Saturday, September 18, 2004

What a guy.

Martinez said Friday that club officials asked him in August if he wanted to be traded to a pennant contender so he would have one final shot at playing in a World Series. He said thanks, but no thanks.

"It wouldn't have meant as much to me to play in a World Series for another team," he said. "When I decided this was going to be my last year, I never thought about going to another team."

Seriously, Edgar deserves a hell of a going away party on the second.
Non-Mariners post:

I watched all of tonight's Red Sox/Yankees tilt, and it turned out to be the best baseball game I've seen since...well, since the last time the two teams met up, I guess. You think NYY'ers are going to be just a little nervous next time Rivera takes the hill against Boston?

Anyway, I'm not going to recap the game; rather, I just wanted to mention a single play which may very well fly under the media's radar, given Barry Bonds' accomplishment on the same night. After a John Olerud solo shot put the Yankees on top 2-1 in the fifth, Miguel Cairo came up and hit a towering fly ball down the left field line which came down behind the fence. Cairo broke into his home run trot (does Miguel Cairo have a home run trot?), completely oblivious of what had happened to the ball.

Manny Ramirez made the catch of a lifetime, leaping into the seats with perfect timing to rob the home run. Cairo must have thought the ensuing applause was in response to his hit, because he just kept on jogging along the basepaths, slapping a high five with the third base coach (who was, evidently, also in the dark) as he passed.

It wasn't until Cairo walked back to the dugout that the on-deck hitter, Kenny Lofton, pointed to left field. Bewildered, Cairo turned and made the home run signal with his index finger (you know, the one where you draw an invisible horizontal circle in the air). Manny Ramirez pointed at him, smiling, and Cairo just about lost it, astonished that his longball had turned into a meaningless out. Turned out to be an important play, too, as the Sox rallied in the ninth for another dramatic come-from-behind win against their rivals.

All in all, the play was one of the most satisfying pieces of video that I've seen in a while. And hey, you, too, can watch it on instant replay! Navigate yourself to Boston's video page and click on yesterday's Plays Of The Game.

Good stuff. And hey, Greg Dobbs hit a three-run double that put the Mariners in the lead for good tonight, so I guess the organization can label him a "clutch hitter" now.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Heads up. Now that the minor league seasons are over, Nate Silver decided to evaluate the performances of this year's Top 50 prospects (the position players, anyway), judging them on how well they did with respect to their PECOTA expectations. He broke it up into six groups:

  • Dramatically Exceeded Expectations

  • Markedly Exceeded Expectations

  • Exceeded Expectations

  • Met Expectations

  • Underperformed Expectations

  • Markedly Underperformed Expectations

...basing each category on PECOTA's percentile expectations. For example, if a certain 32 year old shortstop were to hit, say, .241/.305/.337 (.224 EqA), and his 10th percentile projection pegs him for a .237/.286/.363 line (.223 EqA), then you would look for the corresponding category and enter the player under that header. In Silver's words, in order to Markedly Underperform Expectations a player would need to achieve his "25th percentile or worse" PECOTA forecast, so this is where the shortstop belongs.

As you may or may not remember, midseason acquisition Jeremy Reed was rated the #2 overall prospect in baseball last February after hitting .333/.431/.477 in Winstom-Salem and .409/.474/.591 in his first exposure to AA as a fresh 22 year old. PECOTA's median projection put him at a .269 EqA, but by the end of the year he was sitting at .231, slightly below his tenth percentile. Thus, according to the guidelines stipulated in the article, Reed Markedly Underperformed Expectations. Let's take a look at what Silver had to say:

This is the level at which a player's performance has deteriorated enough that it almost certainly reflects a fundamental overestimation of their ability level rather than some sort of unlucky season. I still do not think that the White Sox did well for themselves by trading Jeremy Reed, but this year seems to validate the skeptical point of view, which is that he does not have quite enough to offer as a corner outfielder unless he hits for a very high batting average. I'll be curious to see just how far PECOTA downgrades him next year; at first glance, he's looking like a Todd Hollandsworth clone. Reed's swing is not designed for power, so it would be interesting to see how he'd do with some different batting instruction.

First things first: the White Sox may have been skeptical, but Joe Borchard's hitting a paltry .152/.230/.268 through 150+ plate appearances with the big club, so early indications show that they held on to the wrong outfielder.

Is it fair to group Reed with a horde of other could-be busts? After all, he hit .289/.361/.436 as a 22/23 year old playing in AAA for the first time and spending half the season in a pitcher's park (Charlotte is neutral). What's more is that he displayed a strong approach to the plate, walking 59 times while striking out on 56 occasions. He even plays center field, which only serves to make his numbers more valuable.

So what's the catch?

Well, first of all, he doesn't play a very *good* center field, running routes as if, in Trent's words, he's being "chased by bees", and flashing a mediocre arm (which is still stronger than that thing attached to Randy Winn's right shoulder). Unless he shows a tremendous amount of development defensively next year, it's likely that he gets forced into a corner spot, where he'd need to inflate his numbers a little bit in order to retain the same amount of offensive value.

Is this possible?

Let's pretend, for a moment, that Reed puts up the same numbers in the Majors as he put up in AAA (.289/.361/.436). Such a performance would make him an above-average center fielder and an average corner OF (but a probable liability on a contending team). Assuming that he eventually moves away from center field, we can plot his value according to a neat little template:

Batting average at .315 or above: Very good player
.300-.314: Moderately good player
.285-.299: Average player
.270-.284: 1995 Rich Amaral
.269 and below: Bad player
.240: 1992 Rich Amaral

It's tempting to say that Reed's value is derived entirely from his batting average, but this isn't completely true; he drew a walk every 9.7 plate appearances in AAA (consistent with his career totals), which will keep his OBP from sinking to abysmal levels when he goes into a funk.

That said, while he does walk a little bit, his power isn't developing. Just 29% of his hits went for extra bases this year (also consistent with his career totals), and his .147 isoSLG would have ranked him 46th out of 58 qualified outfielders in the Majors this year. A cursory glance at his PECOTA comparables reveals a bunch of guys who never developed much power (and Don Mattingly), and after watching his pop stagnate in 2004, it's becoming less and less likely that Reed ever develops into a 20-homer threat.

-not that there haven't been plenty of successful singles-hitting outfielders. Reed's #2 most comparable player is Tony Gwynn, a superstar at his crests and a fine (albeit injury-prone) ballplayer at his troughs. Certainly, if Reed is able to hit .300 in the Majors, he's going to find himself gainfully employed for several years. It's a mark that he's achieved in 3.5 of his 4 professional seasons to date (he hit .305 in the half-season he spent with Tacoma), and his speed and ability to hit for contact will ensure that his batting average never dips too low. A quick line-drive swing will continue to translate into well-struck singles; in essence, these types of players have a low flameout rate, compared to that of, say, all-or-nothing sluggers or any type of pitcher.

So, what can we expect from Reed? While he does walk a bit, a great deal of his value does come from his batting average. When you consider that singles have accounted for four-fifths of his career hits, it becomes immediately clear that he's going to have a bunch of up-and-down seasons - singles rely on luck more than anything else, and individual year-to-year singles rates show wild fluctuation. Speaking strictly in terms of offensive productivity, I think Reed will follow a similar career path as Darin Erstad, just with lower highs and higher lows. Why don't we put this another way:

Peak: Tony Gwynn, .305 EqA (.338/.388/.459)
Low: BJ Surhoff, .258 EqA (.282/.333/.415)
Career Average: Darin Erstad, .263 EqA (.291/.345/.426)

...where he has a greater probability of hanging out in the upper range than the lower one, if only because he draws more walks than Erstad.

What do we take from this? Improving his power - even by the slightest bit - makes Reed that much more likely to become a solid Major League player. By the same token, he could also make himself more valuable by becoming a better defensive center fielder, which should come with both experience and commitment. All four of his appearances with the Mariners so far have been in center field, which suggests that the organization considers that to be his long-term position.

Reed doesn't hit for much power. Nate Silver thinks that a little sock is "essential" for any corner outfield prospect, and - unless you've got a guy who draws 80-100 walks a year - he's probably right. Reed is going to make a lot of people happy when he's at his peak, but he's also the kind of guy who could hit for a high average one year, fooling someone into handing him a significant contract, and then regress considerable the next. When things are going well, Reed and Ichiro should provide more one-baggers than we know what to do with from the 1-2 slots in the lineup, but those of you who don't like the idea of Randy Winn's offense from a corner OF spot probably aren't going to like Reed much better.
I've gotten a few questions about who is and isn't going to play winterball. Well, now I've got some answers.

Justin Leone, Matt Thornton, and Clint Nageotte will be playing in Venezuela. George Sherrill and Julio Mateo (who was just activated from the DL) will *not* participate.

Also, for those of you interested in attending Edgar Martinez Day on October 2nd:

The game time for the Oct. 2 home game against the Rangers remains undetermined, pending FOX's decision to carry the game as part of its national package. If FOX carries the game, it will start at 1:05 p.m. PT. If not, the game will start at 5:30 p.m. PT. FOX officials have until Sept. 27 to make a decision, so stay tuned and hold off on those barbeque plans.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Three walks to Ichiro! so far.

Two intentional.

I hate the Angels.
I know that I am critical of certain players on the Mariners roster *cough*BloomquistandFranklin*cough*, but occasionally one of these players has a terrific game or stretch that deserves acknowledgement. Ryan Franklin is one of those players that has been in my crosshairs all season long, but his performance last night deserves a tip of the hat. Franklin allowed only two hits against the Angels, ending his 11 game losing streak and winning his first game in his past 17 chances. So, congrats Franklin on snapping your losing streak. I hope the success continues for the rest of the year so you might be able to salvage any trade value left in your arm.

While I’m on the topic of pitching, how good has Bobby M been? After getting knocked around by the ChiSox earlier in the month, Bobby has mowed over the Red Sox and Angels, two of the better offensive clubs in baseball. He has pitched himself into serious contention for a starting role in 2005, if he hasn’t already earned a spot. Despite all this fanfare surrounding Bobby’s tremendous success, it needs to be noted that every so often pitchers come up to the majors, confuse teams the first time they see them and then get destroyed the second or third time out and ride off into the sunset, never to be heard from again (Jeff's note: remember Chris Michalak?). I’m not trying to paint a negative picture, but if the M’s do count on Bobby as their fifth starter next season, hopefully they have a fall back plan just in case.

We are in the final stretch of this long and painful season and all eyes are starting to focus on Ichiro. After an unbelievable July and August, Ichiro still has a realistic shot at breaking the record. There are 17 games left in the season and Ichiro needs 25 hits to break Sisler’s record by 1. Ichiro has been able to keep all of us Mariner fans enthralled in the games despite the lost season and hopefully will be able to beat the record, although even if he does come up short, it has been one hell of a ride.

Couple of quick notes:
~ The Kendry Morales watch has pretty much calmed as teams have either liked what they have seen or have been discouraged. A lot of teams expected to sign Morales and plug him into their starting line-ups in 2005, which isn’t going to happen. Like I stated at the beginning of this frenzy, he is going to need time to get back into baseball condition and shape. This is a guy who hasn’t played for over a year because the Cuban government feared he was planning on defecting in the fall of 2004, (they were right), and banned him form any and all baseball teams and activities. The Mets have emerged as the front runners, but even their interest has calmed based on the fact that he still wants too much money. As his price falls other teams will call, as the guy is still a very promising young player.
~ The rumors persist that FA center fielder Carlos Beltran is considering firing Scott Boras before he applies for free agency. Couple this with the Yankees supposedly making the retooling of their starting staff their first priority this off-season (Pedro anyone?), the Mariners chances of landing Beltran might have gotten a bit of a boost.
~ On a similar topic, if you think the Dodgers are prepared to let Adrian Beltre walk away without a fight, think again. An article ran the other day in the LA Times that hinted at Frank McCourt’s willingness to make Adrian Beltre a very rich man.
~ Jim Tracy still hasn’t received a contract extension offer from the Dodgers and there is a very realistic possibility that if the Dodgers don’t make it deep into the playoffs, he will lose his job. Add him to the list of potential managerial candidates, but put an asterisk next to it.
~ Anyone else noticing that BoMel and Pryce are managing the pitchers like they know they are gone at the end of the season?

And finally, I got a good laugh out of this clip from this month’s ESPN the Magazine:

…So how could Kevin Brown do something as stupid as breaking his left hand punching a wall? Well he has a history: in 1995 Mike Flanagan, then Baltimore’s pitching coach, was summoned to the clubhouse during a game because Brown, then an Oriole, was threatening to set his own uniform on fire after a poor outing...

Think he was wearing the uniform at the time?
I normally only do this for Mariners blogs, but John, an acquaintance of mine who writes for Royal Mania, recently debuted an individual blog that's worth checking out as it develops. This one promises to cover a wider range of topics, as John gets his most important KC-related pieces up on his other site.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

By the way, I made a mistake in a post a few days ago that, as it turns out, is so extraordinary that I just have to bring it to everybody's attention.

As of Thursday, September 9:

Barry Bonds VORP: 128.2
Rest of Giants: 301.3
% of team VORP due to Bonds: 29.8

Ichiro VORP: 71.2
Rest of Mariners: 241.7
% of team VORP due to Ichiro: 22.8

* * * * *

Randy Johnson VORP: 63.5
Rest of Diamondbacks: 17.9
% of team VORP due to RJ: 78.0

Obviously, Arizona's data point represents something of a statistical anomaly - their .303 winning percentage, should it hold up until the end of the year, would be the sixth-worst in baseball since 1900 - but this still has to be some kind of record. In essence, Randy Johnson is the only thing keeping Arizona from being a team full of replacement-level players.

I don't have the time for further historical research, but I'm fairly confident that Randy Johnson's 78% of total team VORP is among the highest percentages of all time.

Anyway, off to bed, but I hope to do some more work concerning Gil Meche tomorrow afternoon.
A few moves:

Rene Rivera gets added to the 40-man roster and is called up; Brett Evert is DFA'd at his expense.

Nothing too important here - Rivera is a 21 year old catcher with all the tools in the world, and no real good idea of how to use them. After showing a little promise with the bat last year in Wisconsin, he got bumped to Inland Empire and promptly hit .235/.300/.346 over 400+ PA's. He's worth having around, if only because young catchers with good tools are few and far between, but there's no real benefit to having him up with the big squad. He'll collect a handful of at bats, maybe get a hit or two, but you probably won't see him challenging for a 25-man roster spot until 2007 (if ever).

Fun fact: Rivera went 6-for-15 with a double and a homer in a brief stint with the Rainiers late in the season, filling in for Borders. If these trends continue, we may have ourselves *two* hitters capable of hitting around .400!

...but seriously, sucks for Evert. He joined the organization, gave up eight runs in two games, and was promptly sent packing. He's got enough talent to get look after look down the road, but until he shows better command at the higher levels, he'll remain just another warm body to stash away in AAA.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Peter Gammons discusses the importance of assessing individual and team defense in his latest piece. Give that one a look.

On an unrelated topic (I didn't want to create two separate posts), Meche's performance yesterday lent a lot of support to the idea that he's a different pitcher from the one we saw in the first half. Indeed, he's come back flashing terrific command of his repertoire, keeping people off base by limiting his walks. DMZ did a quick analysis of Meche's rates since returning from Tacoma, and after a little fine-tuning, here are the official numbers since July 31st:

3.6% walk rate
4.0% home run rate
17.8% strikeout rate

DMZ goes on to label the new Gil as a "super-powered Franklin", but this rubbed me the wrong way; Meche v2.0 walks half as many hitters while striking them out more often, so - aside from identical home run rates - the two pitchers have little in common.

Unsatisfied, I decided to poke around for a little bit in an effort to find a better comparison. The closest matches I could find were:

Greg Maddux (3.65 ERA)
Zack Greinke (4.26)
Paul Byrd (3.54)
LaTroy Hawkins (2.69)

...where Meche v2.0 allows more homers than all but Greinke, strikes out more than all but Hawkins, and walks the fewest in the group.

What you have, then, is a pretty interesting group, in which Meche's closest approximations are a future Hall of Famer, a 20 year old rookie phenom, a journeyman with an extensive medical history, and a high-octane reliever.

Arrange them in order, and you get a pretty accurate description of Gil Meche's career: young kid with lots of hype and ability comes up and excites everyone by pitching well at a young age, but is forced to overcome injury and workload in order to fulfill his potential as a top-of-the-rotation starter. Arm troubles down the road could force him to the bullpen, if not ruin his career completely.

I admit, Gil's performance yesterday changed my mind. I'm usually not so prone to flip-flopping on a whim, but shutting out the best offense in the league a few weeks after keeping the Yankees off balance makes for a pretty strong case that a pitcher's got some serious ability. Barring a late-season collapse, I want to see Meche come back, because his performance and player comparisons intrigue me to no end.

Thus it becomes that much more important to protect his arm from damage. Fresh off a 129-pitch complete game against Boston, Meche now ranks ninth in Pitcher Abuse Points despite missing two months by pitching in Tacoma. Everyone is well aware of his injury history, so further wear and tear must be avoided by any means necessary. If that means pulling him at 90 pitches after four innings, so be it, because neither the team has nothing to gain by overworking Meche this late in a lost season.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

I'll admit, I bit hard on the Kendry Morales story. While going over various articles from around the baseball world this morning at work, I found this article, which describes Morales as a non-athlete seeking a four year 12 million dollar contract. Then Jayson Stark wrote about Morales as well, the details of which Jeff cut and pasted below. There have also been numerous other articles describing Morales and his abilities. While Morales will not make an immediate splash in the ML leagues like so many expected, he could become at the least a productive role player on whichever team signs him in a few years, with a chance for him to become a productive regular. He will not make anywhere near the four years/$12 million he is seeking, but could still land a lucrative deal from some team, (somewhere in the vicinity of four years/$6-8 million should be expected). Morales appears to be of the same mold as Bucky Jacobsen or AJ Zapp, both of whom come at a much lower cost and at least Zapp can play defense. At this point, Morales appears best suited for the AL where he can DH and play 1B on occasion, but his star is definitely not shining as bright as it was a few weeks ago. The moral of the story, don't believe everything you read, despite the fact that you desperately want something good to happen for your team in such a horrible season. There are better options out there than Morales at this point and one of them the team has chosen to completely ignore because of his strike out rates in Tacoma.
For those of you left drooling by Trent's posts concerning Kendry Morales, Jayson Stark had a few things to say in his piece:

Cuban defector Kendry Morales was a hot enough commodity, based on reputation alone, that more than a dozen teams showed up for a workout he held last week in the Dominican Republic. But while the 21-year-old switch hitter figures to be chased by the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets, among others, he could be more of a project that advertised.

"This guy is not an immediate major-league player," said one scout who attended the workout. "He really hasn't played in a couple of years (after being suspended from the Cuban national team over fears he would defect). So it's going to take a lot of time, a lot of at-bats."

The scout's lukewarm review of Morales' skills: "Can't run at all. Pretty good stroke. Good kid. Good approach to hitting. Has to play first base. That's his only real position (even though he also played the outfield in Cuba)."
In case some of you haven't noticed, the M's have pulled within one game of tying the second worst record in baseball, currently held by the Kansas City Royals, which means the M's have closed within one game of Justin Upton. The Arizona Diamondbacks currently hold the worst record in baseball at 43-99, but are in serious negotiations with first round draft pick Stephen Drew and are expected to sign him in the not so distant future, likely taking them out of the Upton sweepstakes, (although anything could happen). As both teams enter the final stretch, I have attempted to project their records for the next 21 games based on their 2004 record and winning percentage against their remaining opponents. (Keep in mind that it isn't an exact science and anything can happen)


2004 Record Against

2004 Winning % Against

Projected Wins









New York




Tampa Bay




Kansas City Final Record



2004 Record Against

2004 Winning % Against

Projected Wins

















Seattle Final Record


If both teams play to their projections, then they would both finish with a 59-103 record. But thanks to M's five game winning streak last month, four of which were against the Royals, the M's pushed their season record against the Royals to 5-2, which would award the Royals the 2nd overall pick in the 2005 draft.

In regards to Jeff's post below, anyone else hoping that Moyer's bad angel gets stuck in traffic?
The 41 home runs allowed by Jamie Moyer ties him for seventh on the all-time list, with Rick Helling, Robin Roberts, and Phil Niekro. In order to break the record of 50 (Blyleven, 1986), Moyer needs to allow ten home runs in his final four starts of the season (Anaheim, @Anaheim, @Oakland, Texas). We've got more than one guy chasing the record books, and - given the way the season's gone - we'll probably see the wrong record broken.

Somewhere in Seattle on a gloomy November afternoon...

Good Angel: "Come on, Jamie, hang 'em up. You've had a great run and proven everybody wrong. Now it's time to move on."

Bad Angel: "No way man, it's seven and a half million dollars in cold hard cash! Wasn't Karen eyeing that fox-collar cardigan in the window the other day? Because, y'know, Christmas is coming up..."

Good Angel: "Jamie, you've got more than enough money in the bank. Six and a half million this year, for crying out loud. You could donate all the money you've earned in the last five years to charity and still have eight figures to live on."

Bad Angel: "You gotta come back. They wrote up the contract, didn't they?"

Good Angel: "Well I don't think that's very ethically appro-"

Bad Angel: "They made the bed, now they gotta sleep in it. Capice?"

Good Angel: "The contract was signed with the mutual understanding that each party would benefit. Your performance isn't up to par anymore, and I think retiring would be the right thing to do, before you make a fool of yourself."

Bad Angel: "You hear that? This dude's calling you a fool! Me, I'm more laid back, I just want you to do what's best for you..."

Good Angel: "Little Dillon's almost in high school, now, and I think it's time to give your family all the attention. Remember how Edgar came back because his kid told him to keep playing? Well, your family is appreciative of everything you've done, but I think they'd like it if you'd be there to drive the kids to school and pick them up from play practice..."

Bad Angel: "There are bad contracts all over the place these days! Everybody's got one. I mean, if you look a-"

Good Angel: "-I just want what's best for you, your family, and the team..."

Bad Angel: "Don't listen to Cupid, he's just tired of seeing guys like us succeed when he's stuck at home watching Wanna Come In? reruns on Friday nights."

Good Angel: "You don't want to end up like Al and Jeff, do you? The fans turned on them when they weren't living up to their contracts. You don't want to go out like that - the people should remember you for all of your contributions to the city, instead of for a bad season to end your career..."

Howard Lincoln: "Y'know, Jamie, the team's going through some rough times, and I don't think it would be right for me to ask you to spend your last year with a bunch of rookies and no-names. I think if you would hang 'em up, then...then, y'know, we could bid farewell to two incredible athletes at the same time..."

Bad Angel: "Hey there, Howie."

Good Angel: "He's got the right idea, Jamie. You've had a fine career, now it's time to say goodbye..."

Howard Lincoln: "Hey, Red. What's shakin'?"

Good Angel: "This is an important time for all of us, and I think we need to focus on the situation at hand..."

Bad Angel: "Not too much. You get my message the other day?"

Howard Lincoln: "No, I must've missed it."

Good Angel: "Jamie, with Edgar going away, the city's already got a broken don't want to re-open those wounds by walking away next winter. I really think it would be best to do it now..."

Bad Angel: "We were over at Sam's. Lots of good-lookin' tail. We missed you."

Good Angel: "So are we good, Jamie? Already finished your swan song?"

Howard Lincoln: "Y'know, Jamie, we could really use that four and a half million dollars next year to impro-"

Bad Angel: "Seven and a half million dollars."

Howard Lincoln: "-five million dollars to improve the team, should certain players become available, and I think that would be a better legacy for you to leave than a disappointing 2005 campaign."

Bad Angel: "Howie, I know we're close, but I gotta disagree with you on this one."

Good Angel: "This man runs a successful professional franchise. I think he knows what's best for all parties..."

Howard Lincoln: "So if you'd just cross this off, here-"

Bad Angel: "Just think about it: more than seven million dollars for tossing a ball a few times every five days! Hell, maybe you'll do so bad that they release you, and then you're getting paid for nothing!"

Howard Lincoln: "-and sign here..."
Randy Williams was probably hoping to pitch a little better tonight.

Boston Inning Summary

-R. Williams relieved M. Kida
-K. Youkilis flied out to left
-G. Kapler flied out to right
-D. McCarty singled to center
-P. Reese walked, D. McCarty to second
-A. Hyzdu doubled to left, D. McCarty scored, P. Reese to third
-D. Ortiz walked
-D. Mirabelli walked, P. Reese scored, A. Hyzdu to third, D. Ortiz to second
-M. Thornton relieved R. Williams
-D. Roberts struck out swinging

You read that right; Bob Melvin, frustrated with Williams' problems finding the strike zone, pulled him in favor of Matt Thornton.