How’s this for cool: while I was working on site migration tonight, I was listening to the Presidents of the United States of America. Now, having called it quits for the night, I find we’re on their links page.
I’m grinning like a moron.
Every manager’s got their own strength and weaknesses. In light of the Royals sending a pixalated dog into the dugout to flush out M’s so they could be beaned ala Duck Hunt for the NES, I wanted to wistfully remember Lou Piniella, who kept guys on in the bullpen for their willingness to go in and plunk somebody and immediately be ejected. Bobby Ayala, Frankie Rodriguez… Lou’s mercurial nature had its drawbacks, but I like to think after Ichiro went down everyone would have cleared out of the park, because fastballs were going to be a-flying.
Now, I don’t know if that’s a deterrent or not, but… like many of the Piniella v Melvin comparisons, at least there was some comfort in knowing that Piniella cared, and was seething with the same frustration.
Derek is the man. Hooray for USSM 2.0
Ichiro is 7 for 10 since getting a concussion. Seriously, this whole stretch has just been absurd.
You’ll note the page looks dramatically different. This is the second phase of the U.S.S. Mariner improvement program. We’ve moved from blogger. While we complained a little about how slow pages were loading there, etc., one of the other things that was going on was that it was frequently impossible for us to log in to make posts, we had weird problems with double-posting (resulting in the ever-popular “You guys can’t be that smart if you’re double-posting HA HA HA 0wn3d!!” email), etc. Now we’re on WordPress, so we control the tools, the site, storage… and, unfortunately for me, we’re on the hook for our own bandwith, and I’m thinking about shutting boeing.com access off because you engineers can’t stop reloading the page every hour (I’m kidding! Big shout out to the Lazy B!).
If you’re visiting the site this weekend, you’ll see the links built back up as I port those over, and the template will continue to be tweaked into shape.
You’ll note I enabled comments but did not launch forums. I decided not to implement forums after I cruised around looking at what other M’s forums were offering and decided it wasn’t worth it. We don’t have the time or resources to moderate forums, and while I had a dream of building a really great Mariner discussion community as part of this project, I just can’t do it. Sorry.
And as long as I’m being open about the rationale behind things, I’m pessimistic comments are going to be up for long, either. At a certain size, it becomes impossible to leave those things open, because you’re too attractive for spammers, trollers, and the like. I haven’t disclosed site traffic sites (and won’t) but we’re past that point.
It is my hope that the exceptionally high quality of our reader base will be reflected in quality of comments and thus will allow them to survive.
We’ll see. There may also be a problem where comments (and the associated cost in having people frequently reload for updated discussions) cost me too much in bandwith.
I’ll keep everyone updated. Back to baseball.
AJ Zapp exploded last night. Tacoma’s 1B went 5-5 with a double and two homers, including a game-winning grand slam. He scored three times and drove in nine. He now has hits in eight consecutive at-bats. He’s not on the 40-man roster, but probably deserves a call-up… I’m not one to get hung up on defensive contributions at 1B, but Zapp’s quite a bit better than Jacobsen out there. Oh, and he can hit a little bit, too: .296/.366/.531 season line.
One of the drums we banged the loudest last year was the value of Mike Cameron, probably the most underrated part of the Mariners success the past four years. The low batting averages and high strikeout totals frustrated fans and announcers, leading to proclamations of his lack of clutchness and poor offensive contributions. When he hit .253 with 18 HR, 76 RBI, and 137 strikeouts, the organization decided that they wanted to go another direction in center field. They preferred Randy Winn’s contact ability and Raul Ibanez’s left-handed power and felt that Ibanez and Winn would provide better value than a Cameron/Winn tandem. Nearly every local media writer agreed with the Mariners, and Cameron was unceremoniously shoved out the door without even an offer of arbitration.
But you already know all this. What you may not know is just how bad a decision that has turned out to be, as Mike Cameron has turned into a force offensively in NY while continuing to play the best defense of any player in the game. His impact on the Mets cannot be overstated, and yet, because he is hitting .239 and is on pace for 150 strikeouts, no one is talking about him. So, consider this an ode to Mike Cameron, the biggest missing piece from the days when the Mariners were good.
Cameron is hitting .239/.338/.500 for the season, which gives him the 5th best OPS in baseball among center fielders. Only Jim Edmonds, Carlos Beltran, Andruw Jones, and Johnny Damon have higher marks. His EqA is .289, matched only by the above four as well as Mark Kotsay and Milton Bradley. Cameron has been worth 26 runs above a replacement level center fielder offensively. In comparison, Randy Winn has been worth 23 and Raul Ibanez has been worth 12 over a replacement level left fielder.
Cameron has done all this despite playing through a broken hand in May, which limited his contributions to a .169/.258/.313 mark during that month. Since the all-star break, he’s hitting .261/.355/.622, and his OPS is north of 1.000 for July and August. For those who think that his statistics hide the fact that he doesn’t do the little things, he’s also 20 for 24 in stolen bases and is hitting .261/.368/.500 with runners on base, compared to .220/.312/.500 with no one on. The clutch argument doesn’t hold any water. His lack of contact doesn’t stop him from being an offensive force. Put him on the 2004 Mariners and he’d be the second best hitter for the season, ranking behind only Ichiro! (Bucky’s been better in much more limited time).
And remember, offense is the weakness of Mike Cameron’s game. We ran these stats during the first few months to show just how much of a difference Cameron made on the Mariners ability to translate fly balls into outs, but haven’t run them lately. It’s time for an update.
Doubles + Triples Allowed Per Game:
2003 Mariners: 1.44
2004 Mariners: 2.06
2003 Mets: 2.22
2004 Mets: 1.80
The Mariners are allowing 30 percent more doubles and triples this year than last. The Mets are allowing 23 percent less than they were last year.
At-Bats divided by Doubles + Triples Allowed
2003 Mariners: 23.19
2004 Mariners: 16.97
2003 Mets: 15.29
2004 Mets: 18.29
It takes 6 less at-bats to get a double or a triple against the M’s this year than it did last year. It takes 3 more at-bats to get a double or triple against the Mets than it did last year.
Individual Mariner Pitchers Batting Averages on Balls In Play:
2003 Ryan Franklin: .250
2004 Ryan Franklin: .304
2003 Joel Pineiro: .276
2004 Joel Pineiro: .299
2003 Jamie Moyer: .272
2004 Jamie Moyer: .266
2003 Gil Meche: .285
2004 Gil Meche: .338
2003 Freddy Garcia: .277
2004 Freddy Garcia: .278
2003 Shigetoshi Hasegawa: .251
2004 Shigetoshi Hasegawa: .303
2003 Julio Mateo: .240
2004 Julio Mateo: .281
With the exception of Jamie Moyer, every holdover from last year’s pitching staff saw an increase in the amount of balls in play that were going for hits. Most of those increases were dramatic. You can tie the collapse of Franklin, Hasegawa, and Mateo directly to the weakened defense. It was clear to just about everyone not working in the Mariners front office that Hasegawa and Franklin were products of their teammates and would fall apart in 2004. Googling the archives of any of the M’s blogs shows this analysis was being done in the blogosphere long before the collapses inevitably occurred.
Individual Mets Pitchers Batting Averages on Balls in Play:
2003 Tom Glavine: .303
2004 Tom Glavine: .261
2003 Al Leiter: .308
2004 Al Leiter: .230
2003 Steve Trachsel: .280
2004 Steve Trachsel: .283
2003 Jae Seo: .285
2004 Jae Seo: .310
The Mets pitching staff had a lot of turnover, so I just compared the four starters from both seasons. Glavine and Leiter have experienced an enormous lift from their defense. Their resurgance is almost entirely due to improved fielding behind them.
The pattern is just beyond clear. The Mets outfield defense has increased significantly while the Mariners has plummeted. The collapse of the Mariners pitching staff is directly tied to Mike Cameron’s new zip code, and the experiment with Randy Winn in CF and Raul Ibanez in LF behind contact pitchers has failed miserably. Winn has improved as the season has gone along and the M’s performance isn’t as bad as it was the first month of the season, but it’s still evident that this is not an acceptable outfield for the Mariners to play everyday.
Meanwhile, when you combine the fact that Mike Cameron has created 26 runs with his bat and saved another 20 with his glove, he becomes one of the most valuable players in the game. Despite hitting .239 and striking out 150 times. We miss you, Mike.