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Posted By Cliff Corcoran On June 30, 2009 @ 6:21 pm In Cliff Corcoran,Game Thread,Series Preview | Comments Disabled
2009 Record: 39-36 (.520)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 36-39 (.480)
2008 Record: 61-101 (.377)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 67-95 (.414)
Manager: Don Wakamatsu
General Manager: Jack Zduriencik
Home Ballpark (Park Factors): Safeco Field (96/97)
Who’s Replacing Whom:
1B – Russell Branyan (L)
2B – Jose Lopez (R)
SS – Ronny Cedeño (R)
3B – Chris Woodward (R)
C – Kenji Johjima (R)
RF – Ichiro Suzuki (L)
CF – Franklin Gutierrez (R)
LF – Wladimir Balentien (R)
DH – Ken Griffey Jr. (L)
R – Mike Sweeney (1B)
R – Josh Wilson (IF)
L – Mike Carp (1B/OF)
L – Ryan Langerhans (OF)
R – Rob Johnson (C)
R – Felix Hernandez
L – Garrett Olson
R – Brandon Morrow
L – Jarrod Washburn
L – Jason Vargas
R – David Aardsma
R – Mark Lowe
R – Miguel Batista
R – Sean White
R – Chris Jakubauskas
R – Roy Corcoran
15-day DL: 3B – Adrian Beltre (bone spurs in shoulder), SS – Yuniesky Betancourt (hamstring), LHP – Erik Bedard (shoulder inflammation), RHP – Shawn Kelley (oblique strain)
60-day DL: LF – Endy Chavez (ACL), RHP – Carlos Silva (labrum, rotator cuff), LHP Cesar Jimenez (shoulder and biceps tendonitis), LHP – Ryan Feierabend (TJ)
L – Ichiro Suzuki (RF)
L – Russell Branyan (1B)
L – Ken Griffey Jr. (DH)
R – Jose Lopez (2B)
R – Franklin Gutierrez (CF)
R – Kenji Johjima (C)
R – Wladimir Balentein (LF)
R – Ronny Cedeño (SS)
R – Chris Woodward (3B)
The hot trick around baseball these days is to focus on defense with the understanding that much of what we think of as pitching is actually fielding; that is, it’s all run-prevention, and keeping runs of the board is half the battle in baseball. The Mariners are an excellent example of this.
Having obtained Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez in the three-team J.J. Putz trade, the Mariners opened the season with an outfield of Chavez, Gutierrez, and Ichiro Suzuki that was staggeringly proficient at tracking down baseballs. This after five years of enduring Raul Ibañez’s misaventures in left and failing to find an adequate replacement for Mike Cameron in center. Given the spacious pastures of Safeco field, that upgrade meant more to the Mariners than it might have to other teams, and that outfield, along with Adrian Beltre, who is one of the best fielders in the game and the best defensive third baseman in the American League, and solid play at first and second base gave the Mariners one of the American League’s best defenses, which, in turn, gave them one of the best pitching staffs.
The Mariners are still the stingiest team in the AL, with the league’s third-best defensive efficiency and a league-low 4.08 runs allowed per game, but one wonders how long they’ll be able to keep it up. Chavez tore his ACL a little over a week ago and has been lost for the season. Beltre hits the DL today in anticipation of surgery to remove bone chips from his left shoulder and will miss roughly six weeks. Erik Bedard, who had been rivaling Felix Hernandez for the title of staff ace is again on the DL with shoulder inflammation (though the M’s hope to get him back soon).
The Mariners replacements are either average in the field (Wladimir Balentin in left field) or non-existant (Chris Woodward at third?), which won’t help the fact that even with the league’s stingiest pitching staff, the M’s have been outscored on the season. In fact, the only team in the majors worse at scoring runs this season than the Mariners has been the woeful Padres, and the Pads haven’t been that much worse (3.83 R/G to Seattle’s 3.88).
Yes, Ichiro is having perhaps his best season at the plate (.372/.402/.500), and Three True Outcome hero Russell Branyan has broken out of his Quadruple-A box at age 33 with an even better showing (.303/.400/.609), but that’s it. No other M has been as good as league average. It’s nice to see Ken Griffey Jr. back in a Mariner uni, and his nine home runs have all given fans a rush of nostalgia, but they’re not sustaining his .218 average. Gutierrez is hitting nearly 50 points higher than Junior, but his on-base and slugging numbers are a near exact match (roughly .333/.405). Second baseman Jose Lopez continues to defy his own hype (most recently perpetrated during the WBC) by getting on base at a .290 clip. Everyone else is an injury replacement (Kenji Johjima just got off the DL himself and has gone 0-for-8 in his first two games back, droping his season line to .229/.253/.354), and none of them are hitting.
That increases the pressure on the pitchers, which can’t be helping tonight’s starter, 24-year-old Brandon Morrow, who is making the Joba-like transition from the bullpen to the rotation. Some of you might remember the Morrow pwned the Yankees in an early September start last year, taking a no-hitter two outs into the eight inning (final line: 7 2/3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 8 K). Morrow has fantastic stuff, but has been jerked around by his team. Having transitioned from the bullpen to the rotation last September, he was then put back in the bullpen and named the closer coming out of camp this year, only for the M’s to again have second thoughts and, after a brief injury time out, decide again to put him in the rotation.
The Joba argument applies here; Morrow is too talented not to give him every chance to suceed in the rotation. Fortunately, that’s what the M’s are doing. Tonight will be his fourth start of the season, and his first without a pitch limit. He’s had middling results in his first three, but he struck out 10 against just two walks over nine innings in his last two starts, so the signs good for the M’s, who would love to have Morrow and King Felix front their rotation for years to come.
Appropriately, Morrow faces Joba Chamberlain himself tonight. Joba has been inconsistent thus far this year, but hasn’t allowed four runs in any of his last eight proper starts (leaving out the one ended early by a comebacker), and after walking nine men in ten innings against the Mets and Nats, didn’t walk a soul in 6 1/3 strong innings against the Braves his last time out.
The Yanks run out their standard lineup behind Joba tonight and say they’ll get the game in despite the rain. Eric Hinske’s plane was delayed, but when he arrives (which could be after the game), Ramiro Peña will be optioned to make room for him. Pete Abe  reports that the Yankees want Peña to get work in the outfield in Triple-A in the hope of making him super-utility player. I’ll leave that one alone for the moment.
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URLs in this post:
 Pete Abe: http://yankees.lhblogs.com/2009/06/30/game-76-mariners-at-yankees/
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