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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 13, 2008 9:04 AM

Bedard needs to be ace today

Posted by Geoff Baker

This Angels team sure doesn't look like the 2007 version. I know many of you just love to see what's going on in the Angels' blogosphere, so here's a look at the panic in Halos Heaven.

Yes, the M's have the Angels on-the-run. I know there was plenty of hand-wringing over signing Carlos Silva to that $48-million deal. So far, though, he's delivered what I felt was his biggest asset. The ability to go seven-plus innings. That's three straight for Silva, two of those innings ranking as "quality starts'' -- including the eight frames, three runs allowed last night. This is what the Mariners envisioned when they made their off-season moves. They now have the pitching to compete. Los Angeles, with two staff aces out, does not. At least, not right now.

Aside from the debacle in Baltimore, the M's have now won three out of their first four series to start the season. That's pretty good. But do you know what would really help them now? A sweep. Why not? We went over this last year, but contending teams do find a way to put away a reeling opponent by sweeping early and often. It enables them to gain momentum and negate the opposite -- being swept. In this case, taking three in a row from the Angels would go a long way towards easing some of the pain of dropping four straight to the Orioles last weekend.

When John Lackey and -- maybe -- Kelvim Escobar return to the Angels, these pitching matchups won't favor the M's as well as they do now. Especially with Seattle staff ace Erik Bedard on the hill today. Make that No. 1 starter Bedard. He's not an ace just yet. Aces go more than six innings. Bedard has only given up four earned runs in a pair of six-inning outings. That's got ace potantial. But aces win the big ones. I expect to see the "ace'' Bedard show up today. This is the reason the M's acquired him. They need a seven-inning quality start from their No. 1 starter today.


Last year, the Mariners waited until May 25-27 at Kansas City to sweep their first series of three games or more. It wasn't until that point that the M's began to put together the type of winning stretches needed to get close to the Angels in the standings and cement their status as something better than a .500 team. This year's squad, as many of you have noted, has to take advantage of the Angels when they're down. The two teams are now even in the standings, depsite all of Seattle's early-season woes. And they have this afternoon's pitching matchup gift-wrapped for them in the form of Bedard -- the guy who is supposed to be the difference maker. This is when good teams step up. April or not.

Yes, the Oakland A's are leading the division with an 8-4 record. Is this another April mirage? We'll see. Rich Harden has yet to go on the DL (whoops, scratch that one). Anyhow, the M's can worry about the A's in Oakland later this week. For now, they have to assume the Angels are still the main target.

Vladimir Guerrero is just 2-for-8 with a double and an RBI in the two games. The M's can live with that. Gary Matthews Jr. is causing his team more harm than good as well. Good pitching can often trump good hitting. This isn't 2007, when Guerrero was hitting .500 off Seattle and always coming up with guys on base. I don't care if Orlando Cabrera only had an OPS+ of 95 last season. He always seemed to be getting on ahead of Guerrero. And he isn't around anymore. Like I said, this Angels team, at least so far, does not look the same as the 2007 version. Best for the M's to step up and sweep before Los Angeles figures itself out.


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Posted by oregongal

9:19 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Geoff, you're too optimistic: "Oakland placed the hard-throwing right-hander on the 15-day DL retroactive to April 3 with a mild subscapularis strain in his right shoulder."

I'm with you on going for the sweep today. And I even think we can do it.

James from WW--I loved seeing Raul get the triple. But I still see him late to balls in LF. It's great to see him start the season with pop, though. It's fun to watch someone in the groove.

Posted by Chris

9:23 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Hey Geoff ... love the blog, great job. I think Rich Harden has already gone on the DL with a strained back muscle, retroactive to April 3rd.

Posted by Paul

9:27 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Yes, Bedard needs to step up today. He needs to show up big in these important intradivision games against our primary competition. He doesn't need to go 8 or 9 innings every start, but definitely in these big ones that will go a long way toward deciding the division. That's why he's here.

On another note, when is it ok to start worrying about Joh? I know it's early and he's always been a streaky hitter for us, but he's hitting .118 with five....yes, five total bases. Thanks to his uncharacteristic walks, his OBP is a whopping .211.

I've been among those calling for Clement to be called up for DH purposes (although I agree with concerns about stunting his growth as a catcher). But this kind of solidifies it for me if Joh continues to struggle. Clement can catch on a semi-regular basis and still DH vs. righties and leave Vidro to only play vs. lefties, if at all. On that note, anyone seen Clement behind the plate lately? Is he ready?

Posted by Lance

9:28 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Geoff, looks like you spoke too early. According to Larry Stone, Rich Harden is now on the DL.

Bedard has tended to be a slow starter. So, even if he doesn't do well in April I'd expect him to show his true colors beginning in May. So, I'm not going to be worried whatever he does this month. I'm more concerned with what he does in October. If we get to October.

I still wish Mac would move Yuni to #3, dropping everyone else down a notch. It seems like the practical thing to do with your .333 hitter. But, he'll probably keep Raul there if for no other season then pure superstition. Not like Raul would care or be affected hitting cleanup.

I'm still waiting for the all-knowing Adam to tell me why Carlos Silva "sucks". I guess to him you're either a flame throwing All-Star, or you "suck". Winning has nothing to do with it to him.

Posted by Lance

9:36 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Isn't it nice to see what a more relaxed Richie Sexson can do in the #6 hole. I'm glad I thought of it.

Posted by Frito Bandito

9:45 AM, Apr 13, 2008

"Isn't it nice to see what a more relaxed Richie Sexson can do in the #6 hole.." Indeed. Not having the fans booing him everytime he comes to the plate doesn't hurt either.

Posted by seatownsports

10:01 AM, Apr 13, 2008

richie sexson is a beast!

Posted by James from Walla Walla

10:04 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Geoff,

A change in Itchiro??

I was wondering if any of you have had this same question? In watching the game last night and on prior nights I noted the following. Did Ichiro forget how to bunt?? Especially when he grounded into a double play last night. It seemed like the perfect time to advance the runner and keep out of the double play. With his speed he may just beat it out.
When a sinker ball pithcer seems to have your number, note how badly he looked swing at one in the dirt for strike three. It seemed like a no brainer to me. I have not seen him bunt once this year, though I have not seen all the games. His ability to get bunt base hits is one of the reasons I think he could hit .400, once he gets on a roll. I contend we need him to start hitting the way we know he can.
He is the grease for our offence!!

Posted by James from Walla Walla

10:16 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Adam:

You got a like what you are seeing from Silva so far?? Lets see if Bedard came do his job today?

We would all like to see Ibanez in the DH role due to his decreased speed in the OF. Has he lost some weight? Wondering where he got the speed to get a triple in the left field gap yesterday? It blew me away!! I fell out of my chair! Ichiro maybe but Ibanez--I was amazed!

Hey Oregangirl,

Thanks for responding to my earlier thread. Any thoughts on Itchiro and his distaining the bunt??

Posted by James from Walla Walla

10:21 AM, Apr 13, 2008

My Bad!!

Sorry for mispelling Ichiro!!

Posted by Mr. X

10:53 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Ichiro seems to be getting a pass, even though nobody on this team has been worse at his job so far this year. All for a cool 8 figure salary.

OBP

Sexson - .392
Lopez - .354
Wilkerson - .316
Suzuki - .309

And the silence in the M's blogsphere is deafening. Yesterday's outfield assist isn't worth the 17 million he's being paid this year. Hopefully he can work up enough pride to do the one thing one offense that he's able to do. Hit those weak singles and get on base so someone else can drive him in.

Posted by Pygmalion

11:19 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Mr. X - No one is concerned because it is the height of foolishness to project anything out from the first 12 games of a season. Besides, remember back when Ichiro hit .370 and got the season hits record?

Any guesses what his average was in April?

Every year somebody thinks that Ichiro is done. Every year, that person looks dumb. Some day that person will be right; but this year isn't the year. So don't be that person.

Posted by Tim

11:25 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Ichiro has a track record of being a badass. It gets really really annoying seeing people jump all over him every time he has a bad week compared to other players. it happens every single time the guy goes into a slump that some numbnuts will call on the calvary to start booing him off of the field for the sake of "fairness".

Drives me crazy. Ichiro deserves a pass for a slump. The others aren't good players and haven't earned the right to go into a prolonged slump.

Posted by Mr. X

11:31 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Oh, I know. Everyone should be accountable, except Ichiro. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. Time for him to "man up" and do his one job, that's all I'm saying. You don't pay someone 17 million for above average outfield defense. He's a one trick pony, and the one trick isn't working.

It's been pretty well-documented that Paul Molitor was trying to get Ichiro to change his approach at the plate that year, and when that failed, Ichiro came out of his "slump" and started hitting. As far as I know, he doesn't have any such excuse this year.

Posted by Frito Bandito

11:31 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Wow! Did I just hear right? Bedard has been scatched again!? Baek will start instead. Not good news at all.

Posted by thewyrm

11:32 AM, Apr 13, 2008

As far as I am concerned Ichiro can come over to my house and knock up my sister. He has more than earned the right to have a slow start. Especially since he always has a poor (for Ichiro) April.

Posted by sfmsfan

11:33 AM, Apr 13, 2008

I'm with Mr. X. Cut Ichiro, sue him to get his salary back and start Morse (.333 care OBP in April) in center.

Posted by Kara M.

11:41 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Mr. X is my hero, he exposes Ichiro for the AAAA player that he is.

Kara M.

Posted by Frankie

11:44 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Did Bedard really get scratched for today? I didn't hear anything on that...

Posted by Frito Bandito

11:45 AM, Apr 13, 2008

On KOMO they just said his hip problem flared up again...scratched for today. Hopefully not a trip to the DL : (

Posted by Frankie

11:47 AM, Apr 13, 2008

That is ridiculous....Now Baek is gonna start and we are gonna get blown away.

Posted by thewyrm

11:50 AM, Apr 13, 2008

I was already pretty low on Bedard. Now I am dangerously moving towards straight up dislike. Seriously, your team needs you! Man the [expletive] up!!!

Posted by oregongal

11:50 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Not so confident about the sweep now...

Posted by Frankie

11:52 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Well, I'm pretty upset about this thing now, but to look on the bright side, he hasn't had any success against the Angels in his career. So maybe this is a good thing that he's missing the start?

Posted by Tim

11:53 AM, Apr 13, 2008

No one said that Ichiro shouldn't be held accountable. It's just that people like you jump out of your hole-in-the-ground everytime you can grasp on to some small sample size to roll up and hit him in the face with it.

Every single season people like you wait for him to struggle for 10 games and then you appear to tell us what an overrated hack he really is and then he ends the season hitting .350.

Do you know how annoying that is? Do you understand the idea that he's earned the right to slump a bit without being ripped to shreds because he has a track record of awsomeness whereas the other 3 players you listed don't?

You go start your team of Wilkersons, Lopezes, and Sexsons. I'll start mine full of Ichiros....

Posted by Donovan

11:55 AM, Apr 13, 2008

I often think the whining and bashing of our guys is a little gratuitious on this blog, though I realize that 90% of posters want nothing more than success for the team. There is plenty to worry about with this team, as there is with every team, but there are some encouraging early surprises.

I certainly don't mean the pitching. The starters are doing exaclty what they were billed to do. Silva is doing nothing more than what he's done his whole career, and it seemed obvious to me that he would be much better in Safeco than the carpeted, indoor Metrodome. The bullpen looks good to me, aside from EOF's problems. Once JJ is back, I'll feel fine there too.

The real positive surprise to me has been the hitting. I'm very reluctant to make much of mid-April trend for individuals, since few hitters have career April numbers that reflect their career total number (notably Ichiro). Early team numbers have a little more statistical power, since they are based on more total at bats. As of today, the M's team batting rank in the AL is 5th in runs, hits, RBI, and OBP. We are also 2nd in walks (yesterday it was 1st) and last (LAST!) in Ks. More impressively, we are 2nd in HR and TB, and 3rd in SLG and OPS. That is certainly better than I expected coming out of ST, and I daresay I'm not the most alarmist person here, so I'm guessing you are all as surprised as I am.. In the 6 losses, the glaring failure has been hitting with RISP, but that is a correctable problem if you have good hitting hitting ability on a team, and the performance so far suggests we do (though some certainly doubt it).

It is early, even for team hitting stats, but this team seems to have fundamentally changed their approach to hitting from where we were at the end of last year, and I'm very encouraged by that. Whatever nits you can pick about our pitching, they are not going to lose the season for us. The hitting is the big question, and that's the part of our team that I will be pointing my microscope at all season.

Posted by Frankie

11:56 AM, Apr 13, 2008

Mr. X--

Big Papi is hitting under .080 right now. Is he an overrated hack that isn't worth any decent amount of money?

Slumps happen. But sooner or later Ichiro and Ortiz will both be tearing the cover off the ball.

Posted by Pokenour

11:57 AM, Apr 13, 2008


In this blog, we have all condemned the poor early showing of hitters - particularly Sexson, Vidro, Wilkerson and Johjima - now we have this remark about Ichiro. Ichiro had a difficult spring with a long o-fer slump to start this year, he has show some life early own but seems to be slumping a bit lately. Whatever his problem, it is not inconsistent with his history, which does include some profound slumps over the years, however, he has always rebounded to put up some incredible numbers - record setting in fact. Albeit he is a singles hitter, but unfortunately people observing his batting practice think he should swing for the fence more often, a style that would no doubt produce more homers but greatly bring down his average. Perhaps he is from time to time reminded of this intrinsic homer potential from fans and friends, as the great Edgar made such a comment near the end of spring training, but in listening he may be trying to do such power things that do not well suit his success. Recall the homer in Tampa, it seems that his average has gone steadily down since that feat. Lets support Ichiro for his great accomplishment as a singles hitter, the perfect leadoff specialist, and leave the homers to someone else.

On the other hand, there is reason to criticize some of the above noted hitters. Sexson had a terrible season last year and while it is too early to note if he will recover as an overly optimistic McLaren promises, he has shown some patience at the plate this year and he may well be improved. Only time it will tell. Conversely, despite his success as a singles hitter, Vidro, aka Turbo, does not well suit the role of DH and he is also unsuitable for playing an on field position. Even when he hits well for average, as he did for the first half of last year, he did not offer a very decent slugging percentage until the second half of last season. Even then, it was less than that of a standard DH. Albeit he is an improvement of some of the post Edgar DHs that the Ms have trotted to the plate. Given ibanez's foot speed as a liability in left, but his ever increasing value as a hitter -knowledgeable of the great Edgar as his mentor - he would seem to be the best possible solution at DH with some ability to spare a hopefully improved Sexson at first base. But what to do with Turbo - as of last night he showed some signs of awakening as a singles hitter. He has no trade value and the bench can't afford him while accepting the need for other replacement players. DFA

Wikerson is another problem, having decent power number in the past, he has never really hit for average and sustained a contribution throughout the season. He was at best a last minute fix in lieu of the Adam Jones trade. Despite his hit yesterday, he does not look like the solution in right field. Certainly the team could do without him, in all probability much better if his departure was hastened along. Morse, however, may not be the answer in right. He does not seem to have the outfield skills, still his bat might give him an edge over the likes of Wilkerson, but only playing time will tell and McLaren is committed to his regular - Wilkerson. But Morse needs to play somewhere as he is of little value taking up a roster spot so as not to be lost in assignment.

If, however, Morse were put in right on a daily basis and Ibanez to remain in left, the M's would have a serious liability in outfield defense. So it seems to me, move Ibanez to DH, Morse to right, bring up Wlad to play left - DFA Turbo and Wilkerson. For skeptics of Wlad, remember he hit nearly .300 with power last year at Tacoma and his numbers were virtually the same as that of Adam Jones. He had a good spring, but slumped a bit after being sent down to Tacoma - explained by disappointment - but recently he has hit for power and average showing signs of his talent.

Johjima has been a streaky hitter since joining the team, he would appear to just need some time to come out of his slump. Its too early to tell, but when he gets it going, perhaps he might make a good mid-season trade bait candidate and then you can go to Clement who will be better prepared to make his debut. Certainly I think there is some difference when Burke calls a game, it seems to me that he gets a better performance from the pitchers. Still Joh has an upside and he needs to find it soon, but with Clement waiting in the wings, there is reason to shop Joh who has some trade value. To do so, he needs to hit and become attractive to other contending teams.

Posted by oregongal

12:08 PM, Apr 13, 2008

As for Ichiro, if I'm willing to give Richie more than a month (which I said earlier), I'm certainly going to give Ichiro at least that much time. Personally, I'm not worried about him in the least. I'm also willing to give Kenji some slack because hitting ability is secondary in catchers, and because he's been remarkably consistent if you look at the last two seasons as a whole.

And I am just loving watching Yuni and Jose at the plate.

Posted by Frankie

12:11 PM, Apr 13, 2008

Geoff can you please give us an update on Bedard?

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