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The Safeco Effect

Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners

Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Marine Layer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Safeco field, pitchers park. That is until the Seattle Mariners organization decided that something had to be done to neutralize a park that was becoming an infamous death trap for offensive players. The organization is under immense pressure from the fan base; realistically something had to be done in order to stave off plummeting ticket sales and an overall lack of interest in the team. The Mariners offense has ranked among the worst in baseball nearly every season over the past five years, and the evidence of backlash continues to mount. The Mariners can no longer attract offensive players via free agency, as the legends of Safeco’s unfriendly confines are no secret to rest of the league. Seattle is no longer a desirable location for baseball players, and while the organization is taking steps to change their favor, some things are out of there control.

Such a step was taken this very offseason. After years of internal deliberation and restless clamoring from a weary fan base, the organization has finally determined that it is time to move the fences in. Since its Grand Opening in 1999, this baseball cathedral has belonged to the pitchers, and the Mariners–due to the aforementioned reasons–have been backed into a corner. It became all too necessary to bring the park effect closer to something that resembled a neutral playing field. Safeco has always been a beautiful piece of real estate, but as any realtor worth his salt will tell you, it is all about location, location, location and this piece of real estate is water front property. However, in this particular instance it has only driven the value of this property and it’s owners down.

Many of us are familiar with this issue; that all-too-pesky, thick marine air that has been the topic of much dismay for fly balls in the vicinity of Safeco’s warning track. A ball that rockets off the bat of many sluggers ends up caught up in this marine air and dies in the leathery coffin of the opponents outfield glove. But really, what does this tell us? The explanation is unsatisfactory, it requires more. What is a marine layer, how does it affect a baseball, how does it all work? It’s something that has never been explained to me, and I am unwilling to just accept it as a unexplainable phenomena that spells the end to potential home runs. If this is something that hasn’t fully been explained to me, how many other fans are out there that have no idea what this means or are even aware of its existence? People deserve to know that the dimensions of their beloved ballpark does not represent the only plaque effecting the Seattle Mariners’ offense.

It’s called a Mariner layer, a distasteful product of the Puget Sound. It is caused when the otherwise warm air comes into contact with the surface of cold water. This process causes the once warm air to cool down and increase its density. After all, water along the west coast stems from Alaskan waters and is much cooler than water you would find mirrored on the east coast. You may have heard this referred to as May-Gray, and while clouds could be present, they are not always an indicator of the presence of a marine layer. So when thick marine air is mentioned with regards to Safeco field, you now can understand where is comes from. However, we do not fully understand how it effects the flight of a baseball. In a vacuum, a baseball traveling the same speed, at the same trajectory will land in the same spot every time. However, cold air is dense and thick. With a simple understanding that cold molecules move much slower than those that are warm, drives the next portion of understanding. I’m no scientist, however this is a simple scientific notion discovered somewhere around the sixth grade. As the suns bright rays beam down upon a baseball field, warming the air and raising the temperature, molecules in the atmosphere expand and increase in speed. Therefor a dry, hot environment allows a baseball to travel further, accomplishing the path of least resistance. After all, heat is an energy source helping to keep the baseball airborne for a longer period of time. Seeing how cold is the absence of heat, it would stand to reason that any molecular activity in cold air would be the exact opposite of that in hot air. Thus a baseball traveling through cold air is going to travel less than that in hot. Take a layer of dense cold marine air, and the ball is not only going to be lacking an extra energy source (heat), but it is going to be dragged down by the moist marine air.

Just last year many a Mariner fell victim to this. Casper Wells certainly felt this effect , as on May 22nd, 2012 Wells smashed what should have been a grand slam off of the Ranger’s Matt Harrison. In case you forgot here is a clip.


Evidence in motion. That ball is a goner is nearly every other ballpark in the majors. This is obviously a powerful example of what can happen when mother nature plays her tricks on baseball. This essentially would have sealed the win for the Mariners, who would end up losing this game. This is a problem the Mariners will continue to encounter down the road. The new, neutral dimensions of Safeco Field will undoubtedly help combat this issue, however, the Mariners still have a powerful enemy. The brass has plenty of power to change the position of the outfield walls, but they certainly have no power over science and mother nature.

Hopefully, this will open a few new avenues of thought, and perhaps enlighten a subject that up to this point has just been accepted as an unknown product of Safeco Field. Here’s hoping for a warm summer in Seaatle, WA.


Mariner’s Appear Desperate

Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners

Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well in case any of you have been lost in the wilderness, unplugged from the seemingly constant flow of information, and for some strange reason this is the first place you come to for your Mariner fix (first of all thank you) the Mariners got themselves tangled up in a 3-way swap that ended up netting them Mike Morse in exchange for John Jaso.

The reaction has not been pleasant around Marinerverse, and for good reason. Jaso was not only a fan favorite, but an exceptionally useful player as well. His struggles are well documented: can’t hit lefties, no arm, poor defender, etc. However, the Mariners didn’t solve anything by convincing themselves he was worth parting with for the equally flawed Morse.

Morse of course is a certified masher, something Seattle clearly is going to extreme depths to obtains–as evidence by the haul AZ was to receive for Justin Upton. His 2011 season, in which Morse slugged 31 home runs, is what the majority of those who support this deal will point too in justification. His proneness to injury and lack of other useful abilities outside of slugging would be argued by the other side of the coin.

The Mariners made mistake, not one that will cripple the organization, but a mistake nonetheless.

It’s late and I’ll hit on this more tomorrow, after all I’ve only scratched the surface on why this is a bad move for the Mariners.

Piecing Together the Upton Puzzle

A day has passed since Justin Upton invoked his no-trade clause–nixing the package of Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush, and Stephen Pryor–and we are no closer to figuring out why exactly this deal has been shot down in the first place.

We can speculate, and perhaps you already have. Perhaps Justin Upton truly has some deep rooted desire to stay out of the city of Seattle. Perhaps Justin Upton views SafeCo as a place where right handed power hitters go to die. Perhaps he plans to use this situation to his financial advantage. We don’t know, though the pieces are coming together. The national media seems to believe this deal was never going to happen and a colossal waste of time on both GM’s part. That would suggest one of the first two speculations would seem more appropriate. However, until Upton comes out and publicly states (not going to happen), we are only left to speculate and these two tweets would appear to unearth some fact.

That they do.

Of the two, the Tweet involving Harold Reynolds holds the most weight, as Reyonds’ brother happens to be Upton’s agent. Common sense would dictate that the Reynolds brothers talk, and having lives both so deeply entrenched in baseball–talk about baseball. Harold has deep roots in Seattle, and I have no doubts the topic has come up of Upton’s strong desire to avoid Seattle and the Mariners. This hypothetical conversation is what allowed Reynolds to state on the MLB Network that Upton has told the Diamondbacks over and over that he would shoot down any trade involving the Mariners.

It’s evidence, but it doesn’t make the case.

The Reynolds brothers made a strong case in favor of Upton’s apparently disdain for the Mariners, but it’s not the only factor. Jack Zduriencik and Kevin Towers spent an uncertain amount of hours putting this deal together. Pitching deals to be turned down, collaborating internally, phones calls, faxing paperwork and etc. I personally cannot attest to how much time goes into a trade between two major league clubs, but I can be certain that trades like this don’t come together overnight. This deal took time, and Kevin Towers undoubtedly has better things to do than spend days piecing together a deal that in the end he knows is going to be vetoed.

The last bit of evidence that must be taken into account is the other teams included in Upton’s limited no-trade clause. Of the four, two (BOS, and TOR) boost the numbers of right-handed power hitters. So it might be safe to say that the SafeCo factor, is well… not a factor at all. Upton may care that SafeCo is going to gobble up a bit of his offense, but it certainly isn’t the driving factor behind blocking this deal.

So here we are, new evidence has surfaced, yet we are no closer to finding the true reason why Upton is not currently dawning Mariners blue. If the deal were to go through, this would be one of the roughest starts to a Mariners career possibly ever. Anytime Upton was slumping, or not hustling down the line, or giving his all on defense fans may begin to doubt his dedication to the team, and we’ve seen plenty of toxic player/fan relationships over the past few years. But there is always another side of the coin and we are all familiar with Upton’s potential and what that could bring to Seattle’s offense. Is the price too high and do you still want him, well that is an entirely different matter.

Mariners Acquire Upton, Upton Disagrees

Update 2: According to Jon Heyman, the big 3 pitcher was indeed Walker. This swings the deal heavily in favor of the Dbacks, and is a large price to pay for a guy who may not be dedicated to the organization. Unless the Mariners can work out some sort of an extension with Upton, I can’t say I support this deal.

Update: The Package would have included Nick Franklin, Stephen Pryor, Charlie Furbush, and one of Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, or Danny Hultzen. Obviously if the last player is Paxton, as opposed to the other two, this comes out a bit better for Seattle, who would continue to maintain control of their most talented pitching prospects.

Today the Mariners agreed upon a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks that would have netted them Justin Upton, in exchange for a substantial package of young prospects. While the two front offices agreed the parameters of the deal, Upton had a different opinion nixing the deal that would have sent him to one of the four teams on his no trade list.

No trade list haven’t proved to be too large of an obstacle in the past, however when the list is as small as four teams, then it probably can be assumed that the player genuinely has no desire to play for those teams. This appears to be the case today. While it has not been released as to whether the Mariners attempted to throw some money in the way of Upton in order to sway his decision, I still believe that it is going to be nearly impossible to change the Arizona star’s mind (though I hope I am wrong). There is always the chance that I could be wrong, that Upton’s agent has strategically planned this situation out for quite some time. Perhaps Upton is looking for a lump sum of money or a contract extension, only Upton and his agent know for sure.

As for the package put together by the Mariners, we’ll have to wait for further information to be released.

Is this frustrating? Yes, extraordinarily, but you have to be pleased with the moves the front office has attempted to make this offseason. Stay tuned, this may not be over, as we certainly do not have all of the details.

Ranking the Mariners Targets

The Mariners have been connected to nearly every offensive player with a pulse this offseason. Several weeks have passed since the winter meetings, and the Mariners have since lost out on the likes of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Nick Swisher, Wil Myers, Shin-Soo Choo, Cody Ross, Kevin Youkilis,  Russell Martin and others. The market for offensive players is thinning out quickly and Seattle will have to delve deeply into the trade market if they don’t plan on signing Michael Bourn

The trade market is a bit of a different animal than it has been in recent years. Prospects value is at an all time low as we’ve seen through the Rays/Royals deal as well as the Red/Indians/Diamondback deal. In fact “The Big 3” holds as little value now to other organizations than they ever have. Not to say that they are valueless however, but they will undoubtedly be coupled with other major league talent in the event of a deal.

The team is still starving for an offensive force, Kendrys Morales is a nice start, but on a championship caliber team Morales is the complementary piece rather than “The Guy”. Let’s not forget that other than his power output, our new acquisition doesn’t differ much offensively from the Mariners current collection. He struggles to draw walks, and has some large strike out issues. Patience at the plate will still haunt the Mariners in 2013 as they still need to acquire an offensive powerhouse with the added ability to draw walks.

Michael Bourn would be a decent addition, but isn’t’ exactly the kind of player that will drive the ball into the seats. Not to mention you already have a potential lead off hitter in Ackley, assuming he can piece together a respectable bounce back season. So let’s leave him out if the discussion for now. Seattle has been connected with more than a few names this offseason, they all make sense as far as their prowess at the plate, but some make less sense than others when stepping back to take a look at the big picture. With that let’s get into the rankings.

4.) Jason Kubel

The Diamondback’s have a rather crowded outfield, even more so now with the addition of Cody Ross. Theoretically Kubel has been the Mariners radar since his breakout season with the Twins. His bat represents a clear upgrade for the team as his .253/.327/.506 coupled with a .352 wOBA and 30 Home Runs is better than most anything the Mariners can throw out there right now. Kubel is also left handed, a nice fit for SafeCo’s dimensions  Surface analysis makes him appear to have high value for the organization, but digging deeper reveals some serious question marks. Jason is an outfielder in title only and a serious liability in the field, making him a prime candidate for DH. DH as you know is a rather crowed spot for the Mariners, who have Jesus Montero, John Jaso, Kendrys Morales, and Raul Ibanez all vying for time at the position. Throw in another bat and one of those players has to be moved. Throw in the fact the Morales and Ibanez are both new acquisitions, that means Jaso, Smoak, or Montero would be on the move. Couple that with the fact that Kubel is on the wrong side of 30 which equates to short term success and he doesn’t make nearly as much sense.

3.) Andre Ethier

Ethier you might remember, was the guy a few years back who couldn’t stop collecting those walk off Home Runs. Either hasn’t quite been the same player as he once was, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value. Either walks a little bit above league average, with some added pop. However, on the other side of the coin, his numbers against lefties are questionable as well as his fielding. Making him the ideal choice for a platoon DH bat, which as we stated earlier is not a position the Mariners need to fill. Like Kubel, Either will play nicely at SafeCo field. With Either being 31 and owning a contract that could be looking rather albatross in a few years, he doesn’t provide the maximum chance to upgrade this roster.

2.) Justin Upton

At the beginning of the offseason, many believed that Upton would end up in the clutching grasp of the Texas Rangers. However, Diamondbacks insisted on obtaining one of Texas’s young Shortstops and when Texas’s balked, Arizona looked elsewhere. While it is still possible that Texas could be involved, the playing field has leveled by the Dbacks acquisition of Didi Gregorius. Instead of now trying to acquire a young SS, Arizona may be looking for something else, young pitching. The Mariners have this, and Upton may be a piece they deem acceptable to depart with it for. Upton’s road struggles are well documented and many believe that he will struggle even in the newly reconfigured SafeCo. I believe some of those concerns are valid, as Chase is a hitters paradise, but they don’t represent large enough of a concern to nix this deal. Assuming the deal is reasonable, I think the Mariners pull the trigger. Upton is an All-Star with MVP potential, and at the ripe old age of 25 the best is yet to come for this young star. Why not accomplish this in a Mariners uniform.

1.) Giancarlo Stanton

Formerly Mike Stanton. Nearly all of us are familiar with him. Stanton is a true power threat, a legitimate 50 HR weapon in his prime. Keep in mind this is a 23 year old who managed to blast 37 bombs last season in a mere 123 games. Outside of his slugging abilities Stanton is also an on base threat and a good fielder, the complete package. Why Stanton is even available is truly a mystery, though I suppose when you realize that it’s the Marlins we are talking about it makes a bit more sense. The only drawback with Stanton would be the cost. I cannot even begin to fathom where these conversation began, or even where they are now. but one thing is for certain, several “No’s” have been exchanged. Stanton is the biggest offense upgrade on the market right now and the Mariners are in the mix. This is the type of player that transforms an offense, and Seattle is dire need of that metamorphosis.

A new beginning

Welcome to Mariner Melee, a blog that will cover, follow, and report on the events effecting the Seattle Mariners universe.

Be sure to read the “About” and “Disclaimer” pages before getting started. A sabermetrics 101 page is in the works, as I’d hate for anyone to be lost here.

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