Game 20, Mariners at White Sox

April 27, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 28 Comments 

Game rained out. Double header tomorrow, starting at 2:05 pm pacific time.

5:11 our time. Jakubauskas v Danks.

CF Ichiro
LF Chavez
DH Sweeney
3B Beltre
1B Branyan
2B Lopez
C Johnson
SS Betancourt
CF Gutierrez

I like Wak (and have a post on why I like him scheduled for tomorrow), but I have to wonder what Wladimir Balentien has to do to get off the bench (and I’ve been one of the main Wlad detractors over the years…). He’s hitting .350/.381/.550 through his first 21 plate appearances, and the team isn’t exactly overflowing with power hitters. Balentien has holes in his swing, and he’s not very good defensively, but he can hit a fastball a long way, especially if a left-hander throws it to him.

Given this team’s need for some offense, the obvious Griffey-platoon, Branyan’s stiff back and general weakness against LHPs, the M’s had a nifty chance to run out an RHP-heavy line-up tonight and get Wlad’s long ball power in the line-up. Instead, Danks gets three LH bats in the first five spots in the order, and the right-handed bats are mostly punchless and clumped together at the bottom of the order.

I’m sure Mike Sweeney’s a great guy and Russ Branyan had a great weekend, but I’d rather see Wlad in the line-up tonight than either of them.

Shuffling The Bullpen

April 27, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 23 Comments 

Coming out of spring training, the plan for the bullpen was that the arms would begin to sort themselves out at the start of the year, and the team would adjust the roles from there. We’re three weeks into the season, and that appears to be happening. Here’s the current structure:

Morrow has established himself as the closer, despite initial struggles. He’s the best arm in the pen, and in 2009, that means he pitches the 9th inning.

Aardsma has taken over the 8th inning setup/backup closer role. He’s Wak’s #2 guy in the pen right now.

Shawn Kelley has done nothing but impress, and has moved into the high leverage 7th inning role.

Roy Corcoran and Mark Lowe essentially have the same role – middle guy who goes a few innings, depending on which one didn’t pitch the day before. Corcoran started out ahead of Lowe, but has pitched his way into lower leverage situations.

Sean White is the long reliever/low leverage mopup guy until RRS gets healthy, and then will hand that role back to Jakubauskas.

Miguel Batista is the fill-in – he backs up everyone else (except Morrow), and fills whatever role can’t be filled by the normal pitcher for whatever reason.

However, this structure isn’t going to last that much longer. Cesar Jimenez is rehabbing in Tacoma, and the team can only keep him down there for a few more weeks before they have to make a decision on him. Once his rehab assignment expires, they’ll have to put him on the roster or designate him for assignment. He’d almost certainly be claimed on waivers, so he’s got a decent shot at a roster spot. In addition, Tyler Johnson isn’t that far behind him, and barring a setback, we should plan on Johnson and Jimenez both claiming bullpen spots in the next couple of weeks. And then there’s RR-S, who may or may not be back shortly.

How’s this all going to shake out?

White is probably the first guy to go, with one of Jakubauskas/Batista/RR-S taking his job, depending on which of the three lefties comes back first. Corcoran is probably number two on the chopping block. If all three come back and no one else gets hurt in the mean time, the team would have to make a decision on Batista – is he worth keeping around in lieu of a guy like Mark Lowe? Almost certainly not. However, Lowe has options and Batista would have to be DFA’d, so if their performance levels are similar, that could be a tie-breaker.

All of this ignores both Chad Cordero and Josh Fields, both of whom could also factor in at some point this summer.

It’s a crowded bullpen, and the depth gives the team lots of options. It also will force them to make some decisions fairly soon, however.

More interestingly, to me, will be how the 8th inning will shake out. Aardsma has gotten good results through unsustainable processes (walks + flyballs do not equal dominance), so he’s either going to have to throw more strikes or lose his job to Kelley. Personally, I prefer Kelley to Aardsma right now, and I wouldn’t have a problem swapping those two out, but I imagine Wak wants to take it easy on the rookie.

It will be interesting to see how all this sorts out. The bullpen has been a huge part of the team’s 12-7 start, and while they aren’t the highest regarded group out there, there’s enough talent and depth for them to continue to post above average performances. We probably won’t lead the league in bullpen ERA, but I’ve seen enough to think that it won’t be the disaster many were expecting.

New WSJ Piece(s)

April 27, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 17 Comments 

My latest Wall Street Journal article was published today, and this one is actually relevant to the M’s upcoming series. As mentioned in the piece, the White Sox have yet to throw out a base stealer this year. Opponents are 18 for 18 against them. They were last in the AL in CS% last year as well. The M’s should run like mad men in this series. Ichiro, Chavez, and Gutierrez should be heading for second base practically every time they get on.

I’ve also begun contributing shorter pieces to WSJ’s “Heard On The Field” section, which encompasses little nuggets from various sports. Today’s section includes a quick bit on Zach Greinke’s current run of near perfection.

Minor League Wrap (4/20-26/09)

April 27, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 8 Comments 

This week’s rundown will be a bit abbreviated, by my standards at least, as I just haven’t had the time to commit to it after a rather eventful week. Consequently, I had to cut out the quotes, happenings, and ground/fly ratios. They may be back again for next Monday, but it’s hard to tell at this point. Everything else is as it’s been before.

In the meantime, if you’re truly starved for more, I recommend an impressive Baseball America article by Matt Eddy that scouts the Mavericks pitching staff and the kind of things they’ve been doing to avoid the notorious effects of their home park.

To the jump!
Read more

Game 19, Mariners at Angels

April 26, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 80 Comments 

12:35 our time, FSNW.

Jarrod Washburn v Jered Weaver. Hmm.

The M’s supply Washburn with the outfield defense o’ delight.

RF-L Ichiro!
LF-L Chavez
DH-L Griffey
3B-R Beltre
1B-L Branyan
2B-R Lopez
SS-R Betancourt
C-R Burke
CF-R Gutierrez

Get on the Bus Bandwagon, folks! Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!

Silva, pitching machine

April 25, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 29 Comments 

Generated off the Brooks Baseball tool

Carlos Silva again had two pitches. Neither of them had much sink to them.

Here’s Vertical Movement Against Speed.

Silva Vertical Movement Against Speed

Nothing drops at all, and those fastballs are coming in at 89 over and over.

And here’s how much movement he’s getting on his pitches in both directions: horizontal movement against vertical movement.

Horizontal Movement Against Vertical Movement

Smear of that mediocre, not-moving-even-if-you-call-it-a-sinker fastball up, and nine other pitches.

This was the same start he’s given the M’s all season. I’m sure we’ll see some kind of celebration because he would up with a “W” next to his name, but opposing teams are going to catch onto this really quick.

Game 18, Mariners at Angels

April 25, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 273 Comments 

6:05. FSN. Given Silva’s pitch-to-contact nature, this would be a fine time to go to the best possible defensive lineup.

Some pre-game thoughts for your consideration and discussion.

Players with 50 or more plate appearances and no walks:
Bengie Molina, C, SF
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Sea

Fielding percentage is nothing. The broadcast crew’s mentioned a couple times now that the M’s are having defensive problems. As a team, this is absolutely not true. And I rarely use italics.

Yes, they’re near the bottom in fielding percentage. But look closer. In terms of raw balls put into play turned into outs, the M’s are 10th in the majors. Last year they were 26th. Using an advanced defensive measure like UZR that looks at play by play, the M’s are the best defensive team in baseball right now… by five runs.

Now if you look at individual UZR, Betancourt is big problem, Ichiro’s below-average initially (but we’ve got every reason to have faith). But the two new outfielders are putting up world-beating numbers. We’ve liked using the example of the Winn-Cameron-Ichiro! outfield before to talk about how good these guys could be. And yeah, they’re that good. This is a stellar defensive outfield.

This is another example of how a story originating in the flaws of bad metrics gets repeated by people who have a public forum and ta da! everyone’s worried about the team’s defensive issues.

This is a team designed to play great defense, and they’re playing great defense. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

M’s valuation drops

April 25, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 13 Comments 

The new Forbes franchise value numbers (“Disputed by MLB since we started”) are out. Warning: annoying “welcome screen” ahead.

The M’s dropped 9% as years of losing and last year’s disastrous season caught up to them, along I presume with the expiration of the amazingly rich KOMO broadcast deal. Here’s the Mariners detail page which has some nice graphs but not a whole lot of useful information.

They do note “The team is having trouble selling season tickets and suites for 2009” (which we’ve talked about a little here). We saw last year there were just a huge number of no-shows, and it’s pretty clear the team took a huge hit when they decided not to renew.

The Yankees and Mets lead, which makes sense given that they have new stadiums to better exploit the richest media market in the country. But just behind them is the Rays, now valued at $320m after their turnaround. In relevant news, however, both teams are having trouble filling their super-premium-awesome seats, which makes it look on TV like people aren’t attending the games, which in turn makes me laugh. I’d feel bad, but I can’t. It’s bad enough Selig’s annoyed, but what are they going to do? Dropping the prices is going to severely piss off the people who already bought, but the teams aren’t going to want to give refunds to them.

What might end up the interesting story is the debt/value ratio. If you remember, a couple years ago Selig was trying to use this as a lever to drive down team spending. But it’s a lot harder to find financing compared to a few years ago (as Tom Hicks is discovering). If teams were carrying massive short-term debt expecting they’d be able to continually refinance, they could be in serious trouble in the next few years. It’s hard not to look at that chart of team debt and wonder how many of them could have issues.

Happy Newer Slimmer Carlos Silva Day!

April 25, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 45 Comments 

I know, you were thinking “after seeing another sweet start by Bedard, I’d really like to get some red hot Newer Slimmer Carlos Silva action.”

Now seriously, if ever there was a time to put up a good start, to get some breaking pitches to break, the sinker to sink, to turn that improved nutrition and flexibility into results, this is it.

Game 17, Mariners at Angels

April 24, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 208 Comments 

7:05, FSN. Here’s the M’s lineup against SP-R Shane Loux.

RF-L Ichiro!
LF-L Chavez
DH-L Griffey
3B-R Beltre
1B-L Branyan
2B-R Lopez
C-R Johnson
CF-R Gutierrez
SS-R Betancourt

Yay Branyan returns!

Meanwhile, we get this awesome (for us) Angels lineup:
3B-B Figgins
RF-B Matthews
LF-L Abreu
CF-R Hunter
1B-B Morales
C-R Napoli
2B-R Kendrick
DH-R Quinlan
SS-B Aybar

The Angels have another switch hitter (Izturis) that’s not in the lineup, but they could plausibly field five in a game. The M’s have zero.

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