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Bellator 180 Looking To Steal The Show This Summer

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Bellator 180 Looking To Steal The Show This Summer

BY: DAVID GOLDEN

On June 24th at Madison Square Garden, Bellator MMA will make their return to pay-per-view (PPV) with Bellator 180: Sonnen vs Silva. This will be the first time the company has put a product on PPV since Scott Coker took over as president and they are certainly putting their best foot forward. The card boasts three title-fights along with a co-main and main-event that feature some of the most talked about fighters in the history of mixed marital arts. This fight card has the chance to be the best MMA PPV of the summer and it just so happens to have two of Oregon’s finest on the main card.  The full card is listed below:

Main Card — PPV

  • Light Heavyweight: Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva
  • Heavyweight: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Matt Mitrione
  • Welterweight Title Fight: Douglas Lima(c) vs. Lorenz Larkin
  • Lightweight Title Fight: Michael Chandler (c) vs. Brent Primus
  • Lightweight: Aaron Pico vs. Zach Freeman

Preliminary Card — Spike TV

  • Light Heavyweight Title Fight: Phil Davis (c) vs. Ryan Bader
  • Featherweight: James Gallagher vs. Chinzo Machida
  • Welterweight: Neiman Gracie vs. Dave Marfone
  • Flyweight: Heather Hardy vs. Alice Yauger

Early On-line Prelims — Bellator.com

  • Welterweight: Ryan Couture vs. Haim Gozali
  • Lightweight: Jerome Mickle vs. Anthony Giacchina
  • Catchweight: John Salgado vs. Hugh McKenna
  • Cathweight: Matt Rizzo vs. Sergio da Silva
  • Lightweight: Nate Grebb vs. Bradley Desir

***As always, card subject to change

With 14 total fights there really is something for everyone on this card. Let’s break down what to watch for at Bellator 180.

Title Fights, Title Fights, Title Fights

There are three titles on the line at Bellator 180, and all three bring with them interesting matchups and fresh faces. First up, Ryan Bader will make his promotional debut for Bellator when he takes on Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis. These two UFC cast offs are both 8-2 in their last 10 fights with Davis currently riding a 4-fight win streak and Bader having won his last 2. What makes this fight such an intriguing matchup is that these two have fought before and in fact Bader was the last man to hand Davis a loss. The fight was very close and won on a split decision. Davis will certainly be looking to wipe that loss off his record and Bader will be looking to make a huge splash in his promotional debut.

Next up, Michael Chandler will put his lightweight title on the line against Oregon’s own, Brent Primus. This fight is a huge step up for Primus and a major risk for Chandler. With Primus having so few fights, there isn’t nearly the footage available for Chandler to study while Primus has a good-sized library to watch on the champion. This fight pits the one time fresh face, Chandler, against the hot young upstart, Primus. This matchup really mirrors Chandler’s first title shot and could be the beginning of a new regime in the lightweight division. For more on this matchup, please see my recent article on this fight here.

Lastly, Douglas Lima will put his welterweight title up for grabs when he faces the recently signed Lorenz Larkin. Larkin comes to Bellator from the UFC riding a 3-fight win streak and looking more dominant than ever after dropping to welterweight from 185 lbs. His explosive striking and fast pace matches up perfectly with Lima, who has a very similar style. Lima has only lost twice in his last 18 fights and both were in championship bouts. In his last fight, Lima recaptured the welterweight title with an emphatic win over Andrey Koreshkov proving that he will not have problems facing larger welterweights like Larkin. This fight is going to be a barnburner and is my pick for fight of the night. Don’t blink this one might be quick.

Sonnen and Silva Finally Settle the Score

Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva have a beef that spans nearly a half a decade since the moment it was announced that they would coach opposite one another on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. Some argue that this animosity on the show was fabricated; others say the editing made things look worse than it was in person. No matter how you slice it, there is video of Sonnen and Silva fighting on set during the filming of the show and since that time, people have wanted to see this fight. For Sonnen, this is a must win fight after losing his Bellator debut to Tito Ortiz. For Silva, this marks his return from a “lifetime” ban by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and his first chance at redemption. These two fighters are legends in the sport that hardcore fans adore. This fight is a must watch for the old school MMA fans of the world.

NBC Sports Northwest and NBCSNW Rip City Radio 620 Announce Programming Changes

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NBCS NW

NBC Sports Northwest and NBCSNW Rip City Radio 620 Announce Programming Changes

NBC Sports Northwest and NBCSNW Rip City Radio 620 will debut a new weekday lineup starting Thursday, July 19, featuring veteran sports talk Radio host Brian Noe, it was announced today by NBC Sports Northwest and iHeartRadio.

The Brian Noe Show will take the noon – 3 p.m. PT time slot, taking over for The Dwight & Aaron Show. 

Noe has been a national host at FOX Sports Radio since 2013. During that time, he hosted a Saturday evening show with Ephraim Salaam and a Sunday morning show with Andy Furman. Noe has also hosted shows with FS1 analyst Rob Parker, former ESPN NBA Insider Chris Broussard, former NBA slam dunk champion Cedric Ceballos, and former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.

With the appointment of Noe, Aaron Fentress and Dwight Jaynes will return to NBC Sports Northwest as digital contributors, taking on bigger roles covering all sports on NBCSportsNorthwest.com.

In addition, NBC Sports Northwest’s first daily show, The Bridge, is re-launching as a nightly sports show, starting Monday, July 23. Serena Winters, previously co-host, has been elevated to primary host, and will be accompanied by a variety of expert contributors.The Bridge airs weeknights at 6 p.m. PT, with the exception of Trail Blazers game nights. Toyota has signed on as the show’s title sponsor starting July 30. Fans can interact with The Bridge live on Twitter via @NBCSNorthwest and on NBC Sports Northwest’s Facebook page.

“Brian has a great creative outlook on the world of sports and is known for his unique perspective on big storylines,” said Len Mead, General Manager, NBC Sports Northwest.  “We’re thrilled to welcome him into the NBCS Northwest family. We’re equally proud to have Dwight, Aaron and Serena take on important assignments across our network platforms. These changes will allow us to continue to best serve our fans in the Northwest and continue our investment in strengthening our website and digital content.”

“We are excited to be adding Brian Noe to the team and our daily line-up at NBCSNW Rip City Radio 620,” said Program Director Rich Moore.  “He’s a great young talent and will help us strengthen our platform with NBC Sports Northwest and for the Portland fans.”

NBC Sports Northwest Rip City Radio 620 is available online and digitally everywhere listeners are via iHeartRadio, iHeartMedia’s all-in-one streaming music, podcasting and live radio service. Visit iheartradio.com/apps to download iHeartRadio on your favorite device.

Seattle Mariners – Homerism and All-Star voting

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Seattle Mariners – Homerism and All-Star voting

BY BRIAN HIGHT 

This happens in every American city with a Major League Baseball team (and one Canadian). It’s not just Seattle. The pleas of the local broadcasting team to vote for the hometown boys is echoed across four time zones almost nightly in June and intensify in the run up to the voting deadline, which is mercifully the day after the national fireworks holiday – July 5th.

Viewers of ROOT Sports in the Pacific Northwest have been subject to the nightly urgings of Angie Mentink or Jen Mueller to vote for Seattle Mariners, most often Mitch Haniger or Jean Segura, but occasionally Nelson Cruz. After all, they have been the M’s best offensive players in 2018, so naturally they must be all-stars, right?

Don’t’ get me wrong, Haniger and Segura, and Cruz have been really good. So, it says a lot about the young talent in the American League and across baseball that they not only aren’t leading in the all-star voting, they aren’t even close, and it’s not a slight by any means.


The Case for (or against) Mitch Haniger

Mitch Haniger, once considered a throw-in in the Taijuan Walker for Jean Segura trade two off-seasons ago, has been awesome in right field and leads the Mariners in fWAR with 2.6. The glossary at Fangraphs describes a 4-5 WAR player, the pace Haniger is on, as an all-star caliber player. Only in 2018, it’s not.

While Mitch Haniger is slashing .272/.355/.497 with 17 HR, 62 RBI, and putting up a 135 wRC+, that pales in comparison to possibly the greatest single season in the history of baseball – Mike Trout’s 2018 campaign, a rebound season that traditionalists love because it invokes the “triple crown” – the one Mookie Betts is having, and one very large human being – All Rise Aaron Judge.

Trout, who is working on his third MVP although it probably should be his fifth, currently has 6.3 of Fangraphs’ version of WAR. But if you prefer Baseball Reference’s version, he has 6.8 WAR. With 86 games this season under his belt, a little over half way, Trout is on pace to put up the second most WAR by a position player in the history of the game. Five of the seven best seasons in baseball history are claimed by one George Herman “Babe” Ruth. The 12.9 rWAR recorded by Ruth in 1921 seems likely to tumble, barring an injury to Trout, and the 14.1 rWAR crushed by the Babe in 1923 is in serious jeopardy.

To see what that kind of production looks like, in 1923 Ruth hit .393/.545/.764 with 41 HR, 130 RBI, and 151 R. That led the league in OBP, SLG, OPS (1,309), HR, RBI, R, and OPS+ (239). Oh, and he led the league in walks with 170 and remarkably didn’t lead the league in BA. That distinction is owed to an often-overlooked star of the time, Harry Heilmann of the Detroit Tigers who in 1923 hit .403. And don’t worry, he’s not that overlooked. He was a four-time batting champion and is in the Hall of Fame.

By comparison, Trout currently leads the AL in walks with 74 and OBP .456. Considering the huge difference in eras, Trout is demonstrating similar patience to Ruth and is garnering similar respect from opposing pitchers. The Angel’s outfielder is slashing .313/.456/.633 with 24 HR, 49 RBI, 66 R, and 13 SB. At Baseball Reference, 6.0 of his WAR is attributable to offense, while 0.9 of his WAR is because of his glove, a skill that it’s hard to know if Ruth had beyond the crude box scores of the day. The old Yankees Stadium didn’t have Statcast. Trout’s OPS+ is 201, or roughly twice as good as a league average hitter. Twice. Absolutely Ruthian.

But as great as Trout has been this season, he has some serious competition clear across the country in Bean Town. Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox currently leads the AL in BA, SLG, and OPS with a .339/.430/.673 slash line and 20 homers of his own to go along with 15 SB. Hitting at the top of the Red Sox lineup to prove that rookie manager Alex Cora is “stat savvy,” Betts only has 41 RBI but has scored 64 runs. Fangraphs has Betts with 5.0 WAR, while Baseball Reference has him with 4.8.

And, finally in third place on the leaderboard in AL OF voting is the New York Yankees giant – Aaron Judge. Judge with 4.4 rWAR and 4.2 fWAR, is currently hitting .279/.396/.565 with 22 HR, 55 RBI, and 57 R through 79 games. Early rainouts leave the Yankees having played four or five fewer games than the rest of the league. Oh, and never fear, while not leading the league, Judge is on pace to break his league leading strike out total from last season’s 208 with 109 so far. And did I mention that Joe DiMaggio struck out an average of 36 times per 162 games in his 13-year career and the seasons only lasted 154 games back then? It was a much different game in the 30’s and 40’s.

So, yea. Mitch Haniger is having a really good season. But, Trout, Betts, and Judge deserve to start the All-Star Game for the AL. And, as a testament to the power of large market voting blocks, the man from Boston leads with 2,337,514 votes. The man who loves to talk about the weather and is ever underrated, Trout, is second with 1,989,649 votes. And the slackers in the Bronx could only get their boy to 1,557,109 votes. No other outfielder in the AL has a million votes. While the coffee drinkers and IPA lovers of the Emerald City have Haniger is 9th place with 487.150 votes, a few spots lower than he probably deserves, but in line to represent the team in the nation’s capital.


What About the Jean Segura Argument?

Man, has Jean Segura had a great season? As of July 2nd, he’s hitting .335/.363/.474 with 59 runs and 14 stolen bases. After a career high 20 HR in 2016 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the shortstop that was the centerpiece of the Taijuan Walker trade has regressed a bit in the power department, knocking 11 out in 125 games last season with the Mariners and another 6 so far this season in 78 games. But, traditionally power from the center of the infield has been a bonus.

Segura currently has 3.1 fWAR and projects to accumulate another 1.0 to 1.3 depending on the projections system. At Baseball Reference, his WAR total is slightly higher at 3.2. As with Haniger, a solid 4 to 5-win player, worthy of all-star consideration most years. Unfortunately for Segura, we are living in the second golden age of shortstops. Not since Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, and Miguel Tejeda patrolled the center of the diamond in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s has there been so many quality shortstops as now.

Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles (for now), is currently leading the voting with 960,628 ballots cast, leading over Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros at 793,087 and Didi Gregorius of the Yankees with 639,630. The player who probably should be the starter but won’t be, Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians, is in fourth place with 619,112, followed by Segura in fifth with 504,985.

On the SS WAR leaderboard in the AL, Fangraphs has Lindor first with 4.9, Andrelton Simmons of the Los Angeles Angles second with 3.5, Segura third at 3.1, Machado fourth with 2.9, and Correa fifth at 2.4. It’s worth noting that Machado’s insistence on moving from third to short has actually decreased his value as Machado was a very good 3B in the field but is below average at SS. Conversely, Simmons derives almost half his value in the field, as he is arguably the second coming of Ozzie Smith.

Any one of these choices is defensible. Lindor is hitting .296/.372/.564 with 21 HR and 10 SB, a wRC+ of 153 and 9 defensive runs saved for just half a season. Simmons, while a defensive wiz, is no slouch at the plate these days. He’s hitting .319/.380/.440 with a 4.6% K rate, unheard of these days, and a 130 wRC+. Last season Simmons had 38 DRS, which is worth about 4 wins. This season, he has 10 through the half way mark. Machado is the offensive monster at the position and let’s face it, all-star voting is mostly about the bat. The trade deadline super-prize is hitting .310/.377/.564 with 21 HR, 59 RBI, and a wRC+ of 153.

The offensive numbers between Lindor and Machado are almost identical. The superior glove of Lindor places him higher on the WAR leaderboard, but the media hype over Machado and the trade deadline and impending free agency is the difference in the all-star voting. Again, Jean Segura is really good. He’s just not this season’s all-star at shortstop.


A Word About Nelson Cruz and the DH

As with his teammates, Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura, Nelson Cruz is having a spectacular season. Somewhat surprisingly, the four-year deal the Mariners signed Cruz to in 2015 at age 34 has been worth every penny of the $54MM, even into his age 38 season. You could even argue that $13+ mil per is a bargain in today’s market. Cruz is currently hitting .288/.375/.549 with 21 HR, 51 RBI, and a wRC+ of 152. Even without any contribution in the field as the DH, Cruz has provided the Mariners with 1.9 fWAR and an identical 1.9 rWAR. The only problem? Yet another ridiculous DH in Fenway.

In his first season with the Red Sox, J.D. Martinez is hitting .324/.391/.634 while leading the majors in HR with 25 and in RBI with 67. Atop the HR and RBI leaderboard, and within .015 points of his teammate, Betts, in BA, old school announcers are drooling at the possibility of the mythical Triple Crown. For the more sabermetrically minded, Martinez’s 3.4 rWAR as just a hitter is proof enough that he is the rightful starting DH for the AL.

The voting bears that out as well.  J.D. Martinez has 1,675,492 votes, as of the last public update, and is almost a million votes clear of the not really a DH, Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees. Cruz sits in fifth in voting and could overcome the 30,000 or so vote deficit behind Shohei Ohtani, who awed fans with his pitching and hitting prowess before he went on the DL. Cruz probably deserves to be a little higher, but Martinez is clearly the right choice for 2018.


No Disrespect Intended

Nothing here was intended as a slight to this really exciting and surprising Mariners team. Barring an epic collapse of almost biblical proportions, the 2018 Seattle Mariners are set to relinquish the crown of most futile major sports teams and coronate the Cleveland Browns with that dubious honor. And there are many good to great players on this year’s team, Haniger, Segura, and Cruz among them. One of them, or possibly their exquisite pitching comrade, James Paxton, will be in D.C. on the 17th of this month representing the M’s, as every team gets a representative. They have played great baseball. Just not historically great baseball.

NBC Sports NW Summer Giveaways

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NBCS NW

NBC Sports NW Summer Giveaways

NBC Sports Northwest is hosting Authentic Fan Fridays every Friday through July! That's your opportunity to win big!  Tickets, unique sports swag bags, and more to get Authentic Fans throughout the PNW excited for the upcoming fall sports seasons!

Each Friday, you have a chance to win! 

Upcoming Giveaways: 
June 29th 
July 6th 
July 13th 
July 20th
July 27th 

*Winners will be announced the following Wednesday 

Link to Official Rules

Oregon Sports Awards live on NBCS Northwest tonight at 7pm

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Oregon Sports Awards

Oregon Sports Awards live on NBCS Northwest tonight at 7pm

The Oregon Sports Awards has been running strong for more than 60 years as the OSA honors outstanding achievements by Oregon preps, college athletes, amateurs, and pros.

Here is the full list of the 2018 nominees:

Past award winners include Terry Baker, Dick Fosbury, Steve Prefontaine, Joni Huntley, Neil Lomax, Danny Ainge, Dan O’Brien, Gary Payton, Tiffeny Milbrett, Joey Harrington, Nick Symmonds, Jordan Kent, Kevin Love, Liz Brenner, Megan Rapinoe, Ashton Eaton and Marcus Mariota.

You can watch the Oregon Sports Awards live on NBCS Northwest with the show starting at 7pm. Our red carpet coverage starting at 6pm on The Bridge.

Video: Canadian 7-foot 12-year old dominates on eight foot rims

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Video: Canadian 7-foot 12-year old dominates on eight foot rims

Meet Oliver Rioux, a Canadian youth basketball player born in 2006. That makes him 12 years old. He also happens to be 7'0'' tall and plays in a youth league with 8'0'' baskets. This is one of the more interesting 'highlight' reels you'll ever see:

One reason why the Seattle Mariners have surged to first place – Jean Segura

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USA Today Images

One reason why the Seattle Mariners have surged to first place – Jean Segura

BY MARIO MARTIN DEL CAMPO

This week, the Seattle Mariners played six games and won four of them, increasing their record to a superb 41-24. They currently hold one of the best records in baseball, third only to the powerhouse Yankees and Red Sox, both teams that the Mariners will face for 10 of the remaining 19 games in the month of June.

Many factors have contributed to the Mariners’ successful season; Paxton’ dependable domination on the mound, the resurgence of Wade LeBlanc, Dee Gordon’s abilities on the basepaths as well his charm in the clubhouse, the meteoric rise of Mitch Haniger, the excelling bullpen, and the quiet consistency of guys like Mike Leake, Kyle Seager, and Ben Gamel.

But then there is Jean Segura, the shortstop, who in Seattle is called, “The Hit Machine.” Sometimes he’s referred to as El Mambo and sometimes as Seggy. No matter what you call him, he’s been the silent savior of the Mariners this past season.

Last year, Jean Segura played 125 games for the injury-riddled Seattle ballclub, taking a couple of trips to the disabled list himself for a hamstring injury and an ankle sprain. In those 125 games, he hit an even .300, with a .776 OPS and was worth 2.9 wins above replacement (fWAR) for the Mariners. Despite the injuries, last year was one of Segura’s top seasons since his debut in 2012.

He’s already surpassed last year’s margin, and its only June.

The Mariners started the year with only a 9.4% chance of entering the postseason, according to Fangraphs. As of now, the Mariners have a 56.1% chance. How has Segura contributed to this rise in playoff probability? For starters, El Mambo was projected to score 48 runs, impulse 36 runs batted in, and steal 14 bases by the first 88 games of the season. He’s surpassed all of these margins while only having played 62 games this season.

In only 62 games played this year, Jean Segura has almost tied his wins above replacement for the previous year, needing only 0.3 wins to reach the 2.9 fWAR he attained in 2017. He’s currently batting .341/.363/.483 with 134 wRC+.

Segura’s contributions to the team have been immense. He’s current 2.6 fWAR leads the Mariners and is almost a full win higher than Mitch Haniger’s 1.7 fWAR. He has the highest wOBA of any Mariner with at least 50 plate appearances, and this is despite his low 3.9 BB%. His strikeout percentage of 13.5% is the lowest of all Mariners, proving that his ability to discern pitches and turn them into hits is one of the most effective on staff.

The season isn’t even halfway through and Jean Segura is already on track to have his best season yet, surpassing even his All-Star 2013 season. His approach at the plate is not only one of the greatest contributions to the Mariners’ offensive capabilities but a magnificent sight to witness. Segura covers all parts of the plate, teeing off on pitches low and inside with the grace of a golfer and taking hacks at pitches far and outside with the strength and prowess of a man hungry to lead his team to victory. This isn’t a player who swings and anything thrown at him. Segura is calculating and wise. The average player swings at pitches outside of the zone 30% of the time and makes contact with those pitches 62% of time. Segura swings at outside pitches 35% of the time and has made contact nearly 77% on those pitches.

For pitches in the zone, Segura is even better, making contact on pitches over the plate almost 95% of the time. Currently, there are 11 players with more wins above replacement than Jean Segura, and none of them match his ability to cover the plate.

Therein lies the beauty that is Jean Segura. He is currently ranked 12th on Fangraphs’ MLB leaderboards, and he’s ranked as the 10th best position player when only counting position players in the American League. Segura has proven that he’s not only been the Mariners most valuable position player, but one of the better position players in all of Major League Baseball this season.

Seattle Mariners: The surprise that is Marco Gonzales

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Seattle Mariners: The surprise that is Marco Gonzales

BY BRIAN HIGHT

Over the weekend, I noticed that Marco Gonzales, starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, had been picked up on waivers in my oldest fantasy baseball league. The league originally started back in Memphis, TN, so long ago I’d prefer not to say. But these days, as people have gone on with their lives, players live in Seattle, (obviously me), Atlanta, and Tampa. Coordinating eastern time, central time, and pacific time auctions can be challenging, but it’s always fun.

But, back to Marco Gonzales. Mariners fans know that after suffering through a rocky April, Gonzales has been brilliant for most of May and now into June. But, it was kind of surprising that Gonzales had made it on to the national radar, albeit among a group of fans that is possibly more keenly aware of statistical trends in players’ performance than the casual fan. And, to be fair, this group jumped all over Mitch Haniger when I brought his name up for auction at a dollar, hoping to sneak him past my Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals centric playing partners. So, Gonzales being plucked from the free agent pool of fantasy players made me want to see just how good he’s been lately.

Marco Gonzales May Have Figured It Out

Back in April, Gonzales had a three-game stretch, that, at the time, raised some concerns. On April 9th, the Mariners faced the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City and Gonzales would only give them 2.1 innings, his shortest outing of the season, up to then and since, where he would yield 8 hits and 4 earned runs. Then in his next outing on April 14th, Gonzales went only one inning deeper versus the Oakland A’s at home, 3.1 innings, and also gave up 4 earned runs. This time on 5 hits.  In the last game of this rocky period, Gonzales took the bump on April 19th against the Houston Astros in Safeco and stretched it out to 4.2 innings, allowing 5 hits and 3 earned runs.

Over the three-game stretch, Gonzales pitched 11.1 innings and gave up 16 hits and allowed 11 earned runs for a WHIP of 2.79 and an 8.92 ERA. Not entirely encouraging. However, over the same stretch, he did manage to strikeout 17 batters while only walking 3 for a K/9 of 13.78 and a BB/9 of 2.43.

Since the fourth start of the season on April 19th, Gonzales has failed to go 6 innings only once, in the 2-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Safeco on May 17th. But in that outing he did not allow an earned run in 5.2 innings pitched. In fact, starting with the May 17th Tigers game, Gonzales has only allowed 1 earned run over four consecutive outings.

In his last four starts, Gonzales has pitched 5.2 innings against the Tigers, allowing zero earned runs; 7.0 innings against the A’s, allowing zero earned runs; 6.2 innings against the Texas Rangers, allowing zero runs; and 6.2 innings against the Tampa Rays, allowing 1 earned run. Over that four-game stretch, the Mariner left hander has a 0.884 WHIP and an ERA of 0.346. Wow.  He has stuck out a modest 21 hitters for a K/9 of 7.27, while walking 11 for a 3.81 BB/9. The walk figure is somewhat inflated in the small sample by a 4 free pass game against the Rangers.

For the season, Gonzales has contributed the second most fWAR on the pitching staff for the Mariners with 1.4, just a tick ahead of closer Edwin Diaz who has 1.3 and behind James Paxton who sports a 2.3 fWAR. Something about no-hitters and 16 K games will bump a pitchers WAR slightly. Gonzales’ season ERA is 3.38, but his FIP suggests he might be a tad better with 3.22.

Good in Both Fantasy Baseball and Real Baseball

Who would have thought coming into the season that Marco Gonzales would be the second-best starter on the Seattle Mariners? The three outings in April cast some doubt on the season and seemed to suggest that the Mariners could spend the Summer chasing their own pitchers on offense, trying to put up enough runs to stay in ball games. But, what appeared to be a liability in April (and that was much of the pitching staff, both starters and relievers, not just Gonzales) has turned into a major asset for the first-place ball club from the Emerald City.

So, if you play fantasy baseball and Marco Gonzales is still on your waiver wire, go get him. If you just like to watch good pitching and root for the Mariners, Gonzales’ next start will come on the road against the Rays. Don’t be surprised if he has another good outing.

One on one with the newest investors in the Portland Diamond Project: Russell Wilson and Ciara

One on one with the newest investors in the Portland Diamond Project: Russell Wilson and Ciara

The Portland Diamond Project (PDP) added some big names to its investment group over the weekend. Seattle Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife, Grammy Award-winning singer Ciara joined the group as owners/investors.

The PDP held a press conference on Saturday where Wilson said, “we’re excited about this opportunity. We’re excited about the potential of bringing a Major League Baseball team here to such a great city.”

Wilson and Ciara took a quick second after the press conference for an exclusive interview with our Dwight Jaynes to talk about the duo’s ambition to bring MLB to PDX. 

 

Seattle Mariners first place in AL West thanks To Felix Hernandez’s best start – is The King back?

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USA Today

Seattle Mariners first place in AL West thanks To Felix Hernandez’s best start – is The King back?

By 

I’m writing this as Félix Hernández takes the mound for his 13th start of the season; a season that, for Félix, has been clouded by more than just Seattle overcast.

Félix will always be the King, but there is no denying that, other than in the season opener, he’s taken a backseat to the rest of the Mariners starting rotation. Mike Leake, the back-end starter for the M’s, has a 4.71 ERA on the season and his FIP of 4.41 shows that he, unfortunately, has been pretty consistent in earning himself some runs. After a season of hurtful starts and terrible first-inning woes, Hernández’s ERA of 5.83 is more than a full point higher than Leake’s. That stellar game at the beginning of the season is now a whole two months gone, almost seeming like a fluke in the distance.

The Opening Night game against the Cleveland Indians is worth noting in retrospect. Interestingly enough, the first pitch Hernández threw was a poorly located 89 mph fastball that was almost at Francisco Lindor’s ankles when it crossed the plate. His second pitch was a sinker that ended up being faster than his previous pitch when it was clocked at 90 mph. It was that sinker, his one of his three secondary pitches, that might have caused him to crumble through the season.

Hernández has always been a crafty pitcher, but when your fastball goes from an average 98 mph to 90 mph ten years later, it’s time to up the deception, which he has tried. His second pitch in the season opener, the sinker previously mentioned, was popped up for an out. The next batter he faced, Jason Kipnis, also when down on two sinkers, grounding out on the second pitch. He started off the next plate appearance with a sinker and seven pitches later, forced José Ramírez to ground out on a sinker just as the batter before him. After a tumultuous 2017 season, Félix had to come into 2018 with something to rely on, something to help him regain his confidence. He must have found that confidence in his sinker, a pitch he’s always favorited and used almost exclusively since 2014.

Félix went on to pitch 5.1 innings in that game, allowing only two hits and striking out four batters. Since then, he threw the sinker more than any other pitch this year, making use of it a whole 34.4% of the time throughout the month of April.

But his newfound faith in the pitch would soon be sullied as Hernández began to throw it extensively. So far, 20 hits have come by way of his sinker, three of which were home runs, and he’s only gotten seven swinging strikes off of the pitch. And so began the continuing troubles of Félix Hernández. Throughout the season, Hernández has gone 5-4 in 12 starts, allowing 65 hits in 66.1 innings pitched, with 17% of those hits ending up outside of the park.

But the best pitchers, the best athletes, adapt. They take in their struggles, work with them, learn from them, and change their approach. Félix, the King, is one of those pitchers. After a gruesome April of earned runs and varying pitch selections, Félix has begun to adapt. In May, he began to use the sinker less and relied more on his curveball and changeup, two pitches far superior than his sinker.

For the first time since 2014, Félix has started using off-speed pitches more than his sinker, and making more use of the curve. He’s been able to deceive more batters with those pitches as 22 swinging strikes have come off of Hernández’s curveball and 21 off of his changeup. He’s now only used the sinker about 24% of the time in May and has increased his use of the curve and changeup by 6%. This change in pitching approach, the need to adapt is what will allow Félix to develop into his next stage as a major league star.

Hernández’s changeup has allowed only 13 hits, compared to the 20 from the sinker, and mostly due to poor location. Batters best capitalize of off Hernández’s off-speed pitch when he’s throwing it in the middle of the zone or off to the right side of the plate. His curveball has come in for 15 hits, most of which were located all over the lower part strikezone, save for one he hung to Mike Moustakas on April 10th, which ended up in the stands for a home run; it happens to the best of pitchers.

What is important to note here is that despite all of the trials Félix has had on the mound this season, he seems to have reflected on his woes and adapted accordingly. His secondary pitches have allowed him to make up for a fastball that just doesn’t have the life and speed it used to, and make up for a sinker that just wasn’t working the way he thought it was. He is adjusting, albeit slowly, and improving throughout the season.

In his most recent outing against the Tampa Bay Rays, Félix opened the game with a changeup, then two curveballs to Mallex Smith, three changeups in the zone for C.J. Cron, and a sinker-changeup-curveball-changeup combination to strikeout Joey Wendle. It was a 1-2-3 inning for the King. He didn’t throw a single fastball until facing his 6th batter and his sinker would make the occasional appearance amidst the myriad of breaking and off-speed pitches.

In that start against the Rays, Félix pitched eight complete innings, the first time this season that he’s gone past six. He struck out seven while only issuing one walk. He allowed five hits, but halted the Rays to only one run.

You can’t say the King is back after one outing, but it is a boost of confidence for the long-time ace, and a necessary one at that. While he may not be the pitcher he once was, his reign seems to be far from over.