I wanted to talk a little about what I’m happy about as a fan. No caveats – no “ignoring his contract…” – just what I see as the strong positives in the team this year.
Adrian Beltre: His .266/.327/.456 line was the best non-2004 year of his career (unless you want 2000, when he played many fewer games). On the road, he hit .283/.343/.462. This is the best offensive season from a 3B we’ve seen since Russ Davis’ monster 1997, and Beltre’s way better on defense.
Yuniesky Betancourt: watching his defense regularly, we get a little too used to it, but comparing him day to day to the other visiting shortstops, he’s as good any day as anyone else I saw play the Mariners this year.
Felix Hernandez: I wonder if having a non-Cy Young season might not be the best thing in the long term, offering some important lessons as he took his lumps. When Felix was using his breaking and off-speed pitches to get outs, he showed us what could be, and what we should look forward to.
Raul Ibanez: a great year for Raul. He didn’t wear out playing left, as I’d feared, but instead put up an excellent offensive season.
Kenji Johjima: transitions from Japanese baseball are always dicey, but Johjima came through. A .291/.333/.453 line from a catcher is a solid offensive contribution, plus he played solid defense and provided stability at a position that has just killed the team in recent years.
Adam Jones: less than a year after his conversion, he was flying around centerfield. His natural ability showed through the roughness. We saw some of his offensive potential, too, in the sheer jolt he put into balls when he made good contact. Jones should have a fine career.
Jose Lopez: in an up and down year we saw his offensive talent and over the course of the year he took a big step forward to being an important piece of the team for years to come.
JJ Putz: he really came forward this year, stepping up from being a hard-throwing reliever into a guy who could come in and get anyone out. Impressive outing after impressive outing.
Chris Snelling: As the High Epopt of the Cult of Doyle, what do you think I’m going to say? He came up, he hit the snot out of the ball. Even when he’s having his bad at-bats, he sees more pitches than most everyone else on the team, and displays a great eye for pitch location. And when he’s on, making contact consistently and swinging at the right pitches, he’s the best hitter on the team. Hopefully as he gets his swings and playing time in, we’ll see him have better and better at-bats, and be a contributor to the team. And his defense! And I told people he had an arm, but they’re still surprised!
Rafael Soriano: happy to see him back, and I admit I’m glad I wasn’t around to see him get drilled in the head. Soriano pitched through some minor injuries and was still the second-most effective reliever on the staff. I’m looking forward to seeing if he cracks the rotation next year.
Ichiro: I love watching Ichiro play. His defense in center is stellar. There’s no other hitter like him in baseball.
Bullpen: teams don’t have to spend a ton of money assembling their bullpens if they’re smart about it, and the M’s did a great job of this. They filled their roster with guys from the organization, finding roles they could pitch well in, and are in a position to have a cheap, effective bullpen for years to come, even if they end up trading some of their surplus away.
Farm system: the system’s in much better shape than it was, and it’s getting better. The drafts are better, they’re not punting picks for free agents, and the player development organization is doing a good job of finding minor leaguers who can help – this year it was in the bullpen.
That’s what occurs to me right off the bat. Are there positives I’m missing?
For the second time, Happy Last Felix Day!
Hernandez vs Millwood, 1:05 pm.
Felix is on a 6 inning limit, and since he knows it, I’d expect we’ll see him going balls to the wall from the first pitch. I’m guessing we’re going to see Max Effort Felix today, with lots of 98s and 99s. Of course, that’s not necessarily a good thing – Max Effort Felix often falls behind in counts, misses up in the zone, and gets frustrated when a fastball gets hit 500 feet. However, there’s a real tangible improvement shown in most pitchers when they know they don’t have to save their strength, so we could easily see a 6 1 0 0 2 10 performance as well.
Anyways, copied and pasted from the last post when it was Felix’s last start of the year:
King Felix has been at times frustrating and inconsistent, and while he may not have performed at a level we expected following his amazing debut last fall, today, heâ€™s going to cap off one of the best seasons a 20-year-old pitcher has ever had. He stayed healthy, he improved as the year went on, and based on the things that a pitcher has significant control over, heâ€™s been one of the best pitchers in the American League.
Thereâ€™s not a pitcher alive Iâ€™d trade Felix for in a one-for-one swap. His future now is brighter than it was 12 months ago. For the last time in 2006, all hail the King, long live the King.
Padilla v Feireabend. The Mariners are playing for a shot at .488, the Rangers would love to continue beating up the M’s to finish above the break-even mark themselves.
What crazy lineup will the newly-emboldened Hargrove come up with? What wacky hijinks will he get up to?
Unfortunately, it looks like he wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous.
His PI column today
Which argues, pretty much, that firing Bavasi & Hargrove wouldn’t have helped
Unless it can be established that a manager/GM is incompetent or lazy, sports-franchise firings usually, but not always, are PR stunts for hapless organizations (that would include at one time the Yankees, who went without playoffs from 1981 to 1995 and fired so many managers and executives that the final total awaits confirmation from the archeological record, like Pompeii).
Makes a weird stop in the middle to make an error:
The Mariners are owned by a Japanese billionaire, who in 14 seasons has never seen his team play, takes serious interest only in his countrymen and never has been personally accountable to the Mariners fan base.
The Mariners aren’t owned by a Japanese billionaire and haven’t been in some time. Majority ownership is Nintendo of America. You could argue that amounts to the same thing, but he is not the owner.
And ends up with
They each made mistakes, the team made some progress, and both guys have a guaranteed year on their contracts that would have been Mariners money out the window had they been fired.
In the end, a third consecutive last-place finish for one of the game’s wealthiest franchises is the fault of everyone in general, and no one in particular. So the bosses chose to stick with a direction, because the other choice was to get back into the hamster wheel.
I disagree that you had to fire both of them.
I disagree that being under contract should confer any kind of job security.
I disagree that Hargrove didn’t particularly contribute to the problem.
I disagree that going 20-15 after an eleven-game losing streak proves anything about the team, much less Hargrove.
I understand the point that firings are often pointless scapegoating. But if you’re going to raise that question, and Thiel does make some kinda anti-Lincoln statements, we shoud be talking in some detail about how they’re the root cause, not shrugging our shoulders and going “mehhh”.
With commentary. Short version: Lincoln/Armstrong says “Bill Bavasi will continue to lead our baseball operations and Mike Hargrove will continue to manage the team.”
The full letter, with extra snarky comments, after the break.
The Mark Mulder for Dan Haren trade probably stands as Billy Beane’s most recent heist of talent, where he turned an expensive, aging, and injured star into a cheap, healthy, and more effective hurler, and got the Cardinals to chip in their best prospect and a quality reliever to boot. Dan Haren has been a big part of the A’s success the past two years, and stands as an example of how to build a pitching staff.
There’s another potential Dan Haren who will almost certainly be available in trade this winter. He turns 25 this winter, has experienced significant success in the minor leagues with good command of three above average pitches, but has been inconsistent during his major league trials to date. Thanks to a 7.67 ERA in 54 innings this year, he has pitched himself out of contention for a job in his current organization’s rotation, and after seven years with the same club, he’s running out of chances.
Ladies and gentleman, Angel Guzman. A former top prospect who has battled health problems and missed almost the entire 2005 season rehabbing from the dreaded labrum surgery, he came back this year and was quite successful in the International League, but failed to retire hitters with the same ease when given a shot with the Cubs. His velocity is still in the same 90-94 range it was before the arm problems, but his curve hasn’t had the same bite and his change is coming in a bit flatter.
Even with those problems, Guzman actually hasn’t pitched all that badly for the Cubs, or at least not as poorly as his ERA would suggest. He’s missed plenty of bats (58 K in 54 IP), which is a good indicator that his stuff is good enough, but he struggled with his command. He walked too many guys and threw a lot of hittable pitches even when he was in the zone. He just couldn’t make the ball go where he wanted.
In the minors, however, he had no such problems. His command in the PCL was just fine, indicating that his problems were more mental than physical. Overall, Guzman had a pretty successful season, throwing 100 innings for the first time as a professional and experiencing some success in Triple-A and making major leaguers swing and miss during his debut season in the majors.
So why would the Cubs be willing to trade him? Because, like every other organization in baseball, they have a finite amount of patience. After four years of high expectations, numerous trips to the disabled list, and a lot of rehab, they have a 24-year-old who gave up nearly a run per inning this season. Teams get tired of waiting for guys to turn the corner, and after a while, frustration grows. If you need a local example, Gil Meche. He’s gotten on our nerves for years with his inability to take a leap forward, and coming off his best season in years, we’re all looking forward to seeing him leave.
The Cubs are certain to spend money on a starting pitcher this offseason to go with returning starters Zambrano, Prior, Hill, and Marshall. They’re running quite low on patience waiting for Angel Guzman to put it all together, much like the Cardinals ran low on patience waiting for Dan Haren, and cashed him in for a “sure thing” in Mark Mulder.
This isn’t to say the Cubs will give him away. The title of the post is “undervalued pitcher”, not “non valued pitcher”, so the Mariners will have to give up something in return to get Guzman from the Cubs. He won’t come free, but the cost in talent will certainly be less than the cost in salary of signing a comparable free agent starter. Angel Guzman isn’t much different than Ted Lilly, Gil Meche, or Adam Eaton. Instead of giving up a mutliyear, multimillion dollar contract, the Mariners can get their high upside, high risk end of rotation starter in trade, then pay him nothing the next two years.
He might not turn into the new Dan Haren. He hasn’t taken that step forward yet. But taking risks on guys who haven’t yet made the leap is the best way to build the end of your starting rotation, and taking a shot on Angel Guzman would be a significantly better idea than throwing money at a free agent with similar question marks.
It might be heresy to the local media, but I’d be totally fine entering next year with Rodrigo Lopez and Angel Guzman as my fourth and fifth starters.
A few interesting columns in the local papers today. First, in the P-I, Rafael Soriano voices his desire to convert back into being a starting pitcher.
“I’ve seen him as a starter, and I’ve seen him very good as a starter,” said pitching coach Rafael Chaves, who coached Soriano in the minors. “But that’s a decision that will be made by somebody else.”
If Soriano is still here next year, they have to at least try it. If it doesn’t work, you can always shift him back to the bullpen, but there’s no point in not seeing if he can succeed as a starter again.
Then, over in the Times, Geoff Baker begins a five part series on looking at the M’s year. Today is Bavasi and Hargrove, with lots of intimations that both will be back but that the decisions have yet to be made. As usual, the discussion shifts to the team being young.
“The players have gotten better,” Bavasi said. “It’s a young team. No manager likes playing with young players. They don’t want any part of young players. And [Hargrove] has accepted them willingly, with a positive attitude. He’s made them all better.”
Accepted them willingly? Really? Tell that to Shin-Soo Choo, Adam Jones, or Chris Snelling, all who came up and were immediately shown the bench. Or tell that to any of the arms in Tacoma who had to watch Joel Pineiro get 150 innings this year to prove that he’s done. Or any of the arms in the bullpen who got to see high leverage innings handed to Julio Mateo.
“There’s a real thin line between being patient and being foolish,” Hargrove admitted this week, not naming any specific cases. “And I’ve learned that, no matter how long you do this, you have a tendency at times to cross that line. It’s not always bad that you do. It’s just bad if you don’t recognize it in time.”
I’m glad that he’s aware that he crossed the line between patience and foolishness with pretty much every veteran player on the roster this year. This isn’t something he should be realizing in his 15th year as a manager, though, considering this same criticism has been leveled at him for years and years.
And down the stretch we come.
RHP Jason Windsor (who?) vs. RHP Gil Meche, 7:05pm.
SeattleMariners.com headline: “Meche to start perhaps last game with Mariners.” I’m willing to overlook the mediocre quality of said headline if it can be true. Please, let it be true.
Meanwhile, Oakland runs out the “Day after clinching” lineup:
You’ve got two former M’s (Bocachica and Perez), plus the great D’Angelo Jimenez, who, having started the season in Texas, is making a run at playing for all four teams in the division by the end of next year.
Trivia Question (for which I don’t have an answer): Since the move to the current divisional alignment in 1995, has any player played for all four teams in AL West? I can think of one player who has spent time with three of four, but that’s it off the top of my head. Have at it.
Cover your eyes, folks, becuase the first of the Suggested Offseason Moves columns has shown up in the P-I today. David Andriesen bats leadoff with his piece today. There will be more coming, surely.
For those who hate following the links, the key paragraphs:
The Nationals will try everything in their power to keep Soriano, and the suitors will be many. It’s estimated he’ll seek $75 million for five years. Give it to him. The Mariners made commitments of $64 million and $50 million, respectively, to Beltre and Sexson when both had major question marks — so how big a risk is $75 million to a five-time All-Star with no such question marks?
Soriano is going to do great things in the next five years, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be here.
Egads. Paying $15 million per year for ages 31-35 of Alfonso Soriano’s career, then sticking him in Safeco Field, would be a monumental disaster. Since Andriesen likes to focus on things like home runs, RBI’s, and steals, we’ll add a slightly more useful column to the discussion.
Soriano’s OBPs, by year: .304, .332, .338, .324, .309, .355. Yes, just what a team that ranks dead last in MLB in unintentional walks and ahead of only Chicago and Tampa Bay in on-base percentage needs; another swing-at-anything hack whose RH power will be mostly neutralized by Safeco Field. Andriesen tries to downplay the effects of Safeco, since he’s hit well in RFK, but RFK isn’t Safeco. It’s a small sample size, but Soriano’s hit .190/.270/.304 at Safeco in 79 at-bats over the last three years, and it hasn’t been the Mariners tremendous pitching that has been shutting him down.
Soriano is a terrible, terrible idea. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about it, because the M’s aren’t going to be players in that lottery ticket to hell.
Competition for Matsuzaka’s services will be fierce. The posting price could top $25 million — and that’s before negotiating a contract that should run about $10 million to $12 million a year for at least four years. It would be an extraordinary commitment, but by all accounts Matsuzaka is an extraordinary talent. If he pans out and Hernandez lives up to his potential, it could give the Mariners a phenomenal 1-2 punch for years to come.
At least he’s on board with the most obvious move of the offseason. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want Daisuke Matsuzaka. It’s like asking kids if they want pie.
Thanks to their raft of young, cheap talent, the Mariners could bring my 25-man roster in at about $95 million. That’s not counting prorated signing bonuses nor money the team is eating on past bad contracts — something fans don’t like to let the team count as payroll, but money that must be paid just the same. And, of course, it doesn’t count the one-time payout to the Seibu Lions. But right about now, Seattle accountants must be keenly aware of the price of being a cellar dweller.
Andriesen’s right. His plan of shipping out Broussard and importing Soriano and Matsuzaka would add about $20 million to the team’s payroll, meaning that the 25 man roster would come in at just under $100 million. And the team still wouldn’t be good enough to win the World Series.
If this is David Andriesen’s dream, let’s all be thrilled we’re not living in it.
Rich Harden v Jake Woods.
Soooo wait, I thought the A’s were happy they’d be able to celebrate in front of their home fans. And then they dropped two to the Angels and one to the M’s. Two more and they’ll be forced to try and do it against the Angels again. Go team! Stick it to ’em!
Hargrove puts out an astonishingly bad lineup.
CF-R Willie “The Ignitor” Bloomquist
Anyone who bats Bloomquist leadoff, no matter what the circumstances, should immediately have their pulse checked, because there’s no blood getting to their brain.
Time to play “Would You Swap ’em?”
C – No
1B – Yes, if only because Swisher is sooooo much cheaper for a long time yet
2B – No
SS – No
3B – Here’s an interesting question. I say yes.
LF – No
CF – No
RF – No
DH – Wellll…. no.
And yet the A’s are trying to win the division and the M’s are playing spoiler.