Take a Mulligan

Jeff · June 9, 2005 at 9:15 am · Filed Under Mariners 

We’ve all written things we’d like to have back. Being wrong is part of the opinion-proferring gig.

I’ll speculate that at season’s end Jon Paul Morosi will not be happy he wrote this, his piece of a week ago about how Aaron Sele has turned the corner. Of course, this was written before Sele’s last (poor) start, and I almost posted something then, but I think an examination of the emerging narrative is still worthwhile.

The article makes the case that Sele’s slower delivery has been helping him out. It also makes a bit of an excuse for him when we’re told that Sele’s worst starts have been against hot-hitting teams. This is not strictly true, but it helps to advance the narrative that, even when he’s been off, Sele hasn’t been as terrible as our eyes have told us.

This is my favorite part, though. Later in the article we advance the “Pat Borders, Miracle Worker” plotline that has been filling broadcast airtime ad nauseum.

Though the sample sizes are small, the statistics are telling:

When throwing to Borders, he is 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA in two starts.

When throwing to Miguel Olivo, he is 2-2 with a 5.58 ERA in six starts.

When throwing to Dan Wilson, he is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in two starts.

“Anytime you can have someone with 20 years of experience as your direct working partner, it’s a great support,” Sele said.

But … but I thought Sele’s bad starts were the result of pitching to Angel and Yankee hitters, not the absence of veteran savvy from that whippersnapper Dan Wilson! To J.P.’s credit, at least he throws Danny Boy under one bus tire and Miguel Olivo under the other instead of leaving Olivo lonely.

We’re all thrilled when the Mariners get an effective start out of one of their pitchers. We’re all rooting for Sele. Let’s not get wacky and say that three good starts in ten or eleven chances mean he’s figured it out. By contrast, whenever anyone asks Mike Hargrove if the team’s turned the corner, he gives words to the effect of “ask me in three weeks.” Would that it were otherwise, but at season’s end, Morosi may wish he’d taken a similar tack in the paper.

For those of you who think I’m just posting this now in a craven reverse-jinx attempt to jump-start Sele’s mojo for his start tonight, I’ll just say this: I don’t mind being wrong.


18 Responses to “Take a Mulligan”

  1. Colm on June 9th, 2005 9:40 am

    That’s just more lazy journalism:

    “Price pointed out that Sele’s worst starts came against the Angels and Yankees, two of baseball’s most fearsome lineups.”

    The Yankees I’ll give you, but the Angels? Did he look at their mighty numbers? 26th in OBP; 26th in Slugging; 14th in the bigs in runs scored (Eh?! Is this team lucky or what?). Offensively the Angels are scarcely more “fearsome” than the Mariners.

    And putting in a disclaimer about small sample size and then citing the statistics drives me crazy. It’s like saying: “I know this is meaningless, but look at what it means”.

    Like you hear a lot here, I hope Sele finds a way, and gives us more productive innings like the two genuinely decent starts he came up with. But it’s just like it is with Franklin. His decent starts seem partly a matter of luck and a very low BABIP. I can’t believe that he will be able to sustain a run of quality starts while only striking out two or three guys.

  2. Grant on June 9th, 2005 9:53 am

    I’m not rooting for Sele.

  3. KW on June 9th, 2005 9:58 am

    “a craven reverse-jinx attempt to jump-start Sele’s mojo”

    Quite a phrase there.

  4. Dead Ball Tim on June 9th, 2005 10:45 am

    What you done for me lately? —the famous question that illustrates the temporal nature of sports contests. Stats gathered over a long term can show long term trends but when trying to divine the immediate future, isn’t the freshest data the most relevant?…always being mindful that all data is in the past tense. Its lousy but its all we’ve got.

    A short-term view can be the only view to take where Sele is concerned. The stat that reflects the most insidious trend on his charts is his age. The intangible that counts most in his corner is his experience. If the M’s get quality starts from him only 30% of the time and satisfactory starts another 30%, he’s done his job. Given the structure and character of this club pitching and hitting-wise, I’d say he was pulling his own weight. We don’t have to worry about Sele losing it mentally out there. With a green kid, we do. I wouldn’t mind seeing a kid there instead of Sele but with that I’d expect some meltdowns.

  5. Aaron on June 9th, 2005 10:50 am

    The way I look at it, Sele’s ability isn’t going to keep the team in very many ballgames. If he can get lucky every few times, I’ll take it.

    His ‘norm’ of 5 IP / 4 ER is going to go into the loss column more often then not, so those ‘unlucky’ days of 3 IP / 6 ER aren’t really any worse. A loss is a loss. But if he can balance them out with a few 6+ IP /

  6. Mords on June 9th, 2005 11:35 am

    Hopefully he keeps it up for another month or so so we can trade him.

  7. Aaron on June 9th, 2005 11:45 am

    Bah, looks like the rest of my post really did get eaten. The basic point is that I would take a pitcher who is inconsistant, but on balance, still a bad pitcher over a guy who is simply consistantly bad. Naturally, I’d rather have neither, but at least Sele can be good for a couple wins here and there.

  8. Shoeless Jose on June 9th, 2005 1:20 pm

    Ah, but the question is: what is the nature of his inconsistency? Does he just have some good starts and some bad ones (in other words, is it something about him?) Or does he have weaknesses that some teams are more able to exploit (or, more precisely, does he have weaknesses that some batters are able to exploit, and some teams have more of those batters than others)? If it’s the latter, then perhaps you can juggle the rotation to avoid starting him against those teams. If it’s the former, and presuming at this point in his career anything that could’ve been fixed has been, then the most you can hope for is to recognize when he’s having a bad day and pull him early.

    Of course, it’s very possible the difference might be that on “good” days he just gets lucky with the defense….

  9. Colm on June 9th, 2005 1:31 pm

    My point in the first post was the Sele’s ability at this stage of his career probably doesn’t impact hugely the consistency of his performances.

    He pitches 6 innings, 18 to 22 guys put the ball in play; 3 strike out.

    That performances is going to give up 5 to 7 hits most of the time. That’s probably going to cough up two to four runs. For what we’re paying Sele, that’s about what we should expect. When a few more balls sneak through (and according to the law of averages a few more should be sneaking through) then the game gets out of hand like it did against Tampa.

    The one area where Sele showed some promise is control. If we walks batters at the rate he has walked them in his first 7 starts, close to two every three innings, then you see results like we saw in his first 7 starts – heaps of trouble and an ERA headed for the mid teens.

    So the best case scenario for Aaron is an ERA between 4.5 and 5. That probably keeps him in this poor rotation. If he regresses to nervous nibbling and starts walking hitters left and right then he ought to be on his way out.

    Actually the best case scenario is a run of good luck, say five more starts with a ludicrously low BABIP, and some marginal contender decides to trade for his veteran presence on their staff. It’s probably a vain hope. Would anyone be that stupid?

  10. Colm on June 9th, 2005 1:40 pm

    To correct: “If he walks batters at the rate he walked them in his first seven starts”. “Has walked” changes the meaning somewhat.

    He has reduced his walk rate in his last three starts. No walks at all, if I remember.

  11. realityrick on June 9th, 2005 2:02 pm

    The sad thing is that we could have this conversation about every one of the Mariner starters. All five of them are dreadfully inconsistent and none of them are more than a 5 or maybe a 4 starter on even a mediocre team not alone a pennant contender. Whenever anyone starts talking about the team playing better and maybe we could contend I almost swallow my chew. With this group of starters we are going nowhere. Another 8 game losing streak is much more likely than even a 4 game winning streak.

  12. Jim Thomsen on June 9th, 2005 6:35 pm

    A hearty congratulations to Jeff for being wrong about Aaron Sele.

  13. Jim Thomsen on June 9th, 2005 6:35 pm

    A hearty congratulations to Jeff for being wrong about Aaron Sele.

  14. David Holmes on June 9th, 2005 6:53 pm

    7 IP, 5 hits, 1 walk, no one reached 2nd base. He was 2-4 with a 6.31 ERA on May 10; Last 5 starts? 3-1 with a 1.57 ERA.
    Seems like he’s turned a corner. I dunno.

  15. Jim Thomsen on June 9th, 2005 7:00 pm

    Yeah, but the naysayers will continue to blather about unsustainable BABIP. You know, even as he continues to, like, sustain it.

  16. DMZ on June 9th, 2005 7:41 pm

    If a pitcher’s BABIP is far below what any other pitcher’s ever been able to sustain, it’s good money they’ll come back to earth. It’s like… if Willie Bloomquist hit four home runs in four games, I’d be happy about it, but I wouldn’t expect him to hit one every game for the rest of the season. It’s jut not reasonable.

    Same deal.

  17. Jeff on June 9th, 2005 9:53 pm

    I got DOUBLY congratulated for being wrong about Aaron Sele. I couldn’t be happier.

    Behold the power of the craven reverse-jinx jump-start mojo attempt.

  18. Aaron on June 9th, 2005 10:00 pm

    So how about predicting that Beltre goes hitless for the next month or so?