Monday, August 20, 2007

Playoff Push Begins TONIGHT 

So, the M's embark today on a 7 game road trip that may represent the easiest 7 games they'll have the rest of the season. We play the next 20 days without a rest, and the schedule as mentioned before, is brutal:

8/20-8/22 at Minnesota, who has owned us.
8/23-8/26 in Texas for 4 games in 100+ degree heat ending with a Sunday NIGHT game before flying back to Seattle to play the Angels in a critical 3 game series. And, oh yeah, our last 4 game series in Arlington involved us going 0-4.
8/27-8/29 vs Anaheim with Wednesday game an afternoon affair so they can fly to Cleveland for one game makeup. Don't think the Angels won't be rubbing their off day in the M's faces all during this one, making the 8/29 game a true must win for the psyche of the Mariners.
8/30 in Cleveland so much for an off day. Instead a late flight to Cleveland, battle the Indians, and back to the airport to head to Toronto.
8/31 - 9/2 in Toronto A breather? Lets just say I'm hoping its more holiday and no Halladay.
9/3 - 9/5 in New York with the first game being a 1pm start on Labor Day

The Yankees meanwhile have a tough stretch of 16 games ahead of them with 3 at L.A, 4 at Detroit, 3 with Boston, 3 with, ahem, Tampa Bay and then 3 with us.

And we better put some distance between us and the Yankees somehow over that stretch, cuz after that it is smooth sailing for the Yanks with only 3 of their last 22 games against teams in the playoff chase while we play 11 of 22 against playoff contenders (with only 2 off days and 1 doubleheader against Cleveland).

So even without the travel, here's the number of games each playoff contender has remaining against another playoff contender.

Seattle: 18 of 41
Yankees: 16 of 38
Indians: 15 of 39
Angels: 14 of 39
Tigers: 13 of 38
Red Sox: 6 (Yankees only) of 38

A week from today, here's what the same list will look like:

Seattle: 18 of 34
Yankees: 16 of 31
Indians: 12 of 33
Angels: 11 of 32
Tigers: 6 of 31
Red Sox: 6 (Yankees only) of 31

So this is a HUGE week for the Mariners as we need to gain on the Yankees and Angels before our schedule truly ramps up to brutal. We need to put a hurting on the Twins starting tonight.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

On Felix, Batista, and... Santana? 

Great article from Shannon Drayer on how Miguel Batista is helping out Felix Hernandez.

The article ends with this quote from Batista:
“This is how a veteran player can make an easier life for a young player. I wish I had that person when I was younger. I wish I would have had that opportunity with people taking the time, but I ended up doing it on my own, because I was very curious. I asked the biggest superstars in the game, picked their brains about what was pitching. I knew it wasn’t hard work because nobody worked harder when I was little. I would work 12 months a year. Work here then play winter ball. The training was exhausting. Then a veteran finally told me it is not how much you work, you can do too much.

With him it will be interesting to see how much he can learn. I believe what we all want him to do is make him understand some things about pitching so when he gets to be twenty five he can be a phenom not because of his ability but because of how he uses it.”
And today, Larry Stone chimes in with the ultimate dream: Johan Santana joining the M's. Johan Santana is entering his final year with the Twins and has already voiced his displeasure that he hasn't been traded yet. He proposes the M's go after Santana with everything they've got (short of Felix) to create the greatest 1-2 tandem in the game.

Adam Jones + Jeff Clement + Brandon Morrow + Ryan Feierabend for a 1-year rental on Santana.

I do it in a heartbeat. Given the M's lineup is primarily built for today, and that we have blocked the two hitters here with Ichiro and Johjima which reduces their value to us. But with the Twins looking at Torii Hunter's impending free agency, they could use Jones in CF and also deal Hunter, and acquire enough young talent to build around for another 5 years of winning.

The M's then feature a rotation of Santana, Felix, Batista, Washburn and Weaver or some other #5 starter, and are the favorites for the AL West, if not the World Series, from March on. The M's have the money to sign Santana long-term as well, so it may not be just a rent-a-player.

Dare to dream...

Dare to dream...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Absolutely Brutal Schedule 

Lets hope the Mariners win the next two games riding on the momentum of Richie's dramatic blast and then really enjoy their off day on Thursday.

It will be their last off day for 3 weeks. And their third-to-last off day until the playoffs start.

Yes, the Mariners play 20 games in 20 days beginning on Friday. And with lots of yummy travel in between. Just look at this schedule:

8/17-8/19 vs Chicago

8/20-8/22 at Minnesota

8/23-8/26 in Texas for 4 games in 100+ degree heat ending with a Sunday NIGHT game before flying back to Seattle to play Angels in a critical 3 game series

8/27-8/29 vs Anaheim with Wednesday game an afternoon affair so they can fly to Cleveland for one game makeup. Don't think the Angels won't be rubbing their off day in the M's faces all during this one, making the 8/29 game a true must win for the psyche of the Mariners.

8/30 in Cleveland

8/31 - 9/2 in Toronto

9/3 - 9/5 in New York with the first game being a 1pm start on Labor Day

Not only is this tough from a travel standpoint, but we have been abysmal in the state of Texas this year, and we have must-win series with the Yankees and Angels in here.

Their next off day comes on September 6th, which the M's get to spend traveling from New York to Detroit. Yuck. At that point, they get 17 more straight days of baseball with no rest with the last 4 games being a critical series at Anaheim. I think we M's fans need to chip in and hire a whole bunch of Swedish masseusses to be waiting for our tired team in Detroit...

The M's are going to need to get EVERYONE some rest during the next two brutal months and for that reason alone, the addition of Adam Jones at this time is going to be critical. Ben Broussard, Willie B and Jamie Burke should see lots of playing time too, and it will be interesting to see how McLaren juggles the lineup and rotation.

Every win we can get against the likes of Johan Santana while getting a full day of rest to Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez is critical to this team making the playoffs.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I'm a Weaver Believer 

If Mr. Weaver keeps pitching like this, and in general, how he has since his DL trip, then $8M might be a bargain to keep him for 2008. Perhaps we should look at extending his contract now.

After surviving a near home run in the first, Weaver settled into a groove that earned him a 115 pitch, 83 strike shutout. Yes, introducing Jeff Weaver, the major league leader in shutouts.

Weaver's stats since June 9 are downright sweet...

IP: 77
H: 77
HR: 6
K: 43
BB: 17
ER: 27

ERA = 3.15
WHIP = 1.22
K/9 = 5.0
K/BB = 2.5
HR/9 = 0.70

The K/9 is mildly disappointing, and until it can get back over 6 it looks unsustainable, but its headed in the right direction. Today's 8 K outing looks like a more dominant pitcher. And if he gets the K rate up and keeps the HR rate down, this is the profile of a dominant pitcher, and someone who I look forward to seeing pitch in a Mariner uniform in October.

In May, I never would have believed it possible, but count me in now as a Weaver Believer.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Welcome Back Adam Jones! 

A smashing 2007 debut from Adam Jones yesterday! First, a big catch in the first inning showed his no-brainer value to the club as a defender. Then, his first at bat of 2007 is a solid single. But it got better.

In his second at bat, he fouled off pitch after pitch from Jon Lester and on the tenth pitch of the at bat, dunked a shot into left field for a hit (though against any other left fielder but Manny and probably Ibanez, it was probably an out). This at bat was seemingly the undoing of Lester as he walked Jose Lopez on four pitches (now THAT is hard to do!) and then gave up a 3-run blast to Yuniesky Betancourt to give the M's their first lead.

But he wasn't done yet. His speed on the basepath completely got under the Sox skin in the pivotal sixth inning. Leading off in a 4-4 game, Jones hit a slow roller to short, but his speed forced the shortstop to throw quickly and offline. Jones had to avoid a tag, ran past first base but managed to reach down and graze first with his fingertips. At this point, he had former Mariner Mike Timlin's full attention, who sent several throws over to first before unleashing a wild throw that allowed Jones to go to second. Timlin then fielded a weak Jose Lopez bunt (dude needs some serious work on his bunting), and attempted to throw out Jones at third, but Jones beat the tag.

A groundout later, Jones was crossing home plate, giving the Mariners the lead for good and the M's their NINTH STRAIGHT win over the Red Sox at Safeco. If the M's manage to make it eleven, this could be the biggest story backdrop of the playoffs. After the game, Jose Guillen, who had criticized the callup of Jones on Thursday made sure to be one of the first to run over to Jones and congratulate him on the job well done.

And while the M's management continues to say that Jones will not be a regular, this is a flawed team with enough holes that Adam could easily take the Mark McLemore route to near-full-time play in August, and be a "regular" in September. We now have a legitimate center fielder to give Ichiro some well deserved rest, and he'll also be used to spell Ibanez, Guillen, Vidro and Lopez (with Vidro or Bloomquist playing 2B). And when he doesn't start, Jones gives the team a big bat off the bench that can stay in the field, so look for more pinch-hitting in the 5th, 6th and 7th innings.

The Mariners still have holes and flaws, but yesterday, they got significantly better by adding one Adam Jones.

Baseball HQ followed up with yesterday's post with more details on Adam Jones:

Mariners call up top prospect Jones...In a long-awaited move, Seattle called up 22 year-old Adam Jones (OF, SEA) in time for Friday night's game against the Red Sox. Back in the spring, Baseball HQ Minor League Analyst Deric McKamey listed Jones as the top prospect in the Seattle organization, and ranked him as the 51st best prospect in all of baseball. Jones made his major-league debut in 2006, but he struggled badly, batting just .216 with a 70% contact rate and .242 xBA in 74 AB. Can we expect a better performance this time around?

Year AB BA HR SB bb% ct% h% Eye PX SX SBO
===== === ==== == == === === == ==== === === ===
2005# 228 .286 6 8 9 81 33 0.51 89 107 18%
2006* 454 .273 16 15 6 81 31 0.34 102 111 19%
2007+ 420 .314 25 8 8 75 37 0.34 N/A N/A 14%

*Includes MLEs
+Non-MLE Triple-A stats

The most interesting aspect of Jones's game right now is his surging power trend. We don't have an MLE PX mark for 2007, but using Linear Weighted Power, the basis for PX, he has a score of 53, which is very good. As the Baseball HQ glossary puts it, "Baseball's top sluggers usually top the 50 mark." However, the power increase has come at the expense of his contact rate. Trading contact for power isn't uncommon among young, developing hitters, but the drop in contact combined with his high hit rate calls into question the legitimacy of his .314 batting average. Jones's running game has also suffered this season -- not only has he been running less often, but his success rate has fallen from 76% to 53%. Overall, he looks like a typical young player, going through some bumps as he refines his strengths and weaknesses as a hitter.

The Mariners aren't declaring what Jones's role will be just yet (manager John McLaren said Jones is "not going to be an everyday player"), though it's a reasonable assumption to think that they didn't call him up just to have him sit on the bench. As Market Watch analyst Jock Thompson pointed out on Friday, Raul Ibanez (OF, SEA) could be the biggest playing time victim, due to his rapidly declining skills. Jones is a tempting target for the final two months, but he may still go through some growing pains, especially with the shifts we've seen in his skills this season. Long-term, his outlook remains strong, but don't overpay for the remainder of 2007.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Fanalytics Take on the Adam Jones Callup 

From Ron Shandler at the excellent Baseball HQ, comes one unbiased "fanalytical" opinion on what the callup of Adam Jones means.

Jones call-up threatens Ibanez’ playing time...When rumors first circulated regarding SEA uber-prospect Adam Jones’s (OF, SEA) MLB call-up shortly after the All-Star break, the conventional thinking was that the move would take playing time away from punchless Jose Vidro (DH, SEA). But while Vidro no longer hits for power, his .306 BA, .371 OBP and 91% ct% serves the #2 slot in the Mariner lineup well. Which is more than can be said for Raul Ibanez (OF, SEA) in the middle of the lineup these days.

Year AB BA xBA bb% ct% Eye PX HR OPS
==== === === === === === ==== === == ===
2005 614 .280 .284 10% 84% 0.57 98 20 791
2006 626 .289 .286 9% 82% 0.73 132 32 872
2007 364 .254 .255 8% 84% 0.51 94 6 701
Last 31 99 .192 .212 7% 77% 0.35 78 0 525

It’s clear now from the numbers two-thirds of the way through 2007 that Ibanez’ 2006 was a serious aberration, and that unless he's hiding an injury, he no even longer measures up to his 2005 performance. Both his Eye and power have declined, and his xBA along with a 29% h% suggests that his 2007 hasn’t been a product of bad luck. Thanks to Vidro’s lack of pop, and Richie Sexson’s (1B, SEA) sub-Mendoza-line performance, Ibanez may not take a permanent seat on the bench. But judging from the past month, he’s likely going to be there more often, and there’s nothing in his performance to-date that suggests that anyone should be too optimistic for a turnaround.

BaseballHQ analysis also thinks that Richie Sexson has been fairly unlucky on his hit rate, and while the power indicators have dropped a little, his BA should rebound.

And their last update on Jose Vidro...
7/15/2007 - Despite reports that he may soon be replaced, Vidro continues in lineup...Jose Vidro(DH, SEA) continues to play regularly despite a widely circulated report published in a Seattle newspaper during the All-Star break that he would soon be out of a starting role. Our concern here is the extent of Vidro's value, and whether his performance is likely to allow him to maintain his current role. To that end, Vidro's stats entering Saturday's play are displayed below:

=== == == == === === === === ===
305 44 89 3 26 292 357 354 711

Clearly, Vidro's surface numbers are not impressive, especially for a DH, a position occupied on most AL teams by a power bat. Vidro appears a bit of an anomaly for the position, with his meager three HR in 305 AB's. The Slugging Percentage is particularly low also. Let's examine the BPI's to enlighten the discussion:

BPIs: bb% ct% h% Eye PX SX xBA GB/LD/FB
=== === == ==== == == === ========
2005: 9% 90% 29% 1.03 92 47 315 44/25/31
2006: 8% 90% 31% 0.85 65 45 282 46/22/32
2007: 9% 91% 31% 1.19 40 33 226 53/17/30

While Vidro continues to maintain excellent strike-zone knowledge, and the ability to make contact, the type of contact he's making has changed. Vidro's power (PX), expected Batting Average (XBA), and Line-Drive percentage have eroded for two consecutive seasons from their 2005 levels. Each of the three indicators declined in 2006, then has declined even more precipitously this season. The XBA of .226 indicates that despite the relatively normal 31% hit rate, Vidro's .292 BA may be somewhat of a mirage. The low Line-Drive percentage, and virtually complete absence of power (PX=40) indicate that Vidro may have a difficult time maintaining the current BA level. Vidro is unlikely to provide much, if any, value moving forward despite his playing status.

So, a numeric analysis indicates that Raul Ibanez is likely to be the short-term loser of playing time with Richie Sexson losing PT at 1B. But that at some point soon, Vidro will slump, and one of those two will likely grab that playing time from our punchless DH.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Of Doyle and Conspiracy Theories 

I posted this in comments on Geoff Baker's blog, where we digressed into Chris Snelling/Doyle talk, somehow, and looking at it, its somewhat amusing.

I guess I accidentally started it when I wrote the FACT we got Jose Vidro "For $15M for two years. And for Chris Snelling". In hindsight, I shouldn't have mentioned it.

To which, Go Cougs responeded with the inflammatory post "Why the hand-wringing over Chris Snelling? Do you really think he's ever going to amount to anything? The guy can't stay healthy and can once again be found in his customary position on the 60 day DL. I wouldn't have grabbed a declining Vidro because of his salary but I don't think Bavasi gave up too much to get him." Sums up the Snelling was overrated camp nicely, doncha think, but nicely includes the personal attack on Doyle bound to raise the ire of Doylites.

thewyrm takes the bait and follows the USSM-inspired Cult of Doyle line, perfectly stating the case that Snelling is everything Vidro is, except younger, cheaper, and with upside. But missing the "MLB Veteran" shiny seal of approval. Eloquent and succinct.

And finally, Mr. X chimes in with the brilliant, "you can't spell Doyle without DL."

Amazing how the mere mention of Chris Snelling's name brings out this little microcosm of pro/con Doyle angst, and yet so eloquently summarized by four posts.

I'm wondering if anytime Snelling's name is mentioned if a similar capsulized debate breaks out. Kinda interesting, really. We M's fans are so well read that we know the opinions by heart and can pull them out at will. They may have originated as our own opinion, but through practice and repetition they do begin to sound alike.

A Conspiracy of Joses

The interesting thing to me, is, why did Bavasi make the Vidro for Snelling/Fruto trade in the first place. Bavasi knew how beloved Doyle was to the Mariner "blogosphere," and how they would hate this trade. He's taken the time to speak at USSM sponsored events and he knows the high regard they have for Doyle. But the hard-core fan who reads blogs is most likely not going to give up on the team at this point, even if they trade Snelling.

But, 11 days before trading for Jose Vidro, Bavasi signed one Jose Guillen, who now has gone out of his way to indicate his displeasure at the callup of Adam Jones. One Adam Jones whose presence directly threatens the playing time, not of Jose Guillen, but of Jose Vidro. Jose Guillen has been Jose Vidro's teammate for the past two (relatively calm for Guillen) years in Washington.

Coincidence? I think Guillen has got Vidro's back and somehow, for whatever reason, Bavasi wanted Guillen bad enough to take both Jose's in a package deal.

And knowing he was going to take the RF/DH package of Joses, Bavasi did the right thing for Chris Snelling. He gave him a chance at major league playing time by trading him to the Nationals. I don't think the Nationals even wanted him. Based on the amount the Nats played him (sparingly), and how quickly they shipped him off to Oakland, I truly believe the inclusion of Snelling in the deal was Bavasi's goal, and not the Nationals.

The next question would be, why would Bavasi want Guillen and Vidro over someone like Snelling and some other hitter. Guillen was the best bat available for a 1-year contract, and probably the best bat besides Soriano and Lee megacontracts on the market. Interestingly, he also has a history of fighting with his manager.

Somehow, the conspiracy theorist in me can't quite find the picture, but the pieces are there. Hargrove won't play Snelling. Ichiro suffered next to two rookie cneterfielders in another losing season. Ichiro threatens free agency. Guillen and Vidro are connected somehow and Bavasi gives up Snelling to acquire both Joses. Neither Jose sees the bench in first half when Vidro definitely deserved it. Hargrove resigns out of the blue. Within days, a happy Ichiro signs contract extension. Bavasi Mission Accomplished? Were these his goals for the first half of the season - lose Hargrove by giving the clubhouse over to the Joses, and thus keep Ichiro? Hmmm... And now, there purpose served, its time to make the playoffs. So lets get Adam Jones, and even trade for Jose Vidro's eventual replacement in Mark Loretta. Is Jason Ellison connected also? He's all-field, no stick, but supposedly another "good clubhouse guy" who has now served his purpose.

There is a pattern here, but I can't quite figure it out. But I prefer to think of my GM as an evil mastermind than a bumbling idiot so I'll continue to ponder...

Applauding the Front Office 

Reading comments at several forums, I see the Mariners front office being attacked for a lack of vision, saying they have no strategy. I think it is silly to say that the Mariners front office did not/does not have a strategy. We can certainly debate its merits, but the strategy is apparent.

Use big pockets to chase talent, but do not overspend on anyone. Buy quantity of pitchers, preferably groundball-throwing pitchers, and hope the quality shows itself over time. Use scouting reports from 2003 (tongue-in-cheek). Ride the veteran-laden offense and youth up the middle.

And to a large extent, the strategy HAS worked beautifully. Not too many pundits picked the M's to be in a pennant race in 2007.

Batista has been solid, post-DL Weaver has been solid, and HoRam has stunk. The relievers we sent in trade have been adequately replaced (despite whatever Sky is Falling cries you heard at the deadline) from within as we continue to grow relievers like wheat in Tacoma (next up... Mickolio). Plan B for this was to use Baek (to mixed results) and Feirabend. Maybe we'll see Jorge Campillo soon. Attack with quantity and hope to find quality.

Unfortunately, several key veterans (Sexson, Ibanez, Vidro) have regressed offensively and defensively.

But there has been a Plan B for that as well, as we are seeing with Ben Broussard and soon with Adam Jones. Perhaps we'll even see Wlad if Sexson/Ibanez/Vidro continue to struggle.

There are a couple of areas where there is no Plan B (or at least no Plan B other than WIllie B who is a great 25th man/pinch runner, but should not be getting 200 ABs for a contender). Middle infield not hitting seems to be one, and Bavasi is at least thinking about that as evidenced by his trade deadline pursuit of Mark Loretta. And of course, this plan goes up in flames if something should happen to King Felix.

We can quibble about how much rope the M's give the veterans, the lack of outs that we let George Sherrill throw, the in-game management.

But I don't think you can say that there hasn't been a plan, and one that is fairly well executed. Use our pocketbooks to pursue bats, grow relievers in the farm, and exploit Safeco's cavernous outfield by going quantity over quality (many at $8M instead of 1 at $16M) in the rotation. Dig for pitching, but don't give up the future for a 3-month rental.

The M's are just entering the realm of competitiveness again. And while we need starting pitching, the other positions where we are weak are the easiest to fill (DH, 1B, LF) in the future. Our core up the middle is solid and signed for years, with a true ace and a lights-out bullpen. Jones could be another piece of the championship puzzle.

All in all, we've taken a significant step forward this year. If you are reading this, that is proof enough, as you are obviously hungry to read anything about the Mariners. The Mariners are relevent again. Enjoy!

Adam Jones To The Rescue! 

McLaren in postgame has indicated that Adam Jones will be in a Mariner uniform on Friday. Jason Ellison will be DFA'd.

No word yet on his role.

His role better be starting in the outfield.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Trade Deadline Comes and Goes 

Well, the blogosphere has covered this pretty well, with USSM and LL both ecstatic that Bavasi at least did nothing to hurt the team, while Dr. Detecto laments that no moves were made during a playoff push.

I tend to side with the "glad nothin happened" group, as the cost of pitching seemed way to extreme when contrasted with our needs. To give up a top prospect for 20 innings of Al Reyes seems the equivalent as the offseason gaffe of giving up Rafael Soriano for HoRam.

And its not like out relief pitching has been the problem this year. Heck, as inconsistent as the starting pitching has been, they have been solid for the past two months, with mostly postitive outings.

I would contend that the M's are going to live or die, make the playoffs or not, based on the strength of their bats in August and September. Right now, it is apparent that this improvement will have to come from within. And the M's brass seems to agree as the apparent platoon of Ben Broussard with Richie Sexson begins tonight, and Bavasi mentioned yesterday that Adam Jones is "in play". And this is right in line with the drums the blogosphere have been beating for months. Jones for Ibanez in left, make platoon mates of Broussard and Sexson, Ibanez and Guillen, and give Vidro less playing time.

But what was MOST interesting for the trade deadline is that our last minute efforts were spent trying to add a middle infielder, in the form of Mark Loretta. This shows the glaring offensive hole that has been our young middle infield, and that Bavasi wants to provide at least a non-Bloomquist option for the middle infield as well. The indications seem to be that the Astros pulled Loretta back at the last minute, probably because they realized how low the market on hitters had fallen.

Too me, this attempt to get Loretta hints that the callup of Adam Jones may NOT be imminent. If the team acquired Loretta, then who gets released? Jason Ellison seems to be the logical choice. But then who gets released for Jones? Unless the M's are ready to give up on Vidro or go to a 6-man bench.

I'd like to think that the plan would have been to still call up Jones (tomorrow?) and go to a longer bench, while exposing Vidro (or Sexson) to waivers to see if they can shed one of those contracts in an August deal. But I'm guessing this would have even further delayed the arrival of Jones.

Or would it have meant a demotion for Yuni or Jose?

If done properly, I think it would have been a good move for this team. We have little depth in middle infield as Vidro shouldn't be playing 2B anymore, and I'd much rather Willie B stick to pinch-running. Yuni and Jose could use something to push them, and better depth behind them in case of injury or slump.

And Loretta could easily be available in August, so this move may only be delayed for now. Hopefully Lopez and Betancourt use this to motivate themselves to a stronger stretch run. We could use more run-scoring from the bottom of the lineup!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?