M’s add a pitcher – really!

Dave · November 30, 2006 at 9:28 am · Filed Under Mariners 

This isn’t going to show up in the local dailies, and no one in town is going to care, but the M’s have signed a pitcher who has a legitimate chance to help them in 2007.

Justin Lehr.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking – he’s 29 and has a career 5.31 ERA in 83 innings in the majors. To which I respond, so what? It’s 83 innings.

Justin Lehr is a guy who deserves a shot and has never gotten one. He’s never going to be an all-star, but he’s got a skillset that works in the major leagues; groundballs and strikeouts.

He threw 112 innings in the rotation for Nashville this year and had a GB rate of 50.1%. His Triple-A G/F rate is the same as Felix’s was when he was in Tacoma. This wasn’t a one time thing, either, as Lehr has a long tradition as a groundball guy. However, he’s not a one tricky pony like Sean Green – Lehr’s got decent enough secondary stuff and solid command, allowing him to post a 31/90 walk to strikeout ratio. His walk rate and strikeout rates were better than average in the Pacific Coast League, and for a heavy ground ball pitcher, that’s rare.

Lehr lacks an outpitch and he’s spent most of his career in the bullpen, but the Brewers were onto something when they decided to stretch him out in their Triple-A rotation. He doesn’t have the dominant stuff to be an end-game reliever, but his sinkerball has enough movement to get him through 5 or 6 innings a game. If you want to see the prototype of this type of pitcher, check out Clay Hensley, who gave the Padres 200 good innings in the rotation last year by just throwing his sinker over and over.

Justin Lehr, on a minor league contract, is a terrific signing. He’s better than Cha Baek or Jake Woods, and as a non-guaranteed invite to spring training, there’s no risk here, and a decent amount of upside.

Whenever someone tells you that there’s no pitching to be had on the cheap, point to Justin Lehr. Bargains can be found if you look in the right places. The Mariners found one, and now we just have to hope they use him.


188 Responses to “M’s add a pitcher – really!”

  1. Gomez on November 30th, 2006 6:40 pm

    I’ll argue this later on, EC, but your last paragraph says a lot more about your stance than the others. I don’t think you be as against it if you didn’t feel he’d block the prize propsects.

    As it stands, you’re proposing filling two corner outfield spots with two young question marks, one of which has an extensive injury history.

    I unfortunately think Adam Jones will get a spot in the lineup by the end of this season… because I have a sinking feeling Ichiro will either get traded or walk.

  2. Steve Nelson on November 30th, 2006 7:51 pm

    re discussion between e. coward and Messer. Gomez on K-rates, Gonzo, and Gar:

    To further edify that fine banter, let’s look at K-rate (as % of TPA) for the players:

    Age Gonz Mart
    21 22% —
    22 19% —
    23 13% —
    24 14% 11%
    25 13% 18%
    26 11% 13%
    27 13% 11%
    28 9% 11%
    29 11% 10%
    30 10% 12%
    31 9% 11%
    32 12% 14%
    33 11% 13%
    34 12% 13%
    35 10% 14%
    36 13% 16%
    37 13% 14%
    38 9% 15%
    39 — 17%
    40 — 16%
    41 — 19%

    The arcs of their careers appear classic to me. Gonzo had his lowest K-rate at ages 28-31, and his K-rate has been drifting upward since. Edgar had his lowest K-rate at ages 27-31, and his K-rate drifted upward after that. I’m hard pressed to believe that Gonzo’s drop in K-rate last year is anything more than random noise.

    Overall, Gonzalez is a lower K-rate hitter than Edgar. But if you take increasing K-rate as an indicator of declining bat speed, Gonzo is at almost precisely the same stage after his age 38 season as Edgar was after his age 38 season.

  3. CCW on November 30th, 2006 7:56 pm

    “I think its pretty tough to argue convincingly that signing Lehr was anything but smart.”

    Based on past moves by this organization, I think there’s a decent argument to be made that this move was simply lucky.

  4. terry on November 30th, 2006 8:29 pm

    #153: ?

  5. terry on November 30th, 2006 8:40 pm

    #151: I’m against Gonzo because frankly he has no upside at this point. At best he’s average defensively now. His OBP and SLG are trending down every year since ’03 and he aged into a VORP of 11 last season. Basically he’s roster fodder but it’s not likely that he’ll even be a bargain to sign.

    I’d rather see Reed start the year in left than Gonzalez.

  6. Typical Idiot Fan on November 30th, 2006 8:41 pm

    One other piece of conjecture on Gonzo:

    Year 2B HR
    2001 36 57
    2002 19 28
    2003 46 26
    2004 28 17 (105 games)
    2005 37 24
    2006 52 17

    Though I haven’t researched it enough, the typical “homerun” hitter will have a lot more homeruns then doubles in their prime, and when they decline have a lot more doubles then homeruns. This would follow a natural regression of power from being able to get it over the wall to “gap” power. Though Gonzo in his prime never fit the mold of the typical “homerun” hitter, the severe loss in homerun power coupled with a huge spike in doubles type hitting might indicate that while his bat speed hasn’t deteriorated horribly (as evidenced by his K-rates increasing gradually), his homerun power is all but gone.

    The only reason he managed to keep his slugging percentage around .450 last year was compensating homeruns for doubles. The double is a lot more prone to fluctuation due to opposing defenses and blind stupid luck (“balls falling in”). Because of that, Gonzalez’s power numbers could nosedive down to the low .400s if he has totally lost his homerun power potential.

  7. CCW on November 30th, 2006 8:50 pm

    I can’t believe anyone’s making a serious argument for Gonzo. He’s 39, plays LF, and just put up .271 / .352 / .444 last year in a hitters park. What else does anyone need to know?

  8. Spanky on November 30th, 2006 9:22 pm

    157. But he’s a nice guy and good clubhouse experience. Maybe he can teach WFB and the young guys about hitting and patience. LOL

  9. eponymous coward on November 30th, 2006 9:24 pm

    That’s basically my point, CCW. Gonzo’s not very good to start with, and it’s simply not hard to find “freely available talent” hitters to get a .330 OBP/.450 SLG from DH/corner OF/1B, which is probably as good as you could expect from Gonzo going to a more difficult environment than BOB (even if it helps lefties some). So why sign him?

    This IS the same reason why I loathed the Everett signing, BTW- it’s a waste of money, and there are usually better or cheaper options available, it’s just that teams fall into the “I need a proven veteran” trap (see Petagine, Roberto). I’m still waiting for the case as to WHY a 39 year old 97 OPS+ hitter who’s not playing a defensively valuable position is the kind of player we should be targeting in free agency.

  10. colm on November 30th, 2006 10:01 pm

    Very nicely put Eponymous. Beautifully constructed arguments. I’m baffled that Gomez is riding this hobby horse.

    If we were talking about signing Gonzalez to $500K incentive-laden deal, I’d understand the enthusiasm. But we’re not. In this market, a big-name, experienced, power-hitting leftie (with a world series winning hit on his resume, no less) is going to command several million dollars.

  11. colm on November 30th, 2006 10:02 pm

    BTW Whatever happened to Roberto Petagine? The M’s got rid of him last year when I was out of the country and offline and I lost track. Any reports?

  12. David J. Corcoran I on November 30th, 2006 10:15 pm

    I dunno. This is a place where clubhouse presence might be neat. I can see Luis Gonzalez being a real leader. A guy who rallys the team and makes them want to win. A man who can lead the rookies.

    And I’m being serious.

  13. _MFAN_ on November 30th, 2006 10:31 pm

    161- I know he was in Tacoma for a while, not sure if he’s still in the M’s system.

    162- I agree with that 100%. Im not saying I want the M’s to sign Gonzo, but I think he would be an excellent clubhouse guy. Unlike C-Rex, Gonzo would probably be good for “veteran leadership”.

    Now if he could hit like Pujols we would be set.

  14. urbancamper on November 30th, 2006 11:00 pm

    So his full name is listed as Charles Larry Lehr… but he goes by “Justin.” Weird. I guess maybe his dad was named Charles or something, and he can be excused for not wanting to go by the name “Larry Lehr.”

  15. Churchill on November 30th, 2006 11:00 pm

    Petagine was let go after being DFA’d July 9.

  16. BelaXadux on December 1st, 2006 12:21 am

    I knew it! It HADDA be Jessica Simpson by a . . . by an appendage. Or two!!

    Whazzat? Mariners? We still _have_ a Triple-A team in Seattle to talk about, too?? Hmmmmm. . . . Why?

  17. Typical Idiot Fan on December 1st, 2006 12:26 am

    and it’s simply not hard to find “freely available talent” hitters to get a .330 OBP/.450 SLG from DH/corner OF/1B

    What? Even if you thought Gonzo would go further downhill next season, dropping from a .355 OBP to a .330 OBP but not losing any slugging percentage is weird. If you think he’s going down hill, I’d still peg him as a .270 / .340 / .430 hitter, keeping the ISO-walk rate at a better pace then his ISO-slugging.

  18. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2006 12:36 am

    I picked those numbers as representative of a “eh” DH/corner OF (though that might be abit high at the Safe).

  19. fwbrodie on December 1st, 2006 1:39 am

    Maybe JJ Putz can teach him the splitfinger that he is now using as his out pitch. Seems like that would only increase his ground ball ratio and strike outs.

  20. terry on December 1st, 2006 4:21 am

    hey…..why hasn’t there been a game thread lately?

    This has been the longest off season I can remember and winter meetings haven’t even started yet.

  21. Safeco Hobo on December 1st, 2006 7:12 am

    The Rockies sign Jennings to a $13.25/4 yr deal! Is this right!?!?!? This seems like one of the better offseason contracts so far. At worst he goes Joel and they’re out $3.3 each of the next 4 years. At best they have a pretty decent young core of pitchers to build around in Jennings and Francis…for under market value. Maybe the Rockies learned something from that whole Naegle/Hampton ‘situation’.

    How about a 2009 rotation for the M’s built around Felix/Feierabend/Marrow…fingers crossed.

  22. CCW on December 1st, 2006 7:20 am

    Ummm, it’s Francis that got the 4 year/$13.25 deal, and he wasn’t a free agent. Also, Jennings isn’t a free agent…

  23. Safeco Hobo on December 1st, 2006 7:27 am

    Actually, it was both Francis and Jennings that both got extensions.

    Not saying the M’s could have signed him, this contract extension merely points out that smart teams are signing their young potential stars to long term deals. Instead of being at the mercy of the FA market, like the M’s and most of baseball is right now. It is a contract extension that is fairly low risk (considering what they are dishing out annually to Helton), with a pretty decent upside.

  24. Dave on December 1st, 2006 7:52 am

    Umm, sorry Hobo, but your information is off the mark. The Rockies haven’t re-signed Jason Jennings. Francis got a 4 year, $13 million deal because he’s years away from free agency. This was just a deal to buy out his arbitration years.

  25. Safeco Hobo on December 1st, 2006 8:05 am

    Whoops all apologies! I swear i saw it somewhere this morning somewhere in my daily search of news….now all i can find is the Francis signing. I guess no more posting before my coffee!

    I thought it looked strange when i posted it.

  26. Gomez on December 1st, 2006 8:06 am

    EC, I’ve gotta apologize, as two minutes after I shut off my computer to go to class, I realized the ‘we need to fill two OF spots’ pointwas totally wrong. “Oh crap, Ibanez!” But class was in 20 minutes so I couldn’t jump back and correct myself.

    My bad.

  27. msb on December 1st, 2006 8:13 am

    Geoff Baker checks in on the Gonzo story this morning:

    “”I wouldn’t say they’re jumping up and down, champing at the bit to get a deal done,” Terry Bross, one of Gonzalez’s agents, said Thursday in confirming the team telephoned him this week … Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi has said that unless a deal falls in his lap in the coming days, any outfield bat brought in will be with leftover cash after pitching is acquired.”

  28. Otto on December 1st, 2006 8:38 am

    needing a cheap pitcher to go along with Schmidt when we sign him any thoughts on bringing Jason Marquis in for a one year deal. He looks like a change of scenery type of guy and might be had for cheap.

  29. Gomez on December 1st, 2006 9:05 am

    Marquis: gopherballer with a poor K rate. In the NL. Pass.

  30. Gomez on December 1st, 2006 9:10 am

    A misnomer here is that I am pushing for the M’s to sign Luis Gonzlez (colm took that notion and ran with it). Actually, I’m just arguing the point that he is imminently due for a collapse that will leave him as useless as Carl Everett. They’re not the same player, and wherever he ends up, I don’t see the indicators that Luis Gonzalez’s performance is going straight to hell in 2007.

  31. terry on December 1st, 2006 9:59 am

    #180: ya but that argument ignores the fact that he already is pretty useless….

  32. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2006 10:13 am

    Actually, I’m just arguing the point that he is imminently due for a collapse that will leave him as useless as Carl Everett.

    And my argument is that at this point, he’s only slightly better in 2006 (97 OPS+) than Carl was in 2005 (94 OPS+), and his stats CLEARLY show big declines.

    Let’s look at that on instant replay:

    This is slightly better than Carl Everett… but only slightly. He’s pretty clearly falling off the cliff:

    Even if he only goes from, say, a 97 OPS+ to 90-95 instead of 74 and only has a MILD age-related decline with respect to his league, that means he STILL sucks as a DH or corner OF, because, as I said, positions that don’t offer a lot of defensive value need to be ABOVE average to be well above replacement value, like at 105-110 OPS+. The minors are STUFFED with 1B/DH/slow corner OF types who can hit around 95 OPS+, which is where Gonzo is at now.

    Basically, in order to think Gonzo has value approaching a several million dollar contract, you need to assume he will improve on his last year’s numbers. I’d rather that Bill Bavasi go to a Vegas casino, walk up to a roulette wheel and put Gonzo’s salary on red. It’s better odds than assuming that a 39 year old will dramatically improve performance year-over-year after several years of consistent declines, and it would pay for a nice chunk of Manny’s 2007 salary if he won.

  33. Grizz on December 1st, 2006 11:27 am

    Again, I’m indifferent on Gonzalez (on a one-year contract in place of Broussard, not Doyle), but the comparison to Everett just does not work. Here are their lines for the last three years before they would join the M’s (these are non-adjusted numbers, but both played in hitter friendly parks — ARI for Gonzalez; mainly CHW (1/2 season at TEX and MTL) for Everett):

    Gonzalez (2004-2006)

    259/373/493 68/58 BB/K
    271/366/459 78/90 BB/K
    271/352/444 69/58 BB/K

    Everett (2003-2005)

    287/366/510 53/84 BB/K
    260/319/402 16/45 BB/K
    251/311/435 42/99 BB/K

    They clearly have two different skills sets, with Gonzalez possessing the ones that generally age better. He has, to use general terms, contact and on-base skills (some combination of pitch recognition, plate coverage, etc.) that Everett lacked. The SLG shows that Gonzalez’s power is certainly declining, but between 2005 and 2006 he actually increased his extra base hits from 61 (37 2B, 24 HR) to 69 (52 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR) in essentially the same number of at-bats (579 v 586). Considering Safeco’s effect on lefties, his 2006 was essentially the 2005 version of Raul Ibanez (280/355/436) — useful at best but a far cry from Everett-like futility.

    A significant decline is not a given. This may very well be the year that Gonzalez finally sees a sharp decline, but it will not be because he is following Carl Everett’s path.

  34. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2006 2:20 pm

    They clearly have two different skills sets, with Gonzalez possessing the ones that generally age better. He has, to use general terms, contact and on-base skills (some combination of pitch recognition, plate coverage, etc.) that Everett lacked

    You mean to say he’s slightly better than Everett? Gosh, I wish I had said that many, many posts ago.

    Oh, wait, I did. So can we quit arguing about something I agree with you on?

    A significant decline is not a given. This may very well be the year that Gonzalez finally sees a sharp decline, but it will not be because he is following Carl Everett’s path.

    So, the fact that Gonzo has lost OBP and SLG from the past four years means the most reasonable assumption is that he won’t decline significantly from his 2006 numbers in year five, despite the facts that he’ll be a year older, going into a ballpark that has screwed over some free agents over 30 who CAN hit lefty (Spiezio, Everett, Sierra), and we have the general rule that ballplayers generally decline as they get past 30, which is especially true as they get close to 40?

    Gonzo doesn’t HAVE to hit .210/.290/.350 to not be worth a sign. He could hit .250/.335/.420 and he’d still not be worth any premium over any number of guys we could pick up at replacement level- and that would be just a straight-line decline from his current numbers (losing 25 points of SLG and some OBP). Broussard’s career line, BTW, is .266/.328 /.465- so Gonzo is already LESS of a power threat than Ben is. Gonzo also has significant platoon differential, just like Broussard- .819/740 for Gonzo in 2006, .819/.646 for Broussard- even though Ben’s 3 year splits of .8129/.787 are LESS pronounced than Gonzo’s .842/.748.

    And before you say ‘Well, Ibañez didn’t lose anything…”: Ibañez wasn’t pushing 40 when we signed him, either.

    Really, I don’t see the logic of why you’d be indifferent to a 39 year old Gonzo as your LF or DH (and either needing a RH platoon partner or watching him suck ass against LHP), and Ibañez, as opposed to Raul in LF and Broussard plus the same platoon partner. You’re taking on a ten year older player for NO realistic hope of performance gain (barring an asusmption that Safeco is where Ponce de Leon found the Fountain of Youth), and significant risk of age related decline/injury. We already TRIED this trick subbing in Carl Everett for Randy Winn. Why are we going double or nothing, when there are younger players in the M’s system who might deserve the playing time really soon?

    I can understand an argument for low-cost replacement-level veterans as potential signs for the OF and DH if you think Broussard can fetch something decent in trade, anbd ESPECIALLY considering Doyle’s injury history, but Gonzo offers very little premium and is highly likely to be used the wrong way by Hargrove (him and/or Raul as an everyday player in LF or RF)- whereas if anything we should be bumping Raul to DH permanently and playing a younger and better defensive player with a replacement level stick.

  35. BelaXadux on December 1st, 2006 8:10 pm

    [roids, ban]

  36. Typical Idiot Fan on December 2nd, 2006 4:26 am

    [roids, ban]

    Can we make THIS the post of the day? And if not, can we at least make it a permaban?

  37. Grizz on December 5th, 2006 9:56 am

    The indifference toward Broussard? Maybe it has something to do with him becoming a 30-year-old two true outcome player.

  38. Vamac53 on December 16th, 2006 10:20 am

    Hi Guys,
    I’m new to your Mariners’ boards, and this is my first post, so don’t take offense. I am Angel fan (ouch), and don’t know too much about the fringe players on your team. But I do know Bavasi (ouch) and Hargrove and most of your key players; so I will reserve judgement on them til I watch them more. I’m not a big stat guy. they give you a tainted picture, especially in a small sampling. It doesn’t show heart, guts and other baseball skills. Like how well a pitcher holds runners on, fields his position and in National League, handles the bat,etc.
    I am youth pony, high school coach, very good friend,and mentor of Justin Lehr, and his family. And also coached Mike Young, Mike Lamb, Aaron Rowand, Danny Haren, Chris Woodward, J.J. Davis, and played on same team as Alfonso Soriano. So I know a little of what I speak. I pitched adult ball til 4 years ago (torn labrum), pitched with bad labrum for 5 years (ouch-good horse pills). Now I’m disabled (stroke). so I have a lot of spare time to go to Arizona spring training, watch all games on MLB TV/ so I will comcentrate on the M’s this year. I did the same thing when Justin was on Oakland, then the Brewers. I will give you an honest opinion of Justin Lehr’s plus and minus.
    Lehr is 1st and most a true old-school type “baseball-player”. He has the attitude you like, he is very disappointed if he fails to come thru for you. He is a “gamer”. He came to Seattle because he wants to “start”. He is a much better starter then reliever. tho he is good reliever. He has come into tight games with Brewers at the beginning of last year and got the job done. He was rewarded out of spring training last year and the first week of season by being main setup man to Turnbow. He had some great results, but he had 2 games last year in relief where he gave up like 3 or 4 runs in one inning; so that’s why he had a high era last year. his other outings were good. and they sent him to Nashville to start. He pitched 7+ innings of perfect game against hard hitting RoundRock in AAA game 4 (a must win to stay in playoffs).
    He is better as starter, he has 4 quality pitches. When he first came up with Oakland, his debut inning he got Derek Lee out then struck out Sammy Sosa, and Aramis with 97 mph fast ball. Now he tops at 92-93 with movement, plus slider, very good splitter, and a change. He gets lefty’s out (he’s righty). and your catcher will love the way he holds runners on. Ned Yost said he has the quickest move to 1st he has seen for a righty. and he was the best fielding pitcher on the Brewer’s per Yost. Wait til you see his “fake-to-third, throw to first” that supposedly never gets anybody. He got 7 picks last year on that play alone.
    It doesnt matter for the M’s (american league-dh) but he can hit. He was all league catcher in college-UC-Santa Barbara-freshman year thru junior year. He caught for Barry Zito,and Mike Young played center, then short. Justin hit nearly 20 homers his junior year. He transferred to USC with Zito and was 1 2 starters and had comparable stats.
    His downside would be that he tends to have a bad inning in a mop-up situation, and inflates his era when you dont have many innings. He is currently pitching for Hermosillo in mexican winter league and joined them midyear and has become their ace. He is 5-1 and in all but 1 came (where he pitched while under the weather and got shelled for 8 runs in 3 innings, he hardly has given up any runs. He still has 3.16 era. take away that one bad outing and his era would be in 1’s. I believe he will help the M’s this year.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.