Guillen’s extension: no thanks

August 29, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 74 Comments 

Dave’s off his rocker. Guillen’s been a nice pickup, no doubt, and we’re all happy he’s here, but the M’s already have roster problems in the outfield: Jones needs to start in 08, and we’ve also got Balentien, who has made huge strides offensively this year and looks ready. Both of those guys have potential coming out their ears, and they’re as close to free as to make no odds. To make room for Jones, someone’s got go to somewhere, and it ought to be Ibanez to DH or 1B, pushing Sexson out. Then to play Balentien, you can’t retain Guillen, since Ichiro’s not going anywhere…

I’m not all that worried that Guillen’s going to drop off a cliff or anything, though that’s certainly possible. Or even that the contract’s outrageous, because it’s not — though I’ll point out that it’s another great example of teams not learning from success. “Hey, we turned this random guy into an ace closer! No way that would happen again! Let’s give them a 10y, $230m extension!” “Hey, we found a pretty good outfielder on the scrap heap and only had to pay them a couple million! There’s no chance we’d ever be that saavy twice — extend that player’s contract!” There will be Jose Guillen-type finds next year. The M’s just won’t be making them.

And I don’t care that it means the team would be starting 08 with two new outfielders. They’re the best option the team has, and an Ichiro-Jones-Balentien outfield would be a huge defensive upgrade over this year’s.

But think even beyond that: this team has a huge gaping hole of a rotation for next year. I’m all for free talent acquisition, especially gambling in the 4-5 slots, but as we’ve seen, the team desperately needs to upgrade the rotation. Considering how they’ve doled out the payroll in past years, it’s entirely possible that $10m’s going to be the difference between giving Schilling or whoever a short, extremely lucrative deal and seeing who wants to come on board for $6.5m and free Moose rides.

The M’s have better, cheaper long-term solutions that will help build a young core that can compete for championships. They have better uses for the money. They’re paying for security when security’s not what the team needs.

A few quick notes

August 29, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 57 Comments 

Okay, a couple of items, two even baseball related, that I need to get up before the game thread.

1. A friend of mine is starting a non-profit and needs some immediate help from an experienced web designer. If you’re interested in helping fix some code and get the site live, and can offer some assistance in the next couple of days, drop us a line.

2. John Hickey reports that Jose Guillen and the M’s are close to a three year contract extension. These negotiations haven’t been any kind of secret, and it’s been known for a while now that this was probably going to happen. It will get its own post when it becomes official, but I’m guessing it’s coming in around 3 years and $30 million, and if so, I’m on board – Guillen’s a quality player that the M’s should be interested in retaining.

3. I’m proud to have never watched one second of Dancing With The Stars, but that might change this fall – my cousin, Josie Maran, is part of the new cast. No, I have no idea how she and I came from the same gene pool, but she obviously hogged all the good looking genes. Go Josie.

4. Happy Felix Day.


August 29, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 95 Comments 

That one hurts. Up 5-0 after the first inning, having chased the other team’s starter, and end up losing 10-6? There’s failure on all fronts in that kind of performance.

1. Jeff Weaver failed. Spotted a big lead against a team that doesn’t have a great offense, he allowed the Angels to put the bat on the ball far too often and bad things resulted. Now, this is part of the deal with a pitcher of Weaver’s skillset, so it’s hard to be too tough on him – he’s a mediocre #5 starter, and stuff like this happens to mediocre #5 starters. But it was bad timing, to say the least.

2. The offense failed. After knocking Ervin Santana out early, they proceeded to let Dustin Mosely get through the next 5 1/3 innings on 54 pitches. We all know the M’s have built an aggressive offense, but seriously, do these guys have no ability to take a pitch? Ever? You’ve just bounced the other team’s starter in the first inning, and now their bullpen is going to have to get 25 outs, plus you’re playing them in a day game tomorrow – make the arms work and churn through their bullpen. That it only took the Angels three pitchers to finish out the last 8 2/3 innings is a total joke.

3. The bullpen failed. They’ve been the rock of the team all year long, so they’re allowed to let some runs in occassionally, but Sean Green and Brandon Morrow chose a bad time to stop being unhittable.

4. And finally, John McLaren failed. Spectacularly. He continues to demonstrate a massive lack of understanding of actual baseball strategy that is staggering in depth. Sean Green gets to face Vladimir Guerrero with first base open because Vlad was 0 for 4 career against Green? That’s the kind of analysis I’d expect from a six year old. You have to have a complete lack of understanding of the the uses of statistics to decide that an 0-for-4 means something, but McLaren clings to it to make a terrible, and crucial, decision in a game that could swing the tide of the playoff race.

Then, the unbelievable capper.

Bases loaded, two outs, top of the 8th, trailing by one run – this is the most important at-bat of the game, even before accounting for the fact that Vladimir Guerrero is the one coming to the plate. The leverage index of this situation was 2.92, and remember, its scaled where 1.00 is exactly average and anything over 1.8 is considered high pressure – 2.92 is nail-biting, game-changing, biggest-play-of-the-game territory.

John McLaren chose Rick White. Rick White. The worst pitcher in the bullpen. Rick White would be the worst pitcher in almost every bullpen in the American League, and certainly the worst pitcher on any contending team in the A.L. He’s not a major league pitcher, and he hasn’t been for a while now. The people who tell you he is simply don’t understand how to evaluate pitchers. The only scenario where carrying Rick White is a defensible position is if you intend to use him to pitch in already decided games, for multiple innings, and let him be a veteran voice for the kids in the bullpen. Rick White’s skills, at this point, are essentially those of a coach, not a player.

That’s not how John McLaren sees him. John McLaren sees a guy who has experience, and above all else, he values track records, and of course, Rick White has a track record against Vladimir Guerrero. 2-12 in his career – this must be a good matchup, right? Uhh, no. Look at the years when those matchups occurred. Individual batter-pitcher stats mean less than nothing. They should not be used to make any kind of in game strategical decision.

It matters not that Rick White has as much business on the mound as you or I do in a close game in a playoff race. The result, of course, wasn’t hard to see coming – a couple of base hits, the bases clear, and the game is essentially over.

George Sherrill is then brought in to pitch mopup work in the 9th inning of a game the team trailed 10-6 and had little chance of winning. J.J. Putz never pitched. The Mariners, in a game that could very well cost them a chance at the division title, chose Rick White over George Sherrill or J.J. Putz. That’s incompetence of a level that I can’t even define.

Last nights game was a team wide failure. You can lay blame at the feet of practically everyone on the roster. At this point, there’s only one thing to say:

Please, Felix, save us.

Game 130, Angels at Mariners

August 28, 2007 · Filed Under Game Threads · 462 Comments 

Santana v Weaver. 7:05. Bloomquist at second to ignite a struggling offense.

A brief moment to discuss the ineptness of the Jones call-up

August 28, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 37 Comments 

From Hickey’s blog:

In part because of that, manager John McLaren has talked to Jones about the possibility of playing winter baseball.

Jones wasn’t a huge fan of the idea last year – when he also spent huge amounts of time on the Seattle bench down the stretch – but McLaren says the outfielder has been receptive to the idea, although nothing has been finalized.

Jones was ready to help the team in May. However, there’s no place on the team for him, because
a) he’s not a veteran
b) the team’s winning so they refuse to make moves to make themselves better, hence
c) they’re unwilling to find ways to get him playing time, so
d) he doesn’t get playing time, exacerbating his defensive problems because he’s almost never playing
e) even in mop-up games

If Jones had come up and hit .900 with good power, no doubt they’d be finding a way to get him more playing time, because he’d be helping the team. But because he’s barely over .200, they’re finding ways to keep him on the bench, even though his skills are exactly the same as if he’d started hot. He would still help the team, and there are still ways to get him time.

There’s no reason, none at all, to believe that Jones, who proved there was nothing left for him to learn in Tacoma, and proved it to everyone who saw him or could read a statline, suddenly forgot how to field, forgot how to hit.

Every other team with a prospect of Jones’s value called their guys up, most of them much, much earlier, and found ways to get them into the lineup to help them.

That the M’s are still unable to figure out how to get Jones playing time with a roster that provides such clear, obvious opportunities to get Jones playing time — and that their solution to this is not to get smarter, or more flexible, or even more persuasive in making the case to Ibanez/Vidro/whoever that a regular outfield rotation’s a good thing, but to send Jones to winter ball, where he’ll face competition far, far below what he would be stomping in Tacoma — is a pretty stunning indictment of the club’s inability to do a reasonable job looking at the whole roster, and to put the best team on the field every day.

They didn’t call Jones up because they thought he would hurt the team. For that moment, at least, they saw a way to make the team better, and then they chickened out.

Update: Ibanez has only started in three games by my count against lefties, 2 against Danks and one against Santana, and went .250 (3-12) with a walk, a HBP, and a double. Not facing lefties has been a big part of Ibanez’s performance this month. So far this year, Ibanez has been hitting .267/.297/.351 against lefties.

Good news

August 28, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 126 Comments 

Last nights game sucked. Lets just get that out of the way ahead of time.

That said, I wouldn’t worry about the offense. That was the third time this year John Lackey has shut us down, and in the previous two games following the beatdown, the M’s combined for 31 hits against Bartolo Colon and Jered Weaver. As we talked about last week, the M’s hyper-aggressive offense leads to high variability, and on any given night, against any pitcher, they can get either put up a goose egg or a 10 spot and it shouldn’t surprise us.

Also, much is being made this morning of Jose Lopez missing the tag on Gary Matthews at second base last night. Without making any excuses for Lopez (yes, a more aggressive tag would have helped), can we give Gary Matthews Jr some credit for making one of the best slides of the year? The pop-up slide isn’t exactly a routine fundamental that everyone can pull off, and that one was beautiful. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a runner be able to pull off a pop-up slide that effectively to avoid the tag. Lopez could have made the whole thing moot by not waiting for Matthews to slide into his glove, but let’s be honest – 99.5% of the time, the runner does slide right into the glove, and no one says a word to Lopez about his tag.

This actually is becoming something of a bigger issue. The club has, over the years, been quite happy to let the media and fans know how unhappy they have been with Lopez’s work ethic, his conditioning, and his lack of concentration. It has essentially become part of the narrative. A couple of recent high profile mistakes in the field are now feeding into the already established belief (and one that has foundations in truth) that Lopez can hurt you at times with his faux pas. However, the problem arises when people begin to incorrectly value the actual cost of these mistakes.

For all the frustration you may have for Lopez missing the tag last night, he was still a plus with his glove on the night. His double play in the first inning was a thing of beauty, one of the toughest DPs you’ll ever see a second baseman have to turn. Thanks to improved footwork and somewhat above average range, Lopez is actually a defensive asset. This gets lost in all the “oh my god I can’t believe he didn’t get the tag down” hoopla. Yes, he made a mistake, but taking the stance that those are the kinds of plays that a team “can’t tolerate in a playoff run” is just missing the forest from the trees. If you take Jose Lopez out of the line-up, you’re actually degrading the defense. And this isn’t a defense that can afford to get any worse.

Game 129, Angels at Mariners

August 27, 2007 · Filed Under Game Threads · 298 Comments 

Lackey, who is awesome, against Batista, who is Batista.

M’s lineup is standard. Angels:

DH Willits (.400 OBP)
SS Cabrera (.349 OBP)
RF Guerrero (.399 OBP)
LF Anderson (.306 OBP)
3B Izturis (.333 OBP)
CF Matthews (328 OBP)
1B Morales (.305 OBP in ~60 PA)
2B Kendrick (.338 OBP)
C Mathis (.257 OBP)

Dave notes: Angels #9 hitters are hitting .231/.284/.298 this year. Can you imagine if we blogged the Angels? Holy moly.

If you wished McLaren was more creative, well, sometimes that’s not good. Wow.

I’m going to continue to frown at my stupid USB Flash drive until game time in the hopes it stops crapping out on me weirdly, so… play nice while I’m furrowing my brow.

Happy Big Series Day

August 27, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 164 Comments 

Welcome to the start of playoff baseball. If the M’s are serious about playing in October, then we’ll need to see some good performances the next three days. For the Mariners, now two games behind the Angels, to give themselves a legitimate chance at winning this division, they can’t afford to give up ground. They need to close the gap, not widen it.

This is the most important three game homestand Safeco has seen in years. Here’s to hoping for a packed house and some big hits tonight.

Game 128, Mariners at Rangers

August 26, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 184 Comments 

5:35, Washburn v Padilla.

And Burke catches.

The Rangers lineup moves Saltalamacchia behind the plate and Wilkerson plays first.

Yankees lost to Detroit, Boston beat the White Sox, Cleveland beat KC

Responsibility for the loss

August 26, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 54 Comments 

A quick thought that ties back into Mariners of the past: Ramirez threw 5.2 innings last night, got two strikeouts, walked three, so there were fifteen balls put into play, and one went over a fence. Despite Beltre’s error, the defense did a decent enough job turning those balls in play into outs. The M’s put twelve balls into play against Wright and seven of them went for hits.

The general baseline for a starting pitcher over five innings is about six hits, two walks, four strikeouts, and most of a home run (for 9 IP, you figure ~9H, ~4BB, 6K, 1 HR).

Ramirez didn’t have a good outing. He certainly wasn’t masterful. He was better than much of what we’ve seen of him, but this was not a magically fixed Ramirez, restored to the glory the M’s thought they’d acquired in the offseason. That sounds meaner than I meant it. And, the way the game played out, the M’s win if Beltre doesn’t make two throwing errors.

And yet we can’t assign blame to Beltre for the loss, for two reasons:

That Beltre making a play would have ended the inning should not relieve Ramirez of responsibility for giving up a three-run home run to Kinsler. I know this sounds obvious, but Beltre didn’t throw that pitch. The seventh, obviously, a little harder to make that argument, since the error went so far as to set up Kinsler at third for the sac bunt.

The distinction between earned and unearned runs is artificial and here, makes Ramirez look like a saint – he’d have thrown a shutout if it wasn’t for those errors, right?

Second,if you pitch to contact, you’re going to lose games like this. This is the Ryan Franklin live-and-die-by-the-sword problem: if you pitch to contact, trying to keep from walking guys, and your stuff isn’t swing-and-miss good, then you’re taking the chance that all those balls that are put into play will be turned into outs by the guys behind you. If it works, you put up some wicked lines and look like you’re dominating the competition, and if it doesn’t – either because the other offense puts the ball into play really hard or because the defense doesn’t come through – you get smacked around a little.

That’s what we got last night. So yeah, Beltre looks like a goat for a day because two of his rare errors came on the same night and were the difference. But we don’t get to pick and choose when those things happen (“Hey Beltre, we’re up by 10 — plunk the Moose on your next throw to first! Plunk him! Do it!”).

Pitching to contact’s a gamble, and when the M’s run a good defensive alignment out there, it’s a pretty good one. It didn’t work out last night. I don’t think we need to flog Beltre for it.

Yours sincerely,

Chief Beltre Defender Derek
“Since 2005”

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