Saturday, May 01, 2004

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma got creamed by Salt Lake, 13-5. Clint Nageotte gave out in the later innings, and Scott Atchison and Greg Wear contributed to the mayhem by allowing a combined seven runs in 2.2 innings. Notables:

Clint Nageotte: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 HR
Justin Leone: 1-4, 1 homer, 1 BB
Jose Lopez: 3-4, 1 homer
Ramon Santiago: 1-4 (.190)
Wiki Gonzalez: 1-4, 1 double

San Antonio beat Tulsa, 5-3. Soriano didn't get the start (he was scheduled to start yesterday, but the game was postponed), but he picked up the win in relief. Juan Done and was fairly good for five innings before giving way to Soriano. Hoerman got his seventh save. Notables:

Rafael Soriano: 2 IP, 1 H, 2 K
Shin Soo-Choo: 0-4
Greg Jacobs: 0-4 (.429)
Luis Oliveros: 1-3 (+HBP)
Cristian Guerrero: 2-4, 1 homer

Inland Empire beat Rancho Cucamonga, 6-3. King Felix had a terrific start, and Rene Rivera had a double and a homer from the bottom of the lineup. Notables:

Felix Hernandez: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 9 K
Juan Gonzalez: 1-5
Rene Rivera: 2-4, 1 double, 1 homer
Matt Hagen: 1-3, 1 BB

Wisconsin vs. Fort Wayne was postponed.
Leone homered. Now up to up to .257/.313/.541 (if you remember how he started, that's a magnificent line). Compete minor league wrap-up coming later.
You'll notice that I didn't mention Quinton McCracken's first inning sacrifice bunt in the game recap. This is for two reasons: one, the bad strategy speaks for itself, and two, I already pick on Melvin enough.

All I have to say about the incident, I've already said.

Hard to score runs when you don't walk and get a hit once for every six AB's.

Indeed, it was another one of *those* games. People can point out how Ryan Franklin doesn't get any run support, but he didn't really do his job either, as we were down 2-0 faster than you can say "tuh".

Franklin was pulled prior to the eighth inning in favor of Mike Myers, who faced three lefties in the span of four batters (Pudge was IBB'd). The first three plate appearances of the inning featured actual, bonafide managerial strategy: Sanchez bunted for a single, Vina bunted him to second, and Rodriguez was intentionally walked so that Myers could face the left-handed Bobby Higginson. I'm a little disappointed that Higginson wound up ending the inning with a DP, because I wanted to see how far Melvin would go. Craig Monroe was due up next; Melvin might've brought in Mateo in order to take advantage of the righty-righty matchup. Alan Trammell would snicker to himself and send southpaw Steve Colyer to the plate to pinch-hit for Monroe, forcing Melvin to pull Mateo and call for Eddie Guardado. This would continue, because when the game itself is boring, you have to liven it up by any means possible. Bob Melvin may not be as passionate as fans would like, and his team may not be as flashy as it used to be, but his managerial decisions leave you talking for hours after the fact, and really, what else do you want from a baseball game?

If I asked a group of readers to predict what would happen in the bottom of the second inning, I don't think any of them would successfully nail a single AB. Two strikeouts for Franklin? Carlos Pena flashing the speed, with an infield single and a stolen base? Brandon Inge making himself useful with an RBI single, and then Quinton McCracken throwing him out trying to advance to second? This came in stark contrast to the first, where Franklin didn't miss any bats and got a handful of outs while allowing a home run. It was a strange game to watch.

The Official Ryan Franklin K/9 Ratio Watch: 3.64. He's also allowing home runs around the same rate as he did last year (slightly higher) and walking an additional half-batter per nine innings. His BABIP actually remains significantly better than the team average, setting at .278, but it's still almost 30 points worse than it was last year. Why is his ERA nearly two full runs worse than it was last year? Half of the hits he's allowed this year have gone for extra bases, as opposed to 30% a season ago, and he's already allowed ten doubles. Look at this:

So far in 2004, 26.7% of non-home run hits have gone for doubles/triples. A year ago, it was only 20%. Over the course of a full year, the difference is equal to about 80 extra-base hits - or about 85 extra bases. That's a pretty substantial increase, and is another possible indication that our outfield defense has been less than stellar thus far.

I was watching the game on's neat Gameday program when Ichiro came up with two outs and a man on third in the eighth. The window read "In play - run scoring play" and I thought to myself, "Hey, neat! Ichiro's got two hits today." I should've known better. He reached on a throwing error that allowed Olerud to score, making it 4-2. For the seventh straight game and tenth time in eleven games, Ichiro failed to record more than one hit, after doing it seven times in ten games between April 9th - 19th. He's another 1-4 away from sending that OPS back under .600, meaning that two-thirds of our outfield may presently be considered Glanvillerrific.

Let's re-visit the bottom of the eighth. Ryan Franklin was sitting at 92 pitches, and had been pitching well since the second inning. He was inducing a bunch of quick AB's (why do you think the game only took 2:14?) and had a certain rhythym going. So Melvin brought in Mike Myers. Not really that bad of a move, I guess - he was in line to face a host of left-handed batters - but is Myers becoming Melvin's new white towel? He's appeared in thirteen games, and we've won just three of them; that's a .231 winning percentage, for those of you keeping track. In other games, we're 5-6 - not great, but still twice as good. Hell, we even won a quarter of the games in which Kevin Jarvis pitched. Is Mike Myers to be held accountable for this? I don't think so, because he really hasn't pitched that poorly. It's a curious coincidence, though, one that showed up last year, as well. Arizona was 29-35 in games where Myers made an appearance, and 55-43 in the rest.

Don't go back any more years, though, and you'll blow my argument. In 2002, Arizona was 49-20 in Myers games, and 49-44 in the rest. Now I've wasted all your time.

I hope you're paying attention to Alex Sanchez - he still hasn't drawn a walk, and his OBP (.329) remains lower than his BA (.333). Because he has absolutely no patience or power, Sanchez needs to be hitting around .330 to have any kind of value, because as a .280 hitter he turns into Darin Erstad without the defense or popularity.

With the combined 1-10 effort from the likes of McCracken, Hansen, Bloomquist, and Cabrera, our current bench is hitting .211/.272/.263. You can take the Seattle out of Jeff Cirillo, but you'll never take the Jeff Cirillo out of Seattle. Good news: Willie Bloomquist may need to go on the DL, with a back injury. Bad news: the minor leagues is where Luis Ugueto and Ramon Santiago are.

Meche vs. Cornejo tomorrow. They're threatening to yank Meche from the rotation if he has another bad start. Hey, it's a reason to watch.
Nageotte pitching for Tacoma tonight. At least that's something to look forward to.
For as much as I criticize him, Raul Ibanez is showing some good patience so far this year. He faced 24 pitches in four AB's today, and drew three full counts.
Triple for Ibanez.

C'mon, Raul. Assimilate.
Another DP for Ichiro.

Get him out of there.
We now officially resume the Raul Ibanez Watch:

And we're already losing, with one out in the first. 2-0, courtesy of an Ivan Rodriguez home run.
McCracken sac bunt.

In the first.

"Oh my God, that's bad strategy!"
Today's lineup does not feature Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, or Randy Winn.

We'll see how this goes.

Friday, April 30, 2004


If you would've told me in March that Raul Ibanez would be winning us ball games with big home runs, I would've laughed in your face. If you would've told me that we'd only have eight wins for the month of April, I would have had a similar response.

If you would've told me yesterday that we'd finally win another game, I'd take it.

Freddy Garcia has got to be pissed. One run through eight innings today and he still didn't get a win. Check out what he's done so far:

No runs through seven innings: no decision (we lose 5-1)
Five runs through six innings: no decision (we lose 6-5)
No runs through seven innings: no decision (we win 2-1)
Three runs through 7.2 innings: loss
One run through eight innings: no decision (we win 3-1)

On a better team, Freddy could have four wins by now and be drawing early consideration for the Cy Young. As it is, Garcia's caught whatever it was that Ryan Franklin had last year, throwing terrific games but coming out with nothing to show for it (coincidentally, Tomo Ohka's having the same problem, but I suppose every Expo is so far).

Ichiro led off with a home run. First extra-base hit in 60 AB's, and only his third on the year. Those of you who thought he had turned a corner would be pulled right back down to Earth over the course of his next four at bats, during which he:

-reached on an error
-weakly grounded out to second
-flew out to left
-hit into a miserable DP

The good news, I guess, is that he hit a ball the other way, but it wasn't much more than a lazy fly. The double play in the ninth was worse; Ichiro usually shines in those kinds of situations (two on, one out), but instead he hit another chopper to second base. It's frustrating enough that even Ichiro couldn't come up with a big hit, but what's with getting doubled up? Might his foot speed be in the midst of a decline? Ichiro's on pace to set a career high in GIDP's and a career low in both triples and stolen bases, but those don't tell us very much by themselves. After a little digging, I found out that Ichiro's hitting about five balls on the ground for every fly ball - more than double his career ratio to date. What's going on?

I decided to take a look at his BABIP. Check it out:

2001: .371
2002: .347
2003: .333
2004: .278

That is a big, big dropoff. Can we attribute all of it to declining speed? No, not really - pitchers may be throwing to him differently, defenses may be adjusting, and there are a host of other factors that don't show up in the numbers. Does it suggest that Ichiro might be getting slower? I don't see why not. The bottom line is, while there aren't many really good indicators of how fast or slow a certain player is, the ones that are available show a negative trend for our right fielder.

Melvin* started playing the Bullpen Seizure Management Game again in the ninth, letting Julio Mateo pitch to Rondell White - who arguably hits righties better than he does lefties - and then bringing Mike Myers into the game to face Bobby Higginson and Carlos Guillen. Was it really worth the second call to the bullpen? Neither Higginson nor Guillen have exhibited significant platoon splits, and Guillen's a switch-hitter. There is no justifiable reason for Mike Myers to be pitching to anyone batting from the opposite side of the plate, and so I don't like that decision. It's possible that Melvin was keeping Myers in there to face the left-handed Carlos Pena, were Guillen to reach base, but with the way 'Los has been swinging the bat so far this year, that was a pretty risky move (nevermind that Mateo's a pretty good pitcher himself).

Of course, we could have avoided the whole bullpen revolving door had Melvin gone with Eddie Guardado in the ninth, instead of saving him for a potential save situation. You never want to leave your best weapon on the bench on the off chance that some silly situation will arise a few innings later that makes it all-right to put the player in the game; no, first you want to make sure that you don't lose, and go from there. But I digress - none of this is really unexpected.

Raul Ibanez' batting average: .260
Raul Ibanez' OBP: .348
Raul Ibanez' SLG: .532

The first two aren't unreasonable. He's getting on base more than I thought he would, but that's because he's been drawing a few walks, which is a nice surprise. It's his raw power that's come out of nowhere - a 0.272 ISO would be an improvement on his 2002 career high. Does he have the perfect Safeco swing? Well, I think it's more a simple matter of timing than anything else; he's been terrible on the road, and there's no reason to think that a bad player with a decent swing will suddenly explode back in Seattle. Whatever the case, his pop has been much appreciated so far this year, as Edgar's trying to find his bat and Aurilia's just trying to find his way to the ballpark.

Franklin vs. Bonderman tomorrow, 1:05pm EST. Wouldn't be surprised to see Davis and/or McCracken in the lineup.

*-Update: If Melvin was ejected in the seventh, why would he be making the calls to the bullpen in the ninth? I'm a dope. I wouldn't put it by him to leave specific written instructions for his replacement manager, though.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma lost to Salt Lake, 4-3, in 12 innings. Bobby Madritsch had a sparkling night, but Aaron Looper and a tricky defense blew the lead. Craig Anderson eventually got the loss, allowing three hits and a walk in 0.2 IP. Notables:

Bobby Madritsch: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Aaron Looper: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 K, 1 HR
Justin Leone: 1-4, 1 BB
Ramon Santiago: 1-4, 1 BB
Jose Lopez: 1-5
Jamal Strong: 1-5 (welcome back)

San Antonio vs. Wichita was postponed.

Inland Empire beat up on Rancho Cucamonga, 11-3. Bobby Livingston picked up his third win with a strong start, and Juan Gonzalez led the offense with three hits out of the leadoff slot. Notables:

Bobby Livingston: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Juan Gonzalez: 3-5, 1 triple
Hyung Cho: 1-5, 1 double
Rene Rivera: 1-4

Wisconsin outlasted Fort Wayne, taking a 6-3 decision after 17 innings. Bryan Heaston got the win as the Rattlers' eighth pitcher, throwing two shutout innings, allowing a hit. Wisconsin pulled ahead 3-2 in the 14th, but Brian Stitt promptly gave the run right back in the bottom half. Notables:

Eric O`Flaherty: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
Josh Womack: 0-6, 1 BB
Adam Jones: 2-7, 1 BB
Wladimir Balentien: 0-1 (pinch-hitter again)
Suffice it to say, I didn't see that coming.

Way to shut me up, Raul.
Olerud strikes out looking with two on and two out in the eighth.

Striking out is one thing. Not protecting the plate with an 0-2 count is foolishness.
During Melvin's tepid discussion with home plate umpire Marvin Hudson, I wonder if he threatened to make a series of irrelevant pitching changes in an attempt to intentionally draw out the game and prevent Hudson from seeing his familiy.
Raul Ibanez Watch: .250/.341/.487

Well that was unexpected.

Thanks, Ichiro. ISO now up to .051!
Ichiro's right back in the leadoff spot today.

At least Spiezio's at #2, I guess.
You know, given our record, I was pretty surprised to find out that the Mariner Optimist blog hasn't imploded as the result of some kind of disobeyance of fundamental laws of physics and energy. As it turns out, he's just slightly less optimistic than he was a few weeks ago.
The Curse of KOMO?

Remember what it felt like to be 6-8? Those were the days.

When Edgar hit into the DP in the top of the first, you knew that it would be one of those games for the offense. And when Pineiro put the first two batters he faced on base, you knew that it would be one of those games for the pitchers. If nothing else, this team manages to make its intentions crystal clear before the end of the first. You want to see an alarming statistic? Through 22 games, the Mariners have been outscored 46-11 in the first three innings of a game. Seattle has led after three innings just three times this year. We've come out of the third either ahead or tied just seven times. Needless to say, we don't have a comeback-style offense, nor do we have a bullpen that can keep the other team off the board while we do our best to trim the deficit. All in all, it's a pretty ugly way to go about playing baseball.

Baltimore's #1 and 2 hitters today (Roberts and Mora) went a combined 8-10, with two doubles. Not surprisingly, the Orioles managed to score nine runs. Compare this to the contributions we've been getting from the leadoff and second spots in the lineup:

#1: .258/.314/.278
#2: .228/.301/.337

Is it any wonder why we're only scoring a little over four runs per game? If it all starts at the top - and it must for us, because the bottom of the lineup won't be manufacturing many runs - then we're shooting ourselves in the foot by leaving Brian L. Hunter Vol. II in the leadoff spot every game. Unorthodox as it may seem, would anyone object if this were the starting lineup against Jason Johnson tomorrow?

Spiezio (3B)
Olerud (1B)
Ichiro (RF)
Edgar (DH)
Boone (2B)
Ibanez (LF)
Wilson (C)
Aurilia (SS)
Winn (CF)

Substituting Jolbert Cabrera in for Randy Winn wouldn't be a terrible idea in the short-term, either. Regardless, Scott Spiezio is the only guy worth a damn at the plate these days, and John Olerud is one of few hitters managing to get on base, so there are worse things than topping off the lineup with that duo for a game or two, to see how it goes. Who knows, maybe hitting with a few men on base could pull Ichiro out of this nasty funk; he's always been a better hitter with ducks on the pond, and this lineup badly needs Ichiro on the basepaths. But will Melvin consider shuffling the lineup in such an unwonted fashion? Not bloody likely - for the few games last year that Ichiro wasn't leading off, Melvin elected to go with Randy Winn and Mike Cameron, whose speed make them traditional leadoff candidates. Should Ichiro get the day off any time soon (which I think we all agree he needs), you will see either Randy Winn, Quinton McCracken, or Wee Willie Bloomquist leading off, depending on who else is riding the pine in the game.

Raul Ibanez Watch: now 2 for his last 16, with a walk and a double. Sell! Sell!

At what point do we give up trying to figure out Joel Pineiro's maddening inconsistency? A defensive downgrade doesn't suddenly make a pitcher start allowing nearly 15 hits per nine innings. What's stranger is that his strikeout rate is up to 7.94, well above his previous career high. So Joel's allowing a lot of hits, despite limiting balls in play...this reeks of bad luck. Sure enough, his BABIP is an eye-popping .460, or 167% of what it was last year. Has Pineiro been pretty bad? Most definitely. His walk rate is up, and he's allowing too many homers. It's not time to start jumping to rash conclusions, though; yeah, he also had a rough second half in 2003, but a brutal August was bookended by an excellent July and a pretty good September, so this doesn't really qualify as a "trend" just yet. We don't have the rotation depth to bump Pineiro the bullpen (or AAA), anyway, particularly given that we're considering putting Meche in the 'pen. Joel's had ugly stretches before, with last August being very similar to his April so far. He'll be fine, just give him time.

Bob Melvin's reasons for making so many pitching changes are twofold: he likes to keep busy, while reminding observers that he's the manager, and that he has the final say in who plays and who doesn't. How else do you explain his actions in the seventh inning?

-Mora singled to left
-Tejada singled to center, Mora to third
-*Myers relieves Pineiro*
-Palmeiro walked, Tejada to second
-*Putz relieves Myers*
-Lopez grounded into fielders choice, Mora scores, Palmeiro out at second, Tejada to third
-*Villone relives Putz*
-Gibbons singled to center, Tejada scores, Lopez to second
-Surhoff walked, Lopez to third, Gibbons to second
-Matos singled to center, Lopez and Gibbons score, Surhoff to second
-Bigbie struck out looking
-Roberts singled to left, Surhoff scored, Matos out at third

Thank goodness for Ibanez' second assist of the day - it could've gotten even uglier. Four pitchers in one inning. Replacing Pineiro isn't what ticked me off; he needed to come out. Bringing in Myers for the sole purpose of facing Rafael Palmeiro isn't really what gets me either, even though I wouldn't have made the same decision. Replacing Myers with Putz was predictable - Myers cannot pitch to righties, and Melvin realizes this. Of course, it's a horrible situation for Putz, with the bases loaded and nobody out, but he does an admirable job in getting Lopez to ground out.

Then Melvin brought in Ron Villone.

I couldn't care less about Villone allowing four runs to score, putting the game well out of reach. Why was Putz pulled from the game? When it's 6-2, with the other team threatening to add to its lead, is it really necessary to play the matchup game for every batter? When did Melvin start channeling the spirit of Tony La Russa? This is essentially how the sequence went: Myers (lefty) in to face a lefty, followed by Putz (righty) in to face a righty, followed by Villone (lefty) in to face two lefties in a row. Something must have clicked in Melvin's head after Villone allowed Gibbons to single and Surhoff to walk; I guess a four-run deficit when the opponent has the bases loaded and just one out has enough blowout potential to render the Matchup Game obsolete. What would've happened had the game been closer? Would we have seen Mateo in to face Matos, Guardado to face Bigbie, and Hasegawa to face Roberts? What about when Rafael Palmeiro came up to hit again? Would Melvin bring Ibanez in from the outfield to throw a few pitches, given that Raul throws with his left hand? Would this bullpen circus continue until it either started raining or Baltimore volunteered to forfeit the game? I think it would be fun to scroll through the box scores since last April in order to determine the exact moment at which Melvin throws away everything he was taught at the Old Tymers Managerial Academy and concedes the game.

What else is there to say? Freddy Garcia vs. Jason Johnson tomorrow. If we have a legitimate chance of winning any game in the next five days, this is the one. If we come out of this series with anything less than a clean sweep, it will be interesting to see how many empty seats greet the Mariners on May 4th, as they play their first home game in two weeks.

While Rafael Soriano's imminent return should be met with nothing less than absolute euphoria, I wonder how much longer it will be before people start calling for George Sherrill to make an ML appearance. The guy's thrown just 14.1 innings in AAA, but he's fanned 24 while walking just four and allowing 11 hits. I'm glad we're paying guys like Ron Villone seven figures to be a veteran lefty swingman, when we have cheaper guys with twice the talent pitching lights-out baseball just a few miles away.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma got on top early and held on to beat Salt Lake, 5-2. Cha Baek got his second win, and Scott Atchison picked up his third save. Notables:

Cha Baek: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
George Sherrill: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 6 K
Justin Leone: 1-4, 1 BB
Jose Lopez: 0-4
Bucky Jacobsen: 2-4, 1 BB
Ramon Santiago: 0-4
Wiki Gonzalez: 2-5, 1 double

San Antonio fell to Wichita, 10-5. Elvis Perez got the loss, and Allen Levrault made another mystery appearance. Notables:

Dustin Dellucchi: 1-5
Greg Jacobs: 2-4, 1 double, 1 BB
Cristian Guerrero: 1-4, 1 double (.173)

Inland Empire beat Visalia, 7-4. Juan Sandoval was good enough to record his third victory (3-0), while Tanner Watson got a three-inning save. The 66ers did all their damage in the first seven outs of the game, and were held scoreless after the third inning. Notables:

Juan Gonzalez: 0-3, 2 BB
Hyung Cho: 3-4, 2 doubles
Matt Hagen: 0-4
Rene Rivera: 1-4, 1 double

Wisconsin beat Fort Wayne 5-4, despite allowing two runs in the ninth. Nibaldo Acosta was the winner, and Brian Stitt picked up an ugly save. Notables:

Josh Womack: 0-5
Adam Jones: 2-5
Wladimir Balentien: 0-1
Apparently Matt Thornton was sent down this morning, and JJ Putz was recalled.

Congratulations to Thornton, who - by warming up in the bullpen - got the opportunity to do more in the majors than most of our minor leaguers.
JJ Putz was set up.

And now he's gone after facing one batter. What the hell?
Myers walks Palmeiro. Loaded, none out, for Javy Lopez, and in comes JJ Putz.

This could get ugly, fast.
Joel's day is done. 12 hits on 23 balls in play. With men on the corners and nobody out, Mike Myers has entered the game in what will surely be another three-pitch appearance.
Nine hits on 17 balls in play for Pineiro through five innings. This is getting ridiculous.
Mark your calendars.

Dave Kingman will appear at the Metrodome on Saturday to commemorate one of the stranger plays in club history. On May 4, 1984, his fly ball disappeared in a hole in the roof. Kingman was awarded a ground-rule double on the play. Former Twins outfielder Mickey Hatcher, now an Anaheim Angels coach, has been asked to take part in the event. The day after the ground ruling, the ball was dropped from the roof and Hatcher was supposed to catch it. Hatcher, of course, dropped the ball.
If this team is still playing sub-.500 ball come midsummer, do you consider trading Moyer and/or Edgar?

Do *they* consider accepting a trade?
If you choose to believe Rotoworld, Gil Meche is close to being replaced by Ron Villone in the rotation.
Rob Neyer talks about the best of the '05 free agent pool.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Only two games on the day. San Antonio doubled up on Wichita, 10-5. Rick Guttormson got the win in relief, but Tim Rall had the better day out of the bullpen, striking out six in 3.1 IP. Notables:

Dustin Dellucchi: 3-5
Shin Soo-Choo: 1-5
Greg Jacobs: 1-5
Greg Dobbs: 0-4 (error)
Luis Oliveros: 0-5

Inland Empire held off a late Visalia comeback and won, 9-6. Rich Dorman got his second win, and Miguel Martinez recorded the final out for his first save. Notables:

Melvin Pizarro: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB
Juan Gonzalez: 2-4, 1 BB
Matt Hagen: 1-4, 1 homer, 1 BB

The 66ers' roster bores me.

I'll remind you that more in-depth information on our farm system can be found at Mariner Minors.

Jamie Moyer was off his game, throwing just 57 strikes on 105 pitches and having all kinds of trouble early in the game, but he managed to limit the damage and finished the day with a good line, allowing just one run and four hits in seven innings, while walking four and striking out three. Sounds like a Mariners win, right? Well, you'd be wrong. It didn't take long for everything to go to hell, as four consecutive batters reached base against Shigetoshi Hasegawa in the eighth inning. Baltimore scored twice, and the M's lost, 3-1.

The LeoneForThird Official Raul Ibanez Watch has seen the fan favorite go 1-12 over the last three games, although he did manage to draw a walk today (on pace for 81, which would greatly exceed his previous career high of 49). His four-digit OPS from April 23rd has dropped to .877. Similarly, John Olerud has gone from "completely worthless" to "Scott Hatteberg" in the last week, as he's upped his OBP to .372. Were this lineup hitting for more power, people wouldn't be focusing on Olerud's deficiencies as much as they have been (myself included), as his ability to get on base prevents him from becoming the offensive sinkhole many have already cast him as. Is he due for a comeback year? Almost certainly not; he doesn't have much left in the tank. He's still a nice guy to have in the lineup, though, as he's one of the few guys who can still manage to get on base at a respectable rate. He should not be hitting near the bottom of the lineup, though, because getting on base doesn't do the team much good when you've got our 8 and 9 hitters behind him. Olerud is a pretty good #2 hitter, as long as you don't put Edgar directly behind him in the lineup. Ideally, our lineup would look a lot like it did tonight, but with Olerud and Spiezio swapping places.

Ichiro had another o'fer day, flailing in five separate AB's. His line is now positively Erstad-ish, resting at .269/.320/.290. A .320 OBP is lousy at the best of times, but the problem is compounded by Ichiro's mind-boggling .021 ISO, which I have difficulty comprehending. He hasn't had an extra-base hit since April 14th, spanning 56 at bats. But what can be done? He can't be sent to the minors. We don't have a suitable replacement. Aside from occasional days off, Ichiro's going to be there at the top of the lineup every day, hoping to bust out of his slump. He'll remember how to drive the ball to the gaps at some point, I'm sure of it, but these really aren't the kinds of problems you like to see in someone you just signed to a $44m/4yr extension. I wonder how much more of this it will take before the fans start to turn on him.

Bret Boone's OBP is down to .280...

We really, really, really need Rafael Soriano back. Bob Melvin still thinks that the 2003 Shigetoshi Hasegawa lives in his bullpen, and it's starting to cost us. It's not that Hasegawa's going to put five men on base every time he comes in to pitch, but we don't have anyone to turn to when we need a shutdown inning. Soriano is the only guy we have who can record strikeouts on a consistent basis. With the on-again-off-again defense that we've got behind out pitchers, the only way we can be assured of getting outs is by putting pitches by the hitters, and nobody currently in our bullpen is capable of that.

Not much else to talk about. Pineiro vs. DuBose tomorrow; don't get your hopes up.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

When Double Switches Go Wrong, Volume I:

5-2 Giants, fourth inning, one out, men on the corners for Barry Bonds. The Braves make a double switch, bringing in Antonio Alfonseca to pitch while putting Mike Hessman (just called up) to play first base.

Alfonseca decides to IBB Bonds.

Pedro Feliz follows with an RBI single.

Edgardo Alfonzo hits a tailor-made DP grounder to Hessman, who throws it away.

AJ Pierzynski follows that with an RBI single.

9-2, after four.
Randy Winn got credit for an outfield assist tonight. Stop the presses.

7-14? It's looking like it.
Hasegawa needs to go away.
Men on the corners and none out for the Orioles in the first. Moyer gets the DP, but Baltimore's on top early, 1-0. Palmeiro follows with a single, but he can go 5-5 every time we face him for all I care, as long as none of those hits are homers.
2004 team batting line: .268/.331/.394

2003 team batting line: .271/.344/.410

Seems like we're beginning to settle. I expect the SLG to pick up a little bit (20 points?), but that's about it.

It's not often that you win a game in which your starter's yanked after three innings, but the Mariners managed to do just that. Meche wound up throwing 87 pitches - 53 for strikes - through three, while walking three, allowing four hits, and releasing a wild pitch. He managed to limit the damage by working himself out of a number of jams. In the first, he loaded the bases with one out but only allowed a single run, walking Gibbons after getting Lopez to pop out. In the second, Baltimore put men on second and third with one out, but Meche fanned Mora and got Tejada to fly out. The third was a little smoother, but Palmeiro's solo shot all but punched Gil's ticket to the dugout for the fourth inning. Meche would up throwing five or more pitches in ten different at bats, and so he was pulled.

We would've seen Matt Thornton, too, had it not been for a four-run fourth that put us firmly in the lead. Dan Wilson earned himself a gold star by hitting a tying home run in the fourth and the game-winning RBI single in the seventh. While his early success has been enjoyable and one of our few bright spots so far this year, though, it must be pointed out that April is, historically, Wilson's best month (.281/.341/.409), and 35 year old catchers aren't solid bets for continued success. We can only hope that Dan's eventual regression (along with all the other lousy catchers who've had good starts) coincides with Ben Davis' ascendance into the Land of Perfectly Suitable Second-String Backstops, a kingdom domineered over by the likes of Gregg Zaun and Kelly Stinnett since the dawn of time. Of course, with Wiki Gonzalez slugging .632 in Tacoma and showing uncharacteristic determination and hustle, we have have a replacement for Davis before too long.

Always be wary of early-season statistics: after seeing his OPS rise more than 300 points between April 16th and April 23rd, Raul Ibanez has slipped 104 points in two days with a combined 1-9 performance. More surprising than his raw numbers is the fact that he's drilled nine hits in just 20 AB's against left-handers; he could go hitless in his next sixteen at bats versus southpaws and still have a higher BA than he did last year. Ibanez has exhibited a reverse split the likes of which are extremely rare, and this may be construed as another reason why Raul can be expected to cool off. If he were destroying righties like he's doing to lefties, then it'd be a different story, but alas...

It wouldn't be a Mariners game if someone didn't make it interesting before too long, of course, so Julio Mateo took over where Kevin Jarvis left off and allowed seven hits and three runs in just 2.1 innings. It could have gone much worse, had Ron Villone not induced a double play off the bat of Rafael Palmeiro with his fifth pitch. It was all tied up after six, but given that Mariner pitchers had allowed fifteen baserunners by that point, there was little reason to complain. Enter the seventh inning, in which all kinds of extraordinary events took place:

-Rich Aurilia walked
-John Olerud got a hit off a lefty
-Four consecutive hitters reached base
-Dan Wilson and Jolbert Cabrera contributed RBI hits
-All this was started with two outs and none on
-Ichiro struck out

Yes, the top of the seventh was straight out of Bizarro World. It was 7-5 Mariners, and we reached the bottom of the eighth, where Baltimored loaded the bases with one out against Ron Villone and Shigetoshi Hasegawa. What would be more appropriate than Rafael Palmeiro coming to the plate with a chance to destroy any of our remaining shreds of optimism? It was at that point that Bob Melvin made a curious decision; clearly, you want a left-handed pitcher facing Palmeiro, but Melvin went with Myers instead of Guardado. Yeah, Myers got the job done, but we wasted a pitcher on one hitter in the process. Eddie Guardado came in and got Javy Lopez to ground out to end the eighth, and he went on to finish the game. But what if Eddie blew it? We would've been left with Matt Thornton and nobody else (Jamie Moyer?) in relief, and while having Myers in the bullpen wouldn't really enhance our chances of winning in extra innings very much, he's depth, and who knows when you need that inning? Melvin didn't use his best pitcher in the most critical AB of the game; there's no real way around it.

Tonight (in about half an hour): Moyer vs. Ainsworth.

Also, from the ESPN team page:

The Mariners will announce the signing of 18-year-old Taiwanese pitcher Chai-An Huang in the next few days, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported April 28. Huang has a 94 mph fastball and a decent slider.
I wonder if you would've seen this kind of article three years ago.

With another three years and $33 million remaining on Ichiro's contract, the Mariners better hope the past 260 games are a prolonged anomaly.

Otherwise, they gave a terrible contract to a great defensive player who is an average leadoff hitter.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma vs. Edmonton was postponed. No PCL games today, either.

San Antonio got pasted by Wichita, 13-2. Chris Buglovsky got the loss, and Emiliano Fruto didn't make anything better in relief. Notables:

Dustin Dellucchi: 0-3, 2 BB
Shin Soo-Choo: 1-5, 1 triple
Greg Dobbs: 0-5
Greg Jacobs: 4-4
Cristian Guerrero: 1-4

Inland Empire beat up on Visalia, winning 10-0. TA Fulmer pitched six shutout innings for the win, and Brian Lentz carried the offense from the nine hole. Notables:

Juan Gonzalez: 2-5
Matt Hagen: 2-4, 1 double, 1 BB

Wisconsin beat Beloit by a score of 7-3. Ryan Feieraband pitched well enough to get his third win, and Josh Womack continued his tear. Notables:

Josh Womack: 2-4, 1 triple, 1 BB
Adam Jones: 1-5
Ryan Feieraband: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K

Wisconsin is also off today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Oh, and before I get to sleep, congratulations to Bob Melvin, who won his 100th game as our manager - fastest to accomplish that mark in franchise history.

Of course, a more competent manager could have achieved the milestone a few days ago, but what's done is done...
Still not feeling well. Hopefully I can wake up tomorrow with something to say about today's game.
Myers comes in and gets Palmeiro to pop up with the bases loaded. Now it's all on Guardado.

Lefties are now just 2-14 against Myers with no walks or extra-base hits.
No matter where he plays, Rafael Palmeiro will always be an M's killer.
John Sickels, on Felix Hernandez.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma beat Edmonton, 8-3. Travis Blackley had his first good start of the year, allowing just one run through seven and lowering his ERA to 4.76. Leone, once again, was the man. Notables:

Travis Blackley: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
Justin Leone: 3-6
Bucky Jacobsen: 2-5, 1 double, 1 BB
Wiki Gonzalez: 1-6, 1 homer
Jose Lopez: 2-5, 1 double, 1 homer (now hitting .294/.351/.515)

No game for San Antonio.

Felix Hernandez and Inland Empire fell to Lancaster, 6-2. Hernandez picked up his first loss, allowing three in five innings. Notables:

Felix Hernandez: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K (+3 HBP)
Juan Gonzalez: 0-3, 1 BB
Rene Rivera: 0-1, 1 BB

Wisconsin's ninth inning rally fell short, as they lost 7-6 to Beloit. Michael Moorhead gave up six runs through five for the loss. Notables:

Michael Moorhead: 5 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HR
Josh Womack: 2-4, 1 double, 1 homer, 1 BB
Adam Jones: 2-4, 1 BB
Wladimir Balentien: 1-4, 1 BB

Monday, April 26, 2004

Jeff is feeling ill this evening (not caused by the baseball season, but that's a reasonable assumption), so I'm not much for writing for the time being.
Game's postponed due to rain.

That's one way to end the five-losses-in-five-days streak.
Cleveland picked up Russ Branyan from Atlanta today for a PTBNL.

Just in case you were wondering how easy it is to pick up a bench bat.
I hope you managed to get your goodbyes in before too late.

That's right, Kevin Jarvis is gone. DFA'd. If nobody puts in a claim (which they shouldn't), then Rainiers fans will suffer for no reason in particular (unless somebody decides to put in a claim). Thornton is up, but he'll be going back down pretty soon as Soriano is almost ready to re-appear.
Kevin Damask wrote a little piece about Brandon Moorhead and Thomas Oldham, two guys we've got throwing in Wisconsin this year. Give it a look.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma fell to Edmonton, 8-3. It was a night to forget for Clint Nageotte, who lasted just two innings as he walked seven batters. Notables:

Clint Nageotte: 2 IP, 1 H, 4 ER, 7 BB, 1 K
Aaron Looper: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 K
Justin Leone: 0-4
Jose Lopez: 2-3, 1 BB
Bucky Jacobsen: 0-4
Ramon Santiago: 0-3

A three-run eighth powered San Antonio to a 3-1 win over El Paso. Rick Guttormson picked up the win in relief, while Rafael Soriano had a strong start. Notables:

Rafael Soriano: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 8 K, 1 HR
Dustin Delucchi: 1-3, 1 double
Shin Soo-Choo: 0-3, 1 BB
Luis Oliveros: 0-4

Inland Empire held off a furious comeback in defeating Lancaster, 5-4. A four-run eighth wasn't enough for the visitors, as Bobby Livingston picked up his second win of the year. Notables:

Bobby Livingston: 7 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 7 K
Juan Gonzalez: 1-3, 1 BB
Ismael Castro: 1-4, 1 double
Matt Hagen: 0-3

Wisconsin lost to Beoit, 8-6. Juan Ovalles had a rough day out of the bullpen and picked up his second loss of the year. Beloit scored runs in six of eight innings in which they batted. Notables:

Josh Womack: 3-5, 1 homer
Adam Jones: 0-4, 1 BB
Wladimir Balentien: 0-4


The problem was Romano hadn't played the infield since the 2003 season and was no longer comfortable doing so. Rays officials knew something was wrong when they saw Romano's quotes in the local papers about not having taken ground balls in a year.

Whether Thrift thought he saw Romano play infield this spring, as he told Rays officials, or whether he just thought Romano could play the infield, as he claimed the other day, it was bad information.
The 2002 Anaheim Angels started 6-14.

Gotta believe...gotta believe...
Not a good day for Leone. 0-4 with three strikeouts. Complete minor league wrap-up once the San Antonio game is finished.

I'm guessing that, come September, you'll be able to count the games we've lost while getting 15 hits on one hand. This was an abysmal game, from Kevin Mench going deep to open the scoring, to Randy Winn letting a double go off his glove, to Kevin Jarvis getting the opportunity to throw 51 pitches over three innings of absolute carnage. Our team ERA is up to 5.43, we're on pace to score fewer than 660 runs, and our walk rate places us firmly in the lowest tier of all ML offenses. What looked so good six days ago is now a distant memory, faded and obscured by the harmful ultraviolet rays emmitted by our 5.50 rotation ERA.

It's amazing what one game can do to your numbers when you're a starter in April. Ryan Franklin entered the day with a 3.15 ERA, causing the lot of us to entertain the idea that maybe he really does have some kind of ability to limit hits on balls in play. Well, after allowing eight hits on 16 balls in play, Franklin has given his doubters (myself included) another opportunity to voice our concern. Suddenly, we're all more aware that his K/9 ratio has dipped well below 4.00, and that his control is worse so far than it has been.

But what would we be thinking had Ibanez and Winn come up with those catches?

With the score 1-0 Texas and men on the corners with one out, Adrian Gonzalez blasted a ball to deep center. Winn gave chase, but the ball popped out of his glove, and Gonzalez wound up at second with an RBI double. Young and Blalock followed with run-scoring hits of their own, and it was 4-0 before the inning was over. Then, in the third, Kevin Mench hit a ball that came out of Ibanez' glove, and the Rangers went ahead 5-1 with the triple. Nix hit a sac fly in the next AB, and all of a sudden it was 6-1, just minutes after John Olerud's first home run of the year had given us all a little hope.

Is it realistic for us to assume that, under normal conditions, Winn and Ibanez come up with those catches? No, I don't think it is. Rather, today's game provides a pretty good snapshot of why many of us were worried about Franklin when we downgraded our outfield defense. Mike Cameron probably would have caught the ball to center, and I'm pretty sure that Winn would have done the same on the triple. Worse defense in the outfield led to five runs today. With last year's assortment of gloves, we might've been considered division favorites. With the 2004 edition, though, we're worse off by a few games, and never has it been more apparent than it was today.

It was nice to see us collect some hits off John Wasdin and Erasmo Ramirez. Despite the zero walks drawn - and that remains a legitimate concern - the lineup was generally pretty good today, as Ibanez was the only starter to go hitless. Olerud finally hit one out, raising his OPS north of .700, and Ben Davis and Randy Winn also showed signs of life (4-8 between them). Of course, stats against John Wasdin are best taken with a grain of salt, but we did some damage against a decent reliever in Ramirez, and that's worth something. Ichiro still sucks, though. His power is completely gone.

And so, we've come full circle back to my favorite topic: the dos and don'ts of bullpen management. It's really pretty simple: do try to keep your relievers rested whenever possible, but don't bring Kevin Jarvis into any game where the teams are separated by four runs or less. When Franklin was pulled in the third, I understood the move; Franklin was done, and he needed to leave, but at the time we were only down five against John Wasdin, a lousy pitcher. You don't want to throw in the towel that early when you still have a chance, so Melvin went with Ron Villone, who's "all right". Of course, he was anything but "all right" today, but that's not Melvin's fault.

So we're plodding along, and we get to the sixth inning. Five consecutive singles narrowed the deficit from 9-3 to 9-6, and momentum was on our side. A shutdown inning from the bullpen and we're in business, because scoring three runs against the Texas bullpen is an entirely rational thing to hope for. But, for the second time in this series, Melvin brought Kevin Jarvis into a winnable game, and Jarvis immediately made it exponentially less winnable.

Fun statistic for you: Kevin Jarvis is on pace to allow 102 runs this year.

Who would have been a better option than Jarvis, in that situation? This guy would've. Mateo made an appearance yesterday, but he only threw three pitches, and surely could have thrown a few innings before giving way to Hasegawa or Guardado. Mateo threw 47 and 48 pitches in separate appearances within the last week, so we know he's capable of being a pseudo-long reliever, which makes it all the more curious that Melvin went with Jarvis. Decisions such as these only serve to support my belief that Melvin really does think that Jarvis has talent, and that he "just hasn't found his groove, yet." The optimist in me says that leaving Jarvis out to dry in these situations is Melvin's way of saying, "See, he sucks, so get him off my roster," but I don't think that Bob thinks poorly of anyone, so I'm left with this sinking feeling that nobody in our entire organization knows how to evaluate talent.

Texas didn't have Alfonso Soriano. They sat Gerald Laird in favor of Rod Barajas. And they scored 14 runs.

I don't have anything else to say right now. Gil Meche vs. Matt Riley tomorrow. Looks like a good matchup, right? You're wrong. There are no good matchups anymore.
Remind me why we used Ron Villone before Kevin Jarvis today...
Round of applause for Rich Aurilia, who kept it from becoming a 9-1 game...

It sure is nice to be losing by six when the other team is without Alfonso Soriano and Gerald Laird.
7-1 after three.

It's not worth losing if you don't lose big!
It's funny...the one time that I think using Kevin Jarvis is justifiable (down 5 in the third), Melvin brings in Ron Villone.

I guess a five-run deficit against John "Way Back" Wasdin is surmountable.
6-1 in the third inning. Randy Winn and Raul Ibanez have each dropped balls that wound up going for extra bases. Good times.
Why Ryan Franklin threw a pitch-out and eight pick-off tosses with Laynce Nix on first, I'll never know...
The Official Fire Bavasi Headquarters has been updating its merchandise to include some Howard Lincoln stuff, too. Check it out.

Mine arrived yesterday. Good stuff.