Game 127, A’s at M’s

August 26, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 100 Comments 

Luke French vs. Gio Gonzalez. 7 pm. EXCITEMENT.

In Mariners-related news, Silva threw a simulated game, Ichiro is still out and really wants to play, and J.J. Putz is done for the season with a “slightly torn ulnar collateral ligament”.

CF Gutierrez
3B Hannahan
2B Lopez
DH? Sweeney
RF Hall RF
1B Branyan
C Johnson
SS Jack Wilson
LF Saunders

Saunders and Bunting

August 26, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 46 Comments 

Last night, Michael Saunders laid down another perfect bunt, getting himself on base for the sixth time this season by bunting for a hit. He’s now tied for the team lead in bunt hits with Ichiro, and he’s only been on the roster for about a month. It’s not like he’s collecting these hits through sheer volume, either – he’s just been successful in reaching base six of the eight times he’s put a bunt down.

Saunders is a good bunter, there’s little doubt about that. He’s also fast and left-handed, which gives him an advantage in getting down the line before the fielder can get the ball to first base. Being able to drop one down for a hit is a nice weapon for him to have.

However, the M’s aren’t grooming him to be another Endy Chavez. He had 30 extra base hits and a .234 ISO in Triple-A when they called him up. There’s power in his bat, even if we haven’t seen it at the major league level yet. This is where my concern comes in. The whole point of having him up here right now is to attempt to evaluate his ability to help the team win next year as the club’s regular left fielder. He’s not going to help the M’s if he doesn’t drive the ball with some regularity, and he can’t do that if he’s bunting once every ten times he comes up to bat.

I’d like to see Wak tell him that he’s proven his point, showed he can get a bunt down, and that they can now trust him to handle himself in a situation if necessary. But, for the rest of the year, they’d like him to try to get the ball into the outfield, and he can feel free to put a ball or two in the stands if he wishes. He needs to learn how to work counts at the big league level, get himself into situations where he can expect a fastball and turn on it. Every time he lays down a bunt, it’s one less opportunity for him to learn how to hit big league pitching.

Being a good bunter is a nice bonus, but his value to the team will come through racking up doubles in the gap. More swings, less bunting please.

Game 126, A’s at M’s

August 25, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 57 Comments 

Anderson! RRS!

Another day off for Ichiro! And another shake-up in the lineup:

CF-R Gutierrez
3B-L Hannahan
2B-R Lopez
DH-0 Sweeney
RF-R Hall
1B-L Branyan
C-R Johjima
SS-R Wilson
LF-L Saunders

That’s… well, yeah.

M’s Announce AFL rosters

August 25, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 21 Comments 

The Mariners selections for the Arizona Fall League were announced today, and the M’s have loaded up the Peoria roster with some serious talent. Representing the M’s:

SS Carlos Triunfel
OF Dustin Ackley
1B/OF Joe Dunigan
RHP Phillippe Aumont
RHP Josh Fields
RHP Anthony Varvaro
LHP Nick Hill

Usually, a team will send one or two mid-level prospects and a bunch of fillers. The arms, especially, are usually not very interesting, as teams don’t want to tax their prospects after a full minor league season. But since the M’s have a bunch of guys who have missed time this year for various reasons, the AFL is a nice landing spot for them to get some extra work in before the winter hits.

It will certainly be interesting to see follow – for an M’s fan, you can’t ask for a better group of prospects to check in on down in the AFL.

The Next Big Test

August 25, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 107 Comments 

Last year, we saw Zduriencik and crew come in and ace the off-season, making a bunch of terrific moves to re-shape a bad roster and take an organization out of a death spiral and into a strong rebuilding effort. However, with no disrespect intended, that was the easy part. Getting a roster from 60 wins to 80 wins isn’t nearly as large of a challenge as getting from 80 to 90 – you have to be able to identify some undervalued assets that can plug gaping holes, solidify some depth with some nice bargains, and fill around your core pieces with not-terrible players, but those tasks are far easier than upgrading decent talent to good talent.

This winter, the M’s front office has a new challenge. They’ve shown they can find nice complimentary pieces and fill out a roster without having to spend a lot of money. However, for the M’s to become a real contender again, they’re going to need another core player. If we assume Beltre is probably not coming back, the M’s have three guys that you could safely call above average major leaguers: Felix Hernandez, Ichiro Suzuki, and Franklin Gutierrez. There are some other guys who have the talent to play at an above average level next year, but it can’t be counted on.

Three above average guys – that’s not a big enough core. The M’s need another building block (or two) to form the foundation of the team, and while the role players the organization has already acquired are nice pieces, you can’t add them to the Hernandez/Suzuki/Gutierrez trio and hope to win a World Series. You can’t realistically compete with the New Yorks and Bostons of the world with three good players and a bunch of guys who aren’t terrible. You can finish .500 that way, but you’re not going to have a parade without another high quality player.

For the M’s, adding that kind of player is going to be a priority this winter. They were able to strike gold with Gutierrez, and they may be able to do so again, but we have to remember that the M’s surrendered real value in that deal. J.J. Putz was one of the main assets on the team and Luis Valbuena was a promising young player that was nearly major league ready – the M’s didn’t get Gutierrez for free (though, the deal is still a massive, huge win for the team).

So, now the M’s need to add a Gutierrez-caliber of player at some position, but they also have to limit the amount of major league talent they give up. That’s not easy, especially considering that the roster doesn’t have too many glaring holes any more. Replacing Miguel Cairo with Russ Branyan is easy. Replacing, say, Brandon Morrow with a quality mid-rotation starter… that’s a lot harder.

We know Jack and Tony are good at gathering assets and building the end of a roster. This winter, they’ll have to improve the front of the roster, too, and that’s more of a challenge. Whether it’s making a big splash on a young 1B/DH type (Prince Fielder, perhaps?) or hitting on a home run on a high risk/reward pitcher (Ben Sheets?), the team is going to have to add a 3-5 win player this winter. The Bill Hall/Jack Hannahan/Ryan Langerhans/Luke French types are nice and all, but we now have a full house of role players. We need another building block.

Game 125, A’s at Mariners

August 24, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 82 Comments 

Snell! Wooo!

The Ichiro-less lineup:

CF-R Gutierrez
1B-L Branyan
2B-R Lopez
DH-L Griffey
RF-R Hall
C-R Johjima
3B-L Hannahan
SS-R Wilson
LF-L Saunders

Go Hannahan! Revenge yourself on your former team!

Situational hitting is just hitting

August 24, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 22 Comments 

Quick pointer to Geoff’s very long post about the M’s situational hitting woes.

There is no one answer here. But one fact seems indisputable: this entire team needs work in some aspects of situational hitting. A team that’s the worst in the league at knocking baserunners in should adopt no less of an attitude.

I dispute that that’s a fact. They need to work at hitting, not “some aspects of situational hitting”. The M’s suck at advancing runners because they suck at hitting. They’re at or near the bottom any way you want to sort the teams. They don’t hit for average, they don’t get on base, they don’t hit for power. It’s Ichiro, Branyan, Gutierrez, and a collection of average-to-sucky guys.

Teams that don’t hit don’t hit with guys on base. There’s no approach, no spring training drills, that teams that can’t hit can use to become way more awesome with runners on. Advancing the runner with a bunt is generally a wash because you’re giving up an out, and you know the rest of this argument. And conversely, teams that hit don’t have to figure out why they’re not scoring enough runners, because they score because they’re hitting… tada! Triumph of the obvious.

There’s some variation, of course, because the sample size for hitting is huge and the sample size with guys on second is small, and leans heavily on hitters who are up when the good hitters are on, and so on and so forth. But you can predict a team’s hitting with men on next year with this year’s hitting better than you can with this year’s hitting with men on.

None of which is to say that this isn’t painful. But the correlation between hitting and hitting with runners on is nearly perfect. There’s no need to overthink this, or for the team to (as they did in past years to disastrous results) go find a guy they think is a good situational hitter.

A Good Cause

August 24, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 3 Comments 

Last year, I posted a link to the fund-raising website of my then-fiancee-now-beautiful-wife, who was participating in a marathon to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. You guys responded in such a remarkable way, I figured I’d offer you an encore – sort of.

This time, it’s not my wife, but fellow Mariner blogger Jason Churchill, who is doing the Light The Night walk for the LLS on September 26th with his fiancee. If you’d like to donate to LLS to help fund research to wipe out these two diseases, Jason’s fund-raising page can be found here.

On Beltre and real estate

August 24, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 16 Comments 

So whenever we mention Beltre, and particularly in the context of what may happen after the season, we get a couple emails about how he sold his house in Seattle a while back and that proves he’s out of here.

I don’t care. I don’t care if it’s true, and I don’t care if it’s not. Unless someone’s talked to Beltre and said “hey, what’s the scoop with selling the house?” and Beltre said “I know I’m leaving after this season, and didn’t want to bother selling it after I’d signed somewhere else” we don’t know. Maybe he didn’t like the place. Or maybe he thinks there’s a lot of danger in prime mortgages and he’s better off selling now and renting a nice downtown place for a while with his long-term future uncertain.

We don’t know. I didn’t know he had a Seattle house – the press guide said he lives in Arcadia, California, and that was good enough for me. I want to see him play, not hang around the closest mall hoping he’ll invite me over for beers or something.

And maybe this does mean he’s at least not so in love with Seattle that he wants to stay here, in the house he owned, even if he knew he might be playing next season in a different uniform. And maybe that means he might not want to come down on price if he negotiates with the team. That’s as far as I’m willing to go.

Even if we take that as known, that doesn’t mean that the door’s closed after this season because we can’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe Beltre likes Seattle, hates hitting in Safeco, likes the team, likes playing for Wakamatsu, likes having a bunch of random blogs singing his defensive praises. And this off-season he finds that he can make x signing somewhere else and x signing here. Or x+y for signing here. Not even Beltre knows what’s going to happen when the season ends.

There are perhaps three groups of people who can even advance the conversation, and none of them are going to help:
– Beltre and Beltre’s confidants (say, his wife) who may know if he wants to play somewhere in particular.
– Beltre’s agent, who has probably talked to him about what might happen with arbitration. Like Beltre, not going to talk because they want the M’s to bid either way (unless they want to leave and want the M’s to decline arbitration, but that’s not going to work)
– The M’s, if they approached Beltre and or Beltre’s agent about an extension and got a clear flat refusal (which again would not be in Beltre’s best interests)

Maybe the M’s are stocking up on guys who can play third because they did get that answer, and maybe they’re stocking up because it’s smart. But they don’t know what’s going to happen, and neither does anyone else.

So whatever. Let the guy make real estate deals in peace, if he’s making real estate deals.

M’s, Defense, and Statistics

August 24, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 13 Comments 

Read this. It’s a fantastic article, and sums up how an organization should go about evaluating these things. It’s not just stats, and it’s not just scouting. It’s both, and they work together.

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