Tying up loose ends
A whole bunch of questions flooding the inbox, so it’s time for a notes post.
1. Trading for Alfonso Soriano would be a lousy, lousy idea. Yes, he’s having a good season in Washington, but it is the National League (and while the difference is probably overstated, the AL is significantly better this year, and that has to be acounted for), and Soriano is exactly the type of hitter that Safeco is harshest on. An optimistic expected performance from Soriano for the last two months of ’06 would be something like .280/.330/.500, and he could easily come in under that. Meanwhile, the optimistic expected performance of Chris Snelling would probably be in the .300/.360/.450 range, which is almost equal in value. Plus, Snelling is free, both in terms of salary and in terms of players needed to acquire him.
The M’s don’t need to trade for an LF/DH. They just need to use the ones already in Tacoma.
2. A few weeks ago, I noted the team had a glaring need for another strikeout pitcher in the pen to give Hargrove another option in the middle innings to use in situations where baserunners needed to be stranded. Since the end of the bullpen was made up of contact pitchers with mediocre control, the team had a significant weakness and really needed another reliever.
Enter Mark Lowe. 20 batters faced, 85 pitches, 57 strikes, 6 strikeouts, 6 groundballs. He put the first three batters he faced as a major league pitcher on board, and has since retired 14 of the last 17. He looked fantastic last night, going right after Rodriguez and Posada and getting out of a big jam. Despite his inexperience, he’s easily shown enough to be given that fourth reliever role, coming in to bail starters out of tough situations and getting strikeouts when needed.
Lowe’s a perfect example of why this new “the cost of good relievers is skyrocketing!” theory is nonsense. Relief pitching is the easiest job in baseball, and there are literally good arms in every minor league system who could come up and do the job well right now. You’d think organizations would learn when year after year, the leaderboard of elite relievers is cluttered with names their mothers wouldn’t have recognized before the season started.
The Mariners bullpen is a great example of this – J.J. Putz was a fringe prospect who is now an all-star caliber closer, George Sherrill was signed out of the independent leagues and is about as tough on lefties as anyone alive, and now the M’s look to have struck gold with Mark Lowe, who was a 5th round draft pick two years ago and had an unimpressive minor league resume coming into the year. Only Rafael Soriano was considered any kind of special talent.
Building a bullpen isn’t hard, just because Buster Olney tells you it is. And that is also why, during the offseason, the M’s need to give Mark Lowe another run as a starter. He has three pitches that he’s commanding right now, and while a move back to the rotation will cost him a little bit of velocity, he has some to give. It’s worth finding out if he could be effective for 7 innings sitting at 90-93 instead of one inning at 94-96. I’m fine leaving Lowe in the bullpen for the rest of the year while he adjusts to life in the major leagues, but he should enter Spring Training of 2007 in the hunt for a spot in the rotation.
3. Carl Everett is 19 for 106 since the calendar struck June, a .179 batting average, and we all know he doesn’t walk or hit for power. His continued presence in the line-up is a complete and utter joke, and a massive black stain on the organization. There’s literally no defense for not removing him from the job. The M’s are essentially going to war with an automatic out in the easiest position to field a hitter in baseball. Just ridiculous.
4. Willie Bloomquist has a .227 EqA, the worst of his already unimpressive career. He has four extra base hits all season. And this is the guy Mike Hargrove thinks we need to get into the line-up two to three days a week.
5. Thanks to the recent skid of 9 losses in the last 11 games, the Mariners chances of making the playoffs have taken a pretty significant beating. BP’s Playoff Odds Report has them at 5%, while coolstandings.com pegs them at 8%. I’d say they’re still a little bit higher than both of those, probably closer to 15-20%, but they aren’t great. While we still don’t have to make the buyers or sellers decision right now, we’re probably leaning towards sellers at this point.
6. How much is this starting pitcher worth to you on the open market?
28 years old, RHP, made the all-star team this year, averaged 200 IP for the last 5 years, posted ERA+ of 115 and 127 in the past two years, while posting a strikeout rate 20% better than league average, a home run rate 12% better than league average, and a walk rate 10% worse than league average. He’s got inconsistently good stuff but doesn’t always have command of it, but has managed to post low ERA’s and ranked 2nd and 3rd in the league in strikeouts the past two years. He also led the league in shutouts the past two seasons, though he has pitched in a pretty extreme pitcher’s park.
Sound like exactly the kind of pitcher everyone is hoping that Gil Meche has turned into, right? Meche’s rates this year are actually a bit worse (his K/9 is 16% better than average, walk rate is 18% worse than average, and his HR/9 is 6% worse than league average), but the profile is basically the same.
So, how much do you think that durable Gil Meche clone is worth, the one with an all-star team under his belt and 5 years of pretty consistent performance missing bats and living with the command issues? And are you worried that the performances have come in a pitcher’s park?
No? Neither were the Texas Rangers, when they signed that pitcher, Chan Ho Park, to a 5 year, $65 million dollar contract after the 2001 season.
Forget Jason Schmidt or Chris Carpenter – Chan Ho Park circa 2001 is almost an exact clone of what people are hoping Gil Meche has become. And they wonder why I’m against a contract extension…