Saturday, May 29, 2004


I was lying down on the bed, listening to Tacoma get stomped by Las Vegas (the Maynard experiment just isn't going to work in AAA) and trying to think of how I could write about today's game. It didn't take long for inspiration to strike. Although the timing may be off, I'm going to respond to the LeoneForThird Official Optimistic Game Review with the LeoneForThird Official *Pessimistic* Game Review. That's right, a rare win over one of the two best teams in baseball has given me an opportunity to haul the dark clouds and general discontent out from the back of the closet.

Remember: Every dark cloud has a silver lining, but lightning kills hundreds of people each year who are trying to find it.

Freddy Garcia apparently loves pitching in Seattle so much that he's willing to damage his own value on the open market by performing poorly in front of a potential trade partner. Memo to the Chief: baseball games are nine innings long, not three. Pitching with a five-run lead, Garcia promptly gave most of it away, allowing a two-run homer to Manny Ramirez and letting Brian Daubach come around to score after doubling. He then barely survived the fifth inning, as a David Ortiz liner bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double, keeping Bellhorn at third when he would have scored easily otherwise. Freddy proceeded to walk Manny Ramirez before retiring Daubach on a pop-up. Sixth inning comes, and he allows two more doubles, this time to a struggling Kevin Millar and a backup catcher. You want to know how convincing Garcia's start was today? Early in the game, Red Sox fans on the ESPN forum were talking about swinging a deal that would bring Freddy to Beantown. By the sixth inning, they were calling him a headcase and discussing trades for other starting pitchers. If there's one thing to look forward to this year, it's the likelihood that we deal Freddy Garcia before too long. Might want to work on consummating a trade before his value's shot, Bill.

If "killer instinct" really exists, we ain't got it. Tim Wakefield was getting slapped around in the early innings, allowing eight hits and five runs in the first three innings. The rest of the game? Six innings, three hits, no runs. With a man on third and one out in the fourth, neither Spiezio nor Ibanez could bring home the runner. In the seventh, we couldn't convert a bases-loaded opportunity, as Boston intentionally walked Dave Hansen to face our starting shortstop. Now, I don't know too much about Rich Aurilia's playing history, whether or not his pants have ever fallen down while running the bases, or if he's ever wet himself in the field while waiting for a pitch to be thrown. I don't know if he's ever had a home run bounce off the top of his head, or if he's ever been drilled in the groin by a line drive. What I do know, however, is that having the other team intentionally walk Dave Hansen in order to face him with the bases loaded is pretty damn embarrassing. Predictably, he grounded out. He also whiffed with two on and two out in the ninth, for good measure. It wasn't just Aurilia, though; to go along with the frustrating fourth inning, we also squandered a two-on-one-out situation in the eighth when Spiezio hit into a double play. Here's a tip: when your starter's struggling to keep the lead, and your bullpen hasn't been effective all year long, it's not a good idea for the lineup to roll over and die after scoring a few runs. If we were a good team with something to play for, this game would've been too tense for my likings.

Remember when Scott Spiezio was hitting well? Seems like ages ago, doesn't it? He's currently hitting .247/.297/.413, with poor plate discipline and rather indolent defense. He's walking once every 18 plate appearances, down from a career mark of once per 11 PA's, while striking out three times as often. This is a significant difference from the guy who came into the year with a career 308:410 BB/K ratio, and further proof that Paul Molitor doesn't have a clue what he's doing. It isn't just Spiezio, either - the entire team seems to have adopted a hacktastic new strategy that cuts down on pitches seen in favor of putting the ball in play early in the count. Has this worked? The Mariners are second to last in AL runs scored, and 12th out of 14 teams in OBP. So, the answer is now. How have the individual players been affected?

2004 K/BB Ratio Better Than Career Mark:
-Ichiro, Winn, Hansen

2004 K/BB Ratio Worse Than Career Mark:
-Ibanez, Edgar, Boone, Olerud, Aurilia, Spiezio, Cabrera, Bloomquist, Davis

Only Ichiro and Winn are showing better discipline among regulars, and Ichiro's been doing it without Molitor's help. There is ample evidence suggesting that Paul Molitor has been less than stellar as a hitting coach - this just adds to the pile. A terrific hitter does not a good coach make; everybody has different approaches at the plate, and a proper coach needs to be able to work with each player and identify flaws in their hitting mechanics. What works for Paul Molitor may not work for Joe Average; clearly, it doesn't work for the Seattle Mariners. Something that's absolutely tickled me so far this year is that select group of people calling for Molitor to replace Bob Melvin as manager. What the hell has he done to deserve such a promotion?

Quick comparison:

2003 Team Defense:
-0.7312 Defensive Efficiency (best in the majors)
-.274 BABIP
-5.5% of balls in play went for doubles/triples
-20% of hits in play went for doubles/triples

2004 Team Defense:
-0.6973 Defensive Efficiency (13th in the majors)
-.298 BABIP
-8.3% of balls in play have gone for doubles/triples
-30% of hits in play have gone for doubles/triples

We're on pace to allow 375 doubles and triples this year - 141 more than we did last year. That's nearly one additional extra-base hit per game. Tasty.

Ryan Franklin vs. Curt Schilling tomorrow, a 11:05am start time. This has all the makings of an epic disaster.
Rob Neyer discusses some of the reasons why collegiate pitchers are better gambles than high schoolers.

Update: er, Keith Scherer.
A hypothetical:

Left-handed Batter A comes to the plate. He hits .200 against lefties and .300 against righties.

You have two pitchers who can come in to face him: Right-handed Pitcher A, who holds lefties to a .200 batting average, and southpaw Pitcher B, who also holds lefties to a .200 batting average.

Are the two situations identical? If not, why?

Really, what I'm asking is which is more important: a hitter's splits, or a pitcher's splits?
By the way, with McCracken DFA'd and a spot opening up on the 40man, there's now one less obstacle in the way of promoting one of Bocachica/Lopez/Jacobsen/Sherrill/Blackley. I don't think Aaron Looper is on the 60-day DL yet, either, which would free up another spot.

Let the dismantling begin.

We all knew that we'd lose this game.

We just didn't know how we'd lose it.

Pedro Martinez has pitched thirteen games against the Seattle Mariners. He's won each and every one of them, never allowing more than two runs until today. He doesn't throw as hard as he used to back in the glory days, but he still changes speeds effectively and locates well enough to keep hitters off balance. I was more than pleased with our offense today, feeling like Pineiro was pitching well enough for the 4-1 lead to hold up. Guess I was wrong.

I was talking with someone the other day about this game. I was looking forward to a night of aimless flailing and first-pitch hacks, but he was of a different mindset; since we could never beat Pedro when we were *good*, maybe the tables will turn now that we suck. I laughed at the time, but honestly, I don't know how I would have responded if that wound up happening today. Hooray, we beat Pedro. Now what? The team's still terrible, and all we've managed to do is make the front office express more confidence in this collection of jackbags they call a team. One could even say that I wanted the Mariners to lose tonight, because the alternative would have turned my world upside down.

Back to the bullet points, because it's been another busy day in a long chain of busy days:

  • Randy Winn had the best history against Pedro Martinez of anyone in our starting lineup today. He was hitting ninth, suggesting that Melvin doesn't put as much stock in individual batter/pitcher history as many of us have feared. Of course, Winn went on to double twice...

  • Rich Aurilia hit his first home run of the year, bumping his slugging percentage up to .297. While it's probably an isolated incident, much like Jeff Cirillo's 4-for-4 day late last April, I'd be ecstatic if it signaled the beginning of a little hot streak; with the Giants playing well and starting Neifi Perez at shortstop, perhaps they'd like their old guy back.

  • We have six home runs in the last three games. In the other 21 May games, we had twelve.

  • Nobody's noticed, but John Olerud's OBP is up to .380. Who would you rather have hitting in the #2 slot: a quick singles hitter who makes a lot of outs, or a slow singles hitter who doesn't?

  • Kevin Youkilis is neat. Not only is he showing the same patience he did throughout the minor leagues - at his current rate, he'd draw 120 walks in a 600 PA season, while facing more than four and a half pitches per plate appearance - but he's also got four extra-base hits already, flashing power that many didn't think he'd have in the upper levels.

  • Did anyone *NOT* see Ortiz's grand slam coming? The guy absolutely destroys right-handed pitchers, and Pineiro was all over the place at the time. It's too bad, because Joel was terrific for the other 5.1 innings he threw tonight. He's still trying to force himself out of jams by overthrowing, though, which leads to things like injuries and today's fifth inning.

  • JJ Putz, it's been nice knowing you, but you're not doing a particularly good job of seizing a rare opportunity to impress the big league squad...

  • He's now nearly 200 PA's into the season, and Bret Boone is hovering around a .700 OPS. It's not abnormal for offensive second basemen at his age to see a significant dropoff in production, so it will be interesting to see whether or not the front office starts pushing for him to get dealt, rather than get stuck with his $9m option next year when he picks up his 450th plate appearance...

  • A poster on the ESPN Mariners forum raised the question a few weeks ago about whether or not we've been overrating Brian Price as a pitching coach. This is something that needs to be explored, as everything is falling apart, and nobody is spared.

Freddy vs. Wakefield tomorrow, a 10:15am start time for those of us on the left coast. Wonder if I'll set my alarm.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma beat Las Vegas, 11-3. Travis Blackley pitched well enough to record his fifth win, while AJ Zapp powered the offense with three hits and a homer. Everyone but Ramon Santiago (surprise) had a hit for the Rainiers, as they picked up 18 baserunners in total. Notables:

Travis Blackley: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HR
George Sherrill: 1 IP
Justin Leone: 1-5
Jamal Strong: 2-6, 1 double
Ramon Santiago: 0-4
Hiram Bocachica: 1-5, 1 double
Bucky Jacobsen: 1-3, 1 double, 2 BB
Jose Lopez: 2-4, 1 double, 1 BB
Ben Davis: 1-4, 1 double, 1 BB

San Antonio lost to Round Rock, 3-2. Gustavo Martinez had a brutal start, walking six and allowing three runs in 5.1 innings, and ten hits couldn't provide enough offensive support. Four Missions had two-hit games. Notables:

Dustin Dellucchi: 2-4, 1 double
Shin-soo Choo: 2-5, 1 double
Greg Dobbs: 0-3, 1 BB
Greg Jacobs: 1-3, 1 double, 1 BB

Inland Empire lost to High Desert, 2-1. TA Fulmer had a strong start - finally - but nobody below the #3 spot in the lineup recorded a single hit. The final four frames went by scoreless as the 66ers couldn't mount any semblance of a rally. Notables:

TA Fulmer: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR
Juan Gonzalez: 1-4
TJ Bohn: 0-3
Matt Hagen: 0-2
Rene Rivera: 0-2, 1 BB
Vince Faison: 0-3

Wisconsin got destroyed by Peoria, 10-0. The Rattlers' bats fell silent once again, but this one was over quickly as Eric O`Flaherty was bombed for twelve hits and eight runs before the end of the fourth. Wisconsin did manage to draw six walks, but managed just five hits - none for extra bases. Notables:

Eric O`Flaherty: 3.2 IP, 12 H, 8 ER, 3 BB, 1 K
Wladimir Balentien: 0-4
Adam Jones: 0-3
Josh Ellison: 1-4, 1 BB
Josh Womack: 1-3, 1 BB
Justin Ruchti: 1-3, 1 BB

The entire organization has fallen on hard times of late. Maynard goes for Tacoma tomorrow, so don't look for things to change any time soon.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Rich Aurilia!

Update: God dammit.
Wild breaking news: Nageotte up, McCracken (!) down to Tacoma.
For all of you who were worried about Nageotte moving to the bullpen, worry no more.

He's safe in the rotation. In fact, he's starting today for Tacoma.

Alas, it will be at least another week until we see a return of the Optimist, because we aren't going to touch Pedro tomorrow, and we sure as hell aren't particularly good bets to hit Schilling, either. Then you've got Wakefield sandwiched in the middle, which is just asking for trouble...

This upcoming series is going to be brutal.

It took Jake Westbrook nine pitches to get through the first inning today. Gil Meche, not so much. Here's the count on Meche's first frame:

  • 29 pitches

  • Four runs

  • Two doubles

  • Seven baserunners

Indeed, after today's Big Inning (a Meche trademark), the Mariners were just about out of it. When you're scoring just over four runs per game, coming back from an early 4-0 deficit is a pretty monumental task. Of course, had the pitching held tight for the rest of the game, we would've won - we actually managed five runs today, due in no small part to the fact that Rich Aurilia was out of the lineup - but Meche essentially put us out of our misery by allowing eight runs before completing the fourth. In an organization full of players on their last straw, this might've been Gil's. We know that other teams have been inquiring about his services, so it's time to start considering the options. If someone out there is offering a handsome position player or two, you take the deal. If you don't like the current market, then you can go down one of two roads. Either you get him to fess up to elbow or shoulder pain - be it legitimate or a case of Rule 5 Disease - and send him to the DL and the minors on a rehab stint, or you stick him in the bullpen and see if he improves in an easier role. The problem with this idea is that it means Ron Villone enters the starting rotation, but what else are you going to do? Clint Nageotte's turning into a reliever, at least for the time being, and nobody else in Tacoma's going to come up and start some games. It's an ugly situation, but realistically, what else did you expect when Meche was having multiple sugeries?

You might've missed it, but Julio Mateo threw 46 pitches in long relief today, good enough for 3.2 innings. He threw the ball pretty well, throwing strikes and keeping Cleveland off the board (save for an inherited runner crossing the plate) while allowing us to try to get back into the game. This was a critical appearance for Mateo, who's had a rough year and who could have become an unfortunate victim of the impending roster demolition. He's been killed by the defense more than anybody else on our staff, and his peripherals suggest that he's still a useful pitcher. He's not the kind of guy you want to keep around when he becomes expensive, but at $350k, he's cheap, young, and shouldn't be going anywhere. Hell, maybe he even deserves a start or two if/when Meche gets sent somewhere else...

The thing about today's game is that, while it was pretty ugly most of the time, we were hitting Westbrook and the Cleveland bullpen just well enough to keep you interested. These are the kinds of games that make you put off those little tasks at the top of your To-Do list, the games that, when someone shouts "Dinner's ready!" cause you to respond with "Hold on, I'll be there in a little bit" over and over again until the game's over, at which point your entrée is cold and you wonder why you even bothered wasting your time watching in the first place. Even when it was 8-3, we had just managed four baserunners and two runs in the previous inning, so it felt like we just need a few more at bats to keep the offense alive. Sure enough, the Mariners scraped together enough offense for a single run in the top of the fifth, and we were hooked. Just when it seemed like things were calming down and our comeback bid was done for, Edgar went deep to lead off the seventh, and we had to keep watching. There's a certain mindset that goes with any given deficit in a game. Observe:

  • Down by five. Things are hopelessly bleak, and even a home run means that you're still...

  • Down by four. There's still a chance, but the odds are slim, and a leadoff single or a walk just don't do it for you. If the first batter of the inning makes an out, you will not score a run. You want a home run, because then you're only...

  • Down by three. Possibly the most frustrating deficit, because your team will invariably load up the bases and send its worst hitter to the plate with two outs. Even so, this is close enough to keep the fans interested, because all you need is a walk and an infield single to send the tying run to the plate.

  • Down by two. Rough, because it seems like you'll always manage to score *one* run before giving in. If you polled a group of 1000 fans on whether or not they'd rather be losing a game by two or three runs, the majority would probably go for the three-run deficit, because it usually feels like a team is more capable of busting out with a big inning than it is of scraping together two runs to tie.

  • Down by one. Intense. Feels like nothing's going your way. Balls are hit right at the fielders. Borderline pitches are always strikes. Tying home runs are always just beyond the outstretched arm of the center fielder.

  • Tie game. If yours is the team who came back to tie it up, it seems like they suddenly forget how to hit. If yours is the team who surrendered a lead, it seems like they suddenly forget how to pitch. If you took fans of opposing teams in a tie game and stuck them in a room, there would be an argument after every pitch.

  • Up by one. Absolute hell. Close pitches always go to the batter, and it seems like your pitcher is out of gas. Your outfielders become exponentially slower and, in the event of a ground ball, your infielder will make a bad throw, forcing your first baseman to make a terrific pick out of the dirt.

  • Up by two. They'll always hit a leadoff home run, shrinking the deficit. No team has ever held a two-run lead for more than five minutes; they will either score or allow runs as soon as possible, following the formation of a two-run gap.

  • Up by three or more. Comfortable.

When the Indians scored off Villone in the eighth to make it a 9-5 game, it was almost time to give up all hope, but with Ichiro leading off in the ninth, there was still that little voice in the back of my head telling me to stick around. The minute Ichiro grounded out, it was a done deal. Complete and utter waste of my evening. Fortunately, I didn't have to miss much Stanley Cup action...

Edgar Martinez has extra-base hits in each of his last four games - two doubles and two homers. Normally, this wouldn't mean very much, since Edgar is Edgar, and he's a great hitter, but he'd been in a power drought dating back to last year's All Star Break. Today's home run was just his tenth since mid-July last year, but this recent mini-tear of his lends hope that maybe Edgar can have one final resurgence before hanging up his spikes this winter. The literati among you may draw parallels between our DH and the organization as a collective (damned symbolism), but I'd prefer that Edgar accomplish something the team could only dream of - finishing the year better than he started it.

Pineiro vs. Pedro tomorrow. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma vs. Iowa was rained out. Again. The game won't be made up, as the season series is over.

San Antonio lost to Round Rock, 8-7. A 7-4 lead in the seventh couldn't hold up, as Renee Cortez, Rick Guttormson, and Tim Rall combined to allow four runs in three innings out of the bullpen. Troy Cate's ERA jumped to 5.08 with another ineffective start. John Lindsey was the Missions' star of the game, going 4-4 with a double and a homer. Notables:

Troy Cate: 5 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR
Dustin Dellucchi: 1-5, 1 homer
Shin Soo-Choo: 1-5, 1 triple
Greg Dobbs: 2-5, 1 double
Luis Oliveros: 0-3

Inland Empire shut out Lake Elsinore, 2-0. Felix Hernandez was stellar in earning his fifth win of the year, and Melvin Pizarro picked up his second save of the year by tossing three shutout innings. Matt Hagen's two-run double in the second was the only offense of the game. Notables:

Felix Hernandez: 6 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 8 K (1 HBP)
Juan Gonzalez: 2-3, 1 double, 1 BB
TJ Bohn: 0-3, 1 BB
Rene Rivera: 0-4
Matt Hagen: 1-4, 1 double
Hyung Cho: 0-4
Vince Faison: 1-4

Wisconsin fell to Quad Cities, 1-0. A strong start from Nibaldo Acosta (despite three HBP's) went to waste as the Rattlers could manage just five hits. Josh Womack led the lineup with two hits, including a double. Notables:

Nibaldo Acosta: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 5 K, 1 HR (3 HBP)
Josh Womack: 2-4, 1 double
Adam Jones: pinch-runner
Josh Ellison: 0-4, 1 BB
Wladimir Balentien: 0-4
Gyroball? Double spin mechanics? The Will Carroll Weblog directed me to a fascinating article (by Carroll) that discusses how Japanese researchers may be ahead of the game in terms of preventing stress on the arm and shoulder, while developing a wild new pitch.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Seriously. Ben Christensen? Why did we bring him in? If you're going to go for character guys with a community presence, at least be consistent. Instead, we sign one of the worst people in the recent history of baseball. I'd love to hear the motivation for making this move.
The good thing about losing 4-0 in the first inning is that I won't feel guilty about leaving to watch the Stanley Cup in 45 minutes.
I've been challenged by a recent commenter to create my own 2005 Seattle Mariners team. Conditions? I have a $90m payroll, and the players who are under contract for next year have to be on the team. I get my choice of free agents to sign. So, here we go (please note that this is the only time I will entertain such a suggestion until the offseason):

C: Ramon Castro -- $0.5m
1B: Richie Sexson -- $9m
2B: Bret Boone -- $9m
SS: Julio Lugo -- $1.5m
3B: Justin Leone -- $0.3m
LF: Frank Catalanotto -- $2.5m
CF: Ichiro -- $10.5m
RF: Raul Ibanez -- $3.75m
DH: Troy Glaus -- $9m
Bench: Randy Winn -- $3.75m
Bench: Wiki Gonzalez -- $2.25m
Bench: Scott Spiezio -- $3.1m
Bench: Jose Lopez -- $0.3m
Bench: Jeffrey Hammonds -- $1m
SP: Joel Pineiro -- $4.2m
SP: Jamie Moyer -- $7.5m
SP: Rafael Soriano -- $0.4m
SP: Bobby Madritsch -- $0.3m
SP: Travis Blackley -- $0.3m
RP: Eddie Guardado -- $4.5m
RP: Ryan Franklin -- $2.4m
RP: Shigetoshi Hasegawa -- $2.98m
RP: George Sherrill -- $0.3m
RP: Aaron Taylor -- $0.3m
RP: Matt Thornton -- $0.3m

Total: $79.93m

Not only did I construct a roster under $90m, I built it under $80m. It's got a lot of youth on it - seven players would qualify as rookies - but they're all guys who I think can do the job. Let's discuss:

  • I didn't want to include any trades, but I couldn't pass up on Ramon Castro. He'd come cheaply from Florida, as he's fallen out of favor with the organization, and would be 29 years old and good for a solid offensive season or three while we search for a permanent solution. Problem: off-the-field troubles would scare us away.

  • Sexson's something of a local boy (born in Portland), so that instantly works in our favor. Arizona has been committed to signing him to an extension, but the shoulder injuries might scare them away (or maybe they'll take advantage and sign him at a lower price. Who knows?). If he becomes a free agent, I don't know if he'll command $9m - nobody likes a recent injury history - but I like him more than I would Carlos Delgado at first base.

  • Bret Boone's got a $9m 2005 option that vests with 450 plate appearances this year. He should get there, so if we don't trade him in the next two months, I think he'll be back.

  • "Julio Lugo? Why???" Pretty simple; I don't think that Jose Lopez will be ready for the full-time gig next April, and Lugo's a nifty little player who won't hurt us in the lineup while Lopez gets his feet wet. Come June or July, Lopez should take over, relegating Lugo to the utility infield role.

  • Obviously, I had to throw Leone in there. I have him starting over Spiezio because I think he'd contribute just as much offense while playing better in the field.

  • It's a versatile outfield. Ichiro and Ibanez belong in CF and RF, respectively, and I think Winn makes for a damn good fourth outfielder who can spell Catalanotto when a lefty's on the mound. Jeffrey Hammonds is in there as the fifth OF because he can hit southpaws pretty well, too, insurance in case Ibanez's recent improvement against them doesn't stick.

  • I had to guess Moyer's price. He's under contract for $1.5m next year, but he has $6m in incentives based on starts made this year. I don't foresee him getting hurt, so I'm giving him the full salary. Piniero's already locked up. The rest of the rotation is young and inexperienced, but highly talented. If you don't like the idea of having three newbies in the rotation, then you can use the extra $10m to find a suitable starter.

  • Bullpen seems self-explanatory. Guardado's penned in as the closer, with Franklin getting bumped back into a relief role and Hasegawa sticking around. Sherrill becomes the first lefty, with Thornton backing him up and acting as a middle innings guy. Taylor keeps the back of the bullpen warm. In case you're worried about having to face tough righties, guys like Paul Shuey will be available on the market. If Chad Bradford hits free agency, he's brought in.

You're looking at a pretty powerful lineup that could possibly reach the upper third of the league in homers, while providing Melvin with enough versatility to keep him occupied. The pitching will struggle a little bit, but if the youth is too disconcerting, Matt Morris will be a free agent this winter.

This isn't fantasy baseball, though, so my idea could be the complete opposite of what the organization plans to do. Look out, because Cristian Guzman will be available...

First things first: thanks to Ryan for linking me to this interview with Mike Myers. Listen and learn about the X-Factor!

Now, on to the game...

I am a skeptic, born and raised. I don't believe in ghosts, crop circles, or Cybill Shepherd. It takes a lot of work and effort to make me consider any given thing as fact, but it hardly takes anything for me to lose faith. And so it is completely out of character for me to say that I will no longer jump the gun and pronounce Jamie Moyer as over the hill. He's had his fair share of rough starts this season, but since opening the year with two forgettable games against Anaheim and Oakland, Moyer's ERA is 3.42, right in line with what he's done for seven of the past eight years. He's got a major home run problem (HR/9 hovering around 2), but until this starts having a significant effect on his results, what can I say? Jamie is Jamie. I'll still be quick to judge everyone else on the team, but I won't declare that Moyer's career is over until he has his own retirement press conference. Congratulations, Jamie, you have made a career out of thwarting us skeptics. It's only fitting that you're still doing it at 41 years old.

Moyer was brilliant in this one, allowing just six baserunners in seven innings against the team with the highest OBP in the league. He only found himself in one jam all game long - in the bottom of the fourth - but he survived the inning, with only a solo home run by Casey Blake in the seventh ruining the shutout bid. Time for a peripherals comparison:

Stat 2001-2003 2004
H/9 8.02 8.38
HR/9 0.98 1.99
BB/9 2.20 2.42
K/9 5.42 5.12

You see slight dropoffs in three of the four categories - to be expected, because the defense *has* gotten worse, and Moyer isn't ageless. It's the home runs that stick out, so let's see another chart!

HR Type 2001-2003 2004
Solo 58% 64%
Two-run 29% 14%
Three-run 10% 21%
Grand Slam 3% 0%

Nothing's really changed; each home run scored an average of 1.58 runs against Moyer from 2001-2003, as opposed to 1.57 this year. So why haven't the longballs ruined his season? Well, Jamie hasn't pitched worse with runners on base than with none on this year, while this has been the trend in the past. This may or may not continue, so he'll have to negate any sort of situational performance decline by limiting the homers. So far it's not working, as he's been even more gopher-friendly in May than in April.

Moving right along...

JJ Putz tried to blow this one. No lead is ever big enough against the Indians (thanks, John Halama), so I'll defend Melvin's move to bring in Guardado with a four-run lead in the ninth. The real issue is this: with Putz going through the typical highs and lows of a rookie season, who do we bring in to face tough righty hitters? Our best relievers against righties this year have been, in order, Guardado, Myers, and Villone, who are our closer, LOOGY, and long reliever, respectively. Have we really gotten to the point at which Ron Villone is our go-to guy in the eighth inning? Rafael Soriano can't get healthy soon enough (I feel like I've said this before).

Apparently, taking too many pitches was never Ichiro's problem. He's walking just as much in May as he did in April, but he's hitting 155 points better, with actual power. his .110 May isolated SLG (SLG - BA) is identical to his career figure (.109), so it looks like the real Ichiro could be back after all. He'll still be prone to extended slumps, since his value depends on his batting average, but he'll make up for them with ridiculously hot months like this one, where he all but carries the offense. He's also running just as often as he did last year (16% of the times he reaches base), so I don't want to hear any more complaining about how Melvin doesn't send him enough. The man stole 34 bases last year while running no more frequently than he is in 2004, so any and all complaints should be directed at the guy who's only 8-for-13 on SB attempts.

Willie Bloomquist is striking out once every 3.8 plate appearances. What do you have when you've got a gritty, powerless contact hitter who doesn't hit for contact? Someone who shouldn't be hitting in the #2 slot, anyway...

Edgar Martinez hit his 236th career home run as a designated hitter, breaking Harold Baines' record. He responded to the feat in typical Edgar fashion:

"This record is not like Pete Rose or's nice when it happens, but anyone can do it."

...reminding us all why we love Edgar Martinez. Bob Melvin thinks he's a Hall of Famer, which is one of the few things I agree with him on.

Rich Aurilia is now hitless in his last 12 at bats, dating back to an infield single against Detroit five days ago. Just when he was showing a few flashes of breaking out of this miserable, inexplicable slump, he's slipped right back into the abyss, and appears to be on the verge of being released. A magnificent example of my brilliant foresight, I thought that Aurilia was a nice little pickup at $3.5m (I still hated the Guillen trade), and as a result I've been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, a privilege that I haven't extended to Ibanez or Spiezio. Instead, it seems as if Aurilia is taking every opportunity to piss all over my olive branch, and I'm beginning to get fed up. A decline is one thing, but losing all ability to hit for average and power over a single winter, after coming over from a similarly extreme pitcher's park? I don't get it. One of the hypotheses I've heard time and time again is that Aurilia's past success was a function of his hitting in front of Barry Bonds; while I'm not one to put much stock in the value of lineup protection (and the numbers hardly even bear this out), I'd be willing to give him a week or two near the top of the lineup to see if hitting in front of Ibanez, Edgar, or Boone really does re-kindle some sort of lost magic. Sure, in his current state he'd be essentially the worst #2 hitter in baseball, but there's the potential for improvement, and it's not like we need these wins badly, anyway (sorry, Optimist). If he doesn't get it going soon, he'll be cut flat-out, and we can forget about getting any sort of return from a team like the Cubs. If we *do* go on and grant Rich his release papers, I'd like to see him return to San Francisco and finish the year on a strong note. They've been playing too much Neifi Perez, anyway...

I don't think Paul Molitor has had any significant effect on our hitting - certainly not a net positive effect, anyway - but if he's responsible for teaching Raul Ibanez to hit lefties, then more power to him...

Meche against Westbrook tonight, and we have to lose our next four games in order for my road trip prediction to come true. I wouldn't be surprised if we won tonight, though, only to lose to Pedro Martinez just as the Optimist starts to get excited.
I'll get to the recap in the morning. It's been a rough night for Jeff.

Maybe we'll see a return of the Optimist? Not if Pedro has anything to say about it.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma had a doubleheader today, after yesterday's game was rained out. They lost the first game to Iowa, 6-4. Matt Thornton struggled for four innings as the starter, while Luis Ugueto's three hits (including a homer) led the offense. Tacoma also lost the second game, 8-6. This time it was Craig Anderson's turn to struggle on the mound, and home runs by Bucky Jacobsen and Luis Ugueto (again!) didn't provide enough support. Justin Leone made his return from a bruised wrist and went 1-4 with a well-hit ball that was ruled an error. Notables:

Matt Thornton: 4 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 4 K
Hiram Bocachica: 0-7
Bucky Jacobsen: 3-5, 1 double, 1 homer, 1 BB
Jose Lopez: 1-7
Justin Leone: 1-4
Ben Davis: 1-3
Ramon Santiago: 1-3
Jamal Strong: 0-3, 1 BB

San Antonio lost to Round Rock, 7-5. 13 hits by the Missions' lineup weren't enough to overcome Juan Done's rough start, as he allowed six runs and twelve baserunners in 4.2 innings. Ben Christensen, one of the worst people to ever play the game of baseball, made his debut as a member of the organization. It's too bad, because he deserves severe punishment for what he did. Anyway, notables:

Dustin Dellucchi: 1-3, 1 BB
Hunter Brown: 2-5, 1 homer
Greg Dobbs: 2-3
Greg Jacobs: 1-4
Luis Oliveros: 2-4

Inland Empire lost to Lake Elsinore, 5-3. Bobby Livingston had a day to forget - five runs in five innings - as another farmhand pitcher had a rough day out of the gate. Three 66ers had multihit games. Notables:

Bobby Livingston: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR
Juan Gonzalez: 1-4
TJ Bohn: 2-3, 1 BB
Rene Rivera: 1-3, 1 homer, 1 BB
Hyung Cho: 0-3, 1 BB

Wisconsin lost to Quad Cities, 6-5, completing the worst day of the season for Mariners affiliates. This one featured a late meltdown, as Juan Ovalles coughed up two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Ryan Feierabend had a marginal start, while Josh Womack's three hits led the offense. Notables:

Ryan Feierabend: 6.1 IP, 4 R (3 ER), 3 BB, 3 K
Adam Jones: 2-5
Josh Womack: 3-4, 1 BB
Wladimir Balentien: 1-5
Chris Colton: 1-4, 1 BB

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Would Melvin please stop giving Boone his off-days when we're facing a lefty?

Leading into this mini-road trip of ours, I was predicting two wins, tops. Well, good things happen when you run into a team who's currently sucking even more than you are, so you can mark that as "one win down, one to go". Surviving three games in Cleveland is one thing; going up against both Pedro and Schilling in a series at Fenway is a whole nother story. I gotta say, I'm morbidly curious to see how our offense responds to facing Pedro Martinez, owner of a 1.00 ERA in 90 career innings against the Mariners. Will we get no-hit, or will there be some turn of horrible irony where we hand him his first loss *ever* against Seattle? Whatever, that's a few days from now.

Not much time right now, so I'll just run down the list:

  • That sound you heard a few hours ago was a sigh of relief from Shigetoshi Hasegawa. Today was just the second time all year that Hasegawa hasn't allowed a baserunner in at least one full inning of work.

  • I nailed it the other day when I predicted a multihit game for Raul Ibanez. He's on one of those little hot streaks of his that really piss me off, because the season's already gone, so the only satisfaction I can get from the year is knowing that I was right, and Bavasi was wrong. So prove me right, dammit.

  • I'm going out on a limb and saying that today represents the beginning of the end for Dan Wilson's magical year. No word yet on how many times I'll say this over the course of the season...

  • Going back a little bit, Raul Ibanez will imminently be deemed "Mr Clutch" by Seattleites for his perceived knack for winning games, even though he's hitting .182 in 'Close & Late' situations, and .242 (with no power) with runners in scoring position.

  • For once, saving Eddie Guardado for a late save situation worked out. That has to mean something, right?

  • Have you ever seen Willie Bloomquist and Jolbert Cabrera in the same room together?

  • Last year, Ryan Franklin's ERA was 169 points lower than his defense-independent ERA. This year, it's only 16 points lower.

  • Jody Gerut, Victor Martinez, and Travis Hafner are all essentially useless against left-handed pitchers. Hitting them consecutively in the lineup only makes Mike Myers' life a lot easier.

Moyer vs. Sabathia for game two of the series. Let's all pray that Olerud's left out of the lineup for this one.
Fun new article.

Clint Nageotte is being moved into Tacoma's bullpen to prepare for a likely call-up to the big squad pretty soon. Now, you may want to jump the gun and exclaim "They turning him into a reliever already?!?!?!", but this is the conservative approach that the organization's had for years; let guys get their feet wet out of the bullpen before entering the rotation. I don't think anyone's complaining about how Pineiro's turned out, after all.

Coincidentally, Nageotte's repertoire and high-leverage style *do* make him well-suited for a relief role, an idea that's been bandied about for a little while. He's still having trouble controlling his changeup, so having only two legitimate pitches prevents him from being able to pitch long into games against higher competition. Furthermore, he could still work on broadening his repertoire in bullpen sessions with Price, and shifting into the bullpen helps relieve some concerns that he's being worked too hard.

The only real issue I have with this decision is Melvin's quote: "I've always felt he'd be better as a reliever." Nevermind that Melvin's hardly seen Nageotte pitch at all since he got here; first impressions are hard to change, and Clint will have to develop one hell of an off-speed pitch if he wants to starts games for this team in the future.

My favorite part of the article is this little bit:

Tacoma left-hander George Sherrill has been the best of the Rainiers' relievers. He has a 1.80 ERA with 40 strikeouts and five walks in 25 innings. However, the Mariners don't need a left-hander.

Maybe they haven't been paying attention.
Time for some fun with numbers!

Scott Spiezio's real contract:
2004: $2.7m
2005: $3.1m
2006: $3.1m
2007: $3.25m option

Scott Spiezio's suggested deal, using the WARP Salary Calculator:
2004: $2.83m
2005: $2.12m
2006: $1.41m
2007: $1.41m option
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma vs. Iowa was rained out. It'll be made up tomorrow, as part of a doubleheader.

San Antonio lost to Midland, 9-5. Ten hits by the Missions weren't enough, as they suffered through another miserable start from Elvis Perez (seven runs in 4.1 IP). San Antonio didn't have an extra-base hit on the day. Notables:

Dustin Dellucchi: 2-4, 1 BB
Shin Soo-Choo: 2-5 (error)
Greg Jacobs: 1-5
Greg Dobbs: 2-5
Luis Oliveros: 0-3 (no walks in 100 AB's)
Hunter Brown: 0-5

Inland Empire fell to Lake Elsinore, 1-0. Juan Sandoval and Cesar Jimenez combined for a three-hitter, but the 66ers couldn't get anything going with the bats. TJ Bohn was the only hitter to reach base twice. Notables:

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

Wisconsin beat Quad Cities, 7-6, in ten innings. Brian Stitt blew a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth, but would up with the win as the Rattlers picked up a run in the next inning. Adam Jones hit Wisconsin's first grand slam of the year as part of a five-run sixth. Notables:

Jason Mackintosh: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 HR
Adam Jones: 2-5, 1 homer, 1 BB
Wladimir Balentien: 2-5, 1 double
Josh Womack: 2-5
Chris Colton: 1-5

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

As promised, I spent the afternoon doing a little tinkering with the old VORP Salary Calculator. I've gotten some pretty good comments about the original project, so why am I changing it? Well, reader Jordan Bullock sent me an email with a few suggestions, and I took some of the stuff to heart.

  • In the original spreadsheet, I averaged each individual's VORP/$1m, added them all up, and divided by the sample size. A better way to do this is to add up all the VORP, add up all the salary, and then divide.

  • VORP considers defensive *position*, but it doesn't include defensive proficiency. WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player), on the other hand, is an all-encompassing metric that gives the best idea of a player's complete skillset. Thus, the new project calculates WARP per $1m of salary, instead of VORP.

  • WARP (and VORP, for that matter) measure a player's production above that of a replacement player. We may assume that your typical run-of-the-mill replacement-level player will earn a salary of $300k (league minimum), so we subtract $300k from a given player's salary in order to come up with an adjusted figure, Salary Above Replacement Player.

  • Unlike with VORP, Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system projects future WARP values, so we can use these in calculating what a certain player's salary should be.

So, many hours later, I had my new spreadsheet completed. Here are the results, based on 2003 data (where SARP is Salary Above Replacement Player):

Position WARP/$1m SARP
Pitcher 0.76
DH 0.77
Catcher 0.77
First Base 0.80
Second Base 1.25
Shortstop 0.78
Third Base 0.99
Corner OF 0.76
Center Field 0.80

The first thing you notice is the remarkable consistency in the values for everything except second base and third base. Whether by some hidden design or not, pitchers, catchers, designated hitters, first basemen, shortstops, and outfielders were all getting paid approximately the same amount of money for similar performances. This is something that I will continue to keep an eye on in future versions of this project, as it's a pretty astounding coincidence. Second and third base were outliers because of some great years by lesser-paid players (Bill Mueller comes to mind); there weren't enough other players to negate the impact made by these players, whereas, say, with pitchers, there were plenty of guys there to balance out the Esteban Loaiza Experience.

There is a pretty fair standard deviation with these numbers, for a few reasons. The main issue is that I'm blending salaries of free agents and players who went through arbitration. Players with arbitration salaries typically deliver more bang for the buck, because they get paid less than they would on the open market. A lot of this is because of lingering long-term contracts from years past, when huge money was handed out to players whose performance didn't warrant such a reward. As seasons pass, free agent salaries will decline (remember when Derek Jeater's deal was justifiable?) and become more in line with the kind of money players get in arbitration, and for this reason I include both in the spreadsheet. Take this into consideration, though, as a free agent's WARP/$1m SARP will generally be lower than that of an arbitration-eligible player.

Another thing to consider is that a highly-skilled player will usually have a lower WARP/$1m SARP than a lesser player. For example, consider Gary Sheffield and John vander Wal.

WARP: 10.5
SARP: $10.7m

vander Wal
WARP: 2.6
SARP: $0.55m

Clearly, vander Wal is better, per dollar, than Gary Sheffield. Does this mean that you'd rather have the skilled pinch-hitter over the perennial All Star? Of course not. Players with high WARP ratings are tougher to find than useful role players, and so they command a premium on the open market. The relationship between WARP and salary is logarithmic, not linear.

So, all that said, is this tool still worth using? For the sake of brevity, yes, it is. Because it includes players throughout the talent spectrum, it should be usable for anyone, be they a Matt Stairs clone looking for a one-year deal, or Miguel Tejada, trying to find a place to call home for the next six years. Let's use everybody's favorite contract to try this thing out.

Raul Ibanez' Actual Contract
2004: $5.25m
2005: $3.75m
2006: $4.25m

Now, here are Raul's PECOTA-projected WARP values over those same three years:
2004: 1.7
2005: 1.4
2006: 1.3

If you refer back to the chart, you see that corner outfielders have an average WARP/$1m SARP of 0.76. Do some simple division, and you come up with the following contract (don't forget to add $300k to the resulting numbers):

Raul Ibanez' Ideal Contract
2004: $2.54m
2005: $2.14m
2006: $2.01m

There you have it; according to the WARP Salary Calculator, if we insisted upon signing Raul Ibanez for three years, we should have given him a bit under $7m. He isn't a very good bet to age well, yet we're paying him twice as much as this handy little tool says we should. Go figure.

I'll be updating this spreadsheet every year; I've already entered every player for next year's version into the spreadsheet, along with their 2004 adjusted salaries. If anyone is willing to host this spreadsheet for me, I would be most appreciative - that way, it will be available for all of you to look at, play with, critique, or what have you.

The last thing I want to say about it is this: the reason I don't include a category for relief pitchers is because there are so many good relievers each year getting paid close to the minimum that it would make contracts like Keith Foulke's look ridiculous. Seriously, the Expos seem to have a pipeline for these kinds of guys.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma lost to Iowa, 6-3. Scott Maynard lost his first start of the season, going five innings and allowing five runs, while the offense managed just seven hits. Hiram Bocachica had three of them, including a triple. Notables:

Jamal Strong: 0-3, 2 BB
Hiram Bocachica: 3-5, 1 triple
Bucky Jacobsen: 0-4
Jose Lopez: 0-3, 1 BB
Ramon Santiago: 0-3

San Antonio lost to Midland, 7-6. This one featured a late-inning meltdown, as a 6-1 seventh inning lead couldn't hold up. Tim Rall got the loss by allowing the winning run to score in the bottom of the ninth. Greg Dobbs and John Lindsey homered in a losing cause. Notables:

Shin-soo Choo: 1-4, 1 double, 1 BB
Hunter Brown: 3-5
Greg Dobbs: 1-4, 1 homer
Greg Jacobs: 0-3

Inland Empire had the day off.

Wisconsin lost to Quad Cities, 2-1. Thomas Oldham had a good start, allowing two runs in 6.1 innings, but the Rattlers could only muster five hits and six baserunners in the game. Notables:

Thomas Oldham: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR
Josh Ellison: 0-3, 1 BB
Adam Jones: 0-4
Josh Womack: 1-4, 1 double
Wladimir Balentien: 1-4

Thornton goes for the Rainiers tomorrow.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Next project: An update to the VORP Salary Calculator. Thanks to Jordan Bullock for pointing out some things I could fix.
Man, talk about your bad luck.

While nothing reportedly is imminent, Seattle is closest to a call-up from the minor leagues...It will not be infielder Justin Leone, who was hit by a pitch on the wrist Saturday and could be out a week or more.

Apparently, the front office is on the verge of blowing up the team, after denying such reports just days ago. While nobody wants a guy like Bill Bavasi to be in charge of determining the organization's direction for the next few years, this is the right decision, and the sooner it happens, the better. Not to mention we could all stand to have a little excitement, since the best moment of the year so far has been Raul Ibanez' walkoff homer on April 20th.

Finnigan mentions the 40man roster as an issue - we're currently full - but if/when they bite the bullet and put Aaron Looper on the 60-day DL, then we'll have a free spot, allowing us to call up Sherrill, Jacobsen, or anyone else not already on the roster. We'd run into a little trouble when Taylor and Looper are healthy again, but by that point the rebuilding should be well underway, and we should have a number of open spots.

Now, the article mentions that we're looking for A) young catchers, and B) young, athletic outfielders (we can only hope that by "athletic", they mean "capable of playing a good center field"). I like Ramon Castro, and I think he'd hit for a lot of power if someone gave him the everyday gig, but he's already 28, and the organization would frown upon his questionable off-the-field background. It doesn't help that he hasn't hit at all this year. A far more likely choice would be Yorvit Torrealba, who's 25 years old, plays tremendous defense, and hits for pretty good contact and power. He's been relegated to backup duties in San Francisco with AJ Pierzynski in town, so he could come cheap. Keep an eye on him.

As for "young, athletic outfielders", I wonder if the organization is capable of telling the difference between a guy like Vernon Wells and a guy like Wilkin Ruan or Endy Chavez. No, we aren't going to land Wells in any trade, but he's got the kind of abilities that this team needs - hits for contact and power while playing a good defensive CF. Endy Chavez, on the other hand, hits for contact, and looks like he plays a good defensive CF, just because he runs so fast and occasionally hurls his body into fences. We haven't shown the ability to make a distinction between these types of ballplayers in the past, so if we wind up with a wheelbarrow full of little Alex Sanchezes by the time the rebuilding process is over, don't say you didn't see it coming.

It's too bad Mike Restovich isn't particularly athletic.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma shut out Omaha, 4-0. Travis Blackley was positively brilliant, lowering his ERA to 2.96 with seven magnificent innings. Randy Williams picked up the four-out save, his second on the year. It was a down game for the Rainiers offense, but they still managed to tag Omaha starter Chris George with the loss by clawing out four runs (two earned). Notables:

Travis Blackley: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 9 K
Jamal Strong: 0-3, 1 BB
Jose Lopez: 1-3, 1 homer, 1 BB
Bucky Jacobsen: 0-3
Ben Davis: 1-3, 1 double
Ramon Santiago: 0-3

San Antonio lost to Midland, 7-5. A late 5-1 lead couldn't hold up, as Emiliano Fruto, Tim Rall, and Rick Guttormson combined to allow six runs combined in the seventh and eighth innings. Rich Dorman started the game but walked six hitters in four innings. The Missions did manage to collect 14 hits, with Hunter Brown recording three of them. Notables:

Shin-soo Choo: 2-5
Greg Jacobs: 0-4, 1 BB
Greg Dobbs: 2-4, 1 triple
Luis Oliveros: 2-4, 1 double

Inland Empire lost to Lancaster, 7-2. TA Fulmer was beat up in five innings of work (3-3), and the 66ers could muster just seven hits and two walks. Gary Harris led the offense with two hits, while Vince Faison continued his recent tear since returning from injury. Notables:

TA Fulmer: 5 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (1 HBP)
Juan Gonzalez: 1-4
Hyung Cho: 0-4
TJ Bohn: 1-4
Vince Faison: 1-4, 1 homer
Matt Hagen: 0-3
Rene Rivera: 0-4

Wisconsin vs. West Michigan was rained out. No make-up date announced yet.

Say what you will about this team, but they'll do whatever they can to avoid slipping below a .333 winning percentage. They've won their last three games in which they had the chance of falling below the line by a combined score of 26-3. Freddy Garcia was the beneficiary of this one, as the Mariners managed enough offense to get him the win. We've scored just 21 runs in Garcia's nine starts - 2.33 per game - good enough for the lowest run support of any starter in the major leagues.

The three guys that pitched today (Garcia, Putz, Guardado) have a combined ERA of 2.34. The rest of the team is at 5.28.

Raul Ibanez seems to be taking over where Mike Cameron left off, in terms of streakiness; the only difference is that Raul throws in an isolated good game every now and then to stop the slumps. He's seeing the ball pretty well right now, as evidenced by his nine-pitch AB in the sixth, and our next game is against right-handed Jason Davis, who keeps the ball down but doesn't strike out many batters (career 4.64 K/9). Don't be surprised if Ibanez has another multihit game tomorrow, perhaps with a groundball double down the line...

The story of the game, as David already mentioned, was Guardado getting the ball in a tough eighth inning situation. I'll get to that later, after talking about Freddy Garcia. He was struggling with his command all game, throwing just 54% strikes (62 out of 114 pitches), and getting first-pitch strikes on just 13 of 28 batters faced. He's had a little streak of effective wildness over his last three starts, in which he's thrown 355 pitches but just 198 for strikes (56%). While everything else is going well, Freddy's inefficiency is all that's preventing him from becoming the 2001 Garcia again. His count is getting too high too quickly, and he's been slapped around when his pitch count reaches the 105-110 range. That said, if he's ever going to become a workhose in the mold of Bartolo Colon, now's the time to try it out; he's in his age-27 season, beyond the stages of having to worry about long-term arm damage, and although he's averaging a career-high 110 pitches per start, he's showing no ill effects and posting terrific numbers. This is something to keep an eye on as the season progresses, though - he's been ridden hard, and could break down in the second half. If he passes the test, then he'll be getting that much more money on the open market. Guys who throw 240 innings of sub-3 ERA ball have a lot of value (go figure).

The biggest reason for Freddy's success? Limiting the home runs. After allowing nearly one per start in 2002/2003, he's only given up four bombs in nine starts and 63 innings. That's already more than half a run off his ERA...

In the eighth inning, JJ Putz got himself into a little jam. He walked Guillen after getting ahead of him 1-2 in the count, and then Ivan Rodriguez hit one off Putz' foot and reached first. Two on, none out, 3-1 lead, with a lefty coming to the plate. Sounds like a Mike Myers situation, right?


Remember this article?

"It's close to the time to have to do something a little differently. I don't know exactly when," Mariners manager Bob Melvin said. "We have what we have, and it's not working."

Bob Melvin changed his usual approach, and it paid off in a big way. He got Bobby Higginson to get himself out with a bad bunt, then whiffed Craig Monroe, a guy who punished southpaws last year (and probably would've drilled anything Myers threw his way). After walking Rondell White, Guardado got Brandon Inge to strike out looking on three pitches. No runs score, and we're still ahead 3-1 going into the bottom of the eighth. Despite the 16 pitches, Melvin leaves Eddie in there to face the incredible trio of Greg Norton, Omar Infante, and Alex Sanchez in the ninth for the save. We win.

Did something actually click inside Melvin's head, or was something else the matter? I'm very cautious to assume the former; Mike Myers had thrown in the previous two games, including a 19-pitch effort on Friday, and it is very possible that the only reason Guardado saw action in the eighth inning was because Myers was unavailable. Even so, perhaps now Melvin will realize the benefit of using your best pitcher in the most important situations.

Can you imagine how this would have gone had Eddie stayed in the bullpen?

Situation: Men on first and second, none out, Bobby Higginson up. Melvin puts Mike Myers into the game.

Higginson tries to bunt anyway. The odds of popping up a bunt are pretty slim, but we'll give Myers the benefit of the doubt and assume that he'd do the same thing Guarado did. Now there's one out.

Craig Monroe comes to the plate

Monroe isn't very patient, but he has good power and hits lefties pretty well. Myers pitches around him, making sure not to leave anything in the zone, and walks him on five pitches. Bases loaded, one out, for Carlos Pena, who struggles against lefti-...but wait! What's this?? Right-handed Rondell White is sent to the plate to pinch-hit for Pena! What brilliant strategy! Melvin has to insert Shigetoshi Hasegawa into the game. Loaded, one out.

Rondell White comes to the plate

Oops! Hasegawa shows no real platoon split over his career, and righties have hit him well this year. White, conveniently, has hit right-handed pitchers for more power over his career, and is having a good month. A double into the left-center gap clears the bases, and we're trailing 4-3. Use your imagination on the outcome of the Hasegawa/Inge faceoff.

Melvin's tactical thinking made sure that we won this game. I'm not going to jump the gun and say that this is a permanent change, but it was nice to see, and similar managing in the future would really reverse my opinion of him. His bullpen management is, by far, his biggest flaw.

You might've missed it, but John Olerud homered today, going the other way with a Jeremy Bonderman pitch. That's the only good thing I can say about him right now.

Ryan Franklin against Jason Davis tomorrow, at Jacobs Field. The Indians hit righties to the tune of a .292/.378/.451 line. Good times.
If I told you that Jamie Moyer's defense-independent ERA was 5.73, would you believe me?
You see, Bob? Good things happen when you use your bullpen properly.

Two on, none out, top of the eighth, trying to protect a 3-1 lead: Melvin brings in Guardado!

He managed to get out of it without allowing a run. Go figure.

Only the future can tell us whether this happened because Melvin's really decided to change his managing style (as he hinted at in this morning's article), or if it was just because he used the rest of his pitchers yesterday.
A few things about this article:

First, Bob Sherwin stole my chart. Look at the very bottom of the article, then look here, down a little bit. Grr.


Bavasi has said that it's not a trading atmosphere yet. Only teams such as Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Montreal — along with Seattle — have slipped to double-digit deficits. The other teams believe they are still in the hunt, which means they aren't ready to make any personnel changes yet.

This runs counter to what Steve (via Will Carroll) has reported.


"It's close to the time to have to do something a little differently. I don't know exactly when," Mariners manager Bob Melvin said. "We have what we have, and it's not working."

In other words, "I'll have to change what I'm doing sometime; it could be soon, but it could be a while from now, I don't know. I kinda like what I've been doing, and it's the players' fault for not coming through."

What happened to the Bob Melvin we hired, the guy who valued OBP and was able to overlook things like inflated batting averages?

Fourth, can Melvin please stop using the word "frustrated"? There are a bunch of synonyms.

1-through-3 spots in the lineup today:

Detroit: 7-13, 2 doubles, 1 BB
Seattle: 0-11, 1 BB

On one of the rare nights where the middle of our lineup actually hit like the middle of a lineup (6-for-12 with a double and a homer), they had nobody to drive in. The result? No run support for Joel Pineiro, and another frustrating loss (although they *are* getting easier to swallow). A terrific start was ruined by some horrifying work by the bullpen, and it didn't take long for the boo birds to make their presence known in the eighth inning.

What better place to start than with Pineiro? He had his fourth consecutive "quality start", and third legitimately good game in a row. After another trademarked Pineiro Rocky Start, he retired the final 13 batters he faced, needing just 44 pitches to do so. Joel's history shows the following trend:

  • Early innings: Vulnerable, wild

  • Middle innings: Consistent, good control, allows a few homers

  • Late innings: Lights-out

Tonight was no different. After struggling out of the gate and putting the home team behind by one just five batters into the game, Joel settled into a groove and went on to have perhaps his best start of the season. Chart time.

Stat April May
IP/start 5.67 7.00
H/9 14.6 8.04
K/9 7.94 5.46
BB/9 4.13 2.57
HR/9 1.91 0.96
ERA 8.26 2.89

I've said it before - Joel is prone to some rough stretches (see last August) when he starts overthrowing the ball. Anyone who's ever pitched knows what happens; you try to blow the ball by everyone by putting your entire body into every pitch, but all you wind up doing is losing command while leaving the ball up. Sure, it'll give you a few more strikeouts when you get lucky with location, but the typical result is more walks and more homers allowed. This was certainly the case with Pineiro in April, and it will be worth keeping an eye on to see whether or not Price is able to sort this out and prevent future recurrences. This is more anecdotal than anything else, but I'd start overthrowing the ball after my defense made a few clumsy mistakes behind me. Y'know, when the guys in the field can't catch the ball, you try to do it all yourself, right? I wouldn't be surprised if this were Joel's problem earlier in the year.

Moral of the story? Don't worry about Pineiro, he'll be fine. He won't return to 2002 form (thanks, Defense!), but he'll still be the same dependable #2 that he's been for more than two years.

Scott Spiezio has four doubles and two home runs in his last six games. His .194 ISO is the highest it's been since 2000, when he was a productive part-timer with Anaheim. His performance so far is exactly what we could've used last year, as part of a lineup that got on base at a pretty good rate but was lacking for power. Instead, he's just soaking up outs (.314 OBP) like the rest of the team, just scattering a few extra-base hits in-between. If you've ever entertained thoughts about picking up Jared Sandberg for his age-27 season, this is what he'd look like...

Jolbert Cabrera's down to .301/.320/.356 after bunting out in the ninth. The man has drawn just a single walk so far on the year. And people think the guy's productive? All right, he's been a nice little weapon against righties, but his perceived value soars well above his actual worth because he makes some flashy plays in the field while slapping a single or two every game. He'd be a real asset as the last man on the bench - a .300 hitter who can play shortstop and a mean center field - but he's dangerously close to relieving Rich Aurilia of his everyday duties (it seems only Boone's difficulties at the plate are keeping this from becoming a reality). I'm not sure what's worse; that Jolbert Cabrera and Dan Wilson are two of our three .300 hitters, or that Dan Wilson's been the best one.

We were actually leading the game at one point, but then we came to the eighth inning. Pineiro was crusing, but his pitch count was getting up there and it was time to take him out. JJ Putz came in - it's funny how quickly you can earn respect from your manager when everybody else sucks - and promptly had a miserable day. He allowed a single, a double, and a walk before getting yanked, with the only out being an inexplicable Carlos Guillen sacrifice bunt (seriously, Trammell seems like a terrible manager). Now, he's the bad part: Bob Melvin was getting ready to bring Eddie Guardado in from the bullpen to face Higginson and Pena, if the inning got that far, but the minute Pudge tied it up with an RBI double, Guardado was no longer an option. With men on first and second with one out in a tie game, Melvin apparently decided that the situation no longer called for the team's best pitcher getting an opportunity. No, Mike Myers came in and walked Higginson before fanning Greg Norton, a bizarre move by Trammell that I already mentioned. Lefties are suddenly reaching base at a .344 clip against Myers. They aren't hitting for any power whatsoever, but what good is it when your #1 southpaw reliever can't even retire the only guys he's supposed to face two-thirds of the time? I used to defend Myers, but no more - he's reverting back to the fungible level of play that made him settle for a minor league contract in the first place.

And then Mateo came in and it all went to hell. Blah, blah, blah, we're down 6-2. Cue the booing. Mateo's already allowed three more doubles than he did all of last season. Twelve now, in just 19.2 innings. What's worse is that the rest of his peripherals are pretty good; he's not walking too many guys, his K/BB is over two, and he's not allowing many homers. He remains an extreme flyball pitcher, but where his BABIP was .240 last year (thank you, Mike Cameron), it's now .410 (thank you, Raul Ibanez and Randy Winn). Nobody's been hurt more by our team defense than Julio Mateo, and it's a shame to see him getting charged with so many runs when he's obviously made a conscious effort to cut down on his home runs allowed (his only flaw in 2003). Yeah, you'd like to see the walks go down and the strikeouts go up, but the man's ERA is 164 points above his defense-independent ERA. That's bad.

Garcia vs. Bonderman in an afternoon game. You know what they say about afternoon games.


Well anyway, watch as the Mariners try to avoid slipping below a .333 winning percentage for the first time since April 29th! It's fun for the whole family, particularly the name-shaming black sheep who can relate to so many players on the team.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

The Leone-less Rainiers nevertheless beat Omaha, 5-3. Clint Nageotte and George Sherrill survived two more Calvin Pickering bombs in earning their fourth win and save, respectively. Bucky Jacobsen's three-run homer in the seventh inning was the difference. Notables:

Clint Nageotte: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 2 HR
George Sherrill: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 4 K, 1 HR
Jamal Strong: 1-4
Jose Lopez: 0-3, 1 BB
Bucky Jacobsen: 2-4, 1 homer
Ramon Santiago: 0-3, 1 BB

San Antonio had a doubleheader. They won the first game over Midland, 9-5. Renee Cortez got the win in relief of a suddenly-struggling Troy Cate, and John Lindsey's four RBI led the offense. The Missions dropped the second game, though, 4-2. Gustavo Martinez was beat up for seven hits and ten baserunners in 5.1 innings. San Antonio managed just six hits in the second game. Notables:

Troy Cate: 4 IP, 8 H, 5 R (4 ER), 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR
Dustin Delucchi: 2-7, 1 double
Shin-soo Choo: 2-8, 1 double
Greg Dobbs: 0-7
Greg Jacobs: 3-5, 1 double, 1 triple, 2 BB
Hunter Brown: 2-5, 1 double, 2 BB
Luis Oliveros: 1-4, 1 homer

Inland Empire beat Lancaster, 8-7. After blowing a 7-1 lead, the 66ers put one across in the bottom of the ninth to win. Miguel Martinez got the win, with the goat of the pitching staff being Tanner Watson (five runs allowed in just 0.1 innings). Matt Rogelstad's four hits led the offense, which managed 16 in all. Notables:

Ryan Rowland-Smith: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
Juan Gonzalez: 3-5
TJ Bohn: 1-5, 1 double
Vince Faison: 2-4, 1 double, 1 BB
Rene Rivera: 1-5
Matt Hagen: 2-4

Wisconsin beat West Michigan, 7-3. Eric O`Flaherty got the win despite a shaky outing, and Wladimir Balentien continued his recent tear with another home run. Brian Stitt picked up his ninth save. Notables:

Eric O`Flaherty: 6.1 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
Wladimir Balentien: 2-3, 1 homer, 1 BB
Adam Jones: 0-3, 1 BB
Josh Womack: 2-4
Josh Ellison: 0-4