Relief Aces

October 25, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 162 Comments 

After an extended break, I finally have some time to tackle another part of our 2006 roster reshaping suggestions. So far, you’ve seen the cases for Jacque Jones, Kevin Brown, Kenji Jojima, and the Millwood vs Burnett discussion.

Today, rather than isolating a single player, we look at the bullpen. With the rotation bound to be full of questions, the relievers are a key to the Mariners success, or lack thereof, in 2006.

The main question is what to do with Eddie Guardado. The team holds an option to bring him back for $6.25 million, and if they decline that, then Guardado has the option to guarantee himself $4.25 million. If both sides decline their options, Guardado hits the free agent market. We gave you guys a thread on this subject already, and the overwhelming response was that everyone wants to see Guardado gone. I’m not nearly as worried by his late season swoon as everyone else, but given the current makeup of the Mariners roster, I also think it would be in the team’s best interest to spend the Guardado money on filling other needs.

People may not have noticed, consdering that the team was terrible, but the Mariners bullpen is actually quite good.

George Sherrill is, quietly, one of the better left-handed relief pitchers in the game. In 19 innings with the club in 2005, he struck out nearly 31 percent of the batters he faced. That’s phenomenal. The past two years, he has established himself as a consistent performer ready for an expanded role.

Rafael Soriano has an obviously electric arm. Before blowing out his elbow in 2003, he was the best reliever in the American League. His performances this season, while rehabbing, are exactly in line with how dominant he was before surgery. There should be little doubt about how well Soriano will pitch when he takes the mound in 2006. The questions are simply about how durable he will be.

J.J. Putz, while appearing prone to give up home runs at bad times, is a solid middle reliever whose ability to induce huge numbers of ground balls makes him a valuable commodity, especially in stranding runners. He lacks the secondary pitches to be an elite talent, but as a middle reliever, he’s above average.

Those three, alone, give the M’s a solid late inning relief corps. You could win the World Series with those three as your relievers in October. However, the strength of the team’s bullpen is not only the late inning guys, but the remarkable depth the organization has to choose from to fill out the pen.

Julio Mateo, while effective again last year, has been in decline for the past several seasons. He cannot hold runners on and is best suited for long relief, where his ability to pound the strikezone allows him to soak up several innings at a time. As a fourth reliever making little money, he has value, even though there is almost no chance he’ll ever be more than what he currently is.

Scott Atchison is the forgotten man, also missing most of the season rehabbing from an arm injury, though he did not require surgery. By the time he got back to Seattle, he showed the same ability to miss bats he displayed in 2004. His stuff isn’t overwhelming, but he’s eerily reminiscent to Angels setup ace Scot Shields.

Clint Nageotte, for all his command problems in Tacoma, still managed to keep runs of the board by combining the strikeouts-and-groundballs tandem that is death to hitters. While many are ready to write him off as a right-handed Matt Thornton, there’s still potential here.

That’s a six man bullpen that, at worst, is probably league average, and has significant upside. But with inexperienced players, there’s always risk. The best way to manage risk? Have options. And when it comes to the bullpen, the M’s have many, many options.

He most likely won’t be protected on the 40 man roster, and he’s mostly flown under the radar, but Sean Green was one of the most groundball-dominant pitchers in the Pacific Coast League while posting the best strikeout rate of his career. He doesn’t have the stuff to miss bats consistently at the major league level, but his sinker is extremely heavy, and that alone can carry a reliever.

Did you know Jeff Heaverlo had a 2.65 ERA after May 15th? After the all-star break, Heaverlo was the Rainiers best reliever.

The M’s also have a group of arms who have shown significant potential in the past, including Francisco Cruceta and Jesse Foppert. Cesar Jimenez is still somewhat interesting from the left side. That’s 11 arms, not including likely holdovers Jeff Harris and Matt Thornton, both of whom I would have no problem casting overboard, metaphorically speaking, of course.

A year ago, when talking about the strength of the Oakland A’s, we pointed to their bulllpen depth. They had a group of relievers knocking on the door, and when Octavio Dotel, Ricardo Rincon, and Chad Bradford faltered, they were replaced easily by Huston Street, Justin Duchscherer, and Kirk Saarloos. The A’s bullpen was a significant part of their ability to stay in the pennant race all season, despite not having big-name experienced guys finishing out ballgames.

The Mariners have a chance to follow the model the A’s, Indians, and Angels have used to such great success recently. By eschewing the need for a proven closer and paying millions for veteran grit, the M’s could enter the 2006 season with a bullpen that projects to league average at worst with significant upside and costs all of about $2 million.

Soriano and Sherrill as the late inning relief aces. Putz and Atchison in the middle innings. Nageotte, Mateo, Green, and Heaverlo fighting for the last two spots in the bullpen. That’s a relief corps I’d love to see.

Adam Jones

October 24, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 101 Comments 

Baseball America profiles Adam Jones conversion to center field in today’s AFL notebook.


Slug this

October 23, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 55 Comments 

Sometimes the weirdest questions get stuck in my head. Sometimes the most random queries just won’t leave me alone, like an itch that needs to be scratched, or a hungry belly that needs feeding.

So when Paul Konerko steps to the plate, I’m just not that impressed. Oh sure, he hit 40 home runs, good for 5th in the AL. But his SLG of .534 was 9th in the league. Not really impressive in my mind. And I start wondering just how normal it is for a 40-homer guy to slug less than .600. Turns out, once I start digging around, not that out of the ordinary.

Just then Konerko bruises the first offering from Chad Qualls, sending it into the left field seats – a dramatic grand slam that gives the Sox the lead.

So who has the lowest SLG of any hitter with 40 home runs?
Read more

Jojima To File For Free Agency After the Japan Series

October 23, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 38 Comments 

So sayeth the Japan Times. The standout player would be the first Japanese catcher to try to play in the major leagues.

We’ve talked about Jojima, who the M’s are rumored to have interest in, here.

On the topic of Japanese players, there was previous discussion in the comments about why the Seibu Lions might or might not post Daisuke Matsuzaka. I think Ken Davidoff isolates the club’s thinking in pithy fashion here:

Speaking of Japanese players, righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka’s future is uncertain. He wants to come to the major leagues – the Yankees think highly of him – but he isn’t eligible for free agency, so he would have to be posted by his club, the Seibu Lions, the way the Orix BlueWave posted Ichiro Suzuki five years ago.

The Lions, hurting financially, are deciding whether they would make more money posting the pitcher or bringing him back for 2006.

Prince Moises

October 22, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 25 Comments 

The Braves got Moises Hernandez, a 21-year old prospect, as compensation for letting Leo Mazzone sign on with Baltimore. Moises is, as you’d probably guessed by the post title, King Felix’s older brother. I would explain why the older one isn’t the king but frankly, I’m not that good at genealogy and heraldry and that kind of thing. I just thought it was an interesting tidbit.

Being For The Benefit of Mr. Guillen

October 21, 2005 · Filed Under General baseball · 5 Comments 

In recognition of the White Sox’ trip to the World Series, here’s a trip-down-South-Side-Memory-Lane link from Barnacle Press’ online archive of vintage comic strips. I was pleased to find some selections from “You Know Me, Al,” a 1920s comic strip by Ring Lardner about the fictional Jack Keefe, who is sold to the White Sox.

I think this one is my favorite. “Well, I ain’t payin’ no eight dollars a week to be near your mother” has to rank with the greatest pick-up lines of all time.

Link to Barnacle Press shamelessly lifted from Metafilter

Madritsch gone

October 21, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 74 Comments 

First reported by KJR, Bobby Madritsch was designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Royals.

The organization clearly believes that his injury problems are not something he can rehab from and come back to being a major league pitcher.

Nageotte, AFL

October 21, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 22 Comments 

Clint Nageotte had a mighty fine outing last night in the Arizona Fall League: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 HR. He wasn’t around to pick up the win, however, as Peoria had to score six in the top of the 10th to win it 8-2.

In what tends to be a hitting-friendly environment — league ERA sits at 5.70 after yesterday’s games — Nageotte has allowed three hits and just one walk, to go along with a dozen strikeouts, in 12 innings of work over three starts (he’s building up arm strength after relieving this season).

In other M’s-AFL news, Jeff Clement is hitting a robust .360/.500/.680 in 25 at-bats, while Adam Jones has struggled to a .154/.214/.333 line in 39 at-bats. Finally, Chris Buglovsky has posted one of the ugliest lines you’ll ever see thus far, with a 18.00 ERA and 20 hits allowed in just six innings.

The Place I Live Now

October 20, 2005 · Filed Under Off-topic ranting · 56 Comments 

“Good at-bat? That was a weak fly ball. Why don’t broadcasters ever say ‘good at-bat’ after a three-run homer?” asks Jonah Keri scornfully. “Now that’s a good at-bat.”

Albert Pujols has just lifted a lazy can of corn to right field, allowing the Cardinals to score a run from third base in game five of their soon-to-be-doomed cause. Jonah, Derek Zumsteg, another esteemed colleague and I have gathered at Haus Zumsteg to watch playoff games.

Quickly bored with the St. Louis offense, Jonah seeks out a deck of cards. Soon we’re playing penny poker, low-stakes Texas hold ’em. I can’t stay for the upcoming Angels-Pale Hose game, I inform our throng, since I’ve got a long drive home to Bellingham. This brings an unexpected query.

“Bellingham? Why,” someone asks with furrowed brow, “do you live in Bellingham?Read more

News, M’s and otherwise

October 20, 2005 · Filed Under General baseball, Mariners · 61 Comments 

Leo Mazzone, legendary pitching coach and possible Hall of Fame candidate, left for Baltimore after a brief flirtation with the Yankees. Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo is a long-time friend. Too bad the Mariners didn’t get him, of course, but whaddayagonnado.

Former Mariner pitching coach Bryan Price got shut out of managerial jobs and took a place-holder position as pitching coach for former Mariner manager Bob Melvin with the Diamondbacks.

Joe Girardi is the new Marlins manager.

Discussion on who the Mariners might still get rages. Larry LaRue in the TNT files a report that makes it seem as if organizational candidates Jim Slaton and Rafael Chaves are forgotten (which is odd).

On the original short list of possible candidates to succeed Bryan Price in Seattle two weeks ago, Slaton hasn’t yet interviewed – and Chaves said he hasn’t even been told he is a candidate.

LaRue also gets some quotes from Guardado, who’s annoyed the team didn’t immediately tell him whether they’d be picking up his team option.

“If they said, ‘Look, we want you back but not at the larger figure,’ fine, I’d understand that,” Guardado said. “Or if they said, ‘We don’t want you back, period,’ I’d understand that, too.

“But why push it until the free-agency period begins? Why not just talk to me now? If they don’t want me back, no hard feelings – but let me start to explore my other options as soon as I can.

“I’ve shown them respect for two years, and I’d love to come back and be part of what could happen here. Just talk to me.”

And I include this only because it seems to pop up on every freaking comment thread, Bob Finnigan would like us to know that Ichiro is sad and neglected.

And the World Series is White Sox v Astros.

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