Thursday, August 31, 2006

What to make of the 7-2 homestand???

How does a team that loses 11 in a row, then go 7-2 against the Yankees, Red Sawx and Angels? Baseball is a funny game.

Part of the answer is that the Mariners are probably a .500 team in terms of talent this year, so after an 11 game losing streak, some regression to the mean is inevitable. They are going to win somewhere between 78-85 games this year, so they've got to beat somebody.

There is an interesting parallel with the Twins this year though. After starting the year with "proven veterans" like Tony Batista, Juan Castro, Rondell White, and others, the Twinkies were dead and buried in the AL playoff chase. But they cut those guys loose and started playing guys from the farm system like Bartlett and Kubel, Liriano goes into the rotation and boom! They took off and currently hold the wild card slot.

The Mariners don't have quite the talent of the Twins, but the lineup they trotted out last night is so much better than the ones early in the year featuring Everett as the DH and Bloomquist in center:

CF, Ichiro
RF, Snelling
3b, Beltre
LF, Ibanez
1B, Sexson
DH, Broussard
C, Johjima
2b, Lopez
SS, Betancourt

It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to start next season with that lineup right there, would it? Another big bat would be great, but wouldn't you rather we signed two starters? 3 maybe?

As the season winds down I expect both Jason and I will take a look at what we think the M's should do in the offseason, but at quick glance, I think I could live with that lineup.

Advanced Pitching Stats

David Cameron of USS Mariner fame has a great article on how to interpret some of the advanced pitching statistics available at The Hardball Times and Fangraphs. These are great sites with great stats and among other things they easily predicted the mediocre season out of Jarrod Washburn this year (He stranded an unsustainably high percentage of runners last season).

You should definitely check it out.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


All of out thoughts and prayers here at Tatonka go out to Rafael Soriano. He took a wicked liner off of Vlady Guerrero's bat last night and was down for several minutes. Early indications are that he is ok and we wish him a speedy recovery.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Live Game Notes: August 26th, M's v Red Sox

Wow. That was a great game. Couple o' notes:

  • The crowd was electric. Red Sox nation tried many times to get a "Lets ! Go! Red! Sox!" chant going but the Mariner faithful countered-cheered them into submission every time. Even accounting for all the Red Sox fans, that was the loudest M's crowd all year.
  • Who was that dude and what did he do with Gil Meche? Struck out 5 of the first six, including Ortiz and Man-Ram (hee!). He hit 98 on the gun a number of times and his breaking stuff was truly nasty. Maybe he should skip a start every time out. Seriously, I wonder if you could make that work. Only start him on 6 or seven days rest. You would need a sixth starter/swingman type to take up the slack, but if you get the Gil Meche we saw last night for 20 starts, would that be worth it?
  • They ended up kicking Yuni's triple around in the outfield a bit, but even if they hadn't, it would have been a classic "triple out of the box." He flew up the first baseline, ran hard the whole way. Very fun to watch.
  • Red Sox fan sitting next to us was just despondent in the 8th inning. Timlin gave up the homer to Beltre and two laser beam singles to Raul and Richie, then over 1000 feet of line drive outs. Broussard's sac fly in particular was a prodigous blast, only to the deepest part of the park. And Francona never moved. Never even sent the pitching coach out to talk to the guy. Just let him give up 2 runs and lose the game. Sound familiar M's fans?
  • On Francona, what is it with Boston coaches and the dress code? First Belichick wins threeSuper Bowls while dressing like a homeless person, now Terry Francona is trying to popularize, what is that, a sweatshirt? Because the traditional baseball uniform is too formal for Terry? It's not close enough to pajamas for him?
  • Is this Beltre for real? Since the break: 293/358/553. 8 Homers and 32 RBI in 150 at-bats. Its not MVP Beltre, but its All-star level performance, right? Is it real? Is this what we can reasonably expect next season?
  • Wow, Putz is good. I know, he did allow the inherited runner to score and he got a little help from both Manny and the umpire on the play at third. But the ninth inning? Pure Gold.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Hell?

You lose 11 in a row, then take 2 of 3 from the Yankees? Go figure.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Its a good thing

Its always good to end an 11 game losing streak. Especially against the Yankees.

And its more than a little encouraging to have Ichiro and Snelling getting on and causing trouble and Sexson and Beltre hitting bombs. That's the offense we all expected to see at the beginning of the year.

I'm not sure what the hell Mateo was doing pitching to A-Rod in the ninth. Did Grover think there was going to be a save situation for Putz later? I sure won't miss moves like those when he's gone. Grover, of course, not Putz.

Baek pitched well also, I thought. 6 K's and only 3 walks against a scary good Yankee lineup. I would love to see him pitch well and take the 4th or 5th starter spot next year.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Moyer Dealt

I remember it like it was yesterday. Trade Deadline in 96, the Mariners desperately trying to run down the Texas Rangers in the AL West. The Unit and Bosio were hurt, Bob Wells sucked and the M's were giving starts to Bob Milacki, Paul Menhart and Salomon Torres.

They made two moves that suumer, moving Desi Relaford to the Phillies for Terry Mullholland and Darren Bragg to the Red Sox for Jamie Moyer. I didn't follow a lot of advanced stats in those days, but I knew enough to know that Moyer's 7-1 record wasn't as impressive as it sounded, since it went with a 4.50 ERA (plus I really liked Darren Bragg).

Still Moyer pitched great down the stretch for the 96 M's, 6-2 with a 3.31 ERA. It wasn't good enough to catch Texas but, the rest, as they say, is history. Jamie's won more games in a Mariner uniform than any other pitcher, he is one of only two guys to win 20 games in a season for the M's, and he is the Mariner's leader in starts and innings pitched.

I thought he was done in 2000 (13-10, with a 5.49 ERA) and again in 2004 (7-13, 5.21 ERA) but he bounced back every time. I suppose he's been only average for the last couple of seasons, but there was something comforting seeing him out there on the hill.

And in an age where it seems like 75% of pitchers have the same repetoire of Fastball/Slider/Change, where you can count the knuckleballers on one hand and the side-armers on another, a well pitched Moyer game was a thing of beauty. A fastball in the 70s and change-up after change-up after change-up. Watching guys swing and miss three times in a row at the same pitch, all change-ups was simply marvelous to behold.

Why did Jamie accept a trade this year, when he wouldn't last year? He's from PA, so I imagine that had something to do with it, but part of it has to be that he sees this team going nowhere. They've clearly given up on Grover and it seems like that would be tough for Jamie to watch day after day. Although he certainly could still resign here in the offseason, I have to imagine he looks at next years Mariners and doesn't see much hope.

I like the trade, picking up two live arms for a 43 year old starter is certainly the right move for the M's, but if Jamie can't see things getting any better here next year, how in the hell are we supposed to?

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Adventures of Willie and Grover

So Mike Hargrove decides to give Ichiro the night off. Everybody needs a day off every now and then yes?

And he's starting Bloomquist in center, so of course he has him lead off. I have no idea why Adam Jones hasn't played since Sunday. I understand that he doesn't look ready, but he's not going to get ready sitting on the major league bench 5 games in a row. It just makes no sense.

Willie starts the game with a strikeout. In the third with a man on? Strikeout. One out into the 6th with a man on? Strikeout.

In the 8th with 2 outs and the bases empty, down 3 runs? Ichiro pinch hits for Frakking Bloomquist.

Say what? Come again?

Why in the world would you use a guy in the 8th with no one on? What is the point? If you were going to have Ichi pinch hit at some point in the game how about the 6th when you had a man on and a couple of outs to work with?

I understand trying to give Ichiro MOST of the game off and using him late as a pinch hitter if something presents itself, but two outs nobody on in the 8th? In the NL you might hit for the pitcher in that situation but thats it!! Maybe down a run you might let someone hit there that could tie it with one swing, but down 3? It. does. not. make. sense.

For the love of Pete! Just fire the guy already.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hargrove vs. Wedge of Cheese

Welcome, one and all, to the first edition of an ongoing series in which we pit our own beloved* manager Mike Hargrove against various challengers for his job. This should dispel once and for all any myths about the effectiveness of Grover.

Today's test should be pretty easy for Super Grover: he faces off in round one against a Wedge of Cheese. How about medium cheddar, so as to minimize the surface area (and therefore brain power) of the cheese in question.

Let's get the pre-game festivities out of the way: welcome, challenger. Do you have any comments before we begin?


Uhhh, thanks. Mr. Hargrove, are you ready?


Great. And we're off. A very pleasant good evening to all you Mariners fans out there, as well as to the many thousands of Mike Hargrove fans here in Oakland's Network Associates Coliseum. Tonight's matchup on the mound features washed-up random pitcher Kirk Saarloos of Oakland against Mariners’ albatross Joel “Suckfest” Pineiro. Pretty even, don’t you think?

Let’s have a look at the starting lineups:


Seattle Mariners

RF Ichiro Suzuki

2B Jose Lopez

3B Adrian Beltre

LF Raul Ibanez

1B Ben Broussard

C Kenji Johjima

DH Greg Dobbs

SS Yuniesky Betancourt

CF Willie Bloomquist

Whoa! Wait just a minute. Mike Hargrove would normally have a pretty difficult time losing to cheese, but if this is the lineup he’s going to throw out there…hmmm. Maybe he WANTS to lose? Let’s see what the cheddar would do…(WWCD, or “What would cheese do,” will introduce further instances of cheese-y moves):


Seattle Mariners

No lineup.

Alrighty, the surprise factor is high. I think we’d have to rely on the players themselves to construct a viable lineup. And you know what? No matter WHAT they choose, it can’t possibly be as bad as the one turned in by Grover.

Cheese: 1, Hargrove: 0.

The game gets underway, and in real life, Saarloos managed to scatter eight hits over six innings, only coughing up two runs despite striking out just a single Mariner (Rauuuuuuul). That was in part due to double plays turned in successive innings in the fifth and sixth.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s starting “pitcher” gets hammered by the weakest-hitting team this side of…Seattle, as Joel “Puke Factor” Pineiro limits the A’s to less than ten runs (!) in just under four innings of work.

If the game ISN’T over when Piñata gets knocked around in the second (gotta love those two-run doubles given up to such power hitters as MARCO SCUTARO), then it sure is when he fails to capitalize on a double play in the fourth inning, and proceeds to deliver one of the more impressive two-out meltdowns in pitching history.

Not Grover’s fault, right? I mean, he’s stuck with Piñata in the rotation?

Well, WWCD? Again, it would just sit there, in its increasingly unappetizing, unrefrigerated state. This lack of action would force the team leaders to address the dual problems of a) being “unable” (read: not motivated) to hit Saarloos, and b) leaving Piñata in while big men with sticks continue to flail away at him. I imagine that Ichiro would calmly and silently get a real pitcher on the hill BEFORE the candy that was Joel’s insides get spilled all over the bad side of the Bay Area. And if any of the relief pitchers tried to walk the ten Athletics that the Mariners did on Hargrove’s watch, you KNOW that the cheese wedge would just be sitting there, silently mocking the pitchers into doing their jobs. (Aha! We’ve finally found the answer to one of the world’s great questions: what’s the SECOND most effective way to avoid walks, besides having Lou Piniella go to the mound and tell the frightened pitcher to “just throw strikes, son.”)

Cheese: 2, Hargrove: 0.

Actually, we can end the contest here, since we all know that Mike Hargrove isn’t really capable of a comeback win. I declare the cheddar the winner.

*Hey, the other teams and their fans LOVE the Human Rain Delay. Don't misunderestimate the strategery value of having a moron in charge.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The rest of the season

Okay. So we're definitely done. You can see the fork sticking out of Hargrove's back. That's okay, a lot of good things have happened this season, and I never really expected them to contend for the division, so it was bonus that they did so for so long.

To me the most interesting thing to watch for the remainder of the season is to see if the team quits on Hargrove. His 2002 Orioles swoon is legendary. On August 24th, they were 63-63, but went 4-32 the rest of the way. 4 wins in 6 weeks. That's a collapse of biblical proportions.

Every one of his Oriole teams faded at some point in the second half, though none as spectacularly as the 2002 club. Have a look:

YEAR Pre-fade Pctg Post-fade Pctg

2000 30-34 .469 44-59 .449
2001 38-41 .481 25-57 .305
2002 63-63 .500 4-32 .111
2003 56-58 .491 15-33 .313

TOTAL 187-196 .488 88-176 .333

That's pretty brutal. We'll see if he can keep them playing or not.
I will definitely be rooting for the M's but anything that gets Grover
fired is okay with me.

Otherwise, I guess we're trying to see if Jones can play in center next year, if Beltre can keep his second half numbers up, if Felix can stay healthy, if Meche completely self-immolates, lots of good things to keep you going to the ballpark.

I know the last two AL West series have been disappointing. Forget about that and remember the good.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Mateo is the new Everett

Julio Mateo = Grover's new toy.

Mr. Mateo had a fantastic 2003 season. He was pretty solid last year as well. But his control has totally fallen apart in 2006, despite his 8 wins...he's up to nearly 4 walks per nine innings this season, a career worst by a country mile.

His K-rate is also down (5.4 this season, after falling to 5.3 last season) from a couple of years ago, when he was routinely above 6.5 in that department. These numbers indicate statistically something that the average fan could tell you after watching an outing or two by the reliever:

He looks bad.

Not looks bad like "I have a face for radio," but like "I can't get major league hitters out anymore because I have little clue where my pitches are going."

Why, oh why, does Mike Hargrove feel the need to run Mateo out to the mound for anything other than mop-up duty? My current theory rhymes with "Carl Everett left Julio his stash of incriminating photos of Super Grover." But who knows...maybe Mike Hargrove is merely incapable of judging the skills of his own players.

We're in Hell, Mariners fans, and Mike Hargrove is the boring yet painful fire licking the soles of our feet.

What the heck...maybe I'll turn my attention to the upcoming futbol (and football) seasons. If I pretend he's not there, will Grover cease to exist? Oh please oh please oh please...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


So the M's turn things around with a 3 game sweep of the Devil Rays. The Rays have a lot of good young talent, but that is one ugly lineup they trot out there right now. Wow.

The problem the M's face after the debacle against the A's is that the can win 3 in a row like this and only pick up a game. No problem if you are only a couple back, but tough when you start 6.5 back. Still, after the sweep they are 5.5 back, tied with Texas for third and facing a very important 11 game road trip through the AL West. I hate to say anything is must win in August, but if they get swept in Oakland??? That'd probably be the season....

Sunday, August 06, 2006


What a brutal series! The easy thing to say here is that we got it handed to us by a superior team, but the frustrating thing is that prior to this series the A's had a worse run differential than the Mariners!!! So they really weren't all that, though they sure seem like it after leaving Seattle.

Today's loss was particularly frustrating as the M's stranded 20 runners. 20! They got 10 hits off of Blanton and only 3 runs.

In the fateful 3rd inning, Meche simply could not finish guys off. He was ahead of nearly every guy he faced. After striking out Ellis to start the inning, the next 6 batters looked like this:

Got to a 1-2 count on Jason Kendall, walked him.
Gave up a single (2-1 count) to Kotsay, got a ground out from Bradley (first pitch).
0-2 to Big Hurt, see ya later. Seriously, there almost certainly was a meal on that flight.
Got to a 2-2 count on Chavez, walked him.
Got to a 2-2 count on Payton, RBI double.

That's 4 guys he got to two strikes, and he got 2 walks a double and a homer. He did also get two outs on two strike counts, but you see my point. It was painful to watch.

Obviously the division is weak enough that the M's haven't taken themselves completely out of it. But if we lose the division by a couple of games, this series is really going to hurt.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Choo Slam

Presenting Small Sample Size Theater!

Since the trade:
Shin-Soo Choo: 14 AB, 4 hits, 2 HR 286/412/714

Ben Broussard: 7 AB, 1 hit, 1 HR 143/250/571

I totally expect this to bounce back the other way, but ouch.

The sequence that led to Choo's granny last night is one of the great things about baseball. Choo supposedly has trouble with breaking stuff. When I hear scouting reports like that, I often wonder, so why would you throw him anything but breaking stuff? Baseball doesn't work that of course. I loves me the stats but its not always cut and dried right? If Choo knows the slider is coming he can probably hit it, right?

So, bottom of the sixth, bases loaded, two already in, 5 hits in a row and Josh Beckett decides to sneak one fastball by Choo. He doesn't want to fall behind because the bases are loaded right?

Whatever the book on Choo is, you can add, "Loves to hit first-pitch fastballs." Boom! Salami time.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Weasley is our King!

OK, this is just too cool. Check out the newest innovation at The Hardball baseball cards (six now, more coming), including our King.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Score one for Grover

I don't really fully understand what's going on, but it ALMOST seems like Mike Hargrove is less confused about how to manage a game than he used to be.

Today's example is bullpen usage. Lowe, Sherrill-as-LOOGY, then a rested Putz for more than an inning to nail down a tight game. Suh-weet!

Was Carl Everett staying in the lineup by secretly pumping Grover full of hallucinogenic drugs? C'mon, who else thought that earlier in the season, Hargrove looked a lot like one of those glassy-eyed cult members waiting to commit ritual suicide when the mother ship arrived? Not so much any more.

(Note that in the linked pic, even as early as Spring, Grover was giving some sort of secret hand/head/horns sign, while carefully shielding his eyes from scrutiny.)


More investigation to follow...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tough loss in Baltimore

Tonight's game (2-0 defeat in Baltimore) saw the M's play poorly enough on offense to surrender an important early August game. Combined with the current Rangers demolition of Minnesota (it's 8-0, bottom 5th), this sees the M's drift back down to last place in the West.

There were some encouraging things about this loss...Moyer looked pretty good, baffling Orioles hitters at times, and he's key down the stretch for any attempt to mix it up with Oakland, LA, and Texas.

Moreover, we're only going to be 4 or at most 4.5 games behind Oakland when tomorrow rolls around.

What is it about Rodrigo Lopez that the M's can't hit him? Honestly, watching him I couldn't see what (other than the big strike zone) helped him throw a second fine game in three tries against Seattle this season. He's been hammered pretty regularly by other teams, but we can't seem to solve him. Baffling...maybe it was the heat this time.

The Dog Days have officially begun.

Measuring farm productivity

We link there anyway, but today Steve Treder at The Hardball Times has published the first installment in a series that will comprise a nice study of farm system productivity from 1946 onward.

Check it out.