The number of hits by Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison in four at-bats. The Former Marlin also added a strikeout. In a surprising move, he hit leadoff.
The number of runs allowed by Felix Hernandez in 4.2 innings pitched. King Felix suffered only his second loss of the season, also allowing six hits, five walks and a home run. He only struck out four.
The number of runs allowed by the M’s after Felix exited. Mayckol Guaipe and Dominic Leone pitched a combined 4.1 innings, allowing one hit while striking out four.
The Mariners have a dilemma on their hands. One that involves pitching. The team gave up the fifth most runs in baseball last season. They also finished in the statistical basement in categories such as WHIP, homeruns and wild pitches. A lot of that has to do with their starting pitchers, based on sheer workload compared to the bullpen.
The current starting rotation consists of Felix Hernandez, Hishashi Iwakuma, Joe Saunders, Erasmo Ramirez and Brandon Maurer.
Going forward, Hernandez and Iwakuma are the only real locks. Saunders could be kept around, but that’s a story for another time.
The dilemma that I alluded to earlier is this: Seattle needs to upgrade its starting pitching, but they don’t want to block the path of the Big Three. No, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish aren’t walking through that door, but James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker are.
Seattle could throw all three of them in the fire and use the rookies with their two All-Stars, but in all likelihood, not all of the pitchers will be ready. Hence the M’s need a stop-gap player.
Enter Josh Johnson.
The former Marlins’ Ace struggled in a Blue Jays uniform. In 16 starts north-of-the-border he posted a 2-8 record with an ERA of 6.20. Not only did his ERA balloon, he also gave up more homeruns in 16 starts than he gave up in nearly twice as many starts in his final year in Miami. The potential is still there. He posted 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings in his first year in the AL, his highest total since 2010 when he was an All-Star and received votes for the Cy Young (finished 5th) and MVP (25th).
Due to numerous variables, Johnson won’t garner as much free agent attention as other starting pitchers who are also out of contract. Part of that has to do with his down year. It also has to do with the moderately strong class of free agent starters. Matt Garza, AJ Burnett and Masahiro Tanaka headline the group with other names such as Ervin Santana, Hiroki Kuroda, Bartolo Colon and Ricky Nolasco sure to garner interest.
The underlying theme here is that Johnson could be had for cheap, relative to his value. Teams won’t necessarily be lined up around the block with money to offer him like they will/would for Tanaka or Garza. This could be a one-man gold mine for the Mariners.
Obviously Johnson isn’t going to be a long-term piece in Seattle. He won’t sign a long contract and the Mariners like their youngsters moving forward, but Johnson could be a very enticing fit in the Emerald City.
Put it this way, the Mariners sign Johnson, he regains some of the form that he lost from his Cy Young worthy years, and the Mariners sell high on him at the deadline in order to gain a young piece for the future.
Not only is Johnson an attractive option to sign and flip come deadline day, he also will improve the M’s pitching staff. His 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings were higher than every M’s starting pitcher not named Hernandez. That’s 2.2 more than Maurer, 2.7 more than Harang and 3.8 more than Saunders. This is useful considering the fact that the M’s were an extremely poor defensive unit, no matter what advanced stat you use. To sum it up, that’s two to three more outs that Johnson didn’t expose his fielders to, outs that never left the batters’ box.
Who knows, maybe the M’s contend with a trio of Felix, Iwakuma and Johnson. Maybe they decide that they like Johnson and want to keep him long term. This could allow them to trade the lesser, in their opinion, of the Big Three in a package for an impact bat along the lines of what they tried to get with Justin Upton.
Let me explain. Felix isn’t going to throw alley oops to Jesus Montero; Kendrys Morales isn’t going to get a never-ending highlight reel of clips for dunking on Ryan Dempster, and well you seem to get the point.
According the hoopsstats.com, the Clippers’ bench was in the bottom five in the league in terms of points, rebounds, assists and field goal percentage last year. The Clippers needed to improve the bench to get better.
Last offseason LA re-made their bench. They had 10 guys on the roster who weren’t regular starters last year. Only two of them are still on the team. The Clips main weakness was small forward depth, much like the Mariners lack of any power hitters. They went out and brought in Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes and Grant Hill among others. No one thought this would actually function and that the Clippers would struggle to give guys playing time, etc. But the Clippers have one of the better records in the league thanks to a bench that leads the league in bench scoring, and are in the top five in the league in rebounding, assists, steals and blocks.
The Mariners, you’ll remember, needed a new batch of power hitters. Middle of the order guys. Guys who could actually hit home runs on a consistent basis.
Seattle also wen the overkill route, dealing for Morales and Mike Morse as well as signing Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay. All of whom play some combination of the DH-First-Base-Left-Field Triple-platoon of positions all played by power hitters.
The Mariners are not only protected in case of injuries (which always seem to happen at the most inopportune times,) but are also able to play the mix-and-match game.
Eric Wedge can rotate Morse, Ibanez, Bay, Morales as well as incumbents Mike Carp and Justin Smoak through DH. He can also play all of them with the exception of Bay at first base, and all with the exception of Morales and Smoak in left field.
It gives the M’s the flexibility to lean on the hotter bats as well as easing off the colder ones.
So, can the M’s be baseball’s version of the Clippers?
It could happen.
What do you think? Could the Mariners be baseball’s Clippers with a mix-and-matching, strong-in-the-bench squad?