Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Philosophy on young players

So we are fast approaching the "play the kids" portion of the season. In fact we are already there, its just a matter of when the M's braintrust wakes up and sees it.

I saw this quote from Billy Beane on Athletics Nation:

We think Daric is going to be a great major league hitter and we just have to exercise patience. If a time comes that we feel that a young player needs to go down to get some more experience, we will. But in Daric’s case part of becoming a good major league player is being allowed to go through some struggles. Very few guys come up and hit their whole career. That’s just part of becoming a major league player.

Of course it is folly to compare the A's front office to the Mariners. Sheer folly. But the M's as an organization are completely inconsistent about how they handle young players.

As minor leaguers, they are rushed up the ladder to the point of foolishness. Bavasi has said, on a number of occaisions, that they want to challenge their prospects, get them to face adversity at an early level and learn from it.

Yet when young players come up, they are not given the chance to learn from adversity at the big league level. They are generally given about a week to prove themselves, and if they do not kick ass in that week they are sent back down. And then usually traded for veteran dreck.

Just another way our front office totally doesn't get it. And its frustrating.

Monday, May 05, 2008


What do you do to tweak a team that has poor-to-middling power (.425 slugging percentage in 2007, .383 so far in 2008), sub-par fielding (.979, 13th in the A.L.), mediocre pitching (4.21 ERA) and few prospects for immediate improvement in any of these areas - all leading to a disappointing 14-19 record out of the gate?


Let's look at some facts.

In 2007, the top half of the American League in steals had a cumulative +38 win/loss record. Amongst those teams were three of the four playoff participants. So far in 2008, the top seven A.L. teams are a combined +11.

It may seem obvious even without the math, but there is a provable correlation between putting the game in motion and results on the diamond.

Speed is maybe the easiest "commodity" to acquire in baseball. Willie F'in Bloomquist has it, for God's sake. As of this writing, 17 American League players are on pace for 25 steals or more, including just one Mariner (Ichiro!). If you aren't a team that has it, then you'd better be a slugging club like last year's Cleveland Indians. The Mariners aren't even remotely close to that sort of team.

Ichiro should swipe 40+ bags. The M's next best base stealer is their freakin' cleanup hitter.

Do the M's have the ideal personnel to successfully put the game in motion? No, probably not. However, for all of John McLaren's preseason posturing about Ichiro stealing 80 bases, they've only tried 33 times in the first 33 games. That's not all that bad (only four A.L. teams exceeded 1.0 attempts/game last year), but they need to be one of those upper-end clubs in successful steals to compensate for their slugging deficiencies. As of this writing, the Mariners were 7th in steals in the A.L.

Get this team in motion, McLaren. You're 14-19 and on the verge of being out of the race already. The Mariners aren't going to morph into a good defensive club, or a power hitting team, and your bullpen has gone from shutdown to meltdown. What do you have to lose?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Back to the Future

Flipping aimlessly through the channels, I saw that Back to the Future, Part II was being replayed for the one millionth time on HBO tonight. Seemingly for the first time in the Bavasi era, a version of that theme is being played in Mariner-land as we speak.

The Mariners have finally taken a step toward a significant youth infusion on the big club level. Seemingly every previous effort to squeeze the final vestiges of talent from aging, barely ever has-beens (as the Goose/Slider exchange from Top Gun goes: "The list is long, but distinguished - yeah, well so's my Johnson": Scott Spezio, Rich Aurilia, Carl Everett, Matt Lawton, Jeff Weaver, to name a few) has roundly failed. The worst part about it was that the team refused to recognize the inevitability of the failures until far too late to salvage anything. At least the latest dumpster dives - Wilkerson and Norton, to be specific - were cut loose early.

This small dust up covers two issues I addressed in recent posts: age and suckitude. I labeled both Wilkerson and Norton as "crap" in my last post and had a discussion as to how old the Mariners were for a rebuilding team in my A Rented Mule piece. Therefore, I feel especially pleased that both issues were addressed quickly by the previously slow-witted Mariners front office.

I don't care if Balentien and/or Clement may take time to produce at this level. They are replacing or augmenting positions that aren't producing as it is in right field and at DH. Moreover, it's exciting to see top young players break in and kick start their careers. Watching a team of mostly mediocre 30+ veterans go through the motions just isn't that enthralling. Plus, one can only hope that the youth movement might serve as a Vitamin B-12 injection to the veterans, not to mention the team's chances as this season unfolds.

I'm going to the May 9th game against the White Sox. Row 10, directly behind home plate, pretty close to the best seats in the house. All of a sudden there's a new sense of energy around watching this team play. Let's hope it translates into results on the field.