USSM Year-end Best-of: May 2006

December 29, 2006 · Filed Under Site information · 2 Comments 

5-3: Bloomquist and Lopez discuss Bloomquist being on fire

5-4: Why the players’ union should support the minor league umpires’ strike

5-10: Doyle Day

5-15: Photos from Tacoma, including ex-Mariner Snelling and the insane Diamond Dig. Game report from same.

A kid did a sweep-the-bases thing and after he was done, he brushed off the umpire’s feet, and the ump gave him a ball. Implied message: do as you’re told and debase yourself to authority, and you’ll be rewarded.

5-25: Why Albert Pujols will break the single-seaon home run record

Pujols’ hot start makes a run at the title possible, and unless we see a dramatic shift in sentiment, he’ll be given every opportunity teams can spare to make sure his path is clear.

Pujols, of course, got injured and missed a little time, but you essentially can’t miss any time and challenge a season hitting record.

5-28: Just jaw-droppingly horrible. Dave tears into Hargrove over a particularly, even for Hargrove, bad game.

The “Charting Felix” series started in May: on 5-17, the beginning. 5-22 (pitch variation, more changes, please). 5-26: Charting Felix against the Twins: see Felix succeed and fail with his pitch selection

USSM Year-end Best-of: April 2006

December 28, 2006 · Filed Under Site information · 1 Comment 

Game 24 thread: complaining about Gil Meche leads to the destruction of Seattle.

Roger Clemens, the 21st Century Wants a Word With You

Take Me Out With the Crowd

Safeco Field ticket guide

Early analysis on aggressive baserunning

April also brought us the best quote of the year, from the PI:

“I never thought I’d see the day where there was less than 20,000,” said utility man Willie Bloomquist. “(Tuesday night) was the first time I’ve walked out for a game and gone, ‘Wow.’ It’s a little odd being able to hear conversations with fans.”

“Really?” I wondered. “What did they say?”

“You (expletive) suck, Bloomquist!” Bloomquist said.

USSM Year-end Best-of: March 2006

December 28, 2006 · Filed Under Site information · 5 Comments 

Book review: The Museum of Clear Ideas
Dave on the Thornton-for-Borchard trade

Bugs Bunny, Greatest Banned Player Ever

Dave scouts Daniel Bard and Andrew Miller

Dave compares Meche and Pineiro, which includes

Basically, Gil Meche sucks and Joel Pineiro doesn’t.

It’s a good piece of analysis, and also demonstrates that we get stuff wrong all the time.

Position roundtables: RF

USSM Year-end Best-of: February 2006

December 28, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners, Site information · 1 Comment 

Slow month at USSM. The position roundtables are about it. (1b, 2b (and follow-up on Bloomquist-as-2b), SS, 3B, LF, CF

How many Mariner fans does it take to change a lightbulb?

1: I don’t know, but about 30,000 a night show up hoping to see the lightbulb turn itself around.

2: Changing lightbulbs is unncessary for Mariner fans, who bask endlessly in the luminous goodness of Raul Ibanez’s soul. (props to Jonah for the idea for this one)

USSM Year-end Best-of: January 2006

December 28, 2006 · Filed Under Site information · 1 Comment 

Will Clark at the Hall of Fame

Evaluating Defense. Dave’s rundown on how best to approach the extremely difficult problem of figuring out who’s good and bad with the glove, and how good.

Joke salvage, from Meche heads to arbitration
Arbitration board: We rule for Mr. Hunter. Mr. Hunter, if you could just walk over here and take this gigantic sack of money…
Hunter: I don’t walk, sorry.

The Rise and Fall of Dave Fleming.

Mariners fandom, as seen through:
logical positivism

Management review. Dave’s “feelings on the Mariner front office, how they operate, what they do well, and what they could do better” a year ago.

The Mariners’ Revenge Song. Jeff busts out song lyrics.

Jeff and Derek discuss the 2005 off-season. I don’t know that this has weathered quite as well, but it was really interesting to go back and re-read this.

Zito gets a seven year, $18m/year deal

December 28, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 105 Comments 


“Sooooo… how about that appeals court ruling?”
“I’m fine.”
“You think between the union, Bonds, and everything else we’ll be able to keep Bonds on the field all year?”
“Sure, why not.”
“It does seem like there’s a fair chance he’s going to jail on perjury charges in the next… year, two years.”
“That’s a pretty short window of opportunity, between possible retirement or incarceration…”
“Fine, fine, call Boras, tell him we cave.”

Best part: the 2014 option for $18m. Yeaaaaaaah.

2006 Free Agent Signings

December 28, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 60 Comments 

With free agency nearly over, and by popular demand, here is my list of the ten best and worst free agent signings this winter. I’ve been vocal in my criticism of some of the decisions made this offseason, and there have been some horrible contracts handed out, but there have also been some good deals signed this winter.

So, without further ado, as of 12/28, the best and worst of the offseason signings:

Best Contracts of 2006

Rank Player Team Years Total
1. M. Mussina New York Yankees 2 $23m
2. G. Maddux San Diego Padres 1 $10m
3. A. Pettitte New York Yankees 1 $16m
4. D. Matsuzaka Boston Red Sox 6 $102m
5. R. Durham San Francisco Giants 2 $15m
6. D. Dellucci Cleveland Indians 3 $11.5m
7. A. Iwamura Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3 $13m
8. M. Alou New York Mets 1 $8.5m
9. M. DeRosa Chicago Cubs 3 $13m
10 J. Valentin New York Mets 1 $3.8m

Honorable Mention: A. Kennedy, F. Thomas, J. Guillen, F. Catalanatto, R. Wolf

Worst Contracts of 2006

Rank Player Team Years Total
1. C. Lee Houston Astros 6 $100m
2. B. Zito San Francisco Giants 7 $126m
3. G. Meche Kansas City Royals 5 $55m
4. J. Pierre Los Angeles Dodgers 5 $45m
5. G. Matthews Anaheim Angels 5 $50m
6. A. Soriano Chicago Cubs 8 $136m
7. J. Marquis Chicago Cubs 3 $21m
8. D. Baez Baltimore Orioles 3 $19m
9. S. Hillenbrand Anaheim Angels 1 $6.5m
10. W. Williams Houston Astros 2 $12.5m

Dishonorable Mention: B. Molina, A. Gonzalez, J. Walker, J. Payton, M. Stanton, C. Bradford

It was a good year to sign aging all-stars to short term deals, as the top three guys on my list are all still among the better pitchers in their respective leagues, and required no long term commitment. There were quite a few good contracts signed, but the albatross deals handed out to mediocre players will be the story of the winter.

Randy Johnson: Yes, Please

December 27, 2006 · Filed Under Mariners · 139 Comments 

If you haven’t heard, Randy Johnson is not only available, but is apparently looking to move back to the west coast, closer to his family, and presumably would prefer a team that spends spring training in his home state.

An above average left-handed starter? Check.
Short term commitment? Check.
Geographic nature of area appealilng? Check.
Big name acquisition to potentially excite fan base? Check.
Hall of Fame pitcher with a chance to end a great career where it began to flourish? Check.

Randy Johnson isn’t the same guy who we remember being the most dominating pitcher of the mid-90s, the guaranteed win who made you want to go to the Kingdome on an 80 degree day and cheer for a dude with a mullet. But he’s still one of the better pitchers in the American League. Really.

Among AL pitchers in 2006, Randy Johnson ranked 11th in strikeout rate and 18th in Fielding Independant ERA. His 4.32 FIP put him in the same category as guys like Ervin Santana and Vicente Padilla and ahead of Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, and Justin Verlander. His ERA of 5.00 wasn’t nearly as impressive, but if you look at his line, there’s one number that stands out:

205 IP, 2.6 BB/9, 7.5 K/9, 1.2 HR/9, 61.8% LOB%

Nobody in the American League stranded less baserunners than Randy Johnson. His LOB% of 61.8% is off the charts. Joel Pineiro, for all his horribleness, stranded 63.8% of baserunners. You can generally calculate a player’s LOB% fairly well by using his BB, K, and HR rates, which you could call expected left on base rate. Randy Johnson’s xLOB% was 72%, and the difference between his expected strand rate and his actual strand rate was higher than any pitcher in baseball.

You can think this proves some kind of lack of skill if you want, but it’s not – it’s mostly random variation, and I’d gladly put $100 on a bet that Randy Johnson won’t post the lowest LOB% in the American League in 2007.

The same effect that artificially deflated Jarrod Washburn’s ERA in 2005 pushed Randy Johnson’s ERA higher in 2006. Johnson isn’t an an all-star anymore, but he’s still a very effective starting pitcher, better than any of these clowns who are getting long term, big money deals as free agents this winter.

If the Mariners are serious about adding another starting pitcher to their rotation, Randy Johnson is the obvious choice.

Free agent market and the boom and bust cycle

December 26, 2006 · Filed Under General baseball · 66 Comments 

We’ve made some asides in posts and comments about the “market price is market price” and “get in now” crowd, the latter of which need to have their keyboards taken from them.

Dave and I have both argued here, along with a host of smart people elsewhere, that like many markets, free agency is cyclical. New money comes into the market, Mike Hampton gets a bazillion dollars. Soon, second-tier free agents are being frozen out and crying collusion. Then more money comes in, and you get the Juan Pierre/Gary Matthews deals.

We’ve said that you’re better off investing in trades, player development, international free agents, taking on other people’s contracts, whatever – when the market for free agents gets so bad, you shop for what bargains you can get. If there’s nothing there, you’re better off walking away than doing long-term damage to the franchise.

At one point I compared people encouraging teams to spend now before prices went up even further to tulip speculators in late 1636. An even better contemporary analog is housing, though. In February last year, David Lereah (who has a dog in this race) wrote a book called “Are You Missing the Real Estate Boom?: The Boom Will Not Bust and Why Property Values Will Continue to Climb Through the End of the Decade – And How to Profit From Them” and people snapped it up.

The free agent market was compared to real estate investing: overpaying for free agents today meant you were underpaying for them next year. If you were interested in Player X and his asking price went up $10m between phone calls, you should sign him immediately because his price was going to go up again and that meant he was worth even more than his latest demand. And so on, and so forth.

Every time there’s a boom, these arguments come out: real estate is a fixed asset and can’t go down in value. Technology stocks are the product of technology that increases productivity. Tulips will always be pretty.

And the true believers end up underwater on four house mortgages, worthless shares of (the internet’s leading seller of personal and bathroom tissues), and some lovely flowers to plant in their garden.

Fortunately for purposes of our learning, we can go see the housing market stall and in some markets already recede. People who encouraged others to get involved in a bidding wars for houses are now pretending they never said anything like that. “It’s good news if the seller wants more money? Why would I ever say something like that?”

In 2000-2001, there were people arguing that a new free agent market had been established and teams were going to have to pony up if they ever wanted to sign anyone, that Mike Hampton and company would look like great values in a few years, just as today this year’s free agent contracts are heralded as the dawn of a new age. And in a few years, sooner for some of these deals, the contracts handed out will be recognized as clearly insane, the people who gave them derided for their irresponsibility. Then we’ll repeat.

Hampton did not turn out to be worth what he got just because he got it. Priceline wasn’t worth over $100 a share in the boom, even though people bought it, and analysts who pumped up Priceline at $134 a share were wrong, no matter their motivations. We’ll look at many of this year’s deals in the same light soon, but the lesson’s clear: be smart, and look to the long-term.

Anyone who has ever argued that you have to jump into an overpriced market, or that an overheated market can only ever increase is not a serious person, is willfully ignorant of both basic tenets of markets and of history, baseball and otherwise, and should not be listened to.

Rumor mill resumes cranking

December 26, 2006 · Filed Under General baseball, Mariners · 31 Comments 

Shea Hillenbrand signs with the Angels on a one year deal with option.

Discussions between NY and Arizona over Randy Johnson. Supposedly they’d then spend the money on Zito.

Fox Sports reported that the Mariners are thinking about trading Beltre (to who? who knows) so they can further pursue Zito. That doesn’t seem serious: they’re not going to play Burroughs out there. Are they? Having typed that I realize there’s really no ruling out further offseason insanity.

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