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?