Contreras’ Audition

Dave · August 17, 2007 at 10:31 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Plenty of rumors abound that tonight’s start at Safeco was something of an audition for Jose Contreras in front of a team interested in potentially acquiring his services for the stretch run. If you think White Sox GM Kenny Williams was in Seattle tonight because of the coffee, well, he wasn’t. The Dodgers are also in the mix (and had a scout at the game), but the M’s have been linked to Contreras most heavily in the last week or so.

So, how did it go? If you’re someone who likes to judge by results, it was a mixed bag. He gave up 5 runs in 7 innings and got his 15th loss of the year, and his ERA now sits at 6.18. Not great. But, if you’ve read the blog for any length of time, you know that one of my soap boxes is using tools that aren’t results based to project future performance. And really, that’s what the Mariners care about – what is Contreras likely to do going forward if they acquire him. So, throw the results out the window. What did the process look like?

First off, let’s start with his stuff.

The fastball sat between 92-95 MPH, coming in with sink and varied arm angles. He didn’t have great command of it, leaving it up in the zone and catching too much of the plate, but he was around the zone with moving, above average fastballs. Ron Kulpa’s generous strike zone and the Mariners aggressive approach helped his strike percentage, but make no mistake, he was throwing strikes with the fastball.

His outpitch is still a splitter that is good and occassionally great. Sitting 80-82 with a lot of drop, it’s a true out pitch, especially against aggressive hitters. He commanded it well, usually burying it in the dirt and only leaving a couple up in hittable areas. His splitter is a real weapon, a swing-and-a-miss pitch that can be used to put away hitters when ahead in the count.

He also showed a couple of slurvy breaking balls. The slider, which he threw a couple of times in the 85-87 range, was better than the slower curve, which flashed 77, but neither were anything great. They’re both show pitches to keep hitters off balance, and are minimal parts of the arsenal.

Overall, that’s an above average package of stuff for a starting pitcher. Velocity, movement, an out pitch, at least passable third and fourth offerings, and okay command? That sounds like a league average starter at worst. The stuff is certainly still there.

What about the peripherals from the game – the results that might actually matter, if you’re into that kind of thing. In 7 innings, he threw 97 pitches, 70 of which were strikes, posted a 9-7 groundball flyball rate, didn’t walk anyone, and struck out five. That kind of line is good for a 3.63 FIP and a 3.20 xFIP, which are basically ERA scaled to eliminate things beyond his control. In other words, Contreras pitched like a guy who should have given up a 2 runs in 7 innings, not 5 runs in 7 innings.

If you watched the game, that should jive with what you saw. Guillen’s first inning double was an off balance swing at a pitch he was fooled on and barely hooked fair down the left field line. Guillen also later had a single that barely got by Uribe. Betancourt had a double that was a lunging swing similar to Guillen’s first inning double and wasn’t well struck. Ichiro’s bunt single was really a throwing error, and Beltre’s infield single was just the luck of a high chopper. The only hits that were ripped were the Ibanez homer, the Sexson double, and the Beltre double, and they all came in the first inning.

Tonight, Jose Contreras threw the ball like a guy who could start for almost any team in baseball. Considering the Mariners glaring need for a starter, if this was really an audition, I think they have to have liked what they saw.

The remaining contract, 2 years and $20 million, isn’t something you want to take on if you don’t have to. But, as I mentioned in the game thread, it’s not so far out of line with what healthy pitchers are getting on the free agent market that it becomes an immovable albatross. Whether it’s intelligent or not, major league GMs currently overvalue past success and health when it comes to veteran pitchers, and Contreras has both. Remember, if last offseason showed us anything, it’s that your most recent year performance isn’t particularly important in terms of dollars received, as Jeff Weaver, Randy Wolf, Adam Eaton, and Jason Marquis all cashed in despite miserable 2006 campaigns. $10 million for each of the next two years for Jose Contreras just isn’t a significant liability, given the current way teams view the value of guys like him.

Honestly, if I could acquire Contreras tomorrow without giving up any real talent in return, I’d make the move regardless of how much salary the White Sox were willing to eat. If they offer to pick up some of the money, that’s just a bonus. I saw enough tonight to confirm what I already felt that his performance record was telling us – he’s not done, and he’s not even really close to being done. He’s still a useful major league starting pitcher, and on a team that is running out Horacio Ramirez and counting on Jeff Weaver and Jarrod Washburn, he fills a big hole.

I’m officially on board with a trade for Jose Contreras.

Comments

53 Responses to “Contreras’ Audition”

  1. lailaihei on August 17th, 2007 10:35 pm

    Down with HoRam! Up with Contreras!

  2. pensive on August 17th, 2007 10:44 pm

    Perhaps they will take Reed and Morse.

  3. JMHawkins on August 17th, 2007 10:46 pm

    if I could acquire Contreras tomorrow without giving up any real talent in return, I’d make the move…

    Dave, what constitutes “real talent?” Would you give up Reed or Morse (it doesn’t seem like the organization has any plans to use either one, so if they’re trade bait, is a Ho-Ram to Contreras upgrade for the pennant race the right fish to use them on)? Or are you talking about another Sebastien Boucher or Jesus Merchan?

  4. Dave on August 17th, 2007 10:51 pm

    I’d give up anyone on the Future Forty with a reward ranking of 5 or lower, with possibly the exception of Michael Saunders (who will probably be a 6 when I release the new rankings).

    But, really, this deal won’t be about who the M’s give up – it’s about how much money changes hands.

  5. ErikG803 on August 17th, 2007 10:53 pm

    How likely do you think it is that the Mariners actually land Contreras? And when do you think we can expect to see him dealt by?

  6. cgmonk on August 17th, 2007 10:53 pm

    Hey Dave, what’s with the flip-flopping on Contreras?

    Four days ago you were for the M’s acquiring him, but once you found out about that extra contract year you said, ” withdraw all support for a Contreras trade, in lieu of the extra year tagged on the end of that deal.”

    Other than another bad Horacio Ramirez preformance, what’s changed?

  7. Dave on August 17th, 2007 10:56 pm

    I talked with a few more people who I respect about Contreras, market value of contracts, and how hard that contract would be to move this winter even if he flopped here, and realized that most of my initial reaction to the contract was based on a theoretical ideal and not on the reality of the actual liability of the money.

    Plus, I went back and watched some video of him throughout the year, and his stuff is better than I thought it would be.

  8. Chris Miller on August 17th, 2007 11:03 pm

    I thought the same thing. I hadn’t paid attention to him this year, and wondered if he’d lost velocity, since his K rates were down. Obviously not. He looked fine. Exactly what we need. Add Safeco, and you could have a real nice surprise on your hands.

  9. Jeff Nye on August 17th, 2007 11:04 pm

    I think Contreras is probably one of our most reasonable options to get a significant upgrade over HoRam.

    I’m okay with taking on a less than ideal contract if it means they’ll stop running him out there every five days.

  10. Sports on a Schtick on August 17th, 2007 11:05 pm

    I’m all for adding another Jose to the team, especially if it takes away a Horacio.

  11. pensive on August 17th, 2007 11:08 pm

    As well as helping this year, would Contreras also add insurance for the next two years? Weaver will most likely gone next year.

    Is Contreras a better option than what will be available for $10 million a year?

  12. Typical Idiot Fan on August 17th, 2007 11:23 pm

    But, really, this deal won’t be about who the M’s give up – it’s about how much money changes hands.

    Wouldn’t it be both? If the White Sox pick up a good chunk of change, wouldn’t they expect a prospect back of some significance?

  13. PositivePaul on August 17th, 2007 11:23 pm

    …most of my initial reaction to the contract was based on a theoretical ideal and not on the reality of the actual liability of the money.

    Wow, you’re starting to accept reality moreso than the ideal? Awesome! It sucks, but it’s the reality that mediocre, reasonably healthy starting pitchers with average or slightly better track records indeed are getting $10 million a year on the market now. Definitely not the ideal, and there’s probably better ways to extract value on the market, but it’s not the worst idea in the world, either.

    To tag on to what Pensive started, too, there’s one other factor to consider. Would the M’s be blocking any starting pitcher in the minors in 2008? 2009? My initial reaction is no, not really. They’ll still need starting pitchers in 2008 and 2009, and the only question is — are there any potential free agents that you could give a 2-3 year, $8-12 million/year contract to that would be any better???

    Looking at one list, I’m not convinced there’s anyone that might be available at roughly that price for 2-3 years.

  14. Dave on August 17th, 2007 11:27 pm

    Definitely not the ideal, and there’s probably better ways to extract value on the market, but it’s not the worst idea in the world, either.

    Please keep in mind that I’m not saying Jose Contreras is worth $10 million a year, nor am I endorsing the signing of veteran pitchers to market value contracts. I still believe that any team that attempts to build its pitching staff through free agency is bound for failure.

    My suggestion is to essentially rent Contreras for two months. Pick him up now, use him through the end of the year, and send him on his merry way in November.

  15. JMHawkins on August 17th, 2007 11:29 pm

    Kind of interesting how a deal looks different when you think about residual value (e.g. being able to unload $6-8M of Contreras’ salary if you need to, or getting compensation picks if your rent-a-player walks). Good job bringing up that kind of thinking Dave. Makes for a whole different discussion.

    I tend to agree about Contreras. I’d proabably prefer Wells, but apparently he doesn’t prefer us, so not an option. Comparing Contreras to Ramirez, not only is Contreras less likely to give up runs, he needs almost two fewer Middle Relief outs per game than HoRam.

    Playing around, I’ve figured that, in an average AL pen, Middle Relief (the least effective memebers of the staff) give up almost twice as many runs per out (0.245 vs 0.134) as the backend guys (setup/closer). Over the course of a season, a team an average two innings per night from it’s backend guys. So, starter + middle relief have to get the other 21 outs.

    Ramirez is barely averaging 5 innings per start, and is requiring 5.6 outs from Middle Relief on an average night. So, in addition to 5 innings of Ramirez, you’re getting almost two innings of Parrish.

    Contreras only needs 3.7 outs from Parrish per start.

    If we trade them Reed and Morse for Contreras, would we have to reaquire Miguel Olivo to send with them? And would we need to take Ben Davis back too?

  16. scott19 on August 17th, 2007 11:32 pm

    Based on what we saw from him tonight, Contreras appears to still have something left in the tank.

    If you could reliably get seven solid innings per start from him — as opposed to rubbing the hide off the rabbit’s foot every time HoRam goes out hoping that you’ll get even five mediocre innings — it’s a definite upgrade.

  17. PositivePaul on August 17th, 2007 11:40 pm

    Please keep in mind that I’m not saying Jose Contreras is worth $10 million a year, nor am I endorsing the signing of veteran pitchers to market value contracts. I still believe that any team that attempts to build its pitching staff through free agency is bound for failure.

    Sure. That’s the ideal.

    But Bill Bavasi, assuming he’s still the GM this offseason (how can we not assume that?), can’t even begin to grasp this ideal, let alone enact any part of it.

    In dealing within the reality of the situation here, in Seattle, unless things drastically change, then we probably should try and look at the “not so ideal, but the best idea we can suggest, considering the reality in which we’re forced to live.”

    Sorta like making lemonade out of lemons. And they’re a few days past prime, and you don’t have any sugar…

  18. VaughnStreet on August 17th, 2007 11:44 pm

    Dave, great post. You persuaded me when you got down to the contract and tradability issues come winter.

    I don’t think we can automatically assume Weaver is gone for next year, can we? Mediocre starters will be a precious commodity in this organization until it starts to develop more of its own. Aumont et al are still many years away, I suspect.

  19. PositivePaul on August 17th, 2007 11:45 pm

    In dealing within the reality of the situation here, in Seattle, unless things drastically change, then we probably should try and look at the “not so ideal, but the best idea we can suggest, considering the reality in which we’re forced to live.”

    Ugh, there was actually a question in there.

    If we lower our outlook a little bit, then is there any way it might make sense to try and keep him around, given the man in charge and what he did this past offseason to fill holes in a starting rotation (especially considering there’ll be almost as many holes again this offseason)? I’m certainly not asking you to change your ideals and to stop thinking in the ideal world — I’m just asking if there’s any way to work within the parameters that the M’s work within and justify a trade for Contreras, with the notion of actually keeping him around for the life of the contract…

  20. julian on August 18th, 2007 12:03 am

    Right on, Dave. I was at the game, and saw exactly the same thing. No more than two runs were really “legitimate”, and those were the result of one or two bad pitches.

  21. patnmic on August 18th, 2007 12:13 am

    Watching the game Contreras doesn’t look that far off from his more productive years. Hearing Dave’s analysis verifies I’m not seeing things. So assuming no real prospects are lost, this could be one of Bavasi’s better trades. I for one am tired of expecting a loss every fifth start with HoRam so please Bill pull the trigger.

  22. Notor on August 18th, 2007 12:19 am

    I was pretty impressed with what I saw from him tonight, and how he pitched in relief against us a week ago. He is a major upgrade over HoRam and who knows, you put him in a pitchers park like Safeco when he’s been pitching in that joke of a park in Chicago and he might be good enough to be our #4 guy instead of our #5.

    I say go for it.

  23. Notor on August 18th, 2007 12:29 am

    What’s really sad about this is that the M’s management is so inept at recognizing pitching talent that we don’t have any really good pitching prospects coming up in the near future, so we’re going to be facing similar problems with starting pitching for at least the next couple years.

  24. milquetoast on August 18th, 2007 12:52 am

    I talked with a few more people who I respect about Contreras, market value of contracts, and how hard that contract would be to move this winter even if he flopped here, and realized that most of my initial reaction to the contract was based on a theoretical ideal and not on the reality of the actual liability of the money.

    Is this really true? While it is true Weaver, Wolf, Eaton, et al, got contracts, if the $10mil was really not so hard to move, then you’d think the Mariners (or some other team that needed pitching right now, or team that would’ve spent the money on him in the offseason) would’ve already picked Contreras up.

  25. JMHawkins on August 18th, 2007 1:09 am

    if the $10mil was really not so hard to move, then you’d think the Mariners (or some other team that needed pitching right now, or team that would’ve spent the money on him in the offseason) would’ve already picked Contreras up.

    I think Dave’s saying most of the contract would be easy to move, not all of it. If Contreras flops, we (or another team) would still have to eat between $4 and $8 million. So, teams have to weigh the money (and opportunity cost) against the value Contreras might bring to them. It really only makes sense for a playoff contender needing another pitcher for the stretch and, depending on what tools a team uses to evaluate Contreras, he’s not going to be an automatic upgrade for very many teams. The M’s are one of them.

  26. Notor on August 18th, 2007 1:28 am

    24- There are no other contending teams who have such a glaring hole at their 5th spot as the Mariners do. Except maybe the Dodgers and well, they’re making a play for him too. So that would explain why there aren’t people beating down the door for him, Contreras isn’t a great starter but he’s better than what we have, just not necessarily better than what other contenders do.

    Plus, the Mariners aren’t the only team that pays more attention to results rather than talent. San Diego released Wells after all, so that could explain why people could misconstrue his potential contribution.

  27. Rumpelstiltskin on August 18th, 2007 1:43 am

    I actually agree with chbrody…

  28. terry on August 18th, 2007 5:33 am

    So Contreras is like an ogre?

    Or is he a $20M onion?

    Either way he can’t hurt the flavor of this stew while he could possible really improve it.

  29. flippy on August 18th, 2007 7:17 am

    I think this is a tough one. If you can get him just for cash and you get the Whitesox to pick up part of the tab, I am all for it. Otherwise, I’m on the fence.

    It’s easy to spend $20mil when it’s not your money. He gave up 5 runs in “pitcher friendly” Safeco field. But is it worth the money to not have HoRam pitch? It just might be.

    This sums up how I feel about this potential move:

    rock: HoRam
    hardplace: $20 million for 2 years

    Basically what you are doing is spending $20 mil so HoRam WON’T pitch. I wouldn’t want to be Bill Bavasi right now. But that’s why he makes the big bucks.

    Question: Is the contract for the remainder of this year and one more year?

  30. etowncoug on August 18th, 2007 7:49 am

    Jose Contreras is about as feast or famine as any pitcher I can remember. I’m glad that Dave has signed on to adding this player when we are in a clear case of buy low.

    I could see Jose Contreras coming in and giving the ballclub 8-9 solid starts (maybe even being of use in the postseason) this year. Of course could just as likely flop, but even in this scenario I don’t see how it’s worse than standing pat with Horacio.

  31. uwsae on August 18th, 2007 8:01 am

    Can someone tell me the website where I can find out the starting lineups before the game?

  32. Nat Irons on August 18th, 2007 8:14 am

    Meanwhile, AP blithely stated as fact in its Aumont story that “Seattle is expected to put [Morrow] in its rotation to begin next season”. Is that credible?

    (also jive != jibe)

  33. argh on August 18th, 2007 8:18 am

    Dave – you were saying yesterday that Contreras’ fastball had dropped off markedly this year, down into the 80′s. Last night the announcers had him as high as 95 and you peg him this morning at 92-94. Did he actually pick up 6-8 mph over earlier performances this year or is there an observational problem here?

  34. joser on August 18th, 2007 9:03 am

    [dupe]

  35. msb on August 18th, 2007 9:52 am

    interestingly, the Trib doesn’t even mention the Mariners in the market:

    “The New York Mets had strong interest in Contreras before a losing streak that started in late June reached seven games.

    The Dodgers, trying to shore up their pitching to stay in playoff contention, were said to be reluctant to assume the $20 million owed Contreras through 2008-09.

    Philadelphia, which also is competing for a playoff berth, has had a scout follow the Sox from Oakland to Seattle on their current trip.”

  36. Walrus on August 18th, 2007 9:55 am

    Over at Churchill’s site, he mentions that the M’s are the one of the front runners for the hottest Dominican SS…and the signing bonus will be between $3 to 5 million…I wonder how much these two subjects are related???

  37. Teej on August 18th, 2007 10:06 am

    Over at Churchill’s site, he mentions that the M’s are the one of the front runners for the hottest Dominican SS…and the signing bonus will be between $3 to 5 million…I wonder how much these two subjects are related???

    I don’t see any connection. Contreras is Cuban.

  38. Gomez on August 18th, 2007 10:20 am

    Okay, so I thought about it overnight, when I wasn’t feeling horribly sick, and decided I’m cool with picking up Contreras. Even if we don’t manage to move him this winter, he’s a useful 4/5 starter and he’ll cost a bunch only through next season. He makes the team better now and isn’t all that marginally worse than other pitching options should he remain through 2008.

  39. IdahoInvader on August 18th, 2007 10:34 am

    38

    I noticed part of your phrase stated “he’ll cost a bunch only through NEXT season”

    I thought he was owed money through 2009. Is there a buyout after 2008?

  40. Gomez on August 18th, 2007 11:40 am

    Huh. Whoops. My mind subtracted a year and I thought this year was one of the $10 mil seasons. My mistake.

  41. Adam S on August 18th, 2007 12:07 pm

    “Seattle is expected to put [Morrow] in its rotation to begin next season”. Is that credible?
    Yes, assuming you mean the rotation at AA or AAA. At least we can only hope.

    There

  42. JJD on August 18th, 2007 12:12 pm

    I know what the results-based answer would be, but the D-Backs just released BK Kim, so ostensibly the M’s could try and catch lightning in a bottle with him (being new to the AL and all) for what I would assume to be very little cost. Do you think it would be worth conisdering plugging him into HoRam’s spot?

  43. Tropics iRE on August 18th, 2007 12:21 pm

    Sign Contreras!! I was just thinking that we needed another guy for the starting rotation DUH!!!

    (this could be a very real sign that the Mariners want to win now)

    I think that we could easily see a marked improvement from our starting staff if we just woke up and cut the dead weight.

    on the other hand i have heard this comment about the possible trade already…

    “We have enough Jose so and so’s, how about a Superstar!”

    (a major contract for another pitcher would still leave us well behind the BoSox, and the Yankers in payroll.)

    -Ti

  44. Karen on August 18th, 2007 12:31 pm

    Now that you got most of us on board re: the M’s acquiring Contreras, Dave, he’ll probably leave town still wearing “good guys black”. :)

    Up, down, excited, depressed, confident, woeful, happy, angry, up, down. What a season…

  45. Tek Jansen on August 18th, 2007 12:49 pm

    On the Fox pre-game show, of which I simply cannot get enough, Rosenthal said that Contreras was most likely to be dealt during the offseason. I trust him more than any other national writer.

  46. vj on August 18th, 2007 1:34 pm

    More than Gammons? Really?

  47. JIMINEDMONDS on August 18th, 2007 1:44 pm

    A veteran pitcher with play-off (and World Series championship) experience, who still has something in the tank, is most certainly an upgrade over the train-wreck that is trotted out every five days in the person of HoRam. C’mon Bavasi, bring Contreras on board. It might just be the best tonic that we can find to put us over the top.

  48. Tom on August 18th, 2007 2:29 pm

    Jose Contreras > David Wells > Horacio Ramirez = order of supremacy

  49. terry on August 18th, 2007 2:32 pm

    What type of an upgrade would Contreras represent?

    Contreras’ results have sucked since the all-star break as he’s given up 35 earned runs in 34 IP. That said, recently Dave has effectively preached from his soapbox about the flaws of evaluating players using a results-based analysis philosophy. In light of that, here’s a quick look at some of Contreras’ peripherals for his pre/post ASB splits:

    pre-ASB: 100 IP;
    BB%:8.1; K%: 13.1; GB%: 33.4; FB%: 25.5; LD%: 15.9; HR/FB: 6.0; FIP: 4.04; BABIP: .302;

    post-ASB: 34 IP;
    BB%: 6.0; K%: 12.5; GB%: 32.1; FB%: 33.3; LD%: 9.5; HR/FB: 16.1; FIP: 6.33; BABIP: .367;

    Looking at Contreras’ peripherals, the biggest changes are that more of his fly balls have went yard in the second half (that is more luck than reflective of a skill) and he’s been more hit unlucky even though his LD% is significantly lower. Perhaps it’s a matter of location troubles (i.e. leaving things up in the zone). Maybe he’s just been very unlucky and his mistakes are just getting pounded during this stretch. In any event, these numbers don’t refute an assertion that Contreras’ skill set is there but lady luck hasn’t been. Given what we’ve seen last night, his stuff seems there.

    So then if it’s reasonable to conclude that Contreras’ skill set is sufficient for him to represent an upgrade over HoRam, the next question is what might the impact of switching the two pitchers be over the remaining quarter of the season? We’re basically talking about 8 regular season starts and then perhaps 4 post season ones. Assuming those 8 starts translate into 50 IP (the math is much easier and this is just a rough estimate anyway), could Contreras really do enough to give the Ms a better chance at those post season starts?

    Here’s few scenarios that might capture a reasonable range for the impact of replacing HoRam with Contreras over the remainder of the season. If both pitchers simply maintain their current ERAs (JC: 6.18; HR: 7.38), Contreras would be a 7 run upgrade or something less than a win. BTW, could there be worse initials for a pitcher than HR? If HoRam maintains and Contreras’ ERA matches his current xFIP (5.12), JC would be an 11 run upgrade as an M over those 50 IP representing a win improvement. If HoRam maintains and the Ms catch lightning in a bottle with Contreras having a league average ERA (4.60 for AL starters), then JC represents a 15 run upgrade or a bonafide 1.5 win advantage. Thus, while it’s probably not debatable that Contreras is an upgrade over Ramirez, the magnitude of the upgrade during the Ms playoff push could range anywhere from much to do about nothing to a significant boost.

    In my mind, if Contreras is indeed the best arm available, the Ms should do something potentially stupid from a long term perspective in order to chase that potential 1.5 win boost assuming money and not talent is the major component of such a deal. Dave’s argument about the financial aspects of the pitching market greatly strengthen this conclusion because, if Dave is right, the risk is greatly reduced.

  50. Rumpelstiltskin on August 18th, 2007 2:36 pm

    But Ramirez is only 27 and the M’s are 8-6 in his starts…

  51. Tek Jansen on August 18th, 2007 3:20 pm

    I loved Gammons just as a writer, but when it comes to breaking info about teams, players, and trades, Rosenthal is as good as national writers get, in my opinion.

  52. LA M's Fan on August 18th, 2007 3:57 pm

    Just want to take a second to point out how completely asinine the Fox Broadcasters are today. My head is about to spontaneously combust.

  53. joser on August 18th, 2007 4:12 pm

    So the thing that really jumps out when looking at Contreras’ stats is that his strand rate has fallen dramatically (both relative to his historical average and to MLB pitchers as a whole) this season. And it looks like he was doing really well the first couple of months this year, and suddenly has been giving up flys instead of line drives or grounders (Fangraphs shows this in dramatic fashion — ignore the upper graph: his average looks in-line with his history because the first couple months of the season were very good, balancing out the last six weeks). Which leads to the question: what happened to him beginning with that June 24 start? Since then, he’s only had two games (June 29 @ KC and July 25 vs the Tigers) where his flyball rate was within his historical range. Now, he has been punished by some hitters’ parks — some of those flyballs have been HRs when they probably would’ve been merely long outs in Safeco — but the flyball rate isn’t characteristic of the park. It’s a characteristic of the pitcher, and in this case it’s not a good one. There’s no way that’s just bad luck. Something has happened to him. What is it, and is it fixable? Obviously, if anybody really knew it would be fixed already. And I don’t have a lot of confidence in the M’s coaching staff having the necessary magic pixie dust… but then again we have the Weaver experience as a counter-example, so I guess anything is possible.

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