2005 Year in Review

peter · October 8, 2005 at 11:00 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Early in the week I had written up the Rogers Hornsby quote about what to do doing winter on a markerboard in my house. The guy who lives next to me – an unabashed Yankee lover – says to me, “Nice quote. But I don’t get it. The season is just starting.”

I wanted to punch him in the face.

Here’s the final tally on the Mariners’ 2005, because the baseball season is definitely over.

Vital Signs
Wins: 69. Losses: 93. Games out of first place: 26.

The Mariners claim the cellar for the second consecutive season, and rumor has it, become the first team since Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s to follow-up a pair of 90-win seasons with a pair of 90-loss seasons. Nevermind that the M’s had four 90-win seasons prior to last year. But that’s for another day. It’s only the second time since 1992 (don’t count ‘94) that the Mariners failed to win 70 games. On the bright side (bright as in dark and dreary as a November afternoon in Seattle), there happen to be 10 seasons in Mariner history that were worse than this one, according to winning percentage. Again on the plus side, the Mariners improved by 6 games over last year. And they finished 3 games closer to first place. That’s something, ain’t it?

Runs Scored: 699 (13th in the American League). Batting average: .256 (last). On-base percentage: .318 (last). Slugging percentage: .392 (13th). Home runs: 129 (13th). Bases on balls: 466 (8th). EqA: .249 (12th, tied with Kansas City). The American league average is .267/.328/.424.

Runs allowed: 751 (7th). Staff ERA: 4.47 (7th). DIPS ERA: 4.64 (12th). Strikeouts: 885 (last). Bases on balls: 495 (9th). Home runs allowed: 178 (10th, tied with Baltimore). Starters ERA: 4.92 (11th). Relievers ERA: 3.52 (5th). Defensive efficiency: 70.2% (5th).

A proposal to the M’s marketing for a 2006 slogan: Seattle Baseball – At least it’s not the 80’s anymore!

For all the rhetoric about a re-made offense last winter, the Mariners improved by exactly 1 run in the offense department. Just one. But don’t go blaming Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson. There are dozens of reasons to postulate just why the offense took 3 steps forward and 2 back. While the offense looked none too good, it really looked none too bad, either, at least by Seattle standards. Thirteen Mariner teams have scored fewer runs, though to be fair, two of them were in strike-shortened years. So, this was a pretty middle-of-the-pack season in regards to runs scored.

I know, I know what you’re saying by now – “Seattle standards suck.” And, unfortunately, this is true. The Mariners have a cumulative pythagorean winning percentage of .477. And playing for a .477 season isn’t what we’re after. Being the last team standing in October – that’s what we’re after. What I’m interested here is historical perspective.

This year’s squad scored 4.31 runs per game, which ranks 17th out of 29 seasons. That’s comparable to the ‘79 team (one that carried five starters with sub-.330 OBPs, including a .198-hitting Mario Mendoza), the ‘91 team (one with Dave Valle and Omar Vizquel and their sub-.300 SLGs and a 21-year-old Griffey and his 22 home runs) and the ‘89 team (where Jeffrey Leonard led the team with 21 home runs but with a .302 OBP). Not an impressive year at the plate, but if you’ve been reading here at all, you already knew that.

But scoring runs isn’t everything. Remember the ‘96 Mariners? They scored more than 6 a game, but also gave up more runs than any Seattle team had seen at that point and won only 85 games. This year’s team, which allowed 751 runs, again ranks right in the middle against previous Mariner teams. They’re sandwiched between the ‘84 team (led by a 23-year-old Mark Langston and his 204 strikeouts in 225 innings) and the ‘88 team (another rotation anchored by Langston). Before we jump to conclusions in celebrating nine on the field who could catch the ball, keep in the mind that the team’s defensive efficiency was better than ‘04 by just one-tenth of a percent.

Scoring runs and preventing them is not an either/or proposition. A team must do both. You have to score more runs the other team if you want to win a game, and especially if you want to win a championship. Unfortunately, the 2005 teams didn’t do that. The opposition outscored the Mariners by 52 runs, which over the course of 162 games doesn’t sound like very much to me. Given that the Mariners have outscored opponents by 100 or more runs four times (namely four times in a row, 2000-03) and been outscored by 100 or more eight times (including last season), this season doesn’t look so bad. In fact, it’s pretty par for the course as far as Mariner teams go. Six teams have finished the season outscored by margins of between 40 and 60.

Richie Sexson put all concerns about a damaged shoulder to rest for one season, leading the team with a .317 EqA and 56.1 VORP. He was fourth in the league among first baseman in VORP, just a hairs-breadth behind Jason Giambi (58.3) and Paul Konerko (56.3). He also led the team in doubles (36, tied with Beltre), home runs (39), walks (89), on-base percentage (.369) and slugging percentage (.541). It was the most home runs ever by a Seattle first baseman. Both Paul Sorrento in ‘97 and Tino Martinez in ‘95 hit 31, and they both had the advantage of the Kingdome. It was a vast improvement over the first base situation of last year, where the Mariners got only 15 home runs and a .392 SLG out of first base.

Jamie Moyer led the team with 200 innings pitched and a 30.5 VORP. I’d like to know if any pitcher in baseball benefited from his home park more than Moyer. His ERA at Safeco Field was 2.95 but 6.11 everywhere else. King Felix appeared in less than half of Moyer’s innings (84.3) yet nearly matched his VORP (28.6). Felix was fifth on the entire team in VORP. He had the highest K/9 (8.22) and lowest ERA (2.67) among all Seattle starters. Most impressive was his HR/9 at 0.53. For perspective, consider that the top fifteen pitchers in VORP all gave up less than a home run per nine innings. Of those fifteen Cy Young hopefuls, only Roger Clemens and Dontrelle Willis were stingier with home runs than King Felix.

Not-so-much Heroes
In 157 plate appearances, Miguel Olivo “hit” .151/.172/.276, which tranlsated into a lineup-sinking -12.8 VORP and a disgusting .140 EqA. To add insult to injury, Olivo was traded to San Diego July 31 and in 124 plate appearances for the Padres hit .304/.339/.487 with a 12.4 VORP.

For 116 innings the 35-year-old Aaron Sele provided less than replacement-level value for the Mariners with a 5.66 ERA and -0.9 VORP. In his final start that got him voted off the island, Sele allowed 9 runs to the Indians and labored through 98 pitches in just 4 brutal innings.

As a fan, one learns to take the good with the bad. Though, in Seattle this season there was more to disappoint than inspire. While Richie Sexson and Felix Hernandez provided a bright spot and a really bright spot, the second 90-loss season in a row leaves a bitter taste in mouths of the Seattle faithful and the pressure on Bill Bavasi to stop the bleeding and quick. Or else.

It’s going to be a busy winter.


58 Responses to “2005 Year in Review”

  1. Nintendo Marios on October 10th, 2005 12:54 pm

    9 & 10 – Totally agree. It can’t be said more clearly than this:

    My only comment about the state of the Mariners is my belief that the front office is not interested in developing a winner, but is interested in making the fans “perceive” that they are intent on developing a winner. Take a look at the April issue of Forbes magazine to read how the Mariners are a big financial success. It would not be prudent from a PR basis, but I would have more respect for the front office if they were honest and stated that there number one goal was making $$$, and if they happened to field a successful baseball team…..all the better.

    Read the Forbes article at #9 above. There will be no tradition of winning in Seattle until the ownership problem is fixed.

    Is there any chance the Public Facilities District that controls Safeco Filed can be radicalized? ‘Cause we’re gettin’ shafted.

  2. LB on October 10th, 2005 3:23 pm

    #48: Yes, “Japanese advertisers” is the stock answer for why it is good to overpay for Ichiro. I’ve heard that before.

    Earlier, Ray (#31) was trying to convince us that we should care how much Seattle hotels and souvenir shops made as a side-effect of having Ichiro on the roster. As a baseball fan, I am not convinced. I don’t care how much the hoteliers and souvenir guy make! Let them make their money the old fashioned way.

    Build a winning team and people will come. White, yellow, pink, blue, you name it. In this town, people will come. (And if they don’t, it’s time to move the team.)

  3. DMZ on October 10th, 2005 3:24 pm

    The Mariners make an immense amount of money on their team stores, so in many cases the souveneir guy is the team.

  4. LB on October 10th, 2005 3:46 pm

    #53: I appreciate that, but we’re back to the 747 full of Japanese tourists in the souvenir stores every day to get the numbers to balance out. I know there are some Japanese customers in there, but it’s not that crowded.

    Plenty of people bought Boston Red Sox merchandise last year from their team store (which isn’t really theirs, but that’s a different discussion), and they didn’t have a single Japanese player on the roster. I believe Alan Embree and Mark Bellhorn gear is now available at a significant discount, FWIW.

  5. ray on October 10th, 2005 8:32 pm

    49, Wow! Chris Snelling was #2 behind Sexson. I know it’s a small sample but I think we could all expect Snelling to do that for a whole “healthy” season. I bet FO were wetting there lips thinking Snelling is the “sock” they need — and only for $350,000. Now, they can’t pocket the extra money saved. Too bad for poor Lincoln.

    Ichiro was #4? That is funny and sad for this team.

    #52, well, if you don’t want to care then you don’t want to care. And me trying to convince people to care. Oh sir, you flatter me. I was actually just trying to make a joke about VORP originally. Then, I was trying to just make a point that Ichiro brings in extra money for FO, which seems to disappear every year. So, if you don’t care about how your team’s FO spends their money, you certainly have that right.

  6. Long Suffering on October 10th, 2005 9:17 pm

    Where do you get this 747 analogy? Who’s to say 400 a game is realistic? It might be 20, it might be 2000. Consider also that you can purchase Ms gear over the internet. I bet more than 400 people a day surf through the Ms online team store. Doesn’t someone who comments here live in Japan? How much Ms merchandise do you see over in Japan?

    Also, what about the extended TV contract into Japan, plus the more visible scouting presense the Ms get in the east rim? Ichiro benefits the Ms greatly exceeding his salary. And that’s not at all mentioning why trading him this year is baseball unsound.

  7. LB on October 10th, 2005 11:30 pm

    #56: The 747 analogy is called “back of the envelope” mathematics. If we don’t know if the number is 20 or 2000, we can test the extreme case that the daily flights between Japan and SeaTac are packed with baseball tourists. Of course, they’re not. The point is that even if they were, Japanese tourism cannot be the case for Ichiro’s being on the roster.

    You raise two interesting points about merchandise sales and TV rights which many people assume they understand. Here’s the bad news: purchase all the M’s gear you want over the Internet or anywhere else — the profits get split 30 ways for any merchandise with an MLB logo on it, whether it says “Mariners” or “New York Chokers.” By selling it out of their own team store, the M’s get to keep the retail markup. Woo hoo! Seems fair to me, since they have to pay the staff and keep the lights burning. But George Steinbrenner and John Henry still get their cut of every Ichiro T-shirt.

    Similarly, the television revenue for out of market games is split 30 ways, whether the good people in Tokyo tune in to watch Ichiro or Matsui. I think now the Tadahito Iguchi fan club will grow by a few members.

    If you want to make the baseball case for keeping Ichiro, that’s fine. If you want to make the Japanese advertising case for keeping him, that’s a makeable case. If you are trying to say that the M’s concern themselves for one second about the profits of the Sports Den or the Executive Pacific Plaza Hotel, then they’re not doing their jobs.

  8. LB on October 11th, 2005 12:04 am

    profits get split 30 ways for any merchandise with an MLB logo

    I meant the licensing fee, of course. NYY has one of the most popular logos in the world, but Steinbrenner does not get to keep all the proceeds.