Road Trip Of Doom Recap

Dave · July 13, 2009 at 9:26 am · Filed Under Mariners 

The M’s just completed the hardest stretch of their season schedule. Before they took off for LA, we noted that anything over .500 would be a pretty big accomplishment. They went 9-7.

Now, here’s the amazing part. How well would you have thought the offense was going to do if Russell Branyan was going to hit .200/.315/.467 during the last 16 games? Seriously, we’d have been expecting a long series of shutouts. Instead, Franklin Gutierrez and Rob Johnson (four extra base hits and three walks in his last seven games… amazing) picked up the slack, and the offense was respectable enough, especially considering the competition.

And, when the offense is respectable, this team wins games, because the run prevention is among the best in the league. Even with some bullpen problems, the defense and the rotation carried the day, and the M’s were able to keep enough runs off the board to be in most every game. With the subtraction of Betancourt and the additions of Langerhans and Hannahan, the M’s probably have the best defense in baseball, and this is what you can do when nearly everyone on the field is turning balls in play into outs. Over the last two weeks, the M’s opponents have posted a .234 batting average on balls in play. .234! Yea, a decent chunk of that is good luck, but these guys can really play defense, and they’ve got some quality arms in the rotation to boot.

16 games against quality opponents, with Beltre missing the last 13 of them, and the team went 9-7. Be impressed. The M’s just played a bunch of games against playoff quality teams and held their own. There are still some pretty obvious weaknesses on this roster, and the Angels catching fire means that we’re still 4 games out of first place in the AL West, but if this roster was going to roll over and die, this was when they were going to do it. Instead, they went toe to toe with the best in the league and won.

What a great way to finish the most encouraging first half of baseball we’ve seen since 2001. Over the next three weeks, we’ll find out just what Jack and his crew can do to make the team better. If Beltre can come back, and the team adds a shortstop and shores up the bullpen… watch out. This could be a fun, fun ride.


70 Responses to “Road Trip Of Doom Recap”

  1. georgmi on July 13th, 2009 1:22 pm

    One might suggest that you would put your better game-caller into games where the pitcher is more in need of, and/or more receptive to, guidance.

    One might further suggest that this approach would be highly likely to result in a situation where your better catcher would “earn” himself a higher cERA than your worse catcher.

  2. KaminaAyato on July 13th, 2009 1:23 pm

    oh yay.

    Ian Furness just teased looking at the starting catcher, and that there are some “crazy numbers” between the two catchers he is going to reveal.

    Que CERA CERA?

    I say one of these days we all flood the station with phone calls when they talk about CERA and beat into the head of whoever the host is that, as the famous quote from Meatballs, “IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!”

  3. G-Germ on July 13th, 2009 1:24 pm

    In my opinion there are too many external variables for cERA to have any significant meaning. Individual catcher-picter-opposing team combinations are too small of a sample size for any meaning.

    Remember, we are essentially debating the same player. According to Fangraphs, the 2009 difference between Johjima and Johnson is 0.3 WAR. In 2008 and so far in 2009, Johjima has been a 0.3 WAR catcher, while Johnson, in 60 career games is around a Replacement level player (around 0.0). Hardly enough to be upset one way or another.

    The tiebreaker in this case, may, in fact be whom the pitchers are more comfortable with.

  4. georgmi on July 13th, 2009 1:33 pm

    If Johjima has given us .3 WAR in 32 games started so far, doesn’t that translate to ~1.5 WAR if he started ‘most every day for a full season*?

    In other words, the more playing time Kenji gets, the greater his margin of superiority over Johnson.

    *If that isn’t how WAR works, let me know; I will at least have learned something.

  5. bilbo27 on July 13th, 2009 1:36 pm

    Wak has publicly stated that he puts no stock in Catchers ERA (during a Dave N. pre-game interview a few weeks ago when they were discussing the return of Joh). He did however once again re-iterate how comfortable the pitchers are with Johnson. So perhaps he doesn’t care about CERA, but cares greatly that the pitchers feel comfortable/confident on the mound.

    The whole thing doesn’t make a lot of sense to me though. The M’s have to be looking to move Kenji with Moore on the way; so it would stand to reason you’d want to play him as much as possible to see if he can put up pre-2008 like numbers and thus *maybe* JZ could get someone to take him and his salary.

    Rob Johnson will make a decent backup catcher at that time when Moore is ready, but will likely never be anything more.

    It’s a mystery. But in the end, JZ and Wak seem to do just about everything right; so either they know what they are doing and we are all wrong, or they have a blind spot when it comes to Johnson. In the latter case, I like that JZ and Wak’s mistakes are things like “Rob Johnson catching more than Joh”, whereas Bavasi’s mistakes were things like “You can have our entire farm system and we get an oft injured pitcher for two years”. 🙂

    I do feel a little bad for Joh though. I know statistically I shouldn’t with him (over his career), but I’ve always had a soft spot for him for some reason. Probably because so many people seem not to like him, even during his first two years.

  6. robbbbbb on July 13th, 2009 1:44 pm

    With advances in Pitch/FX data, and with Fangraphs putting together information like the pitch value stuff that’s in their databases, yeah, I think that some better evaluation tools for game-calling are on the way. They’re not here, yet, though.

    I gotta wonder what the differences would look like for Felix’s wFB/C, for instance, between two different catchers, and whether that would be statistically significant.

  7. G-Germ on July 13th, 2009 1:45 pm

    If Johjima has given us .3 WAR in 32 games started so far, doesn’t that translate to ~1.5 WAR if he started ‘most every day for a full season*?

    Actually, Johjima is 0.3 WAR in his last 133 games (2008-2009) if you want to go that route. (2006 – 3.3 WAR, 2007 – 2.7 WAR).

    Johnson has a 0.0 WAR in 46 games of 2009, and a -0.3 WAR in 10 games of 2008, and 0.1 WAR in 4 games of 2007. None of which can really tell you anything because of their sample sizes.

  8. Marinerz51 on July 13th, 2009 2:08 pm

    I can guarantee that at least for the next 5 years or so the Gold Glove winners in the AL for the OF are as follows; Ichiro, Guttierrez, Torrii (Puke) Hunter
    JZ is a freaking genius. I was thinking more along the lines of 7-9 would be respectible. But also wouldn’t have been surprised had they gone 4-12, very impressed. JZ may be going to hell for ripping off the Royals, but he’s our GM and no one else can have him.

  9. georgmi on July 13th, 2009 2:08 pm

    Johjima’s ’08 performance looks suspiciously like an outlier to me, and I submit that the value he’s put up in limited opportunities this year supports that argument.

    Add to that the fact that his detriment to the team was all from his bat, which wouldn’t be reflected in anybody’s cERA anyhow.

  10. Slippery Elmer on July 13th, 2009 2:09 pm

    I heard the M’s traded Yuni because Cedeño has a much lower SSERA.

  11. Slippery Elmer on July 13th, 2009 2:12 pm

    That was a joke, BTW.

    I can guarantee that at least for the next 5 years or so the Gold Glove winners in the AL for the OF are as follows; Ichiro, Guttierrez,

    Last night on SportsCenter they called Guti an “underrated fielder.” I just want to know who’s doing that rating, and how they got that responsibility, given how obviously sightless they are.

  12. msb on July 13th, 2009 2:22 pm

    The same ones who say the Ms have the worst defense in the league?

  13. The Ancient Mariner on July 13th, 2009 2:35 pm

    Dave, Derek, the first person I ever saw talk about CERA was Craig Wright, in his book (with Tom House) The Diamond Appraised. When he did it, though, he controlled for innings with each pitcher, producing a stat off a theoretical equal set of catcher-pitcher pairings. Do you think there’s any value to that sort of approach?

  14. Liam on July 13th, 2009 2:38 pm

    If the M’s do make it to the post season, can you imagine them leaving Griffey off of the roster?

  15. Sam W. on July 13th, 2009 2:39 pm

    Anyone else want a Cedeno to get sent down?

  16. diderot on July 13th, 2009 2:42 pm

    Anyone else want a Cedeno to get sent down?

    Wow, who does that leave to play short? Rick Rizzs?

  17. msb on July 13th, 2009 3:42 pm

    I think Rizzs was a 2B….

  18. Kazinski on July 13th, 2009 4:36 pm

    I can guarantee that at least for the next 5 years or so the Gold Glove winners in the AL for the OF are as follows; Ichiro, Guttierrez, Torrii (Puke) Hunter

    Your going to guarantee that Gutierrez is going to hit 25 HR’s?

    Cause that’s what he’s going to need to get a gold glove.

  19. Oly Rainiers Fan on July 13th, 2009 6:29 pm

    Get over the Rob Johnson bashing.

    In the stats world, catcher is the big black hole where it’s (thus far at least) incredibly hard to measure/quantify anything other than their offense. So it’s all subjective or anecdotal.

    More than any other players on a team, catchers and pitchers performances are tightly coupled together. They impact each others’ performance whether or not the stats exist now (or ever will) to properly apportion credit or blame. Some of it is likely mental as in ‘do I trust this catcher enough to throw what he tells me to’ but even that is based upon the catchers skill – at prepping for the game, discussing the batters ahead of time, adjusting during the game, communicating all of that to the pitcher and manager AND having successful results for the pitcher. We can’t possibly discretely measure ANY of that stuff, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact. Clearly, the pitchers believe it does, and as they are part of that 2-person battery, I’m inclined to believe them.

  20. MissingEdgar on July 13th, 2009 8:33 pm

    What I can’t understand is why the smart people in the organization don’t see Johnson ….. literally failing to catch more pitched balls (not tips, not even swung at) than anyone else in baseball.

    I was wondering if anyone else noticed that Johnson often can’t catch a pitched ball. For some reason, scorers seem to generously call many of his misses wild pitches rather than passed balls. It made me wonder if passed balls plus wild pitches per at bat (or some other rate) would be useful measure of that aspect of catcher defense.

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