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M’s Racing… West Wide Open

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on July 30, 2006

Six Keys to Winning the West

I was holding off on any kind of “Pennant Chase”post until after the trade deadline, but I’m sitting here on a Sunday afternoon paying very close attention to the Oakland A’s-Toronto Blue Jays game.The M’s are in this thing, folks. After series wins versus Boston and Toronto at home and against Cleveland on the road, the Mariners ended game 3 of the Tribe series just three games back of division-leading Oakland.

To me, there are six keys to the Mariners finding a way to win this division, and here they are.

1. Felix Hernandez – The King has to turn out quality starts just about every time out, as he’s been doing for the past two months. Since May 25 his ERA is 3.39 and batters are hitting just .211 off him since June 1.

2. The A’s have to either trade Barry Zito without getting back equal current impact help, or Huston Street has to continue to struggle. He just blew another save (Toronto leads 5-3 now in the bottom of the 9th), and the rest of that bullpen gets stretched out, further than they are capable, if Street doesn’t perform.

I don’t think Beane can pull off a miracle this summer, and that rotation, with Harden out and Loaiza terribly under performing, can’t carry an offense that ranks 30th in baseball in slugging percentage.

3. Other divisional rivals have to swing-and-miss at the deadline — Texas got their bat, and if they get the right pitcher, they’ll probably be the favorites to pull this out. The Angels have more pieces in which to acquire the offense they desperately need, but who knows whether the ultra-conservative Bill Stoneman is willing to pull the trigger.

One source informed me this afternoon that they offered a terrific package to Baltimore for Miguel Tejada, and Baltimore turned it down. LAA may strike out, and if they do, Seattle has a good shot to overtake them, should the rest of this list result in favor of Seattle.

4. Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson have to finish strong… but that’s not as far-fetched as it may seem on the surface. Sexson can hit .225 all he wants, but he must maintain his July slugging percentage (.531) for the heart of the M’s batting order.

Ditto Beltre — he’s slugging .557 since the all-star break and while it’s unreasonable to expect him to sustain that level of performance, if he stays above his current pace in July (.446 SLG), the M’s offense is just fine.

5. No major injuries, and this means you, Rafael Soriano. Raffy remains a critical part of what the M’s are trying to become this summer, and even with the emergence of Mark Lowe, Soriano is still necessary if the Mariners are to stay in the race – since the starters rarely go past the 6th inning.

6. Seattle has to buck up in division – The M’s cannot continue to get beat up by the west. Their 10-18 record versus Texas, Oakland and LA is a little bit deceiving, since they are 1-9 versus Oakland and .500 versus Texas and the Angels combined. But they must better the .500 mark versus all three in combination to have any chance at winning the division title.

Overall, things do have to fall in place for the Mariners to make up three games on the A’s and also pass up two other clubs in the west, but it’s far from impossible, and the word improbable fades away with every series win.

Note: Thanks to B.J. Ryan serving up a bomb to Milton Bradley, the M’s will not gain ground on Oakland Sunday. But the Rangers and Angels play later this evening, and passing them both is just as critical as gaining ground on the leaders.

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21 Responses to “M’s Racing… West Wide Open”

  1. StandinPat said

    #7 replace Pineiro with a real Major league pitcher, or even a mediocre minor league one for that matter.

  2. If you think a mediocre minor league pitcher is an upgrade over Pineiro…

    Call me next year, cuz this season is over.

  3. Alex said

    Jason, are the M’s going to another “non-big” move before the deadline or are they done? Any names being thrown around that you personally think would really help this team out?

  4. If the Padres complete the deal for Mike Lowell, which appears to be a 3 pr 4-team scenario, Scott Linebrink will head to Boston a long with Chris Young.

    Linebrink is the best RP option left out there, and Seattle has little chance to get him.

    I reall don’t see anything else the M’s can do that will make an impact. I think we’ll probably see a smaller deal, perhaps for a LHR.

    If nothing else gets done, expect the club to call up Eric O’Flaherty in August.

  5. StandinPat said

    Ok so ‘medicore minor leaguer’ was a bit of an exaggeration, but I think that Cruceta, Livingston, or even Baek can give us more than Piniero.

  6. Possibly Baek and Cruceta, but not Livingston. He’s really struggling right now.

    And Bael and Cruceta aren’t guarantees, but I’d give them a look.

  7. soonermariner said

    Jason,

    With another good start from Baek today, has he replaced Cruceta as the top pitcher to be called up to start? Also, Mark Lowe has been amazing this year as a reliever but he was a starter for while too, is his worth as a reliever or can he become a starter in the future?

  8. johnb said

    I have maintained since Spring training that we had the pieces to finish .500 this year. For us to win the division it looks like it is going to take around 90 wins based on the way the rest of the division is playing.

    Right now we are a better team on paper, we have added a couple of good pieces, and subtracted most of the dead weight. The biggest problem is Hargrove is still in charge, his managing decisions have probably cost us conservatively 6-8 wins. The question I have is can we win 90 games with Hargrove at the helm this year?

  9. fertfert said

    I’ll be shocked if the Padres give up Chris Young, especially for Lowell.

    He’s a great young pitcher, and Lowell has bounced back in Fenway, where he peppers the Green Monster, therefore leads the league in doubles.

    If they’re giving up Linebrink too, they have to be getting some more from the Red Sox or one of the other teams.

  10. Young has a serious bosack issue.

    If you don’t know what that means, you wouldn’t understand anyways.

  11. Edman said

    I was at the Tacoma game today. Bavasi was there with one of the M’s scouts, watching Baek. There were at least eight scouts in the stand. Some with guns, others with notebooks (pad and paper type). I maintain that Baek, if he’d come to Seattle earlier, would be a quality starter by now. I’m not saying he’d be a guy who could shove you over the top, but I’d be willing to bet he’d at least be consistant, unlike Joel.

    Why do I say this? Because, I think he does one thing very well…..adjusts quickly. When he was brought up two years ago, he got hammered is first couple starts. Then, he started realizing what he had to do to modify his game (with the help of Price). He took it all in, and pitched extremely well against the Rangers, in what I believe was his final outing.

    I’ll take a smart pitcher, anytime. It’s not about the stuff you have, as much as it’s about knowing how to use what you have. You don’t have to throw 95…..though it helps…..but if you can stay away from the pitches that hitters crave, you can be consistantly good.

    Is Pineiro done? Who knows? The very minute you say he’s washed up, he throws a couple good games. What concerns me is that he presents too many opportunities, regardless of if he gets out of them. All it takes is a bloop hit.

    As for the rest of the game, I saw some things I liked, some I didn’t.

    Garciaparra IS back on the map. I remember one of the M’s farm guys saying to “be patient” with guys who were multi-sport guys, like Wilson and Garciaparra. They tend to take extra time, because the have to transition to one sport. In both cases, they took it to the wire. But, Michael is a very good looking prospect at second. He’s never going to be a defensive guy. But, I think he’ll be able to play a passible second base. He certainly seems comfortable now. When I saw in breifly at Everett, he wasn’t a natural infielder at all. And, I don’t think he could be considered a shortstop anymore.

    LaHair is a guy who I really like. I liked him when I saw him at Everett, but he was really non-spectacular at the time. He had the make-up of a power hitting firstbaseman, but at the time, the power wasn’t translating. I haven’t seen enough of him lately, but what I saw, he seems to be keeping the bat in the strikezone….no upper cut.

    Snelling looked OK. He smashed a ball that hit high off the centerfield wall. Poor guy slipped twice fielding balls, but that happens.

    Navaro is doing what all young infielders do, when they’re moved up too quickly……he made some very bad decisions in the field. Twice throwing the ball, when he had no chance to get the runner out, allowing runners to move up.

    Huber wasn’t bad either. Considering he wasn’t suppose to be any kind of real prospect when traded to us, he’s doing OK. If he can get more command, he could find a job in a bullpen, someday.

    My highlight of the day was being picked to have a chance to win a new Hyundai, if the Rainers had back to back homeruns in the fifth. Bottom of the order……I had no shot.

  12. T Shot said

    Young has a serious bosack issue.

    Translation = Andy Benes desease

  13. Alex said

    Any trade talk updates now that we’re coming up on the deadline?

  14. eponymous coward said

    Baek is Ryan Franklin’s Korean cousin- all about location and eking out the most you can from it, and not having superior stuff. That’s not a lot different than Piñeiro, either.

    (If you look it Spiroid’s numbers, you’ll find he had some good years in Tacoma, too.

    Cruceta’s better stuff-wise, but he has days where he’s pitching to continents, not zones. I’d prefer a guy with a higher K rate on principle, but neither of them are locks to outperform Piñeiro.

    (I was surprised to hear Piñeiro say he was getting it up to 92 by the late innings- anyone else see that? Wasn’t able to look at the game. If his fastball shows up again at 92 instead of 88, he could be OK for a while.)

  15. Center Field Sports said

    Hey i have been in LA for a week and don’t know if this was covered but Halman broke his hand in a fight and is out for the year

  16. Grant said

    #14 – Yeah I actually saw him hit 93 a couple of times, don’t know if the gun was accurate but Cliff Lee was hanging around 91 from what I saw.

  17. Center Field Sports said

    mad dog -to the dodgers from the cubs

  18. Shhh, on the Halman thing. We don’t want that getting out. He’s not that kind of kid.

  19. Center Field Sports said

    well he did break it on the guys face that plunked him after he hit 2 bombs in the game

  20. but only a few thousand people knew that until you blabbed yer big mouth…

    Kidding CFS… but yeah, I won’t be talking about that much here.

  21. Knuckles said

    Hey, man, I’d much rather he bust his hand fighting someone on the field, rather than in a club.

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