3/24 News/Links

marc w · March 24, 2010 at 11:13 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

1: Ken Rosenthal writes a fairly level-headed piece on why the M’s might face some trouble in 2010. This won’t be a shock to anyone here (Bedard is hurt? Wha?), but the article seems designed as a response to some of the plaudits the M’s have received in the national print media. Mind you, this article now finds its place amongst an equally voluminous collection of “the M’s haven’t won anything yet” pieces – like this one. I don’t think anyone here had the idea that the M’s are a 100-win true-talent team, so the article is fine as far as it goes.
One thing that caught my eye though was the quote from an unnamed scout about Milton Bradley. According to whoever it was who talked to Rosenthal, Milton Bradley doesn’t look so hot this spring. “I’m afraid he can’t play anymore,” says Scout X. This is the spring training yin to “He’s in the best shape of his life”‘s yang. For every hot-shot pitcher turbo-charged by some unexplained mechanical tweak (which scouts think will make him unhittable) you’ve got the guy with a hole in his swing, who fights what seems to scouts like a quixotic battle. Someone needs to track these assertions. I don’t mean to suggest that the scouts are wrong – if they’re right, this is really important info. If you can always find one guy who thinks he’s found a flaw in Pujols’ swing, well, that’s interesting too, but I’ll take these reports with a grain of salt. In this case, the scout is helpfully specific: Bradley apparently has trouble with pitches up in the zone (“above his hands’). It’ll be fun to see if this holds true.

2: How can fans keep track of something like that? Well, you could make heat maps with MySQL and R. That’s laudable. Alternatively, you could outsource that work to Craig Glaser and friends. Sabometrics has a new iPhone app that gives you a heat map for every player in baseball using 2009 pitch fx data. It’s called Batting Goggles, and it just came out this week. So, how does that scout’s observation about Bradley look through Batting Goggles? Actually, it looks pretty good – Bradley struggled with pitches up in the zone in 2009 (but killed pitches anywhere in the middle third). What does Ichiro look like in this view? Still amazing!

Ichiro Heat Map:  Contrary to realtors everywhere, location doesn't matter so much.
You can isolate by batter/pitcher handedness too, so if you want to see if Ichiro’s amazing vs. lefties (yes) AND righties (yes), you can just tap to do that. Of course, the sample sizes here for many players aren’t that big. Using this for relievers, for example, isn’t going to be all that predictive. You’re also focusing only on balls in play, so you could get different results using something like linear weights (to count all strikes/balls). But it’s still pretty amazing, at least to me. It’s in the app store now, as is Derek’s “2nd Guesser” that came out last fall.

* I wonder of Ichiro’s the only batter to have his two highest ISO figures on balls out of the strike zone. Sure, he does fine on pitches right down the middle, but he really hurts pitches off the plate inside. Yet another reason that Ichiro is not like other humans.

3: Jason Vargas and Sean White both had their best outings of the spring in a losing effort tonight. Vargas pitched 5 shut-out innings, notching 4 Ks, while White got 2 Ks in a 1-2-3 inning. White struck out Kyle Blanks using a rare curve ball, and touched 91-92; Vargas struck out Blanks with the high “heat” – an 88mph fastball – and couldn’t quite crack 89. White’s drawn raves all spring from the M’s brass, and while he was extraordinarily lucky last year, he’s got moderately interesting stuff, and could help the bullpen this year despite a nasty xFIP in 2009 (his tRA was better). He needs to start generating swinging strikes and Ks; among qualified relievers, White finished dead last (out of 135) in K rate last year. The samples are tiny, but he did generate swinging strikes on his curve and change, so we’ll see if he goes to them more than last year (when 3/4 of his pitches were fastballs).

4: Here’s an interesting study on umpires, which ranks the men in blue from most to least pitcher-friendly. If you’re a pitcher, you really want Doug Eddings behind the plate. Alternatively, you hate seeing Randy Marsh, Tim McLelland or Paul Schreiber. If you’d like, poke around at the spreadsheet Jeff links to in the article – man, Randy Marsh is not a fan of strikeouts.

5: Shawn Kelley gets the start tomorrow against Kansas City, which seems like a good way to ease into a new role. The M’s maintain that they want to stretch him out for 2-inning bullpen stints, and that he’s NOT a candidate for the rotation. Even so, it’ll be nice opportunity for Kelley to get more practice throwing a change-up – a pitch which he threw in college (as a starter), but abandoned in his pro career until now. The Royals facility includes pitch fx, but Cleveland’s stadium (where the other half of the squad play) doesn’t. I wonder if the decision to send Kelley to Surprise factored that in?

6: Mike Salk says the M’s are leaning towards keeping both Kanekoa Texeira and Mike Sweeney on the 25 man roster.


37 Responses to “3/24 News/Links”

  1. low on March 25th, 2010 12:16 am

    Does Mike Sweeney making the 25 man roster mean we’re not competing this season? Is his value primarily as a member of the clubhouse? What position will he play?

    Ichiro is amazing. Every at-bat is an event.

    I think it’s worth giving Kelley a shot while Cliff Lee recovers. Who knows how he does until he tries it? I will be interested to see the box score.

  2. Liam on March 25th, 2010 1:59 am

    Does Mike Sweeney making the 25 man roster mean we’re not competing this season?

    As Jeff over at LookoutLanding noted, the situation is similar to last year’s choice between Sweeney and Shelton. Dave’s take on it back then should still apply. Sweeney’s done if he doesn’t make the team, other guy has options and the difference between the two is not going to be that big.

  3. Liam on March 25th, 2010 2:08 am

    Dave was on with Block and Salt yesterday as well; you can listen to it here.

  4. Jeff Nye on March 25th, 2010 2:54 am

    Actual impact, not that big; but it still irks me. What do you do when two of Griffey/Bradley/Sweeney are hurt, which WILL happen at least once during the season?

  5. Jeremariner on March 25th, 2010 3:35 am

    Rick Rizzs and Dave Niehaus were discussing Kelley in the broadcast yesterday, and apparently Kelley told one of them that he had actually been approached about the possibility of starting. Of course, that is probably just Wak covering his bases in case a contagious arm-shriveling disease spreads around the clubhouse. Still worth noting, though.

  6. flashbeak on March 25th, 2010 8:21 am

    If Mike Sweeney makes this team, I know for sure that the Seattle Mariners really don’t want to win enough.

  7. marc w on March 25th, 2010 9:07 am

    That’s a good point Jeff, though I think the impact could be ameliorated if the utility guy can back up in the middle infield as well as the OF.

    Flexibility is good, but if Hannahan isn’t ready and you want Sweeney, I think they need to make a move.

  8. msb on March 25th, 2010 9:19 am

    ESPN radio had a brief bit on the Ms with Kurkjian. Apparently, Cliff Lee is hurt, and Milton has been tossed from two games and answered questions asked by an ESPN reporter.

    Speaking of Ichiro, Joe Posanaski appreciated him on Wednesday.

    oh, and for what its worth, re: Kelley, from Baker:

    “Reliever Shawn Kelley is the starting pitcher for the Mariners’ tomorrow in a split-squad game against Kansas City, but manager Don Wakamatsu quickly answered “No” when I asked if we should read anything into that. It’s more a matter of needing someone to pitch first in that game, with Felix Hernandez starting the other game, which is against Cleveland.

    “We’re just trying to make up for Fister, “Wakamatsu said, referring to the right forearm injury that has sidelined Doug Fister. “We’re using it to our advantage to get those guys stretched out.””

  9. Kazinski on March 25th, 2010 9:27 am

    I can’t see how Sweeney makes the team if the M’s are carrying 12 pitchers. Griffey and Sweeney can’t play on the field, so that means your bench only has two players that have to back up 8 positions. If you carry 11 pitchers that might give you the flexibility you need.

    It not so much what happens when two of Griffey/Bradley/Sweeney are hurt, you could just DH one of the catchers or Felix. What happens if two of Lopez/Wilson/Figgins are hurt? Then you are totally screwed, unless Bradley or Kotchman can play 3rd.

  10. eponymous coward on March 25th, 2010 9:33 am

    Actual impact, not that big; but it still irks me. What do you do when two of Griffey/Bradley/Sweeney are hurt, which WILL happen at least once during the season?

    Not to mention the fact that we’ll have basically looked at a DH position that was one of the worst in the AL last year, on a team that desperately needs offense to contend (they don’t need to be good, but they need to not suck like last year), and basically gone “eh, who cares, they’re full of veteran awesomeness! And one of those veterans hit well in spring training games, which we know always carries over to the regular season!”

    The thing I see is this isn’t in isolation- you’ve got a lineup where we’re punting offense at SS and C (which isn’t problematic in itself, lots of teams do this), we’ve decided to take a chance on a very “eh” offensive 1B with much less of a record of decent hitting than Branyan and hope he’ll improve (also not problematic in itself), take a chance on a player who get injured a lot and who should be used at DH in order to maximize his contributions (which isn’t problematic in itself, but are you seeing the trend here?)… well, this lineup may have a lot of problems scoring runs. And yes, I know the defense and pitching is going to be good, we have to look at the total value of a player, Sweeney and Griffey are awesome in the clubhouse, blah blah blah, but you don’t win pennants being terrible with respect to the league in offense, and even looking at the advanced statistics, the Mariners were really quite poor in that respect (~60 runs below average, and only the Royals were worse). It’s an impossible burden on a pitching staff and defense. Griffey and Sweeney are not an adequate DH platoon combination, and settling for two players to perform as one bad DH with good character is going to exacerbate a number of problems with the current Mariner roster (it has a number of big question marks and injury risks, it’s very light on offense, it needs players with ability to play defensive positions, the manager doesn’t really use PHs, so a player with “hitter” as main position doesn’t get used optimally).

  11. IM on March 25th, 2010 10:37 am

    Sweeney will not make the team unless they think he can back-up 1B.
    Someone has to.
    If we don’t see him in the field at all in the next week, then I really doubt he will make it.
    If he can play a few innings out there I think he is a better option than Garko, and a better option at DH than Junior to start the season.

  12. Chris_From_Bothell on March 25th, 2010 11:08 am

    eponymous coward – Define “enough offense”. Let’s look at the guys who most often will occupy 1-7 in the lineup, in some order:

    Ichiro, Figgins: High OBP guys.
    Kotchman, Guti: Above-average OBP guys.
    Bradley, Lopez: AVG, some power.
    Griffey at DH: Some OBP, some power.

    Really, offense has only been punted in the bottom third of the order, at SS and C as you noted. Among the regulars, small ball should be working fine much of the time.

    Is Sweeney a good gamble for another season in a DH platoon? Likely not. Is the Ms offense going to be as bad or worse than last year? No.

  13. eponymous coward on March 25th, 2010 11:16 am

    The difference between Griffey and Sweeney the last few years in absolute wins over rpleacement is negligible. Griffey’s contributed .7 WAR to his teams from 2007-2009, and Sweeney’s contributed .6.

    Realistically, there’s no performance-based reasons for them to be regulars at this point in their respective careers- it’s all about how awesome they are at hugging teammates and contributing in the clubhouse. If the Mariners are going to hand out ~700 PAs to both of them like last year, turning them into a de facto regular, they’re looking at maybe a 0-1 WAR player in composite (with a decent chance at a NEGATIVE WAR ala Yuni in 2009). That’s pretty horrible.

  14. Jeff Nye on March 25th, 2010 12:15 pm

    That’s a good point Jeff, though I think the impact could be ameliorated if the utility guy can back up in the middle infield as well as the OF.

    Yeah, but it still just needlessly cuts down your options. You have to be a lot more tentative about things like pinch hitting (assuming that Wak does that at least once in his time as manager of the Mariners), pinch running, and defensive substitutions.

    By keeping Sweeney on the roster, you’re essentially saying that you value hugs more than those things.

  15. MrZDevotee on March 25th, 2010 2:32 pm

    Thanks Mark. I’m feeling a little less embarrassed about suggesting yesterday that Sweeney was gonna make the team (even if the link here is just journalistic rumoring). I had to explain that I didn’t LIKE the move, I just thought it was going to happen. Still, few folks felt it was possible.

    Unfortunately, because of Garko’s failings this spring, we don’t have a backup 1b. (Hannahan’s injury keeps Lopez from being available to sub in at 1st). Either Garko or Sweeney has to make the team, and Garko hasn’t seized the opportunity. Sweeney has a better bat/eye and that “touchy feely” thing.

    It’s just a fact: Garko hasn’t done enough to earn a roster spot, nor to usurp Sweeney’s new age “intangibles” (I think it shouldn’t be downplayed that Sweeney’s presence helps keep Griffey happy with being just a bench bum and occasional bat– a veteran playmate for him).

    Sweeney making the team isn’t the end of the world, really, if you have realistic expectations for the M’s this year. The move does seriously suggest that MrZ is definitely looking towards the future, and not suffering the same “we can win it all this year” tunnel vision that has stricken we fans since the Cliff Lee signing.

    Sweeney could also be a vital cog in the “We can keep Cliff Lee past this year” wheel of chance. A wheel that hopefully rolls well since we’re gonna miss Lee for probably the first month, if not longer, of his 1-year contract.

    I’d definitely rather have Sweeney in that regards, even if he never takes the field or has an at-bat. Keep Junior happy, become Cliff Lee’s best friend, and be able to sub in for injured players until we can bring up a kid from Tacoma the next day.

    It sounds like a lot of us are having a hard time dealing with the reality of the upcoming season. We’re gonna be average, but with some luck, could be at the top of average, which might be enough in the AL West.

    I’m just ready for some baseball. Win or lose. (These last weeks of spring get longer and longer as they pass.)

  16. eponymous coward on March 25th, 2010 2:58 pm

    I don’t consider Kotchman an “above-average” OBP guy for 1B, not with a lifetime .337 OBP. In fact, Mike Sweeney’s OBP last year? .335.

    Milton Bradley I give you… if he’s healthy (he actually counts as a + OBP guy, not just + AVG). He’s obviously the M’s major talent upgrade from 2009 (since Jack Wilson was here for part of 2009, and I would call Beltre for Figgins a push). The problem is if you want to maximize the mileage on that, you need to be DH’ing him, which you’re not doing if it’s a Griffey/Sweeney platoon (oh, and you can’t do a Garko/Kotchman platoon at 1B, either).

  17. Jeff Nye on March 25th, 2010 4:15 pm

    Keep Junior happy, become Cliff Lee’s best friend, and be able to sub in for injured players until we can bring up a kid from Tacoma the next day.

    There’s no evidence that either of the first two things you said are likely (I’d also submit that who the hell cares if Griffey is happy, but that’s just me) and the only place that Sweeney could possibly sub for an injured player is first base. And even then, it’s debatable that he can still play any sort of credible defense there.

    Basically, at this point, Griffey and Sweeney offer the exact same things to your team; some ability to draw walks, no defensive value, and hugs/Ichiro tickling.

    Do we really need to use not one, but TWO roster spots to get those things? I’d say no.

    It’s a step back for the roster, and people have a right to be annoyed. If you’re looking to make the most of the talent on your roster, the choice is Garko and it’s not particularly close.

  18. joser on March 25th, 2010 5:07 pm

    If Griffey can keep Bradley’s head in the game and off the chopping block (and out of suspension), he’s probably worth his salary (though not his roster spot). Of course we have nothing but anecdotal evidence either way, and that’ll be just as true at the end of the season as it is now.

    Sweeney could also be a vital cog in the “We can keep Cliff Lee past this year” wheel of chance.

    I don’t understand how you connected those two dots at all.

    But maybe KC will take Sweeney back. If you ask me, the M’s bet on the wrong aging veteran: at least Jim Edmonds can still play the outfield.

  19. MrZDevotee on March 25th, 2010 8:06 pm

    That’s okay Joser (if you don’t understand). And again, I don’t like the move, I’m trying to find ways to live with it.

  20. MrZDevotee on March 25th, 2010 8:13 pm

    Jeff, I don’t see the evidence where Garko is the choice over Sweeney to make the most of our talent. In fact, I think the evidence points to the opposite. And again, over and over, I don’t like Sweeney making the roster. I wish Sweeney and Griffey both had retired.

    Liike I just wrote to Joser, I’m trying to find a way to be okay with it. And recognize that it’s gonna happen (unless we pick someone up the week before the regular season starts).

  21. Taylor H on March 25th, 2010 8:44 pm

    marc w is awesome

  22. djw on March 25th, 2010 8:53 pm

    I don’t see the evidence where Garko is the choice over Sweeney to make the most of our talent.

    Garko is considerably younger than Sweeney. He also has a much better track record of staying healthy, and there’s much better reason to think he can still play defense at 1B. Furthermore, if you look at the four major projection systems available at fangraphs Garko is averaging a 342 or so, whereas Sweeney averages a 321.

    Your position seems to be that Sweeney’s superior performance in Spring training, based on a few dozen plate appearances a piece, manages to decisively trump every other consideration in comparing these two players. Given the historic record or the predictive capacity of Spring training statistics, your position is not particularly creditable.

  23. Jeff Nye on March 25th, 2010 9:45 pm

    Jeff, I don’t see the evidence where Garko is the choice over Sweeney to make the most of our talent.

    Look harder.

    marc w is awesome

    So are capital letters and punctuation.

  24. gerrythek on March 25th, 2010 10:57 pm

    My apologies to long time Mariner supporters, I’ve only been out here five years and have nothing invested in past glory. IMHO Griffey making the team means that we don’t plan to seriously compete this year.

  25. Liam on March 25th, 2010 11:41 pm

    IMHO Griffey making the team means that we don’t plan to seriously compete this year.

    You might have been able to use that line on November 11th. If you look at all the moves the Mariners made after that, the evidence that they are planning to compete is overwhelming.

  26. Jeff Nye on March 26th, 2010 12:02 am

    Well, yeah, he’s overstating; but you can’t just ignore the fact that, especially if Sweeney makes the team, the 2010 Mariners could have a much better bench than it looks like they’re going to.

  27. Alex on March 26th, 2010 4:10 am

    I might just dumb..but I have seen some stuff about the M’s bullpen and whether or not they need a situational lefty, yet I can’t find any stats online about how they have fared against RHB/LHB in 2009 as a bullpen compared to the rest of the league. Does anyone know where I can find stats such as average against of LHB or RHB for the bullpen as a whole in ’09? I can find some splits of bullpen stats on fangraphs and mlb, but none that show versus lhb or rhb.

  28. Paul B on March 26th, 2010 9:42 am

    Chone prediction for Garko: .336 sOBA
    Chone prediction for Sweeney: .304 wOBA

    Ability to platoon at first with Kotchman:
    Garko: yes
    Sweeney: no

    I don’t care what they have hit in March. I think Chone is a better prediction of what they could do during the season. I think it unlikely that Sweeney found the fountain of youth and suddenly is going to hit like it is 2005.

  29. Kazinski on March 26th, 2010 9:42 am

    Baker was on KJR this morning. He thinks Sweeney is breaking camp with the team and Garko is going to Tacoma.

    And while I don’t think Baker is the total fount of wisdom, I do think he has a feel for what Wak and the brain trust are thinking.

    If Sweeney makes the team, that means that Bradley is the everyday LF, and likely means Byrnes is gone too, Langerhans is the backup, Tui is both the 5th OF/IF, and Jo. Wilson is the backup SS. Assuming of course 12 pitchers.

  30. Kazinski on March 26th, 2010 10:11 am

    Now LaRue piles on:

    He’s doing that, but the Mariners are now admitting openly that the 35-year-old has all but played himself onto the opening day roster. No, they won’t say it, just yet – not on the record. Yes, it would take something unforeseen to keep him off the 25-man roster.

  31. Chris_From_Bothell on March 26th, 2010 10:29 am

    Anyone who’s putting stock into Sweeney’s spring training numbers needs to go back and look at what Willie Bloomquist and Mike Morse have done in spring training for the Ms in the last few years.

  32. Shanfan on March 26th, 2010 10:59 am

    Neither Bloomquist or Morse, or Garko for that matter, were five time All-Stars who were hitting well at the end of the previous season, so his spring performance isn’t a total fluke. And Garko is a brick on defense anywhere he plays so how much are you losing there, especially if Kotchman is the everyday first baseman? Garko has an option and will be available when one of the over-thirty crowd goes down. Tacoma would be a great place for him to work on his outfield and catching defense (and at first) and become an even more valuable replacement piece or as trade bait. And where are all of the folks who put their trust in Z and Wak? If they make this decision it’s because they think it is in the best interest of the organization. Decisions like not bringing back Branyan. How’s he doing this spring?

  33. Arron on March 26th, 2010 11:02 am


    If you have 12 pitchers and Sweeney, Langerhans, Tui, and Wilson as your bench, you don’t have a back-up catcher…

    You’re going to have to drop an infielder or a pitcher…

  34. IM on March 26th, 2010 11:38 am

    Sweeney over Garko and Byrnes over Langerhans.
    If they don’t produce at the start of the season cut them loose.

  35. Jeff Nye on March 26th, 2010 11:58 am

    Neither Bloomquist or Morse, or Garko for that matter, were five time All-Stars

    Mike Sweeney hasn’t been an All-Star since 2005, not that the All-Star Game is particularly relevant as a measure of, well, anything.

    And where are all of the folks who put their trust in Z and Wak?

    We can still think this is a fantastic organization overall and dislike individual moves.

  36. scott19 on March 26th, 2010 12:30 pm

    Decisions like not bringing back Branyan. How’s he doing this spring?

    Starting the season on the disabled list, I believe.

  37. djw on March 26th, 2010 12:59 pm

    Blengino is being interviewed on ESPN Baseball tonight right now.

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