Honor Where Honor Is Due

Dave · June 28, 2007 at 7:56 am · Filed Under Mariners 

In the spirit of a surprising three game sweep of the best team in the American League (and yes, I know that they threw Gabbard and Tavarez at us, but we threw Weaver and Feierabend at them, so call it even), this post is for one thing – to give credit to the performances that have carried the M’s to a 42-33 record. These are the guys who have put the team on their backs and are keeping the team in the playoff race.


A great player who has put together a first half that is better than any full season he’s had in the U.S. The shift to center fielder has taken an all-star and turned him into an MVP candidate. He’s third in the majors in runs created, only 8 runs behind the slugging combo of Alex Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez, 5 runs ahead of Vladimir Guerrero, and a mind-numbing 29 runs ahead of Raul Ibanez, who is #2 on the M’s RC list. Ichiro is, right now, the best center fielder in baseball, and the main reason the Mariners are in playoff contention. If the season ended today, he’d be #1 on my theoretical AL MVP ballot. He’s had that great of a first half.

J.J. Putz

Calling Ichiro the AL MVP is somewhat controversial. Calling J.J. Putz the best reliever on the planet is not. Or it shouldn’t be, anyways. There isn’t even anyone who has a very good case for being in the argument. I could throw all kinds of stats out there, showing J.J.’s dominance, but we’ve all seen it on a daily basis – this guy is absolutely lights out. So, here’s my favorite number regarding Putz this year – yesterday was the first game all year where he was lifted for another pitcher, and I’m sure he would have pitched the last two innings yesterday if Hargrove would have let him. The first 33 games he appeared in, he was the last pitcher the M’s sent to the hill. When you put J.J. in, the game is over, and you can tell the rest of the bullpen to go take a shower. He’s the best relief ace in the game, and it isn’t particularly close.

George Sherrill

Putz gives the M’s the best right-handed reliever in the game. Sherrill is arguably the best left-handed reliever alive as well. Hideki Okajima could make a pretty good case as well and Billy Wagner’s still awesome, but Sherrill is certainly part of the discussion. Lefties are 5 for 45 with 3 walks and 17 strikeouts against GS52, pretty much turning every LHB into an easy out. But right-handers aren’t touching him either, posting a .222/.216/.278 line. Overall, the league is posting a .419 OPS against George Sherrill. When you can bring a lefty out of the pen in high leverage situations with runners on base, and he turns opposing hitters into an average hitting pitcher, that’s a remarkably valuable player.

Kenji Johjima

Kenji’s not going to make the all-star team, but he’s been a terrific player for the Mariners this year. He’s hitting .307/.340/.482 as a right-handed extreme pull hitter in a park that punishes right-handed pull hitters like no other in baseball. He hits for average and power while playing practically every day, and he’s not having the same problems behind the plate – primarily, stabbing at the ball – that he had last year. It’s amazing to think that two years ago, the M’s were cycling guys like Miguel Ojeda and Wiki Gonzalez behind the plate. Not anymore. Now, it’s all Kenji.

Jamie Burke

Okay, to be fair, it’s not all Kenji. Jamie Burke plays once a week, too. And man, has he ever taken advantage of his opportunities. In general, the backup catcher isn’t a vital cog in the machine. But, at the extreme ends of the performance spectrum, they can make a pretty big impact. Last year, the M’s had something like the worst backup catcher in major league history, letting Rene Rivera suck the life out of their line-up. This year, on a per at-bat basis, Jamie Burke has been their best hitter. The difference in value has been staggering, honestly. Burke already has more hits than Rivera had in all of 2006, and he’s made 54 less outs. Upgrading from Rene Rivera to Jamie Burke has already been worth a win in the standings, and the season is only half over. And he plays once a week! That’s remarkable.

Mike Hargrove’s Bullpen Usage

It’s not a person, so I’m making an exception here. Grover does too many other things wrong to be on this list as just himself, but this one aspect of in-game management, he’s done exceptionally well at, and he seems to be getting better by the week. He’s using J.J. Putz for multi-inning saves, letting George Sherrill face right-handers (sometimes, anyways), giving high leverage innings to Eric O’Flaherty and not sticking with struggling veterans like Chris Reitsma. Yesterday, he even used J.J. Putz in the 9th inning of a tie game at home, realizing there was no point in saving his closer for a save situation that could not happen. Bob Melvin used to drive us insane with his bullpen usage, and while I don’t think I’m ever going to be much of a Mike Hargrove fan, I’ll gladly stand and applaud the way he’s used his relievers this year. The M’s bullpen is, by far, the strength of the team, and Hargrove has leveraged this strength into a lot of wins.

There are other guys who are helping keep the team in contention by having solid years, such a Adrian Beltre, Jose Lopez, and Jarrod Washburn, but the guys listed above are the reasons this team is nine games above .500. These guys are the stars of the first half, and a first half that has the Mariners thinking about a playoff race in September.


193 Responses to “Honor Where Honor Is Due”

  1. smb on June 28th, 2007 6:23 pm

    If I see Jeremy Reed in a Mariner uniform again when we are anywhere better than ten games under .500, I will turn the tv off and go watch my Refuse to Lose video.

  2. Colorado Mariner Fan on June 28th, 2007 6:33 pm

    I have my doubts about your assessment on Reed reality3, but here’s to hoping you’re right and there are teams out there that thirst for his services come the deadline.

    It’s interesting to look at his offensive splits this year in Tacoma, BTW:

    HOME: 147AB, .231/.275/.293
    AWAY: 166AB, .325/.388/.542

    ‘Wonder what’s going on there?

  3. terry on June 28th, 2007 6:39 pm

    This is a general question. Why isn’t there more general love for the memory of John Olerud?

  4. eponymous coward on June 28th, 2007 7:03 pm

    I don’t know. I think, like Jay Buhner and Bret Boone, he’s not too far shy of a Hall of Fame career (though he does fall short).

  5. Paul B on June 28th, 2007 7:11 pm

    This is a general question. Why isn’t there more general love for the memory of John Olerud?

    I dunno. Maybe because he had his best season with Toronto, and his second best season with the Mets?

  6. scraps on June 28th, 2007 7:28 pm

    Ralph was making another duck joke in 139. Right?

    Reed’s defense is vastly overrated. He’s a marginal defensive CF, and his bat can’t play in a corner.

    Yeah, I know, but is Ellison a better option overall as backup outfielder?

  7. terry on June 28th, 2007 7:28 pm

    I dunno…during his first three seasons as an M, he averaged 105 RC while playing gold-glove caliber defense (he won 3 as an M)……

  8. scraps on June 28th, 2007 7:34 pm

    I am confused by 153. Olerud was very popular here. He was well liked by team, fans, media, and management. I’ve never heard anyone run his memory down, unless acknowledging that he was in severe decline by the end counts as running him down. If anything, people think he was better than he was, especially defensively, where people thought he was the second coming of Keith Hernandez.

  9. planB on June 28th, 2007 7:49 pm

    153: I have love for the memory of John Olerud.

    Also, general comment/question about Sexson’s defense: Am I correct in observing that he is fine at catching throws to 1B, but what makes him a poor defender is limited range and general fielding ability?

  10. planB on June 28th, 2007 7:52 pm

    And on Reed: if he takes Ellison’s place, he only gets to play rarely. If he stays in Tacoma, he continues to be a regular. While his being a regular Mariners outfielder would be best, being a regular Rainiers outfielder is better than being a backup Mariners outfielder.

  11. planB on June 28th, 2007 7:54 pm

    (Better for development, that is.)

  12. reality3 on June 28th, 2007 8:02 pm

    As for Reed, I think one would rather be a back-up in the majors than a regular in the minors. Its about the $$$$$.

  13. planB on June 28th, 2007 8:04 pm

    I was talking about what’s good for the team. You know, the subject of this blog…

  14. msb on June 28th, 2007 8:28 pm

    Why not put Reed, Clement and player x (maybe a draft pick also) for an arm?

    well, if Buehrle does come off the table, the likely trade-bait pitchers out there are guys like Jose Contreras, Javy Vazquez, Matt Morris, Steve Trachsel …

  15. Ralph_Malph on June 28th, 2007 8:33 pm

    I’m glad someone got my duck joke. I was almost forced to come up with a worse pun about the color teal.

  16. joser on June 28th, 2007 9:11 pm

    I knew Ichiro! was having a good year — even including his usual bad April — but I hadn’t realized how good until I started looking through the numbers. As Dave said, he’s outperforming his 2001 MVP year, and doing so while playing a more important defensive position; if you look at B-R’s OPS+ (adjusted for park and league, normalized to 100), he’s actually doing way better so far this year:
    YEAR… OPS+
    2001… …127
    2002… …125
    2003… …110
    2004… …135
    2005… …109
    2006… …109
    2007… …140
    By OPS+, right now he looks to be the best offensive CF in baseball.

    What’s really amazing is how hot he’s been for the past month. For his career, he’s a .333 hitter with a .819 OPS. On May 24th, the last game of the series in Tampa, that’s exactly where he was for 2007. That also happened to be his 1000th game here in the US. He hit a homer in that game, and then hit another the next day in Kansas City, and he’s been at or above his career line ever since. And something that got missed in the gloom of all those lost games against the NL central: Ichiro! absolutely caught fire. He was back to .333 and .833 in that first game in Chicago, but he’s been climbing ever since: he’s currently 30 points above his career average and 66 points above his career OPS. By plain old OPS he’s in fifth place among AL outfielders, and third among CFs (behind Curtis Granderson at .910 and Torii Hunter at .894; Vlad and Magglio are the corner guys at the top). But they all hit in the heart of their batting orders.

    An .885 OPS for a lead-off hitter playing above average defense at a premium defensive position? Yes, please, can I have another?

  17. milendriel on June 28th, 2007 9:39 pm

    Playing half his games in Safeco, no less.

  18. heyoka on June 28th, 2007 9:52 pm

    Wlad is striking out less than and walking more than AJ, so his bat is pretty intriguing.
    With quasi-major leaguer Reed in the OF, does this make it the best Rainier’s outfield ever?

  19. Lauren, token chick on June 28th, 2007 9:56 pm

    Please, Lord, don’t let Ichiro leave. I swear to go to at least two or three games next year if he stays.

  20. Grizz on June 28th, 2007 10:01 pm

    Wonder what’s going on there?

    Opposite of most of the other parks in the PCL, Tacoma is a pitcher’s park.

  21. Chris Miller on June 28th, 2007 10:25 pm

    Ichiro is definately having an awesome year.

  22. Chris Miller on June 28th, 2007 10:25 pm

    By that I mean “totally awesome”.

  23. joser on June 28th, 2007 11:01 pm

    Playing half his games in Safeco, no less.

    Yeah, that’s why I listed his OPS+, which is park adjusted, and why according to that measure he’s the most valuable CF in baseball (and one of the top handful among all outfielders).

  24. joser on June 28th, 2007 11:19 pm

    OK, more Ichi-awesomeness: If Ichrio! was a DH, he’d be the 3rd best in baseball by OPS, behind just Ortiz and Sheffield and ahead of Hafner and the rest. You can’t get a better raw mapping of stat to position than OPS to DH, and would make Ichiro! the third most valuable guy doing something where his defensive skills aren’t even counted at all.

    (And before anybody asks, yes, Vidro would be near the bottom among regular DHs, ahead of just Huff and Damon… yes, Damon: the Yankees’ “Bernie Williams Memorial CF-to-DH Conversion System” continues…)

  25. Tak on June 28th, 2007 11:49 pm

    yes, 3rd compared to other DHs…. thats not a very useful comparison.

  26. joser on June 29th, 2007 1:00 am

    Sure. It’s still amusing.

  27. Tom on June 29th, 2007 1:48 am

    Today we think about a playoff race in September! Next week? Well, who knows?

    In case we do get in a pennant race though. . .how ’bout this for a lineup?

    Ichiro—L (RF)
    Lopez—-R (2B)
    Griffey–L (LF)
    Johjima–R (C)
    Ibanez—L (DH)
    Beltre—R (3B)
    Vidro-S/Broussard-L/some mystery guy-L/S (1B)
    Jones—-R (CF)
    YuBet—-R (SS)

    Ok, ok, I get it. I shouldn’t be posting prospective lineups and such and The Kid won’t be coming back for a while (maybe), but hey, it’s good to dream right?

    That’s what makes this kind of season fun after 3 years of nothingness and irrevelancy. The irony of it all though, Bill Bavasi probably still should be fired based on the signings he’s had the last few years and the way he assembled his pitching staff this year. Even if we made the postseason as a division winner or wild card I think there still would be that chance that Bavasi gets canned.

  28. msb on June 29th, 2007 8:55 am

    thank goodness. Jim Caple exhorts us all to lift up the poor benighted team that is The Yankees.

  29. Evan on June 29th, 2007 9:35 am

    Tom, why are you putting the best defensive outfielder (Ichiro) in the easiest defensive position?

    Leave him in CF and have Jones play left (the next hardest position to play in Safeco).

  30. marc w on June 29th, 2007 9:39 am

    Jones was moved to RF last night; they’re obviously trying to get him some work in the corners. Wlad was in center. It’ll be interesting to see if they keep this alignment for a week or so.

  31. Dave on June 29th, 2007 9:47 am

    Wlad played center once earlier in the year, too. The organization likes to move guys around and get them experience at several different positions. It’s probably just a one night thing.

  32. joser on June 29th, 2007 10:43 am

    Wow, Tom: rosterbation and Griffey speculation all in the same comment. You just need a lover-scorned-esque dig at ARod to hit the trifecta. And hey, add a plea for the return of Ryan Anderson and you’ve got the complete post. 😉

  33. joser on June 29th, 2007 10:44 am

    hank goodness. Jim Caple exhorts us all to lift up the poor benighted team that is The Yankees.

    We need Sally Struthers on a late night infomercial: “Won’t you please help the Yankees?”

  34. BKM on June 29th, 2007 10:50 am

    174. I know your point was to emphasize Ichiro’s awesomnity, but it’s a good thing Ichiro’s mobile and facile enough to use in the field so he doesn’t have to be a DH.

    I think OPS works if you’re measuring DHs who are power hitters, and Vidro never really has been such. You don’t sign a Vidro to hit 20 home runs and knock in 80 runs now. The fact is he has the second-best OBP on the club among regulars, behind only Ichiro, the has the third-most walks on the team (and only 22 strikeouts) and he has 80 hits, again, second-most behind Ichiro.

    I know – only 9 of Vidro’s hits have been for even one extra base, he doesn’t run well and he has grounded out into too many GIDP.

    His hits might be passed off as “empty at-bats,” but does it really matter HOW you get on base but THAT you get on base?

    Richie Sexson and his 15 home runs and 46 (and 57K) has his place, along with Beltre (10, 31, 38)… but you need someone who can handle the bat (get base hits and draw walks, and occasionally lay down a bunt, which he’s done a team-leading times), and that’s what Vidro’s brought.

    For the cynics who look for opportunities to chide and those who rely only on numbers, I’m sure this is a laughable position, but these raw stats tell me enough that Vidro doesn’t deserve the derision he’s afforded here and deserves some of the credit.

    And, 177, have you arbitrarily replaced Sexson with Johjima as your cleanup hitter? And are you willing to put Jones, who’s still learning to play the outfield (as this is his second year out there), in CF for your playoff team?

    If you can Bavasi, even if this team goes to the playoffs, who do you hire as GM?

  35. Dave on June 29th, 2007 11:03 am

    Honestly, the whole defending Vidro thing is impossible. He sucks, and you need to admit he sucks. This team has the fewest strikeouts in the majors – they certainly don’t need a DH who has “bat control”.

    Vidro’s terrible. Just admit it and move on.

  36. Ralph Malph on June 29th, 2007 11:04 am


  37. DiamondDave on June 29th, 2007 11:45 am

    I posted this in an earlier thread but I doubt anyone is going to read it (four days ago) so I’ll repost. I was the guy who ragged on all the “experts” and the people who were ready to throw Weaver under the bus and run over him several times a month ago (i admit I was almost there, though). Here’s my post, with a legitimate question at the end. Thanks for your patience:

    I’m no expert either. I’m Just a baseball fan. I don’t spend time looking at sites that give actual percentage for a team to win DURING the game. And I don’t look at sites that peg the Ms playoff chances day by day. I’m too busy watching/listening to the games and reading this blog.

    DOn’t get me wrong, I love this blog. I bought Derek’s book. I learn something all the time. I’m just a smart-ass Don’t pay me any mind.

    While I admitting my ignorance, where can I find a handy llist for the all the acronyms used freely here. I know what WHIP is, I know what OPS is, but beyond that I’m generall sitting here going… “???”

    thanking you in advance.

    if anyone wants to mail me offline my address is dhirning@comcast.net.

    Go Ms,


  38. Dave on June 29th, 2007 12:03 pm
  39. eponymous coward on June 29th, 2007 12:05 pm

    I think OPS works if you’re measuring DHs who are power hitters, and Vidro never really has been such. You don’t sign a Vidro to hit 20 home runs and knock in 80 runs now. The fact is he has the second-best OBP on the club among regulars, behind only Ichiro, the has the third-most walks on the team (and only 22 strikeouts) and he has 80 hits, again, second-most behind Ichiro.

    I can cherry pick things that make anyone look good if you give me enough of them. Willie Bloomquist has a GREAT stolen base percentage and plays a lot of positions, so he’s a good player, right?

    AL designated hitters have a composite stat line of .263/.355/.442. Vidro’s is .295/.355/.362. This makes him average among DHs at getting on base, very bad for hitting for power… and Seattle’s DH’s lead the league in GIDP (13)- ALL of them Vidro’s.

    There is no reasonable standard where you can say he’s a GOOD DH. The best you can say is that Vidro hasn’t been a complete trainwreck like KC’s DH’s (.237/.295/.368) or Minnesota’s ( .241/.323/.333), but “Only 10 or 11 teams have better DH performance in the league, and Vidro’s not SUPPOSED to be a good hitter” is not a good argument.

  40. eponymous coward on June 29th, 2007 12:14 pm

    I was the guy who ragged on all the “experts” and the people who were ready to throw Weaver under the bus and run over him several times a month ago (i admit I was almost there, though).

    I don’t think Weaver’s recent performance is all that, either. If you think it is, than I’ll point out that Joel Pineiro was sporting a 3.72 ERA on May 11th, 2006. He’s keeping more teams off balance by mixing his stuff better, but it hasn’t really improved, and while Weaver wasn’t really as bad as he looked in April and May, he’s not as good as a 2-0, 1.82 ERA June is telling us, either. His success is predicated on not having given up a HR in June. That’s just not going to be sustainable.

  41. Colorado Mariner Fan on June 29th, 2007 1:09 pm

    Grizz (#170) – Yeah, I considered that. But it seems so extreme for Reed. He’s about 100 points lower in AVG and OBP, and about 150 lower in SLG. In a similar number of AB, Jones is roughly -40/-60/-130, and Wlad actually seems to like Tacoma *better* at roughly +10/+30/-40.

    Seems weird it affects Reed so dramatically. He’s essentially a different player at home. At least on offense.

  42. Chris Miller on June 29th, 2007 2:34 pm

    Could the situation w/ Reed be similar to Cameron or ’05 Beltre at Safeco, where it becomes mental and not just park factors? I haven’t looked at Reeds splits, or have I seen him play this year.

  43. Karen on June 29th, 2007 4:29 pm

    In other “are you kidding me?” news, ESPN.com has the Mariners ranked #9 in their Power Rankings, just ahead of the Brewers.

    Yeah, I know, it’s a little like looking at Rumor Central there, but the last time I looked at their power rankings, the M’s were down around #25. Sheesh.

    Don’t start bragging yet, anyone. I’d just as soon have the Mariners lie in the weeds and sneak up on some of these other teams, as long as they’re capable.

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