A quarter down, three quarters to go

DMZ · May 13, 2008 at 10:10 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Before the season started, I said that we’d learn a lot about the M’s in the first month – that big questions like whether Sexson would rebound would be answered pretty quickly, and those answers would determine the course of the year.

We’re over a quarter done with the year now, and the team is 15-26, the worst team in the majors.

horsies! yay!

Golden girls” by Kvetina-Marie, cc-licensed

We have some answers. For instance:

Is this the year the M’s get back to the playoffs?
No.

Overall
Offense: they stink
Pitching: pretty good. Well, it’s okay. It’s not horrible. It could be worse.
Defense: they stink

The offense
The Mariner team OBP is .309. That’s second worst in the majors. MLB average is .332.

Stat, rank in MLB
Batting average, 23
OBP, 29/30
SLG, 22/30

Their team line of .250/.309/.385 is like having nine 2007 Corey Pattersons, except they don’t play good defense.

Vidro’s done. Sexson’s rebounded a little, but he’s gone. His agent may already be working the phones looking for possible 2009 spring training non-roster invites. And in absolute terms, this shell of Sexson is the fifth-best hitter on the team so far. A .202/.294/.420 hitter is the fifth-best hitter.

They don’t hit for average, take walks, or hit for power. They have a couple players who can steal bases at an effective clip. They’re a lot like the wretched offenses we’ve seen the last couple of years, where a rally was three singles in an inning, scoring one run.

Offense, fortunately, may get better. Clement’s a helpful bat. Wlad’s an improvement over Wilkerson. Johjima’s not going to hit this badly all season. It may not ever be great, but the team they’re fielding a week from now is a lot better than the one they went into the season with.

Defense
It’s horrible. Before Tuesday’s game, the M’s were turning 68.7% of balls in play into outs. That’s 28/30th in the majors, dead last in the AL. I know that some people thought that Yuni would rebound, not making so many errors, but last year they were 27/30, at 67.8% — I never understood why the M’s had a good defensive reputation.

Defensive improvements are cheap, effective, and can turn a team around so fast analysts will be scraping for explanations. Take the Orioles, at .500. Baltimore’s defensive efficiency last year was middling – 18 out of 30 teams at .691. This year so far they’re 1st at .734.

There are three major defensive changes:
- Luis Hernandez replaces Miguel Tejeda
- Luke Scott replaces Jay Payton (who is still managing to rack up a lot of at-bats).
- Adam Jones replaces Corey Patterson, who was no slouch in center

Now they’re turning hits into outs, the pitching staff looks stronger, and they’re playing over their heads (or at least over expectations).

And it’s worth noting that it’s not enough to pick on, say, Raul, for his horrible defense. It’s been a team effort. Even when you can’t point at an error that costs a run or a game, poor defense has a cost. Every ball that drops in is important. The pitcher has to get another out, if nothing else, and that’s extra pitches that have to come from somewhere, so the bullpen’s ever so slightly more worn. It turns the lineup over again. Poor defense is death by paper cuts: singles into doubles, outs into singles, double plays broken, stolen bases into advancing to third on an error.

They should get a little better swapping out right field, but not that much. They’re not going to go worst to first in-season without a massive tear down. We have to bear this.

Bench
I wrote a lot about this as we went into the season, but this bench sucks, and it’s worse with Mike Morse out. Cairo sucks. Vidro’s not much better. There’s no good backup outfielder. They don’t offer McLaren good in-game options, not that he’d — I’m getting ahead of myself.

Pitching
I haven’t done this a while, and this is always a useful baseline.

Name		IP	H%	HR%	BB%	K%
Green		21.1	17%	1%	13%	21%
Corcoran	10.2	18%	0%	9%	16%
Morrow		8.2	18%	6%	6%	39%
Rhodes		8	19%	0%	16%	24%
Hernandez	55.1	23%	2%	9%	20%
Bedard		33.2	19%	4%	12%	19%
Rowland-Smith	16.2	21%	1%	10%	21%
Silva		52	26%	3%	5%	9%
Lowe		14	24%	0%	17%	18%
Baek		25	19%	3%	12%	13%
Batista		40.1	25%	1%	14%	16%
Putz		8	26%	2%	17%	26%
Washburn	44.1	27%	4%	5%	14%
Dickey		7	26%	0%	6%	10%
O'Flaherty	6.2	40%	5%	10%	10%

(updated to fix a calculation error)

An average pitcher is ~16% H, 3% HR, 11% BB, and 16% K

Surprisingly, the only pitchers really above average in all of the good pitcher-controllable categories are:
Felix
Ryan Rowland-Smith

Or, to review quickly:

Rotation:
Bedard’s gotten some strikeouts but has not been as advertised.
Felix is Felix, for all that entails.
Washburn is slightly below average but not by much, which means he’s below average at being bad
Silva is Ryan Franklin redux.
Batista has been better than Washburn except for the walks… oh, the walks

Bullpen:
Putz hasn’t been himself at all.
Morrow’s looked good but been homer-prone.
Green’s been good.
Baek’s mopping up for the starters and he’s been serviceable for that role.
Rowland-Smith’s been good when McLaren remembers to call him in.
Lowe’s been decent.

As a unit, though, wow, if there’s ever been a condensed argument in favor of bullpen roles and cohesion to refute my general skepticism, well, here you are. Putz went down and they all seemed to catch fire. It felt like a blessing to get a night when they could bring in more than one reliever without torching the game.

Manager
I know that every manager has flaws — Lou Piniella’s in-game tactics were quite predictable in some situations, for instance — that make their fans want to tear their hair out. They redeem themselves in other ways, though, that make them worth employing.

Here’s my question: what’s McLaren’s strength? What’s he doing well that makes him a better option than any randomly selected grizzled minor league manager with a couple thousand games of managerial experience?

What makes up for batting Cairo second?

Front office
The good is they cut bait on Wilkerson pretty fast. The bad news is that this is their team, constructed to their specifications and whims, just like the last couple of disaster teams. They thought this team was a couple of pieces away from contending for a pennant, and they traded the future on that premise. The farm system is in far better shape than it was a few years ago, and player development far more productive, but I don’t see how that can make up for what’s gone wrong, and if they’re just going to trade those players for the wrong veterans at the wrong time, rather than build around them, their success their means little.

I want more than anything for them to learn, to turn this around, but what have we seen of that in years? Veteran signs fail, veterans are signed. Talent is badly valued, and then badly valued the next year. The defense is degraded and then we see bafflement over poor pitcher performances. What reason do we have to think that they can, or will, make progress on the problems that have cost the franchise so many losses these years?

Ownership
If you only listen to us once, just once, take this advice: the next time you’re looking to hire a general manager, at least interview smart people who disagree with you and weigh their approach and plans against what you’ve reaped from the strategy you’ve used for so long. Give them a fair shot, because they’ll win the job and win with the team if given the chance.

You don’t like me and I don’t like you. You want to market to women and children instead of baseball fans? You own a baseball team. Trying to please particular demographics with distractions, promotions, and playgrounds might work for a while until someone else finds something shinier to dangle in front of the babies. Put a good baseball team out there, and you’ll get women fans and men fans and you’ll turn children into lifelong fans.

Do it. Do it or hand the team over to people who can. There are some good candidates in your minority owners. If you want to run a daycare or a Body Shop, go rent some retail space and knock yourself out. If you want to run a successful baseball team, figure out how to do that.

Comments

108 Responses to “A quarter down, three quarters to go”

  1. Mike Honcho on May 13th, 2008 10:20 pm

    Best DMZ post ever.

  2. marbledog on May 13th, 2008 10:27 pm

    Trying to please incidental demographics with distractions, promotions, and playgrounds

    …and relics from 1995…

  3. tomas on May 13th, 2008 10:29 pm

    Go Man Go.

  4. Chris on May 13th, 2008 10:33 pm

    Great post as usual. Only comment is Silva appears better than most using the stat line provided, aside from K%, yet you still consider him Franklin redux?

  5. gwangung on May 13th, 2008 10:35 pm

    You own a baseball team. Trying to please incidental demographics with distractions, promotions, and playgrounds might work for a while,

    That’s a fallback strategy when your main strategy (WINNING BASEBALL GAMES, dammit) temporarily fails.

  6. Lorenzo on May 13th, 2008 10:38 pm

    Correct on all counts, sir. Especially in regards to the family-friendly ownership and the doofus that is John McLaren. I’ve long suspected McLaren’s most glaring weakness–cited by the team as a positive–was that he was a “player’s manager.” Shouldn’t a manager be a leader first and foremost–someone who holds players accountable, who makes tough, occasionally unpopular decisions–and not a babysitter?

  7. misakson on May 13th, 2008 10:38 pm

    Felix is giving up more hits than both the league average and the majority of the pitching staff? Didn’t see that coming…

  8. Mike Snow on May 13th, 2008 10:40 pm

    I think the Silva=Franklin is based on marginal stuff, good control, no strikeouts whatsoever, guaranteed mediocrity in the results. It misses that Silva’s a groundball pitcher, whereas Franklin’s a homer-prone flyballer. But with both Safeco and this defense, that difference is not nearly as helpful as it might be.

  9. scott19 on May 13th, 2008 10:49 pm

    That is a friggin’ manifesto!

  10. DMZ on May 13th, 2008 10:53 pm

    Also, apologies — the Silva percents were off a little there. My fault. I fixed it.

  11. The Unkown Comic on May 13th, 2008 10:54 pm

    Those are some silky looking ponies.

  12. HamNasty on May 13th, 2008 10:58 pm

    DMZ just went Jarry McGuire mission statement all over your ass Mariners organization, what you going to do about it??
    Ohhh Rally Fries! Awesome, I just forgot this team is the worst in the majors. Yummy.

  13. coasty141 on May 13th, 2008 11:05 pm

    Excellent post DMZ. Well written with great content.

    -This team is extremely flawed. Not a news flash I know. It is unfortunate that we have to watch the team pour gas all over it self in the first 40 games. Why not at least be like last year where the M’s hung around only to implode at the end of the season? A season is much more enjoyable that way. But like I’ve been telling myself, if they won all of the time they wouldn’t be so lovable

    -nitpicking here but is Luke Scott really a decent defender in left?

  14. The Unkown Comic on May 13th, 2008 11:10 pm

    #13

    The Mariners are just plain boring to me but I have decided to not jump off the bandwagon afterall because I realize how rewarding it is going to be that I endured this boredom when they become contenders again in 2012.

  15. tuttle07 on May 13th, 2008 11:16 pm

    Ridiculously well-put…. the clincher about ownership made me cry. Does anyone associated with this team do a good job at anything?

  16. katne123 on May 13th, 2008 11:23 pm

    15- I think that the standings answer that question.

  17. Benne on May 13th, 2008 11:24 pm

    Derek for GM!

  18. jberry79 on May 13th, 2008 11:30 pm

    Great post Derek! I always heard that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. I guess the front office never got the message.

  19. Gerald on May 13th, 2008 11:53 pm

    Remember when the Mariners were lousy in 2004, but the Diamondbacks were just so damn dreadful that the M’s had no chance of getting the first pick in the draft?

    Remember when the Diamondbacks went on to make smart organizational decisions and the Mariners just blew a bunch of money on two players to keep the fans buying tickets, but otherwise kept operating the same way?

    Remember when, four years later, the Diamondbacks were the best team in baseball and the Mariners were no longer lousy but damn dreadful?

  20. Zero Gravitas on May 14th, 2008 12:09 am

    How about this quote from tonight’s game recap:

    The Mariners, losers of 12 of 14, committed four errors.
    “It puzzles me a lot because it’s one of the big strengths of our club,” manager John McLaren said of his team’s defense.

    For the love of all that is good and holy – no it is not.

  21. 300ZXNA on May 14th, 2008 12:37 am

    20-
    Holy smokes, Maclaren can’t seem to pick up the obvious.

    I so wish that this site had a “bang head” emoticon . . . never been more fitting . . .

  22. 300ZXNA on May 14th, 2008 12:38 am

    oh, and 19, someone needs to interview Lincoln, Armstrong, and Bavasi, show them the clips back in 2004 when they deemed a rebuild unnecessary, and then point out the whole Arizona thing to them while asking them for comment. That would be a priceless bit of video . . .

  23. mln on May 14th, 2008 12:43 am

    Well, since the Mariners’ playoff hopes are mostly marginal and probably done, here are a couple of pictures that seem to summarize the hometown Seattle Mariners’ 2008 season in review.

  24. joser on May 14th, 2008 1:11 am

    I realize how rewarding it is going to be that I endured this boredom when they become contenders again in 2012

    Not to rain on your parade, but…. that’s the year the Alameda A’s of Oakland are scheduled to move into Cisco Field in Fremont. Box seats, swimming pools, movie stars. The A’s stop winning with one hand tied behind their backs and get to use both the smart hand and the rich hand. If the M’s haven’t made it to the WS before then, they’re probably shut out of the division for the rest of the teens. (Well, unless the M’s get just as smart. Anybody want to lay odds?)

  25. thefin190 on May 14th, 2008 1:11 am

    What’s funny is that I remember last season when I copied+pasted a poll on the Mariners website asking the fans who they wants as their outfielders, there were a few options, including Ibanez-Ichiro-Jones, Ibanez-Ichiro-Guillen, Balentien-Ichiro-Jones, etc. Now the one with the least votes was Ibanez-Ichiro-Balentien. I even remember Dave stating how anyone who thinks thats a good idea is not very smart (I couldn’t find the direct quote).

    Funny how things turn out, right? Yea, the defense on the most part sucks. Its too bad Beltre and Ichiro can’t carry the whole team with their superior defense.

  26. Roger on May 14th, 2008 1:38 am

    Very nicely put, and damned depressing.

    And my wife wishes me to point out that you have a picture of a horse and a colt or filly atop this fine diatribe, neither of which are actually ponies–apparently (and I’m taking dictation here) ponies are fully grown equines whose stature is less than a certain number of hands. 12? 14? She’s left and I’m not getting into this again.

    God, the classification of hoofed, domesticated mammals is more interesting than baseball. Thanks, Mariners.

  27. joshb3 on May 14th, 2008 2:04 am

    I just wanted to say, Derek, that although I haven’t been your biggest fan in the past, I’ve really enjoyed your writing recently.

  28. Breadbaker on May 14th, 2008 2:42 am

    That’s such a valid point about ownership. It’s exactly what MLB and FOX do: piss off the real fan base in the hopes of increasing the total viewership/attendance. So if real fans decrease by 20% and casual fans increase by 30%, they figure they’ve come out ahead.

    The problem with it is not just that winning would make real baseball fans (on the MLB level, since it’s a zero-sum game, someone’s gotta lose), it’s that when things go badly for baseball it’s only the real fans who would be still interested enough to save the product. Selig et al. have done such a great job of running down the game in the interests of the owners to make progress with the players and the cities that when something like steroids starts to diminish interest in the product on the field, eventually something’s gotta give. They can only give away so many bobbleheads before the people who come only for the cheap entertainment will leave for something else.

    On a somewhat related note, they did the wave on Saturday at one of the few appropriate times I’ve ever seen at Safeco: when the opposing pitcher was in trouble. They used to only do it in in one-run games when Nellie or Sherrill or someone had men on base. Maybe there is hope. Pony-filled hope.

  29. Todd S. on May 14th, 2008 6:30 am

    #28

    I disagree with you that it’s a zero-sum game. The “real fans” as you describe are your best advocates. They can turn casual fans into real fans with their enthusiasm. If you dampen that enthusiasm, you are limiting your word-of-mouth advertising. It’s hard to argue with Selig’s short-term results, but I wonder about the long-term ramifications. History may prove him right, however.

    Piniella ticked me off last night. 1st and 2nd with no one out, and Ryan Theriot at the plate. Theriot is a slightly below-average major league shortstop, but he is hot right now. He’s in the top 10 in the NL in batting average. Shawn Estes has just given up two straight ropes for singles. And Lou has Theriot bunt. Of course, it’s a good-not-great bunt and Estes is able to throw to third to cut down the lead runner. Why are you giving up an out to Shawn freakin’ Estes? Grrr. (But Lou is still so much better than Dusty Baker that it’s a relief to have him as manager. Even better, Dusty is ruining a division rival for the Cubs, too.)

  30. SequimRealEstate on May 14th, 2008 6:57 am

    As an amateur photographer I want there to be visible sunrises and sunsets every day. As a fan looking at the Mariners I want to see the good. In reality There are a lot of cloudy days. I appreciate your black and white perspectives that help keeps us all sane. In other B/W news, “Materials costs are affecting all the beer makers, says Jim Koch, the founder of and brewmaster at Boston-based Samuel Adams.”

  31. davepaisley on May 14th, 2008 7:06 am

    5th para in Defense:

    And it’s worth noting that it’s not enough to pick on, say, Raul, for his horrible offense. It’s been a team effort.

    Derek, I think you mean “horrible defense”

  32. windwardtrades on May 14th, 2008 7:26 am

    Great article that pretty much sum’s up what a lot of us think and have thought for some time.

    You would think that the entire management structure would have enough pride in their work and accomplishments to simple resign and hand it over to new blood. But like alot of corporate America, these people are more about cashing checks and staying in power despite consistant poor results.

    The Mariners organization is very symbolic of a corporate manager who never hires someone who could compete for his/her job in the future. It guarantees mediorcrity and an endless stream of excuses as to why results are not attained, and the type of amateur putdowns (ie This isn’t fantasy baseball etc) on more thoughtful individuals who dare critize, even constructively.

    Ultimately, when the model fails economically, then change may happen.

  33. tgf on May 14th, 2008 7:31 am

    If you want to run a daycare or a Body Shop, go rent some retail space and knock yourself out.

    No, seriously, knock yourselves out Howie Chuck and Bill.

  34. argh on May 14th, 2008 7:34 am

    Excellent piece. Maybe Larry Stone scanned it before writing this morning’s piece in the Times. Whatever the reason, however, the stink of failure is finally getting through the aroma of fresh brewed coffee here in the Emerald City.

  35. Mike Snow on May 14th, 2008 7:53 am

    Stone especially nailed how sick I am of the “good team playing bad baseball” delusion.

  36. Grizz on May 14th, 2008 8:10 am

    This afternoon, look for an official team press release announcing a Salute to Edgar Night and a month-long 1995 Season 13th Anniversary Celebration.

  37. don52656 on May 14th, 2008 8:13 am

    Derek, excellent post. You mention that the farm system has improved under Bavasi’s management, and I agree with you. This was also a strength of his when he was running the Angels. The major league team underperformed during his term, but the seeds had been sown when he was replaced for an extended run among the league’s elite. Let’s pray that when ownership decides to replace him as the GM, they have the acumen to select a GM who will put the farm system talent to optimal use.

  38. CCW on May 14th, 2008 8:16 am

    Yeah, Stone might has well have provided a link to DMZ’s piece at the end of his article, saying, “For a more detailed description of the situation that I have just described in general terms, see [LINK]“.

    On the bright side, for the first time ever, it seems like there is a realistic chance the M’s front office will actually heed some of DMZ’s and Stone’s advice, look within, realize that drastic measures need to be taken, and tear out and replace some of the critical dysfunctional pieces.

  39. bakomariner on May 14th, 2008 8:18 am

    What I’ve been wondering, and this is finally the perfect time to ask it, is how can Bavasi be good at evaluating talent for the farm teams but be so terrible at evaluating pre-existing major league talent?

    We all agree the minor league teams are better now than when he showed up…how can he improve the farm but keep missing on trades and free agent signings?

  40. okobojicat on May 14th, 2008 8:19 am

    STONE:

    There were, indeed, analysts who predicted this team was dangerously overrated, that it wasn’t the “one piece away” that the Bedard trade suggested — that the Mariners were, basically, a disaster waiting to happen. And they had the statistical evidence to back it up.

    Kudos to them, most of whom come, it must be said, from a sabermetric bent, looking at the vast storehouse of numbers in nontraditional ways. And shame on me, who bought into the popular wisdom that last year’s 88-win record plus this year’s addition of Bedard equaled a championship run.

    argh:

    I would say that Stone is definitely giving a nod over to Derek and Dave for their realistic projections of this team’s talent level. And the fruitlessness of trading away [Sherrill] and Jones and others.

  41. King on May 14th, 2008 8:37 am

    [ot]

  42. ThePopeofChilitown on May 14th, 2008 8:43 am

    Wasn’t McLaren’s strength that he wasn’t Mike Hargrove and Ichiro liked him?

  43. joser on May 14th, 2008 8:45 am

    All of this, and whose ownership is depressed? A’s owner Lew Wolff is depressed

    In their 19 games at McAfee Coliseum, the A’s are averaging 17,352.

    “I’m very, very depressed over the attendance, because we have an exciting product,” co-owner Lew Wolff says. “And the excuse that we traded away our best players — what really should count is performance.”

  44. jro on May 14th, 2008 8:51 am

    Spot on.

    What I don’t get: in a data-driven world, there isn’t a statistic out there that reflects positively on the performance of the team. Across all vectors and slices of statistical analysis, the team is a failure.

    How can ownership/FO/managers not see it for what it is? I just don’t get it.

  45. jwb on May 14th, 2008 9:09 am

    “Its too bad Beltre and Ichiro can’t carry the whole team with their superior defense.”

    Ichiro is a superior RF. As a CF, he’s average. I’m not saying they should run their best player out of town because he passes on giving speeches to ten year olds or some such nonsense, but just keep an objective eye on the strengths, weaknesses, and averagenesses of all of the players.

  46. CCW on May 14th, 2008 9:20 am

    jro: Last year, the team won 88 games. That’s the statistic that got us into this mess. I’m sure the ownership/FO/etc. would agree that none of the current statistics are positive… but they also don’t understand why. In their minds, this is the same team that won 88 games last year, plus Bedard. It should be better…

  47. RoninX on May 14th, 2008 9:20 am

    What I’ve been wondering, and this is finally the perfect time to ask it, is how can Bavasi be good at evaluating talent for the farm teams but be so terrible at evaluating pre-existing major league talent?

    Good points. Bavasi has improved the farm system – though he could hardly have done much to harm it based on the state it was in when he arrived.

    Does anyone know enough about some of the behind the scenes decisions to speculate on why that success hasn’t carried over?

    On the surface it would seem like the ability to reasonably successfully predict a players career track would carry over to major leaguers, but maybe there is a substantial difference between evaluating the potential upside of a prospect (tools, range, batspeed, eye etc.) and the potential downside of a pro (range, batspeed, health…) But since I don’t possess either of those skills it couldn’t say ;)

  48. hangsoutatcostco on May 14th, 2008 9:22 am

    Since Bavasi’s wisdom can be seen in the farm clubs, does that mean I should spend more time at Cheney Stadium? Let’s see, 85 degrees, Rainiers vs. Tucson OR Ms vs. SD (worst MLB teams)?

    All of a sudden, the traffic on the drive down there doesn’t seem so bad . . .

  49. joser on May 14th, 2008 9:26 am

    Hint: how many of those high school / latin academy prospects does Bavasi see with his own eyes, and how many does he rely entirely on the opinions of scouts?

    Also, there’s just gathering talent, and then there’s assembling a team.

  50. Xteve X on May 14th, 2008 9:28 am

    19 – wow, so true.

  51. Steve T on May 14th, 2008 9:31 am

    Right on, Derek. You’ve captured my feelings exactly. I hate this front office and I think McLaren is a stone cold moron. If you threw all 1,000 major leaguers and top minor leaguers in a bag and drew them out randomly two by two, the Ms would pick the worse player 450 times out of 500. They’re CLUELESS. McLaren still thinks they can hit, he still thinks they can play defense. Firing him is inevitable, but what does it accomplish if there’s no players? It’s like demanding an eight-year-old build a car out of a box of miscellaneous screws. Those aren’t car parts, and THOSE AREN’T BASEBALL PLAYERS.

    It’s not a question of bad luck or underperforming or just gambles that didn’t work out. They are FUNDAMENTALLY STUPID. If you find yourself playing Miguel Cairo at first base and bat him second, you DESERVE TO LOSE.

    This team deserves to lose. I hope they lose 120 games.

  52. jro on May 14th, 2008 9:37 am

    CCW: good point. I’m looking at this year’s statistics alone, since last year is long gone, and assumed the team would be doing the same. The adage about “assume” certainly applies here.

  53. MedicineHat on May 14th, 2008 9:39 am

    McLaren on KJR right now…

    guys just aren’t performing to their potential…Beltre is one of the best 3B in the game and he has seven errors.

  54. Xteve X on May 14th, 2008 9:44 am

    I found it refreshing that Stone at least didn’t buy into the “they’re good but playing badly” excuses I hear from fans so much.

    It’s way past time the coddling Seattle media starts to tell it like it is … this is a badly constructed team playing about as well as its talent level would suggest, assembled by folks who are no doubt “good baseball people” but also comically behind the times. Pretty much the entire front office should be polishing their resumes because none of them can make a case for why they should be back next year.

  55. north on May 14th, 2008 9:44 am

    Any chance you can put out your version of “Would you swap em?” with the Rangers Line-up. I think that’s what you call it.

    Second the notion. But play the game with the M’s optimal lineup as you constructed in the recent game thread (not McLaren’s Cairo included abomination). Should be fun.

    It’s a mental game I often play at the beginning of a game. Go through the lineups with a very coarse +,0,- rating and add up the score.

  56. justinh on May 14th, 2008 9:45 am

    Speaking of the manager, he is on KJR right now. Here are a couple of the interesting points:

    * “Bedard has a very interesting way of calling pitches. Johjima hasn’t learned it yet.”

    * “To tell you the truth I had 2 guys coming into the year I wasn’t sure about. One is not here now and the other has been battling injury.” (Wilkerson and Vidro)

    * “We went with Cairo because we don’t have MLB ready infield talent available in our system. Also, we don’t PH much with our lineup.”

    * “I thought we’d have a top 3 defensive team coming out of spring training. We are in the bottom 3.”

    * “Clement is going to get the AB’s. He will be a 30HR guy, no question. It was a tough situation for some guys to handle at first. Clement and Balentien coming up. I think we are on the same page now.”

    * “This is my team and I am not running away from the (pressure?).”

    * “I am most disappointed in our offensive production. If I had to pick something, that would be it.”

    Truly was a very brutally honest interview given by Mac.

  57. justinh on May 14th, 2008 9:57 am

    Speaking of our offense, our starting SS over the last 4 seasons has never had an OBP of over .310. He also has not played good defense, maybe average defense. He also does not steal bases. Ok, I understand he is cheap, but there are other cheapo’s who can do much better than that. Yuni is a drag…..

  58. Max Power on May 14th, 2008 9:57 am

    “We went with Cairo because we don’t have MLB ready infield talent available in our system. Also, we don’t PH much with our lineup.”

    An odd quote, to say the least – that means that they had no fallback option for Sexson, who was terrible last year and they chose to put on the roster (Cairo) a guy who had no discernable function. Really weird.

  59. north on May 14th, 2008 9:58 am

    McLaren on KJR right now…

    guys just aren’t performing to their potential…Beltre is one of the best 3B in the game and he has seven errors.

    McLaren just threw Beltre under the bus on the radio?! for his defense? Is that true. Wow. Really.

    It was a tough situation for some guys to handle at first. Clement and Balentien coming up.

    Has McLaren realized that he has to push his veterans around a little, or is he faking it for the interview to stave off his critics in this area? No kidding Vidro is going to have problems with the loss of his option year (we hope) – human nature. Has he “handled” it?

    Thanks for the interview synopsis. But watch what they do, not what they say.

  60. RoninX on May 14th, 2008 9:58 am

    I found it refreshing that Stone at least didn’t buy into the “they’re good but playing badly” excuses I hear from fans so much.

    To be fair the M’s are at about -3 wins below their pythagorean record, and haven’t gotten many breaks. So how about we say they are bad but playing worse?

  61. jryoung222 on May 14th, 2008 10:02 am

    Even a casual fan could have seen that this team wasn’t going to be in contention for anything, except mediocrity. Just a basic, surface review of the team would show they had a negative run differential last year, so they won more games than they should have (i.e., they got lucky), and so their starting point should have been, “we were at best a .500 team last year.” From that (at best) .500 team they lose one of their best run producers in Guillen and replace him with a huge question mark in Wilkerson, and they trade away a major piece of their bullpen in Sherrill. You also have three of your key players – Ibanez, Ichiro, Sexson (plus Johjima, as well) – all over 30 and now one year older, which means the odds are their production is going to go down, not up. So how many games does that take away from a .500 team? At least 5, probably more. Sure, you add Bedard, but at the very best he adds 5 wins, so you’re in the very best case scenario still just a .500 team.

    Again, this is just a basic look at the team, which pretty much anyone could have done. You wouldn’t even have to know what Sabermetrics means to make this analysis. That the FO thought this was a contending team clearly shows their inability to look at the team in a clear-eyed fashion and determine what they need to do to compete. In other words, they’re incompetent.

  62. MedicineHat on May 14th, 2008 10:03 am

    They already hav ethe McLaren interview up at kjram.com

    here it is

  63. bakomariner on May 14th, 2008 10:03 am

    I agree with 60…by no means do I think they are a “good” team or that they were made to make the playoffs…but I didn’t think they’d be dead last and this bad…I think they are “better” than they are playing, but not much…I figured they’d finish in third or second depending on the Oakland rebuild…and we know how that is going…I didn’t think Texas had a chance to NOT be last place…

  64. joser on May 14th, 2008 10:11 am

    Yes, I thought the team was about a .490 team last year that was playing way over its head. I figured with Bedard it was a .500 team this year, and I still think that’s possible: they only have to go 66-55 (.545) over the rest of the season to get back to 81 wins. At this point, that’s not a bad mark to shoot for.

  65. msb on May 14th, 2008 10:11 am
  66. joser on May 14th, 2008 10:14 am

    The “they’re good but playing badly” excuses come directly from the team. Not that I expect them to say anything else, but they appear to believe it as well, and that’s what’s interfering with them doing anything about it (not that there’s much to do at this point). I mean, how long does McLaren have to watch before he’ll stop saying it’s a good defensive team? How hard is it to let go of your received wisdom and preconceived notions and believe your own eyes?

  67. Jeff Nye on May 14th, 2008 10:17 am

    They’re bad, and they’re playing as expected.

  68. bakomariner on May 14th, 2008 10:17 am

    msb- the kid with the long sleeves says it all…cluelessly looking to the sky…Mariners baseball 2008…

  69. Steve T on May 14th, 2008 10:20 am

    RoninX @60 — you’re right, they’re not as bad as they look right now. They’re getting creamed in one-run games, which are pretty much coin tosses, decided by an inch either way. That should even out.

    Which is too bad, because playing terrible is the only way forward for this team — because the only way this team becomes good is to collapse and be torn down. By that I don’t mean the players, I mean the management team. Lincoln, Armstrong, and Bavasi HAVE TO GO. Nothing will change until then.

  70. bakomariner on May 14th, 2008 10:20 am

    I think my biggest problem right now is Krueger, [SIMS!], and Blowers force-feeding us that they are…well, I’m not going to repeat the crap they tell us…I know it’s their job, and I know they can’t come out and say, “Cairo sucks…what is he doing out there?” but I honestly get angry and yell at the TV when they go on and on about how “good” they are…no question…no doubt about it…

  71. HamNasty on May 14th, 2008 10:22 am

    “We didn’t advance a baserunner for 20 some innings” John McLaren.
    That is exactly right McLaren, your didn’t score runs because you didn’t “advance” them… Not that your team is awful at getting on base and DRIVING in runs. The object is to get them all the way around, not from 2nd to 3rd.

    Good interview and he fessed up and didn’t make excuses, but that line was dumb.

  72. jspektor on May 14th, 2008 10:22 am

    msb bottom row second from the right. that kid is what all the mariners look like to me.

    but honestly … guys what is McLaren supposed to say? I feel bad for the guy …

  73. Jeff Nye on May 14th, 2008 10:28 am

    I can’t blame McLaren too much, it’s not like he’s been given a lot of talent to work with.

    Now, batting our 1B-0 second last night is a work of unintentional comedy, but it’s not like the team sucks primarily because McLaren is bad at his job.

    It’s a small secondary factor.

  74. Max Power on May 14th, 2008 10:30 am

    I can’t blame McLaren too much, it’s not like he’s been given a lot of talent to work with.

    Still, would be interesting to know who pushed for Cairo instead of, say a competent 1B fallback option.

    And for that matter, who made the call to keep Cairo instead of Norton?

  75. HamNasty on May 14th, 2008 10:33 am

    Cairo again at first, why not. Let’s have Sam Perlozzo hit cleanup while were at it.

  76. Karen on May 14th, 2008 10:34 am

    I’m sure most of what McLaren has said this season is directly related to Orders from Headquarters if he wants to keep his job. He’s been in baseball long enough to know what works, and he was handed a team this season that if anything was worse than the situation he fell into last season.

    What’re you going to do if you’re handed a sow’s ear of a roster, sew a pretty silk purse out of it? Nah, you dry out that thing and feed it to your dog.

    It’s all Bavasi/Armstrong/Lincoln’s fault. If McLaren’s smart, he’ll fold his tent and leave town the same way Mike Hargrove did. Maybe THAT will send the front office a message.

  77. mkd on May 14th, 2008 10:36 am

    I remember at the dust up over Geoff Baker’s whole “What’s wrong with fans in Seattle?” post at the beginning of the season. And here we are, stuck in a quagmire like we all predicted- an ongoing religious civil war, an expanding Iranian hegemony, a military stretched to the breaking point…oh wait…what do my accurate predictions signify hate for this time? Oh yeah, the Mariners. I think the real question Derek, is why aren’t you wearing a Mariners lapel pin?

  78. sealclubber253 on May 14th, 2008 10:37 am

    I saw in the paper today that K-Rod has 16 saves. The M’s have 15 wins. Make of it what you will…

  79. Max Power on May 14th, 2008 10:40 am

    Fun fact – the OPS of the M’s 1B/DH combined today is .926. Prolly not going to win a lot of games that way.

  80. bakomariner on May 14th, 2008 10:43 am

    Mac did a terrible job last year…he’s just not fit for the job…he’s been around long enough that if he was, he would have gotten a gig long before this one…he seems like a nice enough guy, but he’s not a competent manager…he’s fired BEFORE the all-star break…maybe before the end of the month…

  81. mkd on May 14th, 2008 10:52 am

    McLaren is so bad at his job that I heard Rick Rizzs (Rick Rizzs!)get mad at him for the whole going-on-contact tactic with a runner on third. I have been listening to Rick Rizzs for 15 years and have never heard him say something negative. He was all: “Why are they doing this? It never works! And look! It didn’t work again! What did they expect?” It takes some fancy incompetence to get Rick “Al-Martin-is-due” Rizzs to go negative.

  82. Steve T on May 14th, 2008 10:52 am

    Max @79, that’s what’s so frustrating: how flummoxed they are by this. “Well, we don’t have a 1B or a DH, but what do you want us to do? It’s not like these guys grow on trees. I mean, golly.” But yes, 1B who hit better than Cairo DO IN FACT GROW ON TREES. There are a HUNDRED GUYS out there who could do better; it’s the easiest position to fill. Unless it’s DH, or RF, or LF. We suck the hardest at the easiest positions to fill. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

    Watching this team is like watching a guy try to pull his car uphill by tugging on the front bumper. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? It makes no sense. It’s like they take this cliche, “gotta be strong up the middle” and think that means you don’t even have to put players on the field at the sides. I mean, seriously, having Cairo at first base is little better than just leaving it vacant and having Lopez scoot over a little bit and Balentien play in, and just having them mark the K when he bats. It’s like watching a guy just keep driving 5,000 miles on his mini-spare tire — WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? Tires cost nothing, you moron, you’re wrecking your car!

    I’ll bet every team in baseball is drooling over our roster, plotting ways they can trick Tiunfel or Beltre out of us with some big dumb spare-part 1B they’ve got lying around, as every team except us has.

  83. Steve T on May 14th, 2008 10:53 am

    Triunfel, sorry.

    Firing McLaren will make 0% difference. He’s not the issue.

  84. John in L.A. on May 14th, 2008 10:53 am

    “I thought we’d have a top 3 defensive team coming out of spring training. We are in the bottom 3.”

    This is the great unforgivable for me.

    There is a lot of room for different opinions and assessments of the hitters and pitchers and rookies vs. veterans, etc.

    But there is no excuse for people thinking the defense was going to be good.

    I think, in the end, it will be a complete dismissal of the importance of defense that ruins Bavasi’s career. It’s like a football organization that refuses to recognize the importance of the offensive line – a unit that makes everybody better or everybody worse. But since it is not as easy to judge their results, some teams, shockingly, still undervalue it.

    To help the defense all they had to do was be self-aware and willing… and not doing that is inexcusable.

    I could shrug off most of the rest, but the defense… and then, just to prove how little he understands, Mac thinks Beltre’s the problem. For Christ’s sake.

  85. Jeff Nye on May 14th, 2008 11:02 am

    Firing Mac might make a game or two difference at best. Managers just don’t matter that much.

    It’s a popular solution among the casual fanbase and in the media because it’s something you can do RIGHT NOW that seems like it should make a big difference.

    But the reality is that until we significantly upgrade:
    1B
    DH
    LF (defense)
    Bullpen

    This team isn’t going to contend. And doing all of that in the middle of a season would be challenging at best, even if the Mariners committed to doing so.

    So firing Mac would be regrettable in that it’d show a continuing lack of understanding of what actually helps improve a baseball team.

  86. MedicineHat on May 14th, 2008 11:09 am

    85 – I would agree with that for the most part….but in this case, putting a batting order together like the one suggested yesterday by Dave (or was it DMZ?) would make a 3-4 game difference by itself, IMO.

  87. Jeff Nye on May 14th, 2008 11:13 am

    Well, it’s Mac’s fault that 1B-0 Cairo (yes, I continue to get a kick out of that) is hitting in the two hole.

    It’s not his fault that there isn’t a better option on the roster. At least not primarily.

    Crazy batting orders really only make a big difference when your talent is good but you’re failing to maximize it; moving the Mariners’ mediocre talent around amounts to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

  88. argh on May 14th, 2008 11:14 am

    [not a board]

  89. DMZ on May 14th, 2008 11:15 am

    by Dave (or was it DMZ?)

    Why is my stuff always identified as Dave’s? Do I need to go by Derek instead of DMZ here?

  90. Jeff Nye on May 14th, 2008 11:16 am

    Personally, I like DMZ.

    It reminds me of Demilitarized Zone, so it makes you sound more menacing.

  91. juneau_fan on May 14th, 2008 11:20 am

    Palomino ponies are the best ponies of all…so bright and shiny….

    I’ve noticed that Sexson’s absence hasn’t been noticeable at all. No play at first that I thought, Richie would have had that, no at-bat that I’d wished it was he at the plate. Although I’m surprised that Mac hasn’t tried to blame his absence on their problems. So when someone’s absence and nobody notices, that means they’re gone next year, right?

  92. Steve T on May 14th, 2008 11:21 am

    Jeff is correct. I doubt it would even be two games. Hit Cairo in the 2 or the 9, who cares, you’re not trying. If you’re going to drive 5,000 miles on that mini-spare, does it really matter if it’s on the right rear or the left?

  93. mkd on May 14th, 2008 11:37 am

    Bill James once said that while a good manager may only have a marginal positive impact on his team, a bad manager can have a significant negative impact on that same team. I’m not saying Bill Plummer…I mean John McLaren…is the root of the problem, but he certainly is a problem and one worth doing away with post haste. But then again I’m a Lefebvre Belebvre.

  94. fermorules on May 14th, 2008 11:55 am

    I agree with all the points you made….BUT….

    The emphasis needs to be put on the ownership’s hand in this debacle….

    The ownership is ultimately responsible for this mess….

    As fans, we really have no hope until there’s an ownership change. The whole thing needs to be blown up….

    Meaning no more Chuck Armstrong.

    No more arrogant GMs who are hoplessly stuck in 1958.

    No more managers who bat Cairo second.

    No more relief pitchers who walk the ballpark.

    No more hitters who waste at-bats.

    No more PR people who are mostly concerned with pleasing women and having “Green Nights”.

    No more yuppie fans who flash dirty stares when you boo.

    No more homer announcers who are terrified to say anything remotely negative.

    I will be a mariner fan until the day I die….

    But until somebody at the top becomes accountable, I no longer will go to games.

  95. sweetloucarr on May 14th, 2008 2:20 pm

    How much different is this team if the mariners gave up a Brandon Morrow and a minor league pitcher to Cincinnati in December for Josh Hamilton, as opposed to the Rangers doing it?

    The risk on both Hamilton and Wilkerson was high. One because of trouble, and the other because of declining performance. However, one cost 3 Million Dollars, but no prospects, the other cost two prospects, but only 400K. One is hitting around .200, with no power, no rbi’s, and is a mediocre fielder. The other is in the top five of most offensive categories in the American League and is playing good defense.

    Amazing what one seemingly minor move can do for a club.

  96. warning_track_power on May 14th, 2008 2:37 pm

    nice breakdown of the pitchers.

    I was looking at more obvious stats for the “leaders” ( as in highest paid position players )
    RISP RISP with 2out
    ichiro .160 .111
    beltre .132 .091
    sexson .097 .143

    yes, sexson is a lost cause, but his paycheck is fat enough to classify him as a “leader”.

  97. avideo on May 14th, 2008 2:38 pm

    Great post DMZ! One of the best in this painful season. I heard a VERY INTERESTING TALK ON COLIN COWHERD’S SHOW ON ESPN Radio this morning. He was saying that if you look at the baseball teams that are WINNING, thy are largely composed of YOUNG PLAYERS. NOT OLD and TIRED PLAYERS – LIKE MORE THAN A FEW ON THE MARINERS. But YOUNG PLAYERS. I think he has a point. And if by some divine magic we get a new GM, maybe he will not recruit a bunch of old has-beens but some young guys coming up. I consider it really amazing what Billy Bean is doing in Oakland with one of the smaller payrolls in baseball. And yes – they are a really YOUNG TEAM!
    I also think that Mclaren needs to go. He is simply not getting the job done. In some of his talk at spring training, he kept on mentioning how so many of the older players were “working so hard”. At the practice fields, I didn’t see many of them doing anything that the younger players weren’t doing. Just a lot of hot air.

  98. Steve T on May 14th, 2008 3:37 pm

    Hey, Derek, what does Dave get since he doesn’t drink and you get all his beer?

  99. gwangung on May 14th, 2008 3:57 pm

    When do we start getting on Norm Norm for his stellar work with the bullpen? (heh heh heh)

  100. DMZ on May 14th, 2008 4:07 pm

    Wedding rings.

  101. Adam S on May 14th, 2008 4:24 pm

    Firing Mac might make a game or two difference at best. Managers just don’t matter that much.
    So which way is it? I keep hearing managers don’t matter. And it’s true if you mean relative to star players. Bedard and Felix contribute a heck of a lot more to this team than any manager. Or if you’re talking to fans who think bringing back Piniella would be a cure-all.

    But two wins over the season is a lot — if the Mariners could upgrade half the roster by 2 wins, they’d go from sucky to best team in baseball. The manager of the Mariners matters a lot more than the guys on the bench (unless we had an effective platoon), the 5th starter, or the pitchers in middle relief. None of those guys are worth two wins. The difference between a bad manager, and McLaren seems pretty bad to me, and a neutral one could certainly be 3 or 4 wins.

    As well, firing a manager is one of the few ways you can upgrade during the season. Balentin for Wilkerson is a small tweak (is it 2 wins over the season?). If you cut Sexson, and replaced him with waiver wire fodder, it might feel good, but it probably makes the team worse.

  102. Captain_Obvious on May 14th, 2008 5:50 pm

    DMZ,

    I’ve never posted here before – and may never again – but this piece of writing is so spot-on that I felt compelled to register here so that I could thank you personally for sharing it at this site.

    Denial will inevitably be rampant amongst a fan base of a team so hyped as the 2008 M’s when said team is their respective league’s piñata throughout the first 1/4 of the season. That being said, you are obviously on the right side of the bell curve on this one – several S.D.’s above the mean if you ask me – and clearly don’t buy into the “we didn’t play over our heads last year and, in fact, we added the one piece (TOR pitcher) that should put us over the top” B.S. that most media and the F.O. believe (want us to believe?). I also happen to be in the camp w/ those who think that the M’s were overachievers last year as opposed to underachievers so far this year and – as I am sure you are already aware – most stats seem to confirm this hypothesis.

    I especially like how you point out the importance of a good defense in fielding (you decide whether pun is intended) a good team, despite its stats not being as easy to interpret as offensive stats. Very true.

    …and with stats to back everything up (vs. the subjective approach), man I am going to keep my eyes on this place for a while:)

    Buy the author a refreshing beer? Man, that is simply not enough. How about a nice piece of real-estate?

    ;)

  103. terry on May 14th, 2008 6:08 pm

    Thats why they play the games.

  104. smb on May 14th, 2008 6:22 pm

    Amen, Derek, Amen…I put another beer in your queue.

    From Jesse Sanchez’ (who?) mlb.com article:

    Either way, Bavasi said he stands by the leadership and personnel on the field and in the dugout, but is simply not pleased with the way his club has performed.

    This is the equivalent of the captain of the Titanic saying, “I stand by the course we plotted and the deckhands’ ability to keep the deck free of gull shit, but I am simply not pleased with the ship’s insistence on running into that iceberg.”

  105. John D. on May 15th, 2008 12:39 am

    Re: # 81

    the whole going-on-contact tactic with a runner on third.

    [I'm a day late.]
    Someone: what’s the deal here ? Usually with a man on 3rd, and less than two out, the broadcasters will say that either a long fly ball or a grounder to a middle infielder will do it. http://tinyurl.com/5wrn6b
    Should Balentien’s grounder have done it ?

  106. currcoug on May 15th, 2008 9:40 am

    Great work DMZ. I really enjoyed that one.

    In regards to the McLaren interview, his comments on a potential Reed call up were confusing. McLaren immediately brought up Balentien in the Reed context. McLaren stated the M’s are not going to platoon Reed and Balentien, with Wlad getting the chance to prove he can play everyday in RF. Fine.

    Reading between the lines, however, the Mariners’ thinking seems to be installing Reed in RF, if Balentien flops. Does this make sense? Shouldn’t Reed (or Saunders) be called up to play LF, with Balentien staying in RF (with all the required moves in regards to Ibanez, Vidro, Cairo and Sexson)?

    Did anyone else come to the same conclusion as I did in regards to McLaren’s comments?

  107. IllinoisMsFan on May 15th, 2008 3:22 pm

    Not to put a damper on the whole “Pony Fest” but that’s not a pony in the picture, it’s a horse. There’s a difference between the two. For example, a Thoroughbred is a type of horse breed, while a Shetland or a Welsh is a type of pony breed.

    Calling a horse a pony is simlar to thinking that a wolf is a dog, or calling a boat a ship – there might be similarities but they are not the same.

  108. Jeff Nye on May 15th, 2008 3:31 pm

    Sometimes, a pony is just a pony.

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