Credit Stealing

Dave · April 26, 2007 at 7:37 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Predictably, the analysis of last night’s game is showering Jarrod Washburn with praise. Washburn himself called it “one of the best games I’ve ever pitched”. Mike Hargrove said he didn’t “know that he left a ball out over the plate all night long.” Geoff Baker talks about how this is the “prototype the Mariners envisioned for the mound staff.”

In this Mariner-centric analytical universe, the results on the field are dominated by the influences of the Mariners players. In this case, since Jarrod Washburn threw a complete game shutout, he’s getting credit for having pitched a great ballgame, with few hints that other people factored into the outcome as well.

In reality, Jarrod Washburn was a witness to the A’s shutting themselves out. They ran out a line-up that would have trouble scoring against a PCL pitching staff, then proceeded to hack their way into easy outs. There’s not a pitcher in the major leagues that would have struggled to shut down last night’s A’s team. Their offense is a mess.

However, that’s not how mainstream baseball analysis works. For whatever reason, it’s not good enough to note that the competition imploded upon themselves. Instead, we’re required to shower our guys in accolades, because clearly they were responsible.

Jarrod Washburn was throwing the same 86 MPH below average fastball he throws every game. He threw it over the plate, just like always, and the opposing hitters put it in play, just like always. This was the same stuff, and the same location, he has every time he takes the mound. Good hitters tee off on his below average fastball, while bad hitters get themselves out.

Unless the Mariners play the A’s every game the rest of the year, you won’t see that approach to pitching achieve those results again. The A’s shut themselves out last night. Jarrod Washburn just happened to be the scheduled pitcher.


192 Responses to “Credit Stealing”

  1. chrisisasavage on April 26th, 2007 11:42 am

    Also, you generally don’t see high (or even above average) IF/F with high GB% pitchers. Also his 8.4% LD% so far this year, is gonna go up, and at least so far he’s strikeout less batters, and walking more (than the last 3 years). He’s coming back to earth no matter how you cut it.

  2. Tuomas on April 26th, 2007 11:44 am

    Dave: I agree. I was trying to demonstrate that his game was more the result of good defense, luck and a crappy opposing offense than any hidden talent he has.

  3. harry on April 26th, 2007 11:52 am

    108: agreed. I think most fans want to just relish wins yesterday and hope for wins tomorrow, and failure to unquestioningly relish a win is somehow just being a jerk. This skeet person needs to realize that the sort of quality analysis at USSM is about relishing wins, but thinking about how to get future wins, and relishing good decisions to obtain that future.

    Washburn’s win last night was not a demonstration of repeatable skill. It was a lucky night, where he got the calls, or got the A’s chasing pitches that were the same junk the Twins did not fall for. You can’t expect that to keep up.

    The lamentation is not about the M’s winning: it’s about temporary success blinding them to the actual rot in the team.

  4. msb on April 26th, 2007 11:52 am

    please excuse a visit from the real world, but Katie Morris died yesterday. Now, if you want to see a happy Mariners fan, check out Katie’s Make A Wish visit to Safeco last year …

  5. eponymous coward on April 26th, 2007 11:54 am

    Nobody is a Moyer-like junkballer, except Moyer.

    Well, yes, but Wells also throws plenty of offspeed stuff. Nobody’s going to mistake him for King Felix, unless they think he ATE him.

  6. terry on April 26th, 2007 11:56 am

    All we needed were four more quick losses…. dammit Beane-you’re a jerk.

  7. Jeff Nye on April 26th, 2007 12:08 pm

    *steam rising from ears*

    Please, do all of us a favor. If you’re going to post about how mean Dave is, or how negative this blog is; the P-I blog is that way. —>

    Note that that does not mean that dissenting opinions are not welcome here; they are. This blog’s long-time readership is not as homogenous as some newer posters make it out to be.

    But the entire POINT of Dave’s post (in my opinion anyway, please correct me if I’m misrepresenting your intent Dave) is that honesty and accuracy in player evaluation is one of the HUGE problems with this franchise right now, and the media does not help at all by giving Washburn credit for a pitching “performance” that had less to do with his pitching talent and more to do with the poor quality of hitters he was facing.

    Does that mean that we’re not happy that the Mariners won a game? Of course not. We wouldn’t spend time on this blog if we weren’t interested in the fortunes of this team. We simply want to be able to talk, intelligently and honestly, about what gets the team to those results, and the fact that the media finds “dominating pitching performances” to be good storylines and thus push that angle as hard as they can, justified or not, interferes with that by getting people to “drink the kool-aid” and clouding their judgement about what really won the Mariners the game last night.

    It distresses me that I’m feeling compelled to make these types of posts more and more often, despite not being any sort of moderator for this site (I’d like to make that clear, this is just my stance as a fan of this blog).

    We’re here to discuss the Seattle Mariners in a candid and involved fashion; if you’re here to do the same, great. If you’re here to make personal attacks against people who do a lot of hard work creating this space for us to have these conversations, then don’t click that little gray button down at the bottom of the page.

    You can disagree all you want, in a civil and reasoned manner, but this is not the P-I blog. Please conduct yourselves accordingly.

  8. argh on April 26th, 2007 12:08 pm

    dammit Beane-you’re a jerk

    By contributing to Grover’s longevity in Seattle, Beane probably did more for the Atheletics’ 2007 prospects than anything short of getting a couple of free picks from Boston’s 25 man roster. Man’s dumb like a fox.

  9. kenarneson on April 26th, 2007 12:09 pm

    Interesting discussion. I’ll throw in my A’s fan perspective of the game:

    1) Yes, the A’s offense sucks right now. It was compounded by the fact due to injury, that A’s had four left-handed bats in the lineup against Washburn, when they’d normally just have one. The names Buck, Johnson and Putnam would normally be Kielty, Swisher, and Bradley. There was a huge platoon disadvantage in this game for the A’s.

    2) The umpire had a generous strike zone. That helped Blanton, too, but Washburn did a better job exploiting it. He hit the (wide) corners more consistently with his fastballs, and he was also able to throw his curveball for strikes on any count, keeping the A’s off balance. The walk is an important weapon for the A’s, but Washburn + umpire made that weapon unavailable last night. The A’s had to win by making contact, and making a lot of contact is not really the A’s M.O.

    3) Whenever the A’s did make good contact, the Mariners made some superb defensive plays.

    Of those three points, only #3 is something Mariners fans should reasonably expect to happen regularly. The M’s defense is indeed very good. But the opposing lineup (A’s or otherwise) won’t always be that bad, the umpire won’t always be that generous, and Washburn won’t always have such good control.

  10. John09 on April 26th, 2007 12:17 pm

    I’m not sure I agree with the Vidro/Snelling comparisons. Snelling has had such limited continuous MLB experience that it’s hard to compare them. Vidro, on the other hand, has a nice history when healthy. And in watching him this year, I’m impressed with his swing and approach. I think if he stays healthy, he’ll have a good year. And in having him DH, his likelihood of getting hurt is much less.
    I enjoyed watching Snelling hit as much as the rest of you, he looked so solid and had patience that most of our team doesn’t have. But realistically, given his history how much can you expect out of him?
    Vidro, however, has a similar feel when he’s hitting. In crucial AB’s this year, he’s one of the few guys who I think will present a challenge to the pitcher.
    I wonder if he was hitting 2nd, if we’d look at him differently. Beltre certainly isn’t a #2 hitter, regardless if his numbers improved hitting in that slot last year. Watching him hit is painful, knowing he can’t recognize pitches,and watching him flail at horrible pitches and foul off hittable ones. So, if we move Beltre down to sixth or seventh and move everyone else up, doesn’t Vidro look like a nice #2, instead of an inadequate #3?
    And then people wouldn’t complain about him so much?

  11. Brian Rust on April 26th, 2007 12:18 pm

    The probability of a pitcher with a “true” .3976 GB/FB ratio, inducing 43 (or more) GB on 83 BIP = .00986. If JW’s performance is truly/merely random, it’s a 1-in-100 event. FWIW.

  12. chrisisasavage on April 26th, 2007 12:23 pm

    The R=50% for GB% is ~50 batted balls (IIRC). I still think it’s (mostly) noise. Has anyone said he’s throwing more 2-seamers this year?

  13. Dave on April 26th, 2007 12:23 pm

    Washburn doesn’t have a .39 GB/FB rate. That would make him the most extreme flyball pitcher on the planet.

    GB% isn’t GB/FB rate, but GB/BIP rate.

  14. chrisisasavage on April 26th, 2007 12:25 pm

    I found an old spreadsheet with GB% regressions in it for 04-06, it’s 57 batted balls.

  15. Tek Jansen on April 26th, 2007 12:29 pm

    I second #157’s comment. Poor player evaluation is what caused the M’s to hang onto Pineiro and Meche, believing that they were better than they actually were. The M’s and the local media always thought that those two were as good as their best looking appearances, which was simply the wrong assumption. And Jeff Weaver is not as good as his WS start.

  16. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on April 26th, 2007 12:30 pm

    Guys like Vidro, maybe, but as we all know Vidro himself is new this season. He never got much of a chance from the beginning here, because of how he was acquired (and who he was traded for).

    Yeah, well he isn’t helping his cause by being a DH batting third with 2 home runs, 7 RBI’s, a slugging % of .388 and the speed of dead turtle. He does have more patience at the plate (4! walks!) than most of the line-up, and I’ve heard that aspect of his game praised here.

    You know it’s funny. You say “he didn’t get much of a chance here” as if USSM can possibly have any effect on how he performs. It’s silly because, USSM evaluates moves as good or bad (often with some variance between what the site contributors think), and the player performs without ever reading that evaluation. The fact that Vidro is slow and has hit no doubles or triples this season is something completely outside of USSM’s control. The fact that we knew he and Sexson were going to be doubled up without any problem last night is not the blog’s fault. It validates some of the pre-season opinions of him, though. Likewise, when HoRam and Weaver suck ass, USSM is not to blame for not givig them a chance. You should be giving USSM credit for on-spot analysis. And as often as Dave or Derek are right about player evaluation, they merit more than “gosh you guys aren’t giving credit” objections to their informed opinions. At least come armed with something to back up your objection. It’s a dodge as old as the web to blame people for not being nice or open-minded in order to avoid taking on the substantive point.

  17. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on April 26th, 2007 12:31 pm

    I sorry about all the bold on that last one!

  18. Tek Jansen on April 26th, 2007 12:33 pm

    I will disagree with 160. I imagine most clubs are happy to see the M’s field a lineup with Vidro at DH batting third. And they wouldn’t mind seeing him bat second. He is another example of the M’s problem with player evaluation.

  19. DKJ on April 26th, 2007 12:38 pm

    A moment to defend my use of language.

    An ad hominem judgment is based on the person involved, not the facts of the situation.

    Pitcher X threw a three-hit shut out – let’s say (to keep it hypothetical) against a PCL team. Nice accomplishment. (Who among would not be proud?)

    Pitcher Y threw a three-hit shut out against a PCL team. No accomplishment at all, because Pitcher Y did it.

    However, I did not accuse Dave of making an ad hominem judgment, but remarked that his post had an ad hominem quality.

    You guys live by the minutiae of numbers, and some of us by the minutiae of words.

    Still a privilege to participate in this discussion.

  20. bakomariner on April 26th, 2007 12:38 pm

    snelling is gone…vidro is here to stay, whether we like it or not…get over it…it’s like pining over a girlfriend that’s left you…you have to move on or you will only make it worse…and sound pathetic…

  21. hcoguy on April 26th, 2007 12:43 pm

    capitalization and punctuation are gone, rambling mutterings are here to stay…

  22. eponymous coward on April 26th, 2007 12:49 pm

    snelling is gone…vidro is here to stay, whether we like it or not…get over it…it’s like pining over a girlfriend that’s left you…you have to move on or you will only make it worse…and sound pathetic…

    So that means we should be thrilled that Bavasi and Hargrove think Vidro deserves a full time job as a DH batting 3rd, and that they got rid of a better player?

    Personally, I’m all ready for “moving on”, which will happen when Bavasi and Hargrove are no longer employed by the Seattle Mariners and have “moved on”.

  23. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on April 26th, 2007 12:50 pm

    #169 – Even to make a judgment about an ad hominem quality, I believe you have to point to something said about Washburn that is not performance related. All I saw were supporting statements that referenced the type, speed, qaulity and location of his pitches – those are not character judgments unrelated to his substantive point, nor do they near such a judgment so as to have an ad hominem quality.

    Although Dave’s changed his modifying language from “crappy” to “below average” the bottom line is some people are uncomfortable with the notion that the pitcher – especially in a low-run or shut-out ball game – may have less to do with the outcome than is popularly believed. That discomfort is probably worth a good discussion, and it’s a shame that we aren’t talking about tangible things Washburn did last night that might challenge Dave’s point (if such things exist). Instead we’re arguing about tone. Can anybody point to some evidence last night (consisting of more than – he looked comfortable, or he only gave up three hits!) to support a claim that Dave’s full of it? I’d really like to hear something like that, because the discussion would probably be interesting.

  24. Xteve X on April 26th, 2007 1:17 pm

    For what it’s worth, I think your analysis of last night’s results were right on the money Dave. C’mon folks, Oakland’s offense is terrible. Do you really expect Jarrod Washburn to repeat last night’s performance against the Yankees or the Red Sox? Of course not. Last night Washburn pitched as he usually does and it didn’t come back to bite the Mariners. That is not something for which Washburn should be praised. If anything it’s a “Whew…glad he didn’t kill us again last night.” I don’t see how that sentiment qualifies Dave as a hater. Perhaps like Rizzs he should limit his comments to glorious gushing praise only so as not to offend? Whatever.

  25. The Ancient Mariner on April 26th, 2007 1:29 pm

    And what is an “ad hominem quality,” anyway? Is there any more content to that whatsoever than “I don’t like your tone”? This is getting seriously close to Alice-in-Wonderland Humpty-Dumpty “words mean what I tell them to mean” here.

    I should also note the following, w/r/t the discussion above re: Moyer’s control: among recent pitchers, the best career BB/9 belongs to Dan Quisenberry (1.397), followed by Bob Tewksbury (1.454), Brad Radke (1.634), Bret Saberhagen (1.654), Rick Reed (1.659) Jon Lieber (1.712), Greg Maddux (1.837), David Wells (1.856), Ben Sheets (1.883), LaMarr Hoyt (1.915), Billy Swift (1.929), Brian Anderson (1.961), Doug Jones (1.970), Curt Schilling (1.990), Roy Oswalt (2.009), Greg Swindell (2.019), Dennis Eckersley (2.022), Mike Mussina (2.023), Mark Buehrle (2.057), and so on; Jamie’s career BB/9 is 2.550, below (among others) Jeff Weaver (2.457). All of which is to say, Jamie’s control is good, but hardly historic.

    But wait! you say–that includes his bad years! What about his peak? Well, the best recent season is Carlos Silva’s utterly insane 0.430 BB/9 in ’05; none of Jamie’s seasons makes the top 7 for BB/9 in the last 15 years (or top 100 overall, though that list is loaded with pre-1900 seasons), nor has he ever posted the best BB/9 in baseball for a season.

  26. Brian Rust on April 26th, 2007 1:29 pm

    Dave, you’re right, my mistake. Corrected, then:

    The probability of a pitcher with a “true” .3976 GB/BIP ratio, inducing 43 (or more) GB on 83 BIP = .00986. If JW’s performance is truly/merely random, it’s a 1-in-100 event. FWIW.

  27. planB on April 26th, 2007 1:30 pm

    fwiw, I totally understand and share the sentiment

  28. chrisisasavage on April 26th, 2007 1:34 pm

    FWIW, I believe, there is a class of pitchers, in the -1 SD to average gb% range that pitch above what would be expected, based on pure averages. It’s probably a selection bias, (since unsuccessful guys won’t make it), but in that range, pitchers have lower HR/F, lower LD/Airball (resulting in averagish LD%), and lower IF/F than the rest of the population. I suspect it’s (mostly) guys with good stuff who fit that mold, like Johan Santana. LD% correlates to K% at ~R=-.2 for qualified pitchers, IF/F correlates to r=.09, and HR/F r=-.10. The 0.09 (nor -.1, nor -.2) are not predictive, and the .09 and -.1 could easily be noise, but if you look at the -1 to 0 SD GB% group, it’s R=-.21 for LD/Air, .13 for IF/F, and -.19 for HR/F. .

  29. chrisisasavage on April 26th, 2007 1:35 pm

    Oh, and Washburn does not have “good stuff” or high k%, I was just pointing out, not all flyball pitchers are the same (an Eric Milton Flyball a Johan Santana Flyball)

  30. chrisisasavage on April 26th, 2007 1:36 pm

    Wow, Word press mangled that. I meant (an Eric Milton Flyball DOES NOT EQUAL A Johan Santana Flyball)

  31. John09 on April 26th, 2007 2:04 pm

    Reply to #168:
    Vidro currently hitting .309 with career .301 avg. albeit not too much power.
    Here are the AL #2 hitters with their avg. You say most GM’s are happy to see Vidro at #3 in our order and I agree with that, but I doubt that’s true if he hits #2.
    LAA-Cabrera .259
    Oak-Ellis .226
    Tex- Catalanatto .154
    Sea-Beltre .219
    TB-Harris .324 (career .238)
    Bos-Youkilis .246
    NYY-Jeter .316
    Bal-Mora .257
    Tor-Lind .286
    KC-Grudzielanek .271
    Minn-Punto .191
    Cleve-Blake .200
    Det- Polanco .360 (career .301)
    CHW-Iguchi .259
    I’d take maybe two or three of these guys over Vidro hitting second. I don’t know what his salary compared to the guys listed, but if he stays healthy I think he looks good.

  32. colm on April 26th, 2007 3:09 pm


    I don’t understand your logic on at least three levels:

    1. Using batting average as the sole measure to quantify value?
    2. Comparing Vidro to a bunch of #2 hitters none of whom is a full time DH?
    Or strangest:
    3. Suggesting hitting Vidro second when there are faster moving tectonic plates.

  33. Graham on April 26th, 2007 3:11 pm

    The only reason Washburn is hitting well is because batters aren’t hitting line drives off him. He’s something like 3 standard deviations below the normal LD/BIA.

  34. Graham on April 26th, 2007 3:12 pm

    John, I would take everyone but Harris and possibly Punto over Vidro batting second.

  35. John09 on April 26th, 2007 3:32 pm

    Reply to #182:
    My logic at the three levels you mentioned:
    1-I realize listing only BA as a sole measure is not valid, however, I don’t have the time to type in all that makes value. However, in my opinion if you look at the BA’s of these guys you can see that Vidro isn’t the black hole he’s made out to be on this site. The BA is an indicator, I don’t know what his OPS is compared to the other guys. My hunch is he’s in the middle, but I guess I shouldn’t say that since this site isn’t about hunches (that’s a good thing).
    2-I’m comparing him to other #2 hitters because I think that’s where he should hit. What does it matter that he’s a DH?
    3-I have nothing to say to that, he is terribly slow. However, I don’t think it’s real important. How many more bases will Beltre steal than Vidro?
    My point was to show that Vidro shouldn’t be the whipping boy he is on this site. Just watch his AB’s and you realize this guy understands how to hit. Are you happy Beltre is hitting second?

  36. The Ancient Mariner on April 26th, 2007 3:48 pm

    I understand how to hit, too; it doesn’t mean I have the ability to execute my understanding well enough to succeed as a major-league hitter. Ditto for Vidro these days.

  37. John09 on April 26th, 2007 4:10 pm

    That’s great you know how to hit. I don’t know you well enough to say more about that.
    Not succeeding this year? Depends on your defintion of success, he was able to execute his understanding today into getting multiple hits and hitting one off the wall for a two-out RBI double which as a Mariner fan you realize have been few and far between for the team. I realize one game doesn’t a season make, but you have to look at what he does, in addition to what he doesn’t.
    That’s enough about Vidro for me. We’ll see how it goes this year for him, I’ll be pulling for him.

  38. mln on April 26th, 2007 4:15 pm

    This thread is turning into a USSM group therapy session.

    Everybody take a deep breath and repeat: Serenity Now….

  39. terry on April 26th, 2007 5:55 pm

    Show of hands….

    Reach for the sky is you’re satisfied with your DH putting up this line: .299/.338/.388 OPS: .726;

    For context, last year the average DH did this: .261/.356/.485; OPS: .841. So far this year, league average for DH is this: .260/.351/.433; OPS: .784.

    Vidro not only isn’t in the middle of the other guys, he’s significantly below average (that’s NOT a good thing). Vidro pretty much is a blackhole. He’s a one tool guy so far…he hits for average.

  40. Goose on April 26th, 2007 6:00 pm

    Wow. The quality of the member comments at this place has gone down alot. Sad.

  41. colm on April 26th, 2007 10:16 pm

    Thanks John. In response I’d say that:
    1. If you had the time to type in all his other numbers as Terry has done, he’d look a lot less valuable than his .309 batting average.
    2. It still makes no sense to me for you to compare him to a bunch of #2 hitters when Vidro’s not the #2 hitter on the Mariners, and none of those guys is a DH. Why not compare him to a selection of #7 hitters because that’s where a lot of posters on this sit would hit him?
    3. You’re probably right. Batting order doesn’t matter much. Which makes your comparison in point 2 all the more baffling. That said… Dave Cameron has already raised the point on this blog that Vidro’s skillset as a beat-the-ball-on-the-ground/run-like-a-tractor hitter makes it likely that he’ll ground into a great many double-plays this season. Batting him behind a high OBP player like Ichiro would increase that total even further.

  42. The Ancient Mariner on April 27th, 2007 8:40 am

    Hey, I’ll be rooting for Vidro, too; but he’s not hitting for significant power, he’s not drawing walks, and he has no value in the field or on the basepaths because if he were any slower, he’d be going backward. At this point, taken as a whole, the guy’s a replacement-level player who’s costing us big money. Snelling? Heck, as much as I’ve been a fan of his since I watched him for Everett, this isn’t about Snelling; I’d rather Bavasi had dealt Snelling for a box of Froot Loops (well, Fruto Loops) and anointed Bryan LaHair the DH–we’d be better off.

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