April In Review
One of the things we’ve decided to do for 2005 is to take a look back at the end of each month and do a mini state-of-the-team kind of thing. Now, one thing to keep in mind is that these take a couple of days to gather, so some statistics are going to be a couple of days out of date. I think we can all get past that, though. Hope you all enjoy.
Ichiro! He just keeps on hitting, putting up more tremendous numbers by finding holes where they seemingly don’t exist. He’s also running again, which is great news, because his high percentage basestealing just adds to his value. There’s not a whole lot more to say about the guy. He’s good.
The M’s defense is, as expected, one of the best in baseball. They are converting 72 percent of balls in play into outs, third best in all of baseball. When the fielders have a chance to make a play, they usually do. The team’s ERA is 3.80, but their Fielding Independant ERA is 4.57. Not all of that difference is the gloves, but its a significant part of why the pitching staff has been so effective. Defense is, by far, the strength of this team.
Jamie Moyer has been awesome. 32 innings, a 2.53 ERA, just 2 home runs allowed, and a 3.5/1 strikeout to walk ratio? He’s not getting hit lucky; his BABIP is .284, right in line with what you’d expect given the defense and park he pitches in. He’s just pitching fantastically well. He’s throwing strikes, getting ahead, changing speeds, and keeping guys off the bases and the ball in the park. He’s been essentially as good as any other pitcher in the American League.
Last but not least, how about the bullpen? The M’s seven relievers have thrown 48 innings with a 2.43 ERA. They’ve walked 10 and struck out 41. Villone, Putz, Mateo, and Hasegawa have been especially good, allowing just 3 earned runs in 27 2/3 innings for a 0.97 ERA. The arms out of the pen put up a great month.
We knew the bench was horrible. But this is another level of awfulness. Dobbs, Spiezio, Bloomquist, and Wilson are a combined 9 for 53, hitting .169/.214/.245 for the month. Abysmal doesn’t begin to describe that type of crappy hitting. The reserves are, by far, the worst in baseball. It’s a glaring hole on the team.
The bottom of the lineup. Winn, Olivo, and Valdez are hitting .229/.280/.289. Winn’s getting on base at a decent clip, but the two spots behind him have been so awful that it just doesn’t matter. The M’s have almost no chance at big innings, because the last third of the lineup are nearly guaranteed outs.
After a dominating spring training, Good Gil Meche apparently got beaten up by Lousy Gil Meche and shoved in a closet somewhere, because we haven’t seen him since. He’s averaging less than 5 innings per start, has a 6.86 ERA, lousy peripherals, and pain in his elbow. We know, the guy has good stuff, but he’s about as reliable as a ’78 Fiat. 2005 is Gil Meche’s make or break year, and right now, he’s leaning pretty heavily towards break.
The injuries have piled up. Madritsch going down hurts a lot. Pokey Reese still hasn’t made his official Mariner debut. Bucky’s rehab isn’t going well. Meche has elbow pain. Sexson had the flu for two weeks. Guardado looks like he’s 142 years old. At full strength, this team has some promise, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to get anything close to a full strength club this year.
While the record is pretty much what I expected, the methods to the wins have been weird. The team essentially has won with clutch hitting, Jamie Moyer, good relief work, and big time defense. The offense has been abysmal, ranking near the bottom in most every category, except runs scored, which is the one that counts. There are a lot of performances that you look at and say “that can’t continue”, but for the most part, the team is winning about as often as we thought they would.
What to Expect in May:
Jeremy Reed is ready to start tearing the cover off the ball. After a bad first series, he’s swinging the bat well, and all the indicators are there. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the M’s best hitter over the next month.
Ryan Franklin is going to come back to earth. His BABIP is .144. That’s not sustainable, even if the M’s got an exemption from the league to use 15 defenders the rest of the year. His good run in April has had a lot more to do with good fortune than good pitching, and that simply won’t continue much longer.
The schedule is rough in May, with two series’ apiece with the Yankees and Red Sox. The team could play a lot better and still win less games. Look for improvement in the level of play, not necessarily the record.
April has been close to heart-stopping and faint-inducing. Almost
one-third of the Mariners’ games — six out of nineteen — have been
decided by one run.
Two implications to this: first, April has already been more
interesting than most of last year, especially since no team in the AL
West seems ready to separate themselves from the pack; second, it’s
only a matter of time before some cardiac patient sues the team for
$10 billion, the moose costume and Howard Lincoln’s cufflinks.
Excitement aside, it isn’t hard to diagnose the bench as a major
malady. Scott Spiezio, who we expected to be the only reserve whose
bat would work on occasion, is injured and unproductive.
Worse, the barren bench supercharges another bugaboo: hitters seven
through nine. Bad as it is to have three near-automatic outs at the
bottom of the starting lineup, it’s even worse to have no better
pinch-hitting option in the late innings. The bench is like Dracula to
an already anemic end of the order.
That said, it’s tough to complain about the team’s defense, and the
pitching’s performed pretty well, too. But what can we expect from the
In my opinion, Dave is spot-on about Jeremy Reed. Let me add another
member to the breakout watch.
If Ryan Franklin has to come back to earth, then Adrian Beltre has to
start rising. Right now, his slugging percentage (.315) is about half
what it was last yer (.629). Even if you expect last year to be his
limit, he’s not going to hit one home run a month for the rest of the
Most of the other main cogs in the lineup are hitting pretty close to
what you can expect given their career norms. We can probably
anticipate the Richie Sexson will get on base more than he has, given
that he’s been deathly ill and that his career OBP is about 50 points
higher than what he’s shown so far.
If Beltre produces like we know he can, though, and Reed performs like
we suspect he will, an offensive jump-start may be in the offing.
I think watching Hargrove has been the most interesting part of this
first stretch. It’s almost an example of how little things change
between any two major league managers. Were you tired of Melvin’s
one-out pitching changes? Hargrove does that too. Weird in-game
decisions? Not so much, but then you don’t notice the absence of things.
Given the lineup he’s been given, I’m not too wigged out by his decision
to play Bloomquist in center: I see that more as a team failure to get
him an effective fourth outfielder he could use in that role. This
team’s bench is not constructed to complement the everyday lineup at
all, and I’m not sure there’s a lot to be done about it. In part, that’s
because they’re short on space: you can’t find a random AAA veteran bat
and stuff them in there, because there’s no room.
Well, there is.. you put them in the Choo-Leone memorial 25-man roster
slot. It’s strange to me that the M’s were able to pluck Valdez off
waivers, but didn’t snag (say) Calvin Pickering or someone to help the team.
Carrying a 12-man pen is bizarre, and his insistence on it baffles me.
And yet he’s been getting stellar work out of those guys, even as at any
one point there may be one or two relievers who haven’t pitched in a week.