Sunday, July 31, 2005

Wait, it gets better

I realize that my standards are low after years with Stand Pat at the helm, but flipping Ron Villone to Florida for another high quality starting pitching prospect (Yorman Bazardo) plus another AA middle-relief project (Mike Flannery) is another excellent, excellent deal.

It is STILL the case that the jury is out on 2006 for the Ms, but we're going in a clear direction--one that offers a fair amount of hope.

These are exactly the kind of deals that the team should be making at this point in its rebuilding cycle. I hate to be so openly optimistic, if only because it invites some sort of karmic retribution, but this is the best I've felt about the M's at the trade deadline in quite some time.

Eye eye, captain! (Or, look what the tide washed in today!)

We are among the cast of thousands of fans clamoring for Bavasi to fix our beloved Mariners for the long term, and to do so in concrete, specific ways like flipping valuable players who will not be on the next good Mariners team for other players who might.

Last night, Randy Winn was sent to San Francisco for one-time pitching prospect Jesse Foppert, coming back this year from TJ surgery, along with a young major league catcher who has never really been given a chance (Yorvit Torrealba).

Last night, Miguel Olivo was sent to San Diego for disappointing catcher Miguel Ojeda and marginally intriguing RHP Natanael Mateo. Mateo has been a reliever in the AA Mobile BayBears bullpen this season, with 15 walks, 39 Ks, and a 3.08 ERA in 52 2/3 IP. He'll be 25 on Christmas Eve, so I doubt that he's much of a prospect, but I hear that he's good a better fastball than I do. Meanwhile, Ojeda will caddy for Torrealba for the foreseeable future.

Like with the Beltre and Sexson deals last offseason, I see eye to eye with Bavasi on this pair of trades. Winn, valuable in the short term but blocking Chris Snelling or Shin-Soo Choo, brings us a major league quality catcher to play until Jeff Clement is ready. Foppert might flame out (I'm not on the bandwagon, but he's been touted as one of the top pitching prospects in the past), it is true. He is, however, the kind of near-major-league-ready starting pitching option that we really needed to be digging up. Even shipping out Olivo and getting anything at all in return is, well, neat.

Add to this that we got rid of Bret Boone's salary and attitude, (along with his miserable glove and bat) a few weeks ago, and I'm increasingly impressed by our GM's trade savvy.

Bill Bavasi, I salute you.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Betancourt up, Lopez down

The M's brought up SS prospect Yuniesky Betancourt yesterday and he made a splash, tripling on the first pitch he saw.

Betancourt is the Cuban defector signed by the M's this offseason to a 3.65 million dollar contract. What do we know about him?

By all accounts he is very slick with the glove. Dan Rohn, the Raniers' manager has compared him favorably to Omar Vizquel. But many people have questioned whether he can hit much in the show. He was a good but not great hitter in Cuba, and Cuba is, by all accounts, a high offensive environment.

Still after missing all of 2004, you know, defecting and all, Yuniesky has held his own in the US minors, hitting .273 and 295 at San Antonio and Tacoma this year. And, in theory, he is only 23. He has shown little patience or power with only 15 walks at the two levels and slugging percentages of .410 and .443 that are helped a lot by his 9 triples.

I'm not sure how this will all shake out. Lopez is down because he isn't hitting, Morse is still hitting but has 10 errors in 43 games and a zone rating of only 779. Will Yuniesky play at short, where is glove is likely to be a big improvement over Morse? Then where will Morse play? I don't expect he'll be any better at second. Will Betancourt hit enough to stick?

And more importantly will the Mariners be able to handle their surplus of middle infielders correctly over the next few years or will they end up trading Jim Edmonds for Brian Bohanon to make room for Darrin Erstad?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Dear Mr. Bavasi,

I'm sure you are very busy right now (at least I hope you are, your immediate predecessor as GM often spent the trade deadline helping his wife move or working with orphans in Bangledesh or vacationing in Hawaii), but I'd like to bring a few things to your attention.

Randy Winn, Aaron Sele, Jeff Nelson, and Jamie Moyer are not under contract next year. They will not be a part of the next good Mariner ballclub (now perhaps 2 seasons away) and should be sold to the highest bidder.

Eddie Guardado is a great guy, who is absolutely pitching his heart out, considering he has a torn rotator cuff AND a sub 2.00 ERA. But highly paid closers are luxuries that terrible teams cannot afford. Further he has tremendous value right now. Any number of playoff teams, notably the Red Sox and Braves, badly need bullpen help. Truly he should fetch a tasty passel of players, should you feel so inclined. I understand that you think we can contend next year, and I surely hope you are right, but we can contend almost as well next year with Putz or Soriano closing games as our sack-clutching amigo.

Other guys you should consider moving would include Ron Villone, Gil Meche and Joel Piniero. Pretty much, they all suck and if you got something for them, you'd be the winner.

I also want to point out that your best hope for juicing the gate a little bit in the last two months of the season is to bring up Snelling and Felix and hope they catch fire. You are in a bit of tough spot right now, in that it might be more fun for your fans to go to Tacoma or even Everett (since Clement just signed) rather than come to the Safe.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about these things, just on the off chance you hadn't thought of them already!

Your Pal,


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Amazing powers of Willie Bloomquist!

Adrian Beltre 2-4, 2 RBI, 5 total bases.
Richie Sexson 3-4, 2 RBI, 7 total bases.

But Willie Bloomquist (1-4, 1 total base) won the game last night! Really! They sad so in the P-I!

Monday, July 25, 2005

A couple of novel ideas

Driving home, about 7:20 tonight, listening to the ballgame which was in the bottom of the first inning:

Ron Fairly: "The Mariners have to hit the ball. That'll take care of pitching, defense, whatever. They have to score some runs. If they can get three or four runs, that'll take the pressure off the pitching."

Rick Rizzs: "The Mariners sure have had trouble scoring runs this year."

Analysis: Really? So if they score some runs, they might win the game? What a novel idea!

A minute or so later ...

Ron Fairly: "One of the keys to the game is that the Mariners have to keep the ball in the ballpark. They have to stop giving up home runs."

Rick Rizzs: "Twenty-two out of the last forty runs given up by the Mariners have been off the home run."

Analysis: Really? Keep it in the ballpark? I thought you were supposed to let the opponent bash the ball out of the park!

If only we'd known this earlier. Thanks for the insights, Ron.


Actually, Double yuk.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

One step forward, three steps back

Granted, I've only been a Mariners fan since 1990, so most of the "dark years" were a grim memory by then. Nevertheless, this seems to be the most Jekyll-and-Hyde M's team in decades.

Every time they seem to be turning a small corner, they lay an egg bigger than the one Big Bird squeezes out (hey, listen to the voice -- that damn thing's gotta be a chick) every morning for breakfast. Four straight wins just before the All Star game brought a ray of sunshine peeking through the turbid clouds over Safeco Field. The first half closes with a flurry, the team has momentum, Bret Boone's been shipped to Minnesota ... what the hell, maybe there's hope for a .500 finish after all. But Seattle quickly proceeds to remind us that they really aren't good enough to make a run to .500 this year once play resumes. After the break, the M's proceed to lose two, win two, lose three before winning last night's game. They are the poster children for inconsistency, a true Jekyll-and-Hyde team.

Are they a grow-from-within franchise like the A's or are they a big-bucks open checkbook organization like the Yankees, Red Sox or Orioles? They've got elements of both on their roster. Are they emphasizing pitching, speed and defense to take advantage of the copious expanses of Safeco Field, or are they primarily a hitting team? The answer to that one is simple: neither. Do they have a clear and obvious plan for the future, or are they drifting and overreactionary? The jury's still out on that one.

I freely admit that I was excited to see the Mariners make a splash in free agency this past off-season. After several years of relative inactivity, including the now-infamous shooting blanks at the trade deadline in both 2002 and 2003, it was nice to see management at least appear to be awake and aware of the circumstances around the club. And yes, they have instilled young players like Jeremy Reed, Jose Lopez and Mike Morse as starters, bringing the youth movement into full swing. I still believe the future is bright, although I can count Bill Bavasi's good moves as GM on one hand.

They're just so vexingly inconsistent this year. Paging Dr. Jekyll, paging Dr. Jekyll ...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Quit yer bitchin'

So Mariner pitchers got the their clocks cleaned at Skydome. But do our boys take it like men, own up to their limitations and promise to get better? No, they really don't.

Franklin bitched about the Jays stealing signs, going so far as to take a couple of steps towards Orlando Hudson to, um, discuss the matter with him. Hey Franky! How bout you guys change the signs! Instead of complaining about it, fix it!

In his post-game interview in the PI, Franklin changes tactics and begins channelling Jeff Fassero. "It was three bad pitches that cost me seven good innings," he said. Ryan, you gve up 8 runs. You gave up 12 hits. There are a little more than 3 mistakes in there. And you only went 5 and two thirds innings. So there.

The next night, there is Joel doing the same damn thing. "I made one mistake, really. It was to Hillenbrand," Pineiro said. "I tried to get it up and in and it was just down and in." At least Joel did pitch pretty decently other than the big 3rd inning. Still the homer to Russ Johnson in the 2nd wasn't a mistake? The two walks in the 6th? All perfect pitches that the umpire missed?

In other news, the M's "reversed" the Snelling demotion. And got him 2 ABs in 3 games. Which sadly is progress.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Taking one for the team?

Hargrove screwed the pooch yesterday. I put this one squarely on him.

Shiggy comes in, bottom of 4. Looks terrible. Loads the bases on an error, a single and a walk, but gets Greg Zaun to pop out to end the inning. So he's clearly "shaky Shiggy."

In the Top of the 5th, they get one run back on the homer from Winn and they are only down 6-4. Its a two run game!

So Grover runs Shiggy back out in the bottom of the fifth. He's thrown 16 pitches, 8 balls, 5 in play, 3 other strikes. Not good, but okay maybe he settles down. And for two batters it looks okay. He goes full on Rios, then gets him looking. Hinske flies out on the first pitch. Then the deluge. Double, sharp single, Double, Double, single, 4 runs scored.

The worst part, according to Rizzs on the radio, is that Grover never got anyone else up. He's got a twelve man pitching staff, but he's leaving Shiggy out there to take the beating. In the old days, you know when you only had 9 or ten pitchers, in the early nineties? In the old days, sometimes a pitcher would be left in to get lit up because the game was out of hand and the bullpen was tired.

But we're carrying 12 fricking pitchers! There is no way he should be giving up on that game! At Skydome? Puh-lease! As it turns out the M's do come back and get within one run before losing by only two! If Hargrove had pulled Shiggy after only two runs it might have been a totally different game. I know its crazy to play the what if game in the 5th inning, but even at the time I was yelling (in my car, by myself mind you), "You're giving up this game? In the 5th? Oh if only we had a 13th pitcher to relieve Shiggy!"


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Snelling goes back to T-Town

In 10 games on the roster, the Mariners got Snelling, 7 plate appearances. Less than one a game.

Dude was hitting 363/447/540 in AAA and they can't figure out a way to use him.

Just to refresh your memory, the Mariners are last in the American League in runs scored. They are last in Batting Average. They are last in On-Base-Percentage. Last in slugging. Last in home runs. Granted they play in a pitchers ballpark. They could still use a little help.

You could argue that Snelling needs more time in Tacoma. That he needs to play a full season without getting hurt. Fine. Why bring him up? If you are going to bring him up, you cannot tell me that he doesn't deserve a chance to help this team.

Of course you CAN tell me, I just won't listen. Actually I'll be the one with my hands over my ears, singing, "obla di, obli da, life goes on..."

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Yay! Baseball is back!

Boo! The Mariner's still suck!

Yay! Snelling in the lineup!

Boo! He went 0-for-3. Not that he's not allowed, just that that likely means it'll be another week before Grover plays him again.

I know Rizzs and Hendu made too much of it, but you did have to love Ichiro stealing 2nd and 3rd after being thrown at twice. There is no doubt in my mind that the Orioles are throwing at Ichiro, by the way. I don't think they are trying to hit him necessarily, but definitely trying to knock him down, make him uncomfortable in the box. Wouldn't surprise me at all to see Jamie knock a few guys down today. That's just the kind of guy he is.

One other thought. We all saw Schilling blow up in his first try as closer on Wednesday. Keep rooting against him. It only makes Guardado that much more of a commodity.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Britney Boone??

If you've never read Bat Girl, well you should be. One of her regular features this year is something she calls Minnesota Twins: Hottest Chick. Frankly its a little disturbing, but hard to turn away from. The most recent edition features a certain former All-Star second baseman.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

All-Star Game Diary.

I decided to keep a running diary from the AS game tonight. Its really long though so I'll give you a couple of entries on top here and the rest in the comments. Enjoy.

5:35 McCarver stumbles badly thru the intro. I used to consider him the best analyst in the game. Now I pray for his retirement.

5:35 Fox has a Fantastic Four intro here? Shouldn’t we make sure its a hit first?

5:43 Eckstein's the starting SS for the NL? Should the AL loan them one? Jeter maybe so McCarver can swoon over him?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Boone! Here comes the Boone!

Boonie gets traded to the Twins today. For a Player to be named later, which likely means that the M's got a list and want to check out the Minnesota prospects on the list a little more closely before picking one. It could also mean that the player is conditional depending on how Bret does for them.

A couple of reports had the Twins as Boone's first chouce, though I find it hard to believe that he'd rather go there than San Diego, but who knows.

The M's are reportedly paying all but the minimum of Bret's remaining salary.

August 8-10, the Twins come to Safeco for a 3 game set. Bring your hankies.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Nosing through the Calgary Sun as well as the brief hotel-based internet browsing I've done since we left town last Tuesday, one undeniable truism has come to light: the M's are hot!

Could DFA-ing Boone have been a wake-up call for this team, or is this just one of those short-term bursts of energy that you see when, for example, the manager gets axed? Either way, sweeping aside the Angels is an impressive accomplishment any year, much less during another down-in-the-dumps season like the one we're currently experiencing.

Noteworthy: for over a month now, despite the overall inconsistency, personnel changes, rampant rumors, the transition to youth and a rather difficult schedule, the Mariners have been playing essentially .500 ball. The younger guys are beginning to come around and are going to have a full half-season to further acclimate to the majors before the heightened expectations of next year.

At least there had better be heightened expectations ...

Hey this is kinda fun!

You know, scoring runs and getting wins! I vote that the Mariners keep doing that for the rest of the year!

It was mentioned on the broadcast last night that the headline in the Orange County Register read "Who are these guys?" after the two 10 run games. That gets an amen. Just like last year, playing the kids has not just given us something to look at for next year, they've given us an immediate boost. Morse is playing better than Valdez, and while he won't be a 400 hitter all year and maybe not even a 300 hitter, he's more productive than Valdez would have been. Same for Lopez and Boone. It made no sense to hold onto Boone at this point when there is a very good chance Lopez can outproduce him the rest of the way.

Because Winn has been productive this year, there is no guarantee that Snelling can replace him this year, its not a no-brainer. But there's a decent chance. Snelling was ripping it up in T-Town.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Beltre is hitting finally and that Wonderboy (Bloomquist) is en fuego. With regard to Wonderboy, even with my statistically minded leanings, I do believe, paraphrasing Crash Davis, that you don't fuck with a hot streak. Go Willie!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

200. That's good.

Congratulations to Jamie Moyer on victory number 200. Moyer is a fun pitcher to watch, by all accounts a great guy, and he has meant a lot to the M's over the years.

That all being said, I hope the Mariners can flip him to a contender for something useful. Soon. He's a "5 and 10" guy so he can refuse any trade because he's a 10 year vet, over5 with the M's. If he refuses a trade then so be it, I don't begrudge him that right at all. But if he has interest in playing somewhere else, then move him on. This season is over.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Oh the Humanity!

Why did this happen?

Pitcher Number of Pitches- Strikes
J Pineiro 119-72

Joel looked great last night, absolutely, but this is a guy coming off of elbow surgery last season who missed the first month of this season with shoulder stiffness. For a team going nowhere. Is Bob Melvin still managing?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

You know it's a season from hell when...

Aaron Sele (Aaron Sele!) pitches a quality start, Willie Bloomquist (no kidding!!) hits THREE doubles, and you're facing the KANSAS CITY Royals...

And you lose, pretty convincingly.

I'm just saying....

Whither Boone??

Despite the PI reporting yesterday that a trade for Boone was "unlikely," rumors are flying regarding potential suitors.

I believe that the 3 most likely destinations are:

1. San Diego. The Padres are currently leading the NL West. Starting 2b Mark Loretta is hurt and when he gets back, starting 3B Sean Burroughs is terrible. If Boone plays decent for the Padres, Loretta can flop over to 3rd when he comes off the DL. Boone previously played for the Pads and was well liked there. San Diego has no cash to spend so the M's would have to pick up nearly all of Boone's salary. As we well know, this year's M's budget has no effect on next year's, so as a fan, you don't really care whether the M's pay Boone for the rest of the year or not.

2. New York Mets. The Letsgos are 10 games out in the NL East and 5.5 back of Atlanta for the wildcard. They are only a game under .500 though. Kaz Matsui is taking it badly from the fans and playing poorly. As we know the Mets love to make moves to get headlines in the battle for hearts and minds of New Yorkers.

3. Minnesota. The Twins need middle infield help bad. They've lost a gaggle of second basemen and shortstops to injury this season, and have a deep farm system. They also would need the M's to pick up nearly all of Boone's salary.

And really you can't discount the Yankees. Robinson Cano has played pretty well for them, hitting 280 with a little power. However if the Yankees are in it, George is going to want to make a move and he and Torre both prefer "proven veterans" over young players. Also King George would love to keep the Mets from getting him. There is a Boston rumor and a Dodgers rumor both of which have been denied, but still they exist.

It only takes one GM to think that Boone can turn it around to make a trade happen. Given his past production, surely one guy will bite. After all the corpse of Robbie Alomar got traded each of the last two years at the deadline.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Web Gems

Dave Valle: "I can't remember the last time we were here for the 4th."
Rick Rizzs: "Last year."
dead air....

Once again, Rizzs is not paying attention, and Val calls him on it after the commercial break. Sweet.

Midway Numerology

With this afternoon’s game, we reach the midway point of the 2005 season.

This, then, is a good time to take stock of where we’re at.

There are a number of different statistical measures that are useful to help describe a baseball team’s performance. Batting average, wins, saves, and RBI are all familiar, even if practically useless to understand the abilities of major league players. In the end, we would like to know WHY the Mariners enter today’s game at 33-46, a .418 winning percentage that is good for 5th worst in the majors.

Two approaches that are popular among statheads strive to evaluate player performance by using a single number. One of those approaches produces a single accumulated value for the season’s statistics (Runs Created/Runs Saved, for example, or Win Shares—both Bill James creations). A second approach goes further, and strives to put that single number in context (for instance, Lee Sinins uses RCAA/RSAA—Runs Created/Runs Scored ABOVE AVERAGE—to show how an individual’s RC or RS score compares to the league). The guys at The Hardball Times have tweaked James’s open-source Win Shares formulae, and have decided to produce a number (WSAB—Win Shares Above Bench) that put the single number in the context of a “replacement” player, rather than league average. Baseball Prospectus uses the same concept, and adds in positional context (comparing, say, first basemen to first basemen) when divulging VORP (Value Over Replacement Player).

With either the “relative to average” or “relative to replacement player” approaches, we have freely available statistics that, however flawed their calculation might be, provide an interesting way to take stock of both individual and team performance.

According to RCAA, for instance, the Chicago White Sox are today dead last in the league in offense, a full 50 runs created below league average. The reason that they lead the majors in W-L record? Their pitching has saved 92 runs ABOVE league average, whereas only three AL teams have even half that total. (This approach suggests that all of the talk about Chicago’s dynamic “small ball” approach is yet another indictment of the limitations of Ozzie Guillen as a manager.)

Win Shares, meanwhile, are tied to a team’s actual number of victories (3 WS are awarded per team win), so they do not necessarily reward equivalent hitting or pitching performance on different teams with the same number of Win Shares. Thus, they inherently put statistics into a team context before evaluating them. So, on the 33-46 Mariners, Raul Ibanez’s team-high TEN Win Shares, or 5 WSAB, puts his .291/.354/.466 (AVG/OBA/SLG) line into the context of Seattle’s 33 wins, and into the context of Seattle’s other players. Aaron Rowand, the White Sox outfielder who leads the ChiSox in WS by a hitter, has inferior rate stats compared to Raul (.280/.337/.398), but has 11 WS, or 6 WSAB.

Part of the problem here is that Win Shares include separate batting, pitching, and fielding calculations, all of which combine into the complete WS number. The discrepancy between Ibanez and Rowand decreases if we focus just on batting WS, where Raul wins 9.6 to 8.5. In terms of RCAA, Ibanez is +12, while Rowand is -4. (To thoroughly confuse the issue, VORP shows Ibanez at 23.8, and Rowand at 9.7.)

With all of these different measures, most of which have arcane inner workings, it is no wonder that so many otherwise intelligent baseball fans resist claims made by statheads, and then rally behind Joe Morgan-types to attack Billy Beane on the basis of what hagiographer Michael Lewis wrote in Moneyball.

Still, it seems that we could analyze the Mariners’ performance in the first half thusly:


W-L record


(AL Rank)


(AL Rank)

Los Angeles
























This is as good a set of numbers as any to start with. Now, the question is, is below-average hitting and even more below-average pitching what the front office EXPECTED of the 2005 Mariners? Where can we objectively hope to improve? Let’s look at the nine hitting positions first (note that in general, there can be no NEGATIVE Win Shares, which saves Miguel Olivo a ton of embarrassment):





players appearing in 2005





Olivo, Wilson, Borders, Rivera, Wiki

First Base





Second Base




Boone, Lopez

Third Base









Valdez, Bloomquist, Morse
















Designated Hitter









Dobbs, Spiezio, Hansen, Choo





Whichever measure we look closely at, catcher and shortstop stand out as the catastrophes, with Bert a close third place. Catastrophes can be good, in that a team full of equally mediocre players is harder to upgrade than one with some strong points (Sexy, Ichiro even in a down season, and Ibanez) and some disasters (Borders and Morse, Bert).

Back to the question, though. Is this outcome what Bavasi, etc., expected to confront them in early July 2005? I have to think, yes. This organization has NEVER developed a worthwhile catcher (Dave Valle is as close as we’ve gotten, and don’t get me started there), and we currently lack any viable backstops in the minors. As soon as we sign Jeff Clement, the #3 overall pick in the June amateur draft, that position has a chance of improving, but it might prove necessary to look for a trade or free agent upgrade behind the plate while we await the arrival of Clement to the Show. The plan for 2005 Mariners’ catcher was apparently: play Olivo, cross fingers.

Shortstop is a different story: we DO currently have a number of potential shortstops in the low minors. Again, though, there is a question of time. And again, with the decision last offseason to rely on players like Pokey Reese (whose value is best appreciated in the imagination, since despite being better than every player who has appeared in 2005 at SS for the Mariners, he is so far below average as a hitter that his glove simply cannot make up the difference) and waiver wire pickups (hello, Wilson Valdez!), we have been forced to bring up Morse, who has the merit of not being quite as bad as Willie Bloomquist.

Perhaps all of that analysis, though, elides the main point, which we have made incessantly here for several weeks. Looking back at the AL West comparison at the midway point, it is the PITCHING that has distinguished us from a real major league team. At least the Rangers combine high-powered offense with their minor league pitching!! I wonder sometimes how poorly this Mariners team would do in the PCL. No matter. Just how bad has the pitching been? Behold.





Grab Bag




a.k.a Guardado

Homer Boy




a.k.a. Putz

Julio Mateo




Ron Villone




Jeff Nelson




Jorge Campillo








George Sherrill




Bobby Madritsch




White Flag




a.k.a. Thornton

Gil Meche




Aaron Sele




Jamie Moyer




Ryan Franklin




Joel Pineiro








You may notice that the entire starting rotation scores below the Human Admission of Defeat in RSAA, although they do better by merit of Win Shares calculations. This chart puts into concrete figures what we have known all season—because it is evident by watching, and because so few of us are able to look away from the train wreck that is the Bill Bavasi Mariners. We’re fans, we’re masochists, we like to watch bloody catastrophes happening to other people, whatever.

Can we improve here? Not any time soon. Critics of Billy Beane in Oakland often chirp that his model wouldn’t look so successful without the “Big Three,” namely, Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder. Just so. The small-market A’s have been able to draft, develop, and keep healthy major league caliber PITCHERS as well as position players, so that for every Bobby Crosby they bring up (aha! A shortstop), they have several Justin Duschscherers and Joe Blantons.

It is worth asking (and the fine folks at USS Mariner have engaged in this line of questioning already) just why the many Mariners pitching prospects have all flamed out or been hurt in the last few seasons. Even on the free agent market, pitching is expensive ($7 million a year seemed to be about the going rate for starting pitchers this last offseason), and even more so via trade. Teams that cannot develop their own pitching will not compete. The best you could hope for would be the current Texas Rangers, with powerful hitting and atrocious pitching (but still better than ours), to allow you to compete but then be unlikely to win any playoff series.

Catcher, shortstop, second base, starting pitching. Pretty glaring weaknesses, all. What’s the old adage? You build a baseball team with strength up the middle. Thanks for joining us in Seattle, Mr. Bavasi.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

"Bogey" Putz

Is there a reliever in the league that has given up more late-game home runs than J.J. Putz?

You have to feel for the guy. In the deep recesses of his mind, he's hoping that someday he assumes a full-time closer role, here or elsewhere. And yet at least so far in his young career, he's shown a remarkable knack for giving up game-winning dingers.

Taken in the aggregate, his numbers are pretty solid: 2.59 ERA, 25 hits in 31 1/3 innings pitched, 26 strike outs and 13 walks. He's got fastball that touches 95 mph. Last year, he notched nine saves as the primary second-half closer against four blown opportunities. Not great, but it was his first season in the show. By the numbers, he's improved significantly this year.

Except for those darned gopher balls. For the record, he's given up five this season. Granted, four of them came in a two-week span (Jorge Posada, Trot Nixon, Bernie Williams and Jay Gibbons). I guess you could argue that he's improved since then, having gone five weeks since his last one. Nevertheless, tonight's shot by Gary Matthews, Jr. (off of a sinker, no less), broke a 5-5 deadlock and sent the Mariners to their seventh straight loss.

"That was just a dumb pitch to throw at that point," said Putz. I'd have to agree with that assessment.

Let's hope his psyche isn't permanently scarred by these homers. He may never be a closer, but he could be a key set-up man if he can keep the ball in the yard. The operative word in that sentence is if.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Speaking of the A's

I don't normally read him very often, but Blez at Athletics Nation has developed the ability to interview Oakland personnel, which can be worth suffering through Blez to read. This week, he is blogging his recent interview with analysts' lightning rod Billy Beane, who has several interesting things to say.

I caught myself wondering if Bill Bavasi could say something like the following:

Blez: You were talking about starting to build now and be more competitve. We're getting near the time of year when GMs make the decision about whether they are going to be buyers or sellers at the trading deadline. Is that something you've already made a decision about? Or are you going to wait to see how things play out over the next several weeks?

Beane: That's always an easy question to answer. We are always both. There's never been a year that we aren't both. The goal here is not to have a cute little team that's competitive. The goal here is to have a team where year after year we are competing for a playoff spot. That's always the way I think. We want to be good for a long time. We're always going to be both.

Part of the reason we're both and not just buyers is in part because of the market situation we're in. But it's also healthy (to be both a buyer and seller). I don't see a change in that. We've always been involved in the deadline one way or the other. We will continue to be. But our goal is to be good here, year after year after year. So when you look on the field, you see Crosby and say, he's going to be here five years, player X is going to be here five years. We don't shoot for .500 here. We never have. We're not going to do that. Our goal is something we will attain and we're going to do it as quickly as we can. It's not this five-year rebuilding plan.

I look at the moves that the Mariners have made since Bavasi got here, and I have to there a sense in the Mariners' front office of where the team is now, what it will take to get to success from here, and how to achieve that? For all the criticism that Beane receives (mostly, but not all, from non-Moneyball readers who dislike the tone of "stathead" partisans), you have to admit that the Oakland organization is run better than ours for less cash (exactly Tad's point).

In any case, if you want to read the rest of Beane's responses (including a fine Python reference), have at you.