Felix Hernandez made his first spring training appearance on Tuesday, and it started pretty inconspicuous as he hit the lead-off hitter with a change-up on the first pitch. After that, Hernandez was King Felix. His change-up was in the 88-90 MPH range and was really solid, with 2 swinging strikes, 4 called strikes, 2 infield fly-balls, 2 ground-balls, and a fly-out to center. King Felix gave up no hits, struck out 4 and walked none in 3 innings.
Shawn Camp struggled again, giving up 2 hits and a walk in an inning (leading to a run). Hong-Chih Kuo was downright dreadful, giving up a 3 run home run. He was mainly fastballs again, at 90-91 MPH, but threw a few sliders. Early on his slider was successful, but then was mashed for the homer and another fly-ball. Lucas Luetge had a terrible fastball, and put one down the middle for a home run to Donald Lutz (who has 78 Power according to Baseball Cube). He got a strikeout swinging on 56 nasty factor curve-ball to Neftali Soto, who has a 53 contact rating according to Baseball Cube. His slider was good at times, with up to an 80 nasty factor, but he had problems locating it and it stayed up sometimes. He did strike out Didi Gregorious with it though, which is impressive since he has a 94 contact rating.
Phillipe Valiquette pitched the 9th, throwing all fast-balls in the 88-92 MPH range, with a 90.15 MPH average. He had a Nasty Factor average of just 45.64, with a range of 25-67. One of his better fastballs in both velocity and nastiness actually was a pitch taken for a walk. He walked another batter, but got a pop out foul and a double play. None of these at-bats were against established big league hitters
Mat Latos started the game, but he was really off and not Mat Latos. Ichiro had a big day, with 3 hits. Kawasaki had a walk, bunt single, and a ground-out seeing 14 pitches, uncommon for the kind of hitter he is. Chone Figgins had 2 walks, and Darren Ford struck out on 6 pitches, swinging at a fastball after he failed to get a bunt down. Carlos Truinfel chased a fastball that was low and away (93 MPH, 64 Nasty Factor) and chased sliders low (their Nasty Factor’s were just 34 and 33) for a strike-out. Francisco Martinez made an error, but also had a triple.
The Mariners had a much better walk to strikeout ratio than they have had most of the spring, with 8 strikeouts and 6 walks. The Reds (so the Mariners’ pitching) had 10 strikeouts and 6 walks. That is not a good ratio for the Mariners pitchers, but it is a nice strikeout rate.
Other Mariner Notes: Spring Training invite Carlos Guillen has announced he has retired. He had been limited and for all intensive purposes useless this spring because of a calf injury. He made it clear that the injury was a big reason he retired and stated that his body could no longer keep up. In his 14 year career, Guillen played in 1305 games, which is just over 8 full MLB seasons. He hit 124 home runs (2.4 % of his at-bats, under league average in his career), struck out and walked below average and was a line drive/fly-ball hitter. In his career, he registered a 26.3 WAR according to Baseball Reference (26.7 WAR according to Fangraphs), with a .345 W-OBA and 111 OPS +.
Defensively, he played all 4 infield positions and left field, but was not a good fielder, costing his team 3.4 games on defense according to Baseball Reference. Over the past 3 years, Guillen faced serious regression and injury problems, playing in just 177 games with an OPS + of 95 for the Tigers. Guillen was originally signed by the Astros as a Amateur Free Agent in 1992. In 1998, he was traded to the Mariners (along with Freddy Garcia and John Halama) for Randy Johnson.
In January of 2004, the Mariners sent him to Detroit for Juan Gonzalez (not the one that comes to your mind) and Ramon Santiago. After playing just 27 games for the Mariners (with a -.2 WAR), Santiago was released and resigned with the Tigers (and has put up a 6.7 WAR since). Gonzalez never got to the Majors, and didn’t play in 2011. In 2004 in High A ball, Gonzalez put up an unimpressive .724 and was even worse in 2005 before leaving the Mariner organization. He played for the Braves AA team in 2010, and his OPS was just .567 in 34 games. To give you an idea of how much injuries derailed Guillen’s career, here is how ZIPS (a prominent projection system) projected his career in 2007:
As you can see, if Guillen had stayed on the path he had been on, he would have played 111 games with a 96 OPS + this year, meaning he probably wouldn’t have been brought on a MILB deal. The speculation is that this will give Kyle Seager or Luis Rodriquez a spot on the big league roster, but unless they are prepared to start Seager on a regular basis (which I have argued they should do), it is unlikely that Seager would be on the team (you usually want young players to get at-bats, so if they can’t get them at the MLB level, you want them to get them at AAA). Infield veterans Julio Lugo and Miguel Tejada are still on the free agent market, and it may be prudent to take a look at one of those guys to see if they still have anything left.
My preference is to just play Seager, and I watched both players extensively in the Dominican (from a computer of course) Winter League, and neither of them looked like they had much to offer. Luis Rodriguez played in 44 games for the Mariners in 2011, and had an OPS + of 80 and didn’t play good defense. If Rodriquez is bad at defense anyway, then the Mariners might as well put Vincent Catricala on the big league roster because he has a much better bat. Catricala could rotate between 1st/3rd/DH and provide more value.
I was going to post this yesterday, but I forgot. Here is a Gameday picture of a Hisashi Iwakuma versus Padres prospect Yonder Alonzo to just give you an idea of his locations etc.: