Baker foreshadows, Spiezio sucks, secrets of pitching turn out to be obvious cliches

February 25, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 40 Comments 

From Baker’s Blog:

To celebrate a sunny, gorgeous Sunday morning, I’ll answer some of the questions forwarded to me.

Yeah. I got up this morning and rode around Bainbridge Island in the rain. It was cold and miserable. Geoff Baker’s in Arizona, where it’s sunny and gorgeous. That must be nice. Rrrr.

Anyway, I wanted to point out one of his answers:

Q: Why are you trying to scare players away from Seattle by pointing out what could go wrong for the Mariners in 2007?

A: We in the media do not get paid to be cheerleaders. And it is very rare, in any baseball season, that something will go completely right for a team. The way these Mariners have been built, they need plenty to go right. […] A year ago, I took all types of flack from Toronto fans online for predicting the Blue Jays would win 85-88 games. When they won 87, no one wrote in to apologize. It’s part of the job. See it that way.

Uhhhhh, is Geoff Baker aware that he works for the Seattle Times? Is there going to be some unpleasantness later in the season when the team wants him to flog some crazy financial story, or slag a player ahead of a trade?

Because that would be awesome.

Larry Stone looks at the Cardinals as they approach this year.

This Scott Spiezio comment is priceless.

“Just because we won last year doesn’t mean jack squat for this year,” said Spiezio. “I think in 2003, we just didn’t have a game plan as a team. A lot of guys did the shows and autograph signings and things like that. Before you know it, the season was upon you, and a lot of guys weren’t ready. We got off to a slow start, and then I think we started panicking.”

Because if anyone knows what’s it like to show up unprepared and get off to a slow start, folks, it’s Scott Spiezio. Way to provide that veteran leadership there.

There’s also this awesome quote:

“I’ll spend quite a bit of time with my ring,” Wainwright mused dreamily. “I’m preparing myself. Maybe I’ll make a little bed for it.”

Larry Stone rocks. I didn’t make a big deal out of this yesterday, but consider this: Jim Moore’s in the Grapefruit League, hassling former Mariners when he’s not hashing out Mitch Album-style pablum. Larry Stone’s writing informative, insightful pieces about Snelling, the Cardinals, each time explaining the history, why things are or aren’t important, finding humor without pointing to it and yelling “look how funny I am”… Larry Stone rocks. It’s why he’s USS Mariner endorsed.

Mike Hargrove and pitching coach Rafael Chaves have solved pitching. No, really.

All Seattle pitchers arrived at the Peoria Sports Complex Sunday morning to find a new blue T-shirt hanging in their lockers.

The front reads ”Pitch to win.”

The back reads: Relentless: Work fast, work ahead, execute.”

You may be thinking “why doesn’t he just give everyone a picture of a kitten hanging off a branch with ‘Tenacious’ written on it?”

Because this T-shirt is the summary of… well,

Hargrove had Chaves work over the winter clarifying the most important facets of pitching. He got it down to 10, all of which were printed on a laminated card headlined ”The Mariners’ 10 absolutes of pitching.” The cards also were given to the pitchers Sunday.

The top three absolutes wound up on the back of the T-shirt.

Uh huh. Here’s the thing. Assume execute means “throw the called pitch in the intended location.” If pitchers could consistently throw strikes to get ahead in the count and hit their spots, they’d already be great. If they can’t, putting it on a T-shirt doesn’t help them. You can’t walk up to Jeff Weaver and yell “throw faster!” and then collect a manager of the year aware because he turns into Roger Clemens.

Anyway, it’s great to know that over the winter, Hargrove had his pitching coach writing out ten bromides for him. I bet Chaves acted like it was going to be the greatest task ever, and involve him traveling across the world and consulting the greatest minds in biomechanics, pitching gurus and athletic trainers, so unfortunately he wouldn’t be available to do anything else, and Hargrove said “that’s fine, just as long as you come to spring training with the list” and Chaves went home, laughed until he cried, wrote ten pitching cliches on a pizza box, and then re-copied the box the day onto a sheet of paper before he flew out to camp.

USSM Labs, innovating for you

February 24, 2007 · Filed Under Site information · 8 Comments 

Update: the look I was testing had a bug that prevented commenting more than once, so I swapped back. Read more

Doyle Doyle Doyle, Lowe faces surgery, Rivera faces fitness

February 24, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 54 Comments 

Lowe needs more surgery Baker. Geoff also finds out what Edgar’s going to talk about. In the “Edgar arrives” post, he points to Larry Stone’s story on Snelling (“Now a National, Snelling still seeking the right fit“) which is awesome:

VIERA, Fla. — As he prepared for the great unknown that awaited him in his post-Mariners life with the Washington Nationals, Chris Snelling fleetingly pondered a way to make an indelible first impression.

“I actually thought about coming here and acting like Steve Irwin, putting on the Australian accent real thick,” he said, smiling in the Nationals clubhouse among 60 or so teammates who still remain largely strangers.

“You know, act like I didn’t know what I was doing. Hitting a ground ball in batting practice and running to third.”

It’s a detailed piece by Stone, where he goes through what’s happened so far, including how he found out he’d been traded (which doesn’t reflect well on the M’s), and his feelings about his former organization. Stone also touches on the problem with trying to win playing time with the Nationals – they’ve said their starting OF looks pretty set (LF Ryan Church, CF Nook Logan, RF Austin Kearns) and Alex Escobar will take the 4th OF role if he’s healthy.

There’s also a shout to some website, which is awesome.

“Doyle”, as all Snelling aficionados are well aware, is his code name on the Web site, designated after his middle name and designed to ward off his bad injury karma.

Snelling is aware, and appreciates, that he had a following of Mariners fans convinced the organization didn’t fully recognize his abilities.

“People are constantly telling me this,” he said. “I think it’s funny. I’m grateful that people obviously care. That’s always good.”

Baker also writes about Rivera’s conditioning problems last year. Includes awesome Bloomquist leadership quotes.

“When you’re not in there on a consistent basis, pitches that you’re used to hitting all of a sudden you’re missing,” Bloomquist said. “Why? I don’t want to say it’s because a guy’s not working. But you do have to work that much harder to stay sharp on those sort of things.”

How would Willie know that? His batting average when he started consistently at any position was no better than his off-the-bench super-utility hitting.

In the PI, the most frightening Hargrove story from spring training so far: “M’s search for No. 3 hitter; Vidro most likely candidate

“Right now, Jose Vidro would probably be the front-runner to bat third,” Pentland said. “He has a lot of the attributes you like there. He’s going to hit for average. He’s going to walk some and have a decent on-base percentage, and he’s not going to strike out much.

“He makes a lot of contact, really drives the ball a lot.”

Vidro seems to be different from other Seattle regulars in that he has learned to coax walks out of pitchers.

Although he hasn’t hit .300 in any of the past three years, he’s had three of his four best years in on-base percentage the past three seasons.

Vidro’s career BB/PA is .084. A good eye would be 10%. Or more. He cleared that bar in 1998, 2003, and 2004.

His last three years, adjusted (I’m using BP’s set here)
2004: .288/.363/.450
2005: .279/.346/.438
2006: .297/.357/.403

Vidro’s best projection set was Bill James’ .296/.363/.440.

AL average #3 hitter last year: .281/.356/.467. If Vidro is healthy, doesn’t age at all, and puts up the best line of his last few years, the M’s would have an average #3 hitter. Who wouldn’t pay $12m and two quality prospects for that?

Also, from the notebook, you get “M’s work to fix basepath blunders“. I… I don’t even really want to quote from this article. It’s painful. But Vidro, who has no legs, is going to make them a lot better.

Caption contest

February 23, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 120 Comments 

Link here

or, assuming ESPN allows the horrible, horrible practice of hotlinking…

That’s an AP photo being served off ESPN.

Give it your best shot. Winner gets a year’s free subscription to USSM.

Hargrove wants team to compete, aware Rivera stinks

February 23, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 34 Comments 

Good stuff from the PI blog (“Ramping up to compete with that Baker guy”)

Hargrove discusses the team’s progress in terms of baking a cake

”When you have a lot of young players like we had, it takes time. The old saying is that to bake a cake will take the time it takes. It’s reached the time here now that we are close to the end of this process.”

A mentally tough cake

”At the big league level, the big differentiator is mental toughness,” he said. ”Everybody here has some game. (The winner) is who stays at it more consistently. You want them to develop that mental toughness.”

Difference between the Yankees and Royals? Mental toughness.
Reason the Devil Rays finished 36 games out of their race? Mental toughness.

M’s need more from Rivera


“…The backup role isn’t easy to fill; but physically and mentally it’s probably a tougher proposition to back up than it is to play every day.

”I don’t know if Rene can do it. Last year, we didn’t get any offense out of him. We need to get more this year.

For the Mariners, eating their young is just business

February 23, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 26 Comments 

After the Times did the story after the Wall Street Journal did the story and way after it was first announced, the PI takes up the suite thing. I would ignore it entirely except for this quote.

“To use the business term, we’re eating our own a little bit here,” Aylward said. “We’re risking that in the end this is going to be more valuable than going along with what we were doing before.”

That’s a business term?

In other business news, Ichiro’s agent wrote a book on his production these last six years.

“Ichiro gets killed on slugging percentage,” Attanasio said. “But he’s right there on everything else having to do with run production. Scoring runs is just as important as driving in runs, and almost nobody scores more than Ichiro.”

Mark Lowe’s still waiting for word on his arm. Johjima wanted to play every game last year, but he didn’t. Is Hargrove going to rest him more this season?

“He’ll catch 130 games, and that will be fine,” Hargrove said. “It’s hard to catch every game in a season and still be productive offensively. It’s not a good thing for a catcher to aspire to.”

How lame are the Jim Moore columns from the Grapefruit League? He’s now bothering players who have the same name as former Mariners. I’m not kidding.

In the Times, Baker’s got a piece on Juan Sandoval, who lost vision in one eye. It’s a little scary but also cool that’s he’s even out there playing.

Also, if you missed the Sexson quotes etc, I’d like to present this two-paragraph opener to the AP version

PEORIA, Ariz. — Richie Sexson’s critics say he strikes out too much. His batting average is too low. He’s not worth a $55 million contract. Well, the Seattle Mariners’ big first baseman has a simple answer.

“They signed me here to hit 35 to 40 home runs and to drive in 100. And I’ve done that. Twice.” Sexson said Thursday with a bemused smile.

If someone gave me $45m to sit on the M’s bench and eat sunflower seeds, and I ate a lot of sunflower seeds, that wouldn’t mean I was worth the money.

Anyway, I’m always annoyed by this kind of “Some people say that Richie Sexson is from Mars. That he eats kittens. Well, they’re wrong.” Yeah, thanks for that insight there, AP.

Quick aside before the Vidro commnity projection

February 22, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 20 Comments 

Chris Snelling projections
From Fangraphs
Bill James: .262/.342/.410 in 363 AB
CHONE: .248/.337/.385 in 322 AB
Marcel: .274/.357/.460 in 226 AB
ZiPS: .262/.338/408 in 309 AB

From BP: .270/.358/.453 in 438 AB

Community projections: Jose Guillen

February 22, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 12 Comments 

Community Projection: .269/.325/.445, 454 AB, 122 H, 24 2B, 1 3B, 18 HR, 27 BB, 89 K, 10 HBP
High: .295/.369/.545
Low: .150/.190/.263
Dave: ?
Me: .268/.323/.430

Jose Guillen was bound to be one of the most interesting projections. Out for most of last year, and not hitting when he was around, he’s a reclamation project at 31. But his previous two years, you got nice seasons out of him (.294/.352/.497 and .283/.338/.479). Projections are fairly narrow (average .260-.273, OBP .327-.332, SLG .449-.468) and they all seem to think he’ll only get ~400 ABs.

We’ve seen that in general projections have been on the high end, predicting improvements for players, but here Guillen’s community projection is high on playing time and low on performance.

AL average right fielder, 2006: .286/.348/.465
Jose Guillen projection, 2007: .269/.325/.445

In Safeco, that’s not bad, but it is still a chunk below average.

Mike Hargrove… Sigh

February 22, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 65 Comments 

Via Geoff Baker’s blog, here’s today’s blatently wrong comment from the team’s manager:

“You don’t see a lot of power hitters have good batting averages,” Hargrove said. “You really don’t. Barry Bonds comes along not very often. Usually, when you see a guy hit for power, something has to be sacrificed. And it’s usually average. It always amazes me watching people get criticized — all the bitching and moaning about a guy who’s hitting 39 home runs and hits .240. Come on!

46 major league batters had a slugging percentage of .500 or higher last year, making them something of a power hitter. As a group, their batting average was… .298. 21 of the 46 hit .300 or better. The only guys who hit lower than .260 were Jason Giambi, Troy Glaus, and Pat Burrell. And, of course, those three all were among the league leaders in walks, making up for their low batting averages and still getting on base at a healthy clip.

So, no, Mike, it’s not rare at all. It’s actually pretty common.

It’s a shame that the man who runs the Mariners lacks basic knowledge about the game.

Guillen’s heavy, but not heavy bad, Ichiro fallout, catchers bruised

February 22, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 28 Comments 

Ichiro! fallout as Hargrove says it won’t be a distraction (PI notebook). Vidro’s taking balls in the infield. Don’t think about it too much, it burns the brain. Also, Jose Guillen is a little heavy, but that doesn’t matter:

“He’s a little heavier than he would like and we would like,” Hargrove said. “We’ve got plenty of time. We’re not worried about it. He’s in great baseball shape and we’re just trying to take a few pounds off.”

Such great shape that they want him to lose 5% of his body weight.

Ted Miller in the PI offers this baffling paragraph on Ichiro:

Lucky for him a divorce and new start is possible via free agency. The only choice for fans is to scratch their eyeballs out and run screaming through the streets if the home team is impaled by the rest of the American League West for a fourth consecutive season.

That’s a sort of… weird set of images to put together in two sentences. Moving on, time to make ding Ichiro for not having a great relationship with the press.

The breaking news Tuesday wasn’t so much that Ichiro is contemplating bolting Seattle but that he spoke about it openly and clearly — through an interpreter, of course — and without the haikus, riddles and circular responses he typically employs.

What, no musing about a metaphoric tree with neglected roots, see his 2006 All-Star Game media session?

Here’s the thing. I know Ichiro’s not all Ibanez/Bloomquist/Dan Wilson/whoever, happy to hand out warmed over cliches after every game. He’s been extremely reluctant to criticize the team, from incompetent manager to the lack of effort or talent by his teammates, and when he’s even approached it, it’s been extremely circumspect.

If the story here is the contrast of Ichiro making more open statements that can clearly be read as discontent, there’s a story. What’s the point in making fun of him? When has he ever spoken in haiku? Or riddles? Here’s your haiku.

Ted Miller column
wafts in with gentle spring breeze
wince at acrid smell

What’s more, if you’re interested at all in looking harder at this, you can find many examples where Ichiro’s taken intelligent questions and given careful, articulate answers that provide insight and offer a glimpse into his thinking. For instance, take David Shields’ excellent (and really long) interview with Ichiro, which unfortunately is now behind a registration wall, he talks at length about a variety of interesting baseball thoughts.

Is that it, then? Is it that Ichiro says “It was a fly ball, I caught it,” delivering a flat understated answer to a flat question? That he doesn’t instead say “well that was a really well hit ball and when I saw it come off the bat I knew it was going to be close and I ran as hard as I could and I almost ran out of room but I was lucky enough to get there and put my glove up to make the play”?

Why then bring up haikus? Is Ichiro cryptic to Miller, like a short poem? But that’s in the riddles. Is it because the haiku is Japanese? I don’t understand this column, or why the column goes that far to tweak Ichiro for something he clearly doesn’t deserve.

Moving on. I guess the PI is still refusing to wire Jim Moore money to get back from Florida, because he’s continuing to locate and hassle former Mariners. Today it’s Eddie Guardado. Isn’t there something we can do? Buy him a bus ticket, anything?

Geoff Baker, in his continuing quest to come home with RSI, writes about the rough day for catchers, and Guillen. Also, his thoughts on a possible Ichiro trade.

They have two young center fielders, Jeremy Reed and Adam Jones, who will need playing time in coming years to show what they’ve got. Seattle could have traded Reed, Jones, or both this winter but balked. OK then, what’s the plan now?

This implies the team has a plan, which we’ve clearly seen consists of a couple items they write down on a grocery list notepad and then proceed to check off at the off-season supermarket. Veteran starter (2). Veteran DH with power from the left side. Veteran reliever…

Oh, and Bloomquist is going to play most of the time at second until Lopez is ready to take over. First person to correctly predict the date, author, and newspaper to run the first “When will Willy get his chance to start?” article gets a year’s free subscription to USS Mariner.

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