Hey, if you haven’t picked up the book already, the latest Sports Weekly’s got a review, and they loved it.
This book offers a complete, well-researched and entertaining look at every single kind of cheating. It offers both a historical perspective and a practical guide for both players and fans who want to learn to cheat or spot cheating.
It goes on for a while.
Wooooo! It’s on page four of the April 25-May 1st issue.
With the M’s having the day off, we can once again spend the day focusing on the minor leagues. Through the first month of the season, there are a lot of interesting things happening on the farm, with several breakthrough performances worth pointing out. The Future Forty update for May is one of the more significant in-season adjustments you’ll see, as 20 games doesn’t usually change my opinion of a player too much, but when the performance changes are this drastic, we have to take notice.
One guy in particular has made me eat my words, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge his improvement. Matt Tuiasasopo, congratulations, you officially had the best month of baseball of your life. In 24 games, he hit .365/.451/.506 with 9 extra base hits and 12 walks in 85 at-bats. He doesn’t turn 21 for two more weeks, but he’s already made the necessary adjustments to hang with Double-A pitching. Considering where he was last year, that’s impressive development. Now, not everything with Tui is perfect – he still lacks home run power, his success has been built mostly by hitting a lot of singles, and he’s still not a good defensive third baseman. However, there’s still enough untapped power in his frame to project more growth, and his offense is finally looking like it might make up for his deficincies with the glove. There’s still a lot of work to do, but Tui’s resurgence is clearly the best story to come out of the farm system in April.
In other good news, Carlos Triunfel has a .684 OPS for Wisconsin. No, seriously, that’s good news. As a 17-year-old playing in the Midwest League, the bar for what would be considered a successful statistical season is very low. The MWL is death to hitters of any age – the league average for MWL hitters is .245/.313/.350. That’s the league as a whole. Triunfel, who is seventeen years old, is hitting .298/.333/.351. Yea, he’s basically all singles at this point, with only 3 doubles and 2 walks to his credit, but keep in mind, there have been 12 home runs hit in the 19 T’Rats games this year. That’s 12 home runs by both teams combined. The Midwest League is death to hitters, especially in April, and Triunfel is essentially hitting .300 in what would be his junior year in high school. This kid is really, really good.
Also, while we’re in Wisconsin, can I just point out that the T’Rats as a team have a 26/185 walk to strikeout rate. That’s ridiculous, even for a low-A ball team. Alex Liddi is the only guy on the team with any semblance of an idea of how to work the count, drawing 8 walks by himself. The next highest guy on the team is Kuo-Hui Lo with 3. Greg Halman is continuing to run up obscene BB/K rates, drawing 1 walk against 27 strikeouts in 76 at-bats. The offense is full of young kids who have been pushed aggressively to full season ball, so some degree of hackishness is expected, but 26 walks and 185 strikeouts? Can we get a roving hitting instructor down there, please?
Sticking with the Wisconsin theme, Chris Tillman is featuring his four seam fastball more this year and his command has taken a pretty big step forward. Meanwhile, Tony Butler’s been unable to find the feel for any of his pitches, and has walked 14 batters in 14 innings. I still prefer Butler’s overall package, and I’m not worried about the walks at this point. His command will come around, and when it does, his combination two-seamer and curveball are going to be lethal. There’s just a lot of upside there.
Moving up the ladder, Wladimir Balentien just finished his best Matt Tuiasasopo impression. The grip-it-and-rip-it outfielder has toned down his swing somewhat and is making better contact, leading to an impressive .365 average. He’s still got some flaws in his swing and will never be confused for a patient hitter, but he’s not the swing-from-the-heels hack he was in recent years. The improvement isn’t as large as the numbers make it seem, since this hot streak is being driven by a lot of singles, but it’s still nice to see Wlad getting better as a hitter. His defense still isn’t very good, so his value will come from his bat. As a right-handed pull hitter, he’s not a perfect match for Safeco, so it will be curious to see how the M’s handle him if he continues hitting through the summer.
Also in Tacoma, Bryan LaHair sucks again. Nice to know that his two week hot stretch to end the season last year really was a fluke. I’ve never been a fan, and he’s not doing anything to convert me to his side. There’s just a lot of work to do for a guy who is 24-years-old.
Oh, and for the Doug Fister faithful, your boy finally cracked the list. It wasn’t so much that my opinion of him changed, however, as much as I just really wanted to kick Michael Wilson off the list. If you begin the season 2 for 40 like Wilson has, and I already had a lot of questions about your ability to hit, well, you’re not going to last on the Future Forty. Seriously, 2 for 40 with 21 strikeouts? Not good, Mike.
As always, feel free to point out any errors you see and use this thread as a minor league catch all for any discussions on specific prospects or player development.
1B, by 2007 salary
Young + Johnson $6m
Johnson (Nick) $5.5m
Hatteberg $1.5m (+Conine 2m)
Gonzalez (Adrian) $.5m
Young (Dmitri) $.5m
Thorman $.4m (+ Wilson $2m)
Johnson (Dan) $0 (Swisher $0)
LaRoche (Adam) $0
Vidro, so far: .333/.372/.420
One of the better hitters on the M’s so far, for what that’s worth. I’ve mentioned this in comments a couple of times, but the taking-a-good-cut Vidro who puts th ball in the air is far, far more effective than the ground-ball Vidro. You can’t beat those out any more, Turbo. Take a cut at it.
AL DH: .265/.349/.465
Trading 20 points of on-base for forty points of slugging is, value-wise, pretty much a wash.
All of which makes Vidro so far a league-average DH who’s being paid a lot for a while. Now, that shouldn’t affect your view of him in the team lineup-on-the-field context, but as part of the overall roster and team construction, well, go right ahead.
AL DH Moolah Meter
Frank Thomas $9m
Vidro $7.5m (total cost)
Vidro $6m (cost to M’s in 07 including Nationals payout)
Catalanotto $3.5m (+Sosa etc)
If Vidro continues to hit this well (which, obviously, we’ve predicted won’t happen, but we’re wrong often enough) and the parts the M’s gave up turn out to be not worth much (again), Vidro’s a decent enough patch for a position the M’s were unable to solve for years. We could argue that it’s a misallocation of resources, Broussard would be a better choice, and on and on, but there it is — paying a league-average DH league average DH money isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Somewhat related Cult of Doyle update: 0-2 with a walk today. He’d be tied with Sexson for the team lead in walks despite having much less playing time. We’ve noted before that Snelling’s a huge streak hitter, and when he’s got his swing together he’s a terror and when he’s hacking it can be ugly, but I really feel like the Nationals are killing him with this spot usage and their incomprehensible outfield rotation: if I’ve ever seen anyone who would benefit from getting a steady supply of plate appearances to stay in a groove when they’re hot, it’s Doyle. But he’s not getting it.
Brian Bannister v Baek. 1:05, FSN.
After that Weaver start, there’s no place to go but up, right?
M’s lineup, with VORP (Value Over Replacement Player)
CF-L Ichiro! +6
3B-R Beltre -1.2
DH-B Vidro +4.4
LF-L Ibanez +.3
1B-R Sexson -2.9
RF-R Guillen +.6
SS-R Betancourt -1.1
C-R Burke +2
2B-R Willie “The Ignitor” Bloomquist -2.3
2B-R Lopez +4
C-R Johjima +6.8
Standard-issue Royals lineup:
SS Pena Jr
I would trade the entire M’s infield, including Lopez, for Alex Gordon.
Meche vs Weaver, 6:05 pm.
The M’s are exactly the kind of team Meche should thrive against, since they’ll chase his breaking ball out of the zone and not make him work deep into counts and run up his pitch count. The Royals are exactly the kind of team Weaver should thrive against because they only have two or three major league hitters in their line-up.
Toss in Safeco Field, and I have a feeling we’re going to have a low scoring affair that is decided by the bullpens. And I’ll be stunned if we don’t see Julio Mateo in tonight’s game. Never mind, Jeff Weaver still blows.
Come on down. Argue bullpen usage, or the 1968 Regan-Pelekoudas controversy, on your way to see “Dream” Weaver try to get you through this niiii-iiiiiiiigggggghhhhtttt!
Geoff Baker, in the Times blog:
There were plenty of congratulations thrown Mike Hargrove’s way by his bullpen critics after he used his relievers outside their normal roles in that series finale in Oakland. Nice to see the critics try to give credit when something goes right for a guy, but I think they might have gone a little overboard in interpreting Hargrove’s willingness to cater to the “high leverage” crowd by looking at the situation rather than the inning.
I don’t think anyone interpreted that as catering to a “high leverage” crowd. But anyway, there’s some meat on what went into the decision (go check it out).
There is a reason managers do not like to use their relief pitchers outside their stated roles on too many a consecutive occasion. It isn’t simply because they are dinosaurs unwilling to try new things. It’s because they’ve seen what can happen when you get a little too cute and creative with your bullpen. Pitchers are creatures of habit and routine. Mess with that at your own peril.
I disagree that using relief pitchers means that you have to use them too frequently, which means, obviously, I disagree with the rest. In every game, no matter how you use your bullpen, some portion of them may be unavailable because of how the previous games went. Even use-restricted closers don’t pitch every night if every night is a save situation: generally they’d go two in a row and sit if there was a third (we saw this followed pretty strictly with Sasaki, for instance).
But if the spot closer blows the save, no one goes after the manager for having used the closer too often.
Every bullpen strategy will at some point result in throwing the wrong guy in. The argument for using good relievers in critical situations is that by doing, they’re able to contribute the most to the team’s success. Using them that way doesn’t mean that you have to ignore their particular talents, or use everyone multiple innings, or engage in loony, mockable behavior.
Or, to put this another way: if you use JJ Putz early in a game to snuff a rally and that means later Mateo has to pitch the ninth with a three-run lead, that’s a dramatically better situation for the M’s than Mateo losing the game and Putz pitching mop-up in the ninth. Either way, the next day both of them will have worked.
I disagree that relief pitchers are inherently creatures of habit and routine — this wasn’t the case for all of baseball’s history. If there’s a good argument for why, when the save was invented, they slowly became creatures of habit and routine for some unrelated cause, I don’t know what it is.
I’m reminded of something in Michael Lewis’ Blind Side, when he talks about how the NFL talent stream works backwards sometimes: a player like Lawrence Taylor will change how the game’s played, and then colleges will look to develop LT clones, and high schools will produce them. Once the save statistic was invented, and baseball moved towards increasingly rigid roles, with defined talents (closer must throw really fast), colleges invented relief aces, and so on. Part of why it’s so hard to manage a bullpen today is because of the constant closer controversies, and the desire of the best relievers to move into that role, because of the recognition and financial incentives.
No one, even the most vehement critics of modern role-based usage, would argue that it’s going to be easy or quick for baseball to work its way out of this.
De la Rosa vs Ramirez, 7:05 pm.
Jorge De la Rosa was famously once described by Dan Duquette as “the Mexican John Rocker”. He’s been pretty horrible in the majors up until this year, but at age 25, he’s finally showing why his arm used to get scouts pretty excited. He tossed 8 scoreless innings in his last start while throwing strikes and missing bats. He looks like he may be in the beginning stages of a true breakout season.
The Royals acquired him last July in a one for one trade for Tony Graffanino.
Meanwhile, Horacio Ramirez was once described by me as “a pretty crappy pitcher”. Scouts have never liked his arm. He tossed 4 horrible innings in his last start, not throwing any strikes and missing no bats at all. He looks like a AAAA starter who is in the beginning stages of pitching himself into a middle relief role.
The Mariners acquired him last December in a one for one trade for Rafael Soriano.
Yesterday, Mike Hargrove asked J.J. Putz to get five outs to save the game. In his last appearance, he was asked to get four outs. Both times, he succeeded without any problem, shutting the door and ensuring the Mariners get a win against a divisional rival. For his part, J.J.’s willing to work multiple innings, but it apparently isn’t high on his wish list:
“It’s something you don’t want to have to do on a consistent basis,” Putz said of his five-out save. “But I’ve said this before, when I talked to Mariano [Rivera] last year he said, ‘Sometimes the biggest outs are in the eighth inning, and that’s when you may need to come in and save a game.’
Hooray for Mariano Rivera’s understanding of leverage! When Putz entered the game last night, the leverage index was 3.90. Keep in mind, leverage is a scale built around 1.00 being average, and anything over 2.0 is considered a very important situation. Most closers have leverage indexes in the 2.0 to 2.5 range, so while the 9th inning is indeed a higher pressure inning than most others, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the huge effect the 8th inning had on yesterday’s game.
In Monday’s game, when Putz was brought on in the 8th inning, the leverage was 4.71! That’s about as high leverage a situation as you’ll ever see.
We’ve given Hargrove a lot of crap for the way he runs his bullpen, living by strictly defined roles and putting guys in positions where they are very unlikely to succeed. But on his willingness to use Putz as a multi-inning closer, he’s ahead of the curve. J.J. got at least 4 outs in 15 different games last year, and that he’s already been asked to do it twice this year is a good sign.
When the game is on the line, you should have your best available reliever to try to get the outs. In almost every situation, that guy is going to be J.J. Putz. The 8th inning is often a very high leverage situation, and Hargrove’s willingness to use Putz to get more than the standard three out save is going to help this team win games.