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!