Tuesday, February 10, 2004

M's Add Mulholland, Owens 

The Mariners signed aging lefty reliever Terry Mulholland and formerly fast outfielder Eric Owens to minor league contracts today. Both contracts would pay the players around $500,000 if they make the big club.

Soon to be 41, Terry Mulholland is so old that ESPN.com does not have a player card for him, and instead you have to find him on this "classic" all-time stats with no splits. Here are his splits from Bigleaguers.com. Essentially, not much to get excited about. He'll be in the mix with Myers and Villone, but definitely looks like the third choice.

Many of you oldtimers may remember Mulholland when he played with Everett in the Northwest League back in 1984.

I did find this quote from an obviously hungry Chipper Jones after hitting the game-winning hit off Mulholland to put the Braves up 2-0 in the 1998 NLDS.

"Terry Mulholland's bread and butter is to try to saw you off inside, get in your kitchen. I was looking for it on the first pitch."

Meanwhile, Eric Owens is Quinton McCracken without the very nice year that Q had in 2002 (825 OPS). Owens has a career high OPS of 727 with 33 steals in 40 attempts in 1999 for the Padres when he played every position except catcher and shortstop. But a change of scenery to Florida and last year in Anaheim saw his speed and power deteriorate completely, leaving him with a 607 OPS last year and a meager 11 steals in 19 attempts.

He does hit lefties better than righties, and in 2003, managed a 700 OPS against lefties. He is a hard worker who is known for a scrappy style of play that made him a fan favorite for the Padres. But, he should not be a part of the Mariners major league plans in 2004.

Two low-risk signings with little likelihood of panning out. Move along...

News and Notes 

MLB has a nice fluff piece on Blogosphere fave Quinton McCracken and his pride in Black History Month. They should have fun with this quote:

"They (Quinton's brothers) laid the foundation for me to follow in their footsteps, and that's what I did. I was a football player playing basketball. Baseball is the sport [for which] I lacked the most [talent]."


He credits the work ethic instilled in him by his parents, and a green light from his first professional manager to become a switch-hitter, for his success.

"I had played around with switch-hitting in my junior year of college," he recalled, "but my coach wanted me to stick with batting right-handed. It was something I always wanted to experiment with, and Gene Glenn, my manager at Bend [Oregon], let me try it.

"My career took off after that."

Sometimes its easier to blog as a sarcastic pessimist. These quotes are just too easy to have fun with.

March 5 Surgery May Signal End of Norm's Career
Norm Charlton will undergo exploratory surgery on March 5 to find the cause of continuing shoulder pain. Given these four objectives, a return to the major leagues seems like a distant longshot...

"I want it where (the pain) doesn't wake me up at night the way it does now. I want to be able to go hunting and fishing and play a game of 'fetch' with my dogs. I would like to be able to throw batting practice and, finally, repair it well enough that I could pitch at the Major League level again. If I can accomplish those things, in that order, that would be fine with that."

Of course, you can't rule out a return to the bigs as a right-hander.

Brewers Pitcher Continues to Misfire
Brewer's pitcher Luis Martinez surrendered to police today to face accusations that he shot a Dominican IRS agent in a dispute over parking spots. Consistent with his 9.93 ERA in his major league debut, Martinez fired three times at the man, but did not kill him, showing the Brewer trademark lack of killer instinct.

Umpires reviewing umpires
Buried in this article on the MLB umpires medical plan, is this tidbit on the umpires performance, and how they are now 99.9% correct, probably due to their improved conditioning. Umm, I take this with a big grain of salt...

Last season, in fact, the six umpire supervisors viewed about 46,000 calls made during games as part of MLB's constant internal evaluation process.

"We found only 37 that we disagreed with," said Jim McKean, one of the supervisors. "That's an incredible record."

The current umpires respect the evaluations because the supervisors -- all retired umpires -- have 108 years of combined on-field experience.

But Letendre credits much of that incredible success to an improvement in conditioning and the oversight provided by the medical program.

"You wouldn't believe the difference in the size of the uniforms from four years ago," Letendre said. "We have a multitude of umpires who request smaller belts. You can see how they hustle on the field. They have to be in shape for them to be doing what they're doing now.

"Baseball finally realized that these guys are athletes. They're not professional athletes. They're industrial athletes because they are on the field doing athletic moves."

Villone Adds to Bullpen Depth 

Ron Villone has signed a one-year deal with the Mariners. The contract details are a bit murky right now, with questions about whether the 1-year $1M is guaranteed or not, and what the heck the reported $1M in performance bonuses are. The M's blogosphere is up in arms over this waste of money, but I will withhold judgement until these details are clarified.

So what have we got?

Villone started last year in a relief role with the Diamondbacks AAA affiliate but was granted his release on May 15th when he was not on the MLB roster. The Houston Astros decided they need another starter, and picked him up a day later. They got him reacquainted with starting by giving him 5 starts for New Orleans in the PCL where he dominated (3-1, 1.23 ERA) earning himself a spot on the big league club. Villone started out fantastic, going 6-2 in his first 13 starts with a 3.21 ERA. He faded down the stretch going 0-4 in his last 6 starts including an ugly outing in Coors, and ended the year with a 4.13 ERA and a nice K/9IP of 7.71.

Villone earned $900,000 from Pittsburgh in 2002 and $2.8M from Colorado in 2001 and signed a minor league contract in 2003. His success as a starter resulted in interest in Villone from several clubs and seemingly rejuvenated his career, gaining interest from 3 or 4 teams this offseason. Keep in mind when hearing about Villone's three year splits that he spent 2001 in Coors and the next year with a crappy Pirates team in a variety of roles. 2002 was obviously a bad season for Villone, as he started in the rotation, had a few rough starts and was sent to the bullpen in long relief roles. But even so, he held lefties to a .634 OPS against during this season, but was hammered by righties to the tune of .836.

The M's are obviously hoping to get the pitcher from the first half of 2003, who held batters to a .200 BAA in June and July. Villone gives the M's flexibility as a spot starter or long reliever, and should be a solid addition to the bullpen. The Optimist says look at his 2003 game log, and enjoy the fact that our 6th or 7th starter has some skills and is in the best environment of his life where he may just blossom.

Monday, February 09, 2004

MBSBL Picks for Round 8 

MBSBL Picks: Just for grins - here are some predictions for Round 8 - full commentary can be found here....

Fire Bavasi - Brandon Webb (okay, I cheated on that one, but have to make sure I get one right)
Mariners Weekly - Matt Stairs - has 1B, RF and DH and 4 pitchers. Hard to tell where they're going, but I'll say Matt Stairs is a terrible fielder and fits in here.
Mariners Musings - Bartolo Colon. Last two picks have been lefty/righty aces of Mulder and Wood. Has good defense but no shortstop. Probably waiting for Jose Valentin there, so I'm guessing another pitcher.
Mariner Optimist - don't want to say so I don't give it away but it rhymes with Hipper Bones.
Cracking The Safe - Jeff Kent. Last great hitter for this great hitting team.
Sodo Oh No - Mike Piazza. Loss of Kent to the cracker causes shift from 2B to catcher.
San Shin - Richie Sexson. Damn this team is scary. Great pick again, Jeff!
What the? - Larry Walker. They need a RF and they like big bats.
116 - Preston Wilson. Might as well finish out that outfield.
The Safe - Scott Podsednik. Likes the Mariners, so I'm guessing a sucker for an ex-Mariner done good.

"It says, 'You're 25 going on 26. Let's go!'"  

Jamie Moyer's body speaks to him in this preview of the M's starting rotation. Other than this quote, there is nothing much new here.

In more entertaining reading...
Ahoy picks at the open wound that is "losing arbitration."
Sons of Buhner bones Trot Nixon.
Clutch Hits opens up the debate on the cutting & pasting of Curt Schilling quotes from the Sons of Sam Horn site..
For the most part, lets get Spring going.

Rice Update
And for those of you following the Rice Owls, their road woes continued over the weekend with a disappointing 80-69 loss at Boise State. The loss drops the Owls to 7-4 in the conference and 15-7 overall, and it now looks like winning the WAC conference tournament may be the only way the Owls get into the big dance. The Owls have a week to lick their wounds before hosting Tulsa on Valentine's Day, in what is a must win game for the Owls to get the season turned back around.

Soriano, Dominicans Win Caribbean Series 

Rafael Soriano survived a shaky start to get the win as the Dominican Republic defeated Puerto Rico 4-3 and took the crown of the 2004 Caribbean Series. Soriano got two starts in the series and in both gave up 2-3 runs by the 5th inning. In yesterday's start though, he stayed in after giving up three runs through four innings and shut down Puerto Rico through the fifth, sixth, and seventh.

That he did not dominate his starts gives fuel to the argument that Soriano should stay in the bullpen. But the fact that he became more dominant as the game progressed shows that fears about hitters catching up to him because he doesn't have a great third pitch may be unfounded. Obviously a small sample, but a high-pressure one, and a shutout might have gotten him into our rotation quicker. Like all M's fans, I want to see more of this kid!

The following text is taken from the MLB.com article on the game.

Knowing the game meant everything to the country, Acta started Seattle Mariners pitcher Rafael Soriano, who dominated the Dominican league this winter with an ERA of 0.21.

Soriano gave up three big hits through the first five innings, each of them accounting for Ponce's runs.

In the first inning, Carlos Baerga tripled to the wall in left center field, and when Abraham Nuñez's throw sailed wide of Dominican third baseman Rafael Furcal, Baerga jogged home with Puerto Rico's first run. Puerto Rico made it 2-0 in the top of the second on Luis Lopez's homer, but the Dominican Republic cut that lead in half in the bottom of that frame courtesy of a Mendy Lopez RBI single to center.

Soriano gave up his second homer of the night in the top of the fourth inning when right-handed hitter Val Pascucci went the opposite field with an impressive solo blast over the wall in right field, giving Ponce a 3-1 advantage.

"I knew I was throwing the ball well, so I just told myself that it wasn't a big deal," Soriano said. "I didn't want to give up."
The Dominicans probably would not have won it if Soriano hadn't calmed down after his rough beginning. The right-hander tossed scoreless ball in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings while keeping his pitch count to a minimum.

But Acta took him out before the eighth, trusting Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Guillermo Mota. The move paid off with another scoreless frame, Mota getting the crowd into a frenzy with two strikeouts to get Ponce down to its last three outs.

"Raffy could have stayed in for the whole game, but with our bullpen, we didn't want to take any chances," Acta said. "They've been lights-out and they were again tonight."

Friday, February 06, 2004

More Details on the Failed Quest For Burks 

Are available in this David Andriesen article

"We called soon after the (Kazuhiro) Sasaki departure was confirmed (freeing up salary money for Seattle), but apparently he'd gone down the road quite a bit with Boston," Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said. "Because he'd gone down the road with Boston, we had to be aggressive. I'm pretty sure our offer was better than theirs."

And - is the right bat out there...
"We hope so," Bavasi said. "If there is, we'll try to find one."

Headlines: In other glancings at the Seattle papers... headlines like this one really hack me off.

Reitsma loses case, gets raise

Chris Reitsma lost the first arbitration case to go to hearing (as is updated on the Arbitration Scoreboard). And the headline could just read that. But it has to say "gets raise", as if he really won (he gets a raise from near-league-minimum $350K to $950K instead of the $1.4M he asked for). With the sole exception of Gabe White, EVERYONE going to arbitration will get a raise. Its not news! The arbitration years are the first years that a player has a chance to escape from the complete indentured servitude of his first (two to) three years. A pro-player headline could read... Reitsma Finally Getting Paid Near What He Could Get As a Free Agent, But Not What He Wanted.

Okay, maybe that's not the best example, but you get the point. Either headline presents the facts, but one is designed to have sympathy for the owner (or raise ire against player that he still gets raise), and one is slanted to give sympathy to the player. Why not just say... Chris Reitsma loses in Arbitration or something neutral like that. Anyway, headlines like that irritate me. I'll jump off soapbox now.

Big Bat Update: Others have chimed in for the best choice for a Big Bat on the Bench, but Sons of Buhner may have gone too far. They propose actually putting a giant baseball bat on the bench. My question would be... maple or ash?

Rice Owls Basketball Update: I'm slipping this Rice Owl update in under the covers. We lost at UTEP by a score that may require us to win the WAC conference tournament to earn a tourney bid. Ouch. And you think being a Seattle Mariner fan is hard...

MBSBL gaining momentum: I grabbed Carlos Beltran in the MBSBL so I could see what all the fuss is about. If you're paying attention to the draft, you can find running commentary from The Mariner Optimist, and from Jeff at San Shin, who likes my Giles and Lopez, but is not so fond of my Posada. I'm keeping a date on the links at right so you'll know when this and the Arbitration Scoreboard are updated. Others defending their picks on their blogs include host Sodo Oh No and Cracking the Safe defends Edgar Renteria, and I heartily agree. I hoped that he would slip another round or two, but I had him as the best shortstop on the board. One Hundred Sixteen explains choosing Pujols over Bonds, and adds the league-wide lack of complete understanding how injuries, benchings will be played out in this simulation. Do I get to start every player for 162 games? I'm going on the assumption that there is a reason we need our bench, but I may be very wrong. Should I grab a middle reliever with 3 IP but a 0.00 WHIP and turn him into my ace - I hope that doesn't work.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

M's Looking for Big Bench Bat 

The Boston Globe reports that the Mariners beat the Red Sox offer ($1.25M vs. <$1M) for Ellis Burks, but he still chose the Red Sox.

Mark Guthrie has signed with the Pirates, so that just leaves Ron Villone out there, and there are rumors of the Mets and Padres being willing to give him a rotation slot.

So the M's are still looking for that big bat, and that's encouraging. Watch for rumors around Travis Lee, Troy O'Leary, Raul Mondesi or Andres Gallaraga soon.

Curt Schilling Speaks and the Optimist Listens... 

Steve's Mariner Wheelhouse has done a great service to Mariner baseball fans by pointing us to Curt Schilling's personal Q&A thread, "Let's talk baseball, real baseball" on the Red Sox discussion forum Sons of Sam Horn. If you haven't done so, bookmark this thread and look for updates daily. It is fascinating to read the thoughts of a fantastic baseball player on everything from how to pitch Tony Gwynn (pitch away, field away), to whether the best teams win the World Series (they do) and his opinion on agents like Scott Boras (bad for baseball).

Updated because there is a flap between Sons of Sam Horn and other sites over quoting this material, so I have removed all Schilling quotes until I receive permission from SoSH to use such

On agents:
Understand one thing, the player ALWAYS, ALWAYS, has 100% say in every single matter regarding ANY issues the agent is HIRED to oversee.
But I think at some point there becomes zero need to have an agent represent you. At some point you know the market, if you have an ounce of integrity, pride, you know your place in that market, you know your worth within the sport.
I have never liked Scott Boras, nor anything he's done. He represents alot of players I respect and love to watch play, but I don't think he does the game any service in any way. Anyone think JD Drew was better off sitting out for a full year of professional baseball? I'm not sure what JD thinks but I wonder if he'd do it differently given another chance
Agents are the ONLY people in baseball that take from the game, and give nothing back. There may be the odd case in which this might not fit, but I haven't seen it. I haven't seen any agent, or agency, opening up inner city youth programs, helping underpriveleged kids get baseball gear, etc.

Agents have their place (youngsters), but real men don't use them.

On being "co-ace" with Randy Johnson:
First off it was not a co-ace situation, RJ has 4 Cy youngs, I have none, he was the ace and I was more than ok with being a "#2 guy" to him.

Very nice hats off to the Big Unit.

On catchers:
Since the first day of my career, with Bob Melvin catching me, I have never cared what a catcher hits, as long as he makes me think that his calling of a game is as important to him as pitching it is to me.
And this is why Dan Wilson is a 10-and-5 man

On team chemistry:
Does it lead to more wins, or a more desirable working environment? Yes
How does a team gel? Combination of winning and good people
Is it solely by winning games, or is it more based on the personalities of the veterans on the team? Both
Do teams that are composed of players that came up through the same system together have an advantage in this regard? I think it's a disadvantage
Do you think it is common for a team to underachieve b/c they lack a good clubhouse environment? Absolutely

Interesting that being in same system is a disadvantage to a team gelling. But good people are important, and not just stats. See 2001.

On what makes a good manager:
I just want a guy that makes his players want to win, for him. Ever have a situation where you wanted to do something, achieve something, for someone else, because their opinion of you mattered that much? I've played for managers like that, who's approval was only behind that of my teammates when all was said and done, those guys manage winners, consistently.

He loved Melvin as a catcher, I wonder how he'd feel about him as a manager?

On interleague play:
I still think it sucks, and it's horribly flawed.
Affects the playoffs and that's bad.

On Rob Neyer:
Stats have their applications in the game, no one knows that more than me, but a media guy who's writing career is pretty much founded on these new stats and has a legion of followers, a guy like Neyer on ESPN, I tend to have more dislikes, than likes of.

Personally, I love reading Rob Neyer (moreso when it was new), and I think statistical analysis has a place in baseball. But sabermetrics should not be the foundation of all baseball knowledge. You can't take away the people from the equation.

On sabermetrics in general:
So yes, stats have a place, but they don't come close to painting the whole picture of any one player IMO. When someone, and there were alot of someones in Philly at that time, wrote something that was durogatory about Kevin Jordan, you know the kinda thing like "Jordan could be released, he's just taking up a spot on the bench and roster right now" I got bothered, and still do, because neither success nor failure can be summed up that easily.

So the next time you dismiss a move made by M's management on purely statistical reasons, try to think why the move might have been made from a human and team-building standpoint, as opposed to a straight statistical swap. That's part of being a Mariner Optimist.

Will the Curt Schilling directly to the people phenomenon catch on with the Mariners? We can only hope. I would love to see Bret Boone start his own blog, or join in one of the chat forums. Now, that's entertainment!

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Safeco Field - Hitter's Paradise? 

Safeco Field has traditionally been known as a pitchers park. But a feature change made at the All-Star Break may have caused a shift in the ballpark to one that is at worst neutral, and may actually favor hitters.

Stats, Inc. publishes ballpark factors each year and this link at baseball-reference.com provicdes details on how park factors are calculated, and through mid-2003, run scoring and home runs have been very low compared to other ballparks. In this chart, 100 represents league-average production for a ballpark, and a higher number means a higher percent of production:

Season   R   BA   HR

===== == == ===
99-00 84 88 88
2001 89 94 85
2002 84 94 77
2003 97 94 102
Through 2002, it's the toughest place to score in the AL. Why? Well, its at sea level near water so the air is thick and damp which should keep balls in play. So what changed in 2003? Was it a dry year, or did the city rise in height? Ummm, no.

Another reason cited by many hitters and probably made famous by Mike Cameron is a very poor hitting background behind centerfield. The field's orientation to the sun and Seattle's late summer sunsets cause a distracting glare, even deep into many night games. The Safeco staff have tried several alterations to the background, all of which had failed to ease the problem.

In 2003 another attempt was made during the All-Star break. Non-reflective black-painted honeycombed aluminum panels were installed to give a new background. Apparently it worked - hitters returning from the break praised the new background, and pronounced the glare as significantly reduced. And the balls started flying. To show the disparity, here is the same chart but it breaks out the first half and second half of 2003.

Season    R   BA   HR

====== === === ===
99-00 84 88 88
2001 89 94 85
2002 84 94 77
03/1st 83 90 89
03/2nd 110 97 110
Holy cow! What a difference! Safeco goes from a pitcher's park to a power park! Now before we pronounce Safeco Coors West, note that there are other factors that may be in play here. The opponents were different in the second half, and the sample size is EXTREMELY small. But still, we may be witnessing a revolution in baseball at Safeco from 3-2 pitching duels to 9-8 slugfests. And even if the effect is just to make Safeco neutral, that is a big change.

So when you are watching the M's in 2004, consider that increases in pitcher HR or ERA, or the fact that Raul Ibanez maintains his home run swing may be a factor of the park as much as any change in the abilities of our pitchers. Maybe the M's can figure out how to make the background surface retractable so that it is only in place while the Mariners are batting. Or else M's fans can hang out near this area with powerful flashlights when Vlad comes to bat...

Spending Found Money 

Larry Stone does a nice job summing up why the M's haven't acquired anyone with their Kazu-found money yet.

The M's blogosphere have chimed in with a few thoughts of their own on both the free agent and trade markets...

Like me, Buhner and Sons laments that Eric Karros is off to Oakland and not our bench. Disappointing that we did not make a play here.

Less disappointing is the news that Ellis Burks is likely headed to the Red Sox. I think this is a case where Burks will get more playing time with the Sox, and truly wants to be there as he has been pursuing Boston as much as they are pursuing him. It may be hard to convince someone else to do what Greg Colbrunn did - sign a 2-year deal as Edgar's backup this year, and to be the DH next year, seeing how well it didn't work for Greg and his 58 at bats.

Fire Bavasi made a case for Mike Lamb, but I don't see that he is an improvement over anyone we have at AAA. His glovework is abominable, and his bat never reached the heights hoped for. Let him go.

Gabriel at The Safe suggests saving it toward Trot Nixon. And with the first pick in the third round of the Mariners Blogosphere Simulation Baseball League, The Safe picks... Trot Nixon. Hmmm... may be a pattern to follow here. Keep up with my MBSBL commentary (and add your own) here.

Suffice to say, it looks like our roster is probably set going into Spring Training. M's brass might be wise to make a "splash" pickup to douse the torches lit by the blogosphere and pessimist villagers, but since no splash free agents remain except the huge luxury that would be Greg Maddux, and no deals look likely, they will have to bide their time. Picking up a veteran lefty like Ron Villone for anything other than pocket change may cause more blogsites to burn Bavasi in effigy for spending money where its not needed. I recommend that they focus on one "name" bat like maybe Andres Galarraga, i.e. someone who will not cost much, and might be a good backup to Edgar/Olerud in case of injury. And then feed a bunch of articles to the M's hyping their youth in AAA that is waiting in the wings and ready to step up in both the bullpen or at the plate in case injury or ineffectiveness make them needed.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Sasaki Returns to Yokohama 

Good luck to Kazuhiro Sasaki as he joins the Yokohama BayStars for the 2004 season. I don't know quite what 500 million yen is worth (edited to add that now I do, its around $4.7M), but I believe it is substantially less than $8.5 million U.S. dollars. He did stay consistent and turned down the Nippon Ham Fighters because they were further from his family in Sapporo.

Leone getting ready for encore in 2004
And here's a hard-to-find article on Justin Leone's 2003 season, as he went from AA backup infielder to a major league blogspiration. The article provides the highlights of Leone's season including homering in an Olympics qualifying game, and manages to compare Leone to Tom Hanks, Mona Lisa, Rembrandt, and Art Garfunkel, which is pretty hard to pull off.

"Much of it is confidence," he said. "I changed my stance and my bat, but you've still got to believe."

New Pessimist on the Block and more... 

If you need to read more ranting and raving against the M's, I'm guessing that Bavasi Stinks will be your cup of tea :-)

For those pessimists who are saying how bad our team will be if we get an injury need to relax a bit. Nothing says that the replacement has to come from our bench, who with the exception of Dan Wilson, is filled with role players. Any long-term injury should lead to a Chris Snelling, Jose Lopez, or Justin Leone sighting, and they will all just be minutes away in Tacoma. And if that fails, we have a little money tucked away to take on salary in trade. So chill a bit.

And those who think that Kevin Jarvis is locked and loaded into a rotation spot should take a little bit of heart from this Bill Bavasi quote:

"We're going to be open-minded. It's going to be a real battle for the younger guys to get into this bullpen and rotation."

With Spring Training just around the corner, the bullpen looks to be the easiest place for a young player to break in with the M's.

While Eddie Guardado, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Rafael Soriano and Julio Mateo are locks for the bullpen, the 5th and 6th (and 7th early on) are up for grabs with Kevin Jarvis the current favorite for long relief and Dieter (touch my monkey!) leading the pack for the required bullpen lefty role.

Meanwhile, a quick scan of other blogs shows that Justin Spiro accomplished his mission, in that more Seattle sports fans know his name than they do the name of the M's largest shareholder. And the MBSBL is back on, but we'll see if the pace picks up any. We could be drafting until the World Series at the current pace. Keep a look at the dates on the link on right as I will provide an update after each round.

Mariner Minors does a nice bit of digging on the M's Austrailian Connection. I'm moving him to the Optimist section, since anyone focused on the minors has to be an optimist of some sort, don't they?

Mariner Wheelhouse & Fire Bavasi combine with two other blogs to preview the AL West, position by position. I hope to do the same for the Mariners, but with the optimist perspective. They indicate they will be unburdened by past expectations or something like that but the first run has provided no surprises, although some may have missed the collaboration point by copying and pasting text into their blogs rather than linking to the other sites. We'll see if the next round provides more insight and maybe a more consistent format. The short of it is, the M's are worse and everyone else is better. Did you expect anything different?

Finally, on a high note, the 15-5 Rice Owls now show up on ESPN's bracketology as the 13th seed in the South. Any tournament bid is gonna have me figuring out logistics for a road trip.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Soriano Update 

The M's blogosphere is filled with conjecture on when Rafael Soriano will become a dominant pitcher in the rotation. Much of the discussion "blames" M's management for not giving him a rotation spot already, and letting him waste away in the bullpen. But maybe, just maybe, the M's know what they are doing.

I ran across this MLB.com article that interviewed Soriano on the eve of him being the starter for the Dominican Republic in the opening game of the 2004 Caribbean Series against Mexico. This after a Winter League performance where he set a league record allowing 2 earned runs in 42+ innings for a sparkling ERA of 0.21.

The article goes on to speculate that although he has found success as a starter, the M's pitching depth looks to keep him as a reliever in 2004. And that is fine with Soriano.

"I'll do whatever the team wants me to do," Soriano said. "I like pitching, so as long as I can pitch, I'll be happy. Whatever role I have, in the bullpen or starting, I have to be ready. I've shown what I can do, so it's not my decision. I don't know what they'll do in Seattle."

When asked what role he prefers, he didn't hesitate to answer.

"I like being a relief pitcher," Soriano said. "You only have to pitch a few innings, so I think it's easier."

Easier? Don't know if that's what I want my stud pitchers to be looking for, but I'm willing to let this slide.

As it turned out, Soriano got no-decision, giving up 2 runs on 2 hits with 5 K's in 5+ innings in a 6-5 Dominican win.

Super Bowl Thoughts 

Well, I got to see Janet Jackson's breast, though it looks like she may have some Michael-like discoloration going on with the nipple, and I got to see Nelly frisk himself to see if he could find a cucumber to go with his salad. Just what I want for my halftime entertainment.

And the University of Houston marching band? Puh-leeze - bring on the M.O.B. and get rid of the high school band. Would've been nice to give Rice a nod, since we were the host of Super Bowl V. Yes, a 70,000 seat stadium was built for a school with 2,500 students...

But after one of the most dull opening 20 minutes I could imagine, the game itself turned out excellent.

Poor Ricky Proehl. Twice in three years he catches a touchdown pass to tie the Super Bowl with a minute to play, and both times Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri steal his thunder and glory.

Bud Light dominates the commercials with low-brow humor. Lets see - dog bite to the crotch, male bikini waxing, horse flatulence, and bestiality with monkeys. Most had me rolling, if that's any indicator of my humor level. Better yet, most had my wife laughing hard, which is why I love my wife...

Using Jimi Hendrix to sell Pepsi seems a bit creepy to me. I'd rather let the dead lie in peace.

Meanwhile, the MBSBL is on hold due to server issues, so I have time to decide who the Mariner Optimist will choose as its third catcher...

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Karros-Seen in Oakland? 

Eric Karros is set to sign a 1-year, $1M contract with the Oakland A's, according to this article in the L.A. Times. He was in discussion with the Dodgers as well, but no mention of the Mariners anywhere.

Meanwhile, the critics are piling on the Mariners offseason, saying that "no splash" = "fan betrayal".

I will remain steadfastly optimistic. Our starting rotation and bullpen are as good as anyone else's in baseball, and we have depth in both. Our bats are improved and we have money in pocket for a midseason move, if its necessary. And we have set ourselves up well for the Free Agent Binge of 2005.

Friday, January 30, 2004

MBSBL Draft - Running Commentary 

Here is the Optimist's commentary on the Mariners Blogsphere Simulated Baseball League draft. Remember that a player's performance in 2003 will determine how that player performs in this Diamond Mind league. There is no need for projections. This is about building the best team knowing exactly how your players will perform.

And here is FAQ 1 posted on 2/7 and FAQ 2 posted on 2/17 (better late than never!)

Rounds 14-16 (waiting for last two picks)
Well, as I wrote in my summary of my LIMA time strategy, it looks like Fire Bavasi is in good shape, as Johan Santana can start games even though the MBSBL website only lists him as a reliever. Essentially, any pitcher who started a single game may be a starter. This certainly strengthens FB in my eyes, and probably moves them into the top 3.

Rounds 14-16 were all about pitching, primarily picking up relievers. Of the first 28 players taken, 14 can only be used as relievers, 8 starters, and only 6 were position players. Even three of the starters acquired were primarily relievers.

Roster/Predicted finish after Round 16 (Ranking after Round 13 in paren) with commentary on their 14-16 round picks.
1(2). SanShin - Kevin Gregg, Matt Mantei, Tim Spooneybarger. Gregg's OBP against of 278 was the lowest value for a starter (other than the reliever/starters who had not been identified yet), and Mantei has a stellar 259 OBP against. San Shin definitely continues to weigh OBP over SLG against, while I'm taking the opposite approach, so it will be interesting to compare the stats of our bullpen at year end. Spooneybarger had the top splits in a reliever (190/245/254/499) and I can't believe he lasted this long. Interesting that he is a Righty who gets lefties out MUCH better (417 OPS vs 567 OPS). Very nice pick.
2(1). SodoOhNo - Eddie Guardado, Joe Borowski, Julio Mateo. Two of the top relievers out there, gives Sodo a nice closer in Borowski and a lefty setup guy in Guardado. Guardado was the third best lefty reliever and the top two were taken just before, so Sodo closed the run on lefty relievers nicely. Mateo is a stretch with his 220/257/382/640 line. That SLG against makes me nervous and the difference between Mateo & Spooneybarger cost Sodo Oh No #1 in my book. They're that close.
3(4). Fire Bavasi - Ryan Klesko, Matt Morris, Scot Shields. Klesko's righty mashing completes a very nice 1B platoon. Shields and Morris are two of the top starting pitchers available and round out a frightening 5-man rotation with Prior, Santana, and Webb for the FB.
4(5). Cracking - Damaso Marte, Byung-Hyun Kim, Brian Jordan. Well, I beat him to Rheal Cormier (245 OPS against), so he settled for the #2 lefty reliever in Marte (270 OPS against). But got revenge by snagging Kim and his beautiful 221/288/341/629 line to probably be his staff ace. Jordan's 1131 OPS against lefties and outfield flexibility make him a fantastic addition that, of course, I hoped would fall to me next round. Cracking and I are using the same cheat sheet :-)
5(3). 116ers - Brendan Donnelly, Miguel Batista. Donnelly was the best righty reliever on the board at the time (maybe behind Ryan Wagner), but there were better options than Batista. Donnelly may act as the 116ers closer.
6(8). M.O. - Rheal Cormier, Oscar Villarreal, Ryan Wagner. The top lefty reliever in Cormier (182/245/269/514), top righty reliever in Wagner(173/284/267/551) and the top starter in Villarreal (222/306/310/616). The big risk is that Villarreal's ONLY "start" lasted only 3 innings and I don't know if Diamond Mind has a fatigue factor.
7(7). What The? - Miguel Cabrera, Latroy Hawkins, Doug Waechter. Cabrera mashes lefties (364/397/655/1052) and plays a decent 3B, but might need a platoon partner for his 739 OPS against righties. Latroy was probably the second worst reliever taken, but he's still pretty good. Waechter is a very nice starter with a 225/310/364/675 line and who can forget how he shut down the M's in September.
8(6). Musings - Darrell May, David Riske, Mike Bordick. May is solid and while his 246/290/435/725 does not look as good as some others, he does pitch in Kaufmann stadium. I need to find some ballpark-neutral splits. Riske (196/256/336/592) is a solid reliever. Bordick hits lefties to the tune of 347/441/537/978 and plays great defense at three positions, but Musings will need a platoon partner to avoid his 600 OPS against righties.
9(10). Weekly - Rafael Furcal, Vicente Padilla, Paul Quantrill. Furcal is the weakest starting shortstop in the league, but he's fast. Padilla was the worst starter taken (251/313/413/726) but is a very solid #5, and Paul Quantrill is a top reliever (227/271/290/561).
10(9). The Safe - Matthew Lecroy, Shigetoshi Hasegawa. And here is the worst reliever taken so far. Not only is Hasegawa's 235/283/337/620 line 20 points worse in OPS than anyone else, but it was also put up in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks, and should suffer further in a neutral field. Lecroy was the best catcher available, but the worst catcher that will start for any team.

Rounds 11-13
The Mariner Optimist had a plan. Load up on offense where every player in the lineup had an OPS of 900 or better. To do this would require a platoon. Looking at where we stand after 13 rounds, I'm almost there.

The more subtle part of my plan was to wait and hope that after I had acquired my offense, that my top pitching picks would still be on the board. And they would be the best pitchers in the league. Why? Because they had pitched so few innings, most people would overlook them as relievers, or worry about injuries. But this simulation is specifically set up to make anyone rated "starter" eligible to start all season long, and no injuries will occur. Will they tire quickly? Maybe, that is certainly the risk.

Unfortunately, San Shin and Sodo Oh No beat me to the punch, first grabbing Wilson Alvarez, and then a mere three picks before I was ready to strike grabbing my #2 and #3 choices in the brothers Jose - Acevedo and Contreras. So I settled for choices #4 and #5 in Tony Armas and Eric Dubose.

Roster/Predicted finish after Round 13 (previous ranking in paren) with commentary on their 11-13 round picks.
1(1). SodoOhNo - Contreras, Bagwell, Clemens. Clemens is a nice pitcher with 694 OPS against, 1.22 WHIP and great K/9, and he is Sodo's #4 starter. Bagwell fills their one hole at 1B perfectly, moving Giambi to DH where he belongs. This team is stacked, and other than catcher has no need for platoons.
2(2). SanShin - Acevedo, Jason Phillips, Jose Valverde. Its a Jose run for San Shin, who goes for the top OPS against reliever (a meager 489) as I predicted they would. Hopefully, I throw a wrench in their plans by grabbing the top OPS lefty reliever in Rheal Cormier, but I'm sure they will survive.
3(6). 116ers - Mike Piazza, Mike Sweeney, Eduardo Perez. Perez kills lefties to a 1200+ OPS and plays 4 positions so he's nice to have around and he'll probably platoon at DH with Sweeney to make a potent hitter. Piazza has been the top catcher on the board for awhile now and will remain healthy in simulation.
4(3). Fire Bavasi - Mike Cameron, Cliff Floyd, Octavio Dotel. Dotel is a great reliever (552 OPS against), but if FB was planning on starting him, they may be in trouble. Floyd moves Chipper nicely to DH and Cameron will have a lot of ground to cover to make up for being the worst offensive player taken in the draft with a 775 OPS.
5(7). Cracking - Mark Redman, Keith Foulke, Luis Castillo. Redman was a fantastic pick as the best lefty starter available and Foulke is a good closer. Castillo had some pop last year, but was caught stealing in almost half his attempts. Will be interesting to see if that is used against him.
6(5). Musings - Mike Lieberthal, Larry Walker, Kip Wells. No complaints here - a top catcher, DH and pitcher are all solid picks for Musings. Looking forward to seeing him finally pick up a shortstop.
7(8). What The? - Orlando Cabrera, Carl Everett, Guillermo Mota. Cabrera was the top SS on the board, has speed, good D and no need to platoon him. I hope the M's make a run on him next year. Everett is a nice basher in the outfield and Mota is one of the top relievers with a 552 OPS against.
8(10). M.O. - Armas and Dubose form a nice 1-2 Righty-Lefty punch in the rotation and Phil Nevin will partner with Matt Stairs to create a Bondsian platoon at 1B.
9(9). The Safe - Ray Durham, Tike Redman, Edwin Jackson. Edwin had a nice 669 OPS against but the others fail to impress enough to move the Safe up.
10(4). Weekly - Aaron Boone, A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Grudzielanek. A team that looked great three rounds ago looks a lot less formidable. As opposed to outfielders ManRam and JuanGone, these infielders can field, but they are the worst hitting infielders in the league at this point. But all three still hit better than Cameron.

Round 10
Team - Actual Pick (my guess) - commentary
Fire Bavasi - Craig Wilson (Craig Wilson) - got one, and I think this is a nice pickup for F.B.
Mariners Weekly - Andruw Jones(Jay Payton) - Jones is probably better than Payton, but I wonder if Podsednik is not better than both. Either way MW needs to make his pick quicker as this one took about 18 hours.
Mariners Musings - C.C. Sabathia (Mike Piazza) - steals the top VORP starting pitcher from San Shin. Good to know someone is reading this :-)
Mariner Optimist - Bobby Abreu(Bobby Abreu) - will this guy ever take a starting pitcher? The lineup will have no weak spots from top to bottom.
Cracking The Safe - Jason Kendall(Keith Foulke) - I meant, starting a catcher run, but why Kendall - there are several catchers with better EqA, OPS..
Sodo Oh No - Greg Myers (Matt Mantei). Catcher run/Closer run, what's the difference? Best catcher out there against righties but needs platoon-mate.
San Shin - Edgar Martinez (C.C. Sabathia) - I like that Edgar guy - thought he would go to the Safe in round 11.
What the? - Placido Polanco (Rafael Furcal) - positional flexibility with similar OPS as Furcal.
116 - Scott Podsednik (Eddie Guardado) - Finally, someone has been reading my picks, but this team needs
The Safe - Jay Payton (Jay Payton) - Hmm.. I had Payton going twice in this round but only once I was wrong. We'll see how he translates outside Coors.

Roster/Predicted finish after Round 10:
1. SodoOhNo(SS ARod, CF Edmonds, SP Schilling, RF Hidalgo, LF Gonzalez, 3B Ensberg, 1B Giambi, 2B Kent, SP Alvarez, C Myers) - 2 pitcher
2. SanShin (RF Bonds, SP Schmidt, SS Mora, LF B.Giles, RF Ordonez, 2B Soriano, 3B Lowell, SP Zito, 1B NJohnson, DH Edgar) - 1 pitcher
3. Fire Bavasi (SP Prior, RF Vlad, 3B Rolen, SP Santana, SS Jeter, 2B Vidro, C Varitek, SP Webb, LF Chipper, 1B CWilson) - 3 pitchers
4. Weekly (LF Manny, SP Pedro, 1B Thome, SP Vazquez, RP Wagner, DH Ortiz, SP Oswalt, RF JuanGone, SP Zambrano, CF AJones) - 4 pitchers + closer
5. Musings (RF Sheffield, 2B Boone, CF Wells, 1B/DH Thomas, 3B Chavez, SP Mulder, SP Wood, LF Drew, RP Rivera, SP Sabathia) - 2 pitchers + closer
6. 116ers (1B Pujols, SP Hudson, 3B Mueller, SS Nomar, SP Beckett, RF Sosa, LF Jenkins, 3B Loretta, SP Livan, CF Podsednik) - 3 pitchers
7. Cracking (1B Delgado, SP Halladay, SS Renteria, RF Huff, CF Anderson, LF/RF Sanders, CF Bradley, 1B Sexson, SP Nomo, C Kendall) - 2 pitchers
8. What The? (1B Helton, SP Loaiza, RP Gagne, SP Mussina, LF/CF Berkman, 1B/3B/LF DYoung, C IRod, CF PWilson, SP Colon, 2B/3B Polanco) - 3 starters + closer
9. The Safe (RF Ichiro, RF Nixon, SP Brown, SP Moyer, SS Tejada, 1B/2B Blalock, RP Soriano, 1B DLee, SP Willis, OF Payton) - 3 starters + closer
10. M.O. (C Lopez, DH Posada, 2B M.Giles, CF Beltran, RP Smoltz, LF/RF Guillen, SS/3B/2B Cintron, 1B/LF/RF Stairs, 3B Koskie, RF Abreu) - closer

Round 9

Team - Actual Pick (my guess) - commentary
The Safe - Dontrelle Willis(Carlos Zambrano) - Willis may have been the best lefty out there after Alvarez.
116 - Livan Hernandez(Scott Podsednik) - Admittedly my guess was a throwaway - and 116 probably saw that WTTH was gonna take Livan, so he scooped him up.
What the? - Bartolo Colon(Livan Hernandez) - Livan was gone, so went for next best WHIP out there in Colon.
San Shin - Nick Johnson(Mike Piazza) - Catchers get no love here, and Jeff scoops up the top 1B against RHP. Nice pick.
Sodo Oh No - Wilson Alvarez(Greg Myers) - May be the best pitcher in the league, depending on how Diamond Mind handles fact he only pitched 95 innings - 2.37 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Very nice.
Cracking The Safe - Hideo Nomo(Placido Polanco) - Its officially a pitcher run!
Mariner Optimist - Corey Koskie(Chipper Jones) - Couldn't grab Chipper when there are still lots of OF, but the drop off against RHP between Koskie and #2 Aaron Boone was 147 OPS points.
Mariners Musings - Mariano Rivera(Orlando Cabrera) - We have our fourth closer.
Mariners Weekly - Carlos Zambrano(Jay Payton) - back to the pitcher run. Pitchers? Who needs em?
Fire Bavasi - Chipper Jones(Cliff Floyd) - I guess I'll end up with Floyd in a round or two...

Roster/Predicted finish after Round 9:
1. SodoOhNo - Wilson freakin Alvarez for MBSBL Cy Young?
2. SanShin - May need a platoon-mate for Nick Johnson at 1B.
3. Fire Bavasi - Chipper has no glove, but a great bat for round 9.
4. 116ers - Livan had a helluva season last year.
5. Weekly - Zambrano had worst WHIP of the 6 starters taken this round.
6. Musings - Mariano a damn nice closer.
7. Cracking - Nomo best ERA of the 6 starters taken this round.
8. M.O. - Koskie continues strong offense
9. The Safe - Don't like Willis over some of the other pitchers here.
10. What The? - No harm in adding Colon

Round 8

Team - Actual Pick (my guess) - commentary
Fire Bavasi - Brandon Webb (Brandon Webb) - best pitcher out there. Great pick.
Mariners Weekly - Juan Gonzalez (Matt Stairs) - Fields like Stairs without the errors, hits lefties & righties
Mariners Musings - J.D. Drew(Bartolo Colon). A healthy J.D. Drew for a year... I think that even with injuries off, Drew will pull a hammy...
Mariner Optimist - Matt Stairs(Chipper Jones). Great OPS, but only hits lefties. Looking for platoon-mate.
Cracking The Safe - Richie Sexson(Jeff Kent). Gets a DH when he need a 2B. Odd pick.
Sodo Oh No - Jeff Kent(Mike Piazza). Thrilled to have Kent fall into his lap, and it moves them into favorite role.
San Shin - Barry Zito(Richie Sexson). Sexson gone, so gets the best lefty available.
What the? - Preston Wilson(Larry Walker). Right team, wrong player, and this team still needs a RF.
116 - Mark Loretta(Preston Wilson). Preston & Kent gone, go for the best 2B on the board.
The Safe - Derrek Lee(Scott Podsednik). Picked up speed and a first baseman they needed who is also an awesome fielder. Nice pick.

Roster/Predicted finish after Round 8:
1. SodoOhNo - Kent pick rounds out stellar hitting infield of ARod, Kent, Giambi
2. SanShin - Schmidt and Zito anchor staff.
3. Fire Bavasi - Webb may be the staff ace.
4. Weekly - chemistry issues with Juan Gone and Man Ram in same outfield
5. Musings - Wells, Drew, Sheffield a solid OF.
6. 116ers (1B Pujols, SP Hudson, 3B Mueller, SS Nomar, SP Beckett, RF Sosa, LF Jenkins) - 2 pitchers
7. Cracking - Sexson a big bat, but will regret not picking up Kent.
8. The Safe - since Ichiro, nothing but nice picks so time to start moving them up.
9. M.O. - will need platoon-mate for Stairs to work this out
10. What The? - Left and Center fielders galore...

Rounds 5-7
Wow, what a weekend - a Friday Night beer buzz leads to me picking up John Smoltz as my closer when I could not decide on the next hitter to take, and a Saturday/Sunday of pink eye hitting my family leads to no blogging over the weekend. In case you missed it, Mike at San Shin has posted the following updated FAQ about the rules. After the Smoltz mistake, I went for some positional flexibility grabbing top-hitting outfielder Jose Guillen, who also rates a 4 (out of 5) in both left field and right fields. Then, in Round 7, I picked up Alex Cintron who was the top OPS SS or 3B and can play both, as well as 2B.

Most everybody is feeling good about their teams right now. I have to get a 1B, SS/3B and LF/RF and fill my pitching staff at this point. San Shin continues to get the best value per pick, but the simulation aspect means that The Safe may have grabbed the best closer in Rafael Soriano, and Johan Santana should be a stud for Fire Bavasi. Milton Bradley and Morgan Ensberg are other relative unknowns that look like good picks given that their reduced playing time in 2003 will not reoccur in simulation.

I feel like mixing things up a bit so I'm gonna punish the 116'ers for picking Josh Beckett and move myself up a bit. I'd rather have most other teams for their 2004 possibilities, but I like mine for 2003.

Roster/Predicted finish after Round 7:
1. SanShin (RF Bonds, SP Schmidt, SS Mora, LF B.Giles, RF Ordonez, 2B Soriano, 3B Lowell) - 1 pitcher
2. SodoOhNo(SS ARod, CF Edmonds, SP Schilling, RF Hidalgo, LF Gonzalez, 3B Ensberg, 1B Giambi) - 1 pitcher
3. Weekly (RF Manny, SP Pedro, 1B Thome, SP Vazquez, RP Wagner, DH Ortiz, SP Oswalt) - 3 pitchers
4. Fire Bavasi (SP Prior, RF Vlad, 3B Rolen, SP Santana, SS Jeter, 2B Vidro, C Varitek) - 2 pitchers
5. Musings (RF Sheffield, 2B Boone, CF Wells, 1B/DH Thomas, 3B Chavez, SP Mulder, SP Wood) - 2 pitchers
6. M.O. (C Lopez, DH Posada, 2B M.Giles, CF Beltran, RP Smoltz, LF/RF Guillen, SS/3B/2B Cintron) - 1 closer
7. 116ers (1B Pujols, SP Hudson, 3B Mueller, SS Nomar, SP Beckett, RF Sosa, LF Jenkins) - 2 pitchers
8. Cracking (1B Delgado, SP Halladay, SS Renteria, RF Huff, CF Anderson, LF/RF Sanders, CF Bradley) - 1 pitcher
9. What The? (1B Helton, SP Loaiza, RP Gagne, SP Mussina, LF/CF Berkman, 1B/3B/LF DYoung, C IRod) - 2 starters + closer
10. The Safe (RF Ichiro, RF Nixon, SP Brown, SP Moyer, SS Tejada, 1B/2B Blalock, RP Soriano) - 2 starters + closer

Round 4
Four pitchers, three outfielders, Nomar, Aubrey Huff, and Frank Thomas. All of the position players, with the exception of Huff were the player I had rated highest at their position when they were picked. Huff has the advantage of playing three positions, 1B, 3B, RF. San Shin continues to impress, grabbing the best player on the board for the third time in four rounds (with the exception of Mora). It may have been early for Hidalgo, so I'm knocking Sodo down a notch. I like the Johan Santana pickup by Fire Bavasi.

I predict San Shin picks up Magglio Ordonez because that's who I want next.

Mariner Musings and I remain firmly off the pitching bandwagon.

Roster/Predicted finish after Round 4:
1. SanShin (RF Bonds, SP Schmidt, SS Mora, LF B.Giles)
2. SodoOhNo(SS ARod, CF Edmonds, SP Schilling, RF Hidalgo)
3. 116ers (1B Pujols, SP Hudson, 3B Mueller, SS Nomar)
4. Fire Bavasi (SP Prior, RF Vlad, 3B Rolen, SP Santana)
5. Weekly (RF Manny, SP Pedro, 1B Thome, SP Vazquez)
6. Musings (RF Sheffield, 2B Boone, CF Wells, 1B/DH Thomas)
7. What The? (1B Helton, SP Loaiza, RP Gagne, SP Mussina)
8. M.O. (C Lopez, DH Posada, 2B M.Giles, CF Beltran)
9. Cracking (1B Delgado, SP Halladay, SS Renteria, RF Huff)
10. The Safe (RF Ichiro, DH Nixon, SP Brown, SP Moyer)

Round 3
The first closer is taken in Eric Gagne, as the 23rd pick overall by What the Hell. I can't argue with the pick because I don't know whether pitching or hitting will win out in these simulations (does good pitching beat good hitting?), and it is their second pitcher. But I still have a problem using my 3rd round pick on a guy who won't pitch more than 70 innings. I also have a problem with closers making $8M per season, too, so that's just me.

Melvin Mora had the second lowest OPS of any hitter taken in the round, but his positional flexibility covering 2B, SS, LF, and CF may be very valuable in this league. With only 25 players, and having to cover injuries, flexibility may be critical. Mariner Musings and I remain the only two teams without a pitcher, so we continue to work from the same playbook (if Marcus Giles, had been taken, I would have grabbed his Vernon Wells).

I probably should have taken Scott Rolen over Giles, as Rolen was by far the best 3B hitter and fielder. I hoped that he would return to be, but unfortunately, Fire Bavasi beat me to the punch. Now, 3B slides down in priority as the next bunch of players at 3B have similar abilities.

Predicted Standings after Round Three: 1. SanShin, 2. SodoOhNo, 3. 116ers, 4. Musings, 5. What The?, 6. Fire Bavasi, 7. Weekly, 8. Cracking, 9. M.O. , 10. The Safe

Round 2

Damn, Peter White and I must use the same cheatsheet, as I was wanting to pick Bret Boone, but he snatched him before me. I'm about to do something silly, but the website is down for the moment giving me time to reconsider. I'm about to claim Jorge Posada as my second catcher, knowing I'll have the only two catchers with OPS over 900 on my team, I'll do what the Orioles considered doing, rotating them between catcher and DH.

What the heck?!?

Yup, I did it. I will be the only owner with a silly strategy like cornering the catcher market in the first two rounds.

Pitchers start to go in the second round with Pedro Martinez, Roy Halladay, Jason Schmidt, Esteban Loaiza, and Tim Hudson going in that order. You can't argue too much with any of these selections, but I would have taken Hudson or Kevin Brown as my first pitcher (Brown goes early in 3rd round to The Safe who begins to redeem himself nicely). I'm not sure how pitcher health is gonna factor into this season. Will Pedro again only pitch 180 innings, or might he go longer? Or shorter? Hard to know for sure and that weighs heavily on deciding between Halladay (266 IP, 3.25 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) and say, Pedro (186, 2.23, 1.03).

The other three picks were outfielders - Vladamir Guerrero, Jim Edmonds, and The Safe finishing the round with Trot Nixon. I would not have picked Nixon this early, and The Safe now has two rightfielders, so maybe they are cornering the market in RF as I did at C. Four RF's are gone (Sheffield, Vlad, Ichiro, and Nixon), so this may put pressure on teams to grab a RF early. I don't know if Diamond Mind will allow these guys to be moved to LF or CF and if so, what the effect on their fielding will be. Otherwise, The Safe has got their DH early. Anyone with answers, add your comments below!

Round 1
The Mariners Blogsphere Simulated Baseball League draft has begun. You can see the draft unfold at its current glacial pace by clicking on the link. I'm going to comment on my picks and those of others here. Click on the link on the right to get back to this post where it will be updated as it continues. And please feel free to add comments to this blog entry to discuss what you would have done differently.

First, remember that a player's performance in 2003 will determine how that player performs in this Diamond Mind league. There is no need for projections. This is about building the best team knowing exactly how your players will perform.

With that knowledge, it is stunning that Ichiro Suzuki was the first pick by The Safe. Now Ichiro is a nice player and his defensive rating in RF of 5e36 (format is XeY where X is a range factor from 1-5 and Y is the percentage of an average player that errors occur, so the lower the better). But with a 2003 OPS of 783, he is shaky as the man to build your team around.

The first round had several other surprises. Barry Bonds, and his obscene 1271 OPS slid all the way to 4th where San Shin smiled and said 'Thank you very much.' This allowed the 2003 AL MVP, Alex Rodriguez, to go to the host Sodo Oh No squad. This happened because Albert Pujols went 2nd and Todd Helton went 3rd to the Onesixteeners and What the Hell Happened respectively. Hard to argue with either pick on its own except when Barry Bonds is available.

Mark Prior was the only pitcher taken in the first round, going as the 10th pick to Fire Bavasi. If I'm building a team, I've got to get a few hitters before I go after a pitcher unless they are far and above the rest of the crowd. Prior is nice, but its hard to differentiate him from other top pitchers like Pedro, Brown, Schmidt, etc... Because this is a snake draft, and the 10th pick in one round is the first pick in the next, I might have considered starting a pitching run and grabbing two pitchers. We'll see if The Safe has those thoughts when it gets back to him.

Your Mariner Optimist was considering Gary Sheffield (who was picked right after my pick by Mariner Musings), but eventually decided to go with positional scarcity at catcher and took Javy Lopez and his 1067 OPS. Jorge Posado is the next best hitting catcher with an OPS of 915, so the differential was more substantial than Sheffield vs other outfielders. I was concerned with taking a catcher when they get 100-150 fewer plate appearances than other positions. We're hoping that in a DH league, we can give Lopez extra at bats in the DH slot. Like many of the owners, I'm hindered by my lack of knowledge as to how Diamond Mind works, but I think this will be possible.

Predicted Standings after Round One: 1. SanShin, 2. SodoOhNo, 3. 116ers, 4. What The?, 5. M.O., 6. Musings, 7. Weekly, 8. Cracking, 9. Fire Bavasi, 10. The Safe

Rice Owls Big Three 

Two great articles on the Rice triumvarate of Jeff Niemann (17-0, 1.70 ERA in 2003), Wade Townsend (11-2, 2.20), and Philip Humber (11-3, 3.30) as they aspire to the claim of greatest college pitching trio of all time.

Baseball America publishes an article from Brian McTaggert, who covers the Owls for the Houston chronicle. This tells each player's story, and includes snippets from interviews with all three and Coach Wayne Graham.

The three are projected to be first round picks after this season, and all three could go in the Top 5!

“It’s pretty exciting for all of us,” Humber says. “Not just the draft part of it, but we do want to be the greatest rotation in the history of college baseball. I felt like all four of us (including junior righthander Josh Baker, who went 8-0) want to do that, and it’s something we can achieve. I don’t think we’ve achieved it yet.”

But if they come anywhere close to the numbers they posted last year, it would be hard to deny them. Niemann went 17-0, 1.70 with 156 strikeouts in 119 innings. Townsend was 11-2, 2.20 with five saves and 164 strikeouts in 137 innings. Humber went 11-3, 3.30 with 138 strikeouts in 128 innings.

“Last year was a good year, but we all learned from last year and all have grown,” Niemann says. “Hopefully we can perform at a high level this year. To the outside that might be crazy, but we’re all learning and constantly trying to get better. We want to build on last year.”

Thomas Ayers at BallparkAnalysis.com saw the article and wrote "The New Big Three", which compares the Rice trio to other successful college pitching trios, and to examine how the trio might fare in the major leagues. It is not the most thorough article in the world, but its interesting to see the stats of the Rice three next to others that were considered great. Ayers concludes his article with...

First of all, I know there is no such thing as a pitching prospect, and that predicting pitchers is a high-risk activity, but I was still suprised to see some of the huge failure rates, especially when you have multiple pitchers involved. I know this selection is somewhat biased by the fact we are looking at great pitching trios, and not individual pitchers themselves, but still I was suprised to see only 8 of 33 (if we discount the 3 from the 2000 South Carolina class) managed to finish their careers with adjusted ERAs better than the league average. If you define that as "success", then even some of the best college pitching tandems have a success rate below 25%. Also, 10 of the 33 had adjusted ERAs below 50 or never pitched in the majors, which you could certainly define as an outright failure.

Obviously, Clemens is the best pitcher of the 33 looked at, and is the only one to reach a consistant all-star status. However, if you want to look at a class that is balanced throughout in which all members acheived success, than the 1968 Trojans, who I wasn't even overly impressed with when I first looked at them, are probably the best of the bunch. Well, possbily the 1989 Louisiana State group is the best, depending on how much weight you want to give to longevity. I know I'm going to extremely simply things here but you are basically debating between 4,000 innnings of 106 ERA+ or 2,000 innings of 116 ERA+. These are definately the two most balanced classes, and I'd argue in favour of the Louisiana State one, come to think about it, trusting my ability to find average, or near-average, pitching through cheap means.

It's tough to say what the future holds for the Rice Trio. I can't tell you what they need to do to become the best college pitching trip ever, as I don't follow college baseball enough to know different divisions and schedules, and I think that would have to be considered in one's evaluation to some degree. Based on the stats here, and all the pitchers should improve, or at least stay the same, they are better than, or match up equally well, to any of the trios listed. I do encourage you, if you are in the area, to go take a look at any of these three pitchers. I'd certainly jump at the chance. I do think that all three will be drafted in the first round, and the first half of the first round if they all have reasonably successful years, and will become the first set of three pitcher college teammates to do that.

Looking at the above it seems improbable that all three will go onto successful careers in the major leagues, but its quite possible that they all will at least get a cup of coffee in the major leagues, barring injury. I don't forsee them becoming the Trojans of 1978, and I think at least one, and I might guess two, of them will go onto have a successful big league careers, but I couldn't tell you which one at this point. A large part of determing that probably lies with projectability and mechanics, neither of which I have immediate access to, nor great knowledge of. That decision is what people getting paid a lot more money than me, and with more time on their hands, have as their job. And hey, I was really high on Bobby Bradley a few years ago, so what do I know?

In other words, enjoy watching these three while you can. They may not end up major leaguers, but they may put in a second dominating season for your defending NCAA Champion Rice Owls!

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Owls Regain Share of WAC Lead 

The Super Bowl is in town and the Owls were motivated. They picked off 16 passes, returning them for 5 touchdowns (35 pts) and held on through a slow second half to steal a 76-73 win from Hawaii. The win puts the Owls (15-5) into a tie with Fresno St (10-7) and the Rainbows (14-4) atop the WAC with a 6-2 conference record, and Nevada trails the three by one game at 5-3.

Pudgeless in Seattle 

Bob Finnigan breaks the news that Pudge Rodriguez will not be a Mariner.

That is not surprising. What is silly is all the discussion about the Mariners budget in this article, and how they didn't have $9.5M to spend, but rather $7M and if you take this out and that out and blah blah blah.

I don't know if this is Finnigan's work or something the M's want published, but both should just shut up. It makes my job hard as the Mariner Optimist to promote that the team wants to win, when they make it sound like they didn't make a $10M, 1yr contract offer at least to a potential difference-maker.

Oh well, I will have to admit that I've had mixed feelings about the whole Pudge thing. I have always stated that 4yr/$40M is way too much for him, but even at 2yr/$20M, I was concerned on the effect that signing would have on the M's. I think catcher must be the least understood position on the field in terms of knowing what effect a catcher has on a pitching staff, and to a lesser extent on the opponents running game.

Add in the fact that catchers have historically broken down as hitters at about this point in their careers, and it was certainly a risky signing.

I would have endorsed signing Pudge, but part of me is happy to wait for something better to come along, hopefully in the form of trade. If we are not going to upgrade at catcher, than the best places to upgrade will be centerfield and/or a platoon partner for John Olerud at 1B.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Fan Links added 

In the spirit of fun in which this blog is intended, take a walk through some of the fan page links that have been added. If you would like more (or ones that have not been updated for years for a walk down memory lane), let me know and I'll add them.

Inside Scoop from Detroit 

Justin Spiro, the editor-in-chief of DetroitSports.net, who wrote a story last Friday saying that Pudge to Seattle was a done deal, does a Q&A for the folks at InsideThePark.com

In this interview he reaffirms his faith in his source and his belief that Pudge is going to the M's, though this interview occurred before this Associated Press story that indicates that Pudge will sign with the Tigers as soon as Friday.

He also provides a Detroit perspective on the Mariners, and these tidbits on the M's half of the Carlos Guillen trade.

On Ramon Santiago - "He is a good kid, but that doesn’t translate into production. He was forced into a bad situation last year with the lowly state of the Tigers. Santiago showed flashes of spectacular defense in 2003, but his bat was just too weak even for Detroit. Given a year or two to mature with a winning team like Seattle should work to his advantage."

On Juan Gonzalez - "Even the top scouts don’t have much to report on this guy. From what I have heard, he is an extremely raw talent with decent upside. His defense appears adequate. In 453 at-bats at Single-A last season, he only managed a .249 average. His power numbers are weak too - 4 homers and 39 RBI. Gonzalez did swipe 24 bases in 2003 at West Michigan, perhaps the only positive sign for his future. "

The more I read, the more I hope that Santiago starts the year in the minors, though I have no idea if he has options left. Seems like he could use full-time at bats rather than being a bench presence. Hopefully, he will be the man sent down when we pick up Eric Karros, official Bench Masher of Lefties of the Mariner Optimist.

The Ultimate Team Player 

Sons of Buhner is rapidly becoming one of my favorite Mariners blogs to read, having twice caused me to laugh out loud in the past 24 hours. If you haven't bookmarked it yet, I highly recommend it.

In their latest piece, they examine the story of Indians minor league pitcher Kazuhito Tadano, who has claimed he is a heterosexual that took part in gay porn films because he and his college teammates were short on cash. Sons of Buhner sagely recognizes this level of sacrifice and writes on why the M's should acquire this is ultimate team player:

Every stat-hungry, incentive-driven hitter would step to the plate and think, "You know, if that guy can do a gay porn film for his team, the least I can do is put down a decent sacrifice bunt."

Earlier this week, they reported on their hope that Norm Charlton's latest comeback attempt results in the spectacle of having his arm literally drop off at the elbow during his first pitch for the M's:

The greatest part of all, of course, would not be the actual separation of arm from elbow; no, the great part would likely be Norm's cool, measured reaction, which I imagine would be Norm standing at the front of the mound, remaining hand on hip, staring at his departed forearm and muttering, "Well, shoot."

If you find this musing to be a little to close to the 1989 shuddering spectacle of Dave Dravecky breaking his arm in his second start back from cancer treatment, don't worry this has a happy ending as well. (Well you can judge the ending of Dravecky, who broke his arm yet again during an October playoff celebration before retiring from baseball. The cancer returned and his arm was amputated two years later, but Dravecky is now one of the country's most inspiring motivational speakers).

Sons of Buhner shows that they understand Norm Charlton as they follow up with:

If Norm's left arm falls off, I'm putting ten bucks right now on an attempted comeback with the right one.

And though we choose to disagree on the relative merits of the signings of the Mariners, Padres and Royals, I wholeheartedly endorse Sons of Buhner as a great read for baseball fans everywhere. Heck, I'm going to "promote" them, along with Mariners Wheelhouse, to the label of "Cranky Internet Columnists whom I love." Keep up the great work, oh balding ones.

Sheffield to the Hot Corner? 

Wow - this move would suddenly give the Yankees the top hitting 3B in baseball. And who needs infield defense anyway?

Updated 1/29 to add a link to Aaron Gleeman's thoughts on the Yankees Infield of Doom, and how it will be interesting to see Kevin Brown, an extreme groundball pitcher, go from an infield defense that is very good, to one that is very, very bad.

M's Contemplate How to Spend Found Money 

Mariners GM Bill Bavasi had a press conference yesterday about the release of Kazuhiro Sasaki, and how the M's will spend the $9.5M that this frees up. Bavasi said some interesting things, most of which are just what I wanted to hear. I have collected quotes from three stories and will provide the quotes and my interpretation. The articles are from Tribnet's Larry Larue, MLB's Jim Street, and the HeraldNet's Kirby Arnold.

The short take is that the M's will try their best to spend the money before Spring training, will make a short-term contract offer to Ivan Rodriguez, will look for a second lefty for the bullpen, are going to evaluate EVERYONE on the market including Greg Maddux, and would prefer free agent signings to trades.

Here's Bill Bavasi...

We'll spend the cash before Spring Training - "It gives us more financial flexibility, but I don't think it's right to spend just to spend, but it's real likely a lot of it is going to be taken care of. We will use some of this. If we don't, it won't be for lack of trying."

First order of business with the cash - "Right now, I'd probably try to fill the second left-hander in the bullpen, then explore helping the offense. Kaz left a significant hole in our bullpen."

Lets hope Pudge wants quality of life over length of contract - "Pudge is a good name and I'm not saying he isn't a good player, but he has to have the 'right' number in mind. We have an interest in him on a short-term basis."

Positioning M's as unlikely to offer Pudge 3, 4, or 5-year contract - "We have interest in him on a short-term basis. Our opinion, and we could be wrong, is that the most success he's had in his career has been in short-term bursts. When he's been given a contract that is structured such that he has another opportunity in a year or two, he's performed tremendously."

Don't get your hopes up on Pudge, M's fans, but we're trying - "We'll just have to see what kind of deals he's had out there and how late we are. If he's gone down the road a long way with a club or two, we're going to be at a disadvantage."

Unchanged philosophy of avoiding all eggs in one basket - "Our view has really opened, and to say we're focused on one guy might not be accurate right now. We have to continue to maintain a balanced club."

Greg Maddux is a slim possibility if able to trade a starter for quality return simultaneously - "If other offers were made for the starters that we could time it all right, I wouldn't say no. To move one of them to bring on a veteran pitcher and extend the kind of money it's going to take to secure him, we'd have to get some real quality back for one of those young starters."

Carlos Beltran (or any other) trade unlikely when free agents still available - "We would prefer not to give up kids in trades if we can answer the same issues with free agents."

We'll take a fresh look at the free agent market - "When you look at what's out there, you at least try to look at the veteran player that's available and quantify what he can do for you. We have to look at everything that's available, including the premier names that are out there."

What would the M's have done if they wanted to keep Sasaki - "I don't know what our recourse would have been, and I'm proud to say I don't know because I didn't look into it. We weren't going to do that to the guy, anyway. This worked out perfectly for the player and the club."

Kaz will be missed - "One thing we can't overlook is that this guy was a significant contributor and was expected to be a significant contributor. While Kaz might not have a year last year that was at the top of his game, this guy just a few moments ago left a significant hole in our bullpen and we have to be aware of that. We have to fill it."

Timing of Sasaki departure could have been better - "With Kaz leaving and us not finding out about it until three weeks ago, it knocks you out of your gyro a little bit and now we have to adjust to that.

So what can we expect to see...
A 2 year contract offer to Ivan Rodriguez. My guess is big signing bonus, small 2004 number, big 2005 number and a 2006 option that vests with 2005 plate appearances or some other incentive. Say $6M signing bonus, $3M 2004, $10M 2005, $11M/$1M 2006 that is automatic with 500 PAs in 2005. Minimum worth of 2yr/$20M, maximum worth of 3yr/$30M, and by using signing bonus we get a lower number in 2004 so we still have some money to strengthen bullpen and maybe add a bat off the bench.

Lefty setup guy is going to be hard to find. Mark Guthrie and Terry Mulholland do not inspire much confidence. So is there a trade for a lefty setup guy out there - maybe we can acquire a setup guy in a trade for a 27-year-old catcher?

I'm hoping we'll pickup a bat for the bench out of the mix of Ron Coomer, Andres Galarraga, Eric Karros, Travis Lee, Fred McGriff, Raul Mondesi, Troy O'Leary, and Todd Zeile. My preference would be Eric Karros because he mashes lefties (986 OPS last year), should come cheaply, and he gives entertaining interviews (and puts up with nickname of "Fabio") on the Jim Rome show.

I hope we avoid thinking much about Ugueth Urbina, but someone had to say it. Urbina is an excellent closer, and that would put Eddie Guardado back in a setup role, which may tick off Eddie. Or he could be the setup guy as he actually handled lefties better than righties last year (572 vs 707 OPS against). I will admit that this would again give us the most dominant bullpen in baseball, and would hopefully free up Rafael Soriano to head to the rotation, but it seems like spending money on a problem that doesn't exist.

The game is now afoot...

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Blog Rumors 

Kazuhiro Sasaki has been waived and will never pitch in MLB again, and the bloggers are circling to guess how Bavasi and company will spend this new windfall. USS Mariner is of two minds on the subject (but I wanted to thank them here for adding Mariner Optimist to their M's blogosphere links). Much conjecture is around acquiring Ivan Rodriguez, and trading Ben Davis to make room.

Wondering who we might deal Ben Davis to? PhilliesInsider.com has a column, "Thinking Out Loud" that describes what a good fit Big Ben would be for the Phillies. It is a long article, with four or five paragraphs on this conjecture:

Although the Phils have not openly announced that they are looking to trade either (Jason) Michaels or (Chase) Utley, they have casually mentioned the possibility. It was even speculated that the Phils might dangle the pair in hopes of acquiring a solid young catcher to back up and someday replace the veteran Mike Lieberthal.

This was an interesting revelation, especially with word out of Seattle that the Mariners might be close to signing World Series hero, Pudge Rodgriguez, to a free agent contract. The Mariners have made no secret of their interest in Pudge, but acknowledge that they would first have to trade one of their two catchers, veteran Dan Wilson or youngster Ben Davis.

The mention of Davis might bring forth more than a passing interest among Phillie officials. Only 27 years of age, Davis is a local player, with roots to Philadelphia, and a solid lefty bat to support Lieberthal. It does not take a vivid imagination to picture the Phils potential interest in Davis, given the dirth of catching prospects in the organization, and Davis’s potential long-term future as a Phil.

Would a Jason Michaels, or Chase Utley be enough to interest the Mariners in a trade? Perhaps. Davis has a contract for 1.4 million dollars this year, and a Michaels/Utley duo might be enough to entice the Mariners to say yes. Would the Phils be interested? While difficult to say, they seem to be going out of their way to indicate that Michaels and Utley are far from guaranteed employment in Philadelphia this year.

Add to this conjecture the fact that Arbuckle said that it was “highly unlikely” that either Michaels or Utley would be sent to the minors, and a Davis for Michaels/Utley trade makes perfect sense. Stay tuned.

Stay tuned, indeed.

Aaron Boone Gone For the Year 

The man who almost cost the Mariners Freddy Garcia, Rett Johnson, and $1.25M cash at last year's trade deadline, is gone for 2004 thanks to a torn ACL suffered in a pickup basketball game. Ouch.

The injury will not only cost the ALCS Game 7 Hero his season, but it may cost him most of his 1 year, $5.75M contract as well.

"Concerning his contract, I can confirm that there are certain prohibited activities, which include basketball," Cashman said. Boone is eligible for free agency after next season, and if the Yankees successfully converted the deal to a nonguaranteed contract, they could release him and be responsible for only 30 days' termination pay, $917,553, instead of the full salary, which is paid over a 188-day season.

The rumor mills are swirling as to who will replace Boone the Lesser. The Yankees do not have a backup third baseman with full-time major league experience. Enrique Wilson and newly signed Miguel Cairo are options to fill the spot, as is minor leaguer Drew Henson.

But this is New York. Steinbrenner. Big money. No budget. Surely, Steinbrenner won't allow Enrique Wilson to be the starting third basemen. So what's a man with a bottomless wallet to do?

Jeff Cirillo. Unlikely. If the man can't handle the pressure of Seattle, I believe Mr. Furious would go postal in New York.

Pudge Rodriguez. Scott Boras' wet dream comes in the form of some rumor-mongering that Pudge could play 3B. David Pinto at Baseball Musings explores this possibility.

Derek Jeter moves from SS - his defense is in decline from heights that were not that high, so 3B becomes a possibility.

Fernando Tatis? Mark McLemore? Graig Nettles?

Update 10:52am PST with this excert from NY Daily News which takes on the same question...

With Aaron Boone possibly lost for the season, the Yanks have limited options at third base. Here's a list of contenders.

Jose Hernandez: Most recognizable free agent available, but swings at more pitches than Alfonso Soriano.

Mark McLemore: No bat (two homers last year) but a decent glove. Made two errors in 29 games at third last season.

Miguel Cairo: The prototypical utility infielder, he's played just 19 games at third in the past two years.

Enrique Wilson: If Yanks face Pedro Martinez every game, then he's a perfect fit. Has played in 123 games since 2002.

Jay Bell: Former Met is retired and looking toward a managing career, but could be lured back to Big Apple.

Drew Henson: Drew Henson: Yanks got Boone so they wouldn't have to answer questions about Henson anymore.

Erick Almonte: Filled in at short for Derek Jeter last year, but has said he thinks he's got a better shot at making it at third.

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