Ready for some hot #VedderCup action? Oh yeah, bring it.
Since I watch a fair number of Mariners games, I thought I’d share some observations with you in advance of tonight’s first pitch. Do with these what you will.
Nelson Cruz. Everything revolves around Cruz. He will swing through a lot of pitches, but he has good plate coverage and can hit the ball a very long way. Cruz is in constant attack mode. He also gets down the line quickly for a guy listed at 6’2”, 230 lbs. Good athlete.
After a miserable start (.149/.197/.194 in 71 PA), Logan Morrison has given the Mariners a second legitimate weapon. He uses all fields and, like Cruz, can hit the ball out of any park.
Seth Smith has been his usual solid but unspectacular self. Seattle uses him near the top of the order, which suits his skills. He also has spent more time at DH this year than in the outfield.
Beyond those guys, nobody has stood out. Robinson Cano could go on a tear at any moment but right now isn’t doing much to justify his contract. Kyle Seager has shown signs of life. Mike Zunino swings at everything and occasionally connects. He’s like a more extreme version of Nick Hundley.
Brad Miller? Eh. Dustin Ackley? He hit three home runs in the season’s first seven games but has just two extra-base hits since then. His offensive game calls to mind that of Tony Gwynn Jr.
This team isn’t built for scoring. Which helps explain why they’re third to last in the American League in runs per game.
Zunino has a strong arm behind the dish and ranks among the elite pitch framers so far this year, as he did last year. Morrison and Miller are competent at their positions, while Cano and Seager can really pick it, assuming that’s a phrase people still use to describe defense nowadays with their newfangled doohickeys and whatnot.
In the outfield, the Padres catch a serious break with Austin Jackson being on the disabled list (ankle). The drop from him in center field to Ackley is like the drop from Mike Cameron to Brian Giles. When Justin Ruggiano tries to man the position, it’s like the drop to Brady Clark. (Sorry ’bout that.)
The Mariners have started five different guys in left field: Ackley, Rickie Weeks, Smith, Ruggiano, and Willie Bloomquist. Yeah, that Willie Bloomquist. So, you know, left field isn’t a strength.
Cruz has played a lot of right field and been mostly solid. He will kick the occasional ball, but he has made some nice grabs and owns an absolute cannon of an arm. Don’t run on him.
Anyone not named Felix Hernandez can be beat. Fortunately the Padres won’t face him. Instead, they’ll go up against two lefties, James Paxton and Roenis Elias.
Paxton throws hard but has wavering command. Although he has been efficient and effective in each of his last two starts (at Houston and at Anaheim), he needed 106 pitches in the start before those just to retire 14 batters. Hopefully the Padres see the erratic version and have the patience to wait for him to make quality pitches.
Elias is more of a finesse guy, but is by no means a soft-tosser. He’s a prototypical crafty southpaw with a little extra oomph. Elias is around the plate more than Paxton, so the Padres will want to attack him early in counts. Unless he’s off, which sometimes happens, in which case patience is a virtue as with Paxton. It should be obvious early on which version you’re getting.
Update: Taijuan Walker has been moved up to make the start on Wednesday. He is a young right-hander who throws the ball very hard and all over the place. Wait for him to fall behind in the count and then swing hard at anything that’s a strike.
The bullpen is slightly below MLB average in terms of ERA. Fernando Rodney is unpredictable at the back end, and the guys who bridge the gap between the starters and him are just okay.
Carson Smith has been the best of the lot so far, but don’t lose sight of Danny Farquhar, who closed for the Mariners in 2013. Charlie Furbush is the LOOGY and proud owner of a Grade 80 last name.
Journeyman Mark Lowe is just up from Triple-A. Ditto Joe Beimel, who gives Lloyd McClendon a second lefty. Mark Wilhelmsen, another former closer, spent time on the disabled list (elbow) but is back in the fold now. He has good stuff, but who knows where it’s going.
The bullpen is beatable.
- Offense – Be careful with Cruz and Morrison, don’t worry about the rest, except maybe Cano and Seager.
- Defense – Don’t hit the ball to Cano or Seager, aim for center field, don’t run on Cruz.
- Pitching – Be patient against Paxton, attack Elias (unless he can’t throw strikes, in which case pretend he’s Paxton), get into that bullpen.
Now you know what to watch. Enjoy the games!