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A website devoted to serious bull on all things regarding the Seattle Mariners. We invite interesting input: send your thoughts to rickmichels@juno.com - we also invite you to join discussion at thebullpen@yahoogroups.com

Friday, May 28, 2004

I don't understand this talk about how Nageotte needs to develop a soft pitch:

"They think he needs to work on a soft pitch, whether it's a change or a curveball. They think that putting him in the bullpen right now will inhibit that a bit," Melvin said.

I can think of plenty of hard throwing right handers who have two pitches, a hard fastball and a good slider. Anybody ever see Randy Johnson throw anything beside a fastball and a slider? How many changeups does Schilling throw?

Nageotte reportedly has a hard fastball and the best slider anyone has seen lately. What he needs to work on his command, probably of both. Why waste his time trying to get command of some new soft pitch when he has the tools he needs already. Shouldn't he just continue to work on mastering the tools he already has?
I've been out of town all week, so I've got some catching up to do.

Ibanez at Safeco Field

In 119 offical at bats, Ibanez has hit 11 home runs in Safeco Field. That's one home run for every 11 at bats.

The sample size is growing, and the trends shows that Ibanez apparently loves to hit in Safeco field. But we can't draw any real conclusions yet. This season also suggests Ibanez loves to hit lefties: 918 OPS vs. .778 against righties. That won't continue. But I think the Safeco effect will hold up.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Why not? Could it be any worse?

Let’s take a look at some of these Rainier OPSs:

Bocachica: .995
Jacobsen: 1.023
Zapp: .893
Leone: .980
Strong: .849 (.411 OPS at leadoff)
J. Lopez: .818

Seriously, for the money, you’re better off spending the extra gas and driving to Tacoma to watch baseball. These guys can hit.

Suppose these guys all replaced Mariners at their positions:

Strong at CF for Winn
Bocachica in Left for Ibanez (perhaps a platoon)
Zapp at First for Olerud
Leone at 3rd for Spiezio
Lopez at SS for Aurilia
Jacobsen at DH for Edgar

Is it possible we would actually be worse than we are right now? Would we be 11-30 instead of 14-27? I’d say the chances are we’d have an even better record.

But Rick, you say, these guys are hitting against AAA pitching. The Mariners have to face major league pitching, day after day.

Yes, and we struggle against all kinds of AAA and AA callups, nobodies the Orioles and Tigers and Texas send against us. Guys who are a step away from AAA are giving us the same fits everyone else is. At least the Rainiers have practice hitting against AAA callups.
Man, this team is so bad that even Ichiro playing at his very best can't jump start the offense.

11 K's for Meche - I'd say he earned a reprieve in the rotation.

Leone is tied for the PCL lead for homers with 13. Anyone smell a Leone for third, Spiezio to first move coming soon? At least against lefties.

How many men did Winn leave on base last night? Ugh!

Everytime I see Carlos Guillen in a Tiger uniform, it just makes me sick. Not because Guillen is such a great talent (merely very good), but because it was so pointless unloading him for nothing like we did. So utterly pointless. It reminds me of when the Sonics traded Dennis Johnson for Paul Westphal. It didn't look so bad at the time, but the move was made for reasons totally apart from the game itself. It was done for "intangible" reasons. A younger, more talented player was swapped for an older, more brittle guy. And from day one of the following season, it just killed you to think about it, game after game.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Revisiting the Randy Johnson trade

Since the perfect game, there’s been a lot of second guessing, lamenting, etc. over the fact we didn’t make a long term commitment to Randy Johnson. I’ve been one of those second guessers/lamenters. Randy should have remained a Mariner. But in hindsight, the Mariners really didn’t make a bad decision here.

They always say it takes a few years to analyze a trade. I think we can do so now, 6 years or so after the fact.

I’m not sure what the budget thinking was at the time, but it is easy to imagine that if the M’s had committed to the $13 mil (?) or so per year contract to Randy, they would have cut elsewhere. And one of those they would have likely cut would have been Jamie Moyer. Since the Mariners seemed unable to keep two aces, one had to go, and Randy was the one to go. I’m going to assume that the gain of Randy would have been the loss of Moyer.

For half the money or less of a Randy Johnson, Jamie has had two 20 game seasons for the Mariners. Let’s look at his numbers since 1999:

Wins/innings/Ks/ERA/VORP- rounded off

Moyer:

1999: 14/228/137/3.87

2000: 13/154/98 /5.49/6

2001: 20/209/119/3.43/35

2002: 13/230/147/3.32/50

2003: 21/215/129/3.27/54

total wins: 81 total VORP (2000-2003): 145

Johnson:

1999: 17/271/364/2.49

2000: 19/248/347/2.64/73

2001: 21/249/372/2.49/77

2002: 24/260/334/2.32/79

2003: 6/114/125/4.26/14

total wins: 87 total VORP (2000-2003): 243

Btw: projected VORP for 2004 is 28 for Moyer, 33 for Randy, but I wouldn’t expect that to hold up.

Well, it’s not really that close – Randy is in a league by himself. And his numbers were put up playing in a hitters park, unlike Jamie’s. But Jamie really holds his own as an elite pitcher.


Question is, do the M’s pick up the loss of 98 VORP over that period in the parts they got from the Randy deal?

Factor in the addition of Freddie Garcia (VORPs of 19, 49, 25 and 18 over the years 2001-2003, and you get 111 VORP, which makes up for the loss with VORP to spare. Halama netted 8 VORP over that time, Guillen 91 (11,22,33,26). In fact, Guillen is really the hidden gem in that deal.

If you take Moyer out of the story, Freddie and Carlos added up to 202 VORP over the period that Johnson was giving Arizona 243 VORP. For a cash strapped team, simply trying to get a decent return for high priced talent they couldn’t afford – Randy for Garcia and Guillen isn’t a bad move.

Plus, the Randy trade probably also opened up cash to help sign additional important parts: guys like Olerud, Cameron, Sele, McLemore, etc.

But an equally important question is, would the presence of Randy in the Mariner rotation had given us a chance to get to the World Series? Would Randy have made the difference vs. the Yankees in 2000, 2001?

In 2000, we entered the Yankee series rested and our rotation intact (minus Jamie, who had that unfortunate setback that made him unavailable). Freddie was our #1 starter, and pitched two victories in his two appearances. Randy would likely have done the same, but there would have been no Freddie to pitch games 2 and 6. Johnson would not have pitched us into the World Series that year.

But…had Randy been the staff ace on the 2000 team, the chances are quite good we would have won the AL West division outright. Moyer had a terrible 2000, and the Freddie/Guillen combo was worth a mere 30 VORP, compared to Randy’s 73. One can imagine the Mariners besting the Yankees in a 5 game series that year, with Randy pitching two of those games. Guillen was a third baseman that year. His 11 VORP could have easily been replaced within the season, even by Gillick. Then it would have been a matter of besting the A’s in a 7 game ALCS with Randy and whoever else. We had a pretty tough time beating those A’s head to head by the end of 2000.


In 2001, Randy would have faced the Indians in game one of the first playoff series. Colon shutout the M’s offense that day, winning 5-0. It is hard to imagine Randy would have outpitched Colon. Freddie lost, but came back to win a vital game 4. And Moyer won the big game 5 with an excellent game. Moyer also won the very big game two. One could make the case that even with Randy, without Jamie we lose that series and never get to the ALCS.

Randy would then have made one appearance in the ALCS against the Yanks, perhaps two if Lou felt he could have pitched him in game 5. Without Randy set up to pitch game 1 and 4 and 7 in that series, not possible due to the tough Cleveland series, it is hard to imagine him being the difference once again.

I’d have to say that, gut wrenching as it was to lose Randy, it was a move that worked out well.




Oh incidentally, I missed last night's game. Saw a real kick-ass concert by Jars of Clay (am I allowed to say that about a Christian band), and did a little catch-up with old College chum Warren Moon ("hey, Warren, how ya been? Haven't seen you since we pounded WAZZU on the icy astroturf. Yeah, I was in the white student section that day, all bundled up. Done anything interesting since leaving the U? Me? I've got a great blogsite going. Well, gotta run.")
I have a good feeling about the M's - that they have indeed turned the corner. I hadn't really felt that at all until yesterday. Probably because I took a good look at their numbers and decided they simply can't get any worse. It's simply time for these guys to be at least average.

But mostly, it's likely due to Ichiro's bat coming alive.

Meanwhile, on the farm, the mighty mashing Rainiers hit 5 long balls off the Kris Wilson, et al. Wilson is the kind of pitcher who would get called up and stymie the Mariner hitters in his first major league start. But he's no match for the Leone/Jacobsen/Boccachica mash machine.

Hey, and Thornton looked good as well. Five shutout innings, and only three walks this time. It was a lefty nightmare for Omaha last night: Thornton, Williams (1.54 ERA), and then Sherrill (1.57 ERA). Not fair. No wonder Pickering sat all night.

And Strong hit one out as well. You gotta like that. If Strong develops any kind of power, we've got ourselves a helluva ballplayer here. Good OBP, great wheels. He knows how to get on base. If he can force pitchers to respect his bat, he'll draw the walk.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

In three minor league seasons (including this year so far) San Antonio leadoff man Dustin Delucchi has had OBPs of .390, .396 and .408. Last year in the Cal league he added 19 doubles and 15 SBs (caught just twice) in 312 official at bats. He's 26, and I kinda doubt Randy Winn performed as well in the minors. Here, let me check......nope.

Delucchi was signed out of the Independent league. That makes Madstrich, Sherrill and now Delucchi gleaned from those fields. Three darn good prospects.
Reminiscing

I've been wondering lately whether last year's Mariner defense, which I loved watching, was the best ever assembled. It's an impossible question to answer which defense was the best ever assembled of course, but it appears that it may not have even been the best assembled in the 21st century. That honor would probably go to the 2002 Anaheim Angels in a photofinish. It is interesting how we look back at that team and think about the offensive proficiency, top to bottom. Or we think about the tremendous bullpen. But rarely do we talk about how well those guys played defense.

I collected up the number of runs prevented by each regular from both the 2002 Angels and 2003 Mariners, and compared them side by side. This of course, does not take into account the substitutes: Bloomquist, McLemore, Sanchez. It's just a quick snapshot of the regulars who made up the defensive team that took the field, day after day. It's also how I like to think about teams - who are the regulars who largely took the field at each position:

2002 Angel regulars vs. 2003 Mariners – Defense:

Runs Prevented/games (BP)

Catcher:

Molina (Ana) 10/112 games
Wilson (Sea) 1/90

1st Base:

Spiezio 2/125
Olerud 8/144

2nd Base

Kennedy 17/127
Boone 12/155

SS

Eckstein 6/139
Guillen (-3)/70

3rd

Glaus 12/147
Cirillo (-2)/74

Lf

G. Anderson (-4)/132
Winn 2/135

CF

Erstad 23/137
Cameron 21/144

RF

Salmon (-4)/102
Ichiro 4/155


Totals

Anaheim starters: 62
Seattle starters: 43

BTW, for the Mariners, Sanchez was worth 2 runs in 44 games at short, McLemore 3 (??) in 33 games, and 3 at 2nd base, and Bloomquist 0 in 29 games at 3rd and 0 in 15 games at SS. Guillen played 31 games at 3rd and was worth -1.


Quite an impressive bunch, those Angels.

I'd posed this question to Steve at Mariner Wheelhouse who pointed out the Defensive Efficiency of each team:

In 2003, the Mariners led the majors with a defensive efficiency of 0.7312. The American League average was 0.7095, so the Mariners were 3.06% about league average.

In 2004 the Angels led baseball at 0.7314, with an AL average
of .7106, So the Angels were 2.93% above league average.


Now, the Seattle team was especially good at converting double plays. Steve again:

The Mariners turned about 40 more double plays last year than would be expected given the flyball tendencies of the
staff. No other team was anywhere close to the Mariners in exceeding expected double play ratios. If you want the gory details, see my blog posts of the last couple of days.

Personally, I think that the Mariners increased DP rate is more
likely to be related to team defense than pitchers trying to induce groundballs. So I would be inclined to give the Mariners credit for 40 additional outs. The the Mariners defensive efficiency would rise to 0.740. I don't have similar data for the Angels in 2002, so I can't make a corresponding correction for them; I would be surprised if the correction for them was as great as the correction for the Mariners.


Of course, the M's set a major league record for fewest errors in 2003, which sounds good, but when you consider the scoring at Safeco field, and the inherent problems with counting errors, you pretty much have to throw that out as the ruling stick.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

It's somewhat interesting to me to see the core of Mariner prospects move as cohorts through the minor leagues, creating league championship teams. The teams that won the Texas league for two straight years are now as a cohort dominating in the PCL. The Inland Empire 66'ers won the Cal league last year, and are driving San Antone in contention.

These teams are built on some interesting things: First, great young pitching. Then a good on base leadoff guy (Strong), and good old fashioned slugging (Zapp, Leone, Jacobsen, Lindsey, Lopez, Jacobs). But the real key throughout really seems to be the pitching: guys like Rhett Johnson, Blackley, Nageotte, Madstrich, Sherrill, Meche, Baek, Soriano. And it looks like the pipeline is still full - yesterday Rich Dorman (first AA start) and Renee Cortez (just up from Peoria) combined to shut out El Paso. Inland's staff is dominating the Cal league, particularly Bobby Livingston and Felix Hernandez.

But if a cohort like this can march through and dominate other cohorts, can it be similarly sucessful when it reaches the majors? Can this slightly aged group of prospects (or castoffs) who are manning the diamond positions, coupled with those great and plentiful arms, do likewise in the bigs?

San Antonio has beaten Texas's hefty cohort for two straight years head to head. Now granted, Nix, and Mench and Texiera et al spent very short timespans in the Texas league, and Blalock skipped it completely. But is there enough there, with all that pitching, to go head to head against them in the majors, and beat them? Not this year, of course, but a couple years down the road? Are there enough walks and 3 run homers in this group to support the Blackley, Nageotte, Madstrich, Sherrill et al staff to win 4-3, 6-5 games? Have these guys learned to work the count against Texas pitchers, and look for the fat fastball to park off the teetering Texas pitcher? Can a slightly aged, fundamentally sound team, from the minors carry over in the majors?

It likely doesn't work exactly that way, but the seeds may be there for future success.

The C.J. Giles decision to play for Kansas has me depressed today. I feel similar to how I felt when Arod decided Seattle wasn't for him.

It's tough as a Husky basketball fan to see one great player after another spurn Seattle for other venues. Seattle is simply not an attraction for people seeking sports glory. We have our days, but they are short-lived. The moments of success are never leveraged smartly to continue to build something that will last. They seem to be squandered instead.

I suppose it's very normal for basketball talent to go elsewhere. We've been spoiled by the Husky Football Tradition, where we see the local studs itching to play at Husky Stadium, to think it could work for basketball.

But it seems Lorenzo Romar is the kind of guy who can begin to create and build something. Even without Giles, he's filling the roster with good talent - hard workers like Rollins (first name escapes me), who may not have the physicial gifts of a C.J. Giles but learn to compensate and flourish in a team role. Things may be changing, when we see a Ryan Appleby is returning to play for us, instead of watching yet another highy regarded recruit leave us (usually for Gonzaga).
I was a big supporter over the winter regarding the Ibanez signing, for the sole reason that it was the first time in the Mariner Safeco field days that they acquired a player who was truly adapted to playing the game there. For that last few years, we've been focusing on line drive hitters (whatever that means), high average guys who can "take advantage of the entire field" when it seemed to become increasing clear to me that what we should really do is find lefty sluggers who can hit fly balls to right field, since that's where all the ball were flying to.

Ibanez isn't Raffy Palmeiro, but so far, he's demonstrating that this was a pretty good idea:

Ibanez at home, 2004: .242/.338/.565/.903

on the road: .263/.302/.413/.715

It wasn't a bad move, and considering the dearth of lefty sluggers on the market last winter who wouldn't crowd Martinez out of the DH spot, there weren't a whole lot of other options. It was a right handed hitting market: Tejada, Guerrero, Lopez, Rodriguez. Of course, any of these would have been a better signing than Ibanez - you have to play half your games outside of Safeco, after all. But Ibanez should have been a cheaper alternative than he was. The Mariners could have been shrewder in signing him, but instead gave him a substantial three year contract.



Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Casey Kotchman, one of baseball's brightest hitting prospects, has been called up by Anaheim to fill in for a hurt Erstad at first base. Here are Casey's AA numbers:

Casey Kotchman Arkansas 114 ABs: .368/.438/.544

Compare this to San Antonio's Greg Jacobs, known in this site as Roy Hobbs:

108 ABs: .343/.393/.565

Casey, a younger prospect, will be given every opportunity to fail at the big league level. Hobbs, at age 27 will be lucky to get a shot one day as a fourth outfielder. After wasting years as a pitcher, he's done nothing but terrorize minor league pitchers ever since. In fact, we're still waiting for Hobbs to go through an adjustment period as a hitter. Heck, he never could afford to even have an adjustment period. He's probably had to hit well over .300 just to stay on the team. Compare that to a Michael Garciaparra.

But Hobbs will always be a better hitter than Willie Bloomquist will ever hope to be. But a major difference is that for a Roy Hobbs, there is NO room for error. The clock is ticking - heck, it's already past midnight.

There are some players in our system like that: Jacobsen, Leone, Dobbs, Hobbs, Delucchi, Zapp, Boccachica, even Mickey Lopez - who can probably hit as well as most of the regulars currently on our team. No, they aren't likely to be stars - but they are 26-28 years old and as such have a higher upside than the 32-27 year olds. Lord knows they can't hit any worse. These guys are all over the minors: Larry Sutton, currently clobbering in the PCL, always comes to mind. Overbay and Podsednik in Milwaukee. Lew Ford is getting his shot right now in Minnesota. They get discovered by expansion teams - and bad teams who have no other options.

Teams like the Seattle Mariners.

Monday, May 17, 2004

The Mariners are 11.5 games behind Anaheim. Interestingly, they have only allowed 3 more runs than Anaheim: 184 to 181. The difference is pure offense: 154 to 224 - a 70 run differential!!

It's hard to imagine how the Mariner brain trust expected to compete with Anaheim this year. They did not compete in the offseason, yet they expected this team to compete in season? Leadership begins at the top.

Teams that aren't blessed with youthful talent (Minnesota and Texas) who are winning and creating excitement are the teams that splurged in the offseason: New York: Vazquez and Arod, Boston: Schilling and Foulke, California: Guerrero, Colon, Jose Guillen, Escobar. Even Detroit is making noise with its Ivan Rodriguez signing. Considering where they came from, an 18-19 record is quite good.

Teams that played around the margins in their off season pickups - making free agent noises, but only taking aging players who weren't really hot commodities, are getting creamed: Seattle, KC, and Tampa Bay.

My favorite team to watch right now: Milwaukee Brewers. Their off season moves remind me of the early seventies, when they had a number of holes to fill and would leverage their few good players to field a team. Interesting players over there: Podsednik, Overbay, Jenkins, Helms, Sheets. I hope they hang around a little bit. They could use some more pitching, that's for sure. But if Sheets emerges as an ace, they have a nice lineup that can make some noise, and could find some spare parts for a rotation that could keep things interesting.

It's interesting the Mariners have moved Jose Lopez back to SS in the Tacoma lineup. In Spring Training and for most of the early season,they had looked like they decided his future was at 3rd base. Now he's back at Short. I think it is a CYA move. The M's can't justify the Aurilia signing and the giveaway of Guillen on its merits. So they have to engineer this response: "Well, we would have had to move Guillen next year anyway - Aurilia is merely keeping the spot warm for our phenon Jose Lopez."

Friday, May 14, 2004

Time to take another look at Bocachica

From Dave Hatten:

Back during Spring Training, when the M's were winning, the thought struck me that this was unusual, compared to recent years. I couldn't remember for sure, but it seemed like they hadn't done too well in spring games the past few years, but then started the regular seasons playing quite well. I decided to look for the numbers:

Year Spring Reg. Season
2000 13-16 91-71
2001 13-19 116-46
2002 15-17 93-69
2003 13-18 93-69
2004 18-10 12-22

It seems pretty obvious what is going on here. This year's team had a great spring record and messed up the mojo. If you combine that with the even-more-lame-than-usual "Hey Now" slogan, this
team is doomed.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

500!


Congratulations Edgar!


Edgar will be our first Sabermetric Hall of Famer - elected because of the emphasis on excellence that goes beyond the traditional numbers. Doubles, Walks, On Base Percentage. No disqualification based on biased ideas the player has no control over - such as the existence of the DH, elongated time spent in the minor leagues. Edgar is one of the best right handed hitters the world has ever seen. When Edgar won his first batting title, it was the first time a right handed hitter had done so since Joe Dimaggio. Joe Dimaggio!

Some may make light of the fact that his (soon to be) 300 HRs, 500 Doubles, 1,500 Walks .300 Average and .400 OBP is manufactured to put him in the same company as Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, Musial, and Hornsby. Fair enough. Come up with a similar configuration of stats to place an obviously undeserving player in similar company.

Fact is, when you look at Edgar's accomplishments in toto, and the highlights of his career, it is names like Dimaggio, Gehrig, Musial, Hornsby who come up. This is the true mark of a great player. I think Edgar will be elected, and I think it will not be as close as many think.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

I missed the game last night, as I was at the Moore Theatre enjoying Steven Wright. Regarding the M's, I think he said it best:

"If worse comes to worse, we're screwed."

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

That was some mighty fine defense being played at the Safe last night. It is reported that Ibanez, besides having an OPS of around .930, is leading the league in assists. Excellent throw to nail the runner. This former catcher has a real nice arm.
The 2004 Rainier team is essentially the same one that owned the Texas League all last year. It will be interesting to see if it can own the PCL as well.

Most of the key components are there: All Star SS Lopez, MVP Leone, Zapp, E. Guzman, Nageotte, Baek, Sherrill, Blackley, Madritch. Then you have some holdovers from the 2002 Texas League champs - Craig Anderson, Jamal Strong.

San Antonio has seen some excellent minor league championship baseball these last two years. The city's on a roll.

You gotta love these guys too.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

If you want to see some excellent mashing at affordable prices, check out the Tacoma Rainiers. There is some awesome AAA power on display. Last night, we saw AJ Zapp crush two pitches deep out of right field, and Bucky Jacobsen did the same to a pitch out to left. Heck, even Luis Ugueto got into the act, an inside the park with a drive between the center and right fielders that rolled to the wall. Then you have Leone (dnp) and Lopez, and Wiki Gonzalez has some power as well.

Thornton looked real good, cruising with a shutout and 3 Ks before hitting an invisible wall after one out in the fourth. It was a weak grounder to second, then he went ahead of a lefty hitter 0-2 or 1-2. Then he simply lost control, walked the batter and gave up a questionable home run to Luis Lopez down the left field line. And the hits (and walks) kept on coming until Atchison and Craig Anderson restored order. Anderson was real sharp for three innings - changing speeds, using his quirky delivery to confuse the hitters. He's interesting.

So is Zapp, who has a pretty nice glove at first, and a heck of a lot of power. He's 26, still young enough to have a nice Major League career. We're just going to have to root for a lot of late bloomers for the next few years in the Mariner farm system.

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