Position Roundtables: #2 Starter

Jeff · March 18, 2005 at 11:40 am · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables 

#2 Starter: Bobby Madritsch

Jeff: Work the chip.

This is the advice I used to give to debate students that came from a
tough background or were, for any reason, angry at the world. The
logic being, if you’ve got a chip on your shoulder, you can let it
weigh you down or motivate you. You can either work the chip or let it
work you.

Bobby Madritsch works the chip.

You can tell from how he plays: Madritsch pitches like the batter
ogled his girlfriend and the catcher’s mitt said something about his

You can also tell from the stories. Madritsch sees Ichiro gets drilled
and instantly wants to take someone’s whiskers off. As Kirby Arnold reports,
Madritsch saw the innocuous green hats distributed to Mariner players
on St. Pat’s Day. They reminded him of being cut on March 17 last
year, so he spiked one cap into his locker to get it out of his sight.
And who could forget the 1,500 mile drive, in uniform, to get another pitching job?
Crash Davis wishes he had that kind of fire.

Seamheads of all stripes love Mad Bobby, from new school statheads to
fans of Drysdalian headhuntery. Attitude matters.

Performance counts, too. The most colorful hitter fades into obscurity
when he no longer reaches base; even the best stories about a pitcher
won’t save him from written savagery if he doesn’t get outs. Witness
one William Paul Bloomquist, by all accounts a fine fellow whose
anemic bat saves him no grief.

Madritsch gets outs. The M’s best pitcher after the All-Star Break, he
held hitters to a .632 OPS — the type of line you might see from an
aforementioned South Kitsapper. Better, his numbers were not
appreciably different away from Safeco Field, indicating that he’s not
just a big-park pitcher.

Seattle fans have taken to Madritsch, an independent league signee,
very quickly. If he puts in a full season close to last year’s
performance, he’ll be national news.

Everybody loves a good underdog story. Madritsch is a great
underdog story, and one that has yet to spread across the country.

Assuming he makes 30 starts and turns in an ERA in the mid-4.00s or
below, that will change. And I think those are reasonable results to
hope for.

We know how much Madritsch loves to show people what he can do — and
prove wrong those telling him he can’t.

Jason: As I said last time, I don’t like this rotation at all. I do, however, have
a fondness for Bobby Madritsch. Two years ago, I saw him pitch in San
Antonio on a great trip which included a Rett Johnson one-hitter and the
Missions clinching the first-half title. Madritsch started the middle game
of the three I saw, and while you could tell the tools were there, he
certainly didn’t look like the starter he showed himself to be last season.

He got angry and off his game if a runner reached via walk, a cheap hit or
an error. His mechanics weren’t consistent from pitch to pitch, and when
working from the windup you could tell he was trying to overthrow. Finally,
while I didn’t get this from him directly, it was no secret he was angry
about the organization wanting him to move to the bullpen.

And yet, as Jeff mentioned at the start, it’s this fiesty mentality (“he’s a
bulldog,” you can hear a commentator saying) that has made him a good
pitcher. You want me in the bullpen? I’m going to pitch so well as a starter
you won’t be able to move me. Start me in Tacoma? Fine — you’ll be forced
to call me up mid-season.

I say get out of the way and let him pitch.


44 Responses to “Position Roundtables: #2 Starter”

  1. Evan on March 18th, 2005 3:13 pm

    I think Madritsch is pretty clerly the best starter currently on the team, and I’d like to see him get the opening day start.

    I tell ya, anyone who gets a big tattoo on his neck knows no pain or fear.

  2. Ralph Malph on March 18th, 2005 3:32 pm

    I love Madritsch but he isn’t going to be the opening day starter. If Pineiro can’t do it, figure on Jamie. Not because Jamie is better but because he’s the veteran.

    No point in arguing about it, it just ain’t gonna happen.

  3. PositivePaul on March 18th, 2005 3:39 pm

    Is it mere coincidence that this “Round” table discussion on the #2 starter has only two “corners” (i.e. only discussion from 2 of this blog’s authors)?

    Madritsch will be a fine replacement for “the Chief”. I do worry about the head thing, but unlike Freddy, I think he can channel it correctly. Time will tell, of course, but he certainly has left a better impression on me than Freddy ever did. Definitely more “ace” material in my eyes than Freddy.

  4. JMB on March 18th, 2005 3:44 pm


    Mere coincidence. Derek and Dave are really busy right now, and Peter’s working on a super secret project about which he could tell you, but then he’d have to kill you.


  5. JPWood on March 18th, 2005 3:53 pm

    After following Seattle baseball since the Rainiers, I still have just three player photos. One is of Lou Piniella in a Pilots uniform and one other is of Madritsch in his extraordinary double-arm-twist delivery.
    Madritsch reminds of the T-shirt that reads “I’ve got attitude”. Very good bad.

  6. Adam S on March 18th, 2005 4:22 pm

    Like Jason I’m fairly pessimistic about this rotation. I said before 2004 that it was the weak spot on the team; it was, and it still is but Madritsch was and is the bright spot. I’d be surprised if he isn’t our best starter this year.

    Jeff, do you really think an ERA in the mid 4’s would be a good year for him? I don’t expect him in the low 3’s like last year. However, I’d think with half his games at Safeco, despite the minimal affect last year, he could keep his ERA under 4 or just above at worst.

    Also kudos to USSM for not listing Moyer as one of the top 2 starters even though he’s likely to start one of the first two games.

  7. Jeff on March 18th, 2005 4:26 pm

    I didn’t say it would be a good year for him; I said that results like that would be a reasonable expectation. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Bobby outperformed that projection.

  8. Dave M on March 18th, 2005 4:54 pm

    Bobby is simply fun to watch. Very few times over the past decade have I been excited to see a particular individual toe the rubber for the M’s. Not since RJ, really. And I’d say that I even get a greater sense of satisfaction seeing Bobby succeed, since his background story is so compelling. I’m rooting for him, above and beyond my rooting for the team.

  9. eponymous coward on March 18th, 2005 5:16 pm

    I think it’ll be difficult for Madritsch to be an “ace” simply because his stuff isn’t prone to K’s. He strikes me more as in he Mark Buehrle/Jamie Moyer/Freddy Garcia class of A-/B+ pitchers (with the really dominant pitchers making the A students)- where if he’s the “ace” you basically need 2 pitchers just as good as he is to have a good pitching staff.

  10. Jim Thomsen on March 18th, 2005 7:28 pm

    Dammit, Masao Kida got cut. Bill Bavasi is such a moron. Do the Mariners think mediocre 36-year-old Japanese pitchers just grow on trees?

    Ohhhhhhh … right.

    I think it’s silly to argue about Madritsch’s status as a starter. The bottom line is that there’s no reason to think he can’t do at least a league-average job this year … and with all the ciphers on the roster, that’s no small thing.

  11. Jonathan on March 18th, 2005 7:37 pm

    I think the Freddy comparisons are right on for Bobby. A horse from the left side instead of the right, but clearly a guy with lots of fire who loves to eat innings and burn through batters. Happily, over just the back half of last season, he showed a markedly better ability to not let his head get in his way than Freddy managed. Here’s hoping he keeps that cool.

  12. Jim Osmer on March 18th, 2005 8:05 pm

    The best and oddest thing about Bobby is the lack of HR’s (3 at TAC and 3 in the majors last year). Is this just a fluke or does he have late movement to prevent solid contact (the anti-Franklin)?
    Last year we stayed home and watched every game he pitched.
    There were rumors of making him into a closer. why would you do that with a guy who pitches 8 innings many of his starts?

  13. eponymous coward on March 18th, 2005 9:58 pm

    I wouldn’t say I’m arguing. Having a A-/B+ pitcher on your roster is certainly better than having 5 Aaron Seles circa 2004 in your starting rotation. I just don’t think his ceiling is really “ace”. Hell, he’s OLDER than Mark Buehrle.

  14. John in L.A. on March 18th, 2005 10:11 pm

    I agree, eponymous.

    I think he’s ideally a great #3 or #4. I don’t mean that as a slight… but he shouldn’t be someone a team is pinning hopes on.

    Sometimes #3 pitchers can outperform aces. What I’m trying, poorly, to say is that “Ace” means more than “lowest ERA on your team”, or “your #1 pitcher”, to me.

    A lot of teams don’t have an ace. But not many that win in the playoffs. Some of those have more than one. Greedy guts.

  15. basebliman on March 18th, 2005 11:25 pm

    I would not at all be surprised if Mads ends up with the best numbers of any pitcher on the staff. But if he does, I don’t think the team will be near contention, because in my opinion, he’s the third best pitcher in the rotation behind a healthy Pineiro and a consistent Gil Meche. But if all three of those guys have similar numbers at the end of the season (by similar I mean play to their potential), this will be a fun year to watch Seattle baseball!

  16. Jeff in Fremont on March 19th, 2005 12:32 am

    Mads will be fun to watch this year, but I’ve really got an eye for 2006, once we’ve freed up at least $17 million from Boone and Moyer. Then we could be looking at….

    1) Stud FA Pitcher
    2) Hernandez
    3) Pineiro
    4) Masdritch
    5) Meche

    Me likey.

  17. Paul Covert on March 19th, 2005 12:56 am

    Regarding the meaning of “ace”: Last year I looked at the typical distribution of starter VORP’s for the previous several years’ worth of playoff teams. It averaged out to roughly 55-40-30-20-10. So if you define an “ace” as “a starting pitcher who would be above average among the leading starters on playoff teams,” then you’re looking for a VORP of at least 55 runs in a season.

    Actually, we might refine that a bit by noting that the VORP leaders among pitchers, in addition to being good, will usually have benefited from a bit of “luck” as well (good defense behind them, better-than-usual results in clutch situations, other performances beyond sustainable skill level). So if you’ve got a guy who’s established a consistent 50-runs-VORP skill level, maybe even 45, you can probably run him out for game 1 of a postseason series with at least an even chance that he’ll be as good as, or better than, the guy on the other side.

    In Madritsch’s case, my hope is that he’ll establish himself in about the 30-40 range over the next few years, which would make him a solid playoff-caliber #2 guy. For him to step it up to the “playoff ace” level would be an unusual career path indeed (not that I’d mind seeing it, of course!).

  18. Adam S on March 19th, 2005 9:28 am

    Nice research Paul. I think that’s a pretty extreme definition of ace — only 11 pitchers make the cut-off and six more are between 50 and 55. And at quick check only 4 pitchers were above 50 in 2003 and 2004, though five others were over one year and very close the other.

    With a cutoff of 40 VORP, we get 30 starters which is one per team. While you might argue there aren’t enough very good pitchers to go around, somewhere between 40 and 50 seems like the right cutoff for a quality #1 (ace) starter.

    Will Madritsch be there?? I don’t think so, but he was at 28 in less than half the season.

  19. Milorad V on March 19th, 2005 11:31 am

    JC I’m right there with you…if he can continue to pitch effectively.
    Gutsy doesn’t make you Good anymore than Straving makes you an Artist.
    That said, I see reason to be hopeful in him.

  20. DMZ on March 19th, 2005 11:33 am

    All caps = all gone

  21. jc on March 19th, 2005 11:44 am

    Caps bother you there was no sweering at all?Unless saying mads has big —– is swearing then im guilty..

  22. Milorad V on March 19th, 2005 11:44 am

    Uh…I wasn’t ‘right there’ with his upper-case posting…that was clear I hope.

  23. Paul Covert on March 19th, 2005 1:00 pm

    Thanks, Adam. Yes, I had intended it as a somewhat “extreme” definition, at least in the sense of being stricter than “best starter on a given team,” or even “would be best starter on an average team.” The purpose was to have a convenient term for what might also be called “playoff-caliber #1.”

    Sometimes I see people using the expression “true #1 starter” to mean “a guy that can be expected to dominate in the playoffs,” which seems to me a bit of a word game. The natural meaning is “he really is the best starting pitcher on his team”; it also seems reasonable to restrict it to mean “…and it’s not just because his team has a below-average front of the rotation” (which might apply to Madritsch this year, in which case he would be more of a “fluke #1”). But a guy who pitches at a solid 40-to-45-runs-VORP level seems to me as “true” a #1 as any other– just not at the playoff level.

    That having been said, I should also add the caveat that I don’t see having an “ace” in any given year makes the team better than if they had three guys at the “playoff #2” level. I do agree, though (thinking back to the Pineiro discussion of a few days ago), that it’s easier to build a team around an “ace” than around a bunch of above-average guys (unless your team is run by Woody W– um, never mind, but I think you know where I was going with that).

  24. Jon Helfgott on March 19th, 2005 6:13 pm

    [I]Mads will be fun to watch this year, but I’ve really got an eye for 2006, once we’ve freed up at least $17 million from Boone and Moyer. Then we could be looking at….

    1) Stud FA Pitcher
    2) Hernandez
    3) Pineiro
    4) Masdritch
    5) Meche [/I]

    Only problem with that is that as of now, there won’t be a stud pitcher on the FA market in the 2005 off-season. Hudson was the only marquee name on the list, and he’s been locked up. If we want a stud, we’ll need to spend a ton to get one via trade. Granted, a lot of things can happen in a year – someone from completely off the radar screen could turn into a bona-fide ace and be a perfect fit for Seattle…I’m just sayin that person isn’t out there right now. Spending $30 million + on a guy like AJ Burnett (currently considered the “best” pitcher who will be a FA at the end of the year) is a really bad idea.

  25. Jon Helfgott on March 19th, 2005 6:15 pm

    Damnit, I was really hoping that italicize script would work. Just pretend the words between the [I][/I] are italicized.

  26. jc on March 19th, 2005 6:44 pm

    Sell out the farm and lock down josh beckett he is on the verge of blowing up….aj is a nono

  27. bilbo on March 19th, 2005 6:49 pm

    I am sure this is going to come up in the #5 discussion, but Sele looked very impressive again today (5IP, 1H, 1BB, 1K). He commanded the zone, kept the ball down and his curve looked downright nasty. I know his stats the last few years have been bad, but it often takes guys a couple years to come back from surgery.

    At this point, I prefer him to Franklin (even though Franklin was impressive yesterday). Unfortunately, Franklin going to the pen probably bumps one of the young guys back to Tacoma.

  28. bilbo on March 19th, 2005 6:51 pm

    I think Sheets will become available too, maybe by the All-star break.

  29. Pilots fan on March 19th, 2005 7:03 pm

    … and probably bumps Nelson off of the squad.

  30. 51 Rules! on March 19th, 2005 7:21 pm

    Aaron Sele had another good outing today allowing only 1 hit and one walk in 5 innings. So far this spring he has:

    12 IP 5 H 2 BB 9 K 2 ER 1.64 ERA

    Still no change of opinion on him? I realize he was bad last year, but maybe he will be better this year. And they are saying he is healthy now, which he wasn’t last year.

  31. Jeff Sullivan on March 19th, 2005 7:27 pm

    Aaron Sele has been bad to awful for the last three years.

    Now he’s thrown 12 good ST innings.

    You do the math.

  32. JJM on March 19th, 2005 10:00 pm

    Burnett throws 99 after Tommy John surgery and pitched well down the stretch last year. If he holds up well this season that’s a decent sample in regards to his health, his previous experience shows he has stuff and the ability to perform at a high level. I’ll have few qualms about us throwing big bucks his way if he proves worthy this year. Heck, I’d trade for him midseason for an inside shot at extending his services.

  33. John D. on March 20th, 2005 12:31 am

    Re (# 24) The Departure of MOYER and BOONE. Is it certain that they won’t be back? What if they both have good years? What if Moyer wins 17-18? What if Boone jacks 30-35?
    Do we say, “Sorry, boys, we need the money.”?

  34. Mords on March 20th, 2005 4:50 am

    If we don’t, I’ll cry.

  35. jc on March 20th, 2005 8:07 am

    #33 the answer is beat it guys!!!!!!!moyer will be 43 and boone has worn his welcome out and its time to plsay lopez next year sometimes you have too move the furniture around in your living room to make it look right ..well these are two pieces of furniture that need to be put in storage are sold at the july trading deadline when the mariners are 12 back…

  36. Pilots fan on March 20th, 2005 9:01 am

    I agree that Sele is the surprise of ST. He has been more than sharp — he’s been in control of every inning he’s pitched in. You have to take notice given that he is healthy again and he is a proven veteran winner. His curve is breaking big again and for strikes, and will break more when it grabs sea-level air.

    His history suggests that he won’t last the season, but at this rate, it is not unreasonable to think he’ll give us 4 months of quality starts — enough time to see what the next move should be (a trade for a pennant run, bring up Felix, etc.).

  37. Matto on March 20th, 2005 10:15 am

    Pilots Fan,

    If Sele did that he’d be damn good trade bait but I have serious doubts that he’ll do that and I’m not totally sure that the M’s won’t open the season with King Felix as their fifth starter (allowing him to pitch @ Tacoma until he’s needed). My guess is that Sele knows he’ll get a job somewhere with that kind of performance (most likely Tampa Bay). Still, If I had to be a betting man, I bet Franklin is the #5.

  38. bilbo on March 20th, 2005 10:19 am

    #31: This is the problem with just looking at stats to make decisions. Sele had rotator cuff surgery in October 2002 and his stats from 2003 clearly indicate he wasn’t fully recovered. He was pitching well early in 2004 until shoulder fatigue landed him on the DL (ie- he wasn’t fully recovered yet) and he lost his spot in the rotation after his return.

    I submit that now that he is two years removed from surgery he may be fully healthy again and you are seeing that in the way he is pitching. Granted he has only 12 IP this spring, but if you saw the game yesterday you know that he was razor sharp with all of his pitches and owned every inning he pitched. As cheap as he is going to be, why not keep him? If he starts to pitch poorly again, make a move at that point (Franklin, Villone, Baek, Hernandez?).

  39. bilbo on March 20th, 2005 10:23 am

    If I were a betting man, I would bet that the FO is doing what they can to trade Franky before the season starts. If not, he will be the righty rubber arm to Villone’s lefty arm. Of course, this will screw one of our young guys and send them back to Tacoma.

  40. John D. on March 20th, 2005 1:20 pm

    Re (# 39) “Screwing our young guys:” What if our young guys have just put up ERAs of 7.00 or 8.00? Do we still hand them a roster spot so we won’t be accused of screwing them?
    As things have been, I think Hargrove’s talk of a 12-man staff (7 bullpenners)is ridiculous. I don’t even see a 6-man pen at this time.

    While I’m on my anti-Hargrove soapbox, what’s this nonsense about everybody eventuallly having a 12-man pitching staff? I’d like to see some evidence for this. IIRC, most teams go through the season without ever using a 12-man pitching staff. [POKEY REESE, just broke up a no-hitter. Pokey Reese!] (Reminds me of the MAURY WILLS-LEON ROBERTS thing.)

  41. firova on March 20th, 2005 5:29 pm

    #35 I get letting Boone go for age or fiscal reasons or because Lopez will be ready, but I hadn’t heard of the statistical category “worn his welcome out.” What does it mean?

  42. Jon Helfgott on March 20th, 2005 9:27 pm


    Bilbo’s talking about relief pitchers. Our young guys who would be getting “screwed” didn’t put up ERAs of 7 or 8. They put up 3.52 (Atchison), and 3.8 (Sherrill). Out of all the pitchers who pitched in relief for the Ms in 2004, Atchison and Sherrill had the 3rd and 4th best ERAs. Sherrill in particular has the minor league track record to suggest he could improve on 2004, as his K-rate in the minors was much better than what he put up in 23.2 innings last year.

  43. jc on March 20th, 2005 9:27 pm

    Big mouth…..

  44. Metz on March 21st, 2005 2:10 pm

    I’d gladly toss every spare dollar the M’s had next offseason to get Sheets. Even if the M’s aren’t in contention this year I’d be working the phone every day with the Brewers talking about Sheets. That being said, Sheets is one guy the Brew Crew might open up the checkbook and sign to a long term deal. It’s going to come down to Ben’s decision if he wants to continue playing for a losing team & franchise or if he believes that the Brewers can contend using a formula like the Twins.