Fister Gone, Pauley Too

Casper Wells
As I drove home from the Mariners game last night*, I heard the news that Aaron Laffey would be sent down and Dan Cortes brought up. That immediately sounded fishy to me, in a way that screamed it was part of a bigger move. It seemed to indicate that Blake Beavan was going to stay in the rotation, and while some thought that was an indication of going with six guys, I thought it was more realistic that it mean Eric Wedge would go with five, and he and Jack Z knew that somebody wasn't much longer for the roster.

*I should warn you, my faithful readers, when I'm going to a Mariners game. I have a knack for picking awful ones. I should particularly warn you when I go to a game with my dad, because all we ever do is go to cold, rainy/misty affairs.

The answer came fast. Doug Fister and David Pauley are going to the Tigers in exchange for Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, and a player to be named later. Indications are that Wells and Furbush will join the team immediately. This deal must have been very close last night, because sending down Laffey left no lefties in the bullpen. However, acquiring Furbush fixes that.

To begin with, this is not the Jarrod Washburn deal with the Tigers all over again. Washburn had a couple months left on his contract, and as it turned out, his career. Fister has years of team control, and probably more pitching after that left in his tank. The Tigers did not make a rental this morning.

Before talking about whom the Mariners got in return, I give Jack Zduriencik an A+ on the players he sent to Detroit. As a fan, I will miss both Fister and Pauley, but these were the right guys on the roster to shop.

The Deadline Dance

With the trade deadline coming up, if you don't already check out MLB Trade Rumors (or follow them on Twitter at @mlbtraderumors), I recommend you do. The site is one-stop shopping for trade rumors, both big and small, along with links to sources. Last night they fired off a post specifically about the Mariners. Based on the reports, it looks like:

The trade deadline is wonderful for false reports and smoke screens. Jack Zduriencik, if anything, has proven that he keeps information close to vest too. I usually completely tune out Mariners reports for both of these reasons.

This simple one from MLB Trade Rumors hits the nail on the head though. I bet it is both completely bogus and entirely true at the same time.

Fifteen

...And it just continues. My oh my.

The 2011 Mariners went from the little engine that might, to a collection of rusty spare parts awfully fast. A month ago, they were a collection of lovable flaws that just might be saved by an insane starting rotation. Now, there is nothing to save at all. The team wasn't scoring all that much, so I figured the run would end at some point, but who thought it would look something like this?

With the title to this post, I might as well make my one pop culture reference for the year; and even this reference is pushing the boundaries of "pop culture." True story - I had a high-schooler come up to me once and tell me that she feels the song speaks to her life. I guess it speaks to the Mariners now too.

Baseball Bloggers Alliance

This isn't a real post as much as an update. Seattle Mariners Musings is now a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA). You can read up more on the BBA and what it's about by clicking on the link in the last sentence. Long story short, I felt the Musings, and my goals with the blog, lined up well with BBA. So, I applied, and now I'm a member.

Really, nothing much will change on the Musings, with one notable exception. The BBA has its own postseason awards, and part of maintaining membership is voting in a minimum number of them. I plan on voting on every single one (the awards were actually something that made me want to join), and my votes will be published here. As much fun as "who I would pick" posts are to write, they just don't have much sizzle when they start with, "if I had a vote..." Well, now I actually do, so THIS TIME IT COUNTS.

We will see where things go, but I am excited to be a part of the BBA, and at the directions the membership may lead.

Smoak's Struggles

Justin Smoak
Justin Smoak is in a heck of a slump. It was enough to get him benched Friday night, though let's be honest, he doesn't even seem like a problem. The Mariners just took 30 innings to push across 1 run. That's not an exaggeration; that's reality.

Like most slumps, Smoak's is marked by some bad luck. So far in July, his BABIP is .161, which is brutal. At some point, some balls will avoid fielders.

However it isn't all bad luck. It's not as if Smoak has been stinging the ball lately. Low BABIP and weak contact go hand-in-hand, though it's difficult to quantify the relation. The best marker is that every hitter has an insanely high BABIP on line drives. For instance, Smoak's batting average on line drives is .607 for the year.

At some point, Smoak will snap out of this slump, but I think there is a bigger question that his past month has brought up. Which is closer to the real Smoak: the one we saw in April, capable of powering the order, or the one we see now, who is seemingly helpless?

In all honesty, I think it is impossible to say what kind of hitter Smoak really is. He has about a season's worth of plate appearances in the majors for his career. That's not a ton of data to go on. Furthermore, he is still finding his place in the majors, so fluctuations in his numbers aren't necessarily the statistical equivalent of background noise.

Still, that won't stop me from trying to glean something out of what we have seen so far. While Smoak won't always be in major slumps, he might be susceptible to them. There is an interesting trend in his batted ball profile.

The Clemens Mistrial

As I got ready to go to work yesterday morning, I just had to stop. I rather literally stopped dead in my tracks, when I saw the headline that the Roger Clemens trial was over barely after it started, thanks to a mistrial.

That probably says something about how I feel about baseball. Still, wow. What an unexpected, stunning end to a couple years of tense build-up.

I have no idea what to make of the legal happenings. I am a sports fan with a math major and a job tutoring high school students. I am no budding paralegal. There are some guys over at ESPN with law degrees that wrote and said things. Sports Illustrated also has their two cents. Dan McLaughlin at Grantland also provided a meaty write-up on the mistrial. I am sure many others have chimed in with better informed opinions of what will happen too.

For what it is worth, I asked a friend who used to work in a legal firm about the mistrial, and he anticipates that the odds of a retrial are tied to the merit of the trial itself. Judges do not like having their decisions appealed, so the judge likely is not interested in rejecting a retrial, only to have the decision appealed and ultimately overturned.

That's probably already farther than I should have gone with any sort of analysis of what's next.

MLB Influence Rankings

I got the latest rankings done a day later than I wanted, but oh well. The numbers are still from before the second half of the season started. Click on the image to enlarge it:


All the previous rankings can be found here. An explanation of what the bubble sizes and positions mean can be found here. Click "continue reading" for a few thoughts on the rankings.

Who Wants Carlos Beltran?

Carlos Beltran
Just minutes after the National League defeated the American League 5-1 (did the AL get the memo that THIS ONE COUNTS?!), the Brewers and Mets announced a trade. Milwaukee more or less took Francisco Rodriguez out of New York's hands. The official price is a couple players to be named later, but in reality, the Brewers simply agreed to pay K-Rod no matter what, and the cash-strapped Mets said, "sure."

Of course, it's not quite that simple. The Brewers are in win-now mode. There is no way that they can hold on to everyone they have right now, particularly both Prince Fielder and Zack Greinke. Their window of opportunity is now, and they are operating accordingly. Maybe taking on Rodriguez's salary blows the budget, but the 2011 Brewers are a team worth blowing the budget on.

There is an added danger with K-Rod, which should not manifest as long as he stays the set-up guy for John Axford. If Rodriguez finishes 21 more games this season (which he easily would as a closer), a $17.5 million option for 2012 kicks in. Obviously, the Mets did not want to pay that money, and now know that they won't have to. I highly doubt the Brewers want to either. Everything works fine as long as K-Rod pitches the eighth inning from here on out. It's not much of a risk, but still - $17.5 million!*

*Well, more like $14 million. K-Rod gets a $3.5 million buyout if the option doesn't vest. Still, $14 million!

It is very clear that the Mets need to clear some salary at this point. A Francisco Rodriguez trade could make sound baseball sense, but with such a small return on him in this deal, why didn't they wait until closer to the deadline to see if a better offer emerged? It looks pretty clear that the Mets are highly motivated to get rid of salaries. That's the only way this really makes sense.

On to the real subject of this post now, Carlos Beltran.

Futures Game 2011

The MLB Futures Game kicked off All Star festivities, and let's be honest, it's nice to have something besides the Angels series to think about, right? Here are some musings on the prospects that appeared in the game. Obviously, these are authoritative reports on these prospects. A handful of pitches or swings on a computer screen is all that's needed to figure out what these players will do:

Kyle Seager Promoted

Kyle Seager
Kyle Seager is coming to the majors. To make room, Jose Yepez was designated for assignment. Despite being with the ballclub for nearly a week, Yepez did his best Jeff Gray and Chris Ray impressions. He didn't get in a ballgame.

The move is interesting on a couple levels. It is certainly an ominous development for Chone Figgins, who really might be the worst player in the majors right now. A guy batting under .200 with no power, limited patience, and a mediocre glove should see his playing time diminish. Presumably, Seager came up to play some, and there aren't that many more innings to go around with Dustin Ackley at second base, and Adam Kennedy also playing some third.

2011 All-Star Reaction

It will be a rare double post day on the blog, as there are enough interesting things to talk about with both All-Star teams. Instead of going player by player, I'll highlight some of the differences between the AL and NL rosters, compared to my own selections:

My 2011 All-Stars

I thought my post would beat out the real rosters, but it didn't. You'll have to trust me that I did not look at the real ones before putting mine together.

My process is fairly straightforward. I take the players that I think are best at each position, and they are the starters. After that, I pick the best player from each team not represented. Whatever spots remaining are filled with the best remaining players, with some sensitivity to depth (for instance, there needs to be at least one backup catcher).

Personally, I don't like the expanded rosters at all, so I always like to challenge myself to keep to 25 players. So, individuals in italics are the ones that made it thanks to the expanded roster sizes.

Here are my all-stars:

An Obvious Pick-Up

Mike Cameron
Are the Mariners contenders or pretenders? There are arguments for both. Regardless, a player just hit the market that this team could, and should, go out and acquire.

Mike Cameron got designated for assignment by the Red Sox on June 30. In name, he is the same Cameron that patrolled center field for the 116-win M's in 2001, and through the turn of the millennium. In reality, he is a 38-year-old version of the strikeout-prone Gold Glover he used to be.

I guess obvious is a buzz word when it comes to linking the Mariners and Cameron. When a player has history with a team, like Cameron does with the Mariners, it is natural to root for a comeback. Stories with the flavor of the prodigal son returning home are timeless. They always appeal to the human soul.

Would a 38-year-old Mike Cameron appeal to the 2011 Mariners though?

The short answer: I don't know. The longer answer: We might as well find out.