Thumbs Up For Ryan Divish

March 27, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 5 Comments 

Ryan Divish gives his thoughts on Ichiro, leadership, and motivation. It’s good stuff.

Projecting The Rainiers

March 26, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 21 Comments 

Tacoma’s seasons opens two weeks from today, and so with that, I figured it would be a good time to project out the roster that you guys will be looking at when you head down to Cheney to check out some PCL baseball. This isn’t an official release from the team, of course, as the final assignments haven’t been made yet, but I’d imagine this ends up being pretty close to what the team looks like.

Catchers: Adam Moore, Jeff Clement/Rob Johnson
First Base: Mike Carp, Bryan LaHair
Second Base: Callix Crabbe, Reegie Corona (I’d bet the M’s work out a deal to keep him around)
Shortstop: Oswaldo Navarro
Third Base: Matt Tuiasosopo, Chris Woodward
Left Field: Prentice Redman
Center Field: Michael Saunders, Freddy Guzman
Right Field: Mike Wilson
DH: Chris Shelton

Rotation: Garrett Olson, Jason Vargas, Chris Jakubauskas, Chris Seddon, Robert Rohrbaugh
Bullpen: Shawn Kelley, Luis Pena, Cesar Jimenez, Justin Thomas, Eric Hull, Patrick Ryan, Denny Stark

There’s a bunch of arms fighting for the last few spots on the Rainiers pitching staff. It will be interesting to see how they sort it all out.

Caple on the PI’s close, future of coverage

March 26, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 23 Comments 

As posted a couple times in comments yesterday, and in which I’m quoted. Check it out.

It’s been weird not seeing Hickey articles pop up on my RSS subscriptions, which is in turn a little funny since that says a lot about why pro-paper people like me don’t subscribe.

First WSJ Baseball Piece Is Up

March 25, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 23 Comments 

My second WSJ piece, and the first one on baseball, was published today. Obviously, the format and audience is quite a bit different than USSM or FanGraphs, so don’t freak out when you see ERA and BA used in the article.

I don’t really have a regular schedule that I can tell you to watch for, but I’ll try to alert you guys to pieces over there that you might find interesting.

John Brattain Passes Away

March 24, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 10 Comments 

For those of you who regularly read The Hardball Times or Baseball Think Factory, you’ve probably laughed at one of John Brattain’s jokes over the years. Studes informed us today that he’s passed away due to complications from heart surgery. He was 44.

There’s no silver lining in posts like this. This sucks. Go hug a family member and tell them that they’re loved.

The Clement Problem

March 24, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 76 Comments 

So, we need to talk about Jeff Clement. The chatter continues to grow louder that the Mariners may hand Rob Johnson the back-up catcher position, which would give Clement a ticket to Tacoma. With Griffey in the fold at DH, the only way for Clement to get regular playing time is to spend significant time behind the plate, and even with a new coaching staff in place ready to be impressed, Clement hasn’t opened many eyes so far. With Johjima returning from the WBC, the team is going to have to figure out which young catcher they want to keep getting work in Cactus League games, so this decision could happen sooner than later.

From my point of view, the team has three reasonable options with regards to Clement.

1. Put him on the 25 man roster, give him ~60% of the playing time behind the plate for the season, and make a decision once and for all on whether he can handle the defensive responsibilities of being a big league catcher while also developing into the kind of hitter he has the potential to be.

2. Put an end to his days at catcher, tell him that his hard work to improve behind the plate is appreciated but is now holding back his offensive development, and turn him into a first baseman. He’d go to Tacama and work on learning a new position and focus on his offensive game.

3. Trade him to a team that thinks higher of him than they do for a piece that fits into the organizational puzzle a bit better than he does.

I’d go with Option A, personally, but I’m okay with any of these three (well, the last one obviously depends on what you get back). I think it’s worth finding out if Clement can stick as a major league catcher, and this is the kind of season that’s made for experiments. If it works, great, you’ve got a big asset. If it doesn’t, you didn’t torpedo a season in which you’re expecting to win the division, and now you can make better informed decisions going forward.

But if the team is already convinced that he’s just not a major league catcher, or that he’s at least not good enough to keep Adam Moore from taking his job next year, then the team has to figure out if they would rather force him into a positional move he doesn’t want to make in order to keep his bat in the organization or if they’re better off shopping him to a team like Boston who might be willing to part with some interesting pieces to get him. I’d bet on Clement ending up at 1B/DH eventually, regardless of what organization he’s in, but he’s made it abundantly clear that he has no interest in moving right now, and trying to force that position switch on him at this stage could get ugly.

There is a fourth option, of course, but it’s one I hope the team avoids. That would be just sending Clement back to Tacoma to split time behind the plate with Moore. Having him crush Triple-A pitching again won’t do his offensive development any good, they won’t figure out if he’s going to be able to catch well enough in the majors if he’s splitting time in Triple-A, and there’s a real chance that he could nuke his trade value if he struggles after being sent back to the PCL. Like it or not, a bad year from Clement in Tacoma makes him start to look like the new Jeremy Reed, and all of the sudden, a potentially valuable asset is a spare part that you’re using as a trade throw-in.

I think the club should find out just what they have in him by letting him sink or swim in the majors this year. But if they’re not going to, turn him into a first baseman or trade him. We’ve dragged on the “we’re not sure about Clement” stuff long enough. It’s time to make a call – either he’s worth giving a shot to or he’s not. Let’s not put this off any longer.

WBC title game thread

March 23, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 138 Comments 

Ichiro! Ichiro! Ichiro!

Note To Seattle Baseball Writers

March 23, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 22 Comments 

Baker’s current post: Bill James on Morrow, M’s

Stone’s current post: Bill James on the M’s

LaRue’s current post: Bill James offers his thoughts on the Mariners

They’re all just summing up a press release sent out by BIS pitching James’ book. And, you know, nothing against James, but the topics aren’t exactly newsflashes to anyone who has read USSM for any length of time.

Maybe you guys should look into a system where you call dibs or something.

The Opening Day Pitching Staff

March 23, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 27 Comments 

This is, of course, subject to change, but with opening day two weeks away, this is how it looks like the staff is shaping up to me.

#1: Felix Hernandez, RHP
#2: Erik Bedard, LHP
#3: Jarrod Washburn, LHP
#4: Carlos Silva, RHP
#5: Ryan Rowland-Smith, LHP

Long Relief: Miguel Batista, RHP
Middle: Tyler Walker, RHP
Middle: Jose Lugo, LHP
Middle: Roy Corcoran, RHP
Setup: Tyler Johnson, LHP
Setup: David Aardsma, RHP
Closer: Mark Lowe, RHP

DL: Brandon Morrow

When Morrow comes back off the DL, RRS probably gets bumped back to the bullpen, which would force the team to make a decision on Miguel Batista, barring an injury to another one of the relievers. Despite the fact that the bullpen is full of question marks, this is still a team with an abundance of pitchers – when healthy, there just isn’t room for everyone. You have to think that Zduriencik is going to be extremely aggressive in trying to move Washburn if he gets off to a hot start, because this team could use one less pitcher for everyone’s sanity.

It will also be interesting to see just how the bullpen shakes out as the season goes along, especially if one or two of the Chad Cordero/Shawn Kelley/Josh Fields trio of arms force their way onto the roster. Mark Lowe could go from closer to Tacoma fairly quickly if he doesn’t get off to a good start. There’s just very little certainty for any of these guys.

More Chemistry Problems In Mariner Clubhouse

March 22, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 21 Comments 

Geoff Baker, Saturday: “Morrow to Bullpen?” – his pregame blog documents him asking Wakamatsu about Morrow’s role for the season, and implies that the team has not ruled out returning Morrow to the bullpen. Actually, he doesn’t just imply it. He says this:

The fact is, the team is considering going into the season with Morrow as a reliever.

Larry LaRue, today: “Chicken Little: Morrow to the bullpen! Um, relax.” LaRue clarifies Wakamatsu’s comments from a day earlier, getting a new quote from the manager saying:

“I must have misunderstood the question, because Brandon is going to start the season in the rotation – either ours or somewhere in the minors until we can build up his pitch count,” Wakamatsu said. “I was talking about him starting or coming out of the bullpen that last week of spring, not once the season began.”There’s absolutely no consideration of Brandon starting the season in our bullpen. If that was the impression I gave, it was my mistake.”

So, any potential confusion about Wakamatsu’s quote should be eliminated. But, LaRue doesn’t stop there. Here are some other quotes from his blog entry:

A misunderstood question and an answer from Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu has led to some rather wild speculation and even a little unjustified criticism about the handling of Brandon Morrow…

That, of course, is one of the dangers in trying to blog first and think later. When in doubt down here, it’s easy enough to simply ask the manager for clarification.

Some folks would rather blog first and get the facts later.

You don’t have to be a mind reader to see that he’s talking about Baker there. And, honestly, that last line is a pretty scathing remark for one beat writer to make towards another. Maybe Larry Stone and Ryan Divish can play peacemakers over another six pound hamburger?

Seriously, though, given the Wakamatsu quote in LaRue’s blog, it’d probably be wise of Baker to publish some kind of “never mind” story, since it does appear that he misinterpreted/read too much into Wakamatsu’s comments on Saturday it appears he’s already done so, including posting the full audio of the conversation, which is nice. Whether Mike Sweeney can heal the divide between the two beat writers remains to be seen.

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