The Value In Pitcher Win-Loss Records

I started writing a couple posts yesterday, but they ballooned out of control in a hurry. They were too broad of topics to cover in a blog post. Both had something to do with post-season awards and stats, but there is so much to talk about.

So, let's talk about the stat that matters most right now, a starting pitcher's wins and losses. If Felix Hernandez does not win the Cy Young award, his 12-12 record will likely be the culprit. Watching his starts, it seems so unfair, but is it?

King Felix and the Cy Young

Felix Hernandez
Felix Hernandez is undoubtedly a Cy Young award candidate. With something resembling a Major League offense supporting him, he might be running away with the award. Voting for a starting pitcher with such a pedestrian win-loss record would be unprecedented.

Lots of words are being written about how Felix might have a chance in today's baseball climate, despite so few victories. One factor isn't getting as much publicity as I think it should be though.

Today Says It All

Really, doesn't today's Mariners game say it all?

Ichiro got to 200 hits in the middle of the game. King Felix wasn't his most dominant self, but still relatively dominant: 8 innings, 2 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts, and 1 measly run. Yet, at the end of the day, the Mariners lost 1-0.

Seriously, what if some random person on the street was told to sit down and watch this game? Someone with absolutely no knowledge of what's happened this season. They would see Ichiro, and hear the announcers laud him for his 200th hit, and how amazing of an accomplishment it is. Once that was over, the focus would return to the mound, where they would notice that Felix looked like he was cruising. If the fan was asked at the end of the game to take a guess at what the 2010 Mariners have been like, they would say something to the effect of, "Ichiro and Felix are great, but even they aren't enough to keep the rest of the team from losing."

Isn't that the story of the 2010 season?

September Call-Ups Finally Arrive

The only downside of Tacoma's long playoff run is that the Mariners continued to play with 25 players (okay, 26 counting Guillermo Quiroz) through the majority of September. Prospects are more interesting to watch in lost seasons, so that was a bummer at the MLB level. However, I do think it was much more valuable for those prospects to experience winning together in meaningful roles at AAA. I'm not exactly sure prospects will get "The Big League Experience" watching this "big league offense."

In total, one player from West Tennessee and six players from Tacoma were added:

Remarkable Rainiers

Tacoma Rainiers
It feels good to write about a winning team. Last night, the Rainiers beat the Memphis Redbirds to earn the Pacific Coast League title. It is the team's first outright PCL championship since 1969, though they shared titles twice between now and then (1978 and 2001). Hands down, this is the most accomplished Tacoma team since it has been affiliated with the Mariners.

The way that Tacoma won this title makes it even more exciting. They faced significant adversity, especially late in the season. Darren Brown was their manager until Don Wakamatsu's firing, so they had to adjust to a leadership change in the middle of a pennant race. Then, thanks to Cheney Stadium renovations, they didn't have a home for the whole playoffs. First round home games were played in Safeco Field, which was probably cool for the players, but crowds were very sparse. Then, Tacoma literally hit the road for the championship series. They were the designated "home" team in Memphis for games one and two, as the PCL decided the entire series would be played in Memphis.

The players that Tacoma won with give hope for the future too. The rotation featured Blake Beavan and Mauricio Robles, both prospects quite young for AAA. The four-run rally in the 11th inning last night started with a Dustin Ackley walk, and culminated with a two-run single by Justin Smoak. Josh Lueke nailed down the championship in the bottom of the frame. Tacoma won the title with youngsters leading the charge.

I think the title Tacoma just won is significant for the development of the M's future. All of the young players mentioned in the above paragraph were promoted from AA into the thick of the AAA pennant chase. They adjusted to stiffer competition under urgency to win. What they lacked in experience they made up for with talent. The Major Leagues are a different animal, but the confidence that comes from transitioning to a tougher league in the middle of a championship run is meaningful. What Tacoma's young nucleus just accomplished speaks to a winning mentality, and more than that, good, old-fashioned talent.

Championships always feel great, but Tacoma's feels especially good. To date, it is the greatest accomplishment in the pro careers for most (if not all) the guys on the team. However, for the young core, I doubt it will stand as their greatest achievement.

Projected MLB Standings

How to read the projected standings:
Team name, Projected record (wins gained/lost since last projection), Games back

AMERICAN LEAGUENATIONAL LEAGUE
WestWest
Rangers91-71 (+2)-Giants90-72 (0)-
Athletics81-81 (-1)10Padres90-72 (0)-
Angels79-83 (+1)12Rockies88-74 (0)2
Mariners63-99 (-2)28Dodgers80-82 (-1)10



Diamondbacks67-95 (-1)23
CentralCentral
Twins96-66 (+2)-Reds90-72 (0)-
White Sox87-75 (-1)9Cardinals85-77 (-2)5
Tigers80-82 (-1)16Astros76-86 (+1)14
Indians68-94 (0)28Brewers75-87 (-1)15
Royals67-95 (+1)29Cubs73-89 (+1)17



Pirates55-107 (-1)34
EastEast
Rays98-64 (+1)-Phillies94-68 (+1)-
Yankees97-65 (-2)1Braves91-71 (-1)3
Red Sox91-71 (+1)7Marlins82-80 (0)12
Blue Jays80-82 (-1)18Mets81-81 (+1)13
Orioles65-97 (+2)33Nationals70-92 (0)24
Wild CardWild Card
Yankees97-65 (-1)-Braves91-71 (-1)-
Red Sox91-71 (+1)6Padres90-72 (0)1
White Sox87-75 (-1)10Rockies88-74 (0)3
.
ALDS Match-upsNLDS Match-ups
Rangers vs. RaysGiants vs. Phillies
Yankees vs. TwinsBraves vs. Reds

The Twins are surging, to the point that they could end up with the best record in the American League. At the very least, they probably snuffed out any hope of a shocking surge from the White Sox...Meanwhile, in the NL, the west is red hot right now. It is a three-team race, and to add another dimension to the race, their records put them right in the middle of the wild card hunt too. It looks like there will be a nation-wide pennant chase in the final weeks, as seemed likely throughout the year according to the projected standings.

Lueke Reveals M's Off Field Mess

Here are the first words I ever wrote about Josh Lueke, from my Cliff Lee trade post:
In some ways, the most interesting piece is Josh Lueke. He is a 25-year-old righty blowing hitters away out of minor league bullpens. He is a little old for the levels he has played at, so take the eye-popping numbers with a grain of salt. However, one way or another, Lueke and Lowe are probably tied together in the deal. Did the Rangers want Mark Lowe bad enough that they were willing to add Lueke, or did the Mariners want Lueke bad enough that they were willing to give up Lowe? I am not sure, but my educated guess is that the final haggling was done over these two players.
I had no idea what I was saying. Lueke remains a hot topic, with the climax (so far) being this in-depth report penned by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times a few weeks ago. Just a few days ago, pro scouting director Carmen Fusco was fired, and the timing may or may not be linked to Lueke as well.

For details on what I'm referencing with Josh Lueke, check out the Baker report that I linked to in the above paragraph. I have steered clear of it this whole time for many reasons, mostly tied to the sensitive nature of the charges, and the fact that this is a baseball blog.

However, at this point, it is hard to deny that baseball decisions are being made by the Mariners centered around Lueke's rape and sodomy charges. Furthermore, the Mariners reaction is more and more curious, to put it lightly.

Fun Day In AA

The West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx finished out their regular season in style. The team is playoff bound, and celebrated with an entertaining finale.

First of all, Nick Franklin made his AA debut, and it was a good one. He batted second and went two for three with a walk, scoring all three times he was on base. I found it interesting that he was plugged right into the top of the order, but at least today, he seemed more than ready to handle it.

However, the real story of the game is Leury Bonilla. He probably will go down in professional baseball history as a career minor-leaguer, so today's game might be the one he tells his grandchildren about. Bonilla played all nine positions. He even hit a home run, and struck out a batter! Here is the box score. It must have been fun trying to guess what position he would play each time the Diamond Jaxx went back out to play the field.

Then, after a thoroughly enjoyable game, West Tennesee held a post-game celebration/news conference/fashion show to unveil an entire new team name for next year. In 2011, the Jaxx will be the Jackson Generals. The name has some history behind it, as this article illuminates.

The Mariners game stunk today. They were down early, and with their putrid offense, that meant the contest was over just barely after it got started. Meanwhile, the good folks over in Jackson, Tennessee got to see the debut of a hot prospect, another guy play all nine positions, a convincing win, and then the unveiling of an entire franchise re-branding.

Seriously, take whatever time you are spending watching the Mariners when Felix isn't on the mound, and devote it to the minor league affiliates. Eight of the nine teams are going to the post-season. There are some exciting youngsters, and at least in Jackson, Tennessee, a guy playing all over the field. The Jaxx game today is one that I definitely think would have been fun to be at, and I wouldn't say the same about this afternoon's effort from the Mariners.

Time To Hype Nick Franklin

Nick Franklin (image from milb.com)
Actually, it has been time to hype SS Nick Franklin for a long time. He started fast in the Midwest League, and hasn't really let up. However, today really says it all.

It's been a fun day down on the farm for the Mariners. The Rainiers just clinched their second straight division crown (guaranteeing at least one game in Safeco Field). Even lower down, the Clinton Lumberkings clinched a playoff berth, albeit on a day where they lost.

Still, it doesn't really dull Franklin's story.

2010 Mariners Fall Leaguers

Earlier this week, Arizona Fall League rosters were unveiled. The fall league is a place for prospects to get an extra month of games in, and typically teams send younger players that they want to accelerate development on. Lots of the game's top young talent plays in the league, though there often is a range in polish. It's a bit like the MLB Futures game, except with more players, and for a whole month.

The league consists of 6 teams with 35-man rosters. Each team in the fall league is fed by five major league organizations, and each organization sends seven players. The Mariners affiliate is the Peoria Javelinas, and here are quick looks at the seven Mariner farmhands who will spend this autumn in the desert: