Quick Wednesday news

January 31, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 43 Comments 

Barry Bonds is, to my knowledge, the first player to have a clause in his contract allowing it to be terminated if he’s indicted. His agent says it’s not enforceable. I’d bet the Giants disagree.

Yankee Stadium gets the 2008 All-Star game, and then the Yankees will inevitably get another one soon afterwards with their new stadium.

Wanted: P.R. man

January 31, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 27 Comments 

No, not for us. For Jose Guillen’s trainer.

This story on ESPN details Guillen’s workout program during the offseason, and it’s all pretty generic. If you’ve read a story about a guy coming off injury working hard to get back in shape and prove himself again, you’ve read this one.

Except, there’s a throwaway line that I just can’t wrap my mind around.

The guy that drives him is the 54-year-old Presinal, known to Dominican players as Nao (sounds like Now). Guillen has worked with him the last seven offseasons. Presinal has been under contract in recent seasons to Juan Gonzalez and Bartolo Colon, but discussions are under way to have him join Guillen this season in Seattle.

Yes, folks, Jose Guillen is being trained by the man who had such wonderful success keeping Juan Gonzalez healthy and Bartolo Colon in shape. And he’s using that experience on his resume?

Really? You’ve been working with this guy?

Bartolo Colon, folks

I’m sure Presinal knows way more about conditioning than I do, but he has to have clients that are better recommendations for his services than Bartolo Colon and Juan Gonzalez, doesn’t he?

First review for Cheater’s Guide to Baseball

From the Feb 1 Library Journal:

Zumsteg, Derek. The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball. Houghton. Apr. 2007. 256p.
ISBN 0-618-55113-1 [ISBN 978-0-618-55113-2]. pap. $13.95.
It’s been said that an athlete who “ain’t cheatin’ ain’t tryin'” and that “rules are made to be broken.” Zumsteg (coauthor, Baseball Prospectus) has written a lively and challenging account of cheating as part of America’s pastime, whether it’s the habits of particular notables, such as Gaylord Perry and his spitball, or modern day pharmaceutical legerdemain. He also ponders such issues as whether it’s cheating to try to bunt to break up a no hitter. No, it ensures that the game evolves and progresses! This one’s a sure hit.

Pre-order now, folks. Your purchase supports me writing for USSM.

The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball

Only $11 – a bargain at twice the price.

First book event of any kind– Peoria, March 3rd, you can meet two major league GMs, Jonah Keri, me, and get a Cheater’s Guide bookmark or something similarly exciting. Check it out.

Monday also holds no interesting news

January 29, 2007 · Filed Under General baseball · 51 Comments 

I mean really, ESPN’s running a headline with “Gonzalez, Hollins looking to aid Yomuri” and it’s Luis A. Gonzalez.

Or what, Clemens isn’t sure if or when he’ll come back next year? Can’t you just write “cross-apply last year’s articles on this topic?”

Spring training feed announcement

January 26, 2007 · Filed Under General baseball, Mariners · 71 Comments 

Come on out to sunny Peoria and meet two major league GMs March 3rd. Seattle Mariners GM Bill Bavasi and San Diego Padres GM Kevin Towers will talk and take questions from fans for a good 45 minutes, before seeing the two interleague rivals face off in a fierce spring training game at the Peoria Sports Complex. Afterwards, you can buy a signed copy of the newly updated, paperback version of Baseball Prospectus’ Baseball Between the Numbers and chat with editor/co-author Jonah Keri or receive some kind of The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball promotional item from USSM author Derek Zumsteg. Game time is 1:05 p.m., and guests should plan to arrive NO LATER than 11:30 a.m. for pre-game festivities, to be held in the section where we’ll be sitting.

Cost is $21, which includes your ticket to the game and the money we have to pay TicketMaster to mail them to us so we can distribute them early.

RSVP by emailing to seattlefeed@yahoo.com. Please specify your full name and how many tickets you need. To ensure that we can secure/order a group of tickets all together, deadline to RSVP and pay for tickets will be Friday, Feb. 9. Once we’ve confirmed your RSVP by email, you can PayPal the funds, by no later than Friday, Feb. 9, to: derek@ussmariner.com

Jeff Weaver

January 26, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 107 Comments 

Yes, I’m alive, and no, they haven’t beaten my Mariner fandom out of me yet. After taking a much needed hiatus from blogging for a few weeks, I’m back, with many thanks to Derek for putting the good ship USSM on his back during January.

So, Jeff Weaver. The Mariners are reportedly on the verge of signing him to a one year contract to fill out their rotation. In an offseason that saw poor decisions stacked on top of each other like legos, it’s easy to just add this signing to the mix. The guy posted a 5.76 ERA last year, was released by the Angels halfway through the season, and generally pitched about as badly as Joel Pineiro, who we were all happy to see go away. He’s no one’s idea of a savior, and Weaver-Washburn-Ramirez-Batista adds up to a whole lot of expensive mediocrity behind The King.

However, like the Jose Guillen signing, I think there’s some things to like about this move. If you’ll recall last summer, I advocated picking Jeff Weaver up once the Angels dumped him, writing the following:

So, here’s a crazy suggestion; trade for Jeff Weaver. He’s been terrible for the Angels this year, sporting a 6.29 ERA and he’s due over $4 million for the rest of the year. The Angels are on the verge of replacing him with his brother Jered, who is simply a better pitcher right now.

However, Jeff Weaver is a great bet to pitch better as the year goes on. His 6.29 ERA isn’t close to his Fielding Independant ERA (5.20) or xFIP (4.61), which adjusts for HR/FB rate. Weaver’s peripherals aren’t much different than what they were previous years – 2.0 walks, 6.0 strikeouts, 39% GB rate. He’s a flyball pitcher who throws strikes and occassionally misses bats.

This year, he’s been struggling because teams are getting more hits on balls in play than expected, he’s giving up more homers per fly ball than expected, and he’s got worst Left on Base% of any starting pitcher in the American League. Basically, he’s the anti-Jarrod Washburn, who last year had those three things break in his favor and cashed in on non-repeatable skills. Weaver’s not going to keep giving up home runs at this rate, and he’s not going to keep giving up hits with RISP at this rate. He’s a great bet to pitch better in the second half of the year than he has to date.

Weaver didn’t pitch any better after signing with St. Louis, but thanks to the change of leagues, he did lower his ERA by a run. His unsustainably low LOB% went up, and stranding runners made him appear a little more effective. But, all in all, it was still a bad year, at least until October, when he pitched like an ace and reminded everyone that he was once a highly thought of pitcher.

He essentially had one big problem in 2006 – home runs. he gave them away like Bobby Ayala discount jerseys from the team store, surrendering a ridiculous 1.78 home runs per nine innings. As a flyball pitcher, he’s always had a bit of a home run problem, but in 2006, balls that had previously stayed in the field of play were clearing the wall, taking him from decent innings eater to suckiest suck who ever sucked.

Sometimes, a surge in home run rate can be a sign that a pitcher has lost some of his prior effectiveness. Other times, it’s just random variation that isn’t predictive of any future performance. There are reasons to believe that Jeff Weaver’s problems were the latter. Take a look at his peripherals with his career average in parentheses:

BB/9: 2.46 (2.46)
K/9: 5.60 (5.99)
GB%: 39% (40.8%)
FB%: 38.3% (37.1%)
LD%: 22.7% (21.5%)

His walkrate hit his career average right on the mark. His strikeout rate was down a little bit, but nothing close to dramatic enough to signal an end-of-career dropoff. His ball in play rates were basically steady with his recent production. The massive change was in his HR/F rate, which was a career high 14.9% while playing in a park that suppresses home runs. His park adjusted HR/F rate was 16.8% while playing for the Angels, a mark that was good for fourth worst in the league.

As we’ve talked about extensively around here, HR/F rate is far, far less predictive than all the other pitching markers. It’s wildly inconsistent due to outside factors and should not be evaluated as a part of a pitcher’s core skillset. As a group, pitchers who post HR/F rates outside of the normal range regress heavily back to the mean in future years. If we had 100 Jeff Weavers, 95 of them would post a lower HR/F rate next year.

If you project Jeff Weaver to have a normal home run rate in 2007, even if his other ratios take a small decline (he is a pitcher after all, and they do generally get worse over time), he still comes out as a decent back end starting pitcher. Fangraphs has gotten four notable projection systems to donate their 2007 data and made it available on their player cards, so we can look at Jeff Weaver’s projection through the eyes of one basic projection system (Marcel) and three more advanced formulas (Zips, Chone, and the Bill James Handbook). Here’s what they spit out:

BJH: 188 IP, 4.40 ERA
Chone: 198 IP, 4.59 ERA
Marcel: 168 IP, 4.98 ERA
Zips: 187 IP, 4.28 ERA

And, just for fun, here’s his PECOTA weighted mean projection, which is available to BP subscribers:

164 IP, 4.44 ERA.

The advanced systems that regress individual skills all have him pegged as a guy who would post an ERA around 4.50. Most of these are based on assumptions that he would re-sign in St. Louis, so we need to add half a run or so for the move to the AL, but Safeco then brings part of that back down. A Safeco-centric projection would probably put him around a 4.75 ERA or so.

On a one year deal, a durable guy who has shown an ability to eat innings and avoid the disabled list and projects to post an ERA south of 5.00 is a pretty nice pickup. Jeff Weaver is not the kind of arm you want to be committing to for multiple years, but he’s a decent innings sponge, and since Safeco is rather pitcher friendly, it’s a good spot for him to come attempt to rebuild his image.

If you asked me if I’d rather have Jeff Weaver or Gil Meche for 2007, I’d probably flip a coin. They’re both flyball ptichers with question marks about their mental preparation who have a mixed bag of historical performances. Gil Meche got $55 million for 5 years. In this market, a one year deal for Jeff Weaver looks like a bargain.

Jeff Weaver rumors

January 25, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 27 Comments 

Yes, they’re out there. If it happens, we’ll post analysis.

(got the upgrade done)

Length and size of the deal varies by source.
MSNBC’s AP article
Rosenthal’s got a story out there, supposedly.

And Arthur Rhodes got a minor league deal, which is a nice little move.

New adventures and old stories

January 24, 2007 · Filed Under bars and food, Mariners, Off-topic ranting · 38 Comments 

Dust off the old login and one finds that Felix isn’t fat any more, JJ Putz has an extension, and Jose Guillen has turned into a “potential thumper.” Derek’s been an Atlas both in terms of holding up the site on his own and in terms of supplying encyclopedic information. That last one isn’t altogether surprising.

It’s not that the offseason has lacked action. Rather, I think of it as when a physical confrontation begins with a series of furious slaps, and the bewildered recipient — who had thought himself strong, or at least inured to such assaults — slipped into something akin to catatonia. Then, when the action did actually slow, so did the poor survivor’s capacity for commentary. Stunned drooling became a realistic (if not preferred) alternative.

Offended by the analogy? It’s not the whole fanbase rendered to drooling disappointment. Like Ash says in Army of Darkness: Just me, baby. Just me.

For distraction’s sake, Okinawa is a fine place to be. I hide from sports news. Hibernate a little bit. Wrap myself up in the book I’m writing, seeking solace in new adventures and old stories — a few of which even involve my favorite baseball team. The loosely organized theme: loyalty is a virtue, and virtue is its own reward. Hang in through the tough times.

Let me load three tales into the chamber and see what spins out. One old, one new, one borrowed. Nothing blue, ’cause I don’t work that way.

Before dipping to the land of Pachinko, I ventured once more to Gomorrah with a group of friends. You know, for the canyon hiking.
Read more

Mid-week newsathon

January 24, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 70 Comments 

From the Everett Herald:
Reliever Mark Lowe says his surgically repaired elbow is responding to surgery

:Starter Felix Hernandez is in ‘amazing shape’ after an offseason of working out

Yeah, if you put enough dip on a chip, it’s really a struggle to get it to your mouth… wait, what?

“You should see Felix,” relief pitcher J.J. Putz said Tuesday during the Mariners Caravan stop in Granite Falls. “He’s in amazing shape. I think he’s down to 175 pounds.”

That part is an exaggeration; Hernandez was listed in last year’s media guide as being 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds.

It was clear to Mariners personnel when Hernandez arrived from his home in Venezuela on Monday that he has taken this offseason seriously.

“He’s in great shape,” trainer Rick Griffin said. “He’ll walk into the room tomorrow and you’ll see.”

That’s potentially huge, season-changing news. Possibly franchise-changing. If Felix is going to take conditioning seriously, it’s going to help him stay healthy, first, but I’d also like to hope that he’s going to put that kind of energy into preparation through the season. One of the biggest fears has been that as an immensely talented kid, it’d be easy for him to check out and still put up decent lines – and to be distracted by off-field temptations until it cost him. If he’s entirely ready to sacrifice a good portion of his time off to keep in shape, that’s a great sign. The M’s can’t compete without a healthy, effective Hernandez.

Revised projections of the 2007 season

January 23, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 54 Comments 

At the start of the month, I spent some time looking at the team and offered up a guess:

785 runs scored
770 runs allowed

Which works out to about 82 wins. Dave noted I was a little too optimistic about the bullpen and since then we’ve seen two good sets of projections come out: ZiPS and PECOTA. I may yet get to running some season simulations with Diamond Mind to see how the whole picture comes out, too.

The numbers I used compared to the projection systems’ “normal-case” turned out well. I was a little high for my Vidro/Guillen numbers, too conservative on Felix’s progress, I again disagreed with predicitions of Ichiro’s total collapse, and so on, but generally I did well. The big gap was, as Dave said, the bullpen, where I figured there’d be a little regression from Putz but the unit would remain generally solid. The projections are a lot lower. I was far more bullish on O’Flaherty than the numbers.

My sketch of the team put it at 82 wins without further moves, and the best projections by systems are a lot less optimistic – you easily drop 20+ runs pushing the ZiPS or PECOTA numbers for the bullpen in there, which puts the team at 79-80 wins on the season.

If the swing players (Lopez, Felix, Guillen/Batista/Vidro) all perform well, no one collapses, Felix and Ichiro stay healthy, and the bullpen’s good, then sure, the team blows that away and heads to the playoffs. That’s a lot of things to go right, though.

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