Week #4 in Review

peter · April 29, 2005 at 8:44 am · Filed Under Mariners 

It’s a dreary, wet day. Fridays seem to be sleepy days here in central Kentucky. I’m sitting here in the coffee shop of the tiny college town drowning myself in some Seattle Blue Nile brew or something, attempting to get some work done. And if we’re lucky, we can squeeze this into a regular routine.

Vital Signs
As of today the Mariners are 11-11, tied for 2nd place in the AL West and two games back of the Angels. They’ve scored 99 runs, which is better than Oakland in the division, but unfortunately, only better than the A’s, Indians and Royals in the context of the whole league. On the happy side, they’ve allowed 93 runs, giving them a run differential of +6, and that accurately reflects they’re .500 record. Oakland and Los Angeles (that’s so weird to type) have each allowed 92 runs, and the only team in the league significantly better than that is Minnesota at 87. So, the run prevention has been top-notch thus far.

Over the past seven days, the Mariners split the week’s games, going 3-3, and scored a run for every one they gave up (25) against a Cleveland club that has suddenly developed an allergy to first base and a Rangers squad that still bleeds runs. That the Mariners scored as many runs as their opponents this week is pretty significant when you consider that the pitchers got clobbered for 10 homers (of a total 47 hits allowed, yikes!) while the lineup provided just 3. They did out-walk the opposition 25-18, and that helps.

Raul Ibanez had a hot night at the ballpark Tuesday, reaching base 4 times, and for the week went 8-for-19 (.421/.560/.526). Toss in 6 bases on balls and that’s 14 times on base in 6 games. When you reach more times than you make an out, that’s a very good thing. Now if only the three fellas behind him in the batting order could get it together. The 7-8-9 hitters combined to go 11-for-60. And Raul Ibanez crossed home plate only twice.

Randy Johnson. Roger Clemens. Jamie Moyer. One of these pitchers is not like the others. Yet it was Moyer who tossed 95 pitches over 8 innings Sunday, allowing just a home run to Bret Boone’s baby brother. He threw 62% of his pitches for strikes, allowing just 6 hits without a walk and struck out 5. Moyer’s K/BB for the season is currently 3.29. The only time in his career he’s maintained a ratio over 3 for a whole season was 1998.

Not-so-much Heroes
This just has not been Bret Boone’s week: 4-for-23 (.174/.200/.217). He created 8 more outs than Ibanez, reached base 11 fewer times. And scored just as many runs. Go figure.

Ryan Franklin didn’t have such a hot week either. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Have you had your Blass Disease immunization?

Pity poor Jason Davis. Control has never been the strongest tool in his utility belt, but Sunday’s outing must have been painful to watch. It was like suddenly an invisible forcefield suddenly materialized around the strike zone. Just have a look at Davis’ pitching chart (stupid flash; you’ll have to select ‘pitching’ and use to drop down menu to find Davis). How else do you explain consecutive walks to Raul Ibanez, Randy Winn, Miguel Olivo, Wilson Valdez (on four pitches!) and Ichiro?

Mariner fans, hope you were paying attention. Because we will never, never, never, NEVER see Olivo, Valdez and Ichiro each pass on four pitches in succession ever, ever, ever, EVER again.

It’s Put the Ball in Play Night in Arlington
Couple of weeks ago a buddy of mine who happens to be a Reds fan and NL-only kind of guy, asked for some fantasy baseball advice. The conversation went something like this…

Reds guy: What do you think of picking up Ryan Franklin? He’s looking pretty good.
Me: If we’re playing in the same fantasy league, right on. But my unbiased opinion says, No way, Jose. And he was pitching against the Royals, dude.

Going into Wednesday’s contest, Ryan Franklin had been on a roll of 3 consecutive 8+ inning starts, allowing only 8 runs over 28.2 innings, an ERA of 2.51. But here’s why we here at USS Mariner will never overestimate the power of peripheral pitching numbers and why you didn’t need a crystal ball to know this wouldn’t last forever: He had walked 6 batters while striking out only 5 batters in those 28+ innings. Even with the 2 more he struck out Wednesday, his K/9 stands at less than 2. The major league average is, oh, ’round four-and-a-half. The power strikeout pitchers notch a K at a rate about once an inning. Pitchers who can’t strikeout 2 batters in 9 innings don’t keep their jobs very long at all.

Ryan watched 10 hits drop in just 4.1 innings. I’m sure he was pleading, “Someone, please anyone, please catch the ball!” Sure, strikeouts are undemocratic, but never striking anyone out is baseball’s equivalency of requiring legislation to pass with a unanimous vote.

And yet, on the other side in that same game, Kenny Rogers walked 5 and struck out 1 in his 6 innings.

Some days you eat bear, and sometimes the bear, well, he eats you.

Exhibit #2874 in When to Use Your Best Reliever
Tuesday. April 26. Bottom of the 8th. 5-3 Mariners. Joel Pineiro has thrown 69 pitches over 7 innings so far. Hops ahead of Laynce Nix 0-2 before popping him out to left. Then falls Alfonso Soriano 2-0. That’s a situation Soriano doesn’t see all that often. Hitter’s count and Soriano knocks it out of the park. The fourth solo shot on Pineiro’s watch. 5-4 Mariners. One-run lead. Five outs to go. Heart of the order on the way–Blalock, Young, Teixeira.

So Hargrove pulls Pineiro and brings in his ace closer to shut the door on this rally… Ron Villone.

Lefty Villone strikes out the lefty Hank Blalock. Now with two down, with a one-run lead, and Rangers’ hit-machine Mike Young to the plate, Hargrove turns to his ace closer to shut the door on this rally… J.J. Putz.

Young singles to left. Now with the Rangers’ biggest longball threat to the plate representing the go-ahead run, Hargrove…. stays with Putz.

Teixeira singles. Young, the tying run, now in scoring position. Putz still stays in the game and pitches to David “Walk-Machine” Delucci. Delucci watches four balls and the bases are loaded for the Rangers’ hottest hitter, Kevin Mench.

Putz stays in the game. Now, I can understand a manager’s tendency to, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it”. And when the jam is escaped, it looks brilliant and the pitcher’s self-esteem must rise to astronomical levels only Dr. Phil knows.

Well, Putz must really feel all warm and fuzzy, because Mench dribbled the first pitch for a fielder’s choice at third. The M’s scored a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth, and Eddie Guaradado pitched the bottom of the inning, now with a 3-run lead, against the bottom of the Rangers’ lineup–three guys with OBPs south of .300. Three up, three down. Save for Guardado. But really now, Dave Cameron could have retired Gary Matthews, Rod Barajas and Richard Hidalgo right now.

Now, in fairness I don’t have a clue what was going through Mike Hargrove’s mind in the bottom of the eighth inning. And he surely wasn’t predicting a three-run lead going into the last frame. But here’s a textbook example of how the backward thinking of saving your Closer for the ninth-inning exclusively can nearly cost you the game. It’s a textbook example of how critical the eighth inning can be while the ninth is insignificant.

Before jumping to conclusions with Hargrove, it’s just one game. But one games become trends. And trends become seasons.


33 Responses to “Week #4 in Review”

  1. Josh on April 29th, 2005 9:01 am

    Thanks for the read, however do you really want Eddy to pitch in the 8th with the bases loaded? I’m not sure he is the better option there.

  2. Pilots fan on April 29th, 2005 9:03 am

    Great summary … and I might add to the Boone list that he is leading the team in errors with 4. The JJ Putz example is a mystery to me. Do M’s managers (going back to Lou) think that our closers forget how to pitch between the 8th and 9th innings should they be asked to pitch in the 8th? Why not try it once (just ONCE!) to find out? Just because Jose Mesa couldn’t do it doesn’t mean that Eddie can’t or shouldn’t be expected to. I don’t get this!!!

  3. Pilots fan on April 29th, 2005 9:05 am

    Responding to #1 — no, I don’t.

    I want Eddie pitching right after Villone. Two out, bases clear. Get the out and sit down. Then go out and shut down the 9th. That is what he gets paid for.

  4. Shawn on April 29th, 2005 9:16 am

    I think it’s funny how the M’s did this (i.e. pitch our best relievers in the 8th inning with bases loaded) a couple years ago when Soriano and Mateo were lights out and Rhodes was at times pretty good. Our at best 3rd best reliever closed the game, and well, that bullpen was just amazing. One of Bob “I Couldn’t Manage a Taco Bell” Melvin’s best decisions, even if it was probably accidental. But even a lot of the forward thinking teams use their best reliever to close out games (think A’s and their string of successful closers), even if they may pitch a little extra in the 8th. But I think the key is that if there is a huge bases loaded no outs situation in the 6th inning, that would be the time to use your best reliever. And until teams start really paying relivers based on effectiveness and not saves and ERA, well, there may not be a change. Even if one team recognizes saves are not all that important, there will always be a Tigers to pay Percival millions upon millions based on save counts, and thus the Percivals will want to close.

  5. chris w on April 29th, 2005 9:21 am

    The problem with the Ms bullpen is that it isn’t very good. There’s not a single power arm in it and, I think most would agree, the Ms have been lucky it hasn’t yet exploded… but chances are it will eventually. Regardless who your *paying* to be the big-time closer, Guardado, Putz, and Hasegawa are all basically the same. Villone’s a lefty but he’s not much different. If there’s one guy I actually I think ought to be inserted into the highest-leverage situations, it’s Mateo.

  6. Ralph Malph on April 29th, 2005 9:21 am

    I realize he is our Proven Closer, but I don’t think Guardado is any better of a pitcher than Putz. Might as well bring in the righthander to pitch to the righthander Young.

    On the other hand, I’d have left Villone out there to face Young with the bases empty, because after him comes Teixeira (switch-hitter) and Dellucci the lefthander. Then if Villone is still going Putz can face Mench.

    Villone is pitching very well, throwing hard, and is tough on lefties. I don’t see bringing in Putz there but I wouldn’t bring in Fragile Eddie in the 8th.

  7. Josh on April 29th, 2005 9:21 am

    Yes thats what Eddie gets payed for, however I’m not sure he is our best reliever. That’s the point I was trying to make. Yes he was not used there because he is our closer, but really having him be the closer and not always pitching in the most important situations, well that might be the best thing for us, even if we are lucking into it.

  8. Basebliman on April 29th, 2005 10:03 am

    Re: 7, I couldn’t agree more. There are only 2-3 games I can remember this year where the game was actually “on the line” when he came in to close it. Right now I think Villone and Mateo are our best relievers. You wouldn’t have heard me say that coming out of spring training!

  9. Brian Rust on April 29th, 2005 10:11 am

    11-11. Plus some signs of hope (Moyer is sharp, we haven’t been swept, Reed/Beltre/Sexson are in the lineup, Hansen has been signed). I’ll take it. Last year at this time we were 7-15, and the only thing the FO did was give BoMel an ultimately meaningless contract extension.

  10. realityrick on April 29th, 2005 10:30 am

    interestesting read. the runs scored is skewed by the fact that we scored 18 runs in two games in k.c. i have a hard time buying that this offense is one iota better than it was last year. everyone wants it to be–everyone hopes it is– but so far we have ichiro 2nd on the team in home runs–no one, walks–we’ve had two big walk games but other than that no one takes a pitch. where are martinez, olerud, buhner and maclemore when you want to work a count. ultimately, never working the count allows for people with earned run averages of 6-7 entering the game to look like world beaters which we’ve seen alot with this offensive club. where’s the power? i know it’s early but we are currently on pace for about 100 hrs. this is magnified by the fact that we don’t get many doubles or extra base hits in general. i hope not but i’m thinking this just could remain ugly offensively. fortunately our pitching has been a little better than expected, especially moyer–good job jamie!

  11. Phil on April 29th, 2005 10:50 am

    I wish Shiggy/Mateo would get into games in more key situations.

  12. Ken Hanselman on April 29th, 2005 11:13 am

    When the season started it seemed like everyone was predicting more offense, accompanied by bullpen flameouts. For the first month at least, it’s been quite the opposite. With strong teams on the immediate horizon, I think over the next month or so we might see the original prediction come to fruition, especially the bullpen flameout part of it.

  13. REALITYRICK on April 29th, 2005 11:18 am

    [deleted, I can’t stand all-caps posting]

  14. Evan on April 29th, 2005 11:24 am

    I had the good fortune to be watching that game when Ibanez, Winn, Olivo, Valdez, and Ichiro drew five consecutive walks.

    It was really quite amazing.

    And yet, Davis had better control that night than Almanzar did yesterday.

  15. sodo on April 29th, 2005 11:24 am

    Thanks for the caps there Rick, really makes it easier to read.

  16. Kelly M on April 29th, 2005 11:26 am

    I grew up in Lexington, but now live in Seattle. As a native of the Blue Grass State whose entire family still lives in and around Lexington I ask: Why, in God’s name, are you in Kentucky? It has its charms. Its really pretty, the people are nice enough, and it is also not officially a “State” but a “Commonwealth,” which is all very cool. But what’s up?

  17. Brett Farve on April 29th, 2005 11:48 am

    Rick, while I understand your sentiment, you can’t arbitrarily throw out all of the games that the M’s scored lots of runs in. Why not throw out the games that the M’s scored the fewest runs in and call those aberrations?

  18. peter on April 29th, 2005 11:50 am

    Ah, but it is Horse Capital of the world. It does have that going for it. And its gotta be up there in skunk roadkill, too. Ooh, and more Applebees per capita than anywhere I’ve ever seen.

    Would you believe grad school? Kentucky certainly isn’t “home”. But then I’ve moved around so often the last few years I kinda forget where “home” is anymore.

    If they ever let me back in the state of Washington again, I’m there.

  19. Christopher Michael on April 29th, 2005 11:54 am

    #16 You know I just moved down here to Evansville from Phoenix for family and to go back to school and when I tell people that I always tell them to just not ask since I know whats coming.

    People from Seattle are more comfortable moving around I guess?

    As for our bull pen Hargrove has a quota for how many pitchers he needs each game so he can’t use Eddie in the 8th inning. But hey, its working fairly decently so far.

  20. Christopher Michael on April 29th, 2005 11:55 am

    Peter… same here. I was counting the other day and its been 5 years since I left Washington. Too long.

  21. Adam B. on April 29th, 2005 12:29 pm

    The bullpen debacle wouldn’t be a problem if Soriano were still healthy. Certainly he’d be the best reliever on the Mariner’s roster right now, and while old-schoolers like making their best reliever the “9th inning only guy” Soriano would be helped by the another old-schooler mentality of pidgeon-holing relief pitchers as “closers”.

    So if (and when?) Soriano is healthy, we’ll have the benefit of a DOMINANT (at least he was…) 7th-8th inning reliever as long as Guardado is still on the roster and quasi-healthy.

    Perhaps next year?

  22. eponymous coward on April 29th, 2005 12:59 pm

    . i have a hard time buying that this offense is one iota better than it was last year. everyone wants it to be–everyone hopes it is– but so far we have ichiro 2nd on the team in home runs–no one, walks–we’ve had two big walk games but other than that no one takes a pitch.

    OK, let’s compare. The lineup has 3 big changes from last year:

    Edgar is replaced by Raul at DH, but in reality he’s replaced by Reed, since Reed’s in CF, moving Winn to LF and Raul to DH.

    I’d say that’s at least a push, arguably an improvement- Reed’s not going to hit with power, but neither did Edgar. For the record, Reed’s leading AL rookies in OBP right now at .368. And he isn’t running on 41 year old hamstrings, either.

    Beltre is in for Spiezio/Bloomquist/Leone/Cabrera. Um, duh, which is better? Next…

    Sexson for Olerud/Jacobsen. Here’s a tidbit:

    Olerud’s SLG and OBP:

    post-ASB, 2002: .417 .386
    2003: .390 .372
    2004 as M: .360 .354

    Basically, over close to 1000 at bats, John Olerud hit like a decent second baseman (high OBP and very little power), except he was slow as molasses and grounding into DP’s… and his performance degraded every year. Richie Sexson’s OBP’s in 2002 and 2003? (his last 2 full seasons) .363 and .379. Explain to me again why we haven’t improved?

    Sexson is closer to a push with Jacobsen, but still a little better.

    SS and C and the bench is still a disaster like last year, and Bret Boone could still go downhill…but it’s quite likely we improved the team. It’s masked somewhat by Safeco being a bastard to hitters- but the problems of the pitching staff are equally masked by that.

  23. Graham on April 29th, 2005 1:20 pm

    Why do people keep saying Ichiro’s tied for second most home runs on the team. Off the top of my head…

    Sexson 5
    Ibanez 3 or 4 (I forget)
    Beltre, Boone, Ichiro 2

  24. Evan on April 29th, 2005 1:27 pm

    Graham’s right:

    5 HR – Sexson
    3 HR – Ibanez
    2 HR – Beltre
    2 HR – Boone
    2 HR – Ichiro

  25. Brian Rust on April 29th, 2005 2:02 pm

    Here’s how I look at the lineup improvement. If we account for Edgar’s retirement by using the NL-park lineup, last year’s 2-3-4 (Winn-Boone-Ibanez) are this year’s 5-6-7. 8-9 is a wash. And this year’s 2-3-4 truly belong there, while Boone-Ibanez-Winn is a pretty damn good 5-6-7 (although Ibanez-Boone-Winn would be even better). Even if the improvement hasn’t shown up in the stats, it will.

  26. Colm on April 29th, 2005 2:09 pm

    Re:18 Not while grass grows in Tipperary

  27. Colm on April 29th, 2005 2:12 pm

    Or Meath

  28. Tom on April 29th, 2005 3:15 pm

    Why isn’t Hasegawa a setup man any more?

  29. DMZ on April 29th, 2005 3:21 pm

    Uh, because he lost the job by virtue of being bad? Or is that trick question somehow?

  30. Tom on April 29th, 2005 5:44 pm

    2.00 era, .78 whip, .188 Opp. Avg.

  31. Christopher Michael on April 29th, 2005 6:08 pm

    I’m pretty sure he was talking about his performance last year taking him out of the set-up role. 9 innings is a bit of a small sample size for this year.

  32. DMZ on April 29th, 2005 6:30 pm

    The question was “why isn’t he a setup man anymore?”

    The answer was “He lost it by virtue of being bad.”

    Quoting his current stats does not make him un-lose that job last year because he was bad then.

  33. roger tang on April 29th, 2005 7:06 pm

    In other words, he doesn’t deserve the set up job given what he did last year.

    He MIGHT win it back LATER this year if he continues this performance.