Saturday, December 17, 2005

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day

Similarly, even Steve Kelley gets it right twice a year. This is one of those times. Kelley somehow sees that Washburn isn't the pitcher he used to be, though some would argue that saying Washburn is only good, not great, is still a gross overestimation of his abilities.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Off-topic rant: White Elephant Gift Exchanges

With news out of Marinerland being a bit depressing as of late, I'll turn to other subjects. In this case, the "White Elephant" gift exchange. This is important to any of you who are organizing christmas parties for your neighbors, friends, or co-workers and are thinking about or are asked about doing one.

A white elephant gift is a gag gift. It's not supposed to be cute, or pretty or nice. It's supposed to be innane, ugly, useless or generally innappropriate in a funny way--and always nearly worthless. It's a great opportunity for re-gifting, and the possibilities are nearly endless. For example, your cousin just went through a knitting phase and has given you four hand-knitted toilet-paper-holders. You are going through a junk drawer and find a happy-meal toy from 1993. You still have a pair of MC Hammer pants. You were sent a recruiting DVD in the mail entitled "The National Guard Experience." All good stuff.

Lamer but still acceptable white elephant gifts would be things that aren't quite so funny, but are still worthless. For example, a cell-phone charger to a broken and obsolete model. A 2004 wall calendar. A partially used can of burguny shoe polish.

But let's be clear about what a white elephant gift is NOT. It's not a $10 set of body lotions. It's not an animatronic singing snowman from a Hallmark store (possible exception: you were given it last year). It's not a christmas tree ornament. It's not a fruitcake (possible exception: you were given it 5 years ago). These are kitchy junk, but their not funny or useless or worthless.

If you want to do a sincere gift exchange that means something, organize a secret Santa, where each person is assigned one other person to go find a personalized gift. If you want to make things easy and funny, do a real white elephant gift exchange. But please...don't have everybody bring gift-bags filled with kitchy junk.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Be careful what you wish for...

Remember two years ago?

We were all ridiculing Bob Melvin and Pat Gillick and Seattle sportwriters for their allegiance to "Speed and Defense" ballplayers, their tentativity in the offseason, their emphasis on character and clubhouse leadership.

Well, we've now got Carl Everett, who represents none of that.

The biggest problem with signing Carl Everett is that he's not very good anymore, even as a hitter. But if you go read the comments and posts around other Mariner Blogs, you're going to find a lot of dismay over Everett's character. Well, we can't have it both ways. Either character matters or it doesn't. Carl Everett's history of outrageous, offensive, stupid behavior shouldn't matter any more than Dan Wilson's community service.

And I think it's also important to temper our criticism with humility, because our understanding of the importance of defense has and continues to evolve. We aren't the pantheons of baseball knowledge, and calling any Mariner official who doesn't do what we want an idiot is a little presumptuous.

That said, I still think signing Everett was a lot about desperation...the M's needed to make some move, and Everett was the closest guy available who fit the job description.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Tracking Pineiro's mechanics

Jeff at Lookout Landing has done some fascinating work on the mechanics of pitchers using screenshots from television broadcast. Most recently, he has taken a look at Joel Pineiro. You'll need to read his blog entry, and probably the earlier one examining Felix Hernandez, in order to understand what I'm talking about here.

Jeff was comparing release points in a single game and seeing how consistent they were. Oddly, in one of Pineiro's worst games, he had the most consistent release point. As Jeff points out, consistency is only a benefit if you're consistenly good. Observers of that game thought Pineiro's release point was consistenly bad.

Still, wouldn't it be great to be able to compare one game to another? That way we could look at the range of release points in two games, and see how they differed. This would confirm an observation that a pitcher's release point was consitently bad for the game.

The trouble is that Jeff's work is based on screenshots from TV broadcasts, in different stadiums with different camera configurations. For example, here are (from his site), the three shots of Pineiro delivering a curveball from the three games Jeff analyzed:
(Click on the images for bigger ones)
If we try to superimpose these images on top of one another, we can see clearly (from the colored lines I've added to Jeff's release-point box) that in each game, the cameras are positioned and/or aimed differently):

The Magenta area is where Pineiro's back foot appears (having just pushed off the rubber), and is the reference point I used for aligning the three images. Pineiro's body is positioned very similarly in all pictuers (the slight differences in outlines could even be only because of slight differences in the timing of the screen shot). But, as the horizontal line indicates, home plate appears in a much different place for each picture.

Because of these discrepancies in camera angles, the release-point box appears in different places in each picture. That makes comparing game-to-game very difficult, if not impossible. That doesn't make Jeff's analysis less interesting or useful. I'm just showing why taking Jeff's already-difficult work further is problematic.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Vote early, vote often

Please, do your part to give Dave Neihaus his due. Nominate him as a finalist for the Baseball Hall of Fame Ford Frick Award.

The Post-season, in hindsight (Abridged)

The second annual curse-breaking award goes to the Chicago White Sox, who really did do a horrible thing when they threw the 1919 World Series, unlike the Red Sox "curse," which was really invented in the 1980s, and has little basis in fact.

The Pale Hose' history is much clearer and darker ("Say it ain't so, Joe!"), and I'm glad that franchise can be known for something other than the 1919 scandal, at least for the time being. Not being from Chicago, too, I don't really understand why the Cubs are so much more beloved than the Sox, and I'm happy to see the underdog in the city take home the big prize.

Even though the final series was a sweep, it was a great post-season: the Yankees eliminated early, the penant winners not being recent champions, Texas getting it's first world series (but not before Albert Pujols stunned them--that was an amazing moment).

Sometimes, it seems like there's nothing longer than a 4-hour baseball game in the middle of July, but that long season is what makes the post-season so exciting, every moment--you know you're really watching the best, and yet the game could turn on something as improbable as homer by the AL pitcher playing in the NL park.

The number of teams never to make it to the World Series just got reduced by one...we're due for a shot one of these years, it's a brand new season next year, and hope always springs eternal. On to the hot stove league...

Friday, September 30, 2005

Worst Mariner Free-Agent Signings Ever?

From Bob Finigan in the Times:

By late August, Bloomquist was also injured and Spiezio was dumped to the relief of all, ending a free-agent signing that wiped out Greg Hibbard and Milt Wilcox as the worst in club history — unless one counts (or even remembers) [Pokey] Reese.

Really? Scott Spiezio is the worst Mariner free agent of all time? My first thought was that if that's true, the M's haven't done too badly avoiding terrible free agent signings. So I did some reasearch (the operative word being "some").

Most of the really bad contracts we remember were indeed trades: Jeff Cirillo, Al Martin, and Kevin Mitchell all come to mind. But what are the worst free-agent contracts, bad from from start to finish, in Mariner history?

Here are some candidates:
PlayerContract ValueYear(s) Comments
Milt Wilcox$150,000198610 games started, 0-8, 56 IP, 5.50 ERA
Greg Hibbard$8.3M1994-1997In '94, was 1-5 in 14 starts with a 6.69 ERA; was injured and never played again after that.
Pete O'Brien$7.6M1990-1993In four years (all as a starter), O'Brien managed a .237/.304/.366 line in a position (1B and DH) where most teams get their hitting and power
Scott Spiezio$9M2004-2006Sandfrog's leading man averaged .198/.283/.340 as a corner infielder over 414 ABs before being released this year.
Mike Felder$850,0001993Suggested by Peter White's inclusion of Felder in the worst Mariner seasons ever, Felder hit .211/.262/.269 in 342 ABs.

So how do we pick the worst? If I had calculated Win Shares, Hibbard's has undoubtedly got to be the worst dollar-per-win-share there, since he played so little. However, and argument could be made that its worse to both pay AND play a bad player, because it makes your team worse and costs you a lot of money. Pete O'Brien's scores high in this regard.

So I don't have a diffinitive answer, but I think a few things are clear:
1) The M's don't have any Mike Hamptons or Derek Bells on their rap sheet. Their conservative approach to contracts--well, that and their history miserly owners--has help them avoid castastrophically bad contracts.
2) Milt Wilcox, while certainly bad, can't come close to qualifying as a "worst free agent in M's history, even if the average MLB salary in 1986 was $411K. (in 2002, it was $2.4M).
3) Scott Spiezio does belong on this list, though $9M dollars today isn't as bad as O'Brien's $7.6M in the early 90s.

Am I forgetting anyone? Are there more factors we should consider? This is one I'd really appreciate some feedback on.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

In the bleak late-summer...

...we remember. Dave Cameron got all nostalgic over at USS Mariner, and it was fun to reminisce with others about the days of yore. Even 1986, when the M's were terrible, but when I began to really root for them.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What happened to Joel Pineiro?

Two years ago, Joel Pineiro was going to be the linchpin of our future rotation, backed up by a plethora of young arms nearing the majors. Those young arms haven't worked out so well for mostly medical reasons. Besides, young pitchers are risky commodities, being so prone to injury. But Pineiro was a good bet. What happened?

Why have we gone from extolling his virtures to calling for his outright release? He's been a lousy pitcher this year, mostly because of he's lost the ability to strike batters out. Look at this:

2000 5.59 19.1  4.7 6.1  .333  .481
2001 2.03 75.1  6.7 2.5  .235  .263
2002 3.24 194.1 6.3 2.5  .285  .411
2003 3.78 212.2 6.4 3.2  .276  .359
2004 4.67 141.2 7.1 2.7  .299  .442
2005 5.56 139.1 4.8 2.8  .319  .468
We can see that, in 01 and 03, he did a better job (if we're going to give him credit for it) keeping hitters from making solid contact. Batting Average on Balls In Play and Slugging Allowed were both down those years. He walked more batters in 03, but took care of that in '04. This year, however, the big change is in his inability to strike batters out. Coupled with a much higher BABIP, it has spelled disaster.

The best theory I've heard to explain this is that Pineiro's health isn't at 100%, and he doesn't quite have the velocity he once did. Batters put the ball in play when they use to miss entirely, and are making solid contact when they didn't before, because they have a little bit longer to adjust. Or, a lingering injury is compromising his control.

Either way, the cause would be an injury--which is far different from saying that he simply lost the ability to pitch. If Joel is injured, then that problem needs to be diagnosed first, before we give up on him. We need to know if this is an injury that will keep him from being good again (see "labrum, torn"), or one that, once healed, will not prevent him from returing to form. Calling for Pineiro's release now is absurdly premature.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Middle Infielders, Musical Chairs

Tonights lineup includes:

3B - Bloomquist
LF - Ibanez
DH - Beltre
SS - Morse2B - Betancourt

If you patrol any of the comments over at USSMariner, you'll see that a lot of folks wonder what the point of sacrificing your infield defense when Hernandez--an extreme groundball pitcher--is on the mound. Beltre and Betancourt are clearly the superior defenders for the left side of the infield. Furthermore, they muse, why isn't Jose Lopez, he of the .911 OPS at AAA, up to play second anyway? It would be as simple as releasing Speizio, who's not doing anything for anybody right now.

It's fashionable to pile on the M's these days, and it's easy to take pot-shots at the management and roster construction with the team playing so poorly. But there are legitimate explanations for tonight's lineup:

Hernandez, of all M's pitchers, relies on his defense the least. If you're going to give Beltre a break, get Morse some at-bats, let Ibanez remember what a glove feels like, this is the night to do it. As David Cameron pointed out on tonight's game thread at USSMariner, Morse has never played anything except shortstop, and Betancourt will still be very effective at second.

And there are legitmate reasons for the current roster:

Lopez played very poorly in his audition in the majors this year. He didn't get a long look, but what opportunites he got, he squandered, managing a microscopic .545 OPS in 24 games (80 plate appearances). Lopez clearly is the future at second, so the M's should be thinking about his developmental first and foremost. That likely means getting him regular plate appearances and not messing with his psyche nor ruining his confidence. Tacoma is the best place for this.

Even if regular major league at-bats were desirable for Lopez, he'd have to displace Betancourt or Bloomquist, neither of which are going to appeal to the Mariners. Bloomquist, for all the moaning at USSM, is having a fine second half (coincidentally hitting a triple in tonight's game), and is a fan favorite. He'll be on the roster next year, and he provides some measure of offense, so he does help keep a few more fans trickling in. Replacing Betancourt compromises your defense by requiring either Bloomquist or Morse to man short, and either pushes Betancourt to the bench or back to Tacoma. Exchanging one future regular infielder for the other isn't much use. Finally, replacing Speizio means somebody has to go to the bench.

Tonight's lineup is unusual, for sure, but it's hardly evidence that the M's don't know what they're doing. I look forward to see Lopez next year, but nobody needs him to displace one of the current regulars only to struggle at the plate.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Recent Games

Day1: Snelling ignites a comeback.
Day 2:Felix shows why he's the heir apparent.
Day 3:Willie Bloomquist boots it.

Top of the Ninth, with Guardado going for his 29th consecutive save, and Bloomquist throws the ball away, giving the Twins' Michael Cuddyer an extra base to add to his infield single. That extra base would prove critical, as Cuddyer's pinch runner would score on the next play, a left-field single.

Betancourt gets on base to lead off the ninth, and Chris Snelling, of all people, bunts, so that the fearsome Wiki Gonzalez can drive Betancourt in. I can understand playing for one run in this situation generally, but you don't have Snelling bunt when he's followed by Gonzalez. Really, why is Snelling down there in the order anyway? Especially when, after a groundout and an intentional walk to Ichiro, Willie Bloomquist is up to bat?

"Time for him to redeem himself," says Dave Valle. "The hottest hitter on the Mariners for the last six weeks," says Rizzs. "That can't be right," I say to the TV. Yes, I talk to the TV. You gotta problem?

Since the beginning of July, Bloomquist actually has done very well. But he hasn't been the best hitter on the M's during that time. He is tied for second in average (.314), with Sexson, over that period, trailing Ichiro (.324). Sexson blows everyone else out of the water in OBP (.407) and SLG (.645). So while Bloomquist has hit for a good average over the last six weeks, he certainly isn't the guy you want when you can't afford to make an out. No, for that you'd want Ibanez, Ichiro, or--you guessed it--Chris Snelling, all of whom have a better OBP.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Why this isn't 1995

Apparently, the Mariners still aren't convinced they have no hope of reaching the post-season. So says Larry Stone. The wonderful ride of 1995 enables us to think nothing is impossible. But we're in a much different place than in 1995. John McGrath agrees, but doesn't get into details. I will.

Today, the Mariners have 10 days till the trading deadline. They are 41-52, 14 games out of 1st place and seven games out of third place. They are ten games out from the wild card, with eight teams ahead of them in the wild card standings.
In 1995, this is what the standings looked like in the AL West on July 21st:
Team        W - L  Games Behind
California 46 - 32 -
Texas 42 - 36 4
Seattle 38 - 40 8
Oakland 39 - 42 8.5

And the Wild Card Standings on 7-21-1995:

Team W - L Games Behind

Texas 42 - 36 -
Baltimore 38 - 39 3.5
Seattle 38 - 40 4
Kansas City 36 - 39 4.5
Oakland 39 - 42 4.5
New York 36 - 40 5
Though hanging on by a thread, the Mariners were clearly not wildy irrational in 1995 to shoot for a strong finish and a possible first post-season berth in franchise history. (They acquired Norm Charlton on June 14th, and traded for Andy Benes on July 31st.) Though their run to the division title was improbable--it required both a Mariner surge and an Angel collapse--the Wild Card was still within reach.
Moreover, in this strike-shortened season, the season up to this point did not carry the same significance. That is, the 93 games the Mariners have played this year are a greater body of evidence to their true ability than the 78 games played on this date in 1995. The Mariners have had 15 more games this year to show how bad they are.

In addition, the 1995 M's had individual reasons for optimism: an ace starter, who would go on to lead the league in ERA and W-L percentage (Johnson), a designated hitter who would go on to lead the league in batting average, OBP, and doubles (Martinez), and a perennial all-star scheduled to return from injury (Griffey). Power and timely hitting came from Jay Buhner and Tino Martinez, who, along with Edgar, were 3rd, 4th, and 5th in RBIs.

The M's don't have the players they did in 1995, particularly anyone that comes close to what Johnson did. But more importantly, they are nearly twice as many games from a post-season berth this year--in either the divisional or wild-card race. In the wild card race, they are looking up at six more teams than in 1995.

Making the post-season this year would be even more improbable than in 1995. The next chance the M's have of making the post season starts in the spring of 2006, and they need to act accordingly.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Baserunning mistakes

Two important ones tonight:

Morse, trying to stretch a double, loafs out of the box to first, and only turns it on when he sees how deep the ball went into the gap. Then he slides into third on the outfield side of the bag, making the tag easy for Baltimore's third baseman.

Second, Ichiro fails to tag up on a deep, deep fly ball to right center with one out in the bottom of the eighth. A passed ball, an infield hit, or a sharp liner to center gives the M's a lead if Ichiro goes to third. As I type that, we'll see if Sexson can still drive him in. But he should have tagged.

Update: Well, we won anyway. Thanks to a huge Baltimore error, in part, but Morse did his job driving in Beltre.

Making the second half useful.

It's time to stop drifting. The M's season is ending after game 162, and they need to think and act strategically for next season, now.

That means finding a coherent strategy for catching next year. Borders ain't it, and if it's going to be Olivo, then the M's need to develop and execute a coherent plan, not continue the current situation, which makes no sense.

They've made the right call with playing Lopez everyday (though how DFA'ing Boone did anything but completely undermine any trading leverage they had is beyond me). It's time to do the same with Chris Snelling. The M's have 3 viable young outfielders next year to go with Ichiro (add Ibanez if you want): Reed, Snelling, and Choo. Winn is expendable, and should garner something decent in a trade. And there is absolutely NO excuse for using Spiezio as a pinch hitter over Snelling, if the young Australian isn't already in the game.

Pitching? Most are expendable in trades, though I'd be loathe to trade Pineiro now, when his trade value is low. He should slip nicely behind Felix next year. Let's give Jorge Campillo a chance to show if he can be at least as effective as Meche (without the arb-eligible salary), who is trade fodder. Nelson and Hasegawa don't have a future with the M's. Bring up George Sherrill and get him the innings in the Show.

Obviously, it's easy for armchair GMs to say "Trade Player X!" when we're not the ones on the phones trying to get value for value. But the current treatment of Snelling and Olivo suggests the M's are still drifting aimlessly, not acting purposefully.

The one objection I can imagine being raised is something along the lines of "what message does it send to the fans to give up on this season?" That's a lazy cop-out. If the concern is with P.R., the answer is to do what good politicians do: stay on message. For example:

What does is say to your fans to trading Player X?
"It says we are committed to turning this franchise into a winning one, consistently. We have some great outfielders that can step in, and are using this trade to improve our pitching."
Will you miss veteran leadership of Player Y?
"Our chief concern is giving experience to the players we believe will make us a winning team for years to come."
What do you say to fans who don't want to go through a rebuilding phase?
"Fans know this team needs to improve. We took some important steps last year, but we are not going to pretend that was enough; we're going to improve this team further, and do it now, so fans won't have to endure a long rebuilding phase. Beyond that, these new young players are exciting to watch."

All this requires strong leadership that has the vision, courage, and determination to improve the team and articulate that vision without apology.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Protecting our homeland

I can rest easier at night knowing that our homeland is safe from the terror of cheap knock-offs. In a post-9-11 world, we can take no chances.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Blogosphere Evolution

It continues. See the sidebar for newer blogs and a new section for old blogs that look about as active as the M's pitching. I've also removed some who, sadly, have not found the time or energy to continue.

I think there's a little bit of fairweather fan in most of us, who have a lot to say when the team is good, and have a much harder time when all we've got to look forward to is half of an inevitably bad season. Nonetheless, its pretty easy to find something interesting about the Mariners every day on one of the many blogs out there, something I very much appreciate.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Notes from July 5th

So I said hi to Ichiro yesterday.

I was in a local Starbucks, and see a guy in line who, I think to myself, looks vaguely like Ichiro. Wait a minute...the Mariners are in town...that IS Ichiro!

So, I went up to him--he was with someone I assumed was with the team (maybe a translator or travel secretary?)--and told he had a good game yesterday, that I was a big fan from Seattle. He said thanks, and got his latte. I know that sounds lame now, but you don't just run into international superstar baseball players from Seattle every day, especially not in Kansas City.

I went to the game again last night. Beltre's home run was a good start, but things went downhill from there. I can report firsthand that what everyone says about Gil Meche is true: great stuff, inconsistent command. His curve was knee-buckling when it was on, but he couldn't throw it for strikes consistently (leaving him behind in the count) and his fastball was up and over the middle (leaving the ball right in KC's hitters wheelhouses). It was a bad combination that the M's couldn't recover from.

Randy Winn looks lost at the plate, even though he did end up with two hits, including a double. He's swinging at bad pitches and looking at good ones. Richie Sexson doesn't look much better, though he also had a similar night. Everybody's going to get some hits in a game where your team swats 14 of them, unless, of course, your name is Pat Borders.

I was really excited to see Snelling up to pinch-hit for Borders in the 8th. Then Buddy Bell made a pitching change, and Snelling got immediately replaced by Scott Spiezio, never taking a pitch. Maybe next time, Chris.

One great thing about baseball is that anything, no matter how unlikely, can happen. I grumbled at the game's start that Hargrove, for some stupid reason, is trying to keep Willie Bloomquist in the starting lineup at all costs. "He can't hit," I said. Well, Willie went 3-3 with a double and a walk. He still may be a 25th-man quality player over the long haul, but he did his part yesterday.

In fact, the difference in this game was mostly in the timing of each team's hitting. The M's finished with more total bases + walks, but KC made the most of their baserunners. They scored four runs in the second with two outs--both strikeouts, no less--with the bottom of the order. If J.J. Putz gets his groundball out first when he enters in the 6th, the run doesn't score (Putz gave up two consecutive flyballs that allowed Shane Costa to move from second to third, then score).

Oh, and I caught a Randy Winn foul ball in the eighth.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Independence Day Game Notes

I went to the game today, though with nosebleed seats (I was with friends and didn't bother to move down to good seats, which is always possible at Kauffman), I don't know how much more I'll be able to tell than someone who saw the game on TV.

Ibanez' homerun was a line drive that just kept going--the collective groan by Royals fans happened not on contact, but only after it just cleared the fence. Mike Morse took a walk, on a 3-1 count, no less. Nice to see Ichiro getting legit hits, as he went 3-for-5. This is the way an offense is supposed to work. Now if only every other team was as hapless as the Royals...

Beltre had some great plays on D, including an over-the-shoulder catch on a pop foul. Willie Bloomquist seems to have a pretty decent arm, actually, for a centerfielder, though he did slighly misjudge what became a Dejesus double--if he hadn't started in first, he could have caught the ball. To be fair, it was hit right at him, which is hard to judge. Franklin worked quickly and did his job, though he never looked dominating. I was surprised when my friend pointed out at the top of the fifth that he hadn't allowed a hit.

Much of this win goes to an absolutely pathetic Royals offense, and a lot of the rest of the credit goes to pathetic Royal pitching. You think the M's are strugling? Mercy. From local post-game radio: new Royals manager Buddy Bell's prescription for the slumping offense is to "be more agressive" because that will "improve their plate discipline." "Maybe that sounds bass-ackwards," he said, but he stuck to that theory. Seriously. Hey, if I had to pick between Bell and Bob Melvin, I'd have made the same choice the M's did.

The fireworks afterwords were great, and we could see smaller stuff going on beyond the outfield all game long. It was not a particularly exciting game, mind you, but the K is a beautiful stadium, the weather was great, and the M's won.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Potential Trading Partners

No, I am not dead. I have not quit being a Mariners fan. I have not given up blogging. I was in Europe for two weeks, my lovely wife and I are going to be moving into our first home in a month, and the Mariners haven't had enough going on that either excites me or frustrates me enough to forsake other things to write about. Okay, done with excuses.

Briefly: I'm going to try to identify potential trading partners with the Mariners, based on needs of each team. The Twins aren't looking for a young catcher. The Rangers aren't looking for a second baseman. The White Sox aren't looking for anyone. Nor are the Devil Rays, but for a very different reason.

Who do the Mariners have to give, realistically? Boone, obviously, with rumors already swirling about him going to San Diego. Surprisingly, Moyer has also been mentioned--I think that's a very shrewd move, but not likely to go over well with the sentimental part of the fan base. Winn's an obvious choice, too. We have Ichiro and three other young outfielders (Reed being the most advanced), so the Mariners could dangle one of those, too. Below, I've identified potential trading partners grouped by tradee.

Bret Boone
San Diego: As the rumor reports have said, Boone could be seen as an upgrade to Damian Jackson. The Padres lead only the Nationals and Astros in slugging in the NL, and have the worst composite SLG for their 2nd basemen in the majors.

Randy Winn
Atlanta: 2.5 games back of the Nats and leading in the Wild Card, the Braves are 7th in the NL in OPS, and could use a serious upgrade to their outfield; Andruw Jones is the only real offensive threat.

Florida: If they ever realize Juan Pierre can't steal first base, Winn could provide some offense in center, leaving Pierre to pinch-run and play defense, which are his strengths.

Yankees: If you're putting Tony Womack in left field, you need some help. Hey, if you're the Yankees, you always need one more player. Last I heard, however, GM Brian Cashman has little to offer in the way of prospects anymore.

Jamie Moyer
Baltimore: Eric Bedard is out for a month, and the O's can't afford to lose ground in a division with the Yankess and Red Sox. Plus, the back end of the rotation is underwhelming, even when Bedard returns.

Philadelphia: Randy Wolf is out with injuries, and the Phils might be feeling the heat to make a move after several years of underachieving. There only barely still in the running, 5.5 back of the Nats but in fourth place.

L.A. (Dodgers, of course; I refuse to say the Angels are from L.A.): Not a great candidate, but Odalis Perez is recovering from injury and Jeff Weaver wishes it was three years ago in Detroit, when he was good.

Well, there are a few of the possibilities. San Diego is really the only contending team for which Boone would be an upgrade at second. Both Winn and Moyer are the sort of player that teams want to add for a penant run--not too pricey, little to no long-term commitment, experience. The only problem is that some of the divisional titles are quickly becoming unrealistic goals for a lot of teams.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Laying Henry Chadwick to rest...The Seattle Times

Henry Chadwick developed the box score. Chadwick thought the batter should get no credit for a walk--which is why at-bats do not count walks, and why batting average is consequently scoffed on by mathematically literate baseball fans. Allan Roth, a statistician hired by Branch Rickey (he who developed the concept of a farm system and who signed Jackie Robinson), demonstrated in the 1960s that on-base percentage and slugging percentage were far superior measures of offensive production, and yet we still see Avg., RBI, and HR totals in most mainstream newsmedia today.

The Seattle Times is changing that. Jeff Angus, a member of the Northwest chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research who has recently begun writing a sabermetric column for the Times, reports that the Times will be featuring more sabermetric-friendly stats in print every Tuesday.

Angus also tells the NW SABR list-serve that:
    I think this is the first time a daily newspaper has run a full
    Sabermetric surrogate for the Leaders Tables. If it runs weekly as
    planned, I'm pretty confident it will be a first.
This is indeed an important step in bringing newer stats into a broader cultural awareness. Granted, we won't likely be hearing Rick Rizzs talk about Willie Bloomquist's OPS any time soon, but this is another important step in the right direction. Let's appreciate all that Chadwick did for Baseball, and then lay his antiquated statistics to rest.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

So much for numbers

From last night's broadcast:

    [Neihaus had speculated that lefty Villone would be removed before facing righty A-rod. Matsui, whom Villione had been brought in to face, had just singled. Hargrove stayed put, and Villone would face Rodriguez after all.]

    Fairly: Rodriguez is 0 for 7 against Villone.

    Neihaus: So was Matsui.

    Fairly: Well, so much for numbers.
Of course, this is a silly argument, because the problem isn't numbers in general, it's the sample size. Sort of like adopting total philosophical relativism as a reaction against total determinism.

Actually, the overal numbers of this game suggest the M's got the large end of the wishbone for this game--which is fine, because somebody's got to get lucky. But NY had 11 hits to Seattle's 10, 6 walks to our 1, 15 total bases to our 14. So much for numbers. The breaks went our way, the Yankee errors and our hits happen at just the right time, and we avoid the sweep.

Still, is this game any indication the M's can turn it around, at least a little? As I see, there are too many pieces missing right now, and I'm not talking about Everyotherday Guardado. Madritsch out till September, Pineiro down in Tacoma fixing his mechanics, Beltre day to day with a hamstring, Pokey Reese DOA, and our entire bench might as well be a missing piece, with the possible exception of Dave Hansen, if he still has anything left.

Still, a great game last night.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Two Salamis in a week...allowed

Ouch, J.J.

Of course, hindsight being 20-20, we can all second guess Hargrove for pulling lefty George Sherrill after facing (and retiring) only one batter, since the next batter, Bernie Williams, is a switch hitter with nearly identical splits over the last three years. Not that there are many better options in the pen.

Yes, I am still alive, and waiting for Beltre and Olivo to start hitting the way we know they can.

This team still has a lot of problems, though--mostly pitching. As Larry Stone says, however, the M's have few options at this point.

Hey, we took two of three from Boston this time around, so at least it's not like the home team here in KC, where you're nearly guaranteed a loss every time they take the field. You think the M's are bad? The Royals are pathetic. As if that's much comfort.

We got a long season ahead of us, and I hope by the end of it, we'll see most of the reasons for optimism come to fruition.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Off-topic plug

A welcome to my younger brother Phil into the wide world of blogging. Having nothing to do with the Mariners at all, he thinks seriously about things worth thinking seriously about. If that sounds interesting, drop by Ubi Caritas.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Ichiro or 0-fer

Tough loss today, with Ichiro and Boone being the only ones to get on base. Franklin pitched a pretty darn good game, giving up two homers, but both of them solo shots.

One does wonder why, with Sexson out with the flu, Hargrove chose to play Bloomquist and Wilson instead of Reed and Olivo. Both Reed and Olivo have gotten off to a slow start, but clearly have more potential offensively than Bloomquist or Wilson.

I understand the desire to give regular players some rest, but this is the beginning of the season, when they are fresh, and Sexson was already out of the lineup. Better to rest Reed when Sexson is in the lineup, so that we don't draw a complete zero on offense.

With Wilson playing today, he's played in 6 games to Olivo's 7 (so they've obviously split some games). That's too even of a split, in my opinion, even though it is early. Let Olivo sink or swim at starting catcher, but give him the opportunity.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Deja Vu all over again

Bobby Madritsch, the same who led the AL in Pitcher Abuse Points per game last year, has been placed on the DL, and is still awaiting a diagnosis from an MRI. As we well know from Mariner pitchers past, the more vague the diagnosis, the more we should be worried.

Called up to take Madritsch's spot on the roster is Justin Leone, who presumably comes in 5th on the depth chart at third base, behind Beltre, Speizio, Bloomquist and Dobbs. Meanwhile, we have Bloomquist es sentially serving as our fourth outfielder (since Ibanez is DH'ing most of the time, and thus can't be put in the field without forfeiting the DH altogether for the game). Willie made a nice play last night, but why we need four backup third basemen when we have no true backup outfielders is a little baffling.

I'm glad Leone is back up in the majors, but it should be to replace Dobbs, not Madritsch. If Dobbs is untouchable, wouldn't OF Jamal Strong or pitcher George Sherrill be more usable additions to the big league roster? Can Leone play short? I doubt it, but if he could, his bat would be an upgrade over Alvarez, and he wouldn't be such a longshot to make an impact.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Haven't we been down this road?

Pop quiz: It's four-to-two in the 5th (and you're down), your team is facing last year's Cy Young winner, and you've had one hit since the first inning. Your starter is getting lit up now, and there are runners on first and second with one out. Who do you bring in?

Mike Hargrove's answer: The one pitcher in my bullpen who is worse than most guys on my AAA ballclub.

Question #2: Said pitcher (It's Thornton, if you don't know) comes in. How long of a leash does he have until you yank him?

Grover's answer: After he gives up four consecutive hits, if the last one's a homerun.

In the title of Larry Dierker's book, This Ain't Brain Surgery. Apparently it might as well be for some managers.

Some caveats: Thorton is a lefty, and the next two batters up for the Twins were lefties. This is just the second game of the year, Hargrove's a new manager who might learn quickly which pitchers to count on, and our bullpen doesn't give him a lot good options.

That being said, in that situation, you don't need a lot of good options, you just need one to get you out of the inning without any more damage. And the last thing you should be doing is bringing in a pitcher who belongs in the minors.

Let's hope Hargrove is less idiotic than Melvin was with his bullpen--in other words, that tonight was an aberation, or a lesson quickly and permanently learned.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Two Welcomes

First, a welcome to my brother, Will, who has let me post his occasional emails on this blog, which I will be doing under his name. (See below).

Second, welcome to Seattle, Richie Sexson! After two plate appearances, Sexson has a 4.000 Slugging percentage. While I expect this to decline a bit, he's off to a good start.

Season Forecasts

The national media (Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, Street & Smith,, CBS Sportsline, etc) consensus for the American League West seems to be that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are the favorite. There is no consensus on the order of the other three. The betting market projects Los Angeles at a 63% chance to win the West, Oakland at 17%, Seattle 13% and Texas 11%.

Baseball Prospectus, with a bit more mathematical approach than the national publications, says Oakland is the team to beat.

  Team          W  L  PCT   RF   RA
Oakland 88 74 .544 834 760
Los Angeles 83 79 .515 787 763
Texas 79 83 .490 868 885
Seattle 77 85 .477 754 791
Diamond Mind, simulating the season 100 times, gives Oakland the slight edge but says that every team has at least a 15% chance of winning the division.
  Team          W  L  Pct   RF   RA  #DIV   #WC
Oakland 85 77 .525 873 817 31.0 1.0
Los Angeles 84 78 .519 803 775 29.0 2.5
Seattle 83 79 .512 795 778 25.0 2.0
Texas 80 82 .494 852 875 15.0 1.5
Overall, this is a very positive story for the Mariners. Remember, this is a team that last year scored 698 runs, gave up 823, and won only 63 games. Six weeks ago I argued that just getting back to .500 was as good as the Mariners could hope for. These projections suggest that .500 is a likely midpoint, not the high end.

In the first twenty-seven seasons since the Mariners started play (from 1977-2003) 24 teams finished with 62, 63 or 64 wins, comparable to the 63-99 Mariners of 2004. The good news is that 21 of those 24 teams improved the next year. The bad news is that only five finished above .500. The best records of those 24 teams were the 1986 Texas Rangers and the 2004 San Diego Padres, who won 87 games.

How many games do the 2005 Mariners need to win to consider it a successful season? That's not quite the same question as how many games do you THINK they will win. For the first two decades of Mariner existence, 81 wins would have been success. For most years in the past decade 90 or so was probably the benchmark of success. This year they are coming off a 63 win
season. Another similar question: how much improvement needs to happen for Bill Bavasi to keep his job?

But the most important question: this year in the World Series? Probably not.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Getting this party started, Yo.

The cactus league has ended, and so we can get on to real baseball. Not that Spring Training isn't fun, but everyone knows it doesn't count for anything, which results in pitchers experimenting with new pitches, batters trying new stances and approaches, and not so much concern about the outcome. Let's say Ryan Franklin decides he's going to take one inning just working on locating his fastball, and Bret Boone decides that he's going to look for opportunities to hit to the opposite field. Neither player is trying to win, but they are still putting ST games to good use.

Dave Neihaus himself talks about how meaningless ST games are to the regular season in his latest appearance on Radio. (He also talks about, among other things, his first impressions of Ichiro, the pitching staff, and the party line about how Richie Sexson's physical put him under the most intense scrutiny EVER). Neihaus says his idea of a successful season would put them at 82-83 wins, right where Diamond Mind puts them.

One more thing Neihaus talks about is how the front office realized they had to go out and spend money to show the fan base that they were serious about turning the team around after last year's 99-loss season. While I'm glad they opened their wallets, and I agree that doing so was necessary, I am concerned if the primary motivation was pacifying a restless fan base, and not first to improvethe team. I think the biggest lesson Billy Beane's example should teach every front office is this: never stop trying to improve your team, even when it means ignoring popular fan sentiment. The result has been a consistent contender and a fan base that believes he's doing the right thing, even if popular players leave (see Giambi, Jason; Tejada, Miguel; Mulder, Mark; Hudson, Tim). We need a front office that is going to try to improve the team before it falls apart and fans get angry.

All that being said, I'm excited for the season, to see how Reed and Madritsch perform in a full season, how Beltre and Sexson perform in new uniforms and stadiums (since both come from the NL, of course), if Franklin can return to bullpen excellence, if Meche can put it all together, to witness Jamie's last hurrah. Hope springs eternal, penned Thayer. Play ball!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Pocket Lint far from a local phenomenon

"Pocket Lint" refers here to the USSMariner's not-so-friendly nicknaming of Bob Finnigan, bestowed upon the Times reporter for his habit of reporting as fact just about everything he hears from the M's front office. (Regular readers may remember an extended email conversation with Finnigan over at the Mariner Morsels blog that showed Finnigan's not really a bad guy.)

But Finnigan is by no means unique in his sympathetic renderings of front-office talk. Forwarded to me by my dad from the Northwest SABR email list, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does its own version of parroting the front office. Latest Spending Spree Shows Lack of Restraint, declares Robert Dvorchak's article.

In summary: Pittsburgh just doesn't have the money to compete, nor do other small market teams. There is a brief nod to the Pirates' own "lack of restraint," under former GM Cam Bonifay, but most of the article is devoted to criticizing the runaway spending. We hear this all the time--and I mean all the time--in Kansas City. The reality is that complaining about the system is an easier pill to swallow than facing the fact that your team continues to make poor decisions and doesn't match payroll increases to revenue-sharing-based income. That said, the revenue-sharing system is not designed to encourage competetive balance, but is designed solely to depress salaries league-wide. There are better ways (look at DMZ's) to structure it if the goal were competetive and financial parity, but it isn't.

I can understand Pittsburgh's frustration to a degree, but there are problems with this argument:
1) Baseball's finances are so opaque--deliberately so--that an accurate evaluation of how much money teams really are making, spending, and pocketing is virtually impossible. Even a transparent accounting would be far too complex for most fans, including myself to really understand.

2)If everybody's making too much money, well, then maybe nobody's making too much money. Scott Boras has been quoted claiming that the owners have been crying poor but actually have had a lot of money to spend, and this season lends credence to that claim. Lookout Landing posted an analysis of this year's free agent market, and it wasn't just a few teams that spent what looked like a lot money. In other words, what a player "should" be paid depends on how much money the market has to throw at him. If teams are making more money, why shouldn't they spend it?

3) There are successful small market teams, and lousy large-market teams.

Oh, and Dvorchak could at least go as far as getting Kansas City owner David Glass' name right (it's not David Green, as he reports).

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Getting his shot in the big leagues

Formerly confined to back-up roles in Seattle, free agent Rich Waltz will now be starting with the Florida Marlins. Though he routinely displayed the talent and consistency necessary for a starting role, Seattle seemed more comfortable sticking with their veteran team.

I'm talking about broadcasting, of course, where Waltz now will be the Marlins' main television commentator. Waltz was an outstanding commentator who's only downside may have been that he rarely looked very excited on television. But when you're next to Rick Rizzs, nobody looks excited by comparision. But Waltz was intelligent and articulate; he explained things clearly without throwing around cliches like they were going out of style [cough*Fairly*cough]. I wish him the best.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Another reason to avoid used to be my first stop for baseball news. Rob Neyer was always good food for thought, Peter Gammons and Tim Kurkjian seemed reasonably informed about the inside scoops, and we occasionally were treated to reflectios by Jim Caple or Alan Schwartz. And John Sickels always had great columns about minor leaguers. David Pinto from Baseball Tonight used to do open chats, at least during the playoffs.

Well, Neyer is behind the "Insider" barrier now, Caple and Schwartz appearances are more and more rare, Sickels just ran his last column, and Buster Olney is getting featured a lot. Beyond that, the stats on players don't feature hit charts anymore, the site is agonizingly slow (from all the ads and pop-ups, most likely), and--getting now to the reason for this post--there are a lot of better resources out there now.

Take a look, for example, and player profiles over at M's vs. A's, a blog by three fans with opposing loyalties. (Click on Mariners under the "Information" heading on the sidebar.) Because they are authored by someone who really knows the M's players, they're more specific and more helpful to understanding current players. This will be especially helpful for those of you who, when you hear Niehaus call a player by name, think "Who's he? Is he a Mariner?"

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Combining forces in the 'sphere

The last offseason provided impetus for an explosion of Mariners related blogs, many with battle cries as their name: Leone for Third, Fire Bavasi, Bavasi Stinks, Sodo Ohno, etc. Time, despair, and changing blogger circumstances have cause some to close, some to rename and some to combine. The latest developments include four (now two) of the best Mariner blogs:

The USS Mariner, which is where you should start when it comes to anything Mariner-related, has just brought Peter and Jeff from Mariner Musings on board (pun intended), making the USSM even that much better.

Leone for Third, having realized that a Mr. Beltre probably has that slot locked up, has changed its name and web address to Lookout Landing. They too, recruited an excellent blogger recently, Steve from the now abandoned Mariner's Wheelhouse. And they post some great stuff consistently.

If you're new to the so-called blogosphere, take a look around, and see how silly most of your local newspaper columnists sound compared to what others have up on the internet, Larry Stone and David Andriessen excepted. Yes, Blaine Newnham, Steve Kelley and Jim Moore, this especially means you.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The new lineup in Safeco field

My older brother, who really should be co-authoring this blog (hint, hint, bro!), gave me the 2005 Bill James Handbook. Some of the information therein is duplicated online, but there's a fair amount of unique stuff, too, and on top of that, it's a handy reference that's all in one place. One of the nifty sections is a detailed listing of various park factors--measuring how much a particular ballpark affects offense.

Our lineup will feature several new faces, the most significant of which are Sexson and Beltre, but also include Jeremy Reed and, hopefully to some degree, Bucky Jacobsen. Is this offense built for Safeco Field?

First, the Handbook confirms the general belief that Safeco reduces run scoring across the board, but it is very favorable to left-handed power hitters. Specifically, from 2002-2004, Safeco was the worst hitters park, depressing run scoring by 12%. However, left-handed power hitters hit 13% more home runs in Safeco than in a league-average park (3rd place) while right-handers had a very hard time hitting home runs at Safeco, doing so at 86% of the league average clip (forth from the bottom). There is very little difference between the batting averages of right- and left-handed hitters at Safeco, so the disparity--lefthanders hit over 25% more home runs than righties--is really only signicant when it comes to home runs. It appears, though there is no more specific data in the Handbook, that those would-be right-handed HRs are mostly falling for hits, but staying inside the park.

At first glance, this is only good news for Reed, and bad news for Sexson and Beltre. Looking more closely at where Sexson hits his home runs (by looking at his hit chart), he consistly hits for power to all fields, with a slight tendency to pull the ball more. Beltre's hit chart shows that 2004 was the first season he hit consistenly to all fields. Like Bret Boone, his success as a power hitter will largely depend on whether he can keep from trying to pull everything.

Safeco field does, for whatever reason, tend to increase walks, which is better news for Sexson than Beltre. Sexson has had an OBP 90-100 points higher than his batting average over the last several years (including last year's down year), while Beltre's OBP is only 50 points higher.

While it's hard to speculate how park factors will affect individual hitters, we should at least give context for each player as best we can. Beltre's old park, Dodger Stadium, also plays as a pitchers' park, albeit less severely. However, the left/right power disparity is reversed in L.A.: right-handed hitters hit home runs at 110% of the league average, while lefties did so at 98% of the average. Both the BOB in Arizona and Miller Park in Milwaukee are hitters park, neither favoring a particular side of the plate.

To sum it up: Any hitter is going to face a bit of an uphill battle at Safeco field, particuarly right-handed power hitters like Sexson. He should be able to maintain his high OBP, however. As for Betlre, there are even more reasons why his power could suffer at Safeco Field.

So what does the Handbook project?
Beltre: .287/.343/.523
Reed: .307/.378/.466
Sexson: .272/.354/.540

Compare that to the top three full-time Mariners (below Ichiro) last year:
Ibanez: .304/.353/.472
Winn: .286/.346/.427
Boone: .251/.317/.423

Friday, January 07, 2005

What's to say?

Being on vacation is a nice thing, but it does mean I have little to say about the Adrian Beltre signings and every other newsworthy baseball event that hasn't already been said. I'm happy about it, and it does make the Sexson signing a little less worrisome. There was speculation that we had to overpay for Sexson to overcome a bad rep as a team to sign with, and now we've got confirmation, according to Tom's summary of a KJR interview with Bill Bavasi. Sexson is still a huge injury risk, in my view, but risk means uncertainty, which means he could turn out some great seasons, too.

I know Dave's happy about the Pokey Reese signing, since he's been beating that drum for awhile, and I don't disagree, but for me to be really confident about having a chance this year, the M's still need to trade Randy Winn for a pitcher, or have the Magic Baseball Fairy turn in him into one. (Bavasi, in his KJR interview, says he realizes this, but he also says that no trades are on the horizon).

A year or two ago, we thought pitching wasn't going to be a problem with this team in the coming years, what with talented pitching prospects coming out our ears. Raphael Soriano was just the head of the class. But now Soriano's out injured (What? A young M's pitching prospect injured?), most of our young arms showed they have a lot of seasoning before they'll be effective at the major-league level, and we traded our best pitcher last year. It was a good trade, but we're hurting in the pitching department.

So we wait to see if anything pans out. Otherwise, we're looking at a rotation full of no. 3 or no. 4 starters. But I'm feeling good about the off-season. With a lot of money and a lot of room for improvement, the front office has made some great progress.