Carlos Garcia is the best third base coach in the history of baseball

September 26, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 41 Comments 

Oh, I could make you some sophisticated statistical argument, hit the databases, do my thing.

I’m not going to. Here’s my evidence. Carlos Garcia is the least-complained-about third base coach ever.

Since July 2nd, when he was involved in another “aggressive baserunning” gaffe (and I want to point out that the whole “when do you run” decision tree is the manager), no one here has complained about him in the comments. Before that, you have to go back to April to find a bad “waved him in” comment.

Two! All season! And the USSM commenting readership is extremely critical about this kind of thing. Every other team almost, the fan base wants the third base coach fired for gross incompetence. Garcia’s gone unnoticed, and not because Hargrove’s bizarre moves overshadow his – those same mistakes haven’t concealed many other lesser wrongs on the team.

I don’t think the third base coach makes a big difference, but isn’t it pretty clear by now that Garcia’s pretty good at it, or at least at making the judgement calls he’s allowed to under Hargrove’s baserunning strategy?

It’s hard to add anything to that

September 26, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 44 Comments 

A couple notes from the game:
– as sparse as the crowd was, they were fired up. It felt a little like the old Kingdome games, where if you turned out for a weekday non-promo night, you were pretty hardcore
– Jimenez sucks
– Ichiro, in stark contrast, rocks. Even that ball he didn’t get early in center he bolted after on contact, and ran full-out like a blur just to not make a play on. I sooo love Ichiro
– Dobbs won’t stop hitting in games I attend. He should pay me to follow him around.
– pinch-hitting for Snelling with Morse is dumb even if it works if only becuase it limits your options later
– Why run Jones for Johjima at 2nd instead of Ibanez at first, down by two runs?
– How can it be that it’s September and there’s no 3rd catcher to allow a PH for Rivera?
– How did Bloomquist get 245 ABs? That’s twice as many as your UT should have
– Huston Street’s a chump
– I was on my feet clapping and cheering as Bloomquist hit that pitch. Hell yeah.

Hopefully the A’s, who have dropped a bunch of games trying to clinch, will get even more psychologically screwed up over this and stumble to the finish, unable to rest their starters. There’s not a lot of honor in being a spoiler… but there’s some.

Game 157, A’s at Mariners

September 25, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 204 Comments 

Esteban Loaiza, who has been lights out in the second half, against Cesar Jimenez, who isn’t a major league pitcher. The A’s can clinch the division with a win.

The Cost of This Team

September 24, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 227 Comments 

It seems like, at the moment, the prevailing school of thought on what the Mariners should do this offseason is keep this team almost entirely in tact, but just add two quality starting pitchers to the mix, with most of the general population agreeing that those two pitchers should be Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jason Schmidt. People generally seem to be satisfied with the rest of the roster, and feel that spending the available budget money on starting pitching is the way to go.

Except that it’s not. Assuming the organization don’t raise payroll significantly, the Mariners can’t afford to do that. They can’t even really come close.

The team has spent approximately $81 to $88 million on its 25 man roster the past several years. You’ll hear the team report a higher payroll figure that includes the entirity of the 40 man roster, buyouts and contract bonuses, and a reserve fund for “special circumstances”. But, in reality, the combined yearly salaries of the team’s 25 man roster has been in the $80-90 million range, and there’s no reason to believe that the ownership is going to give management significantly more to work with this offseason. You can argue that they should, but that’s another post entirely. Dealing with the realities of a budget that isn’t likely to increase by much if any, we’re bound by an upper limit of about $85-$90 million for the 25 man roster.

As it stands now, the Mariners have approximately $75-$80 million committed to 2006 contracts for the 23 players that most people assume should return next year. Take a look:

Player	           2006 Salary	2007 Salary
Richie Sexson	 $13,000,000.00 	 $14,000,000.00 
Adrian Beltre	 $12,900,000.00 	 $13,500,000.00 
Ichiro Suzuki	 $12,530,000.00 	 $12,530,000.00 
Jarrod Washburn	 $7,450,000.00 	 $9,500,000.00 
Kenji Johjima	 $5,433,333.00 	 $5,433,333.00 
Raul Ibanez	 $4,916,667.00 	 $5,000,000.00 
Ben Broussard	 $2,487,500.00 	 $4,000,000.00 
J.J. Putz         	 $415,000.00 	 $3,500,000.00 
Rafael Soriano	 $450,000.00 	 $3,000,000.00 
Eduardo Perez	 $1,750,000.00 	 $2,000,000.00 
Julio Mateo	 $700,000.00 	 $1,000,000.00 
Willie Bloomquist	 $650,000.00 	 $850,000.00 
Chris Snelling	 $328,500.00 	 $500,000.00 
Yuni Betancourt	 $677,500.00 	 $450,000.00 
Felix Hernandez	 $340,000.00 	 $400,000.00 
Jose Lopez      	 $335,000.00 	 $400,000.00 
George Sherrill	 $333,000.00 	 $400,000.00 
Jeremy Reed	 $375,000.00 	 $375,000.00 
Jake Woods     	 $332,000.00 	 $332,000.00 
Mark Lowe         	 $328,500.00 	 $328,500.00 
Emiliano Fruto	 $328,500.00 	 $328,500.00 
Rene Rivera	 $328,500.00 	 $328,500.00 
Total        	 $66,389,000.00 	 $78,155,833.00 

That’s a complete roster, minus two starting pitchers. The salaries for Putz, Soriano, Broussard, and Snelling are estimates, as they are arbitration eligible and we won’t know exactly what they’re going to earn next year until some point this winter. That said, I’m pretty confident that the esimates are pretty close to what they’ll be looking at, salary wise, next year. Some of the names are easily replaced with others; Fruto and Woods could easily be Baek and Huber, but for salary purposes, it doesn’t really matter.

While it’s true that we’re shedding the costs of Pineiro, Meche, Guardado, and Spiezio, we’re also giving out pretty significant raises. Putz, Soriano, and Broussard are going to get large increases in their pay through arbitration, Jarrod Washburn has a $2 million salary bump for 2007, Richie Sexson gets $1 million more, and the salary escalations for Beltre, Mateo, Bloomquist, and Perez total almost $1.5 million combined. As you can see from the total column, it will cost almost $12 million more to field this same roster next year compared to this year.

That leaves the Mariners with approximately $7-12 million (giving the team a payroll range of $85-$90 million for the 25 man roster) in spending money for the offseason, depending on how the arbitration cases go. $7-$12 million for two starting pitchers. That might get you Daisuke Matsuzaka, as long as the posting fee doesn’t count against payroll, but then you’re done. Would you be happy if the Mariners essentially brought back this same team with just Matsuzaka (or Schmidt, or whatever $10 million pitcher you think we’d acquire) added to the rotation to replace Gil Meche?

I don’t think so. I wouldn’t be. This team still has some issues that need to be resolved, and acquiring one starting pitcher and asking the rest of the team to pick up the slack isn’t the kind of offseason that most of us are hoping for.

If you want the Mariners to make significant additions to this roster, you necessarily have to be in favor of significant subtractions. The Mariners are in line to pay Sexson, Beltre, Ichiro, and Washburn $49 million for next season, leaving about $40 million for the other 21 players. When you have 54 percent of your payroll tied up in four players, those guys have to provide a significant contribution to the team. It’s nearly impossible to create a supporting cast good enough to carry those four players to the playoffs. The Big Four, salary wise, have to produce at a higher level for this team to succeed.

Or, alternately, one of them has to go. This team could create significant budget room by trading one of these four players, giving them enough budget room to replace them with a similarly compensated but higher performing player. Considering the team already has significant holes in the rotation, it’s extremely unlikely they would move Jarrod Washburn, and I’m not sure they could even if they wanted to. So, realistically, if you want any kind of serious upgrade this offseason, one of Sexson, Beltre, or Ichiro has to go.

Essentially, the M’s have two options. Keep this team in tact and make just one significant move this offseason, or remove one of the highly paid players that is already here in order to create room for a more complete roster.

Sexson, Beltre, or Ichiro; which one would you trade?

Game 156, Mariners at White Sox

September 24, 2006 · Filed Under Game Threads · 128 Comments 

Feierabend versus Garcia.

Betancourt’s back! Oh thank goodness.

Your guide to Everett alternatives, revisited

September 23, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 42 Comments 

When the M’s were rumored to be interested in and then signed Everett, and I spent a fair amount of my time savaging the signing for baseball and non-baseball reasons, we floated a number of names as possible alternatives. How’d they do?

Do nothing – I suggested putting one of the random Tacoma-bound guys in, taking even Dobbs over Everett as the DH. Dobbs hit .313/.374/.444 in Tacoma, which even taking a huge translation bump would have been a lot better than Everett.

Other left-handed/switch-hitters available at the time who were mentioned in discussions:
Burnitz – signed a one-year, $6m deal with Pittsburgh. Hit .232/.289/.424 at age 37

Durazo – without being able to know anything for certain about his health, I said “That may make him a bargain, but it certainly makes him a risk.” Went through three organizations this year, and couldn’t play a base. And yet… in AAA, his total line was like .290/.385/.430. Even a semi-crippled Durazo would have been an upgrade.

Hatteberg – “no thanks” The Picking Machine signed a one-year, $750k deal with the Reds, and hit .290/.386/.443, a surprising performance reversing what looked like years of deciline, arguably his best hitting season ever. Heh. You never know.

Higginson – nope. Didn’t play.

Jones – Dave’s talked about this, but Jones did really well… but required a multi-year contract for more money

Lawton – hee hee.

Travis Lee – .224/.312/.364.

Tino Martinez – retired

Mueller – injured his knee, ending his season and possibly his career.

There a couple of lessons to be learned from the Carl Everett signing:
– Paying for things like grit or intensity that can’t be measured or reliably evaluated means you get ripped off a lot
– The cost of reliable veterans over taking a chance is high and doesn’t guarantee reliability
– Mike Hargrove is a horrible talent evaluator

Frequently overlooked, though, is that Bavasi’s shown, over and over, that he understands that contracts are sunk costs, and been willing to move to get past the team’s mistakes. Maybe not as aggressively as we’d always like, but we should acknowledge at least that there are many teams that, having hyped a guy like Everett up and spent that much money on him, would have run him out there all year long and let the option pick up, either out of fear of embarassment or inability to acknowledge they were wrong.

We can point to a lot of the M’s free agent signings as mistakes, but at least they’ve been able to confront them and move on. That’s valuable.

Game 155, Mariners at White Sox

September 23, 2006 · Filed Under Game Threads · 184 Comments 

RHP King Felix Hernandez vs. LHP Mark Buehrle, 10:25am on woooooosh! FOX. Ding.

King Felix makes his last start of the season, so let’s make it a good one, shall we? Meanwhile, the White Sox have fallen apart down the stretch and are all but eliminated from the playoff chase. Sadly, today’s lefty starter means no Doyle. Coupled with Bloomquist at SS… well, good luck today, Felix. Hey, Hargrove, isn’t Oswaldo Navarro on the club?

Dave’s quick note:

For the last time this year, Happy Felix Day.

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, he’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, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the American League.

There’s not a pitcher alive I’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.

CF Ichiro!
3B Beltre
2B Lopez
LF Ibanez
1B Sexson
DH Perez
RF Morse
C Rivera
SS Bloomquist

#1 sign Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox have given up? Juan “.259 OBP” Uribe is hitting second.

Carlos Truinfel

September 22, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 33 Comments 

I just got home, so I’m sure this has been mentioned in the comments somewhere already, but the Mariners announced today that they’ve signed Carlos Truinfel to a reported $1.3 million deal. Truinfel was one of the more hyped Dominican prospects and is represented by Scott Boras. While good information on 16-year-old kids is hard to come by, this is what we’re told.

He’s 6’2, about 180, and he’s a hitting shortstop. The Mariners didn’t sign him for his flash with the leather; this is one of those kids who can swing the bat from an early age. As with any tall 16-year-old who can hit, there are questions about his defense, but that’s normal, and I wouldn’t worry about it. The fact that the M’s took a shot on a kid who can swing the stick is a positive development, and something we didn’t see near enough of before Bill Bavasi and Bob Fontaine came aboard.

Truinfel was scouted personally by the Mariners top international scout, Bob Engle, who has a pretty solid track record with picking kids like this. He’s reportedly leaving the organization at season’s end, so this may be a pretty nice going away present.

So, basically, the M’s just added a high ceiling hitter to the farm system, which is almost never a bad thing. The success rate of big bonus Dominican hitters isn’t great, but it’s good to see the Mariners investing in their farm system and chasing after guys who can hit the ball above all else. While Truinfel is probably at least 4 years away from the major leagues, this is the kind of thing fans should get behind.

Welcome to the club, Carlos Truinfel.

Game 154, Mariners at White Sox

September 22, 2006 · Filed Under Game Threads · 216 Comments 

Gil Meche v Jose Contreras. 5:35.

Come on Meche, you can do it. That coveted high Elias rating is within reach! The team needs you to ensure we get a chance to recover a high draft pick from your impending loss.

Mariners field
CF-L Ichiro
3B-R Beltre
C-R Johjima
LF-L Ibanez
1B-R Sexson
DH-L Broussard
2B-R Lopez
RF-L Snelling
SS-R Willie “The Ignitor” Bloomquist

Betancourt gets the night off after that plunking. I realize I missed a month worth of lineups, but Lopez at #7? I don’t quite understand what’s been going on with the shuffling.

Looking through the rosters today, I was struck by what a strange career Jermaine Dye has had. He’s hitting .318/.385/.630 (!) this year, after a really nice 2005 campaign for Chicago, which in turn followed his disappointing time in Oakland, where he was one of the players Billy Beane really wanted to get and then was injured and, when not injured, not playing well, until his final year in 2004.

Wins contributed by season through his career, summed up using BP’s WARP3 because I happen to have that open:
96, at 22: 1.6

97: 1.4
98: 1.6
99, his breakout year at 25: 8.5
00, 7.2

Traded in mid 2001 to the A’s
01, at 27, total: 5.8
02: 3.1
03: -.2
04: 4.2

White Sox:
05: 5.3
06: 9.6 (so far)

By any standard, that’s a really strange career path.

Jake Woods, Litmus Test

September 21, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 127 Comments 

Jake Woods is 25-years-old, left-handed, makes the league minimum, is a former semi-hyped prospect, and has now thrown 95 innings this season with an ERA of 3.88, which is 15 percent better than the average AL pitcher in 2006.

What the Mariners decide to do with Jake Woods this offseason will be an interesting test of whether their methods for evaluating pitchers have improved at all in the past year. Woods’ combination of age, handedness, salary, and ERA will make him a somewhat valuable player to a decent number of teams this offseason. The Mariners, however, couldn’t need a guy like Jake Woods any less.

He’s a replacement level pitcher in an organization that has so many replacement level pitchers, they don’t have room for them all. If the Mariners are willing to look past the ERA and see him for what he is – a guy with average stuff and bad command whose ERA is a complete fluke – they should admit that the best service he could provide for them going forward is to return a more suitable player for this team in trade.

Jake Woods is a litmus test. An organization that understands pitching would trade him this offseason. We’ll see if the Mariners are up to the challenge.

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