erik lundegaard

Seattle Mariners posts

Sunday July 21, 2019

#EdgarHOF

The etching is slightly off. It kind of looks like he has a moustache when he doesn‘t—even though he did—and his eyebrows are too pronounced or noticeable. I never noticed Edgar’s eyebrows. And maybe the jaw is too square? But it's not bad. 

Better? Whoever wrote the words. Good work. That really nails it.

And now we have two.  

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Posted at 09:09 PM on Jul 21, 2019 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  
Saturday July 20, 2019

Perfekto: Mike Leake Just Misses Baseball Immortality

Last week, one of the members of our Seattle Mariners season ticket group, Grant, sent out an email saying he and his son were going to Cooperstown this weekend for the enshrinement of beloved son Edgar Martinez, so he couldn't use the tickets he had for the Friday, July 19 game. Anyone want them? Some demurrals before Tim said, “Sure, I‘ll take them.”

Didn’t exactly look promising. It was against the Angels, again, and they raked us last weekend. Hell, they no-hit us on the first game back after the All-Star break. Our pitcher, Mike Leake, lasted 2/3 of an inning, possibly his worst outing ever, while their two pitchers, Taylor Cole and Felix Pena, no-hit our ass. In this game, last night, who was going for us again? Oh, right. Mike Leake. But Tim's a trooper and a fan, and he runs the Grand Salami website, so he went. 

Here's his inning-by-inning account.

He almost saw baseball history. For eight innings, Leake was perfect: 24 up, 24 down. I saw some of Tim's tweets about it in which he didn't jinx anything by saying the magic words. He just showed his scorecard with a number: 21. 24. At this point, TV-less, I rushed over to the local watering hole, the Quarter Lounge, got a beer and settled in. I did that in lower Queen Anne in August 2012 during Felix's perfecto—the last one thrown in the Majors. Here, sadly, the suspense ended quickly. On the third pitch of the inning, Luis Rengifo, a second baseman, ground a seeing-eye single to the right side, and there went that. But it's a beautiful thing about baseball. Every day, maybe every play, the average player has a chance at immortality. What do Pat Seerey, Mark Whiten and Scooter Gennett have in common? They all hit four homers in one game. Only 18 guys have done that, and none of them are named Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron or Willie Mays or Ken Griffey Jr. Sometimes lightning strikes. 

Only 23 pitchers, and just 21 in the modern era, have ever thrown a perfect game. Mike Leake nearly added his name. Instead, he‘ll add his name to the nearly list. Also to the list of guys who have pitched shutouts this year: 19 right now. He’s tied for the league lead with 1. 

Here's the perfect game breakdown by decade:

Decade No.  Pitchers
1900s 2 Cy Young (1904), Addie Joss (1908)
1910s 0  
1920s 1 Charlie Robertson (1922)
1930s 0  
1940s 0  
1950s 1 Don Larsen (1956, WS)
1960s 3 Jim Bunning (1964), Sandy Koufax (1965), Catfish Hunter (1968)
1970s 0  
1980s 3 Len Barker (1981), Mike Witt (1984), Tom Browning (1988)
1990s 4 Dennis Martinez (1991), Kenny Rogers (1994), David Wells (1998), David Cone (1999)
2000s 2 Randy Johnson (2004), Mark Buehrle (2009)
2010s 5 Dallas Braden (2010), Roy Halladay (2010), Philip Humber (2012), Matt Cain (2012), Felix Hernandez (2012)

You see how rare it is. Or was. First 50 years of the 20th century, it happened just three times. Then Don Larsen did it in the World Series against a good Brooklyn team and with an ump with a rather wide strike zone. Three in the ‘60s can be attributed to the raising of the mound; it was a pitcher’s decade. I became baseball cognizant in the ‘70s, when it looked like there would never be another one. But then Len Barker broke through; then they became more frequent.

I’m curious, though. We‘ve had five this decade, all in the first three years, and nothing since? Scoring is up, sure, but league batting averages and OBPs are about the same: .255/.319 in 2012 vs. .253/.323 this year. But I guess league averages don’t matter so much as team averages/OBPs. You‘re just pitching against one team, after all. In 2012, for example, the team with the fourth-worst batting average (Tampa) was the victim of Felix’s perfecto, the team with the second-worst average (Houston) was victimized by Cain, and the team with the absolute worst average/OBP in MLB, the Seattle Mariners (.234/.296), got it from Humber—who, after his perfecto, went 4-5 with a 7.39 ERA in 2012, then 0-8 with a 7.90 with Houstin in 2013; then he was out of baseball. Go know. 

Again, though, there are still teams that can't hit. Detroit's #s are .234/.293. So I don't quite get it. We‘ve had no perfectos for a longer time now (6, nearly 7 years) than at any time since Barker. I guess it’s more than stats; I guess the stars have to align; and hitters have to not lean into pitches.  

I'm sorry Leake missed out. I'm sorry Tim missed out, but I'm happy for Grant. If I'd given up tix to a game where even a no-hitter was pitched, I'd never stop kicking myself.

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Posted at 12:46 PM on Jul 20, 2019 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  
Wednesday July 17, 2019

Your Best Chance to Get Edgar Martinez Out

If you wanted to get Edgar Martinez out during his long, storied, and now Hall of Fame career, here’s what you needed to do.

He’s a rightie, of course, but calling for a right-handed pitcher didn’t help much. He hit better against lefties but it wasn’t overwhelming: .322 to .308. Still, you need every advantage so you'd take it. 

Away games? The difference between home and away for him was miniscule and actually favored away: .312 vs. .311 at home. Late in the season? He actually hit better in the second half: .309/.314. In fact, you’d probably want to face him in April. Every other month he hit over .300; in April he hit just .297. And get him either in the 1st or 8th inning, where he hit .298. Every over inning he's over .300.

But whatever you do, don’t get behind in the count. On 1-0 pitches, he hit .406, and on 2-0 counts, he hit .441 with a .888 slugging percentage. On 3-0, his OBP was .963.

Come to think of it, getting ahead in the count didn’t always help, either: On 0-1 pitches, he hit .337. No, what you'd want was to get a little deeper into the count, with maybe Edgar behind. That’s when his numbers begin to drift below .300. Edgar’s line on 2-2, for example, was not great: .252/.256/.396.

Got all that? Basically, what you’d want, if you wanted the best chance to get Edgar out, is a right-hander pitching to him, at home, say in the 8th inning, with maybe a 2-2 count on him.

Which turns out to be the exact circumstances here:

Thus endeth the lesson. 

Enjoy the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday, Edgar. Everyone in Seattle will be celebrating with you. 

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Posted at 06:20 AM on Jul 17, 2019 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  
Friday May 31, 2019

The Sad History of the Mariners First-Round Draft Picks This Century

Read ‘em and weep. 

In honor of MLB draft day next Monday, a bit of trivia. This century, 28 of the 30 Major League teams have managed to draft a player in the first round who has gone on to become an All-Star at some point in their career—either for that team or another team.

Any guesses as to the two teams that haven’t done this? Yes, Mariners fans, one of them is our Seattle Mariners. The other is the San Diego Padres. No wonder we’re natural rivals.

The blame on our end can begin with Hall-of-Fame GM Pat Gillick, who, during his tenure, kept giving up first-round picks as compensation for signing high-quality free agents like John Olerud, Jeff Nelson and, OK, Greg Colbrunn. Indeed, in four of the first five years of the century, the Ms didn’t have a first-round pick. And the one year we did, we went with John Mayberry Jr. ... who didn’t sign with us.

That’s the first part of the M's story of first-round failure. The second part is more heart-wrenching, since there’s no compensation in the form of a John Olerud. It’s just a tale of incompetence.

First, you’ve got to admire the talent in the 2005 draft. All but one of the top seven picks became All-Stars—including Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki. The one pick who didn’t become an All-Star was, of course, ours: Jeff Clement, who went third overall. He retired in 2012 with a career .218/.277/.371 slash line and negative WAR.

Was 2006 worse? With the fifth overall pick, we went with Brandon Morrow, who, yes, is having a resurgent career in his 30s in the NL. Since 2015, he’s appeared in 103 games, tossed 123 innings, and has a 2.04 ERA with a 112-28 strikeout-walk ratio. He’s now the Cubs closer with 22 saves this season. He might even become an All-Star and relieve us of this ignominy. So how is this pick worse? Because of who was chosen immediately after him, meaning who the M's passed on: Clayton Kershaw (7th), Tim Lincecum (10th) and Max Scherzer (11th).

And the hits kept coming. In 2007, we chose Phillippe Aumont. In 2010, we traded him and in 2015 he retired with negative WAR. In 2008, we grabbed Josh Fields. In 2011, we traded him and from 2017-18 he pitched well for the Dodgers; after being cut by two teams this spring he’s currently with the Rangers triple-A club.

With the second overall pick in 2009, we went with Dustin Ackley. Twenty-three picks later, the Angels nabbed a guy named Mike Trout. Etc.

The third part of the story, what’s happened this decade, is a work in progress, since it takes a while to develop talent, then it takes a while for that talent to be recognized. But some teams have already managed to do this. Here's a comparison between the Houston Astros' first-round picks this decade and ours. All-Stars are highlighted—as if they needed to be:

YEAR ASTROS WAR MARINERS WAR
2010 D. DeShields Jr. 4.4 n/a * 0
2011 George Springer 21.1 Danny Hultzen 0
2012 Carlos Correa 20 Mike Zunino 7.8
2013 Mark Appel 0 D.J. Peterson 0
2014 Brady Aiken 0 Alex Jackson -0.3
2015 Alex Bregman 15.3 n/a ** 0
TOTAL   60.8   7.5

* Lost first-round pick for signing Chone Figgins ***
** Lost first-round pick for signing Nelson Cruz
*** You heard me: Chone Figgins

None of our picks are in the Mariners organizaiton anymore, while Springer, Correa and Bregman are the heart of the World Champion Houston Astros. By ESPN’s recent rankings, they are the 37th, 27th, and sixth best players in baseball.

So which team has picked the most first-round All-Stars this century? That would be the Kansas City Royals, with six, including Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, all of whom helped that benighted franchise to a pennant in 2014 and a World Series title in 2015. Next up is the San Francisco Giants with five, including Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner, all of whom helped that franchise, which hadn't won a World Series since The “Say Hey” Kid was running down fly balls in the Polo Grounds, win three titles in five years.

My tabulation of first-round All-Stars, by the way, doesn’t include supplemental first-rounders—the guys beyond the first 30. If it did, yes, hallelujah, the Mariners would have picked an All-Star. Ready? Adam Jones in 2003. Who of course never played for us.

One hopes we’re doing better with Jerry DiPoto—rather than Bill Bavasi or Jack Zduriencik—as GM. Wasn’t he, after all, with the Angels when they drafted Mike Trout in 2009? Actually, no. He didn’t join that club until fall 2011, and, under his tenure, the team lost its first-round picks in both 2012 and 2013 by signing, respectively, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Then they went with Sean Newcomb in 2014 (3.7 WAR after 2+ years with the Braves) and Taylor Ward in 2015 (negative WAR after limited action with the Angels). Then DiPoto got the boot, and in September 2015 we got him. He's now in the process of rebuilding our team.

How have his first-rounders done so far? It’s early:

  • 2016: OF Kyle Lewis is with AA Arkansas, where he’s hitting .211/.316/.325
  • 2017: 1B Evan White is with AA Arkansas, where he’s hitting .234/.323/.324
  • 2018: RHP Logan Gilbert was the opening day starter for West Virginia Power before being promoted to A+ Modest Nuts, where he’s 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA

For those interested, here are this century's first-round All-Stars and the teams that chose them:

TEAM NO.  ALL-STARS
Royals 6 Zack Greinke, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Aaron Crow
Astros 5 Jason Castro, Mike Foltynewicz, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman
D-Backs 5 Carlos Quentin, Justin Upton, Max Scherzer, A.J. Pollock, Trevor Bauer
Giants 5 Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Joe Panik
Brewers 4 Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, Jeremy Jeffress
Nationals 4 Chad Cordero, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper
Reds 4 Jay Bruce, Devin Mesoraco, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal
Angels 3 Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver, Mike Trout
Athletics 3 Nick Swisher, Sonny Gray, Addison Russell
Cubs 3 Mark Prior, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant
Dodgers 3 Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager
Marlins 3 Adrian Gonzalez, Christian Yelich, Jose Fernandez
Mets 3 Scott Kazmir, Matt Harvey, Michael Conforto
Orioles 3 Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, Manny Machado
Phillies 3 Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Aaron Nola
Pirates 3 Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Gerrit Cole
Blue Jays 2 Aaron Hill, Ricky Romero
Braves 2 Adam Wainwright, Jason Heyward
Cards 2 Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha
Indians 2 Drew Pomeranz, Francisco Lindor
Rangers 2 Mark Teixeira, Justin Smoak
Rays 2 Evan Longoria, David Price
Tigers 2 Justin Verlander, Andrew Miller
Twins 2 Joe Mauer, Glen Perkins, 
Red Sox 1 Jacoby Ellsbury
Rockies 1 Troy Tulowitzki
White Sox 1 Chris Sale
Yankees 1 Phil Hughes
Mariners 0  
Padres 0  

Monday, the Mariners get the 20th overall pick. In 2020, it’ll be much, much higher.

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Posted at 07:41 AM on May 31, 2019 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  
Wednesday January 23, 2019

Edgar Martinez Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

Edgar Martinez goes in the Hall

The patient man, patiently waiting his turn.

“Thank you, sir.”

He had to wait 10 years, often with low vote totals, before a push of SABRmetric dudes, the Mariners organization and its fans, and, maybe most importantly, the pitchers who faced him—who kept calling him the toughest hitter they ever faced—all of those forces finally woke up enough old, tired baseball writers and pushed Edgar Martinez over the 75% mark and into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. 

YES!! About fucking time!

And Edgar's response when Jack O‘Connell, secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, phoned to tell him the good news

“Thank you. Thank you, sir. Appreciate the call.” 

Oh my god. So Edgar. So, so Edgar. 

It seems appropriate that he’s going in with three pitchers—two first-ballot guys, with one, Mariano Rivera, Mo, the first player ever to be elected to the Hall unanimously—since he owned pitchers for so long. It's like Bruce Lee needing to fight three guys because he's Bruce Lee. Even with these pitchers, who are, you know, Hall of Famers, here's what Edgar did against them:

  • Mike Mussina: .307/.337/.627 (83 PA)
  • Roy Halladay: .444/.474/.722 (19 PA)
  • Mariano Rivera: .579/.652/.1.053 (23 PA)

The national headlines are all about Mo, of course, but that's par for the course for Edgar. He spent a career overshadowed by others, in a west-coast city that often played while the east coast slept, so many people didn't know. Hell, the Mariners didn't even know. I‘ve written about this before. When Edgar was called up for his first cup of coffee in September 1987, after hitting .329 in Triple-A Calgary, director of player development Bill Haywood said this to The Seattle Times:

“His glove is his strength. Hitting over .300 is a pleasant surprise.”

Again: That was the director of player development. 

The next year, Edgar led the PCL with a .363 batting average and was awarded another cup of coffee. The Ms turned him into a yo-yo. Up and down, up and down. In 1990, Bill James wrote, “What a sad story this one is. ... Martinez has wasted about three years when he could have been helping the team.” And even then, even when it was so obvious to Bill James, the M’s didn't know. In spring 1990, manager Jim Lefebvre bragged about his new starting third baseman to The Seattle Times:

“I think Darnell Coles is going to surprise a lot of people. He knows there is no one in the wings, just Edgar Martinez to back him up. I think it is time for him to realize that he belongs at third, because to play that position you have to be an athlete. And Darnell Coles is an athlete.”

Again: That was the Mariners manager. 

Yes, I‘ve written about this before. Yes, I’m repeating myself. But it's still amazing to me: “No one in the wings.” That's how the M's thought of him. That's how much they didn't know.  

Hell, I didn't know, either. In that 2004 piece, I got it wrong, too. I wrote: 

All but one of the .300/.400/.500 guys are in the Hall of Fame ... So does this means Edgar will go into the Hall of Fame? Probably not. His percentages are out of sight but his raw numbers aren't high enough to justify making him the first DH to be enshrined. If only he'd been able to play a few more good seasons. If only he'd been brought up earlier. If only Bill James had been running the team.

Although, in a way, I was right with the “first DH” comment. Because he's not. Frank Thomas played more than half his games at DH and he was enshrined in 2014. And it was after that that Edgar's numbers began to rise. He went from 27% to 43% to 58 to 70. He kept chipping away. He kept fouling off pitches. Yesterday, he went in with 85%. Another testament to patience. A rare instance of good coming to the good who wait.

The news was overshadowed a bit nationally but Seattle went nuts. We‘re flying the 11 flag atop the Space Needle. We’re lighting up the 520 bridge. He's our second Hall of Famer but favorite son. Edgar never complained and he never left. He just kept doing the work. And for that, Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest, have one thing to say to him. 

Thank you, sir. 

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Posted at 09:46 AM on Jan 23, 2019 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  
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