Saturday, August 07, 2004

Bob Melvin got tossed bringing out the lineup card prior to the game.

Good stuff.
Other takes on the game-winning obstruction call:

DMZ, at USS Mariner

John Hickey, with the P-I

Fan Forum

David, at Sports & B's

Caldwell, at 1918



Well, I wasn't home to watch the game, so this post is going to be pretty short - I just have to use the box score as my guide. I did, however, have time to watch the controversial conclusion, to see what all the hoopla was about.

Situation: Bases loaded, one out, 1-1 game in the bottom of the tenth, Tino Martinez against Clint Nageotte, with Carl Crawford at third

Tino lifts a 2-2 delivery into shallow left field, and Jose Lopez runs over to third base for no apparent reason. Raul Ibanez makes the routine catch and returns the ball to the infield quickly, forcing Crawford back to third base after he had bluffed a few strides. However, third base umpire Paul Emmel declared obstruction on the play and awarded Crawford home plate, winning the game for Tampa Bay. Much discussion ensued, with Boss Bob offering his usual assortment of Gee Whizzes and Dog Gonnits in a futile attempt to reverse the call.

Here is the rule, as stated in the official rulebook (thanks to Devin for digging this up):

OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner. If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered "in the act of fielding a ball." It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the "act of fielding" the ball. For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.

Jose Lopez was facing the infield as Raul Ibanez approached the ball, and as the catch was made, Lopez turned his shoulders so that they were partially blocking Crawford's view of left field. While Crawford took off as soon as the ball was caught, he claimed after the game that he had to move to the side a little bit to see Ibanez clearly.

So, what do we get from all this? Crawford was unlikely to score on the play, as the fly ball was shallow and Ibanez has a strong arm. Third base coach Tom Foley admitted afterwards that Crawford had no intentions of bolting for home, that he planned to bluff taking off in order to draw a throw - however, there was no way of knowing this as the play developed. Therefore, it seems like a bogus call, doesn't it? That said, the rule strictly states that obstruction takes place whenever a defensive player hinders the progress of a baserunner - which Lopez attempted to do (and, according to Crawford, it worked) - and that it's purely a discretionary call for the umpire. Lopez made a clear attempt to block Crawford's view of the ball, and as such, the rule states that obstruction may be called, with the runners advancing one extra base.

What do I think happened? When the ball was hit into the air, instinct kicked in for Lopez to cover third base while Bloomquist set up as the cutoff man. With everything a blur in his head, Lopez glanced at Crawford and decided to make a schoolyard play, leaning in front of him so as to partially block Crawford's view of left field. Given his bearings, Lopez is smart enough to know that doing so is against the rules, but with the situation as it was Lopez acted on his first impulse, and it cost him. There's a definite motion to hinder Crawford's view of Ibanez, and regardless of whether or not it was deliberate or performed subconsciously, the umpire astutely followed the rulebook. The only thing that should come out of all this is a slight alteration to the rule, so that the runner is awarded the extra base only if he would have otherwise been able to advance had the obstruction not taken place. Crawford wasn't going anywhere, so while I respect Emmel's memory of the rules, I disagree with how it all played out. But then, I guess it's better to lose on a wacky call than by Nageotte forcing in a run by walking Jose Cruz Jr, who stood on deck...

Something I noticed was that, after all the other players had retreated to the clubhouse following the postgame discussion, leaving Bob Melvin to fend for himself, Wee Willie stayed behind in a display of support for his manager. At least we've got *that* figured out, now.

Other than that, there's not much to report from a game I didn't see. The offense was as bad as it's been all year long, managing just two hits and seven baserunners in ten innings. Wee Willie, #2 hitter extraordinaire, put up an o'fer day, lowering his season line to .248/.271/.304. He doesn't hit for average, doesn't get on base, and doesn't hit for power, but he sure can play a bunch of positions. That kind of versatility allows you to arrange a bench that can neither hit nor play the field very well...

Another wild day for Nageotte, throwing just nine of twenty pitches for strikes (excluding the Huff IBB). In the brief clips I watched a little while ago, it seemed like he had better control of his slider than his fastball, which is the reverse of what you'd expect from a young pitcher. A limited repertoire already threatened to give Nageotte a career in the bullpen; an inability to locate fastballs will make that the inevitable fate. It's nice and cool and all to have a sharp breaking pitch, but you're nothing if you can't hit your spots with a heater.

An encouraging outing for George Sherrill, who hasn't walked a batter in five straight appearances (4.2 innings). As the command straightens out, the hits will go down, and we'll have the strike-throwing southpaw dynamo we all expected after seeing his K/BB ratio in Tacoma...

I don't like Ryan Franklin, and games like this only fuel my negative desires.

Ron Villone goes up against my #2 HACKING MASS starter Mark Hendrickson tomorrow at 3:15pm.
Some news tidbits:

Josh Phelps was traded from Toronto to Cleveland in exchange for minor league corner OF/1B Eric Crozier.

Phelps has been a huge disappointment since a monster half-season in the big leagues in 2002, struggling to control the plate and failing to make good, consistent contact. A bad back hampered his 2003 campaign, but he's been the picture of reasonable health this year, and his performance hasn't come close to matching expectations. Even worse, his power has eroded in the past few years, and Phelps' numbers have been inflated by playing in Skydome. With Carlos Delgado moving on after the year, the Jays had a spot open for Phelps, but perhaps a change of scenery will serve him well. He'll battle Ben Broussard and (AL MVP?) Travis Hafner for playing time with the Indians.

In return, JP Ricciardi brought in Eric Crozier, a first baseman/corner outfielder who turns 26 in a week and a half. Drafted out of Norfolk State University in 2000, Crozier hit well against younger competition at A-ball Kinston before struggling to make contact against AA pitching through the end of 2003. However, flashing good power and a decent batter's eye, Crozier was promoted to AAA Buffalo this year, where he's hit .297/.375/.571 over 300 at bats. He's a guy who's probably playing about as well as he ever will, but he's showing the potential to pick up where Phelps left off in 2002. Should Crozier get promoted, he'll go from a moderate pitcher's park in Buffalo to a bandbox in Toronto, helping soften the adjustment blow. Phelps is a talented young hitter, but recognizing that the DH may not ever realize his potential with the Jays, Ricciardi shipped him off for an underrated AAA masher who could fill the same role.

Also, the Cardinals added Larry Walker, sending three prospects to Colorado. As a condition of the trade, the Rockies will pick up more than half of Walker's remaining salary (somewhere in the neighborhood of $20m through the end of 2005, with an expensive '06 option). In Walker, St. Louis adds a terrific bat to its Edmonds/Pujols/Rolen core, forming the deadliest lineup in the National League. A healthy Walker should approach a .300/.400/.500 line, well north of the .260/.326/.411 numbers put up by a Lankford/Mabry/Anderson/Bavasi/William of Orange platoon in the outfield, representing a significant upgrade. While the Cardinals starting pitching may implode at any moment, the team has enough offense to make up for the damage, along with an absolutely brilliant bullpen (3.06 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) to stop the bleeding.

What did the Rockies get? Along with two PTBNL's, they brought in Jason Burch, a 21 year old (22 in October) relief pitcher out of the University of Nebraska. Burch threw just 30.2 innings last year after being drafted, showing good peripherals against younger competition, and was bumped up to A-ball Peoria to serve as the team's closer this year. He's managed to strike out more than a hitter per inning while limiting hits and home runs (just one allowed in 52.1 IP), but Burch has command problems that he needs to get over if he hopes to salvage a Major League career. The good news is that Baseball America rated his slider as the best breaking pitch in the Midwest League, to go along with a changeup and a heavy sinking fastball that reaches the low-90s. As far as minor league relievers below AA go, Burch is one of the better ones, but he's hardly the kind of return you'd like for Larry Walker when you're stuck with over half the bill. Nevertheless, Colorado had to make room in the outfield to give a few younger players a chance to stick, and Walker was the easiest to move. He's a complete class act who deserves a chance at a ring - I certainly know who I'll be pulling for should St. Louis meet the Yankees in the Series.

Friday, August 06, 2004

The Mariners traded Mike Myers to Boston today, in exchange for a PTBNL or cash.

Update: Cha Baek has taken Myers' place on the roster.
The Mariners dipped into the Northeast League today and purchased the contract of Tony Runion, sending him straight to Tacoma.

Runion's a 32 year old right-handed relief pitcher who was drafted by Cleveland in the 58th round of the 1993 draft. He bounced around with the Indians, Orioles, and Padres before landing in Taiwan in 2002, and signing with Brockton this past May. He had filled the role of closer for the Rox, amassing 15 saves and a 2.67 ERA.

Given one of the best pitching performances by a Mariner starter all year long, it still took extra frames for us to put an end to that nasty six-game skid. Bobby Madritsch was simply brilliant in his first career Major League start, but it took a bad play by Geoff Blum to decide the game in the top of the eleventh.

...much to the chagrin of Robert Szasz. The famed Tampa Heckler - who selects one individual on the opposing team to harp on per series - rode Bret Boone all night long, but was silenced by an RBI single by the second baseman in the decisive eleventh inning. The Tropicana Dome is ideal for fans with very loud voices who want to be heard, and thus Szasz was born unto the baseball world, irking adversaries 81 days a year. Read that article. It's a year old, but still both interesting and entertaining.

Today's Winner: Who else? Bobby Madritsch was able to do what all the other Tacoma callups have failed to accomplish - consistently throw strikes. It therefore comes as no surprise that, when you hit your spots, good things will happen. With family and friends in attendance, Madritsch matched ex-Mariner Jorge Sosa pitch for pitch until he was pulled after eight innings, having made but a single mistake. He attacked every hitter, reaching 94mph on a fastball or two, but mainly hovering in the low 90s. When he felt that hitters were sitting on the heater, he came with a devastating straight changeup that kept the bats off balance all day long. The only bad pitch was an elevated slider that caught a little too much of the plate, much to Tino Martinez's delight, but the Devil Rays had no idea how to hit Madritsch's fastball or changeup. When he missed his spots, he missed down or off the plate, avoiding the home run problems characteristic of the rest of our Rainiers. Needless to say, if he wasn't getting much consideration for next year's rotation, tonight's performance will certainly open up some eyes. Not that a single start is support enough to pencil him in as a starter in 2005, mind you, but he's already done more than Blackley, Nageotte, Thornton, and Meche.

Today's Loser: I suppose there has to be one, right? Raul Ibanez went 0-for-5, reaching base once courtesy of an intentional walk. His most critical out came in the fifth, when he hit a grounder to Tino with two outs and two in scoring position. The performance dropped Raul's line to .262/.319/.455, well below what you'd like to see from a starting corner outfielder - keep in mind that Safeco has a weaker effect on Ibanez than most player, on account of his left-handedness. By the way, Mike Cameron, Matt Stairs, and Jose Cruz Jr. are all doing better. Anyway, there isn't a real clear-cut goat in this one, primarily because the Mariners ended up on top. Ordinarily this space will be reserved for Wee Willie if nobody else has a bad day, but he didn't play in the game, so he's exempt. Today.

Bucky Jacobsen has tremendous power and a pretty good batter's eye. This has been established. What he also has, though, is a long swing that leaves him vulnerable to inside heat. Tampa Bay's power pitchers ate him alive today, save for an opposite-field double off a Jorge Sosa slider. The best example took place in the top of the tenth, with the bases loaded and one out. Following an intentional walk issued to Raul Ibanez, Lou Piniella summoned Danys Baez from the bullpen to face Jacobsen, and he proceeded to blow a series of fastballs by the slugger for a four-pitch strikeout. Given this information, it's even more remarkable that Jose Lopez found himself standing on first base so often. With his quick bat and short, compact swing, Lopez was able to get the bat head out in front of Sosa and Baez fastballs and pull them into left field. I don't know if he's ever going to start slugging a bunch of home runs in the big leagues, but I can already tell that Lopez is going to be a tough strikeout. He has a textbook two-strike approach at the plate, something you certainly can't say about Leone or Jacobsen, and will probably turn out to be that guy who everyone else hates because he hits bloop singles on 0-2 counts.

Miguel Olivo is a fine player. He's already the best catcher we've had in a long, long time. That said, he really doesn't have a good idea of what he's doing at the plate. In each at bat it's almost like he's fresh from the batting cage, expecting every pitch to be a fastball over the plate. If it's a fastball up or in, he'll make poor contact. If it's a breaking ball in the dirt, he'll miss it by two or three feet. It's the same thing that drove Yankees fans crazy when Alfonso Soriano would flail away at bad pitches; you know what the guy can do with a ball when he makes solid contact, so you just wish that he had a better idea when he's hitting, so that he could hit the ball more often. I've always been one to eschew the idea that strikeouts are a sign of offensive inferiority, but in Olivo's case, they're an indication that he doesn't handle broad repertoires very well. Paul Molitor is going to have his hands full for the rest of the year, although I'm curious to see what happens if he mixes things up and instructs Olivo to get more aggressive at the plate, while telling Leone to lay off some pitches here and there.

Just as Olivo doesn't know what to do with breaking balls at the plate, JJ Putz doesn't really know what to do with breaking balls when they're in his hand. It's nice to have second and third pitches to keep hitters honest, but there comes a point at which you really need to throw one for a strike in order for the threat to be effective. Putz was clocked in the mid-90s today in his one inning of work, but his curveball was all over the place. It's not hard to see why Melvin uses him so often, and why he struggles so much.

That turf in the Tropicana infield is going to murder somebody someday.

Ryan Franklin vs. Dewon Brazelton tomorrow at 4:15. I'll be going to Petco to see the Padres take on the Pirates, but I should still be able to make a post - which is more than I can say for Saturday night.
I was watching the Padres take on the Phillies this evening. In the top of the eighth, David Bell hit a pop up down the right field line that landed foul, just barely eluding Brian Giles' extended glove. Having gone into a full sprint in pursuit of the ball, however, Giles was in position to stop his momentum, and he went hurtling over the low fence that borders the field. Slow to get up and still woozy when play resumed, Giles' play immediately reminded me of Derek Jeter's "Best Catch Ever" at the start of last month. Of course, Giles couldn't make the catch, so this is the last you'll be hearing of the play.

Something else came up in the bottom half of the inning. With men on second and third and two outs, Terrence Long came to the plate to face Todd Jones, with Ramon Hernandez on deck. After the count reached 2-1, Larry Bowa ordered an impromptu intentional walk to load the bases. Jones was visibly upset with the decision, and after he struck Hernandez out swinging he walked off the field, glaring at Bowa in the dugout. This comes on the heels of ex-Phillie Tyler Houston mouthing off to the press about the team's problems with Bowa. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Rafael Soriano has elbow problems again, and has been shut down until further notice.
21 year old Cuban defector Kendry Morales obtained residency in the Dominican Republic this week after defecting in early June. The switch hitting Morales, considered one of the most talented players to ever come out of Cuba, plays both corner infield and outfield positions and has indicated in the past to have a strong desire to learn how to play catcher. Several scouts who have followed his situation closely have said that there is a strong chance that Morales could easily play this season for a big league ball club, he will more than likely spend the remainder of 2004 in the minors. Bidding for his services is expected to begin shortly, although there is an outside chance he will have to enter next years draft. Teams interested consist of the usual suspects New York Yankees and Mets, Boston Red Sox, Florida Marlins and our Seattle Mariners.

If Morales is able to avoid joining the 2005 MLB Draft, the Mariners should make a strong play for the 21 year old who has drawn comparisons to a young Albert Pujols. Morales will not come cheap, but for a team desperately needing to salvage a season that has been in a nose dive since April, Morales might just be the way to help get Seattle back on the map, both competitively and with the fans. Seattle can not use the excuse of not having the money in the budget, as the money they set aside for mid-season acquisitions was not used and the majority of the Kaz money is still remaining, not to mention the large FA surplus available in 2005. If there ever was a time for the organization to start acting like the financial powerhouse they are, this is it.
Matt Tuiasosopo has been promoted to Everett after hitting .412 in Peoria.

With the Royals winning big tonight, we've entered a tie for the worst record in the American League! Hooray! But wait, it came to my attention today (thanks) that they changed the rules this past winter, and that - rather than flip-flopping between AL and NL priority - the worst overall record in baseball will get the #1 pick in the amateur draft the following summer. So, all of a sudden we need to lose five games in the standings to Arizona to lock up the first pick. But then, David claims that Justin Upton could easily slide to #2, with Arizona having selected a shortstop in this year's draft, so there's some encouragement for you. Bottom line: we need to finish below Kansas City this year. It's going to take some hard work, but I think we've got the right group of players to achieve our goal.

Today's game fit yesterday's template: M's rally to tie it up, but the bullpen blows it in the late innings. After Randy Winn hit his ninth homer of the year (.291/.364/.447) and Miguel Olivo drew a bases-loaded walk, the game was all knotted up at three apiece. But - never fear! - Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Mike Myers were getting loose in the bullpen. Sure enough, six batters later it was 6-3 Baltimore, and the game was all but in the books. The six-game losing streak is tied for our second longest of the season, falling three games short of our nine-gamer from 7/2 to 7/11.

Today's Winner: Gil Meche, who had his second consecutive encouraging outing, striking out seven and walking one in six innings of work. As a rule of thumb, I usually don't concern myself with how many hits a pitcher allows, particularly when he misses so many bats - too much of it has to do with luck. You look at a game like tonight, in which Meche allows nine hits but just one goes for extra bases, and you realize that he's hitting his spots more often than he was earlier in the year, which is all you can really ask for. Nobody has ever doubted Meche's stuff - he'll go as far as his command can take him - so as he works on getting his pitches over the plate, you can expect that he's going to give up his fair share of hits. What's encouraging is that he still managed to strike out seven hitters despite letting some pitches catch too much of the plate, suggesting that Meche's repertoire is able to overcome some poor location. The real question, though, is why Meche was allowed back out there in the first place, given the lengthy rain delay in the second inning. That can't be good for his arm; neither can throwing 108 pitches after spending so long in the dugout.

Today's Loser: Wee Willie Bloomquist, who had a crucial error to go along with an 0-for-4 day. If you thought grounding into a DP and hitting a soft liner back to the pitcher with the bases loaded and two outs was bad, it gets worse. With two on and one out in the bottom of the seventh, Miguel Tejada hit a routine grounder to Bloomquist at third, who dropped the ball, unable to make any play. Rafael Palmeiro followed with the deciding hit, and that was that. Had Bloomquist been able to hang on to the ball, he could have turned a double play to get us out of the inning unscathed. Instead, all Wee Willie was able to accomplish was adding another stain to his resume as an ML ballplayer, to go along with that whole "can't hit" problem. At least Charles Gipson was fun to watch.

Shigetoshi Hasegawa has already allowed three times as many runs this year as he did in all of 2003. Here's a guy who - while certainly not an elite reliever - had been fairly dependable over a seven-year career prior to 2004. Everyone knew that he'd regress from last year's terrific performance, but did anyone think he'd become one of the worst relief pitchers in baseball? He's due $2.98m next year, whether we like it or not, but 2006 is the critical year - a $3.1m option will vest if Hasegawa appears in 58 games next year. The best path of action here would probably be to cut him and eat the money (it's a sunk cost either way), because Melvin might otherwise try throwing Hasegawa out there every day next year in an effort to recapture glimpses of the pitcher who once was. We don't need to be on the hook for so much money in two years, so a little foresight could go a long way.

Mike Myers - the one-out lefty guy - is allowing a .258 batting average against lefties, along with a .359 OBP. Which sounds miserable, until you realize what the Yankees have been running out there to face left-handed batters in the later innings. Guys always talk about how hard it is to pick up pitches out of Myers' hand, but they certainly don't seem to be having much trouble so far this year.

As for Daniel Cabrera, I'd assumed for most of the year that he was heading down the Damian Moss career path - coming out of nowhere to have a good year, but regressing when his poor peripherals catch up with his performance. However, I got to watch him for the first time today, and came away reasonably impressed - he showed some good velocity and better movement than I expected. He still has a long ways to go getting his mechanics and release point sorted out, but you couldn't possibly ask for much more out of a guy who was pitching at A-ball in 2003.

Bobby Madritsch gets his first career ML start against ex-Mariner Jorge Sosa tomorrow, at 4:15pm. This is the kind of effectively wild guy who makes for fun matchups against Justin Leone; he can look terrific with three straight sliders in one at bat, but get crushed on a poorly-located floater in the next. Something to keep an eye on, anyway.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Travel day for the entire PCL.

No action for the Texas league either.

Rancho Cucamonga smoked Inland Empire, 11-2. Not a real good night for T.A. Fulmer as he lasted only five innings and got roughed up in the process. On the offensive side, the 66'er batters were completely baffled by Justin Dowdy and couldn't really get anything going the entire night. Notables:

T.A. Fulmer: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR.
Juan Gonzalez: 0-3.
Jesus Guzman: 1-4.
Carlos Arroyo: 2-4.
Brian Lentz: 0-3.
Michael Garciaparra: 0-2, 1 BB, 2 R.

Wisconsin edged Clinton, 2-1.
Michael Moorhead was outstanding as he went seven innings scattering five hits and a run while striking out ten. He bailed out an otherwise weak offense attack. Adam Jones did have two hits on the day, though, as he drove in the two lone runs. Notables:

Michael Moorhead: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K.
Josh Womack: 0-3.
Adam Jones: 2-4, 2 RBI.
Bryan LaHair: 1-4.
Chris Collins: 0-1, 2 BB.
Justin Ruchti: 0-3.

No Northwest League action.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Here's a fun read for you: walk-up songs for all American League batters. Check back later this week to get the NL list.
The other day, Jon Wells of Grand Salami fame, discussed the possbility of placing Meche into the closers role if his struggles in the rotation persist. I talked about this earlier in the season at length on my old site, Mariners Rumblings and Grumblings, and at the time I thought it would be a good idea to at least give Meche a shot at ending games, since he was struggling starting them. However, I am not so sure that moving Meche into the closers role would be as good an idea as it sounded in April. There are a couple reasons:
  • While there is no denying that Gil Meche might have some of the best "stuff" on the team, he has been unbelieveably ineffective so far this season. In 49.1 innings this season, he has allowed 63 hits and 29 free passes, resulting in a 1.86 whip. Command issues have plagued Meche this season, which could be directly related to Meche throwing 200+ innings (186 in ML plus winter ball) last season for the first time in several years.
  • Using Eric Gagne and John Smoltz as examples of successful starters turned closers looks good on paper, both pitchers have their own paths to that role. John Smoltz is a former Cy Young Award winner, who has a history of elbow problems and was placed in the pen to help save his arm and career. Eric Gagne was a starting pitcher who started the game of strong, but as the hitters made their way through the line-up a second time, he became less Superman and more Clark Kent. Similarly, Meche has not had the type of success that Gagne or even Smoltz has had in the early innings to indicate that he is ready or could handle the closer's role. For instance, in the first inning this season Meche has allowed a .333/.491/.500/.991. In the first 15 pitches, a .364/.462/.576/1.037 stat line. Not exactly the type of production that you would want out of a closer.
  • Another thing going against Meche getting a shot in the closers role is the inability of the organization to think outside the box. While Meche has never pitched in relief for any extended length of time, there is no reason to not give him a shot in the role, especially with Guardado on the shelf and Soriano another week or two away. While starting games and ending games are as similar as apples and oranges, no one knows how Meche would perform in the role if given the opportunity.
  • Not to mention that if we tried every pitcher who has had struggles in the rotation, we would have half a dozen closers on this team.

In other news, Bobby Madritsch has been named the starter for tomorrow nights game in Tampa Bay. Madritsch has been the most effective arm from Tacoma so far this season and deserved a shot in the rotation. At least tomorrow's game will entertaining to watch as the youth movement continues.

Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma hammered Albuquerque, 11-6. Luis Ugueto and Greg Dobbs helped ease the pressure on the subpar Cha Seung Baek today as Ugueto had five hits (3 doubles!) and four RBI with Dobbs collecting four hits of his own. The entire offense minus A.J. Zapp managed at least one hit. Notables:

Cha Seung Baek: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 2 K.
Elpidio Guzman: 3-6, 1 2B, 3 RBI.
Luis Ugueto: 5-6, 3 2B, 4 RBI.
Jeremy Reed: 1-5, 1 RBI.
Hiram Bocachica: 1-4.
A.J. Zapp: 0-4.
Greg Dobbs: 4-5, 1 2B, 1 R.
Greg Jacobs: 2-3, 2 BB, 2 R. (Line as of the 2nd: .301/.375/.536. Mmmm)

Both games of the San Antonio-El Paso doubleheader were cancelled. They got 3 1/2 innings in before the first game was called with El Paso up, 3-0.

Inland Empire thumped Rancho Cucamonga, 10-3. Juan Sandoval was excellent as he went seven innings scattering six hits and a run while striking out six. The 66'er offense was firing on all cylinders as well, especially Jesus Guzman who had four hits on the day including a bomb. Notables:

Juan Sandoval: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR.
Juan Gonzalez: 2-4, 1 BB, 2 R.
Jesus Guzman: 4-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R.
Carlos Arroyo: 2-5, 2 RBI.
Rene Rivera: 1-4.
Michael Garciaparra: 0-4.

Wisconsin pulled of a miracle to beat Clinton, 8-7. Down 7-1 in the eighth and...well, here is how it went:

- Womack, J homered, RBI.
- Orlandos, N popped up to 1b.
- Jones, A hit by pitch.
- LaHair, B singled; Jones, A advanced to third.
- Frydendall, to p for Kirsten, J.
- Collins, C walked; LaHair, B advanced to second.
- Colton, C walked, RBI; Collins, C advanced to second; LaHair, B advanced to third; Jones, A scored.
- Colton, C advanced to second on a wild pitch; Collins, C advanced to third on a wild pitch; LaHair, B scored on a wild pitch.
- Blakeley, E walked.
- Watts, J to p for Frydendall,.
- Cox, M homered, 4 RBI; Blakeley, E scored; Colton, C scored; Collins, C scored.
- Dutton, J grounded out to 2b.
- Womack, J popped up to ss.

That's Michael Cox's second grand slam of the season, there. Ryan Feierabend got the start and while it looks bad, the real run scoring came against Brad Rose. Notables:

Ryan Feierabend: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K.
Josh Womack: 3-5, 1 HR, 1 RBI.
Nick Orlandos: 1-4.
Adam Jones: 0-2, 1 BB.
Bryan LaHair: 3-4.
Chris Collins: 0-3.
Michael Cox: 1-4, 1 GS.

Everett had the day off.
If you haven't been over to the PI blog tonight, Mike Thompson broke the news that the Mariners have purchased the contract of one Bill Pulsipher from the Long Island Ducks.

And like Mike said, he's really nothing more than an extra arm in Tacoma, so don't be alarmed.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Kansas City is losing at this writing, but even assuming that they can't mount a comeback, we're still making up some ground in the race for the #1 overall pick in next year's amateur draft. At 37-67, the Royals are just one game apart from your 2004 Mariners, with seven critical head-to-head cames coming up later this month. By August 30th, we should have a very good idea of who winds up with Justin Upton.

The Mariners now have one win in their last 21 road games. Each of today's games were lost in a similar way; Seattle fights to tie it up late in the game, before the bullpen caves in and allows the winning run. Clint Nageotte and George Sherrill, two of our promising Tacoma promotions, were tagged with the decisions, although it was Mike Myers who allowed the deciding base hit when Larry Bigbie doubled in the seventh inning of the first game. Although Nageotte threw some good pitches, overall it was just another display of poor command by the ex-Rainiers. Clint's moving fastball has been dancing off edges of the zone left and right, leaving his feared slider essentially worthless, as hitters have been able to sit back and wait for the count to be in their favor. Sherrill, on the other hand, continues to miss high and away, struggling to throw more than half of his pitches for strikes in each appearance. The optimistic spin is that, if the polished ex-Indy Leaguers like Sherrill are struggling to locate the zone, then it's got to be nerves more than anything else, and the young pitchers will come around in due time. However, there's also the possibility that the arms aren't receiving proper instruction in AAA, and that they don't trust their stuff - a much larger problem to overcome. You hate to see these kinds of control problems, and you tell yourself that they'll work things out by the end of the year, but you can also understand why the team decided to hang on to Myers and Ron Villone at the deadline.

Today's Winner: Ichiro, who went 6-for-6 with a triple. He now has hits in seven consecutive plate appearances, and has 61 hits in his last 134 at bats overall (.455). True, he's got the emptiest .355 batting average you'll ever see, but he has the second-highest EqA among AL right fielders. Not only that, but Ichiro is currently experiencing the best season of his four-year Major League career, getting on base 40% of the time he comes to the plate. Say what you will about the inconsistency of singles-hitters and batting average - God knows I agree with you - but accusations that Ichiro has tanked it in past summers foolish, as he is putting forth a tremendous effort in the second half of a lost season.

Today's Loser: Seattle catchers, who failed to reach base in ten plate appearances today. Dan Wilson seems to be establishing a certain level of productivity which he can be expected neither to exceed nor fall behind, somewhere in the neighborhood of .245/.295/.330. Interestingly enough, the same level of productivity caused the Astros to hand Brad Ausmus a seven-figure multiyear deal, so we can expect the same kind of market when Wilson's a free agent this winter, right? Okay, not so much. While it would be nice to unload him on the Twins for the last two months of the year, doing so serves no real purpose - we're not going to get anything in return, and we'll need a backup catcher next year anyway as Olivo isn't going to catch all 162 games by himself, and Pat Borders is beginning to disintegrate. I suppose you could try to find a lefty-hitting veteran backstop, but then you're left with the Brent Maynes of the world, and if we plan to contend in 2005, you'd like to think that having to choose between Mayne and Wilson won't have a significant impact. Wilson might as well return on a cheap, one-year deal; we'll just have to live with his lousy offense in the meantime. As far as the other catcher is concerned, who knew that Miguel Olivo was so streaky? He followed a colossal hot streak by going 1-for-21 with a homer and twelve strikeouts. I'm not worried, as he's already flashed more offensive potential than any Mariners backstop I've seen in my life, but if the fans were more than willing to turn on Mike Cameron for his streaky play, I don't even want to imagine how they'll deal with Olivo.

You think Ron Villone's a little miffed about remaining on the team after the deadline? Villone responded to the news (or lack thereof) by having his worst performance of the year, surrendering seven runs and ten baserunners in 3.2 innings. All of a sudden, his ERA is up to 3.57 - much less attractive to contenders than the 2.88 figure he was sporting last weekend - and his K/BB ratio has dropped to 1.28, which would be good for 87th in the league (out of 95 pitchers) if Villone had a few more innings under his belt. You think other teams might notice that he's also allowed nine unearned runs, pushing his RA up to 4.64? Keeping him around for the rest of the year is fine, given that we weren't being offered any real quality prospects around the deadline, but the front office needs to realize that his performance is way out of line with his track record, and that he's not going to repeat his first half again in 2005. God willing, this won't become another Hasegawa contract.

Jose Lopez hasn't had a chance to show much of anything at the ML level yet, but there are still reasons to be encouraged by his first three games. He has a real quick stroke, lining some singles to the outfield and allowing him to wait longer on pitches and drive them the other way. He's also shown adequate range both at the plate and in the field, turning a few double plays and showing off a strong arm. It's unlikely that he remains at shortstop for very long, given his build and inevitable growth, but we may be able to leave him there for 2005, grooming him to take over the second base job after Boone leaves. When hitting, I noticed that Lopez was rolling over on some fastballs in the early game, but this is a reasonably simple problem to solve, so it shouldn't be a concern for much longer.

I've run out of time, but I'll be back to cover tomorrow's Meche vs. Cabrera start (4:05). I'm looking for Lopez to have a good day against the contact pitcher - you should be, too.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma hung on to beat Albuquerque, 6-5. It was the Jeremy Reed show as he homered and clutch singled in two runs, one being the eventual game winner. Rafael Soriano got the start but was yanked pretty quick after allowing two baserunners in the first. Greg Wear came to pitch 4.2 mediocre innings as Jared Hoerman got the undeserved win. Hiram Bocachica and Greg Jacobs also homered. And, making up for a ridiculous blunder in the 5th, Mickey Lopez had two fantastic catches, one an over-the-shoulder dive job in shallow right field and the other a half-flip over the fence into the crowd to grab a foul pop. Notables:

Rafael Soriano: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K.
Greg Wear: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 HR.
Mickey Lopez: 0-2, 2 BB.
Jeremy Reed: 2-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI.
Hiram Bocachica: 1-3, 1 HR, 1 BB.
Greg Dobbs: 1-3, 1 BB. Yes, he drew his second unintentional walk of the year and it only took him 151 at-bats.
Greg Jacobs: 2-2, 1 HR, 1 BB.

El Paso beat up on San Antonio, 7-2. Phil Devey was rocked in yet another bad start for him. The Mission offense wasn't a whole lot better as they could only muster five hits on the evening, two coming from the sizzling bat of Michael Morse. Notables:

Phil Devey: 4.1 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR.
Dustin Delucchi: 0-3.
Shin-soo Choo: 1-4, 1 RBI.
Michael Morse: 2-4.
T.J. Bohn: 1-2, 1 BB.
Brian Moon: 0-3.

Rancho Cucamonga beat Inland Empire, 8-3.
Much like Phil Devey, Ryan Rowland-Smith was hit hard but also became victim to several 66'er miscues as he lasted only 3.1 innings. Jon Huber, the fringe prospect taken for Dave Hansen really picked up the slack as he went 4.2 absolutely outstanding shutout innings giving up three hits and striking out TEN. Gary Harris, Erick Monzon and Josh Ellison all had multi-hit nights and Carlos Arroyo homered but it was all for naught. Notables:

Ryan Rowland-Smith: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 3 HR.
Jon Huber: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K.
Gary Harris: 2-4.
Juan Gonzalez: 0-3.
Jesus Guzman: 0-4.
Carlos Arroyo: 1-4, 1 HR.
Josh Ellison: 2-4.
Rene Rivera: 1-4.
Michael Garciaparra: 0-4.

Clinton slipped by Wisconsin, 6-3.
Brian Stitt really wasn't too shabby, but it didn't matter a bit as the Rattler offense had extreme trouble driving runners in. Three men had multi-hit nights but only the one XBH (a double, at that) spelled doom. Notables:

Brian Stitt: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K.
Adam Jones: 1-4, 1 double.
Bryan LaHair: 0-3.
Chris Collins: 2-4, 1 RBI.
Justin Ruchti: 0-2.
Nick Orlandos: 1-4, 2 RBI.
Michael Cox: 2-3.

Boise came back late to beat Everett, 6-5. Aaron Trolia might soon realize that baseball just isn't his thing. One night after he was rocked for five runs in the ninth and thus blowing the game, he was given the ball (albeit in a high pressure situation, which makes me question the coaching staff) and promptly threw a wild pitch allowing the winning run from third to score. So, the line for Trolia? 0.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 WP. Nice. Notables:

Shawn Nottingham: 6.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.
Casey Craig: 1-4, 1 BB.
Brandon Green: 2-5, 1 2B, 2 RBI.
Yung-Chi Chen: 1-4, 1 BB.
Omar Falcon: 0-3.

Monday, August 02, 2004

News update:

Guardado to the DL, with Matt Thornton recalled.

Chris Snelling is back - really, this time! - and recorded a hit in Peoria last night.

I haven't been able to watch the last few games, on account of being out of the house, but given that one resulted in another heart-rending loss and the other featured Ryan Franklin again (do we really have to pitch each of our starters every five days?), I'm not too disappointed about missing out. Nevertheless, a little bit about the game...

Today's Winner: Fans and members of the Seattle Mariners organization. After collecting his first Major League hit today - a single off of Bartolo Colon - Jose Lopez can feel like he truly belongs in the big leagues, taking over at short for the rest of the year at the expense of Wee Willie Bloomquist. Whether or not Lopez - a 20 year old shortstop with raw defense who's still filling out - is ready to face ML pitching is up for debate, but a .295/.342/.505 line in a half-season at Tacoma suggests that he's more qualified for the job than Bloomquist and Ramon Santiago, which is all anyone's really looking for. Lopez has terrific power potential for a middle infielder, with 37% of his hits going for extra bases since the start of 2003 and 13 home runs in 275 AAA at bats this year, and looks to be headed down the Edgar Renteria career path. Even if his body forces an eventual move to third base, it's beginning to look like he'll still have the bat to be an excellent player, which is more than we've been able to say in the past. Easily the most exciting player from our own system since A-Rod.

Today's Loser: Edgar Martinez. Relegated to a pseudo-backup role, having started just eight games since the All Star break, Edgar needed the front office to be more active at the trade deadline if he were to get his name in the lineup more often. However, an inability to move Scott Spiezio (certainly understandable) sealed his fate. The team remains committed to Spiezio as a starter in 2005, and so he will collect a bunch of at bats at first base over the rest of the year. Needing to find out if Bucky Jacobsen will be a part of that team has essentially limited Edgar to a spot-starting role, which - while probably the right thing to do - is a disappointing end to a brilliant career. He deserved better, but that's for another time.

It occurred to me this afternoon that we should temper our enthusiasm regarding Bucky and Leone's success. One is a 29 year old immobile thunderstick having his only good season above AA, who has almost certainly hit his peak; the other is a low-OBP Russ Branyan clone who makes sense for a team lacking better alternatives, such as the last few Mariners teams, but who shouldn't cause a team to forego acquiring a better player - a stopgap, if you will. We all want these two players to do well, since we'd been clamoring for them to get promoted for a long time, but what happens if they finish the year on strong notes? There is a surplus of talented designated hitters and third basemen in the upcoming free agent market, but the organization may ignore them, feeling that they already have good enough players at those positions. A lineup with Bucky and Leone is fine as long as you have run producers at other positions, but it doesn't look like this will be the case next year, so we've reached a precarious position. Keep your fingers crossed.

Regarding the trade deadline, David covered it pretty well. Myers is driftwood who isn't exactly stealing many innings from the younger pitchers, and he's an excellent candidate to be moved in a waiver deal; Villone, on the other hand, you would have liked to move, but if other teams aren't offering enough, you might as well keep him around. Moving one of these arms just opens up a spot in the bullpen for someone who doesn't deserve it, as there's nobody left in Tacoma who's pitching particularly well. As far as position players are concerned, it would have been nice to move Winn or Ibanez to make room for Jeremy Reed, but he could probably use another month or two in AAA, and the first two could be moved in the winter, when teams have more time to figure out the holes in their rosters.

Off-day tomorrow, followed by a doubleheader in Baltimore on Tuesday.
Minor League Wrap-Up:

Tacoma got by Albuquerque, 8-5.
Six late runs in addition to good relief for newcomer Bryan Ward helped win it for the Rainiers. Ward wasn't bad nor real spectacular as he went 6.2 innings giving up eight hits and five runs while striking out six. Five Rainiers had multi-hit nights including Jeremy Reed and Hiram Bocachica who went deep twice. Notables:

Bryan Ward: 6.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 HR.
Jeremy Reed: 2-4, 2 RBI.
A.J. Zapp: 0-4, 3 K.
Hiram Bocachica: 2-3, 2 HR, 1 BB.
Greg Jacobs: 1-3, 1 double.
Pat Borders: 2-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI.
Greg Dobbs: 2-4, 1 double.

San Antonio and El Paso were postponed due to rain. The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Tuesday.

Inland Empire beat Stockton, 6-4. No box yet, should be up shortly.

Battle Creek outlasted Wisconsin, 5-4 (10).
Errors plagued the Rattlers as they committed four on the night, two of which were charged to pitcher Nibaldo Acosta. Pitching-wise, Acosta was passable for 6+ innings as he gave up six hits and four runs while striking out only a couple. The Rattler offense was relatively punchless the entire night until their late comeback in the ninth which saw Wisconsin score two to tie it up thanks to a Bryan LaHair double and Chris Colton fielder's choice. Notables:

Nibaldo Acosta: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR.
Nick Orlandos: 1-5.
Adam Jones: 2-4, 1 double.
Chris Collins: 2-4, 1 RBI.
Bryan LaHair: 1-4, 1 double.

Boise beat up on Everett, 10-6. Ruben Flores wasn't horrible tonight if that's what you're thinking. However, let's take a look at Aaron Trolia's evening, keep in mind that all he had to do was record three outs and the Aquasox would have taken the game:

Boise Bottom 9th
- Trolia, A to p for Hall, V.
- Schweiger, B to c for Falcon, O.
- Richie, T singled up the middle.
- Francisco, A grounded out to 1b unassisted; Richie, T advanced to second.
- Rios, J singled to shortstop; Richie, T advanced to third.
- Deeb, B singled to left field, RBI; Rios, J advanced to second; Richie, T scored.
- Gresky, D singled to second base; Deeb, B advanced to second; Rios, J advanced to third.
- Montanez, L homered, 4 RBI; Gresky, D scored; Deeb, B scored; Rios, J scored.

Ouch. He must of really pissed off Casey Craig who's two run shot in the top half of the inning was going to make him look like the hero. Notables:

Ruben Flores: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR.
Casey Craig: 1-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI.
Brandon Green: 1-5.
Asdrubal Cabrera: 1-4, 1 RBI.
Yung-Chi Chen: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 RBI.
Omar Falcon: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 R.
Trevor Heid: 1-4, 1 double.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

John Olerud, by the way, looks to sign with the Yankees.
Travis Blackley was sent down to Tacoma today, with Clint Nageotte recalled.