Mariners season preview

January 26, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 37 Comments 

I’ve heard that yesterday the M’s had a “Season Preview” event at Safeco Field, with Hargrove, Bavasi, and others. Did anyone get to go? Anything interesting happen?

Hargrove hiccup

January 25, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 26 Comments 

Hargrove once, by not turning in a proper lineup card, lost the DH in a game. He had Manny Ramirez as DH, though he’d decided to play him in RF. When Ramirez trotted out to right, that was it for the DH. Charles Nagy went 0-2. Check out the boxscore.

I love the stuff I stumble across doing unrelated research.

Marlins sign Delgado

January 25, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 28 Comments 

The Marlins gave Carlos Delgado a 4 year, $52 million contract with a vesting option that could push it to 5 years, $64 million. Overall, this is a similar contract to the one the Mariners gave Richie Sexson. And, yes, like the Sexson contract, it’s a great way to waste resources for a franchise that can’t afford to do so.

Spending big money on aging first baseman almost never works. The Marlins will get good production and value from Delgado in 2005, when his salary is only $4 million, but as soon as November rolls around, he’ll be virtually untradeable. The Marlins just gave themselves one year of production for a three year albatross. Bad idea, bad move.

Spring Training

January 25, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 29 Comments 

While it is unlikely that any of the three of us are going to make it to Arizona for spring training, we’re certain a large number of you guys will be going down to Peoria and enjoying the sun in March. So, as a service to our readers who enjoy meeting other readers, and because of multiple requests, I’m creating this thread as a Spring Training Information catch-all. If you’re going and want to meet up with other USSM readers, just drop the dates that you’ll be in AZ in the comments, and you guys can use this thread as a way to organize and communicate with others.

We’ll put this on the left navbar and leave it up through spring training. Enjoy.

Mariners in the winter

January 24, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 21 Comments 

John Hickey writes in the PI on what M’s prospects are up to. It’s a good read (Thornton — great! GMs inquire within! King Felix not throwing at all), though a couple of points:

Hernandez, who turns 19 April 8, may turn out to be the most-hyped pitcher in Mariners history.

Even with us cheering him on and badgering random passer-by about him for as long as I can remember, King Felix’s got a long way to go before he hits the kind of hype around Ryan Anderson.

General manager Bill Bavasi said there is virtually no chance Hernandez would break camp with the big leaguers, but he added it would come as no surprise if Hernandez were in the big leagues sometime during the season.

I’m not sure what virtually no chance means, and I’m happy the team is reluctant to push him to the majors (because it starts his service clock, and also because I want to see him babied). But there’s a chance. He really is that good. Hargrove hasn’t seen him yet, and we don’t know what’ll happen when he gets to check him out a couple times over the course of spring.

Also, the M’s are considering bringing in Pedro Astacio. And no, there’s not another Pedro Astacio out there. And Masao Kida had some of elbow injury that required surgery we didn’t know about.

White Sox add Iguchi

January 24, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 17 Comments 

The White Sox signed Tadahito Iguchi to a two-year deal with an option for a third. ESPN’s story here. Japanese stats. Without having seen any kind of translations, I have to say that on first glance I’m not impressed — power hasn’t crossed the water for Japanese players in general, and there’s not much else to his offensive game.

Schwarz follow-up, new blog

January 24, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 30 Comments 

Alan Schwarz writes a quick bit following up on the discussion that quotes (twice) from one excellent comment made here by dw, who has his own site, Client and Server. So Schwarz reads U.S.S. Mariner, apparantly. Hi Alan! We’re big fans! Please plug the site sometime!

And also, it’s a really slow time for news. I almost wish the team would invite some local celebrity to spring training so we could write about it (Jon Keister? GM Ford? Is Neal Stephenson still in town?)

Also, #1 most-frequent USSM commenter David Corcoran’s got a blog of his own now. Using advanced projection software, we can guess that based on his past history, he’ll be posting 20-30 times a day in 15-50 word increments. I’d put him on the link bar on the left, but thought I’d give him a plug. If you liked his comments, you’ll love his blog.*

To get to McCall, Idaho, for what it’s worth, draw a line on a map eastwards from Portland and another line northwards from Boise and drive to the intersection. You’ll be pretty close. Going east from Salem would actually be a little better.

* not a guarantee

More comment fixes

January 23, 2005 · Filed Under Site information · 5 Comments 

Three things —
Since the last comment-checker thing seems to have worked remarkably well so far, I’m going to slowly start rolling back some of the moderation queues. AOL users in particular should appreciate this.

I may go ahead and implement a follow-up fix (also by Dave Pease), that sets a cookie in your browser so you only have to go through the anti-spammer check once. So keep an eye out.

Also in the near future, I’ll “get on the no-follow” bandwagon as one reader suggested. That’ll change the way links in comments work in a way that should be transparent to visitors but help things a little on our side.

The M’s stathead is Olkin

January 21, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 56 Comments 

Tomorrow the Mariners will announce* the hiring of a “player acquisition consultant” or, as this has been long-rumored, a “stathead”. It’s Mat Olkin (note the one ‘t’, please). Standard USA Today head shot appears on the upper right of this page, and I know he’s probably wincing about that.

Olkin’s written a baseball annual of his own (the “Baseball Examiner”) and is the author of some good, meaty work on the relationship between batters, their power, and their ground-ball/fly-ball tendencies (it’s not as strong as you’d probably guess, but yes, ground balls don’t go out of the park). He found that today’s pitchers throw as many pitches as old-time guys, but in fewer innings (duh, right? well, he wrote that in 1998).

Olkin’s one of the STATS Inc guys, who probably sits around and swaps smart emails behind the scenes with Bill James and the cabal of his former assistants (Neyer, Sickels, etc). He’s best known for writing his “Mat at Bat” column for Sports Weekly, which used to be Baseball Weekly when I bought it (um, which shouldn’t be taken as a dig on Mat). His stuff’s run all over the place: “Bill James Baseball Abstract, Baseball Prospectus, Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster, the STATS Major League Scouting Notebook, the STATS Baseball Scoreboard and the STATS All-Time Sourcebook.”

I believe he’s also done work on Japanese translations, though I can’t locate it (unfortunately, trying to hunt down links through Google is a mess in part thanks to those annoying link farmers who mirror Amazon for affiliate money).

Also, check this out. For pitchers, a long time ago Olkin suggested you could estimate ERA as
OBP x SLG x 31 = Predicted ERA

And that actually has more value in determining what future performance is going to look like as actual ERA does.

If you know me, you know I totally dig the easy-to-use good-enough stat like that.

Now, generally the role of these guys is to pipe up with interesting thoughts on player deals. Like if the M’s were thinking about trading for Miguel Batista, he might say “hey look, his K rate sucks. And it’s sucked for a while.” Or suggest minor league free agents worth investigating. Maybe look at Japanese players who are free agents or might be posted, try and come up with some projections. Maybe he’ll spend his time surfing the web and sending emails to people who are insufficently enthusiastic about Mariners prospects. We don’t know really.

In some organizations, these guys have a lot of say. But there isn’t an team in the majors where they’re running the show. Okay, maybe Boston, and even then the ownership steps in on important transactions.

Will the Mariners listen to him? There’s no way to tell. That he’s not going to be living here and hanging around the offices all the time is probably a good indicator he’ll be offering his thoughts from a ways off when the team’s looking for another voice. But I’m just speculating — maybe he’ll end up traveling with Bavasi and be someone they want in every meeting because he’s so smart.

We’ve made some comments here in tip-toeing around this before that Olkin’s not the greatest guy they could have hired, and I regret saying that. In my mind, if Iwas running a team and I wanted to hire a guy to offer input on player acquisitions, I’d hire Gary Huckabay… who’s working for the A’s. So he’s not available. I’d hire Keith Woolner if it was stat-centric, or maybe even Clay, but who knows if they’d even take such a job? I’d hire Dave seven days a week and twice on Sundays if it was something like “stat-informed minor league roaming scouting dude” but they’ve already got a strong scouting organization, so it’ s unlikely that’s what they’re after…

Without knowing what the exact job’s going to be, it’s stupid for me to imply there’s someone out there who’s better for it. I don’t know, and I like Mat and respect his work enough that I should have waited for more information on what the job is, and see how he does.

But, as part of what I wrote in the Mariners chapter of BP2005 (buy it now! $12 freaking dollars!) about this:

[…] for the first time, the team has someone in the big chair who doesn’t simply dismiss innovation in baseball management. Bavasi may not get it but he understands there’s something worth getting.

We don’t know how this is going to work out. But to quote SportsNight —

“If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.”

That they’re trying, looking outside the industry hires like Dan Evans and Jimy Williams, people to find a smart guy like Mat Olkin in order to get a new voice in the organization — you have to be happy about this.

Update! The Oregonian is the first newspaper to pick this up, here (warning: faking your own demographic info may be required) John Hunt, you may remember, knows Olkin through Baseball Weekly.

* unless I’ve been badly misinformed, in which case it’ll be announced some other time

Hargrove, camps, other good stuff

January 20, 2005 · Filed Under General baseball, Mariners · 30 Comments 

I’ve got a new column up at the PI on Mike Hargrove’s managerial tendencies in past jobs, one of two. I dig it. This follows the other delayed one that went into the remaining lineup decisions and team defense. I’ll mention too that if you’re enjoying these (even as I try and find the right voice in writing them) it’s worth your time to let the powers that be know, especially if you want to see the kind of stat-informed, detailed M’s writing in print (and if you do, be cool).

Then there’s a bit at Baseball Prospectus (subscribers only) arguing that there are no camps in the scout versus performance thing, and that we all are scouts and statheads, and we use both approaches all the time.

Which, in turn, brings up another topic. I turned in my resignation at BP a while ago. People here have noticed I wrote about my association in the past tense, because they’re eagle-eyed, and I’ve had an little post in draft status for a while about it. I’ll probably edit and publish that today, now that I’ve said this. If I quit, why am I writing?

The short version is — giving up my position internally, such as it was, and not writing a column regularly doesn’t mean I’m not going to write there at all. I’ve got two chapters and an essay in BP 2005, and a bunch of chapters in the other thing I’m not sure we’re talking about publically yet but which is really cool.

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