The size, shape, and other characteristics of the mountain ahead

DMZ · May 28, 2007 at 12:51 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I don’t know a reasonable M’s fan that doesn’t look at this next series without realizing its importance. Three games against the Angels, 4.5 back, could be a season-breaker, and we’ve drawn:

Batista vs Colon
Feierabend v Santana
Felix v Good Weaver

There’s another way to get into the playoffs, but right now it looks a lot harder – Detroit and Cleveland have both played .600 baseball so far, and Detroit hasn’t even dropped one of their poorer starters for Andrew Miller yet, which is crazy to contemplate. The M’s aren’t as far back in the wild card as they are in the division race, but in the division race they only have to catch one team (right now) while in the wild card race two really good teams have to collapse while Chicago stumbles (and New York doesn’t wake up and run off a 10-game winning streak).

Focus on the division, then. I’ll re-use a comment from Typical Idiot Fan on yesterday’s game thread:

[...] The difference is really in the runs allowed area. Anaheim has allowed only 199 runs to score against them in 51 games, or 3.9 per game. Seattle has allowed 224 in 46 games, or 4.8 per game.

Seattle RSPG – 4.8, RAPG – 4.8
Anaheim RSPG – 4.6, RAPG – 3.9
Oakland RSPG – 4.5, RAPG – 3.8
Texas RSPG – 5.0, RAPG – 5.7

By all logical reasoning, Oakland should be right there with Anaheim but they’re not. Oakland should probably improve in the W/L column soon enough as things start to even out. Seattle, meanwhile, is one big lefty bat and one good starting pitcher away from making some serious strides.

If it keeps up for the rest of the year, the Angels could easily wind up ten games up on the M’s. I don’t think the Angels are a .600 team, but they don’t have to be. They only have to stay ahead of the M’s. Vlad Guerrero could decide to retire tomorrow and it’d still be a toss-up if the M’s could catch them.

But to the question at hand: what does it take to compete, to take use this early luck and turn it into sustained contention? The team, to be overly simplistic, has a couple of huge, obvious holes:
- they’re too right-handed
- Sexson has sucked, but if he’s really just always a slow starter, that’ll resolve
- Ill offensive production from Lopez/Ibanez
- Starters 3-5 suck

There are other issues (Betancourt’s eye-popping defensive woes, for instance) but that’s the big stuff.

There’s not a lot to be done about the offense – when you can’t find a spot for Adam Jones, well, you’ve got some team construction issues.

The argument about the rotation is that we’ve seen a lot of Weaver, and now that Baek’s here, things are greatly improved. We’ll see how Baek does over an extended period, but even if he’s a solid back-of-the-rotation guy, right now any pick-two of Weaver/Batista/Ramirez means you’ve picked two crappy starters. There’s no way around it: they’re pitching terribly.

Possibly that skews any runs scored/allowed analysis. If there are two major league starters in the rotation and the 3-5 guys get shelled and chased out of games early (that group’s average start goes five innings), it doesn’t really matter if the offense is cracking along, because they’ll need to score 7, 9 runs to win. Plus the bullpen has to pick up a lot of innings, and there are secondary issues from that as well, but here’s my point — as much as the M’s operate at an advantage when Felix starts, they’re giving that away and then some a couple times a week. They turn average offensive players into a lineup of — well, Johjima’s not a bad comparison, actually.

Some comments noted that the team’s a lot like some of the mid-90s M’s teams, and while I might quibble with it, I think it’s a useful because it does convey some of the feel of this team. There’s a really good starter, someone behind him, and then you’d watch the other games with one eye open, wincing.

You can, as we’ve seen, make it to the playoffs with that. But Felix has to be great, Washburn has to be good, Sexson needs to start to hit, the bullpen needs to put up with being stretched frequently, and nothing else can go seriously wrong.

The challenge is that much less has to go right for the Angels for them to survive, and in many ways, they’re a lot better built for Stoneman to go make a move to improve the offense than the M’s, who need a left-handed bat and can’t get one.

And, of course, we neglect the A’s, who if history holds will shuffle some more pieces around and then come out of the All-Star break to rip off a 81-game winning streak to finish the season. It’d be nice, as an M’s fan, if they didn’t do that this year.

If the M’s get swept, they’re toast, because at that point it’s extremely unlikely they could make up that deficit.

If the M’s sweep, they’ve got a reasonable shot at it, but it’ll be quite a haul.

Batista starts the first game of the series tonight.


60 Responses to “The size, shape, and other characteristics of the mountain ahead”

  1. bhsmarine on May 28th, 2007 1:08 pm

    How well does Feierabend have to do to stay in the rotation? I am guessing Grover sends him back no matter what, at least until they figure out the “DL” isn’t going to do jack for Weaver.

  2. katal on May 28th, 2007 1:14 pm

    On the bright side, it’s late May, and we’re having this discussion.

  3. shortbus on May 28th, 2007 1:19 pm

    It’s difficult to even see where the team would be able to fit an LH bat if they got one. Heck they can’t find room for Broussard (hint: SIT THE GUY BATTING

  4. shortbus on May 28th, 2007 1:20 pm

    …LESS THAN .200). If they can’t trade Sexson…who CAN they trade to make room?

  5. IdahoInvader on May 28th, 2007 1:24 pm

    Any chance Feierabend could step up and surprise us, making a case to stay in the rotation? Or is he just another Batista, Baek, Weaver, etc waiting to happen?

  6. Jim Thomsen on May 28th, 2007 1:25 pm

    How much do you think lineup construction will have to do with success in this series? For instance, it seems that the M’s need Broussard in the lineup tonight, given Colon’s growing platoon split — .313 batting average for lefties this year, with 5 HRs in 64-at bats — but who would the M’s realistically displace?

    Sexson? No
    Vidro? No
    Ibanez? No

    On the positive side, ummmmm …. we’re missing John Lackey this series.

  7. David* on May 28th, 2007 1:28 pm

    Free Ben Broussard.

  8. coasty141 on May 28th, 2007 1:32 pm

    Being short a left handed bat means the mariners will have the hardest time hitting tough right handed pitchers. Who do the angels have in their rotation? Lackey, Colon, Good Weaver, and Santana all tough on right handed hitters. We really don’t match up well with the Angels. Not Good.

  9. Jim Thomsen on May 28th, 2007 1:32 pm

    I’m listening to Ben Broussard’s CD as we speak. It’s growing on me like comparatively cheap lefty sock.

  10. HireHeyroldReynolds on May 28th, 2007 1:38 pm

    [please, no trade speculation/rosterbation]

  11. coasty141 on May 28th, 2007 1:39 pm

    oh. escobar as well

  12. coasty141 on May 28th, 2007 1:40 pm

    Where do you put him?

  13. Jim Thomsen on May 28th, 2007 1:40 pm

    Uh, Geoff Jenkins is a) overpriced; and b) on the downhill slide. He’s exactly the sort of player the Mariners would hang around their own necks like a dead chicken.

  14. Jim Thomsen on May 28th, 2007 1:41 pm

    Want some free punch? Either crash an after-church social, or sign Craig Wilson.

  15. Jim Thomsen on May 28th, 2007 1:42 pm

    But let’s not even speculate about adding/subtracting to the roster. The M’s are stuck with the players they have — and mostly because they choose to be stuck because they don’t really think they’re stuck.

  16. Mr. Egaas on May 28th, 2007 1:44 pm


    Ken Rosenthal reports that the ChiSox just inked Wilson.

  17. Jim Thomsen on May 28th, 2007 1:44 pm

    Okay, then. But Jack Cust will be available in a week or so!

  18. DMZ on May 28th, 2007 1:46 pm

    Yes. Please, let’s not get into trade speculation etc etc. There’s no way they can get out from under the Bad Three right now, unless they pitch well, and then they’re not trading them.

  19. msb on May 28th, 2007 1:47 pm

    but does Craig Wilson give you punch in Safeco when facing the AL?

    can we take a little comfort in that the Texas papers are already running the July trade columns?

  20. Buckyfan on May 28th, 2007 1:53 pm


  21. msb on May 28th, 2007 1:53 pm

    health is also a issue for the offense, as apparently Guillen & Ibanez have been nursing aches most of the season– has that affected what we have seen from them, or are they hitting to their current norms?

  22. msb on May 28th, 2007 1:54 pm

    #20– he wants to go to a contender and has a no-trade clause?

  23. coasty141 on May 28th, 2007 1:54 pm

    do you think Ibanez will slug 450 this year?
    Will Sexson get to 500?

  24. Mr. Egaas on May 28th, 2007 1:58 pm

    Could someone refesh my memory as to why we wouldn’t trade for Griffey? Say for Vidro or Balentien?

    Let’s not be ridiculous. The Reds have a pretty good 2B in Brandon Phillips and want nothing to have to do with Vidro. Their OF is kinda crowded as well, although not as bad as it was with Kearns around.

  25. DMZ on May 28th, 2007 2:01 pm

    You people are killing me.

  26. em on May 28th, 2007 2:02 pm

    I quibble with the idea that Lopez is a “huge, obvious hole” ala Ibanez. Granted, Lopez only has a .720 OPS, but he is slugging .517 while getting on base 33.3% of the time over the last 7 days. With his age, Gold Glove defense, and tremendous upside, I’d hardly group Lopez with the decline of an elderly role player like Rauuuuuuuuuuuul.

    Lopez is a middle of the pack 2nd baseman in the AL this year, discounting any positive effects of his glove work – but Lopez also has more potential to keep improving than most of his peers.

  27. Jim Thomsen on May 28th, 2007 2:03 pm

    Fun with American League comparables:

    Runs scored: Angels 6th, M’s 9th
    Batting average: M’s 1st (!), Angels 5th
    OBP: M’s 8th, Angels 9th
    SLG: M’s 7th, Angels 9th
    Batting Strikeouts: M’s 13th, Angels 14th
    G/F ratio: Angels 2nd (1.31), M’s 5th (1.27)
    GIDP: Angels 2nd (49), M’s 9th (41)

    ERA: Angels 2nd (3.66), M’s 11th (4.65)
    Quality Starts: Angels 1st, M’s 10
    BB: Angels 8th, M’s 13th
    Strikeouts: Angels 1st (354), M’s 13th (251)
    Opponent BA: Angels 6th (.255), M’s 13th (.273)
    Opponent CS percentage: M’s 3rd (31%), Angels 11th (24%)
    Pitches per plate appearance: M’s 3.83, Angels 3.81

    Look for Ichiro to steal at least five bases this series.

  28. Typical Idiot Fan on May 28th, 2007 2:05 pm

    I think you asked for it with this post, Derek. People haven’t rosterbated in so long they’re about to explode.

  29. bakomariner on May 28th, 2007 2:05 pm

    so is broussard starting for richie tonight because of a) the hamstring and b) colon?

  30. em on May 28th, 2007 2:09 pm

    Broussard’s vs. RH/LH splits:

    Quick Splits (from ESPN)
    VS. LEFT: .000 / .000 VS. RIGHT: .326 / .898 HOME: .240 / .600 AWAY: .391 / 1.136
    (Stats listed are batting average and OPS)

    Part of the answer is here.

  31. Jim Thomsen on May 28th, 2007 2:12 pm

    He is 3-for-17 career against Colon, curiously enough. I’d attribute that to small sample size. Given Broussard’s competence against righties and Colon’s widening platoon split (it wasn’t nearly as pronounced earlier in his career), I’d say there’s an excellent chance Broussard gets at least one extra-base hit off Bartolo if he were given a start.

  32. David* on May 28th, 2007 2:13 pm

    Hissing Grover, Are You The Destroyer?

  33. scraps on May 28th, 2007 2:14 pm

    I’m not about to give up on Lopez either — I at least want to see him with a different manager — but is he really a gold glove quality defender?

  34. em on May 28th, 2007 2:15 pm

    .356 .463 .819

    Anyone want to guess to whom these OBP/SLG/OPS numbers belong (hint: AAA LH split vs RH pitching, plays solid OF defense)

  35. bakomariner on May 28th, 2007 2:16 pm

    Lopez will be a good player…no worries about him…he doesn’t need to be a gold glover to have worth…

  36. Oly Rainiers Fan on May 28th, 2007 2:16 pm

    They can rosterbate over at Prospect Insider. Churchill ASKED for it over there. (I can’t bear to read the thread; it’s filled with crazy talk). The sad part is, the fact that I recognize it as crazy talk, just means that our farm system is a few cans away from an empty pantry. (Wait, wasn’t that a Bavasi specialty…that restocking?)

    BTW, I know that on aggregate, LH bats would be what you would want to match up well with predominantly RH pitching. But there ARE RH bats that hit RH pitching well, and LH bats that don’t. What WE have is virtually an entire lineup that doesn’t.

    I guess, rather than the shorthand ‘we gotta get some more LH bats’, I’d rather go for the ‘we gotta get batters that can hit RH pitching consistently’. You know, so we’re all on the same page. God knows the Ms have gone out and tried, year after year, to go get LH ‘sock’. And they’ve gotten LHers. I think they’re missing the point, and I worry that the shorthand doesn’t contribute to the deeper understanding.

  37. Jim Thomsen on May 28th, 2007 2:16 pm

    Jamie Burke’s high school stats?

  38. scraps on May 28th, 2007 2:18 pm

    Hissing Grover, Are You The Destroyer?

    I love Of Washington.

  39. bhsmarine on May 28th, 2007 2:28 pm

    Does anyone know if Feierabend has enough grit to get a W this series?

  40. em on May 28th, 2007 2:30 pm

    Clement, so far this year, can’t hit RH pitching, but is hitting LH pitching hard. We do have solutions, however, to the problem of vs. RH ineffectiveness.

    Seattle is 2nd in Team BA; 12th in Team OPS, and 16th in Runs.

    Seattle is 6th in BA vs. RH; 15th in OPS vs RH;

    Seattle is 3rd in BA vs. LH; 7th in OPS vs LH

  41. darrylzero on May 28th, 2007 2:34 pm

    RE: Lopez’s defense…

    I don’t know how he’s stacking up according to statistical systems so far, but to my fairy untrained eye, he looks much, much better than last year. I’m really excited about his contributions with the glove right now, though there are others who know much better than me I’m sure.

  42. bhsmarine on May 28th, 2007 2:38 pm

    Sexson vs. RHP .165 .655 OPS 116AB
    Broussard vs RHP .326 .898 OPS 46AB

    Isn’t that the answer? Just because we pay Sexson more doesn’t mean you have to play him. Give him half the games at first against RHP, something, anything.

  43. em on May 28th, 2007 2:39 pm

    Gold Gloves are arbitrary in that voter perception, rather than hard evidence, is everything. Not that we have infallible hard evidence to refute voter perception….

  44. eponymous coward on May 28th, 2007 2:40 pm

    Basically, for the M’s to have a shot, Batista has to start to Not Suck, and have his final numbers for the season end up at around the 4.50 ERA he normally posts. I’d say there’s a decent chance of that- Batista’s velocity is fine, he’s just not hitting spots well.

    I think Baek has earned a full tryout in the back end of the rotation, so what I suspect happens is Weaver and HoRam go down for a ML tuneup start or two while Feierabend holds down a spot… and then by then some things will sort themselves out. We’re probably a few weeks from that, though.

    Who knows, if Feierabend looks sharp…

  45. em on May 28th, 2007 2:45 pm

    Broussard needs more ABs, but Sexson isn’t the only one that should be donating. I’d rather be patient with Sexson and impatient with Vidro.

    Raul VS. RIGHT: .269 / .726 (OBP/OPS)

    Nasty. I’d give more than a handful of those ABs to Broussard. Better yet, I’d give more than a handful of those ABs to Reed.

  46. em on May 28th, 2007 2:46 pm

    Who is Justin Lehr, and could he help?

  47. em on May 28th, 2007 2:50 pm

    I’m not sure why this roster is considered so inflexible. We are only 3 or 4 critical injuries from serious roster improvement. If it happend to Weaver, it could happen to Vidro. Wait. I get it. Vidro runs so slow he can’t GET injured. Bleh.

  48. Jim Thomsen on May 28th, 2007 2:53 pm

    Quad-A filler, and no. He’s almost 29, barely strikes out 4.5 batters per nine inngs, has no major-league out pitch. He’s pitched well in Tacoma, but he’s floundered around for a reason. He’s not on the 40-man roster, and shouldn’t be up until September — and maybe not even then, if the M’s are contending.

  49. scraps on May 28th, 2007 2:57 pm

    So long as Vidro hits .300 he’s not going to sit.

  50. bhsmarine on May 28th, 2007 2:57 pm

    Guillen is fairly ugly against righties also. .218BA with a .615 OPS

    Don’t you sprinkle in Broussard more frequently at the corner OF and 1st?

  51. planB on May 28th, 2007 3:04 pm

    Vidro’s also a switch-hitter who hits .327/.377/.347 vs RHP. Swapping him for Broussard (.326/.354/.543) doesn’t really address the right-handedness problem, does it?

  52. scraps on May 28th, 2007 3:09 pm

    Vidro over his whole career has no platoon split; in fact, he’s nearly identical from the left and right:

    left: .301/.363/.456
    right: .302/.363/.454

  53. milendriel on May 28th, 2007 3:22 pm

    51: Broussard in the outfield is ugly to watch.

  54. bhsmarine on May 28th, 2007 3:27 pm

    Sexson on the road- .195 .313 .341 .654
    Ibanez on the road- .263 .333 .368 .702
    Broussard on the road- .391 .440 .696 1.136

    Sexson vs RHP- .165 .273 .383 .655
    Ibanez vs RHP- .269 .328 .398 .726
    Broussard vs RHP- .326 .354 .543 .898

    Half of Broussard ABs this year are on the road.

    Might be a good idea to get Ben some more starts on the road against RHP.

  55. bhsmarine on May 28th, 2007 3:32 pm

    If he makes one, any chance they show every pitch of Weavers rehab start in Tacoma on ESPN? What about Comedy Central?

  56. Evan on May 28th, 2007 4:13 pm

    Right now the Mariners have the fifth best record in the AL, and we play in what is widely seen as the weakest divsion (watching the East flounder behind the Red Sox, I’m not sure I agree). I think our shot at the Wild Card isn’t so bad.

    The three best records in the league all play in separate divisions (Boston, Cleveland, Anaheim). So then the only team ahead of us for the Wild Card is Detroit. We’re tied with the White Sox. The Wild Card race looks more winnable than the division race. We need ONE very good team in a tough division to collapse (Detroit) while we stay ahead of everyone we’re already ahead of.

  57. Tek Jansen on May 28th, 2007 4:14 pm

    I am not a huge Vidro fan, but the nearly identical splits that he has put up as a switch hitter are impressive in the “that-happens-once-in-a-lifetime” sense.

  58. joser on May 28th, 2007 5:15 pm

    You know, you had me until

    Vlad Guerrero could decide to retire tomorrow and it’d still be a toss-up if the M’s could catch them.

    . I don’t know about that. Have a look at Vlad’s WPA. He’s not only several times more valuable than the next couple of guys on their roster, he’s more valuable than the rest of the team combined (and yeah, I know that’s a misuse of the stat).

    Now, I love Vlad: I was following him when he played for Montreal, and I wanted the M’s to get him — heck, he was and still is the only OF I’d trade Ichiro! for — but the guy does get hurt from time to time (unlike Ichiro). And if he pulls his back or breaks something and is out for a few weeks, everything can go south for the Angels in very short order, and we’re back to a real division horserace (just in time for the A’s to have Harden come back healthy, pull a rabbit out of a traded hat, and win the thing again).

    Now, it’s a mark of desperation to be hoping for bad luck to afflict your opponents (and it’s certainly not sporting to wish for an injury) but I think the Angels’ lead is a little more precarious than you suggest. On the other hand, given all the problems with the M’s, I’m not sure that it matters.

  59. DMZ on May 28th, 2007 5:21 pm

    Well, that assumes you buy into the value of WPA as an evaluation metric, but in any event: WPA measures what happened, not what will happen going forward. Do you really think for the rest of the season that would be true?

    You could really do that with any team: who has had a great season so far? Take them out, and suddenly that team looks awful.

    But it’s the same exercise as dropping your least-effective pitcher from a RS/RA analysis: you’re using information you have about a player’s actual performance and the results of that performance to do forward-looking prediction, and it just doesn’t work that way.

  60. joser on May 28th, 2007 9:31 pm

    Like I said, I know it’s a misuse of the stat. But Vlad is a huge piece of their offense, and they’ve struggled when he’s been on the DL in the past. We can’t do the controlled study (the same season with or without him), and if he really did retire or get an injury that puts him out for the season the Angels would go hunting for somebody else. So it’s all what-ifs and just-suppose. Nevertheless, they have a lot riding on his shoulders, and I really think that without him they wouldn’t be well out in front of the division.

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