Nellie back!

January 30, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 99 Comments 

Our long nightmare is over, as Jeff Nelson appears to be close to signing a minor league deal.

Now, Nelson hasn’t been effective for a while, but when he was in Safeco he was much more of a fly-ball pitcher than he’s been over the course of his career… and also enjoyed success here, especially beating up on right-handed hitters. If there was some difference in his approach or pitch selection and that wasn’t just a fluke, then maybe he goes back to it and a Winn-Reed-Ichiro! defense helps him out a lot. That seems unlikely though.

That said, he’s not getting the strikeouts like he used to. I’d be surprised if he was able to crack the bullpen, or return to effectiveness.

Newham on moving up Felix

January 30, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 58 Comments 

Ahhh, the Seattle Times. Blaine Newham’s column today advocates starting Felix.

If it were any other sport, Felix Hernandez would be penciled into this season’s starting rotation for the Seattle Mariners.

Hey, here’s the thing, and I’m not sure if you’re up on this… those other sports don’t have minor league systems. Football has a practice squad, that’s pretty much it. Basketball teams don’t have many levels of quality leagues they can advance prospects through.

Felix Hernandez will be 19 on April 8, the day the Mariners play the fourth game of the season against Texas at Safeco Field.

I’d hand Hernandez the ball. The fourth spot in the rotation is perfect for him, perfect for the top-rated pitching prospect in baseball, perfect for what may well be a once-in-a-decade talent.

The fourth spot? Why the fourth spot? Is there something about the fourth spot that makes it special — perfect — for a once-in-a-decade talent?

I’ve never understood the weird fixation on 1/2/3/4/5 “roles” as if those pitchers did different things. The ace v ace thing happens once at the start of the season and then everyone’s rotations drift apart. The #5 guy might be someone who can pitch out of the bullpen if you’re going to skip them when you can, but almost everyone sticks to a strict 5-man rotation now, so that’s not as important either. And for any given team, there are other considerations that tie into team construction, like G/F pitchers, L/R, whatever.

But all five starters have the same job. There’s no reason a pitcher that does well in the second slot would do worse in the third, or better in the fourth. The rotation slots are almost titles. They have no effect on a pitcher’s ability to perform.

There might be, frankly, less pressure on him knowing he was in the big leagues than there would be on him trying to get there from Tacoma, especially on a cold, rainy night.

What? How… what?

And then — it’s not important.

What’s bizarre aboutt his article is that the Mariners come off, organizationally, as well-prepared and intelligent. They’ve considered the possibility that he’s going to light it up in spring training. They want to continue to closely monitor his usage, and protect his health. They don’t want to rush him.

Yet here’s Newham arguing, who’s convinced that King Felix should be the #4 starter (again, why #4?) based on… I don’t know what, a quick persual of the stat lines and a read-through of a Baseball America profile (or our site, possibly). He’ll mention arbitration, etc, without really touching on why that’s important (King Felix facing free agency in, say, five years at *24* with his best years likely still way ahead of him) and what issues declaring him the starter right now creates for the team.

“Why won’t you put Felix Hernandez in the starting rotation?”
“Well, Blaine, that may happen, but there are a couple of excellent reasons why we’re reluctant to do that.”
“You and your excellent reasons! I’m going to go write a column that shows you’re taking a responsible and reasonable approach! And I’ll argue against it!”
“Um, okayyyy….”

Seattle Times on Olkin

January 29, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 38 Comments 

Larry Stone follows USSM and the Oregonian a week late with a nice little piece with choice quotes from Olkin and a good bit of background.

PECOTA and the 2005 outfield

January 27, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 43 Comments 

So the 2005 PECOTAs are out and available to BP subscribers. Here’s the interesting bit –I almost wonder if it ran the same stat lines three times for the outfield.

Ibanez: .270 .324 .420
Reed: .286 .353 .423
Winn: .277 .337 .420

Yeaaaaghhhh. Play Reed! Play Reed!

Mike Cameron, btw: .253 .348 .461 in Shea. Hee hee hee.
Ichiro! .311 .355 .415

Others have noted this, but this is the weakness of a system that relies on similarity projections. Ichiro is so far removed from other players that finding anyone like him has the unfortunate side effect of dragging him back to the pack. Does that make sense? How about this: if you try and locate a position by triangulation, that works best if you can get three sources in different directions the position. The closer they are, the worse your ability to locate.

Ichiro! is at the north pole. The pack is all in Vermont, say.

One thing I want to note — there is no meaning behind these, or any other projections. They’re spit out by a computer, and should be attached all the prophetic value of weather forecasts. If it spits out something you agree with, that doesn’t mean it’s right and that it’s made a realistic projection (because you don’t, and can’t, and won’t ever, know what that is) and if it projects something bizarre, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, in the same sense.

If you’re a real geek about this stuff, like me, and you read the forecast discussions on the NOAA web site, you can spend some time once the cards are published picking apart the “why” of the forecast. For instance, if you look at Beltre’s low projections and see that PECOTA’s picked a bunch of players of modest talent who started fast, burned out, and then had a career year, you might reasonably disagree on the basis of who got picked.

But that a particular forecast came out in some way does not validate or refute any particular view. 1+1 doesn’t = 2 because it’s got better lineup support this year. If you re-run PECOTA forecasts on the same set of data, you would get the same numbers. It’s a complicated formula, an algorithm for making guesses. Its reasoning reflects its design, and not some greater truth about any player, though in doing historical analysis of great numbers of players we do learn useful things.

Curse of Gaven

January 27, 2005 · Filed Under General baseball · 20 Comments 

It’s almost too bad that the Dodgers have done well since they moved from Brooklyn in one of the more craven line items in the ledger of treachery by baseball teams. A New York sportswriter covering the Dodgers named Mike Gaven fell ill at the ball park and later died. Gaven said “Well, at least I covered the Dodgers when they were a great team. They’ll never be that great again.” Dick Young wrote an eloquent piece for the New York Daily News that ran the day Gaven died, in which he talked about how the team, having turned on their home, turned also on the sportswriters long close to the team favoring the sycophantic Los Angeles press “who are writing the kind of stories that will sell tickets where tickets are being sold”, and Young’s opinion that it was those small wounds that brought down and killed Gaven.

Young also had this gem in the piece

And I say to you, sports writers of Los Angeles and other cities: When a club official comes to you and says, “Why don’t you be a nice fellow; after all, you’re like one of us,” never for a moment believe that you are one of them, because you are merely tolerated-and then for only as long as they feel they can use you and your paper. You belong to your readers, and to them alone.

If they’d stunk ever since — even if they’d enjoyed Red Sox-like success but no titles, we’d still be talking about the Curse, and we’d remember Mike Gaven and the hole the loss of the Dodgers left in Brooklyn. It makes me sad that we don’t, and we don’t.

Everett Herald on Reed

January 27, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 21 Comments 

Lots of quotes, speculation, other good stuff. Check it out.

Rumored return of Cammy

January 27, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 43 Comments 

We keep getting requests to talk about the continued rumors, particularly the Seattle Times story that the M’s might bring back Cameron. We’ve talked about whether this is wise before (Jason: yes, Dave: maybe, me: no). But as to whether there’s any truth in the rumors: I don’t think so. Please remember that this story’s from the writer who refries the Griffey story once or twice an off-season, and there’s no chance there. The story essentially says “there are rumors that maybe something might happen and this one source says it makes sense”… but why?

Anyone who’s been around here a while knows that I love Cameron, and feel he was hugely unappreciated in his time here. But his contract is heavy and players with his offensive skill set don’t age well at all.

Meanwhile, the M’s have two guys who can perform as well for not that much money. I’m not a huge Randy Winn fan, and I think he’s likely to perform worse next year offensively, but he’s a good center fielder for the money. Jeremy Reed would be okay there, and then Winn plays LF, where he’s really good defensively.

There’s no need to trade for Cameron, and the Mariners are going to be better off spending that money elsewhere in 2006 onward.

Sure, it might happen. But even as Cameron’s big fan, I don’t think it’s in the best interests of the team, and I haven’t heard anything more than the vague rumors. I suspect that much of the noise on this is generated out of the NY press machine, capable of turning any speculation into rumor and then making that into a story. I don’t think there’s anything here.

Me in the PI on Hargrove usage patterns

January 26, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 31 Comments 

My latest bit’s now up, on Hargrove and his use of starting pitchers.

Helpfully, in a previous thread a random passer-by offered places you can write if you want these columns to keep going, or if you’d like to see this stuff in print.

Big Board Update

January 26, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 19 Comments 

I just updated the Big Board, including the signing of Yuniesky Betancourt.

Please remember not to put any stock in player placement below the major league level. In some ways, this update is less valuable than the one I did a month ago; since that time, I moved some minor leaguers around, didn’t move others, made a few guesses, etc. In other words, some guys are where we think they’ll be in 2005, and some are still where they ended 2004.

Anyway, the Big Board right now is valuable in that you can see who’s in the organization, who’s on the 40-man roster, and (new! new!) who’s not on the 40-man but getting an invite to spring training. Those players — Felix Hernandez, Benji Gil, Adam Jones, etc. — are shaded yellow for your convenience.

As always, leave a comment if you see something amiss.

Update: Added RHP Aaron Sele and his NRI, made P Nate Bland a lefty, made 1B Daniel Schwab a lefty, moved IF Jose Lopez from Seattle to Tacoma and replaced him with IF Justin Leone.

M’s sign Betancourt

January 26, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 21 Comments 

The Mariners signed 22-year old Yuniesky Betancourt to a “major league” contract, according to and other sources. The major league contract means he goes on the 40-man roster, which mean Aaron Looper got DFAd.

The stats on Betancourt are… well, I have an extremely low opinion of the value of Cuban stats in making any kind of decision about his talent. We’ll know more once he plays against a level of competition we can reliably gauge.


“Yuniesky is an athletic, offensive shortstop,” Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said. “We view him as the equivalent of a first- or second-round draft pick.”

Which is good, since the team hasn’t done real well with drafting shortstops lately.

Anyway, I have no idea if he’ll pan out or not, and won’t have a clue until next year, and possibly later.

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