Saturday, May 08, 2004

Both of Tacoma's games today were postponed.

This one's going to be shorter than yesterday's, because Jeff is still recovering from a long night. That said...

Since starting the year 1-7, we've gone 11-10, including a five-game losing streak. In other words, we've been playing like a 85-win team since the first week of the season. Take it for what it's worth (and it's not worth much), but it's still pretty neat.

Ryan Franklin last night was everything that Ryan Franklin isn't. He struck out five batters in six innings, including Giambi/Sheffield/Posada in sequence in the second inning. He didn't allow a single extra-base hit to one of the most powerful lineups in recent history. And he walked four hitters while struggling to find the strike zone a little bit, violating the good control we've come to take for granted from Franklin since he reached the majors. As a guy who has a penchant for catching too much of the plate every so often, Ryan kept the Yankees guessing last night by pitching to the corners more often. He didn't have the command you'd like, but he kept opposing hitters off balance, and if this is the kind of performance that we can expect from some new version of Ryan Franklin, then sign me up.

The story of the game, however, was Edgar Martinez, who received a pair of standing ovations after smacking his 500th career double in the first. He followed that up with a two-run homer in the third, his second home run of the season. He is now one blast short of 300 career homers, one of those milestones that will only help him build his case for becoming a Hall of Famer. The entire lineup seemed to feed off the environment and excitement, as we had twelve hits in eight innings before the night was through. That said, this offense remains wildly inconsistent and typically ineffective, and for good reason: we remain primarily a singles-hitting team that doesn't draw a lot of walks. Batting average, by nature, is prone to considerable fluctuation, meaning that we can slap five singles in a row one night and three all game the next. Ibanez' surprising power so far has been a welcome addition, but between his uncertainty and Boone/Edgar's injury problems, we have the rough equivalent of two sluggers in the lineup on any given night. That leaves seven guys who don't walk much, a few of whom might finish the year with empty .290 BA's. This is how the team looked before the season started, though, so nobody should be particularly shocked. I guess the upside is that, should we make the playoffs, there's a chance that the entire lineup catches fire at the same time and we go 2002 Anaheim all over the place, but wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to dig so deep to find a silver lining?

Speaking of Boone (which we were, at some point in that paragraph): he was out last night because of back spasms. Now, we all know the hazards of having back problems - they can flare up at any point without warning and knock a guy out of the lineup for a few days, maybe even send him to the DL. These are the kinds of risks you take when you build an old team. Something else the article mentions that doesn't make me feel too good, though, is that Boone's determination can occasionally overwhelm his faculty for rational thought. The last thing we need is for Boone to play through pain and compound the problems; this is why we could use a backup like Mark Bellhorn, a guy who can step in and play a little bit in a pinch, and who won't embarrass you if he needs to play for two weeks while your starter's on the DL. Maybe Jolbert Cabrera can be that guy, but PECOTA put him at a 74% chance to decline from 2003's performance while projecting 41% odds that his production dips by a fifth. The .286/.306/.371 hitter you see now is probably just about what we can expect from Cabrera over the year, and that's not a bat that you want to pencil into the lineup should Boone miss a little time with an injury.

Rich Aurilia: o'fer
Dan Wilson: o'fer

We already knew that one of them wouldn't hit, but nobody had any idea that Aurilia would actually be worse than the guy we already knew wouldn't hit. Between his poor performance in the majors, both at the plate and in the field, and Jose Lopez hitting for a high average and impressive power in AAA, I think that there's a real legitimate chance that we see the kid before we get too far into the summer. Is it the right move? I wouldn't say that quite yet, but if Rich is still struggling come mid-June and Lopez is still among the Rainiers' leaders in home runs, then I guess it would be in the team's best interests. That is, if the season is still salvageable.

It's always nice to beat the Yankees. It's nicer to beat them twice. Meche against Mussina tonight, and it would be a thrill if Mussina's difficulties would last just one more start.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma was postponed yesterday. Doubleheader today, with Blackley throwing the first game and Anderson going in the nightcap.

San Antonio lost to Wichita, 7-3. Troy Cate started well until hitting the wall in the sixth inning, and he took the loss. Jose Nunez had another rough outing in relief, allowing three runs in two innings. Notables:

Troy Cate: 5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
Dustin Dellucchi: 1-4, 1 BB
Shin Soo-Choo: 2-5, 1 double
Greg Dobbs: 1-3, 1 BB
Greg Jacobs: 1-4, 1 BB

Inland Empire was destroyed by San Jose, 12-2. TA Fulmer was brutalized as San Jose scored 11 runs in the first four innings. No 66ers had a multihit game. Notables:

TA Fulmer: 3 IP, 11 H, 10 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 HR
Juan Gonzalez: 1-4
TJ Bohn: 0-3, 1 BB
Rene Rivera: 1-3
Matt Hagen: 0-3

Wisconsin beat Battle Creek by a score of 11-6. The Rattlers scored nine runs through the first three innings, and held on as Bryan Heaston got the win in relief of Thomas Oldham. Notables:

Thomas Oldham: 4 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 3 HR
Josh Ellison: 2-4, 2 doubles, 1 BB
Adam Jones: 2-5
Josh Womack: 0-4

Friday, May 07, 2004

Tacoma vs. Salt Lake was postponed tonight - no word yet on whether Blackley will go tomorrow, or if they'll skip his start.
Ryan Franklin just struck out Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, and Jorge Posada.

In a row.

Now that is more like it.
Congratulations to Edgar Martinez on picking up his 500th career double.
Notice anything strange about this box from last night?

HR: COL- None RMD- J.Tyner (1), W.Betemit (2), C.Thomas (1), J.Velandia (2)


HR: COL- None RMD- J.Tyner (1), W.Betemit (2), C.Thomas (1), J.Velandia (2)

His player card entering the year:

FLAWS: Tyner has never homered in four pro seasons. He would benefit as a leadoff man by learning to lay off more pitches out of the zone. Often falls behind early in the count.

He never homered in college, either.

Congratulations to Tyner for finally knocking one out of the park. It's a stroke of good fortune for Jason, who might wind up finding himself employed by an ML team again before too long. Too bad for the poor saps who give him the opportunity, though.

It took a lot of effort, but we finally got a win for Freddy Garcia, who is now 1-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 42.2 IP. A little more on Freddy later; before I get there, let's check out something else:


Do you know what that is?

It's our team batting line. An approximation would be a lineup of nine Alex Cora's. Let's re-visit a post of mine from two weeks ago. How does that chart look now?

Player Exp. EqR Actual EqR ∆EqR
Ibanez 10.4 17.7 +7.3
Martinez 13.2 14.6 +1.4
Hansen 1.6 3.7 +2.1
Boone 16.4 15.6 -0.8
Spiezio 11.3 12.3 +1.0
Aurilia 10.1 7.2 -2.9
Wilson 3.9 8.1 +4.2
Bloomquist 4.0 3.5 -0.5
McCracken 3.4 0.5 -2.9
Olerud 13.5 13.0 -0.5
Ichiro 15.0 14.3 -0.7
Cabrera 5.1 1.8 -3.3
Winn 11.4 9.9 -1.5
Davis 5.4 0.0 -5.4
Team 125.0 122.2 -2.4

Raul Ibanez and Dan Wilson are exceeding expectations, while Rich Aurilia needs to pick it up a little. One of the interesting things in there is that, without Ben Davis, we'd actually be hitting above the projection, but since EqR takes into account a little thing called playing time, let's see how our catchers have done as a collective:

Expected EqR: 9.3
Actual EqR: 8.1
∆EqR: -1.2

Our catchers have been subpar, with Randy Winn and Bret Boone underperforming, but the offense as a whole hasn't been that far off the projection. Over a full season, we're on pace to score 14 runs below the PECOTA projection - costing us a little more than one win. What does this mean? In essence, get used to having difficulty scoring runs, because significant improvement seems unlikely. As Winn, Edgar, and Boone pick it up, Ibanez, Spiezio, and Wilson will negate the production by regressing back to the mean. It really makes you wonder how much of a difference it would make if we had a competent bench - Ichiro seems in dire need of an off day, and Edgar could use a day on the bench as well, but when the alternative in each case is giving Quinton McCracken four at bats, is it really worth it?

If there is good news - and there has to be - it's that we're ever-so-slowly moving up the ladder in total walks. Raul's only drawn three in his last fourteen games, suggesting that his early season BB's were more a coincidence than anything else, but Boone is finally flashing a little patience, and the entire lineup seems to be drawing deeper counts. Yeah, Boone seems a little over-anxious, but this last series featured a textbook example of a hacking team (save for Shannon Stewart), and the Twins are going to have trouble consistently scoring runs if they don't approach the plate with an actual plan.

If we hadn't rallied to give Freddy a win last night, would anyone have been surprised if he just threw up his hands and left the team in a fit of rage? For as much as I've harped on him over the past year and a half, he deserves a lot better than what he's getting. In his six starts, we've scored a total of 13 runs. Yet, he continues to pitch extremely well, whereas you get the feeling like Freddy Garcia, v.2003 would have thrown in the towel and collapsed. What's the difference between this year's Freddy and last season's version?

-Strikeouts are up half a batter per game
-Walks are down 33%
-He's not allowing any home runs

By limiting bases on balls and increasing his K rate a little bit, Freddy is compensating for the significantly worse defense behind him. His home runs are way down despite remaining a fairly neutral pitcher, with slight flyball tendencies. This may be interpreted as a sign that Garcia is locating his pitches better than he did in 2002/2003, no longer catching as much of the plate as he did during his struggles, which is a direct function of not falling behind in the count as often. Something more peculiar is that his doubles/triples allowed are incrementally higher than they were last year, but even the best pitchers can still be hurt by a rough defense. Freddy's peripherals so far are looking a lot like they did in 2001, so don't brace yourself in anticipation of a considerable dropoff. As long as he's limiting his free passes and keeping the ball away from the middle of the plate, he should be in for a huge payday come December.

...however, always the spoilsport, I will point out that Freddy has been extremely good with runners on base, and even moreso with RISP; his OPS against of .351 in the latter situation is a full 310 points lower than it is with the bases empty. His numbers from previous seasons show no such split (his numbers are virtually identical, in fact - see for yourself), so his ERA isn't going to hover around the low-2's for the duration. That said, he's still been terrific, and even a little dropoff will still leave us with one of the better pitchers in the league.

Returning to Earth:
-Scott Spiezio. His OPS has dropped more than 250 points in the last two weeks, and he's just 5 for his last 29. The good news is that he's walked four times over that stretch and has two extra-base hits, so he could very easily wind up with a .275/.340/.440 line.
-Raul Ibanez. Stop me if you've seen this before. Really, it's only the getting-on-base part of him that's struggling - he's still hitting for tremendous power. He's 8 for 43 in his last ten games, with a .222 OBP, but he's put up a .256 Isolated Slugging Percentage. At this rate, he'll finish the year as a moderately more successful Russ Branyan. There are worse things, of course, but it's a shame that his walks have dropped off.
-Dan Wilson. He's always been a decent hitter in April before falling flat on his face in May, and this year has begun in a similar fashion. He finished the first month with a .782 OPS, but has kicked off May with a 2-11 performance (3 for his last 17 overall). I don't think anyone needed much convincing that Wilson would eventually stop hitting, though.

Still Dropping, Despite An Entirely Woeful Start:
-Rich Aurilia. He's 1-for-May, and hasn't had a multihit game since April 14th. Since his OPS peaked on the 15th, Aurilia's put up a .172/.254/.188 line, including an o'fer in our recent 16-inning barnburner. He still hasn't homered on the year, and has just two doubles since the fourth game of the season, meaning that the only good thing he had going for him coming into the year has disappeared. Given enough of an opportunity, he'll pick it up - and really, it's not like we have a backup SS pressing for more playing time, anyway - but I wonder if our fickle fans will let him live that long. More likely he winds up being labeled as the new Cirillo and gets blasted at every opportunity by fans and journalists alike.

On The Rise:
-Ichiro. I thought it was strange for a player to lose so much speed over one winter. He has ten hits in May, and while he's still not hitting for very much power, he's slapping the ball and running once he gets on base. Of course, we can't have him stealing bases at a 60% clip all year long - that does nobody any good, except the catchers - but he's a big part of the team's general strategy, and getting him on base gives Melvin an outlet for his creativity that, for the first month of the year, was being employed on the bullpen.
-Bret Boone. He never stopped hitting for power, as he's on pace to equal last year's home run total, but for a little stretch there in April he wasn't able to get on base, limiting the amount of times the core of our lineup came up with men on base. He's hit .282/.349/.410 since April 25th, a line which features a subpar slugging percentage, but this isn't anything to worry about. He's starting to look a little tired, but if Melvin gives him a day off (hopefully against a tough righty this time, like, say, Mike Mussina, tomorrow), I think he'll come back energized and ready to go on one of his trademark tears.

Ryan Franklin goes against newly reconstructed Jon Lieber tonight. I'll say one thing, it'll be fun to see whether or not the BABIP magic returns for one more night, or if we're in for a blowout.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma beat Edmonton, 4-1. Clint Nageotte was strong through five innings, giving way to Scott Atchison, who picked up his second win. George Sherrill had another good outing, as he recorded his third save. Notables:

Clint Nageotte: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 HR
George Sherrill: 1 IP, 1 BB, 2 K
Jamal Strong: 1-4
Hiram Bocachica: 2-4, 1 homer
Justin Leone: 0-3
Jose Lopez: 0-3
Ben Davis: 2-3, 1 double

A two-run eighth helped San Antonio beat Wichita, 6-4. Tim Rall got his first win of the year in relief of Juan Done, who allowed three runs in six innings. Greg Dobbs led the offense by driving in three runs. Notables:

Greg Dobbs: 3-4, 3 doubles
Greg Jacobs: 2-3, 1 BB
Dustin Dellucchi: 3-4, 2 doubles
Luis Oliveros: 0-3
Shin Soo-Choo: 1-4

Inland Empire rallied to defeat Stockton, 10-6. A five-run eighth propelled the 66ers into the lead, and Miguel Martinez got the win out of the bullpen. Felix Hernandez went five strong before giving way to Darwin Soto, who was legitimately terrible. Notables:

King Felix: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Juan Gonzalez: 3-5
Hyung Cho: 1-5
Rene Rivera: 3-5, 1 double
TJ Bohn: 2-4, 1 triple

Wisconsin fell to Beloit by a score of 5-2. Eric O`Flaherty got the loss despite a strong outing, as the offense could muster just three hits. Notables:

Eric O`Flaherty: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR
Adam Jones: 1-4
Josh Womack: 0-4
Josh Ellison: 2-3, 1 triple, 1 BB

Blackley's on the hill tonight, against Salt Lake.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Apparently, Wiki is on the DL (as of a few days ago), which is why Borders got the promotion. Thanks to Mike Thompson, of PI blog fame, for the heads-up.
I bet you didn't see this coming.

All right, so we all knew that Davis was finding himself deeper and deeper in the organizational doghouse as the season progressed, and that he was due to be moved somewhere. Turns out that somewhere is Tacoma, where he and Wiki Gonzalez will have to split playing time as each tries to make it back to the majors. Nevermind that Borders hasn't hit in AAA this year, after a whole ML career of not hitting, and that Wiki's been destroying the ball in Tacoma for a month - Pat's got that "special relationship" with the club, and is supposedly Freddy Garcia's overlord. So what we have now is a roster that, on June 9th, will feature exactly zero position players on the good side of 30 years old.

The good news, I guess, is that Borders will be hard-pressed to do any worse than Davis has. The bad news is that this could spell the end of Davis' career as a Mariner. Yeah, he probably needs a change of scenery, but he was the only position player worth keeping an eye on these past few years as he seemed to be on the verge of a breakout. Now that he's gone, we just have to hope against hope that our collection of stiffs and Edgar staves off age-related decline for another year, at which point we may find ourselves watching Jose Lopez every day (for better or worse).

My connection's being sporadic, so this will probably be shorter than usual, but anyway...

One of the problems inherent in having an old roster is that it takes longer for the players to recover from exhaustion. In this case, a 16-inning game the night before. The Twins, on the other hand, are a bunch of kids (comparitively), and they came out and played a solid ballgame. It's never good when you get shut down by a guy with a limited repertoire and a Franklinesque ability to strike hitters out, but credit Silva for pitching well.

Ichiro is officially coming alive. Look at his numbers in the last five games:


...including his first triple and homer of the year. But has the rest of the offense responded? The team has scored 22 runs over that span, but one of the games went to sixteen comes out to an average of 3.81 runs per nine-inning game, which is actually slightly below the team average in the previous 22 games. Even so, a successful Mariners team certainly involves a successful Ichiro, so seeing his line leave Darin Erstad's and approach Juan Pierre's is still nice to see. He's not hitting for power yet, but only Ibanez and Boone are, so it would be foolish to chastise Ichiro when Edgar's still sitting on one home run himself.

Apparently, a four-run deficit is large enough for Melvin to throw up his hands and give a young pitcher some playing time. JJ Putz entered in the seventh inning and proceeded to breeze through the Twins, allowing a hit and fanning two in two innings of work. Why Melvin elected to put Hasegawa into the game in the ninth inning is beyond me; he'd already pitched two games in a row, and Putz' stamina shouldn't be a concern, as he'd only thrown 22 pitches and has a history as a starting pitcher. It was just another one of those strange decisions that have no impact on the outcome of the game that Melvin likes to make.

How long will it be until we can start making arguments based on the numbers of some of our bench hitters? For example, in 31 at bats Jolbert Cabrera has been an out machine while whiffing a third of the time, whereas Dave Hansen has been significantly more impressive than our starting 1B. Ben Davis hasn't done a single thing good since the year began, and Wee Willie has hit like Darin Erstad (notice the theme?) without the hustle or Gold Glove defense. Only Hansen could really be considered a surprise, I guess - Davis has had about three good months since he arrived, we already know that Willie can't hit, and Cabrera's difficulty is reminiscent of the pre-2003 Jolbert, who was distinctly mediocre. Is it time to call for Olerud to be benched for a handful of games, to see what Dave can do? Ordinarily, I wouldn't like the thought of taking a .363 OBP out of the lineup, but Hansen is hot, and we're reaching the point at which it is no longer permissable to say "it's still early". However, don't confuse this with "play Hansen against tough lefties", because that works to nobody's benefit and would only hurt everyone's feelings.

Once again, not a good day for Joel. Nine hits in six innings? Bad. Five runs in six innings? Bad (two of them were unearned, but scored because of Pineiro's own mistake that was miraculously ruled as an error by the Safeco scorekeeper). One strikeout and two walks in six innings? Bad. It's not that he was having control problems - he threw 65% strikes - but perhaps he was getting a little too much of the plate. If someone would volunteer to go through his game logs from the past two years and compare the number of strikes Joel threw, that'd be great, but I'm batting a headache and connection troubles that would drive a lesser man to suicide. Regardless of however that turns out, what we have to go on is that Pineiro is allowing nearly a run per inning, which is what happens when you're putting more than two guys on base per frame. The home runs and extra-base hits in general are up, despite Joel becoming more of a groundball pitcher since last year. There have been rumblings that his velocity is off, and while I'm still cautiously optimistic, I can't help but think of Dr.'s Lewis and Yocum.

I need to cut it off here. Freddy's on the hill tonight to face Brad Radke, as opposite forces meet - we've hit Radke pretty well recently, but we've given Garcia next to no support at the same time. Something's got to give (hey, that could be our team slogan).
Some of you may be Ken Griffey fans. If this is the case, some of the guys over at Top Mariner forum set up a website: Bring Griffey Home. There's also a petition to sign.

I am vehemently opposed to trading for Griffey, myself, so this is the only endorsement I'll provide for these sites. A few of you may be interested, though, so check 'em out.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Bobby Madritsch was brilliant as Tacoma defeated Edmonton, 2-1. Randy Williams threw two shutout innings for his first save, and Jamal Strong had two hits from the leadoff spot. Notables:

Bobby Madritsch: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Jamal Strong: 2-4, 1 double
Jose Lopez: 1-2, 1 homer, 1 BB
Justin Leone: 1-3
Bucky Jacobsen: 1-3, 1 BB
Ramon Santiago: 0-3 (.179)

No Texas League games today.

Inland Empire beat Stockton, 7-1. Bobby Livingston got his fourth win of the year, going six strong, and Ryan Rowland-Smith picked up the three-inning save. Notables:

Bobby Livingston: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
Rene Rivera: 1-4
Juan Gonzalez: 1-4, 1 double, 1 BB
Hyung Cho: 1-5
TJ Bohn: 1-3, 1 homer, 1 BB

Wisconsin fell 9-8 to Beloit. Jason Mackintosh was the unfortunate loser, allowing three unearned runs in 0.1 innings in relief of starter Nibaldo Acosta. Wisconsin made four errors, two of which went to Adam Jones, who's really struggling in the field so far. Notables:

Adam Jones: 1-4, 1 double, 1 BB
Josh Womack: 0-6
Josh Ellison? : 2-4, 2 BB

Recap of tonight's game will come in the morning.

It sure is a good thing we kept Putz around, isn't it?

Had we sent Putz down and brought up a Santiago/Lopez/Lopez/Leone, then we'd be left with a very thin bullpen, as everyone else threw yesterday. In related news, Luis Ugueto got hurt yesterday, meaning that we can all relax in knowing that he won't be promoted any time soon.

Yesterday, Bob Melvin employed a new tactic: hang on until the other team has nobody left. Ron Gardenhire, Corey Koskie, and Torii Hunter all had to leave for a variety of reasons (two, anyway), but the Twins had Michael Cuddyer and Michael Ryan on the bench, so perhaps we should have tried to win the normal way. Minnesota has had tremendous position player depth for a few years, now, and given their pitching needs, you'd think that the two of us would have consummated a deal by now. But teams rarely trade prospects for prospects, so perhaps it's not as strange as situation as you'd think. It wouldn't hurt to inquire about Cuddyer and Justin Morneau, though, if just for kicks.

When I read box scores of these kinds of games, one of the dumb little thrills I get is seeing which starters went hitless. Yesterday, we had a quartet: Shannon Stewart, Jacque Jones, Henry Blanco, and Rich Aurilia. Blanco was the worst, as he was the only starter not to reach base. Amazingly, he only stranded one baserunner all game long. Remember when his OPS was 1.409? Yeah, neither do I. The bizarre Bad Catcher Small Sample Size Bonanza seems to be coming to an end.

It's funny; having won three of four games, the last being a dramatic extra-innings game that wasn't ended by Raul Ibanez, spirits are improving. There was genuine enthusiasm at Safeco last night, and Raul's 4th inning homer got them on their feet. There was still a decent contingent hanging around when Winn scored the winning run, and the remaining spectators shouted their approval once Marty Foster's baffling "Safe! Out! Safe!" call was sorted out. But we were one ruling away from potentially losing the game. Corey Koskie was safe at home in the top of the ninth, and his run would have given Minnesota a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, where Olerud failed to take advantage of a bases loaded opportunity. A loss because of a blown save by our only reliable reliever would have been a killer, so it will be interesting to see if the team feeds off its recent luck, or if it returns to its losing ways.

You knew it was coming. Bob Melvin, it's time to learn the Dos and Don'ts of bullpen management. Do bring in a supposedly re-energized Rafael Soriano to pitch a few extra frames and save the bullpen. Don't remove Soriano after two batters in favor of a lefty specialist, who will be pitching to a left-handed batter with a history of hitting southpaws better than right-handers. Clearly, Melvin has no use for actual numbers when confronted with a situation easily resolved by "playing the matchups". Bringing in Myers to face someone like Jacque Jones is fine, but bringing him in to face Doug Mientkiewicz, who has a reverse platoon split, is not. Fortunately, Myers escaped by getting a groundout and a pickoff.

Raul Ibanez' arm may not be that strong, but it's been accurate so far. He already has five assists - that's one more than we got from all of our left fielders last year - after picking up two more yesterday. Given how he's been hitting, Raul's earned some immunity from criticism that is better allocated towards Rich Aurilia, who's taking over the role of 2004 Jeff Cirillo. He's got a paltry .216/.274/.278 line to go along with some shaky defense, and it probably won't be long before fans start calling for the front office to ignore National League players altogether (I know, I know, Bret Boone...). No, I don't think that Aurilia is this bad - like Randy Winn, it's just been a conspicuously slow start on a team full of slow starters - but he needs to start hitting a few RBI doubles before management glances at Jose Lopez' early numbers at AAA and rushes him more than they already have. Should Aurilia get benched for any length of time, I promise you that the alternative will be considerably worse, as this organization's middle infield depth is a textbook example of "Quantity, not Quality". It's bad enough that they'd consider bringing up Ramon Santiago or Mickey Lopez for the bench; do you really want to see either of them get 100 AB's in a brief starting role?

No, you shouldn't worry about Edgar. Forget about those four strikeouts. He's still getting on base, and as he starts turning some of those doubles into homers (they'll come), he'll settle into one of those grooves that only Edgar can find. While I don't think that context really has a significant effect on individual production (e.g. who a guy is hitting in front of, or behind), the Mariners' collective offensive ineptitude certainly can't be helping matters, and I fully expect Edgar to catch fire one of these days. The odds of that happening before he pulls a muscle are a little cloudier, though.

Quinton McCracken only has 11 at bats, and is on pace to finish with less than 70. So far this year, Quinton has entered games to do what Quinton does best: pinch-run. While having a terrible bench is a problem, I have to commend Melvin for using it infrequently, and we can only hope that perhaps he's noticed its lack of talent as well. During the summer months we're going to run into some situations where depth is a necessity, but early indications suggest that maybe, just maybe, we'll dip into our AAA account if we need to plug a hole. This doesn't include shortstop, of course, where Wee Willie Bloomquist is the obvious favorite to grab the starting job if/when Aurilia finds himself doing something else, but an injury to Dave Hansen could lead to Bucky Jacobsen or AJ Zapp getting promoted. There are worse things than that.

It looks like Randy Winn and Ichiro are showing signs of life. Since April 25th, Winn has hit .409/.519/.545, and Ichiro has eight hits in the last four games. It'd be real neat if that .712 team OPS would rise a little bit.

Pineiro vs. Silva tonight. We're going to need Joel to throw at least six innings, but preferably seven or more, with the condition of our bullpen. There's no way Bob Melvin will feel good about bringing JJ Putz into a game unless we're comfortably ahead or behind.
After watching some highlights...

Randy Winn was out.

How nice. For us, I mean.

This team should just never bunt.
Here's your link for the Melvin extension.
New blog out there (not in the M's blogosphere) - Sabernomics. Well worth a read.
...and Soriano gets pulled after facing two batters, getting one out, and throwing a handful of pitches at 91 miles per hour.

That could have gone better.
Soriano's in to pitch the 11th.

He promptly walks Shannon Stewart to lead off the game.

Nice to have you back, Rafael, but it looks like you already caught what the other pitchers have.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma doubled up on Edmonton, by a score of 8-4. Cha Baek got the win despite allowing nine hits in 5.2 innings, and the offense was led by the JL's. If you don't know who I'm talking about...Notables:

Cha Baek: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 4 K
Aaron Looper: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER
George Sherrill: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 K
Justin Leone: 2-3, 1 triple, 1 homer, 1 BB (.275/.330/.593)
Jose Lopez: 2-4, 2 doubles (.298/.340/.513)
Jamal Strong: 0-2, 2 BB
Bucky Jacobsen: 2-4, 1 double, 1 BB
Ramon Santiago: 0-4

San Antonio beat Tulsa, 6-4. Gustavo Martinez got the win, allowing four runs and fanning eight through six innings of work. Jared Hoerman got another save, his eighth. Hunter Brown went 3-4 with a homer to lead the offense. Notables:

Dustin Dellucchi: 1-5
Cristian Guerrero: 1-5, 1 double (he's not really a "notable", but few AA'ers this year *are*)
Greg Jacobs: 1-5

Inland Empire fell to Stockton, 10-4. Juan Sandoval got the loss - his first on the year - and Cesar Jimenez and Tanner Watson each allowed two runs in 1.2 innings of relief. Gary Harris was the lone bright spot, finishing with two hits, including a triple. Notables:

Matt Hagen: 0-4 (all K's)
Rene Rivera: 1-3
Juan Gonzalez: 0-3, 1 BB

Wisconsin got off to a fast start and beat Beloit, 8-2. Ryan Feierabend picked up his fourth win of the year with seven strong innings, and Josh Ellison had three hits from the leadoff spot. Notables:

Ryan Feierabend: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR
Josh Womack: 1-4, 1 double, 1 BB
um...Chris Colton? : 2-3, 1 triple
Is there any clearer sign that Melvin has lost confidence in Ichiro than Spiezio's sacrifice bunt in the ninth?

Spiezio's been swinging a good bat, and he's got Boone and Ibanez (serious extra-base threats) behind him. I don't like the bunt there, and if Melvin really wanted Ichiro on second base, why not just give him the green light?
I don't know who or what bit Raul Ibanez in the ass, but it'd be nice if it would stick around for a little while longer.
Bloomquist went on the DL today, and Soriano was brought up. Putz remains. Jarvis is gone for good. We'll see if the M's stick with a 12-man pitching staff, or if they send Putz down for a position player.

Also, Bob Melvin's contract was extended through 2005 today.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma beat Edmonton, 11-6. Pat Borders was the only regular who went hitless. Matt Thornton started well before falling apart in the fourth, where he was replaced by Scott Atchison. Craig Anderson pitched three shutout innings for his second save. Notables:

Matt Thornton: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 homer
Jamal Strong: 1-5
Ramon Santiago: 1-4, 1 BB
Wiki Gonzalez: 1-1, 1 double
Bucky Jacobsen: 2-3, 1 double, 1 homer, 2 BB
Jose Lopez: 1-4, 1 double

San Antonio fell to Tulsa, 8-7. The Missions blew a 5-0 lead as the Drillers scored runs in each of the last five frames. Chris Buglovsky pitched decently and got a no-decision, as Rick Guttormson got the loss by allowing five runs in 2.2 IP. Notables:

Dustin Dellucchi: 2-4, 1 double
Shin Soo-Choo: 2-3, 1 homer, 2 BB
Greg Jacobs: 2-5, 1 double
Luis Oliveros: 3-4, 2 doubles

Inland Empire rallied for two in the ninth to beat Rancho Cucamonga, 4-3. Melvin Pizarro got the win in relief of Rich Dorman, and Miguel Martinez got his second save. Notables:

Juan Gonzalez: 4-5, 1 double
Matt Hagen: 2-4
Hyung Cho: 0-3
Rene Rivera: 2-4, 1 double

A six-run second propelled Wisconsin to a 7-5 win over Beloit. Michael Moorhead fanned seven batters in 5.2 innings for his third win, and Brian Stitt closed out the ninth for his fifth save. Notables:

Josh Womack: 3-5, 1 double
Adam Jones: 0-5

Adam Jones had three errors.

Cha Baek for Tacoma tomorrow.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Forewarning when reading the Tacoma box score: Ugueto's home run was an inside-the-parker after an Edmonton OF dove for it - and missed - and Mickey Lopez' triple was a single that turned into three bases after another OF fell down.
By the way, the guy who set up the Official Fire Bavasi Merchandise online store? Thank this guy. His page is worth visiting, if only because of its appearance.
Could we see a AAA position player call-up?

Very possible, should Wee Willie go on the DL. But keep reading in the article, and you find this:

Should Bloomquist have to hit the DL, there's not a clear candidate to replace him. Among the spring training darlings, Hiram Bocachica is hurt and Ramon Santiago is batting .190. The Mariners are hesitant to rush 20-year-old shortstop prospect Jose Lopez, and Justin Leone, who has five homers on the young season, can play third base but not shortstop.

Andriesen goes on to mention Mickey Lopez as another possibility, another one of those non-'roiding Manny Alexanders that you find on AAA rosters around the country.

Now, honestly, how often will the guy we call up actually play? One game? Maybe two? Aurilia's backups (Cabrera and Bloomquist) have played a total of 17 innings at short through 26 games, so who we choose to add to the 25-man roster should Willie go on the DL won't make or further break our season. It's just the wording of the article that rubs me the wrong way:

and Justin Leone...can play third base, but not shortstop.

Justin Leone was drafted out of college as a shortstop - Baseball America called him "the best US-born shortstop since Alex Rodriguez." He's continued to play short off and on since he was brought in, usually as the team's first alternative if/when the starter goes down. His defense has drawn raves from numerous scouts, and he's been versatile enough to cover the outfield when both Snelling and Strong were missing from the Tacoma lineup this year. Is Leone an above-average defensive shortstop? Probably not - his best position is, as you'd expect, third base - but he'd be more than adequate as a backup for two or three weeks should Willie go down. Hell, Cabrera's been a pretty good defensive shorstop over his career, so perhaps the team could call up Leone and have him play behind Boone and his trick back.

This is a pretty good opportunity for the team to see what they've got on their hands. A few at bats here and there do not a career make (save for special circumstances), but with Spiezio locked up through 2006 and the organization apparently committed to the idea of Jose Lopez, Major League Third Baseman, it's unlikely that Leone finds himself at the hot corner on the ML roster for an extended period of time. He needs to make the best of the opportunities that he's given - just like he did in 2003, when Dobbs went down - because his clock is ticking, and nobody wants to keep a 27 year old AAA infielder on the 40man roster if he hasn't shown the ability to hit in the majors. That said, it's up to the organization to give him the opportunity Leone deserves, instead of wasting everybody's time with some dreg like Ramon Santiago or Mickey Lopez.

Enjoying the Mariners' off day? I know I am, because that hour or two that I spend on this site per day may now be better allocated towards studying for finals.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma came back to beat Salt Lake, 4-3. The Rainiers scored all four runs in the final three innings, giving Aaron Looper his first win. George Sherill got the save, his second. Notables:

Travis Blackley: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 homers
Aaron Looper: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 K
George Sherrill: 0.2 IP, 1 K
Justin Leone: 1-4
Jamal Strong: 1-4
Ramon Santiago: 1-5
Wiki Gonzalez: 2-4, 1 homer

San Antonio got the shit beat out of them by Tulsa, 19-4. It was a day to forget for Troy Cate, Emiliano Fruto, and Jose Nunez, as the pitchers allowed Tulsa's #9 hitter to go 3-3 with six RBI. Notables:

Troy Cate: 2.1 IP, 7 H, 8 ER, 3 BB, 1 K
Dustin Dellucchi: 2-3, 2 BB
Shin Soo-Choo: 2-4, 1 BB
Cristian Guerrero: 1-3, 1 homer, 2 BB

Inland Empire lost to Rancho Cucamonga, 5-3. TA Fulmer was beat up and the 66ers lost despite getting at least one hit from everyone in the starting lineup. Notables:

Juan Gonzalez: 1-4
Matt Hagen: 2-4

Wisconsin had a double-header today (each seven-inning games). They lost to Fort Wayne 7-1 in the first game. Thomas Oldham allowed five runs in five innings, despite fanning nine. They also lost the second game, 6-4. Kenly Chang continued the trend of poor pitching by Mariners' affiliate starters. Notables:

Thomas Oldham: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 3 homers
Josh Womack: 1-5, 2 BB
Adam Jones: 2-6, 1 double, 1 BB
No Balentien.
Jeff Liefer: Genius at Work.

"We just need to blow somebody out," shortstop Rich Aurilia said. "All the games we've had have been pretty close. We just need to go out and beat up on somebody. And hope it's contagious."

Rumor has it that the Mariners had issued Gil Meche an ultimatum: pitch well today, or you're out of the rotation for at least a little while.

Maybe it's time we threaten the rest of our pitchers.

Yes, it was a glorious day to be a Mariners fan - at least, as glorious as a day can be when the best-case scenario has you at a .360 winning percentage. Contributions came from both the unexpected and the typical, as the 1-through-4 hitters went 9-19 with seven RBI. Gil Meche, after handing Alex Sanchez his first walk of the season to lead off the bottom of the first, got a DP from Vina on a 2-1 count to set the tone.

For the first time all year, the Mariners took the lead first and never gave it away. Coincidentally, it was also just our second "easy" win, as April 15th wasn't too bad (all things considered). There were some doubts in the bottom of the fifth, when Meche ran into a little trouble, but with two on and two out he got Sanchez to fly out to end the threat. Meche allowed just three baserunners outside of the fifth inning, and finished with a healthy 95 pitches. He needs to work on his efficiency and command, but given where he was prior to today's outing, I'm satisfied.

Could Ichiro finally be coming around? Three of the four times he reached base, he wound up scoring, an indication of how valuable he is to our lineup. In games in which Ichiro has gotten on two or more times, the Mariners are averaging six runs, as opposed to fewer than three when he either reaches once, or doesn't reach at all. Positive signs from today's game include a stolen base, along with some balls that weren't pulled to right field. I'm not saying that he's suddenly turned it on again - he's only had two good games in a row - but today was encouraging, and the stolen base does a lot for my confidence in him.

What can you say about Raul Ibanez? It would appear as if my concern came a little too early, as he went 3-5 on the day with two doubles. He's not drawing walks anymore, suggesting that the early-season patience that so surprised me has left as quietly as it arrived, but his power has been extraordinary, as his .291 ISO is better than even Bret Boone's magical 2001 campaign. Again, no, I don't expect it to last, but it sure is nice to ride the wave - his pop has been vital in keeping this offense afloat.

Scott Spiezio also had a strong day, pushing his OPS back north of .900. He and Ibanez are slugging a combined .551; the rest of the team has a .356 mark.

It wouldn't be the Mariners if there weren't things to complain about, though. A .231/.283/.297 line for Rich Aurilia? Ben Davis hitting .100 with three singles? The tag team finished the day 0-9 with a sac fly, and while i think Aurilia will rebound to finish the year with acceptable numbers, it's looking more and more like Davis needs a change of scenery to get back on track (if he's ever been on track). Colorado would be a suitable location, as they're currently dealing with the withered remains of Charles Johnson after having displayed remarkable patience with Ben Petrick, and the thin Coors Field air would work wonders on Ben's power and confidence. And hey, maybe we could get Brian Fuentes back.

It's nice when you don't have to bitch about Bob Melvin's bullpen management after a game. Ron Villone, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, and JJ Putz entered the game in the appropriate situations - big leads for us - and while Villone could have pitched those last three innings, Hasegawa hadn't thrown since the 28th, and it's always nice to give the youngsters something to call home about instead of letting them sit in the bullpen when we're three outs away from a ten-run victory.

The M's have tomorrow off, before returning home for three-gamers against Minnesota and New York. After winning two of three against a decent Detroit team, including a convincing triumph to end the series, it would be nice if the team didn't have to return home to a chorus of boos. Save those for the Yankees' series, when Ryan Franklin gets the privilege what is quite possibly the best, most powerful lineup in baseball history.

"You can't win without playing a whole game, and we haven't played that whole game yet. We need offense, defense, pitching -- all in the same game -- and we can't get them together. It's no one player, no one element. As a team, we suck right now."
– SS Rich Aurilia, in the April 30 Tacoma News Tribune, after the M's 9-5 loss to the Orioles

After playing a "whole game", it would be nice to see this team finally turn the corner.
I've calculated the odds of Winn and Ichiro hitting back-to-back triples, and they're slim.

0.000127, or once for every 7849 they follow each other at the plate.

If they were to hit consecutively in the lineup 600 times a year, it would take just over 13 years for such a sequence of events to happen again.

Maybe those guys were on to something when they pegged Scott Spiezio for a breakout year.
Just in case you missed it a few days ago, we did wind up signing Chia-An Huang.

As a high school pitcher, you should naturally temper your expectations.
The A's and Blue Jays are about to complete a deal that would send Kerry Ligtenberg to Oakland in exchange for Kirk Saarloos and another arm (Saarloos was acquired for Chad Harville a little while ago).
If you haven't been paying attention to new Padre Akinori Otsuka, it's probably time to start. The Japanese import has allowed just six hits in 14 innings so far, walking three while fanning 13.