Saunders vs. French, 7:05 pm.
No Ichiro again today, sadly.
Franklin Gutierrez – CF
Josh Wilson (ugh!) – 3B
Jose Lopez – 2B
Mike Sweeney – Designated Hugger
Bill Hall – RF
Hannahan – 1B (pour one out for Branyan)
Jack Wilson – SS
Rob Johnson – whatever the heck it is that he does
Ryan Langerhans – LF
This one is probably going to be painful.
Pitcher A: 2.3 BB/9, 5.6 K/9, 1.1 HR/9, 37% GB%, 88.3 MPH fastball
Pitcher B: 2.3 BB/9, 5.2 K/9, 1.1 HR/9, 38% GB%, 88.9 MPH fastball
Pitcher A – Ryan-Rowland Smith, in his eight starts since returning from Tacoma. Pitcher B – Jarrod Washburn’s 2009 season, Seattle+Detroit.
Seriously, I’m not sure these two guys could be any more similar. They both throw high-80s fastballs up in the zone, big slow breaking balls, and rely on their outfielders and the dimensions of Safeco Field to make them look good. When their fly balls stay in the park, they’re effective. When the ball heads over the fence, they’re not. They are the exact same guy.
There’s two lessons to be learned from this:
1. Replacing Jarrod Washburn wasn’t hard, and trading him didn’t open up any kind of hole in the rotation.
2. Ryan Rowland-Smith isn’t an ace in the making. Whatever you thought of Washburn as a pitcher, you should think it of Hyphen too. They’re the same guy.
As we saw with Washburn, there’s nothing wrong with having a pitch-to-contact flyball lefty in Safeco with a good outfield defense. The symmetry provided can add up to more than the individual sums. But while RR-S is a decent young arm, don’t buy too much into starts like yesterday. He’s Washburn 2.0.
This is the second-to-last wrap of the season, as the affiliates not playing into the post-season wonâ€™t be active after the seventh of September. In fact, the Arizona League playoff is tomorrow and Pulaski wonâ€™t play after this coming Tuesday, so the end of the recaps is already in wind-down mode.
To the jump!
With the arrival of September 1st on Tuesday, the rosters will expand and the M’s will inevitably bring a few kids up from the minors to finish the season in Seattle. Over the last 24 hours or so, there have been a few developments that will probably affect who comes up and who doesn’t.
First, Branyan’s bad back and Griffey’s bum knee means that they probably won’t wait until Tacoma’s season ends to bring up Mike Carp – he’ll almost certainly be up on Tuesday. Who will be joining him?
Not Brandon Morrow. He left his start on Saturday night with “arm tightness”, and while the team is calling it precautionary, you have to believe the M’s will be careful with Morrow down the stretch, especially considering how well the rotation is doing without him. They’re not going to force an opening for him to pitch on the big league squad if he’s not 100%.
Garrett Olson will be coming back up, however, and Jason Vargas may as well, though the team won’t want to raid Tacoma too badly since they still have a season to finish. The team usually brings up a third catcher, though with neither Jamie Burke or Adam Moore on the 40 man roster, that isn’t a certainty this time. The 40-man roster is full, and with Silva set to rejoin the team at some point during the next month, they will already need to clear a spot for him – they’re not likely to want to open up another spot if they don’t have to.
Expect Matt Tuiasosopo to get called up once Tacoma’s season ends. Since he missed a few months, they’ll want him to play as much as possible, and he’ll have a better chance to do that in Triple-A than he will in the majors.
So, that brings the final tally to something like this: Carp/Olson on Tuesday, Vargas and Morrow TBD, Tui after Tacoma’s season ends, and that may be it. Don’t expect a big group to join the team when rosters expand, especially with Morrow’s status now up in the air.
1:05. What a nice day to hang out at Safeco Field, huh? Man. Unless you’re a Mariner.
Currently on the 60-day DL:
Bedard, Chavez, Feierabend, Jiminez, Silva
Currently on the 15-day DL:
Currently “day to day”:
Two of the team’s three best offensive players are out (well, unless you count the hot version of Lopez). Two of the team’s best defensive players are out. The good news is Silva’s recovering well! Maybe we’ll get to see him when rosters expand! In the bullpen! Because watching Batista pitch isn’t painful enough.
Meche and Snell were both regarded as head cases in their organizations. Meche was plagued by shoulder issues while the team thought him a whiner for not pitching through the pain, and eventually grew so frustrated they put back him in AAA with instructions to pound the strikezone and turn into a pitch-to-contact guy. The Gil Meche that left Seattle had been turned into an innings-eating pitching machine, who in his last year put together some success, and as Dave said in August
Iâ€™ll repeat what I said three weeks ago; Gil Meche is clearly not an ace or any kind of frontline pitcher, I donâ€™t want to give him a mulitiyear contract in the offseason, but Iâ€™m also glad they didnâ€™t trade him, because the 8% BB/20% K flyball pitcher in Safeco Field is an effective starter who can help this team try to win the division. Heâ€™s going to give up some home runs, but thatâ€™s just part of the package.
By the time he left, I was so tired and frustrated with the whole situation (Meche, the team, Meche v the team, “Meche has turned it around”) I wrote things like
I hope the sucker that decides to give Meche a huge long-term free agent deal because they think they can fix him is in our division, because I would love to watch him get regularly shelled by the team for the next 3-5 years.
Ha ha! Good one, Derek.
I should send all our 2004-2006 Meche (heck, our 1999-2006) writing to people who complain we’re too stat-obsessed: it’s a catalog of excitement, complaint, worry, wavering, poring over stats trying to figure out what happened when, long examinations of team and Meche statements to construct injury (and injury denial) timelines.
What’s strange about his Royals lines is that they’re so varied in pitch value. Most pitchers have more or less the same strengths year-to-year. If someone has a good curve, or a fastball with deceptive movement, that doesn’t go away.
Look at Meche’s pitch type values. In 2007, the bulk of his value came from his changeup and his curve, and in 2008 it was by far from his fastball (historically a pretty poor pitch for him). This year, neither are doing well. I can’t think of another pitcher with a run of success with this kind of variance in where the success comes from.
And now, the M’s are starting a pitcher in a situation not that far from in-the-doghouse Meche stuck in Tacoma… and I guy they sought out in trade as an interesting gamble, even though his parent organization had shrugged their collective shoulders and all but given up on him.
I look forward to this game.
After last night’s loss, I sat there, shaking my head a little, and sighed. Then I looked at the next game’s pitching matchup and I smiled. That’s Felix Day for you: I don’t care how he’s been doing lately, every time I see his name up for the start I look forward to it.
If you haven’t seen it by now, you should check out this interview Junior did with Trent Rosecrans of cnati.com – the first part focuses on the Reds and his departure from an organization he’s clearly not much of a fan of, but towards the end, it shifts towards his reunion with the M’s and how he’s felt about this season. The final quote is the most interesting for a Mariner fan:
CTR: How much longer are you going to do this?
KG: I don’t know.
CTR: I mean, you’ve said you feel like you’re starting something. Do you want to stick around to see it out?
KG: Yeah. But, like I said, I’ve never forced myself on anyone. If they tell me they don’t want me anymore, that’s fine. I’ve had a chance to do something I’ve wanted to do, and that’s come back to Seattle. I haven’t wavered on that at all. I’ve gotten a chance to do it and I’m thankful to the organization for giving me a chance to do it. They could have said no. It wasn’t owed to me to come here. It wasn’t owed to me to have Atlanta offer me a contract. They thought enough of me to think I can help the organization and reached out to me – that means a lot.
If you’ve been waiting for Griffey to announce that he’s retiring at the end of the season so that the team can begin a final month goodbye to #24, it’s not going to happen. He wants to play next year, though he seems aware of the fact that the M’s are likely to go another direction at DH next season, and he doesn’t seem like he believes he’s entitled to retire as a Mariner. And that’s a good sign, because while his return to Seattle has been a pretty big success overall, this was always something that should only last one year.
Next year, the M’s will have a legitimate shot at a playoff run, given some strong moves this winter. Griffey isn’t a starting caliber player for a real contender, though – at this point, his skills make him a bench player/coach for any team hoping to make a playoff run. He may still find a team wiling to give him some playing time as a veteran influence, but that he realizes that team may not be the Mariners and is okay with that is nice to hear.
This will probably be Griffey’s last month in Seattle, so if you want to see him play at Safeco, you should make a point to go see him play. But don’t expect a long goodbye tour, because it doesn’t sound like Junior wants to hang them up just yet.
Davies v Fister. The Royals are the team you see next to the M’s at the bottom of all the offensive statistics when you sort, despite the clubhouse presence of such former Mariner stalwarts as Guillen and Bloomquist. And Betancourt. They’re terrrrribble offensively.
So a fun series if you’re a fan of defense and low-scoring, quick games. And singles. You’ll see some singles.
You’ve probably noticed that Jose Lopez has been on fire for about three months now. After starting the season with a miserable slump, he was hitting .215/.259/.306 on May 26th. 191 terrible plate appearances that took up nearly 1/3 of his season, and he had accumulated all of three home runs and as many double plays as walks (10). He had played at a below replacement level performance – again. We’d seen this from Lopez before, as he has a history of going into long funks where he’s just an awful player. He’s rebounded before, though, and the hope was that he would rebound again.
Has he ever. Since May 26th, he’s hitting .306/.325/.559, a performance as valuable as it is weird. He’s racked up 27 doubles and 16 home runs in the last three months, but he’s also drawn a whopping five unintentional walks, which is why the OBP is still on the low end despite the fact that he’s been stinging the baseball. For a right-handed pull power hitter to slug .560 over a prolonged stretch of time while playing half his games at Safeco Field is borderline amazing. For a second baseman, it’s incredible.
Whenever you see significant performance changes like this, there’s always going to be people who want to suggest that the most recent results are “real”, and what happened early in the season is something that has been adjusted away. You also see this with people who feel like Russ Branyan has been “figured out”. However, the truth is that both the hot streak and the slump are real, and both inform us about the players abilities. It is the performance in total that is most predictive of future results (when weighted with past history and what we know about how players age, of course), not broken down fractions of that season.
Jose Lopez is not a .570 OPS guy or an .880 OPS guy. He’s neither as bad as he was in April and May or as good as he’s been in June, July, and August. So, the question for the Mariners, then, is the totality of the player one they should want to build around?
After all, Lopez doesn’t turn 26 until after the season ends, and he’s under contract for just $2.3 million next season and a team option for 2011 at $4.5 million before he becomes a free agent. Given his production, he’s a net asset (value of production over cost) to the M’s in the range of $7 million next year and probably something similar the year after. If the M’s paid fair market wages for Lopez’s next two seasons, we think that they’d offer him something like $20 million for 2010 and 2011 – they’ll actually pay him about 1/3 of that.
Given the team’s holes elsewhere on the roster, a lot of people will feel that the team should just count their blessings, be thankful that they have a league average second baseman under contract for a fraction of his value, and use the savings to pursue upgrades elsewhere. There is some validity to this claim – a team can win with Jose Lopez at second base, especially when he’s not making much money, so replacing him shouldn’t be a priority.
However, Lopez in Seattle also represents something of an inefficiency for baseball as a whole. As we’ve talked about, his power is strictly to left field, where Safeco is toughest on hitters. It’s no coincidence that Lopez is hitting .231/.249/.387 at home and .310/.345/.536 on the road. The M’s ballpark is built to suppress hitters with his skill set, which is why the new administration keeps acquiring left-handed players who fit the park better. In addition to the park configurations, the M’s are also likely to field a pitch to contact staff next year, and defense is not Lopez’s strong suit.
Lopez is less valuable to the Mariners than he would be to a team like the White Sox, who play in a park that allows fly balls to carry and have a rotation with several strikeout arms for him to play behind. Just due to the configurations of the stadium and the types of pitchers they’ll have, there’s a real value difference in how Lopez would help the White Sox versus how well he would help the Mariners. In a perfectly efficient market, Lopez would end up on a team like Chicago, with the Mariners then replacing him with a talent whose skills are better suited to their specific needs.
MLB, of course, is not a perfectly efficient market. Adrian Beltre is a terrible fit for Safeco Field too, but the M’s rightly pursued him as a free agent and received more value than they paid to acquire him. Just because it’s not an ideal situation to have a right-handed pull power hitter on the team doesn’t mean that the team should ignore those types of players in total. After all, you can’t have a line-up with nine left-handed hitters. You have to have some guys who can swing the bat from both sides, so if the M’s ship off every player whose value is somewhat muted by Safeco Field, they’ll end up with a mis-configured line-up that is easily shut down by any generic southpaw.
So, where does that leave us? Lopez is a net asset to the M’s, but slightly more of one to other clubs. He doesn’t have the skillset that the organization prefers, but he’s also a productive, young, low-cost player on a team that is trying to add exactly that. He’s prone to wild fluctuations in performance, but he’s also talented enough to become more than what he is right now.
Some people look at Lopez and see Carlos Guillen – a useful player that is viewed as a disappointment due to his lofty prospect status, but one that the M’s gave up on too soon, only to see him break out in Detroit. No one wants to repeat that mistake, certainly, and I can’t imagine that the M’s will be giving Lopez away this winter. But if Kenny Williams (or another GM with a park made for Lopez’s 380 foot power) calls and wants to talk about adding Lopez over the winter, I think the M’s have to not only be willing to listen, but be aggressive in realizing that this off-season is probably going to be the high point of his trade value.
He’s two years from free agency, and is not the kind of player the M’s are going to want to commit long term, big dollars too. As his contract gets closer to expiration, his value willl decrease, and the M’s will likely never be able to get more in exchange for Lopez than they will be able to now. His production level isn’t so high as to be irreplaceable, so if the right deal is presented, the M’s should be willing to pull the trigger on a trade that uses Lopez to help patch another area of the roster.
Lopez is this winter’s J.J. Putz. He has value to the M’s, but likely more to other teams, and Jack should be willing to leverage that inefficiency to make the team better overall.