I before U, except after T

November 20, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 42 Comments 

Since there’s been some talk about comment moderation, along with proper spelling, this seems like a good opportunity to write this note. As you know, some employees of the Mariner organization have names that can be mildly difficult to spell (Zduriencik, Rizzs, etc.), but we expect that if you care enough about the Mariners to discuss them here, you should care enough to spell them correctly or use an acceptable shorthand.

The pair people have struggled with the most in the past, probably because they have a superficial similarity but the pattern is reversed (and then you have to remember which is which), are Piniella and Pineiro. Nowadays, we have another pair a bit like that who have been coming up through the system, Tuiasosopo and Triunfel. People seem to get Matt right, partly because shortening to “Tui” is an easy save, but Carlos gets butchered constantly.

It’s hard to know what the future holds for Triunfel. What position will he ultimately play? Will he recover from his injury well enough to compensate for the lost development time? How much power will he develop? Is he a future star, or a future Jose Lopez? Is all this going to happen for the Mariners, or will he become a trade chip? Whatever the outcome, though, it’s at least time to start getting his name right.

A Name To Tuck Away

November 18, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 75 Comments 

Due to the varying abilities of the players already on the roster, the M’s find themselves in a rather interesting position this winter. They have four talented young position players who are all close to major league ready. They aren’t finished products necessarily, but they can play, and they have enough ability to fight for a spot on the team in spring training. Quality young talent is the lifeblood of an organization, and the upside of having first or second year players contributing for the league minimum is tough to match.

However, none of the four project to be good enough in 2010 that they should have job security heading into next season. They should have the opportunity to make the team, but the M’s can’t go into the season depending on these guys stepping up. It has to be a pleasant surprise, not an expected outcome. So, at each of their respective positions, the M’s need to provide a realistic alternative, but they need to do so without slamming the door shut on the kids.

At those positions, they need options, not necessarily solutions. That’s easier said than done, honestly. You generally don’t expend significant resources to acquire a player and then put his job up for grabs in spring training. You’re not going to sign Nick Johnson, then make him beat out Mike Carp for the first base job. That’s just not going to happen.

There is a path that can make this work, however – targeting players with positional flexibility. This is one of the ideas behind the acquisitions of guys like Jack Hannahan and Bill Hall. If Tui flops, those two could platoon at third base. If they trade Lopez, maybe those two share second base. Or maybe they keep Lopez and Tui wins the third base job, so Hall ends up as Saunders platoon partner and Hannahan fills the role of infield super-sub. Those guys give the M’s options.

What they don’t give the M’s is enough offense. They’re nice enough role players, but they’re backup plans if the first option doesn’t work out. The M’s need a guy with some positional flexibility who they actually want in the line-up and is good enough to hold down a fairly regular job. They need a guy who could slide in at two or three of the LF/3B/1B/C/DH jobs, depending on where the team needs him. It would also be great if he was a switch-hitter, giving the line-up some balance regardless of which position he ends up playing. Oh, and if he was already under contract for the next two years at reasonable salaries, that would help. If he happened to grow up in Moses Lake as a big Mariner fan, that would just be icing on the cake.

Believe it or not, that guy exists. His name is Ryan Doumit. He’s spent the last couple of years alternating between catcher and the disabled list for the Pirates, though they’ve also used him at first base and in the outfield, because his strengths behind the plate begin and end with “he can hit”. The rest of the resume is all pulled straight from Doumit’s file. He’s a switch hitter without much of a platoon split. He has some pop in his bat, and for his career, has been an above average major league hitter. He’ll be 29 next year, and is signed for $3.5 million in 2010 and $5.1 million in 2011, with a team option for 2012 and 2013 following that year. And yes, he’s a local kid. He’s even Willie Bloomquist’s cousin, so you know there’s grit and hustle in the genes somewhere.

He comes with downside, of course, or he wouldn’t be available. He posted a .299 OBP in 2009 when he was on the field, which wasn’t often. A good chunk of that was a low BABIP (.271 versus a .307 career mark), but he’s not a particularly patient hitter, so his on base percentage will always be driven by his batting average. He’s got enough power to make the approach work, but if you’re tired of guys hacking at pitches out of the strike zone, you may not love Doumit. He’s also been hurt a lot in his career, never compiling more than 465 at-bats in a season, and had wrist surgery last year, which is known for sapping power. And, as mentioned, he’s not much of a receiver behind the plate, nor would likely be particularly great at either first or in left.

He’s a hitter first and foremost, with the bonus ability to not totally embarrass himself at three positions. And that gives the M’s options.

If Rob Johnson’s recovery from multiple surgeries don’t go well or Moore flops in spring training, Doumit can fill in at catcher. If whatever 1B/DH they bring in has say, a herniated disc in his back that requires a rest, he can play there. If Saunders can’t hack it in left just yet, you can stick him in the outfield until Ackley’s ready. And, if the M’s hit the lotto and all the young guys play well, then you have the best 10th man in baseball.

Doumit would give the M’s flexibility and productivity. That he’s not particularly expensive and is coming off a poor season makes him exactly the kind of player Zduriencik has shown to be interested in. While the names of higher profile players float around, keep Doumit’s name in the back of your mind, and don’t be too shocked if the M’s end up making a play for him.

Have A Hot Dog With Me, Don Wakamatsu

November 18, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 43 Comments 

Kirby Arnold talks with Don Wakamatsu. It’s worth reading, but one sentence sticks out:

But even long at-bats aren’t necessarily good at-bats. Both Jose Lopez and Adrian Beltre had at-bats when they fouled off several pitches.

“There would be an 11-pitch at-bat and a lot of guys would say, ‘Hey, great at-bat. Way to battle,’” Wakamatsu said. “But we’d go back and look at it on video and not one of the pitches they swung at was a strike.”


You’ve heard me rant about this before. It is not a good at-bat when you foul off 10 pitches that were out of the strike zone. That is a stupid at-bat that demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of the value of a walk. Jose Lopez probably had four or five of these at-bats last year. Every single time, the announcers would praise him for hanging in there, battling, refusing to give in, blah blah blah. And every single time, he could have been standing on first base, but instead, he insisted on swinging at crap that wasn’t even close.

A good at-bat does not teach the opposing pitcher that he never has to throw you a strike. If its ten inches outside, don’t swing*. I don’t care if you think you can hit it. I don’t care if you can hit it. Don’t swing at pitches over your head. Don’t swing at pitches that bounce in the dirt. Don’t swing at a 3-0 change-up on the inside corner at the knees.

That Wak gets this is awesome. I love our manager.

* Ichiro has earned the right to do whatever he wants. He’s the exception.

’09 40-man Preview Extravaganza

November 18, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 15 Comments 

We’re heavy into the award season now, but in the midst of that we also have a Nov. 20th deadline by which players must be added to the roster or risk being picked in the Rule 5 draft. The rules relate to the age a player was when they signed and what season their first contract was for. This year, we’re looking at HS draftees and the younger (eighteen or below) international players that were signed to 2005 contracts or college-aged or older players that were signed to 2006 contracts. The Mariners already brought on the big names like Moore and Saunders over the course of the season, so there really aren’t that many players left. Even so, they might hold off on bringing too many on board as next year looks to be a big one, with prospects like Triunfel, Liddi, Pineda, J.C. Ramirez (these last three signing contracts in ’05, but for the ’06 season) Gillies, Hill, Robles, and others needing to come aboard. Here is an inexhaustive list of who we might be looking at in the way of additions:
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Zack Greinke Is Awesome

November 17, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 24 Comments 

The next time that you try to sell someone on FIP and that they tell you that its a load of crap reserved for nerds who have never played the game, tell them Zack Greinke disagrees.

Bannister, a right-handed starter, is known for his appreciation of modern pitching metrics, which emphasize the factors for which pitchers are essentially responsible: walks, strikeouts, home runs and hit batters. In Greinke, he found a like mind.

“He’s extremely bright, and he’s really picked up on using all the information out there to make his game better,” Bannister said by telephone. “He’s always had the talent. His confidence level, which is extremely high, combined with his knowledge of the numbers behind the game now, definitely makes him one of the best pitchers in the world.”

Bannister said Greinke has learned to adjust his pitching based on the advanced defensive statistics. Because of the size of the outfield at Kauffman Stadium and the strength of the Royals’ outfielders, relative to their infielders, it sometimes made more sense to induce fly balls.

“David DeJesus had our best zone rating,” Bannister said, referring to the Royals’ left fielder. “So a lot of times, Zack would pitch for a fly ball at our park instead of a ground ball, just because the zone rating was better in our outfield and it was a big park.”

To that end, Bannister introduced Greinke to FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, the statistic Greinke named Tuesday as his favorite. It is a formula that measures how well a pitcher performed, regardless of his fielders. According to fangraphs.com, Greinke had the best FIP in the majors.

“That’s pretty much how I pitch, to try to keep my FIP as low as possible,” Greinke said.

The reigning AL Cy Young winner, quoting FIP in the interview after he won the award. Welcome to the 21st century of baseball. This isn’t some kind of weird math for the lunatic fringe anymore.

This And That

November 17, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 16 Comments 

Felix didn’t win the Cy Young. I don’t particularly care about the BBWAA awards that much, but I know some other people do. For those people, you should be happy. The BBWAA is getting better at this award voting thing. Greinke was the obviously correct candidate, and he won in a landslide. That probably wouldn’t have happened five years ago.

As Derek humorously pointed out this morning, you’re going to read a lot of rumors over the next few weeks, linking the M’s to various players. There’s no reason to take any of these too seriously. The Mariners have a lot of open roster spots and a decent amount of money to spend, so they’re in a position where due diligence requires them to call just about everyone. They’re in information gathering mode. It would be negligent for them not to talk to the agent for John Lackey, but that conversation doesn’t mean that you should begin to expect the M’s to sign him.

Once free agency starts on Friday, we’ll get better information beyond speculation about what teams may do. Until then, pretty much everything written is fluff.

M’s rumored to be interested in signing, trading for, players

November 17, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 62 Comments 

It’s true.

Weekend meta: new user registrations

November 14, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 56 Comments 

During the Griffey days this week, we had an average of 20 new user registrations a day. Of these: ~3 were Russian comment spammers, ~5 did nothing at all, and ~10 took a run at immediately getting banned (that is, first comment is “You’re all a bunch of stathead whiners in moms basement waaaaaah waaaaaaaaah go cry to mom whois basebment you live in!” and then either: second comment is the same one repeated because they don’t read the little explanatory note, followed by 3-10 repeat comments/complaints about censorship oorrr they ignore the moderation and post more bannable comments until their enthusiasm wanes). And then sometimes, as you probably saw, their first comment’s argumentative but reasonable, so it’s waved in, and then they descend quickly into telling us how gay we all are*.

10 abusive people a day doesn’t seem so bad. But consider we have six people who go through comments as they can, including the three volunteer mods, and through Thursday I could log in at any time during the day and see in the comment queue a sea of yellow to-be-moderated abuse. When someone decides they want to sign up for USSM and be a jerk, there’s no way to expect someone’s going to be by to police a thread for an hour or even really four hours, much as we might try. That’s a long time, and new-user moderation this week was the only thing between us and insanity.

But we’re the only people who see this, I wanted to offer it up as some kind of explanation. If we seemed (and I certainly was) exasperated and curt with some of the more pointed pro-Griffey and anti-Griffey commentary, sorry. It’s because whenever these things happen, we end up coping with a wave of abuse that we all as unpaid volunteers have a hard time dealing with.

And again — we don’t have any problem with discussing this stuff. But no one gets to call Griffey signing-supporters brainless ass-kissers (to pick one) and no one gets to call Griffey signing-detractors heartless robots who’ve never played team sports.

Thanks to everyone who conducted themselves well through this. We really do appreciate it.
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M’s Sign Jack Wilson

November 13, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 79 Comments 

To the surprise of no one, the M’s announced that they have signed Jack Wilson to a two year contract. Terms not disclosed, but I’d guess it’s around $10 million or so.

Wilson is a +1 to +2 win player who derives almost all of his value from his glove. For ~$5 million per season, that’s not a bad deal. He’ll help fill a hole for a couple of years. He’s not a star, but he’s a nice enough role player, and he didn’t cost a lot. There’s value in that.

Update: Dejan Kovacevic suggets that I’m a good guesser.

M’s Help Fans Split Season Tickets

November 13, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 11 Comments 

The Mariners have announced a new feature that facilitates the splitting of season tickets across multiple owners. This is something that people have been doing on their own forever, but the organization has decided to step in and use their site as a central hub to connect buyers and sellers.

This is a small thing – the kind of gesture that is often waived off by fans with a comment about the M’s just attempting to maximize profit or just looking out for their bottom line. But, to me, it is the continuation of an organizational change that has been pretty remarkable. It is a pro-fan approach that simply hasn’t existed in years past. The Mariners, as an organization, have worked hard (and are continuing to do so) to re-establish some trust with their fan base. And I think it’s time they got some credit for it.

Over the last year, I’ve had a decent amount of interactions with a wide spectrum of people in the organization. From organizing the library event last winter and the Safeco event in August, I’ve had the opportunity to deal with a variety of team officials. And, to a person, they’ve all been great in a way that you simply wouldn’t expect. After all, we spent about five years lambasting the organization at almost every turn, and I don’t think its an exaggeration to say that there was some hostility on both sides towards the others. We were fans of the team, but not of the organization, and they weren’t big fans of us either. There were times when it became clear that rooting for the team to fail was our best option, because things weren’t getting better without hitting rock bottom.

They hit rock bottom in 2008. And things have gotten significantly better since then, and not just in the decision making that goes into putting the roster together. When Derek raised the issue about the bus shuttle law, Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong put us in touch with Bart Waldman, the team’s general counsel, who offered assistance in understanding their perspective on the issue. When I invited Jack Zduriencik to the library event last winter and he couldn’t make it due to a scheduling conflict, he sent his top four guys in his place. When I talked to the M’s about hosting an event at Safeco, they gave us everything we asked for and tossed in free food for 300 people.

It doesn’t matter who I dealt with – they were all really great, and continue to be whenever I get in touch with them. This is not how it used to be.

I’ve always loved the team. It is nice to now be able to love the organization as well.

Kudus to the M’s for yet another fan friendly project, the latest in a move towards developing a mutual respect with their fans.

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