Game 50, Mariners at Twins.

May 26, 2006 · Filed Under Game Threads · 124 Comments 

That sucks — Expedia was throwing me out of my office so I could enjoy the wonder of an open space work environment, so I was making margaritas for our going-away party, and I get home and no one else has thrown up a game thread either, and it’s 3-0 Twins and the M’s managed to get out of a bases-loaded opportunity without scoring.


Sports Guy reads USSM – kind of

May 26, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 52 Comments 

If the server goes down this afternoon, blame Bill Simmons. He’s the most widely read columnist on, and, because he owns Felix Hernandez in one of his fantasy baseball leagues, found my post on charting Felix and threw us a link in his column today.

(As you know, he’s the shining light of my AL-only fantasy team, so watching him struggle for these first two months has almost been like watching a son flounder in Little League. But my co-owner Hench and I found solace in an incredible site called, where the blogger charts the pitches in Felix’s starts and has a whole theory about how new Japanese catcher Kenji Johjima has completely screwed up Felix by calling too many first-pitch fastballs (and not enough changeups). Not since Julia Roberts in “The Pelican Brief” has there been a random memo this on target. It’s unbelievable. Now I’m resisting the urge to fly to Seattle and slice one of Johjima’s hamstrings.)

The link was nice of him. However, you can’t really take anything else in the paragraph seriously. Simmons is a comedy writer who uses sports as his setup for punchlines. The post mentioned that Johjima “should have made an adjustment”, which Simmons turned into “completely screwed up Felix”. Why? Because it setup the Julia Roberts and the slashed hamstring joke a lot better if Johjima was the villain.

But, to ward off any questions, no, I don’t think Johjima is the sole source of Felix’s problems. It’s an organizational thing.

Blind Squirrel, Acorn

May 25, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 44 Comments 

April 15th, 2004: Ryan Franklin goes 8 innings, allows 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, and 8 strikeouts.

May 22nd, 2005: Aaron Sele throws a complete game shutout, giving up 4 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 3.

May 6th, 2006: Joel Pineiro tosses 8 innings, giving up 4 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, and 6 strikeouts.

What do all these starts have in common? Each one was a great performance from a bad pitcher, and each one inspired all kinds of talk about this being the start of improved performance for any variety of reasons. Franklin had shrunk his repertoire, and now that he wasn’t so confused, he was going to be good. Sele finally got his arm strength back after years of surgery. Pineiro reinvented himself as a groundball pitcher who threw strikes.

Of course, all three pitchers quickly returned to their previously established levels of crappiness, and all the talk about these quick fixes were quickly forgotten. We’ve even seen this with Meche multiple times. He’s keeping his hands up. He’s throwing a 2 seamer instead of the flat 4 seamer. He’s abandoning the curve and throwing a slider. He’s going to throw more change-ups.

None of it matters. Gil Meche is still the same lousy AAA starting pitcher he was when he woke up yesterday morning. He’s just now a lousy AAA starter who had a good performance the last time he took the hill.

Let’s not add May 25th to the list of starts that get us overly excited about a bad starting pitcher. After all, Aaron Sele has a 1.69 ERA right now. It happens.

Gil Meche still sucks.

edit: True to form, Art Thiel writes the classic “He’s Fixed!” piece. He even spells Rafael Chaves’ last name incorrectly about 184 times. Good times.

Why Albert Pujols will break the single-seaon home run record

May 25, 2006 · Filed Under General baseball · 41 Comments 

Albert Pujols is having an almost unbelievable year. He’s hitting .323. His on-base percentage is .449. He’s on pace to hit over eighty home runs. It’s ridiculous. The season’s a little over a quarter done, but at this rate, he’s going to walk about 140 times and strike out only 45 times. That’s historic.

Top Five Hitter Seasons ever by BB-K
Barry Bonds, 2004, 191
Barry Bonds, 2002, 151
Ted Williams, 1941, 120
Ted Williams, 1947, 115
Ted Williams, 1949, 114

If Pujols finishes at +95, he’d be the 17th-best ever.

Pujols has to hit 50 home runs the rest of the way to tie Bonds at 73. Now, there’s reason to believe he won’t keep up this torrid pace. He’s currently putting over 30% of fly balls over fences, which is way over his career numbers around 20%.

Hitting 50 home runs over the next 110+ games is not that tough for Pujols, though. Assume he cools off tomorrow and goes back to only hitting a home run every 14 at-bats. That’s another 30, to finish at 53.

Where do the other twenty come in? He’s going to be given them. The pitches aren’t going to come gift-wrapped, and he’s not going to have meatballs grooved over the plate. But he’ll be challenged, and Pujols will hit home runs in many of those situations.

Here’s why:
– Barry Bonds holds the single-season record
– Pujols is liked

It’s that simple. When Bonds pursued the record, when he wasn’t intentionally walked, he was semi-intentionally walked: they’d throw him four garbage pitches hoping he’d swing at something so awful the only thing he could do with it would be to ground out weakly or pop up. Bonds’ 2001 is the 8th-most anyone’s been walked intentionally. Four of the seven slots ahead of that year are other Bonds seasons. He got walked 120 times in 2004, putting the brakes on a year where he might have challenged his own record. This hasn’t been helped by the Giants’ offense, but that’s beside the point.

Whether or not the intentional walk is the right choice for opposing managers to make, the only way the record can be challenged will be for a prodigious power hitter to get a ton of at-bats. St. Louis doesn’t have an offense that gets on base a lot to turn the lineup over and get Pujols more at-bats, unfortunately, but that won’t matter.

Every manager who faces the decision on whether or not to walk a hitter has to decide whether that’s the best move. If they’re facing a player involved in the home run chase at home, they have to make an additional consideration: how pissed are these fans going to be if I don’t pitch to this guy, and does that mean the owner’s going to be chewing on my butt before tomorrow’s game?

That pressure will be much greater for Pujols. People believe he’s clean. They like him. They don’t like Bonds. He’s tainted, and as long as he holds the record, the record is tainted. When Pujols threatens 73, they will yearn for his success, even at the expense of their own team, because if the record is held by a clean player, the record’s redeemed, and baseball will have in a symbolic way closed the book on the steroid era.

Every manager will also weigh their own personal views — do they want to take away a chance for Pujols to beat Bonds? I can’t imagine that Bonds is any more popular among opposing managers than he is with any other segment of baseball, and it’s not as if managers live in a vacuum and don’t get earfuls from people they know about the state of the game. If Pujols cracking the record makes everyone’s life easier, the decision becomes easier too.

I don’t expect that any of these considerations, consciously considered or not, will override a manager’s better judgement. If they love the intentional walk, and they think it’ll help win, they’ll still call for it. But all of these things will help push decisions on when to pitch to Pujols strongly in Pujols’ favor.

Similarly, pitchers aren’t going to want to give up a home run to Pujols, but they’re going to feel the same way their managers will: better him than Bonds, and if I get beat challenging Pujols and go into the record books that way, it could be worse.

This sounds a little strange, I understand. Yet it’s already happening. Pujols is a monster hitter on a tear. Would you pitch to that guy? But he’s only been walked seven times this season. He’s walked on purpose far less often than you’d expect given his career numbers (compare his last few years to Bonds’ 2002-2004, for instance), but seven times a quarter of the way into a season like this? It doesn’t make sense, no matter who else is behind them, they’re not Albert Pujols.

Pujols’ hot start makes a run at the title possible, and unless we see a dramatic shift in sentiment, he’ll be given every opportunity teams can spare to make sure his path is clear.

Game 49, Orioles at Mariners

May 25, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 177 Comments 

Rodrigo Lopez, who has been terrible, against Gil Meche, the personification of terrible.

Good times!

Nate Silver on the King

May 25, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 21 Comments 

Baseball Prospectus has a subscriber-only column on King Felix today. Nate Silver takes a look at his early struggles, and what it means for his future. Without stealing his thunder, here’s the basic conclusion:

Even if Hernandez pitches this poorly for the rest of the season, it would only increase his medium-term ERA forecast by about a quarter point per season, and reduce his VORP by about 13% per season. And it’s unlikely that he will pitch this poorly all season, since the categories in which he’s underperformed are the most influenced by short-term luck.

In other words, Felix is fine, don’t worry.

Which is pretty much what I think everyone knows.

Game 48, Orioles at Mariners

May 24, 2006 · Filed Under Game Threads · 327 Comments 

RHP Kris Benson v LHP Jarrod Washburn.

I remember back when Kris Benson looked like he was going to be really good, and then when he looked like he still might break out and be really good even though it hadn’t happened yet… and now here he is, the leader of the Orioles staff.

Baltimore’s been pretty kitten-like (cute, harmless) against left-handers this year: .214/.288/.384 as a team (!). Which is way better than Richie Sexson or Adrian Beltre’s overall line, and a little bit better than Jeremy Reed. That’s really sad.

Seattle, if you’re curious, against righties: a not embarassing .276/.327/.430

Fun fact: Kris Benson will be paid about $1m more than Washburn in 2006.

Game 47, Orioles at Mariners

May 23, 2006 · Filed Under Game Threads · 334 Comments 

LHP John Halama v RHP Joel Pineiro.

Yay it’s Halama again! (pause, stare at hooves) Wait.

Bloomquist in center, too, for your enjoyment.

Batting ahead of Johjima:
Adrian Beltre
Carl Everett
Richie Sexson

I uh… at this point in the season, how can you defend this? I’m not saying batting orders are all that important, but Hargrove’s put three of his best hitters and then spiked the order so that there’s almost no way to string together a nice offensive sequence without ending the inning.

Random Notes

May 23, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 123 Comments 

Just some random musings while basking in the glow of a four game winning streak.

    J.J. Putz has been the most dominant reliever in baseball this year. He threw 15 lights out innings in April. However, in the last three weeks since being named closer, he’s thrown just 7 2/3 innings. While I know everyone freaked out when Guardado came in the game yesterday, Hargrove is right – the M’s are a better team when Eddie Guardado is being used to protect 2 or 3 run leads in the 9th, and we get Putz pitching the higher leverage middle innings for longer stints. Unfortunately, the way Grover uses his bullpen, J.J. Putz is being wasted as the closer.
    Ichiro is hitting .349/.376/.389 in May. 26 of his 29 hits have been singles. That’s absurd, and, unfortunately, unsustainable. Obviously, we like this Ichiro better than the April version, but I’ll be glad when he’s ripping line drives in the alleys again.
    Jose Lopez, slugging .527, has 7 sacrifice bunts. He’s tied with Ronny Cedeno (.285/.305/.380) for the major league lead. There are 57 players in the majors with .500+ slugging percentages. Excluding Lopez, the other 56 have combined for 11 sacrifice bunts. Bill Hill is second among those 57 players in laying down the bunt – he has three. Stop. Bunting. With. Lopez.
    Adrian Beltre is slugging .247 at Safeco Field. It’s like we have Jeff Cirillo’s less talented Latino cousin or something.
    And, just for the fun of it, Jeff Cirillo this year – .383/.411/.511. Shoot me.

But, yea, four game winning streak! Woo!

Game 46, Orioles at Mariners

May 22, 2006 · Filed Under Game Threads · 336 Comments 

Erik Bedard vs Jamie Moyer.

As always, since Winston-Salem is so close (read: 400 miles) to Baltimore, I don’t get to watch this series. Screw you,

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