Friday, April 14, 2006

Where the M's stand after 10

Year W L RS RA P/PA BB/PA RC/27
2004 2 8 45 59 3.77 .077 4.57
2005 5 5 55 44 3.74 .076 4.26
2006 5 5 55 56 3.82 .096 5.06

What does this mean? Not much since it's a small sample size, but it is encouraging. The pitches per plate appearances is up significantly as well as the BB per PA, although that could all be due to one game in Cleveland. Still encouraging I think.

Year ERA
2004 4.76
2005 4.49
2006 5.56

After being teased by encouraging performances by Meche and Pineiro both came back with bad second outings. Four upcoming games against the Red Sox followed by three with the Rangers shouldn't help much.

The Good:

Johjima 333/421/606
Ibanez 333/409/487
Lopez 282/333/513

Soriano 5IP/1ER
Putz 5.2IP/10K

The Bad:
Beltre 143/268/143
Everett 125/317/281

Mateo 6IP/6ER
Meche 9.1IP/7ER

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Welcome Back, Jamie . . . and Congrats

With today's 8-inning gem, Jamie Moyer hit some pretty amazing milestones.

First and foremost, he tied Randy Johnson for the Mariner franchise record for wins, with 130 (more surprisingly, he also tied Mark Langston for second on the club's all-time strikeout list, with 1,078; RJ leads the list with a formidable 2,162). Second, he became the first pitcher in the American League to win four games.

What should be most encouraging to Mariner fans are some of Moyer's peripheral stats so far. Jamie is still pitching to contact (which, given the recent research into master changeup artists' greater ability to prevent hits on balls in play, isn't necessarily a bad thing), but his walks are down (a little less than 2 per 9 innings), his strikeouts are up (almost 6.5 per 9 innings, roughly 1 better than his previous levels over the past 5 years or so), and his groundball-toflyball ratio is much more skewed to groundballs (1.22 groundballs to every flyball, which reverses a nearly 5-year tendency to give up far more flyballs than ground balls). Not surprisingly, his ERA (2.53) and his pitches-per-plate appearance numbers are as good as they have been in any of his best years.

What all this tells me is that Moyer is successfully throwing the low strike, and getting ahead of hitters. Failing to do this last year was the root of most of his problems, so even though the season is still very young (and predicting the future performance -- or even health -- of 42-year-old pitchers is foolish at best), there is good reason for optimism that Jamie is much closer to being the Jamie we saw in 2001-2003 than the Jamie we saw in 2004.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Congrats Mike Hargrove . . .

. . . on your 1001st major-league win today, which coincides with the Mariners' first above-.500 appearance in the standings since sometime in late 2003, I think.

Mike Hargrove's achievement is noteworthy. With 1001 wins (as of 4/14/2005), he stands in 50th place all-time and seems a pretty sure bet to finish the season somewhere around #45 all-time. That is pretty impressive, particularly considering Hargrive doesn't appear to be anywhere close to the end of his career.

However, I found it slightly amusing how the local media tripped over themselves to find a way to put it in persepctive (and, really, failed). In many ways, this showed just how far away the mainstream media is from understanding or properly reporting statistical achievements.

For instance, over at the P-I, John Hickey compared the feat to hitting 400 homers (38 players have done this), getting 3,000 hits (25 players), or stealing 500 bases (36), or a pitcher winning 250 games (43), getting 2,000 strikeouts, or 200 saves. Uhhh, no.

There is a major difference in those achievements and Hargrove's climb up the managerail wins ladder. It's called opportunity. I saw Sean Forman (the founder of the incomparable Baseball-Reference.com) quoted as saying that just over 16,200 players appear in the Baseball-Reference.com database. On the other hand, there have been only just over 600 managers in baseball history. So, ranking 50th on a list of 600 is akin to ranking about 700th on a list of about 8900 hitters who've had the opportuntiy to play (assuming that about 55% of the 16,200 are hitters, and 45% are pitchers -- which is just a guesstimate but the point is still valid), or close to 600th of some 7300 pitchers. Hargrove's achievement, however impressive it may be, is not comparable to those Hickey listed -- particularly when after 1001 wins you're still only 34 wins over .500 (which is tied for 98th all-time, far lower than the win total), and several of your contemporaries (Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre, Lou Piniella, Art Howe) have anywhere from 100 to 1100 more wins than you do.

Hargrove's achievement is all about opportunity. I don't say that to denigrate what Hargrove has done, because the real achievement is just getting and keeping a major league job long enough to manage almost 2,000 games. There are only 30 of these jobs, and half of them are going to be losing jobs that won't be turned around even by a good manager in the short term (see Piniella, Lou in early managerial years in Seattle and Tampa Bay, or even Hargrove himself in the early Cleveland years). Perhaps it isn't even fair to judge a manager by wins -- except that in the end, that's how their employers judge them, so . . . fair enough.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Mariners 2, Royals 1

The M's climb back to .500. Remember that?

Man, I'd love to be wrong about Aaron Sele (who I never thought was all that good, and don't believe is or ever will be the pitcher he was when he was last here). He's still not missing many bats, but that's a pretty good start today . . ., though again, let's remember that the Royals aren't a very good offensive team. I'll be more of a believer when he repeats this a few times, including one against the likes of an offensive juggernaut like the Red Sox.

Jack wrote:

"It's interesting about pitches per plate appearance and it's a trend that I think we should watch as the season progresses. What is more disturbing to me is the BB/PA which is at a four year low of 5.5% compared to 7.7% last year, 9.3 % in 2003,
and 9.9% in 2002. Boone and Olivo have yet to draw a walk."

I think it is part and parcel the same thing, Jack. And, I agree that we should watch this along the way.

Some Royal Slop

Today marks my annual ritual of forking over $15 to MLB for my yearly subscription of MLB radio for the main purpose of avoiding the noise of Rick Rizzs invading my ears. I will gladly pay $15 for this service. I wonder if the Mariners are aware how much fans disdain this broadcast crew and moreover wonder how much they care. I suspect that their advertisers care however, but how does one get that message across? Hmmm...

Today's game was one of those frustrating afternoons of inept play on both sides of the diamond, with the Royals winning the contest of futility. I decided to jot down some random thoughts during the game:

  1. Mike Hargrove set the tone early ordering Jeremy to bunt Ichiro over after a leadoff walk. I subscribe to the philosophy that if you play for one run you will only get one run, which makes it even more frustrating when you don't even get that.
  2. Calvin Pickering being sent from first on a hit and run. Interesting.
  3. Royals second baseman Ruben Gotay intentionally dropping a pop fly with Wilson Valdez at first base hoping to set up a double play. The second base umpire mercifully ruled it a catch since the best Gotay could have done is forced Valdez at 2nd leaving Ichiro at 1st.
  4. Mike Hargrove continuing the tone by attempting to sacrifice Randy Winn over to 3rd following a leadoff double. Bunting guys over who are already in scoring position doesn't set a very good vive for me to start off the season.
  5. Wilson Valdez getting picked off second with two outs and Sexson at the plate is inexcusable.
  6. Wison Valdez getting caught stealing second base puts the Mariners at 40% SB success rate thus far.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

It's early...so what?

We are all now in agreement that it is early. Brian Roberts leads the American League in home runs with four (his career high is 5), the slimmed down Edgardo Alfonso is hitting .519 without the luxury of hitting behind Barry Bonds, and Greg Zaun has 10 RBIs in seven games (his 10 year career high is 36).

Of course Pete is correct about Ryan Franklin. His start against K.C. was a combination of facing a subpar offense and a little bit of luck. If there are those who believe (or want others to believe) that this one game was the turning point of his career that's fine. It's hard to believe anything has changed based on his 7.15 spring ERA, but it seems we will soon find out. He faces another struggling offense Sunday in Chicago, and then Cleveland at home followed by Oakland. If Franklin goes 4-0 in April with a sub 3 ERA will he actually have some trade value?

It's interesting about pitches per plate appearance and it's a trend that I think we should watch as the season progresses. What is more disturbing to me is the BB/PA which is at a four year low of 5.5% compared to 7.7% last year, 9.3 % in 2003, and 9.9% in 2002. Boone and Olivo have yet to draw a walk.

Ichiro is hitting .484 and has three RBIs. How can that by you might ask? Well, he has only batted four times in 28 attempts with runners in scoring postion. Let's not get into the OBP at the bottom of our lineup.

I'll leave this on a positive note. Ichiro got on base about 316 times last year and only scored 101 runs ( 32%). This year he has reached base 16 times and scored 7 runs ( 44%). Believe it or not that number could even improve when J-Reed gets on track (and he will get on track!).

One Week In . . .

Jeff Shaw, over at the USS Mariner, has already lent us all this cautionary piece of advice about drawing conclusions about a baseball team's season based on one week of play:

"If a baseball season is a marathon, a week is one city block."

Apart from my own smartass observation that it is really more like one mile of a marathon, he's absolutely right. Take all this with a grain of salt. Statistically speaking, it's really early, and a tiny sample from which to draw conclusions. That doesn't stop us from forming opinions, and some of the observations we're making might be meaningful. Sorta. Kinda.

First, my prediction that despite his 0-13 start Jeremy Reed is going to be OK . . . seems to be on track. After that 0-13 start, he's been 5-for-his-next-13 (.384), and three of his five hits have been doubles. That's good -- though probably no better indication of Reed's long-term ability than the first thirteen ABs were, or even his first-25-game (64 ABs) career line of .333/.404/.417. I note that I heard Harold Reynolds say on Baseball Tonight that, in his opinion, Reed might be among the most overrated rookies to come along in a while and that the Mariners expectations for him are too high. Reynolds made a comment about "lots of holes in his swing." I dunno. Maybe Harold caught him the first part of last week instead of last September. When he is on, my observation is his approach at the plate is as good as any rookie hitter I've seen in a good long while. Then again, Harold does have a bit more experience with the game than I do . . . but I'd venture to say I've watched Reed more closely than he has.

My friend Dave Cameron at USS Mariner has some interesting comments today about the Mariner offense, all previous caveats noted. I have a slightly different take.

While it is hard to fault an offense that is scoring runs as the Mariners have, I agree with Dave that the hitting with runners on base and in scoring position will regress to the mean over time. Their overall numbers -- which aren't so good -- are a bigger sample and I would argue more telling (even if neither is very telling at this point). So what may account for this not-so-good hitting early, and is there any reason to disregard the early trends?

Well, I have a theory. One thing I've noticed early this year is a lot of Mariner hitters swinging pretty early in the count. Most people who reading an obscure basesball blog like this are aware that getting deeper into counts (particularly when ahead in the count) benefits the hitter, who will see his rate stats jump considerably the more patience he shows. Occasionally, you jump on a first-pitch fastball that is too good to pass up, but most pitchers (like Johan Santana in the Mariners second game) will make the adjustment if you develop a pattern of it, and the second and third times through you won't see the same pitches, nor experience the same success. Patience is a virtue.

Anyway, I decided to check this out, and was surprised to learn that every batter in the Mariner line-up except Raul Ibanez and Randy Winn is seeing significantly fewer pitches per plate appearance than they did in either of their past two seasons. Most of them are seeing pretty dramatic drops (yes, this is most likely a product of small samples): Ichiro is at 3.26 (vs. 3.51 and 3.50 in the previous two seasons); Adrian Beltre is at 3.40 (vs. 3.74 and 3.80 in the last two); Richie Sexson is at 3.34 (vs. 3.93, 3.95); Bret Boone is at 3.39 (3.96, 3.93). Some of the bit players are chiming in, too: Miguel Olivo is at 2.75 (vs. 3.84, 3.97); Dan Wilson is at 3.14 (3.87, 3.52), and Willie Bloomquist is at 3.25 (3.81, 3.76).

I believe that, for the vast majority of players, a high P/PA average is a good predictor of offensive success. To have this many players significantly below their established levels -- if it continues -- is troubling. Not only do players with low averages tend to be swinging at the pitcher's pitch (rather than the hitter's pitch they will get if they are patient enough to work the count), they aren't going to walk much, they are giving their own pitcher less time to rest between innings, and they are allowing the other team's pitcher to work deeper into the game than they otherwise would. None of these things is good. I'd really like to see a reversal of this incipient trend.

And one final observation: We now appear stuck with Ryan Franklin as a starter, at least until Bobby Madritsch heals and as long as Aaron Sele avoids implosion. Pleeease, people, don't read too much into Franklin's impressive performance against KC yesterday. It's one game, against a team that probably isn't very good offensively, and it doesn't tell us any more about a "changed" Franklin that Aaron Sele's 12 Spring Traning innings told us about him.

What got me off on this rant was this article from this morning's P-I. It went on about a "new" and "improved" Ryan Franklin, who is using a sinker more and becoming a groundball pitcher. That's a bit much for me, and I note that Bryan Price didn't go that far, noting that Franklin is historically an extreme flyball pitcher before commenting that his ratio yesterday was a high groundball ratio for Franklin.

Breaking News: Ryan Franklin continues to be a flyball pitcher. The same article made a note of the fact that homeplate umpire Ted Barrett established early that he would give both pitchers the low strike. Why wouldn't Franklin try to take advantage of that? Even so, Franklin still gave got more flyballs than groundballs in this game, and his GB/FB numbers on the season thus far are only slightly more groundball-oriented than they were in each of the last two (0.86, vs. 0.78 and 0.76 the previous two years).

It's nice to know that Ryan Franklin is smart enough to take advantage of an umpire's low strike zone, and that he has come to realize that it isn't smart for a pitcher with below-average velocity to challenge hitters up in the zone with fastballs, particularly (like last year) when your outfield defense isn't that good. I'm glad he realizes that the 2005 Mariners infield defense should be pretty good (so far, we haven't really seen it though), and that trying to induce a few more ground balls should be a good idea. But I'm tired of hearing that Ryan Franklin is a changed pitcher every time he pitches a good game. He is a likeable guy and I love his competitiveness, but . . . he is what he is, and "frankly" I'm not sure that is he is good enough to be a #5 starter on a competitive major-league team (as a long reliever and spot starter, he's more than adequate). That he is, for the Mariners, tells me that maybe the Mariners won't be as competitive as most of us hope they will be.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

New Season - Time for a New Start

Well, that was a season of gross inactivity.

Fortunately, we can't say the same for the Mariners. After watching as much Spring baseball as I could, and attending Opening Day in some awesome new seats (section 237, row 3), I am convinced that (a) Adrian Beltre won't be too negatively affected by Safeco, and (b) Richie Sexson has enough power to hit it over the left field bleachers and onto Royal Brougham, regardless of prevailing winds. Also, please ignore the collective hand-wringing over Jeremy Reed going 0-for-his-first-13 at-bats this year. The kid has a fine approach at the plate, and he will come around nicely (I just wish I could say the same thing about Miguel Olivo). Finally, Ichiro! is Ichiro! I know I am about the eleven-millionth person to make this observation, but I think he is the one guy who would not surprise anybody if he made a run at baseball's most hallowed records -- Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, and becoming the first man since Ted Williams to hit .400.

Now, if only we could do something about that pitching.

I truly believe the Mariners will be better this year. Actually, it's hard not to improve on a 99-loss season, but I mean "improvement" in a more meaningful way than that -- .500, or maybe a game or two better than .500. Still, this is not a team that should contend. I know that stranger things have happened, and I'm not ruling it out or anything, but until we address that pitching, I don't expect contention out of this team, and I will be very happy with a .500 club.

It says something about your staff when your Opening Day starter is a 42-year old change-up artist. No disrespect to Jamie, but he is not exactly "ace" material, even if I do think he will bounce back nicely this year, to a 14-15 win season. Now, granted, if Joel Pineiro was healthy, he would have gotten the Opening Day start, but does anybody really think Joel is a #1? I think it is a stretch to call him even a #2. Let's face it: the Mariners have an entire starting rotation filled with once and future #3 starters. That may be good enough to get to .500 (if they stay healthy -- and please, Bobby Madritsch, get well soon), but it isn't the kind of staff you contend with.

Next year? That's a different story. I haven't given up on Clint Nageotte, or Travis Blackley. At some point in 2006, those guys may be ready to help the club. But, better than that, Felix Hernandez has potential "ace" written all over him, and he may be ready this year. In fact, I put the over/under on his major-league arrival at July 15 -- his first post-AAA-All-Star Game turn in the Rainers' rotation (of course, I expect he will pitch in the AAA All-Star Game, but . . .). Add to that a healthy Rafael Soriano, and you have significantly upgraded both your starting staff and your bullpen. There are not a lot of good free agent pitchers coming available this next offseason (it's a list populated with guys like Paul Byrd, Tim Wakefield, Kevin Millwood, Kevin Brown, Shawn Estes, and Ryan Dempster . . . though a few names, like A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny (if healthy), and Chris Carpenter are reasonably intriguing), but I expect the M's to pursue somebody who is a solid #2-#3 type. Like this year on the offensive side, I think next year they will be players for the best 2-3 pitchers available on the market (assuming they can figure out who those pitchers are -- I still twitch at the memory of the 2003-2004 offseason and what it showed us of the Mariner front office "talent evaluators"; yes, they've redeemed themselves somewhat this past offseason, but I am still in "show me" mode). Gone are the Ryan Franklins (if he wants to start, anyway) and Aaron Seles of the world, to be filled with the bought and the promising. Hitting + pitching = contention. Hitting + a staff of stopgaps = .500, hopefully.

So there you go. Hopefully, Jack and I can get up for blogging again. Go M's.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Sexson or Delgado?

It's time to break this bout of writer's block once and for all. It seems inevitable at this juncture that we are going to be signing one or the other of Richie Sexson or Carlos Delgado this off season to a multiyear contract. In fact, it would seem as though we may have already made offers to both of them with the intention on signing one.

It's been written that Sexson has already turned down two deals with the Diamondbacks ranging from three to five years and valued around $10M a year which probably had dependencies written into them requiring him to stay healthy. As everyone knows, Sexson missed most of last season with two shoulder injuries.

In my opinion signing Sexson has trouble written all over it. The above mentioned shoulder injury has to be a concern going forward. Aside from the shoulder, let's look at the numbers:

Year Age AVG/OBP/SLG
2000 25 272/349/499
2001 26 271/342/547
2002 27 279/363/504
2003 28 272/379/548

These numbers don't knock you over, especially when you consider the fact that Sexson has played in relatively hitter friendly parks over his entire career. In 2003, easily his best year, he ranked 7th among MLB first basemen in OPS. He never finished higher than 12th in any year prior to that. Did Sexson have a career year in 2003 or was he just coming into his own? If it's my $30M dollars on the line, I don't want to find out.

On the other hand here are Delgado's numbers:

2000 28 344/470/664
2001 29 279/408/540
2002 30 277/406/549
2003 31 302/426/593
2004 32 269/372/535

Yes, Delgado is slightly past his prime. Yes, Delgado had an off year which was marred by his own injuries. However, Delgado's numbers last year in his "off year" are comparable to Sexson's best year. Although I will admit that Delgado's best years are probably behind him, I'm not convinced that his next three years aren't going to be better than Sexson's despite the age difference. To put it another way, Delgado's numbers so far are somewhat similar to those of Edgar Martinez at the same age, while Sexson's numbers more resemble Tino Martinez. While that seems to be a crude and unfair comparison, all the same it's a gut comparison. My money is on Delgado.