mythology there is a Titan named Atlas who held up the world, or held up the sky so that it didn’t crash down on the Earth.

In the world of sports, each team has its own “Atlas” who keeps the team from falling flat.

Some of the best “Atlases” in recent sports memory:

  1. LeBron James- Cleveland Cavaliers. During LeBron’s tenure the Cavaliers were essentially James and a never-ending roll call of role players. Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace were the only really good players who James played with in Cleveland. And at that point both were in the respective twilights of their careers, and Wallace wasn’t scoring much (as per usual). Cleveland was so bad without “King James” that they set an NBA record for the longest losing streak: 26 games after he made the decision to go to South Beach.
  2. Derrick Rose- Chicago Bulls. A small sample size, but while Rose dominated Game One of the first round of the playoffs versus Philly, he tore his ACL towards the end of the game. After holding on for the win in that game the Bulls went on to lose the series 4-2 to the eight-seeded 76ers. As a follow up, this year with Rose out for an extended amount of time, most pundits and talking heads have Chicago in the 6-8 seed range in the playoffs. Quite a drop-off for the team who had the best record in the East last season.
  3. Luis Suarez- Liverpool. If you take away Suarez’s fantastic production, the Reds would likely be in the relegation zone if not in last.
  4. Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic. Orlando is so bad without Howard it compelled me to write an entire piece on it, you can see that here. Orlando is going nowhere fast.
  5. Steve Nash- Phoenix Suns. Obviously earlier on in Nash’s career he had Amare Stoudamire and friends, so the team wouldn’t be that bad off without him. However, the Suns of the past couple years have needed Nash to help them stay out of the cellar. With him they were camped on the stairs going to the cellar; now they’re the cellar’s likely tenants.
  6. Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trout supporters love overusing the stat about the visible improvement of the Angels’ record with him, as opposed to their record without him. Take away Trout and a lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells goes nowhere offensively. Continue reading

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.

Can’t Live Without ‘Em: American League

(Disclaimer: You can live without these players, it certainly doable.)

Injuries happen. Trades happen. Prolonged, bench-worthy stints occur. Players might not be there.

Whether that player is your everyday superstar or fourth outfielder, the loss means something. But in the case of the superstar, it can sometimes mean a lot.

Teams and the Players They Can’t Live Without:

(Starting in the AL West and moving east through the AL, I’ll have another one coming soon on the NL.)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: None. Not kidding in the slightest. Even if their big, new-fangled signing Albert Pujols breaks down at some point, either Kendrys Morales or Mark Trumbo will be there to step in. Rotation-wise, I might say Jered Weaver simply because his replacement won’t likely come close to his production.

Texas Rangers- Joe Nathan. Again, not what you’d think. If the Rangers lose any one of their infielders Michael Young will step in more than adequately. The outfield is a little more in question, but Craig Gentry usually gets the job done. I say Nathan because, while Texas has depth in the bullpen, it isn’t necessarily closer depth. Koji Uehara, Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando only have 18 saves combined in their careers, and 13 of them are Uehara’s. (Just a quick aside, Mike Adams is an almost-less-than pedestrian 4-20 in save opportunities in his career. If you’re doing the math at home, yes Ogando only has one career save.) All that is basically blogspeak for: The Rangers might go into a colossal bullpen-tailspin if Nathan can’t hold it down.

Oakland A’s- Yoenis Cespedes or Jemile Weeks. It’s not as if the Athletics can’t live without them, or play for that matter. It’s that they probably wouldn’t like to stunt the players growth/developments (whatever term lights your fire).

Seattle Mariners- Chone Figgins. I’d say Jesus Montero for reasons listed above, but the M’s need the Figgy Pudding to maintain his trade value by playing well.

 

Detroit Tigers- Justin Verlander. The Tigers, like the Angels, have good depth. Also like the Angels, the potential loss of the reigning MVP would only hurt Detroit from the standpoint that the replacement couldn’t put up Verlander’s numbers unless his name is Felix Hernandez.

Kansas City Royals- Either of the Corner Infielders. Just as with Oakland, KC needs their young players to get time under their respective belts. The loss of a potential trade candidate like a Mitch Maier or Jeff Francoeur could also endanger those players’ trade values.

Chicago White Sox- Adam Dunn. The Sox need Dunn to stay healthy so he can prove that his signing wasn’t a complete-and-utter waste. The potential loss of Paul Konerko could send this team into the cellar after the way they played last year. Dayan Viciedo could benefit from getting a good deal of playing time as well.

Cleveland Indians- Asdrubal Cabrera and Ubaldo Jimenez. Cabrera is at the center of everything the team does on both sides of the box score. Jimenez, meanwhile, needs to prove that the Rockies didn’t straight-up rob the Indians’ entire store of prospects.

(Weird side note, have you noticed that a lot of the Indians players previously played in Seattle? Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Casey Kotchman, Derek Lowe, Jack Hannahan and Jose Lopez all donned Mariners uniforms. Weird.)

Minnesota Twins- Whoever is Producing Well at the Time. The Twins have been ransacked by injuries in recent years. They have gone from division champ and perennial sacrifice to the Yankees in the ALDS to basement dweller. To give you more of an idea of how far the Twins have fallen, when you type in “Minnesota” and then a “t” to start the word “twins” you get “Minnesota Timberwolves” as your top suggestion. That’s right, the Twins have fallen past the T-Wolves.

 

New York Yankees- CC Sabathia. The Yankees acquired pitching in the offseason. I’ll give them that, but the loss of their ace could be detrimental. As it is the Yankees seem like they will be a playoff team, whether that is as a wild card or a division winner remains to be seen. Here’s a quick rundown of the AL East as it is for me. Tampa and these Yankees are head and shoulders above the rest of the division. Boston and a not-so-far-behind Toronto are in the next tier that seems to be fighting for a wild card berth. Obviously that leaves Baltimore at the bottom, but we’re moving on. The potential loss of Sabathia drops New York more towards the Sox and Blue Jays than Tampa.

Tampa Bay Rays- Carl Crawford Matt Garza Jason Bartlett. The Rays have shown in the past that when an injury hits, or they lose a player to free agency or trade, they recover. Honestly, Evan Longoria would probably sting the most to lose, but the Rays will probably find a way to replace him. Cause that’s how they roll (as the kids say).

Boston Red Sox- Adrian Gonzalez. Yes, Boston would still have Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, but the rest of the offense simply isn’t there. Carl Crawford is on the shelf due to injury, leading to outfield woes that also prompted the acquisition of Marlon Byrd. Losing a player like this in the past wouldn’t have been as serious, seeing as Boston’s outfield and rotation were both much stronger than they are now. But because of those weaker factions of the team, the Red Sox might not get by if A-Gon is gone. (Sorry, had to do it.)

Toronto Blue Jays- Jose Bautista. The Jays are going to need their MVP candidate if they want to even have the smallest of smallest shots at contending. Other candidates include Adam Lind and Ricky Romero.

Baltimore Orioles- Anyone who has trade value. The Birds need some pieces, and lots of them. The rotation is a very young group, but the players in the field could use a youth infusion. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are nice pieces, but something has to give. The O’s need to make some changes to even try to win in God knows when.

The Good Old What If Game: Felix Hernandez’s Lack of Run Support

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?

Can Justin Verlander Repeat?

A Cy Young and an MVP award in the same season is no small feat. You won’t find it on many resumes anywhere. But can it be done again? Surely you would think no, but it’s not as obscene as you might think.

There are a of couple contributing factors to this. One is named Prince Fielder. Of Verlander’s five losses, two were by two runs or less. I’m not saying Prince Fielder will change that, but he will surely help in the run department category.

The big thing though is that the division might have gotten worse. Yes, Kansas City will get better, but everyone from Jacoby Ellsbury and Adam Jones to So Taguchi and Joey Gathright struggle against the reigning MVP.

Minnesota might still be in the same rut they were in last season. Cleveland will contend, but doesn’t seem to figure into the big picture. Same with Chicago, who might have gotten worse by trading off Carlos Quentin among others.

Which brings us to our next point, Carlos Quentin is gone. I’m not going to say that this will drastically impact Verlander’s season, but in one of his many losses (read five with a heavy dose of sarcasm) he lost 8-2 to the White Sox. In that game one certain Quentin went 3 for 5 and drove in three runs while scoring another. Also is the fact that only Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and Victor Martinez have hit more homeruns off of the reigning MVP than Quentin. It should be noted that Quentin is now playing on the complete opposite end of the spectrum as Verlander, on a west coast NL team (read San Diego).

(As a quick aside, Dye isn’t in the league, Thome is in a reduced role in Philly and Martinez is with Detroit and out for the year with a torn ACL).

(Another quick aside is that the 8-2 loss was Verlander’s last of the year. And it was in mid-to-early July. Yowza!).

As far as repeats go, back-to-back Cy Young’s certainly isn’t obnoxious. Most of his stiffest competition in the past (see Zack Grienke, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay) have all gone over to the NL. The real challengers that are left are mainly Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Jon Lester and Jered Weaver. This list can probably be lowered down to three with Hernandez’s exclusion. He is certainly worthy, but is backed by a shaky offense. But you never know. Funnier things have happened. As for the other three, they will be in it. But look for Verlander to come back strong in this year’s Cy Young voting.

The MVP repeat is a little more tricky. Of past AL MVP winners, only Hal Newhouser and Frank Thomas have repeated. Incidentally, Newhouser was a pitcher who pitched for, you guessed it, Detroit. It’s not that small of a club, Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Mike Schmidt, Ernie Banks and Joe Morgan have all done it in the Senior Circuit. OK maybe it is a small club, but the point is that it’s tricky. Especially for a pitcher such as Verlander. The only other pitcher to repeat was Newhouser, who was a Tiger. So maybe it could happen again.

The fact of the matter is Justin Verlander and the Tigers are going to be extremely dangerous come playoff time. Heck, they’ll be extremely dangerous in the middle of a cross country road trip in Seattle.

(your Seattle Mariners working title here)

The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim) are all in next season. Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s dealt their two best players, frontline starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahil, to NL clubs for prospects in what is presumably a rebuilding year. The Seattle Mariners on the other hand…. Eh…

We’ve been over the fact that the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero swap was a little confusing for a number of reasons. The Mariners aren’t in a real rebuilding mode. They are trying to win with a roster that probably isn’t going to get it done.

The pitching for Seattle is good for a 76-86 record. Felix Hernandez is the best pitcher in baseball not named Justin Verlander. Brandon League is a solid closer. Jason Vargas is a quality pitcher. There isn’t a lack of pitching here in the northwest, but rather a lack of hitting.

The hitting is the issue. Texas and the Angels both have somewhat balanced attacks from the mound and the plate. Oakland’s pitching numbers will always be a smidgen better due to their ballpark. Seattle is in Oakland’s boat, but there’s a big difference.

Have you heard the phrase “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”? Well the Mariners are broke and they need fixing (not financially, they’re fine, but you get the point).

There is no rebuilding project plans in Seattle. They aren’t even throwing out their failed attempts to improve their hitting. There are no Richie Sexson or Adrian Beltre transactions coming. No mid-season Ben Broussard or Eduardo Perez addition. Not even an opportunity to buy migraine pills for watching Milton Bradley. Nada.

Here’s what the M’s need to do: blow it up. At least from an offensive stand point they do. Ichiro is on the wrong side of 30 and is coming off a down year. Franklin Gutierrez is coming off an injury-riddled year. There aren’t a lot of players outside of those two and Dustin Ackley that are going to make people lose a lot of sleep.

The catcher position is confusing from the point of having Miguel Olivo, Adam Moore, John Jaso and potentially Jesus Montero in the mix. There’s a lot of offensive-minded players there, but not in a lot of other places.

If the Mariners are going to win, or even come close to it, they are going to have to hit.

Seller- Seattle Mariners

• 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.