Week #11 in Review

peter · June 10, 2005 at 6:59 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Bring on the interleague craziness!

It took the Mariners the entire month of May to win two series. Not only have they won their first two series in June, they’ve now won four in a row.

Vital Signs
On this Friday we find the Mariners 26-32, sitting firmly in third place. They still find themselves in third place in the AL West, and gained a game on the division-leading Angels, who now sit 7.5 games over the M’s. The adjusted standings over at Baseball Prospectus suggest the Mariners are a little less than a game unlucky. Lady luck is finally beginning to shine her face on the M’s as they have now won 8 of their last 11, including a record of 6-1 in games decided by just one run in those games.

The offense is tied with the Royals for 11th in the league, scoring 249 runs, comparable also to the Tigers and A’s. Their 40 home runs rank 13th in the league and their 167 walks tie them for 7th, square between divison leaders Chicago and Baltimore. Meanwhile, their .316 on-base percentage ranks 11th and their .383 slugging percentage ranks 13th. As a team, they are hitting .254/.316/.383 compared to the American League average of .260/.330/.414. While the Mariners are getting their hits at about the league average (thank you, Mr. Ichiro!), their ability to draw walks and hit for power are still lagging far behind the rest of the league. Their .258 EqA ranks 23rd in all of baseball.

The defense has allowed 267 runs, which makes them the 8th best team in the American League at keeping runs off the board. The gloves are turning 71.3% of balls in play into outs, which is the 4th best rate in the American League. Overall, the pitching staff is looking league average, with a staff ERA of 4.43. The starters continue to slowly shave the runs of their ERA, trimming it down to a 5.09 ERA, while the bullpen continues to be solid with a 3.12 ERA.

May we please continue with opponents with aquatic mascots? The Mariners took 4 of 6 from the Devil Rays and Marlins, despite outscoring them just 29-25. While they hit just 3 home runs all week (thank you, Mr. Ibanez), the pitching staff allowed just a pair of long balls. And, they were out-walked 22-15. For the week, they hit .271/.332/.386.

Good contact. Bad contact over the fence.

Raul Ibanez continues his hot hitting, going 9-for-23 (.391/.417/.696) with a double and a pair of home runs. He led the team in total bases (16) and RBI (6). If there’s any word of caution in regards to Ibanez, its that his recent hot streak is mostly batting average-driven. He has just 5 walks over the last two weeks.

And congratulations goes out to Mike Morse, for not only collecting his first major league hit, but a perfect 7. He went 7-for-18 (.389/.450/.500).

Aaron Sele made a pair of starts and allowed just 15 batters the courtesy of first base in 12+ innings. While he walked only 1 in those starts en route to a total of 4 runs, he struck out only 5. I’ll take those wins while I can get ’em, but I ain’t pinning my future hopes to it.

Not-so-much Heroes
From too-hot-to-handle to too-cold-to-hold, Jeremy Reed went just 1-for-14 (.071/.071/.143), the only consolation being his one hit was a double.

Gil Meche walked 5 Marlins in 5 innings in a 5-4 loss Wednesday night. It was his roughest outing since the end of April. He allowed 4 runs.

Coming to a stadium near you
As a former resident of both Snohomish County and Fairfax County, this is the matchup I’ve been waiting for. Nationals vs. Mariners. And I’m still lamenting that the year I move from the DC area, not only does the District get a team, but also the Mariners play in RFK.

The streaking Nats have won 7 straight and sit atop the NL East, despite a run differential of -3. I saw Washington play in Cincinnati two weeks ago, and this is a team that struggles as mightily as the Mariners to score runs. They’re 13th in their league in scoring. It’s the pitching that’s carrying the Nationals, but the Mariners will miss out on staff ace and workhorse Livan Hernandez. Instead, they’ll see Tomo Ohka (54 IP, 11.1 VORP), John Patterson (53 IP, 17.8 VORP) and Tony Armas (37 IP, 3.2 VORP).

You thought the Mariners had troubles with the bottom third of their lineup. The Nats are getting an OPS of .623, .641 and .493 from the bottom third of their order (understandably, that is a pitcher at #9).

And just for kicks, consider this: Livan Hernandez is hitting .206/.229/.324 in 34 at bats. All Mariner pinch hitters are “hitting” .237/.256/.316 in 38 at bats. The Nationals’ pitching staff has 2 home runs. The Mariners’ bench has 0.

Next, the Mariners will host the similarly streaking Philadelphia Phillies. They Phils have won 7 of their last 8 series, including 13 of their last 15 games. Their offense is second only to the Cardinals in the National League, despite Jim Thome only hitting .205/.365/.333.

Last week, the Mariners caught the Devil Rays, and let’s face it, they’re still the Devil Rays, and the Marlins, who are struggling as of late. This next week will show a truer test of what the Mariners are or are not capable of doing on the field.


72 Responses to “Week #11 in Review”

  1. Dead Ball Tim on June 10th, 2005 1:57 pm

    #45 … ok Derek is blasting me! Weeee! When did I refuse to recognize Ichi-san’s excellence?

    Re: leadoff vs cleanup…. point taken but thats only controllable in inning #1 and sensible if they are hitting in those positions for the whole season. Where can we find the stat that shows how many chances these guys have with RISP? I think we’ll find that Ichi-san has plenty of chances despite his leading off in inning #1.

  2. Ken Hanselman on June 10th, 2005 2:02 pm

    Evan: While bloggers and analysts should stay away from RBIs as much as possible, hitters believe RBIs count a lot. Come contract time, they count for big money, don’cha know.

  3. Brian Rust on June 10th, 2005 2:04 pm

    If VORP is context-independent, wouldn’t it give the same weight to a hit that merely gets the hitter on base, as opposed to a hit that gets the runner on base PLUS moves a runner closer to home? It seems the statistic would over-value a player whose balls-in-play result in a lot of infield hits with no baserunners, and a lot of fielder’s choices with baserunners.

    Maybe VORP isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of stats, either.

    With runner on first, or first and second:
    Ichiro: 46 pa, 8 h+bb, .174 obp (9.2% of team’s pa)
    Rest of Mariners: 501 pa, 155 h+bb, .309 obp.

  4. Evan on June 10th, 2005 2:05 pm

    I have a data table I got from Studes at the Hardball Times that shows AB and Hits with RISP for all players from 1999-2002.

    RBIs do not count for runs. Runs do that. Since not all runs are driven in (runs scored on DPs, runs scored on errors or WP), RBI is an imperfect measure when you already have a better one.

    Measuring RBI or BA with RISP only matters if you assume that it’s some sort of repeatable skill. If you can show some sort of correlation year to year in the way a given hitter hits with RISP then you could argue that he either has that skill or doesn’t, but without that you’re just picking an arbitrary sample of his overall hitting.

    If you can’t find that correlation, then hitting is just hitting, and it’s context independent. Hitters don’t generally hit better or worse with RISP in any sort of predictive way (most hitters hit slightly better with RISP than they do without).

  5. Todd in Phoenix on June 10th, 2005 2:06 pm

    Sexson RISP: 62ab 11BB 35Rbi
    Ichiro RISP: 42ab 12BB 14Rbi

  6. Evan on June 10th, 2005 2:07 pm

    Oh, and a leadoff hitter leads off innings roughly twice as often as anyone else on the team.

    The point Derek was trying to make was that Ichiro bats behind weaker hitters than Richie does. But even beyond that, he very often bats behind no one at all.

  7. Evan on June 10th, 2005 2:09 pm

    Todd – to draw conclusions from that I need to know how many runners were in scoring position. And on which bases they stood. And how many outs there were.

    And I still don’t know if it matters if I can’t see a year-to-year correlation that tells me the results aren’t just random.

  8. Todd in Phoenix on June 10th, 2005 2:12 pm

    Evan – I slowly typed this in and before I saw what you wrote down… I just like to throw in my $.01 every once in a while (not .02 because I don’t know that much)

  9. Evan on June 10th, 2005 2:13 pm

    I’m not jumping on you – just pointing out that our data (in case someone was about to draw conclusions from them) aren’t sufficient from which to draw conclusions.

  10. Evan on June 10th, 2005 2:17 pm

    And if you’re specifically looking for context dependent outcomes, you need to subtract from Richie’s RBI total the homeruns he hit in those situations, as driving himself in doesn’t depend on the runners on base.

  11. Russ on June 10th, 2005 3:43 pm

    [deleted – annoying test post]

  12. eponymous coward on June 10th, 2005 4:22 pm

    Oh, what a surprise- a 1B batting cleanup with 13 HR’s has more RBIs than a leadoff hitter who is batting behind the worst 8 and 9 hitters in baseball who aren’t pitchers (and there are some P’s who hit better than Olivo and Valdez did when they were in those spots).

    Can we just all agree this is a silly way to compare players’ offensive contributions and move on?

    There are other metircs that gave Ichiro rather high marks, outside of VORP. Win Shares, for instance, had Ichiro at 30 win shares in 2001, which he gauges as MVP-level performance. He had 27 last year…


    So, basically, please shut up about him not being an elite player, OK- or come up with a metric that actually makes sense instead of bizarro “Well, if you look at his home runs plus his rbis and compare them to Barry Bonds…” measure.

  13. Metz on June 10th, 2005 4:40 pm

    One of the interesting things about Ichiro is accounting for his lack of power and walks. You also need to take into account that he is batting leadoff and his primary responsibility is to get on base. The big issue is the differential he has in AVG and OBP. It’s consistently around 40 points. Another example is Johhny Damon, his differential is around 80 points.

    Ichiro hitting .350 with an OBP of .390 with no power is an extremely valuable player.
    Ichiro hitting .300 with an OBP of .340 with no power is considerably less so.

    Compare Ichiro’s current stats of AVG .304, OBP .352, OPS .773
    Look At Damon’s 2004 stats of AVG .304 (same as Ichiro’s) OBP .380 OPS .857 (no, they aren’t park adjusted numbers)

    Never has a player’s offensive value been tied to batting average as much as Ichiro’s is. When he doesn’t get his base hits, his offensive value plummets. He just doesn’t do anything else. Hitting .300 he’s just not a superstar. Currently he’s 29th in the AL in OBP which is lousy for a leadoff batter who’s primary job is to get on base. He’s 10 places and 14 points behind his #2 hitter Randy Winn.

    He desperately needs to rack up a few of those 40 hit months to get back on track.

  14. Brian Rust on June 10th, 2005 4:59 pm

    When you aggregate the vast majority of MLB players, context-independent hitting stats offer valid comparisons. But Ichiro is unique. He has a particular hitting style that (this year at least) leads to a HUGE difference in his performance depending on the “context.”

    My empirical observation was “Wow, Ichiro really seems to be hitting into a lot of fielder’s choices in force-out situations.” I tested this observation with statistics (see # 53 above), and I think the numbers show a significant difference in Ichiro’s hitting in force-out situations. Basically, with a runner on first or first and second, he’s Wilson Valdez — he makes an out 5 out of 6 times.

    Granted, all the hits that get him on base by himself are quite valuable. But hits that ALSO move a runner around are MORE valuable, and Ichiro hits a much lower proportion of those than, say, Vlad or Sexson (or Bret Boone or Randy Winn, for that matter). So I think VORP or any context-independent offensive measure, while generally valid for the MLB population as a whole, over-values the contribution of Ichiro’s truly unique offensive style.

    (Additional tidbit from mining the data: His OBP with RISP looks quite respectable at .426. However if you take away the 10 of his 12 BBs that were intentional, it’s a mere .295. Frankly I think they’re stupid to walk him, given these situational numbers.)

  15. Grizz on June 10th, 2005 5:20 pm

    #63, it is not really fair to compare Damon’s career year numbers (before park adjustment) with Ichiro’s worst two months. Ichiro’s career AVG/OBP/SLG are better than Damon’s. #64, what is your sample size? Over the last three years, Ichiro’s AVG/OBP/SLG are better with runners in scoring position than with nobody on.

  16. Brian Rust on June 10th, 2005 9:29 pm

    #65, I’m just looking at this year. And I’m not really looking at RISP, just runner on first or first and second. Basically that’s forceout situations without the threat of a runner on third scoring on an infield grounder. I thought I would find a slight difference for Ichiro in this situation but was frankly shocked at how poorly he’s moved runners up this year.

    I am interested in perusing the historical splits, but haven’t found a source. Free, and copyable into Excel, if possible. Any tips?

  17. Scraps on June 10th, 2005 11:46 pm

    I want to point out, though I know that many will simply ignore or forget it, that this thread shows — again — that Ichiro’s advocates are quite willing to talk about his limitations. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve said at least three times that Ichiro’s hitting has been subpar to the point of near uselessness lately. He’s my favorite player, but it doesn’t bother me to discuss his drawbacks and his bad streaks.

    So what bugs me is not people criticising Ichiro, and not even the people wrongheadedly or excessively criticising Ichiro; it’s the people who insist that we are “uncritical” about Ichiro, that we’re not willing to listen to any deviation from Ichiro-worship, etc. What that almost always means is they say something about Ichiro that is at best arguable and at worst ridiculous, then get bent out of shape when someone points it out. No matter how matter-of-factly we do so, we then get told we’re “slamming” (or some such nonsensically violent word) the people we disagree with. That’s what’s frustrating: not the disagreement, but the attitudinizing.

  18. Scraps on June 10th, 2005 11:49 pm

    Brian: I posted Ichiro’s numbers with men on first and first-and-second over the last three years a few days ago. They are well below his total numbers. I suspect this is because he is unusually dependent upon beating out ground balls for his hits, and in a force-out situation he hits into a lot of fielder’s choices. But I have no data to back that up.

  19. ray on June 11th, 2005 3:12 am

    What a show! Those who think he’s average and those who think he’s elite. I think we should look at the overlooked fans. You know, the ones who know him best because they see him up close, they play against him and with him every year, and they know how difficult it is to play baseball at the MLB level: the players of the AL. They voted Ichiro the best player of 2004, not Vlad, not Sheffield, not whoyamacallit.

  20. Metz on June 11th, 2005 9:51 am

    I wasn’t trying to compare the overall “worth” of Ichiro vs. Damon. What I was trying to show was that Ichiro hitting .304 is much less valuable than Damon hitting the equivalent in average. Offensively Ichiro is all about AVG. He’s probably the only guy in MLB where you can look at his batting average and determine his offensive impact. His whole offensive value is based on hitting singles. When he hits .300, the gold standard for most players, he simply isn’t doesn’t stack up offensively as one of the best players in MLB. He needs to hit .340.

  21. roger tang on June 11th, 2005 12:41 pm

    re 69

    Actually, the so-called fans you laud are the ones who know players the LEAST because they ONLY look at the day to day, while other folks look day to day AND at the whole picture.

  22. deleted for aesthetic reasons on June 12th, 2005 10:10 am

    Regarding this blogs objectivity about Ichiro. If I remember right last year when Ichiro was struggling at the start and when he got his 4 year 11 million dollar contract a lot of people were saying he was just average. Then we all know what he did at the end of last year and Ichiro is the greatest thing ever again. It seems to me Ichiro is tough to figure out. He does a lot of puzzling things but just when you think he isn’t as good as you thought he was he ends up surprising. Who knows.