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. 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?

  2. 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

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

    51: Broussard in the outfield is ugly to watch.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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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