Tuesday, August 31, 2004

For whom the David Bell tolls?

I need to reclarify my stance on David Bell. I was not meaning to suggest that the Mariners missed the boat by letting Bell move on at the end of the 2001 season. In fact, I was pleased when we were able to unload him to the Giants for Desi Relaford in order to avoid abitration on him. I was also thrilled when we acquired Jeff Cirillo who consistantly posted 400 OBPs while player for the Brewers all the while playing a mean defensive third base. I ate crow with a lot of people on that one. I was appalled at the Speizio signing from the minute it was talked about. My point was that three years of Bell at $9-$12M although admitedly overpriced, would have been a bargain had it avoided us making the Cirillo ($28M) and Speizio ($9M) deals with the added bonus of not having to see Kevin Jarvis get lit up all over town in April, when we had obviously better options in Tacoma. I am not blaming the M's for letting Bell go, I just think it might have saved us a little heartbreak in the long run and as mediocre as Bell is, he wouldn't have been as terrible as our two headed monster and would have been much cheaper.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Potpourri

I am back from a week of camping at Pearrygin Lake State Park, a now-thrice-annual trek during which I have missed the Mariners losing 15 of 20 games -- a particularly dubious achievement considering that, even including this year's horrible 49-80 record, the Mariners are 18 games over .500 since the beginning of the 2002 season, and 27 over if you don't count their record during my camping trips. I used to feel guilty about that, as though I were personally causing their losing streaks by my inattention, but nothing in this god-forsaken year can make me feel guilty.

Anyway, I'm back and feel the need to resort to the trusty "bullet-point" potpourri column to say all I have to say -- especially since Jack already took this route a couple of days ago.

  • I agree with Jack about Dan Wilson. He seems like a terrific guy, a clubhouse and community leader and all that, but what's he offering on the field? Wilson fans pointed this year to his first 6-7 weeks or so (topping out on May 19 at .320 but still with a sub-.800 OPS of .795), but since then he has hit at the sub-Mendoza rate of .195. He barely broke through for a .500 OPS in May (.504), and he hasn't even done that since (.438 in July and .483 thus far in August -- hell, Ichiro! nearly beat those OPS totals with his batting average alone in July and August). According to Baseball Prospectus, Dan Wilson's adjusted "equivalent average" is .022 worse that his actual batting average (.225 to .247) and his "value over replacement player" or VORP is -3.9 (yep, that makes him worse than freely available replacement talent at his position, despite making $4.5M). I've touched on this before, but Dan Wilson is not the defensive catcher he once was. At his best now, he is probably no better than league average defensively and no amount of imagined defensive prowess is going to make up for a sub-.500 OPS.
  • Dan Wilson will be 36 years old next year -- ancient for a catcher, especially one who has played 1250 games. It is insane to be talking about re-signing Wilson for any significant role next year, particularly since Wilson and Miguel Olivo share the offensive Achille's Heel of being unable to hit right-handed pitching. Yes, I think Wilson has experience and game-tested wisdom to share with Olivo, but unless he is willing to do so for something close to league minimum, it's just not worth using a roster spot on him. Better to hire him as a bullpen coach or something and go sign a replacement-level catcher with some upside who can hit right-handed pitching.
  • Ichiro! Update: I wrote about Ichiro's chances for breaking George Sisler's single season record for hits not long ago, and despite a bit of a blip (0-11) before getting his 200th hit, he has done little to damage those chances. With 32 games left to play, Ichiro! has 209 hits. With three more hits today, if he continues to get the same number of at-bats as he has through this season (about 4.43 AB/G) and hits at his seasonal pace (.3686) the rest of the way, he'll get another 142 ABs and 52 hits -- which would break Sisler's record by four hits. Considering that this would mean Ichiro! needs fewer than 50 hits (48 minus however many he gets on Tuesday in Toronto) in September -- a feat he has achieved in three of five months this season -- and that he slows his second-half pace considerably, I wouldn't bet against him. Ichiro! has truly had a remarkable season. He's earned that exclamation point.
  • I have to disagree with Jack's speculation that the "performance" of the two third-basemen the Mariners are paying some $10M this year might make the Mariners front office pine for David Bell. Well, at least I wouldn't be pining for him . . . the Mariners' "talent evaluators" might. Jack seems to suggest that a 3-year, $9M contract for Bell, coming off a 93 OPS+ year, was reasonable. I say that the $1.75M 1-year deal he got from the Giants in 2002 was far closer to what Bell's market value was. By the way, Bell rewarded the Giants with a decent-but-still-close-to-league-average year in 2003, which got him a bloated four-year $17M contract with the Phillies (which he prompted rewarded with a .195/.296/.283 year in 2003). Uhhhh, no thanks . . . not even if I knew he would rebound this year. Even people with Jeff Cirillo and Scott Spiezio voodoo dolls in their basement couldn't have imagined how badly each would underperform expectations. Granted, my expectations for both of those guys were much worse than what the Mariners thought they would do, but they have still been much worse than even that. Bell has at times been both a fair bit better and quite a bit worse than I would have expected in his post-2001 years, but on the whole, has shown every bit of why the Mariners were looking to improve at third base after the 116 season. I might fault their choices (I would have pursued a Scott Rolen trade much more seriously than the M's did in 2002, and I probably would have resigned myself to either Jolbert Cabrera, Willie Bloomquist, or Justin Leone (or some combination thereof) at 3B this year rather than overpay Spiezio for three years beginning with his age 31+ year, knowing going in that he is a career 98 OPS+ hitter, and then pursued somebody better for 2005 (Adrian Beltre, Troy Glaus, Corey Koskie, Bill Mueller . . . well, Koskie and Mueller are kinda old, but both would be significant improvements over what we've had, and the point is there are free agent options out there for third base). Let's not mistake the shit stains on our glasses from 2002-2004 for rose-color when remembering David Bell.
  • I believe -- it's actually something closer to faith than belief -- that Edgar Martinez will finish with a flourish. That is, unless Bob Melvin continues to overthink his line-up into playing guys like Willie Bloomquist and Jolbert Cabrera over Edgar when facing middlin'-to-bad lefties Edgar can still mash. Edgar is hitting .308/.403/.430 in the second half. Granted, the OBP is a bit worse and the SLG quite a bit worse than what we have come to expect from Edgar, but he's 41, and more importantly, who the hell outside of Ichiro! and maybe Randy Winn has been better after the All-Star Break? Is their any reason to sit this guy much through his Farewell Tour? And don't give me that "getaway day" crap -- Willie Bloomquist??!? Are we not past thinking that Wee Willie is much better than this year's model Charles Gipson?
  • I guess from what I've already said that it's pretty easy to know where I stand on Jack's comments about Bloomquist. I actually sympathize with Willie's comments to the effect that the Mariners seem far more willing to give late-20s guys like Leone and Bucky Jacobsen an everyday chance, but realistically, Bloomquist never had the success in the minors that either of those guys did, nor has he shown in any extended playing time that he deserves to be thought of as anything more than a replacement-level utility guy (or worse). Willie Bloomquist has now played in 176 major league games, and has 388 ABs. His career averages are .265/.323/.340. That's just about league average for batting average, and significantly worse than league average for OBP and SLG. Bloomquist is basically an average singles hitter who can't overcome that with patience at the plate or any kind of power. He also doesn't make up for it with good defense at any position. Like Mark McLemore, his strength is decent speed and an ability to play at something approaching league average at several positions, but he doesn't get on base at nearly the clip Mac did for most of his Seattle tenure, nor is he a switch-hitter who offers a real platoon advantage, as Mac was and did against RHP. Willie's most natural position is probably second base, but he is not going to displace Bret Boone next year, and after that, the job is probably Jose Lopez's to lose. If his offense was better, maybe . . . but it's not.
  • I am ambivalent about the idea of trying to acquire Wilson Betemit to play third next year. Sure, take a flier on him if he doesn't cost much to get and you want to create competition among (say) Leone, Bloomquist, Betemit and Greg Dobbs for the 3B job in camp next year, but I don't think a switch-hitting former shortstop with a mostly failed AAA resume' and next to no power is the answer. Yes, this team needs more speed (though Betemit's 16-for-26 record as a base-stealer in AAA makes one wonder if he comes with speed but little baserunning sense), but it needs more power even more than that and third base is one position where you can usually find it.
  • I think even "the Grand Pooh-Bah of the Raccoon Lodge" would see the wisdom of trading Bret Boone for Kevin Youkilis. But why would the Red Sox entertain such a trade? Granted, Mark Bellhorn and Pokey Reese are not particularly appetizing choices at 2B for the stretch run this year, but their numbers aren't really worse than Boone's. In fact, Bellhorn's are better. Youkilis is the reason the BoSox can afford to let Bill Mueller walk after this year. Why give up your future at 3B in a trade for an aging 2B due to make $9M next year and who isn't outperforming who you already have? Don't blame Moneyball for this trade not happening; blame Theo Epstein for having the brains to realize it would be a dumb idea.
  • I would never criticize somebody for holding onto the idea that once-highly-thought-of prospects might be the kind of guys on whom to take fliers in lost seasons, Jack. You have to wonder, though, if all of the injuries Alex Escobar has suffered have taken their toll. Also, Escobar is out for the season with a broken right foot. Unless he came cheap and then was put on the 60-man DL, the Mariners are better served by using the 40-man roster to look at deserving guys in their own system, and/or using extra spots on the 40-man to claim guys like Brett Evert, who O.D. of USSM likes and whom the Rainiers can actually use to try to win their division.
  • I share Jack's lament about fans' negative overemphasis on the strikeout, and pining for Mike Cameron. Cammy was always one of my favorite guys, and not just for his defense. On a team with little speed and little power, Cammy brought both, with patience at the plate and Gold Glove defense in CF to boot. The strikeout is often a necessary byproduct of power and patience in all but the most superhuman of ballplayers. In my view, all outs are created equal. True, some "productive outs" (what and idiotic, oxymoronic term that is) are made by putting the ball in play and advancing a runner, but there is also the risk of the double-play, which pretty well offsets this. I'd rather take Cammy's strikeouts and plus-.800 OPS any day than settle for some "productive out" machine.
  • That said, there was a reasonable case to be made last offseason that it was time for Mike Cameron to leave. Right or wrong, the majority of fans were very frustrated with Cammy's Safeco Field foibles . . . how much patience do you think fans would have had with him and the front office if, in addition to the team stumbling out to a 23-36 record, Cameron had started the season here as he did in New York, and found himself hitting .193 with a .642 OPS as late as June 11? In my opinion, the real mistake made by the Mariners was not in deciding to let Cammy go (especially given what the Mets were willing to pay him) but in failing to realize that they needed to replace his defense in CF with something other than noodle-armed Randy Winn. If nothing else, the answer still stares them in the face: play Ichiro! in center, Winn in left, and Raul Ibanez' in right. Take advantage of Ichiro's range and arm, minimize the damage Winn's arm can do, and play Ibanez' at his most natural outfield position, where his lack of range is best hidden and his decent arm better utilized.
  • Derek Zumsteg is all worked up about the "temporary" (. . . ahem) seats the Mariners have erected in the Centerfield Landing, and frankly I can think of no better person to hound the Mariners and beat some sense of accountablity into Lincoln & Friends than DMZ. I know of no one who has taken a stronger interest in calling the Mariners on their financial deceptions and public bullying than Derek. That the Mariners have trashed one of the coolest parts of Safeco Field, ultimately at public expense, without consulting the public or any seeming oversight by the PFD, is unconscionable. Stay on this one, Derek. I'll be right beside you.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

a different view on Safeco

I had the opportunity to take a 7 and 9 year old to the game last night. The challenging part was that the children knew absolutely nothing about baseball and that their primary apeaking language is French. I armed myself with hot dogs, kettle korn and peanuts knowing I might be in for a challenging evening.

Nothing gets past kids. The first thing the 9 year old noticed was the batter adjusting his crotch. The seven year old quickly pointed out to his sister (as well as everyone with a few rows of us) the dynamics of a cup, what a cup is used for, and why players wear a cup. So much for lesson one.

There are so many intricate nuances of baseball that most of us don't even think twice about, because we have been aware of them since the age of seven. I thought that I had the concept of a strikeout down for the kids, until Guiel swung and missed at strike three and went running down to first base after Olivo dropped the ball. The children were so confused.

After 4 1/2 innings we decided to take a stroll. As I rarely leave the confines of section 138 during a game, I thought it would be an interesting journey for both me and the kids.

Center field is an absolute hang out haven. First we got our reserved times (yes, you actually need reservations) to get the children into the Kid's Zone. We were about 30 minutes away from actually getting into the "Zone", but luckily for us the Mariners thought enough ahead to put a "kids" Mariner's store right next door where we could wait. (Aren't they great people?). As you might guess, the Mariners' Kids store sells nothing but Mariner products geared toward kids. Needless to say the cash registers were clanging away on overdrive here.

I picked up (literally) the Mariner monopoly game and there on the back was a picture of an exciting game of Mariner monopoly in progress. The properties are all named after players on the team...or not on the team. The person playing on the back of the box was the proud owner of Ben Davis, Carlos Guillen, Freddy Garcia, Mike Cameron, and Kaz Suzaki. What are the odds of that? Also, Raul Ibanez fotoballs are 50 % off. Apparently the front office told marketing that Ibanez would be a fan favorite. The fans are apparently getting less gullible by the minute.

Next we toted our bags of fresh Mariner gear down to the bullpen to watch Scott Atchison warm up. The bullpen is still one of my favorite spots and while there I felt kind of guilty that I don't make it down there more often especially to see a premier closer warming up such as Rivera, K-Rod, or Gagne. Fortunately, the Mariners added a nice smoking section behind the bullpen next to the back door, so that while watching your favorite reliever throw smoke you can partake in breathing some second-hand smoke of your own. I'm sure the players appreciate that as well.

After a 15 minute stint of bouncing, sliding, crawling in the Kids Zone, the kids were getting tired and had seen enough of the ol ballyard. On the walk back to the car, the nine year old asked what the difference was between a run and a home run. I realized that we still had a long ways to go.


Friday, August 20, 2004

Tidbits

1) I've beaten this dead horse enough, but I just can't seem to let it go. The numbers absolutely amaze me. After slugging 205 in July, Dan Wilson is now slugging 118 for the month of August. Wilson hasn't had an extra base hit since July 6th when he hit a double against the Jays. Jeff Cirillo, who wasn't close to this bad of a hitter with the M's, was run out of town, yet Bo-Mel considers Dan to be a valued member of the team who he wants back for next year. And why doesn't the media run with this?

2) Speaking of Jeff Cirillo, our $10M two-headed monster at third base is a thing of beauty. Scott Spiezio is currently sporting a 622 OPS for us (461 OPS after the all star break) while Jeff Cirillo is posting a 553 OPS with the Padres. Do you think anyone in the Mariners front office wishes they had just given David Bell the three year $9M contract that he was looking for?

3) Willie Bloomquist sucks. He is wasting a spot on the 40 man roster. Alex Escobar was put on waivers and claimed by the White Sox. Pete will probably argue that I tend to hold on to hope that certain can't miss prospects will eventually break out. It's true - I do. I've got to think that Alex Escobar has more of a potential future than Willie Bloomquist.

4) A caller called in to the post game show three weeks or so ago, and brought up a point that Mike Cameron's defense is sorely missed in center field and that the Mariners might have missed the boat by not signing him. Of course that point is true and is almost getting to the point where it's been beaten to death. The caller should have hung up there. He went on to say that even though Cameron was a much better center fielder than Winn, he would be "significantly" less productive offensively than Cameron. Cameron got a bad wrap for his offense with the Mariners. I admit that he was frustratingly streaky, but he never got due credit for his patience at the plate which resulted in high walk outputs (much overlooked in Seattle). His high strikeout totals were blown way out of proportion. Seattlelites (as true with most fans) still consider a pop out to third or a ground ball double play to be more of a contribution than a strikeout. How ridiculous does that sound when it's worded that way?

5) Before giving up 4 runs in 6 innings tonight, Ron Villone had an 11+ ERA after the trade deadline. It's good that we held onto him, and I'm glad to see we are making it a priority to sign him to a contract extension.

6) Kevin Millar of the Red Sox had a 732 OPS when the Red Sox came here on July 20th. He went on to hit six home runs in five games starting with the game immediately following the Seattle series. He has followed that up with a 1093 OPS so far in the month of August. He credits his remarkable turnaround to watching Miguel Olivo's approach at the plate while in Seattle.

7) Speaking of third base, I would like to see the M's go after Wilson Betemit. He's still young and doesn't seem to fit much into Atlanta's future plans.

8) How about Bret Boone to the Red Sox for Kevin Youkilis? Nah! MoneyBall is voodoo!

9) The M's have moved from 29th to 26th in runs scored over the last few weeks.

10) Olerud is hitting about .322 with a dinger and 12 RBI in 14 games with the Yanks. Willie Bloomquist has 11 RBI in 68 games this season.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Ichiro!

Sorry for so many delays in posting. August is vacation month; Jack's just back, and I am about to leave once again (for a week, for my traditional camping trip during which the M's tradition is to lose nearly every game), but we'll be better in September.

For now, though, here is a little tidbit: Ichiro! is doing things I would have said 6 weeks ago are impossible. So who's to say that he can't break George Sisler's record of 257 hits in a (154-game) season?

Ichiro! has hit .483 in 145 AB since the All-Star Break, and .508 over 65 AB in August. Even though he hit only .255 in April, and just .274 in June, he is now hitting .3663 for the season. While I usually don't advocate the arbitrary practice of engaging in "if you don't count these two months . . ." kind of analysis, I can't help but marvel at the fact that, if you do take out those two months, Ichiro! has managed to hit .435 over 60% of his at-bats (308) for the season.

So let's engage in a little bit of "what if" projection. Since the Royals decided it was better to bean Ichiro! than to pitch to him, there is a good chance that Ichiro! won't play all of the Mariners' remaining 43 games. Conservatively, let's say he plays 40 of the 43 (I say "conservatively" because I doubt his beaning will cost him more than one game, and if he is at all close to Sisler's record, I don't think Melvin will sit him in September) games left.

If Ichiro! maintains his current AB/G pace (4.373 AB/G):

* If Ichiro hits at his seasonal average pace (.3663) the rest of the way, he will get 253 hits (64-for-175). If he manages to get 185 AB instead of 175 -- either through getting more AB/G or playing more games -- and hits for his seasonal average, he will tie Sisler's record.

* If Ichiro! hits at the pace he has since his awful April start (163-for414, or .3937), he will get 69 more hits and break Sisler's record by one. If he gets 185 AB instead of 175 (and his current AB/G pace will give him 184 more AB if he only misses one of the Mariners' remaining games), at that pace he will finish with 262 hits.

* If Ichiro! maintains the torrid pace he has maintained since the All-Star Break (.483 over 145 AB), he will absolutely shatter Sisler's record, finishing with 274 hits. Even if he slowed to a possibly-human pace of .400 over the likely 175-185 remaining AB he should get, he will easily break Sisler's record, finishing with 259-263 hits.

How likely is it that Ichiro! can maintain any one of the projected paces? Well, normally I would say not very likely, but he has already done that and more over a similar extended period (Ichiro! has 86 hits over his last 187 AB, or .460), so who am I to say he can't do it?

I am probably not the first to say it, but I will say it anyway: Ichiro! is the one guy in MLB I think is capable of someday hitting .400 for a season. Hell, if he had just hit for his career average (.336) in April and June of this year, he would be flirting with .400 right now (he would be hitting about .395 and looking at a stretch drive fueled by the knowledge that he could slow down and still reach .400).

Regardless of what super-human feats you can see Ichiro! performing the rest of the way, though, he's not going to hit .400 this year. To do that, he would have to maintain something very close to his .508 August hitting pace for the rest of the year. If you project Ichiro! to 691-700 AB for the season, he'll need to hit right around .500 the rest of the way to finish with the 277 to 280 hits it will take for him to finish with a .400 average. I suppose it's only fair to Ichiro! to say that's not impossible, but I think it is pretty damn close to impossible to do.

If Ichiro! has taught me one thing this year, though, it is "never say never."



Tuesday, August 10, 2004

So Long, Papi -- See You in Cooperstown

One of the reasons I started this blog was to make a public case that Edgar Martinez should be in the Hall of Fame. It is my hope that if there are some among the 380 or so voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who are on the fence or leaning against voting for Edgar, at least a few of them will do a Google search and find my argument for Edgar's HoF case. I'm not so arrogant as to believe that it isn't possible that someone could come away unconvinced of my position, but consideration of the argument is really the least someone with a vote should do.

People who know me know that I am an unabashed Edgar Martinez fan who began insisting that Edgar's career numbers were Hall of Fame worthy as long as a couple of years ago (go to the Mariners Newsgroup and see for yourself). I still firmly believe that, yet worry that such a lackluster finish to a borderline HoF career -- at least as usually judged by the BBWAA -- will hurt Edgar's case when the time comes.

It really shouldn't.

I don't want to hear about the DH (what an illogical, head-in-the-sand argument that can be). The DH is over 30 years old, and is used in every league except one. It's not going away, and we shouldn't be penalizing guys' defense just because they are playing a position (usually against their will) that doesn't require defense. The Hall of Fame has always been about offense. Sure, there are guys (like Ozzie Smith) who got in mostly on the strength of their defense, but they are the exception and not the rule -- there are many more average-to-terrible defenders in the Hall than there are great defenders who were middling hitters. Bill James is one of many analysts who've tried to quantify how much defense versus offense contributes to winning baseball (he pegged it at about 17%), and it always comes up on the short end of the stick as compared to offense. Not to mention, in Edgar's case, he played 563 games at third base (no cake walk) and another 28 as a first baseman -- which, if you're counting, is about 30% of Edgar's games played.

What, exactly should a Hall of Famer be? One thing I'm sure is not the standard is Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Wille Mays, Hank Aaron, Tris Speaker, Stan Musial, blah, blah, blah. The upper echelon does not define the Hall of Fame. Somewhere between 15,000 to 20,000 men have played major league baseball over the years. Shouldn't a man Don't you think the top 1% of figures that high ought to draw serious consideration for the Hall of Fame?

Please, please, please, dear writers, before you write Edgar off, consider his record:

When Edgar Martinez announced his retirement, if he didn't play another game the rest of the season, Edgar would finish, all-time (and I don't just mean the modern, post-1900 era):

* In the top 200 (2013, #184) ALL-TIME in Games Played;
* Among the top 150 players in ALL-TIME in runs scored (1203, #147), and hits (#145, 2205);
* Among the top 100 ALL-TIME in home runs (310, #95 currently), runs batted in (1244, #100 currently) and Total Bases (3661, #99 currently);
* Among the top 75 ALL-TIME in batting average (currently .312, #74), slugging percentage (currently .519, #60), extra-base hits (831, #67), and times on base (hits + walks + hit by pitch; currently 3566, #73);
* Among the top 40 ALL-TIME in doubles (currently 511, #35), walks (1272, #36), on-base percentage (.420, #21), OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, at #38, .938), and OPS+ (OPS, compared to league average -- defined as 100 -- for career and adjusted for park differences; 151 through 2003, #32).

None of these accomplishments, considered alone, stands out as HoF-worthy, but together they do. The sheer breadth and variety of accomplishment, and what it indicates about the versatility of Edgar's offensive ability at a very high level, certainly does.

Moreover, if being the premier player at a given position is what floats your boat, there is little doubt that Edgar Martinez is the preeminent designated hitter of all-time, too. Among players with at least 2500 plate appearances as a DH, Edgar is #1 in virtually every offensive category. Edgar has been ranked first among DH's by the Elias Sports Bureau (for free agent compensation purposes) in seven of the nine years prior to this one in which he has been primarily a DH, and has won five Silver Slugger awards (1992 at 3B, and 1995, 1997, 2001, and 2003 at DH) as the premier offensive player at his position. Only four men have won more -- Barry Bonds (11), Mike Piazza (10) Alex Rodriguez (7), and Manny Ramirez (6) -- and all have top-notch HoF credentials. Forget about just DH's . . . Edgar is one of only 18 men to top 1.000 OPS at least five times, and one of only 26 men ever to hit .200 better than league-average OPS at least seven times.

As impressive as this laundry list of achievements is, it is even more remarkable for two reasons.

First, Edgar accomplished all this as a right-handed hitter. Most of you probably already know about the inherent advantages a left-handed hitter enjoys over his right-handed counterpart: he's a couple of steps closer to first, and he often enjoys the benefit of a huge hole on the right side to hit through, created by the need for the first baseman to hold a runner on first. Beyond that, Edgar has played in an age of specialization, when dominant hitters like him almost never face a tired or a left-handed pitcher in later innings. It is no suprise then, to find that most of the players ahead of Edgar on these "leader boards" are left-handed or switch hitters. For instance, among right-handed hitters, Edgar's current ALL-TIME ranks are: 33rd in AVG, 4th in OBP, 31st in SLG, 15th in OPS, 17th in OPS+, 43rd in TB, and 26th in times on base. Edgar is one of only 21 right-handed hitters to hit .330 in a season at least four times, and one of only 11 right-handed hitters to hit .320 or better at least seven times -- and the last year any one of those other ten men played was 1951 (Joe DiMaggio). Edgar is one of only seven right-handed hitters to post a .400 or better OBP at least nine times, and one of only three post-war players to do that (Frank Thomas and Rickey Henderson being the others).

Second, Edgar amassed these numbers despite missing 2-3 years languishing (and flourishing) in AAA while Jim Presley mostly struggled. Edgar was a career .344/.449/.495 hitter in AAA, and the fact that it took Mariners management as long as it did to notice is more than borderline incompetence.

One could argue (given the questionable "quality" of his competition) that Edgar showed enough promise in his first stint in AAA (in 1985 -- .363/.467/.517 in 68 AB) that he deserved a shot, but that wasn't even enough forMariners management of that era to return him to AAA in 1986, let alone MLB. However, by 1987 at the latest, it should have been clear he was ready. Edgar hit..329/.434/.473 at Calgary that year, yet only earned a late call-up to the M's where he hit .372/.413/.581 over 43 September AB. Considering Jim Presley hit .247/.296/.433 (87 OPS+) that year, that should at least have been enough to take over the job in 1988, right? Not to the Mariners. They sent him back to AAA, where he hit .363/.467/.517. Incredibly (because Presley was hitting .230/.280/.355, with a 74 OPS+ that year), Edgar again didn't get called up until late, and again he hit much better than Presley did -- a respectable .281/.351/.406. STILL, that wasn't good enough for the Mariners, who decided to go with Presley and even converted OF Darnell Coles to 3B to share time with Presley. Presley hits .236/.275/.385 in 1989, and Coles hits..252/.294/.359 while once again Edgar tears up the PCL, hitting .345/.457/.522 at Calgary for 113 AB before he finally gets a chance. Unfortunately, he never gets any consistent playing time thanks to a 4-way job share (Edgar appeared in 61 games at 3B in '89, Presley 90, Coles 37, and Cochrane 9), and his numbers were the worst of his career -- but mostly better than his competition. Thankfully, they don't return him to AAA to start the 1990 season, but even though Presley leaves, the M's still don't fully commit the full-time job to him -- that is, until his .302/.397/.433 over144 games makes them commit. By that time, he's 27 and probably a year-plus into what should have been his prime.

It wasn't as if the competition was good, or the team needed veteran presence for a stretch run in any of these years . . . these were bad players, on bad teams. Any competent GM could have seen that Edgar Martinez should have been handed the keys to third base by mid-1987 at the latest, and it is not his fault that those who managed the club in those days didn't do that. What more can you do but to hit .344/.449/.495 over several seasons in AAA?

Management ineptitude probably cost Edgar 275-300 major league games. If you assume he would have hit according to his cumulative MLB averages for 1987-1990 (.291/.377/.411) -- a conservative estimate given that Edgar hit .300 in every healthy full season he played until he turned 40 -- that would project, over 275 additional games, to approximately 256 additional hits, including 49 doubles, 4+ triples, 16 home runs, 116 runs, and 95 RBI. If you assume he would have hit to his cumulative MLB averages for1987-1991 (.298/.389/.428, probably a more reasonable assumption), over 275 games he projects to an additional 271 hits, including 54 doubles, 5 triples,19 home runs, 139 runs, and about 100 RBI. If you add those totals( plus 200-300 additional games played at 3B) to Edgar's career totals now, Edgar would be somewhere in the neighborhood of .310/.415/.515, with about 2500 hits, 900 XBH including maybe 325 HR, close to 1400 RBI and 1300 runs scored, and 900-100 games competently played at third base. Quite simply, there would be no debate about Edgar's HoF credentials then.

Bill James believed and has persuasively argued that HoF voters should take into account the fact that a career is cut short by things outside of a player's control, like late call-up, war service, etc. (but not injury, as being injury-prone is part of one's skill set in a way that living in wartime or being held back by a stupid GM is not). The idea is that players blocked by the kind of managerial incompetence (for example) that Edgar endured should be given, if not a credit, at least some recognition that they were good players at a time when they were prevented through no fault of their own from playing and accumulating numbers that might make a difference for them in terms of HoF consideration. That's not to saythat you *assume* they would have put up X additional counting stats, butjust that you give them a break on the necessity for "magic number" counting stats that are essentially unreachable for them despite sustained excellence over a career.

[After all, to reach 3000 hits, you need 15 years averaging 200 hits . . . what are the chances that someone who doesn't play even close to full-time until 27 (and then reduces opportunities to get hits by walking a lot -- no doubt very valuable contribution to winning baseball even if it isn't valued much by HoF voters -- so that his career high for hits in a season is 182) can get close to that? Not much, as we have seen.]

I agree with James, and Edgar deserves exactly this kind of benefit of the doubt. This is one big reason why I would more highly value and consider Edgar's excellent "rate" stats over his lesser counting numbers. I think it is what any thinking BBWAA voter should do, even if they usually don't. However, "the way it has always been" is not an anchor, and is not a persuasive reason to ignore good arguments based on sometimes overlooked stats.

I like statistics because, when not overly manipulated, they can illuminate areas left dark or overshadowed by what we think we "know." No doubt there is a compelling statistical argument to be made for Edgar's HoF case, but there is an equally compelling case built on the testimonials of his peers, who consider him one of the greatest hitters of his generation, and along with Frank Thomas and perhaps Manny Ramirez (if he sustains his current performance well into his mid-30s), the best right-handed hitter in the game over the last 15 years. Even more than any statistical argument, that should be strongly considered by any HoF voter.

I've written enough for now -- or maybe, as usual, too much. I will revisit this subject in another post or two, though, because there are some statistical arguments that get tossed around for Edgar that I don't particularly like (but which, even when viewed in proper context, lend proper support to his cause), and there are some writers who are making a public and mostly one-sided and even misinformed argument against Edgar's credentials that I would like to rebut. But, another day. I've got a game to get to.