Bad Felix

August 31, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 98 Comments 

Well, that’s what a bad King Felix start looks like. Ill control, weird pitch selection, hassled by inconsistent umpiring. I don’t particularly care if you want to call a wide or a small strike zone, though I’d like to see someone call the rulebook strike zone once… but if someone puts the same pitch in the same spot three times, it should be called either a ball or a strike each time. Nobody’s happy if down-and-in is randomly a strike.

Anyway, the unhappy totals:

15 ground balls, 2 fly balls. 7 strikeouts, 4 walks, 2 home runs.

Wait.. that’s pretty sweet. Just using game score, which is, of course, imperfect, that’s better than any start made by Pineiro this year. Gil Meche had one better, as did Franklin.

Game score: 50
+2/each inning after 4
-2/unearned run

Kinda dopey but amusing random stat to play with. Anyway, our best pitcher when bad is as good as our bad pitchers at their absolute best.

Game 132, Yankees at Mariners

August 31, 2005 · Filed Under Game Threads · 568 Comments 

The dust is settling around my house. Boards and plaster have settled down like warm snowflakes, and a new room is taking shape.

We’re doing a tradition long enjoyed by my favorite baseball team, the end-of-summer remodel.

Remodeling inherently involves destruction, sometimes painful. You throw away a part that’s outlived its usefulness, you tear down a section of your life. Some good always goes out with the bad, and if the old poker table doesn’t fit the updated room, well, that’s a hardship.

It’s the same with baseball, where a beloved chapter has to end so the fresh start can spring up. If you’re fortunate, time stops enough to let you see the great times of the previous era just as you sense those thrilling, emerging possibilities.

It’s in this mood that I go to watch Felix Hernandez take on Randy Johnson. Two aces, two eras, two baseball teams in different stages of transition.

One special end-of-summer night. Enjoy.

RF Ichiro
CF Strong
DH Ibanez
1B Sexson
3B Beltre
2B Lopez
LF Morse
C JoeJessica
SS Betancourt

Prelude to the Conflagration

August 31, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 61 Comments 

Whet your appetite for King Felix vs. Randy Johnson with Jim Caple’s preview.

The over-under on game thread comments tonight is 600. I’ll take the over, even if Corco doesn’t show.

Felix Hernandez named PCL Rookie of the Year

August 31, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 19 Comments 

The Pacific Coast League’s news item is here.

Hernandez becomes the first pitcher as well as the first player from Tacoma to receive the award.

Congratulations, Felix.

Game 131, Yankees at Mariners

August 30, 2005 · Filed Under Game Threads · 242 Comments 

RHP Jeff Harris vs. RHP Shawn Chacon, 7:05pm, FSN & KOMO.

RF Ichiro
CF Reed
DH Ibanez
1B Sexson
3B Beltre
LF Morse
2B Lopez
C JoeJessica
SS Betancourt

There’s much to like about tonight’s lineup: Reed hitting second, Bloomquist’s absence, Lopez’ presence, Morse in left, Ibanez back to DH, Betancourt in there to haul in everything hit his way, and so on.

Chacon has been something of a savior for the Yankees and their depleted starting staff, going 3-1 with a miraculous 1.80 ERA in six starts since being acquired a month ago. Even factoring in that he’s spend his entire career at Coors Field, he’s obviously in way over his head, but you gotta stick with the hot hand. Right Mike Hargrove?

Bloomquist on DL, Lopez up

August 30, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 51 Comments 

Willie “the Igniter” Bloomquist was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained left hammy, suffered yesterday while running out what turned out to be an RBI fielder’s choice. 2B of the future Jose Lopez, who was hitting a robust .319/.354/.509 at Tacoma with ~41% XBH, has replaced Bloomquist on the 25-man roster.

Here’s hoping Lopez gets the bulk, if not all, of the playing time the rest of the way (though I’m guessing we’ll see Morse and Betancourt up the middle tonight). Lopez and Betancourt. Betancourt and Lopez. That’s your middle infield of the future, folks. One can pick it and the other can hit it.

Edit: Nope, appears it’s Lopez at 2B, Betancourt at SS, and Morse making his starting LF debut.

Game 130, Yankees at Mariners

August 29, 2005 · Filed Under Game Threads · 268 Comments 

7:05. Your lineups:

Ichiro, RF-L vs Jeter, SS-R
Ignitor, 2B-R vs Matsui, LF-L
Ibanez, LF-L vs Sheffield, DH-R
Sexson, 1B-R vs Rodriguez, 3B-R
Beltre, 3B-R vs Giambi, 1B-L
Dobbs, “DH”-R vs Williams, “CF”-B
Betancourt, SS-R vs Lawton, RF-L
Reed, CF-L vs Posada, C-B
Ojeda, C-R vs Cano, 2B-L

Aannnd in the biggest matchup of the day… RHP Mike Mussina v RHP Ryan Franklin. Not even in terms of “how good are they now”, but where their careers have been.

Mike Mussina is 36 this year. He’s 223-127, with 2,393 career strikeouts and a career ERA of 3.63. He’s had a couple of absolutely stellar years (1992, 1994, and his 2001 was pretty good too) a whole collection of almost-as good-ones. His worst years, he’s been league average. While probably not a Hall of Famer, Mike Mussina has had a tremendous career that seems to have gone largely unappreciated, and that could be because of the postseason, or his generally quiet manner, or whatnot.

Lately, he’s been beat up badly a couple times this year but also dominated on other occasions. June 14th, he pitched a complete-game shutout of the Pirates, striking out six and allowing only one walk (and no home runs) and using only 109 pitches to do so.

By contrast, his opponent Ryan Franklin has been horrible since he returned from his steroid suspension. Franklin hasn’t had a good start since July 4th, when he celebrated this nation’s independence with a complete game shutout of the Royals (six hits, one walk, four strikeouts).

And as to the career… Franklin is only four years younger than Mussina, but he’s 33-49 for his career, with 406 strikeouts.

Mike Mussina was a college pick out of Stanford at #20 in the 1990 draft. The Mariners picked Marc Newfield at #6. Two years later, they drafted Franklin in the 23rd round of the 1992 draft.

Oh well. Amazingly, the press notes indicate that there are 9,000 tickets for tomorrow’s Harris v Chacon matchup, and 7,500 each for the Wed King Felix v Randy Johnson match and the Thursday 1:35 mid-day Pineiro v Wright game. What’s the world coming to when the M’s can’t sell out Yankee games ahead of the series?

Being James Bond

August 29, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 91 Comments 

“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

If I might borrow the words of James Bond’s nemesis Auric Goldfinger for a moment, let me apply them to Seattle P-I columnist John Levesque’s unhealthy obsession with Willie Bloomquist. The malady manifested itself again today, marking a trifecta of tedious homilies to Seattle’s most famous dirtier of uniforms.

Like a drowning man, Levesque’s going down for the third time signals a point of departure from which there is no return.

For, as the movie villain’s rhetorical flourish suggests, this constitutes “enemy action.” Not against, you, or me, or the blog, but against — you’ll forgive the hyperbole — logic and reason itself.

I argued as much previously, and there’s naught but confirmation in this latest hollow epic of homerism. He plays hard! Yes, but poorly. He plays several positions! Which makes him best suited as a utility player, not a regular. He got a hit in these few situations, which I will enumerate! But very, very few other situations.

People tend to see what they want to see. If you want to prove that a player — any player — should be a regular, you can pick his best performances and write about them ad nauseum.

It’s intellectually dishonest, though, and it serves ill the very readers to whom Levesque is pandering.

Sincerely, this is the last topic I wanted to write on. When accused of Bloomquist-bashing, we’ve replied with affirmations of what we think the man does well — offering bench depth and pinch-running at the league minimum.

Contrary to the scurrilous assertions of Levesque and others, none of us root for Our Man From Port Orchard to fail. As a fan, I root for him to hit a home run in every plate appearance. Is it critics’ fault that we’ve only seen this happen thrice — one for every laudatory Levesque column — in nearly 700 major-league at bats ?

Are we not rooting hard enough? Will Bloomquist struggle and Tinkerbell die if we do not improve our clapping?

The trick is not let your wishes run faster than your neurons can fire. It’s fine to love Willie Bloomquist, whether it be for his hustle, his attitude, or what have you. But have the courage to love him for what he is, not what you want him to be.

Appreciating Bloomquist must involve realism. It must acknowledge that yes, I appreciate this player for the grit and determination shown in the two at-bats I describe in this column, but I also see the ugly results from the other 135 at-bats since he’s been in the lineup every day.

An honest assessment would say hey, I like watching this guy play. That’s true even though he’s started 32 of the last 33 games and shown precious little. With 137 at bats, he’s raked just 34 hits and walked a mere three times, getting on base at a .264 clip. Only seven of those knocks have been for extra bases, none a home run.

True appreciation demands clear sight, and that means seeing what’s there rather than what you wish were there. If one wants to see a starting-caliber player emerging from a slump, though — well, that’s what one is likely to see, with neither fact nor formal logic to say thee nay.

A friend’s high school wrestling coach advised us, as young competitors, thusly: be James Bond, he said.

Bond was never the largest guy in the fight, we were told, nor the strongest. He was the smartest, and the most flexible, using his intellect to adapt to emerging dangers. In life and in the sport, we were told, this is worth emulating. It still is.

James Bond would only let himself be distracted by one pet obsession, and here’s a clue: it wasn’t the plight of a backup major league infielder.

Be honest. Be flexible. Be James Bond, John. Let it go.

The 2006 Free Agent Pitching Buffet

August 29, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 156 Comments 

Remember the school cafeteria’s mystery meat, the mysterious mishmash of flesh that might have once been a cow, a pig, or some combination thereof? That’s your starting rotation next year. It ain’t quite a box of chocolates, but you sure don’t know what you’re gonna get.

Especially with the news about Jorge Campillo, the 2006 Mariners have a rotation filled with question marks dressed as baseball players.

Will Jamie Moyer, Ryan Franklin or Gil Meche be back? Does Joel Pineiro have to be? What about Bobby Madritsch’s shoulder? What about the minor league arms? It seems like the only sure thing (knock wood) is less than half Moyer’s age and has two more major league starts than Mordecai Brown had fingers on his pitching hand.

The key to next season how that rotation fills out. Though it’s unspeakably early, fans are understandably concerned about this, so let’s fire up the conversation with a preview of four available pitchers I’d like to see the Mariners pursue.

In keeping with the “mystery meat” theme, each player is likened to an item of ballpark food.

A.J. Burnett: Skilled and 28 years old, Burnett’s in the prime of his career. He misses bats, striking out batters at a rate higher than any Mariner save the boy king. Burnett did miss significant time with Tommy John surgery, which points to injury risks. But a cynic might say that the medical history just shows he’d feel at home as a Mariner.

In another year, Burnett would be a good, solid B-plus, a talented pitcher with some questions, a notch below the slam-dunk talent available above him. This year he’s the flagship of the free agent class. That may well drive his price beyond reasonable.

Rating: Fat Tire beer. Of undeniable quality, Fat Tire is nonetheless one of the most overpriced items at the ballyard. There might not be a more delicious item available, but at this cost, even the manageable risk that some clown might kick over your brew and not offer to buy another seems disconcerting. A premium that you’ll probably have to pay dearly for.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: I’ve long been a fervent advocate of pursuing the Japanese ace, but recently, my ardor has cooled. Not based on the man’s talent, you understand — it’s just that practically every Japanese manager has two subscriptions to Lou Piniella’s magazine “Throw Some More Pitches, Kid.” Recently, we’re hearing whispers that Matsuzaka’s velocity is down and he’s complaining of shoulder soreness. This visits Doyle-level sadness upon my psyche: it’s like watching a fine work of art deteriorate after being left out in the rain. [For some background, scope Derek‘s take and Will Carroll’s.]

If the rumors are baseless and he’s still the dominating pitcher he’s been, there’s little doubt in my mind that Matsuzaka is at least A.J. Burnett’s equal. But the chain of dominoes that starts with 200+ pitch outings rarely falls in a safe place.

Rating: Ichiroll. Like an Ichiroll, Matsuzaka might be a delicious and underexplored sensation. But fish spoils. Do you really want to bet an afternoon that you won’t be lolling and drooling after getting a hunk of fish that has gone bad from inattention or abuse? In other words, high risk, high reward — emphasis on risk.

Kevin Millwood: Millwood is older than Burnett and a step down. But though Millwood commanded $7 million this year, what he’ll get in the offseason is likely to be a bargain (in terms of dollars and years) than what the mighty Marlin will draw.

A career flyball pitcher (check out those ratios), Millwood also appears to be well-suited for Safeco. Think of Ryan Franklin, with talent and without the drug suspension.

Rating: Garlic fries. A totally solid, always defensible choice. Consistent quality at a price that won’t break the bank (well, for Safeco food). Won’t satisfy you all by itself, but won’t bankrupt you or risk Puchy Delgado’s Revenge either. Upshot: the safe choice.

Esteban Loaiza: Dominating 2003 Esteban isn’t coming back, but effective 2006 Esteban is a real possibility. Acquired on the cheap by the Nationals, Loaiza is hauling in less than $3 million this year — just a touch more than Gil “Five Innings, Four Runs” Meche. And he’s another flyball-heavy hurler, meaning Safeco might well maximize his skills.

Rating: Peanuts from outside the ballpark. Maybe those cheesy exhortations from the vendors are off-putting, but they’re true. You’ll spend less on those than you will on comparable products, and likely be just as satisfied.

Other names out there include Matt Morris, Jeff Weaver, Jarrod Washburn, Paul Byrd and Kenny Rogers. None of these interest me as much as the above four.

Recommendations as of today: Pursue Burnett, wary of overpaying. Pursue Millwood and Loaiza. Investigate Matsuzaka, but be extremely wary — think Sexson wary — about committing to too many years.

Be very happy with two of the above. Ignore the rest. After all, Beer and sushi go well together. Garlic fries and peanuts are solid additions to most any meal. But you most likely wouldn’t want to throw all four into the stomach at the same time.

And at Safeco, you couldn’t afford to do that anyway.


August 28, 2005 · Filed Under General baseball · 56 Comments 

Homer #33 today, the 534th career and good for a tie with Jimmie Foxx for 13th all-time. Also his 1000th career extra base hit. Oh, and a 14-game hitting streak to boot. Season line: a robust .302/.371/.578 with 45% of his hits going for extra bases.

We still love ya, man.

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