Abandoning the catch-up

DMZ · June 20, 2006 at 1:22 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Moving from Gil “This turnaround is totally not like previous turnarounds” Meche for a minute —

The M’s are 4 and 1/2 games behind the Rangers and the Athletics, who are both 38-32. In terms of runs scored/allowed, the A’s aren’t much better than the M’s, and you’d expect the M’s to be at .500, but the games have been recorded, and that’s where the team is.

So is it possible for the M’s to win the AL West or the wildcard? Should they be holding out hope?

Or, alternately, how is this possibility any better than the previous times this “we’re still in it” horse has been trotted out for us?

It’s not. The M’s chances of getting to the playoffs are exceptionally slim on the face. With 91 games left, they have to make up a game every couple of weeks all season long. It can be done, certainly, but if 90 wins will take the AL West, the M’s need 56 more wins in 91 games — that’s over .600 ball for the rest of the year.

Does this really look like a club that can run that hard for that long? Aggressive baserunning doesn’t build that much endurance.

It would be different if you could look at the team and see a lot of players dramatically underperforming while no one played over their heads. But that’s not what we have at all — well, Ichiro’s over his head, and Lopez has been better than even his supporters (hi! it’s me!) thought he would do this year.

But the underperformers — Kenji’s really fallen down, I see him picking it up a little. Reed we’ve discussed, but until he starts hitting, whatever. Everett’s performance has fallen off dramatically, and at the bottom we’ve got Beltre, who I wish would at least have the courtesy to knock me out before his at-bats, except that he’d probably only swing and miss and break my monitor or something.

Sexson’s a huge problem, though — if Sexson was putting up last year’s numbers, or anything close to them, at this point the team would probably be fighting it out for the division lead.

Really. Sexson’s hitting .205/.283/.382. Having him hit well would probably be worth two games in the standings, maybe more, and then they’re over .500. Of course, we could also say “this aggressive baserunning thing’s cost us at least two games” but manager underperformance is out of scope.

So I don’t think as a unit they’re underperforming significantly, but there’s obviously room where things could turn around.

On the pitching side, it’s the same thing. Meche has been good while Pineiro’s been bad, which is a weird inversion of their usual relative positions, but Washburn’s been the ill purchase we feared. The big underperformer’s obviously Felix.

Take all of that and roll it up: Sexson suddenly starts to hit and Felix starts to pitch. That’s still not a .600 team. Sexson and Johjima start to hit, maybe Reed or someone else warms a little, and we get Felix on a roll, while all the while no one cools off… it could happen. I’d love to see it happen.

What are the chances, though? What are the chances that all of the good things are going to happen but there won’t be any injuries or bad streaks or whatever else might afflict the team? 0%? 1%?

This is not the voice of negativity — if the team continues like this, the season will be a great step forward, with the emergence of some key young players the team can build around, and an end to the endless, abject losing. I just don’t see looking towards the playoffs as realistic, and if that belief prevents the team from (say) punting Guardado for a live arm, or otherwise making moves that’ll help them pursue a pennant in 2007+, it’s harmful.


132 Responses to “Abandoning the catch-up”

  1. Russ on June 20th, 2006 3:23 pm

    Johnson signed for 3.5 million/2006 with club option for 2007.

  2. Paul B on June 20th, 2006 3:35 pm

    Is Beltre now Mediocre (rather than horrible)?

    OPS by month:
    April .518
    May .656
    June .804

    An .800 OPS would put him 16th out of 25 ML 3Bmen this season (that qualify).

  3. terry on June 20th, 2006 3:38 pm

    In defense of DMZ who obviously is nothing without my supporting opinion, sure this team is playing like an 82-83 win team but please lets not forget that the M’s basically have gotten fat this month by playing roughly 20 games of MLB’s version of *who’s the biggest loser*… while it’s clear the M’s arent (the biggest loser), it’s also clear after the A’s series, that they are far far far and away NOT a good bet to make a playoff run…

  4. dw on June 20th, 2006 3:45 pm

    Wait, Jason Johnson is available? Claim him already!

  5. eponymous coward on June 20th, 2006 3:47 pm

    Yeah, Dave, I would too. But Piñeiro has about the same trade value as Johnson (in other words, I expect him to be on the DFA list sometime this year unless he turns his pitching around), and is paid a lot more. If Shapiro’s ditching someone he thinks is a bad RHP, offering a more expensive bad RHP in exchange is not helping.

  6. Jim Thomsen on June 20th, 2006 3:48 pm

    He’s been “designated for assignment.” He’s trade bait until June 30, and if that doesn’t happen, presumably he would seek to be released and become a free agent rather than accept a minor league assignment.

    One would think he could be acquired for a modest prospect.

  7. eponymous coward on June 20th, 2006 3:55 pm

    Heck, one would think he could be acquired for zip come June 30, and thus not have to pay a prorated share of 3.5 million.

  8. Jeff Nye on June 20th, 2006 4:01 pm

    I don’t see any harm in trying to flip a modest (probably very modest would work) prospect for Johnson to get in ahead of the rush and pick him up now (I’m assuming there’s at least one other team out there that would be interested in a groundball pitcher that could be significantly improved by good infield defense).

    Why wait, if you’re not giving up anything all that significant?

  9. Mat on June 20th, 2006 4:20 pm

    You could also just offer a PTBNL like the Twins did for Boone last year. Come to think of it, did the M’s ever get a player out of that deal?

  10. Benno on June 20th, 2006 4:24 pm

    Seems like we have a pretty good consensus on Johnson. Now all we have to do is find the extra $2mil and talk the front office into a move. A move like this would definately free up the team to make some moves in the pitching staff. The team should have some concerns with the starting rotation, and how well it is going to hold up. We shall see…

  11. Brian Rust on June 20th, 2006 4:32 pm

    How does DFA work, again? 10 days to work a trade, allowing the last 2 days for clearing waivers? Then player’s choice of free agency or minor league assignment? If I’ve got it basically right, then:
    1. Cleveland will trade him for something. The Sox are supposedly looking at Jeff Weaver, for heaven’s sake. Someone close to contention will take a chance on him.
    2. I doubt a “modest prospect” will be enough to get him. Cleveland isn’t dumping him just because he’s pitching poorly. They simply have a better option: some kid who’s 8-1, 1.27 at AAA.

    Ahh, the luxury.

  12. Thingray on June 20th, 2006 4:33 pm

    I think I heard the PTBNL ended up being a cash payment from the Twins.

  13. SoulofaCitizen on June 20th, 2006 4:56 pm

    Speaking of defense, any sense on why Sexson has gone from someone who seems to be rated an excellent defensive first basement to a defensive (as well as offensive) liability? Not sure what system Baseball Prospectus uses, but they rated his defense an Olerud-level 19 in 2003, then -5 by last year, even though he was still hitting well after his return from the injury. And he seems mediocre at best this year as well, in contrast with Beltre, whose glove has stayed golden despite his weak bat.

    Anyone have an explanation?

  14. Ralph Malph on June 20th, 2006 4:56 pm

    I think I heard the PTBNL ended up being a cash payment from the Twins.

    You mean they paid us?

  15. Adam S on June 20th, 2006 4:58 pm

    I’d trade Pineiro for Johnson so fast it would make your head spin.
    Dave, how’s your Bavasi impersonation these days? Would you also trade Meche for Johnson? I think the Indians might bite on that one.

    With Pineiro, I’d even toss in the $1.5M to make up the difference in salary.

    That said, I’d wager he winds up with the A’s.

  16. msb on June 20th, 2006 4:59 pm

    a phrase you never thought you’d hear: “Meche is on the verge of being their best starter” (granted, it was KJR)

  17. Thingray on June 20th, 2006 5:01 pm

    Or, “a phrase I never wanted to hear”!

  18. Jim Thomsen on June 20th, 2006 5:07 pm

    #115: The M’s are not going to deal with the A’s.

  19. Thingray on June 20th, 2006 5:09 pm

    I think #115 thought Johnson would end up with the A’s, not Joel.

  20. Mr. Egaas on June 20th, 2006 6:30 pm

    I imagine Johnson ends up in the NL. Just a hunch.

    I never really got the DFA. It’s just putting a deadline on yourself, and other teams likely aren’t willing to give a whole lot knowing that he’ll be there for the taking on the waiver wire.

    It’s a tool that’s been used by Bavasi far too much and not a whole lot of good comes from it.

  21. terry on June 20th, 2006 6:37 pm

    I’m confused why it’s such a nobrainer that the M’s would dump Piniero (and eat his salary) in favor of taking on Johnson and his salary.

    I know the grass is always greener but shooting your cow to make room for another almost identical cow who’ll eat the same moldy grass not only doesnt help but frankly makes you less capable of competing with the famer down the road…..

  22. joser on June 20th, 2006 6:50 pm


  23. chrisisasavage on June 20th, 2006 6:55 pm

    Uh, Pineiro and Jason Johnson are not “almost identical” cows. Johnson is a fairly extreme groundball pitcher, with a slightly better K-rate and walks less people. What’s not an improvement?

  24. joealb on June 20th, 2006 7:03 pm

    I thought Johnson would become available…. Maybe, and again guys before I get flamed, maybe, Shapiro would take Eddie for Johnson if the M’s pick up most of his salary. Cleveland needs a LOOGY and Eddie’s line against lefties is .231 .259 .423 in 26 A/B’s. I know small sample size but can’t a guy dream. I know it’s a longshot but if Bavasi can find the $$$ then Joel goes to the ‘Pen or can then be DFA’d too.

  25. joser on June 20th, 2006 7:05 pm

    Speaking of groundballs, I was wondering this the other day: it’s easy to rank the teams in terms of total double plays, but that’s not helpful because ideally a team doesn’t get into double-play situations in the first place. So which teams are most proficient at getting double plays when the opportunity arises (zero or one out, man on first, man on first and second, or bases loaded) ie, DPs / DPsituations ?

  26. Grizz on June 20th, 2006 7:08 pm

    #120: The guys who typically get DFA’d already have minimal trade value, so the amount of leverage lost is essentially zero. The GM would have already tried to trade the player before designating him.

    The real purpose of the DFA move is to free up a roster space for the player taking the designated player’s place. For example, Cleveland needed to designate somebody because their 40-man roster was full and Jeremy Sowers, the minor leaguer replacing Johnson in the rotation, was not already on it.

    Bavasi has not DFA’d anyone who would have returned anything of value in a trade. In fact, his ability to maneuver Quiroz to Tacoma after DFA’ing him was quite slick.

  27. joser on June 20th, 2006 7:11 pm

    joealb: I recall you making that suggestion in the “Johjima and Piniero” thread earlier in the week; I didn’t think they’d get rid of Johnson before bringing up Sowers but you called it on that one.

    However, let me quote eponymous coward on the Eddie suggestion:
    And Shapiro would have to be liquored up to agree to THAT trade. Good LOOGYs aren’t that hard to come by, and there’s a fair chance Eddie is just plain done, what with the bum shoulder and all.

  28. thehiddentrack on June 20th, 2006 7:34 pm

    24 dollar pizza…how much should I tip the delivery guy?

  29. joealb on June 20th, 2006 7:59 pm

    Joser, point well taken but if Bavasi sends say 85% of Eddie’s remaining $$ then It still might work. Your right that LOOGY’s are easy to come by but Cleveland doesn’t have an experienced one. Rafael Perez, Cleveland’s only Lefty in the pen has 3 total appearances at the major league level. If Shapiro wont deal for Eddie or a low level prospect (Choo?) Then Bavasi should walk away. I don’t think Joel is good match unless they want him as a bullpen guy and Bavasi would have to eat most of his contract too. I’m not all that high on Johnson but I think he would be a slight upgrade over Joel and every little bit helps.

  30. terry on June 21st, 2006 4:05 am

    #123: the two guys are pretty much clones….an amazing feat since a cow has only been cloned one time in human history and it’s currently debated in the scientific community if indeed the cows in question really are clones…

    Now back to our figuritive cows (aka 2006-same old Johnson and the reinvented Joel):

    J. Johnson
    ERA: 5.96
    WHIP: 1.69
    BAA: .341
    BB/9: 1.46
    G/F: 2.85
    salary: $3,500,00

    Joel P.
    WHIP: 1.58
    BAA: .332
    K/9: 3.93
    BB/9: 1.22
    HR: 11
    G/F: 1.71
    salary: $6,800,000

    So you asked “what’s not an improvement?”. Thats pretty much a great example of whats not an improvement. 🙂

    Now factor in that you’d probably have to eat the rest of Joel’s salary to dump him and take on the rest of Johnson’s salary to get him if you claim him and I’d say another catch phrase would also apply…i.e. *pissing away money*

  31. chrisisasavage on June 21st, 2006 10:15 am

    Oops, I goofed up on the K/9 calculations, Joel has the slightly higher K-rate. I think I did them in calculator last night and got their numbers switched. Still, Johnson has always been a lot better at inducing groundballs than Joel, and this year he’s been an extreme groundball pitcher, though to Joel’s credit he’s been better at inducing them too. Also Joel has walked 3.23 batters per 9 to Johnsons 2.57. I do think Jacobs field has something with Johnson’s huge spike in GB% this year, but he’s always been better at inducing them, than even Joel has been THIS year. He’s replacement level, but so is Joel, and with our infield, who knows.

  32. chrisisasavage on June 21st, 2006 10:18 am

    Oh, and I did realize the age issue, but at this point it’s not like we’d be picking him up for anything more than a tryout for the rest of the year.

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