Two Weeks In

Dave · April 19, 2005 at 6:44 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Opening Day was two weeks ago, and the team has played 13 games. The samples are still too small to make any definitive judgments, but there are some things we can glean from the first 10 percent of the season. So, here’s some observations I’ve made over the first couple of weeks.

Our defense is really good. We said before the year started that the gloves would be the strength of the team, and this has been confirmed so far. The M’s are turning 72.5 percent of all balls in play into outs, compared to the American League average of 70.4 percent. Our defensive efficiency is tied with the White Sox for the fourth best in baseball, behind only Florida, Oakland, and the Dodgers. At the other end of the spectrum, by the way, is the Yankees. They are only converting 63 percent of balls in play into outs. That’s awful.

Bret Boone is done. Forget the Lasik. We can stop calling 2004 a down year. Boone is finished as anything more than an average second baseman.

Jeremy Reed is going to go on a prolonged hot streak very soon. His .205 average hides the fact that he’s swinging the bat very well. Half of his hits have gone for extra bases and he has five walks to just three strikeouts. Guys with his skillset are much more prone to streaks and slumps, and I’d guess that a 15 for 30 stretch is just around the corner.

The offense has scored 11 more runs than you’d expect, given their performance. Most of that is their ridiculous hitting with runners on base.

I’m not worried about Adrian Beltre. He’s stinging the baseball and has had several 400 foot outs in the past few days, plus the double off the wall last night. He’s still having problems with breaking balls away, but he hasn’t looked overmatched at the plate. He’s going to start putting up numbers real soon.

This bench is abysmal. Just awful.

The 12 man pitching staff is just a waste of roster spots. By having way too many arms sitting around, we have things like this: Ron Villone, 6 appearances, 2 1/3 innings. Using Villone as a situational lefty one out guy is not a wise use of resources. The M’s would be better off using Villone for an inning or more at a time, and paring the pitching staff back to 11–or gasp, even 10!–pitchers. The extra roster spot(s) could be used to accomodate an actual major league player to backup our regular nine starters.

Aaron Sele still sucks. He’s pitching exactly like he has the past three years. Badly. More walks than strikeouts. Only 2.81 strikeouts per nine innings, a number that makes Kirk Rueter look like Nolan Ryan. Going just over 5 innings per start. There’s no reason to have him on the team.

Ryan Franklin is going to get torched in one of his next two starts. You simply can’t put the ball in play as often as he is and get away with it.

Julio Mateo and J.J. Putz should switch roles. I’m not sure why Putz gets to pitch in tough situations, where his lack of command can be a serious problem, while Mateo is relegated to mop up work.

And, to cap it off, evidence that two weeks of statistics still aren’t all that meaningful; the three best hitters in the American League to date have been Brian Roberts, Dmitri Young, and Shea Hillenbrand.


29 Responses to “Two Weeks In”

  1. Myron Marston on April 19th, 2005 7:18 am

    On a good note, it sure looks like Ichiro is going to be able to continue his 2nd-half “hot streak” (if you can call something that lasts for months a streak) from last year.

  2. GWO on April 19th, 2005 7:30 am

    Jeremy Reed is going to go on a prolonged hot streak very soon. His .205 average hides the fact that he’s swinging the bat very well. …. Ryan Franklin is going to get torched in one of his next two starts

    Aren’t these both examples of the gambler’s fallacy. Sure, you can predict that these guys are perform in a way that’s more in sync with their careers than presently, but there’s simply no reason to believe their gonna get “hot” or “cold” just to counteract their “cold” and “hot” starts.

    The law of large numbers simply doesn’t work like that.

    (Unless you’re arguing that getting torched once every two games is Ryan Franklin’s historical performance level, in which case I wouldn’t completely disagree with you).

  3. travesty on April 19th, 2005 7:48 am

    This is completely off subject and irrelevent(just like the subject of my comment), but anyone wanting a deep and scary delve into the human psyche should go to David J Corcorans blog and read “mindless nothingness”. Wow, like…!!

  4. Todd on April 19th, 2005 8:26 am

    Sele’s performance last night was the worst start by a Mariner’s pitcher this year. By the fourth inning, every Angel could read the pitch out of Sele’s hand and could track perfectly. Sometimes when pitcher struggles you say to yourself, “he can’t find his stuff.” With Sele, there is no stuff to find.

    I must say that I do like Hargrove’s handling of the pitching thus far. Aside from some minor quibbles, he has never left a starter in too long, nor is he wearing out his bullpen. (Well, he does have 12 pitchers.) What frustrated me most about Melvin was his ability to simultaneously wear out his starters and his bullpen (see Nelson and Rhodes in ’03). In terms of personel, the M’s pitching staff is average at best. I will give Hargrove some credit for getting a slightly better than average performance out them thus far.

  5. vj on April 19th, 2005 8:26 am

    Dave, about the defense: Do you base your statement on the stat you quote or on observations? Being about 3% better than average does not sound so overwhelming to me, in particular when taking into account the sample size.

  6. msb on April 19th, 2005 8:46 am

    #4– to give Sele credit, he didn’t fall vback on the classic pitcher line that ‘they hit good pitches’; he said flat out after the game that he hung two curve balls and they went into the seats.

  7. Dave on April 19th, 2005 8:57 am

    Dave, about the defense: Do you base your statement on the stat you quote or on observations?

    Both. Watching the defense this year, I’ve been very impressed, and I didn’t even know their defensive efficiency until I looked it up this morning.

    Being about 3% better than average does not sound so overwhelming to me, in particular when taking into account the sample size.

    It may not sound overwhelming, but it’s a pretty big deal. I had to do a little bit of estimating to come up with a team “balls in play” number, but these should be 99 percent accurate. If they’re off by 2 or 3 BIP, its okay, the results will still make sense.

    The M’s so far have allowed 368 balls in play and created 263 outs. A league averaged defense would have created 257 outs given the same number of chances. In 13 games, the team (and, to be fair, the park probably helps, but thats tough to quantify) has created an extra 6 outs above average with their gloves. If we had the Yankees defense, we’d have only created 233 outs, a -30 swing, which is just huge.

    If the M’s continue to convert balls in play into outs over at this same rate over the course of the year, they’ll get approximately 90 more outs than an average defense. The Yankees can’t possibly be this bad all year, but if they were, the M’s defense would be 450(!) outs better than New York’s.

    That’s a lot of runs, either way.

  8. Jeff on April 19th, 2005 9:00 am

    I expected Beltre to be excellent at third, and he’s been as good as advertised. That double play the other day where he backhanded a shorthop was very difficult, and he made it look routine.

  9. Todd on April 19th, 2005 9:05 am

    In regard to the defense, Reed has looked better in CF this year than what I saw from him in Sept. ’04. And if anyone in the booth or the press suggests that Willie is the best CF on the team, watch Reed’s catch of Anderson’s ball in the 1st last night and Willie’s attempt to catch Crede’s ball on Saturday.

  10. chico ruiz on April 19th, 2005 9:30 am

    Dave: Do you have any insights on why Hargrove and the FO are willing to tolerate the lack of productive major leaguers on the bench? Even the Reds have three or four guys who can play like regulars—what are the M’s thinking?

  11. Dave on April 19th, 2005 9:40 am

    The M’s think Wilson and Bloomquist are productive major leaguers, which is a talent evaluation problem. They’re stuck with Spiezio’s salary, so he’s not going anywhere unless he’s like 2-60 at the all-star break. And they like Dobbs, though he wouldn’t have made the team had Bucky been healthy. And he’s probably still going to be the one to go if Pokey ever comes back.

  12. Jeff Sullivan on April 19th, 2005 9:53 am

    You don’t think they’ll subject Valdez to waivers instead?

  13. ChrisK on April 19th, 2005 9:58 am

    Do the M’s really believe Wilson and Bloomquist are productive major leaguers, or just marginal players who are worth having on the bench because because of their ‘fan-friendliness’? I sometimes think it’s the latter, and the M’s just hope for the best when they put them on the field.

    They don’t need to worry about fan discontent because the Seattle media will generate the propaganda by talking up Danny and Willie’s “intangibles” (ie, Dan = nice guy and link to 1995!; Willie = Port Orchard and scrappy!). It’s a actually a textbook lesson in marketing to your fan base. And a horrible way to craft a roster that actually wins games.

  14. eponymous coward on April 19th, 2005 10:02 am

    Aaron Sele still sucks. He’s pitching exactly like he has the past three years. Badly. More walks than strikeouts. Only 2.81 strikeouts per nine innings, a number that makes Kirk Rueter look like Nolan Ryan. Going just over 5 innings per start. There’s no reason to have him on the team.

    I was a proponent of keeping him on the staff while uncertainty surrounded Piniero and things sorted themselves out in Tacoma. Either he’d keep doing as well as he did in ST, or not, and we could decide from there.

    That seems to have happened (Baek and Campillo are throwing well in Tacoma), and Sele’s not performing well. So yeah, time to designate him for assignment.

    One caveat- the rotation’s already down one pitcher (Madritsch), with two still having some question marks wth regards to long term health (Piniero and Meche). Tossing starters out of the rotation on TOP of that has some downside risk- I would not want to see King Felix do a Blackley or Nageotte-style meltdown in June, leaving us with starting Andrew Lorraine by July…

  15. Evan on April 19th, 2005 10:06 am

    12 – You think even the M’s would leave Willie as their only backup middle infielder?

  16. Grizz on April 19th, 2005 10:08 am

    In addition to the lack of a bench and pitching depth (when Franklin goes from your long man to your no. 3 starter in the span of two weeks, you know trouble is around the corner), the 5 through 9 hitters (minus Winn) and Hargrove’s managing will keep the M’s from winning this year. Ibanez and Boone should be 7 and 8 hitters, not 5 and 6 hitters, but the M’s are probably stuck with them there through the end of the year (barring an unforeseen trade or a big return by a healthy Jacobsen). Hargrove is making things worse by giving up too many outs to unnecessary sacrifices and poor situational baserunning. With the players Bavasi has given him, Hargrove should focus on getting (and keeping) as many people on base as possible for the 1 through 4 hitters. This pitching staff is going to give up at least a few runs virtually every game, so the M’s cannot afford to sacrifice or run themselves out of big innings. Under no circumstances should this team be laying down sacrifice bunts in the first inning. Hopefully Hargrove will make adjustments. To Hargrove’s credit, he is at least giving Bloomquist, Dobbs, and the rest of the bench the playing time they deserve, and limiting Ibanez’s adventures in the field to one start per week.

  17. Jeff in Fremont on April 19th, 2005 10:41 am

    Based on what I’ve seen, I expect this team to do as predicted and hover around .500 the entire season. Only problem is that I expect the rest of the AL West to do so, also. I fully expect that a mere five or six games will seperate the first place team from the last place team. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the final standings look like this:

    LAA 91-71
    OAK 87-74
    SEA 85-77
    TEX 81-81

    There are no bad teams in this division. Problem is, there are no outstanding teams, either. A lot of pundits are taking the Twinkies this year, and I think that may be a good call.

  18. Jeff Sullivan on April 19th, 2005 11:30 am

    You think even the M’s would leave Willie as their only backup middle infielder?

    That was going to be the case if Pokey were healthy. So, yeah, I do.

  19. Shoeless Jose on April 19th, 2005 12:39 pm

    I agree this is looking like a down year for the AL West in general. From what we’ve seen so far, both the Twins and the White Sox could win the division if they were playing in the west, which means the AL West is the weakest division in the AL and therefore in MLB. It’s still early, of course, but if what we’ve seen so far is any indication then it doesn’t really matter who wins the AL West because that team won’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs.

    I can’t say my impression of the defense has been so positive so far. But perhaps I’m just comparing it to the 2001-2003 M’s who seemed to make far fewer errors and had far less trouble getting the ball out of their gloves.

    I don’t doubt that Reed will continue to improve his hitting: he’s showing a lot of discipline at the plate. My question is whether you keep him in the #2 spot or move him down to the bottom third of the order so there aren’t three easy outs in a row down there.

    I certainly hope Boone goes on a bit of a streak, if only to improve his worth for a trade in July.

    As for Beltre, historically he has had trouble hitting dingers in May for some reason, and then comes on strong in the summer months. So while he’s making good contact right now, and will probably continue to pick up some XBH, I don’t really expect to see a lot of long balls out of him until we need sunblock at Safeco.

  20. Tim on April 19th, 2005 12:55 pm

    The best thing about the defense, IMO, has been Olivo’s ability to stem the passed balls thus far. It seemed as though he was losing one every other game or so last year. I can only think of one so far this season. He has really blocked balls well too.

    Boone OTOH needs to go. Maybe it’s the super floppy glove that he uses, but I may smash something the next time I see him fail to turn a DP because the ball is stuck in his glove.

  21. eponymous coward on April 19th, 2005 1:52 pm

    Because, you know, the 1997 Marlins, 1998 Padres, 2002 Angels and the 2003 Marlins were real powerhouses…

    I think it’s a bit early to go THAT far. Call me around Memorial Day for how the divisions look.


    Yeah, Boone being average might be a positive development. Like I’ve been saying, the history of second basemen after age 35 isn’t littered with a lot of MVP candidates, and IS littered with plenty of outright collapses.

  22. taro on April 19th, 2005 2:50 pm

    This is the first time I’ve agreed with everything you wrote. Good post.

    Whats the word on Campillo within the organization?

  23. Adam S on April 19th, 2005 4:17 pm

    On Boone, how long do you think Hargrove will keep up this silliness of batting Boone ahead of Ibanez? It didn’t make sense on Opening Day and it doesn’t make sense now. I don’t buy into the theory of splitting up righties and lefties, which would be a good “excuse”, rather Ibanez is a better hitter.

    I guess the 20-25% of the time a lefty is pitching, Boone is better but then we should be sitting Ibanez on the bench.

  24. Jesse on April 19th, 2005 6:30 pm

    No way the White Sox could win the West if they were here. Anaheim has its question marks but that really doesn’t feel possible to me. And if they M’s had taken care of business in that first series, the Twins would have started out 0-3. See if either still has a better record than any AL West team come July. It’s possible for sure, but I don’t see it happening.

  25. Noel on April 19th, 2005 8:10 pm

    Whaddyamean the bench is abysmal? Take Spiezio f’rinstance… his numbers leapt from .000/.214/.000 to .083/.267/.167 in the space of just one appearance! Why, if he keeps that up, he’s on pace for… for… I dunno exactly, but one heck of a season. Dude is going on a tear. Just give him a chance, I say.

    And besides, he gives the bench grit and veteran leadership. Who needs numbers when you have someone with Scott’s qualities in the dugout? Just imagine how Greg Dobbs and Willie Bloomquist will benefit from rubbing shoulders with Scott over the course of the season.

  26. Noel on April 19th, 2005 8:12 pm

    Speaking of Greg Dobbs, I wonder when he’ll draw his first walk this season? I’m figuring sometime in May.

  27. BDA on April 20th, 2005 12:29 am

    There are several things I do not understand about the season so far:

    * Why Matt Thornton has more innings pitched than Villone
    * Why Matt Thornton is on the team at all, instead of say, George Sherill
    * Why we are using Willie Bloomquist as our backup center fielder instead of Winn.
    * Why we are using Guardado in the closer role when he’s clearly not sharp yet.
    * Why we don’t have any speed on the bench (e.g. Jamal Strong) so we can pinch run.
    * Why we continue to let Winn steal bases.
    * Why we don’t move Winn to the #2 slot.

    I am hoping that the roster gets rationalized when Pokey and Bucky get back from the DL. My vote is to send down Dobbs and DFA Sandfrog, Sele and Thornton.

  28. Aaron B on April 20th, 2005 8:23 am

    Anyone want to speculate if Boone is actually hurt? Did he ever really recover from his back spasms he had in Spring training? In the past year or so he has played hurt and really never told anyone until after the fact. I have not seen many of the games where he has made errors on defense but are they because he just is not going all out like he used to. The one between the legs last week made me start to thing this way. One would think that back problems would affect your swinging also.
    I will not perpetuate the rumors on if he or if he is not on the wagon when it comes to excessive drinking that seemed to be the buzz in early Spring.

  29. realityrick on April 20th, 2005 2:23 pm

    in reference to when greg dobbs will get his first walk–how about the whole team–no one on this team takes pitches. when ichiro is one of your leaders in walks its a sad statement. not taking any pitches allows the opposing pitcher to hang in ther longer–thus the two games in chicago this past weekend where garland and buerle go through the line up like a knife through butter. i wonder if billy beane would even want any of these guys outside the big three (ichiro, beltre, sexon) on the a’s team. guys like edgar, olerud, mclemore, and buher at least took a few pitches and even if their batting averages weren’t too high their on base percentages were usually much more acceptable. this crop has batting averages and on base percentages about equal. i think this is the most disturbing element of the first two weeks.