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Dramatic Transaction Reenactments - Episode 3: The Prodigal Trio

Perhaps you have never seen the first two episodes of Dramatic Transaction Reenactments, because the last episode was created over two years ago. They are back though, with a touching recounting of the three-way trade that brought Mike Morse back to the Mariners. It's quite a bit shorter than previous DTRs, and maybe some day I will come up with a more powerful ending, but for now enjoy 1 minute and 40 seconds of how I dramatically interpret the Morse trade going down:

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Does Loe Have a Look in his Eyes?

I listened to my first Mariners game of the year on Sunday, which was awesome. The first action I catch is always soothing and refreshing to my baseball-starved ears. It was even nicer that the Mariners battered an aged Freddy Garcia and dispatched the Padres handily.

I also caught some of the pre-game show, where Rick Rizzs asked Eric Wedge about Saturday's ballgame. In particular, he asked about the pitchers, which included Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen looking quite good, not to mention starting rotation candidate Blake Beavan rolling out a new-look windup with success.

Yet the pitcher that Wedge described as most impressive was Kameron Loe. I'm dead serious. Wedge couldn't get enough of the action on Loe's sinker. Wedge talked about that more than Hultzen throwing seven pitches (all strikes) in an inning of work that included two strikeouts. He about talked about Loe's sinker more than the easy 97 miles per hour that Walker popped on the radar gun.

I'm Finished Being Productive For A While

Major League Baseball has added lots of classic highlights to their online video database. What a beautiful excuse to relive the double.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Imagine Blake Beavan as Rainiers Closer

An interesting metamorphosis may have happened in Baltimore near the end of the regular season. We will get confirmation this season. Tommy Hunter starting throwing really, really hard. Below is a graph of Hunter's average fastball velocities in every appearance his whole career to date. Notice the spike at the tail end:

image from Fangraphs

Hunter made the majors only a year after the Rangers made him a supplemental first round draft pick. He looked like a solid starting pitcher, but then he didn't seem to progress. Hunter was eventually traded to the Orioles last offseason, where it was expected he would begin to bounce between AAA and the majors as an insurance policy at the back end of a rotation. He had been, in essence, pigeon-holed as a replacement-level innings-eater.

Then Baltimore stuck Hunter in the bullpen, and his velocity increased about 6 miles an hour. It took his average velocity from the 90-91mph range, to 96-97mph. The spike completely changed the nature of Hunter's fastball, which in turn changed his approach. He can overpower hitters he used to have to out think.

Tommy Hunter may or may not have everything to do with Blake Beavan. I'd like to find out if Beavan can follow Hunter's example or not.

SBG 1913 on Religion

I am always combing the internet for free stuff. Most of it is trash, but every now and then a gem can be found - particularly when looking for content where copyright rights have expired. This is the perfect batch for hidden gems; things are free and readily available simply because they are so old!

Such is the case with the 1913 edition of Spalding's baseball guide. It can be found for free on the internet in all sorts of formats. This is part two of an ongoing series in which I will investigate excerpts of this hidden treasure.

Spalding's Baseball Guide - 1913: on religion
The Bible is the Spalding book of rules for the game of life. James B. Sullivan, beloved by all athletes, gave me these rules for athletes: "Don't drink, use tobacco, or dissipate. Go to bed early and eat wholesome food!" The boozer gets out of the game as certainly as the bonehead. 
I have interviewed scores of the most noted players. Every one had a religious training. Many are church members. All avoid old-time drinking, as our fathers did smallpox. 
Mathewson belongs to the high type now generally being duplicated. He is a modern masculine Christian. Base Ball demands brains as well as brawn.

Joe Saunders, the Cheaper/Older Jason Vargas

The Mariners pulled a neat trick with their starting rotation this offseason that has not received enough attention. The moves received attention separately, but together the Jason Vargas trade and Joe Saunders signings are worth thinking about.

Vargas was traded to the Angels for Kendry Morales in a deal that made good sense for both sides once the Angels signed Josh Hamilton. Morales gives the Mariners offense, Vargas gives the Angels a pitcher they needed to round out their rotation. Both players were eligible for arbitration one final time before free agency, so financially the swap was a great combination.

Morales agreed to a contract with the Mariners for $5.25 million. Vargas agreed to a contract with the Angels for $8.5 million. Advantage (financially), Mariners - although Vargas left a significant question mark behind in the starting rotation.

The Mariners have since signed Joe Saunders to a $7 million contract, with an option for next season worth $6.5 million. He is a southpaw that relies on a change-up to get batters out. On the surface he sounds a bunch like Jason Vargas, except he will cost $1.5 million less.

I took a closer look at the data to see how comparable Saunders and Vargas are. Similar might not be a strong enough word. They might as well be each other.

He's Ours

There are 175 million more reasons that Felix Hernandez is a Seattle Mariner as of this afternoon. The deal is official, and was even signed at a public press conference, so there can be no doubt - Felix Hernandez is Mariners property for the next seven years.

To quote some local independent artists who just went triple platinum, this is (blank)ing awesome.

Jack Zduriencik simply said about Felix, "he's ours," and there isn't a better title for this post. Z's quote is literally true, but more importantly speaks to the heart of what was at stake until today, and why this deal was historic and inevitable at the same time.

When I watched the replay of King Felix's press conference, I saw a young man who knows he has it good, and has no interest in finding out if the grass is greener anywhere else. I was struck by how Felix talked about the Mariners, Safeco Field, and the city of Seattle. He described how supportive the fans are of him, how awesome the King's Court is, and how exciting it is to pitch in Safeco Field - as if his physics-bending change-up wouldn't play well anywhere else. Felix would be loved wherever he pitches, but that doesn't seem to be the way Felix thinks. Felix knows that Seattle loves him, and he knows that he loves Seattle. Maybe he would like it elsewhere, but why tempt fate?

Wouldn't we all like to believe we know when we have it good, and we cherish good things when we have them?

Mariners Attempting to Make Newsworthy News

Other real-world responsibilities pulled me away from baseball most of the past week and a half. Looks I didn't miss much until the past few days. The Mariners have been reportedly busy without much to officially show yet. Frankly, that doubles as a description of their whole offseason. In case you need an update going into spring training (starts Tuesday!), here you go:
  • Maybe Felix Hernandez is about to sign a huge contract. Ryan Divish at the TNT has a nice summary blog post up today with the latest grumblings about some sort of elbow problem that might be a reason King Felix and the M's haven't agreed to a 7-year, $175 million deal that was reported a few days ago. My guess (pure speculation) is that they found some sort of normal wear-and-tear that would be expected of a workhorse like King Felix, and perhaps also explains his gradual dip in velocity over the last few seasons. The Mariners want Felix, and Felix wants to stay with the Mariners. Maybe the deal includes some sort of injury clauses, but my prediction is that it gets done. I'm so sure of it I still named my fantasy baseball league after King Felix this season.
  • Maybe Joe Saunders is about to sign a modest contract. I feel like there has been speculation about Saunders for the better part of a month now. The speculation strengthened the last few days to reports that a deal is in place, pending a physical. Saunders will essentially replace Jason Vargas, and on paper there is a very good chance that his impersonation is a dead ringer. I also love the idea of Saunders crushing his former team, the Angels, but we will have to see if that happens.
  • Kelly Shoppach officially signed a deal, and the Mariners DFAd Shawn Kelley to make room for him. I am not in love with this move, but it is rather minor so it is hard to have much emotion about at all. Shoppach is the backup catcher, Kelley was a middle reliever. I feel like the Mariners could find similar backup catchers by offering minor league deals with invites to spring training, thus saving Kelley or someone else for another month. Seems a bit to me like the Mariners spent more than they needed to get Shoppach, and gave up more than they needed to at this point.
  • Jon Garland was given a minor league contract with invite to spring training. Welcome this year's Kevin Millwood to camp! Garland isn't quite as much of a grizzled veteran, but he pitches to contact and got lost in the off-season shuffle because he did not pitch at all last season. I think Garland is better than fellow revival project Jeremy Bonderman, which makes him in my view closer to a dark horse than a long shot to grab the fifth spot in the M's starting rotation.
Spring training starts slowly, but it will be nice to talk about something besides all the things maybe or maybe not happening. It's time to play ball, or at least have pitchers and catcher play games of catch that replace clips of amazing squirrels on local sports broadcasts.