Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bavasi signs first baseman to long-term 7-figure per year contract

History is not on our side.

Besides the USSM, though, most bloggers seem to be focusing on the positive. That's fine for now, but doing that, without looking at the real risks-- is probably what allowed the M's to offer this kind of a contract in the first place

Two posts in one day, I know, but hey, the semester just ended here in KC, and I've got a little time.

You're ignorant, but at least you act on it. Again.

I have a sinking feeling I'll be using that line from Calvin and Hobbes more. (Here's the first instance.) To impatient to wait out the market, desperate to make a statement to an increasingly antagonistic (or worse, disinterested) fanbase, the Mariners throw money at the nearest big name, as much as it took to get him signed now. No way were they going to lose out to Baltimore again.

Richie Sexson is now the highest paid player on the Mariners. He makes more than Ichiro. More than the Mariners refused to pay Ivan Rodriquez last year (he makes $10M a year). More than the M's refused to pay Jason Schmidt in 2001 ($8M per). He makes about the same amount as Ken Griffey Jr, and we know how well that contract has worked for the Reds.

If Richie Sexson were a good bet to be a great player for the next four years, of course, this wouldn't matter. But Sexson's shoulder problems--cleared by the same medical staff that has brought you the bum shoulders of Gil Meche, Ryan Anderson, Matt Thornton, Rafael Soriano, and many others--make him a gamble at any price for any amount of years, let alone the absurd twelve and a half million he'll be pulling down for the next four years. Oh, and his agent says that he wouldn't accept any clauses about the shoulder in his contract, because it "wasn't necessary." How comforting.

The larger point is that the M's wanted to get something done, and in making that decision, lost any remnant of rational risk analysis or strength in their barganing position. Maybe the fans will start talking about the M's now, but the smart ones will be shaking their heads.

If Beltre is still on the horizon for this team, that's good news, and could help to redeem this foolharding aquisition.

Monday, November 29, 2004

File Under "Society:" AP Roe v. Wade Poll

The AP released a story about a poll it ran about what people think about overturning Roe v. Wade.

(Ok, before I continue, if you can't think of one person who has a different opinion about abortion than you whom you respect, just stop reading. Everyone has enough stress in their life without getting worked up about one Mariner-loving Kansas City resident's opinion. I'm commenting on the article about public opinion, not commenting on the abortion itself, so keep you socks on.)

Briefly, the poll says 59% oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, 31% would want a Supreme Court nominee who would reverse it, leaving 10% somewhere else. The article then follows with this quote:
"While I don't have a strong feeling about abortions personally, I wouldn't want
the law overturned and return to the days of backdoor abortions," said Colleen
Dunn, 40, a Republican and community college teacher who lives outside
I guess it's a good thing we have a court to listen to reasoned arguments, because apparently a community college teacher (of what, by the way?) doesn't understand the basics of even the most well known case. Let's be clear: overturning Roe v. Wade would not make abortions illegal. Rather, overturning it would mean it would then be possible for state legislatures to pass a law restricting abortion; it would remove the restriction on legislative action regarding abortion that currently stands. There may be a concern that some States would revert to pre-1973 laws that outlaw abortion, but it is these laws, not a court decision, that would prohibit abortions, and only in those states. (Washington State, by the way, would not be one of these states.) Since most Americans favor keeping at least SOME abortions legal, it's quite likely that even in these states, new laws would be enacted.

Moreover, the most likely candidate for replacement on the Supreme Court bench is Rehnquist, who's currently suffering from thyroid cancer. Even replacing him with a Scalia clone would not change the so-called "balance of power" on the court.

I get much less worked up about the issue, and much more worked up about people distorting the issue in order to incite. It's not that the poll isn't a worthwhile enterprise, but a quote that high in the article should be subject to some factual scrutiny. I'm also disappointed that I can't seem to find the actual quesitons asked, since they play a large role in how people respond.

Maybe if something would happen with the Mariners, I won't be so prone to wandering into dangerous off-topic waters. But it's been pretty quiet from First Avenue South.

Monday, November 15, 2004

A hit in his first at-bat

A Welcome to Mariner Morsels, another M's blog. I'd recommend reading their first entry, posting an email exchange with Bob Finnigan. Some observations about the exchange:
  • Finnigan generally doesn't expect anything much different from the M's front office, even though this is the first complete offseason for the new GM. He implies that CEO Howard Lincoln is the main instigator of organizational philosophy.
  • Finnigan breaks down the "$10-12 Million to resign veterans" figure he published. Meche-$3M, Wilson 2.5, Villone 2, Cabrera 1, Olivo .75. He says his figures are based partly on his estimates and partly on what he hears from the organization, so we don't know if the suggestion that Dan Wilson is worth $2.5M is his lunacy or the M's. The Villone and Cabrera figures are also worrisome, but not as surprising.

What boggles my mind--assuming Finnigan is somewhat accurately representing Lincoln--is how a business shark like Lincoln would stand for overpaying mediocre veterans. If he's so wrapped up in the bottom line, wouldn't he expect frugality? Furthermore, we've seen the M's offer raises to young players who don't even qualify for arbitration. Wouldn't a cut-throat business model eschew that kind of charity?

Finnigan would probably be a lot more credible in his reporting if he either 1) refused to publish figures without independant coroboration or 2) continually prefaced his assertions with, "The Mariners front office says..." or "According to Lincoln, ..."

If you're reading this blog--and I hope you read more than just mine--you are fortunate not to have to rely solely Finnigan repeating the lines the front office gives him. There are some great web resources run by fans who pay attention and care about baseball. For instance, if you're curious about the M's payroll, check out the comprehensive reports on Dugout Dollars.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Many roads to greatness

Do the Mariners a favor--don't believe one word from them or the media if it tries to lower expectations for next season. The only reason the Mariners can't get significantly better this year is their own stupidity.

Two of the better Mariner bloggers still going--it's been a tough year on everyone--have laid out specific plans for the offseason that fall well below the publically declared budget contraints and don't morgage the future, while improving the team now and for the long haul.

Trent at Leone For Third outlines his plan and comes in at $76.2 Million. Dave at USSMariner explains his proposal and comes in at $86.1 Million. Trent's plan relies on trades a lot more, which makes it a lot more speculative, since it depends on the cooperation of other GMs. But let's look at the similarities in Trent's and Dave's plan:

Each recommends signing Adrian Beltre, Matt Clement, and J.D. Drew. Taking the highest estimates for each player, that would cost $26 Million. Each plan recommmends trading Randy Winn and Ryan Franklin, who are guaranteed a combined $6.1 Million next year. Both agree that Wilson will be back for $1M and that Guardado will be the closer, even if that's a bad idea. Both agree that the M's need a viable shortstop option if Jose Lopez doesn't work out. Both say that considering the options, sticking Ibanez at first base is probably the best route. Neither expect anything out of Spiezio.

The most important thing to take away from this is that two knowledgable fans were, in a matter of weeks, able to assess the Mariner's needs and make a plan that would fit within their resources and meet those needs.

Of course, both plans aren't as comprehensive as the a front office strategy needs to be, since they offer one scenario, not a multitude of choices if one or more trades or signings doesn't pan out. In addition, both plans are, I think, optimistic about the Mariners' willingness to let go of players that they have thought were valuable and easy to retain--Winn and Franklin. Both players play positions that can be upgraded, and the big disappointment for me would be to see the M's hedge offers to Clement and Drew because they figure they already have a full outfield and rotation.

So a big barrier to the M's succeeding in the off-season is tentativeness. They need to be decisive and resolute. If the worry about letting current players go is public perception, there's an easy response to nay-sayers: "You don't want us to field the same team we did last year, right?"

Of course, they also have to be reasonably intelligent. Being decisive about the wrong moves just digs us into a deeper hole.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

R.I.P., Bambino

What a marvelous run. After such a thrilling comeback against the Yankees, Boston's World Series win seemed almost like a let-down, since they didn't get much resistance from the Cardinals on their way to taking the title and forever putting to rest the years of nonsense about the curse.

But both the ALCS and World Series wins were impressive. The ALCS was such an emotional roller-coaster, such a thrilling ride. But the Series was impressive in another way: the Sox dominated the entire thing, never even allowing St Louis to lead once. Think of all the heroes, as there always are: Mark Bellhorn becoming as dominant an offensive force as Manny Ramirez. David Ortiz channelling Barry Bonds. Keith Foulke proving that closers just have to be good, not throw their arm off. And of course, the Curse of the Bambino can be replaced by the legend of the Bloody Ankle.

St. Louis looked like a good team coming in, but they were on the wrong side of a tide of changing history. Congratulations Boston, and you may now rest in peace, Mr. Ruth.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Stretching to God Bless America

Paul at Nice Guys Finish third says he's tired of "God Bless America" in the 7th innning, pleading "Please stop policitizing my baseball!" I suppose that means we should do away with the National Anthem at the beginning, too?

No, the reason to stop singing "God Bless America" during the middle of the 7th inning is that continuing to do so trivializes the sentiment that started us singing it in the first place. It has stopped being an expression of our solidarity in crisis. It seems like it's just another opportunity for celebrity showcasing. To continue singing it dillutes, I think, the poignancy of the song, and the solemnity with which we remember September 11th.

In addition, the 7th inning stretch has traditionally avoided a serious tone--we stand up, stretch, belt out a low-brow bar tune, which is more fitting for some fans depending on how many beers they've consumed.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Ouch and Ouch and Random thoughts

Boston's down 0-2 in the ALCS. No biggie, right? Only they've lost behind Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez. Ouch and Ouch.

I've said nothing about the M's end of the season, because I've been very busy, but a few quick thoughts:

-It was great to see that big grin on Ichiro's face. What a great moment, and great to hear Neihaus call it. Ichiro is an exciting player to watch and a uniquely talented hitter, and those things should be honored, not disparaged. What other kind of player would have been able to break Sisler's record? Nobody intelligent is suggesting that more players should be like Ichiro, but just being different from other players isn't good reason for calling into question his talent or accomplishment.

-I saw The Double live. I have never been so ecstatic or so unable to hear myself scream at the top of my lungs. What a great "greatest moment" of a great career.

-Props to Bud Selig for naming the DH award after Edgar. That's a huge HOF endorsement if I ever saw one.

-Polical season is in the final rounds, too, and I'm still one of the few swing voters. As for last nights debates, Bush should be ashamed of his unwillingness to raise the minimum wage, and Kerry should be ashamed of himself for putting his head in the sand about social security. Neither of these issues are going to turn the election, but neither position is defensible, as their remarks last night proved. If I were president...well, heck, as long as I'm dreaming, I'd like the M's to sign Beltran, Beltre, and Clement this year, and fire their color commentators.

Friday, October 01, 2004

File Under "Society:" Reaction to Debates


I have yet to see or hear anyone mention that Bush looked at the camera a lot more often than did John Kerry, except during the closing statements. I wondered afterward if this was an intentional move of the Kerry camp, trying to "save the best for last," so to speak. But more likely, Kerry just didn't remember to look up into the camera--it's too bad for him, because a major goal was to present him as a kind of person people should trust, and like.

For all the people that can't stand Bush's style, there are an equal number of people who are put at ease by his folksiness. Though Kerry isn't ever going to appear as down-home neigborly as Bush does to some people, he still could appear more approachable than he has. That could happen by showing a little bit of humor, but the subject matter last night wouldn't allow that. His lack of "eye contact" with the TV audience obviously didn't ruin his performance, as polls seem to indicate a slight win for Kerry.

But people often have a hard time looking you in the eye when they aren't telling the truth or aren't sure what to say, and this perception could reinforce, subliminally, some voters' questions about Kerry's consistency. Bush came across as sincere in part because (ironically) he looked at the camera so much. Kerry certainly didn't appear insincere, but he'd appear more personable if he looked at the camera, too.

Overall, though, it was a good debate, for both candidates, I think.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

BP & TJ: Prospectus profiles the most famous baseball surgery

I don't know exactly why this sort of thing fascinates me, but Baseball Prospectus has a great article detailing the Tommy John procedure. They also link to Kris Benson's web site, complete with pictures of his arm. And it's free, for all you fellow (meaning: I am one, too) cheapskates. Perhaps its because so many arms in the organization have gone down to injury, or because we hear a lot of talk about pitcher's injuries but not much actual information.

The one thing that the article doesn't go into much detail about--and that it says is a very important aspect--is the rehab process. I've gone through an elbow injury myself, complete with a rehab process, and though I didn't have surgery, I can testify that therapy on elbows can be both very helpful and painful.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Free Agents reminder

I'm happy to keep updating the Free Agents by Position list to include players that are rumored to be non-tender candidates. Please email me (see the email address in the sidebar to the left) if you read or hear any such rumors (with where you heard them, preferably).

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Section 101

I'll be the lone blogosphere dissident. The USS Mariner continues to bemoan the loss of the bullpen market due to the installation of "temporary" bleacher seats in center field (That's nine posts that I count so far). I don't really care that much.

Why? Because I enjoy baseball with some peanuts and a conversation with a friend or family member, not with a beer in a crowd of hecklers. I understand a lot of baseball fans like the beer and heckling, but not me, and I don't morn the loss of something I never wanted anyway.

Second, in my opinion, Safeco Field has some serious design shortcomings for a new facility, and I'm saying this having seen several ballparks. The addition of those bleachers in section 101 happened because the stadium has a serious lack of good outfield seats. Safeco is a large cavernous steel structure that somehow uses two thirds of the outfield for something other than seats, and there aren't fountains like we have here in KC at Kauffman stadium to make up for it. Just think of how the bullpens occupy the entire left field fence, and how many home runs are collected by the relief corps of the two teams instead of by fans. In dead center field above the batters eye, where fans might want to stop and watch, large steel plates block the view from the pedestrian walkway (the only place, I might add, where you can't see the field from that level). With so many outfield seats and views taken away from fans, it's that much more likely that seating expansion would attempt to address that gap.

(Just as an example, imagine if the bullpens ran lengthwise back from the outfield wall, instead of width-wise across it. In about half of the span of one of the current bullpens, you now have both bullpens, and you can use that space to put good seats right at the outfield wall.)

Granted: the installation of seats in the bullpen market area is a poor solution to a problem more fundamental to the stadium's design. I understand that a lot of fans had fun in the bullpen market, and I don't begrudge them that. I do think that it's a little silly trying to get more seats in the stadium when the fans aren't coming any more. But I'm having a hard time being too upset, because the Bullpen Market wasn't ever a place I hung out, so I'm not going to miss it if it goes away. I might even consider buying tickets to those seats.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Refuting Dayn Perry

Mike Thompson at the P-I Blog points us to Dayn Perry's argument that Ichiro is just good, but not an "elite" player. Read Perry's article, and you'll find, as I did, that he's conveniently ignoring some things:

Perry says that Ichiro doesn't hit for enough power for a right-fielder, but says his career OBP is "merely good." In other words, he chooses to compare Ichiro to other right-fielders when looking at his power, and at the entire league when it comes to his OBP. If we look at both statistics in the same context, we'll see that while Ichiro doesn't hit for as much power as some RFs, he has a clear advantage over other RFs in OBP.

Perry says that Ichiro's OBP isn't as impressive because most of it is because of his batting average. Here, he completely misses the point of preferring OBP to BA. Batting Average isn't bad, it's just incomplete. OBP is a more effective measure of offensive contribution, and Perry's argument essentiall says that more walks are preferable to more hits. I have yet to see anyone make a case for a high walk-to-hit ratio, and it would make more sense that hits are slightly more valuable for their ability to drive in runners. Ironically, Perry himself makes this case when he argues that Ichiro's infield hits decrease his value because they don't score runners. Would Perry prefer that those infield hits be walks? That's absurd!

Perry says that stolen bases aren't all that valueable. I'm aware that Bill James also thinks that stolen bases don't factor significantly into run-scoring, although my recollection is that James' argument is based on large sample sizes for teams. The James-influence philosophy of the Oakland A's, as profiled in Moneyball, is NOT that speed is irrellevant, merely that it is over-valued. If Dayn is going to count infield singles against Ichiro--a very case-specific criticism--then he also should count his stolen bases for him.

Let's combine these two problems: let us say that every stolen base for Ichiro is the same as if he hit a double instead of a triple. Therefore, each SB counts toward his total bases. Conversely, each time he is caught stealing, Ichiro makes an out and removes himself from the basepaths. Therefore, each Caught Stealing should be subtracted from both his total bases and the numerator (H+BB+HBP) of his OBP. (Notice that getting caught stealing is doubly bad.) If we adjust Ichiro's OBP and SLG accordingly, his marks this year are .397 and .507. His career adjusted marks are .364 and .487. Would this more typical OBP and SLG make Perry happier?

Finally, Perry bases a number of his arguments that Ichiro is in right field, and therefore his defense isn't as much of an asset. Fine. (By the way, this is exactly why Ichiro should have been in center field all year long.) But we should at least allow that Ichiro is a center-field quality outfielder. If Perry is arguing not about Ichiro's ability, but his actual contribution, then I suppose we should start introducing other context-dependant statistics, like RBI. It's not quite the same thing, but it's a fine point that Perry didn't bother taking the time to make.

I think perhaps the most absurd line I read was that OBP, when compared with batting average, "is the more evocative statistic." Ooooh, big words! I should note that Perry isn't wrong about everything, but he seems so bent on debunking the Ichiro myth, so to speak, that he uses sloppy arguments.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Free Agents by Position

For anyone interested, I've sorted potential free agents by position, and back-dated it so that it doesn't take up all the space on this page. Follow this link to see it, or the link on the sidebar to the right. My data is taken from Ken Bumbaco's list; he did all the footwork to compile the list of players, and I just re-sorted them.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Measuring Melvin Managing

Note: I had errors in my numbers the first time I ran this post. They've been corrected, and the conclusions have been modified accordingly.

Larry LaRue may have been the first local columnist to suggest it, but this sort of season begs the question: will Bob Melvin be fired? (LaRue says Melvin's firing is both guaranteed and undeserved.)

There isn' t a whole lot of consensus about objective ways to measuring managing effectiveness. How much is a won-loss record influenced by a manager? We can't measure how much a manager affects his players' productivity at the plate, on the mound or in the field. Any attempt at keeping records of strategic errors and converting them into runs-that-would-have-scored would be hopelessly speculative and subjective.

(If you don't want to read the details, skip to the bottom for the conclusions)

One tack may be to look at how efficiently an offense or defense operates, as Tom Tippett of Diamond Mind did after the 2002 season in this article. To sum that article up, Tom looked at how efficient teams were at converting total bases + walks into runs, and called it the Run Effiency Average (REA). Take the opponents numbers, and you measure how ineffiecient your team made your opponents. Tippet also took the widely-held view (within the sabermetric world) that Bill James' Pythagorean method is a good way to translate runs scored and runs allowed into expected wins . Using all these measures Tom attempts to answer this question: based on the raw offensive production of a team, how efficient were they at converting that into wins?

So I ran the numbers for the Mariners from 1999-2004, with the idea that one way a manager might have a measurable influence on a teams' performance is translating that teams raw numbers into wins. (I excluded the 2001 season, which I felt wouldn't give Melvin a fair shot, and I couldn't get TB allowed numbers for before 1998.) This should allow us to see how Melvin's teams compare to Piniella's at effiency. Here's a table comparing wins above expectation, using both the Pythagorean method, and the two Run-Effiency (offensive and defensive) methods:

Pythagorean WinsOffensive REA WinsDefensive REA WinsTotal Bonus Wins



1) Piniella's teams seem to have been consistently better at converting runs scored into wins.
2) This year's team has the most inefficient offense of any in recent history.

That's about it. Derek Zumsteg, among others, thinks the Pythagorean method is suspect, and so we might not want to put too much stock in those figures. If the Pythagorean method measures anything, it may overlap with REA expected wins. Tippet adds them together, but that may be faulty reasoning.

So does Melvin deserve to be fired? Well, he's got a lousy offense of which he's making poor use--which is what we'd expect with all the bunting. There are other factors which could contribute to ineffiency, of course--an out-making bottom of the order, for example--but there certainly isn't anything to support his cause. Given all the additional anecdotal evidence against him--making absurd bullpen substitutions, failing to pinch-hit in obvious situations, championing Willie Bloomquist and Ron Villone--I think's it's time ol' Bob was shown the door.

If there's an upside, it's that the last time the M's lost so many games to inneffiency (though that was on the defensive end), they rebounded and made the playoffs the next year. Of course, they also signed good free agents that year (Arthur Rhodes, Kaz Sasaki, and John Olerud). Ol' Bill needs to be given a quick exit, too, if this ship is going to right itself.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Wasting Spaces

The only good reason for Ramon Santiago to be on the Major-League roster is make he doesn't take at-bats away from better players at AAA. In other words, Santiago, if used like the bench-warmer he is, won't get many as at-bats at the major leagues as if he was starting in Tacoma.

But he certainly isn't the 25th best player in the Mariners organization. Santiago has an Equivalent Average of .176, the lowest on the M's 25-man roster. That's lower than Neifi Perez, who was just released from the Giants. If we look at the Major-League Equivalent Average, which approximates what minor-leaguers would do in the major leagues, we see that there are five Rainiers over .215, well above where Santiago is playing.

I suppose the other factor is that Santiago plays short, whereas A.J. Zapp, who's been on a tear recently, plays first; and we already have enough corner infielders on the big league roster. Mostly, I continue to be flabbergasted that we traded the best shortstop in the majors (even if you count A-rod) for Ramon Santiago.

Updated Links

Thanks to USS Mariner, who now joins the list of blogs that link to me. I can't stress this enough: if you ever wonder anything about what's going on with the Mariners, go there to find straight, smart answers.

Also, The Safe has returned as a news aggragator. It has only commentary-free links, and it will get you to most of the stories around the web each day.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Leone out: proves he's not a "Gamer"

Justin Leone is out for the rest of the season with a couple of broken bones in his left hand. Listen to Bob Melvins reaction reported in the Times:
It's really too bad," Mariners manager Bob Melvin said. "After his first three weeks, teams have had a chance to scout him. And he was in the stage of adjusting, a time when you can really tell about a young player.
"When you play the game, you get an opportunity, and this was his big chance, and now this happens. It takes the edge off this game."

Does that sound to anyone else like Melvin is just about ready to write Justin off? The way I'm reading between the lines is: "The success he had to this point was probably just a result of being new in the league, and we were about to find out what he's really like. This was his chance to prove himself, but now he got himself injured, and he's gonna be really rusty now. Too bad for him." That may be to pessimistic of an interpretation, but nothing I've read has Melvin commending any aspect of what Leone has done so far in the big leagues.

Sure, Leone hasn't been the next Scott Rolen, but his low batting average is somewhat misleading. Though he hit only .216 in his brief stint in The Show, he also hit 6 home runs, and showed enough power to bump his OPS to .739, right between Edgar Martinez and Bret Boone. Melvin is right about needing to see Leone more to really see what he can do in the big leagues, though his minor league stats aren't completely irrellevant, as Bill Bavasi would have us believe.

What's unfortunate is that third base will probabaly be manned by a combination of Bloomquist, Speizio, and Ramon Santiago, none of whom are long-term or short-term solutions.

Monday, August 16, 2004

"Wait, I thought the trading deadline was in July"

If that's what you're saying after hearing rumors of trades, then you should check out--again, I can't believe I'm saying this--Jayson Starks Waiver Deals 101 column on July 31st is the last day teams can trade players without those players first clearing waivers; but August 31st is the last day for teams to trade players at all, as well as the last day to set their post-season roster, making a trade after that date pointless anyway.

For a more general explanation on the rules of rosters and transactions, see the ever-useful Rob Neyer Transaction Primer.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

More Expos: what might have been.

The Tacoma News-Tribune has an article about how devastated the Expos were by the 1994 strike. Author Darrin Beene notes how Montreal and Seattle were in similar situations:
"Had the season played out, the Expos were poised for a windfall. Increased
attendance would have added money, and a playoff appearance might have generated the kind of buzz the Seattle Mariners received in 1995."

It's been ten years of abuse at the hands of Baseball, and the Expos deserve better, now.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Breaking News: Sun rises tomorrow, Expos to remain homeless, Commissioner Spineless

Yep, rumor-monger Jayson Stark, who deserves little attention, does get credit for reporting that the Expos will still be homeless next year. To quickly re-articulate the reasons why this is beyond ridiculous:

  • MLB currently owns the Expos, yet MLB bylaws prohibit any owner from owning parts of more than one team. This prevents an owner from stacking one team with all the good players, not to mention all the accounting scams possible. However, MLB being simply a federation of baseball team owners, every owner actually owns a portion of the Expos. Not surprisingly, the Expos have not increased their payroll since MLB has taken ownership, and they've lost all but four of their players, as Stark reports. More simply put, it's an inherent conflict of interest, whether or not any owner has direct control over Expos operations.
  • Throughout this whole debacle, the Commissioner has continued to insist that the Expos will not stay in Montreal, rendering them essentially homeless. Not surprisingly, not many Montrealans seem to be particularly interested in seeing a team guaranteed to leave town. In 2002, after Selig's silly contraction ploy that suggested that would be their last season in Montreal, the Expos saw attendance go up by 33%--to 812, 537, worst in the majors. In 2003, MLB tried to raise attendance again (and it did) by putting some home games in Puerto Rico, increasing their average home game attendance from 10,031 in 2002 to 12,662 in 2003. But those gimmicks are wearing off. This years average game attendance is down to 9092, dead last. Selig continues to be the worst marketer of his own product, professional baseball, when he should be the consummate salesman of the game. He made his money selling cars, and now that he has to sell something that actually is a quality product, he continually bungles it.
  • Baseball has several options for where to put the Expos, including the eighth largest market in the nation, Washington DC. Orioles owner Peter Angelos continues to whine that DC is his market, but if you combine Baltimore, Washington DC, and a little bit--say 15%--of the Richmond and Norfolk metro areas (following Mike Jones' example), you get a TV market that is bigger (3,487,995 TV households) than every market except LA (5,402,260) and New York (7,376,330), a market bigger than Chicago and the Bay area. Certainly, there is room for two teams to share this market. Angelos' whining and Seligula's determination to extract every ounce of guaranteed public funding for a stadium is the only thing keeping the team from relocating--it certainly isn't because there are no places to go. Other viable options: Sacramento (1,278,430), Portland (1,073,210), Indianapolis (1,038,370). Las Vegas, oft mentioned, doesn't make sense to me, as it is way down on the list (51st, 601,700).

The solution is to tell Angelos, as they must have told Steinbrenner when they pushed through greater revenue sharing, to take his medicine or feel free to put the Orioles up for sale. Auction the team to the highest bidder in the DC area. Jayson Stark's article mentions possible protections for Angelos' TV rights that seem eminently feasible. There's nobody in power, however, that has the personal integrity and political will to solve this problem, and it continues to be a ridiculous embarrassment besmirching the game.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Old News, but worth a reminder

A email exchange among fellow Mariner fans took me to this article, which was published in April, but just now came to my attention. At least according to the Puget Sound Business Journal, the M's were the most profitable franchise in baseball at season start. As we look to the off-season, let's remember the Mariners do have the wherewithal to sign marquee players.

On a more personal note, I thank whatever regular readers are left for their patience. An evening job and a move have kept me less attentive to the day-to-day foibles of our favorite team, and have taken much of the time and energy I'd be spending thinking of things to say in this consistently disappointing season.

There's been talk about the race to the bottom of the standings--Royals vs. Mariners, which I will see in person soon--and its implications for next year's draft. But if the M's sign a big free agent, doesn't that give their draft pick away to the team that lost that free agent? I know there have been several moves to eliminate "draft-pick compensation," but the last I heard, plans for scrapping it had been tabled. Anyone know any differently?
Update: Stephen left a comment in this post informing me that the teams with the 1st 15 picks in the draft do NOT forfeit those picks regardless of who they sign. Thanks!

Friday, July 23, 2004

Boone-doggle or Boone-anza?

Sorry for the pun.  The question is whether the M's should trade Bret Boone or keep him, thereby activating his $9M option for next year.  Using Baseball Prospectus' Statistics by position, we can compare Boone to other second-basemen.  David at U.S.S. Mariner thinks Boone won't be worth the $9M.  Depending on what metric you want to trust, Boone is either the 21st, 33rd, 35th, or 60th best second baseman, out of 70 listed, in the majors.   Or if we keep only the 2Bs with the most at-bats from each team (what appears to be their "starters"), Boone is 21st or 25th out of 30.  That's not great.

But who could we get that would be a better value for playing second base?  And let's think long-term.  Aging though he may be, Boone had the highest VORP of any AL second-baseman in 2003;  who is this year's Bret Boone circa 2003?  (In other words, who's having a hot year but won't next year?)  We're looking for a free-agent second baseman who's not just coming off a career year (Cleveland's Ron Belliard?)

Not knowing which second-sackers are going to be on the market next year, I really can't tell who's available, which is an essential part of the question I'm asking. Still, I'm not sure there are that many options for the M's.    Alex Cora?  D'Angelo Jimenez?  Maybe Mark Bellhorn?  The other option may be to move Leone to second.  But that leaves us with Spiezio and Leone starting, and I'm not sure those two will sustain enough offense even if we get a couple of mashers in the off-season.

There are a lot of good 2B'ers out there, but a lot of them won't be free agents very soon.  Alfonso Soriano,

Mostly, I'd like to see someone suggest who would play second next year, because who is available to replace Boone is an important consideration in whether we want to keep him.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Dramatic, but unnecessary

That's what Bucky's walk-off homerun was last night;  we should have had the lead before then.  (You can check out Bucky's bomb on the video highlights).  But if it weren't for Ichiro's baserunning gaffe in the 4th, the M's would have had six runs before the 10th inning.  

4th inning:
-Willie Bloomquist singles.
-Ichiro singles.  Bloomquist scores, Ichiro to second on throwing error by Barry Zito

So we have one of the fastest runners in the league on second, nobody out, and the heart of the order coming up.

-Ichiro Suzuki caught stealing third.
-Randy Winn doubles.

Caught stealling third!? Ichiro has taken stupid risks before, but this was ridiculous.  Attempting to steal third is almost always a bad idea, but it's especially dumb when there are no outs, because even two sac flies will score you.  As Steve at the Wheelhouse has pointed out, "Hustle does not make a dumb play smart.
I don't mean to look a gift horse in the mouth, though.  Last night's game is a great example of why baseball is such a great game.  You're team blows an opportunity to score, and you pull your hair out in frustration.  But redemption comes off the bat of a 28-year old rookie in the 10th.  That's excitement and drama--and winning--that we didn't see from the M's in the beginning of the year, and even if it's unnecessary, it's still fun.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

You're ignorant, but at least you act on it.

A favorite cartoon of mine--a Calvin and Hobbes strip, as all of my favorites invariably are--has this exchange:
    Calvin: The more you know, the harder it is to take decisive action.
    Calvin: Once you become informed, you start seeing
    complexities and shades of gray. You realize that nothing is as clear and simple as it
    first appears. Ultimately, knowledge is paralyzing.
    Calvin: Being a man of action, I can't afford to take that risk.
    Hobbes: You're ignorant, but at least you act on it.
So go the Mariners, now, in 2004. They're going to shake things up, doggone it. Never mind whether anything is actually being accomplished. That's how the impending release of Olerud is going to work.
The M's are expected to release Olerud soon. In doing so they are releasing their fourth-best starter, not counting Justin Leone, whose numbers come from an as yet small sample size. Releasing Olerud, by the way, does not absolve them of paying his contract. Though a trade remains a "remote" possibility, how many teams are going to jump on the chance to give up prospects to get Olerud, when they can sign him for the pro-rated Major League minimum (he'll still collect his check from the M's regardless) in a few days?

Olerud isn't what he once was, and we'd have a lot of corner-infielder types (Olerud, Spiezio, Hansen, Bucky Jacobsen, Justin Leone) if we sent down Santiago or Bloomquist. Still, it seems like such a waste when there are so many worse hitters on the roster that could be sent down or let go. The other reason to keep here John is that, at least in my mind, he's a class act and a sentimental favorite, reasons which shouldn't trump the team improving itself. But, as I've explained, there are much smarter ways to make room on the roster--thus preparing for a better future--than this way.

But at least they're doing something, right?
Update: David Cameron at U.S.S. Mariner suggests that designating Olerud for assignment might be a way around Olerud's no-trade clause. DMZ says he's not sure, but he'll find out for sure.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Baseball, Society and other essentials

I intentionally chose a subtitle for this blog that left me a little wiggle room in the topics I discuss. So far, I've kept my remarks confined to the "Baseball" side of things, since most readers of this blog didn't start coming here for an ethics debate. Well, fear not. I don't intend to change that.

But I do want to point you to Tony Robinson's latest op-ed piece in the P-I. My chief interest in--and too often, my most frequent frustration with--the political process is political discourse, the exchange of ideas and making of arguments. Or more often, as Mr. Robinson articulates, the dearth of such discussions in our political landscape. As the quote that ends the article suggests, no one party or interest group holds any special claim to the ad hominem argument criticized in the piece. It is universally utilized, and universally destructive.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The trouble with Labrums

Check out this article by Will Carrol about Labrums--what they are, why they tear, and why it's so hard for pitchers to come back from labrum injuries. This is about the most succinct explanation I've found, and it's particularly relevant to a Mariner organization that has been ravaged with labrum injuries.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

John Olerud's Value

Apparently some people have been griping about John Olerud's performance this year. Since I don't live in Seattle, and a night job keeps me from listening to a lot of M's games, I can only go off the word of folks like David Cameron. Though he usually articulates his argument's well, this is about the most absurd defense of Olerud's value I've ever seen. Maybe David thinks he's meeting Olerud's critics at their level, but arguing that Olerud has been a fierce competitor based on his teams' records? That's silly.

If there's griping about John Olerud's performance this year, it's because he's not living up to expectations.

The hope was that Olerud had an off year last year, and would bounce back. In retrospect, we can see that age seems finally to have caught up with Johnny, and 2003 was the start of his age-induced decline.

The real reason not to single out Olerud is enumerated in the lastest Prospectus Triple Play, which mentions that he's fourth on the team in VORP. (He was fifth, third, and fourth on his team in VORP in 2001,2002, and 2003, respectively). He's also fifth on the team in OPS right now, if we include Dave Hansen (who's first) and Raul Ibanez.

Olerud is a bit of a disappointment this year. We expected more from him, and it would probably be good to get more production out of our first baseman. But he's also still one of the more valuable hitters on the team.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Ring's the Thing?

I'm going to pick on Paul because he's the most recent purveyor of this theory, but it is rampant among sports fans. Some prefer it in rhyme: "The ring's the thing." Paul says the M's 2001 season "ended for them in the ALCS, thus resulting in the Mariners winning...nothing." Well, besides the division title and the Divisional Series with the Indians. How many times have we heard this line?

-The Bosox/Yankees "rivalry" isn't really a rivalry because the Sox "haven't won anything."

-The Oakland A's may have some good records, but they've "never made it past the first round."

-Pundits, in criticism of a particular player, say said player may have accomplished a lot, but they still haven't won a championship. The last time I heard someone say this it was applied to Gary Payton. (Never mind his Western Division championship on the way to the 1996 NBA finals.)

-General Managers, from any sport, touting the latesting signing of an OK veteran player by adding that "they know what it takes to win a championship." Like, say, Shane Spencer. If only the M's had signed Shane Spencer.

There are so many examples of great players that have not won their particuarly sport's championship that this line of reasoning is absurd. But beyond that, it's absurd to discount the many levels of accomplishment that teams achieve before the World Series, the NBA finals, the Final Four, the Superbowl, the Stanley Cup. This is especially true in baseball, one of the few remaining sports where most teams still do NOT make the playoffs.

So the A's haven't been to the ALCS in the last decade. They've certainly accomplished a lot more in those years than, say, the Detroit Tigers, the Kansas City Royals, the Colorado Rockies, the L.A. Dodgers, etc. The Red Sox have been a very successful franchise in recent memory, and have indeed won a lot more games against the Yankees than a lot of other clubs. And while the Yanks have had a good run since 1996, the Sox did beat out New York for the division title in 1995, a post-season which I certainly don't think was insignificant.

So Barry Bonds doesn't have a World Series ring. How does that diminish the fact that he is arguably the best hitter in baseball--EVER? As if Barry Bonds just didn't have the special World-Series-Champion-Aura that Chad Curtis gave the Yankees in 1999. This is, incidentally, the same line of reasoning that kept Alex Rodriguez from getting an MVP for so long. "How valuable can he be on a last place team?" For starters, a lot more valuable than anyone else would be on that team. As Rob Neyer pointed out, that's why it's called the Most Valueable Player award.

But I've deviated from my original topic: team accomplishments short of championships are not worthless. That doesn't mean we can't long for a World Series victory for the M's, but it does mean that we can, if we work hard enough to forget what the team is doing right now, think fondly of the banners hanging in Safeco Field and be proud of them.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

We'll take the win

Not that it matters much in the larger scheme of things (since the M's have a pretty good lock on last place in the AL West), but I'll take a win any way I can get it, even if it's as ugly as the one tonight. Eight walks allowed by Mariner pitchers. In fact, if you look at the box score, you'll see that more Padres got on base than Mariners. With 8 hits, 8 walks, and a hit batsman, the Pads got one more on base than the 13 hits +3 walks by the Mariners. The M's did, however, show quite a bit of power, getting 23 total bases vs. San Diego's 13 total bases.

The tradition of Runs, Hits and Errors is so entrenched (Krylon spray paint even had a slogan based off it) that I doubt it will change any time soon, but including walks in that list would sure help give a better synopsis of the game, since they tell us a lot about the pitching and offense. Tonight, they'd tell us that the 7-3 win by the M's wasn't a dominating one. But like I said, I'll take 'em however they come.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

What KC knows about Beltran

Just so you know, word in Kansas City is that Carlos Beltran doesn't really have the arm he used to, due to elbow problems. I can't verify this or disprove it, but thought I'd offer it for what it's worth.

I went to my first Royals game of the season on Sunday, with 20-year old Zach Grinke not able to match Tom Glavine and--surpise, surprise--the Royals lost. Beltran badly misjudged the distance on a ball that turned out to be a home run, crashing painfully into the outfield wall; and this is in his home ballpark.

None of this means the M's shouldn't pursue him in the off-season, but he may not be quite the defensive juggernaut that some believe him to be.

If you don't read Sports and Bremertonians, then you missed their link to an article with Carlos Guillen's comments--which strike them and myself as pretty accurate--about the Mariner's foolish dismissal of Guillen's talent and potential.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Protecting Outs

Scott at Caffienated Confines, with whom I used to banter with over on the Mariners official web site fan forum during its glory days, scoffs at the notion that the M's are lacking "fire." I agree. The M's are lacking hitters, pitchers, and fielders.

I really can't stand it when people say things that have no meaning, especially when they try to dress up vapid content with words that are supposed to sound hip or sophisticated. I see this in papers of undergraduates that I grade, and in sales pitches from people that don't know their product. To those people I say: you're only fooling yourself. The rest of us know you don't really know what you're saying. The key to effective words are significant ideas behind them.

But getting back to what Scott also says:
    "Outs are guarded jealously, like Gollum with his “Precious", losing sight of the consideration that outs are merely a means to an end. The end being runs, which last time I checked was what they count up when they want to know who won or lost. The 2003 Marlins were one of the most go-go teams in baseball of the last several years, and they finished a lot further along than station to station teams like the Athletics."
First of all, the Marlins did not finish "a lot further along" than the A's. People who decry the Athletics approach to baseball often try to paint the A's as a failure, but they've made it to the playoffs more than the M's have in the last five years, and have done it in a tough division spending less money than any of their divisional opponents. The post-season is unpredictable, and the A's have just run into some hot teams or had some unfortunate breaks. But most teams should be jealous of the A's.

Secondly, outs, by themselves, aren't a means to an end. The recent talk about "Productive Outs" are an attempt to distinguish between outs that accomplish something, and those that don't. But it's far better to have good batters who get on base and don't make outs in the first place. Perhaps Scott's suggestion that Bob Melvin should take more risks is a good one, but not because Melvin should be making more outs. The real reason to give for running more would be that the benefits outweigh the risks. For a Mariner team that doesn't hit many extra-base hits, and does have a few speedy players, snagging additional bases is certainly a laudible goal. But the last thing bunt-happy Melvin needs to do is be less careful with his outs.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

"Empty" Batting Averages, Exhibit A

Peter over at Mariner Musings goes through the M's and Expos' lineups to see if one good team could be made from both their lineups. If you're curious, go see what the answer is. Buried in that post is this little example of why batting average is so over-rated as a statistic, something I know in my head but have a hard time accepting intuitively. But when Peter compares left-fielders, he gets:

Raul Ibanez (.268/.330/.505, 23 XBH, 16 BB, 194 AB)
Brad Wilkerson (.236/.355/.455, 21 XBH, 36 BB, 191 AB)

Those averages are Batting, On-Base Percentage, and Slugging. XBH is extra-base hits. If someone offered you a .268 hitter or a .236 hitter which would you take? But Peter rightly notes that "essentially, the difference between Wilkerson and Ibanez is 5 singles (in Ibanez’s favor) and 16 walks (in Wilkerson’s favor). That’s 11 more times on-base, a.k.a. “11 fewer outs”, in Wilkerson’s favor." It's not like Wilkerson's advantage in OBP and Ibanez's in batting average cancel each other out: Wilkerson has been the better batter this year.

Oh, and by the way, Wilkerson is getting paid a near-league-minimum $375K this year, far less than Raul's near-$4M salary.

To be fair, Ibanez's isn't a totally "empty" batting average (see Dan Wilson for that). But I think the comparison here between Ibanez and Wilkerson is instructive.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Misc. thoughts on tonight's game...

*Koch issues an intentinal walk to Edgar after a 1-2 count? There are benefits to having a reputation such as Edgar's.

*Good to see Ichiro continue to see better success on the basepaths. His game is so dependent upon speed that losing a step would be devastating for him.

*How absurd is it that Dave Hansen has the same amount of plate appearances as Willie Bloomquist? Tonight's game adds to the small sample size of Hansen's performance this season

*Let's hope Melvin continues to put Winn in left field. He will likely do so for the wrong reasons--to keep Winn more relaxed in the batter's box--but at least he's doing it. Now, about actually putting your best defender in centerfield (psst! it's Ichiro) ...

*I don't usually listen to the post-game show, mostly because I can't stand to listen to callers who don't know what they're talking about. (Maybe I should call in myself, right?) Anyway, tonight was no exception. The first caller I heard actually called Melvin out, but did so for failing to bunt in the sixth. The next caller complained about not using the suicide squeeze; to their credit, radio men Norm Charlton and Tom Hutyler both cautioned about wasting an out, not to mention the risk that the batter won't make contact and the runner will just be tagged out. (I would be curious if someone has done a study specifically on suicide squeezes.)

As for the first caller's suggestion, let's look at that inning.
-D Hansen hit a ground rule double to deep center.
-S Spiezio walked.
-R Aurilia popped out to shortstop.
-D Wilson popped out to first.
-H Bocachica flied out to right.

Notice that bunting would have accomplished nothing. The inning would have ended with runners on second and third, instead of first and second.

Fans that think Melvin isn't bunting enough just haven't been paying attention.

*Also on the post-game show, Randy Winn pulls out the old "I'm not really looking to hit a home-run line" when asked about his massive shot. Why do players think trying to hit for power is something to be ashamed of? Winn's comments are by no means rare; so where did this line come from?

Friday, May 28, 2004

On Vacation California (ye olde stomping grounds before Grad School) and will return in a week.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Stumbling into Strategy?

I don't know what prompted Melvin to start using his relievers wisely, but yesterday's game was an excellent example of how to use a bullpen. Up 3-1 in the eighth, J.J. Putz relieves Freddy Garcia and gives up a walk and an infield single. The go-ahead run is coming to the plate, in the form of left-handed hitting Bobby Higginson, who's having a decent year, hitting .280 with a .791 OPS.

Prior to this game, we'd expect Melvin to go by The Book: bring in your lefty one out guy ("LOOGY"), who for us is Mike Myers. After all, lefty Carlos Pena is up after Higginson. And it's not the ninth inning, so it's not time for your closer.

Except this is a situation where you need your best reliever pitching, particularly one that can get you a lot of strikeouts. A hit makes it a one-run game with the tying run at third, waiting for a sac fly. The ninth inning will come with a clean slate, but right now, you need outs in rapid succession, and you can't afford any more base-runners. Happily, Melvin finally realizes this, and brings in his best guy, Eddie Guardado, who by the way, is the best on the team at getting strikeouts. (It would almost be defensible to leave Putz in, since he's been pretty good so far. But again, there's no room for error now, and the infield single was a hard shot off Putz that may have injured him.)

Now it's time for Detroit manager Alan Trammel to play bunt-foolish baseball, as he attempts to have Higginson, a power hitter, bunt. A waste of his talent, and Higgy can't bunt anyway, and pops it up to Olerud. One down, but the fire's still burning. Guardado proceeds to strike out two of the next three batters, giving up a walk on a 3-2 count to Rondell White.

Now that the Tigers' eighth-inning potential rally has been quelled, we can breathe easier. The ninth is not a problem for Eddie, who retires the side in order, with two more strikeouts. In total, Guardado threw 31 pitches, which is something he certainly can handle (he threw 37 against New York on May 15th). At his current workload pace, Eddie will throw 919 pitches this year, which would be the lowest total for him since 1999, when he missed part of the season. In fact, this will be his 11th full season in the majors and he has exceeded 1000 pitches in all but two of those seasons.

This win can be credited in large part to an intelligent use of the bullpen by Bob Melvin, and we should laud him for making good moves. We'll have to see if a similar situation comes up when the M's are tied, because that will be the true test of whether Melvin has learned.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Around the Internet

A few of you may not look around at other blogs very much. The USS Mariner, who continues to ignore me (insert sad violin music here), but continues to be an excellent daily resource of opinions and links (insert cool MTV indie-rock music[?] here), really should be the first thing you read, before you read the paper, or, god-forbid, the M's official web-site.

For a look at how badly the M's are performing even compared to the statistically-minded pessimism of the blogosphere last off-season, check out this post at Sodo Oh No*. First column is what actually happened in 2003, second column is what we thought would happen in 2004, and third column is what is actually happening.

As Larry Stone put it, The M's are done. The only way for Bavasi to save this season is by making smart trades. See David Cameron's post about how to clean house.

Also, Steve goes into great detail into why Bob Melvin needs to read the Baltimore Sun. Read the whole thing, but if your wondering about the Baltimore Sun reference, scroll down to the bottom.

*No to be confused with the wife of the late John Lennon.

How Bavasi can increase the importance of his scouts

We know how much Bavasi loves his scouts. He was let go from his GM job in Anaheim in part because of his refusal to fire scouts in his organization. Not that Bill would be reading this, but for rhetorical effect:

Dear Bill,

I know you love your scouts. Those guys know baseball, like they were born in the dugout. You know there's no substitute for actually seeing a player, watching the way he approaches the game, the at-bat, the pitch. It tells you about character, whether this player has what it takes to fight his way through adversity and make it to the Show. You want to show the world how important your scouts are? Get a stats guy.

Face reality: in 2004, any team that doesn't lean heavily on statistical analysis just isn't playing on a level field. Your competition has laser levels, and you're eye-balling it. Betting the future of the organization on a young guy without some objective measurement is too expensive and takes too long for trial-and-error. You've gotta have some sort of foundation.

That stats guy will show you where to start. He'll keep you from missing the guys your competitors are signing and turning into all-stars. He'll warn you about signing the guys that will likely fall off the table next season. The point is this: You'll now have the same tools that every other team has. The numbers are easily available, Bill, and there are thousands of guys out there—literally thousands—who can help you make sense of them. Every team—every one of them—can do statistical analysis. This isn't a zero-sum game, where if you look at the stats, the other guy can't, or vice versa. Not having a stats department would be like not employing a pitching coach. You'd be starting three meters behind everyone in the race. Getting your organization looking at statistical analysis just puts you on the same playing field.

This is where your scouts come in. Once you have (and use) the tools that every other team has at your fingertips, your scouts become your most important resource. They'll tell you that that young pitcher you were thinking about drafting has the worst mechanics in the world, and won't make it out of A-ball before injuring himself. The numbers can't tell you that. They'll tell you that your young hitting prospect is going through some personal issues, but you should hang onto him for another year to make sure he really isn't going to develop before you let him go.

But remember, until you start paying attention to the vast amount of objective baseball information out there, your organization will be fighting with one arm tied behind your back. That's the same arm other teams are using to cut you up with right now.

Remember, everyone has access to the same statistical resources that you do. Once you start using them, you'll be on the same playing field as everyone else. That's when your scouts are going to give you an advantage, but not before then.

You've got your scouting department. Get your statistical department, now. Because your team's broke, and you need to make sure you make it better, not worse. We don't care about your loyalty to your scouts, or how great an executive your dad was. We want this team to win, and that ain't gonna happen with your best hand tied behind your back.


Nate Woodward

Sunday, May 02, 2004

A couple of longer posts are percolating in the ol' noggin right now, but the end of the term in grad school is keeping my hands full right now. But how far the mighty have fallen--we're looking up at Texas. Hey, did anyone else notice they got better after they dumped Alex Rodriguez? No, I don't really think there' a correlation there, but it's fun to wonder about what the baseball gods are laughing at.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Franklin's history

A quick rejoinder to Steve's recent post about the reasons for pessimism put on display by the Mariners yesterday, one of which is "Ryan Franklin looking much more like the Franklin of his career through 2002."

On the contrary, we would be happy if Franklin were performing as he did pre-2003, because he was effective then. The reason for pessimism about Franklin in the off-season was not because he had a career year in 2003, but because his so-called "peripherals" (Ks, HRs, Strikeouts, BB as opposed to ERA or W/L record) were bad in 2003. The thought was that Franklin's low ERA was masking his declining effectiveness, that he wasn't good, but lucky, in 2003, and that the luck was more than likely to run out.


Besides the low ERA, 2003 wasn't a particularly good year for Franklin. The problem this year is that 1) he's given up more walks per 9 innings than he ever has since he's been a regular major-leaguer and 2) he's giving up a lot more hits, too. The hits allowed probably have a lot to do with a worsened outfield defense, but the walks are all on Ryan.

So my response to Steve is: Yes, Franklin is struggling this year, both because of his own apparent control problems and because of our outfield defensive sieve. But we didn't expect this because of his pre-2003 numbers.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Messing with Meche

Down by only two runs, Meche comes out for the sixth inning, and promptly walks two batters, the second on five pitches. His ball/strike ratio is poor, his pitch count is near 100. I'm not listening or watching this, just following it on the pitch-by-pitch "Gameday" from Is there any reason Meche isn't pulled immediately?

Meche stays in, and gives up what looks to me like a near-homer to Mark Scutaro. Runners at first and third, one out, and the pitch count continues to rise. Melvin leaves him in. Meche luckily (or bearing down one last time) gets Adam Melhuse, the next batter, to strike out. EARTH TO MELVIN! PULL HIM NOW!

I started writing this before the next batter, Esteban German, singles in Hatteberg. I don't know how this game will end, but I do know that I would have made the pitching change before German got up to bat. Of course, since Melvin is bringing in Jarvis, I'm not sure things are any better.

I was hoping Melvin would have learned to use his pen a little more sanely than he did last year, but he seems to have adopted the organization-wide practice of refusing to learn new things.

Still, even if we go on to lose this game, taking 2 out of 3 from Oakland is good. But that doesn't make Melvin's decision-making any less ridiculous.

(Well, Jarvis got the out to end the inning. Are you watching, Milwaukee? Isn't he great? Don't you really want to trade for him?)

Sunday, April 18, 2004

It's not the clutch that's your problem; you're just not getting any power

-Does it seem to anyone else that the Mariners are stranding a lot of runners? Well, they're not, even though it seemed that way to me. The Mariners are hitting quite well in so-called "clutch" situations. As a team overall, the Mariners have a .318 OBP. With runners on, it jumps to .352, and with runners in scoring posn., it goes up to .404. If you don't believe "clutch hitting" is a skill, this is yet another ominous sign, since they've actually been lucky to score as many runs as they have (M's are 26th in the majors in OPS, but 20th in Runs scored). If you do believe in "clutch hitting," then this isn't an area likey to improve. As many in the blogosphere have pointed out, the biggest problem has been preventing runs. Of course, if the Mariners had guys who could hit it out more, situational hitting wouldn't matter quite as much.

-The M's have allowed 10 stolen bases this year, and caught 1. That's ugly. The guys at USS Mariner have done a series of posts about how many extra base hits we've allowed so far (a whole heck of a lot). That's the equivalent of allowing opponents to turn 10 walks or singles into doubles, or 1 in 10 (the M's have allowed 99 singles + walks). Put another way, if we adjust the M's current SLG allowed by adding stolen bases to total bases (turning 10 singles into doubles), the SLG allowed increases from .474 to .500. Having Ben Davis find his swing again might be helpful in this regard, since he's had better success throwing runners out than Wilson in the recent past. But Davis won't get playing time unless he starts doing something at the plate.

The semester ends in three weeks, at which point we'll have a better idea about how much this abyssmal start is an accurate reflection of the Mariners' true ability, and at which point I'll be able to pay a little better attention to their games and this blog.

Update:Thanks to Steve at Wheelhouse for reading my little observation and refining and correcting it, showing his customary thoroughness and reason.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


Well, I got what I asked for--Bob Melvin used what I thought were our better relievers--and between the two of them, Soriano and Mateo gave up 3 runs in a combined 1 inning pitched. Pineiro didn't pitched very well either, but our bullpen looks downright awful; maybe Jarvis isn't all that much worse of an option after all. The abysmall performers of so many pitchers doesn't give Bob Melvin any good options, so it's absurd to blame Bob Melvin for this loss. What's a manager to do when your best young starter and your two best young relievers hand the game away? The Grand Salami blog, who will get a link here when they give me one on their sidebar, makes Melvin the scapegoat, but the truth is that our pitchers, and not Melvin, were the ones that lost last night's game. And these were all guys who we had last year, so Bavasi had nothing to do with it either. The pen has to start carrying its weight, and untill they stop collapsing, we're in for a long month of losses.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Picking up where he left off

Melvin continues to frustrate with absurd bullpen usage. One would think that especially at the beginning of the season, especially as consecutive losses start to mount, that Melvin would increasingly rely on his best relievers. But we saw Villone and Jarvis yesterday, and Myers was warming up in the bullpen.

Take a look at Mariners pitchers ranked by Innings Pitched. Why is Jarvis not at the bottom of that list?

Granted, we're only six games in. But Jarvis is no. 12 for a reason, and Melvin should use him accordingly.

Well, at least we got the win yesterday. Now let's return the favor and stick it to the Angels in their home opener tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Ouch--but it's just one game

Not a pretty opener, but at least we're playing real baseball now. Critics will be quick to point out that Kevin Jarvis did very badly. I have no doubt that Jarvis is bad, and it may be best if he is so bad for a month that the Mariners give up on him quickly. However, if we are drawing conclusions from one game, then clearly Bret Boone will be a disaster this year, and our only hope is that Melvin starts Willie Bloomquist and Dave Hansen, since they provided the offense yesterday. Oh, and Ibanez did get a hit, so apparently he is not going to be the disaster some are predicting he will be.

Oh wait. It was just one game, which is just a little less than an acceptable sample size from which to be drawing conclusions. Jarvis has shown he's been bad for a years, and that's why he's bad. Not just because of yesterday. Let's not set open the door for someone to turn the argument around on us if Jarvis has a good two innings next time he's on the mound.

Not living in the Pacific Timezone for the first time, it somehow just occured to me that I'll be missing the end of a lot of home games, or will be really cranky for a lot of mornings.

Monday, April 05, 2004

In fairness to the guys at USS Mariner, Jason Michael Barker said he had doubts about giving up Nageotte, and David Cameron said he would do it. That's the beauty of having more than one author on a blog, and I'll try to be more carefull characterizing their statements. Of course, it's all moot now, as Bradley has gone to the Dodgers. Opening day tommorow!

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Wished-for Headline: M's acquire Board Game Manufacturer

U.S.S. Mariner first alerted me to the news that Milton Bradley is available, and the M's might be interested despite Bradley's rep as a hothead. Then they say that they agree with the M's previous decision that giving up super-prospect Clint Nageotte is too much to pay. Hogwash. The M's have NO position-player talent in their farm system, and oodles of pitchers. This is a way to take some of that pitching talent they've been hoarding and leverage that to their advantage. And there really is no such thing as a pitching prospect, remember? Nageotte could very easily get injured in a week and never pitch again. He's inherently risky because he's a young pitcher. Bradley is less of a risk, and is more of a need.

Clarifying the experience question

I'm not sure I was clear in my previous entry about the question I was asking. We see that Bavasi puts a premium on "experience," which usually means "old." I am not asking whether older players are better than younger ones, because plenty of work has been done on the age-production curves--when most players peak in their production, and how they decline. Preferring an older player to a younger one--for instance, preferring Rich Aurilia over Carlos Guillen--strikes me as fairly counterproductive. The question is whether years of major league play correlate at all with success. If we compare players with statistically similar profiles, will the one with more major-leauge (or post-season) experience be more likely to improve than the inexperienced one? My instinct is to say "of course not"--but just going on instinct is no better than what Bavasi is currently operating with. I don't have the time or knowledge to put together that sort of a report, but I wonder if anyone has.

A Google search brings upthis article from ESPN and Baseball Prospectus which looks at experienced teams, but that's not the same thing. The google search also brought me to this old exchange by some folks of the Baseball Primer persuasion, who wonder if experience (rather than age) matters for pitchers more than for batters.

Anyone who knows something substantive about this, please drop me an email.

So will the M's be the next Baltimore? That sounds like what Derek Zumsteg fears, when he predicts (in a Seattle Weekly article featuring him and USS Mariner) that "in three years, they’ll be playing .400 ball, will be losing money, and won’t know what hit them: ‘We have such a great bunch of veteran guys! How could this happen?'" (assuming things don't change in the M's front office).

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Mariners: the next Baltimore, or the next Atlanta?

USS Mariner points us to several P-I articles today of interest, including a couple about Bavasi. These articles confirm my confusion about Bavasi: he clearly isn't ignorant of statistical analysis. He even says he's trying to find a good analyst for the team, and that the guy he tried to get--Craig Wright, who decined for "personal reasons"--is "a billion times smarter than me." So Bavasi wants a guy who really knows stats, and he knows he himself could use some help. What's the delay then? If Bavasi is decisive, as Howard Lincoln commends him, why doesn't he get going and find someone who's going to help him avoid such questionable decisions? But this article is mostly good news: Bavasi knows statistical analysis is a valuable tool, and he's trying to find someone to provide real expertise.

On the other hand, Bavasi says "In general, I'd prefer to have a veteran club that has enough youth to it to stay healthy." I'm really not sure how age, or years of major league experience, has much significant correlation to being a good player. I would do an analysis of it, except 1) I don't have ready access to any data that lists players' stats along side their years of experience or age, and 2) I don't have the statistical expertise to know how to rule out other factors. That is, all things being equal, are more experienced players going to play better? Besides the well-known trend for older players to decline, is there some advantage that playing at a major league level longer gives a player? Can we measure it?

Bavasi makes the comparison with Atlanta, but part of me fears that, with his fixation on veteran-ness, we are more likely to become the next Baltimore. I hope he finds his stat-guy soon.

Monday, March 29, 2004

On hold, musing about movies

Since there isn't much going on... I'm going to post my list of favorite baseball movies. Every sports writer has done this, and the only reason I'm doing it is because I disagree with pretty much all of them. The reason is that I actually like baseball in baseball movies, and a lot of "baseball" movies seem to have very little to do with what happens between the chalk. If you think I'm just being pretentious, and just have wierd tastes in movies, email me and tell me what you think. Really, go ahead.

1. Baseball by Ken Burns. So it's a nine-hour miniseries documentary (correction:It's a 20 hour series) that aired on PBS. No film has ever fanned the flames of fandom, or flamed the fan of ... oh never mind. Go to your local library and check it out Seriously, it's well worth the 20 hours.

2. For the Love of the Game, starring [cringe] Kevin Costner. I'm probably the only one on the planet that thinks Costner's third baseball movie was his best. I was skeptical before I watched it, because everyone had said his first two were better, but I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe it because it's based on a novel by Michael Shaara, author of The Killer Angels.

3. 61, directed by Billy Crystal. Rated behind Love of the Game probably because it shows too much fondness for everything Yankee. But Billy did a nice job. And man, does Barry Pepper look like Roger Maris or what?

4. The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid. Hey, I'm a sucker. The Rookie has no qualms about going for the sentimental syrup, but it works for me.

5. The Natural, starring Robert Redford. Lots of good performances in this one, great characters, and a great film score, that many ballparks have ripped off and play when the home team hits a home run.

Okay, top five is all I'm giving. Plenty more out there, and lots I haven't seen. I think the one I'd most like to see that I haven't already is Eight Men Out, simply because it is based on a book that is so well researched, unlike some other movie that has Joe Jackson in it. What movies am I missing? Email me and let me know.

Opening day? After these messages from the NCAA...

Well, there isn't much going on right now on the baseball front. The sports world has turned its attention to the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament. Some thought's about that:

If you've watched any of the tourney, you've probably seen the TV spots the NCAA is running, which end "there are 360,000 NCAA student-athletes, and just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports." Every time some recruitment scandal turns up, I hear voices--usually on sports talk radio--calling for the NCAA to start paying its players some of the money it gets. And nothing makes more money for the NCAA than the Div I Men's Basketball tournament. What the TV spots highlight is that, contrary to guys on sports radio, the NCAA is serious about higher education, as well it should be. Collegiate athletes are getting "paid" with an opportunity to get a college education; if those students take a cavalier attitude towards that education, it isn't the fault of the university or the NCAA. As the TV spots indicate, most collegiate athletes ARE serious about their education, because they don't have a real chance of playing sports professionally and because they generally are pretty responsible people. I'd like to think that athletics actually help to teach that kind of dedication and focus, not steal it away. And that's where all the money is going--back to support all the other athletics programs that don't make it on national TV, but are worthwhile and exciting in their own right.

And also, a shout out to my alma mater and their women's basketball team, who made it to the final eight of their tournament--one of those NCAA sports that might not see the TV coverage, but deserves recognition. The Lady Falcons were ranked no. 1 in the country and were undefeated, but got beaten by 2nd-ranked Drury, who, oddly, they faced in the quarterfinals (on what was essentially a home court for Drury), the first round of the final eight. But it was a good run.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Hey, Wha' Happen?

For those of you too sane to get caught up in the minutiae of the baseball off-season, Jared Poppel of gives us Part One of an extensive review and commentary. He wishes the M's front office would have signed Raphael Palmeiro instead of Edgar Martinez because a)he's left handed and b) he hits the tar out of the ball at Safeco Field. But not re-signing Edgar would be like the Orioles not re-signing Cal Ripken; it would be foolish to alienate a fan base so callously, even if it were done out of purely competetive rationale.

The biggest problem, of course, is that Jared says signing Ibanez at an average of $4M/year was "about market-average for a player with his statistics." Huh?

Player2003 Avg2003 OPS2004 Salary
Matt Stairs.292.950$1M
Jose Cruz.250.779$3M
Frank Catalanotto/B>.299.823$2.3M

*Not including $2M signing bonus

There are other hitters who hit better than Ibanez and cost less, but aren't left handed. But some of them (Melvin Mora, Jay Payton, for example) did almost as well or better than Ibanez did against right-handers, which is supposedly what makes Raul's lefthandedness a plus.

I'm sorry to rehash this for those of you who know all of this already, but Ibanez was offered too much for too long. That doesn't mean he's going to be a disaster. But it means the extra money that is going to him wasn't available to sign better bench players, and won't be available at the trading deadline.

I'm expecting Jared to be much more critical of the Colbrunn-for-McCracken trade, which of course is completely indefensible.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

That kid from Spiro, Oklahoma
Today is apparently Ryan Franklin Home-run rate week. USS Mariner posted a flurry of discussions, and directed us to Jeff's post at Fire Bavasi for a more concise comparison of Franklin to the rest of the M's staff. Many stat-friendly analysts, like those at Baseball Prospectus and many around the Blogosphere, are predicting Ryan Franklin is due for a down year.

Because I think this is such a relevant article, I'm posting it now and getting to my other comments later. The question I have for all the Franklin nay-sayers is this: why is Franklin not like the pitchers listed in this article? Are his three effective years all lucky, or is he, like Reuter and Cornejo, finding a different way to be effective?

For those of you uninitiated, here's the basic premise for claiming Franklin will be worse this year: his strikeout rate has declined the last couple years AND he has given up a lot of home runs. Fewer strikeouts mean more balls in play, and most consistently good pitchers don't let a lot of balls in play. That is, there's no significant correlation between being a good pitcher and having a lot of the batted balls you allow be turned into outs. The argument goes that Franklin did as well as he did because of superior defense--in the outfield, particularly--and because of luck, and that both are more likely to decline this year. Conversely, home runs are one way that the pitcher alone is responsible for giving up runs. Giving up HRs prevents your defense from helping you out.

USS Mariner regular (and Baseball Prospectus author) Derek Zumsteg grudgingly acknowledges that Franklin actually did get the least amount of run support last year. That doesn't mean Franklin won't give up more runs this year, but it does mean that if the Mariners are more efficient with their run scoring--that is, they don't "waste" runs on days when their top pitchers are on the mound--a decline by Franklin won't result in more losses. We can expect this simply through regression-to-the-mean: the Mariners are more likely to distribute their run support more evenly than they did last year, so Franklin will get more run support. This might also be one reason why the M's won fewer games last year than their run differential would suggest (Run Differentials, the difference between runs allowed and runs scored, can be translated into predicted wins and losses. Check out "Pythagorean Standings at the bottom of Rob Neyer's home page.)

I, for one, am holding out hope that Franklin will find ways to be effective despite a low strikeout rate, as he has done for the past three years. But it is hope, not empirically based prediction. Would it were that Bill Bavasi might learn the difference.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Anyone who wants to explain this line to me from BP's triple play, please send me an email:

"The park formerly known as Edison International is projected to be a better hitter's park this year than last." Does changing the name make it easier to hit?

I'm sure I don't have that many regular readers, but I apologize for the scarity of postings this week...I've been completing work on my first composition for Orchestra. Perhaps I'll be able to put an audio file of the reading session up at some point, when that happens.

Oh, yeah, that Griffey thing. So much has been said (check out the "Blogosphere" links), and I only have two reminders:
1. Griffey now isn't Griffey 1999. If Junior does come back to Seattle, I hope the fans will let him be what he is now, and not try to make him be what he was then. Unreal expectations were what made him so unhappy in Cincy, so let's hope he doesn't get that back here.

2. Aren't some of his injuries sort of freak-accident type stuff? It's odd that the M's would dismiss Guillen as "injury-prone" but would be interested in Griffey (if indeed the rumors are true). Conversely, it strikes me as a little bit of a double-standard to lament the departure of Guillen but fear the return of Griffey. I'm not sure one is more injury-prone than the other.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The new commercials are out. Dead Reckoning, the Mariner news blog, thinks they highlight the "niceness" of all the Mariners, and aren't as funny as years past. Of course, there have been so many great M's commercials, and consequently the bar has been set pretty high. But I agree that they aren't quite as snappy.

Remember that first great slogan? "You gotta love these guys." There was something quirky about those Mariner teams, and that ad slogan played on it. Sure, Joey Cora was a cute (but lousy) second baseman, but we also had the magnificent jubilence of Ken Griffey, the cantakerous sage in Lou Pinella, the strong silent type in Edgar--he speaks with his bat, the gritty trash-talking Jay Buhner, the 6'10" lefty who you wouldn't want to cross. Even Dan Wilson, the nice guy of nice guys, was noted for his Mechanical engineering degree. That's not to say that we don't have characters now--Boone is cocky, Spiezio is a Gen-X rocker, Jamey, almost smugly, humiliates opposing batters. But the M's don't celebrate that nearly as much. Two commercials feature a puppy and the cuddliest mascot on the planet, the Moose. The Ibanez Latte commercial is exactly why New Yorkers laugh at our baseball experience--not that I want Safeco to feel like the Bronx.

My next observation may be a little technical, but we shouldn't underestimate the role of good editing in making the commercials funny. So much of comedy is timing, and the players reading thier cue cards probably haven't ever had great comedic timing (well, Lou Pinella was pretty good). Take this year's ad titled "Advice:"
Opposing second baseman (from Milwaukee) sheepishly asks Boone if he really means that even Boone misses easy grounders.

[Pause, cut to camera 1]. [Boone turns his head.] [Pause] "Hah![Pause] me? [Pause] No, not me. [Pause] Guys like you, happens all the time."

"Ah, you're welcome."

We got the joke after the first pause, and then we have to suffer through the rest of the exchange. Sure, Boone ain't the greatest actor, but the humor of deadpan is all in the timing, and timing is what editors have to be paying attention to. I suppose I shouldn't spare the director, who also plays a role in the timing and delivery of lines, but he's got limited talent to work with. For a study in contrast, check out the crisp editing and timing at the end of "Clapper," when Edgar delivers his punch line. Much better.

Oh, and can I just say that whoever decided to insert someone yelling "hey now" just before Dave Niehaus says "Get all of it" (the new slogan) has officially annoyed the heck out of me.

Ranting aside, we should be grateful that the M's have had such a long history of great commercials, and these ads generally maintain that proud tradition. Now for that World Series...

Sunday, March 14, 2004

My dad is more old school than yours

Looks like Blaine Newnham is trying to out-old-school the M's front office with his profile of Rich Aurlia. Jeff at San Shin has shown in part why so many of us in the blogosphere think it's all a bunch of hooey. Even if you resonate with the old-school philosophy that Newnham is espousing here, then at least dignify it with something more substantive than "Aurilia is pure baseball, with no additives." Seriously now--does that mean anything? Talk about character, grittiness, give us anecdotes about how pure courage helped Aurilia break out a slump or win a game for his team. Old-school doesn't have to mean vapid and inane platitudes.

In his next article, Newnham echoes the sentiment of a lot of people (including Joe Kaiser of that a lot of the Mariner reserves seem to be having a great spring. I'm happy for them and all, but do you really think Hiram Bocachica going 8-15 so far is more significant than him not being able to make the Tigers last year (he played for their AAA club)? Newnham also tries to defend the trade of Colbrunn for McCracken by saying McCracken "has not hit below .290 when given 300 ABs." But how likely is it that McCracken is going to get that many at-bats as a fouth outfielder? Last year, McLemore was the only Mariner reserve to get over 300 ABs, and he played most of his games in the infield, and that was because of the offensive black hole at third named Cirillo. If McCracken hits .230 in 150 ABs, I sure hope Melvin is smart enough to realize another 150 isn't going to transform him back into a hitter.