In praise of Vidro

DMZ · September 8, 2007 at 10:32 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Sincerely. I realized today while looking something else up that I hadn’t pointed out that Vidro leads the Mariners in walks. We’ve talked about why having a batting-average dependent offense can make for a streaky team, and I’ve been baffled why Vidro’s been able to keep up that high BABIP, but I don’t think we’ve pointed out what a huge deal this is. Sure, he’s not a base-stealing threat when he’s no, but he’s drawn 56 walks on a team that is by a ways the worst in the AL at taking a free base.

Vidro, all by himself, accounts for 17% – almost 1/5th – of the team’s walks. David Ortiz walks like crazy on the Red Sox, the AL walk-leading team (he has 97 of their 611) and doesn’t quite get to that proportion.

Fun side note: the Red Sox have five players who have draw more walks than Vidro.

Nick Swisher of the A’s has 94 of their 575, for 16% (16.3 to Vidro’s 16.5). Alex Rodriguez (82 of 540) doesn’t match it.

The M’s are mid-league offense, even adjusting for Safeco, their attack based almost entirely around batting average: they’re 4th in AVG, 6th in OBP (last in walks), 7th in SLG.

The team has only a few sources of any real power: Beltre, followed a ways behind by Ibanez, Johjima, Guillen, Betancourt. They’re not a power-hitting lineup.

Vidro is the team’s Beltre of walks. I know. But there it is. What’s all the more impressive about it is that he’s working in a team that actively encourages their players to hack early and often, and yet there he is… 56 walks. The confused and frightened and possibly post-cliff Sexson has 51, but the only other effective hitter in the lineup, Ibanez, has 43. Vidro’s the only person who’s really bringing plate discipline to the plate, and he’s been doing it despite a team offensive approach that makes it extremely difficult to do that.

That deserves some recognition, and applause. You have to wonder if he’d be even more effective if they weren’t trying to get him to swing at the first two pitches of every at-bat.

Comments

33 Responses to “In praise of Vidro”

  1. Scow Bay on September 8th, 2007 11:10 pm

    Minor typo question. Should the word “no” in the fourth sentence of the first paragraph ” he’s not a base-stealing threat when he’s no” really be on?

  2. davepaisley on September 8th, 2007 11:53 pm

    …and hell freezes over.

  3. AngrySam on September 9th, 2007 12:44 am

    I was seriously confused at the notion people seemed to have that Vidro was going to get benched when Adam Jones came up. He’s always had a great eye at the plate, and performed well in the 2nd batting spot. After a little adjustment to the American League and DHing he’s put together a great season as an unorthodox low-power-high-OBP designated hitter. Funny thing is, as you point out he’s not a Swisher or Youkilis walks machine. Vidro is just a good hitter on a team that’s being taught to hack at everything.

    If McLaren knew what he was doing, he’d bench Sexson, put Vidro at first, make Ibanez the DH, and put Jones in the outfield. But then again, McLaren doesn’t know what he’s doing.

  4. AngrySam on September 9th, 2007 12:50 am

    Ooops, by OBP I meant AVG. Teehee.

  5. Chris88 on September 9th, 2007 1:07 am

    I guess its just unfortunate that the rest of the time he gets on base with some of the most pathetic singles I’ve ever seen.

  6. etowncoug on September 9th, 2007 1:22 am

    I think Vidro gets away with walking as much as he does because he rarely strikes out and he has a good batting average. This organization hates strikeouts and low BA’s. Good for Vidro.

  7. aaronsawyer1 on September 9th, 2007 1:35 am

    It’s about time something positive was said about Vidro. I know the numbers, the numbers, but can’t a guy get some props when he does better than expected? Thank you for a positive blast on a guy you’ve dumped on more than his fair share.

  8. Teej on September 9th, 2007 2:23 am

    Even if his numbers are pretty bad compared with other DH’s, Vidro has at the very least been a pleasant surprise. If he were still a 2B putting up those numbers, I’d be much more pleased, but I’m in full agreement that a nice atta boy is in order for the only guy on the team who takes pitches.

  9. thefin190 on September 9th, 2007 2:26 am

    Well even Ken Rosenthal was going on about how Mariners are last in number of pitches in pitch count and how they draw the fewest walks and how the hitters are the most impatient in the league. Would a new hitting coach help at all? Or just a new manager?

  10. Teej on September 9th, 2007 2:30 am

    It’s hard to blame plate discipline on the manager. I think it’s an institutional thing, though, so maybe a little bit. I would assume it’s more of a problem of the M’s not stressing it in the minors when these kids like Lopez and Betancourt are developing. Then you add in free-swinging free agents like Beltre and Johjima, and all of a sudden you’ve got a team full of guys hacking at every pitch.

  11. Typical Idiot Fan on September 9th, 2007 2:30 am

    6,

    Neither, really. It’s an organizational philosophy. The Mariners go out and get players just like that in the draft and international signings, and sign them as free agents.

    A new coach or manager would be picked who agrees with that philosophy, or at least one who would toe that line whether he liked it or not.

  12. thefin190 on September 9th, 2007 2:38 am

    Yea its unfortunate. You kind of wish the M’s had management such as oakland or boston, where their hitters are very patient. You think it would make sense, making the pitcher try to pitch to you. Alot of times it seems like the Mariners swing at crap when there is a something and 2 count and the game is on the line.

  13. Oly Rainiers Fan on September 9th, 2007 4:11 am

    9: yes, to some degree, oakland identifies plate discipline as something they’d like to have BEFORE they acquire the player – but if the player they acquire doesn’t have it…they use their entire farm system, up and down the system, to FORCE the issue.

    It is an organizational philosophy. Where we have none, of any discernible kind. Or, we might just call ours ‘keep doing whatever you were doing that made us think you were good enough to acquire and hopefully, we will be proven right’.

  14. argh on September 9th, 2007 6:52 am

    a team that actively encourages their players to hack early and often

    Derek (or anyone knowledgeable) is there any coherent theory of baseball behind the Mariners’ wild-swinging ways at the plate?

  15. argh on September 9th, 2007 7:00 am

    Sorry about the extra italics there – not sure how I managed that.

  16. terry on September 9th, 2007 7:02 am

    Vidro’s walk rate (10%) is slightly above league average (8.5%) but is below average relative to his fellow DH’s (11%)….. yaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!! (yawn)

  17. msb on September 9th, 2007 7:52 am

    I would assume it’s more of a problem of the M’s not stressing it in the minors when these kids like Lopez and Betancourt are developing.

    and that players like Lopez & Betancourt are not spending much time in the minors to start with…

  18. dennismk on September 9th, 2007 8:37 am

    I think part of the reason why this decline has been so intense and personal for so many people is due to its unexpectedness. Prior to the start of the Angels series at home, there was no inkling of anything serious/negative/wrong happening in terms of team chemistry, dynamics, etc. And even though the team has lost 13 of its last 14 games, the team insists that there is nothing the matter and not even a significant roster change is necessary. Of course how drastic of a roster change can occur when the most serious flaw in your team happens to be the starters? Look at the starters for the Angels, Yankees, Twins and Tigers…only the Bronxsters have a weakness there but because of their situation they’ve tried out more pitchers and have hit upon a group that works through sheer numbers, trial and error…with the exception of the #5 slot, NOTHING has changed with Seattle.

    I fully expect a drastic change at the top regarding this team and it will be completely deserved because unlike previous recent years where mediocrity was the defining quality throughout the year, to be so good and consistent up to the end of August and then have the engine fall out of the car like this says something worse about how this team has been managed and maintained throughout a season, not just 3/4s of it…and if no drastic change occurs then expect a fall-off in interest and support the likes of which the Ms have never seen before.

    Thank goodness for the blogs and opportunities for other voices to be heard than the standard team-shills. With each new loss the spinners like Blowers, Charlton and Valle all lose a little more credibility in the eyes of the fans who honestly DO know better.

    I mean really….would it really hurt if JUST ONCE a MAJOR roster change should occur, like AJ in left, WB in right, Bloomie at 2nd, JV at 1st and RI as DH? I think of all the things McL has done that has been the most damaging to the team psyche, it’s insisting that the old roster is fine…by not making any major changes, he personifies every ‘denial’ trait in the books.

  19. dennismk on September 9th, 2007 8:45 am

    You said:

    The team has only a few sources of any real power: Beltre, followed a ways behind by Ibanez, Johjima, Guillen, Betancourt. They’re not a power-hitting lineup.

    Has anyone NOT looked at the opposition’s lineup lately (whether Yankees, Angels, Twins or Tigers) and cringed at the amount of sheer hitting power in literally every position, not just one, two or three spots? Whereas the Ms…once you get past AB, you’re probably in the clear until #3 or 4 comes around again.

    If anything typifies the ‘Rudy’, ‘Breaking Away’ nature of this team, it’s the fact that just by showing up, the other side seems huge, imposing and professional…compared to the Ms who have to have everything go right in order to just have a CHANCE.

    For the first time this year, I am going to predict that we will not finish at .500, the As will catch us for 2nd place, and no major FO or coaching changes will occur.

    I HOPE THAT I AM WRONG.

  20. msb on September 9th, 2007 9:07 am

    With each new loss the spinners like Blowers, Charlton and Valle

    well, FWIW, aside from their stautus as former players, Blowers & Charleton are current Mariner employees and Valle was one for almost a decade …

  21. Oly Rainiers Fan on September 9th, 2007 9:15 am

    15: how on earth can you say that this team was good and CONSISTENT until this latest losing streak? this team had several long losing streaks, compensated for by several long winning streaks all year long.

    It was never consistent, nor was it ever predicted to be particularly good but rather…particularly mediocre. The fact that the team as a whole is coming back down to what was predicted is no different than individual players like Ibanez or Vidro regressing to their expectations. It’s just the same kind of illusion in both instances (i.e., ‘oooh, we’re winning and gaining ground, we must therefore have a go

  22. Oly Rainiers Fan on September 9th, 2007 9:16 am

    Sorry, wasn’t finished.

    Anyway, it’s the same kind of illusion in both instances, based on emotion rather than analysis.

    ‘Oooh, the team MUST be good because we are winning and gaining ground’ is the same type of evaluation point as ‘oooh, the player MUST be good because he’s hitting well right now’.

  23. argh on September 9th, 2007 10:09 am

    This team is collapsing right back to the pygathorean win expectancy level. Mean ol’ Mr. Number strikes again I guess.

  24. terry on September 9th, 2007 12:46 pm

    I’m not a pessimist by nature but I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop with the Ms since July. The Ms roster simply isn’t as good as the other legitimate playoff contenders and their collective brain trust isn’t exactly enlightened so rapid adaptation isn’t an option for them. Really you didn’t get the feeling that the Ms were going to leverage advantages or squeeze every ounce of ability out of their roster. Then they entered their “desert of no respite” (i.e. their span of 596 games in 40 days) in which they played some stiff competition and unfortunately all of their flaws came to bare. Really the Gods doomed them with snow in April. The Ms margin of error couldn’t even withstand a couple inches of snow!? Those on Mt. Olympus can kiss my arse. Then after purposefully adding a few nail holes to their own canteen in Parrish and White, it’s no real surprise that the Ms ran out of water. You would think the Gods would direct their folly on someone whose downfall would be more tragic and less deserved.

    Winning is always more fun than losing and I LOVE the underdog. There just wasn’t a sense that the Ms could overcome some of the serious flaws in their roster IMHO. That said, they came pretty close and despite the frustration of seeing them flame out, I’m pretty grateful for an unexpected gift of a season.

  25. jlc on September 9th, 2007 1:52 pm

    Did somebody post the Rosenthal article here? McLaren loves the fact that these guys are free swingers and is concerned about trying to change it much. That makes Vidro’s discipline all the more amazing.

  26. Karen on September 9th, 2007 1:57 pm

    #23. That’s “Pythagorean”, not “pygathorean”, argh.

    Just in case you ever have to type it again… :)

  27. argh on September 9th, 2007 2:54 pm

    Knowing how to spell it and successfully commanding the fingers to perform are two different issues.

  28. Chris88 on September 9th, 2007 7:14 pm

    I hate our organizations whole “It worked before, its worked a bit recently, why change it now.”

    I mean, they don’t even bother to see if there is something that works better EVERY time. Not just this one way of hitting, or this one lineup, because it has worked a few times.

    The Devil Rays win occasionally, that doesn’t mean what they are doing is the best way. Heck, a horse-drawn carriage worked for a long time. I guess if you are a Mariner it is time to saddle up?

  29. Steve T on September 9th, 2007 7:27 pm

    I’m sorry, I’m not buying it. Vidro is not patient, and he does not have a good eye. He sucks at drawing walks — it’s just that everyone else on this team of non-walkers sucks worse.

    Saying that because he leads the team he’s good at it is a bit too much like “doesn’t sweat much for a fat girl” to me. I’d be a lot happier if someone was a threat to break 100 — i.e., was an ACTUAL patient hitter.

  30. DMZ on September 9th, 2007 9:09 pm

    Man. I try and find something nice to say about Vidro, and that’s all I get for it? I mean… I know, he’s not patient – clearly, the stats of the other guys show that, and sure, I’d be happier if he was drawing 100, but it’s something nice I wanted to point out.

  31. gwangung on September 9th, 2007 9:37 pm

    Man. I try and find something nice to say about Vidro, and that’s all I get for it? I mean… I know, he’s not patient – clearly, the stats of the other guys show that, and sure, I’d be happier if he was drawing 100, but it’s something nice I wanted to point out.

    True.

    And when all else fails, go the route of positive reinforcement. Condition with praise for minor goodness, no matter how small, and maybe the rest of the donkey (term used purposefully) will follow…

  32. Jordan of Boise on September 9th, 2007 11:22 pm

    “He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

  33. portlysimpering on September 10th, 2007 12:34 pm

    I don’t disagree with the standard USSM analysis that picking up Vidro made little sense, because of the glut at 1B/DH, but at least Vidro has turned out to be somewhat of a solution to a problem:

    Batting 2nd, 2007: M’s .366/.404 (JV 83g .384/.404, also AB & JL); Opponents .359/.470

    Batting 2nd, 2006: M’s .329/.471 (Lopez 74g .316/.449, Beltre 61g .367/.574); Opponents .328/.413

    Batting 2nd, 2005: M’s .315/.369 (Winn .326/.402, also JR & WB); Opponents .344/.395

    Batting 2nd, 2004: M’s .336/.421 (Winn .343/.439); Opponents .339/.420

    The only time from 2004-2006 Mariners had good production at #2 was when they stuck Beltre there. Vidro, whether his BABIP is due to luck (essentially an unknown), or whether you think his above-average walk rate “sucks” (known), has at least been able to post a decent (if “> Ichiro career” qualifies) OBP this year. Then again, an extra .05 of OBP in the #2 hole is probably of less use to the M’s than to any other team anyway….

    2006 stats (e.g.) found at: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/Statistics/Team/playerstats?team=sea&seasonYear=2006&split=110&seasonType=2&type=reg&pagetype=batting

    Bonus running-around-espn note: Angels DH’s (resting regulars) have hit .304/.365 this year. It’s interesting that three teams have threat-to-lead-in-OPS type DH’s (Ortiz, Hafner, Thome), four teams have semi-retired superstars born in 1968 (Sheffield, Thomas, Sosa, Piazza), 6 teams use a player chosen at random and the Mariners have Vidro. They’re at least thinking outside the box.

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