September 2009

Ichiro needs run on runs to keep streak going

There isn’t a lot that Ichiro hasn’t accomplished this season, but there is something missing.

*He went past the career 2,000-hit mark in a game against the Athletics in Oakland in August

*He reached the 200-hit level for a record-breaking ninth consecutive season on Sept. 13 in Arlington during the second game of a doubleheader.

*He never went hitless in back-to-back games until Sept. 26-27 in Toronto, ending a streak of 180 games without back-to-back o-fers, the longest streak since Doc Cramer in 1934-35.

*He had his first, second and third walk-off hits of his career. Imagine that.

*He had his first ejection in either Japan or the United States (actually, it was in Canada) last weekend.

But one thing Ichiro probably won’t do for the first time in his nine All-Star seasons with the Mariners is score 100 runs.

He went into Wednesday night’s game against the Athletics with 85 runs scored and just five games remaining. He currently is tied with Lou Gehrig for the modern record of most seasons with at least 200 hits and 100 runs scored — eight. Ichiro and Willie Keeler are the only players to have had 200-100 seasons eight consecutive seasons.

— Jim Street

Taking a stroll with Junior

Ken Griffey Jr., has another souvenir for his bulging trophy case.

The walk he coaxed off Jays reliever Jeremy Accardo in the ninth inning last night was the 1,300th free pass of Junior’s Hall of Fame career. The ball (or one just like it) was given to him after the game with the proper description written by clubhouse manager Ted Walsh.

That got P.R. director Tim Hevly to thinking — how many miles is 1,300 walks?

“Three”,” Griffey said when he was asked.

Not exactly.

Those 1,300 walks total 117,000 feet which, divided by 5,280 feet/mile equals 22.16 miles.

Though Griffey’s batting average, .214, is low, he leads the team in walks this season with 60 — two more than injured first baseman Russell Branyan.

The all-time leader in walks is Barry Bonds, who had 2,558 during his 22-year MLB career — or 38.5 miles worth of walking.

— Jim Street

Felix and Greinke: Comparing the numbers

As you know, Felix Hernandez makes another pitch for the Cy Young Award in tonight’s series opener against the Jays at Rogers Center, or as they spell it in Canada, Centre. Go figure.

From all indications as we speak, Felix and the Royals’ Zack Greinke are running 1-2 in the Cy Young Award race, not necessarily in that order.

Greinke probably gained a few votes earlier this week when he beat the Red Sox for his 15th win.

For my own in-room entertainment, I compared some numbers:

1. Hernandez has a 10-3 record against teams with winning records this season while Greinke is 6-4.

2. Hernandez has a 2.15 ERA (35 earned runs in 146 1/3 innings) against teams with winning records while Greinke has a 0.57 ERA (6 earned runs in 95 innings) against teams with winning records.

3. Hernandez is 5-1 against probable playof teams and Greinke is 4-2.

4. Felix has pitched at least seven innings 21 times, two more than Greinke.

5. Felix faced the Dodgers, Giants, Padres and D-backs in Interleague Play. Greinke faced the Astros, Pirates and D-backs.

6. Hernandez’s longest winning streak was seven games, one more than Greinke.

7. Felix has 10 no-decisions, two more than Greinke.

8. The Mariners scored 21 runs in the five games Hernandez lost, the Royals scored 15 runs in the eight games Greinke lost.

9. Felix plays for a team that averages 3.95 runs per game (last in the AL) while Greinke’s team scores an average of 4.24 runs per game.

So there you have it.

My guess is that this battle will go down to the very end of the regular season. Both pitchers figure to have at least two starts remaining and it’s really too close to call.

— Jim Street

Catching up on Junior’s bonuses

After spending a much-needed, if not well-deserved, day off on Monday, which was spent at the fabulous Gold Mountain Golf Club — site of this weekend’s college tournament hosted by the University of Washington — this is a day for catching up on such things as emails.

A few of my readers from Uzbekistan, not to mention one from Azarbaijan, who apparently has nothing better to do, were wondering how many of Ken Griffey Jr.’s  incentive bonuses will be met this season.

Oh yes, a few folks from Japan also have inquired, not to mention several others from Afghanistan. Now I understand what WWW stands for.

Anyway, I did some research this afternoon and according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, a site that is not official but seems to have good information as far as I can tell, the following are the particulars of his one-year contact with the Mariners.

Junior received a $2 million base salary — and in my opinion, which is probably shared by my reader(s) in Kyrgyzstan, has been worth every penny of it — along with $3 million in possible bonuses.

And here they are:

* $250,000 bonuses each for 450 and 500 plate appearances. As of today, and prior to tonight’s game against the Rays, Junior has 356 at-bats, 57 walks, three sacrifice flies and has been hit by one pitch. As my reader from Turkmenistan would know, that totals up to be 417 plate appearances. As my reader(s) from Tajikistan realizes, Junior needs 33 more plate appearances to cash in one the first of those two bonuses.

* With 2.1 million in home attendance (it currently is 2.059 million), he would receive $100,000 for 300 plate appearances and $200,000 each for 350 and 400 plate appearances. Even my reader in Kazakhstan can say “Ka-ching”.

* Juinor also gets $200,000 each for 2.15 million fans and 350 plate-appearances; 2.2 million fans and 400 plate appearances; 2.25 million fans at 450 plate appearances and 2.3 million fans and 500 plate appearances. For my reader(s) in Pakistan, all that could be a little confusing.

Ahh, but there is more.

* If he is (was) on the 25-man roster on July 31 (which he of course was) he would receive $50,000 bonuses each time home attendance reaches 2.35 million, 2.4 million, 2.45 million, 2.5 million, 2.55 million and 2.6 million. My loyal reader(s) in Turkey probably figures none of those incentives will happen. Bummer.

* And if he’s on the roster on the final day of the season (my Seattle reader(s) know that is Oct. 4), Junior receives $100,000 each when home attendance reaches 2.65 million, 2.7 million, 2.75 million, 2.8 million, 2.95 million and 3 million.

* Other bonuses include $25,000 for All-Star reserve; $50,000 each for All-Star starter, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, LCS MVP, $100,000 each for Word Series MVP, Comeback Player of the Year and $150,000 for AL MVP.

If my readers from any country — even if it doesn’t end in a “stan” — has the time to figure all that out and get back to me on the grand total of Junior’s bonuses, I would much appreciate it.

— Jim Street

Junior not tipping his hand regarding 2010

There are less than two weeks remaining in what has been a fun-filled season for the Mariners in general and Ken Griffey Jr. in particular.

Junior will be 40 years old on Nov. 21. That much we know. What we don’t know is whether Mariners’ uniform No. 24 will be worn again next season.

Griffey played coy on Sunday afternoon following his most productive game of the season — a run-scoring double in the first inning and three-run home run in the second inning, against the Yankees.

It was a turn-back-the-clock moment for “The (former) Kid.”

After the 7-1 victory, he was asked just about every which way whether this would be his final season.

He answered in just about every which way that he has not made that decision — and will not rush into making it.

“At the end of the year, we ‘ll decide,” he said. “There’ s still more ballgames to play. “

The Mariners have 12 games remaining, starting with Tuesday night’s game in St. Petersburg against the Rays. After two games there and four in Toronto, the team returns for a three-game home series against the Athletics and another three-game series against the Rangers.

My gut feeling is two-fold: If the Mariners want him to come back for one more season, and his Orlando-based family wants him to come back for one more season, Junior will return next season.

He has enjoyed this season perhaps more than any of the previous 19, and except for his batting average, has contributed as much as could be expected from a 39-year-old with a bum knee that limited him primarily to DH duties.

It would surprise me if Junior’s status is determined by the end of this season. General manager Jack Zduriencik has a lot of work to do during the offseason to get this team good enough to challenge for a playoff spot and filling the DH role is not at the top of the list.

But regardless what happens, one of the best things that happened this season to the team, the organization and the fans, was bringing Griffey back.

— Jim Street

 

Lopez reaches 90-RBI mark for first time

Second baseman Jose Lopez is driving in runs like never before in his career.

In fact, his run-scoring single in the third inning tonight, scoring Franklin Gutierrez from second base to tie the game against the Yankees at 1-1, was Lopez’s 90th of the season, one more than his previous single-season hit, set last season.

— Jim Street

Making a Cy Young pitch for Felix

It doesn’t rival the hype generated by NCCA institutions for the Heisman Trophy, but various MLB public relations departments are beginning to go the extra mile to draw attention to their particular player(s) for post-sesason awards.

The Mariners have jumped into the fray, touting right-hander Felix Hernandez for the AL Cy Young Award.

And why not?

The usually-biased East Coast voters should know, for example:

* In 30 starts, King Fellix is 15-5 with a 2.52 ERA.

* Leads all American League starters with 25 quality starts and has the lowest opponents batting average — .228.

* Ranks second in the AL in ERA (2.52), tied for third in starts (30), tied for fourth in wins (15), fourth in strikeouts (193), and fifth in strikeouts per nine innings pitched. (8.38).

* Is the only pitcher to rank in the top five in the AL in each of the three pitching “Triple Crown” categories — wins ERA and strikeouts.

* Has recorded a quality start in 20 of his last 21 outings.
 
* Since May 24, is 11-1 with a 1.91 ERA, has a 137-45 strikeout-walk ratio and a .213 opposing batting average.
 
* Leads the AL with seven starts of at least 7.0 shutout innings.

* With seven more strikeouts, and assuming he finishes with an ERA below 3.00, will become just the second pitcher in club history to post a season of 200 innings, 200 strikeouts, 15 wins and a sub-.300 ERA. Randy Johnson accomplished this in 1995 and ’97, winning the Cy Young Award in ’95.

The Big Unit remains as the Mariners’ only Cy Young Award winner.

Felix can make another strong pitch to become the second on Friday night with a strong performance against the Yankees at Safeco Field.

— Jim Street

Silva in, White out

The Mariners made a couple of roster moves today and both involved the bullpen.

Dependable right-hander Sean White was put on the 60-day disabled list with shoulder tendinitis (he’s out for the season) and right-hander Carlos Silva, a starter by definition, was activated from the 60-day DL. He will spend the remainder of the season pitching out of the bullpen.

The game plan is to give Silva a chance to jump-start what could be an important Winter League campaign for him in his native Venezuela.

The 30-year-old made three combined rehab appearances at Short-A Everett and Triple-A Tacoma, allowing two earned runs in four innings. He was originally placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 9 with right shoulder inflammation after being forced from his start on April 25 against the Angels after five innings. He was transferred to the 60-day disabled list on June 18.

He has two years remaining on the four-year contract he signed as a free-agent prior to the 2008 season.

White had a career-high 52 appearances this season and provided a nice bridge to right-handers Mark Lowe and David Aardsma. White compiled a nifty 2.80 ERA after starting the season at Tacoma.

— Jim Street

Big D stands for Big Drench

“Push ’em back, push ’em back, way back!”

Excuse me for the phrase usually associated with football, but the starting time for today’s double-header between the Mariners and Rangers has now been pushe back to 2 p.m. PT — at the earliest.

The infield at Rangers Ballpark, which was a muddy mess in the late innings on Saturday night, is covered with a gray tarp, which has been used way too often the past few days.

This three-game series against the Rangers reminds me of the four-game series that was supposed to be played in Cleveland a couple of years ago but was snowed out. At least it isn’t snowing here, but it has been raining here for most of the past three days. Not sure what it meant, but I just heard someone page “Noah”.

I have made a promise to myself to NEVER, EVER again complain about the rain in Seattle.

We received word about two hours ago that the opener, slated to start at 10:30 a.m. p.m. PT — 1 1/2 hours later than originially announced. But that optimistic outlook just bit the dust.

Manager Don Wakamatsu just had his pre-game media chat and said Doug Fister would start Game 1 no matter what and Felix Hernandez would start second game, pending the playing conditions.

There also is more talk about the Mariners staying in Arlington overnight and playing a makeup game on Monday afternoon, which would be followed by the regularly-scheduled Rangers-Athletics game. That is not likely to happen because it’s such a bad idea.

It would make more sense to play the one or two remaining games at Safeco Field on the final weekend of the regular season — if the Rangers are mathematically alive in the playoff race(s).

Meanwhile, catcher Adam Moore was expected to arrive any moment now and be in uniform if there is a game or two today.

He spent last night in Sacramento, where Triple-A Tacoma was eliminated from the PCL playoffs. Third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo and pitcher Garrett Olson will join the team later today, while pitcher Carlos Silva returned to Seattle and will rejoin the Mariners on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the rain keeps falling here in Big D — Big Drench.

— Jim Street

Rain, rain go away

When it rains in Texas, it really pours. Like, for 26 consecutive hours now with no end in sight.

Yep, it is getting close to 5 o’clock and it appears that the first game of this three-game series will be washed out again.

Right-hander Brandon Morrow showed up on Friday wearing what he called “my playoff beard”, which he grew while playing for Triple-A Tacoma. The Rainiers captured the Pacific Coast League North Division title and Morrow would have started Friday night’s playoff game in Sacramento.

Instead, he re-joined the Mariners in Arlington and was supposed to pitch Seattle’s series opener against the Rangers. At this rate, he will look like Grizzly Adams by the time he pitches.

At least he’ll be well-rested.

The lighting that accompanied Friday night’s storm had a silver lining for manager Don Wakamatsu.

His son, Jake, who plays wide receiver for his high school team, was supposed to play Friday night, but was postponed because of the lightning and rescheduled for Saturday. So dad was able to see the football game, after all.

Jake’s team lost, 42-13, but he caught four passes and his dad was among the spectators.

“I sat in the rain from about noon to 2:30, but it was great,” Wakamatsu said. I haven’t had a chance to to see him play any sport since February. They didn’t play all that well, but it was nice to see him play.”

While Wak was watching his son play football, Ken Griffey Jr. was doing the same in Florida. He traveled to Orlando late Friday night, had a surprise wakeup call for his young son, Tevin.

“What’s today?” Junior asked.

“Game day,” a barely-awake Tevin responded.

Tevin’s eye-lids completely opened when he realized dad was in the house.

Junior watched the game, which Tevin’s team won 5-0 (one point per touchdown), and returned to Arlington, and reported to work at Rangers Ballpark — where it was still raining.

The lineup was posted at around 4:30 and it was the same as Friday night:

1. Ichiro, RF

2. Franklin Gutierrez, CF

3. Jose Lopez, 2B

4. Griffey, DH

5. Adrian Beltre, #B

6. Bill Hall, LF

7. Jack Hannahan, 1B

8. Jack Wilson, SS

9. Rob Johnson, C

RHP Brandon Morrow.

— Jim Street