Saturday, January 24, 2004


``It wasn't the start I was looking for, that's for sure,'' said Jagr, acquired from Washington in a long-rumored deal completed Friday.
``That was awful,'' Rangers center Eric Lindros said. ``We were outskated, we didn't think -- we were awful.''
``Describe it? I don't think it's possible,'' Rangers coach and general manager Glen Sather said. ``It's one of the worst beatings I've taken in my career. It seemed like everyone stood around and was waiting for Jagr to win it for us.''

The Senators came out flying tonight, and didn't stop until the striped men made them. Chris Phillips was on the ice for five of Ottawa's goals. It was the best game of the year for the home team and the worst in eleven years for the roadies, who share a remarkable number of similarities with the recent New York Mets. The Rangers and their coach aren't seeing eye-to-eye, which represents a unique problem, given that coach Sather is also the team's general manager. The Jagr acquisition was a last-ditch effort by Sather to gain the respect of both the team and its fans, and losing by eight goals in the superstar's debut is just about as bad an outcome as you could imagine. The chants of "FIRE SATHER!" ringing down from the Garden's seats will be getting louder until he's shown the door, at which point the Rangers may begin the long hike back to respectability.

As far as Ottawa is concerned, this was terrific. The Thursday game against Pittsburgh was disappointing, despite the win, and an eight-goal victory over a confidence-booster of an organization is a great way to go into a three-day break. Next Saturday, the Senators will be taking on Toronto in a game with definite division implications. An Ottawa win could propel them into first place for the rest of the season, in good shape to take the President's Trophy for the second straight year.

To quote Brian Smolinski: "I think we just played our positions, and maybe we took the wind out of their sails a little bit."

I think a 9-1 loss does more than just take the wind out of New York's sails. It's the low point of the entire year for the Rangers, and I'm proud to say that it came at the hands of the Senators.
The vultures are circling.

TRADE TALK: Recently, the Jays offered highly regarded catcher Kevin Cash and outfielder JaysonWerth, a former No. 1 pick of the Baltimore Orioles, to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Rafael Soriano.

Now, don't get me wrong; Kevin Cash is a good prospect. He plays terrific defense, and flashes good pop for a catcher (0.43 XBH/H, 0.187 isoSLG). His plate discipline has gotten worse as he's risen through the levels, though, to the point at which he struck out nearly three times as often as he walked in AAA. All in all, the .262/.343/.449 line he's put up in the minors is good, but not great, and at 26 years old he's not likely to put up the kind of power spike that would propell him into the upper ranks of ML catchers. He'd represent an improvement over our two clowns, but not a significant one.

Jayson Werth is a classic "tweener", not hitting enough to be a corner outfielder but without the defensive ability to play in center. He's put up translated EqA's of .252 and .230 the last two seasons, well below what you'd expect from an "immediate impact" kind of player, but his speed and gap power are probably precisely what the Mariners are looking for in a young outfielder.

Rafael Soriano, as we all know, is a badass.

I get very, very worried when JP Ricciardi dials up ol' BB, because I'm afraid Bavasi will jump at offers like these. Werth is a quick kid who can hit a double every so often, and Cash has a popular name amongst the scouts. Nothing good can come of this.
Our old friend is at it again.

Gerry Fraley represents the polar opposite of Seattle beat writers (until recently, anyway), in that he stages a relentless assault on Texas ownership and management. For the sake of brevity, I'll cut this short: the next time Bob Finnigan publishes some hackneyed organizational fluff, just remember than there are worse things than sanguine ardor, and that irrational optimism is always better than misallocated criticism.

Friday, January 23, 2004

There's a Detroit radio report, citing Justin Spiro, claiming that Ivan Rodriguez is going to be a Mariner. This comes on the heels of a much more legitimate report that Scott Boras gave a counter-offer to Detroit today, so I think I know which one to believe.

I'm probably a stronger advocate for signing Pudge than the majority of Mariners fans, which has a lot to do with my creation from two weeks ago. He represents a gigantic risk over the course of a long-term deal, but at two years and $11-12m per, he would also instantly transform our lineup into one of the better ones in the American League while eliminating the one true black hole. The worst-case scenario is that he injures himself and misses 70 games, but this is the kind of risk you take when you're a borderline contender with money to spend.

Hopefully Boras will delay the Rodriguez - Detroit situation until we have Sasaki's deal all cleared up and can jump into negotiations. I don't expect anything, but at this point, there are worse things than irrational hope.
The big NHL news of the day:

Jaromir Jagr will be traded to the Rangers for Anson Carter, pending league approval.
Aaron Taylor has a partially torn rotator cuff, but should be ready by ST.

Add him to the list...

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Members of the Mariners' Blogosphere should really join the sim baseball league. It's a ridiculously delightful avocation (it's fun).

At some point this weekend, I intend to write about baseball. Seriously.
It wasn't pretty, but it's still two points. For some reason, the Penguins give Ottawa fits, so it's nice to come out of the game with a win. The Senators are now one point behind Toronto, who has one game in hand.
I'm not much of a NCAA basketball fan, but I know an amazing occurrence when I see it.

UNC stormed out to a 24-point first half lead, thanks mostly to a 21-0 run.

They didn't hit a basket in OT until there were 25 seconds left.

What a game.
Maels Rodriguez didn't break 90 at his workout, but assures us that his arm is fine.

Gee, he's as good as ours.
DMZ and Keith Woolner performed a series of ridiculous calculations and found out that, pound for pound, Ichiro is the most efficient player in baseball.

Omar Infante, on the other hand, was the biggest waste of skin last season (Ramon Santiago was second-worst).
Roy Halladay is rich.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Russ Branyan signed a minor league deal with Atlanta today, with an invitation to spring training. Oh, well.

In other news, the Expos got Brad Cresse from Arizona for a PTBNL. Cresse's star has fallen like you wouldn't believe in the last few years, going from one of the top catching prospects in baseball at the end of 2001 to AAA fodder two years later. While his defense has improved, his offense took a precipitous decline, which likely has something to do with his stagnant plate discipline.

Year    BB/K   PA/BB   PA/K

2000:   0.37    10.35    3.84
2001:   0.38    10.75    4.08
2002:   0.18    19.30    3.45
2003:   0.20    18.00    3.64

Cresse has cut his walk rate in half while striking out just as often. As a result, he's struggled against better competition, and may no longer be considered a "catcher of the future." By acquiring him for a throwaway prospect, Montreal has given Edmonton Trappers' manager Dave Huppert a project who could become quite rewarding. Cresse isn't in the right organization to see his plate discipline improve, though, so it looks like this may be the end.
I hate to cheer about an injury, but this delights me to no end.
Jesse Orosco retired today at the age of 46, after signing a minor league contract with Arizona in November.

I played high school ball against his son, who is a freshman in college now. May the legacy live on.
I was directed by a column at BP to a James Click article from last October. The purpose of the piece was to establish a team defensive metric independent from park factors and pitching staffs. The end result of Click's column was a new statistic, entited Team Adjusted Defense (TAD). There are three components of TAD:

Defensive Efficiency - a raw measure of how many balls in play are turned into outs by the defense.

PADE - a statistic measuring how much or how little a team's defense benefited from the ballparks in which it played (over a full season, rather than just the 81-game home schedule), founded on the home_Def_eff/road_Def_eff ratio for each team.

PIDE - a metric that measures how much or how little a team's defense benefited from its pitching staff, founded on the cumulative expected IPAvg (batting average on balls in play) of the staff.

TAD lists Seattle as the seventh-worst defense in the majors leagues last year, ahead of Boston, Colorado, Texas, Milwaukee, NYY, and Baltimore. Whether or not you accept this as fact is up to you, but the metric certainly highlights some concerns. How much does our team defense benefit from Safeco? The defense turned 3.7% more balls in play into outs at home than on the road last season, a significant percentage. What's more, though, is how much do we benefit from the pitching staff?

Supporters of Voros McCracken's DIPS theory will answer with a resounding "no", but work by Keith Woolner and Tom Tippett has shown that pitchers do maintain some degree of control over balls in play allowed. The Mariners' collective pitching staff has had good fortune turning BIP into outs throughout their careers; more than any other staff in the majors, according to tExIPAvg (team expected batting average against on balls in play, centered around 1.000).

Where do you go from here? The answer, as always, is to further improve defensive statistics in order to isolate the team defense ability from park factors and the pitching staff. TAD is the first statistic - of which I am aware - to claim to do so, and the results aren't real pretty to Seattle fans.
Will Carroll's UTK column reports that, according to some organizational scounts, Maels Rodriguez is reaching the low-90s (rather than the oft-reported triple-digit figure). That's bad, but may be enough to scare off the big guns, leaving Seattle - for better or worse - as the primary suitors.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Ottawa Senators beat Jamie Storr and the Hurricanes 3-1 tonight, propelling them into first place in the East for about 17 minutes (at which point Toronto collected its 60th and 61st points in a win over NYI).

Here's another top-100 prospects list.

Nageotte at #26, Blackley #36, Snelling #42, Lopez #43, Choo #75, and Johnson #97. Felix Hernandez gets a mention at the bottom.
Glendon Rusch is a Rangers' NRI, saving us from potential embarrassment.
BP's 2004 PECOTA projections are available as .xls and .zip files for Premium subscribers. The site asks us not to distribute the files, so all I'll say for now is that they're really high on Scott Spiezio.

Update: I suggest to anyone who subscribes to BP Premium to check out the PECOTA line for Leone.
Gil Meche signed a one-year deal worth $1.95m.

That's just about $1m more than he should have gotten.
Jared Poppel weighs in on what could come out of the Sasaki situation.
For the curious, Shigetoshi Hasegawa had a Component ERA of 2.64 last year. In other words, if he were to pitch just as well in 2004 as he did in 2003, you could reasonably expect his ERA to rise by 116 points. It was his obscene performance with runners on base (.353 OPS against) that caused his ERA to be so low; in 2001 and 2002, his numbers were almost identical with none on and with runners on base, so we may easily label 2003 as a "fluke of epic proportions".

A slightly worse defense this year - which is beyond certain - and Hasegawa's ERA is up two full runs. Woooo!! other news, Sasaki's agent says that the Mariners knew about Kaz's decision six days ago. If true, this puts to rest the conspiracy theory that management knew a while ago, but kept it under wraps until Tejada and Guerrero signed.
I've decided just now that Craig Wilson needs to become a Mariner. This isn't new to anyone who knows me (I've wanted him for a while, now), but given the 2004 team's likely deficiencies, Wilson could be even more useful than he would have been in recent years.

.322/.414/.595 against lefties, decent against righties, and he's capable of playing C/1B/OF. Sure, he has miserable plate discipline, but he's recorded 34 HBP's the last two years. He's under contract for $1.15m next year, with $200k in incentives.

But I digress; it's just another good idea gone to waste.
For the hockey enthusiast, Jim Kelley put together a very good article regarding the status of fighting and general brutality in today's NHL.
By the way, for 2004, Ivan Rodriguez deserves $13.3m. Don't get your hopes up, though, because Pudge will have signed by the time we're freed of Sasaki's contract:

"The money attached to his contract is in place," Bavasi said. "He is still on our roster. That will remain so until such time as he is a free agent or he is released to sign with another club. At this point, (using the money elsewhere) is not part of the discussion."
Until they know definitively that Sasaki, the 2000 American League Rookie of the Year, is not part of their future, the Mariners won't be able to look at other uses for the money.
We bought out Joel Pineiro's arbitration years for $14.5m (including a $1.5m bonus) over three years. Now, Pineiro's a guy who benefits a great deal from Safeco field, but he's a tremendous pitcher, and this is nothing but good news. Mark Mulder has virtually identical home/road ERA splits, and nobody's saying anything bad about him.

Monday, January 19, 2004

I think it'd be fun to collect a bunch of predictions as to how our newfound money will be spent (if at all).

Submit your ideas in the Comments section. I'm guessing that we end up signing Maels Rodriguez and adding his money to the payroll, rather than using our mysterious international slush fund to pay for him.
Detroit radio is reporting that Ivan Rodriguez has accepted the $40m/4year offer.

There goes my $20m/2year wish.

Update: Not so fast. They retracted the report.
In a real turn of events, Kaz Sasaki will not return to the M's, according to Ken Rosenthal.

This is good news, in that it frees up a bunch of payroll; it's just a shame it didn't happen earlier in the offseason, when we could've made a bigger splash.

I'm going to assume that Hasegawa will become the new closer; Guardado is our primary left-handed reliever, and Soriano's too good to throw into the 9th inning role this early in his career (isn't he?). I don't think this will really change much around in the immediate future, but it does free up funds for a big midseason splash, something we've been lacking for the last four years.
For your reading pleasure, here's a throwaway top-100 prospects list. Nageotte at #27, Snelling at #29, Choo at #45, and Lopez at #57.

Blackley (103), Johnson (116), and Hernandez (145) just barely miss out on the list.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Today's Contract Clause of the Week:

Rod Beck -- a man who has pitched in 678 big-league games and started precisely none of them -- would cash in on a $50,000 incentive clause in his new contract with the Padres if he's the starting pitcher in the All-Star Game.
One of our NRI's this year is Hiram Bocachica, a 27 year old (28 by opening day) utility player snagged from Toledo, in Detroit's system. He's had a downhill trend thus far in his career, from being a first round draft pick in 1994, to being included in a package that sent then-decent Carlos Perez to LA for Ted Lilly, Peter Bergeron, and two others in 1998, to being dealt to Detroit for Tom Farmer (?) and a PTBNL in 2002. He has his uses, however, and even though I'll get tired of saying this, he'd help out our bench.

Defensively, he's been serviceable at 2b, LF, and RF, with experience in center and at third base. He hasn't had much success with the bat in the major leagues, but his minor league line is .285/.354/.444, flashing better plate discipline (0.52 bb/k) than he has in his brief ML career (0.23 bb/k). One of the reasons his progress has been stunted is that his 323 major league AB's have come in either LA or Detroit, with an OPS 98 points higher on the road than at home. Bocachica could be a very useful player if he could translate his minor league numbers into an ML statline with more success.

Even if he's as developed as he's going to get, he could still help the Mariners. He can't hit righties for beans, but he's put up a .262/.321/.429 line against southpaws, with considerably better patience than he has against right-handers (11bb/26k, as opposed to 8/55). He'll be 28 next year, the peak of his career, and if he's ever going to have real ML success, it'll have to come soon. Melvin would love his flexibility, and could platoon him with either Ibanez or Olerud when we're facing a pitcher of the Washburn/Zito/Mulder mold.

His inability to hit a right-handed pitcher will invariably put him out of favor with the organization's decision-makers in ST, though, and I wouldn't suggest betting good money on the notion that Bocachica will wind up on the 25-man roster come April.
The pursuit of Maels Rodriguez is narrowing, and the Mariners remain high on the list of potential buyers. I must admit, there's a certain excitement here; there's a thrill in signing an Unknown that just isn't there when you trade for Quinton McCracken. That isn't to say that I endorse the signing, though, not for the amount of money he's rumored to be chasing.

At this point, I can imagine one scenario in which I'd support the signing: inking Rodriguez to a modest contract and shipping Freddy Garcia elsewhere for a bat. Rodriguez will be far too expensive to add without moving another high-priced player, and neither Sasaki nor Jarvis are going to bring anything in return. So here's the question: all money being about equal, would you rather have an unknown foreign pitcher or an unknown Freddy Garcia?

There are two big "If"s surrounding Rodriguez: whether or not he's healthy, and how his success will translate to the majors. Although we can't really depend on our crack medical staff to detect a significant injury, you can't really miss Rodriguez hitting 85 on the gun, instead of triple digits. As far as the second point is concerned, Jose Contreras pitched well when he was healthy, albeit against poor competition, to the tune of a .202/.297/.300 opponents' line and a k/9 ratio north of 9.00. I think Maels Rodriguez will have some success in the majors, as long as he isn't hurt, and I'm glad that the Mariners are going after him. I don't want him to get too much money, though (it could have gone towards Tejada or Guererro), and I certainly don't want his addition to signal the end of the Rafael Soriano Experience. Ideally, it would play out like this:

-Sign Maels Rodriguez to a modest contract (I'll have to wait and see what teams are offering, in terms of money and length)
-Trade Freddy Garcia for an OF/1B type who can hit lefties (Xavier Nady would be welcome)
-Put Soriano in the rotation and Rodriguez in the bullpen until/unless he proves himself and a starter struggles or gets hurt

I'm not particularly optimistic that we'll wind up with him, anyway, but it's probably the most interesting Mariners-related story these days.