Posts Tagged ‘2009’

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Mariners MidSeason Report

July 7, 2009

Jarrod Washburn has been one of many suprising performers on the Mariners staff this season.  He tossed a one hitter on Monday against the Baltimore Orioles.

Okay, so the Mariners are in third place, winning over half their games, and only 3.5 games back in the AL West division. I would have bet money against that happening when I wrote this post.

Team Outlook at the midpoint:

Catcher: Kenji Johjima has a whopping .660 OPS (on-base % + slugging %), a number many NL pitchers can probably top. Unbelievably, Rob Johnson and Jamie Burke have been even worse. Whatever the Mariners are doing to keep winning games, it almost certainly has nothing to do with the offense at catcher. With Jeff Clement sitting on an .853 OPS at AAA Tacoma, I can’t really make sense of the situation. I know he has struggled offensively in the majors so far, but he must be the worst defensive catcher in the world if Seattle doesn’t think he’s an upgrade over our current rotation. Grade: F (Previous Grade: F)

First Base: Russell Branyan has been a beast. I railed him in my post back in early April and he’s making me look pretty stupid right now. With 21 homers and an on-base percentage of .390, he’s looked more like Adam Dunn than Richie Sexson this season. I knew Branyan had this kind of pop and, as expected, he’s striking out a ton, but the fact that he’s managed a .294 average through 82 games is remarkable. Over 2200+ at bats in his career Branyan has been a .238 hitter, so I’d have to guess his average will take a pretty significant hit before the year is over. As it stands though, Branyan has set career highs in almost every important offensive category and has been a huge asset to the Mariners in the first half of the season. He has a ridiculous .986 OPS and has outscored Ichiro to lead the Mariners in runs. Grade: B+ (Previous Grade: D)

Second Base: Hitting .229 with 5 HR at the start of June, Jose Lopez was looking like a huge bust. Lopez had a big June however, batting .329 with 5 HR and 20 RBI for the month. Despite his poor start, he’s still on pace to set a career high in homers and RBI. Lopez could use some patience at the plate, but I still think he’s a rising star and hopefully we can see him build on the momentum he created last month. Grade: B- (Previous Grade: A-)

Shortstop: I said earlier this season that Yuniesky Bentancourt is neither an asset nor a liability, but that was assuming the M’s weren’t going to contend. His defense has been average and his offense has been subpar. Bentancourt is just a place-holder for future stud Carlos Triunfel (now in AA), but unfortunately, the M’s are in a pennant race and they could use an upgrade now. Grade: D (Previous Grade: C)

Third Base: Adrian Beltre has had a pretty bad first half. Not only is he killing the Mariners with his putrid offense, but he’s also diminishing his trade value if the M’s decide to shop him at the trading deadline. It’s possible the M’s will hold onto him since they are actually competing and Beltre is a solid defender. Since it’s unlikely at this point that we would get anything worthwhile in return, I think the Mariners are better off just holding onto Beltre and hoping he can put a decent second half together for the stretch run. Grade: C (Previous Grade: B)

Left Field: Endy Chavez was serviceable before he got hurt. A .273 average and 9 stolen bases are respectable numbers. Wladimir Balentien, a former top prospect, has been filling in for Chavez and still can’t hit major league pitching. Ryan Langerhans has looked solid in his brief Mariner stint, knocking four extra base hits in just 16 at bats so far. With Chavez on the 60-day DL, left field has become a black hole for the M’s, so let’s hope Langerhans can put together a couple of fluky months. Grade: F (Previous Grade: D+)

Center Field: Franklin Guitterez has been yet another solid, but unspectacular piece of the Mariner’s winning puzzle. A .293 average and .354 OBP are decent numbers and he has shown nice range and a quality glove in center. His eight homers rank 4th on the team, so he’s shown moderate pop so far. Grade: B- (Previous Grade: C)

Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki remains the best hitter on the team and his bat has been sizzling, scorching opposing pitchers to the tune of a .391 average over 238 at bats in May and June combined. The fact that Ichiro bats leadoff and sports a .360 average for the season, yet isn’t even on pace to score 100 runs says a lot about the Mariner offense; it’s not that good. The pitching staff has been great so far this season, but if Ichiro doesn’t score 100 runs this season, I’d be surprised if the M’s are still in it come September. Grade: A (Previous Grade: A)

DH: Ken Griffey Jr. is done as an every day major leaguer. He’s not even a reasonable platoon guy at this point, hitting a puny .203 vs right-handed pitchers this year. There is still some pop left in his bat, but 26 RBI and a .402 slugging percentage from your regular cleanup hitter are some pretty ugly numbers. For whatever reason, even though The Kid can’t hit anymore, opposing pitchers still seem scared to throw him strikes, and his 39 walks have kept him from being completely worthless. Griffey has declined sharply the past two seasons and the biggest contribution he’s making to the Mariners at this point is taking place in the ticket booth. Perhaps he has been our good luck charm. I love Griffey to death and idolized him growing up as a Mariner fan, but I don’t think he’s helping this team in 2009. If the M’s don’t want to use Jeff Clement at catcher, he should at least be stealing at bats from Griffey in the second half. Grade: D- (Previous Grade: C+)

Bench: The Mariners are not a deep team offensively. Mike Sweeney, Ronny Cedeno, Rob Johnson, Josh Wilson and Chris Woodward would all struggle to find major league jobs in any other organization and that’s not a good sign when three of your starting position players are on the disabled list. How much did the M’s really need to pony up to keep Willie Bloomquist in a uniform? His .284 average, 15 stolen bases, and defensive versatility would be invaluable to Seattle right now. This group is honestly a brutal bunch and the offense would be anemic enough without all the injuries. Grade: F (Previous Grade: F)

Offense: Ichiro and Branyan have been the only consistently productive hitters. Lopez came on strong last month and the offense as a whole plated Ichiro 19 times in June, which is a step in the right direction. The fact that the Mariners are above .500 despite ranking 2nd to last in the majors in runs scored is incredible. I know the pitching staff has been amazing, but I still don’t really get it. It seems like there is a different hero behind every win. I do think that the Mariners are going to need to upgrade offensively if they have any plans of staying in this thing. Chris Woodward isn’t going to make Adrian Beltre expendable, so unless the M’s tank in July, I don’t see that trade happening. Jeff Clement absolutely needs to be in the majors… he’s proven all he’s going to prove at AAA and I honestly can’t see him doing worse than Griffey or our current catchers. If we do make a trade, I think we have to shop for a shortstop and Jack Wilson or Cristian Guzman would be logical, cheap upgrades. Grade: D

Starting Rotation: Felix Hernandez is well on his way to celebrating his breaking out party. King Felix has been the Mariners best pitcher for a few seasons now, but hadn’t really put together a full season of ace-worthy numbers. It looks like he might be putting it all together this year and is set to demolish his career bests in ERA, innings pitched, and strikeouts. He’s probably not going to have his first 20 win season, but has put together a first half that would have him in the Cy Young picture if he can duplicate it over the rest of the season. Erik Bedard has pretty much done what we expected: pitch well and miss a number of starts. If he could just stay healthy, he could create one of the best pitching duos in the majors with Felix. I said I wouldn’t get excited about Jarrod Washburn even if he threw a no-hitter… Well, he tossed a one-hitter yesterday and allowed no other base runners. Needless to say, I’m impressed. Washburn hasn’t been dominating; opponents are hitting .282 against him, which is somehow a career low for the lefty. Opponents have posted a super low .224 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) against him, so it’s likely Washburn is going to regress in the second half. However, the improved outfield defense has certainly helped Washburn, an extreme fly ball pitcher that also benefits from a spacious home park. With Washburn performing above expectations and Brandow Morrow now easing into the #4 spot, the rotation is looking pretty solid right now, especially with Jason Vargas posting above average numbers for a fifth starter and Garrett Olson acting as an effective spot starter. All in all, the rotation has been rock solid so far this year and has potential to improve once Morrow starts getting deeper into games. It’s unlikely that Carlos Silva will have a job in the rotation when he comes off the disabled list and that’s a good thing for this team. Grade: B+ (Previous Grade: D)

Bullpen: David Aardsma has been quite the revelation in the closer role posting an absurd 1.41 ERA, holding opponents to a .165 average while converting 17 of 18 save opportunities and striking out 48 batters in 38.1 IP. I’m not sure anyone could have predicted that happening, but he’s sure answered one of the biggest questions the Mariners had when the season opened. Aardsma has combined with Mark Lowe, Sean White, and Miguel Batista to post a 2.78 ERA over 158.2 combined innings with 121 Ks between the quartet. These guys have made the Mariners extremely tough to be beat in a close game after the 6th inning. Batista also has the ability to go multiple innings and spare the rest of the bullpen when the games aren’t close. Shawn Kelley has been dominant in the first 11 innings of his major league career. Also, whether Vargas or Olson, one of those two should provide quality long relief. I don’t care much for the names of our bullpen corps, but you can’t really argue with the results. These guys have been stellar this season and have turned what I expected to be the biggest weakness on the team into its strength. Grade: A (Previous Grade: F)

Pitching Staff: I’m not sure how it happened and I doubt anyone suspected it was possible, but the Mariners have the best staff in the majors right now. They barely edge out the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best ERA in all of baseball. You can certainly credit the M’s pitchers and the defense behind them for this unexpected start to the season. Even though they have proven themselves over the first half of the season, I can’t really say I’m entirely sold on our bullpen. I think Aardsma is in a groove and doesn’t look to implode any time soon, but Batista is definitely someone that can blow up at any given moment. Our rotation is solid though and our staff as a whole will keep us competitive over the rest of the season if our offense can pick it up. Grade: A

Overall: Our rotation has been solid and has the potential to improve and the bullpen has been phenomenal so far this year, but I think our offense is going to need to turn it up a notch for the stretch. An upgrade at SS and moving Jeff Clement into the starting lineup seem like the right moves to me. If Lopez can maintain his June pace and Beltre can start hitting, the Mariners just might keep this thing going into September. I think we have the staff to do it, but our offense is looking suspect and I think we are missing a couple crucial pieces. Grade: B- (Previous Grade: C-)

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I Love You Man Is Hilarious

April 17, 2009

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Yeah, I said it. I Love You, Man is greatness, possibly a comedy classic in the making. Time and repeat viewings will say whether or not that is true, but this was by far the most fun I’ve had watching a movie this year. Thank God for Judd Apatow and his buddies ushering in the era of the R-rated comedy. In general, ever since 40 Year Old Virgin was released in 2005, the quality of comedies has drastically increased over the past half decade. Though I thought some of the movies from this genre (i.e. Pineapple Express, Zack & Miri Make A Porno) were a bit overrated last year, I Love You, Man is a very solid step back in the right direction.

The film centers on Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd), a real estate salesman planning to marry the woman of his dreams, Zooey (Rashida Jones). After overhearing Zooey’s friends making fun of his lack of a social circle, Peter decides: “I need some fucking friends.” After a series of hilarious “man dates” with various guys, Peter finally comes across Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) at an open house he’s hosting and instantly finds Sydney’s honesty and blunt nature endearing. They become quick friends and it doesn’t take long for this new friendship to cause problems between Peter and Zooey.

The cast in this is really terrific. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel have both become legitimate comedy stars. Both Rudd and Segel have grown from supporting characters in the first couple of Judd Apatow films to being stars in their own movies. Both actors are phenomenal in this movie and Rudd really hams it up as Peter Klaven, doing an excellent job of showing how awkward it can be to try to meet new people and vibe with them. The way he blurts out random non-words (“Joben”) and repeatedly stumbles over his sentences show a complete lack of confidence in his surroundings and makes for good laughs throughout the whole film. Years ago, I wouldn’t have ever thought that Paul Rudd could be a regular leading man in a comedy, but I’m convinced of it now. Segel is another rising star, whose Sydney is played with confidence and an air of experience that doesn’t quite reach snobbery. Whether predicting if someone needs to fart or explaining the lubricant and condoms on his desk (“this is where I masturbate”), Sydney’s honesty and tendency for bluntness comes across as genuine.

The supporting cast is solid and funny as well, with a number of B-list celebrities taking on roles. Jaime Pressly and Jon Favreau are hilarious playing a dysfunctional couple that are friends with Peter and Zooey. Andy Samberg is pretty good as Peter’s gay brother and J.K. Simmons is great no matter what he does. Rashida Jones is absolutely adorable as Zooey in her first major film role. The gorgeous actress is quite talented and after proving her comedy chops on The Office and in this film, I wouldn’t be surprised if stardom awaits her. Sarah Burns stars as Zooey’s desperate friend Hailey and does such a good job of channeling Kristen Wiig that I actually thought it was the SNL star.

I Love You, Man is easily the most fun I’ve had at the movies this year. The actors were all great and funny and the pacing of the film was solid even through the inevitable conflict segments. I laughed throughout the whole film and really enjoyed all the performances. I can’t wait to see it again. It’s the first movie of 2009 that I’ve gone out of my way (*ahem* aside from writing on a blog, that is) to recommend to people. Go see it immediately!

Grade: 8 out of 10 (Must Own)

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Watchmen Review

March 30, 2009

I had a chance to see Watchmen before opening day, but ultimately had to pass it up because I wasn’t finished reading the graphic novel yet. By the time I was done reading the GN, I’d heard enough mixed feedback that I was no longer in a rush to see the theatrical version and finally got around to doing so last week. Before I get into my thoughts on the film, I just want to say that the graphic novel blew me away. I thought the story was amazing and the writing was phenomenal overall. However, I wasn’t really sold on how well it would translate to the big screen and the mediocre acting in the trailers had tempered my expectations for the film.

I can’t really complain about the adaptation. The screenwriters did a very good job of staying faithful to Alan Moore’s graphic novel, with the sole exception of the climax being drastically different, although the significance of this change has been exaggerated; I think the thematic issues and ultimate goal of the graphic novel remain intact. The problem I did have with Watchmen was that a year after The Dark Knight believably brought Batman and The Joker into our world, Watchmen still comes across hokey despite all of its heroes being normal human beings (with the exception of Dr. Manhattan). With the exception of Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan, the characters in the film are all one-dimensional and boring. Despite massive amounts of background story, you still don’t have much of an emotional investment in anyone. It’s also bad timing to ask someone to play Richard Nixon just months after Frank Langella gave an Oscar-nominated performance of the man in Frost/Nixon. The acting, in general, was poor at best from just about everyone in the cast. Kudos to Billy Crudup (Dr. Manhattan) and Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach) for not making me cringe every time they were on screen.

By far my favorite thing about the film was the character of Rorschach (I used the Silk Spectre poster because, well… she’s hotter). He was my favorite character in the graphic novel as well, but his awesomeness is even more apparent in the film version, simply because all the other characters are lamer in the movie. He’s cold and heartless. He’s Batman without the moral code. He’s a bad ass. He keeps a journal. And he’ll fucking kill you. It’s kind of refreshing to see a completely ruthless hero in a time when our heroes are scared to get their noses dirty. The only thing that disappointed me about Rorschach was that the film didn’t make it obvious that he was the homeless-looking dude walking around town with the “End Is Nigh” sign. Oh, that and the fact that his mask moving around was specific to the film and kind of distracting.

I definitely wasn’t blown away by Watchmen by any means. The acting is really subpar and the story just didn’t translate amazingly well. It’s definitely worth watching though for the visual effects and Rorschach, but I wouldn’t rank it with the better comic book adaptations of all-time. It’s simply mediocre, if not mildly disappointing.

Score: 5.5 out of 10

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March Madness: Day 1 & 2

March 20, 2009

Ah yes, folks, it’s my favorite time of the year: the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship, a.k.a. March Madness. With 75% of the first round complete, my bracket still looks in good shape. I’ve missed a total of 5 games, which probably has me around the national average, but I still have all my Sweet 16 teams alive.

My misses so far:

West Virginia vs Dayton: I penciled in Dayton in my first draft and thought they were certainly capable of the upset. However, at the end of the day I had to admit that West Virginia is the better and more seasoned team and I went with them. I can’t say I’m shocked by this upset at all though.

BYU vs Texas A&M: This was a pretty even match. I went with BYU because Lee Cummard is a beast and they seemed like the stronger team. Missing an 8 seed vs. 9 seed game is a pretty minor mistake anyways.

Tennessee vs Oklahoma St.: Another really even 8 vs 9 match. Oklahoma St. has decent depth and a star in James Anderson, but Tennessee is certainly the more touted team. This was the last game I filled out in the first round, so I could’ve gone either way on it.

VCU vs UCLA: Every analyst in the nation was predicting this upset and I think for good reason. I wasn’t jumping on any bandwagons making this pick because there are solid reasons for taking VCU in this game. First off, Eric Maynor is a beast… better than anyone on UCLA, Darren Collison included. Secondly, VCU won a tournament game just a few years ago. Thirdly, UCLA is just not that good this year. They have a decent squad, yes, but I’ll be surprised if they don’t lose by 10+ to Villanova tomorrow.

Clemson vs Michigan: I’m not sure why I went Clemson on this one. I made a list of my favorite out-of-state teams for the 2008-2009 college basketball season and Michigan was on that list simply because I think very highly of Manny Harris. I prefer Michigan over Clemson and since neither team is all that dominating, I’m surprised I didn’t go w/ the team I like more. I guess I figured Trevor Booker’s presence in the middle would be the difference in this game. I guessed wrong.

It sucks being at work while all these games are on, but I did get to see Washington vs Mississippi State and Gonzaga vs Akron yesterday. Thankfully, today is the only day I’m missing the action because I took tomorrow off and I always have Sundays off. I’ll be in Seattle rooting for the Huskies.

I should have another update tonight after the rest of today’s games.

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Jason Vorhees Lives

February 19, 2009

I must note that I grew up on the Friday The 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street franchises, starting my fascination with the horror genre as early as five or six years old. I can even remember my dad taking my brother and I to see Jason Goes To Hell when we were 9 and 8 years old, respectively. So Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees were like my Leonardo and Raphael growing up. With that said, I still have a weakness for my old favorites, at a time in my life when all other horror films generally don’t interest me. I’ll be sad the day they stop making films for these horror icons, but weaknesses aside, I’m not interested in seeing these sons of bitches in space or Manhatten.

This remake thankfully takes the series back to its roots: Jason Vorhees, alone, slaughtering a bunch of promiscuous young adults at Camp Crystal Lake. This film is more of a reboot than a remake, however, as it takes concepts from the first three Friday The 13th movies and rolls them into one. We see Pamela Vorhees (Jason’s mother) decapitated before the opening credits are finished and Jason sports a bag over his head for the first 40 minutes or so before finding his trademark goalie’s mask. It was a shrewd business move to pay homage to the story and get to vintage Jason as soon as possible since no one really gives a damn about his mom or a pre-hockey mask Jason.

Friday The 13th gives you pretty much what you expect. We have Jason Vorhees stalking teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake and dispatching each of them systematically, trying to outmatch his last murder via uniqueness, weapon choice, and gruesomeness. Along with the standard mayhem, Friday The 13th doesn’t disappoint in the female nudity department either. It goes without saying that we (males) want to see boobs and death in these flicks and Friday The 13th delivers.

One thing that stood out about this remake is how fast and agile Jason Vorhees is. Jason has always been depicted as a lethargic and stupid monster relying on unexplained ubiquitousness and the stupidity of his victims to get his kills. In the update, Jason is seen sprinting, tossing and aiming objects with pinpoint accuracy, and generally outsmarting his competition. However, he’s still dumb enough to fall for the classic “I’m your mother” bit.

I’m not going to dive into the script or the acting in this film because if you’re watching the 12th installment in the series and expect quality in these departments, you probably walked into the wrong theater. Friday The 13th is yet another solid horror remake from producer Michael Bay and should satisfy fans of the series. I thought it was a notch below the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake (also a Bay-produced film), but much better than Rob Zombie’s Halloween. I’m looking forward to more Jason flicks and for the upcoming A Nightmare On Elm Street reboot, another horror remake Bay is involved with. I can’t wait to see who they cast as Freddy Krueger.

Score: 6 out of 10 (Recommended)