Monday, February 28, 2005

Snelling Out 6 Weeks 

The MRI results are in. And the verdict is that Chris has torn medial meniscus in his left knee. Surgery is expected to keep him out for about 6 weeks. The good news is that the latest Snelling injury has not cost him a season, yet. Hooray! Seriously, the kid needs a lucky rabbit's foot or something.

Lets wish Chris a speedy recovery, and look for him to do well in Tacoma before a September callup.

That's one less contender for the fifth outfielder spot. I wonder if Spiezio is taking some balls in the outfield? Or will Jamal Strong make a statement this Spring?

In scarier news, KJR mentioned today that Bucky has had to cut down on his workouts due to knee soreness. Its looking more and more like Bucky might start the season in Tacoma or in extended Spring Training, and that it might be the right decision.

Bucky Rehabbing Knee 

Mariners official website has an article on Bucky Jacobsen and the pain of having to rehab his knee while others are fully functional.

Bucky is currently not doing drills, though he has been in the batting cages and he has not been ruled out of making the team out of Spring. The knee had been injured for three years, and when it was repaired back on September 16th, the damage was worse than expected.

So, Bucky's last three years of steadily improving play was all done while his knee was in bad shape. Imagine him at 100%. The sky is the limit, and Bucky can't wait to show it:
"When my knee is 100 percent, whenever that is, I will be better than ever. Nothing has been set in stone and I don't think [making the Opening Day roster] is out of the question by any means. Even if I miss the first couple of weeks of Spring Training games, the one good thing about my bat is that it can make a big impression real quick. I don't need 50 at-bats to slap a bunch of singles around."
Apparently, I'm not the only one pimping Bucky for DH on Opening Day, as mention of numerous emails on his behalf brings a smile to Bucky's face, and Bucky appreciates everyone's support. To his credit, Bucky is saying all the right things:
"I can only control what I can control. No doubt about it, I want to be in the big leagues on Opening Day. I don't care if that means starting out as a platoon DH or a guy coming off the bench in the late innings as a pinch-hitter. Those are roles I could do and think I could do well."
You probably won't see Bucky playing in Spring games until mid-March, at which point, watch out baseballs!

The Great Felix Debate 

Felix Hernandez is causing some eyes to open wide in Peoria, most notably Mike Hargrove's.
"Very rarely when people tell you about someone special does that person live up to or exceed the talk. This kid exceeds. This kid is electric. You can't crown him as the next Cy Young, but he is electric. He has a nice, easy motion. It's easy to like a 98-mph fastball, but then you look at his changeup. Very rarely do I sit in the bullpen to watch a pitcher throw, but it's fun to watch this kid throw."
Felix excelling this soon presents quite a quandary (obviously a great one to be in)to Mariners management. Essentially, the question is, if Felix Hernandez looks like he can be a stud in 2005, should he start the season with the Mariners, or should we shelter him a bit, tidy up his game, protect his arm, and save a year of service time by starting him in Tacoma?

This has sparked some excellent debate over at the Sportspot forum.

Those arguing against calling up King Felix cite concerns such as:
- We must baby his arm, and its easier to keep him on a pitch count / start count in Tacoma. (In the Sportspot thread is ;ots of good medical stuff about the development of 18 year old pitching arms which I won't get into).
- Other young pitchers to come up recently have not been mature enough and flamed out. See Doc Gooden, and Steve Blass reincarnation Rick Ankiel.
- There will be too much pressure on Felix.
- Felix needs work on his pickoff move and defense.
- Felix needs to work on handling adversity as he already tends to overthrow when troubles hit.
- Felix has not dominated AAA competition yet.

To me none of these arguments are very strong for keeping Felix out of the majors. If he is already one of our best pitchers, then he can learn the finer points of fielding his position and handling adversity from the mouths of masters such as Jamie Moyer. The big league club has big league training room facilities best equipped to baby Felix. As far as pressure goes, what better time to come up with the Mariners, then after a 99-loss season. Is it better to wait until August when we're in the middle of a pennant race? This is what happened to Ankiel.

The one argument against bringing Felix up that I find no fault with is that it starts the clock ticking on the six years during which the Mariners control his contract. If, instead, the Mariners wait until June 1st to call up Mr. Hernandez, then we get all of this years PLUS an additional six years. For those of you who think that's no big deal, think about ARod's first year in the majors that he spent riding the bench and pinch hitting. Then think about how 2001 might have ended if ARod was still on the team for his 6th year. If we are not going to use Felix full out, maybe we SHOULD wait until June 1 to call him up.

The argument FOR bringing up King Felix is a powerful one. He may be the best pitcher on the staff! He may be a top 5 pitcher in the major leagues in his rookie season! He could be the difference between the Mariners making the playoffs and sitting home in October. How do you not play someone who may be the best pitcher on your team? Dr. Detecto has a subscriber-only entry over at InsideThePark that is sure to leave you drooling for Felix taking the mound on Opening Day!

Obviously, this argument may be a bit premature. Its only two weeks into Spring and we haven't started playing the games yet. But suppose Felix dominates over the month of March. How can we seriously consider starting him off in Tacoma?

Originally, my thoughts were: FREE KING FELIX! I want to see him pitch and lead the Mariners on a worst-to-first 2005 World Series run! But on further review, I have come to believe that we are best served with Felix spending April and May in Tacoma. First of all, it DOES give him a pressure-free chance to work on fine tuning his game, and allows the Mariners to fully baby him during the coldest months of the season. Following a big Spring, this will have him fully ready to pitch for Seattle in June, with less chance of him overthrowing in April/May as he tries to prove he belongs.

Another reason that I think we should start him off in Tacoma, is to give the team time to evaluate the rest of the rotation, to see who also should be in the rotation. Is Jamie Moyer going to rebound? How about Ryan Franklin? Will we see the good Gilgamesh? Is Joel Pineiro healthy? Can Bobby Madritsch build on his 2004 success? Does Jorge Campillo belong in the majors? How about Matt Thornton? Rett Johnson? Hopefully we won't find out much more about Aaron Sele?

Playing some of these guys in April and May lets them show off for potential suitors, as a trade may be the best way to make room for King Felix on the 40 man roster.

Might this strategy cost the M's a game or two in April and May? It might, it might not. Assuming that we were only going to see 5-6 innings of King Felix in these games, perhaps it won't cost us as much as you might think. And with the bats ready to unleash their fury on the rest of the AL, we might skate by awhile without our best pitchers.

And whether we start the season strong or mediocre, the club will get an additional boost of energy when King Felix is called up. Let April and May be the time for Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson to provide the new energy. When that energy starts to fade over the course of a long season, there's nothing like a dose of Felix Hernandez to get the blood pumping again.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Mariners Cartoon is Up! 

Choi Hoon's latest work is on the Mariners! Please someone send me a translation!


I was hoping for a Bucky reference here! Oh well, I assume we are being mocked in most of these, but looking forward to the translations nonetheless.

Edited to add partial translations from comments in Lookout Landing...

Frame 1 - Ichiro
Rangers to Ichiro: "Never going to let you through"

Frame 2 - Randy Winn
'Looking for limelight'
Winn to Ichiro: "Man, how can i be seen"
Winn to Reed: "huh?? now, who are you?!?!?!"

Frame 3 - Bobby Madritsch
'How to cover tattoos'
Madritsch: "Mud mask is the best"
Player: "Wow, surprised!"

Frame 4 - Bret Boone
'While playing with (injured ex-Yankee/now-Indian) younger brother...'
Bret: "Man, I gotta go practice now"
Aaron: "Ohhhhh come on bro, just one more, one more game"

Frame 5 - Edgar Martinez
'Adieu strongest DH'
Dirty Harry: "Then, it is goodbye to Magnum...?"
Edgar: "It's not about YOU"

Frame 6 - Ryan Franklin
Franklin: "Why don't you score whenever I pitch? What is the reason?!?!"
Mariner hitter: "It's because in the beginning you give out so many runs, you take away our appetite"

Frame 7 - Jamie Moyer
'Most home runs allowed (44)'
ARod: "Three for me!"
Gary Sheffield: "Damn, just 2 for me, you win."
Moyer: "Are you guys playing Homerun Derby?!?!?!"

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Injury Concerns Mount 

First, its Pokey tweaking his ankle. Now, Chris Snelling is going in for an MRI. This time, on a sore knee. No word on how he injured it, but I'm assuming he hurt it while signing his one-year contract.

The chronically injured are living up to the hype. Pokey's injury sounds minor, but keeps the door open for Jose Lopez to return to the M's soon if he should go down for any long stretch of time. No details on Snelling, but when I see "Snelling" and "MRI" near each other in an article, I start thinking that its gonna be another long year for the Aussie.

I'm holding my breath that we don't hear any news along these lines about Eddie Guardado, Joel Piniero, or Richie Sexson.

In the article on Pokey's injury is a quick blurb about the M's shooting commercials. It lists who will be in ads, and one could see this as a sign of their likelihood of making the team. Players who have at least been rumored to have jobs on the line that made it into the ad campaign include Bobby Madritsch (with Moyer, not with the relievers, I might add), Ryan Franklin, Ron Villone, Shiggy Hasegawa, JJ Putz, Jeremy Reed, and Pokey Reese. Among those missing from this year's ads are Jose Lopez and Scott Spiezio.

Conspicuously absent from the Mariner casting call? You guessed it. Mr. Bucky Jacobsen. This is another bad sign that M's brass has low expectations for Bucky's playing time in the big leagues. I still hold out hope that this is just a hedge against Bucky's rehab of the knee and that as soon as he proves himself 100% healthy, he'll be getting regular playing time in Seattle. Free Bucky!

Safeco as Hitter's Paradise 

Derek Zumsteg's latest Off the Wall piece is a decent read. Send your comments to the PI, and maybe Derek can make it into the printed edition someday. This week covers similarities between the 2005 Mariners and the 1995 Mariner team that saved baseball in Seattle. Derek says that the M's can win in 2005 with a big offense, which runs against the conventional wisdom of building a strong pitching staff to work in the offense-imparing environment of Safeco.

The references to park factors reminded me of a blogentry I made last year, where I asked if Safeco was turning into a hitter's paradise?

In that post, I argued that changes made to the Safeco, specifically adding non-reflective black-painted honeycomb aluminum as a background, had changed Safeco from a pitcher's park that suppressed runs, home runs, and batting average, into a hitter's park, that at the least elevated home runs, and was league average for batting average and runs.

Lets check that hypothesis by looking at the 2004 park factors for Safeco, relative to past history.

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
2004 85 88 113
Interesting. Run scoring and batting average both tumbled to pre-2003 levels. But at the same time, the trend for home runs continued. Safeco is essentially a homer haven. Even moreso when broken down for left-handed hitters as a lefty was a whopping 46% more likely to homer in Safeco than in a league-neutral park! At the same time, the park was slightly below league average (96) for right-handed sluggers.

Undoubtedly, some of this is a result of our 2004 homer-happy pitching staff, and some of the suppression on runs and batting average is the result of our craptacular season at the plate. But it sure looks like Safeco is a place for home runs now. Its just too bad that we couldn't add another lefty slugger to the mix this offseason, as Safeco seems ideal for them.

This is also why Bobby Madritsch, as a lefty who gave up a meager 3 home runs in 88 innings last year (and just 1 in 6 starts in Safeco), should be a mortal lock for the starting rotation. In a ballpark that naturally elevates home runs, but suppresses batting average, pitchers who do not give up home runs should have particularly high value.

Ichiro on the Basepaths 

If you haven't found Sportspot.net yet, head over there right now! Especially if you are tired of reading the fifth preview of Yuniesky Betancourt in the local media. The best Spring Training insight can be found from Grandpa Mariner who is reporting live from Arizona. Where else can you get gems like this...
If you want to see something utterly fascinating watch Ichiro get ready for the season. Watched him, by himself, going through baserunning drills. He was alone on a diamond after drills, running from first to second, first to third, second to third. But he wasn't just running. He would get into his position as if it were April and the Angels were on the field. He would look at the mound, take a lead, then go. Then back to first. Over and over. He would sprint halfway, hold up like he was watching a flyball on a hit and run, then start running again like it went over the head of the rightfielder. Once he even visualized being caught in a run down, back and forth he went, full speed. This went on for 40 minutes or so.

Watching him, you actually could start picturing the game situation. I even found myself saying outloud when he went through his run down situation, "Uh Oh, they got him picked off".

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Sickels Scouts the M's 

John Sickels has a scouting report on the Mariners up at his website. No surprises at the top with Felix, Reed and Choo grading out to A, A-, and B+ respectively. Other rankings of interest to me...

Yuniesky Betancourt ranks as the top M's shortstop and #4 prospect overall with a solid "B" rating. Sickels treats him as he would a college player with similar scouing reports. Shortstop is our position of strength with Tuiassosopo at #6, Adam Jones #12, Michael Morse #13 and Asdrubal Cabrera at #17.

Jorge Campillo comes in at #7, just behind Clint Nageotte, and well ahead of #15 Cha Seung Baek.

Higher than I had them include LHP Ryan Feierabend at #10 and OF Wladamir Balentien at #11. Justin Leone, Greg Dobbs, and Rene Rivera is nowhere to be found.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Early Pitching Thoughts 

As the rest of the position players report today, camp starts to get even more interesting. However, the first week has certainly raised some interesting questions about the pitching staff, and we may have more answers than we previously thought.

The rotation coming out of Spring may contain a few surprises.

Jorge Campillo could be anything from AAA fodder to a major league star. Early reports out of camp have him looking VERY good, with fantastic location on his low 90's fastball, a late-breaking slider, and a nice circle change. Think Greg Maddux. The biggest concern around Campillo appears to be that he has been throwing all year, but he is a big guy in the Chris Bosio mold, and may be able to handle the workload.

Another candidate with an early leg up for the rotation may be Aaron Sele. Rumors around camp indicate that he may be a favorite to break camp with the team. This will not be a popular choice with many fans or with your Mariner Optimist. It reeks of 2004 when veterans got the nod over youth with the only point of comparison in their favor being "experience." (It also reeks of the logic of playing Winn at the expense of Bucky. Free Bucky!)

Sele's last "good" year was 2001 and he parlayed that into a 3-year, $24 million dollar contract with the Angels and proceeded to do as sabremetrics would predict by stinking it up. Sele is a pitcher whose peripheral numbers are extremely weak. Other than 2001 (2.1 bb/9ip), he has always walked more than 3 batters a game, and sometime as many as 4. And while in his 20's he kept his K/9 around 7-8, he has been nowhere close in years, averaging 5 strikeouts per game with the M's and less than 4 K/9 with the Angels. For those doing the math, his K/BB ratio is rapidly approaching one, which is not going to get the job done.

Maybe the 34 year old can turn a 180 on his decline past mediocrity, and emerge as a useful end-of-the-rotation pitcher for the M's. If he shows he has regained his control and command this Spring, then he will have the full support of your Mariner Optimist. But he damn well better have to prove it before the M's just hand him a job due to his "veteran" label.

So if Campillo and Sele might get rotation spots, who might lose theirs?

The first name that always jumps to mind in these situations is Ryan Franklin, our hard-working pitcher from Spiro, Oklahoma. Word is he is adding a knuckleball to his already extensive repertoire of six pitches. This may be his best chance to cling to his hold on the rotation. Franklin was much more dominant in his early days coming out of the pen, and that may be a better place for him, if the knuckleball doesn't work out.

But the man who looks most in danger of losing his spot in the rotation is amazingly Bobby Madritsch. Madritsch was unquestionably the best pitcher for the M's last year in his rookie season, and seemed like a lock for the rotation. However, Spring Training finds Bobby grouped with the relievers during workouts, and rumors about him needing to listen to the coaches better have him on the outside looking in.

The optimist in me hopes they are just doing this to motivate Madritsch because he came into camp out of shape or something like that. I mean, this kid ended 2004 with impressive 8-inning wins over the Red Sox, A's and Angels! Maybe another possibility is that they are considering Bobby for the closer role in case Guardado's health is not 100%. Madritsch is 29 years old and had some pretty heavy usage heaped on his arm last year, so maybe this is a thought to use him out of the pen. I can't see Madritsch taking Sherrill's or Villone's spot in the pen, but who knows what Hargrove may be thinking. This is a situation that bears watching closely.

Jamie, Gil, and Joel seem like mortal locks for the rotation as long as they are healthy. Obviously, Joel's health is of most concern, but the mood around him is optimistic, although they have not let him throw all out yet. The leash on Jamie Moyer may have gotten shorter with this many alternatives available, so while he may not need a strong Spring, he certainly won't last a full season if he comes out pitching like he did in the second half last year.

Of course, as this quote from Hargrove shows, perhaps we are making a mountain out of a molehill.
"We'll take a look at all of them (pitching candidates). You'd like to have at least eight major league-ready starters. That's a comfortable number, and I think we're going to have that."
The first five may be locked and loaded, and Grover may just be deciding who the first three replacements would be, and exploring alternatives for the closer role if Eddie goes down. It is already an interesting camp. Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Bucky vs. Ibanez 

Derek Zumsteg's latest Off the Wall piece breaks down the battle between Raul Ibanez and Bucky Jacobsen.

And he comes to the same conclusion.

Free Bucky!

Essentially, the M's are playing the "don't piss off the veteran" card right now by naming Winn the LF and Ibanez the DH. Bucky is essentially backing up DH, 1B, and the 4th outfielder spot, which may be good for 200-300 at bats. It may be the shrewd decision to keep Bucky in our back pocket until we see how Spring and the early part of the season develops to see what weaknesses we really need to address by trade (bullpen? rotation? shortstop? catcher?)

But it doesn't mean I have to like it.

Free Bucky!

Pitchers Going and Coming 

First, the bad news. Travis Blackley is going to be miss all of 2005 recovering from arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder. It seems to be an annual rite of Mariners Spring Camp as the Felling of the Pitching Prospects begins. Sportspot has an interesting discussion thread on pitching injuries and the M's medical practices, that is worth the time if these things interest you.

This helps to explain Blackley's terrible 2004 campaign (1-3, 10.04 ERA for the M's). Dr. Lewis Yocum examined the shoulder in September and found two small tears. The first recommendation was rest and rehab over the winter. But with no signs of improvement by February, it was decided that surgery would be needed. The M's hope the 22-year-old Blackley will be pitching by 2006.

Jason Churchill, of Mariners Minors fame, has an excellent article on Travis Blackley's injury over at InsideThePark. It boils down to Travis being relieved to at least know why his pitches suffered a drop in velocity last year, and looking forward to 2006.

With the injury, Travis Blackley moves to the 60-day DL. This opens up a spot on the M's 40 man roster, which they seem to have quickly filled by signing standout Mexican pitcher Jorge Campillo. Dr. Detecto writes up a nice Detect-o-Vision piece on Campillo which essentially says he could be the next Enrique Romo for the Mariners, and that this looks like another feather in the cap of the M's front office.

I think that, at the least, Campillo will serve as an adequate replacement for Travis Blackley in the short term. Add him to the list of players to watch closely during Spring Training, and know that he is more likely to affect the 2005 Mariners than Aaron Sele.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Bucky Writeup in Baseball HQ 

This subscriber-only piece appeared in today's AL Marketwatch at Ron Shandler's invaluable BaseballHQ site. It shows that the smart money view of Bucky coincides nicely with that of Bucky fans everywhere. FREE BUCKY!

Jacobsen's big 2004,injury collide with SEA acquisition offseason...
Recalled by SEA shortly after the 2004 All-Star break, 29-year-old Bucky Jacobsen (DH-1B, SEA) mashed his way into the starting lineup (.275/.335/.500 with 9 HRs) and had been receiving regular playing for almost a month by early September. Unfortunately, this is where Jacobsen’s 2004 his season ended, prematurely due to knee surgery from which he continues to rehab. Jacobsen’s recovery time and SEA’s big off-season with respect to free agent acquisitions now clouds his 2005 outlook. In fact, this past weekend, SEA GM Bill Bavasi suggested that Jacobsen isn’t guaranteed a spot on the MLB bench to begin the season. For some clues as to what we might expect, a look Jacobsen’s recent performance is instructive:

Year-LVL       AB   HR   bb%   ct%    Eye    OBP    SLG
======== === == === === ==== ==== ====
2002-MLE 300 10 7% 79% 0.35 .252 .350
2003-MLE 447 23 9% 76% 0.41 .295 .462
2004-AAA 292 26 15% 70% 0.57 .422 .661
2004-MLB 160 9 8% 71% 0.30 .335 .500

As HQ analyst Mike Dranchak pointed out last season, these number show remarkable growth in both patience and power, all of which held up pretty well during Jacobsen’s first stint in the majors. At age 29, Jacobsen appeared ready to become a productive MLB hitter for the foreseeable future, until his injury. And unfortunately for him, SEA has had a big acquisition off-season, acquiring 1B Richie Sexson to take over at 1B and Adrian Beltre at 3B, leaving few ABs available. Although SEA remains a roster-in-progress as pitchers and catchers are about to report, a healthy Jacobsen’s biggest competition for DH ABs appears to come from players with whom SEA has long-term contracts: Raul Ibanez and Scott Spiezio. A comparison of how these three hitters fared against LHP last season is instructive:

2004-vs-LHP   AB    BA   OPB    SLG    HR
Jacobsen 50 .340 .400 .640 4
Ibanez 146 .295 .342 .438 4
Spiezio 74 .203 .263 .297 1

A small sample size to be sure, but it suggests that Jacobsen is ready to feast on MLB LHPs, and while his overall numbers suggest that he deserves at least the opportunity for some full-time play at some point in the future, SEA would be well advised now to create a roster situation in which Jacobsen could at least receive the majority of these RH DH opportunities. If this doesn’t happen immediately, Jacobsen should remain on your radar for later in the season.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Oh well... 

So much for that idea. Johan Santana has signed a 4-year extension with the Twins, details pending.

The M's may just have to settle for Ben Sheets in 2007. Sheets has only signed a one-year deal for 2005.

Pitchers and Catchers Report in Two Days!!!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Sexson Arrested for DUI 

Details are pretty sketchy, but KOMO is reporting that $50 million man Richie Sexson was arrested earlier today on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Lets just hope that the arresting officer was overzealous.

Linkin' Logs 

Just a few quick hits today...

Jacob Luft at SI.com is Ranking the AL Rotations. And while I have to give him props for showing stats like dERA, and not Wins and losses, I gotta smack him silly for ranking the Mariners 12th. He seems to penalize the M's heavily for playing in Safeco, yet his own published park indexes show the league is near average for home runs.

ESPN's relevance to baseball has taken another hit with the departure of John Sickels from that site. Happily, Mr. Sickels has reemerged under the same blogvelope that L43 emerged under as Lookout Landing. His new blog Minor League Ball should have everything you've looked for in the past from Sickels, with none of ESPN's overhead. Right now, Peter Gammons is all that ESPN has left.

MLB continues to flex its stupidity for the world to see. Now its trying to takeover fantasy baseball by saying that it owns the stats that fantasy sites use to run their games. Good thinking, MLB! Kill fantasy baseball! That'll keep those pesky kids away!

And it sounds like Bill Bavasi not only listens to scouts and sabermetricians, but he reads the M's blogosphere too. It should only continue to build the love that Bavasi is getting from the blogosphere. I was hoping it wasn't just coincidence that I pushed for the signing of Jeff Nelson and poof, there he was! Most of what I write here is pretty much intended for the direct consumption of Mr. Bavasi. Talk to ya later, Bill!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Lost in Translation 

I put up a request for translations of the Korean comics I posted yesterday over at SportSpot, and here are two translations that sound right, thanks to user skylark. I recommend heading over to Sportspot to see some of the translations that may be *slight* misinterpretations.

These cartoons are fantastic, and remind me how much I miss the work of Mike Ricigliano in the old Baseball Weekly (before USA Today butchered it into SportsWeekly with no more Ricig).

Ichiro Cartoon:
Frame 1
(Balloons frame the banner - "Ichiro Baseball Clinic")

Frame 2
Kid: Mr. Ichiro! Mr. Ichiro! How can I bat well like you?
Ichiro: Ha, Ha ... well... that's pretty easy.

Frame 3
Ichiro: Open both your eyes and look straight at the ball, focusing on it until the end, and make sure you get the ball on the bat... what do you think? Pretty simple?
Kid: Wow... yeah!

Frame 4
Ichiro: And while you are at it, if you can figure out the speed of the ball and it's trajectory as the ball leaves the pitcher's hand, you won't miss.
Kid: Ah...

Frame 5
Ichiro: On top of that, if you can feel the flight of the ball naturally in your mind, you can put the bat on the ball as easily as flowing water, right?
Kid: Ah... yes...

Frame 6
Ichiro: And, if you can discern the movement of the fielder as the ball makes contact, your odds of placing the ball where the fielders aren't greatly increases, don't you think?
Kid: Ah... Ah...

Frame 7
Ichiro: On top of that, if you are a left-handed batter, you can swing with your arms thus leaving your feet free to start running toward first base as you are swinging, giving you a head start toward first base.
Kid: Ah... Ah... Ah...

Frame 8
Ichiro: See, it's simple ~ so do it well, kid...
Kid: Ha... Ha...

Frame 9
Kid: Yes, there are things more important in life than baseball! Who cares about baseball... (laughing)

Arizona Diamondbacks preview - this one skylark claimed to have a little more difficulty with as you'll see from the first frame.

Frame 1
2004 Season Watermelon Rind Scraping Team-by-Team Summary!
(yeah... "Huh?" is right!)

Frame 2
2004 Season
Arizona D-Backs

51 Wins 111 Losses (16th... in NL, I presume)
Team BA .253 (12th)
Team HR 135 (16th)
Steals 53 (16th)
ERA 4.98 (14th)
Save % 60% (14th)
Errors 139 (16th)

Without a doubt, the NL's worst team...

Frame 3
(in white box, the Big Unit's stats)
16-14 (5th in league wins)
ERA 2.60 (2nd)
Ks 290 (1st)
WHIP 0.90 (1st)
Innings 245.2 (2nd)
K/9 innnings 10.62 (1st)
2004 NL Cy Young seems problematic...

(headlines in red-orange font) The earth's greatest weapon, the Big Unit!
(Cat's sign reads) Arizona Kindergarten BabyBell Snakes Baseball Team
(Cat says) Hey, the game is starting, so everyone be quiet!
(again in red font) Goes to Kindergarten...

Frame 4
Shea Hillenbrand (caption)The Best Arizona has to offer!

Mustached Man: 1975 Vintage, born and bred in Arizona.
Lady: Ooh, that DOES smell different..

Frame 5
Brandon Webb (caption) Lookout, I'm gonna LOSE IT!!!

Webb: I'm gonna go crazy! 20 quality starts and 7 wins? WTF?
Teammate: You're lucky you don't have 20 losses...

Frame 6
Luis Gonzalez (caption) 14 years of break-neck baseball - this year I'm getting some surgery and resting!

Teammate: What? The surgery you did was...
Luis: I've always wanted bigger eyes... (skylark Editoral: Some Koreans get surgery to get their eyelid's fixed as to give their eyes a bigger look... which is what the cartoonist is referring to)

Frame 7
Chad Tracy

Manager 1: Why the hell is he not facing the batter?
Manager 2: He did not want to be tempted by what he saw, and wanted to catch the Spirit of the ball...
(red caption) 26 Errors at 3B....

Frame 8
Matt Mantei (caption) The 2004 Arizona D-Back's great ambition went awry here...

Mantei: I'm done already....
Bob Brenly (#15) tripping over Mantei: Argh!

Frame 9
Richie Sexson (caption) ... and died here!

Bob Brenly lands in piledriver from Richie Sexson...
Sexson: Verified Kill!

M.O. note: I love the depiction that injuries to Mantei and Sexson "killed" the Diamondbacks season and caused Bob Brenly the pain of being fired.

I'll add the translations to the Dodgers and Palmeiro cartoons as I get them...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Korean translator please? 

Thanks to Red Reporter for pointing me to this excellent site (mlb.naver.com) of Korean baseball cartoons by Choi Hoon.

They are currently putting up a cartoon for each team on a week by week basis, in (Korean?) alphabetical order and are currently on the Montreal Expos. Maybe we'll see a Mariners preview toon in the next few weeks. In the meantime, enjoy, and here are a few examples of cartoons covering Ichiro and new Mariner acquisitions.



I'd love to know what Richie Sexson is doing in this Arizona DBacks preview.


Adrian Beltre looks pretty ferocious as the best player on the Dodgers. Also, notice the excellent representation of Mrs. Lima.


Finally, here is one from last April on Rafael Palmeiro, that I like just for the picture of John Olerud smoking a cigarette:


Monday, February 07, 2005

Rumors... Shot Down 

A few recent rumors I've mentioned here have been kick-saved and kept from scoring in recent days.

First, Pedro Astacio will not be a Mariner. He signed a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers on Friday. The reason he went to the Rangers is that, unlike the Mariners, they could and did give him a major league contract. This is a pretty low-risk, decent-upside signing for the Rangers in that Astacio is getting $800,000 with performance incentives to grow up to $3 million, and they have room on the rotation for him. Good fit for Astacio as well.

And you can scratch Arizona off the list of potential suitors for Randy Winn. The DBacks sent Casey Fossum to the Blue Jays for ex-Mariner (and Rice alum) Jose Cruz Jr.

I will probably continue to post more sporadically for the next couple of weeks until Spring Training starts up in force. I've got a lot of work in front of me. I wanted to do a post critiqueing the hyperbole at USS Mariner that indicates that Dan Reichert is already a better pitcher than Ryan Franklin, but I just don't have the time. Suffice to say, Franklin is currently the better pitcher, but you have to like the signing of Reichert because he has nice upside at a bargain price. But that doesn't mean we're guaranteed to get the upside. Give Ryan some love!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Rumors In The Air 

Sportspot has a rumor from one of the pay sites that the M's have received a trade proposal that would send them a top starting pitcher in a deal for the outfield candidate of our choice, a pitching prospect, and Jose Lopez.

The deal would apparently net us a good setup reliever in the bargain. So, for the price of, say, Winn, Nageotte, and Lopez, the M's may be able to vault themselves into frontrunner status in 2005 by adding a staff ace (someone comparable to Jason Schmidt or Tim Hudson, but not those guys) and another good reliever.

If such an offer exists, it has got to be a tough call for Bavasi. Lopez is obviously being groomed to take over second base next year, and he has All-Star potential, that may be years away. The M's may not want to make such a trade until they see how their pitching looks in the Spring.

Looking around for matching rumors finds the Arizona Republic indicating that the Diamondbacks saying a trade for a new centerfielder is imminent. At the same time, the Diamondbacks have been discussing a trade of new staff ace Javier Vazquez to the Orioles. Or maybe Brandon Webb is available in the right deal?


Could a deal sending Lopez, a pitching prospect not named Felix, and Randy Winn to the Diamondbacks for Javier Vazquez and say, Mike Koplove, be in the works?

What other possibilities might match up with an NL team sending a TOR starter to the M's? One might think that at this time, only pitchers a year or two away from free agency and with signability issues might be considered.

To the Brewers for Ben Sheets? Oooohhh that would be freakin fantastic!Unfortunately, I don't think the Brewers would deal Sheets in a deal for Lopez, as they have their middle infield covered with prospects J.J. Hardy and Richie Weeks.

Maybe to the Pirates for Kip Wells, or even Oliver Perez? This one might make sense, since the Pirates could use help both in the outfield and middle infield.

The Cubbies certainly have an opening in their outfield with the trade of Sammy Sosa, and I'm sure they'd love to hand us Carlos Zambrano or Mark Prior, right?

Don't ever say that I don't dream big! Aren't trade rumors fun?


Just a quick note to follow up on a few recent topics.

The USS Mariner continues to act as the Yankees of the M's blogosphere, offering the big contract to all the best free agents. Yes, Blog Consolidation continues, as Jeff Shaw and Peter White, formerly of Mariner Musings, have joined the crew at USS Mariner. Jeff and Peter are my favorite "writers" in the blogosphere, as they obviously know how to turn a phrase, tell a story, and even bring in obscure references, which is just as obviously not my forte. I'm a software engineer whose minimal writing talents are at their best when analyzing or reporting a story, not telling one. USS Mariner should only become better from their addition, and they will continue to be the favorites to win the Blogosphere Series.

Meanwhile, it sounds like Jason may be leaving the site soon which would be a shame. Stay tuned. Shockingly, the boys at USS Mariner have not even so much as extended an invitation to your Mariner Optimist, who thinks of himself as, well, the Mariners of the blogosphere, of course. I might have my crappy entries, but occasionally a gem comes out that keeps my loyal fanbase coming back! Now, if I could just get through the 80's...

By the way, when are we going to get the ladies' perspective in the Mariners blogosphere? Where is Miss Mariner? One of the more entertaining baseball blogs has to be the Twins blog Bat-Girl, whose byline is "Less Stats, More Sass." Ladies, the blogosphere awaits!

On to Felix...
Another Twins blog, Seth Speaks, did a nice little summary of the pros and cons of an early callup of Felix Hernandez. As Seth writes, the closest comparible player to Felix might be a young Dwight Gooden. All I can say to that is "Bring it on!"

I had the misfortune of moving from Seattle to New Jersey in 1982, and decided to adopt the pathetic New York Mets as my favorite National League team at that time. As a result, I got the pleasure of religiously following a young Dwight Gooden when he was called up as a 19 year old in 1984. Gooden was ridiculously nasty. Great fastball and knee-buckling curve. I used to be rooted to the TV on days he would pitch as he was a joy to watch. His Cy Young year as a 20 year old in 1985 had just obnoxious statistics: In 35 games spanning 276 2/3 innings, he struck out 268 and walked just 69 batters. He was 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA!!! For those who think we should "develop" Felix in preparation for a 2006 title run, that is what a year of development in the big leagues did for a young Dwight Gooden.

Unfortunately for Gooden, drug abuse destroyed what should have been a Hall of Fame career. So, we need to surround King Felix with good influences like Jamie Moyer and Dan Wilson, rather than say, Darryl Strawberry. It looks like Mariner fans may get the rare opportunity of watching the emergence of a superstar. And maybe as soon as April. I'm giddy with excitement. And that's from someone who has never used the word "giddy" to describe himself before.

Jeff Nelson has officially signed a minor league contract with the Mariners. I can't do anything about your opinion if you think he betrayed the M's by speaking out against M's management, or if he should be in jail for his bullpen brawling, or even for just having been a Yankee. But if you don't think he can make the 2005 Mariners better, then I have to disagree.

Sure, Nelson had a poor, injury plagued 2004 with the Texas Rangers. But the 38-year-old's curve still has wicked bite, and his peripheral numbers have showed no signs of decline until last year.

His K's per game over the last four years, starting with his amazing 2001?
12.12, 10.84, 11.06, 8.37
Strikeout to walk ratio?
2.00, 2.04, 2.83, 1.16
OPS against?
.492, .669, .679, .679

Essentially, last year his dominance was down a tad, and he walked a few more batters. But otherwise, he's the same Jeff Nelson he has been over the past decade as one of the best setup men in the game. And the M's risked a minor league contract to see if last year showed a trend to decline, or was just an injury-induced (or legal-issue-distracted) speed bump on a steady studly career.

The competition for righties in the bullpen comes from J.J. Putz, Shiggy Hasegawa, and Scott Atchison. None of these three have more upside than Jeff Nelson. And even if all three beat out Nelson, Jeff provides depth in case Eddie Guardado or another pitcher gets injured. This was simply another in a series of great signings from Bill Bavasi.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Blurring Blogs and Forums 

The line between blogs and discussion forums continues to blur. Leone For Third burns up and reemerges from the ashes as Lookout Landing, with cooler commenting abilities (side topics spawn their own thread sort of), and the ability to create your own "diaries", which are essentially independent threads that allow even more commenting.

For anyone who has tried to read through 50-150 comments at the PI Blog or USS Mariner, this commenting is certainly a nice change.

At the PI Blog, Mike is essentially putting out news placeholders for you to comment on. However, I find that I go to most blogs to read the thoughts of the blogger, not the readers. The comments always seemed to be a good place to interact with the blogger, but at the larger sites turns into discussions with other readers.

I guess that's why I do my blogging here, and when I want a baseball discussion, I go over to SportSpot. Of course, SportSpot is blurring the line in the other direction by offering forum members the ability to create their own blog on that site.

It all makes for one big wacky world for M's fans to navigate through. I guess variety is the spice of life, so you can pick your favorite format, and your favorite group of fans to hang out in discussions with. Still, I wish that blog comments were only responded to by the authors. I know that I can't be alone in saying that when I read comments at Leone For Third, I was mainly looking for responses from Jeff & Trent, and when I read comments at USS Mariner, I was looking for feedback from (or providing feedback to) Dave, Jason and Derek.

I guess the good news is that my little happy corner of the blogosphere mainly generates comments of the "You're an Idiot!" variety, so I've not had to worry about the problem of comments turning into discussion forums. I will continue to look at your comments and respond where appropriate. I appreciate the feedback on my (sometimes overly) optimistic entries here. I look at the calendar and can't believe that I've been doing this for over a year now (okay, minus a brief hiatus while the M's searched for a 5-game winning streak). Thanks for reading, and good luck in your search to find entertaining and informative reading in the M's blogosphere.

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