Thursday, June 30, 2005

I picked a good week to go away

Yeesh. A sweep from the A's? I know they are playing better of late, but again, everyone gets well against the Mariners. Its also doubly frustrating to lose to the A's because this was supposed to be a down year for them too. Way back in 2001 they were right there with us as 100 game winners. Since then we have tanked while they have simply rebuilt.

On a budget well under half of ours. Amazing. The rebuilt rotation looks just fine, thank you very much. Dan Haren looked brilliant last week and was good again today. Harden is a horse and even Joe Blanton is coming around. Chavez (like Beltre) is starting to play like he's capable, while Dan Johnson and Crosby have given the offense a nice boost. The A's are just a better run organization than the Mariners plain and simple. It clearly shows in the head-to-head. We're 3-9 against the A's, 30-35 against everyone else. The A's are 9-3 against the M's, 29-37 against everyone else.

I know there are deals out there. The Cubs fleeced Jerome Williams out of the Giants for LaTroy Hawkins. The Padres want Boone. The Yankees are interested in Randy Winn. Both the Pads and the Yankees have relatively thin farm systems, but you know Billy Beane would swing a three-way that would get him some decent talent in return. If only...

White Flag and Grab Bag

What IS Mike Hargrove's obsession with using Matt Thornton in close games? Why on earth do you summon White Flag to the mound in the 7th inning of a winnable game, down but 4-2????

His proper role, if he has to be on the major league club, is as mop-up reliever. Or does Grover think that being down 4-2 to the A's in the 7th is already a loss? Ggguh!

Moreover, having coughed up the predictable 2 runs to make it 6-2 (still not a blowout, but much more difficult), why THEN bring in Grab Bag to hold the game (among other things) close in the eighth???? If you really wanted to get him some work, then why not, I don't know, use a major league-quality reliever in the 7th?

Put simply, I do not understand Mike Hargrove's bullpen usage. Rant over. Return to your lives.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Reinstate the draft

Back in 1991, Alice in Chains' Man in the Box and Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit were 1-2 on the billboard charts. The Gulf War was fought and won by coalition troops in a matter of weeks. Terminator 2 was smashing both vehicles and box office records for movie sequels. Not to be forgotten, the Seattle Mariners posted their first winning season after fourteen years of utter futility.

All was not completely for naught with respect to the M's by that point in time. With the exception of the 1982 draft (which produced Mike Moore, Mark Langston, Phil Bradley and even the semi-serviceable journeyman Lee Guetterman), most M's drafts were case studies in how not to load up for the future. Anybody recall Tito Nanni, Al Chambers, Darnell Coles, Spike Owen, Darrel Akerfelds, Mike Campbell and Patrick Lennon? All high first rounders with nary a true success amongst them. Sure, Bill Swift was a modest exception in 1984 and Matt Young, Mike Schooler, Erik Hanson and a few other lower picks made noise in the show, but for their first ten years of existence, the Mariners' draft record was truly abysmal.

The string of failures was broken in spectacular fashion in 1987 when a backwards-hat wearing progeny of a former successful major leaguer was drafted #1 overall. Ken Griffey's selection began a solid period of drafting for Seattle, who subsequently picked Tino Martinez in 1988, Bret Boone in 1990, Shawn Estes and Jim Mercir in 1991, Ron Villone in 1992, Alex Rodriguez in 1993, Jason Varitek in 1994, Jose Cruz Jr. in 1995 and Gil Meche in 1996. Not coincidentally, the Mariners' rise to perennial condender began shortly thereafter, with mainstays Griffey, Martinez and A-Rod leading the way and Varitek, Cruz and Mercir used as trade bait during playoff runs. For the many swings and misses management had during that second ten-year period, they had more than their share of extra base hits.

They say history repeats itself and that cycles occur naturally in life. If so, it seems that the Mariners' drafting success or failure runs in ten-year cycles. Sadly, we're in the middle of a downturn once again.

Starting with the flame-out that was Ryan Anderson (granted, due primarily to chronic injuries) in 1997, the team has seen little success from its recent drafts. Matt Thornton is presently on the team and could become the primary lefty stopper in the bullpen someday, but at three months shy of 29 years old, his clock is ticking loudly. Willie Bloomquist will be Spike Owens, redux, if he's lucky. The best pick in the 2001 draft seems to be Rene Rivera, which isn't saying much, especially since the 2005 draft was all about picking up a bona fide catching prospect with power. Our #1 pick in 2002 (John Mayberry Jr.) is now the property of the Texas Rangers due to the team's inability to come to terms on a contract. Felix Hernandez was a notable exception in 2002. The 2003 draft didn't net any sure-fire major leaguers on paper and of course 2004 and 2005 are in the "too soon to tell" category.

To be fair, there is still hope for some of those prior drafts. Clint Nageotte, Jeff Heaverlo, Ryan Christianson, Michael Garciaparra, Matt Tuiasosopo and others are still in the system and could become key producers. And of course, every team has the same issues: some great picks, some busts, some that seem to hang around forever in the "maybe" category. Given the inherent truisms there, it made me wonder: how do the M's stack up against other major league franchises with respect to recent drafts?

I decided to sample 15 major league teams and used what can only be argued as a very arbitrary benchmark. To wit, the percentage of high draft picks (defined in this case as the first five rounds) since 2000 that had ascended to AAA or higher. Having decided upon my criteria, I quickly realized that there would be some potential inherent flaws. One, five years isn't a particularly long period of time. Two, some clubs literally rush their players to the big leagues while others are stocked with talent and have the luxury of bringing them along more slowly. Three, small market clubs probably cannot be compared fairly to large market teams in this area. Nevertheless, I threw caution to the wind and stayed with the assumptions anyways. I tried to use a representative sample of teams and split them evenly between the American League (8) and the National League (7).

Without further ado, here are the results:

Minnesota: 35%
Oakland: 45%
Kansas City: 14%
Atlanta: 14%
L.A. Dodgers: 19%
Boston: 12%
N.Y. Yankees: 14%
N.Y. Mets: 38%
Texas: 13%
San Francisco: 29%
Florida: 13%
Baltimore: 8%
Philadelphia: 14%
Houston: 22%
Seattle: 9%

Only nine percent of the Mariners' draft picks since 2000 had made it to Triple A or the big leagues as of this writing ( Nine percent! Only Baltimore had done more poorly amongst these fifteen teams. Oakland and Minnesota, two franchises that have been lauded for "doing it right" with limited budgets, sat atop the list at 45% and 35%, respectively. Curiously, the Mets were up there as well, although a quick perusal of their minor leaguers doesn't seem to indicate many real impact players in the group. Of the teams that seemed to have above average numbers (Minnesota, Houston, San Francisco, the Mets and the Dodgers), there are three of the more successful franchises in recent history, along with two that have excellent historical resumes. As the percentages dwindle, the correlation with winning generally seems to drop -- Boston and the Yankees notwithstanding.

One other flaw I forgot to mention: free agency. It's implied in one of my precepts, but not stated. Boston and New York have been built in recent years largely with marquee free agents and deadline trades, which will deplete the farm systems and quell their rise to the majors. Those factors probably explain why their numbers are so low for teams that are always in the race.

I think the one glaringly obvious point to be made here is the inefficiency of Mariner drafting in recent years. It's just not been very good. We've been fortunate to have long-time stars dot the lineup and the pitching staff from older drafts and various trades, which kept the team up there for years. That time is over now and the kids are beginning to take over. We've repeatedly discussed the younger players such as Reed, Lopez, Morse, Snelling, Choo and King Felix. In a way, we're fortunate that most of them have been acquired via trade.

It's time for the Mariners to get serious about the draft once again. Frankly, they've done a pretty bad job of it over the past several years.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Crystal Balls

June is rapidly riding off into the sunset. With it go any last, lingering, hopes we Mariners fans had of enjoying a winning season in 2005.

Not to worry. We have all known that last place and a miserable season were likely outcomes. More important, we said, was to use this season to develop the next contending Seattle Mariners team.

How have we done on that score? While we've recently ruminated about the 2006 lineup, is next season really going to be the payoff? I would have to suggest that "no" is the correct answer to that question.

Why not? I'm afraid that I have little faith in the ability of Bavasi, etc., to spend their free cash effectively in the offseason. I also see precious few above-average prospects on the farm, so if we can't rebuild via free agency, we also cannot hope to do so internally, despite the presence of such top-notch quality youngsters as Felix Hernandez.

It is likely that our likely 2006-08 lineup (while we still have Sexy, Beltre, and Ichiro under contract) involves several gambles on youngsters lacking in experience and/or talent:

C Miguel Olivo
1b Rich Sexson
2b Jose Lopez
ss Michael Morse
3b Adrian Beltre
lf Chris Snelling
cf Jeremy Reed
rf Ichiro Suzuki
dh Raul Ibanez (2006 only)

By my count, that's 3 above-average players, surrounded by 1 slightly-below average player and 5 easy outs who at least have the merit of being young. Hey, wait! That's a lot like what we're fielding now! How's that going for us...right. Must. Improve. Offense.

One of our better minor league prospects, Asdrubal Cabrera, is years away from the Show, but he could eventually step into the void at shortstop as an above-average major leaguer. Actually, we have several potentially-useful middle-infield types in the low minors: Matt Tuiasasopo is playing for the Low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers; Cabrera is at the high-A Inland Empire 66ers; while SS Adam Jones has been promoted recently to the AA San Antonio Missions. But these gentlemen are years away from contributing, and probably cannot be counted on even to make their MLB debut by the time the 2007 AL West is decided. It is possible that we could see Yuniesky Betancourt (at Tacoma now) filling in at SS in 2006 or 2007, but I honestly am not sold on him as a long-term solution; Morse might as well be the guy.

The good news here is that there is PLENTY of room for improvement via free agency. Boone, and his $8 million salary, are departing the team no later than October. If Jose Lopez is going to come up and stick in place of Bert, we can look to sign either a 2b or a SS, which could potentially get us from 3 above-average players to 4. No one really jumps out, although perhaps we can sign Rafael Furcal relatively cheaply, given his thus-far miserable 2005. I think he probably qualifies as the best FA middle infielder who is likely to be available.

More good news: Randy Winn, who is more or less signed (weird mutual option) through '06, can likely be counted in the "above-average" column in place of Snelling, above, and if Jeremy Reed develops a bit this season, perhaps he can take Winn's place (as useful) next year. We can then trade Winn for a needed starting pitcher. This makes room for Snelling and/or Choo, who will need further development time, but who are probably nearly ready to take their last steps in the majors.

None of this, of course, improves the offense immediately for 2006, which is the basis for my skepticism. But longer-term, as Lopez, Snelling, and perhaps Choo develop into viable major league batters, I believe that we do have a window from 2007/8 onward to be at a point where we can simply reload for several years running, dipping into the free agent pool judiciously to fill in holes that cannot be filled from the farm system.

All of this, however, turns on making the pitching staff an asset, on something more than an "I'm shocked that we won that game" kind of way. I've already done some speculating here, but what about the longer term?

Of course, we pin our hopes on the development of Felix Hernandez into an ace. No pitchers currently on the major league roster are the kind of scary starting pitcher that can be counted on to stop losing streaks and strike fear into the hearts of opposing batters. If King Felix stays healthy and delivers on at least most of his promise, then we'll have that for the first time since before the whiny-wanna-be-traded tantrum that was Randy Johnson's 1998.

If the rotation begins with Felix-Pineiro-Meche-???-??? within the next couple of years, then perhaps we can hope to use one of the advantages of an inexperienced lineup (namely, a budget payroll bill for the hitters) to lure one or two free agents to come pitch in Safeco. Not retreads like Aaron Sele, but the kinds of starting pitchers who can reliably contribute 200 innings of above-average work each season.

It is hard to be less vague, given the difficulties in guessing which pitchers will find themselves to be free agents in, say 2006 or 2007. Sure, we can guess based on service time, but there will be plenty of quality hurlers who are not really going to reach free agency at the earliest-possible time due to signing long-term deals with their original team.

Perhaps you can see where I'm going with this.

Since starting pitching is looking a lot like the thing that will stand between Seattle and relevance in the AL West in the next five years, I submit that the last, greatest, test of Bill Bavasi's value as GM of this club will be his ability to find and acquire cheaply today the pitchers who will turn in surprisingly valuable seasons as starters in 2007, 2008, and beyond. I can't tell you who they are (if I could, well, I'd probably have a different job), but if Bavasi can figure it out, then he's got the biggest crystal balls of them all.

In an exciting turn of events, it seems that the team is looking to flip Boone and Winn right now for pitching. Hey, I have to be able to attach SOME hope to this team....

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Schmidt anyone?

The Mariners have split so far in SD, a 14-5 smackdown that saw Boone come up a homer short of the cycle and Morse raise his average over .400 with a 3-3 night, and a 8-5 loss where Sele gave up 8 runs in 4 innings.

How long before Morse's hot streak gets big enough to start revising forecasts for him? He hit .281 and slugged .525 at AA last year, but his 90% projection by BP's PECOTA system was 280/330/460. Its going to take a pretty major slump to get down to that...

We have commented that there is hope for the M's offense next year, but little in the way of pitching help. With no big names available on the free-agent market, the M's may have to pursue a pitcher through trade. Rumors (rumours for our Canadian friends) abound regarding Giants ace Jason Schmidt. SF GM Brian Sabean denies that he is looking to trade Schmidt. But he wouldn't be the first GM to do a little, ahem, dissembling on such matters. The Giants are 12 games under .500, Bonds isn't coming back anytime soon and Schmidt has a 10.5 million dollar option for next season.

Schmidt has been a serious stud the last two years, posting VORPs of 75 and 60. He's been hurt for much of this year, but seems to be rounding into form. He is 32 and can be expected to decline over the next few years, plus he is only under contract for one more year. On the other hand his closest PECOTA comparables are Roger Clemens, Jack Morris, Tom Seaver and Curt Schilling, 3 Hall of Famers and all of whom aged just a bit better than say, Mike Reno. He's a Washington native and it wouldn't be out of the question for him to sign here when for 2007 especially if the M's look like they might be competitive.

I'm guessing it'll take 2-3 good prospects to get him. But the Mariners have a little depth to deal from. A package that included Choo or Snelling, one of the many shortstops (Morse, Jones, Tui, Cabrera), and a random lower minors hard thrower wouldn't be a bad deal at all in my opinion. A 2006 rotation of Schmidt, Hernandez, Piniero, and Meche is starting to look pretty decent. Most of the teams that will be trading for Schmidt are looking at this year. But the M's should look at him for 2006 and beyond.

Friday, June 24, 2005

An imaginary interview with Bob Melvin

After a two-year tenure as manager of the Seattle Mariners in which words such as pablum, humdrum and insipid became a part of the Seattle sports lexicon, Bob Melvin was summarily discharged of his managerial duties following a 99-loss 2004 campaign. Quick to snap up sure-fire talent when they saw it, the Arizona Diamondbacks made Melvin their second choice as manager, hiring him to superintend the franchise for the 2005 season. On an imaginary basis, we caught up with Melvin after his D-Backs posted a prosaic 2-1 win over the Detroit Tigers earlier this evening.

T: So Bob, how's it going?

BM: Very adequately, thank you.

T: Tell us about your firing by the Seattle Mariners after last season. Any hard feelings?

BM: The Mariners did what they felt they had to do. The circumstances were that we experienced a cyclical downturn with existing personnel. Given that, I devised a five-year business plan in which I would gradually integrate logical modality into the character of the ballclub. Prior to the unveiling of "Phase 2: SWOT Analysis and its Impact on Strategic Decision-Making", I was let go. I have no hard feelings toward Howard Lincoln or Bill Bavasi for making the move. When I left, I broke down and waved. I heard something about not letting the door hit me, which no doubt was a thoughtful warning about the recently-oiled hinges in the clubhouse.

T: What accomplishments can you point to during your stay with the M's?

BM: I flow-charted every player in conjunction with his optimal output. I even presented pie graphs to the players after each game as a motivational tool -- sometimes in red and blue, other times in green and yellow. I told them to eat, drink and sleep with the charts. I didn't understand some of the fellows saying that it wasn't the kind of 'pie' they were looking to sleep with, so later I switched to three-dimensional charts. That didn't seem to satisfy them.

T: Anything else? How about the performances on the field?

BM: Obviously, we were pleased with the 93-win season in 2003. 2004 was difficult, of course, but we attempted to implement changes that would bring about long-term accountability when I was let go. However, on an overall basis, our winning percentage (which I prefer to call our "success rate") was 48.1% in Seattle. I'm pleased to note that our success rate in Arizona has increased to 50.7%. That's statistically relevant.

T: Bob, you were labeled with such adjectives as "vanilla" and "bland" by the local media, the national press, the fans, your players, your friends, your family, business leaders, civic leaders, construction workers, the unemployed, members of PETA, clergymen, the Rainbow Coalition, the Black Entertainment Network, NOAA and hundreds of other organizations across the country. How would you respond to this?

BM: There will always be impressions that formulate over time in this business. I understand that. Most of them will never see me during lighter moments. For example, just last week I elbowed bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock and told him to take the lineup card to home plate instead of bench coach Jay Bell, as a joke on the umpires. Boy, I couldn't stop tittering over that one. And hey, I can let my hair down, too (chuckling). I remember when Morganna the Kissing Bandit ran onto the field at Memorial Stadium when I was with the Orioles in 1989. I'm telling you, I stared a good, long time at her through my fingers. A long time.

T: Tell us about your win tonight against Detroit.

BM: Gladly. Detroit is a competitive team. We were fortunate to come away with the victory tonight. They gave 110% on the field. You play one game at a time. You can't steal first base. Baseball is played between the lines. It's a game of inches. Sean Estes took one for the team. That's why the game is played on the field.

T: *Ahem* ... well, how about some of your managerial moves in the game?

BM: I was mentally challenged throughout the game with a veritable array of moves. After Estes pitched a serviceable 6 1/3 inning stint, my database indicated that Aquino had a statistically-relevant chance of success against the succeeding two batters, so I brought him in. Likewise, the program recommended that Valverde come in to pitch the eighth. I had confidence in its next suggestion, which was our closer Brunley to pitch the ninth. On offense, circumstances necessitated me bringing in Cintron as a pinch-runner and Hairston as a pinch hitter. Needless to say, i was exhausted after the game.

T: Any words of advice to Seattle Mariner fans, since their team is struggling with a below-.500 record right now?

BM: Certainly. Seattle is a competitive team. They give 110% on the field. You play one game at a time. You can't steal first base. Baseball is played ...

T (interrupting quickly): Thank you, Bob.

BM: Thank you.

Real grass, real sunshine....

Just how bad was the M's offense yesterday? They were complete game shut out by Kirk Saarloos. His previous long outing for the season was 6 innings.

The M's struck out 7 times. Saarloos struck out no batters in his last 3 starts (17 innings!). None! He was averaging under 2 strikeouts per 9 innings prior to yesterday. Yeeesh!

Hey Franklin! Shut your yap!. The lack of run support is so consistent it is starting to border on statistically significant, but dude, you are a 5 ERA starter in an extreme pitchers park. You gave up 11 hits yesterday and Reed saved you from two more. You should probably stay away from, "I could've gone nine innings and given up one run -- doesn't matter," Franklin said. "We'd still lose." And you should definitely not say, "you can't win like that no matter how good pitching you get. We have to score." If you pitched well you might be ok saying those things but you were pretty bad yesterday yourself.

On the other hand, it was a beautiful day, the beer was cold, and we got a surprise visit at our seats from an ex-coworker, who shall we say, gives truly outstanding hugs!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Sheff and Jeter sitting in a tree....

Just kiss already...

M's Win in 12!

Thank you Bobby Crosby! Bing's drop of a potential double-play ball in the 12th opened the doors for Winn and Sexson to each deliver RBI singles, the first to tie the game, the second to win it.

Boone was back in the lineup and went 1 for 4. To his credit he was more patient at the plate, working the count and getting good pitches to hit. Of course he missed most of them, but still. He also laid down a fine bunt in the 9th. Not a big fan of the sacrifice there, but I can live with it, especially with Boonie struggling.

I understand why they are playing Boone again and I certainly hope he comes out of it. I fully expect Lopez to go down for Spiezio, Pokey or Leone in the next few days. But Lopez is not only the future, he's probably the present as well. If Boone can play well enough in the next few weeks to facilitate a trade, great, but if he continues to struggle, the Mariners will need to play Lopez, both to get him ready for next season and to improve their chances of winning in this one. Its a no-brainer really.

Morse had a big hit in the 9th to tie it. If they hand Pokey the SS job when he comes back...there's going to be trouble.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Game Report: A's 6, M's 2

Things were tight early, brutal late.

The M's flashed a lot of leather in the first few innings. Jeremy Reed made two nice catches at the wall and Lopez had a nice diving catch at second in the third. The Mariners took the lead at 2-1 on an Ibanez single, a JR double and and Ichiro single.

The A's tied it up in the 5th when NIck Swisher homered. Sele later gave up another hit and a walk, but got Bobby Crosby to tap weakly to third to end the threat.

A's starer Danny Haren had looked shaky up to this point, having baserunners in every inning. This continued in the fifth when he gave up a one out walk to Beltre. At this point Haren had thrown 81 pitchers and it looked like with Sexson and Raul coming up that we had a chance to chase him from the game and get into the surprisingly tasty A's bullpen.

Cue the Price is Right sorry music! From there, Haren retired 11 in a row. He only struck out one of those 11, but otherwise looked electric. Tons of movement on his fastball.

Too bad Sele wasn't able to go 8! Villone gave up a solo homer to Kielty, then got two outs. Nellie came in: single, walk, 3 run bomb to Kotsay, ballgame. At least half the crowd left after the homer. The rest stayed almost exclusively to boo Nellie.

At the risk of repeating myself, despite their decent ERA's Nellie and Villone are the wrong guys to pitch in a tie game. Lots of people criticized Grover for letting Nelson pitch to Kotsay (a left hander) but what was he going to do? Go get Thornton? I'd rather see Nellie! Mateo, Shiggy and Putz are the guys he should be using in the 8th, but instead he's rolling out Villone, Nellie, and Thornton. Ugh.

The A's scored 6 runs. That's their highest output in over a week. Yeesh.

Best moment from the 5th row. Boonie comes out to stand at the top of the dugout. Girl behind us shrieks, "I still love you Boonie!" Boonie turns, smiles and girlishly waves at her. Priceless.

Haiku Game Log

Random baseball thoughts,
spiced with haiku, where form rules,
function, not so much.

The kids go to bed
late tonight. I'm missing the
game. 6th inning. Crap.

Sele faces Swisher,
who's hot tonight. Walk him? No
way. Ground out, sit down.

Jose Lopez hits
a dinger, then a double,
both foul. Keep it fair...

Danny Haren is
one shaggy looking hombre.
Get a trim, Danny.

Rick Rizzs catches pop
foul on the air, giggles like
a bloody schoolgirl.

Hit and run, well done,
Winn overruns slow roller.
Safe at third. Gadzooks.

Kielty takes Villone
deep. He's shaggy too. Oakland
barber on DL?

Nellie in. Hit. Walk.
Grooves Kotsay some bat candy.
6-2. Drive safely.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Where have all the throwers gone?

As Walter recently pointed out, the 2006 Mariners lineup is beginning to take a shape that doesn't smell too bad.

However, it occurs to me that despite years of talking up the Mariners' farm system as chock-full-o'-pitchers, I submit that beyond King Felix, there is little in the way of viable starting candidates in the pipeline. And as Tad mentioned, there will be few frontline starters available via free agency this winter.

Let's say that we count on Pineiro-Meche-Madritsch-Hernandez as the front four in our 2006 rotation. To be sure, we can expect Felix to have some growing pains, especially given his trouble this year with walks in Tacoma. I'm actually not sold on Meche or Madritsch long-term, but if we're just talking next season, can this rotation contend in the West? Both Anaheim and Texas have pretty formidable teams right now, so we're talking considerable improvement in keeping runs off the scoreboard if we're hoping to contend.

Pineiro has to be the ace next year, and his age and history suggest that it's a good gamble that he'll fill that role nicely: he'll be 27 in September, and assuming that he's healthy, I think that there's every reason to pencil him in for 35 worthwhile turns at the top of the rotation.

Gil Meche, also 27 this September, terrifies me every time he takes the mound, but at one point (before his unprecedented return from a torn labrum), he was a solid prospect. His 4.38 ERA currently is acceptable, but look at the K-BB ratio: only 40 strikeouts to 34 walks. Moreover, in 78 innings pitched, that is a dangerously low 4.6 K/9 rate. These are peripheral numbers, but they are bad signs for future success. It's not a matter of skill, though, so much as health, and with Meche, I'm afraid we have to say that we just can't predict whether he will be very reliable.

Likewise, counting on Bobby Madritsch for solid performance in 2006 is wishful thinking. It would be a great story, but Mads is currently on the DL with a catastrophic shoulder ailment, is out until (probably) at least September, and the P-I recently reported that he isn't currently allowed even to raise his pitching arm above shoulder level. Shoulder injuries are mysterious and uncertain kinds of injuries for athletes, and the lefty will turn 30 before Spring Training games begin next year, so while I'd love to cheer him on, we can't assume he'll be an important part of the 2006 pitching rotation.

Who is out there? None of the Mariners minor league hurlers suggest themselves as solutions: none of Clint Nageotte, Bobby Livingston, Jeff Heaverlo, Sean Green, Rich Dorman, George Sherrill, Jorge Campillo, or other organizational pitchers jump out as being ready and able to handle a starting role in the majors in the next year.

The minor exceptions are Cha Seung Baek and Rafael Soriano. However, I believe that these two, for endurance and other reasons, will end up at the back end of the bullpen, setting up and closing games for the Mariners. This is useful, to be sure, but it does not address the holes in the rotation. Given their ages/experience and the emergence of the Everyday Eddie Grab Game, we will probably see Guardado back as closer in his final contract year in 2006. The bullpen will be acceptable next season.

That still fails to fix the rotation. There are a number of potential free agent starting pitchers this winter, but very few marquee names. If we have to fill two spots to contend in the West, it may well be too expensive to fill this need through free agency. Either that, or we'll have to settle for marginal starters who will drag down the staff, and in the end be no better than what we have available within the organization.

Hence, this offseason the Mariners will face that age-old baseball dilemma: everyone is looking for pitching. If we're hoping to contend as soon as 2006, we will have to have faith that Bill Bavasi can find some, by hook or by crook.

Everyday Eddie Grab Game

Best part of the game

We are constantly trying to find a good game to wager small sums on at the game. The ball dropped on or off the mound being the oldest and before tonight the best game. Tad discovered one at tonight's smacking of Pedro that beats all others hands down. The Everyday Eddie Grab Game.
This is how it goes. You start with one player then move onto the next every time Eddie grabs at his crotch. It seems like a boring game, but I have never experienced four hetero men staring so intently at another mans crotch since Jim Presley played for the M's. Eddie grabbed his 19th save and his crotch 13 times in the 4-1 win over the Mets tonight. He only faced four batters. Amazing.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Jose Lopez, Part Deux

So the Jose Lopez era begins. Again. He gets two hits in a 5-0 win by the Mariners over the Mets.

I suppose that this does signal the beginning of the end for Boonie, but I wouldn't count on it. Hargrove talked about getting Boone some rest. 5 or 6 days to work on some stuff. I would expect that Bert will get another shot at second at that point. It may only last a week or two, but they will at least give him that.

I imagine that they are trying to trade Boonie, if anyone will take him. It only takes one GM to think that he might turn it around to make a deal. I wouldn't expect much for him though. I also hold out little hope that he CAN turn things around, but its not out of the realm of possibility. If he could even get back to last years model (.250 with some power) he would have more trade value then he has right now.

And while Bavasi said he wants Lopez to play, he also said, both in the P-I and on KJR, that there was no "mandate" to play him every day. Lopez actually makes sense as a backup infielder because he can play second, third and short which no one else on the roster really can right now. With Beltre out and Hargrove unwilling to use Dobbs, the M's had a serious short term need for a 3b.

I think there are two ways this could work out. One is Lopez plays well at second and the team releases or DFAs Boone. Hopefully Boone's roster spot would then go to Leone, Snelling or Choo, rather than Dobbs, redux. But the other thing that could happen is that Boonie gets his 5 days off, Beltre comes back strong and Lopez goes back to AAA after a week on the roster.

Really its an awkward way to handle things. Hargrove is supposed to be good in the clubhouse. If Lopez is up to take Boone's job, Grover is going to have his hands full.

Trading Faces

The M's called up Jose Lopez yesterday and immediately inserted him into the lineup, where he went 2-4, including a run-scoring double. He also nabbed a stolen base. Subbing for the injured Adrian Beltre, he performed adequately although he did toss one wildly beyond the reach of Big Sexxxy for an error (or as Rick Rizzs would say, "an err"). As we all know, this is Lopez' second trip to the Show. Last year, in 207 AB's, he hit .232 with five homers and 22 RBI's. Not outstanding, but certainly good enough to indicate that he's got a future in the league. Tonight's showing did nothing to hurt that impression.

Speaking of the future, the face of the M's team of the future is beginning to take shape. Remember when the system was nearly devoid of strong position player talent in the high minors? That has changed significantly, in no small part due to the M's struggles last year. In fact, barring trades, this could be the 2006 Mariners' opening day lineup:

RF Ichiro
CF Jeremy Reed
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Big Sexxxy
DH Raul Ibanez
2b Jose Lopez
LF Sin-Soo Choo/Chris Snelling
SS Mike Morse
C Miguel Olivo/Wiki Gonzales/Rene Rivera

That is one hell of a lot of minor leaguers making the jump over a two-year period. Reed has already done it and, to date, has performed well. Morse has risen meteorically and if he can maintain his grip on the position, may spell the end of the Pokey Reese era before it even began. Left field shapes up to be a real battle between Choo and Snelling. Where's Randy Winn? Adios, muchacho.

Catcher is the weakest slot in this projected lineup, but never fear, Jeff Clement may be riding to the rescue before we know it. Some scouts have predicted that he'll need just a year or two of seasoning before he'll be ready for the majors. It's even been hypothesized that he could make the jump straight to the Show. Called the "best power hitter" amongst college players in this year's draft by Baseball America, he's 21 years old and seems an ideal fit for Seattle's needs, as well as the short porch at Safeco Field.

The starting pitching next season, to a degree, will be a work-in-progress. Felix Hernandez is all but assured a spot in the rotation. Meche and Piniero, assuming they find their consistency this season, are as well. Madritsch will be penciled in if he recovers sufficiently from his arm troubles. The last spot could go to a veritable cornucopia of maybes, including a re-signed Moyer, Jose Campillo, Cha Seung Baek, Ryan Franklin or another up-and-comer from Tacoma. It's more likely, however, that the M's dip into the free agent market for a premier arm. None of the listed candidates is a sure-fire ace at this point in his career, and Seattle is going to desperately need that ... as they do right now, for that matter.

The good news about the position players coming up and earning their keep in the majors is that the money will be freed up to acquire a true ace, along with other needs as they are determined by management. The starting nine may have combined salaries in the $20-25 million range next year, a $10 million+ cut from this year. That's more than enough to get the best pitcher out there.

As for relievers, J.J. Putz appears to be the leading candidate to replace Everyday Eddie as the M's closer, assuming he is not re-signed next season. I suspect that Seattle will go fishing in free agency to fill that need as well.

All in all, the Mariners' future is starting to coalesce and it looks pretty solid. There is speed, defense, some power (with more to come as Clement enters into the picture), good arms, and best of all: youth. This is a club that could stay together for a number of years to come. Now, they just have to learn how to win.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Bullet Point Friday

  • If you throw out the brutal 1-10 stretch from early May the M's are 27-26, one game over 500. The M's are pretty much a .500 team, but without the consistent hitting to sustain any long winning streaks, and bad enough pitching to throw up some bad losing streaks. They could not close out the Phillies last night and in fact have only swept one series all year (Kansas City).

  • This little tidbit appeared at the bottom of Will Carroll's Baseball Prospectus (registration required) column yesterday: Scott Spiezio is listed as out "indefinitely" after a back injury during his rehab. Some think he'll never play for the M's again.

  • Are the M's that down on Speez? Are you telling me he couldn't take Dobbs' roster spot? He couldn't do everything Dobbs is doing for 10 times the price? That was 9 million well spent. Gillick might have been better served buying J.Lo 9 engagement rings.

  • Chris Snelling: 369/453/564. I'm just saying.

  • I actually learned something from one of Jim Street's Mariner Mailbags! In responding to a why doesn't Ichiro play center qeustion, Street said: According to the Mariners' media guide, when Ichiro played for the Orix Blue Wave, he "won seven consecutive Gold Gloves for his solid defense and strong arm in right field." I have always heard that Ichiro played center in Japan. I checked a few different Japanese baseball sites and while I could not find hard games played by position data, all the anecdotal references pegged Ichiro as a rightfielder. Of course Street then closed with this ridiculous line: The subject of Ichiro playing center field for the Mariners never has seriously been considered, primarily because he is the best defensive right fielder in the American League. That's the Jim Street we know and love!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The left side...

So Hansen and Morse have given us more production from the left side of the diamond in the last two games than we have seen all year. Thinks are looking pretty good over there! Not quite Jennifer Aniston good, but good nonetheless.

Morse isn't going to hit like this for a whole season, but if he could hit 275 with a little pop, that would vastly improve that position wouldn't it? And if Hansen can solidify his bench role, that might banish Dobbs to Tacoma and keep Spiezio on the DL until he can peddled for a couple of squirrels (or naked mole rats if you prefer).

Do I dare to dream of a productive bench? Better keep my shirt on...

It was Worst the of Morse, it was the Best of Morse

After the 4th inning, I was thinking to myself, Mike Morse is not going to sleep well tonight. Not at all. He's made three mistakes of varying magnitude so far, and he's a rookie. Yikes. The details:

2nd inning: MM walks and is then caught stealing. Pat Borders, at the plate at the time, was so distraught at this that two pitches later he let the bat slip out of his arthritic fingers, and sent it tumbling through the air into the Philly dugout. Then he struck out. It took eight pitches, though. Not bad for an old man.

OK, so you've been caught stealing. These things happen. How are you going to recover?

3rd inning: Lofton grounds to second with a runner on first. Tailor-made double play ball. Martinez comes in to second hard, and Morse (as he is apparently wont to do) puts a little extra on the throw, which pulls the SIX FOOT EIGHT Big Sexy off the bag, and Lofton is safe. Incidentally, Morse pulled Big Sexy off the bag with high throws four times last night, including this one, but Richie was able to get back down in time to make the other plays.

4th inning: David "thank God he's no longer an M" Bell grounds to short with a runner on first. Utley comes in hard to second (this happened MANY times tonight -- runners trying to break up double-plays), Boone jumps up, and instead of putting more on the throw and having it sail on him, which Morse tends to do when he's pressing, Boone takes a little off the throw -- it is Bell, after all -- and the throw winds up low but playable by Big Sexy, who fields the hop cleanly. Maybe MM makes a note. Maybe not.

In the bottom of the 4th, Morse gets a hit. Hey. Maybe things are looking up. Then Borders lines out to third, and Morse is doubled off at first. Oops. End of the inning.

Not a very good hour's worth of effort.

In the 6th, Morse singled again, this time with Hansen on first. Now he's 2-2 with a walk, on the plus side. Borders grounds out to SS, but Morse comes in with a fine hard slide and there is no throw. With Pat Borders Running. That is some slide. Maybe things are looking up for Morse.

Another chance for a put out in the seventh, again with the high throw but no harm. Then, with every-other-day Eddie warming up in the pen to close out our 3-1 lead, MM Takes the second pitch from Cormier out. I didn't see how deep it was out there in the left field seats, but it was one of those line-drive shots that make you so dang glad you're a baseball fan. The ball was rushing for the seats like it was late for a job interview. Nice hit, young man. Your first big league dinger. Very nice.

So, all in all, I suppose Mr. Morse slept just fine last night after all. Just get those throws down, son. Get 'em down.

Game Recap: M's 5, Phillies 1

As I was walking out to the car from the office last night I got a call on my cell phone. It was my uncle telling me he had an extra ticket for the game that started in 90 minutes and that he was on his way to pick me up. Cool.

I was just outside the front gates by the will-call window, waiting for him to return with our tickets, when I heard the radio call of the first pitch. Man, you've got to love the fact that they pipe the radio broadcast all over the walking areas of the stadium -- the only thing wrong with that is the fact that you can hear our broadcast team. I won't waste any space here on those lame buffoons (Dave excepted --I still like him, even if he is losing it).

The Phillies had scored a run before I made it up the stairs to the field level. Not a good start. We're in for a long night, right? Don't be so hasty.

A quick visit to the beer vendor, and I'm in my seat in time for the bottom of the first, just in time to see Ichiro! hit a moon shot of a home run off the sixth pitch. I have to tell you, I didn't think it was going to make it out. But the ball just kept on carrying until it just managed to get over the fence. Padilla seemed a bit rattled, and Winn managed to work him for an 8 pitch walk. Two batters, 14 pitches. Wild.

Raul reaches on a FC (on a 2-1 pitch that looked like ball three), then big Sexy absolutely crushes a ball off the wall for an RBI double. And so it went. Sele alternately got into and out of trouble for the rest of the game, managing to keep the team with the second best BA in the NL from hurting him when it counted. My favorite Sele moment was in the 6th inning, with his pitch count approaching 100. He gives up a lead off double to Utley, then forces the next two batters to ground out to the left side (Hansen and Morse, BTW), holding the runner at 2nd. Granted, these two batters were Bell and Lieberthal, so we shouldn't be TOO surprised that they failed to move the runner over, but Sele got out of the jam all the same.

Then Villone came in and simply shut the Philly's down. In order. For two innings.

And then there was Michael Morse. But I'll save that for a separate post.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Game Recap: M's 3, Phillies 1

First off, another stellar post from yours truly, in which I correctly predicted that that Dave Hansen would get the start with Beltre out, that he would contribute with a homer and a couple of RBI, and that the Beltre-less M's would have no problem with the Phillies. Wait that was my post on the Bizarro Tatonka Blog.

That was the kind of game that makes you love baseball. A little over two hours, some good defense a nice pitching performance and a Mariner win. Its all good.

The highlights were the 8 inning, 3 hitter from Meche, 3 hits from Jeremy Reed and the homer from Hansen. Ichiro got his 1,000th hit for those who care about such things. Jim Caple has a good column up about whether his Japanese hits should be "counted" when it comes time for him to be considered for the Hall of Fame. Of course they won't be counted, there is no official counting that gets into the HoF, but I expect most voters will consider them, at least. A few will not and that's their prerogative I guess.

Meche did look good, but not as dominant as they would have had you believe on the post-game show. Even Hendu, when asked if that was as good as Meche has pitched this year, said (surprisedly), "No." He did seem to be moving the ball around well, but he only got 4 k's, all on called third strike breaking balls. Really doubt he's going to be able to keep doing that.

Hansen has only had 16 at-bats this year of crappiness compared with Bloomquist's 58 and the Dobber's 34. If Hansen could get make a run at usefulness, then maybe we could dump Dobbs for someone who might actually help the team a little bit (Leone, Lopez, Snelling, hell even Jamal Strong would at least provide some OF insurance).

Monday, June 13, 2005

No Beltre, big problem

So the M's got swept over the weekend by the hottest team in baseball, the Nationals. Its funny what back to back series with the Mariners and Oakland can do for a hot streak. Remember when the Yankees were the hottest team? I can see managers all over saying, "We've got 6 coming up with the A's and M's! If we can just win these next two games, we're staring at an 8 game win streak!"

The much bigger news was Adrian Beltre "tweaking" his hamstring. Hargrove reportedly said it would be "3 or 4 days" but also maybe longer. As bad as Beltre has been, the possible replacements are much, much worse:

Beltre 244 279 361
Dobbs 176 194 265
Hansen 154 133 154

I would expect to see a heavy helping of the Dobber over the next week or so, with a sprinkling of Hansen. Hansen at least has been a productive major league hitter before, so I would get him the majority of the at-bats, but I cannot explain the M's infatuation with Dobbs and Bloomquist. Bloomquist at least is fast and versatile. Dobbs is, well, he's, um, left-handed?

Spiezio has been playing well at Tacoma but had a setback as he rehabs his strained oblique. He didn't play over the weekend at all. Justin Leone is also hurt and Hunter Brown, is,well, right-handed.

So as bad as a 650 OPS from the hot corner has been, its about to get a lot worse. Lets hope it really is onl 3 or 4 days.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Well, that was ugly

Shiggy is taking most of the rap in the local dailies for the the M's 9 to 3 loss and he was the guy who gave up 6 runs in 1/3 of inning. And the one out he got was a sacrifice bunt! He was terrible, but at least it was out of character.

Thornton on the other hand surrendered two bases loaded walks. Is there a worse guy that the Mariners can bring in than Thornton with the bases loaded? Is there any reason why a hitter in that situation would ever swing with Wild Thing Thornton on the hill? Brad Wilkerson certainly had read the scouting report as he simply took 4 pitches for an easy RBI.

I like Bill Krueger, but he spent his whole post-game commentary talking about how young Morse and Rivera were and how young players make a lot of mistakes. He wrapped up his commentary by admitting that since they were giving us way more offense than the previous occupants of their positions, overall they were plus. Then why did you spend 5 minutes talking about their defense, dude? How about talking about how much Thornton sucks! Or how bad Shiggy pitched? Or Villone walking the leadoff batter in the 7th that Morse's bobble let score?

Here's another news flash, Beltre and Boone, still struggling. Beltre is hitting the ball hard, but he has all season it seems, with no results.

One more news flash: RFK. Big park. Real big.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Bring on the Nats

M's win 8-0 behind a strong performance from Aaron Sele (I know!) and 2 RBI nights from Winn, Big Sexxy and Raul Ibanez.

The Randinator flipped the ole finger to Walter by hitting his first dinger of the year. I should talk, I said the M's starters would get lit up in this series. Um. Three starts, 6 earned runs. Really two very solid starts and Meche's not-that-terrible one.

Morse is hitting .318 since his call up. Winn is 22 for his last 57 (.386), Raul is 21 for his last 53 (.396) and slugging .566 over that period. The hometown nine has won 8 of 11 and are averaging more than 5 runs a game for those 11 games. Previously they were a shade under 4 runs a game. More encouraging is that the offense is picking up despite Ichiro's slump and the continued struggles of Beltre and Boone.

Could we look back at this homer by Methuselah as the turning point of the season?

Not the Exxon ship

In a move that amuses me but will likely pay no meaningful dividend, the M's have managed to get two AAA relievers from the Padres in exchange for Wilson Valdez. Now THAT's free talent.

I wonder if Tacoma was in great need of bullpen strength?

Welcome to the Mariners organization, Michael Bumstead. Welcome, R.D. Spiehs. The latter is supposed to be a minor prospect, but his performance in Portland (and Mobile before that) this season--12 BB/20 K in 30 IP against AA and AAA competition--isn't all that impressive. Bumstead has started a few games (also in Mobile), and has equally pedestrian K/BB and K/IP rates.

Still, that we got something, anything, for Valdez is, as I said, amusing.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Rivalry Week Continues!

The M's drop one to those hated rivals the Florida Marlins. Three run tater by Carlos Delgado is too much for the Mariners to overcome, despite a little late comeback.

Meche said the mound was too steep, according to "The mound was steeper than I'm used to, but it's my job to make the adjustments," he said. "I let it get too my head. I'd make a good pitch, then the next one was in the dirt." Normally I'd call bullshit here, but Mateo walked two guys and the D-Train didn't look exactly right either. He scattered 10 hits over his 6 2/3 innings. Some maybe it was too high, I don't know.

On the plus side Beltre had three hits and Boone two. Maybe, just maybe, we might get those two going for us. Which is nice.

Two pretty brutal errors by Juan Encarnacion meant the Marlins gifted the M's a couple of runs for the second night in a row. Remember when we were the team that couldn't field at all? Like, say, just last year?

Thursday, the rubber game in this historic matchup of cross-continental foes! This time it counts!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

M's Happenings

The Mariners down the hated Marlins 4 to 3. Nother homer from Raul, and the M's scored the go ahead runs on a walk, a HBP, an error and a sac fly. That is some offense in action.

The other news from the day was the M's drafting USC catcher Jeff Clement with the third pick in the draft. He has "Light tower power" according to Baseball America. He doesn't have the best rep defensively, but most good hitting catchers don't. If he sticks at catcher he could be a left-handed middle of the order hitter as soon as 2007. Or not. Catchers are notoriously risky first round selections, but college ones less so than high school. There was no consensus pick at number 3 and Clement is a high risk/high reward guy. I think with the 3rd pick I'd rather take that kind of guy, than something safer like a college pitcher. Someone remember I said that if he flames out 3 years.

Interleague Play

Haven't you all been dreaming of the day we meet the Marlins?? This is big. Really big. Or not.

Playing in the NL parks creates quite the little dilemma for Grover. His DH, Raul Ibanez is second on the team in OPS. Raul's defensive positions are manned by the guy ahead of him (Big Sexxxy) and the fella two spots behind him (Randy Winn). I would expect to see a lot of Raul's Big Adventure in left, with Winn in center and Reed pinch hitting for shortstops and catchers.

I think we all remember from 2004 just how bad a defensive outfield alignment that is. Big outfield in Miami, flyballers Meche and Franklin on the mound, Ibanez in left. Warning, flammable materials present.

If you are near Vegas, take the overs.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Winnie the Pop?

It wasn't all that long ago when we were rubbing our hands with glee at the results of the Lou Pinella "trade" that brought Randy Winn (officially, Winn for Antonio Perez) to Seattle. And why not? Left field has been a black hole for the Mariners pretty much throughout their entire history ... in fact, this blog commemorates one of them: Kevin Mitchell. Winn came reasonably well credentialed: just 27 when he joined the M's, he had hit .298 with the D-Rays and swiped 27 bases. For a 2003 Mariners team that didn't have the most pop on paper, his 39 doubles, 9 triples, 14 homers and 75 RBI's for a bad 2002 Tampa Bay team seemed pretty attractive as well. And remember, he was on the upswing. A 20+ home run season and near-.500 slugging didn't seem to be that out of the question for the 6'2", 195-pound Winn.

Two years later and the long-dormant catch-phrase "Where's the beef?" comes to mind. Granted, Winn hit 25 homers in his 2 combined seasons with the M's. He also averaged about 35 doubles per year. However, in the "what have you done for me lately?" department, Randy Winn has hit exactly zero home runs this season. Zilch. Zip. Nada. He's poked a few doubles, sure, but without any real power (no triples either, incidentally), his slugging percentage has drifted below that of Jeremy Reed, the punch-and-judy rookie center fielder. To be fair, so has Adrian Beltre's to this point, though one could argue that he's still making the adjustment to the American League. Winn's hitting the ball well, stealing his usual 20-ish bases and isn't as brutal in left as he was in center. He just has absolutely no pop to his bat.

How is this important on an M's team that features Adrian Beltre, Big Sexy and Bret Boone as its main theoretical sources of power? Obviously, when one or more of them are struggling, the team's lack of ancillary power is magnified. At best, the M's already have four spots in the batting order that are essentially power vacuums as it is: catcher, shortstop, center field and right field (yes, Ichiro is God, but despite the Fairly-esque assertions that "he could hit 20 homers if he wanted to", he has been in single digits in dingers three out of his first four full major league seasons, with slugging in the .450 range). They could sure use their possible-20 homer left fielder to show more power than just dinking singles left and right, and they could certainly use more than his 0 HR, 15 RBI stat line to date. One Jeremy Reed in the outfield is enough.

Despite the M's ridiculous lack of power, they won again tonight, 6-5. It was bad enough that they allowed Tampa Bay to notch just its fifth road win of the season against them in game #1 of the series ... losing the series itself would have been devastating, considering that they had played reasonably well in the previous two series. Thus, going down 4-0 early may have been a pivot point for this season. Had they failed to come back, their recent momentum would have come crashing down in a firey maelstrom. Instead, they rallied, thanks in part to Mr. Popgun's 4-5 day (three singles and a double, of course). I watched the 8th and 9th innings. After Beltre chopped his excuse-me single to right and Sexson came to bat, I just knew something good was going to happen. This type of moment is what M's fans expected to see time and time again this year: the big two, delivering with the game on the line. When Sexson smashed the ball, I figured it'd go off the wall and then -- blessedly -- Crawford misplayed the carom and Beltre was able to steam home all the way from first base. Now winners of 7 out of their last 10, the M's will take 'em any way they can get 'em.

The M's still have a pulse at 24-31. They have a tough interleague road trip coming up in Florida and then against the now-first place Washington Nationals. For whatever reason, the M's have generally fared pretty well in interleague play. If they can continue their recent hot streak on this trip, they then have three beatable opponents in a row at home: Philadelphia, the Mets and Oakland. By early July there could be a possible showdown with the Los Angeles Angels of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim or whatever the heck they're now called. Just a few baby steps needed to get within about 4-5 games of the Angels by that series and make things potentially very interesting.

In a pinch

Big pinch hit single from Hansen to give the M's a come-from-behinnd, 6-5 win over the D-Rays. Joel pitched very well. He had some command last night with 7 strikeouts against only two unintentional walks. Ibanez is on fire, Big Sexxxy had 3 more walks. Doesnt it seem like it would be pretty easy to throw him strikes, with that zone?

Villone on the other hand, ugh. Two pitches, 4 runs. BEFORE last night, Villone ranked 249th in the league in preventing inherited runners from scoring. Out of 308. Before last night.

Today its Moyer versus Nomo. This would have been an exciting pitching matchup 3 years ago.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

I went, I saw, I was rained out

The previous picture is the visual evidence of my recent trip to Mexico, where I had the good fortune to attend the championship game of the Mexican first division soccer league last Sunday evening. The U.S. equivalent is probably the Super Bowl.

Very exciting stuff, which offsets my disappointment at having been "rained" out of my planned visit to Foro Sol, the home field of the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, when they canceled the game in advance on a sunny Tuesday evening in case it rained. Bleah.

In any case, I'm back after a long hiatus in Mexico, and I'll gradually plug myself back into the universe electronically and return to following the Mariners. (Yes, I *am* a masochist...thanks for asking.)

Aftermath of the game, from my upper-deck seats. Posted by Hello

Couple o thoughts

Just a few random observations, after enjoying a Tivo'd Mariner victory over the Jays.

Morse really is tall. I know all sorts of tall players have made it at short, its not neccessarily a disqualifier, but jeez. He's tall.

I know we can't expect Borders and Rivera to keep it up, but we have had 5 hits in two days from catchers. Ichiro must do a double take every time he comes up and there are men on.

Could a guy look more lost than Boonie this year? His triple notwithstanding. He took a bunch of bad swings last night and looks just brutal in the field. Brutal. I don't think he'll be winning any Gold Gloves this year.

Did you catch Fairly's new mantra? You have to "string some hits together." First of all, duh. Second, is he implying that the Mariners get enough hits, but that they just don't get them together? Because the Mariners are 12th in the league in hits. They just flat out need hits, strung together or not. And walks. And home runs would be helpful too.

Villone, Nelson and Thornton to protect a one run lead. Again, by nearly any measure, these are the worst three guys in the pen. The EXACT wrong guys to hold the lead. I'm glad they succeeded last night.

Funniest thing last night was listening to the M's announcing staff try to prounounce Chacin. I don't know the actual prounounciation, and neither do they. At least three of them don't, because all 4 M's announcers pronounced it differently.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

After us, the deluge

So a lot happened in Mariner-ville over the long weekend. Two out of three from Lou's New Crew in Tampa and a Memorial Day night victory over the Jays. Very good pitching from Sele and Moyer.

The more interesting stuff were the transactions. Olivo goes down and Rene Rivera comes back up. I don't think that the M's see Rivera and Borders as a solution (I could be wrong) but more as temps. I think the M's hope that Olivo can fix himself in Tacoma, that Wiki comes back soon, and if not, they will acquire another veteran catcher.

I know that catcher ERA has been largely debunked, but its hard to argue with Borders results in the short-term with Sele and Moyer. Well, its actually pretty easy to argue small sample size, but Sele's two starts and Moyer's last one certainly are data points in Borders favor. But he just can't be your regular catcher, he can't.

The other big move was bringing up Morse (or as Rizzs calls him, "Morris") and DFAing Valdez. I've advocated giving Morse a shot for some time, not becuase I think he's going to be great or anything, but because the M's need offense badly and he should be a least an upgrade over Valdez/Bloomquist.

There are two concerns about Morse. First is his attitude. He is regarded as a free spirit, but also a troublemaker and he was suspended twice last year (once by the M's and once by the White Sox). But if anyone can handle him, it might be Mike Hargrove, who once turned a clubhouse with Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez into a league champion.

The second concern is his defense. By all accounts he was atrocious before this year, but in Tacoma seems to have upgraded himself to somewhere between merely bad and adequate. As always when watching defense, try and judge him not just on errors, but on plays he should have made. The question is more can he get to enough balls to not hurt the pitching staff?? Of course we have no real groundballers in the rotation, so maybe its a moo point (you know, what a cow thinks).

Of course if his defense is a problem, it might have made sense to hang onto Valdez as a defensive replacement and have dumped either Bloomquist or Dobbs. But I suppose that's a rant for another day.

So where Morse goes, are Choo, Snelling, Campillo and Leone sure to follow? Is this a quick attempt to fix the two most glaring holes in the lineup or the start of the second straight year of letting the kids play? I'm guessing the first, but the second isn't far behind.