Saturday, February 14, 2004

The good news from tonight is that the Senators picked up two points on Toronto, who blew a 3-0 lead to a suddenly explosive Buffalo Sabres team.


The Artist Formerly Known as What The Hell Happened?? and I have decided that our sole objective for the next few years is to free Craig Wilson. The Pirates have apparently signed Randall Simon to a minor league deal, threatening Wilson's job security in 2004. He's versatile, powerful, and destroys lefties, things that our 2004 Seattle Mariners could-...

Why do I even bother?

I just hope that someone deals for him. A successful Craig Wilson in Oakland would be something of a personal victory, I guess.
How disappointing for Texas season ticketholders:

*****Editor's note: Text of e-mail from Rangers owner Tom Hicks to season ticketholders sent Dec. 23, 2003, announcing that the proposed deal of Rodriguez to the Red Sox was dead.*****

Very shortly, it will be announced that the proposed trade of Alex Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox will not occur. Given the importance of this issue, I wanted to "speak" to you, our valued season ticket holders, directly and prior to the announcement.

The Texas Rangers Baseball Club is committed to creating a championship-caliber team on the field. As such, we are constantly exploring ways to achieve those ends. When contemplating the potential to trade Alex, the one constant was that we would only finalize an agreement if it would make our team better faster. At the end of the negotiation process, we felt what was offered in return did not satisfy that threshold.

When Alex signed to play for the Texas Rangers, we felt privileged to have the best player in baseball as a part of our team. We believed we could build a championship-caliber team around Alex. That sentiment has not changed, nor has the commitment.

We are well on our way to accomplishing that goal. Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, and Michael Young, along with Alex, form arguably the best infield in baseball today. Their future together has the potential for even greater success. We continue to see accomplishments at all levels of our minor league system confirming the vision of future success that John Hart and Grady Fuson created. In addition, we plan to augment this young core with appropriate free agent activity, which should begin taking place over the next several days, and/or trades. Buck Showalter is the embodiment of a Major League manager, and the Rangers are confident in his ability to lead our young, talented group to future playoff games.

Your support as a season ticket holder is instrumental in allowing us to build these future successes. I want to personally thank you for your loyalty and assure you of our commitment to reward your investment. The Rangers look forward to seeing you often at the beautiful Ballpark in Arlington in 2004. Please join me in welcoming Alex back to The Ballpark.
Do you believe it?

I won't jump to any conclusions until the trade is actually completed, but this is starting to look like a legitimate story.
Texas infield preview is available. If you still haven't checked them out, the Wheelhouse's Mariners infield preview is up. Get your Oakland preview here and your Anaheim preview here.
I'm starting to really like my MBSBL team. People will criticize my decision to draft Cliff Floyd when I already have Chipper Jones in LF, but grabbing Floyd allows me to slot Chipper at DH and incrementally improve my defense. At this point, my lineup looks like:

SS: Derek Jeter
2B: Jose Vidro
RF: Vladimir Guerrero
DH: Chipper Jones
LF: Cliff Floyd
3B: Scott Rolen
CF: Mike Cameron
C: Jason Varitek
1B: Craig Wilson

I was waiting on Cameron, because his defense gives my outfield a huge boost, and I think DiamondMind will sim him pretty well, given the park factors. Choosing between Cameron and Jose Cruz really came down to personal preference; Cameron's been better over the last few years than Cruz has (for the most part), and I fully expect DMB to account for this and make him the better player.

I'm not sure where to focus, now that my lineup is full. After grabbing Prior/Santana/Webb, I don't feel the need to go after more starters yet, so I might shift to the bullpen. I guess we'll see what's left in 18 picks; maybe there will be a first baseman available who I could grab, giving me the flexibility to deal Varitek or Wilson.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Today's Transaction Analysis is in the free section. Check it out.
Mariner Musings had me scouring the vast resources of Retrosheet a little while ago, and in all its archival glory I came across this August 1998 game, perhaps my fondest memory of a sporting event.

I was in Seattle for a week, visiting my uncle, and we decided to forego kayaking on Lake Washington to pay a visit to the Kingdome, home of some of the most exciting terrible teams in recent baseball history. It was a meaningless late-summer game; the Mariners hovered around the bottom with a 58-69 record, while Chicago was a similar 56-70. Nevertheless, Jamie Moyer was pitching a great game, limiting a strong offense to seven hits and three runs over eight innings, with the biggest blow being a Frank Thomas solo homer in the 6th. Jim Parque had started for the Sox and went 5.2, allowing ten baserunners and three runs, often escaping jams.

The game was tied at three entering the 9th, when Lou Piniella elected to go with Heathcliff Slocumb. He promptly allowed a run, and the good guys trailed 4-3 with their hopes resting on the shoulders of John Marzano, the bad Raul Ibanez, and Joey Cora. Recognizing that Marzano sucks, Piniella sent Rob Ducey to the plate to face Bill Simas.

Bam. Home run. Tie game.

The place went crazy, exhibiting much more exuberance than you'd expect from 43,596 fans of a mediocre team inside a concrete tomb. It was both a relieved and nervous excitement, one which said "Well, we won't have to go home with the knowledge that our bullpen lost us another game, but now we have to endure an inning of Mike Timlin in the 10th." The rest of the 9th was uneventful, but the ebullience remained, sticking around as Timlin retired the White Sox in order twice in a row. Going into the bottom of the 11th, we had a chance to send the top of our lineup to the plate against Jaime Navarro, one of the worst pitchers known to man, and the first person I think of when I have conversations with friends about terrible baseball players.

In the heavy side of the 11th, Joey Cora managed to reach base (a rare treat), and with one out and men on second and third, Navarro intentionally walked Ken Griffey Jr. to bring up Edgar Martinez, who singled into left to win the game. The place erupted, and my uncle and I (then only twelve years old) agreed that it was only appropriate that Edgar win the game for us.

The Mariners drew 2,651,511 people to the gates that year, a season in which we didn't break .500 after May 12th. Irregardless of what some people say, Seattle's strong fanbase will still show up for games featuring a disappointing roster slapped together by an uninspiring GM. They are a loyal people in a continuous state of inflexible optimism, a people who appreciate the good-guyness of the team, who have high hopes for Raul Ibanez and who will provide ceaseless words of encouragement should he struggle to succeed. Sure, they have to be told when to make noise, and sure, they have a curious infatuation with Zombie Nation's Kernkraft 400, but what they lack in understanding the borders of normal social conduct they make up for in love for the organization that brought them Joey Cora, Edgar Martinez, and the Kid. The pessimism that has all but taken a stranglehold on the blogosphere (nevermind the black sheep) and permeated into the columns of beat writers is gaining force, but there is no displacing the relentless current of subtle passion the city of Seattle has for its baseball team. Just like carbon dioxide in Cameroon's lakeside community of Nyos nineteen years ago, the optimism that characterizes the 3,000,000 fans who will show up at Safeco this year will eventually disturb the diametric pessimism and asphyxiate us all.
The Wheelhouse's Mariners infield preview is up. Get your Oakland preview here and your Anaheim preview here. Still waiting on Texas.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I want to thank all the people doing MLBSL write-ups. They're all great reads, and give me something to look forward to during an otherwise dreary time of the year.
Ever wonder how to hit a home run?

Simple. Swing at a curveball and lay off the heat.
Chris Karhl's Transaction Analysis is a personal favorite of mine, mostly because of paragraphs like this:

I've probably cracked a few too many Borders/Gillick jokes over the years, so let's focus on the positive, such as it is, which is that Mike Myers is a pretty good NRI for a team that doesn't have a situational lefty on the 40-man roster. Yes, he was bad last year, and no, he really can't do anything else but work in a situational role, but in a disastrous winter that should have quickly reminded everyone why Bill Bavasi was an ex-GM, you have to start mistaking the silverfish for silver lining every now and again. Otherwise, you start thinking about how the Mariners are spending close to $5 million to let Dan Wilson and Ben Davis split the catching chores, and you can start to see why Kaz Sasaki decided to go home.

If you don't subscribe to Premium, you should; Will Carroll and Chris Karhl make it worth the investment by themselves. The rest is gravy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Paul DePodesta looks like the next Dodgers' GM.

And we got Bill Bavasi.

I hate life.
You can get your Oakland infield preview from Athletics Nation. The Angels' preview can be found here. Mariners and Rangers previews coming soon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

So, let's see if I've got this right:

+$9m from Sasaki's departure.

-$1m (exclude buyout)

-$1m (over projected payroll)

-$2m (in-season acquisitions)

-$2m (Villone salary and incentives)

-$750k (possible Mulholland salary and incentives)

-$725k (possible Owens salary and incentives)


$1.525m left to spend.

It's funny; I had to come to college to learn vector calculus, but some of the most interesting and complicated mathematics I'm learning are coming from outside the classroom.
Actually, no. You know what? Mulholland and Owens suck. Royally. They're fungible parts for whom we didn't need to offer more then three hundred thousand dollars. Why Owens, when you have Strong? Why Mulholland, when you have a plethora of arms waiting in the wings (although few are left-handed, if it's that important)? Why anything? Why? Why are these people being targeted by BB? Is there a reason, or is BB just trying to make news?

So, we added Mulholland and Owens, via minor league deals. Mullholland is another left-handed arm we'll use to block Thornton/Sherill/Madritsch/Zumsteg/etc, but Owens is probably better than McCracken, and will see ML time almost without a doubt.

Harmless moves. Not as laden with potential as, say, a good Rule 5 selection, but there's nothing wrong with cheap depth, I guess...

What irks me is that, on the off-chance that Mullholland winds up on the 25-man roster, he gets $600k, which is twice as much as he deserves.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Anaheim Angels 2004 Infield Preview

For 2004, the Angels bring back 4/5ths of a starting infield that managed just 56 home runs last season. Critical injuries that Anaheim avoided in 2002 caught up with the team the next year, as David Eckstein missed 42 games, Brad Fullmer was lost in late June, and Troy Glaus watched more than two months of baseball from the bench with a shoulder injury. Forced into an undesirable infield situation, Anaheim sank to 11th in the AL in runs scored, down from fourth the year prior. Heading into 2004, manager Mike Scioscia is hoping for better luck with injuries, along with an offensive resurgence from Darin Erstad. The addition of Vladimir Guerrero takes a lot of pressure off the infield to produce, but Anaheim will need to get a better performance from the diamond if they plan on overtaking Oakland for the division title this summer.


The Molina Brothers are back, with Bengie coming off his best season since 2000. Molina 1 put up a significant power spike over his dismal 2002 line, raising his ISO by 85 points, surpassing a .400 SLG for just the second time in his career. His plate discipline remained stagnant, but more of his balls in play started dropping for hits, and as a result the Angels were convinced that they didn’t need to start looking for a new catcher during the offseason. Molina 1 will never be confused with a productive player, given that he struggles to get on base more than 30% of the time, but for the short-term, he should be able to approach his 2003 numbers again in 2004. Molina 2 is an offensive sinkhole, with a .568 OPS in the majors to go along with a .309 minor league SLG.

Defensively, nothing has changed; the Angels have two strong-armed catchers who can block most balls in the dirt. His throwing arm is pretty much the only reason Jose Molina is currently employed, due to the potential fact that he either has a really good arm, or such abysmal offense that his arm looks good by comparison.

Anaheim’s catchers put up a combined .242/.280/.377 line in 2003. Barring injury, the Angels should get similar production this year, with a slight dip in SLG.

First Base

Gone is Scott Spiezio, an adequate offensive first baseman with a flattering defensive reputation. Gone is Brad Fullmer, a righty-masher who singlehandedly improved Anaheim’s first base OPS by 27 points despite getting only 62 at bats. In is Darin Erstad, someone who put up a line that wasn’t particularly close to league-average in center field. The Angels hope that staying healthy will help Erstad rediscover his 2000 magic, which is part of the reason he’s been moved to first base, but if the 1500+ at bats Erstad’s had since his sensational year tell us anything, it’s that he’s simply not a good hitter anymore, and that his career hit a premature peak four years ago.

Given his proneness to injury, it’s hard to believe that Erstad is still only 29 years old. He’s young enough to recover some of his talent, as long as he avoids the nagging aches and pains that caused him to put up a .617 post-All Star Break OPS over the last three years. A healthy Erstad should approach the .290/.343/.398 line he’s put up in the first half over the same time span, but at this point, it’s irrational to assume he’ll go through a full season without hurting himself.

Defensively, Erstad is incrementally above-average, similar to Scott Spiezio. Should he injure himself, Robb Quinlan or someone similar will be able to step in and perform just about as well (along with better offense, most likely).

Darin Erstad won’t come close to matching the .293/.362/.492 Anaheim’s first basemen contributed last season. The Angels will be considerably worse off at 1B this year than in 2003.

Second Base

Following an impressive age-26 season in 2002, there were unreasonably high expectations for Adam Kennedy entering last year, as Anaheim fell victim to the mistaken notion that batting average is a consistent statistic year-to-year. Kennedy’s BA dropped 43 points and his SLG mirrored the decline; his offensive value remained positive due to unforeseen plate discipline improvement. Kennedy drew a walk once every 11.3 plate appearances in 2003, down from the 1/26.8 ratio he put up the year before. His value is contingent upon this improvement being more than a one-year spike, as any decline in the walk column will result in Kennedy creating more outs in a lineup that’s already starved for OBP. Given the nature of Anaheim’s put-the-ball-in-play-and-see-what-happens style of offense, it seems likely that Kennedy’s walk total will regress closer to his career numbers, and so he’ll need to make up some of the difference by improving his BA.

Kennedy is a terrific defensive second baseman, having been worth 31 runs above average over the last two years. Assuming he doesn’t come down with some non-lethal knee infection, he’ll be just as good in 2004, providing Anaheim with another year of strong middle infield glovework.

Adam Kennedy’s unexpected plate discipline improvement helped make up for some of his offensive decline last season. It’s unlikely that he’ll keep up his walk total for another year, since he has a history of aggressive batting, but he should get a few more hits this year as he reaches his peak age. Second base for the Angels in 2004 will be similar to the 2003 edition, with a few extra doubles and homers coming at the expense of a walk here and there.


Well, that didn’t go well.

David Eckstein’s .240 EqA planted him squarely as sixth-worst in the majors among shortstops with at least 400 plate appearances. A series of injuries (hand, back, hamstring, arm) hindered Eckstein’s speed and swing, and his offense suffered as a result, declining significantly in BA, OBP, and SLG. As long as he’s healthy, there’s no reason to expect Eckstein to repeat his dismal 2003 performance; for the 1200 at bats he had in 2001 and 2002, he was a consistent threat to get on base however possible, putting up a combined .359 OBP. Eckstein isn’t as good as he was a few years ago, but he’s a lot better than he was last season, and should put up a line similar to his career numbers of .279/.350/.360.

Eckstein’s popularity is largely a function of watching him play defense. He’s a tiny player with one of the weakest arms you’ll ever see on a middle infielder, but he makes the plays he can, and was 11 runs above average in 2003 despite his assortment of injuries. Nothing’s changed, so Anaheim’s shortstop should be just as good in 2004.

David Eckstein’s 2003 campaign went about as poorly as possible, as injuries pushed his OPS 101 points down from his 2002 line. Expect him to rebound well, putting up a .350 OBP while continuing to play mysteriously solid defense. Anaheim’s going to be better at shortstop than they were a year ago.

Third Base

A seemingly harmless fall ended Troy Glaus’ season in late July, and his 16 home runs were his lowest total in five years. His career has been something of a successful nightmare, going from the brightest player in baseball in 2000 to a good-but-not-terrific third baseman looking for a big year before becoming a free agent in the winter. Glaus’ OBP has dropped each year since exploding in 2000, but he’s still a productive offensive third baseman, as his .807 OPS from last year was 61 points above the league average. A healthy Glaus will put up a line similar to the .249/.349/.458 numbers he’s amassed in the last two seasons, with the potential to recover some power from his earlier years.

Glaus has been an erratic defensive player over his career, going from well below-average to good to well below-average again. This pattern has continued for the last five years, and if it’s legitimate, Glaus is in line to be a good third baseman in 2004. His career average is likely a better indicator, and in this case, Glaus will be an average defensive player in 2004. Scott Spiezio got 52 games of playing time at third last year, and was three runs below average, so Anaheim should be better off in 2004 if Glaus remains healthy.

A 150-game Troy Glaus would be a productive player for the Angels in 2004, as he’s still one of the premier third basemen in the major leagues. There are questions regarding his health, though, and numerous sources have questioned his ability to play the filed this season. If he’s unable to complete the year, Anaheim fans will be seeing a lot of Shane Halter, which is never a good thing. Under the assumption that Glaus stays on his feet for the majority of the year, however, the Angels will be better at third base in 2004 than in 2003.

Anaheim’s infield hasn’t undergone many changes from last year, with the primary objective being to collect 720 games from its five infield starters. While a healthy Glaus and Eckstein should improve their positions, Darin Erstad’s move to first base considerably weakens the infield’s productivity, and the Angels’ collective infield will likely be a little worse than it was last season.

Up next: the starting rotation.


I will have links to the Texas, Seattle, and Oakland previews as they are published.
Update on Villone:

Besides his salary, which is not guaranteed, Villone can make up to $1 million in performance bonuses.

Read all about it here.
David nailed it.

What an offseason.
Say your goodbyes to Norm Charlton, who's undergoing surgery.
Say hello to Ron Villone.

     Left-handed reliever Ron Villone was signed to a $1 million, one-year contract Monday.

In addition to his salary, Villone can make up to $1 million in performance bonuses.

So, not only are we out a million bucks from his salary, we're also out an *extra* million by accounting for the incentives he'll never reach.

So, by that fancy Mariner math, the $9.5m in Sasaki money has been whittled down to $1.5m, to be spent on a bench bat of the Galarraga/Simon mold.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Will Carroll has graciously agreed to answer some questions about his Mariners Team Health Report when it is published. I encourage you all to send me some inquiries you want me to forward to him, either via the Comments section below or via email.
Make sure to keep an eye on Mariners Wheelhouse, Texas Rangers Blog, Athletics Nation, and Fire Bavasi, as we'll have AL West infield previews up tomorrow night.