Preview of Your 2015 Seattle Mariners – Starting Rotation

Felix Hernandez Opening Day Seattle Mariners

This picture has me feeling all kinds of emotions…

Well I didn’t get to this preview as soon as I’d have liked to, but with Spring Training half over and Opening Day three weeks away it’s still a great time to preview the 2015 Seattle Mariners starting pitching staff. This was a group that ranked second in the MLB and first in the American League last season with a 3.17 ERA. While the starting rotation was solid with ace Felix HernandezHisashi Iwakuma, and 2014 AL Comeback Player of the Year Chris Young, it was the bullpen that was the most impressive part about last year’s club. They kept the M’s in games last year and were a huge reason why the team was within a game of the playoffs.

While they did lose a few of their better bullpen arms from last season, the rotation, if healthy, could be even better. This post will highlight each of the five starting rotation spots. Manager Lloyd McClendon has already said who four of the five starters will be, but the fifth spot is becoming clearer as we near April 6th.

Starting Pitchers:

1. Felix Hernandez – It’s good to be King. What else is there to say? King Felix was robbed of the Cy Young in 2014 and is one of the most (if not THE most) dominating pitchers in the game of baseball. He posted a 15-6 record last year with a 2.14 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, both the best in the MLB. His arsenal is unmatched, as every pitch he throws would be considered elite. Once a pitcher that relied upon power, Hernandez has mastered a changeup with movement like a breaking ball – and it’s nearly un-hittable. Felix will again be the ace of this staff, and it’s not unreasonable to expect anything but greatness from The King this season.

2. Hisashi Iwakuma – One of the coolest things about the Mariners’ starting rotation is that they basically have two aces. Iwakuma had somewhat of a “disappointing” season in 2014 after posting a 14-6 record with 2.66 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP in 2013 and finished third in the AL Cy Young voting. He still had good numbers last year, though, allowing around 3.5 runs per nine innings. Part of the reason for his struggles was because he was injured at the beginning of the year so it took him a while to “get right.” With ‘Kuma healthy, he should be in for another big season.

3. James Paxton – While Iwakuma may have more experience, this is the guy that is destined to eventually become the second starter in this rotation behind Felix. If he had been healthy, Paxton may have challenge Iwakuma for the spot last season. In 13 starts he compiled a 6-4 record and a 3.04 ERA in 2014. While that’s impressive, the best thing about Paxton is that he’s a lefty that can get both right-handed and left-handed hitters out. 95+ MPH from the left side is so rare and the M’s are lucky to have this gem in their organization.

4. J.A. Happ – An offseason addition, Happ has spent his eight year career with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Houston Astros, and, most recently, the Toronto Blue Jays. In 140 career starts, he’s posted a 51-53 record with a 4.26 ERA. While those numbers won’t “wow” anyone, Happ should bring a much needed veteran presence to this rotation, which is probably the biggest reason that McClendon has already penciled him into the starting five. It’s also worth noting that he’s often pitched in what would be considered “hitter-friendly” ballparks, so he could find more success and better numbers inside Safeco Field.

5. Taijuan Walker/Roenis Elias – This is the only spot in the rotation that is up for grabs and was one of the few true position battles this spring. Walker, once considered the next Felix Hernandez, has had a better spring than Elias, who was a pleasant surprise last season for the M’s. Walker has struggled with his command at times in the big leagues after struggling through injuries and being called up and down between Seattle and Tacoma. But he’s looked incredible so far this spring and one of the biggest reason is a new and effective pitch: a slider. With a plus-fastball already, adding an effective breaking pitch would go a long way towards his success. Both are young pitchers with bright futures, but it’s hard to argue against the upside that Walker brings to the table. Add the fact that having Elias would mean three lefties in the rotation, and it’s becoming more apparent that Walker will likely win the job coming out of Spring Training. However, expect him to be on a short leash with Elias just a phone-call away.

This is a very brief preview on each of these pitchers, but it should give you a better idea of what to expect from this year’s starting rotation. It’s crazy to think that we’ll all be watching baseball in a matter of 21 short (but not short enough) days.

As always, here’s a video for entertainment. KING FELIX IS INSANE.

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Seahawks Acquire Superstar Tight End Jimmy Graham

jimmy graham seattle seahawks

These two will get to go against each other in practice every day now.

Just when we thought there wouldn’t be much news for the Seattle Seahawks on the opening day of 2015 NFL Free Agency, Jay Glazer broke Twitter when he reported the that superstar tight end Jimmy Graham was coming to Seattle:

My first reaction to this move was confusion. The Seahawks just restructured and extended Marshawn Lynch‘s contract after they found out the hard way how much he means to this team. So why would you get rid of arguably your best run-blocker in All-Pro center Max Unger and acquire a tight end, as talented as he is as a receiver, that isn’t known for his blocking ability. Unger was also one of the leaders in the locker room and as steady of a player as you can get. Plus losing a first-round pick is never a good thing, especially when you’re a team like the Seahawks and you’re trying to restock talent without paying for high-priced free agents.

You also have to account for the fact that quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner are also due for new contracts soon, and Graham’s cap hit will make this harder to accommodate who they resign in the coming years.

Not to mention, the first thing that came to mind was the altercations between Graham and some of the players on Seattle’s defense the past couple years. In the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the New Orleans Saints in 2014, Graham was warming up on the Seahawks’ side of the field and linebacker Bruce Irvin didn’t take too kindly to it. After the Percy Harvin-debacle, I don’t want any players, no matter how talented, entering Seattle’s locker room if they aren’t going to get along with the players. I’m not saying that everyone on the Seahawks’ roster is buddy-buddy with each other, but they can at least stand each other. It’s at least an issue that needs to be addressed before the season.

Because of these reasons I was skeptical about this trade. But once these initial emotions calmed down a bit, this transaction makes total sense, and it addresses the concerns this team faced this offseason. The Seahawks needed a tight end after the loss of Zach Miller, and they got one. They needed a legitimate first option for Wilson and the passing game, and they got one. They needed a big red zone target (2nd and goal at the one…), and boy did they get one. While they may have missed out on Julius Thomas in free agency, they ended up with an even more proven player in Graham.

Graham is the best tight end in the NFL and, at 28, still has many years of great football left in him. A three-time Pro Bowler, Graham compiled 4,752 receiving yards and and 51 touchdowns in his five years in the league. And at 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, he’s a freak-athlete and a matchup nightmare for any defense, especially in the red zone. His presence will give Wilson and the offense an excellent second option in the red zone other than handing it off to Lynch and hoping for the best.

As far as losing Unger, it may not be as bad as it looks on paper. He missed 10 games in 2015, and most of them were during the second-half of the year when the Seahawks made their incredible run. Patrick Lewis did a pretty good job filling in for Unger during this time, and head coach Pete Carroll and offensive line coach Tom Cable seem to like him. It’s likely that Seattle was concerned about the long-term health of their now former center.

It will be interesting to see how the team will replace Unger, but if you want talent, you have to give up talent. The Seahawks definitely received a talented player, so what will they do with him? Well, only six months until we find out, but here’s a preview.

Deuce’s Brace Leads Sounders Past Revolution



Obafemi Martins backflip Sounders

It’s so great to see backflips again!



It’s always nice to begin the season with a victory. A 3-0 victory over a team that appeared in the MLS Cup just a few months ago is even better. Your Seattle Sounders made a big statement in last night’s win over the New England Revolution, and here are my observations from the game:

  • Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins started the season where they left off last year: combining to make the most potent offensive attack in the league. “Deuce” netted a pair of goals and Oba added another, celebrating with his signature backflip. Watching the duo play off each other is one of the coolest things because of the backyard nature of it. They just have fun. This team will go as these two go, but it’s to hard to think that Seattle will have a problem scoring goals this year.
  • The Revs were without two of their stars, Lee Nyugen and Jermaine Jones, who are both nursing injuries. That being said, this version of New England’s team was much different than the one that was the MLS Cup runner-up in December. Nonetheless, Seattle dominated this match and I still believe they would have won with Nyugen and Jones in the lineup.
  • Tyrone Mears was an outstanding offseason addition. With DeAndre Yedlin departing or Europe after last season, one of the biggest questions going into 2015 was who was going to replace the young and budding star at right back. Enter Mears, a savvy veteran with experience in Europe. I was very pleased with his performance last night as he looked comfortable and even assisted on Oba’s goal, whipping a beautiful cross into the box that the forward headed home. Having a right back that is able to get forward and make quality crosses is only going to make this offense harder to defend. Expect Mears to play a big role this year.

Man of the Match: While many players had solid games, this one has to go to Dempsey. He was constantly in good attacking positions and played a part in all three of the Sounders’ goals. A full offseason has the star midfielder looking fresh and energized for his 2015 campaign.

Moment of the Match: The final goal was created by some cheeky passing and was simply a thing of beauty. The dynamic duo traded passes before Marco Pappa made a fantastic through ball to Martins, who unselfishly dumped the ball to Dempsey for his second goal of the game.

That was a fun game for everyone. While it won’t completely make up for the Super Bowl, it’s nice to get a victory over a New England franchise.

Overall, it couldn’t have been a better start to the year for the Sounders. If you missed any of the match here are the highlights in the link below.

Sounders vs. Revolution Highlights

What’s Next: Seattle plays at home again on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes, with kickoff scheduled for 7pm.

Preview of Your 2015 Seattle Mariners – Position Players

Felix Hernandez Robinson Cano Nelson Cruz

This picture gets me all kinds of excited for 2015.

Baseball is officially back, my friends. With their first spring training game against the San Diego Padres tomorrow afternoon, the Seattle Mariners are that much closer to the 2015 World Series. While there’s a hint of sarcasm in the previous sentence, the 2015 Mariners (on paper) look like a team that could compete for the AL West title and earn their first postseason berth since that miraculous 2001 season. The key addition of a legitimate right-handed power bat in Nelson Cruz along with a couple of savvy moves to acquire platoon candidates Rickie WeeksSeth Smith, and Justin Ruggiano – all of whom are sure to have an impact on this team’s success – means Lloyd McClendon‘s ballclub may have an acceptable lineup for the first time in over a decade. Combine that with the stellar pitching that carried the Mariners to within one game of the playoffs in 2014, and it’s no wonder why this team has this city excited.

While Seattle fans are still recovering from the Seahawks’ heartbreaking defeat in the Super Bowl last month, the Mariners should give them a reason to look forward instead of dwelling on the past. Those spring and summer days inside the friendly confines of Safeco Field are right around the corner. So without further to due, here is a position-by-position preview of your 2015 (World Champion) Seattle Mariners.

Catcher:

Depth chartMike ZuninoJesus SucreJohn Baker

This position is firmly held by Zunino, who is already one of the best defensive catchers in the league. Not only that, but he is a huge reason for the success of Seattle’s pitching staff because of how he calls games. The one caveat of Zunino’s game is his batting average and strikeout rate, as he only hit .199 and struck out 158 times in 476 plate appearances (nearly one in every three at-bats) in 2014. Despite this, Mike has insane power. He stroked 22 home runs last year and it’s not out of the question that he could swat 25-30 dingers this season. If he can continue to play elite defense and provide some offensive power numbers, it will be considered a successful season for the young catcher, even if his average numbers stay down – though I expect him to eventually hit in the .230-.240 range.

I would expect Sucre to beat out Baker for the backup catcher spot, but that will be a battle to watch this spring. Both of them are legitimate 2nd-string catchers and the M’s should feel comfortable with putting either one out there once a week to rest Zunino.

First Base:

Depth chartLogan MorrisonRickie WeeksWillie BloomquistJesus Montero

Without a doubt, Morrison – better known around the clubhouse as “Lo-Mo” – can be at least an average every-day first baseman. He was one of the hottest players on the team toward the end of last season. He ended 2014 batting .262 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI’s, but hit .302 and .342 in August and September, respectively, while swatting 6 home runs during that those two months. Unfortunately, Morrison has huge health issues and he’s only played over 100 games once in five MLB seasons (he only played in 99 last year). He’s incredibly productive when healthy, as is evidenced by his numbers the final two months of 2014. The M’s are aware of this, and are betting on Lo-Mo to be healthy in 2015. His bat will be key for an improved offense.

The late acquisiton of Weeks provides a bit of a safety net at this position in case Morrison goes down. Weeks will compete with Bloomquist this spring for a utility-role on the team, but I expect Rickie to win the battle. A slimmed-down Montero also makes for an intriguing spring training story, but he will likely start in Tacoma.

Second Base:

Depth chart: Robinson CanoRickie WeeksWillie Bloomquist

Robbie Cano. Enough said. Easily the most complete position-player on the team and fans shouldn’t expect anything but greatness for Cano’s 2015 campaign.

The winner of the Weeks-Bloomquist battle will serve as the primary fill-in on Cano’s off-days (again, probably Weeks). Weeks has never played any position besides second-base, but he’s capable of learning other positions.

Shortstop:

Depth chartBrad MillerChris TaylorWillie Bloomquist

By far, this is the biggest position battle and position of uncertainty this spring. The experts say that Miller’s bat has more upside but his defense still needs some work. On the other hand, they say that Taylor is more polished defensively, but his bat is below average. While we’ve seen bursts of Miller’s potential, he’s failed to deliver any kind of consistency in his young career. So much so that the M’s decided to bring up Taylor late last season to platoon with Miller. Taylor hit .287 and flashed great defense in 47 games, but his bat has very little pop.

The ideal situation for the Mariners is for Miller to figure out his consistency issues offensively and defensively and to win the starting job at shortstop, meaning that Taylor would likely start the year in Tacoma (McClendon stated that the loser of the battle won’t be on the Opening Day roster). If he resolves his issues, Miller is too valuable offensively for Seattle to not have in the lineup every day. He’s shown flashes of his bat and it’s potential during his first two years, so hopefully he can provide a more steady offensive presence at the bottom of the lineup.

Bloomquist is slated as the third-stringer on the Mariners’ website, but that will likely change if Weeks beats him out and either Taylor or Miller are sent to Tacoma at the beginning of the year.

Third Base:

Depth chartKyle SeagerWillie BloomquistRickie Weeks

The development of Seager over the past three years has been one of the most pleasant things for any Mariner fan. Originally in Dustin Ackley‘s shadow as a prospect, Seager has panned out while his fellow North Carolina-product has had trouble finding stability in the M’s lineup. Seager earned his first All-Star bid in 2014 when he batted .268 with 25 home runs and 96 RBI’s and led the team in the latter two categories. Oh yeah, he also won a Gold Glove. In other words, it’s safe to say that we know what we’re going to get from third base.

Again, the winner of the utility-man battle will back up Seager on his occasional off-days (though he’s only missed 12 games the past three seasons).

Left Field:

Depth chartDustin AckleyRickie WeeksStephen Romero

Speaking of Ackley, he is penciled in as the starting left fielder in 2015. However, McClendon has openly stated that left field will be a platoon job with Ackley and Weeks, meaning Ackley would start against right-handed pitchers and Weeks would start against left-handed pitchers. Once the second overall pick in the MLB Draft, Ackley has largely been a disappointment to the organization. He batted .245 last season while hitting 14 home runs and 65 RBI’s. However, his second half (.269, 10, 36) was much better than his first half (.225, 4, 29), and that was encouraging to many Mariner fans.

He can be a solid second-hitter in this lineup, especially if he continues where he left off in 2014. But if Ackley fails to deliver, Weeks is a good option and is capable of being a quality starter.

Romero has seen time in the big leagues but doesn’t belong on this roster at the beginning of the year.

Center Field:

Depth chartAustin JacksonJustin RuggianoJames Jones

Jackson is arguably the most vital player to Seattle success this season. After coming over from Detroit last year, Jackson had terrible offensive production, only batting .229 with an on-base percentage (OBP) of .267. That’s not good enough for a leadoff hitter. McClendon, who was Jackson’s hitting coach for a while in Detroit, has stated that Jackson is plenty capable of hitting .275 with a .340 OBP, which he did in both 2012 and 2013. If he can put up those numbers, this offense is going to score a lot of runs because of the quality bats behind him.

This is also a contract year for Jackson, so that should serve as extra motivation. Hopefully he can put up the numbers he had in 2012 and 2013.

Ruggiano, an offseason addition, will occasionally get a start or two in center field. James Jones and his incredible speed make him valuable to have on the team, but probably not at the beginning of the year. He will be up and down from Tacoma this season.

A guy not on this list who may factor into the outfield mix is Endy Chavez, who was signed to a minor league contract this offseason with an invitation to spring training. Chavez is getting up there in age, but can still be a productive backup if need be.

Right Field:

Depth chart: Seth SmithJustin RuggianoNelson Cruz

This is another platoon position for the Mariners. Smith, another offseason addition, is an experienced veteran with a solid bat. He’s hit .265 over his eight year career in Colorado, Oakland, and, San Diego. If Ackley fails to live up to the hype as a 2-hitter, Smith will be a good option to bat behind Jackson in the lineup. Hopefully that isn’t the case, and he will bat around 7th in the lineup.

Ruggiano came over from Chicago this offseason. While he’s never been an every-day player like Smith, he absolutely destroys left-handed pitching, so he will prove valuable as a right-handed bat in the outfield. He also has some solid power, so that will also be helpful. Ruggiano is basically the perfect platoon player, and a combination of him and Smith should equate to a slightly above-average right fielder.

Cruz, the biggest splash of the offseason, will play right field when the Mariners travel to National League stadiums and there is no designated hitter.

Designated Hitter:

Depth chartNelson CruzRickie WeeksJesus Montero

Oh how sweet it is to finally have a steady right-handed power bat in the lineup. Cruz was the prized addition of the Mariners’ offseason, and for good reason. He led the majors with 40 home runs in 2014 in his lone year in Baltimore. He also batted .271 with 108 RBI’s. The definition of a clean-up designated hitter, Cruz will be the perfect piece to plug in between Cano and Seager in the lineup. His power threat will also provide protection for Cano and opposing pitchers won’t be able to pitch around him anymore. As a domino effect, this will lead to better production from the top of the lineup and to more runs for this offense.

Weeks will get a few days at DH as well, and Montero may be in the mix at some point in 2015.

And so concludes the position preview of the 2015 Seattle Mariners. Words can’t describe how excited I am for this season to begin, and this next month will be one of the longest of the year. Expect a preview of the pitching rotation and bullpen in the coming days.

I’ll leave you with this thought…how neat would it be to have postseason baseball in Seattle? For now, there’s this.