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.