Pitching Projections

February 28, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 7 Comments 

The Community Projection sheet for Felix Hernandez has been sent to the masses, as we’re moving on to the pitching staff beginning today. Before you go entering your projections, however, read Jeff’s little rundown on projecting doubles and triples. Because we’ve got some plans for the projections once they’re all done, we need raw data more than we need projected ERA, so we’re counting on you guys to do a good job of entering realistic projections for total number of hits allowed broken down by hit type.

We still want this to be your opinion, but if you’re not sure how many doubles you think a pitcher will allow, don’t just put any number in there – make it an informed guess.

Pitching to contact

February 28, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 13 Comments 

Baker’s got a long bit on what pitching to contact means and how he sees that working out.

Pitching to contact means trying to get ahead in the count by throwing strikes and letting the ball get hit if it has to be hit. It means avoiding the “nibbling” syndrome that sees too many pitchers trying to paint the corners with perfect pitches. Nibbling is no way to be economical in your pitch count. Pitching to contact is.

It’s an interesting read.

As with most of these things, there’s really no good answer for me to throw out to this. You can certainly see that it could be more pitch-efficient and get starters deeper into a game. But you can also see that it depends on the pitcher, what they’re throwing, and how their command is.

For instance:
Great pitches, great command: you shouldn’t care about pitching advice
Great pitches, horrible command: chuck it down the middle, let them swing and miss
Hittable pitches, great command: you want to live on speed changes and hitting the corners. Do not pitch to contact.
Horrible pitches, horrible command: you’re not going to be around long anyway.

A walk’s no worse than a hit, but it is worse than an average ball in play. So if the choice is hard-hit line drive or ball four, the game situation may determine which way you want to go.

Number of pitches thrown per batter isn’t, by itself, a good measure of effectiveness. If you can get every batter out on five, or give up a home run in one, you’re clearly better with the first.

Top 10 pitchers, most pitches thrown/PA
1. Chris Young (4.13)
2. Gil Meche
3. Matt Cain
4. Ted Lilly
5. Brad Penny
6. Jake Peavy
7. Carlos Zambrano
8. Erik Bedard
9. Curt Schilling
10. Bronson Arroyo

All of those guys had above-average strikeout rates, and even though they didn’t all get over the golden 2:1 K:BB ratio, they were close, and all of them had good seasons.

The bottom 10, least pitches thrown/PA
1. Greg Maddux (3.26)
2. Carlos Silva
3. Chien Wang
4. Aaron Cook
5. Roy Halladay
6. Dave Bush
7. Zach Duke
8. Brandon Webb
9. Nate Robertson
10. Jason Marquis

A lot of super-heavy groundballers there. As a group, the ten most-efficient got about three times the G/F ratio as the top ones. That’s huge. And that’s also the key: ground ball pitchers like Webb can pitch to contact in exactly the way that Baker’s talking about, because they don’t give up many line drives or home runs. A ball in play might be a single or a double, but it’s unlikely to be a home run. But pitching to contact for a fly-ball pitcher is a dangerous proposition, which is why they’re throwing more pitches even when they’re effective.

This intersects with the Mariners in two ways: they’ve got a fine infield defense, Ho and Batista both sport career G:F ratios of 1.67, Weaver’s not as heavy but his career’s at 1.16 … but Jarrod Wasburn’s career rate is .77. He’s been better in recent years, but he’s not the groundballer the other guys are. This could be dangerous advice for him.

Moreover, while the “pitch down in the zone” advice sounds great, the real issue is going to be whether they continue to preach fastball, fastball, fastball to their staff. These guys get their grounders on their good breaking pitches. If the team wants them to pitch to contact and pitch to contact with their fastballs, that’s trouble too.

As a side note, yesterday Baker posted a nickname entry which included this

Off to go run some miles and pump some weights so that my sweet girlfriend, Amy, who spent all night getting home to Seattle on a delayed Alaska Airlines flight, will want to come back here to see me this spring. If you’d ever laid eyes on her, you’d be out running too, trust me.

And it didn’t devolve into “pix plz tia”. I wonder if the PI blog hordes just haven’t noticed him yet. It did, in fairness, devolve in a different direction pretty fast.

It’s not Hargrove’s fault, Guillen is the new Everett

February 27, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 42 Comments 

Jerry Brewer at the Times offers a horrible, horrible column that looks at Hargrove through the rosiest lenses ever put on a reporter.

Let’s say this now: It’s not Hargrove.

If the Mariners have a laundry basket full of problems, clean Hargrove last. His seat may be hot enough to make fajitas on, but this season shouldn’t be about him.

Really. How come?

The quiet truth is that, during this string of losing, Hargrove hasn’t had one team good enough to be a winner. The chronically mismanaged Orioles were a mess during his four seasons in Baltimore. And in 2005, he inherited a Seattle club that had bottomed out.

Bad teams will expose any manager. In professional sports, we always overplay the magic-making abilities of the strategist. Talented teams win. Untalented teams lose. The concept is as clear as Felix Hernandez’s potential.

This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever read in the Seattle Times in all the years I’ve lived here, in all the mocking I’ve ever done of that sports section.

Mike Hargrove may be the worst active manager in baseball. You don’t have to take my word for it – we’ve cited work on this before. He’s a horrible, horrible talent evaluator on a team trying to build around young players he’s entirely unsuited to manage.

But it’s not his fault, why? Because his teams aren’t good enough.

Of course. Every blue-haired old lady that drives 15 down major arterials, the problem is they don’t have Formula 1 race cars. The reason great managers have been able to win consistently with teams made of up different kinds of players, building, contending, and on their way down? All of those teams were supertalented.

The easiest thing would’ve been for the Mariners to succumb to public pressure and fire Hargrove and Bavasi. Their loudest skeptics wanted it. Their quiet, loyal fans wouldn’t have cared. And searches for new leadership usually generate excitement.

But Lincoln stood still. The public groaned. Now we’ve arrived at what could be one contentious season of perpetual innuendo.

Yes, all bow to the steely resolve of Howard Lincoln.

First, no it wouldn’t. The easiest thing was inaction, and that’s what they did. Firing them would have been controversial, they would have to find replacements, but most of all, it would have been an admission of failure. Better to hold on.

Second, even if you buy that argument, that doesn’t mean it’s not the right move to fire him. But, as Brewer asserts earlier, Hargrove’s fine. It’s his teams that have been bad. He’s just a figurehead.

But then why not fire him? Steely resolve?

Question: How might we view Hargrove right now, in Seattle, if his Indians had gotten those final two outs?

Would we be more patient? Would we have more respect? Would we trust him?

The 2007 Hargrove isn’t much different than the 1997 Hargrove. He has six months to prove that.

I don’t care if Earl Weaver himself managed this team, if he made the constant boneheaded decisions we’ve seen from Hargrove, if he’d so ineptly managed his roster, if he mismanaged his pitching, we would absolutely savage him. That Hargrove did or did not manage a World Series winner in 1997 wouldn’t excuse his constant lobbying for Carl Everett, to name one example. It wouldn’t conceal over his record of dismissing promising players like Adam Jones because he sees some imaginary flaw in their defense. It wouldn’t make him understand that Julio Mateo isn’t a particularly good reliever any more, much less that he’s not the guy to call in when you desperately require a ground ball. And on, and on, and on.

We judge Hargrove by his works, and his works have been wretched. As was that column.

Rey Ordonez is happy to be at camp.

And other news of today and yesterday. Lowe’s surgery supposedly went well, which is cool.

From the Times

You also sense management wouldn’t mind if a small dose of Guillen’s fire singed a tepid team. That’s a dangerous hope. But that’s how desperate the Mariners are for some form of passionate leadership.

“Trust me, if I see something wrong with what’s going on with this team during the season, if somebody’s not doing what he’s supposed to be doing, I don’t care who it is — I’m going to step up and get in your face and tell you whatever I need to tell you,” Guillen said. “Like it or don’t like it. Get mad at me, whatever. But I’m going to tell you. And if we need to get into an argument, we’ll get into an argument.”

Hey, remember the last time we brought in passionate veteran leadership? That’s not mentioned in the article.

Mike Wilson hit a monster blast off Juan Sandoval in a intrasquad practice game. Batista consoled Sandoval.

The Anti-Hargrove

February 27, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 23 Comments 

Folks, prepare yourselves, because the following quotes came from a major league manager, Manny Acta. I’m not excerpting Baseball Prospectus here – this is one of Mike Hargrove’s peers uttering these statements:

Defense: “A big part of defense is positioning. We are not going to be letting these guys do most of these things on their own. We are going to be controlling some part of the game from the bench. We will have enough charts and stuff to be able to see if he is in the right spot and, if not, control it. We would rather take that out of their hands, and between me and Pat Corrales, we will take care of that.”

Stealing: “We will run selectively. I think one of the things that doomed this club last year is that they were first in caught stealing. I am not going to be running all over the place just because 25,000 people in the stands are saying I am aggressive while people are getting thrown out on the bases. Not everybody will have a green light here. The guys who are going to run are the guys who are going to prove to me that they will be successful most of the time trying to steal a base.”

Bunting: “It’s been proven to me that a guy at first base with no outs has a better chance to score than a guy at second base with one out. That has been proven to me with millions of at-bats. I don’t like moving guys over from first to second unless the pitcher is up or it is real late in the game. “I am telling you right now you are not going to see me bunting guys from first to second in the middle of the game or early unless it is the pitcher. We will pick spots. If we have a slow guy on the mound, and we know Logan can lay it down, we will pick those times.”

Lineup: Acta said his preference for the second spot in the lineup ideally would be determined by on-base percentage — even though his plan is to bat Guzman, a low-percentage on-base guy, second.
“You can’t steal first base,” he said. “That is the main thing for me. You have to get on in order to score. I know Guzman is not a big high-percentage guy, but we don’t have all the choices that we want to have here right now. With Lopez on base, Guzman may be the ideal guy to get him over with a hit-and-run or a drag bunt to get the guy in the scoring position for the [Ryan] Zimmermans and [Austin] Kearnses of the world.
He said if everyone were healthy, Ryan Church would bat second.
“If Nick [Johnson] was here, that was one of the original ideas because of [Church’s] on-base percentage and his ability to hit a fastball,” Acta said. “But right now, without Nick here, we need some protection behind Kearns, and if you put him hitting second, our lineup is pretty thin in the middle.”

He’s not going to bunt needlessly, he’s going to use data to help him position his fielders, and he’s not going to run the bases aggressively just to appear to be proactive if it costs his team outs. Oh, and he wants a high OBP guy in the #2 slot in the order.

Now, he’s not perfect – he still believes in protection, he’s going to carry 12 pitchers, and he might not be able to make room for Doyle, but man, you read some of this stuff, and then you read Hargrove’s musings, and you just have to wonder why he’s not in a museum or something.

Gary Matthews Jr implicated in new steroids probe

February 27, 2007 · Filed Under General baseball · 22 Comments 

A New York state grand jury investigation started kicking off arrests, going after internet pharmacy operations. What’s the tie? The investigators are already leaking names

From the Albany Times Union:

The Times Union has learned that investigators in the year-old case, which has been kept quiet until now, uncovered evidence that testosterone and other performance-enhancing drugs may have been fraudulently prescribed over the Internet to current and former Major League Baseball players, National Football League players, college athletes, high school coaches, and a former Mr. Olympia champion and another top contender in the bodybuilding competition.

The customers include Los Angeles Angels center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.

Skip for a moment the ethical and legal issues around leaking stuff like that…

It certainly could cast Matthews’ late-career upsurge in a different light. Weirdly, as Dave noted his career year in 2006 wasn’t based on power:

Then, 2006 rolls around, and at age 31, he has a career year, hitting .313/.371/.495 as an everyday center fielder. However, there wasn’t a significant change in his skillset – his walk rate declined slightly, his power was exactly where it was the previous two seasons, he didn’t hit any more line drives, and his HR rate actually fell. The improvement was completely and utterly tied to his ability to have balls fall into gaps where fielders weren’t standing.

Where raw power is really where the steroids are supposed to help. You have to go back to 2004 in Texas to see a power spike in ISO (.186 in 2004, .181 in 2005, .182 in 2006) — but then, not knowing the scope of evidence here, maybe that’s how far back it goes. Who knows.

Anyway, here’s hoping it’s all a crazy mixup and Matthews is totally innocent.

Reed Broussard maintain public face, other random stuff

February 27, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 39 Comments 

PI: Two displaced players act optimistic. Sexson has goals. Moore continues to chase down former Mariners to fill column inches, this time cornering Alex Rodriguez.

Anyway, moving on… in the Times, trying to make boring drills interesting, and trying to make a story about that interesting.

But in Baker’s Blog, there’s this

Manager Mike Hargrove wants added focus on situational hitting, which is how you wind up with contests like the one featuring $100-a-head batting practice bets.

Which… well, whatever, teams always say stuff like this in spring training. No team ever shows up to camp and announces they were good enough at situational hitting so they’re going to focus on swinging for the fences.

But moreover…

The trend in baseball in recent years has been to get away from the stolen base,

Wow, it’s a broad generalization, let’s trash it! Quick, to the AL stats!

1997: 1491/723 2,214
1998: 1675/754 2,429
1999: 1462/689 2,151 total
2000: 1297/587 1,884 total
2001: 1647/673 2,320 total
2002: 1236/579 1,815 total
2003: 1279/547 1,826 total
2004: 1253/573 1,826 total
2005: 1216/509 1,725 total
2006: 1252/500 1,752 total

Statistical attack proving ineffective! What? How can this be? That’s worked for years! Must… move… on…

…with statistical experts arguing that it is not worth the effort unless the runner in question is successful 75 per cent of the time.

(boggle) How’d that get into the Times? Someone needs to take this whippersnapper aside and have a chat with him.

Also, in high-leverage situations, statistical experts would argue you can go below 75%. But wow. I’m a little frightened of this Baker fellow and his suspicious command of facts.

He’ll probably leave soon for a San Diego paper, though – don’t be scared.

Community Projection: Jose Vidro

February 26, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 54 Comments 

112 people chimed in, and the results are official – you guys couldn’t hate Jose Vidro any more if he kidnapped your children and sold them to be raised by Britney Spears.

Community Projection: .270/.333/.380, 447 AB, 22 2B, 0 3B, 9 HR, 40 BB, 2 HBP, 51 K
High: .292/.370/.443
Low: .223/.278/.281 (a few were even worse than that but with low PA totals)
Dave: .275/.353/.426

I’m apparently a Vidro optimist, relative to readers of USSM and Lookout Landing, anyways. Of course, I’m projecting a .790 OPS from an aging, overpaid DH, so I don’t think optimist is the right term here. I just don’t think he’ll suck quite as badly as you guys think he’ll suck.

I do wonder if the projection would be as negative if the Mariners had traded Rene Rivera instead of Chris Snelling in the deal. Yes, it was a horrible trade, and no, there’s no defending the transaction, but I do think that perhaps this is more of an angry projection than a consensus of how we actually expect Vidro to hit. He’s not a great hitter by any means, but he’s probably not the .700 OPS scrub that the projection has him pegged for.

His acquisition is already the worst transaction the team has made during Bavasi’s tenure. If he hits anything close to the community projection, it might go down as the worst trade in team history.

Hargrove wants less, more aggressive baserunning

February 26, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 19 Comments 

From the PI blog:

”We’ve spent a lot more time on base running, and we’ll continue to do so,” Hargrove said. ”The one thing that bothered me was when we’d run into sure outs. I don’t mind if we’re out because it took a perfect throw. I can accept that.

”But when we’re so aggressive that we’re out by 20 feet, that’s just not smart. It’s the kind of thing if you do it once, you’ve probably done it one time too many.”

“I want everyone to run aggressively. If you think you’ve got a chance, I want you to go.”


“Why is everyone getting thrown out by 20 feet? What the hell is going on out there? This is so frustrating!”

Here’s the thing – you can run aggressively and win. Billy Martin ran some of his teams this way, where he’d go into spring training and say “run every play. Every extra base I want you sprinting for it.” His guys would get thrown out and he’d scream at them, they’d get closer, he’d scream at them, and he wouldn’t stop until they were safe. The Angels are held up as an example of a team that does this year in and year out. It can be done. You need to be smart about how you make those choices, when you do it, and which players you use, but it’s not, on its face, a ridiculous idea.

This thing Hargrove does, where he goes “We’re going to be an aggressive base-running team,” but doesn’t get his team to do it well, they fail, fail, fail, and eventually it’s such a disaster that he backs off and scratches his head and comes back and says “This year we’re really going to be an aggressive base-running team.”

Every time Hargrove tries to explain his philosophy, instruct, or explain something, he manages to offer a succinct argument for he should not be employed as a major league manager.

Chat with Kenji

February 26, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 11 Comments 

ESPN’s going to have a webchat with Kenji sometime between 1-2 our time (see comments: the worldwide leader in sports got the time zone wrong in their initial announcement)

They’ll almost certainly turn it into Insider content once it’s over, so you’ll want to get in while the getting’s good.

Possible question topics (no guarantee we get good answers):
What’s Hargrove talking about with the pitch-framing thing?
How much of the pitch-calling did Johjima do at the start of the season versus the end?
What’s the deal with Felix throwing the hittable fastball all the time (as documented by Dave)?
How can he be so skinny and live so fat?

A goodbye of sorts

February 26, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 21 Comments 

Today, we say something of a goodbye to a friend of the blog. Corey Brock, who has spent the last year as the Mariners beat writer for MLB.com and before that worked at the Tacoma News Tribune, is switching roles to cover the beat of the San Diego Padres, effective today.

My first interaction with Corey was when he wrote a piece in the News Tribune on USSM a couple of years ago. We stayed in touch, and I was happy to watch him get promoted to covering the Mariners beat at the TNT, then take a great opportunity with MLB.com. He’s getting to take another step forward in his career, and as a friend, I’m happy for him. He’s done quality work covering the team and he’s certainly going to be missed.

Be good to him, Padre fans. And best of luck, Corey.

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