Wilson signs with Reds – 2y, $8m!

November 30, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 26 Comments 

Paul Wilson, that is. Sorry, slow news week.

Ichiro at the Key

November 28, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 38 Comments 

As noted here, Ichiro was indeed at the Sonics game tonight. He got a long standing ovation when first announced, though he had to be prodded into even standing up in the first place. Later in the game, Squatch convinced him to throw t-shirts into the crowd. Unlike when Bret Boone did the same thing a few years ago, Ichiro didn’t go all out and try to hit the upper bowl; he seemed content to lob them to the rich folk. He actually looked more comfortable than I thought he would, given how much we’ve heard about his desire for privacy, etc. As far as I could tell, Ichiro and his wife were seated between Mr. and Mrs. Howard Schultz. Perhaps there’s some sort of Ichiro-Starbucks marketing deal in the works.

Umpire negotiations

November 28, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 19 Comments 

The 2000 agreement with the World Umpires Association expires December 31st. There’s been remarkably little rumblings about this, which I hope is a good thing. The quality of umpiring has improved dramatically in four years since Richie Phillips botched a labor action (having agreed to not take collective labor action in the agreement his union signed with baseball, he encouraged umpires to resign together to force a new contract and MLB, sensing opportunity, accepted the resignations and… well, there’s a new union now).

The only substantial issue I can see is the conflict between MLB’s quest to make umpiring better through the application of technology (through Questec) and the union’s opposition to any evaluation based on what they believe is badly flawed technology.

This isn’t as simple as it would seem at first. The union, in trying to protect the interests of its current members, doesn’t want outside evaluation because it gives the evaluating body power over compensation and, potentially, promotion and post-season assignements. MLB wants umps to call the strike zone consistently, and is willing to apply technology to solve the problem.

What’s different about this year from 2000 and previous negotiations is that WUA’s consistently demonstrated that they’re willing to improve the quality of their work, and their work has made the game itself better. If they and baseball can look at this contentious issue and try to find a way to incorporate advancements with the goal of making umpiring better, there’s an agreeable compromise to be found.

The Kendall trade

November 27, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 59 Comments 

Now that it’s official, here’s the scoop:

C-R Jason Kendall to Oakland
LHP Arthur Rhodes, LHP Mark Redman to Pittsburgh

Kendall, 30, is a California boy who wanted to get closer to home anyway.

As to the financials… it depends on what you read. Redman has about $8m on his contract for 2005-2006, while Rhodes due about $6m over the same two years. Kendall, supposedly, has about $34m over three years. So it would seem to be
2005: A’s take on ~+3m
2006: A’s take on ~+3m
2007: A’s take on some huge chunk of money ($17m?)

I’ve heard the Pirates are taking on money, and also that they’re only on the hook for a big chunk of 2007. I’ve also read that the A’s actually pay the Pirates for 2005-2006. At some point, the particulars will emerge.

It’s a huge deal for the A’s, and I think it demonstrates again that Beane’s willing to think sideways in a way we haven’t seen in Seattle. Last year, he (as I did) thought Rhodes would rebound and again become a top-flight reliever, and possibly could be used as a closer and then converted into something shiny. He was also part of an attempt by Oakland to corner the market on servicable lefties to (I guess) trade to contenders or… I’m not sure, and this part wasn’t a particularly well-thought-out idea. What’s important to note is that the A’s were stuck with this contract, and were going to pay Rhodes to stink or swim for the next couple of years, when they’re chock full of potential relievers who could do that job for much less.

And Redman… he’s enjoyed some success, and I’ll leave the detailed scouting reports to others, but he just doesn’t get the Ks. At 30, looking at the possibilities to take a rotation slot for the A’s, Beane probably figured Redman wasn’t a good enough bet to enjoy continued success compared to the others and felt he could move him. He was the least valuable of the five guys that took regular turns last year.

At this point, stop for a second. The A’s just traded one of their big starters. What happens now? If Beane doesn’t make any more moves, their rotation will run Hudson-Mulder-Harden-Zito-scrub, where Scrub will actually be pretty good.

In the meantime, Damian Miller signed a three-year, $8.75m deal. Jason Varitek’s asking for $200m/20y last I heard a Boras quote.

Last year’s VORP for these guys:
Jason Kendall, 47.5
Jason Varitek, 46.0
Damian Miller, 16.8

As others have noted in the Miller thread, the bulk of catchers out there are 31 and up and not at all exciting. I’m sure there’s a lot of difference in the skill sets between Blanco and Bako, but in the end, there’s not a lot of performance difference.

Billy Beane, for $3m/year, acquired a 30 year old, top-5 catcher for the next three years without significantly degrading his team.

The Pirates get a starter, a reliever they still might be able to find a home for, and now they’re out of excuses.

As Pittsburgh GM Dave Littlefield said, “the formula of one player eating up a significant portion of the payroll just doesn’t work. The easiest example and most recent is A-Rod in Texas. When one player makes up a significant portion of payroll, it’s not a formula for long-term success.”

That’s not true, obviously, because Alex earned his money in Texas, and those problems weren’t caused by him. But it’s an easy line to advance. Beyond being wrong, though, it’s just not cool to blame players in situations like this. It’s the team’s fault they offered Kendall so much money, if it turns out he wasn’t worth it. For years now they’ve pointed at Kendall and said “here’s the source of our problems” and that stinks.

The new problem is that now where they had a well-paid (perhaps too well-paid, sure) premier player and an excuse, now they have Arthur Rhodes and Mark Redman, and if they don’t improve, what are they going to point to then? The Pirates are now without a catcher, and they’re probably going to spend what the A’s took on in salary to get someone far inferior to Kendall. What good is that?

As for the Mariners angle, there are two:
The A’s again demonstrated that, given an opportunity anywhere in baseball with a team that will pick up a phone, they’ll try and get themselves in on the deal. Especially in a situation like this, where a team’s determined to get rid of a player or improve in some particular area, the A’s will be there with four different ways to solve the other team’s problem, and being to wear them down until a deal’s made.

Does anyone really believe that the Mariners couldn’t have made this deal, with their huge available cash reserves and array of even-cheaper options to trade to the Pirates? They have no catcher now — wouldn’t they want Olivo? And a left-handed reliever? We’ve got Guardado, for one, on a cheaper deal than Rhodes. A starter? There’s a couple of options, though none with Redman’s pedigree — but what about Moyer and his expiring contract? Or one of our crop of young Tacoma/Seattle starters from last year?

If the team’s pursuing old, expensive upgrades, why not this younger, less-expensive upgrade at a premium position where he wouldn’t be blocking any young, cheap options? Sure, we’re not California, but it’s a heck of a lot faster to fly down there, and you don’t have to connect anywhere.

Tip of the cap to the A’s for this one.

Continuing outages

November 27, 2004 · Filed Under Site information · 17 Comments 

I’ve been hoping this would clear up before I felt like I had to post about it, but — yes, our provider’s been having problems, resulting in people getting no page/database cannot connect messages/etc.

Sorry. They’re aware of it, the server’s being looked at, so… we’ll see, I guess. I’m not sure at this point if I need to work up a spec sheet and then start asking people for hosting recommendations or just chill for a while, and since I’ve got so much else to do, I think I’m going to chill.

Anyway — apologies, as always, for the troubles. I’m working on it.

Sexson and Delgado

November 27, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 30 Comments 

You’ve all seen the story, by now.

I don’t believe the team is actually going to sign both Delgado and Sexson, so rather than break down why this would be a bad move, we’ll just say we’re against this strategy and leave it at that. Signing Delgado and Sexson, then calling it an offseason, would just about cement the M’s status as the worst team in the AL West for 2005 and 2006.

Spend now or spend later

November 27, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 8 Comments 

This seems to come up a lot, so–

Given the conditions the team is operating under:
– Has $90m next year
– That money disappears if they don’t spend it. Can’t be saved, or invested, or used in any other way but payroll.
– Won’t be competitive until 2006 most likely

I don’t agree with how the team arrived at the first two, but they’re not changing. What happens then?

At the end of 2005, when they survey the team, the last thing we need is two, three more Ibanez/Spiezio deals clogging the team’s ability to make moves to put the next good team together.

The team either needs to invest in young, top-talent free agents who will still be good values for the 2006 Mariners, or spend that money any way they want on short-term fixes.

Seriously. Stock the bullpen with a ton of random free agent relievers. Sign injury risks to one-year deals. Then if the team’s not competitive, trade any of the good performers for prospects.

The worst thing the Mariners could do this off-season is to take the money that’s burning a hole in their pocket. I frankly don’t care if they spend all of that $90m or not as long as they stay out of their own way. If all the good free agents sign elsewhere, I would rather that the Mariners pocketed that money, as much as it galls me, than offer Sexson a long-term deal.

Their reaction to fan disappointment last season is a mixed blessing. They know they have to do something, and that’s encouraging to the outsider. But their drive to do something — anything — is cause for concern. Making fans feel like the team really went for it in 2005 is not worth sacrificing 2006 for.

And moreover, these moves… fans may feel re-assured by the moves, but they’ll feel better when the team wins. If every year the team leaves itself only 10-12m to work with, brings in a couple of veterans, and complains about the salary burden of bad moves of the last 1-3 years, eventually fans won’t care which random veterans the team’s dragging in.

Continuing FA speculation

November 26, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 27 Comments 

I never know how to title these kind of follow-up posts.

On the ownership thing (which, patting ourselves on the back, we beat everyone to, because our Japanese readers tip us off way early): the Times carries an AP piece (hey — we beat AP by hours yesterday. Hee hee hee.)

Over at the P.I., continuing their tradition of whipping the Times in both quality and quantity of Mariner coverage, Art Theil writes a short piece that — HOLY MACKERAL — expands on what we already know. He went out and got quotes and new information and everything.

This cracks me up. Anyway, from Thiel: Yamauchi remains “the club’s titular head”. Thiel also scratches out some numbers on the hidden-ownership thing:

A source familiar with Mariners ownership said NOA already owned about 22 percent, which makes the corporation about a 54 percent majority owner of the franchise.

Kudos to you, Art Thiel.

At the same paper, John Hickey’s column givesupdates on FA stuff. They’re looking for Delgado to bat third, followed by Richie Sexson or Troy Glaus.

Which seems weird that you’d get both Delgado and then Sexson, since Delgado makes Sexson totally pointless. Wait, though, Hickey anticipates this question:

The Mariners can add two first baseman if they so choose because they are looking for both a first baseman and a designated hitter this off-season.

Don’t we have some guy… Bucky, mashes the ball for $0?

My favorite Hickey sentence:

If they could make those additions of proven home run hitters in the middle of the lineup, the Mariners would be able to compete with the rest of the power brokers in the American League West.

If you figure Sexson’s arm stays on, and Delgado’s knee holds up, and Sexson’s power translates, it’s still a stretch. Let’s be generous and say that’s ~+40 HR (M’s as 1b: 15 HR, as DH: 16 HR). And say the other teams in the AL West get the same HR totals.

Texas, 227 HR
Oakland, 189 HR
Seattle, 176 HR
Anaheim, 162 HR

Uh, little ways to go still. It is hard to believe how little power was on this team last year, I know. They were one home run (I like to think it was Leone or Bucky) away from last place in all of MLB.

Anyway, Hickey also mentiones that Pavano’s coming to town next week, and they’re looking at Lieber. I think the team should bring potential free agents to town during August, rather than… now. Seattle’s great, but when it’s 50 and raining, we have a hard time competing with (for instance) LA, San Diego, Phoenix, and any team in Texas, or Florida.

Bob Finnigan wrote on Wednesday that the M’s are focused on

first baseman Carlos Delgado, third baseman Corey Koskie and pitchers Jaret Wright, Jon Lieber, Ron Villone and Carl Pavano.

Also (and I’m shocked no one sent this to us):

Right now, the backup catcher is Wiki Gonzalez, who is very similar to Olivo — tough and talented but in need of considerable work. […] Some in the organization say Gonzalez, who came from San Diego in the Jeff Cirillo deal, could be a sleeper.

In that he’s asleep a lot? Because the scuttlebutt on Wiki was that he was the Laziest Man in Baseball, and had the coveted embossed satin pillow to prove it.

Also… Wiki’s 31 now. That’s not “need of considerable work” anymore.

The Mariners have new owners

November 25, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 29 Comments 

Nintendo of America has bought out the shares of former President Hiroshi Yamauchi. Japan Today has a story. If the stories out so far are correct, he sold his remaining shares for $67m sometime in August, putting Nintendo’s direct share over 50%.

Now, without details of past transactions, we can’t know what he’d sold of his majority ownership interest before that, and for how much. Given the restructuring of the ownership group since 1992, the current valuation of the franchise, and so on, we can be reasonably sure that he’s not selling 51% of the club for $67m — this is the last chunk that puts NoA in control.

This is an interesting development. Yamauchi (as you can read in Art Thiel’s book) rarely took an active role in franchise affairs, only once in a while intervening when Japanese players were involved. He left the management of his team to Ellis and then Lincoln, and we’ve seen their management of the team. It’s unlikely that Nintendo would attempt to depose the team’s leadership soon, but as a Redmond company they’re far, far more likely to pay more attention to what their massive investment in the team is doing than Yamauchi did, and that could be good if their interests coincide with ours, and it could be bad, if they want to look at it as a pure investment.

Also, there will probably be more sightings of Mario and Yoshi around the park next year.

Thank you, Mr. Yamauchi. You don’t get enough credit for your contribution to Seattle baseball. They far outweigh anything anyone else has achieved here. I’m glad you were willing to be the better man and ignore baseball’s insult in taking your money without letting you run the team when you were the largest part of the group that purchased the team in 1992. I’m happy that your management of the franchise eventually convinced baseball to remove their small-minded objections to ownership of teams by those who aren’t Americans, or Canadians, or companies from one of those two countries.

And particularly, I thank you for having the foresight to see that Ichiro would be a star here, and for having the courage to force the issue. Everyone in Seattle should appreciate that we would not be inspired every game by his great play were it not for your investment to bring him to the Mariners.


The 2004 defense post

November 24, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 21 Comments 

Updated! Now with more goodness! I’ve mentioned I’ve been working on this a couple of times before, and I’m going to go ahead and post instead of waiting for good defensive stats to come out.

The 2004 Mariners finished 2nd in the AL and 6th in the major leagues in defensive efficiency, which is how many balls in play were turned into outs. Now, park effects have something to do with this, but it remains true that the team played good defense. And yet, you’ll remember that I said some terrible, terrible things about Randy Winn to start the season, and early in the year I bitched constantly about what a terrible defense the team was putting on the field.

So what happened?

There were two things. Dave’s mentioned this repeatedly, but I’ll echo him once more: the 2003 team played spectacularly good defense. The outfield, in particular, was best-in-baseball good, by a long way. The dropoff from 2004 to even being a modest top-third defense was huge, and as fans we reacted to that. It was entirely understandable.

The other big thing that happened over last year, was that they got better. Apx Batting average on balls hit into play*, by month:
April .301
May .266
June .271
July .287
August .279
September .259
October .313

* as I couldn’t get complete split data, I used hits/balls in play, with balls in play as outs-k+h-hr

Now, while it doesn’t break down so clearly, you can see the team starts out terribly, gets much better, is okay, then really plays well in September.

A lot of this is Randy Winn. Winn started the year not just worse-than-Cameron, but flat bad. By the end of the year, he was good out there. As good as you can be with that arm, anyway. That overall, I think defensive metrics will show Winn had an above-average defensive season for the position is amazing, because he really did suck early on.

Ibanez was not as bad I expected in left. From Winn, he’s a huge step down, certainly, but I think he too was playing left far better at the end of the year than he was when he started out.

The changes in player personell helped: Jolbert Cabrera, ride him for his bat as I may, helped defensively as he got more playing time after the first month. Spiezio’s defense contributed up, and using him as a 3B/1B player worked well. Between these guys, the anticipated step down from Olerud didn’t happen — if anything, the team got better.

At short, I think Aurilia was better than Lopez, though we’ll see if the stats end up bearing that out, but the team didn’t miss Aurilia at all.

Boone. Ah. This is totally subjective, and there’s no way defensive statistics are ever going to be able to get this fine. But he seemed to be streaky defensively, even more so than you’d expect from a fired-up dude like Boone. Game-to-game, he was hauling baggage around, but when he looked good, he seemed to keep his head in things and not make the boneheaded blunders that were his undoing this year.

I got a little, uh, frustrated not having good numbers, so… it’s bad number time! Range factors and zone ratings are badly flawed ways to compare defense, unless you’re comparing teammates… which I am. Then they’re only sort of bad. Note particularly that in what I’m doing, playing time drops quickly, so the sample on the top guy is much better… anyway, check this out.

First base
Who, Fielding Percentage, Range Factor, Zone Rating
Oleud, .998, 8.38, .843
Spiezio, .986, 8.87, .830
Bucky, .984, 9.31, .778
Jolbert, 1.000, 9.50, .931

Bucky’s ZR looks bad, but other than that the surprise is that Cabrera does look pretty sweet out there, whils Spiezio’s indeed about Olerud’s level. Raul Ibanez, by the way, comes out awful. Like.. Frank Thomas bad.

Second base
Who, Fielding Percentage, Range Factor, Zone Rating
Boone, .978, 4.33, .790
Cabrera, .987, 4.99, .867

Okay, here’s the Boone-off, then
2003 Boone: .990, 4.54, .814
2002 Boone: .989, 4.36, .843

Big decline for Boone this year — consider he’s playing behind substantially the same staff this year as last, too, so that sticks.

Surprising is that Cabrera, caddying, embarassed Boone.

Third base (200+ IP)
Who, Fielding Percentage, Range Factor, Zone Rating
Spiezio, .964, 2.86, .771
Cabrera, .970, 3.11, .864
Leone, .901, 2.71, .773
WFB, .923, 2.44, .683

Hee hee hee. Bloomquist got outplayed by Justin Leone.

What’s also interesting is to see that everywhere there’s enough innings I’m comfortable even looking at the stats, Cabrera shines.

So, to the outfield…
Left field, Ibanez < < Winn, but we knew that. Center field, Winn, Bocachica and Reed all look about the same, in differnt ways -- weirdly, RF and ZR disagree badly, rating them RF: Reed (huge drop), Winn, Bocachica ZR: Bocachica (big drop), Reed, Winn Generally speaking, here's my caveat on these defensive stats: almost no defensive stat, bad or not, will hide a truly bad or stellar player. When you're working with range factor and zone rating, huge difference are worth paying attention, but like we see here in center field, where there are three guys who appear like they about the same for the position, it's a wash. At that point we want to go to the play-by-play data, which I don't have. Once again, if anyone wants to give USSM many, many millions of dollars in venture funding without the expectation of any return, we'll be happy to look into providing that data. So anyway, how's that for not being a rabid stathead, huh? It's also possible the defensive misadventures of Olivo forced the team to pay more attention with runners on... heh. I learned a couple of important things from all of this. First, defense is amazingly important. The difference between a 2003 OF and a 2004 version, just defensively, is like adding a star player. You can use defense to cover the weaknesses of your pitchers (turning Hasegawa, Franklin, say, into effective pitchers) beyond just preventing runs. And second, defense may be more pliable than offense. In April, I would have guessed that Winn would have finished the season maybe ten runs defensively below an average center fielder. He did much better than that. Which is weird, because I'm a sucker for position switches and think teams should be much more willing to swap guys around, if their defensive skills suit a switch. It would seem that there is some value in leaving a guy out there and having a coach yell at them as they shag balls. In any event, I'm going to be very interested to see what the 2004 play-by-play stats like UZR say about this team.

Next Page »