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Preview of the 2018 Seattle Mariners – The Infield

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USA Today

Preview of the 2018 Seattle Mariners – The Infield

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As pitchers and catchers assemble in Peoria, Arizona with position players not far behind, it’s time to start thinking about baseball. Barring any last minute free-agent signings, the Seattle Mariners lineup is pretty much set for the 2018 season. Barring injuries, the following players will be in the infield for the Mariners for the majority of innings this season. Let’s take a look at what to expect in 2018.

Catcher – Mike Zunino

Two years removed from a horrendous 2015 season in which he hit .174/.230/.300, Mike Zunino has settled in behind the plate for the Seattle Mariners, posting a solid 3.6 fWAR while hitting .251/.331/.509 with 25 home runs. While Zunino still strikes out a ton – 36.8% last season – he makes up for it with solid defense behind the plate – ranked 13th in fielding runs by Baseball Prospectus – and is recognized by his peers for handling pitchers well.

This season he is projected by Steamer to hit .224/.298/.450 with 25 HR while catching around 110 games and adding roughly 2.5 WAR to the lineup. Zunino will turn 27 before opening day and agreed to a contract in arbitration for this year of $2.975MM. Barring injuries or any unexpected regressions, the M’s should be above average behind the dish.

First Base – Ryon Healy*

The majority of the plate appearances at first base should be by off-season acquisition, Ryon Healy. Healy, who came over from the Oakland Athletics in November, primarily played third but has played first as well. He is a big guy. Listed at 6’5”, 223, Healy hit .271/.302/.451 with 25 HR in 605 PA for the A’s last season. In a very small sample size, Healy seemed to be about league average defensively at 1B with one defensive run saved in 307.1 innings. At his size, he was expectedly below average at 3B, so the switch to 1B may generate more WAR for the Mariners than Healy did for the A’s last season, that being 0.2.

Ideally, it would be nice if Healy walked more – just 3.8% of the time last season for the A’s – which would improve his below average OBP of .302. Perhaps the M’s emphasis on “controlling the zone” could pay dividends this Spring. Steamer projects Healy to hit .259/.297/.430 with 16 HR and 0.1 WAR in 110 games. Depth Charts projections are a bit more bullish on Healy’s playing time at 140 games, but the same slash line of .259/.297/.430, albeit with 21 HR and 0.3 WAR.

However, many scouts have noted that Healy changed his mechanics in 2017 and that the power on display last year is legit, thus discounting many of the projection systems that predict major regression.

Playing on a pre-arbitration eligible contract in 2018 at age 26, Healy could either be a big surprise for the Mariners at 1B or the decided weak link in an otherwise top infield.

Second Base – Robinson Cano

In 2017, the fourth year of his ten year $240MM contract, at age 34, Robinson Cano remained productive at second base. Ranked ninth in the majors for the position in fWAR at 3.2, Cano hit .280/.338/.453 with 23 HR. His hitting and average defense – exactly zero DRS last season – made Cano one of only three Mariners hitters with 3 or more WAR. The other two being Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.

For his age 35 season, Steamer projects Cano to put up a stat line very similar to last season – .282/.339/.470 with 25 HR, a weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 116, roughly 16% better than league average, and a 3.1 WAR.

However, despite the above average numbers at his position, Cano is no longer one of the premiere hitters in the game. The 2017 campaign saw Cano post the second lowest wRC+ of his career. (The lowest of 86 came in 2008 with the New York Yankees was fueled by a .151 BA in April and speculation that he may have been injured and/or feeling the pressure of a new contract extension.) He also posted the third lowest WAR of his career, the others being that very same 2008 season and his second season with the Mariners when he battled an abdomen injury much of the season.

It’s interesting and possibly alarming that one of the most recent comps for a hitter of Cano’s profile, according to Baseball Reference, is former Texas Ranger 3B, SS, and 2B Michael Young. Young fell off precipitously at age 35, losing nearly seventy points off his lifetime SLG, dipping below .400, and retiring after his age 36 season. Cano isn’t going to retire with four or five years left on his contract, but then maybe the severity of Young’s drop off isn’t in the cards either, but a drop off is coming. But, for 2017, Cano should continue to be one of the best 2B in the league.

Shortstop – Jean Segura

In his first season with the Mariners, Jean Segura, acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Taijuan Walker deal, produced 2.9 fWAR at shortstop. While that contribution fell short of what will more than likely end up being his career best 5.0 fWAR from the season before in the desert, last season’s contribution in the middle infield was a major upgrade in the Emerald City.

Segura hit .300/.349/.427 with 80 runs and 22 SB. The 20 HR from the 2016 campaign in Arizona was probably an outlier, but he still managed 11 dingers in a shortened season of 125 games due to early injuries.

This season, Steamer projects Segura to hit .275/.323/.404, which seems a bit conservative given the previous two seasons of over 1200 plate appearances. Segura clearly changed his approach in 2016 and projections trending more back to the light hitter of pre-2016 seem out of whack. With the launch angle and exit velocity revolution of the past few seasons, it’s reasonable to accept up-ticks in contact and power as more legit than in the past. Even with the conservative projection, the 2.0 WAR at SS will ensure the Mariners have one of the more productive middle infields in baseball.

Third Base – Kyle Seager

It’s funny how four years after signing Kyle Seager to a seven year $100MM deal that seven-year deals seem a thing of the past but $14.3MM per year seems like a bargain. Entering his thirties, Kyle Seager has been eclipsed by his younger brother, Corey Seager, in Los Angeles, but remains a solid fixture at the hot corner.

In 2017, Seager struggled at the plate, hitting a career low .248, with his second lowest OBP of .323, and a .450 slugging percentage that reversed a three year upward trend. Still his 3.5 fWAR ranked third in the AL and 8th in all of baseball at third base.

While a return to 2016 form when Seager generated 5.5 fWAR and a 132 wRC+ would be welcome, Steamer does project a slight bounce back for Seager, predicting a slash line of .262/.338/.469 with 26 HR and a 116 wRC+, up 10 points from 2017. And, like his compatriots to the left of the diamond (or maybe the right in a shift), Seager is an average glove at third with 11 DRS in his 8,545.1 innings over seven seasons. Thus, third base finishes out what should be one of the better infields in baseball.

Infield Grade A-/B+

Definitely the strength of the 2018 Seattle Mariners lies with it’s infield play. While there are no plus defenders, the infield is solidly average with no serious liabilities. The upside over most major league rosters comes at the plate. In Zunino, Cano, Segura, and Seager, the Mariners could legitimately have four 3+ WAR players in the infield. The question mark is Healy at first. The projection models are skeptical, but we do seem to be in an era where approaches at the plate are changing with the advent of Trackcast and the identification of exit velocity and launch angles. Look for Healy to perhaps outplay his computer model projections and insure Seattle has all 2+ WAR players in the infield for 2018.

*Editor’s Note – Ryon Healy is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur in his right hand – ESPN

Tampa Bay/Montreal deal stalled... what it could mean for MLB to Portland

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USATI

Tampa Bay/Montreal deal stalled... what it could mean for MLB to Portland

On Wednesday, it was revealed that negotiations stalled to split the Tampa Bay Rays home games between Tampa Bay and Montreal. Now, the organization has decided to honor their agreement with Tropicana Field and remain in Florida until 2027, announced in a letter from St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman addressed to City Council.

However, once the agreement ends the Rays will most likely be moving away from the area and playing in a different market. Evidenced by the organization declining Kriseman’s offer to extend their deal beyond 2027. Last season, despite making the postseason, the Tampa Bay Rays were second to last in Major League Baseball in average attendance.

This could be positive news for supporters of the Portland Diamond Project, an organization dedicated to bringing Major League Baseball to Portland. With the Rays’ decision, it appears a MLB franchise will be looking to relocate and Portland may be able to host the team. 

Back in November 2018, the Diamond Project announced an agreement with the Port of Portland to develop Terminal 2 property as an eventual site for the stadium. 

Investors for the property include Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Nike, and more. Also, the petition to bring Major League Baseball to Portland has reached over 44,000 signatures.

Wouldn't it be cool to see something like this happening in Portland? 


One can only hope. 

Get to know Huskies new head coach Jimmy Lake

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Jimmy Lake/Twitter

Get to know Huskies new head coach Jimmy Lake

The University of Washington sports world was shaken Monday after it was announced that head football coach Chris Petersen would step down following the team's bowl game. 

In the process, UW promoted defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake to take over.

Here are five things maybe you didn't know about the Huskies new head coach.

  • Lake was an honorable mention All-Big Sky and academic all-conference honoree at Eastern Washington as a strong safety and was a graduate of North Central High in Spokane, WA. Lake and his wife, Michelle, have three children: Jimmy Jr., Faith and Bronson.
  • Lake began his coaching career at EWU in 1999 and spent time at Montana State and in the NFL (Tampa Bay and Detroit) before joining Petersen at Boise State in 2012.
  • Lake previously served as an assistant at UW under Keith Gilbertson in 2004 and returned to Seattle as the defensive backs coach in 2014. He was promoted to co-defensive coordinator before the 2016 season and to defensive coordinator in 2018.
  • From 2015 through 2018, Washington's defense led the Pac-12 in both total defense and scoring defense all four years. Eight former Husky defensive backs coached by Lake are currently on NFL rosters.
  • This is Lake’s first head coaching job. According to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today, Lake’s contract is for five years with an annual salary of $3 million. “I could not be more excited about taking over as head football coach at the University of Washington,” said Jimmy Lake in a press release. “I’ve been dreaming of this opportunity for as long as I can remember and I can’t think of a better place to do it than in the world-class city of Seattle and at such a prestigious university with a rich football tradition. This wouldn’t be possible without the mentorship of Coach Petersen and I would like to thank him for everything he has done for me, as well as Jen Cohen for entrusting me with this opportunity.”

Central Catholic, Lake Oswego punch ticket to 6A football championship

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OSAA

Central Catholic, Lake Oswego punch ticket to 6A football championship

And then there were two!

The Central Catholic Rams cruised to a 35-7 win over Barlow at Hillsboro Stadium to punch their ticket to the the 6A football final.

Running back Elijah Elliott ran for three touchdowns, all of which came in the second half, and finished his day with 151 yards, including a 77-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Here's postgame reaction from Central Catholic's victory:

Lake Oswego punched their ticket into the 6A football championship with a 28-21 win over the Jesuit Crusaders in the evening match-up at Hillsboro Stadium. 

Casey Filkins, who spent most of the season at tailback, played QB for the fourth playoff game where he rushed for 110 yards on 30 carries and completed 13 of 27 passes for 225 yards and one score with one interception.

Filkins accounted for all three of Lake Oswego’s first-half touchdowns. Senior Thomas Dukart had eight catches for 170 yards in the win. 

“You can’t really put a game like this to words,” Casey Filkins said postgame. “But, we’re not satisfied.”

Lake Oswego has the opportunity to go back to back years with a state title.

Watch the Lakers postgame reaction:

Poppycock! Legislators uneasy with losses in Oregon's sports betting app

Poppycock! Legislators uneasy with losses in Oregon's sports betting app

Apparently, it seems, some of our state legislators are upset and surprised about the sums of money people are wagering – and losing -- in the state’s new online sports betting app, "Scoreboard." State Representative Paul Evans (D-Monmouth) is one of them:

But since then, the lottery established a limit that Evans and other critics think is no limit at all: $250,000.

Evans says that's irresponsible. "I think that's absolute poppycock," he says. "Two hundred fifty thousand dollars is the price of a low-end home. I think that's a joke."

The limit has the attention of other legislators, too.

"That's way beyond what we should be letting people bet," says Sen. Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro).

Lottery officials say Scoreboard is exceeding expectations: More than 30,000 players signed up in the first month, betting more than $13 million. The largest single bet so far is $10,000, and one player bet a total of $234,015, losing $12,750.

I think our elected folks in Salem must be just a little on the naïve side. Yes, if you legalize betting and put it on an app you can use on your phone, more people will gamble. And those people may just bet substantial sums of money because it’s so easy.

But if a player wagered a total of $234,015 since this thing began, it’s not a huge sum – nor is his percentage of losses, at $12,750. In the world of sports betting, people tend to wager with their hearts as well as their minds. They get carried away. I’m not a fan of that and don’t wager on sports. But a $250,000 limit? It's usually only going to impact somebody with enough money to lose $250,000.

But I will say this, they’ve probably been betting illegally, anyway, and now, at least, the state gets a portion of it. And there is a control, in that you make bets based on how much money is in your account and when that money runs out, you can’t bet. So, at least in that scenario, nobody is going to get his or her leg broken because they didn’t pay their bookie.

The outcry in the legislature amuses me. I mean, did they think people wouldn’t lose? Did they think they could stop people from becoming addicated to gambling any more than they can stop them from becoming addicted to alcohol?

That’s so Oregon. Next thing you know, the state will attempt to pay them all back for their losses.

And that, of course, would be poppycock.

Headstrong: Seattle Sounders Stefan Frei emphasizes that everyone should find their passion

Headstrong: Seattle Sounders Stefan Frei emphasizes that everyone should find their passion

The month of November is Men's Health Awareness Month. ‘The Movember Foundation’ uses November to bring awareness to various men’s physical and mental health issues, as well as support to those tackling prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, and more.

Throughout this month, NBC Sports will be releasing numerous videos that feature sports superstars discussing the importance of mental health as well as how they approach the subject. Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who recently hoisted the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy over his head as an MLS Champion, was one such athlete that participated in the nationwide project.

The mental side of prepping as a goalie— you will have nerves, butterflies. It’s a good thing you have butterflies. It means you care, you’re engaged. Mentally, it’s not a turn on, turn off deal. It’s a constant battle. I think that’s why if you don’t deal with it properly, it can add up, and  it can destroy you if you don’t deal with it.

Frei recently shared his love for art and uses it to express himself, but also, decompress. 

“It’s always been a passion of mine, growing up. It’s always been something I’ve enjoyed doing. As a goalkeeper, I don’t get to enjoy being creative, too much.”

And while a mistake on the soccer pitch can be costly, Frei opens himself up to making mistakes on a canvas. 

“For me, art, as difficult it is to surrender, if I do make mistakes, it can actually lead to something beautiful. It’s kind of like an exploration, and there is no wrong."

Frei emphasizes that finding something you’re passionate about is paramount to a happier and healthier life.

“When you have an injury, you get treatment. But, we do so many things beforehand to prevent injuries. Mentally, there needs to be something there, as well.”

You can watch the full video above.

Social Media reacts: Seattle Sounders win the MLS Cup

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USATI

Social Media reacts: Seattle Sounders win the MLS Cup

It's time to celebrate in Seattle.

For the second time in four seasons, the Seattle Sounders have won the MLS Cup. This time in front of a franchise record 69,274 fans in the franchise's first final played at CenturyLink Field. After an ugly first half, the Sounders owned the second half to win the game 3-1. 

You can read our instant analysis here.

Let’s take you through the game and how social media reacted.

Kelvin Leerdam (57’)

To end the scoreless tie, Kelvin Leerdam’s shot ricocheted off a Toronto FC defender into the back of the net. It would have been the fourth own goal in MLS history, but the league deemed it not one. Watch below and see for yourself.

Here’s how the Seattle faithful reacted to Leerdam breaking through.

Victor Rodríguez (76’)

To break the game wide open, Rodríguez would fire a laser into the bottom right corner of the net to create a two-goal advantage.

Social media could sense the championship.

Raúl Ruidíaz (90’)

Not to be outdone, the Sounders' star would get a goal of his own to add to the sheet.

Now Seattle knew it was over. Here’s how they celebrated.

Instant Analysis: the Seattle Sounders win their second MLS Cup

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USATI

Instant Analysis: the Seattle Sounders win their second MLS Cup

The Seattle Sounders are the MLS Champions for the second time in four seasons after defeating Toronto FC 3-1 in front of a franchise-record 69,274 fans at CenturyLink Field. 

In the 57th minute, Seattle became the first Western Conference team to score a live goal in the MLS Cup since 2014 when Kelvin Leerdam’s shot bounced off a Toronto defender into the net. It was the fourth own goal in MLS Cup history. 

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore played through a quad strain when he entered the game in the 66th minute to try and equalize the game. It was his first action of the playoffs after suffering the injury on Decision Day. 

However, Seattle put the game away in the 75th minute when Víctor Rodríguez shot a rocket into the bottom right corner to gain a two-goal advantage.  For the icing on the cake, Raúl Ruidíaz also scored in the 90th minute after he collected a deep ball. 

Altidore would put one in the back of the net in stoppage time to put Toronto on the scoreboard.

Tough pill to swallow for Toronto

The first half was dominated by Toronto who had 65 percent possession with the Sounders dropping back looking to score on a counter. Toronto FC passed circles around Seattle in the midfield but couldn’t finish in the last third of the field. 

When Seattle got on the counter they also had multiple blown opportunities where shots either sailed over the net or right at the keeper. Additionally, Toronto CB Michael Bradley also had three different goal-saving tackles in the first half to prevent his team from going down a goal. 

Of all the players to be upset, Bradley should be the most affected. If Toronto had won the game, a clause in his contract would have added another guaranteed year at $6.5 million for winning the MLS Cup. 

Familiar Final

This was the third time in four years that Seattle and Toronto matched up in the league final with the teams splitting the previous matchups. However, this was the first time the MLS Cup was held at CenturyLink Field. In 2016, the Sounders infamously won the game in penalty kicks after not achieving a single shot on goal during the 120 minutes of play. The following year, Toronto got their revenge defeating Seattle 2-0 in a final that was never in doubt. 

 

Eight things to know about Sunday's MLS Cup Final

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USATI

Eight things to know about Sunday's MLS Cup Final

The Seattle Sounders (34-16-8) will host Toronto FC (34-13-14) at CenturyLink Field at 12:00pm, with only one team leaving happy. 

Here are eight things to know ahead of the game.

  1. A Familiar Matchup

This will be the third MLS Cup in four years that’s played between the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC. The two teams have split the series so far. Seattle upset a record-setting Toronto FC team in the first matchup, despite not registering a shot on goal. The next season, Toronto FC would get revenge winning the match 2-0. 

  1. Expect a great atmosphere

Although, this matchup of familiar foes will feature a new location: CenturyLink Field. The first two MLS cup matchups took place in Toronto, and the Seattle faithful will be hungry for another championship. The Emerald City Supporters create one of the league’s best home field advantages and this game sold out in a mere twenty minutes. It’s also expected to set a new Seattle Sounders attendance record, surpassing the previous record of 67, 385 by over 2,000 people. 

  1. Both teams were lower seeds

With the new knockout rules for the MLS postseason, it’s not surprising to see a lower seeded team in the MLS Cup. However, both Toronto and Seattle entered their conference championship games as heavy underdogs, and won. Seattle, the second seed, upset top-seeded LAFC and fourth-seeded Toronto FC upset second-seeded Atlanta FC. With just one game left, anything can happen.

  1. Can Seattle break the curse?

Remember when I told you that Seattle won an MLS Cup without a shot on goal? Well, they haven’t been the only Western Conference team to put up a poor offensive performance in the league final recently. In fact, the last time a western conference player scored a non-penalty kick goal in the MLS Cup was in 2015 when then-Portland Timbers forward Rodney Wallace scored a championship-winning goal.

  1. Will Altidore play?

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore hasn’t suited up since injuring his quad on Decision Day, October 6th, 2019. Despite playing without him the entire postseason, his team has made the league final. The USMNT player said it would take a miracle for him to suit up but the Sounders are preparing as if he will play.

  1. Some homegrown talent

Sunday afternoon will be special for all players, but for Seattle’s homegrown talent it’ll just mean more to play in a league final in their home state. Midfielder Handwalla Bwana grew up in Seattle and forward Jordan Morris was born there before growing up in Mercer Island, WA. Morris’ ten goals is good for second on the team. 

  1. Lots of Experience

Not only have the Sounders played in three of the four previous MLS Cups, but they have made the postseason each season for the past decade. This is a club that expects to find success and will play Sunday looking for a second championship.

  1. Only one matchup between them this season

While they have played in the postseason frequently and recently, the two teams only played once in the regular season: a 3-2 Sounders victory in Seattle. Will Bruin scored two goals and Christian Roldan added one more in the victory for the Sounders. The lone scorer for Toronto was Jozy Altidore who will most likely miss the MLS Cup Final. 

 

Social media reacts and remembers the great Gert Boyle

Social media reacts and remembers the great Gert Boyle

Media, politicians, and fans alike share their thoughts on the passing of Gert Boyle who famously took Columbia Sportswear to new heights. 

Also, here is a great look that our friends at KGW did: