Tag:Ichiro Suzuki
Posted on: September 28, 2011 9:17 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 2:07 am
 

Signs point toward Matsui's return to Oakland

Hideki MatsuiBy C. Trent Rosecrans

In news that will make millions in Japan happy, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports the A's are likely to re-sign designated hitter Hideki Matsui, meaning the season-opening series between Oakland and Seattle in Tokyo will feature the country's two favorite exports.

Earlier Wednesday, Major League Baseball announced the season-opening series at the Tokyo Dome against the A's and Mariners. Ichiro Suzuki is under contract with the Mariners for next season, and both Matsui and the A's are interested the 37-year-old returning to Oakland for 2012.

"He's the one free agent we'd seriously consider for a number of reasons," an A's official told Slusser.

Matsui made $4.25 million this season and would likely cost less in 2012. Slusser suggest he could sign for $2 million, making a mid-season DFA wouldn't hurt the A's bottom line. Although he hit just .252/.322/.377 with 12 home runs and 72 RBI, he did play better after Bob Melvin took over, hitting .298/.356/.429 with six homers in the second half of the season. He also is a good presence in the clubhouse and brings in more money for the team in Japanese sponsorships and increased merchandise sales in Japan.

It's tough to overstate Matsui's popularity in Japan. Although Suzuki is the bigger star in the U.S., Matsui has been a folk hero since his high school days and then played for the country's most popular team, the Yomiuri Giants. He hit 332 home runs while in Japan and won three MVPs. He also led his team to three Japan Series titles and his standing was elevated even more when he became a member of the Yankees.

The return of Ichiro to Japan was sure to be a big deal for those two games in Tokyo, but the addition of Matsui will make it even more exciting -- and lucrative.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 23, 2011 3:31 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 4:58 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Seattle Mariners

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Seattle Mariners
Record: 66-90, 24 games back in AL West
Manager: Eric Wedge
Best hitter: Dustin Ackley -- .283/.359/.431, 6 HR, 35 RBI, 37 R, 14 2B, 6 SB
Best pitcher: Felix Hernandez -- 14-13, 3.32 ERA, 1.181 WHIP, 220 K, 230 1/3 IP

The Mariners aren't going to lose 100 games, so there's that. The team has done that in two of the last four seasons, so at least that's not going to happen in 2011. But for a team that was in contention through the first three months of the season, 2011 will be a disappointment, regardless of the final tally.

2011 SEASON RECAP

No matter what else happened in 2011, the Mariners' season will be most remembered for a 17-game losing streak in July, sandwiched around the All-Star break. The Mariners were at .500, 43-43 and just 2.5 games out of first place after beating the A's on July 5. After their next win they were 14.5 games out and held just a 44-60 record.

Even when the Mariners were a half-game behind the Rangers in June, nobody expected it to last. It was more of a nice surprise than any kind of real run toward the playoffs.

However, there were two huge positives -- the performances of rookies Ackley and Michael Pineda. Pineda opened the season in the team's rotation and immediately appeared to be the prince to King Felix. Pineda, 22, is 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA, but started the season 8-5 with a 2.58 ERA in his first 17 starts. He had some struggles, but the talent is obvious and even had some people even mentioning the possibility of a trade of Hernandez. That's not going to happen, instead the team will have a fearsome front of the rotation for years to come.

Ackley came up later in the season, but has done nothing but hit since singling off of Roy Oswalt in his first big-league at-bat.

While the kids impressed, the veterans were another story. Even the incomparable Ichiro Suzuki struggled in 2011, as it appears he'll fall short of 200 hits for the first time in his MLB career. Suzuki had a career .331 batting average coming into the season in which he's hit just .274/.312/.340. Chone Figgins continues to be a disaster, hitting .188/.241/.243, and is under contract through 2013. While Figgins is still around, Milton Bradley isn't, as the team designated him for assignment in May after he removed himself from a game and left the stadium. Franklin Guitierrez has never recovered from a stomach ailment, hitting just .224/.261/.273.

2012 AUDIT

The Mariners have the start of a good rotation, with Hernandez, Pineda and 22-year-old right-hander Blake Beavan. Charlie Furbush, 25, could surprise.

It appears the 2012 lineup is set -- or at least it is contractually. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's pretty much the same as it was this year when the team had the worst offense in the American League by just about any measurable statistic.

At this point, it seems like the best chance the Mariners have is hoping their pitching is good enough to carry them for most of the year and the likes of Justin Smoak, Trayvon Robinson, Casper Wells and Mike Carp. Yeah, that's not a lot to hang your hat on, but that's about where we are.

FREE AGENTS

RHP Chris Ray
2B Adam Kennedy
RHP Jamey Wright

OFFSEASON FOCUS

The team needs more offense, that's for sure. But where does it come from? The team has Bradley, Yuniesky Betancourt and Carlos Silva coming off the books -- but that's enough to make any GM balk at bringing in another big free-agent contract. And that doesn't even mention the $18 million still owed to Figgins. Ichiro will be in his last year under contract at $18 million and nobody's going to take him off their hands.

But the team still needs offensive help, so here's some suggestions that could help out the Mariners:

  • Sign Prince Fielder. It'd help, and when Fielder hits the ball, not even Safeco Field can hold his bombs. But with the ghosts of Figgins and the warning sign of Adam Dunn still out there, It may be tough for Jack Zduriencik to convince ownership to open their pocketbook to sign the 27-year-old Fielder. Unlike Dunn, though, Fielder is still under 30 and has several big years ahead of him. It will be tough to get Fielder to come to Safeco, but maybe he's heard Seattle has some amazing vegetarian restaurants. There aren't many quick fixes for an offense, but it's a heck of a start.
  • Try to deal Gutierrez. Yeah, it's selling low, and that's never a good thing -- and the Mariners would have to eat some salary, but he's still a defensive presence and can have a decent shot at bring back at least some bullpen help.
  • And why bullpen help? Because closer Brandon League could bring back a bat. To get something in return, you've got to give something up. And the All-Star closer is in his last year of arbitration, so it's better to get rid of him now and get something in return rather than run the risk of losing him in free agency (and wait for draft picks to develop). And at this point, a closer is a luxury, not a necessity. You have to score runs and get a lead before you can close one out.

If the Mariners get close to .500 and the rest of the division struggles (it could happen), things could get much better -- or at least more interesting in Seattle in 2012. But it's not until 2013 when Ichiro and others come off the books that the next generation of Mariners can take over.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:16 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 10:57 pm
 

Who should win the Gold Glove in the AL?

Suzuki

By Evan Brunell

As C. Trent Rosecrans explained when selecting the most-deserving players to win the NL Gold Glove, it's one of baseball's most difficult awards to give out.

An award that should specifically celebrate the aspect of defense in baseball is instead largely given to those who are considered good defenders, but who reign supreme in popularity and offense. With managers and players voting on the award, you sometimes see some strange occurrences -- such as Rafael Palmeiro winning a Gold Glove in 1999, when he played just 28 games at first base while functioning as a DH.

Here, though, defense rules and offense drools. Let's take a look at some of the best defenders the game has to offer...

Catcher: Matt Wieters, Orioles
-- Wieters doesn't have fantastic range, but he has plenty. Combine that with great hands that have led to a .995 fielding percentage and just one passed ball all season, and it's easy to see why the Oriole receives the nod for the award. Also, runners fear Wieters' arm -- he's only allowed 56 stolen bases all season, while the next-lowest total among catchers who qualify for the batting title is J.P. Arencibia's 77, achieved in 10 less starts. Oh, and Wieters has nabbed 32 runners for a caught-stealing rate of 36 percent, a high percentage for a catcher.

Others considered: Alex Avila, Russell Martin, Jeff Mathis

First base: Mark Teixeira, Yankees -- What Texiera has over his competition is the ability to do everything a regular first baseman is asked to do -- except very well. He brings the complete package to the table, showing an uncanny ability to scoop balls out of the dirt and possessing enough speed and quickness to  make plays out of his zone. No matter what defensive aspect you bring up, Teixeira is among the elite, both in the eyes of scouts and in defensive statistics.

Others considered: Adrian Gonzalez, Casey Kotchman, Mark Trumbo

Second base: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox -- Pedroia's fielding has been a major boon to his overall value this season. His numbers at the keystone position are what has vaulted him into the fringes of the MVP race and he dominates the game in all facets fielding. Range, plays out of the zone, total balls handled, errors ... no matter what you throw at Pedroia, he's going to go all out to get to the ball and make the play, which happens more often than not.

Others considered: Howie Kendrick, Ian Kinsler, Ben Zobrist

Third Base: Adrian Beltre, Rangers -- Beltre somehow only has two Gold Gloves despite a career of success. That success continues in 2011 in Texas, as Beltre has tremendous range compared with soft hands. Evan Longoria is a fantastic defender as well, but in the AL there simply is no comparison to Beltre. With 11 errors, Beltre is on pace to post his lowest error total since 2004, when he had 10.

Others considered: Alberto Callaspo, Evan Longoria, Brent Morel

Shortstop: Brendan Ryan, Mariners -- There's some pretty good competition at shortstop for best defender, but Ryan takes home the honors, showing the junior circuit how it's done in his first season in the AL. Ryan has an impeccable reputation on defense and did nothing to sully that reputation in Seattle. Elvis Andrus and Alcides Escobar, also in his first year in the AL, gave Ryan a run for his money and is also deserving of this award. Only one can win it, though.

Others considered: Elvis Andrus, Alcides Escobar, Alexi Ramirez

Left field: Brett Gardner, Yankees -- Was there any doubt? Gardner absolutely blows away the competition in left field. His prowess is so remarkable, words can't describe it. Luckily, there's a graphic drawn of his amazing range compared to the average left fielder, which you can view right here. There really isn't another left fielder that comes close, not even perennial Gold Glover Carl Crawford, who has seen his defensive numbers suffer due to the Green Monster. As advanced as metrics are these days, the Green Monster still fouls up the data, but Gardner is too far ahead of the pack that even adjusting for the Monster would still leave Gardner the clear victor.

Others considered: Alex Gordon, Vernon Wells

Center field: Austin Jackson, Tigers -- Like shortstop, center field is littered with strong defenders. That isn't a surprise, given the emphasis placed on both positions being strong defensively. Jackson has made himself at home in Comerica Park's spacious outfield, running down 114 balls outside of his zone. That's an astronomical number, and Jackson blends it with a strong overall game, even if his arm could be stronger.

Others considered: Peter Bourjos, Franklin Gutierrez, Jacoby Ellsbury

Right field: Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners -- Ichiro Suzuki simply does it all, with strong talent across the board. He knows where to go when the ball comes off the bat, rarely out of position. While Suzuki is 37, he still has enough speed to cover the ground required of him and continues to flash a strong arm, even if runners quit running on him 10 years ago.

Others considered: David DeJesus, Jeff Francouer, Torii Hunter, Nick Swisher

Pitcher: Mark Buerhle, White Sox

Buehrle has been considered the class of fielding pitchers since Greg Maddux retired and is working on two straight Gold Gloves. Buerhle's claim to fame on defense comes from this play on Opening Day 2010, which was the best fielding play of the entire season. As a left-hander he adds that much more value on defense with the ability to hold runners closer to first base, limiting steals.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.




Posted on: August 18, 2011 10:06 am
 

Pepper: Down to two races?



By C. Trent Rosecrans

With just more than a month to go, we're down to just two races in baseball -- the National League West and the American League Central.

The rest? Done. Decided.

The National League East? The Phillies lead the Braves by 8 1/2 games. Done.

The National League Central? The Brewers are up on the Cardinals by seven, winning 19 of their last 21 and watching as the Cardinals take another September siesta. Done.

The National League wild card? It's the Braves to not just lose, but to give away in spectacular Cubian fashion. That's not happening. Done.

The American League East? Boston trails by a half-game, so the division is up in the air, but with Boston leading the Wild Card by eight games, both teams are playing in October, all that's left is figuring out seeding, the important stuff? Done.

The American League West? Texas has won its last six, including the last three in Anaheim against the Angels. Done.

At least we have the NL West and the AL Central -- those will at least be interesting for a while.

Looking back at last year at the same time, the Braves led the Phillies in the NL East, but both ended up in the playoffs. In the AL East, The Yankees and Rays were deadlocked atop the division, but again, both went to the playoffs. Sound familiar?

Minnesota had a four-game lead over the White Sox in the AL Central, a lead they'd hold, while the Rangers were running away from the Angels with an eight-game lead. Deja vu.

As for the NL Central? Cincinnati was leading the Cardinals by just two games, but St. Louis would fade down the stretch. And in the NL West, the Giants trailed the surprising Padres by five games.

Basically, it looks like we've seen this all before. But you know what? It was pretty fun to watch last year and it will be again this year.

Brewers confident: After Tuesday's win, Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan said the team has to "try to catch Philly," according to the Associated Press. "That's our goal, since we have nobody to really chase in our division, let's go chase Philly." After Wednesday's win, Zack Greinke said, "It's definitely not locked up now, but it's on us mainly," according to the Journal Sentinel. And he added, "it is ours to lose." It is indeed.

Giants' road to repeat: The Giants have the easiest remaining schedule among contenders, Yahoo's Jeff Passan writes as he breaks down the remaining schedules for the contenders (and the Cardinals, Rays and Angels). Passan also gives the Brewers more reason to be confident -- the third-easiest remaining schedule, plus the most off days and more home games than road games remaining. As for the AL Central, the Tigers have the best remaining schedule among the contenders. And not only are the Rays well behind both the Red Sox and Yankees in both the division and the wild card, they also have the toughest remaining schedule -- 10 against Boston, six against New York, six against Texas and four against Detroit.

Some people are just jerks: And online, they all have a voice. Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has proof -- sharing the emails he's gotten from people against the proposed statue of Shannon Stone and his son.

Logic may prevail: Although there were reports this weekend that Cubs general manager Jim Hendry's job was safe, but Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman says that's not so certain. What you can blow $251.5 million on Carlos Zambrano, Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome and have to worry about your job? Say it ain't so.

Five tool players: Every year I look forward to Baseball America's Tools issue -- and I got it in the mail yesterday. It's fascinating reading and also allows you to geek out about minor league players and what they could become. Over at FanGraphs, they feel the same way, but Carson Cistulli decided to find out which big leaguers have displayed five tools through the "nerdiest possible" numbers. It's great stuff. And if you didn't know, Chase Utley, Troy Tulowitzki and David Wright are good.

Speaking of tools: Former Reds and Nationals GM Jim Bowden never saw a tools-y player he didn't like. He has five players you should give up on -- starting with the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez. [ESPN.com]

CC's history lesson: Yankees starter CC Sabathia spent Tuesday morning at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, saying he drew inspiration from the visit for his start on Thursday in Minnesota. If you're ever in Kansas City, make sure you make it to the museum either before or after you go to Arthur Bryant's. [New York Times]

Tony Plush's kitty kat: Good for Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan, who adopted a new cat from the Wisconsin Humane Society. [Twitter]

Dim your jacket: Tuesday night the umpires working the A's-O's game had to ask two men with LED equipped clothing behind the plate to dim their wares. [Yahoo!'s Big League Stew]

Extending Ichiro?: Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times makes the argument against the Mariners extending Ichiro's contract.

Passport problems: Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur will use his off day on Monday to get a new passport -- his old one expired after 10 years and he forgot about it. The Royals are scheduled to go to Toronto later that day. [Kansas City Star]

Hat flap: The National wanted to wear military hats in Tuesday's game, but Major League Baseball denied their request. Instead, the Nationals wore the hats during batting practice. The main reason? Well, ignore the jibber-jabber from MLB, it's that there was no money to be made, so they didn't want to do it. MLB told the Washington Post that it prefers to for teams to use patches or batting practice for such displays. [Washington Post's DC Sports Bog]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 14, 2011 12:54 am
Edited on: August 14, 2011 12:48 pm
 

Francona ejected after reversed call

Josh Bard

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Just because a player slides into home doesn't mean a nasty collision can't take place -- and one did in the fourth inning of Saturday's game between the Red Sox and Mariners. However, the only person out of the game after Josh Bard blocked the plate from Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury was Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

Francona was ejected because he argued home plate umpire Mark Ripperger decision to overturn his initial safe call and ruled Ellsbury out.

With one out in the top of the fourth, Ellsbury was on third when Dustin Pedroia flied out to right. Ellsbury tried to score on Ichiro Suzuki, who threw a one-hopper to Bard. The ball arrived at home well before Ellsbury, who slid into home, but got a knee into Bard's jaw.

It appeared that Bard lost control of the ball and Ripperger called Ellsbury safe. After the umpires conferred, Ellsbury was called out, ending the inning. That's when Francona argued more and was tossed. It was the 33rd time in his career he was ejected.

Watch the player here.

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Posted on: August 5, 2011 10:20 am
 

Pepper: Thome's silver hammer

Jim Thome

By C. Trent Rosecrans

I know this may seem like a dead horse, but I'm still dismayed at the relative silence around Jim Thome's impending 600th home run. He hit homer No. 598 last night and it seems like it was greeted by crickets. My colleague Matt Snyder wrote about this a couple of weeks ago after I touched on it, so it may seem redundant, but is it any more redundant that the constant (and deserved) fawning over Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit?

I've said all this before, but it just feels like it needs repeating -- Thome will soon become just the eighth player in baseball history to hit 600 home runs. So why is it being overlooked?

Is it because the steroid era has devalued home run totals?

Is it because the next guys on the list are Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez? And the guy atop the list is Barry Bonds?

Is it because Thome isn't a Yankee?

Is it because after 12 years in Cleveland, he's moved around, playing for the Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers and Twins?

Is it because the bulk of his productive years were in Cleveland?

Is it because he's no longer an everyday player?

Is it because there were two weeks between homer No. 595 and 596 and then another two weeks until No. 597? 

Is it because Thome has done it relatively quietly, not drawing a lot of attention to himself, therefore not receiving a lot of attention?

Or am I totally off base and blowing this out of proportion?

It could be any one of those reasons or a good combination of all of them. It just seems to me, it's something that could and should be celebrated not just in Minnesota, but all over baseball. Thome now has 598 home runs and will soon have 600 -- I'm not saying they need to dig out the dirt from the batter's box after his 600th and sell the dirt in keychains (like they did for Jeter), but it should be something we watch, anticipate and celebrate.

The long and winding road: If you don't read every word that comes out of Chris Jones' computer, you're missing out. Canada's finest's most recent piece is on the strange journey of Giants pitcher Barry Zito. I can't recommend it enough. [Grantland]

Here today: Most are assuming that Jose Reyes will re-sign with the Mets this offseason, but not so fast say Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Martino says the Mets are unlikely to give him the "Carl Crawford money" he is assumed to desire (and should be able to command). Apparently it's not just the money that the Mets are worried about, but also the number of years. The Mets aren't excited about giving the injury-prone Reyes seven years.

Get back: Ryan Zimmerman is back to his old form, even though he's been back on the field for nearly two months. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post writes that it took a while to break up the scar tissue that resulted from his abdominal tear and is no longer experiencing the soreness that had him skipping his post game workouts. 

Let 'em in: Ozzie Guillen's time in Chicago just seems to be at a natural end -- the team has underperformed and everyone seems to be tired of the marriage. Guillen sounds like he's over managing the White Sox in this interview with MLB.com's Scott Merkin, while he tells Yahoo! (via the Miami Herald) that he'd go to the Marlins "with a lot of class," and that it'd be "an honor to manage the Marlins." With Florida moving into a new park next year, it seems like the natural fit -- and he could manage there until Jeffrey Loria loses his patience at the All-Star break next year.

Here today: Red Sox minor leaguer Brandon Jacobs has no regrets about his choice to bypass a football scholarship at Auburn to sign with the Red Sox. Jacobs was a prized running back at Parkview High School in suburban Atlanta, but was drafted by MLB -- and a $750,000 signing bonus later, he found himself on the diamond instead of the gridiron. The 20-year-old has 14 homers and 26 stolen bases at Class A Greenville (S.C.). Even though Auburn won the national championship last season, Jacobs said he watched the game and didn't feel a twinge of regret. An interesting note, Parkview is the alma mater of another prominent football player who skipped a scholarship to play baseball, the Royals' Jeff Francoeur. [Boston Globe]

It was 10 years ago tonight: The Hardball Times looks back at the Indians' rally from an 11-run deficit to beat the Marienrs on Aug. 5, 2001. One thing to keep in mind about that, the Mariners won 116 games -- if they hold a lead, it's 117, a record number of wins. The 1906 Cubs also won 116 (in 10 fewer games).

I've just seen a face: Can't get enough of of Kenta Imamura, the Ichiro impersonator? Well, you're in luck. Apparently Imamurua is a professional Ichiro impersonator and is nicknamed "Nicchiro" -- "ni" is Japanese for two. [Super Ichiro Crazy]

Maybe I'm amazed: A baseball signed by Joe DiMaggio and kissed by Marilyn Monroe sold for $59,750 on Thursday. The bidding started at $17,000 and quickly escalated. [New York Daily News]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 3, 2011 11:10 am
Edited on: August 3, 2011 11:14 am
 

Video: Faux-Ichiro interferes with Ackley hit

By Matt Snyder

Fortunately, this Ichiro fan won't go down in history with the likes of Steve Bartman, but a Mariners fan did get a bit overzealous in grabbing a souvenir baseball Tuesday night. Dustin Ackley hit the ball down the right field line and was clearly headed for a triple, when a fan dressed in what appears to be a full Ichiro Suzuki uniform reached onto the field and picked up the ball. So Ackley was given a ground-rule double as the fan put his head down in shame. Eventually the umpires awarded Ackley third base, so it didn't end up hurting them at all.

The best part of the video -- as you can see below -- is probably the announcer's indignant "dude" call. Either that or the fan sitting next to the fake-Ichiro pointing to the field and scolding him. The Ichiro fan was ejected from the game, which seems to be a bit much.

Check it out below.



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Posted on: July 27, 2011 4:36 pm
 

Mariners break 17-game losing streak



By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Seattle Mariners will return to Safeco Field on Friday with a fresh one-game winning streak.

OK, one game doesn't really qualify as a streak, but maybe we can just bend the rules for a team that is coming off a 17-game losing streak (and 17 certainly counts as a streak). The Mariners snapped their streak on Wednesday with a 9-2 victory over the Yankees in New York.

Felix Hernandez allowed just five hits and one run over seven innings, while the Mariners exploded for five runs in the seventh thanks to an error by Robinson Cano that allowed Ichiro Suzuki to score.

Ichiro went 4 for 5 with two runs, while Mike Carp and Dustin Ackley combined to drive in seven of the nine runs. Carp had a three-run double with two outs in the seventh inning that bounced off Curtis Granderson's glove as he appeared to lose the ball in the sun.

Seattle also had, coincidently, 17 hits on the day.

The 17-game losing streak was the longest in baseball since 2005 and spanned 22 days thanks to the All-Star break. Kansas City lost 19 games in a row in 2005.

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