Saturday, May 15, 2004


In an attempt to mix things up a little bit, this game recap will be my very own LeoneForThird Official Optimistic Game Review. Rather than pick on certain players or managerial decisions, I'll only point out the things that went well (obviously, since every force in nature has an equal and opposite force, keep your eyes peeled for the Official Negative Game Review). Commence optimism, starting...


...starting NOW. Facing Donovan Osborne for the second time in less than a week, this was our best chance to take a game from the New York Yankees!!. As you may recall, we rocked Osborne for six runs in 1.1 innings five days ago. We touched him up for another six runs today, but this time it took five innings, and two of the runs were unearned (E-Rod!). The game started well, with a base hit by Ichiro, and although we didn't manage a run in the first, we came out of the second with a 4-1 lead. As a team that scores in spurts, we managed another three runs in the sixth, courtesy of the first of two Dan Wilson bases-clearing doubles. Nevertheless, we were tied after seven, and it remained that way until the 13th, at which point Gabe White was the spark to our kindling. Three doubles, two intentional walks, and one HBP later, it was a 13-7 ballgame, and we were on our way to our thirteenth victory. We got into a shootout with the New York Yankees!!, surviving a brutal start from Jamie Moyer (four homers in 5.1 IP) and going on to win the game.

Ron Villone was unavailable for the game after throwing 74 pitches a day earlier, and the bullpen reflected this by pitching uncharacteristically well. Shigetoshi Hasegawa allowed his first home run of the season to Bernie Williams in the seventh, but the 'pen as a collective allowed just one run and seven baserunners in 7.2 innings. Our total relievers' ERA decreased by 24 points, to a more respectable 4.51 (good for 23rd in the majors, which is better than 27th).

Eddie Guardado remains a bright spot on this team. After making a...strange...appearance yesterday, he overcame some early struggles and a Raul Ibanez error and kept the New York Yankees!! off the board over two innings today (earning himself the win). He is evidently not afraid of non-save situations, as Melvin had feared, and now sits comfortably atop our bullpen leaderboard with a 1.06 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 17 innings. With Soriano's velocity problems and elbow injury, we've been forced to do without last year's Crucial Strikeout Guy, so Guardado's ability to miss bats will come in handy should Melvin ever use him in an appropriate situation. What's more is that Guardado's extreme flyball nature seems to be immune to our defensive shortcomings, as he's allowed just nine hits and two doubles in 17 innings.

Mike Myers is still doing his job, holding lefties to a .192 batting average with one walk and no homers. He'd be a nice resource in a deeper pen containing individuals with more multi-inning potential, and is passable as a second lefty when you're facing an isolated tough left-handed hitter in the seventh inning of a close ballgame. Of course, he's currently acting as our first lefty, because our second one isn't very good, but this isn't particularly optimistic of me, now is it?

JJ Putz may have problems with inherited runners (six of 12 have scored), but he's doing all right for himself with a 0.00 ERA in 11.1 innings. He allowed two baserunners in two innings today, but one was an intentional walk, and he's limiting opposing hitters to a .108/.209/.162 line so far. Even more impressive are his peripherals so far:

-8.74 K/9
-2.38 BB/9 (excluding IBB's)
-3.18 H/9
-no homers allowed
-3.67 K/BB

Putz has been thrust into many difficult situations, and he's bumped up the ERA of the guy preceding him a few times, but he's pitched admirably, given the circumstances, and may be considered our best non-closer right now. He's got the highest strikeout rate of anyone on the team, including five strikeouts in the span of six New York Yankees!! a week ago. He's finally been given a shot at the majors, and he's responded just about as well as anyone could have hoped. Here's to seeing more Putz and less of the rest over the rest of the year.

It doesn't really feel like it, but we actually hit six doubles today. While we're still not hitting any homers - one away from being tied for last in the majors with San Diego - we are distinctly middle-of-the-pack in doubles, and the little wave of two-baggers these last few days has been a welcome break from the Slap Attack that characterized our offensive gameplan against Minnesota. Dan Wilson kept up his wildly inappropriate hot streak with two, count 'em two bases-loaded doubles, pushing him into the team lead for RBI with 19. The 4-through-7 hitters in today's lineup went a combined 9-for-25 with five doubles and eight runs batted in, completely out of line with recent trends in production. The "clutch hitting" returned in a blaze of glory, and this isolated offensive explosion will erase Bavasi's memory of the previous week. Wait, that's not optimistic...

Jolbert Cabrera is no #5 hitter - and the fact that that's where he was hitting today makes quite a statement - but the man is hitting .400 since getting regular playing time about three weeks ago. He's riding the same wave as Ichiro and, until today, Randy Winn, lacing (an inordinate number of) singles over heads and under gloves. While his hot streak isn't going to continue over the course of the year, he's proving to be a decent little option off the bench (certainly our best pinch-hitter), and nobody can complain about the job he's done filling in for Bret Boone. Jolbert's return to Earth should just about coincide with Bret's return to the lineup, but a brief delay means that you'll probably see Cabrera filling in for Aurilia and Olerud pretty often after Boone comes back until he either stops hitting or can't stand up anymore. Place your bets.

Raul Ibanez has found a foolproof way to keep his OBP above .300: getting hit by pitches. It is remarkably easy, and as the Craigs Biggio and Wilson have already established, doing so does not negatively impact your current production or career longevity. And hey, even if one gets away from the pitcher and catches Ibanez in the head, the worse-case scenario is that we're freed of his contract. Wait, that's terrible, and certainly not optimistic...

After reaching base five times in seven opportunities, Ichiro's OBP is up to .360, even higher than it was last season. What's more is that his isolated on base percentage (OBP - BA, similar to isolated power) of .047 is actually a little higher than it was last year, suggesting that Ichiro's been incrementally better at drawing walks. Sure enough, he's on pace to exceed last year's BB total by 20, and he's currently setting a career-high in pitches per plate appearance. Is his patience taking a toll on his hitting? Is his power down because he's going deeper into counts, meaning that he has to take more protective swings? To answer the first question, it wouldn't appear to be the case because Ichiro's batting average is up where it was in 2003. As for the latter, I'm not so sure; over his career, Ichiro's always hit the greatest percentage of home runs on a 0-0 count, but he's actually swinging away on the first pitch a little more often than he has before. It would appear as if he's either made a mechanical adjustment to his swing, been getting some bad breaks, or gotten a little weaker - I'm inclined to believe the first two a lot more than I am the third. A powerless leadoff guy isn't particularly ideal in a powerless lineup, but he's been getting on base a lot of late, and that's really all you can ask from him.

How many times will Bob Melvin get tossed this year? If memory serves, we've won both the games in which he's been ejected. Something to think about.

Quote a reliever of ours:

``You should have heard it in here, everybody jumping around and high-fiving,'' rookie reliever J.J. Putz said. ``This obviously is something that can jump-start this team.''

Obviously, Putz hasn't learned much about our team's response to dramatic wins so far.

Joel Pineiro against Kevin Brown tomorrow. The optimism stops here!
It's a hectic few days right now for Jeff and his family, as we're all in Boston for my brother's graduation. The next morning, I'll be flying home to San Diego, so there may be less posting than usual. That said: here comes today's recap.
JJ Putz made his ninth appearance today, and eighth of May. Clearly the organization thinks pretty highly of him; some of us already know why.
You know, what does it say about our team doctors when Omar Vizquel fails a physical and goes on to have a terrific start to the year?

Friday, May 14, 2004

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma vs. Nashville was rained out (again!). It will not be made up, as this was the last game between the two teams of the season. Thornton goes tomorrow, against Memphis.

San Antonio fell to El Paso, 5-4. Tim Rall got the loss by allowing an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth that wound up winning the game. John Lindsey led the offense with three hits and an RBI, while Gustavo Martinez had a decent night on the mound. Notables:

Gustavo Martinez: 7 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Dustin Delucchi: 2-4, 1 BB
Greg Jacobs: 1-4, 1 BB
Greg Dobbs: 0-5
Shin Soo-Choo: 1-5

Inland Empire lost to Rancho Cucamonga, 11-5. Juan Sandoval got the loss by allowing ten runs - only four of which were earned - in 5.1 innings. An error by Juan Gonzalez in the second inning opened the floodgates, as Rancho Cucamonga would go on to score eight runs before the inning was over. Gonzalez, for what it's worth, led the offense with three hits. Notables:

Juan Gonzalez: 3-5
TJ Bohn: 0-2, 2 BB
Rene Rivera: 1-4
Matt Hagen: 0-4

Wisconsin beat Kane County, 4-2. Ryan Feierabend picked up his fifth win (5-2), allowing two runs and seven baserunners in six innings. Brian Stitt got his seventh save, while the Rattlers took advantage of two Kane County errors in winning the game in the later innings. Notables:

Ryan Feierabend: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR
Josh Ellison: 0-3, 1 BB
Adam Jones: 0-3
Josh Womack: 1-4
Wladimir Balentien: defensive substitution

I think I'll take this opportunity to echo the sentiments of many other bloggers: there is nothing that I fear more than the idea of Bill Bavasi leading a fire sale.

To answer DMZ's question, Mussina is now 17-5 against the Mariners in regular season play. He won his third straight start of the year today, but we slapped him around a little bit, and you've always got to look for the positives...

To think, this one started so promising. Ichiro stood on second after swinging the bat and running a little - that's an extra-base hit - and he wound up scoring on a sacrifice fly. We had a lead, against the New York Yankees!! to boot, and in these trying times the slim 1-0 margin was enough to put us at ease and cause us to reminisce about the glory years that now seem so distant in the past. The Mariners were good, once, and we all remember what it felt like to win big games in dramatic fashion over league rivals like it was yesterday. After Edgar's RBI flyout, I sank back into my easy chair with traces of a smile on my face, daydreaming about what it would be like to beat up on the New York Yankees!! in their own place.

And then Gil Meche sucked.

38 pitches, four walks, three runs, and two outs later, our starter was pulled from the game in favor of a guy who couldn't stick in such pitching-rich organizations as Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Cincinatti. Meche wound up walking the last four batters he faced, the final three of whom forced in a run. Unfortunately, Ron Villone came in and retired Miguel Cairo on one pitch - as long as we're going to suck, I want to start setting records.

But wait, what's this? Another sacrifice fly! Randy Winn stood on second after swinging the bat and running a little - that's an extra-base hit - and after advancing on a passed ball, Winn scampered home on Scott Spiezio's flyout to right field. We've got ourselves a ballgame of sorts! What followed was the top of the fourth, undoubtedly the type of inning Bavasi & Co. thought they'd be seeing a lot more of from this offense:

-bunt (with Santiago, it's forgiveable)

That's right, we left the doubles behind and let Punch and Judy do the talking. Looking at the game log really says a lot about this lineup, because each and every one of the players involved in that six-AB stretch may be considered a singles-hitter. This wasn't the result of happy coincidence; this was the best inning possible for the guys we sent to the plate. The most you can realistically expect from Hansen, Wilson, et al are a bunch of singles, and that's what we got. So what came of our own little best-case scenario? Five runs in a game. Spiezio followed that ridiculous string of bloopers and seeing-eye grounders with a lineout to first, resulting in an unassisted double play. Everyone knows that things balance out over time - it's just unusual for things to balance out so quickly.

But hey, now we've got a 5-3 lead over the New York Yankees!!, and not all is lost. That pleasant expression was about to re-assume control of my face when the Ron Villone Show took over. Here's how the bottom of the inning went:

-bunt (with Cairo, it's forgiveable)
-E-1 (run scores)
-sac fly (run scores)

Thanks to Villone's oopsie, we were tied again, and the last thing we want to do is get into a shootout with the New York Yankees!!. Sure enough, our offense returned to it's normal behavior (three runners reached base in the rest of the game, one via HBP), while Villone continued his. In the bottom of the fifth, another throwing error on Villone allowed Gary Sheffield to advance to second base, only to score on a Tony Clark single. Villone's ERA will show that he threw 3.2 shutout innings today, but all three of the runs he allowed should be charged to him, as they were nobody's fault but his own. All of a sudden we're losing again, and we're letting terrible players reach base - the Clark/Flaherty/Cairo trio got on seven different times. Fortunately, it wasn't long until the New York Yankees!! put us away for good with a three-run inning, courtesy of Julio Mateo and JJ Putz. Mateo loaded the bases with nobody out, and Melvin saw this as a perfect opportunity to throw Putz to the sharks, because this organization has a way of setting up its young pitchers for trial by fire. Putz uncorked a wild pitch, allowing a run to score, but he retired two batters in a row without letting another run to score. We were one out away from escaping the inning only trailing 7-5, but Putz lost concentration and Bernie Williams hit a two-run double. 9-5, game over.

JJ Putz, as many of you know, used to be a starter in the minor leagues until being moved to the bullpen in recent years. As such, he should be good for 50-60 pitches, no problem, providing a decent alternative to Ron "You Call Me A Long Reliever But I Double As A Mop-up Man At The Same Time" Villone along with giving us some multi-inning insurance in extra-inning games. And so, naturally, Melvin yanks Putz after 19 pitches so that Guardado can pitch the eighth inning of a 9-5 game. The justification for this decision will undoubtedly be that Eddie hasn't thrown since last Friday, and he needed to get into a game. Well, this is what happens when you don't use your best pitcher in the most crucial situations. Melvin's already cost us with some of his trademarked strategical faux pas, but these smaller, otherwise inconspicuous decisions are going to put us in a number of bad situations over the rest of the year. JJ Putz is no great pitcher, but Christ, man, at least give the guy a chance. He's inherited 12 runners in eight appearances. How is this good for his long-term growth and confidence?

Gil Meche, with his charitable sprint of an outing today, has boosted his K/9 ratio up to 5.63, while reducing his K/BB to a pedestrian 1.3. Today's immediate struggles aside, I am all for shifting him to the bullpen on a potentially permanent basis, as he's usually sharper in the early innings before the pitches start building up. However, our sixth starter is Ron Villone, and seeing him collect 20 starts does nobody any good. Not us, because those are 20 wasted starts that could've been better spent letting a young guy develop. Not Melvin, because giving 20 starts to Ron Villone will reflect poorly on his already tarnished managerial resume. And certainly not Ron Villone, as starting 20 games will have him wind up with such awful numbers that nobody will be interested in the winter. If our choices are Ron Villone or allowing Gil Meche to continue sinking beyond the ocean floor, I'm all for letting the kid shred his shoulder again. After all, I'd rather Gil experience physical pain than have myself suffer through the mental anguish of watching Ron Villone demand Brad Ausmus as a personal catcher.

Ichiro finally pushed his OPS above .700 with a single and a double in five at bats. It hasn't been this high since April 14th, and it's nice to have our leadoff man back (if only for the time being). He hit a double, too, pushing his ISO up to a .057 mark - approximately half his career number. Yeah, he's currently a glorified singles hitter on a hot streak, but you know what's worse than a hot singles hitter? A cold singles hitter. I'm enjoying it while it lasts, because the last thing I need to complain about is another terrible contract. I'll save that for the offseason, at which point I can re-examine Ichiro's BABIP and determine whether or not he's really losing a step.

Randy Winn's starting to come around, too - just in time to be traded (shut up). He's having a positively Ichiro-ish May (hey, kinda like Ichiro), putting up a .342/.415/.421 line so far in 38 at bats. Again, this reliance on singles during the hot streak bodes ill for continued success, but it's nice to have him hitting, and he's certainly not hurting the way other organizations perceive his value. He's not really anything more than a decent 'tweener - he has a center fielder's bat with a left fielder's glove - but a hot streak complete with a homer or two and a couple diving catches will make him attractive on the open market, and I'd like to think that we aren't particularly committed to him as a long-term solution (shut up). It's a pleasant thought, anyway.

Raul Ibanez: .240/.303/.457
Mike Cameron: .225/.333/.450 (in a comparable park)

Cameron's having a rough year so far and he's still well ahead of Ibanez' production. Don't say I didn't tell you so...

Our best OPS is .964 (Dave Hansen). Our best OPS for a starter is .785 (Dan Wilson). Seriously. This is how bad it's gotten. At least we have a brief respite tomorrow, against Donovan Osborne, before banging heads with Kevin Brown on Sunday. Full speed ahead!
New baseball blog out there. This one's unique, in that it supports a team that doesn't exist. Take a look.
Villone's in.

Meche's day:

0.2 IP
2 H
3 ER
4 BB
1 K

Still responsible for three baserunners.
Who walks in three runs in one inning?

Seriously, who does that?
Who walks in two runs in one inning?

Seriously, who does that?
Read all about it!

John Sickels was asked about Justin Leone. His response:

Leone is hitting .255 for Triple-A Tacoma, though he's knocked eight homers and has a sharp .578 slugging percentage. His power production has been very convincing so far, but he has some serious issues with contact. He's fanned 37 times in 102 at-bats, 28 games, while drawing eight walks. Although I'm normally not overly paranoid about strikeouts, that's a very excessive rate, and implies that he'll have trouble making contact in the major leagues.

Leone was drafted in 1999, a 13th-round pick out of St. Martin's College in Washington. He's made slow but steady progress through the farm system, showing excellent power and the ability to take a walk, but striking out too much and not hitting for a great batting average. His numbers so far in Triple-A are very similar to what he's done at other levels. He was MVP of the Double-A Texas League last year, on the strength of 21 homers, 38 doubles, 92 walks, and a career-best .288 batting average. Leone has a very good glove at third base, so he's not just an offensive player. He can also play second base and shortstop if needed, so he could end up as a utility guy.

Triple-A looks like more of a challenge for Leone than Double-A was, but he's maintaining his power production. His all-or-nothing approach could make him similar to Rob Deer in the major leagues. If you can imagine Deer as a very good defensive third baseman, you'd have a good image of what Leone's future could look like.

The third base equivalent of Rob Deer would look a lot like Tony Batista in the 1998-2000 years, with pretty good defense. His low OBP would result in more outs than you'd like, but his power would be welcome as part of a hypothetical lineup that draws its fair share of walks.
Maybe he gets it from someone else.

Rememeber yesterday's foolish Randy Winn sac bunt in the 8th? Remember Mike Myers' appearance against two guys who hit lefties pretty well?

"Bob Melvin managed a perfect game today, he did everything he could to put this team in position to win," Bavasi said.

But wait, there's more!

The bulk of this Hickey article talks about the Mariners' offensive woes, with Bavasi uttering the following quotation:

"They don't play offense," he said of his players. "They either don't know how to play offense or they can't.

"That's what we've got to judge."

Self-doubt has finally set in, and everyone involved with the team is beginning to realize that, hey, maybe we really are this bad. It's got to be tough for the holdovers, guys like Ryan Franklin and John Olerud, because to them, nothing's different except for the fact that they've got a few new likeable guys in the clubhouse. Franklin doesn't know that he benefited from an extraordinary defense last year - all he knows is that balls aren't being converted into outs as frequently as they were in 2003, and he thinks that's his fault. Olerud doesn't think that anything's different for him, it's just that a few balls aren't dropping for hits like they used to. To the players, a rough start is just the result of a lot of bad luck, because everyone thinks that they're pretty good ballplayers. The players expect to maintain their peak performances until their careers come to an end, and it's up to the general manager to figure out when continued success is and isn't very likely. Bill Bavasi, in displaying precious little foresight, slapped together the current roster, and he's baffled by our inability to consistently score runs or keep opponents off the board. Here's a hint: it's not a lack of clutch hitting that's the problem, because we've been considerably better with runners in scoring position than we have with the bases clear. Rather, the problem is with the hitters in general - they just aren't very good. Granted, nobody saw this kind of colossal dropoff for Rich Aurilia's career, but he's only one part of the problem, and a whole lot of it rests on Bavasi's shoulders.

Later in the article, we get to this:

Bavasi said no deals are near, but rumors are circulating the Red Sox and Royals are trying to entice the Mariners into a three-way trade. Boston would trade pitcher Byung Hyun Kim and, possibly, outfielder Johnny Damon to the Mariners in exchange for pitcher Freddy Garcia and minor league starter Cha Seung Baek...If the Red Sox could get the Mariners to bite, Garcia would then be shipped to Kansas City, with outfielder Carlos Beltran going to Boston.

Now, we already know two things:

-nothing Bavasi says to the press carries any weight
-"rumors are circulating" means "someone on the Internet said..."

So, let's try this again:

One of countless billions of player combinations involved in a trade could be Freddy Garcia and Cha Seung Baek to Boston for Byung Hyun Kim and another player, who could be Johnny Damon, or who could be someone else. This would allow Boston to trade Garcia to the Royals in exchange for stud center fielder Carlos Beltran, a proposal that Bill Bavasi never thought could work, so he never tried it.

Indeed, this seems like just another baseless rumor, but it provides a decent amount of discussion material. Kim is a nice little pitcher who could do really well for himself with a change of scenery, but at the same time he's an unproven starter due $10m over the next two years who has displayed an astonishing level of immaturity in Boston. The proposed deal would have him wind up in Seattle, a pitching-rich organization with little need for a player of Kim's caliber. Not that he wouldn't be nice to have, but we don't have a real use for him (certainly not as a closer), and we would be much better off dealing Garcia for an assortment of bats. And Johnny Damon? What the hell? Here's a decent little player on the wrong side of 30 who hasn't been a particularly good player for four years. He's also due $16.5m over the next two years, and while Boston would certainly like to get his salary off the books (given their free agency situation), Damon is an extremely popular player whose dismissal would upset the attractive young blondes who fashion those pink #18 Red Sox t-shirts that show off some stunning, well-tanned midriffs. This is a demographic that baseball needs more of, and - to be honest - sending Damon to Seattle wouldn't really bring out the lookers.

Losing Freddy Garcia? No problem - he's probably gone after the year, anyway (barring some sort of idiotic, growing-more-likely-by-the-day front office decision), and he's one of our most valuable trade commodities. Cha Baek isn't a guy you give away for free, but he's getting lost in a sea of upper-level pitching prospects who're itching to get their feet in the door. Bringing in an inconsistent, expensive pitcher and an aging, expensive center fielder isn't the solution, though. And what's with Boston dealing Freddy to KC for Beltran? The Royals have been just as bad as the Mariners, and even if they were to entertain the idea of rallying to make the playoffs, Beltran would be more valuable to them than Freddy Garcia ever would. If they can't lock him up, KC should trade Beltran for a package of talented young arms and offensive middle infielders, not a frustrating starting pitcher who'll be a free agent in the winter. There's absolutely no reason for the New & Improved Allard Baird to make this deal, so fear not, M's fans - you won't have to watch Boston deal Freddy for Carlos Beltran, when we could have done the same thing all along, because there's simply no reason for it to happen.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma fell to Nashville, 6-4. Craig Anderson got the start and, despite striking out more than a batter per inning, picked up his third loss in three decisions. Nashville took the lead in the bottom of the first and never looked back, as they kept the Rainiers' powerful lineup in check. Notables:

Justin Leone: 0-3
Jose Lopez: 1-4, 1 double
Ben Davis: 0-4
Bucky Jacobsen: 1-4, 1 double
Jamal Strong: 0-1

San Antonio beat Tulsa 8-7 in 10 innings. It was a day to forget for Chris Buglovsky and the Missions' defense, as four unearned runs crossed the plate for Tulsa. Nevertheless, Tim Rall pitched a scoreless tenth for his second victory of the season as San Antonio rallied to win after trailing 7-0 in the seventh. Notables:

Dustin Delucchi: 1-3, 1 BB
Greg Dobbs: 1-3, 1 triple, 2 BB (2 errors)
Greg Jacobs: 1-5, 1 homer
Luis Oliveros: 2-5
Shin Soo-Choo: 1-1

Inland Empire beat High Desert, 6-1. Rich Dorman fanned nine batters in six innings for his third victory, and Tanner Watson picked up a three-inning save. The 66ers were limited to just five hits, but drew eight walks, with TJ Bohn drawing three of them alone. Notables:

Rich Dorman: 6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 9 K
TJ Bohn: 1-1, 1 triple, 3 BB
Juan Gonzalez: 0-3, 2 BB
Rene Rivera: 1-3
Matt Hagen: 0-3, 1 BB
Hyung Cho: 0-3

Wisconsin fell to Kane County, 9-4. Michael Moorhead had all kinds of troubles over four innings of work, and the Rattlers couldn't pick it up after falling behind 5-0 in the seond inning. Notables:

Michael Moorhead: 4 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 4 K
Josh Ellison: 1-4
Adam Jones: 2-4, 1 homer
Josh Womack: 2-4
Chris Colton: 1-3, 1 BB

Thursday, May 13, 2004


According to the current ESPN headline:

Hunter saves the day as Twins tip A's

I'm not surprised that they've forgotten who the Mariners are.

Last year, we didn't get our 22nd loss until June 14th, 66 games into the season - we've essentially halved that pace. The good news is that we can't do that again in 2005, because half of 34 games is 17, and you can't lose 22 times over that span (although if anyone can, it's us)...anyway...

Ryan Franklin is no stranger to poor run support, as he hovered around the bottom third among qualified starters last year in that respect, so you'd think that he would be used to it by now, or something. He had a normal Franklin game today, throwing 64% strikes, limiting his walks, and only striking out a few hitters - he didn't allow a homer, but today's Minnesota lineup doesn't have much power potential in the first place. To answer David, today's Ryan Franklin BABIP was .292 (7-for-24), raising his season figure to .283 (33 points higher than last year). His strikeout rate is identical to last year's, and his walks are up, but his homers are down, helping him maintain his current mid-4's ERA.

Ichiro continued his red-hot May with another two-hit game, already his eighth of the month. His line this month is just .392/.415/.451, though - he's not drawing walks, he's not hitting for power, and he's not stealing bases successfully, essentially rendering him as a really expensive singles hitter with massive potential performance fluctuation due to the inconsistent nature of Batting Average. One of the things that I've heard about Jamal Strong is that he could come up and be our own little Juan Pierre; as it turns out, we already have a little Pierre, he just doesn't steal bases. Think Rod Carew in his final years.

Randy Winn has been showing a few signs of life this month, and he bumped his average up to a season-high .254 with a two-hit day. This will act as a segue into a discussion that's already taken place elsewhere, but again, this was such an irksome decision by Melvin that it deserves to be criticized by as many people as possible. In the top of the 8th, Terry Mulholland - you remember him, we sold him to Minnesota for a dollar - allowed consecutive hits to start off the inning. Ramon Santiago was the unwitting beneficiary of Mulholland's "equal opportunity" approach to pitching, and Ichiro followed with a single of his own. Two on, none out, down by one, Randy Winn strolls to the plate. Gardenhire has no intention of removing his gritty veteran yet, leaving the Mariners in a pretty favorable spot - Minnesota's got a few nifty arms in the bullpen, and choosing to leave Mulholland in the game reeks of charity, almost as if the managerial staff wanted to give us this game so we wouldn't feel so bad on the flight to New York afterwards.

And Melvin had Randy Winn lay down a sacrifice bunt.

Hey, kudos to Winn for getting the job done - we obviously can't rely on Dan Wilson to do these kinds of things anymore - but this was a terrible decision that made me ill, even before I became aware of what would happen next.

Randy Winn is a switch hitter. Since 2001, he has hit .318 against southpaws with a .479 slugging percentage and an OPS north of .850. In other words, he's something of a lefty masher. Conveniently, Terry Mulholland struggles against right-handed batters, allowing them to hit 34 home runs and hit at a .312 clip since 2001. Sure, Winn's had a bit of a rough start this year, while Mulholland's been astonishingly non-terrible, but there's a lot of history on our side, and this is a terrific opportunity to tie the game up - or hey, maybe even take the lead! Worse comes to worse, Winn gets out and you're left with two on for Edgar (it's pretty unlikely that Winn grounds into a DP with Ichiro on first. My apologies for the inadvertent pun, but it's a win-win situation. Instead, Melvin throws it away in order to set up a sac fly opportunity for Edgar. But what's this? They're walking him! The nerve! Yeah, okay, Edgar's IBB was the most predictable baseball-related decision made by anyone since Ellis Burks chose Boston over Seattle two months ago, but Melvin didn't see it coming, and that's just too bad, I guess. So now we've got the bases loaded and one out, with Raul Ibanez and Scott Spiezio due up. Minnesota sends in effective southpaw JC Romero - blast those strategical geniuses! - to face our #4/5 hitters, who are essentially non-factors against lefties. Now, everyone here already knows the outcome, so let's recap - which situation would you rather have?

-none out, men on first and second, good hitter against bad pitcher
-one out, bases loaded, bad hitter(s) against good pitcher

Melvin went with the second option, and it pretty much bit him in the ass. Thirteen pitches later, we were heading for the bottom of the eighth still trailing by a run, with the 6/7/8 hitters due up in the ninth against Minnesota's designated relief ace.

I hate bunting.

In the bottom of the inning, Melvin went with Mike Myers to face Cristian Guzman and Doug Mientkiewicz - a switch-hitter with no distinct platoon splits, and a lefty who's actually had better success against southpaws than righties. Guzman singled and Mientkiewicz followed with a well-hit ball that Spiezio managed to grab. Myers' day was done - why is he on pace to appear in 86 games, anyway? - and JJ Putz came in. Whether by design or pure happenstance, Putz has gotten himself into some close games this year, and he's pitched very well. It's the perfect time for a young pitcher to get his foot in the door, as everyone in Seattle is looking for an effective arm in the bullpen, and a few more successful Putz outings should make him a virtual lock to remain on the roster for the rest of the season.

Just in case you haven't had enough of Melvin, here's what he had to say on Edgar's blast in the ninth yesterday:

"A lot of times a home run is actually a rally killer in that situation," Mariners manager Bob Melvin said.

What ever happened to the man we hired, who understood the importance of getting on base and hitting for power? The Mariner Kool Aid has turned his brain into ordinary mush reminiscent of Tony Muser's best years. A few weeks ago, I believed that Melvin was a perfectly serviceable manager, one who certainly doesn't get dollars out of dimes but who still does an adequate job, but my impression has changed; this is a man who costs us winnable games. The timing of his extension was curious, but perhaps Bavasi was exhibiting some of his keen foresight and ensuring us of another year of miserable baseball.

36 hits in the series. 34 singles. Five walks (one intentional). Throw in some sacrifices and a caught stealing or two and you've got yourself a big, steaming pile of Mariners baseball. Try not to step in it.
Another eight singles today. 26 hits in the last three days - two for extra bases.

edit: I mean 36, not 26.

One out...

Top 8th, down 1-0...

Raul's up. Stay tuned.

Update: God dammit.

After 33 games, we've already had three losing streaks of four or more games. With Ramon Santiago in the lineup today, it looks like we could be well on our way to achieving our third five-game skid. So, what happened yesterday?

We were owned by Brad Radke for eight consecutive innings, that's what. Through those eight innings, we had scattered seven singles and a walk, while being held scoreless. Not that this should come as a shock to anyone who saw yesterday's lineup; but wait, yesterday's lineup was pretty close to every lineup, and it...I don't...why does...when...

Over the last two days, the Mariners have 28 hits. That's pretty impressive, right? Well, they've also managed to produce a .333/.345/.393 line over the same two games - two extra-base hits, and two walks (one sacrifice). We've been like the Padres recently, in terms of OBP and slugging, only San Diego has done it with a lower batting average. You have to wonder how this organization would respond to having a Three True Outcomes hitter; would Paul Molitor teach Adam Dunn to bunt? Would Jim Thome be relegated to the bench until he learned to hit behind the runner? Would Joe Viti-F'ing-ello get demoted to A-ball and be given a utility job behind Adam Jones and whichever clown the Rattlers are running out there at second that day? Ever since Ron Wright's fateful day two years ago, the organization has shied away from giving a shot to any low-average hitter with power from the system. It's too bad, too, because a few of the guys we've got sitting in Tacoma (and a few in San Antonio) could come up and give us 15-20 homers without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately, the .240-.260 batting averages they'd be doomed to producing won't win them any organizational fanfare.

One of the complaints I've heard regarding this year's offense is that they don't try to run enough. Let's examine this under the assumption that last year's offense did run frequently enough. So far this year, we've reached base 403 times (excluding HBP's and errors - I'm guessing that those rates are essentially the same as they were last year), and attempted 23 steals - 5.7% of the time a runner reaches base, he takes off. Last year, we reached base 2095 times, and attempted 145 steals - 6.9% of the time a runner reached base, he took off. The difference between those rates over a full season (with the current offense) is 24 attempted steals, or about once every seven games. Ichiro is actually running more often that he did last year (18.5% of the time, as opposed to 2003's 16.5%). Needless to say, the running game is not why the offense has struggled to score runs so far. Besides, when you're only stealing bases at a 61% success clip, is it really worth attempting that often in the first place?

As I was writing that paragraph, Ichiro was thrown out trying to steal third. Adjust the numbers accordingly.

Now that Raul Ibanez' struggles have pulled him down, we have nobody in our starting lineup with an OPS above .800 unless we bench Olerud in favor of Dave Hansen. We also have nobody with an OBP over .350, and only one SLG over .450. All hail Bill Bavasi, the Prime Minister of Anemia, located just south of Baffin Island. Now accepting ideas for a national flag.

If there's good news (and, once again, there always has to be), it's that Edgar mashed his 300th career home run, while Jolbert Cabrera continued his recent tear with another two hits. More on Edgar later; with Jolbert's hot streak, he's up to .317/.333/.415, displaying distinct usefulness. Early indications are that last year's success against lefties was but a mirage, but he's made up for it by Punch-and-Judying righties to death. Indeed, I was down on the trade when it happened, and I still am (I already pointed out how well Ketchner and Bott are doing a few days ago), but that doesn't mean that we can't still wind up with a decent little player. If Cabrera keeps collecting a dozen singles a week, then we've got a nifty little piece of depth on the bench that will help us avoid scoreless streaks of Exposian proportions in the later summer months, after Edgar retires midseason and Boone's back crawls out of his mouth and files for disunion.

Jolbert, though, made an error in the bottom of the second that rattled the recently-collected-and-stable Freddy Garcia. Two runs wound up crossing the plate, and the minute Mientkiewicz delivered a blast in the next inning, you knew it was over. It wasn't Freddy's best outing of the year, as he struggled to throw strikes consistently, but he battled, and I'll take 118 pitches from Garcia if it means a shorter outing for the bullpen. Julio Mateo came in and, surprisingly, didn't allow the winning run to score, but this has a lot to do with the fact that we were already behind.

So, Edgar. Days after lining his 500th career double (tied for 40th on the all-time list, one ahead of Roberto Alomar), he improved his chances at reaching the Hall of Fame by sending a Brad Radke pitch into the right field seats for his 300th career homer. With that blast, he became the 100th hitter in baseball history to hit 300 home runs (unless Baseball-Reference is lying to me), needing just 6,850 at bats. With the next homer, Edgar will tie Rogers Hornsby, and he'll tie Jay Buhner when he reaches 310. It's a tremendous achievement by a man who didn't get the chance he deserved until he was 27 years old, and it provided one of the few exciting moments during Mariners games this year. Unfortunately, now we're left with very little to look forward to, unless you want to start the Edgar Martinez 50 Stolen Bases Watch (he's two away). In typical Mariner fashion, Raul Ibanez whiffed in the next at bat to kill the excitement, but Edgar's always been on a pedestal above the rest of the team. Congratulations, Mr. Martinez, and I'm sorry that we couldn't surround you with a better supporting cast in what is likely your final season.

The Mariners are losing 1-0 in the seventh inning as I finish this post. Good times.
I wonder if Lincoln's already talked to BB about this.

The M's shouldn't have taken you, either: Closer Eddie Guardado was asked by a Minneapolis columnist Tuesday whether, if he had it to do over, he'd have signed with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent. "I'm not going to lie," Guardado said. "No."
I'm with Jason. The idea of trading Bret Boone is not unpleasant.

Recap of the game will come later today (or tomorrow, for you left coasters).
In case you haven't already heard about it, the following is the transcript of Alex Cora's 7th-inning at bat against Matt Clement:

Pitch 1: ball 1
Pitch 2: strike 1 (looking)
Pitch 3: ball 2
Pitch 4: strike 2 (foul)
Pitch 5: foul
Pitch 6: foul
Pitch 7: foul
Pitch 8: foul
Pitch 9: foul
Pitch 10: foul
Pitch 11: foul
Pitch 12: foul
Pitch 13: foul
Pitch 14: foul
Pitch 15: foul
Pitch 16: foul
Pitch 17: foul
Pitch 18: in play
A Cora homered to right, J Grabowski scored.
K Farnsworth releved M Clement
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma blew a late lead and lost to Nashville, 4-2. The Rainiers were up 2-0 entering the bottom of the ninth, but Randy Williams blew the save and Scott Atchison lost the game in the next inning. Clint Nageotte was a little wild, but still effective as the starter. The Tacoma lineup managed just four hits. Notables:

Clint Nageotte: 7 IP, 2 H, 5 BB, 6 K
Justin Leone: 0-4
Jose Lopez: 0-3
Jamal Strong: 1-4
Bucky Jacobsen: 1-4

San Antonio couldn't muster any offense as they lost to Tulsa, 1-0. A brilliant start by Troy Cate went to waste as the Missions scraped together just five hits. Notables:

Troy Cate: 7.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 6 K
Dustin Delucchi: 0-4, 1 BB
Shin Soo-Choo: 0-4 (really in a funk)
Greg Dobbs: 1-4, 1 BB
Greg Jacobs: 0-1, 1 BB

Inland Empire shut out High Desert, 8-0. TA Fulmer had the third great start for Mariners prospects, as he scattered three hits over seven innings. Gary Harris led the offense with three hits and three RBI. Notables:

TA Fulmer: 7 IP, 3 H, 8 K
Juan Gonzalez: 1-5, 1 triple
TJ Bohn: 1-3, 1 BB
Matt Hagen: 1-3, 1 double, 1 BB
Hyung Cho: 2-4
Rene Rivera: 2-3, 2 doubles

Wisconsin's offense returned to earth as the Rattlers lost to Kane County, 4-2. Thomas Oldham got the loss despite allowing just two runs in six innings. Michael Cox led the offense with two hits. Notables:

Thomas Oldham: 6 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Josh Ellison: 1-4
Adam Jones: 0-4
Josh Womack: 0-3
Chris Colton: 0-4

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Oh, and another thing: unlike in Seattle (and San Diego, where I've seen the most games), Fenway fans don't need to be prompted to make noise. The "Let's Go Red Sox" and "Pedro" chants broke out (at appropriate teams, mind you) by the fans' own volition. Oh, and there wasn't a Wave. Very pleasant.
Scoring tickets to watch Pedro Martinez pitch at Fenway last night was something of a dream come true. It's not like it was my first time seeing either; I went to Fenway for a game against the Royals about six years ago, and I've caught Pedro in San Diego and Anaheim before. Putting the two together makes for an exponentially better experience, though. For you Seattleites, it's like watching Edgar Martinez bat for seven innings.

The whole atmosphere is different from the environment around most stadiums. Landsdowne Street was crowded by the time my brother and I arrived, with many already deep into their third and fourth beers. Surprisingly, the street vendors didn't attempt to take advantage of their cleints' inebriated condition and sold legitimately good food - the Italian sausage I wound up with was the best I've had in years. A few too many peppers, but any good sausage vendor knows to balance the spiciness of the meat with a more neutral taste. I think. I don't know many sausage vendors.

We had SRO tickets (Standing Room Only), and as a testament to the fan base, we weren't able to find two empty seats. Not that we had a problem with this, because there are worse things than having to walk around Fenway Park for three hours. We decided to settle behind the infield seats for the first few innings. Before the first pitch, I told my brother "seven innings, six hits - Pedro's gonna be great." He nodded in approval, but after an inning and a half, it wasn't looking good - Cleveland had five hits, two walks, and two runs before they recorded their sixth out. It's not that Pedro was particularly off his game, though, as the first six outs were all strikeouts. That he was hovering around 87-89 early on was distressing, but things would improve over the course of the game.

A brief conversation between my brother and I in the bottom of the third:

Me: "I feel bad for Gabe."
Brian: "Huh."
Me: "I mean, if he struggles, there's no avoiding the 'Krapler' nickname. It's almost automatic."
Brian: "Kinda like 'Jeff Shit-rillo', eh?"
Me: "But it's better. You don't have to alter the pronunciation at all. Krapler."

Kapler homered on the next pitch.

There's something to be said for these kinds of things that always seem to happen during games. Had Kapler homered the next inning, or in the eighth, or any other time, it wouldn't have meant anything at all. He had to do it right then, immediately after I finished reciting the second syllable of his potential nickname. It's just like how Raul Ibanez manages to have good games after I put up the Official Raul Ibanez Watch, or how Derek Jeter got a leadoff homer as soon as everyone started to notice his hitless streak. It's this kind of curious timing that keeps me a little superstitious.

The chronology of this post is now about to go to Hell, but so be it. Manny Ramirez was excused from the game two days ago so that he could become a legal US citizen. When the Red Sox took the field prior to the top of the first inning last night, Manny sprinted out to left field with a tiny American flag that he eventually handed to someone in the seats. As he ran, he received a standing ovation and scattered chants of "U-S-A!" Not only was it just a cool moment, but it's amazing to see such a turnaround from Manny's 2003 attitude. All of a sudden he's all about positive thinking and doing what's best for the team, even volunteering part of his salary in order to keep Pedro around after the year. The Boston media likes to embellish clubhouse drama whenever it comes up, but the Red Sox, as a collective, really enjoy what they do. David Ortiz has the time of his life every time he walks onto the field, and he makes no secret of it.

Speaking of Ortiz, he tied the game at two in the bottom of the fourth with a blast to right field. The homer would have put Boston in the lead, had Manny not been caught stealing minutes earlier - it really wasn't Manny's best day, as he was trying to do too much in every at bat. The Ortiz homer reminded my brother of a story one of his friends told him; his friend was walking his dog down the street when Ortiz pulled up beside him in a convertible and said, in the thickest Dominican accent imaginable, "That's a big dog!" It wasn't much of a story.

The game settled down for a while, and I was able to sit back (as much sitting back as can be accomplished with SRO tickets, anyway) and watch Pedro pitch. After walking Jody Gerut with two outs in the top of the second, Pedro retired the next sixteen batters he faced before being pulled in favor of Alan Embree before the eighth. We kept waiting for bad things to happen when he reached the 100-pitch mark, but he got into one of those grooves of his in where Pedro turns into a remarkably efficient pitcher. Not only was he clocked in the low-90s as the game wore on, but he managed to make it through seven innings despite having thrown 51 pitches through the first two frames. Pedro got a standing ovation as he left the field, because everyone knew that his day was done (smart fans, these Bostonians). His final line? Seven innings, five hits. I was close.

Something funny of note: after the last batter was retired in the top of the sixth, Brian told me that he was going to find a better view of the scoreboard so that he could see Sabathia's pitch count. I predicted 79. He came back with an angry expression on his face. 80. I grinned.

To the top of the eighth. Embree recorded the first two outs, no problem, but when Victor Martinez came to the plate I told me brother, "This is the guy you have to look out for." One a 1-1 count he drilled a pitch into the third row of the Monster seats. Now, anyone at all familiar with me knows that I can't predict for beans - my brother no longer comes to me for online gambling tips - but my E.S.P. was really on its game tonight. You'll see what I mean a little later. Hafner fouled out on a great hustle play by Bill Mueller, and we went to the bottom half of the eighth. By this point, we had wandered over to the other side of the stadium, as far down the third base side as we could get. Apparently, people aren't allowed up into the Monster seats without a ticket. Disappointing.

I was surprised when Jose Jimenez came in to pitch the bottom of the eighth - I had no idea that he was an Indian. At the same time, though, I was hardly shocked to find out that he remains employed. As I explained to Brian during Jimenez' warmup pitches, anyone who's ever saved twenty games in a season is guaranteed a spot in a Major League bullpen until he's 38 years old, at which point he has to renew his Former Closer membership by saving a dozen games in Detroit. Jimenez got the first two outs before he ran intro trouble, allowing a double to Ortiz and a game-tying double to Mueller. Gabe K(r)apler followed with an infield single up the middle, putting men on the corners for Pokey Reese. What happened next has already taught me so much about fan bases in general: chants started up, and grew more intense by the second.


This is the same group of fans that fell in love with Lou Merloni. For a while, now, I've been jealous of Boston, as the city is home to one of the greatest fan bases on the planet. I've often wondered what it takes to create such an enthusiastic cluster of devoted fans, and how it could happen in Seattle. Well, my friends, we've already taken the first step: Willie Bloomquist is our Pokey Reese. We've fallen in love with a useless player, and that's a characteristic that we share with Red Sox Nation (all right, Pokey isn't useless, but you get my point). That, and the whole "not winning it all" thing.

And then Francona pinch-hit for Pokey.

Brian Daubach was sent to the plate in all of his righty-mashing glory. He's had trouble pinch-hitting in the past few years, going 5-40 without a home run since 2001, but he's a pretty good hitter against righties, and you just got the feeling that something big was about to happen.

And then the Indians put in a lefty.

Scott Stewart came in to try to finish off the inning. Daubach doesn't hit southpaws very well, so Francona again went to his bench and sent career lefty-masher Dave McCarty to the plate (the shortest outing of Brian Daubach's career). McCarty hasn't really gotten the opportunity to show off his skills much in the majors, but he's hit lefties pretty well in the minors, and he proceeded to loop a weak triple down the first base line that put Boston in the lead, 5-3. The place went nuts, and the fans were happy - this is what it's like to have a functional bench. I can only imagine how this would've gone for the Mariners. Willie Bloomquist comes up to face a righty with men on the corners and two out in a tie ballgame. Melvin, ever the strategist, plays the matchups and sends switch-hitter Ramon Santiago to the plate. Hilarity ensues.

Keith Foulke - he of the 0.47 ERA - came in to finish it off, and finish it off he did. He induced a Belliard ground out on the first pitch, and then whiffed Broussard and fan-favorite Lou Merloni on nine pitches. Fans were happy. We cheered and ran out as fast as we could in order to beat the crowd to the bar at a nearby Uno's (there was a hockey game, after all). At one point, Brian walked off to find out what time it was. I guessed 10:49. He returned and, rather reluctantly, told me that it was "10:47 and like, thirty seconds."

Hey, check it out, the Mariners lost.
Way to go, Edgar Martinez! His 300th home run comes off of Brad Radke.
Men on the corners, none out, 3-4-5 hitters up...

Apparently, Bill Bavasi was on KJR saying that we're looking to trade prospects for MLB-level players. Can anyone confirm this?

Read. Ponder. Wretch. Repeat. Ordinarily, it's hard to believe that a team who collects 18 hits in a game (hitting .360 over the duration) would lose, but this team keeps finding new ways to keep me on my toes. Why did they lose? Well, drawing one walk and recording an extra-base hit just once is a good place to start. I keep double-checking to make sure that the Optimist is still alive and breathing, but a few more weeks of this and I'll fear for his health.

18 hits. 19 baserunners. Six runs. This year, we've scored one run for every 2.95 baserunners, up from last year's 2.64. You know why that is? Sure you do - it's because this team doesn't hit for power. Last year's offense was already moderately weak, and we've managed to make it weaker, while adding...a few errors and first-pitch groundouts, I guess.

Official Raul Ibanez Watch: .248/.315/.487.

His .277 EqA puts him just ahead of Carl Crawford, Bobby Kielty, and Larry Bigbie, and is good enough for 20th place out of 29 left fielders with at least 80 plate appearances. Last time I did this, Raul went out and had a good game (it happened the time before, too), so maybe this will light a subconscious fire under his ass.

28.4% of our hits are for extra bases...the randomly-selected White Sox are up at 35.7%...

How about that game last night, then? Let's look at the positives:

  • Every regular got at least one hit

  • Rich Aurilia got on base three times

  • The 7-9 hitters reached nine times

  • Quinton McCracken didn't hit

  • Joel Pineiro was sharp

  • Shigetoshi Hasegawa threw a strike, at one point

Indeed, last night was not a complete waste. Pineiro's start was perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the game, as he managed to finish the seventh for the first time all year. Yeah, it's about time to write off the season (I'm serious), so it's borderline foolish to say something like "we need Joel to turn it around if we want to climb back into the race", but he's a big part of our future, and everyone likes to see young players do well.

Except the Mariners, that is. Anyway...

Do I really need to mention for the umpteenth time how inefficient it is to score runs by stringing together a bunch of singles? Let's examine how the runs happened.

-Top 1st: error, single, RBI single
-Top 4th: single, single, RBI single
-Top 8th: single, single, RBI single, RBI single, RBI triple

We need two baserunners before we can even think about scoring a run. Coincidentally, the current odds of this team stringing three hits together are 1.7%, or about once every 60 innings. Can't really rely on drawing walks very often, either, as we've been taking a walk just once for every 12.8 plate appearances - up from 10.5 last year.

Dan Wilson is hitting .312/.341/.442. While this delights me to no end, in the same way that I'm delighted by how Matt Frewer remains gainfully employed, everyone is quite certain that it won't last. It's a good thing we can fall back on his solid defense, right?

Normally, I spend at least one paragraph whining about Bob Melvin's bullpen management, and today will be no different. It's already been covered pretty well by David, but it achieved a level of foolishness that must be met with the highest possible amount of outrage. In the bottom of the 8th, Shigetoshi Hasegawa came in to face Guzman, Mientkiewicz, Cuddyer, and Hunter. That's fine, I guess, because that's been Hasegawa's role, and it's not like we have superior alternatives waiting for an opportunity in the bullpen. All four hitters reach base, and suddenly it's a 6-3 ballgame, with the bases loaded and nobody out. Jacque Jones, a decent hitter with a gigantic platoon split, came up to the plate.

And Melvin brought in Mike Myers.

Yes, you want a lefty in there to face Jones, but why not use the best left-hander you have available? Eddie Guardado is a significantly better pitcher than Mike Myers, against both lefties and righties, and he deserved to be pitching. David is absolutely right - this is a perfect example of how the closer role can cost a team a ballgame. You want your best pitcher throwing the most important pitches of a game, but for whatever reason we let JJ Putz and Mike Myers on the mound instead. Melvin probably didn't want to use Guardado because he was afraid that Eddie would run out of gas and not be available to pitch the ninth, but what's the big deal? You might escape the inning up 6-4, instead of tied, and you go with Julio Mateo in the ninth. Based on his career, there's only a 15% chance that Mateo allows two runs in an inning, so...yeah, it comes off as a steaming pile of second-guessing right now, but had I been watching the game in real-time, I wouldn't think any different. Melvin's Bullpen Circus blew the game last night because our manager doesn't know when and when not to use his best pitchers. Ron Villone wound up throwing two innings last night, because we wanted to save Guardado for a save situation after we score a run or three in the top of an inning. Eddie might as well have not been at the ballpark yesterday. Seriously, if Bavasi were to trade Guardado for a minor leaguer in June, what would Melvin do? Would he try to get complete games out of everyone, or just try to make sure that we were never leading by one, two, or three runs heading into the final inning? It's something of a baseball Rubik's Cube.

I think I'll do a little writing about Fenway, because last night was an experience that deserves to be remembered.
Rough night. I forgot how scared I am of clowns.
Normally, I write a little recap of the most recent game, but I just spent an incredible night at Fenway Park and, quite frankly, I have better things to think about than the Mariners. Look for something tomorrow, I guess.

It's funny...even when we all knew that Bavasi had a miserable offseason, who honestly thought that each and every one of his mistakes would become so evident in a single game?

Forget it, I don't want to depress myself before bedtime. I'll just think about clowns until I fall asleep.

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma beat Nashville, 6-1. Bobby Madritsch picked up his third win (3-0) while lowering his ERA to 2.59. Hiram Bocachica carried the offense with four hits, two RBI, and two runs scored. Notables:

Bobby Madritsch: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
George Sherrill: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 K
Jamal Strong: 0-3
Bucky Jacobsen: 3-5, 1 homer
Justin Leone: 1-4, 1 double
Jose Lopez: 1-4, 1 double
Ben Davis: 1-5
Hiram Bocachica: 4-5, 1 double, 1 homer

San Antonio shutout Tulsa 1-0, in a shortened game. Juan Done was, shall we say, effectively wild, walking six in 5.2 but coming out with a win. Greg Dobbs provided the only offense necessary. Notables:

Dustin Delucchi: 1-3
Shin Soo-Choo: 0-3
Greg Dobbs: 2-2, 1 homer
Greg Jacobs: 0-2
Luis Oliveros: 0-2

A seven-run eighth helped Inland Empire beat High Desert, 9-3. David Nolasco allowed all seven runs, letting Melvin Pizarro vulture his second win of the year. Felix Hernandez was unusually human in his start, but it's nice to have these games every so often so that the organization doesn't rush him. Notables:

Felix Hernandez: 6 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 2 K
Juan Gonzalez: 2-5, 1 double
Rene Rivera: 0-3
Matt Hagen: 1-4

Finally, Wisconsin beat Kane County, 12-9. All four Mariners affiliates won tonight. The Rattlers, in another surprising display of offensive efficiency, managed 17 hits, with four regulars collecting three each. Eric O`Flaherty got the win, despite a poor outing. Notables:

Eric O`Flaherty: 5 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
Josh Ellison: 2-6
Chris Collins: 2-4, 2 doubles, 1 BB
Josh Womack: 1-4, 1 BB
Adam Jones: 3-6, 1 triple, 1 homer

Nageotte goes for the Rainiers tomorrow.
Soriano went on the DL today with a strained elbow ligament.

Ramon Santiago - he of the .180/.284/.220 line in Tacoma - was called up.

I absolutely refuse to comment further on this decision.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma's game was suspended until June - the fourth game that experienced rain trouble in less than a week. Cha Baek had a rough first inning, allowing two runs and struggling with control, but he came back to strike out the side in the second.

San Antonio was shut out by Tulsa, 3-0. Elvis Perez allowed three runs and nine baserunners in five innings for his fourth loss in five decisions, but he struck out six, bumping his K/9 ratio on the season over 9.0. Greg Dobbs had another two hits to lead the offense. Notables:

Greg Dobbs: 2-4, 1 double
Dustin Delucchi: 0-4
Shin Soo-Choo: 0-4

Inland Empire destroyed High Desert, 11-1. Bobby Livingston picked up his fifth win while Frederico Balet carried the offense with four hits and five RBI. Notables:

Bobby Livingston: 6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 8 K
TJ Bohn: 0-3, 1 BB
Rene Rivera: 2-4
Hyung Cho: 1-4
Matt Hagen: 1-4

Wisconsin put 21 men on base in beating Battle Creek 11-5. Nibaldo Acosta got his second win with a strong start, and the Rattlers drew 11 walks from Battle Creek pitchers (Evel Martinez drawing three of them). Notables:

Josh Ellison: 1-3, 2 BB
Adam Jones: 1-5
Josh Womack: 2-5, 1 double
Chris Colton: 1-3, 1 BB

Madritsch pitches against Nashville tomorrow at 8:00 EST. You should tune in, because it's the only satisfying baseball you're going to get. I won't be able to listen, but that's because I'll be at Fenway, watching Pedro Martinez. I can't complain.

Monday, May 10, 2004

C.J. Bowles has a nice article on George Sherrill. Give it a look.
Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse for Kevin Jarvis.

Gabriel, of the late The Safe blog, linked me to this New Yorker article on the knuckleball. Very good read.
Today's project: Your 2003/2004 Bill Bavasi Official Scorecard. This either critiques or praises Bavasi's decisions based on performances over the first five weeks of the season. Will be updated as the year goes along.

Signed Raul Ibanez to $13.25m/3yr deal
-Good. He's currently in a bit of a funk, but his overall .252/.323/.505 line has him as our best hitter to date. Players that we could have brought in instead include Matt Stairs, who's not doing any better in KC, Jose Cruz, who's been miserable in Tampa, and Eduardo Perez, who damned near killed himself on the basepaths and will miss the year. Ibanez' defense has been lackluster at best, but he's made a few good throws to offset that a little bit. His power has been a definite plus.

Declined option on Mabry

Sign Scott Spiezio to $9.15m/3yr deal, with $3.25m 2007 option
-Could be better, could be worse. Spiezio started hot, but has since cooled off, and finds himself settling around league-average offensively. That wouldn't be so bad if his defense weren't lousy (which it is). While he can't be considered an unmitigated disaster, we certainly could have played this one better, perhaps by giving a shot to a cheaper, equally-deserving player.

Re-sign Hasegawa to $5.81m/2yr deal, with $3.1m 2006 vesting option
-Bad. The defensive decline seems to have gotten to him, as he's on pace to allow 19 more doubles than he did all of last year. His hits allowed are up, along with his walks, and he seems to be reverting to the pre-2003 Hasegawa, which we all feared would happen.

Offered arbitration to Borders
-Useless. He's been bad in Tacoma, and now he's on the ML roster. Doesn't mean much.

Decline arbitration to Cameron, Rhodes
-Bad on one count, not so much on the other. Cameron is still among the league leaders in strikeouts, but he's still playing spectacular defense while getting on base 35% of the time and hitting for more power than he ever did in Seattle (as expected). His glove has been sorely missed, as the armless Randy Winn has unexpectedly become something of a circus in center field. Rhodes, on the other hand, has had his share of struggles, and word out of Oakland is that he's feeling some shoulder pain. He's getting lit up by both lefties and righties, and this move looks pretty good so far (from our perspective).

Re-sign Randy Winn to $11m/3yr deal
-Bad. He's been Darin Erstad at the plate and Alex Sanchez in the field, struggling to get on base or hit for any semblance of power while taking ridiculous routes to fly balls and using his lob wedge of an arm to return the ball to the infield. There's no way around it: this deal has just flat-out sucked so far.

Re-sign Joel Pineiro for $14.5m/3yr deal
-Bad. Pineiro has been a BP machine so far, allowing 55 hits and seven homers in just 34.1 innings. What's more, he's putting too many people on base via walks, something you can't afford to do when you're not fooling anyone with your strikes. He's continued a dismal second half in 2003, and this deal looks bad right now.

Sign Eddie Guardado to $13m/3yr deal
-Good. Guardado has been the only bright spot in the bullpen, as he's allowed just nine baserunners and two runs in 14 innings. He's blown two of seven save opportunities, but he's still pitched very well (even in non-save situations), so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Re-sign Freddy Garcia for $6.88m
-Good. Freddy's been the best pitcher in the American League through May 10th (according to VORP), maintaining a 2.11 ERA while putting up a career-best 3.3 K/BB ratio. The Freddy Garcia of years past seems to have disappeared, as the new version has kept his emotions in check and remained stable despite maddeningly inconsistent run support. Perhaps he's just gearing up for a big payday this winter, when he becomes a free agent, but bringing him back has been the right move so far.

Re-sign Ryan Franklin to $4.3m/2yr deal
-Bad. Franklin has pitched just about as well/poorly as many of us expected, and his ERA has gone up by a run and a half since last year's magical run. He's allowing more walks while failing to even strike out one batter per two innings. The weakend outfield defense has - as expected - taken a toll on Franklin, as his extra-base hits allowed are on pace to exceed last year's total. This is a pretty good example of paying for past performance without considering the chances of future success.

Trade Carlos Guillen for Ramon Santiago, Juan Gonzalez
-Disastrous. Guillen has been the second-best shortstop in the major leagues so far, just behind Michael Young. He's finally flashing the gap power that people expected of him as a prospect, and he's on pace to finish with 89 walks and a K/BB ratio right around one. In return, we got a utility player in Santiago who's hitting .180/.284/.220 in Tacoma and a slap-hitting high-A infielder who, to his credit, is actually hanging around .300 for the first time since spending a little of 2001 in the Gulf Coast League.

Sign Rich Aurilia to $3.5m deal
-From bad to worse. Aurilia's .220/.271/.275 line is eerily reminiscent of the late Jeff Cirillo, just without the defense. The difference between Aurilia and Guillen has been more than fourteen runs already, and you have to wonder if Rich will even get a chance to turn it around if he's still struggling by the time Wee Willie Bloomquist makes his valiant return. A few early-season doubles are now but a distant memory, as Aurilia has been the worst player on the roster.

Trade Jeff Cirillo, Brian Sweeney, cash for Kevin Jarvis, Dave Hansen, Wiki Gonzalez, Vince Faison
-Wash. Whatever help we've gotten from Hansen's solid offense so far has been negated by Jarvis' abysmal performance that wound up getting him cut. Gonzalez is destroying the ball in AAA Tacoma as we speak, but he's not on the 40-man and seems to be stuck behind Pat Borders. Faison's on the DL, and I'll send $5 to anyone who actually notices when he's healthy again. I'm tempted to say that this was a bad deal, but Jarvis is gone for good, Hansen's been our only good bat off the bench, and getting rid of Cirillo is never a bad move.

Sign Mike Myers to $0.55m deal
-Good. Melvin has done a decent job of limiting Myers' exposure to right-handed hitters, and in return Myers has done a more than adequate job against lefties, holding them to a .217 BA in 23 at bats. This is really the kind of performance you'd rather get from a second lefty, rather than the primary southpaw reliever, but he's come in and done what's been asked of him at a decent price.

Sign Ron Villone to $1m deal
-Bad. Villone gives us nothing that Bobby Madritsch couldn't give, and he does it at three times the cost. It's not that Villone has been a bad pitcher - he's keeping opponents to a .671 OPS - but he's redundant with a bunch of other guys who are freely available, both in and outside of the organization. He's continued to struggle with men on base, as he's never been particularly adept at pitching out of the stretch. That he's currently on pace to throw more than 100 innings only makes it worse.

Trade Greg Colbrunn and cash for Quinton McCracken
-Wash. I bet you thought otherwise, huh? Quinton has been legitimately bad, collecting two hits in 13 AB's and playing lousy OF defense when given the chance, but Colbrunn is stuck on one hit in Arizona, and concerns are growing that he's still not recovered from the injuries that kept him out of action most of last year. McCracken's been below replacement level, but Colbrunn's been worse, so as much as I'd like to rip on Bavasi for this deal I just can't. Not yet.

Trade Ryan Ketchner, Aaron Looper (Glenn Bott) for Jolbert Cabrera
-Bad. Originally, Bavasi sent Looper to LA, but he was returned in exchange for Glenn Bott. Now it looks like Looper will be out for the year recovering from Tommy John surgery...I've received better news, that's for sure. Cabrera has hit like you'd expect Cabrera to hit, slapping a few singles and legging out a couple of doubles while avoiding walks like the plague. He's a good defensive center fielder - possibly the best in the organization (how sad is that?) - but rather than using him as a fourth OF and replacing McCracken with a useful infielder, like Justin Leone, he's spending a lot of his time keeping second base warm while Bret Boone's back keeps him out of action. How have Ketchner and Bott done in Jacksonville, the Dodgers' AA affiliate? They've combined for a 2.64 ERA, striking out 7.8 hitters per nine innings. Looks like they may have survived the leap from high-A to AA, doesn't it?

Sign Sherrill/Jacobsen/Owens/Mulholland
-Good, in the no-risk-potentially-moderate-reward kind of way. I mention these moves only because Sherrill could become our lefty specialist out of the bullpen before the end of summer, and while I don't think Bavasi was behind these moves, I might as well try to finish on a good note. Mulholland's already gone, having been sold to Minnesota for a dollar, and Owens moved on to greener pastures in the Detroit organization, but Jacobsen has taken over Juan Thomas' old role in Tacoma and Sherrill is forcing his way into the team's future plans.

So there you have it. Ignoring both Mabry and Borders, Bill Bavasi has made six good decisions, nine bad ones, and three that haven't been particularly good or bad. This scorecard will undoubtedly change as the year goes on, but it's nice to have this template up and posted so that it's easy to update next time.

Sunday, May 09, 2004


    On pace for:

  • 63 wins

  • 66 Pythagorean wins

  • 658 runs scored

  • 805 runs allowed

  • 115 home runs

  • 502 walks

  • 585 extra-base hits allowed (178 more than last year

That pretty much tells the story right there. The only guys hitting are Ichiro and Jolbert Cabrera (no, one good game does not a rejuvenated Dan Wilson make), and the guy who was supposed to come back and become our best reliever has put twelve runners on base in 3.1 innings while topping out around 92mph. You wonder if Ben Davis isn't thanking his lucky stars that he's been given the opportunity to play on a good team (Tacoma is 18-10 and leading the PCL).

It's time for some Fun Facts. All winter long, we got to hear about how our new offense would hit for more power and contact than last year's version, at the expense of a few walks. Let's take a look to see how that has turned out:

2003 ISO: .139
2004 ISO: .119
2003: 3.6 BB/game
2004: 3.1 BB/game
2003: 6.1 K/game
2004: 6.5 K/game

To Bavasi's credit, he was right on with the "at the expense of a few walks" remark. We're on pace to draw 84 fewer walks than we did last year, meaning approximately one fewer baserunner every two games. We aren't getting any more hits or homers to make up for that difference, so in essence, what we have done is sacrificed a few walks, a little contact, and a little power in order to...end games faster, which the fans always enjoy.

But then, maybe I'm not giving Bavasi his due. Perhaps he was reading the 2/29/04 Baseball Prospectus Basics column, in which Ryan Wilkins shows that there is actually a slight positive correllation between strikeouts and productivity. Maybe it's been Bavasi's plan all along, to strike out a little more so that we can pick up a few extra runs. Or maybe I'm just looking for the silver lining in Hurricane Andrew.

So, how about the game, anyway? Here's what Steve Nelson of Mariners Wheelhouse had to say in an email:

I have to say that about the third inning today, I had psychic feelings the Marienrs were going to lose the game, in just about the fashion that they did. I didn't think Moyer would give up four. I had him pegged for giving up two or three runs, leaving with men on base, and watching Villone, Myers, and Hasegawa cough it up.

But before you grab your torches and pitchforks and gather around Steve's door, let me say that I got the same bad vibes. Not that early, mind you - when it was 6-0 after Wilson's homer, I was feeling good - but I stepped out when it was 6-1, and when I returned the deficit had been trimmed to two. That's when the bad feelings kicked in, and it didn't take long for my worst fears to be realized. Seriously, Derek Jeter? A guy who entered the game with a .177/.250/.234 line? A guy who may have two badly injured hands, stemming from a collision and a HBP earlier in the year? On the one hand, at least it wasn't A-Rod, I guess, but on the other...God dammit, it's Derek Jeter! It's like getting suckerpunched by Paul O'Neill while Roger Clemens works the lower body with a crowbar. If you're going to cough up a lead to a Yankee, at least let someone pleasant like Bernie Williams do the damage. Instead, Jeter, Giambi, and A-Rod combined for six hits, six RBI, and six runs, and I've got the sourest of all sour tastes in my mouth.

Jamie's final line wasn't bad; the strikeouts were there, and so was the command. He just had the misfortune of allowing two hits just prior to facing a red-hot Jason Giambi, who did his worst. Balls are beginning to leave the park a little too often when Moyer's on the hill, but he was coming off two strong starts in a row, along with a terrific five innings against NYY today, so I'm feeling better about him than I was on April 22nd.

With his 1-4 day, Raul Ibanez now has 11 hits in his last 51 at bats, with two walks and nine strikeouts...

Jolbert Cabrera is leaving the mistaken impression that he's a good hitter. He's hitting .282, but a HBP is the only reason that his OBP is higher at all; as is, he's been getting on base in 30% of his plate appearances. However, he's got that versatility, hustle, and decent batting average that makes Bob Melvin drool.

How much could this team benefit from some offensive call-ups from AAA? Let's check it out. Here's how our current bench has performed (including Bloomquist):

-Bloomquist: .257/.297/.314
-Cabrera: .282/.300/.385
-Davis/Borders: .086/.154/.086
-McCracken: .154/.267/.154
-Hansen: .278/.435/.444 (What does he think he's doing?)

Now here are the translated lines for guys in Tacoma:

-Bocachica: .207/.313/.329
-Leone: .232/.289/.529
-Gonzalez: .260/.289/.585
-Strong: .334/.404/.400
-Jacobsen: .235/.352/.450
-Zapp: .254/.342/.436

These numbers have gone through two separate diminishing calculations: adjusting for league (AAA -> Majors) and adjusting for Safeco. Here's what we're left with:

-Replacing Bloomquist with a similar player who gets on base a little more
-Replacing Cabrera with a versatile player who strikes out but hits for a lot of power
-Replacing Davis/Borders with a player who hits for a lot more power
-Replacing McCracken witgh a player who gets on base more, while playing center field just as well/poorly
-Replacing Hansen with any of two powerful, ML-ready bats

Okay, so not all of those can happen; we only have one open spot on the 40-man roster, and Bocachica, Zapp, Jacobsen, and Gonzalez are all on the outside looking in. Maybe Looper goes on the 60-day DL with Aaron Taylor, freeing another spot, but we'll discuss that if/when it happens. My only real point is that, in our supposedly endless search for a power bat off the bench, we've overlooking a handful of legitimate options just miles down the road from Safeco. This doesn't even mention Greg Dobbs or Greg Jacobs, who are putting together their own fireworks display in San Antonio. A general rule of thumb that I carry around with me is that, if you can hit pretty well in the minors, you can hit pretty well in the majors. There's the occasional spectacular failure, but more often than not you find yourself with a useful bat that gives you a little more pop and flexibility. Wouldn't it be nice if this organization cared?

I'm really starting to get away from myself, here; this was meant to be a general recap of the game, but I've stemmed off into a discussion on the minor leagues. Perhaps that's the way it's supposed to be, though, because our affiliates this year are generally much more entertaining than the ML squad. After the M's completed their disheartening loss, I navigated over to the Tacoma Rainiers Listen Live page and paid attention to the underrated Mike Curto (who, by the way, had a pretty interesting interview with Rob Neyer a year ago). At least by listening to the Rainiers, I don't have to worry about who to call up, or why someone isn't getting the playing time he deserves. I hope that more people in the Tacoma area see what a quality team they've got this year, and I hope that Bucky Jacobsen becomes the new Juan Thomas, a real Man Of The People who smashes jaw-dropping home runs into deep center. Rainiers fans needn't even fret about key players being taken from the roster when they're needed at the ML level - what do they care if Ugueto or Santiago gets called up?

Yeah, I've strayed pretty far away from the intended topic, but can you blame me? The Mariners are, in a word, depressing, and discussing their ample weaknesses only serves to ruin what has otherwise been a terrific weekend. I finished my final exams and, in less than a month, I'm off to Europe with a dear friend. And hey, the Rainiers swept a doubleheader! Times are good, people. You just have to search for happiness a little harder than you used to.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Sorry about the lack of one of these yesterday, but was having trouble with box scores, and Tacoma was rained out, and...and it just wasn't worth the trouble. Anyway...

Tacoma had a doubleheader today, and both games went off without a hitch. Tacoma beat Salt Lake in the first game by a score of 1-0. Travis Blackley pitched a complete game shutout (seven innings), and Justin Leone provided the only necessary offense with a solo homer. The Rainiers also took the second game, this time by a score of 6-1. Matt Thornton got the win, allowing one run in five innings, and ex-Missions closer Jared Hoerman threw a shutout inning in his AAA debut. Notables:

Travis Blackley: 7 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 6 K
Matt Thornton: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
Justin Leone: 2-4, 2 homers, 1 BB (now hitting a robust .275/.333/.626 in an extreme pitcher's park)
Jamal Strong: 1-5, 1 BB
Bucky Jacobsen: 2-6
Hiram Bocachica: 2-5, 1 double
Ben Davis: 0-2
Jose Lopez: 0-3
Ramon Santiago: 1-5, 1 BB

San Antonio was shut out by Wichita, 1-0. Gustavo Martinez got the loss, allowing six hits, two walks and a run in seven innings of work. Greg Dobbs had two hits to lead the offense. Notables:

Greg Dobbs: 2-3, 1 BB
Greg Jacobs: 0-4
Dustin Delucchi: 1-4
Shin-soo Choo: 0-4
Luis Oliveros: 0-3

Inland Empire fell to San Jose, 4-1. Juan Sandoval wasn't bad, as he scattered six baserunners through six innings, but the offense couldn't manage much against Brion Treadway. Notables:

Juan Gonzalez: 0-3
Hyung Cho: 2-4
TJ Bohn: 0-3

Wisconsin was shut out by Battle Creek, 5-0. Ryan Feierabend got the loss by allowing four runs (three unearned) in seven innings, while Evel Martinez "carried the offense" with two hits. Notables:

Ryan Feierabend: 7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 HR
Josh Ellison: 1-4
Adam Jones: 1-3, 1 BB
Josh Womack: 0-4
This isn't fun anymore.

This is fun!

Well, you can't beat the Yankees every time, I guess.

Once again, Gil Meche fell victim to the Big Inning©, as he was done in by four consecutive doubles in the top of the sixth. Not to be outdone, the outfield defense had problems of its own, as McCracken and Ibanez each had trouble playing the hits. The five doubles allowed by Meche last night give him a total of 15 extra-base hits allowed on the year - he's on pace to allow 20 more than he did all of last season. When you're giving up a bunch of hard hits, it's usually nice to keep the BB/9 below 4.6, but that's a different topic entirely.

Meche is an interesting pitcher. Take a look at some of his splits from last year:

Inning 1-3: .703 OPS against
Inning 4-6: .800 OPS
Inning 7-9: .901 OPS

Last season's Gil Meche would have fared well in a long relief role out of the bullpen, where he could pick up two or three innings every few days without falling off the cliff in the later innings. The organization decided that this only happened because Meche was still rebuilding his arm strength, and put him back in the rotation in 2004, eager to see more of the flashes of brilliance Gil showed at times a year earlier. Splits so far:

Inning 1-3: .751
Inning 4-6: .913
Inning 7-9: N/A (just four AB's)

Something else that this doesn't show is that Meche has a 19:7 K:BB ratio in the first three innings, but it drops to an alarming 5:9 in the middle third. It doesn't help that he has a tendency to throw a lot of pitches, meaning he reaches his breaking point earlier than you'd like. It would work towards everyone's benefit if Melvin would limit Meche to about five innings, yanking him at the first sign of trouble, but if Soriano ever recovers his arm strength, then inserting him into the rotation and giving Meche the long relief role (see ya, Villone) would be even better. Everyone knows that Gil has got some frightening stuff when it's working, but this tends to create a false sense of security, as Melvin is content to sit back and wait for Meche's command to return. Note to Bob: it doesn't. Once it's gone, it almost never comes back.

Forget Raul Ibanez. How about the Official Seattle Mariners Entire Team Hitting Watch?

As a team, we're down to .251/.318/.369. If not for Tampa Bay, we'd be last in the AL in runs scored, OBP, and SLG, and second-to-last in BA (and the Yankees won't be there much longer). We also have the third-worst team EqA in the major leagues, in front of Tampa and Montreal. Needless to say, things haven't quite worked out as Bill Bavasi imagined they would. When you significantly downgrade the defense on which our pitching staff relies quite a bit, you need to compensate by scoring runs, something this team just can't do on a consistent basis. We're on pace to finish 66-96, which would be our worst season since 1992. In order to finish as a 90-win team with our current offense, we'd need to hold the opposition to 574 total runs, or 3.23 runs per game for the rest of the year.

I like those odds.

There's always got to be some good news, right? Sure thing. Ichiro picked up another two singles last night - the same as the rest of the team, despite getting just four AB's - giving him fourteen hits in seven May games. It seems as if my worry that he'd lost a step came a little too soon, as he's really turned it on of late. All of a sudden he's up to a .322 BABIP, closer to the Ichiro we're used to seeing. No, we can't really afford to have 90% of Ichiro's hits be singles in the long run, especially with the way the rest of the lineup is "hitting", but as long as he's on fire I'll take what I can get.

The Mariners are second to last in Isolated Slugging Percentage, with a .118 mark...

Scott Spiezio sure did come back to Earth in a hurry, didn't he? It only took a week and a half for us to beat all the exciting memories of 2002 out of his brain and force him to assimilate. He now has six hits in his last 41 at bats.

In 6.1 garbage innings, JJ Putz has allowed one hit and one walk, while fanning ten...

Moyer goes up against Donovan Osborne. The latter is, of course, a scrub, the type of pitcher we don't hit very well, whereas Moyer is a lefty, the type of pitcher NYY has hit to the tune of a .279/.370/.474 line. Imagine facing nine Derrek Lee's.