Happy New Year, everyone

December 31, 2005 · Filed Under Off-topic ranting, Site information · 94 Comments 

It was a fun year for the site, even as the M’s didn’t do so well. I hope everyone enjoyed themselves, learned something, or at least felt like part of a larger group, and I hope you hang around for the next year, too. Official USSM Endorsements will be coming over the next week or so, but feel free to send nominations. Or comments, complaints, thoughts for the new year… whatever.

Fun 2005 stats
972 posts by authors
~72,000 comments by authors and readers (74 comments/average article)

Comment Power Rankings
1. Me, with 2,860*
2. David J. Corcoran, 2,209**
3. Dave, 1,794
4. Jim Thomsen*** 1,592
5. (tie) Evan and msb with 1,559
7. eponymous coward, 1,361
8. ray 1,117
9. Jason, 1,058
10. LB, 787

* this was not a last-minute drive, obviously, and yes, that means I’m responsible for 4% of all comments
** and Corco is 3%
*** Thomsen, no ‘p’

Top searches not obviously people looking for USSM*
1. Kenji Jojima
2. Mariner
3. Jeff Clement
4. Lastings Milledge
5. Safeco Field
6. Felix Hernandez
7. Daisuke Matsuzaka
8. Andruw Jones contract
9. Cameron Maybin
10. Jennifer Pankratz**

* ie, overall 1 “uss mariner”, 2 “ussmariner” 3 “u.s.s. mariner” 4 “ussmariner.com”

Most annoying search engine
Yahoo! crawlers sucked 2% of our total bandwith this year. Way to be. People who came here through Google outnumbered Yahoo about 5:1

Why I Don’t Care About Steroids in Baseball

December 30, 2005 · Filed Under General baseball · Comments Off on Why I Don’t Care About Steroids in Baseball 

As usual, it was my fault. I see that now.

While talking with a friend at a recent fiesta, the topic rolled around to steroids in baseball. He knew about my status as a world famous baseball blogger, and wanted my take.

With the imprecision engendered by parties, the following careful and nuanced statement emerged from my mouth: “I can sum up my feelings on the issue in six words,” I told my pal. “Don’t care, don’t care, don’t care.” Read more

Ichiro to make acting debut. Also, puppies

December 30, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners, Off-topic ranting · 36 Comments 

Well, that last thread was fun. Who else is ready for the new year?

Only two words can right the ship: frivolous and links. First, enjoy my second-favorite link found through Google Ads,* basset hound puppies! Take that, pandas.

Second, your friend and mine, Ichiro, is making his acting debut. He’s going to play a murderer on an episode of a Japanese TV drama.

Among Fuji Television’s Hi-Vision shows are Ooku Special, from the popular drama series focusing on women of the inner palace of the Tokugawa shogunate (Dec. 30, 9 p.m.); Pride Otoko Matsuri 2005 (Dec. 31, 9 p.m.); Count Down TV Year-Crossing Live Special (Dec. 31, 11:50 p.m.) and the three-night Furuhata Ninzaburo Final (Jan. 3-5, 9 p.m.).

In the second night’s episode of Furuhata, major league baseball player Ichiro Suzuki, who has described himself as a big fan of the series, plays himself in a cameo role written for him–as a murderer. In the show, he confronts a formidable detective played by Masakazu Tamura.

The role isn’t that much of a stretch. He’s been killing American League pitchers for years.

* My favorite Google Ads link? Ben Broussard, Musician.
** Thanks to Dustin for the Ichiro link.

Papelbon and Lester

December 29, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 281 Comments 

Finnigan reports in the Times this morning that the Mariners have shifted their attention from Bronson Arroyo or Matt Clement to one of Boston’s two top pitching prospects, Jon Lester or Jonathan Papelbon, as the swag they’re hoping to extract in exchange for Jeremy Reed.

To be honest, I still wouldn’t make the trade. The annointing of Papelbon and Lester as elite young pitchers is quite premature. Let’s take a look at them objectively, shall we? We’ll start with Papelbon, whose solid performance out of the bullpen for the Red Sox down the stretch has led to a significant amount of hype.

In 2003 he was a 4th round pick by the Red Sox from Mississippi State University, where he had spent his entire college career as a reliever. The Sox used his short season debut to stretch him out and convert him into a starting pitcher. He spent 2004 in Sarasota of the Florida State League, the most pitcher friendly league in professional baseball, and had few problems, ranking 2nd in the league in strikeouts and ERA. After the season, Baseball America ranked him as the 14th best prospect (8th among pitchers) in the FSL. This year, he split the season between Double-A and Triple-A and showed significantly improved command, though his strikeout rate fell as a result. The Sox moved him back to the bullpen to help with their stretch drive, and he pitched well and showed that he’s ready for a job in a major league bullpen right now. BA ranked him as the 7th best prospect in the Eastern League after the season.

His fastball reportedly sits at 90-94, and his second best pitch is either a split finger or a slider, depending on who you talk to. His change-up and curveball are both show-me pitches, so at this point, everything he throws is hard. There’s not a real offspeed pitch to talk about. He’s also shown himself to be a flyball pitcher, both in the majors and in the minors.

Papelbon is essentially the Red Sox version of Clint Nageotte. Power pitcher without a good offspeed pitch, low to mid 90s fastball, lots of scouts prefer as a reliever. Papelbon has slightly better command, but Nageotte showed some groundball dominance this year, so those can essentially cancel each other out. Would you trade Jeremy Reed for another Clint Nageotte?

Moving on to Jon Lester, who grew up in Puyallup and is one of the best local prep products the area has produced. Lester was a 2nd round pick by the Red Sox in the 2002 draft, though they paid him well over slot money to sign. He spent 2003 in the South Atlantic League at 19, and while he held his own, he showed that he had significant work to do. In 2004, he moved up to Sarasota and pitched significantly better, holding his walk rate steady but seeing his strikeouts go up by 50 percent. Command was still an issue, but he had the dominance to overcome the walks. This year, at age 21, he was moved to Double-A Portland and had his best year as a pro. He continued to trim his walk rate and raise his strikeouts despite pitching against advanced competition. After the season, he was ranked by BA as the 4th best prospect in the Eastern League.

Lester throws 90-93 from the left side and uses a cut fasball at times, and while he throws a change and a curve, neither one are major league pitches right now. He’s essentially beating people with his fastball. His command is still a bit of a question mark, and he missed time with shoulder soreness in June.

Lester and Papelbon are good pitching prospects. But that’s what they are. I don’t subscribe to the “There’s No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect” mantra that lame analysts have adopted to explain away their ignorance, but there is a huge amount of attrition involved with young arms. Before the season, BA ranked Papelbon as the #91 prospect in baseball, and Lester was not included in the top 100. Clint Nageotte was #73 on the same list.

Things have changed in the past 12 months, and both Lester and Papelbon will rank well on the 2006 list, I’m sure. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that these guys are rare elite arms. They’re solid, good pitching prospects. But these guys aren’t special. Almost every organization has a guy like Papelbon or Lester. There’s a lot of 90-94 MPH arms with developing secondary pitches and mediocre command running around out there.

When you trade a hitter for a pitcher, you’re taking on a lot of risk. It can be worth it, if the upside or need of the team dictates that the pitcher is worth it. But Papelbon and Lester aren’t significantly better than the arms the M’s have done a nice job collecting over the past few months. With Nageotte hopefully healthy, and Bazardo, Foppert, and Carvajal being added in the past 6 months, the M’s have a fairly decent crop of upper level pitching prospects.

They don’t need to trade a major league everyday player at a position they have little depth for another surplus arm. The best thing Bill Bavasi has done as a GM is build a stockpile of arms in the upper minors, and he’s done it without paying a high price for any of them. The M’s don’t need to divert from this strategy.

Just say no to trading Reed to Boston.

Trades finalized

December 28, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 106 Comments 

Millwood to the Rangers is official. Look forward the marquee matchup of Washburn v Millwood later this year. It’ll be a barn-burner. Or a nose-biter, depending.

Troy Glaus and prospect infielder Sergio Santos go to the Blue Jays for 2B-B Orlando Hudson, RHP Miguel Batista (giving the Blue Jays 29 1b/3b/DH types and making the Diamondbacks a nice longshot bet for the World Series at 200-1). The Blue Jays according to reports have given Glaus an extra player option year at $11.5m (!) and the Diamondbacks will pick up his additional tax burden.

The hot news, though, is the Mark Prior rumor: in a two, three, or even four-team deal, the Orioles dump Tejeda and someone gets Mark Prior. Wow. Given the past, we should fear that somehow Billy Beane will get himself involved in trade talks and wind up with Prior, giving up only valuable spare parts and shiny prospects of no consequence.

Pick the Pitcher

December 27, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 130 Comments 

Let’s play Pick The Pitcher, free agent starter addition. We’ll do it Nick Bakay style.


Pitcher A: 210
Pitcher B: 177

Advantage: Pitcher A

Walk Rate

Pitcher A: 2.1 BB/G
Pitcher B: 2.6 BB/G

Advantage: Pitcher A

Strikeout Rate

Pitcher A: 4.0 K/G
Pitcher B: 4.9 K/G

Advantage: Pitcher B

Groundball/Flyball Rate

Pitcher A: 1.68 G/F
Pitcher B: 0.99 G/F

Advantage: Pitcher A


Pitcher A: 1 year, $4 million
Pitcher B: 4 years, $37.5 million

Advantage: Pitcher A

Ladies and Gentleman, Pitcher A, Jason Johnson, who signed a 1 year, $4 million deal with the Cleveland Indians.

Pitcher B, obviously, is Jarrod Washburn, he of the big offseason move albatross contract.

Seriously, the next time someone tells you that Jarrod Washburn’s market value was 4 years and $37.5 million, ask them why Jason Johnson signed for 25 percent of the years and 42 percent of the annual salary.

Johnson has his own problems. The strikeout rate is terrible. His home/road splits are terrible. But the only real difference between his 2005 and Jarrod Washburn’s 2005 season was their performance with runners in scoring position. Washburn stranded 82 percent of the runners he put on base, while Johnson stranded just 67 percent of his runners. And so Washburn’s ERA was a point and a half lower, even though he didn’t pitch significantly better.

Behold the power of 3.20, baby.

U.S.S. Mariner T-shirt challenge

December 26, 2005 · Filed Under Site information · Comments Off on U.S.S. Mariner T-shirt challenge 

Many of you fine readers have volunteered to help us make up some T-shirts to sell as Officially Endorsed USSM Swag. I hereby accept your offer.

Short version: as you’ve noticed, our poor server’s falling over pretty much every morning as our rabid readership gets to work and, instead of contributing to their company’s stockholder value, loads the page. We need to upgrade. Upgrading to something that’ll stand up through the 2006 season is going to be really, really expensive. Don’t worry about how expensive just yet, but obviously, it’s above the threshold of what we can continue to pay out of pocket, so we’re looking to try and scrape up cash.

Here’s all the stuff you can put a design on. Anyone coming up with a cool hooded sweatshirt design gets extra points from me (which I will repay in the form of beer).

Here are the design templates.

I’m sure you’re asking: “Derek, wouldn’t this have been a great idea to do, say, before the holiday season, when quality USSM merchandise would have been the perfect gift for young and old Mariner fans?”

Yes. Yes it would. But I would respond “Is the spirit of genorosity and giving really constrained by time? Isn’t a gift, and especially a gift that displays the intelligence and considerate nature of the giver, even more meaningful when it’s not given due to a sense of obligation?”

So here’s the process:
– Work out some cool idea. Do not, whatever you do, do something that infringes on the Seattle Mariners’ trademarks, copyrights, or anything. Beyond our respect for the team’s creative work and knowing they make quality scratch selling that stuff, we don’t want to get sued, and you don’t want to get sued either.
Send us the design. Mention what you want it slapped on — don’t assume we’ll figure it out.
– At some point, we’ll sort them out, either in public or among ourselves.
– If we’re interested, we’ll send you some official-looking form with a lot of legalese on it so we can use your design.
– As compensation, you get the satisfaction of a job well done, all the publicity we can slide your way, free entry to a USSM event in the next year, and a year’s subscription to the site. Seriously, there’s no money in this. We’re totally leeching off your creative talents.

We haven’t decided if we want to do limited-run topical designs (“I can outpitch Jarrod Washburn — where’s my $35 million?”) or not yet. If we decide to try that, I’ll post details.

Texas paper: Millwood signs with Rangers

December 26, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 98 Comments 

The Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram reports it’s a done deal, pending a physical tomorrow.

Update! $60m over five years, and the fifth year is voidable by the Rangers if Millwood doesn’t reach an innings target in the earlier years of the deal.

So, Washburn: 38m over 4 = ~9.5m/year
Millwood: 60m over 5 = ~12m/year

Now, whether or not you think both of those deals are crazy, the chances that Millwood will, over the life of those contracts, be worth 2.5m more a year than Washburn approach 100%

High Expectations for Felix

December 26, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 16 Comments 

The future of the franchise is hardly news around here, and we’ve seen national attention directed toward The King before. But this from the Baltimore Sun nudges the meter slightly past “props” and toward “exuberance.”

This will be [Felix] Hernandez’s first full season in the majors, and don’t be surprised if he challenges for the ERA title and the Cy Young Award – at age 20.

Note that I’m not disagreeing. Looks like the 2006 Mariners’ storyline for the baseball media is in place.

M’s after Hatteberg

December 24, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 100 Comments 

Yes, there’s stuff to gab about.

John Hickey at the PI on the M’s interest in Hatteberg and Ishii. Hatteberg would be a lefty backup to Sexson which from a Hargrove matchup sense seems okay, but Sexson hit righties pretty well last year. However… Hatteberg is a picking machine. Picking machine!

Hatteberg’s agent wants us to believe that there are teams looking at Hatteberg as a starter. To which I say: which teams don’t have first basemen already better than Hatteberg aaaaaaaand would be willing to take on Hatteberg instead of (say) trading for one of Toronto’s 20 stockpiled 1B guys because they need better-than-Hatteberg 1B performance?

Also, if anything interesting happens today, go ahead! Throw it in here as a comment. We’re likely not going to be as on top of breaking news as we might otherwise be.

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