Saturday, June 26, 2004

Justin Leone was left off the PCL All Star roster.

George Sherrill, Travis Blackley, and Bucky Jacobsen made it in.

Brian Dallimore, a .322/.387/.412 hitter for Fresno, appears to have made it at Leone's expense.

This is unrelated with the game we played earlier tonight, but I just found out and wanted to share with all of you the horrifying news:

In their quest for more offensive pop, the Mariners were shut down by the Detroit Tigers earlier this week in an attempt to acquire versatile Brandon Inge.

According to sources, the Mariners offered the Tigers right-handed starter Gil Meche straight up for Inge...

Brandon Inge is not a terrible ballplayer. He's always been a strong defensive catcher with a powerful throwing arm, and now he's adding some versatility to the mix, as he's played games at catcher, third base, and all three outfield positions so far this season. Defense and flexibility are good and all, but they don't mean much coming from a .198/.254/.314 career hitter. For the first three years of Inge's major league career, he was an abysmal hitter, which makes this year's first half performance so surprising. His .865 OPS would be the best on our roster, and he's made some considerable improvements with his plate discipline, boosting his walks and cutting down on his strikeouts. As a result, Inge is seeing better pitches to drive, and he's responded by clubbing seven home runs and 15 extra-base hits in just 165 at bats. His minor league track record hinted at some future power potential, as 43% of his hits went for extra bases, but it never showed any signs that Inge would someday be able to hit for average while drawing a few walks. Now in his age-27 season, you'd like to believe that Inge has turned the corner and become a pretty good ballplayer, but you've got 165 at bats showing that he's a good hitter to go against more than 2000 at bats showing that he sucks. Needless to say, I'm skeptical that he will be able to keep hitting this well over a full season, and even his 90% PECOTA projection gives him a paltry .240/.353/.388 line (.277 EqA).

Inge, so far this year, has hit much better when he isn't behind the plate, lending some credence to the theory that defensive position has an effect on offensive productivity. Thus, you can't assume that he'd continue hitting like this if he were a full-time catcher, which takes away a chunk of his value. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Inge winds up splitting the difference and putting up a line somewhere between his career numbers to date and his hot start - something in the neighborhood of .255/.325/.420. Does that have much value as a starting third baseman? Not really, but there are worse things to have than a utility player with pop who can play a mean backstop every once in a while.

Is this a risk that you'd be willing to take, though, that Brandon Inge has suddenly figured out how to hit after six years of substandard productivity? Is that gamble worth giving up Gil Meche, an exceedingly frustrating pitcher who habitually walks the thin line between superstardom and Jamey Wright? There is no question that Meche has eye-popping stuff, but results post-surgery suggest that he may be better off in the bullpen, where he might be able to harness his stuff and turn into Brad Lidge. Many people have stated that Meche could benefit from a change of scenery, being able to start ballgames in a low-pressure environment for another big league team, but do you really want to give up on him this instant, if all you're getting in return is a utility player who may or may not really be able to hit?

I'm not sure which is worse - that we proposed the deal, or that Detroit turned it down. Dave Dombrowski is a smart man, but he seems to be struggling with the notion of "sell high", as there's virtually no chance at all that Inge keeps up his current pace. Perhaps the more important point to take from all this is that, despite what we all say, the market for Gil Meche isn't as lucrative as we thought. If Brandon Inge is the type of player we've targeted, and other teams have turned down our proposals, then realistically speaking the market is a step below players of Inge's quality - I'm talking the Aaron Mileses of the world. That's not worth trading Meche for.

Hopefully you've forgotten about the game by now...

As a San Diegan who spends the first and last months of the baseball season residing in Hartford, I don't get very many opportunities to watch the Mariners on TV. Thus, whenever I get the chance, I feel obligated to watch, regardless of how poorly the team is performing. And so imagine my frustration when I flipped it on just in time to see Freddy put the first four Padres on base, allowing two runs in the process. I found myself shouting things about Garcia's trade value to nobody in particular, watching in horror as we were down 3-0 before Ichiro saw a single pitch. Freddy really turned it on, though, needing just 79 pitches to get through the next eight innings without allowing a run. He retired 24 of the final 27 batters he faced - the final 14 in order - giving up just a single and two walks in the process. While San Diego's offense has been in a brutal slump, pitching as well as Freddy did tonight has to be acknowledge, regardless of opponent, and the standing ovation he received from the 40,918 fans in attendance while walking to the dugout in the ninth was well deserved. At just 96 pitches, you get the feeling like he would've gone out there for the tenth had we tied it up.

...and we might have tied it up, if not for a baserunning gaffe by Hiram Bocachica. In the bottom of the ninth, Edgar Martinez pinch-hit for Dan Wilson with two outs and a runner on second. Edgar hit a grounder up the middle that Loretta was able to reach, but his throw pulled Nevin off the bag and Edgar was safe at first. It looked like Ichiro would have a chance to tie it up when Nevin threw to third, catching Bocachica too far off the bag. Burroughs applied the tag, and the game was over. If nothing else, this team leads the league in finding original, innovative ways to lose ballgames.

After the game, Bocachica said that he was just trying to be aggressive, and he apologized for running through Dave Myers' stop sign and letting the team and its fans down. While a little hustle here and there is a good thing, and trusting Myers' judgment is a bad idea at the best of times, Bocachica should have known to stop at third base. The ball never left the infield and Nevin had control of it the whole time at first base, so there was no reason to round third so hard and wind up that far off the base. It was a lapse in judgment, displaying an ignorance of fundamentals to which you'd think Hiram would be immune, given his 10+ years of professional baseball experience. That said, it never would have happened if Nevin had stayed on the bag like a competent first baseman. Either Edgar's retired on the groundball or Bocachica is caught napping. We deserved an out on that play, so I suppose I shouldn't complain that much.

Scott Linebrink just blew Ichiro away in the seventh inning. He didn't have a chance of catching up to those 96 mph inside fastballs.

Rich Aurilia was hitting third today. Seriously.

In the bottom of the ninth, Dave Hansen drew a leadoff walk against Trevor Hoffman, and Jolbert Cabrera followed with a sacrifice bunt that advanced pinch-runner Bocachica to second base. Given that Cabrera has actually been one of our "hottest" hitters of late - good enough to convince Melvin to bat him #3 yesterday - I'm not completely sure that I understand the decision. He probably isn't going to hit into a DP in that situation, and the worst-case scenario is a strikeout or flyout that forces Hiram to stay at first base. Even if this happens, you've got Spiezio and Edgar coming up next, two decent extra-base threats who are just as capable of tying the game up with a man on first as they are with a man on second. Spiezio's also a decent contact hitter, so you can send Bocachica on a hit-and-run and see how things turn out. As I'm sure you've noticed over the course of the season, I'm generally not a fan of bunting, particularly when it means giving away the out in the ninth inning when you're already struggling enough to get guys on base. This was just bad strategy.

Olerud's slowing bat was pretty evident today; while he smacked three singles, at least two of them were pitches that he used to be able to drive a long way. In the bottom of the sixth, Lawrence hung a slider that was supposed to hit the low-inside corner, the same pitch that Olerud bashed for a homer on June 16th, 2001, when he hit for the cycle in San Diego. Olerud yanked it into right field for a single, but five years ago it would've wound up hitting the wall or the front rows of seats.

Also, the "Olé Olé Olé" walkup music that the Safeco PA guys play for Olerud at bats might just be the most inappropriate selection I've ever heard; not only is "Olé" pronounced differently than "Ole", John's nickname, but the song itself implies a festive and jovial personality, which couldn't be further from the truth.

Villone - Valdez tomorrow, at 7:05. It's pretty much a free day for RoVo; a good start boosts his trade value, but if he gets chased early, then he still draws attention for his performance out of the bullpen. As an added bonus, a swift exit for Villone means that we could see Matt Thornton try to collect more walks than pitches thrown. Good times.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

It took 12 innings for Tacoma to beat Fresno, 4-3. Bucky Jacobsen hit a three-run homer and walked four times to lead the offense, but an AJ Zapp RBI double in the twelth proved to be the difference in the game. Jared Hoerman picked up the win with a scoreless inning, while George Sherrill tossed a 1-2-3 twelfth for his ninth save. Notables:

George Sherrill: 1 IP, 1 K
Justin Leone: 0-6
Jamal Strong: 0-5, 1 BB
Greg Jacobs: 0-3, 2 BB
Ben Davis: 1-3, 1 double, 1 BB
Greg Dobbs: 2-6
Bucky Jacobsen: 1-2, 1 homer, 4 BB

San Antonio ralled to beat El Paso, 4-3. Tim Rall allowed a homer to Jesus Cota and an RBI single to Mike DiRosa in the top of the ninth that made it a 3-2 ballgame, but the Missions ralled for a matching pair in the bottom of the ninth, as Shin-soo Choo and John Lindsey had RBI hits. Choo drove in three runs on the day, while Phil Devey was strong in 6.2 innings. Notables:

Phil Devey: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Shin-soo Choo: 2-4, 1 homer
Ryan Christianson: 0-3
Dustin Delucchi: 1-4
Hunter Brown: 0-3
Luis Oliveros: 0-2

Inland Empire beat High Desert, 8-5. Trailing 5-1 entering the ninth, the 66ers exploded for seven runs (just three earned) in the ninth off of Homero Rivera, with Gary Harris and TJ Bohn hitting bombs in the furious rally. Bobby Livingston got the start and allowed five runs in seven innings. Notables:

Bobby Livingston: 7 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 HR
TJ Bohn: 1-3, 1 homer, 1 BB
Matt Hagen: 0-2, 2 BB
Brian Lentz: 2-4, 1 triple
Gary Harris: 1-5, 1 homer

Wisconsin beat Peoria, 7-2. Nibaldo Acosta went six strong in picking up his fourth victory of the year (against eight losses), and Adam Jones led the offense with three hits, including a triple. A four-run fifth for the Rattlers put the game well out of reach. Notables:

Adam Jones: 3-4, 1 triple
Josh Womack: 2-4
Chris Colton: 0-4
Justin Ruchti: 0-2, 1 BB
Eric Blakeley: 1-3, 1 triple

Everett lost to Yakima, 8-7. The Aquasox ralled from an early 6-1 deficit, but Mumba Rivera allowed the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth that stood up as the winner. Ivan Blanco was chased after three innings for Everett, but Omar Falcon and Elvis Cruz led the comeback effort with three hits apiece. Notables:

Elvis Cruz: 3-4, 1 double, 1 homer, 1 BB
Omar Falcon: 3-3, 1 homer, 2 BB
Brandon Green: 0-5
Casey Craig: 0-3, 2 BB
Josh Ellison: 2-4, 1 double, 1 BB
Brent Johnson: 1-4, 1 BB
Yung-Chi Chen: 0-5

Friday, June 25, 2004

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned in the past seven months is that it's never a good idea to blog when you're angry, so I'm going to step away for a little while and clear my head. Look for a recap in four or five weeks.

Does anyone watch more third strikes than this sack of crap team?

With two men in scoring position, two outs, and a 1-2 count, Jolbert Cabrera just watches a pitch catch the lower part of the zone.

Don't they teach you to protect the plate with two strikes in little league?
Matt Thorton up, Ramon Santiago down. Ron Villone will get the start tomorrow. Yippie!
This is exactly what I was afraid of. Even though I am somewhat opposed to trading Garcia without offering an extension first, the M's seem hellbent on Garcia not returning in 2005. In order to maximize the return the M's might get in a trade, the M's need to keep the White Sox in the Garcia trade hunt. Hopefully, Bavasi and Co. realize this.

What the hell does "in position to be in a race" mean, anyway?

You might've missed it - if you were in a coma - but the Rangers finished their sweep of the Mariners in extended fashion today, defeating Seattle 9-7 in 18 innings. Alfonso Soriano hit a walk-off two-run homer off of Jamie Moyer with none out in the 18th, in Moyer's first bullpen appearance since 1996 and first ever with Seattle. Of course, it wouldn't have been necessary to use tomorrow's scheduled starter in today's game, had it not been for some managerial strategy that I'll touch on later.

Some numbers for you:


Give up? Here's the answer key:

-At bats in the series
-Left On Base
-Extra-base hits

Against Texas' 3-4-5 starters, in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in baseball, our lineup managed a .197/.299/.291 line. The Rangers, on the other hand, hit .353 as a team, with Rod Barajas hitting as many homers in the series as our entier roster combined. It's a wonder that only one of the games was a legitimate blowout.

Bob Melvin, master strategist, shuffled around the top of the lineup, moving Ichiro back to the leadoff slot and batting Jolbert Cabrera at #3. The baseball equivalent of storming a castle with a fleet of sword-brandishing midgets on Vespas, Cabrera predictably failed to produce, finishing the day 1-9 and lowering his season line to .292/.311/.382. Memo to Bob: just because the guy makes contact and runs reasonably well doesn't make him a good choice to be a middle-of-the-order hitter. There's a lot more Wee Willie in Jolbert than any of us would like to acknowledge, but this may be why Melvin seems to have fallen in love with his shiny new utility player. Don't be surprised if you see a similar lineup for the next few days, despite the fact that Edgar Martinez's presence today was the only thing keeping the offense from being absolutely, 100% godawful. Edgar accounted for seven of the 20 times a Mariner reached base today, and given that he was hitting in front of Rich Aurilia, it comes as no surprise that Texas pitched around him all day long.

The story of the day (as it turned out) was Melvin's bullpen management, which was, shall we say, less than stellar. Ron Villone, Julio Mateo, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, and Mike Myers all combined for two innings and 31 pitches. Yanking Villone was forgiveable, with two on and one out with Kevin Mench coming to the plate, but there was no reason to replace Mateo with Hasegawa before the eighth, and it came back to haunt us. Of course, Villone isn't a situational lefty and shouldn't be used that way, so Myers would have been the better choice to face Fullmer/Teixeira in the seventh. You replace him with Mateo when the moment comes, and suddenly you find yourself with two extra pitchers, each of whom are capable of throwing multiple innings if need be. I've often chastised Melvin for being too much of a knee-jerk manager when it comes to using the bullpen, as he makes move after move without so much as batting an eyelash, and today it caught up with him.

You have to wonder if we'll see some second half fatigue from Mateo, Villone, and Hasegawa, as they're each on pace to set career-highs in appearances...

Scott Spiezio's line:


Justin Leone's translated line, prior to tonight's game:


I'm just sayin'.

The four walks Moyer allowed in today's three-inning relief appearance is the most he's given up since August 21st, 2002, against Toronto, where he walked five in six innings...

Ramon Santiago couldn't hit in Tacoma. Now that he's up in the Majors, he can't hit here, either. Check it out, Bill, turns out that minor league numbers mean something after all...

No, I'm not worried about Pineiro. As long as he's striking guys out and not walking anyone in his starts, then he's going to do well, despite difficulties behind him in the field. Ten of 24 balls in play against Joel dropped for hits today, raising his season BABIP to .313. Pineiro's dERA is 25 points lower than his actual 4.77 figure.

By the way, we are now 0-3 since Bavasi and Lincoln claimed that we were still in the race.

Freddy gets the start tomorrow on normal rest (the rotation was pushed back to accomodate the offday on Monday), but since Hasegawa/Mateo/Villone/Myers got so little work today, each of them should be available in relief. Saturday will be a different story, as one of our starters would have to pitch on short rest, but since we know that Melvin is such a conventional guy, you'll probably see Gil Meche called up from Tacoma (with Santiago sent down?) to make the start.
Couple of quick side notes tonight:

~Anyone else see a minor resemblence between picture A and picture B?

~This season has been a lot like playing blackjack in Las Vegas. You walk up to a table and buy a $100 worth of chips and proceed to have some of the worst luck possible. Loss after loss. Finally you are down to your last $10 in chips. You tell yourself that you will play one more hand and then head to your room. You win. So you rationalize with yourself and decide to play one more hand. You win. You win again. And you win again. At this point after all the losing, you are convinced that your luck has turned. So you get comfortable in your chair and order yourself another drink. You win. You lose. You lose the next three hands.

The end result is inevitable, just sometimes you just don't want to believe it until you are faced with the harsh reality that you are completely out of chips.

~The return of Jeff Cirillo!
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma fell to Fresno, 6-5. An eighth-inning meltdown cost the Rainiers the game, as Randy Williams and the struggling George Sherrill combined to allow four runs in the inning. Craig Anderson allowed two runs and six baserunners in 5.1, while Leone and Jacobsen hit homers to lead the offense. Remember Craig Kuzmic? He was playing 3b for Fresno. Notables:

Craig Anderson: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K
George Sherrill: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER
Justin Leone: 1-4, 1 homer
Bucky Jacobsen: 2-3, 1 homer
Jamal Strong: 0-2
Ben Davis: 1-4
Greg Dobbs: 1-4
Greg Jacobs: 0-4

Thornton goes tomorrow.

San Antonio beat El Paso, 7-4. The Missions chased Clint Goocher, scoring six runs before Goocher could make it out of the first. Juan Done pitched decently after being spotted to a six-run lead, allowing three men to cross in six innings of work for his sixth win. San Antonio's 3-6 hitters all had two hits apiece. Notables:

Dustin Delucchi: 0-3, 1 BB
Hunter Brown: 1-3, 1 triple, 1 BB
Shin-soo Choo: 2-2, 1 double, 2 BB
Ryan Christianson: 2-4, 1 double
Luis Oliveros: 1-3, 1 double, 1 BB

Inland Empire lost to High Desert, 9-4. Juan Sandoval recorded his seventh loss after allowing eight runs in five, as the Mavericks scored seven runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Four Missions had two-hit games, with Jon Nelson hitting the token bomb. Notables:

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

Livingston going for his ninth win tomorrow.

Wisconsin lost to Peoria, 7-1. Jason Mackintosh had a rough go of it this time around, and the Rattlers were unable to get any semblance of a rally going against Mark Michael. Wisconsin put together eight hits in all - six singles and two doubles, led by Nick Orlandos' three total bases. Casey Abrams threw a scoreless inning of relief, lowering his ERA to 14.00. Notables:

Jason Mackintosh: 6.1 IP, 6 R (5 ER), 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR
Josh Womack: 1-5
Adam Jones: 1-4
Chris Colton: 0-3
Wladimir Balentien: 0-1
Hyung Cho: 0-3

Everett smashed error-prone Yakima, 12-2. Eight total errors led to five unearned runs crossing the plate - all in Everett's favor - and Kendall Bergdall allowed a run and four baserunners in six innings of work for his second win of the year. Asdrubal Cabrera led the way with three hits, a double, and four RBI. Notables:

Kendall Bergdall: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
Yung-Chi Chen: 1-4, 1 BB
Brandon Green: 1-2
Brent Johnson: 1-4, 1 double, 1 BB
Omar Falcon: 1-5, 1 double
Josh Ellison: 1-3, 1 BB
Bryan Lahair: 1-3

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Remember this?

Beane will improve his offense, bullpen, or both come the deadline...and you know that Beane is always working on the phones in relentless pursuit of organizational improvement.

Well, that didn't take long.

The Houston Astros acquired outfielder Carlos Beltran on Thursday in three-team trade with the Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals. The Athletics obtained closer Octavio Dotel, while the Royals picked up three minor-league prospects: pitcher Mike Wood, catcher John Buck, and third baseman Mike Teahen.

It became common knowledge around the start of the year that the Royals were giving up hope for signing Beltran to an extension, so it came as no surprise that Allard Baird started taking phone calls the minute he thought his team was out of the race. A terrific young player with the chance to become the best in the game two or three years down the road, Beltran is departing the newly pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium for Minute Maid Park, a considerable hitter's park with a lot of ground to cover in center field. Biggio's poor range gets shoved to a corner spot (and Lane goes to the bench) to make room for Beltran, who instantly becomes Houston's best player. The Astros have added the third-best offensive center fielder (according to EqA) in his age-27 season, and as a bonus they will improve their defense, which is currently ranked #18 in the Majors. With the fourth-oldest team in the majors, Houston needed an infusion of talented young blood, and they appear to have gotten it, if only for the rest of the season. In order to acquire Beltran, Hunsicker had to part with two players: John Buck, and Octavio Dotel.

Buck is having a magnificent year in AAA, hitting .300/.368/.507 in one of the most extreme pitchers' parks in baseball (New Orleans) as he nears his 24th birthday. It is a critical year for the catcher, as it comes on the heels of two down years offensively, with 2003 standing out as a truly terrible season. So far, it appears as if his 2001 power has returned, as he's slugged 12 home runs in 227 AB's and put up a .207 ISO. Buck is also adding a little plate discipline to his arsenal, as he's boosted his walks and cut down on his strikeouts after rough '02/'03 campaigns. Already an adequate defensive backstop, Buck could be putting everything together, and with Mike Tonis having flamed out and Benito Santiago likely being on the move this July, he should be starting before long.

There's nothing to say about Dotel that hasn't already been said. When he's on, he's among the most dominant pitchers in baseball, mixing a high-90's fastball with a viscious slider resulting in eye-popping strikeout rates. Houston is up to its elbows in bullpen arms - so much so that they ditched Ricky Stone quite recently - so they felt as if Dotel was expendable in the right deal. What he gives Oakland is a legitimate stopper, while allowing Arthur Rhodes to return to high-leverage eighth inning duty and keeping Chad Bradford away from lefties in potentially game-ending situations. What the trade does to Houston is rid the team of its best relief pitcher; Brad Lidge is having another phenomenal start to the year, but he's extremely fragile and broke down in the second half last year due to fatigue. The Astros will need Dan Miceli to keep it up, while hoping that Kirk Bullinger can maintain his smoke and mirrors act for another few months. Don't be surprised to see Hunsicker going after another reliever.

To get Dotel, Oakland gave up the Mikes Teahen and Wood. Teahen was taken with the 39th overall pick two years ago as a third baseman, and didn't show much other than a decent batter's eye and a propensity to strike out in his first two years in the minors. However, something clicked last spring and Teahen exploded onto the scene in AA, putting up a .335/.419/.543 line in Midland before earning a promotion to Sacramento, where he's still drawing walks but struggling to hit for power early on. As a 22 year old in AAA, Teahen still has plenty of time to start turning some doubles into homers, but he didn't hit for much power in college and is turning out to be more like Kevin Youkilis than anything else. There are worse things than third basemen who get on base and play pretty good defense, but the Royals will have to cross their fingers that Teahen's AA power output wasn't a mirage.

...which brings us to Wood, who you might remember from last September, when he allowed 11 runs in 5.2 innings over two appearances against Seattle. What he isn't is an overpowering sinkerballer who racks up the strikeouts; what he *is* is a groundball pitcher who's shown good control and low home run rates in the upper minors. He's working on a 2.80 AAA ERA this year in his age-24 season, with a strikeout rate nearly a full point higher than the one he put up in Sacramento last year. With a strong defense behind him, he'll be a useful pitcher - given that he'll be playing with Angel Berroa, chances are pretty good that he develops into the kind of versatile swingman arm that Kansas City's been lacking for the past handful of years.

Three-team trades are a rare breed; even less often do all three teams come out ahead. The Royals added young talent at empty positions, Oakland strengthened a bullpen that's cost the team a bunch of games in recent weeks, and Houston brought in the best player that will change uniforms this season, potentially making them division favorites in a tight race. Kudos to Allard Baird, who's managed to turn the tables on Billy Beane after some early embarrassments.
Well it appears that the Mariners have turned another corner on this ride around the block season and are going back in the direction from whence they came, the cellar. It took 5 hours and forty-seven minutes, 557 pitches, and one swing off the bat of Alfonso Soriano to finally end today’s game, which could conceivably have been the final nail in the coffin, or it may provide more optimistic Mariner rhetoric. For example:

~Lincoln, Bavasi and Co. will view this as a victory of sorts, as the Mariner were able to hang with AL West “powerhouse” and division leading Rangers. They will declare that because the M’s are able to hang their heads high a grit it out against a divisional rival in the scorching Texas heat. They will praise Cabrera for his output as the third hitter in the line-up, but will place Edgar Martinez in the role, as his slump is officially over. Bavasi will again state that they will not trade prospects for rental players, unless these players are can catch and throw.

~In reality, the Mariners may have lost one game in the standings but, mentally and physically, they really lost two games in the unusually cool 88 degree temperatures in Texas. One look at the stats illustrates that they were out hit, out pitched and straight up out played the past three days. Edgar may have finally shaken some of the dust off his bat, but unfortunately, it came too little to late. The line-up today illustrates just how bad things have gotten in the Emerald City, as Ichiro, Winn and Cabrera filled out the top third of the line-up card.

While Melvin’s over management of the bullpen has been hashed and rehashed, today was the quintessential example of how using four different pitchers to throw 31 pitches in two innings can go wrong. However there is a silver lining to the bullpen management today, as Melvin should have four pitchers available for tomorrow nights game if necessary. Also as a direct result of the over management of the bullpen, Freddy Garcia will have his start pushed up to tomorrow (on regular rest) and the M’s will more than likely have to use Ron Villone or an arm from Tacoma (Travis Blackley, please, please, please) to start on Saturday.

In case you live in a cave, you probably already know that Billy Beane stuck his hand into his cap and pulled out a closer named Octavio Dotel this evening, sending Mark Teahan and Mike Wood to the Houston Astros for Dotel. The Astros then sent John Buck, Teahan and Wood to the Royals for Carlos Beltran. This entire trade has Billy Beane’s finger prints all over it and it is just another mid-season trade in which Beane was able to pull the wool over Allard Baird’s eyes. I hope that this time Beane had the common courtesy to give Baird a reach around.

Hunsicker joined the Astros television announcers this eveing to help inform the audience that Carlos Beltran was in fact going to Houston. He talked about how he felt that as the GM he owed it to the fans, the city, and the players to do whatever he could to get this team to the playoffs this year. He acknowledged the fact that Beltran would most likely not resign with the club, but that he was willing to sacrifice his “catcher of the future” to help the team win now. An owner and a GM who know what it takes to win and are willing to take the chances to accomplish that goal? That’s got to be a good feeling for any fan of the Houston Astros.

Well fellow Mariner fans, this is what some of us have been waiting for. The first domino has fallen and the trading season has officially begun. New York, Boston, Los Angeles all lost out on Beltran and all three could use another bat or pitcher. Numerous other teams need pitching and offense. The time is now Bavasi. Turn on the neon “open” sign and unlock the doors. It’s time to get down to business.
We just got swept by the back of Texas' rotation.

How's that for progress, Bill? We still "in position to be in a race"?

I'd like to applaud Melvin for his decision to intentionally walk Michael Young in the 15th. We'll see how this turns out, but it's a good move nonetheless.

Update: bitchin'.

Remember when we were 8.5 out of first? Good times, they were. The team has responded to the front office's vote of confidence by dropping consecutive games to the likes of Ryan Drese and Nick Bierbrodt (yes, that Nick Bierbrodt), and things are getting gloomy again. The Pittsburgh Pirates may not be able to physically beat you very often in games, but it's the psychological tactics that make them dangerous; by allowing us to sweep a three-game series, the Pirates indirectly raised the expectations of our fans and management beyond the limits of reason, ensuring imminent disappointment when the team remembers how bad it is. You gotta be on the lookout for them mind tricks. Anyway, it's been a busy night, and last night's post wore me out both physically and mentally, so here's to a couple bullet points, followed by a few hours of slumber:

  • Bierbrodt had a career 6.67 ERA entering the game, allowing a homer every two innings and putting nearly two runners on base per inning pitched. It follows, thus, that we'd struggle to hit him, as we managed just five hits (four singles and a homer) against him through six. The guy's career OPS against is aproaching .950, he's only throwing strikes with 54% of his pitches, and we only score twice? In the words of Viktor Nevorski: "Unacceptable". These are the kinds of arms that contending teams have to beat up on. Of course, unlike BB and Lincoln, none of us were under the mistaken impression that this team had a chance, anyway...

  • Ryan Franklin's 2004 ERA: 4.50. Ryan Franklin's 2004 dERA: 4.40. His performance is right in line with expectations, given the marginal improvements he's made in certain areas; he's dropped his HR/9 ratio by nearly 50% from last year, and his strikeouts are up half a batter per nine. Getting a mid-4's ERA over 200+ innings from a fifth starter has value, but only when it's coming from a low-paid player. At $4.3m over the next two years, Franklin is no such player, and his situation with Seattle parallels that of Scott Podsednik and Milwaukee: a useful player comes out of nowhere to perform well, but rather than interpreting this as proof that decent players are available all over the plae for minimum wage, the respective teams re-signed their players to multi-million dollar contracts. Good teams don't make these kinds of mistakes.

  • Melvin quote:

    ``Our one and two hitters are doing an outstanding job,'' Melvin said. ``We're just haven't been able to drive them in once they get on.''

    I wonder if Bob has any idea that our #2 hitters have put up a .238/.299/.362 line on the year.

  • Don't look now, but Edgar Martinez's OPS is below .700 for the first time since 1989...

  • Rich Aurilia is now hitting .232/.306/.393 in June. This might have been enough to pique the Cubs' interest, if only they didn't have Aurilia's non-union Mexican equivalent.

That's just about all I have time for. Tomorrow pits the red-hot Joel Piniero against Joaquin Benoit, who's shown terrific control on the year but who has also been prone to giving up the longball (11 in 49.1 innings) while strugging against right-handers. Thus, two worlds will collide tomorrow evening, as the punchless Mariners go up against the punchable Benoit. It sure would be nice to have guys like Leone and Jacobsen around for these kinds of games...
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma shut out Fresno, 7-0. Gustavo Martinez scattered nine singles and a walk over seven innings in picking up his 2nd win of the year, while Bucky Jacobsen powered the offense with two homers and four RBI. Jacobsen and Elpidio Guzman each had four hits, and the Rainiers managed 15 in all. Notables:

Gustavo Martinez: 7 IP, 9 H, 1 BB, 4 K
Justin Leone: 1-4, 1 BB
Bucky Jacobsen: 4-5, 1 double, 2 homers
Jamal Strong: 0-5
Greg Dobbs: 2-4
Greg Jacobs: 2-5, 2 doubles
Ben Davis: 1-4, 1 homer, 1 BB

San Antonio lost to El Paso, 4-1. Chris Buglovsky went just four innings in the start (allowing eight baserunners), while Aaron Taylor got tagged with the loss after allowing a two-run homer to Conor Jackson. Shin-soo Choo was the only Missions hitter to have a multi-hit day. Notables:

Aaron Taylor: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 K, 1 HR
TA Fulmer: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 2 K
Shin-soo Choo: 2-4
Dustin Delucchi: 0-3, 1 BB
Ryan Christianson: 0-3
Hunter Brown: 0-4

Inland Empire walloped Lake Elsinore, 11-0, but the box isn't published yet.

Midwest League games resume tomorrow, with Wisconsin hosting Peoria.

Everett beat Yakima, 9-6. Brent Johnson and Trevor Heid had three hits apiece, and Aaron Jensen was just good enough for five innings to earn his second win of the year. Yung-Chi Chen and Brandon Green also had multi-hit games as the Aquasox put 17 men on base. Notables:

Aaron Jensen: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R (2 ER), 2 BB, 3 K
Brent Johnson: 3-4
Yung-Chi Chen: 2-3, 2 BB
Brandon Green: 2-5, 1 double
Casey Craig: 0-3, 2 BB

No Peoria box yet - they aren't available until the morning after - but you'll be able to find it here when it's finally published.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


I'm sorry, Mariner Optimist. They had the chance, but Clint Nageotte didn't do himself any favors, and with a moderately difficult schedule leading up to the All Star break, it looks like we'll be well into July before you can entertain reasonable hopes of being able to post again. Mind you, posting isn't always an enjoyable task, particularly when management is pissing all over the team you've loved for as far back as you can remember.

Howard Lincoln, ever the inspiring leader, offered the following quotation in this morning's Times:

"We could quite possibly get back in the race. And we could quite possibly not get back in the race."

Having found themselves in an unfamiliar situation, the executive management team is fumbling over what to do next, whether they should tear it all down and start over or keep the guys together and try to add the missing piece that would jumpstart the ballclub. This indecision forced Lincoln into issuing perhaps the most noncommittal press release in his personal history, as he spent a few minutes explaining to anyone who would listen that his team may or may not be good.

Fortunately for Lincoln, he doesn't have to make the decision. This one's on newcoming Bill Bavasi, who has set the tone for the month by hanging on to Freddy Garcia - "for the fans". The guys in charge love the team's dependable fan support, and to some it might come off as admirable that the front office isn't willing to concede the season. These people, however, aren't aware that the team has a recent history of taking the fans for granted and trying to pass off deals for Al Martin, Jeff Cirillo, et al as significant improvements. By pretending like the team is still in the race, Bavasi is displaying not only a cruel breed of ignorance, but also a remarkable lack of foresight. Allow me to explain.

When the article was published, the Mariners stood 8.5 games behind Oakland in the division (they are now 9.5 back of Texas). This is all well and good, but there are a few other factors to consider:

  • The A's will be getting Eric Chavez back around the All Star Break

  • Beane will improve his offense, bullpen, or both come the deadline

  • Anaheim has been slumping badly, and is beginning to get critical players healthy

  • There are three - not one - teams in front of Seattle

  • The Mariners had been winning thanks to a 2.62 June ERA from the pitchers

Eric Chavez will provide an invaluable boost to Oakland's lineup when he returns, and you know that Beane is always working on the phones in relentless pursuit of organizational improvement. The Angels have been markedly underperforming of late, and will turn it around to play like the 88-90 win team that they really are. Perhaps most importantly, the Mariners don't just have to streak past the A's over the final 95 (now 94) games - they have to get by Anaheim and Texas as well. They've only just now begun making up ground, but this is only because the pitching staff has been playing way above its head for the entire month.

Are the Mariners a 100-win team? Not really. At the start of the year, the most optimistic of fans had them pegged in the 90-95 win range, while the majority had them finishing around 85 or 86. Anyone is capable of going on a hot streak (read: Tampa Bay), but to perform at a consistently flawless level over the final 90+ games of a season requires legitimate talent and capability, something this team hasn't shown in the first two and a half months of the year. Unfortunately, in order to even have a shot at a playoff spot, Seattle has to perform like that 100-win team for the rest of the year, which would put them at 87 wins - enough to make it interesting, and possibly sneak into the postseason if the rest of the division falls apart. They'd have to play like they did in 2001 to have reasonable odds, though, and that's only been done twice in a hundred years, by considerably better teams than the current crop of Mariners.

Furthermore, nothing short of adding Barry Bonds could give us realistic hope of surging through the second half the season. Bavasi won't be able to turn things around by adding a Frank Catalanotto or Jason Kendall, as doing so would only contribute one or two extra wins over the rest of the year. There is nothing in the news to suggest that he's looking at a major addition (Beltran rumors have been stifled), and to even consider stripping the organization of its best young players in order to bring in a power bat at the deadline would be a fool's errand beyond even Bavasi's established limits of conduct.

Talking about a big bat may or may not be better than the current reality, however, which is that the front office thinks that hanging on to Freddy Garcia will somehow turn the season around. Has he been a great pitcher? Sure he has, but he's not really close to the pitcher he was in April (2.27 ERA), and has hardly been instrumental in our "turnaround". He's been our worst starter this month, believe it or not (as of this morning), and I find it difficult to believe that the same fans who booed Freddy Garcia so mercilessly less than a year ago would suddenly feel alienated and distraught by the pitcher being dealt away from a floundering, aimless franchise. Everyday fans never want to call it a season, and your average Seattle citizen recalls the miraculous 1995 turnaround approximately 3.5 times per day, but even the thickest of skulls have to realize that this is a lost season. We're 15-29 against decent competition (>.500), and our recent four-game winning streak was fueled by a sweep of the sinking Pirates. That attendance is down 14% from last year shows that the fans have already made a statement, which is that the city is ready to give up on the current roster. Pretending like the team is still in the hunt is going to upset more fans than it pleases in the end, when people's regenerated expectations get shattered anew.

What sense is there in waiting to mix things up? Freddy Garcia's numbers are still living off a terrific April, and every time he takes the mound increases the risk of injury or underperformance. With Esteban Loaiza getting bombed today for the White Sox, the time is now to swing a deal, before Ken Williams has time to rationally assess his own situation. Is there any need to keep Scott Spiezio around? Sure, he's considered by many to be next year's first baseman (myself included), but there's got to be a team out there willing to take a chance on his reputation as a clutch hitter and postseason performer. It doesn't really matter if you get anything in return for him, either, because losing his contract is enough of a bonus, and replacing him with Leone or Dobbs improves the team without having to go outside the organization. For that matter, there is a lot of potential for improvement here, and it wouldn't even take that much work. If you plug in useful minor league bats (Leone, Jacobsen, Jacobs, etc) for useless major leaguers (Spiezio, Aurilia, Bloomquist, etc) then you're getting better while simultaneously going through a partial rebuilding process. If you deal Freddy Garcia and replace him with Travis Blackley, how much are you really going to lose? Is Ryan Franklin not eminently replaceable himself? The organization seems fearful that taking extreme action will jilt a loyal, supportive fan base, but it would take quite a concentrated effort to make this team worse than it already is, and adding some minor leaguers could add some power and excitement to a roster that's been sorely lacking in each department since the start of the year.

What if, despite all this, Bavasi keeps most of the team together and we get back into the race? Would this really be in our best interests, long-term? It is an old, flawed roster - much moreso than in recent years - and to have another moderately successful season would only serve to further convince the front office that they've been doing everything right. While 2001 was the most exciting baseball I've ever witnessed, it might be the worst thing that's ever happened to the organization, because management interpreted the season as proof that you don't need big money superstars to be a good team. Nevermind the flawed logic - Boone, Edgar, Olerud, Cameron, and Ichiro all performed like legitimate All Stars that year - it's a statement that's lasted to this day, that we don't need to pay for guys like Alex Rodriguez in order to come away in good shape. While this claim is true, the powers that be have taken it to the next step, where you don't need to pay reasonably big money to anyone. It is possible to build a solid ballclub with a limited payroll, particularly given our minor league system, but the front office isn't creative enough to figure out how to go about doing it, so they slapped together a haphazard plan whose long-term costs outweigh the benefits. By eschewing younger players in favor of expensive, declining free agents, we have unintentionally entered a viscious spiral in which we sacrifice draft picks in order to sign old free agents, and thus have fewer and fewer talented prospects in the following years. We've already seen the farm system take a hit in recent years (according to BA), and the cycle is showing no signs of stopping, given the Ibanez contract last November. Is this really the way we'd like to see the organization handled down the road? Of course not. The best thing that can happen to this team, in my opinion, is a terrible season that forces everyone within the organization to get to work examining what went wrong, and how to prevent a re-occurrence in the future. Whether or not that will actually happen, I can't tell you, but it's the only way that things are going to change.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma beat Fresno, 7-5. Powered by two Justin Leone home runs, the Rainiers got Travis Blackley his seventh win despite a relatively unimpressive start. George Sherrill struck out the side in the ninth for his eighth save, while AJ Zapp and Luis Ugueto also had multihit days. Notables:

Travis Blackley: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HR
Justin Leone: 3-4, 1 double, 2 homers
Greg Jacobs: 0-4
Bucky Jacobsen: 1-4
Jamal Strong: 0-5
Ben Davis: 0-3, 1 BB
Greg Dobbs: 0-4

No Texas League games, again. They resume tomorrow, with San Antonio at home against El Paso.

Inland Empire fell to Lake Elsinore, 4-3. A good start by Tanner Watson went to waste as Melvin Pizarro allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth to blow a potential four inning save. Gary Harris had a multihit day to lead the offense, but the 66ers could manage just six singles and five walks. Notables:

Tanner Watson: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Juan Gonzalez: 0-3, 1 BB
Rene Rivera: 0-2, 2 BB
TJ Bohn: 1-4

No Midwest League games; they get back to business on Thursday.

Everett beat Yakima, 5-4. Shawn Nottingham threw a terrific six innings for the win, while five Aquasox had two-hit days. Yakima did all its damage against Chad Fillinger, who allowed four runs in a single inning. Notables:

Shawn Nottingham: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 K
Bryan Lahair: 2-5, 2 doubles
Omar Falcon: 2-4
Josh Ellison: 2-4
Casey Craig: 2-3, 1 double, 1 triple, 1 BB
Yung-Chi Chen: 2-5, 1 double
Brandon Green: 1-5, 1 double

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma was bombed by Sacramento, 10-2. Gil Meche walked six batters and allowed 11 total baserunners in five innings of work for the loss, and Andy Shibilo had another disastrous game out of the bullpen. Bucky Jacobsen and AJ Zapp each had solo home runs, providing the offense. Notables:

Gil Meche: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R (2 ER), 6 BB, 5 K
Justin Leone: 0-3, 1 BB
Greg Jacobs: 0-3, 1 BB
Jamal Strong: 2-5, 1 double
Greg Dobbs: 0-4
Bucky Jacobsen: 2-4, 1 homer
Ben Davis: 1-3

No Texas League action tonight, due to the all star break (will resume on Wednesday).

Inland Empire shut out Lake Elsinore, 8-0. This was the Felix Hernandez show, as he fanned ten (!) hitters - with just one walk - in 5.2 innings for the win, lowering his ERA to 2.86 in the process. Frederico Balet's three hits and three RBI led the offense, as King Felix had a 3-0 lead before throwing a pitch. Notables:

Felix Hernandez: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 10 K
Juan Gonzalez: 2-5, 1 double
TJ Bohn: 1-4, 1 BB
Rene Rivera: 0-3, 1 BB
Matt Hagen: 1-4, 1 triple

No Midwest League action, either.

Everett beat Yakima, 3-2. Ruben Flores kept the Bears off balance for six innings, while Aaron Trolia nailed down a shaky ninth for his first save of the year. Three Aquasox had multihit games, and Bryan Lahair drilled a double and a homer to earn player of the game honors. Notables:

Ruben Flores: 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR
Bryan Lahair: 2-4, 1 double, 1 homer
Asdrubal Cabrera: 2-4
Yung-Chi Chen: 0-4
Casey Craig: 2-4
Omar Falcon: 1-3, 1 BB


Monday, June 21, 2004

Couple quick hits:

~It appears the Baltimore Orioles are exchanging good young arms for aging middle relivers as they trade Denny Bautista to the Royals for Jason Grimsley. In case the Orioles haven't noticed, they are tied for forth, behind the Devil Rays. The Orioles did agree to terms on a contract extension for 2005 with Grimsley, heh.

~The Padres Matt Bush, the #1 overall pick in the 2004 draft, has been suspended indefinitely after he was arrested this evening in Peoria, Arizona. Welcome to professional sports Matt, looks like you are trying to get a leg up on the rest of your draft class.
Judging by the amount of rocks that have been throw my way since my post regarding keeping Garcia, I’m assuming that I was misunderstood and think I need to clear up any misunderstandings. My previous post focused on some of the ridiculous rumors that had been circulating a couple weeks ago and probably was a little more emotionally driven than it should have been. Freddy is a premier pitcher entering his big paycheck free agent year and also the prime of his career. As many of us have seen so far this season, Freddy is pitching better than I can remember but has been victimized by poor run support all season long. Pitchers with Freddy’s ability and durability are rare in today’s era of Tommy John surgery and Dr. James Andrews visits and I’m a little worried Freddy’s contributions have been ignored because of his previous struggles. To assume that a pitching prospect in the minors is going to be able to step in and contribute 180-220 innings next season is demanding a lot. Not to mention that each pitcher goes through some form of a learning curve (a.k.a the infamous sophomore slump) at some point of their early careers, where they have to learn that ability can only take them so far, (Pineiro and Meche I believe both experienced problems associated with the learning curve early this season).

However, I am not opposed to dealing Garcia, as long as it nets us a pair of solid major league ready prospects. Before Bavasi and Co. start to listen to trade offers for the Chief, I wish the M’s would look into trading some of the other pieces of the rotation. Franklin has peaked talent wise and there is no where to go but down, but there are a number of low budget teams in the playoff hunt who could benefit from his arm in the back of their rotation. Meche is another pitcher the M’s should look into possibly moving as well. His history of arm trouble and early season struggles may scare some teams away, but there have reportedly been numerous teams in Tacoma scouting his starts and if he continues to pitch well, the M’s would be foolish to not consider moving him for the right deal. So that brings us back to Garcia. Is he worth the 4 years $40 million he is seeking? Yes. Do I want the M’s to offer him that contract. Yes and no. Sure, Freddy is one of those rare workhorses that you can build a rotation around. But on the same note, this team desperately needs some young impact offensive players. Not to mention that Joel has pitched remarkably well the past month or so and could easily step into Freddy’s role next year as the horse of the rotation. And who is to say that Nageotte and Blackley won’t both become as dominant as Freddy? I think I’m more worried that because Freddy is only a rental player, the front office will only land a Carlos Guillen type package, (a good catch and throw guy and a toolsy minor league middle infielder). But at this point, I guess something is better than nothing.

The name that continuously gets brought up in rumors is Jeremy Reed, the White Sox top outfield prospect. Reed is an intriguing prospect, but over hyped in my opinion. Reed isn’t afraid to take a walk, and has had an OBP around .400 throughout his minor league career. He is a gap hitter and should develop power as he gets older. He has above average speed which could translate to 15 SB, but is a poor base runner. Offensively, he draws comparisons to Mark Kotsay. Defensively, he is an average center fielder at best. He has an average arm, but his play in CF has left a lot to be desired. Many scouting reports have him pegged as a corner OF in the majors. Another White Sox prospect, Joe Borchard, is mentioned from time to time as well. Borchard can hit the home run, but he has a propensity to strike out and he rarely walks. He is average defensively and two different scouting reports compared his defense to that of Magglio Ordonez and Raul Ibanez.

Since teams seem to be starting to line-up to throw their names in the Freddy hunt, the amount of talent we get in return has nowhere to go but up. Boston, Chicago (AL), Los Angeles, and both New York teams are known to be actively pursuing Freddy’s services, with teams like Florida, Philadelphia, Minnesota, St. Louis, Atlanta, San Francisco and even Cincinnati possibly entering into the Freddy sweepstakes. At this point, the more the merrier and you can expect that several teams will enter into the race just to drive the price up for their competition. My dream scenario (bare with me), Bill Bavasi is somehow able to get the New York Mets to trade David Wright, say Freddy Garcia, a minor leaguer and as much of the Kaz money necessary for David Wright and minor leaguer or two. Garcia has said in some interviews and has told friends that he wouldn’t mind pitching in New York City. It doesn’t hurt that Garcia’s agent, Peter Greenberg, supposedly has an excellent rapport with the Mets, (Greenberg happens to be the agent of new Met Richard Hidalgo), and the two sides may be able to work out a contract extension prior to the completion of a trade. Of course, there is a better chance that I win the lottery, but what else are dreams good for? That hopefully clears up my views of the Freddy situation.

In case anyone might be excited about this current win streak that the M’s are on, don’t get your hopes up. While the rest of the AL West was off playing the best of the NL Central, the Mariners were fortunate enough to play the Montreal Expos, Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers. While it’s nice to see the M’s win some games again, it’s hard to see them scoring runs once they get back to the AL, where teams know their pitchers and hitters. The current winning streak can be summed up by a quote from one of the greatest movies of all time, Tommy Boy:

“The reason why they have a guarantee on the box is because they know all they sold you is a guaranteed piece of shit. Hell, I can take a crap in a box and slap a guarantee on it for you, if that's what you want.”

To the untrained eye, the Mariners are on fire. However, upon closer inspection, you realize that six of our last seven wins have come against Pittsburgh and Montreal, two of the worst teams in baseball. Nevertheless, a winning streak is a winning streak, and all we need is for Clint Nageotte to have a strong game against Texas tomorrow to bring back the Optimist.

That said, is there a worse time for a bad team to catch fire than early June? If we had started the year well and proceeded to go into a tailspin, then you'd probably see a bunch of roster moves taking place. If you start poorly and play good ball in September, then you have some hope for the next season. If you start poorly and catch fire in *June*, though, then the front office starts believing that the team is capable of getting back into the race, even though it's far too late to entertain any reasonable thoughts about making the playoffs. Yeah, the A's and Angels are struggling, but you know that Beane's going to make some good deadline moves, and Anaheim is starting to get some players back from injury. In order to finish with 90 wins - which would put us in the running for the division title - we need to with 61 games over the final 95 games, for a .642 winning percentage which matches that of the current Yankees. Everyone in the blogosphere has written off the season, so it's time for the front office to face the facts and arrive at the same conclusion. The sooner that happens, the better, because Freddy Garcia isn't going to boost his trade value any more than he already has.

This one might've been different had Lloyd McClendon removed Oliver Perez after six innings, when he was already at 110 pitches. Instead, he was left in the game and predictably struggled (Perez isn't very good when his pitch count nears triple digits) before McClendon sent in southpaw Mike Gonzalez to face Randy Winn, who has had considerable success against lefties in the past few years. Winn delivered, and two batters later Ichiro - who also has something of a reverse split - smacked a Gonzalez offering for a two-run "double" that put the Mariners in the lead for good. I don't want to say that McClendon lost this game for the Pirates, but he certainly didn't help, and when you're in Pittsburgh's situation you need to take advantage of every opportunity you're given.

In an ideal world, this would be Freddy Garcia's final start of the year in a Seattle uniform. I realize that he's pitching very well, but I don't agree with Trent on signing Freddy to an extension. How Bavasi responds to the mess he created will be a deciding moment in how his performance as GM is evaluated down the road, and the Garcia situation is critical. He's been rock-solid for two and a half months, but that hardly makes up for the maddening inconsistency he displayed the previous two seasons, and intuition tells me that Freddy is one of those guys who starts performing well in a walk year. He's already an expensive pitcher who's going to cost a lot more to sign this winter - something similar to the Colon contract is what I'll throw out there - and given the collection of young, inexpensive arms we have in the system, it makes plenty of sense to deal Garcia for a handful of position prospects. I've heard Jeremy Reed's named mentioned a lot, and when that kind of player is being tossed around in trade offers, you have to do what you can to bring him in when you're as desperate for young hitters as the Mariners are. The organization should be comfortable with the idea of beginning next year with Pineiro, Nageotte, and Blackley as key components of the rotation, and (presumably) Moyer will still be around, throwing a bunch of quality innings with an endless supply of smoke and mirrors. Given the nature of the ballpark, there are at least a half-dozen guys who could step in and be the #5 and perform as well as Ryan Franklin for a fraction of the cost (although Franklin will probably still be here), and the immediate success of Zach Greinke at the big league level could put some pressure on the organization to promote Felix Hernandez and see what he can do against major league bats. The bottom line is this: Freddy Garcia will be a talented yet expensive pitcher next year, and this isn't a team that should be spending $10-12m on an arm under any circumstances. If you're going to start throwing that kind of cash around, why not give it (and a little extra) to Carlos Beltran, who would improve all three facets of the game? But I digress.

After a long day in Spring Traning, Shigetoshi Hasegawa was about to fall asleep when there was a sudden flash of light and a demon appeared at the foot of his bed. Not much for chit-chat, the demon got right to the point: "You must make a choice. Either you will allow a bunch of extra-base hits this season, or you will struggle with command and issue too many walks." Two and a half months into the year, it's becoming clear that Hasegawa elected to go with "all of the above"...

Left-handed : Oliver Perez as Right-handed : Clint Nageotte.

At what point do we stop expecting Bret Boone to turn the corner? He's hitting a paltry .224/.302/.375 this year, and there are a bunch of indications that his bat has slowed down: he's striking out more often than in the past, he's not hitting for as much power, and his batting average is down. He's performing below his 10% PECOTA projection, but consider that he plays a tough position that has taken a premature toll on many similar players in the past (such as Ryne Sandberg and the Joes Gordon and Morgan). Not only has his bat fallen apart, but many people smarter than I have noticed that he's lost a step in the field, as well, suggesting that he's become something of an all-around liability. At this point, it's time to start worrying; he's on pace for 614 plate appearances, and he has a $9m 2005 option that vests with 450 PA's. He's already at 258, meaning that time is running out. Given that Boone has a lot of pride and is more than willing to play through pain, it's unlikely that he'll incur a long DL stint, and thus Bavasi should be working the phones non-stop trying to find a taker. Talented middle infielders with power are hard to find, but there's no sense in paying nine million dollars to a guy who's apparently over the hill when you can give the league minimum to a guy with tremendous power and a flashy glove (Justin Leone, of course). If you're looking for reasons for the team's monumental collapse, you have to begin with Boone, because a guy who was supposed to be one of the most valuable players in baseball has turned into our second-worst offensive regular.

Nageotte - Drese in a 5:05 game tomorrow. The Rangers are 12th in the AL in walks but fifth in strikeouts, so expect a few bad swings from Soriano & Co.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma edged Sacramento, 3-2. Very nice start for Matt Thornton who went six innings scattering seven hits and two runs while striking out a season-high eleven Rivercats. George Sherill came in for two scoreless innings to pick up the save. At the plate, A.J. Zapp and Justin Leone both had multi extra basehit games to lead the Rainier offense. Notables:

Matt Thornton: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 1 HR.
Jamal Strong: 1-4, 1 triple.
Greg Dobbs: 0-4.
Ben Davis: 0-4.
Justin Leone: 2-4, 2 doubles, 2 R.
A.J. Zapp: 3-4, 1 double, 1 HR, 3 RBI.
Greg Jacobs: 0-4, 2 K.

No Texas League action tonight.

Inland Empire shutout Rancho Cucamonga, 3-0. Bobby Livingston = brilliant. Nuff said. Jon Nelson and Jesse Guzman paved the way on the offensive side. Notables:

Bobby Livingston: 8.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K.
Juan Gonzalez: 0-3.
Jesse Guzman: 3-4.
Gary Harris: 1-4, 1 double, 1 RBI.
Jon Nelson: 2-3, 1 triple, 1 RBI.
Brian Lentz: 0-2.

Wisconsin hung on to beat Clinton, 2-1. Thomas Oldham continued the trend of great minor league pitching this evening by going eight surrendering only four hits while K'ing nine. Michael Cox homered and Eric Blakeley and Nick Orlandos also had good nights with the stick. Notables:

Thomas Oldham: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K.
Nick Orlandos: 2-5.
Adam Jones: 1-4.
Eric Blakeley: 2-4.
Michael Cox: 2-3, 1 HR, 1 BB.
Wladimir Balentien: 1-3, 1 RBI.
Justin Ruchti: 0-4.

Vancouver dodged a sweep by beating Everett, 7-3. Ivan Blanco was ineffective and the Everett pen, in it's first real test, wasn't very sharp. Bryan Lahair smacked three doubles. Notables:

Ivan Blanco: 2.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 HR.
Josh Ellison: 1-5.
Asdrubal Cabrera: 0-5.
Yung-Chi Chen: 2-5, 1 R.
Bryan Lahair: 3-5, 3 doubles, 1 RBI.
Brian Schweiger: 1-3, 1 double.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Why the heck did Oliver Perez start the seventh?
Today I had the privilege of attending a Baseball Prospectus Pizza Feed* at Petco Park hosted by Jonah Keri and Joe Sheehan, with Padres GM Kevin Towers volunteering to speak for a little while and hold a Q&A session with the 100 of us. It was a fascinating talk, and Towers is a pretty frank, candid guy. These are some of the things he talked about:

  • Towers doesn't like the idea of giving major league contracts to draft picks. This is why he passed on Niemann and Drew (who he considered the best player available) - Boras clients - and selected Bush with the first pick. He also mentioned that he regrets the Xavier Nady contract.

  • The Padres had no idea how Petco would play, and are surprised at how difficult of a hitter's park it's turned into. It's got a pretty big outfield, with a stiff breeze blowing in from the empty space behind the center field wall that kills high fly balls. Had he known this before the season started, Towers said that he would've built his team differently, and put together an athletic outfield like Tampa Bay's (which impressed the general manager during their recent series). Towers is hopeful that further construction in the area - apartments and office buildings - should alter the wind situation a little bit.

  • The Padres are not interested in trading for Carlos Beltran, and are only involved to drive up the price for Los Angeles. Seriously, he said that. On the record. He added that, while Beltran would fit the team to a T, Towers doesn't want to allocate all of his winter resources in a single player, no matter how talented.

  • The Padres are, however, interested in Mike Cameron.

  • During the offseason, the team was scouting both Akinori Otsuka and Shingo Takatsu, with the intention of signing one of them. Unsure which to select, Towers had an assistant call Ichiro and ask him who was tougher to face. He chose Otsuka, so the Padres had their man.

  • Towers originally wanted to sign Royce Clayton instead of Mark Loretta, but Clayton wound up signing for more money elsewhere so the Padres took the fallback option.

  • When the GM was talking about his team's rotation, he failed to mention Dennis Tankersley. As it turns out, the team has soured on the former star prospect, and the Padres are pursuing another starter. However, they are absolutely unwilling to part with their top prospects, including Freddy Guzman and Josh Barfield.

  • Clubhouse chemistry fever. Catch it. Towers believes the hype.

  • Rather than identify desired players on any team, Towers consults a personal list of other GM's and front offices with whom he gets along, and goes from there. Given the Cirillo trade and his history of trading with the Mariners, it's fair to say that Seattle is one of those organizations. Towers is also aggressive on the market, routinely approaching other teams with trade proposals.

All in all, it was an interesting hour and a half, and I came out of it with a few new ideas. San Diego wants an athletic outfield? Send 'em Randy Winn. Towers is disappointed with Nevin and Klesko and, although he didn't mention them by name, noted that he's got a few underachieving bats that he'd like to move. Doing so creates space for Winn, who - like much of the rest of our roster - would be nice to send elsewhere. They want an inexpensive starter? Send 'em Franklin, who would fall in love with the pitcher's haven. Those deep home run balls he gives up? Knocked down by the wind and turned into warning track outs. Hell, maybe they'd like Jolbert...

Most importantly, though, I came out of it with the realization that we can't always be so quick as to praise or critique a general manager for his transactions. Sometimes a team inadvertently stumbles across a gem after Plan A fails, and the GM looks like a genius. Sometimes there is outside influence on a certain acquisition or trade, and the transaction is out of the GM's control. It's often been mentioned that Bavasi may not have had much say in the Ibanez contract or the Ichiro extension, and I think it's time to consider these ideas a little more thoroughly when evaluating Bavasi's performance thusfar.

One last thing that I want to say about Towers: when talking about Dennis Tankersley, Towers noted that the pitcher has lost velocity on his fastball and slider, and that he was lucky to escape his last start alive. This is the same general manager who labeled Kevin Jarvis as untradeable sludge in an interview with Keri last October. Good stuff.

*-Pizza wasn't actually served. Turns out it would've been too expensive.

Anyway, there was a game today...


We're 9-4 in our last 13 games. Seriously. We've won three in a row (for the third time in two weeks) without Edgar in the lineup. We've only allowed 41 runs in June, with the lastest strong start coming from Joel Pineiro - who has a 2.87 ERA in his last eight starts. This one featured perhaps Rich Aurilia's best game as a Mariner, as he went 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run (which turned out to be the winning run). Other contributions came from Hiram Bocachica, Ichiro, and Edgar, as the team managed to win comfortably despite a pretty lackluster offensive game. Because A) It's late and I'm tired, B) the game was pretty boring, and C) I missed it anyway, the following recap will be shorter than usual. Deal with it.

If this series and our set against Montreal have taught me anything, it's that there's always someone worse off than you at any given point in time. Unless you're the 'Spos. Then there's not.

Rich Aurilia has been the picture of consistency so far this year. Check out these monthly splits:

April: .235/.293/.306
May: .236/.300/.306
June: .224/.296/.347

Save for a mini "power spike" this month, he's the same player that he was two months ago. No real upward trend evident anywhere. There's nothing worse than a terrible player stuck in neutral, because while he has a good game every now and then, he never goes on a hot streak that boosts his market value. Aurilia isn't winning himself any suitors right now, so it's about time for the organization to bite the bullet, release him, and hope he catches on as a bench player on a contending team and resurrects his dying career. After all, a management group so devoted to putting a fan-friendly bunch of guys on the field must be a collection of the warmest, nicest people around, right? Wait a second...

With his o'fer day, Jolbert Cabrera's line dropped to .296/.318/.392. Remember that time he got a few hits in a game? Sure, everybody does, because there's nothing fans like more than a .300 batting average, regardless of how indicative said metric may be of a player's actual value. That's right, LeoneForThird has a new whipping boy. Not because Cabrera is a terrible player, mind you - no, that label goes to Bloomquist, Santiago, Borders, and the other sacks of crap who've made cameos on the bench this year - but because he's being viewed as a good move by Bavasi, despite evidence suggesting otherwise. Cabrera is making a boatload of outs without driving the ball to the gaps, but his collection of singles is keeping a lot of fans off his back. Look, I understand that this team badly needs a guy who can do the whole McLemore thing, but Cabrera and his .318 OBP shouldn't get 300-400 at bats this year, no buts about it. Just because the alternative is worse doesn't make something a good decision, especially when the alternative is one of the worst players in baseball.

I knew it. I'm sure most of you knew it, too. "Joel will be fine," we said, and we have been vindicated. Today marked his third consecutive eight-inning outing in which he allowed a single run, and this was his best of the three as he allowed just four hits and five baserunners over the duration. His strikeouts are down recently, but so are his walks and home runs, and his groundball/flyball ratio has returned to its career mark. What this tells me is that Joel has stopped overthrowing and gotten better control of his pitches as a result, so he's having more success low in the zone and keeping hitters off balance. Trying to throw too hard also puts a tremendous strain on the arm, so smoothing out his delivery will help diminish injury risk as Joel rapidly approaches 200 innings for the third time at the age of 25. His BABIP is down around .300 - more than 100 points below where it was earlier, during his rough stretch - indicating better luck with the defense, which has probably had a hand in calming him down on the mound and helping him keep his composure. Pineiro was a terrific pitcher in 2002 and 2003, save for last August, and if he can continue pitching like he has in the past, then his shiny new extension will look like a bargain down the road.

I've officially hit the wall, so it's time to say goodnight. Freddy goes against Oliver Perez at 10:35 (read: probably before I'll wake up), a game that has the potential to be an awe-inspiring pitcher's duel. Perez is one of the most enjoyable pitchers to watch in baseball, as he blends indisputably awesome stuff with gut-wrenchingly bad mechanics. He'll win some hardware down the road, but he'll also get hurt before that, so be sure to catch a glimpse of the pre-surgery Oliver Perez, ensuring that you'll have stories to tell your grandkids.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma fell to Sacramento, 6-2. Craig Anderson's rough season didn't get any better as he lasted only 4.2 IP giving up five runs including a two-run shot to Graham Koonce. Ben Davis and Greg Jacobs led an otherwise sleepy offense for the Rainiers. Notables:

Craig Anderson: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR.
Jamal Strong: 1-4.
Justin Leone: 0-5, 3 K.
Bucky Jacobsen: 0-2.
Ben Davis: 3-4, 1 double.
A.J. Zap: 1-4, 3 K.
Greg Jacobs, 2-3, 1 RBI.

San Antonio crushed Arkansas, 14-5. Things didn't go to well for Rich Dorman who didn't last long, but everything else was a well-oiled machine for the Missions tonight. Shin-soo Choo had a wonderful night at the plate flanked by good showings by John Lindsey, Eriberto Menchaca and Hunter Brown. Notables:

Rich Dorman: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 6 K.
Dustin Delucchi: 1-5.
Hunter Brown: 3-5, 1 double, 3 RBI.
Shin-soo Choo: 4-6, 2 R, 2 RBI.
John Lindsey: 2-5, 2 doubles, 3 RBI.
Eriberto Menchaca: 3-4, 2 doubles.
Luis Oliveros: 2-5.

Inland Empire fell short to Rancho Cucamonga, 6-5. Despite a 9th inning rally, Richard Thompson was able to close the door on the 66'ers. Juan Sandoval was battered for ten hits in six innings including two homers. Every 66'er not named Jesus Guzman had a basehit. Notables:

Juan Sandoval: 6.0 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 3 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR.
Gary Harris: 2-4, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBI.
Juan Gonzalez: 1-4.
TJ Bohn: 1-4.
Rene Rivera: 1-4.
Matt Rogelstad: 1-2, 2 R.

Clinton beat Wisconsin, 4-3. Brian Stitt blew the tie in the 9th after a ho-hum start for Michael Moorhead. Josh Womack had two doubles and an RBI to lead the Rattler offense. Notables:

Michael Moorhead: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K.
Josh Womack: 3-4, 2 doubles, 1 RBI.
Nick Orlandos: 2-4.
Wladimir Balentien: 2-4, 1 RBI.
Chris Collins: 0-4.

Everett beat Vancouver again, 9-5. Nice opener for Kendall Bergdall, going five and giving up only four hits while striking out five. The Aquasox offense continued to hit well with only two starters failing to collect a hit. Notables:

Kendall Bergdall: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
Asdrubal Cabrera: 3-4, 1 triple, 2 RBI.
Yung-Chi Chen: 2-5, 1 triple, 1 HR, 2 RBI.
Casey Craig: 1-4, 1 BB.
Omar Falcon: 0-2, 2 R.