Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Betting on the M's 

Aaron Gleeman is one of my favorite baseball bloggers, and one of his "trademarks" is that each day he bets on one or more baseball games and keeps a running tally on the results. I am going to try to do that myself this year, as I've always wanted to see if I was better served using my hard-earned money to gamble on baseball, which I believe I understand, rather than the stock market, which I can't pretend to fathom. I'm going to track two numbers - first, what would happen to a gambler who was a true optimist and bet on the M's every week. Since the M's will win the World Series this year, how much money would that make me. Second, I'll pick my favorite games from the remainder of the slate.

Edited 4/14: After 1-6 start I've decided that my betting on the M's is the cause and will desist posthaste.

Aaron does a nice job of explaining how betting on baseball works...

For those unfamiliar with how baseball betting works, here's a quick little explanation...

Say you have two teams, New York and Chicago. The "betting line" for the game will look something like this:

New York -150 vs. Chicago +140

What that means is that New York is the favorite, and to win $100 on them you need to bet $150. On the other hand, Chicago is the underdog, and if you bet $100 on them, you win $140.

Pretty simple, right?
If I make money at this, I'm cashing in my 401k, and opening an account with an offshore gambling facility.

Trades Brewin?
The Brewers traded pitcher Wayne Franklin to the Giants yesterday. Both teams have had rumored interest in Kevin Jarvis. So, while it looks like the Giants won't need Jarvis, the Brewers now need Jarvis more than ever. Strange trade for the Brewers, and hopefully one that leads to them somehow dealing us Geoff Jenkins for Kevin Jarvis.

Andriessen digs at the Bloggers
Normally, I like David Andriessen's work, but I found fault with today's article, and I'm sure it will be fodder for many a Mariner blogger. "Internet critics aside, Bavasi gets high marks" has a line that all bloggers and blogreaders should find a bit insulting...

So when the new outfielder is Raul Ibanez instead of Vladimir Guerrero, when the new shortstop is Rich Aurilia rather than Miguel Tejada, people on the Internet and sports talk shows who think the GM's job is like running their fantasy team call for everyone in the organization to be tarred and feathered.

While I may disagree with many bloggers who have criticized Bavasi for personnel moves, I do think their arguments are well thought out and are due consideration by everyone, including members of the Mariners front office. In one fell swoop, Andriessen insults the bloggers, and fantasy owners at the same time. Nice job, David!

Watching/Listening to the M's on the Net
David at USS Mariner found a great deal on purchasing MLB All Access, by becoming a member of MSN Premium. Doing it this way makes the cost $30 for 6 months rather than $80 or more. Of course, it wasn't long ago that listening to baseball over the Internet was free...

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

So long, Eric Owens 

And then there were three. Assuming that the M's keep 12 pitchers, and a bench of catcher, Hansen, McCracken, the departure of Eric Owens leaves Willie Bloomquist, Hiram Bocachica, and Ramon Santiago vying for the utilityman spot on the bench.

Bocachica! (I still hear "Oh Yeah" from Ferris Bueller's Day Off and 800 other 80's movies whenever I say that last name). Go E-RAM!

Betting on McCracken 

One of the hardest things I've had to do as the Mariner Optimist is to defend the trade of Greg Colbrunn to the Diamondbacks for Quinton McCracken. Like most of you, I do not like the trade, but also feel that the M's must have had their reasons. Maybe they thought they could more easily find a lefty-mashing 1B off the bench than they could a 4th outfielder they felt comfortable with. I think that Bob Melvin had his hand in this trade and felt he could rejuvenate McCracken to find his 825 OPS of 2002, more than he could help Colbrunn recover from the injuries that preventing him from helping the Mariners in 2003.

Trent at Mariners Rumblings and Grumblings (webarelyknewyougregcolbrunn.blogspot.com)decided to call bullspit on my optimism, and we ended up proposing a bet on who will have the better season, McCracken or Colbrunn. The stakes were non-monetary. Simply stated, at the end of the season, the loser had to either make a post praising (if I won) or damning (if I lose) Bill Bavasi and the moves he made this offseason. The biggest question was how to compare their seasons, and Trent came up with using Bill James' Runs Created stat.

I have to admit I've never calculated Runs Created before, but found this link that explains the complex calculation.

There are 3 component equations to Runs Created. Each is weighted by how much each event correlates with runs being scored. Additionally, each event (walk, hit, steal, etc.) is weighted within each equation based on how much it correlates with scoring runs. Here are the component equations:

A = Hits + Walks + Hit by Pitches - Caught Stealing - grounded into double plays

B = ((Walks - Intentional Walks + Hit by Pitches) * .24) + (Stolen Bases * .62) + ((Sacrifice Hits + Sacrifice Flies) * .5) + Total Bases - (Strikeouts * .03)

C = At Bats + Walks + Hit by Pitches + Sacrifice Hits + Sacrifice Flies

And here is the final equation for Runs Created:

((((C * 2.4) + A) * ((C * 3) + B))/(C * 9)) - (C * .9)

Additional adjustments are made when statistics with men in scoring position are available: divide a player's (or team's) total home runs by the number of at bats. Multiply that number by the number of at bats with men on base to find the expected home runs in that situation. Subtract the expected total from the real total and add that result to the raw runs created result.

Then multiply a player's (or team's) batting average by the number of at bats with runners on second or third (RISP) to determine the expected hits in that situation. Subtract the expected number from the actual number and again add the result to the raw runs created total.

Round the final result to the nearest integer. (whew!)
I've seen other links with different versions of the calculation, so I may need Trent to confirm the calculation. Not an easy stat to measure during the course of the season, but I'll probably be tracking some semblance of the Colbrunn/McCracken performance on the sidebar. Wish luck to Q!

Tampa Bay on Top 

Ya gotta love the Yankees starting the season in the cellar, and the Devil Rays in first place. Mike Mussina gets a loss, and ARod manages to injure pitcher Paul Quantrill when they collide trying to field a bunt.

Hopefully, you'll get to read this as blogger has eaten my last two posts which is why I haven't posted for awhile. Nothing is more frustrating than typing for 20 minutes or an hour, and then clicking the Publish button only to see some "Session Timeout Error" and your entry lost. I got to remember to edit offline (as this is).

Saluting the USS Mariner
Anyway, the gist of the first post was "Kudos to Derek" for at least trying to avoid cutesy derogatory names for Mariners front office and coaching staff. I agree that much of the good in a blog entry can be lost if it is surrounded by namecalling and the like. Heck, Derek's tone toward the front office was one of the main reasons I started this blog, and refer to him as the king of the "statarazzi." But if he is going to tone down his namecalling, then I'm a happy man, and will certainly follow suit. (Not that Derek, or anyone at USS Mariner cares, but I feel like we have more in common than not, and somehow got off on the wrong foot). So, I hope that Derek sticks to his guns, and we'll be watching.

On Bullpens and Benches
The next post was about actual baseball, and I argued that a 12 man pitching staff is a good thing for the Mariners since they start with 30 games in 31 days. And concerns over what happens if so and so gets hurt are just not that important, as we can always call up someone from AAA. Just cuz you start with 12 pitchers doesn't mean you have to stay with 12 all year.

I also lobbied that Kevin Jarvis seems to be pitching well of late with three straight outings without giving up a run, and that I think he will continue to grow stronger. The guy is a serviceable 4th/5th starter for most teams, and we should try to wrestle some value out of him in trade before we just cut him. Last year was his first back from elbow surgery, and his month of July (4-0, 2.20 ERA in 4 starts) was his only healthy one as elbow pain returned in August and bad pitching followed. Everyone was ready to kick Jarvis off the team from one bad Spring Training start, but at the same time, are willing to forgive Joel Pineiro's horrible beginning.

I agree that we should trade Jarvis at the first sign of some value in return, as I don't think he's even the 6th or 7th starter on the M's. But on the Brewers, or Reds? A #3 starter or better, certainly capable of eating innings and easing the load on an otherwise young pitching staff. And that has value.

The bench I'd like to see...
Pat Borders. Lets shake Ben Davis up a bit. He still has minor league options, I believe, so we wouldn't lose him, and maybe some time in AAA would shake his funk. Call Davis back up at the first sign of AAA life.
Quinton McCracken. Best fourth outfielder that we have. If we acquire someone else, then I think we move him on.
Dave Hansen. Play him, but be shopping him around at the same time. If we can get $300,000 back for him by him going elsewhere, that's more money in the bank.
Hiram Bocachica. Let Willie Bloomquist strut his stuff in Tacoma for a bit, and call him up in May. Bocachica has been a spark this Spring, and he has no minor league options left. Add E-Ram to 40-man roster, and drop Ryan Christiansen from 40-man.

The bullpen I'd like to see after Guardado, Shiggy, Soriano, Mateo...
Ron Villone. Lefty setup man, and possible spot starter if a starter goes down, though I'd rather Soriano had first crack.
Mike Myers. Has done all we can ask of him. LOOGY who could become the 7th/8th inning guy if he continues to get guys out on both sides of the plate. Add him to 40-man roster and send Aaron Looper to 60-day DL.
Kevin Jarvis. Long relief and looking for a trade.

That means so long to Terry Mulholland, and I don't think he'll really be missed. Jarvis at least has upside, and is already on 40-man roster. It was between Mulholland and Myers and Myers is the clear victor as he has pitched well this Spring, pitched well in recent years, and has pitched for Melvin before.

On Trade Rumors
I expect that the M's are set for the season unless someone makes an offer on Jarvis. But if you like trade rumors, then the newest M's blog, DR Horton, is for you. The doctor lists another of things he'd like to do, and while most of them are questionable, it makes for an interesting "what-if". Among the things the doctor would like to see would be Jason Kendall in and Ben Davis out; Travis Blackley in, Kevin Jarvis and Ryan Franklin out; Quinton McCracken or if necessary, Randy Winn out, and one or more of Ken Griffey, Jay Gibbons, Geoff Jenkins in. Aaron Boone in. For all the rumors, the doctor does a good job of looking for rumors from non-M's media sources like the Pirates and Brewers newspapers, and for that alone, he's worth a look. And of course, I've got to put him in the optimists section, since he still has faith in M's management being able to pull off a trade that would improve the club.

That's all for now. I'm hitting the Publish key... now.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Freddy Garcia - 2004 AL Cy Young 

The fantasy pundits are chiming in with rave reviews and high expectations for Once and Future Staff Ace Freddy Garcia.

USA Today's John Hunt says:

Catch those spring games on TV if you can't make it in person. After seeing Mariners pitcher Freddy Garcia, who was nearly non-tendered in the winter, I'd be absolutely shocked if he didn't finish in the top 10 in ERA this season.
And today at subscribers-only BaseballHQ.com, Freddy is made the sleeper choice for AL Cy Young. (CTL = walks per 9 innings; DOM = strikeouts per 9 innings)

After his terrific 2001 season, great things were expected from Freddy Garcia (SP, SEA). He has largely failed to deliver on the promise of that 18-win, 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP season that he recorded as a 25-year old. But in the 2nd half of 2003, his DOM rate spiked, reversing a two-year decline. Could this be the sign of a return to 2001 form? He has had a terrific spring (1.84 ERA, 3.1 CTL, 7.4 DOM), and he still plays in a good ballpark for his increasingly fly-ball tendencies. If he keeps the ball in the park, the sky (or a Cy) is the limit.
Fantasy Baseball Headquarters is also on the Freddy bandwagon.

Sure, it's just March and he's only thrown 14.2 innings this spring, but Freddy is back. He's got a new pitch, a slider, mixing with his fastball and curve, and it's making him look even more dangerous than 2001.
So is Spring the harbinger of a great year for Freddy Garcia, or is this just fantasy?

Thursday, March 25, 2004

MBSBL Dog Days of August 

Its August 16th, and your Mariner Optimist MBSBL team finds themselves 10 games out of first, but comfortably 61/2 games out of 5th place. With the top four teams going to the playoffs, things look alright, but since San Shin is in fifth with what may be the best team, these last 40 games are going to be crucial.

Some amazing stats from this league...

We let Carlos Beltran go after putting up an anemic .195 batting average for the Optimist. He was snatched up by San Shin where he is now a late inning defensive specialist. Other hitters who have sucked include Tim Salmon (521 OPS), Juan Pierre (642 OPS, 10-17 in steals), Nomar Garciaparra (297 OBP), Scott Podsednik (582 OPS), Juan Gonzalez (607 OPS), AJ Pierzynski (591 OPS), Kevin Millar(584), Orlando Cabrera(581), Sean Burroughs(595)

Good pitching beats good offense? Diamond Mind says NO. Only 7 starting pitchers have an ERA under 4.00 and the list is Curt Schilling, Byung-Hyun Kim, Wilson Alvarez!, Livan Hernandez, Tim Hudson, Jose Contreras and Javier Vazquez. Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano is 2-16 and Johan Santana is 3-12!

Jim Edmonds leads the league in home runs with 50, passing Javy Lopez(47), Barry Bonds(46), and ARod(44).

Villone Secures Role In the Pen 

Ron Villone goes 4 innings today and gives up one run on a couple of cheap singles. He is definitely on the team, and is gonna be a strong member of the pen.

Rafael Soriano returns to the round and gives up a couple of runs in an inning, but at least he's back.

Raul Ibanez throws out a runner at home to save more damage for Raffy and then in the following inning goes yard to give the M's a 4-3 lead over the Rangers.

Man, I can't wait for Opening Day, when these games count!

March Madness Revisited
In the meantime, here are my revised picks for the NCAA Tournament:

The Phoenix Region is pretty uninspiring, with UConn benefitting from all the upsets in a SEC-Big East tilt. UConn will cruise to an easy win tonight over Vandy while Syracuse will be stunned by Alabama. UConn heads to San Antonio after Okaforing the Tide.

The East Rutherford Region is going to be freakin awesome tonight. In the best game of the tournament Pittsburgh beats Oklahoma State (yes, I've changed my mind here - Pitt winning would win me some money :-), and in the nightcap, St. Joe's proves they are for real by taking out Wake. But its Pitt that stamps its ticket to San Antonio. Any one of these teams would fit right into a Final Four berth, and these should be great games.

On Friday, in Atlanta, Xavier puts the Longhorns out of my misery, so we can quit hearing how great Rick Barnes is on Austin sportsradio. And Duke says thank you very much and cruises into the Final Four.

The St. Louis Regional provides all the entertainment for us underdog fans, as UAB faces Kansas and Nevada takes on Georgia Tech. I'm gonna go for the upsets. UAB is on fire, and Nevada's thugs will take care of Tech. The WAC goes to the Final Four behind a huge performance from Kirk Snyder.

In San Antonio, UConn takes out a Duke in a blowout, and Pitt sends Cinderella Nevada home in a squeaker. Then its UConn taking home the title, 72-70.

I went back and forth three times on Oklahoma State and Pittsburgh and cannot wait for the game tonight. But UConn got favors it did not need, and is primed for a title run.

Game Logs 

For those of you looking for a little more information on what REALLY happened in a game, I've found that the guys at Top Forums are doing a good job there too with their game threads. Stuff you don't always find in a boxscore or the writeup from the beat writers.

Here's an example from yesterday's White Sox game...

Gar leads off the 4th against Garland. Garland's retired 8 M's in a row.

Foul shot down the line for 0-1. Ball one. GAR HITS A SHOT...right to the SS. lineout for #1.

Ole's next, takes a ball low. Ball two. Shot lined foul into the stands. Johnny O gets that swing corrected and hits the same shot but fair for a hot single. That's it John, hit em hard.

Ben Davis is up. Throw to first. Uh...Mr. Garland, Olerud will NOT be stealing a base on you. He's sorta slower than Molasses running uphill in an icestorm.

Now he comes to the plate. 2 balls to Ben, followed by a foul shot for 2-1. Swinging strike 2.

Davis hits one to to the SS, who has to tag Ole and only gets the lead runner. 2 outs.

Good news: Soriano's working tomorrow. Bad news: So's Jarvis.

Bloomie hits a shot...JUSt foul, 0-1. ball and a strike for 1-2. Flyball to CF and Rowen drifts back to make the catch.

Still 3-0 ChiSox.

The good news is Jarvis is working today for not only the M's but for scouts from the Brewers. As bad as Jarvis looks to us, remember that he'd probably be a #3 starter on the Reds, Rockies, or Brewers. The question is will we be throwing in a prospect, cash, or both?

The Mark Cuban Blog 

Heard on the radio yesterday that Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, had his own weblog, and it is a pretty good read. In his entry "I suck", Cuban laments taking the Hawks lightly and did not "wear the right shirt" or "stop at 7-Eleven and get my two sugar-free Red Bulls and Diet Mountain Dew." Its kind of refreshing to know that billionaire owners can have the same zany ideas that I do that their actions can affect their team. I remember last year I went almost a week without wearing underwear (going commando) in order to spark the M's on their last run for the playoffs.

Cuban also slams a local journalist, and is studying the tendencies of the referrees. A lot of it is promotional, but then many blogs are, so no harm in that. Anyway, if you haven't found it already, I recommend it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Edgar Martinez' Most Comparable Player 

Anyone who goes to the Top Forums or the PI Forum has probably come across Dr. Detecto in that time. Say what you will about the good doctor, he is always entertaining, and would be an excellent blogger if he chose to do put his efforts there. Until then, I just wanted to point folks to his Top Forum thread on Edgar Martinez and his Hall of Fame candidacy. It boasts my favorite line of the year...

Who Is Edgar's Most-Comparable Player?
Steve Largent.
Man, that is perfect! Keep up the great work, Dr. D...

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Ryan Franklin's Greatness is Misunderstood 

The blogosphere seems pretty focused on my favorite Okie these days, so I thought I'd chime in. USS Mariner and Fire Bavasi have digressed from the standard Ryan Franklin bashing to weigh in with notes about Franklin's home run rate with runners on base. This conversation started by USSM bashing this article, as they once again stated that his low K-rate, high HR-rate, means that Franklin was lucky last year and heavily reliant on strong outfield defense. Therefore, keeping Ryan Franklin was a huge mistake, a mistake exacerbated by letting Mike Cameron go.

One other blog rises to Franklin's defense as Hope Springs Eternal. Nate sums up the statarazzi argument very well...

For those of you uninitiated, here's the basic premise for claiming Franklin will be worse this year: his strikeout rate has declined the last couple years AND he has given up a lot of home runs. Fewer strikeouts mean more balls in play, and most consistently good pitchers don't let a lot of balls in play. That is, there's no significant correlation between being a good pitcher and having a lot of the batted balls you allow be turned into outs. The argument goes that Franklin did as well as he did because of superior defense--in the outfield, particularly--and because of luck, and that both are more likely to decline this year. Conversely, home runs are one way that the pitcher alone is responsible for giving up runs. Giving up HRs prevents your defense from helping you out.
Okay, we get it. We have some correlated statistics that say that low-K rate, high-HR pitchers are not going to put up sub-4.00 ERAs. Yet, they also acknowledge that exceptions exist, particularly extreme flyball pitchers, knuckleballers, lefties to a certain extent. Jamie Moyer.

But USSM is quick to dismiss any comparison, noting that Moyer has had three years of consistent BABIP around .280, while Franklin's three year progression of 319, 297, 291 means that in 2004 he will bounce back toward the 320 range. Why? Could Franklin be possibly getting better as a pitcher? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Ryan Franklin throws five different pitches (fastball, forkball, slider, change, big curve) and varies the speed of his pitches between 70 and 92 MPH. With excellent control, there is no way to attack that, because you can't set up for any one pitch. He is much like Jamie Moyer in that respect.

But, what about his K-rate going down?

The one "weakness" he has is that he likes to throw a first pitch strike, and hitters seem to have figured that out a bit. Of the 794 batters Franklin faced last year, he pitched first pitch strikes to 525 of them. 119 times, batters went after the first pitch and fared very well, with 37 hits and 13 home runs for a 311 batting average and 681 slugging percentage. But with an 0-1 count, Franklin is untouchable - 219 average and 318 SLG. Those numbers match the elite in baseball (Pedro, Mussina, Moyer) with a one strike count.

By comparison, two names that USS Mariner brought up as Franklin comparables due to K rate and HR rate were Mike Maroth and Damian Moss. Maroth with a one-strike count? 293 AVG and 510 SLG. Damian Moss? 307 and 451. These pitchers get no quantifiable advantage from being ahead in the count, while Franklin does. (And yes, this is consistent over his three years as a major leaguer).

There is still very little that we understand about pitchers ability to control the effects of balls put in play. Stats have revolutionized thinking in this area to make us believe that pitchers have less control over this than was previously believed true. However, this is so new, and there are so many exceptions, that I fear that some take this new belief as gospel. I think that a pitcher like Franklin who varies his pitches so well, attacks hitters with first pitch strikes, and is an extreme flyball pitcher, is much more likely to continue to defy the stat wisdom and continue to pitch well.

I would argue that Franklin pitches either go out of the park, or hang in the air long enough to be caught. Lets look at the M's pitching staff.

Jamie Moyer21519914040195.861.670.80
Ryan Franklin21219913827345.861.151.44
Joel Pineiro21219213736195.821.530.81
Freddy Garcia20119613839316.181.751.39
Gil Meche18618713830306.671.451.45

Franklin only gave up 27 extra base hits last year that were not home runs. His single rate seems pretty consistent with other pitchers on the staff, but he gave up far fewer extra base hits than any other pitcher. I would argue that its because Franklin is an extreme flyball pitcher, and that most of these well-hit balls either go out of the park, or hang up there to be caught. A groundball/linedrive pitcher has to worry more about shots down the line. Will Franklin miss Cameron/Winn in center-left. Maybe, but

Actually, the interesting thing about Franklin is that he pitched better AWAY from Safeco. He pitched 30 more innings at Safeco than on the road, but gave up ten more home runs (22-12) and 9 more extra base hits (18-9).

And an important fact that seems to be ignored by many in the blogosphere. Franklin was BETTER in the second half than in the first half of the season. There aren't too many Mariners you can say that about. Franklin in first half gave up 1.8 HR/9 vs. 1.1 in the second half. His ERA dropped by nearly half a run. This is not a pitcher getting lucky, this is a pitcher getting better.

Lets Fleece the Rockies! 

In recent years, the Mariners have let players off their 40-man roster, only to see them flourish after being claimed by other teams. Raul Ibanez, Scott Podsednik and Aquino Lopez all jump to mind as former M's players or farmhands that achieved stardom on other teams.

Well, maybe its time to turn the tides. The Rockies are going with an age movement that makes GM Bill Bavasi look like a genius in comparison. And soon its going to cost them. The Denver Post reports today that the Rockies are about to add as many as 10 players to their 40-man roster after this Spring, and that means the Rockies are willing to trade prospects rather than risk losing them to waiver claims.

Based on conversations with multiple baseball officials, the Rockies are shopping outfielders Rene Reyes and Jorge Piedra and pitchers Denny Stark and Justin Huisman. Even third baseman Garrett Atkins is no longer untouchable.
As a 23-year-old in AAA Colorado Springs last year, Atkins put up a nice 319/382/481 which translates to a respectable .265 EQA. He could be a nice option for 3B for a few years. Reyes is a spray hitter and not worth our time, but Piedra had a nice year in AA Tulsa last year, with a .513 SLG percentage for the lefty outfielder, and still might be worthy of a bench spot.

If we are going to release Kevin Jarvis, then a hole opens on our 40-man roster that would be a good fit for one of these players. And it probably would not cost too much. This is a team that is using its best pitcher, Shawn Chacon, as its closer, and has Shawn Estes as its Opening Day starter. Suffice to say, they could use some pitching. With us playing in Colorado tonight, lets hope that we are at least discussing possibilities.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Boone the Younger 

Aaron Boone has been visiting camp, and apparently has had talks with the Mariners. I still endorse signing Boone with the hope of him being a strong bench bat in September, and our third baseman next year. Can you have too many Boones?

Battle in the Bullpen 

With George Sherrill and Randy Williams getting sent down, and 9 pitching spots locked down (Moyer, Pineiro, Garcia, Franklin, Meche, Guardado, Hasegawa, Soriano, Mateo), we are left with three lefties and Kevin Jarvis fighting for 2-3 spots.

Latest Larry Larue article hints that one or two lefties are likely to get cut. And Melvin saying that he is "leaning toward 11 pitchers" instead of 12, makes it that much tougher.

The contestents for the final 2-3 spots are:

Kevin Jarvis. Guaranteed to make $4.5 million this year, whether he plays or not. Had his first good outing of the year yesterday with two scoreless innings, and the M's will give him every chance to make the team.

Ron Villone. Has a $1 million contract with further incentives if he starts. He has worked with pitching coach Bryan Price on his delivery against lefties, and has had an excellent Spring.

Mike Myers. The sub-Mariner. Has pitched great this Spring, and very dominant against lefties. Has minor league invite that says M's must release him if not on the team by April.

Terry Mulholland. Has had a decent Spring, but not as dominant as Myers or Villone. 40 years old, and no guaranteed contract makes him the most expendable of this bunch.

My guess is that Myers and Villone are in, and that Jarvis being in means the M's keep 12 pitchers. The M's want Jarvis to succeed so that if nothing else, they can move him without having to eat ALL of his contract. If we keep Jarvis at the expense of Myers or Villone, that would be a big mistake.

Tough Weekend for the Owls 

A couple of losses ended an otherwise good weekend for Owl sport fans.

The biggest loss was the Lady Owls falling to UNLV 68-66 in the second round of the WNIT. The Owls were supposed to play their round 2 game at home in front of the Rice faithful. Instead, UNLV was somehow unable to make travel plans to Houston, and instead the Owls had to play this game in Vegas. Rice continues its tradition of being screwed.

The most shocking loss was Hawaii beating us in baseball, 5-3, for their first win over Rice since 2001. The Owls stranded 10 baserunners and were unable to overcome a poor start from Josh Baker. A number of mental mistakes cost the Owls in this one, and earned them a closed locker room berating from coach Wayne Graham.

It wasn't all bad for the Owls. Philip Humber set a Rice record on Saturday by striking out 17 in a complete game 3-0 win over Hawaii. Jeff Niemann picked up his third win of the season, 5-3 over Hawaii on Friday. The third-ranked Owls are now 16-6 and 5-1 in WAC play. It looks like Wade Townsend is being moved into the bullpen on a regular basis, with Niemann, Humber and Baker forming the core of the rotation. Townsend got the save on Friday, and then pitched 7 2/3 innings of 2-hit relief on Sunday.

And somewhere along the way, Rice has turned into a tennis power, going 16-0 to start the season and are now ranked number 5.

Gotta love the Tournament 

A fantastic weekend of basketball! Of course, my pick to win it all, Kentucky, went down in flames against a surprising Alabama-Birmingham team. And don't say I didn't warn Gonzaga to watch out for Nevada or they were gonna get WAC'd.

My two upsets on Friday didn't pan out, but Pacific came up huge against Providence, and in by far the most entertaining game of the Opening Round, UAB knocked off Washington 102-100. That left me 12-4 on Friday, and 26-6 overall which is probably my best record ever.

In the second round it all fell apart. I was correct in the only upset I picked with Illinois crushing Cincinatti. But I was not bold enough to pick Nevada over Gonzaga. Nor did I think Syracuse could beat Maryland. And c'mon, after Alabama missed two free throws with five seconds left and a three point lead, didn't you think Stanford was continue their miracle season? Sunday brought me more misery with Vanderbilt taking out NC State, Xavier taking out Mississippi State, and my bracket killer, UAB beating Kentucky, who I had picked to win it all.

Still, I managed a 10-6 record for Round 2, and remain 36-12 overall. I still have three of my Final Four left, though I secretly hope Pittsburgh knocks out Oklahoma State. On Friday, there are three teams I'll be rooting hard for - Xavier to take out the #$*#&$( Longhorns, Nevada to take out Georgia Tech, and UAB to continue their run by stomping Kansas.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Catching Up 

Man, work has been kicking my behind the past two days, and of course, I had to waste the last half hour of my day watching Dayton choke away two opportunities to win the game as time expired by going for freakin' 3-pointers when there was clearly a lid over the basket that only a dunk could get through. I believe the 1st overtime about overcame my love for March Madness. Make a free throw! Ack! If I lose my pool by 2.5 points (1 pt for first round + 1.5 pts for 10-seed beating a 7), I'm gonna make it my personal mission in life to get the Dayton coach fired.

Note to self: During afternoon games tomorrow, don't watch another horrible ad for erectile dysfunction or investment choices I need to ask my advisor (Mookie the Bookie - and don't ever try to rhyme that or you'll be eating through a straw) about. Instead watch the Mariners on ESPN againt Barry Bonds and the Giants. I think it starts at 11AM PST.

Freddy Garcia looked great again today, and gives us the most dominating #3 pitcher in baseball, Mark Mulder be damned. Its looking more and more like Mike Myers will make the team. And Terry Mulholland has been surprisingly strong, and looks like a much better choice than Kevin Jarvis at this point. Villone takes the long-relief/spot starter role, Mulholland becomes Norm reincarnated, and Mike Myers submarines his way into the LOOGY role to go with setup men Soriano, Mateo, and Shiggy. I'm pretty sure our bullpen is gonna kick some serious tail this year. Watched ESPN this morning and had a Giovanni Carrara sighting as he gave up yet another home run, this time for the Indians.

But the interesting news of the day is not our pitchers, but who is going to catch them. Ben Davis may have worked (not) and played his way out of a roster spot and we are talking about Pat Borders or reviving the talks for Jason Kendall, according to Larry Larue. By the way, Mark at Top Forums scooped this on St. Patty's morn, but I was too busy to realize it - I still want to know who your insider source is, MarinerGeek!

"Everyone likes Ben, but a lot of us are starting to wonder if he gets it," one Seattle coach said. "He said he wanted to be the starting catcher? Then earn it. Right now, he's not even on the 25-man roster." Strong words, and they better light a fire under Big Ben's Butt, or he gets to battle Wiki Gonzalez for a starting role once again... in Tacoma. C'mon Ben! I'm rooting for ya! Note that Ben went 1 for 2 today, so maybe the message was received - I'll be watching him closely on ESPN tomorrow.

I think a trade for Kendall would have to involve a LOT of money headed our way. I'm kinda intrigued by Pat Borders (who actually projects better offensively than Dan Wilson) getting a longer look, and I'm sure Freddy would love that. San Shin does an excellent job of explaining why trading for Jason Kendall would be a bad idea.

Mariners optioned RHP Cha Seung Baek, LHP Bobby Madritsch and 3B Justin Leone to Triple-A Tacoma; optioned 3B Greg Dobbs to Double-A San Antonio; and reassigned C Rene Rivera to minor league camp. Leone keeps the edge on Dobbs, but if Spring is any indication, Dobbs may get the call to the majors first, if something should befall Oly, Edgar or Spiezio (does he have a nickname - Speezy sounds like the 8th dwarf).

Fantasy baseball virgins, Sodo OhNo's John & Mike converse about the S&Bs Blogger Fantasy League. I signed up for this but may not be able to make tomorrow's draft and have not had a chance to edit my rankings, so if my team sucks you'll know why. I love fantasy baseball, but the only leagues I play for money are NL-Only leagues. As a result, I am very knowledgeable about NL players, moreso than AL players, with the obvious exception of the Mariners. Anyone who loves baseball and has never played fantasy baseball, should probably continue that trend, or risk addicting yourself to this wonderful game. I much prefer auction leagues to draft leagues just for the variety of strategies that can be employed.

The "Glass Half Full" Previews have run short on steam a bit, and for that I apologize. Work has me, and I'd rather keep up on the day to day stuff. Maybe its just writers block trying to find something interesting to say about Bret Boone's prospects for 2004. I know he's gonna be a stud, you know he's gonna be a stud, and the worst thing the pessimists can say about The Boone is that he's getting older and that the steroids might wear off. Maybe I'll just move onto shortstop, where Rich Aurilia is gonna be a nice upgrade over Carlos Guillen.

And with that, I better run. I'm giving up sleep so I can prerank 300 freakin MLB players for this fantasy draft. And I would be stunned if any other blogger drafts Scott Spiezio, Rich Aurilia, or Raul Ibanez before I do, so look for them to be on the Optimist squad. I'll have a report sometime next week. By the way, let me know if hearing about MBSBL and Blogger Fantasy Leagues bores the crud out of you, and if enough of you beg me to shut up about it, I'll tone it down.

Speaking of toned down, the Rice Owls Mens Basketball season ended with a very pathetic whimper, losing 91-63 to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Thanks though for keeping me interested all season long with a strong 22-11 season, and I'm looking forward to next year as all our stars are returning! At least the ladies won their first round WNIT game. And Nevada did the WAC proud by kicking some Spartan tail in the NCAAs. Okay, I'm going now. Really. This post is approaching Gleeman length.

Okay, one last thing. Here are the Mariner Optimist's official NCAA picks, though I used variations of this on various pool entries depending on points for upsets or competition (west coast vs texas bias).

Thursday (14-2 - very nice start) Here are the upsets I picked - Nevada over Michigan St (go WAC!). Manhattan over Florida (did anyone NOT pick this?) Dayton over DePaul (DAMMIT). Southern Illinois over Alabama (1 pt away, sigh).
Friday's upsets - South Carolina over Memphis. Western Michigan over Vanderbilt. And that's it, though I'll be rooting hard for Pacific, Monmouth, and Eastern Washington.
2nd Round upsets - Illinois over Cincinatti. Yes, its boring and there will be one or two upsets I miss (I hope), but I had no confidence in my ability to pick it to this round. I will say that the Zags better not overlook Nevada...
3rd Round upsets - Georgia Tech over Gonzaga (but I'll be rooting for the Zags). Texas over Mississippi St. Wake Forest over St. Joes
Final Four - Kentucky, Oklahoma St, Duke, Connecticut
Championship Game - Kentucky 72, Connecticut 70.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Batters Box Previews the M's 

Damn, the St. Patty's Day grog has gotten to me. The Batters Box, an entertaining blog, has a preview of your 2004 Mariners. The Optimist pull out the following quotes...

Mike Cameron has been regarded as one of the best centerfielders in the game for a few years now and fans of the Mariners might worry that his being replaced by Randy Winn is a bad thing for the team. If they did think that, they’d be wrong...

[Bret Boone has} won a Gold Glove 3 times, including the last two years, and unlike some who have won the award, Boone legitimately deserved them. Only Alfonso Soriano (73 Win Shares) even approaches the offensive value Boone (87 Win Shares) has had over the last 3 years.

[Raul Ibanez]... This is going to be ugly.

[Edgar]... I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Edgar got seriously hurt during the year and retired out of frustration, both with his declining abilities and the team's performance.

More pushing the illusion that Aurilia is being paid more that Guillen (remember Guillen's contract would be $3.4 million vs. Rich's $3.5 million if he didn't get hurt) For $3.5MM, the Mariners are going to get an above-average 32 year old shortstop in Aurilia. To make room for him, the Mariners traded an above-average 28 year old shortstop in Carlos Guillen, who they had just signed prior to the trade for $2.5MM. Guillen was credited with 12 Win Shares in 2003; Aurilia, 13.

Ben Davis... Ben’s other big problem is that he’s just not a good hitter. He never was. A career 241/313/368 hitter in the majors, his production isn’t that far off from where MLEs forecasted he’d be.

The Bench... There is a serious and concerning lack of depth on this team, this very old and possibly brittle team. Here’s hoping that Bavasi’s offseason spending spree doesn’t bind his hands when it comes to filling in holes.

And the final word...

Seattle is still a pretty good team. Sure, people hate Bavasi and this is an expensive squad and they’re really old and there’s few kids ready to help immediately and um, what was I saying?

Seriously, the Offense is probably even to slightly improved with Speizio, Aurilia and Ibanez essentially replacing Cirillo, Guillen and Cameron. The Defense will be similar to last year – maybe a slight decline can be expected. The Bench is severly lacking compared to last year’s, with Mabry, Colbrunn, Mark McLemore and Rey Sanchez leaving. The Rotation might be slightly weaker, with age taking a toll on Moyer and reality taking toll on Franklin but with Soriano ready to step in with help. And while the Bullpen is still quite good, it might be a slight decline over last year's version. It’s hard to make up for Sasaki, Rhodes and Armando Benitez, even if they did only have him for a short time.

In summation, that’s only a slight decline in all areas of the team except for the bench, which is now really bad, and the offense, which should be even. Considering this team “should” have won 97 games last year, my super scientific analysis leads to believer that the Mariners can go 88-74 in 2004. Of course, that won’t be enough to win squat in the AL West this year.

Wow, do I have disagreements with this. Unfortunately, my brain is too foggy to act on them. Happy St. Patrick's Day and enjoy March Madness tomorrow. Here's hoping for a lot of upsets, and I'll be rooting hard for every seed lower than 12.

Griffey Talk Just That? 

Reds GM Dan O'Brien says that the Reds have had no talks with ANYONE about Ken Griffey Jr.

More on Griffey 

Top Forums has some good stuff from "Dr. Detecto" on why we would want to acquire Griffey, and why we would want to keep Winn as a 4th outfielder. Good reading and a conversation you can join!

MBSBL Near the All Star Break 

Just a quick update on the Mariners Blogosphere Simulated Baseball League...

My last predicted standings came after Round 16:

1. SanShin
2. SodoOhNo
3. Fire Bavasi
4. Cracking The Safe
5. 116ers.
6. Mariner Optimist
7. What The Hell Happened?
8. Mariner Musings.
9. Mariners Weekly.
10. The Safe.

Of course, my plan was to post predictions after Round 25 which would have had the Mariner Optimist in first, and probably not much else changing. Best laid plans and all that.

As we are at 70+ games and rapidly approaching the All-Star Break, lets see how the picks are shaping up.

1(predicted in 3rd). Sodo Oh No (44-27). Has won with pitching as the Wilson Alvarez signing was a coup. Currently way outperforming their Pythagorean record and are 17-8 in one-run games.
2(6th). Onesixteeners (45-30). Top pitching in the league with Hernandez and Batista leading the way.
3(1st). Mariner Optimist (41-30). Overcame very slow start to win or tie every series since April ended. Sounds like the 2001 M's. Offense has been stellar with the exception of shortstop platoon and Carlos Beltran.
4(2nd). San Shin (37-38). Best offense and the worst luck in the league, they are 4-15 in one run games and are still a force to be reckoned with.
5(3rd). Fire Bavasi (36-37). I'm 7-0 against these guys, so I hope they make the playoffs - mediocre offense and pitching.
6(8th). Mariner Musings (36-38). The little ball masters are getting on and stealing bases, but are lacking in pop. Look for them to pass Fire Bavasi soon.
7(4th). Cracking the Safe (34-40). Light hitting team that could not overcome terrible pitching (3/5 of rotation with 6.00 ERA or worse). They are searching for more pitching.
8(9th). Mariners Weekly (33-43). Pedro Martinez with a 5.24 ERA, Roy Oswalt(4.76), Carlos Zambrano(5.74) and Vicente Padilla(8.46) have killed this team. You'd think this pitching staff would be able to turn things around.
9(10th). The Safe (30-41). Starter ERA's between 4.96 (Kevin Brown) and 6.40 (Jamie Moyer) are hard to believe.
10 (7th). What the Hell Happened (31-43). Team name says it all - better offense than half the teams and better pitching than half the teams, this team just can't seem to score.

The moral of the story seems to be that good hitting does beat good pitching. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the second half.

Blackjack on the M's 

Jack McDowell has his picks on the AL West out, and while he mistakenly picks the Angels over the M's, he does have good things to say about your Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners had the most quietly productive winter of anyone in baseball. They didn't add any glossy names. They didn't defer any salary issues. Heck, they even lost their closer, Kazuhiro Sasaki, back to Japan. But they did add a group of gamers to an already classy group of winners.

"Quietly productive", "gamers", "classy group of winners" are quotes I love, but that others in the blogosphere might try to pick apart. Ibanez, Spiezio, Aurilia and Guardado are gonna be great fits for the M's.

If you lose your closer and want to get the game's gutsiest to replace him, there is no better fit than Guardado. Now Shigetoshi Hasegawa can move back to setting up even though he filled in nicely last season as interim closer. Losing Rhodes is a blow to the pen, but Villone will fill in nicely. He may not be as dominant, but outs are outs. Rich Aurilia, Scott Spiezio, Randy Winn are good scrappers.

And he doesn't even mention Rafael Soriano. Our bullpen will be great, and with Villone and Soriano we have two very good options if something should happen to a starter.

The biggest move by the M's was not trading Garcia. There has been a lot of back and forth on this guy, and he may not be the exact fit for this team. But his stuff is No. 1-starter quality and then some. He is the type of pitcher that can carry a team for stretches during the season and in the playoffs. He's the type of guy you need to stick with through good or bad and hope the good turns to great.

Freddy Garcia is our number 3 pitcher heading into 2004. If he gets back on track we may have one of the best rotations in baseball.

Thanks to Steven Hare for pointing me to this article. We now return to our regularly scheduled efforts to win the company March Madness pool (and maybe the one the S&Bs are doing as well).

More Griffey Rumors 

Jon Wells at Grand Salami Blog chimes in with the latest Griffey to the M's rumor from an undisclosed source.

The supposed deal would have the Reds paying more than half the money remaining on Junior's contract with Randy Winn and a minor league pitcher headed to Cincy.
Half the money? Well, heck that might be enough to let me let Winn go. Essentially, we turn a 5 year - $46M deal (net-present-value) into a 5-year, $23M deal for Griffey? Of course, I may be misinterpreting what "half the money" really means (does that incorporate Randy Winn's salary into the equation?)

I would really hate to include Winn in the deal, but this deal still improves the Mariners as we essentially spend a minor league pitcher to turn Randy Winn into Ken Griffey. Having the gimpy Griffey would increase the need to have a cash reserve in case an outfielder got injured, but this deal sounds like it would not bite into our extra money much at all.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Spring Tidbits 

Damn, I gotta say, I am pumped for this season. Having Cirillo (by the way, he is 1 for 22 this Spring) gone is a breath of fresh air, and we are going to see big things from the new guys, and from Freddy too. Money is left in the coffers for a midseason trade which should make everyone in Marinerland happy - just not making a big trade is becoming a large monkey on the back in the minds of many.

Edgar is going out with a Championship.

Okay, these words of unfettered optimism are brought to you by Jeffrey at The Safe, and Paul at Ahoy the SS Mariner, who have both sent me email in the past few days with words of encouragement. Take a look at their recent posts, and you can see the optimism beginning to sneak in there.

Anywho... I started this entry about 15 hours ago, and work and sleep be damned, I'm gonna finish it and somehow find time to make my bracket selections for the office pool, but with Rice gone, there is no longer a clear favorite - I just wish Gonzaga was an underdog again.

Where was I... oh yeah, trade rumors
ESPN has a Top 10 Most Likely to be Traded story that mentions both Junior and Alfonso Soriano as possible Mariners in the near future. Junior makes for a better story, but the now-28-year-old Soriano does not have the long-term contract and risk, and his cost is known($5.4 million this year and arbitration-eligible next, and a Scott-Kazmir type pitching prospect - Nageotte?). Where he would play is a question mark (LF, CF, 3B, SS), but the fact that he is a 40-40 guy who crushes lefties makes him a nice fit on this ballclub, even if he mucks with Melvin's Righty-Lefty-Righty 3-4-5...

Latest cuts
Clint Nageotte and Matt Thornton will head to Tacoma to head the most dominating rotation in the Minors, and be ready if anything should happen to our front five, six or seven. For those of you scoring at home, Travis Blackley is still in camp, but I think he'll be sent down soon as well. Justin Leone, Greg Dobbs, Jamal Strong, Jose Lopez, and Bucky Jacobsen all remain in camp, and with Dave Hansen gimpy, will certainly get a close look. If you look for news and links on any minor leaguers, the place to go is Mariner Minors. In other news, former Mariner Brian Sweeney was sent to minor league camp by the Padres today, despite a 3.00 ERA in four appearances.

Blogger All-Stars
My favorite baseball blogger, Aaron Gleeman, has just put out his Top 50 prospect list. I like that Aaron is willing to go out on a limb by not ranking Clint Nageotte as the top M's prospect, instead giving that title to overall #25 Felix Hernandez. And he doesn't stop there, tabbing Travis Blackley 36 just ahead of Nageotte at 39 and Jose Lopez at 45. Four in the top 50 is pretty nice.

Aaron's list is located over at his new endeavor, The Hardball Times, which looks like a Blogger All-Star team. I guess Peter White's All-Baseball.com team now has someone to play against. Man, I've been blogging for two months now, and I'm already obsolete. The story of my life - heck, I kept my bellbottoms so long that by the time I threw them away, they were back in fashion. If you're blogging alone and ain't cross-referencing each other with a slick searchable interface, then you're behind the times. Oh well, I'm sure that if I keep plugging away, I'll get the call.

And in a final note, the submariner goes over the top
Peter Gammons reports that while Mike Myers is still throwing sidearm to lefties, he has changed to being over the top to righties, and hit 89 on the gun. I don't think I've ever heard of a pitcher who two completely different motions to overcome his lefty-righty split. Right now, I think Myers and Ron Villone will be making the team while Terry Mulholland ponders retirement and Kevin Jarvis is jettisoned.

Monday, March 15, 2004

2004 Mariner Commercials are Here 

The new commercials for 2004 are available for viewing. The new tagline for the season is "Mariners baseball. Get all of it." On the commercials, they squeeze in a "Hey Now" before the "Get all of it." It sounds good with the Hey Now, but I don't have the foggiest what it means. I prefer "Mariners baseball. Kicking ass and taking names."

All in all, I was a little disappointed in them, at least in comparison to past years. But it was good to see some of the players a little more up close.

Little ball fans will like the results of Raul Ibanez rediscovering the clubhouse latte. And Ichiro fans will like how he delivers his Autograph. And seeing Ryan Franklin and Shigetosi Hasegawa lost in Translation is cute.

Edgar's commercial with Dan Wilson and John Olerud is great, just cuz its Edgar. Love that guy. Our three oldest hitters getting together to put "The Clapper" on the Safeco lights is a nice little bit of irony.

The best commercial, by far, is Bret Boone getting to second base after an error on the opposing second baseman. The Boone does his best to console him. That one's a classic and well worth the trip to the website.

Men and Ladies Earn NIT Bids 

Well, a little postseason is better than none at all. Both the Men and Women's teams got invitations to the NIT after failing to win their respective postseason tournaments.

For the men, it will be the first postseason tournament for Rice (22-10) in 11 years when they last went to the NIT. They get a first round game Thursday night against Wisconsin-Milwaukee (19-10).

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Griffey Rumors Get New Spark 

Last week, a Bob Finnigan article which conjectured that the M's had serious interest in Ken Griffey, Jr. led to a series of rumors that were stoked by ESPN (being a constant teaser on Sportscenter, and articles like this one on the website). The M's blogosphere, after debating its merits both pro and con, wasn't buying it, eventually concluding that this was another Bob Finnigan pipe dream and was well-documented by San Shin (not once but twice) to be a waste of time.

Not so fast.

Today's Dayton Daily News has a blurb buried in its Reds coverage that quotes Ken Griffey himself, thinking that he's "being showcased" for a trade.

"I've seen scouts from Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles," Griffey said. "I'll be traded within two weeks. Why do I feel that way? Gut feeling."

And it then adds this interesting tidbit of corporate conspiracy...

Griffey wonders if it is coincidence or if Nike knows something.

"All my shoes have been red and black since I came to the Reds," he said. "This year Nike is putting out a pair of my shoes in teal. You know who wears teal?"

The Florida Marlins?

"Yeah, they wear teal, but no. Seattle wears teal," he said.
The fact that Griffey is thinking he might be traded suddenly puts these rumors in a new light. Maybe it could happen. Griffey sure would look better in the number four spot in the lineup than Raul Ibanez does right now. The question for me is, at what cost Junior?

Some argue that Junior's remaining contract of 5 years, $66M is near what we could have had a much healthier in his prime Vladamir Guerrero ($14M/year). But remember, that the deferred payments reduce the cost of the contract in net present dollars to less than 9.3M per season, making it more like a 5 year, $46.5M contract. If we could get the Reds to take on some salary in the form of Kevin Jarvis (former Red and would probably be the #3 or 4 guy in that rotation) and Quinton McCracken (we don't need him as a 4th OF anymore, and the Reds need a 4th OF who can play center) in return, then we are looking at something the equivalent of a 5 year, $40M investment to bring Junior home.

As a baseball investment, it is still high risk. Junior could get hurt and never play again (though, I'm guessing this contract is insured, so that is not the worst thing that could happen), or he could play minimally and not even be covered by insurance. He could be a distraction in the clubhouse, and I don't think his easy chair would be welcomed back into the locker room. His baseball skills could decline dramatically, and then whine about his lack of playing time. Who knows?

But as a franchise investment, it looks like a great one. Howard Lincoln has gone out of his way in praising Junior while lambasting A-Rod this offseason. Junior would certainly spark interest in this season, likely guaranteeing record attendance. And imagine the national stories if Griffey and Edgar could team up for another playoff run in 2004. The Japanese press would eat up stories on Ichiro and Junior. And in ensuing years, even with mixed health, Griffey's home run numbers will start getting into very rarified air, passing 500 this season and approaching 600+ in remaining seasons in the contract. And, of course, Junior would then become the second Mariner after Edgar inducting into the Hall of Fame (the Big Unit is unlikely to be wearing a Mariner outfit if he makes the club). And that's all if his past four years repeat himself. There does seem to be something in the water in Seattle that allows its stars to succeed at ages when most athletes are hanging them up. What if he returned to his Mariner form? Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my shoes.

I don't really want to get my (or your) hopes up, and I do not like the idea of trading Winn for Griffey as I believe it exacerbates our vulnerabilities to injury without adding enough bat to the lineup. But if we can get Griffey and keep Winn, and maybe it costs a pitching prospect or two? That trade has the full endorsement of this Mariner Optimist. Lets bring Junior home.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Owls NIT-Bound 

In a game that was a physical battle throughout, the Rice Owls lost to Nevada 67-59 in the semifinals of the WAC Championships.

I only listened to the game over the Internet, but there must have been at least ten times that our (admittedly biased) announcers sounded completely incredulous at either the ticky-tack nature of a call against Rice, or the lack of a foul call on Nevada. This disparity showed up in the box scores with Rice getting only 16 trips to the foul line compared to 29 for the NCAA-bound Wolfpack. And the game was sealed when top Rice scorer Michael Harris fouled out with six minutes to play (Wolfpack star Kirk Snyder was not called for a SINGLE foul).

Despite the foul disparity, the Owls could have won this game, but a season-long plague of missing free throws cost them, as they only hit 9 of 16 free throws (4 misses on the front end of one-and-ones), while Nevada hit 20 of 29.

In all likelihood, the loss eliminates the Owls from consideration for the NCAA tournament, but it will be hard for the NIT to dismiss their 22-10 season. Of course, its unlikely that the Owls will get to host a game, given the small size of Autry Court (seats less than 5000).

Friday, March 12, 2004

More Bench Talk 

The fellas at USS Mariner have responded to my response, so I wanted to respond. They make some good points about the nature of their work and my work, and less good points trying to stand by notion that front office "has no plan." I'll address these chronologically.

Derek begins by rebutting some of the arguments I made, to the conclusion that the M's front office "has no plan."

He notes that the signing of Raul Ibanez effectively blocks Chris Snelling, to which I counter that we are going to have holes at both 1B AND DH next year, in all likelihood. Of course, with his injury struggles, maybe we should consider Snelling a DH, just to keep him from crashing into walls, but then that would take away the fun of watching him in the field.

He then says why get Quinton McCracken when you have Jamal Strong, and uses PECOTA to back his argument up. I will continue to agree that our least understood move of the offseason was dealing Colbrunn for McCracken, but I'm guessing that the M's think McCracken is much more likely to duplicate his 2002 success with Bob Melvin around, then Jamal Strong is to take the next step. And losing Colbrunn's 60 at bats didn't seem like to big a price to pay. So chalk this one up to a difference of opinion between M's analysis of McCracken and PECOTA. May the M's be wrong? Its possible, but it doesn't mean they didn't have a plan, it just means their plan would not be endorsed by BP.

As for the Colbrunn replacements... Why did we not sign Eric Karros? I'm guessing a guy who tells clubhouse stories on the Jim Rome show scared off the conservative M's brass. I know Andres Galarraga isn't playing right now due to health concerns. I don't know much about Wil Cordero only to say that he has been with Montreal for so long that Florida and Loria probably are a good fit for him, and we would have needed to spend big to get him. I do know that we outbid the Red Sox for Ellis Burks who would have wiped away this concern for a lefty masher completely. So lets just say, it seems like lefty mashers were in more plentiful supply when we released Colbrunn then reserve outfielder's who the M's thought highly of (no offense to the Ruben Mateos and Ben Petricks of the world).

I disagree with Derek vehemently about trying to bypass the "unwritten rules" and snag Fernando Seguignol when he was being sold to Japan. If any team should avoid creating ill will with the Japanese League, its the Mariners.

Derek then ends with a rant that says the M's don't have a set of philosophical beliefs governing ther moves, blah, blah... I think the M's have adhered nicely to their core beliefs. Character counts in a ballplayer. Short term deals. No megastar contracts. Be loyal to your players, and free agents will come. Avoid the early rounds of the draft - good international scouting is a better investment. If salaries don't escalate out of control, the M's can win every year AND be profitable. Again, love or hate the beliefs as you will, they are consistent in their approach.

David Cameron then relives the frustration of Blogspot bloggers everywhere who write a long post in the Blogger UI only to lose it when trying to post (edit locally with an editor that autosaves!) Unfortunately, that cost me the chance to see the "gaps in [my] logic.. big enough to drive a truck through." He does point out that I come across as too confrontational...

"Calling us pessimists and statarazzi simply affirms the fact that you don't really know us very well. Keep reading, browse the archives, and keep an open mind about our intentions. "

I'll admit I must not be a great writer. Heck, I'm a database software developer. So, I must not always be getting my point across well. I know that anyone who spends as much time writing about the M's as the USS Mariner guys (or any other M's blogger) is a HUGE M's fan and wants the M's to win. I also know that sabermetrics has been a HUGE blessing to the analysis of baseball moves, and the expeience of being a fan. And I truly appreciate the work of everyone at USS Mariner, they are an entertaining read.

That said, the folks at USS Mariner and other blogs, are often guilty of the same closed-mindedness that they accuse me of. I use the name "statarazzi" (TM) to be confrontational and to collectively identify folks who don't just publish interesting statistical analysis, but try to use said analysis to name call and otherwise berate M's management as being morons. The press is supposed to report the news, but the "paparazzi" become practical stalkers and even try to create news. The sabermatricians amongst us do a fantastic job using statistical analysis to support their arguments, but occasionally turn into the "statarazzi" when they try to inflame and name-call with said stats, and ignore or belittle statistical or subjective arguments that might be contrary. Often, they imply that any thinking other than their own is wrong. At USS Mariner, Derek is by far the one I most think of as statarazzi, and it reflects in just about every post this year as he's gotten more and more negative. And his tone leaks throughout his writings at Baseball Prospectus as well, so I can barely go to one of my favorite sites without seeing my favorite team bashed repeatedly. His postings in particular inspired me to start this blog, just so M's fan would have a positive voice who could provide another perspective that its not all gloom and doom, and yes, the M's do know what they are doing.

While much of the statistical analysis is great in hindsight, its predictive value is still suspect, last year's PECOTA "success" (I think I saw something comparing it to other methods) aside. PECOTA is all about probabilities in comparing histories and tries to be completely subjective, but in doing so, takes out all actual knowledge of a players work ethic, coaching changes, injuries, lifestyle changes, etc... that could actually have an influence on a players play on the field. Maybe in the grand scheme of baseball history these all come out in the wash... but we are trying to look at individual decisions.

One reason I think of many blogs as statarazzi is that I did not see much response to my posting of Scott Spiezio... The Next Bret Boone, which was based on statistical work done by Ron Shandler at Baseball HQ. Here was a PECOTA-like, stat-based argument that Spiezio may be heading for a breakout season of Boonian proportions, but it was ignored (or more likely never read) by USS Mariner and most of the other doom and gloom blogs. So, this analysis is ignored, while other analysis that shows Scott Spiezio to be a mediocre 3B is promoted. That seems pretty pessimistic (or closed-minded) to me.

I try not to label people as pessimists, but rather their opinions on the Mariners in 2004. The opinion that the Mariners have gotten worse from this offseason seems pretty pessimistic to me. I use optimist/pessimist pretty loosely here, but in general, I am very upbeat about the Mariners, while many in the M's blogosphere think we will finish in 3rd in our own division. Every one of us WANTS the M's to win the World Series. But I'm probably the only blogger that really believes we will. I love most of our offseason moves, and I'm looking forward to a season of Ibanez, Spiezio, and Aurilia on the left side of the field.

David then writes, "Between the Optimist and those Olympians, the sphere has finally added some viewpoints from people who don't feel that statistical analysis is all its cracked up to be. There's enough truth in their (mine and Olympia Mariner) criticisms to make their point kinda-sorta-valid, but we must be careful to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater. In the end, blind optimism is just another shade of ignorance, and I don't subscribe to the ignorance is bliss theory. "

I agree completely, David. Well, said. I hope I do not appear "blindly" optimistic. I do try to publish "the bright side of things," and I do start from the basic belief that M's management are not a bunch of idiots. But I do try to support my arguments with statistics where possible, and with scouting reports and other non-statistical ideas where not. I will try to avoid blind optimism, and feel free to call me on it when you see it. I also appreciate your attempt to acknowledge our value in the realm of ideas on the M's, kinda-sorta :-)

Finally, Derek echoes David sentiments, about all the "criticism of statheads." Now, I'm guessing that USS Mariner gets much more email than I do, and maybe some of the folks who write thanks for this blog, send them nasty notes, and the heads of Apple Macintosh's on their pillows at night, so I'm thinking this is a pretty broad stroke and certainly not all intended for yours truly.

I have been a Baseball Prospectus / Baseball Primer / Rob Neyer / Bill James follower for years, and am amongst my friends, considered the stathead. But while our understanding of baseball is improved as a result of the exploratory work done by the Voros "don't call me Quinton" McCracken's of the world, we don't know it all yyet. I just try to remind folks that just because Raul Ibanez is moving from KC to Seattle doesn't mean his power is going to go away. And the value of defense is one big guesstimate right now, so no one really knows how much replacing Winn/Cammy with Ibanez/Cammy will hurt the M's pitching staff. No one would have predicted Jamie Moyer, Bret Boone, Edgar (27-year-old MLB debut to HOF DH?), Ichiro, Freddy's fall, etc... So to say that personal experience with a player is cannot be used to override PECOTA projections seems ludicrous to me.

You guys at USS Mariner love baseball. You live it, you breathe it, you wash it down with a cold beer. Just remember to show that love in your writing from time to time. More homages to Edgar and Boone and their Hall of Fame candidacies, and less time inventing mean-spirited nicknames for management and coaches, just because they are less proficient with statistical analysis. Its been frustrating missing the playoffs the past two years, but the pieces are in place for the long-awaited championship. So forgive me for any blind optimism I've shown, and I'll forgive you for overbashing of M's management you've done, and we'll agree to have a beer at Game 4 of the World Series.

Owls Escape to WAC Semifinals 

A wide open 2-footer from Hawaii's Phil Martin rolled off the rim, and the Owls survived 70-68 to move on to play Nevada in the WAC Semifinals today. Coach Willis Wilson summed it up nicely...

"We've talked about this a lot this year, about being lucky. There's nothing wrong with having the ball bounce your way. We've had the ball bounce against us so many times over the years."

A year ago, the Owls lost this game to Hawaii by one point in overtime, and it cost them not only a NCAA bid, but a NIT bid as well. This year, the Owls are gonna get some sort of postseason bid with a 22-9 record, and are two wins away from their first NCAA bid in 34 years.

All four top seeds advanced in the WAC tourney with Nevada beating SMU 85-70, UTEP beating Louisiana Tech by 7 and Boise State crushing host Fresno State 71-54.

Today, the Owls play Nevada at 6pm PST (tnrssports.com), whom they split with during the season, beating them 87-75 at Autry Court on February 18 to avenge an embarassing 101-76 loss in January. Nevada has the top RPI of any WAC team, and is the most likely to get an at-large bid if they fail to get the automatic bid granted to the winner of this tournament.

The Lady Owls also play their semifinal match today, against Tulsa at 2:30 PST, after pulling away from San Jose State 67-54 on Wednesday. A finals matchup against #7 Louisiana Tech looms with the Owls likely needing a win to get to the NCAA Tournament.

Go Owls!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Responding to the Challenge... Again 

Alrighty then, it would appear that I've been called out again (I apologize for the fewer posts lately, but work and family obligations have taken away from my baseball time). Last time, David Cameron at USS Mariner challenged me (calling out "those who pride themselves on being optimistic about the team and the front office") to find a team with a worse offseason than the Mariners, and a worse talent evaluator than Bill Bavasi. Without flinching, I responded with about 15 teams that had worse offseasons and named Pirates GM Dave Littlefield and Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd worse talent evaluators. San Shin's Jeff Shaw called bulls**t, saying that I had skirted the issue, so I responded again.

David is at it again, this time calling out "those whose sole point is to be contrarian for the sake of it" to "find anything positive to say about the fight for the last few spots on this roster." I had not connected the first string with myself, but Fire Bavasi labelled it a Challenge to the Optimist, so I'll assume the challenge was meant for me (or maybe its meant for Olympia Mariner, who you should read anyway).

First, I'd like to say that I'm not contrarian for the sake of it, and I resent the implication. I appear contrarian because I focus on the good things the Mariners have done and will do, and believe that a move may make good sense for a baseball team, even if it is not endorsed by the statarazzi. I also believe that getting the players you like is not as easy as it seems, unless you overpay a la the Yankees. I am happy to appear contrarian to those who constantly belittle every move the Mariners make because it does not follow the tenets laid down by Baseball Prospectus, who, having done a fantastic thing in bringing more prominence to statistical analysis of the game, still have not led a single team to a World Series (Nor, for that matter have the GMs they endorse like Billy Beane and Theo Epstein). I am not blindly optimistic, nor do I paint negativity in bold strokes just because ownership's vision for a team incorporates the character of its players and an eye toward the bottom line. I am optimistic because Edgar, Jamie, Ichiro, Bret and company give me every reason to be and because, as Eric Neel said, "these guys not only deserve our love, they deserve our reverence."

That out of the way, here's the crux of the challenge, I believe...

...I can't imagine that even our braintrust would carry Bocachica or Owens for long enough to do any real harm. But, to those who still hold out hope that we're wrong about Bill Bavasi and he has some kind of master plan that is only apparent to those with rose-colored glasses, please, let us know exactly where these guys fit in that plan. How does having two of the worst players in any spring training camp fighting for roster spots on a team built to contend make this team better? How were they unable to find anything resembling a major league player with their non-roster invitees? What part of the plan necessitates wasting spring training at-bats on washed up players who never had a prime?
Rather than just address these points, I am going to try to articulate what I think the Mariners plan was and is for the bench.

We are trying to build a major league bench, and at the same time, we do not want to stunt the growth of future Seattle Mariner starters like Chris Snelling and Jose Lopez, so no cheating by putting a true prospect on the bench as it may hurt their development much more than it helps the team. We will consider players with lower upside like Jamal Strong and Justin Leone, but we think that some more time in AAA will help both, and if they get off to a hot start, we can bring them up to be bench players. We want our starters out there for 95% of the time, and have brought in guys with track records of good health and don't believe a second coming of Jeff Cirillo could happen. In the event of an injury that removes one of our starters for any length of time, or a Cirillo-like implosion of any of our starters, we have the option of bringing up any of these minor leaguers to take a full-time job. Or we may deal one of them for an able replacement from the Pirates.

Since we are not counting on our bench to be full-time replacements for anyone, don't spend too much money. So what do we want in our bench players? We should have defensive flexibility and be able to cover the following postitions:
1. Second catcher
2. Fourth outfielder - hit some and play centerfield is key with Cammy gone.
3. Backup middle infielder - probably more emphasis here on a good glove. A shortstop is more important than 2B since we have a Gold Glove there already.
4. Backup corner infielder - probably more emphasis on a good bat. A 3B is probably more helpful than a 1B since our starting 3B and LF could play first.
5. Utility guy - someone who could play the corner outfield positions or anywhere in the infield.

Preferably, in that mix we would have the following offensive skills, ranked by need for your 2004 Seattle Mariners.
1. Pinch-hitter against lefties (Ibanez and Olerud have struggled against lefties)
2. Pinch-runner, but one who could hit would be preferable. (Edgar and Olerud on the basepaths in the 8th or 9th).
3. Pinch-hitter against righties (Catcher, anyone else on the bench when they are resting a player)

Our bench last year consisted of Mark McLemore (or Jeff Cirillo), Willie Bloomquist, John Mabry, Greg Colbrunn, and Ben Davis. In 2001, it consisted of Stan Javier, Mark McLemore (or more realistically Al Martin), Charles Gipson, Tom Lampkin and Ed Sprague. The point of mentioning this, is that a strong bench has not been a big trademark of the Seattle Mariners, even during their finest season. I don't believe a strong bench is important UNLESS you have a weak starter, which we don't. The arguments for "weak starter" that I've seen are centered primarily around platooning for Raul Ibanez or John Olerud.

Colbrunn filled the role of backup corner infielder and lefty-masher. We signed him to a 2-year deal that would have paid him $2.5M this year, thinking that Edgar would retire after 2003, and that Colbrunn would become the full-time (or platoon) DH. As it turned out, Edgar was the healthy one, and it was Colbrunn who broke down. With just 58 at bats under his belt, he was gone for the year with a wrist injury that is still hampering him this Spring. So it was decided that a backup centerfielder was more important than a gimpy lefty-masher off the bench, and so we swapped Colbrunn for Quinton McCracken, who just a year ago hit a solid 825 OPS and plays a respectable centerfield to backup Randy Winn, and is a solid fourth outfielder. As a bonus, he is best buddies with Randy Winn, so that should help both players. Last year, Ichiro played in 159 games while Ibanez and Winn each played in 157 games, so any fourth outfielder is not going to get alot of at bats, maybe 100-150.

With Colbrunn gone, our one gaping hole is still a hitter who mashes lefties. We outbid the Red Sox for the perfect fit in Ellis Burks, but did not land him. This will continue to be a player the Mariners pursue. Until we find that player, Dave Hansen gets the job as backup corner infielder. Hansen probably only pinch-hits for other bench players against righties and helps to give Scott Spiezio, Edgar Martinez and John Olerud days off. He has a long history as a pinch hitter, but has done well in spot starts in the past. A dark horse in this race is Bucky Jacobsen, a non-roster invitee who has some pop, but still hits righties better than lefties.

Willie Bloomquist is the new Mark McLemore, a utility guy we look to be able to play a variety of positions, hit some, and run well. We need an upgrade here. Last year was a disappointing year for Bloomquist as a hitter, so it makes sense to bring in a guy to challenge him. Enter Eric Owens.

Eric Owens has decent range in the outfield, used to be an infielder and has worked on grounders this offseason to increase his versatility. By all accounts, he is a great clubhouse guy, and has some speed to be used as a pinch runner. In 2000, Baseball Prospectus said about him... "Another scrappy player. Owens is a great bench guy, especially because he wants so badly to play, and will play so many positions, that he’ll keep your starters on their toes. He’s one of the best backups in the majors; unfortunately, his speed, defense and patience aren’t enough to make him a reasonable starter anywhere on the field." In 2001, they write "His success last year arguably hurts his chance at being a component of a really good team. The problem: Owens does a lot of good things for a team in a reserve role but even in his best year was plainly overmatched as a starting outfielder. " So in 2002-2003, he is a full-time outfielder, and predictably, struggles. But somehow that time in the outfield has eroded the skills that made him a great bench player? No, it has made him back into a contributing bench player on a contender! If he can play the infield again, he sounds like a good addition to the bench, and if nothing else is a good veteran for Willie Bloomquist (and Quinton McCracken) to be pushed by and learn from. Personally, I think Owens would contribute MORE than Bloomquist, and am rooting for him to supplant Wee Willie, even if it is not until May or June.

Hiram Bocachica is a 28-year-older who has hit LEFTIES to a 750 OPS in 130 at bats over the past three years. He has some pop as over the last three years, 30 of his 69 hits were for extra bases. He has played second base, third base, and all three outfield positions in his 4 years as a major league bench player. He is one of 9 hitters ever to hit a home run into the loge level at Dodger Stadium, and he did it against Randy Johnson who some might consider to be the type of tough lefty that a bench player like Bocachica is likely to face. He started 1 for 22 last year for the Tigers and got sent to AAA. And this decision makes him pond scum or something like it in the eyes of the Mariner Pessimists. Yet, isn't this the same tiny sample size that they are railing against using Spring Training stats for?

And the weakest position on the bench is the backup middle infielder. In years past we have seen Luis Ugueto, Desi Relaford, and Charles Gipson take this role. They typically play solid defense and can be used as a pinch runner. Hitting capability is a huge bonus. Ramon Santiago is the nominee this year, but his first year in Detroit did not exactly, ahem, show off his glove, but then he was bounced from his natural position of shortstop to second base and that can mess you up. By most accounts he has good range. Before rotator cuff surgery after 2002, he had an exceptional arm, but now is average. He is quick and can steal a base, but he's not blazing fast. Its possible that he could lose this job to a minor leaguer like Leone or Lopez mid-season. Or he could falter, and it could go to the runner up for the utility job.

I will agree that our bench IS the weakest part of your 2004 Mariners. No question about it. Rotation - awesome and deep. Bullpen - excellent once again. Starters - about the only question mark is catcher. So that leaves the bench. The Mariners do want hitters on their bench and positional flexibility, but they are primarily looking for league-minimum players with flexibility to cover the rare days off for the big guys. They don't want to be the Yankees and spent $10M on their bench. They don't really need platoon mates as they consider Olerud and Ibanez full-time guys. Ideally, they will find their missing big bat through trade or through cuts. Unless you throw a lot of money around at players, you are unlikely to bring in high-potential guys to Seattle, because they know they are blocked this year, and not likely to get a full-time role, that they might find in places like Detroit, Milwaukee, and this year, Atlanta.

So, rail against M's management all you want. They brought in guys who will challenge the incumbent, don't cost much if they stick, are quality guys and have bench experience. Instead of railing on something, go for constructive criticism where you describe who you would have gone for your bench, and why. Its easy to be negative fellas, and while the sarcastic putdowns are funny for awhile, they wear thin.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Team Health Report Now Available 

Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus has just released the Team Health Report on your Seattle Mariners, and the news is relatively good. For those unfamiliar with Carroll's methods, he uses the time-honored traffic light analogy on each player, and provides an explanation for most.

The only red light received was on Gil Meche about whom Carroll writes... "Meche actually didn't lose much velocity as the season went on last year, which surprised me. With his past shoulder surgeries and his second-half '03 results, I really expected the fatigue to show up more on the radar gun. I don't really have a medical explanation for his second half, but anyone with his medical history is a sure red light until he puts up a couple more injury-free seasons. " So, in effect, this is the same red light Meche would have had last year. Many expect Meche's arm to fall off in the near future, but I believe the fact that he actually gained velocity in the second half shows that concerns may be overstated.

Yellow lights were given to Freddy Garcia (too many pitches per outing), Jamie Moyer (41), Ryan Franklin(more innings than ever before), Edgar Martinez (avoid running), Rich Aurilia (recovers quickly but has injury history), and surprisingly, Randy Winn. The Winn pick seems to be based on the fact that he is 30, moving to centerfield, and some of his "comparables" broke down at this age.

Like most at BP, Carroll can't resist the opportunity to sling a few barbs at Mariners management, but for the most part he does good work. He identifies Bret Boone and Ichiro as critical figures to keep healthy, which is a no-brainer. And he has some fun with fellow BP-er from USS Mariner, Derek Zumsteg as he writes "the upside of an interesting Seattle season is watching Derek Zumsteg edge closer to Hunter S. Thompson territory. "

Steve's Mariner Wheelhouse will be hosting a Q&A with Will Carroll in the near future and he asks you to submit questions to him by email.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

SABR Blows 

Thanks to a diatribe against it by Steve's Mariner Wheelhouse, I have discovered a new blog that I enjoy reading, called SABR Blows.

Steve annihilates SABR Blows author David Brennan with lines like "I'm groping for words here to describe the idiocy of Mr. Brennan's post - I would say it's Reagenesque, but even that would be overly complimentary to Mr. Brennan!!" Steve sums up the site as follows:

Unless I've missed something, Mr. Brennan believes that intelligent thinking also blows ...

As nearly as I can tell after working my way through the site, Mr Brennan has decided that using statistics in baseball is meaningless. He then tries to prove that thesis using statistics.

I highly respect Steve's opinion, so I ventured forth with the lowest of expectations. Brennan's writing is juvenile, sexist, and always has at least one profanity (each column ends with "Anyway, who gives a s**t"). This style may appeal to some, but leaves me longing for better entertainment. However, I think he is trying to point out some of the flaws in ONLY using sabermetrics to analyze baseball, and that is where he scores a few points. In each article he's written, I've found a grain of truth, or an important point to be brought out, and that may be lost in his writing style.

Brennan's first missive, "Michael Lewis' War on Logic," is a tirade against the Moneyball author and mostly picks on quotes in Lewis' recent Sports Illustrated article. But Brennan does raise an interesting point, Didn't you guys find it amazing that somebody managed to write an entire book about the A's without mentioning Hudson, Zito, or Mulder? Lets face it, without the Big Three, no one would give a damn about Billy Beane.

His latest effort, "Ditch the Damn Postseason!!!" has a similar problem to all his columns in that it tends to go all over the place, and has some zings that miss, but its central idea is to slam the SABR notion that postseason success is just luck. Luck may be too strong of a word, but you'll see references to "small sample size" or "anything can happen in a short series," that cause sabermetricians to write off the fact that the A's can't buy a postseason series win, while the Yankees rack them up. The funny thing in reading this is that Brennan attacks sabermetrics as the status quo, which will surely get a snigger from them as they try to break into baseball. But while they are not the status quo in baseball, yet, they surely are in the baseball blogging world, and I think that a middle ground is needed. You should be able to talk about Derek Jeter being a leader and winner, without having to be attacked for his poor fielding statistics.

Many of you who have written me letters about this blog have thanked me, not only for my optimism, but for being willing to go against the grain of current sabermetric thinking that is so prevalent in other M's blogs. Baseball is more than just a series of numbers. Things like clubhouse chemistry do matter, there IS a place for small ball, and its people playing the games, not stat generators. If you have these thoughts, you may enjoy SABR Blows. I think the writing needs more polish ("Kettle, you are black," I cry) and the humor level needs to mature a bit, but its got possibilities, and I'm not ready to dismiss it just for missing a few of the many targets he shoots at. For this blog, I'm adding a new section to my links on the right. Its not a favorite, but like some young ballplayers, I will "Watch and Follow."

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