Saturday, May 27, 2006

Memorial Day Report Card

As I see them, here are the current grades as of yesterday's games (26 May), with the 22-28 Mariners nearly 1/3 of the way through the 2006 season:

Catcher – A-

RH Kenji Johjima (276/337/414, 752 OPS, 25 RC, 6 WS), $5.43 M, 5th among AL C in THT’s Win Shares

The catcher position has been anchored by a very solid Kenji Johjima, who has pretty much answered all of the questions directed at him during the offseason. His homerun power has been a tiny bit less than we hoped, but overall, this is a HUGE improvement from 2005’s parade of idiots.

First Base – D-

RH Richie “Big Sexy” Sexson (209/282/368, 650, 21, 3), $13.0 M, 10th among AL 1b in WS

Well, what can we say about Big Sexy? He’s struggled to do anything worthwhile this season, and if he’s not nursing a secret injury, then this qualifies as a disaster. But at least he’s a well-paid disaster! A 650 OPS wouldn’t be acceptable for someone who CAN play defense, but with his contract, we’re pretty much stuck wishfully hoping that Sexson can return to his historical form, with an OPS north of 900.

Second Base – A

RH Jose C. Lopez (286/316/488, 804, 40, 10), $0.3 M, 1st among AL 2b in WS

Second base was made out to be a “competition” by Mike Hargrove in Spring Training, but no fans actually believed that the Mariners would give the job to anyone other than Lopez. Even his biggest detractors can’t currently say that he’s the team’s problem, as indeed, the young man has blossomed into a fine 1/3 of the season second sacker. Can he keep this level of production up? Hard to say, but since he’s only 23 years old, things look pretty good at second for the M’s

Third Base – F

RH Adrian Beltre (214/282/287, 569, 10, 0), $12.9 M, 16th among AL 3b in WS

Yikes. I applauded this signing when it happened. I agreed with everyone else that last season was simply an aberration, a step down from what we could legitimately expect from Beltre. And then this season he has gotten worse, far worse. The man is Jeff Cirillo, part deux. Tatonka. I’m not giving up just yet, but yeesh. Look at those stats. He’s just turned 27, so he ought to be entering his prime years, and yet…good Lord, he sucks. Zero win shares puts him so far down the list of AL 3b that TWO Angels and THREE Royals third basemen rank ahead of him in 2006 WS.

Shortstop – C-

RH Yuniesky Betancourt (272/286/392, 678, 17, 3), $0.3 M, 9th among AL SS in WS

YuBet has not exactly been as advertised this year…sure, his fielding WS approach his value at the plate (1.4 to 1.7), and I don’t know if he “looks” as flashy this season as he did most of last season in the field, but his fielding WS are ninth among AL SS, well back of one Carlos Guillen, and less than half the fielding WS value of leader Jhonny (can’t spell my own first name) Peralta. The good news is that we weren’t expecting much out of shortstop this season. The bad news is that’s exactly what we’re getting.

Left Field – B+

LH Raul Ibanez (265/326/445, 771, 31, 6), $4.9 M, 14th among AL OF

I’ll apologize again here to Gillvasi, who’s signing of Ibanez I roundly criticized at the time. This has been a value free agent signing for the entire contract. On the one hand, I hope that Ibanez’s good run does not turn into a ridiculous contract extension. On the other hand, I was wrong before…. Raul is NOT the problem with the Mariners miserable teams during the last couple of seasons.

Centerfield – F

RH Willie Bloomquist (270/338/286, 624, 8, 2), $0.6 M, 44th among AL OF

LH Jeremy Reed (225/267/387, 654, 9, 1), $0.4 M, 51st among AL OF

What a nightmare! I have to list Wee Willie first because Reed has SO sucked thus far this season. Regression from last year’s none-too-impressive campaign is rather disappointing for young Mr. Reed. I’m already on the Adam Jones bandwagon; join me! (The 21-year-old shortstop convert is hitting 244/279/445 in Tacoma right now, with 7 HR and 5 SB.) In Bloomquist and Reed, we seem to have a capable pinch-runner and a decent fifth outfielder. That makes for a problem as a tag-team starting centerfielder.

Right Field – B+

LH Ichiro! Suzuki (313/364/379, 743, 33, 6), $12.5 M, 11th among AL OF

Ichiro! is less awesome than he has been, but he’s still solidly on the fringe of the elite outfielders in baseball. He’s dependent on his speed, but since that’s still there, this is not yet a position that we need to think about upgrading soon.

Designated Hitter – D+

S Carl Everett (260/342/422, 764, 22, 3), $3.4 M, 7th among AL DH

It’s nearly Memorial Day, and Jurassic Carl has failed to cause any serious altercations or injuries in the clubhouse. I say that’s an unmitigated victory for the M’s, even if $3 M could have been saved by going with Roberto Petagine instead. However, if your DH is only generating 3 WS through 1/3 of the season, that’s (quick napkin calculation) only about 3 wins different than a freely-available AAAA player could produce. Not a value pick. Not the problem with our M’s, but not in the same universe as the solution, and if his contract extends beyond 2006, this is a stupid, stupid signing. Oh, wait—it’s already stupid.

Rotation – B-

RH Gil Meche (4.40 ERA, 49 K, 26 BB, 7 HR, 4.41 FIP, 4 Win Shares), $3.7 M, 21st AL SP

LH Jamie Moyer (3.66, 39, 18, 6, 4.01, 4), $5.5 M, 24th AL SP

LH Jarrod Washburn (4.04, 28, 15, 8, 4.74, 4), $7.5 M, 25th AL SP

RH Joel Pineiro (5.25, 27, 19, 10, 5.48, 2), $6.3 M, 45th AL SP

RH Felix Hernandez (5.59, 59, 22, 10, 4.76, 0), $0.3 M, 66th AL SP

B- as in: not so bad. Meche is pitching just about how his Defense Independent stats say he should be, and the King can only get better, but the rest of the rotation is poised to fall apart EVEN further than they already have. Frankly, I expected to find the staff in worse shape according to rankings: arguably, with the 21st, 24th, and 25th American League starters (ranked by THT Win Shares), the Mariners have effectively had zero ace starters but a staff anchored by three #2 guys, followed by a true #4 starter in Pineiro, and a struggling rook who has nowhere to go but up as the #5 guy. Thus, according to WS, or ERA, or whatever way you want to rank them, this isn’t a bad regular-season staff. It wouldn’t win any championships, but replace Joel with a real #1 and you have a pretty solid staff.

Bullpen – B

RH J.J. Putz (3.33, 36, 6, 1, 1.73, 4), $0.4 M, 9th AL RP by Win Shares

RH Rafael Soriano (2.73, 29, 9, 3, 3.70, 3), $0.5 M, 18th AL RP

LH George Sherrill (2.57, 16, 11, 0, 3.02, 2), $0.3 M, 24th AL RP

LH Eddie Guardado (4.86, 17, 8, 4, 5.68, 1), $6.3 M, 53rd AL RP

RH Julio Mateo (5.74, 12, 9, 3, 5.65, 1), $0.6 M, 61st AL RP

LH Jake Woods (6.97, 19, 15, 4, 6.02, 0), $0.3 M

RH Sean Green (6.10, 6, 6, 1, 5.29, 0), $0.3 M

Three quality relievers is enough to form a solid bullpen, and although I’m not sold on Putz’s long-term grasp on the adjective “quality,” nevertheless we’ve got the young, cheap makings of a fine ‘pen in Soriano and Sherrill. Guardado is a broken-down version of his younger self, while the rest of the staff (and I’ve left off Fruto, Harris, etc.) is simply AAA flotsam and jetsam rotating through the pen. As they’ve played out thus far, the pen is also not the problem with the team.

Overall On-Field Stats:

The Mariners’ offense is tenth in the league in runs scored per game, at 4.52. League average is close to 5 runs/game, so that’s pretty limp. Meanwhile, the pitching staff ranks seventh (average) in the league by allowing 4.98 runs/game (with a 4.68 ERA; the other 0.3 r/g are unearned). We’re right around the expected wins that should result from having scored 226 and allowed 249 runs, so assuming that no major changes occur in the makeup of the team for the rest of the season, it would take a rebound by the infield corners (not unlikely) to improve in the standings.

The good news here is that the Angels are experiencing massive suckitude as well in 2006, and neither the Rangers nor the A’s have really pulled away from the pack just yet. But that’s not really going to help us at all.

Manager – C

Mike Hargrove makes baffling decisions, but he’s one of many many non-entities as a major league manager. I don’t honestly think he’s hurting or helping the club, so we’ll just give the Human Rain Delay a C and move on.

Coaches – D

Jeff Pentland and Rafael Chaves are supposed to maintain the batting and pitching effectiveness, respectively, of the team’s players. Given the utter inability of Pentland to help Beltre and Sexy and Reed, I would say that he has started off his career as Mariners hitting coach in rocky fashion. Conversely, I’d give Chaves at least a C+ for his efforts thus far, since he’s got Meche pitching at what for him is an above-average level, and I would think that some of the credit has to go to him. King Felix’s struggles were predictable, in hindsight, and I feel that the Mariners’ staff is handling him appropriately, so there you go.

GM – D

Bill Bavasi has been a Behring-sized blight on the Mariners organization, although he has made one or two good moves. You know, it’s pretty sad when the current head of the team’s personnel moves makes you long for a good solid Woody Woodward. Yikes. Can’t wait until Bavasi is fired, but then again, who to replace him with? Will the Mariner front office choose yet another Good Old Boy to run the team poorly? The farm system is pretty weak, with only Adam Jones and Jeff Clement standing out as definite help for the big club in the near future. There are building blocks here, but the long-term health of the pitching staff is a huge question mark, King Felix notwithstanding, while the pathetic batting performances of some of the high-salary players make hitting the immediate priority. Sad.

What? You're still reading? Shame on you! Well, let's end this dissection of the team with the following optimistic note: as poorly as the team has hit, and as discouraging as some elements of Mariner fandom are right now, we're not in last place (thanks Anaheim), AND despite our troubles so far, the pitching staff has us on pace for something closer to 71-72 wins than the pessimistic 68 that I predicted for this season's team. Oh, what, I was only off by 3-4 out of 162? Well, it's, uhh, early. Yeah, that's it. We'll get better. We're good enough, we're smart enough, and darn it, people...ugh.


At 3:17 PM, Blogger Tad said...

Very nice Jason. I disagree with you about Hargrove and Sunday's shenanigans bear me out completely.

And Ibanez already got the contract extension. He got two more years and 11 million in March. If he earns that money I'll screw it....

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