Report Card: Grading the Performance of the Mariners' Offseason Pickups
Although cloudless days continue to appear in Seattle's summer sky, locals are still advised to carry umbrellas... Because Jack Zduriencik is quickly plummeting downwards.
Just months after being hailed as a hero in the Emerald City for his roster overhaul filled with top-flight players, the Mariners general manager is now being scrutinized for not meeting his team's needs in the offseason. Much of the blame is being pointed towards Zduriencik for the lost 2010 season, which carried in high expectations but has completely faltered.
However, the atrocious 35-53 record should be linked to the under-performance of the players, especially those acquired last winter, not the man that signed them.
The All-Star Break is the perfect time to evaluate how the season has gone thus far. Similar to the end of first semester, it's time to handout report cards and grade the newest Mariners based on their first half play.
Milton Bradley: C
Bradley was definitely a high-risk, high-reward move when he was traded from Chicago for P Carlos Silva. However, he has not displayed his offensive prowess he showed in Texas in 2008, when he led the AL in OBP.
Although he has some pop (tied for second on the team with eight home runs), Bradley is posting a career low .210 batting average. He was expected to be the everyday starter in left field, but has since lost the job to emerging five-tool player Michael Saunders.
The ride with Bradley has not been smooth, but at least Bradley's addition resulted in Carlos Silva's departure. The Mariners already have one of the worst bullpens in the major leagues, just imagine if Silva were still the team's long reliever.
Eric Byrnes: F-
Eric Byrnes has been one of the most well-liked players in the majors over the past five years. The hard-working hustler was widely regarded as one of the funniest guys in the league and a great guy in the clubhouse. Add in his above-average bat and solid defense, signing the All-Star left fielder for under $500,000 seemed improbable.
Injuries slowed him down the previous two years in Arizona, but manager Don Wakamatsu figured splitting time with Bradley in left field would revitalize Byrnes' career. Even though he seemed like the perfect fit, Byrnes just didn't pan out with the Mariners.
Byrnes played in only 15 games with the Mariners before being released, and his tenure may have been short, but it sure wasn't sweet. He hit only .094, recording three hits in 32 at-bats.
He will most famously be remembered for an inexplicably poor decision: Byrnes' pulled back his bat on a potential game-winning suicide squeeze attempt, freezing Ichiro on the basepaths.
The last time many teammates saw him was riding his bicycle immediately after the game, escaping from the approaching Zduriencik. He was released two days later.
Jesus Colome and Kanekoa Texeira: D
Both of them were virtually unheard of heading into the season, both of them made the team, both of them were pitching decent (which is horrible for most bullpens), both of them were gone at the same time.
Colome was signed to a minor league contract after being in the Brewers' organization in 2009. He also had stints with the Rays and the Nationals. As a Mariner, Colome had an 0-1 record in 12 games, recording 11 walks and 10 runs in 17 innings of relief.
Texeira was selected in the 2009 Rule 5 Draft from the Yankees' farm system, then signed to a minor league contract. While in Seattle, Texeira posted an 0-1 record in 16 games, giving up 11 runs in 18.2 innings.
They are both currently tied with Betty White and John Wilkes Booth on the Mariners' all-time wins list, and were released on May 31.
Chone Figgins: C+
Just because he's on a new team, doesn't mean he has to start over his career. This is the message that needs to be sent to second baseman Chone Figgins, who is having his worst season since he became an everyday player in 2004.
A career .287 hitter, Figgins is batting a Sexsonesque .235, much lower than the average needed batting second in the lineup. Figgins is also walking less than last year, when he led the American League in base on balls with 101. One promising note is Figgins is still stealing bases, and is currently seventh in the AL with 24.
So far, Figgins has not played like the small-ball phenom he displayed with the Angels. With three more years on his contract, hopefully Figgins will get his groove back, by constantly getting on base and scoring.
Ryan Garko: F
Just like Byrnes, Garko was a versatile, proven player that came at a very low cost. And just like Byrnes, his role with the Mariners didn't work out and quickly left.
Garko, a .275 career hitter, differed from the other acquired players. He was brought in for his offense, especially against left-handed pitchers, and struggled on defense. With options at left field, first base, designated hitter and even catcher, Garko seemed like a useful player that could be put just about anywhere.
The Mariners soon discovered that Kotchman was the better option at first base because of his exceptional defense, leaving Garko the spot as the back up designated hitter in spring training. However, there just wasn't room for him on the opening day roster, and was released March 30.
Casey Kotchman: C-
Kotchman is the typical 2010 Mariner: superb defense, anemic offense. He holds a pair of baseball records for his defensive wizardry. The records for most consecutive games without an error by a first baseman and consecutive chances without an error were both set this season, surpassing the marks previously held by Kevin Youkilis.
Subtract his multi-homer game on July 7th, that's about where Kotchman's joy ride ends with the Mariners. He continues to struggle at the plate, and his batting average stood below the Mendoza Line until the last week of the first half. Currently, Kotchman is batting .218 with seven home runs, poor numbers for a stacked position in the AL.
He signed for a one-year deal in February, and likely will not return to make room for prospect Tommy Everidge.
Brandon League: A or F... Depends Which Day It Is
Go listen to Katy Perry's song "Hot n Cold." Now play that to video of Brandon League pitching. Now that's a match made in heaven. Acquired from Toronto in a trade for Brandon Morrow, League has been nothing but inconsistent this season.
He has assumed the role of setup man, and at times comes in and completely dominates. His split-finger has been tabbed as one of the best pitches in baseball, and offsets that with a 96 MPH heater. When in control, League is impenetrable, and the best reliever on the staff.
Unfortunately, League hasn't thrown his famed split nearly as much as he did with Toronto, and his average fastball is two MPH slower than in 2008. League has recorded 10 meltdowns, a statistic devised by Fangraphs for relief pitchers, which is the second most in the AL.
League has the most wins among the Mariners' relievers with five. He also shares the most losses with six, along with David Aardsma.
League has two saves, but has blown five.
It's anyone's guess which Brandon League will show up on any given day.
Cliff Lee: A+
His first start with the Mariners basically sums up his tenure with the Mariners: 7 IP, 3 H, 8 Ks, zero walks, ND.
He pitched brilliantly, but because of the Mariners' nonexistent offense, he doesn't get the win. Lee only started 13 games, recording an 8-3 record. Of the 13 games, 11 were quality starts. No pitcher in the American League has had this reign of dominance in the first half.
And perhaps the most ridiculous stat of them all, six walks in 103 innings pitched. That's equivalent to a 70-68 set in tennis, which will never happen.
This season appeared promising, and the playoffs seemed a likely possibility. But for this to happen, the players acquired in the off-season needed to perform at a high level. Many of them are having the worst year of their careers, others just aren't the player Zduriencik thought he signed.
Nearly $50 million was spent on these players, and they just haven't panned out like they were expected to. This season has shown the Mariners are much farther away than we once thought, and remain a rebuilding franchise.
This winter, rough estimates report the Mariners have around $10 million to spend. Zduriencik will once again whip out his magical wand and reel in players. Hopefully unlike this year, the new Mariners of 2011 will play as well in Seattle as they did their previous location.