Dave · June 20, 2005 at 7:31 am · Filed Under Mariners
There’s a lot of stuff to talk about, so forgive me for going all Peter Gammons on this post.
I mentioned it in a game thread last week, but for everyone else who hasn’t heard, King Felix has been shut down due to “shoulder bursitis”. He’s expected to be reevaluated next week, though most people don’t expect him to take the hill again until July at the earliest. Bursitis, by the way, is a recurring condition, and Felix claims he’s had this pain before and its gone away. Light a candle.
Mike Morse has made a huge splash since getting called up, hitting .407/.468/.537 in 54 at-bats. How big of an offensive upgrade has he been over the M’s shortstops that preceded him? Morse’s early level of production gives him a 500 at-bat projected VORP of 93.5. Wilson Valdez’s 500 at-bat projected VORP was -27.0. How astounding of a difference is that? Over the course of a season, that’s approximately 12 wins in the standings. Morse has already accumulated more run value offensively than Edgar Renteria despite 216 fewer plate appearances.
The lesson here, though, isn’t that Mike Morse is a tremendous player. He’s not. He’s a mid tier prospect who is having a phenomenal hot streak to begin his career. The lesson of Mike Morse is the one we’ve been clamoring for the front office to learn for years: the perceived dropoff from major league to Triple-A talent isn’t nearly as vast as a lot of people think. Rather than spending millions of dollars on players who have proven to be mediocre or worse at the major league level, the team could improve remarkably by simply reallocating those resources to upper level players and giving opportunities to younger, unproven players with similar skills. Paying a premium for players with a major league track record of failure has cost this team dearly over the past few years. If there’s one thing we can hope comes from the ridiculous start that Morse has had, it’s that the organization may begin to realize that freely available talent often can outproduce the bottom rung of major league players, and do so for the league minimum.
Oh, and if you’re one of those wondering why Morse can’t keep this up, 82 percent of his hits in the majors have been singles. Besides Ichiro and Luis Castillo, two burners who get a huge amount of infield hits, there aren’t productive major league hitters who avoid extra base hits at that kind of clip. A realistic projection for Morse for the rest of the season is still something along the lines of .250/.290/.360.
Jose Lopez: 13 plate appearances, 2.2 VORP. Bret Boone: 262 plate appearances, 1.7 VORP. Lopez contributed more offense to the team from Friday through Sunday than Bret Boone has since opening day. Wrap your mind around that.
The team’s ERA in June is 2.80. As you’ve heard, that’s the best in the American League. Their defensive independant pitching ERA for June? 3.85. The biggest factor the pitchers have had has been keeping the ball in the park. They’ve allowed 3 home runs all month after allowing 36 in May. While pitchers have more control over home runs allowed than balls in play, that’s simply not a sustainable rate.
Actually, building off that last sentence a bit, you’re probably going to see me use the term non-repeatable skills a lot more in the future. I’ve been pondering some things in my mind the past few weeks, and one of the things that I’ve been uncomfortable with has been the statistical communities willingness to credit so many things we can’t explain to “luck”. It’s a term that immediately draws the ire of players and other analysts and fails to get the point across that we’re trying to make. Luck implies that the player had little to do with the outcome in the first place, while non-repeatable skills, at least to me, conveys the message that yes, we acknowledge that Player X accomplished Outcome Y, but we don’t believe he can do it consistently. Things like inducing a groundball to the second baseman are skills, but not one that a player can repeat on a regular basis. By differentiating between repeatable skills and non-repeatable skills, I think we’ll be able to more effectively communicate our opinions about certain players.
The Everett Aquasox season kicked off last night with their annual exhibition against the Everett Merchants, and the regular season begins tomorrow night at Everett Memorial Stadium against the Boise Hawks. The Frogs are one of the best entertainment products for a good price in the area, and you should definitely head up there and check the team out. Go often. I’ll have a breakdown on a few players to look for later this week. And yes, I’ll be on the air with Pat Dillon during the pregame shows on a regular basis again this year, so we’ll give you the heads up when you can hear me and Pat talking baseball on their new affiliate at AM 1380.