Monday, June 20, 2011

Dustin Ackley arrives and what it all means

The man we all hope will shake up the Mariners offense made his big-league debut last night.  Despite his initial deer-in-the-headlights look, Dustin Ackley had a single in his first at bat, and looked good in the field.  He cleanly handled a hard Ryan Howard ground ball, and turned a tricky Figgins to Ackley to Smoak double play in the sixth inning that shortstop Brendan Ryan termed "the play of the game."  Phillies center-fielder Shane Victorino homered in the next at-bat, but with the bases empty. Ackley continued to hit well throughout the series, including a home run on Saturday that was smoked (not Smoaked,) and tripled and scored the winning run on Sunday. He also played a great second base, showing considerably more range going to his left than was expected.

Dustin Ackley tripled and scored the first run in Sunday's 2-0 win over the Phillies.

 The M's continue to be a very interesting team this year. Some aspects of their game continue to function very well.  They aren't needing to replace a struggling starting pitcher, and their bullpen is throwing very well.  Ichiro's day off seems to have paid gigantic dividends as the 37 year old right fielder had his fifth consecutive multi-hit game, and is scoring the runs the team needs. His slash line for the last seven days is .520/.538/.720 with four doubles and eight runs scored.  Ichiro only has 13 doubles and 38 runs scored for the entire season, so you can see what a difference his week has made.  Ichiro needs to remain Ichiro for the M's to stay in the chase.

Brendan Ryan congratulates Ichiro for a great play in the field.  They're also becoming quite a team at the top of the M's batting order.

Other players on the team continue to have a few days at a time that inspire confidence in a bright future.  Ryan's defense, hustle, and his periodic streaks of  clutch hitting just make me smile.  He's a dirt in the mouth player that makes big plays on defense and has driven in some big ones without once hitting a ball that's left the park.  Adam Kennedy is another player whose bat has been surprisingly potent.  I predicted that his acquisition would be  important and he has been a great role player. Justin Smoak and Miguel Olivo have both had their moments, supplying power to a team that remains sorely in need of a few big bats. Though they've both been kind of streaky, when they've been on they've really lifted the team. 

The starting pitching from one to five continues to exceed expectations.  They're not perfect.  Each of them, Felix, Pineda, Bedard, Vargas, and Fister have struggled at times.  Each of them have also had moments of brilliance.  Pineda mesmerized the Phillies on Friday with a blazing fastball, and Sunday Vargas dazzled them with great control and his usual arsenal of sliders, fastballs and off-speed pitches.  At this moment, Erik Bedard may be the most consistent of the lot.  The great thing, however, is that all of them consistently pitch deep into ball games and give their teammates an opportunity to win it, even if  scoring a run or two seems hopelessly beyond their ability.  The bullpen has been awesome, though Jamie Wright has looked a bit creaky recently.

Erik Bedard may be the M's most consistent starter at this moment in time.  They're all pretty damn good.
 The Mariners remain within a half game of the Rangers, who really appear to be struggling.  The A's seem to have righted their fortunes with Bob Melvin's replacement of Bob Geren.  The Angels are also performing better and the entire division is tightening up.  This may not be the M's year.  They've played the cards they have in their hand, and now it is time to see what they're worth.  In my view the kids have to play.  Carp should play in left or DH every day, at least against right handers.  Halman needs to play as much as possible-hitting against lefties and at least some against righties.  Adam Kennedy is hitting reasonably well with occasional power and should play 3b against right handers. My hope that Figgins will turn things around is eternal, but lord he looks bad at bat and in the field. Figgins should be a fill in guy with Jack Wilson.  Cust may be next to go if there is a bat that emerges as ready for prime-time in Tacoma.  I don't know if the M's can win their incredibly weak division this year, but it sure looks like the guys want to try.  I don't think Jack Z should sacrifice any prospect for a bat, unless it really makes sense. We live and die with who we have.

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