M’s Re-Acquire Russell Branyan

June 26, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 22 Comments 

According to Shannon Drayer (and Mike Curto), the M’s have traded two minor leaguers for 1b Russell Branyan. The M’s players are apparently Ezequiel Carrera and Juan Diaz.

Branyan missed most of April with the same back injury that forced him out late in 2009, but recovered to post a .353 wOBA this year for the Indians. His ZiPS projection the rest of the way is just shy of that, at .348 (which, it should go without saying, would be a massive improvement on Kotchman/Carp/Sweeney).

Carrera led the Southern League in BA and OBP last year, but some scouts questioned whether he’d ever be more than a 4th OF in the majors. A brilliant spring capped by a homer off of Felix in an intra-squad game led many to believe that the scouts were wrong. However, from April on, Carrera’s played like a dictionary definition of a 4th OF – a poor man’s Endy Chavez – and picked up a few injuries on the way. He’d been on the Rainiers’ 7-day DL, but it obviously wasn’t serious enough to delay this move.

Juan Diaz was a moderately promising SS in a system without many middle infield ‘spects. Until this year, when Nick Franklin made him 100% expendable. Diaz hit the Cal League last year with the reputation of a glove-first guy, but put up a .346 despite never coming close to .300 previously. He wasn’t able to force his way to AA this year (a guy named Triunfel mans SS for West Tennessee), and he’s regressed a bit at High Desert thanks to his BABIP coming back to earth. .

All in all, it’s tough to be upset about what we’re sending to Cleveland. I’d been excited to see Carrera in Tacoma, but he quickly showed that he was a fairly limited slap hitter (I’m still trying to envision him hitting a homer off of Felix and I can’t quite do it). And if anyone thought Diaz’s offensive outbreak was ‘real’ in 2009, 2010 is getting really hard to explain.

With all of that said, this is a rather odd move to make now, around the first of July, with the team way back of Texas (and the .500 mark). There’s no question Branyan improves the team, and we didn’t give up another Shin-Soo Choo. But why acquire a guy of Branyan’s age and injury history at all? This’d be a great move for a contending team, but I’m struggling a bit to figure this one out. It’s clear the M’s don’t think Mike Carp’s a long-term answer at 1B, and that’s a fair conclusion to come to. But why do they need Branyan right now?

Brian Sweeney

June 26, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 5 Comments 

I didn’t see the game, so I don’t have much to add about how he looked, but here’s the thing that stands out from the statline during Sweeney’s impressive season debut – he threw 44 pitches and twelve of them were fastballs. He basically lived off his change-up, throwing 18 of them, and mixed in some sliders and a few curves for good measure. Here’s his Pitch F/x plot:

No one will ever confuse him for a stuff guy, as his velocity never got over 90, but he showed that he can keep hitters off balance with a variety of off-speed pitches. I’ll have to go back and watch the archive, but from a first glance, I’m already impressed with his pitching smarts.

Game 74, Mariners at Brewers

June 26, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 78 Comments 

Fister vs Wolf, 1:10 pm.

Shawn Kelley went on the DL to make room for Fister on the roster, and David Aardsma has left the team to be with his wife for the birth of their child. Fister went four innings in his only rehab start. This could be a complete disaster. If he’s limited to less than 5 innings – a real possibility against a Brewers team that can hit – we’re looking at a lot of mound time for Brian Sweeney, Sean White, and Garrett Olson, because League is the defacto “closer” for the next few days and Chad Cordero is likely unavailable after pitching yesterday. So, yeah, the M’s probably need to score 10+ runs to win today.

Ichiro, RF
Figgins, 2B
Gutierrez, CF
Lopez, 3B
Sweeney, 1B
Bradley, LF
Josh Wilson, SS
Johnson, C
Fister, P

Game 73, Mariners at Brewers

June 25, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 74 Comments 

Rowland-Smith vs Bush, 5:10 pm.

Today, Jack Z told Ken Rosenthal that he wasn’t yet ready to throw in the towel, because the pitching is too good to give up. The pitching is good, but the Mariners are 14 games out of first place, and are now chasing a team with the second best record in baseball. If the Rangers play .500 ball the rest of the way, they’ll win 89 games. For the Mariners to win 90 and beat them out, they would have to go 60-30 the rest of the way. No pitching staff is good enough to carry this roster to a .667 winning percentage for three months.

I can understand the reluctance to give up when the team is playing well, but the season is over. Throw in the towel, Jack. Play for the future – it’s all we have left at this point.

Ichiro, RF
Figgins, 2B
Gutierrez, CF
Lopez, 3B
Sweeney, 1B
Bradley, LF
Jack Wilson, SS
Johnson, C
Rowland-Smith, P

Monday’s Report from Everett

June 25, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 3 Comments 

Did anyone expect the Aquasox to start the season 7-0, breaking a few franchise records along the way? Because I sure didn’t. There were some vets on the roster, true enough, but I wasn’t thinking they had quite the talent required to take it to this level. Here are some notes I have typed up from my trip to Everett Memorial for Opening Day. Remember, you can still catch them tonight at seven with the Mariners out of town, if you are so inclined. It will be the last game of the homestand before the team heads over to Spokane.

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On ESPN 710 Today

June 25, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 15 Comments 

I got bumped from the normal Thursday at 12:30 time slot due to yesterday’s Mariners game, so we’re doing it today instead.

Also, my newest post went up on their blog yesterday.

Game 72, Cubs at Mariners

June 24, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 75 Comments 

Hernandez vs Lilly, 12:40 pm.

Happy Felix Day.

Good to see Saunders in there today against a lefty. His home run off Sean Marshall last night was impressive not just for where he hit it, but who he it off – Marshall is one of the best LH relievers in baseball, and Saunders has been generally hopeless against southpaws as a big leaguer. The experience of playing everyday, regardless of what hand the pitcher throws with, should be good for him.

Ichiro, RF
Figgins, 2B
Sweeney, DH
Lopez, 3B
Gutierrez, CF
Josh Wilson, 1B
Johnson, C
Jack Wilson, SS
Saunders, LF

A Post in Five Parts

June 23, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 41 Comments 

You know what’s better than having just one or two or four of something? Having five of that something. That’s the incredibly tenuous premise on which this post is built.

If it helps, consider this a “notebook” piece — except instead of “reporting facts,” I’m “making wild speculations.”

When speaking to a large audience, it’s best to do one or both of two things: both/either (a) tell a joke and/or (b) imagine everyone naked. I have no interest in doing the latter, so I’ll do the former thing twice.

Here are two Mariner-related light bulb jokes, from my brain to your eyes.

Q. How many Mariner fans does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None. They just sit back and watch in horror as Don Wakamatsu removes the broken light bulb and then pencils it into the lineup as a DH.

Q. How many sabermetrically oriented Mariner fans does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Three. One to analyze whether the light bulb is actually burnt out, or if it’s just due for regression up to the mean; one to speculate upon the trade value of the light bulb; and one to name the light bulb the sixth-best light bulb in the pack of 30 light bulbs.

_ _ _

First, I’d like to thank you for your warm reception last week*. Second, I’d like to address a couple-few of the comments you guys made in response to post numero uno.

*Including to the guy who suggested that my post was indicative of USSM having jumped the shark. I don’t know if you know this, but it was FRIGGING AWESOME when Fonzie did that.

From flashbeak: [J]ust out of curiosity… what is your favorite team?
A. I addressed this briefly in the comments section, but allow me to repeat myself: I actually don’t really have a favorite team. On account of I was born in New Hampshire and grew up there (and attended high school at a fabulously prestigious boarding school in the Boston area), I certainly have been a giganto Red Sox fan. The weird thing is, after 2004, everything just felt different. I mean, that run against the Yankees was amazing — maybe one of the best weeks or whatever of my life — but afterwards, things were different. I don’t exactly know why.

From BennyG (in re NERD): What about negative numbers?
A. Before rounding (to fit the 0-10 scale), there actually are nine pitchers currently sporting NERD scores below zero. They are, in order of “best” to worst:

David Hernandez
Joe Saunders
Dana Eveland
Todd Wellemeyer
Brian Burres
Oliver Perez
Carlos Monasterios
Ryan Rowland-Smith
Ian Snell

Yes, that’s right: Rowland-Smith and Snell have been worst by NERD standards.

From MKT: The NERD scale seems to consist solely of integers from 0 to 10… Worse, there’s a hint that the variables which go into the scale are being added as integers (Felix getting a 1 point bonus).
A. Actually, NERD is calculated primarily using weighted z-scores (i.e. standard deviations from the mean) for its components. So, like, let’s look at Felix. Felix has an xFIP that is 1.18 standard deviations better than the mean. Because overall quality of pitcher is important, we double that score. Felix has a swinging-strike rate that’s about one standard deviation above the mean and strike rate (as percentage of all pitches) about a half of a standard deviation above the mean. Because those things are relatively less important than xFIP, we halve each of those. His velocity is about 1.3 standard deviations above the mean, so we add that to the mix. And then, finally, there’s his age. The average age of the pitchers who qualify is 28 and the standard deviation is about 4 years — which, that’s why Felix gets the one-point bonus for age, because he’s 24 years old. After that, you just add a constant (about four), and you got your NERD!

_ _ _

Last week your fearless captain, Dave Cameron, prefaced my inaugural post here at USSM with some kind words. I was compelled to recognize his gesture. Below is the correspondence that ensued.

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 11:06 PM
To: David Cameron
Subject: USSM Post

Thanks for the kinds words. It means alot.

From: David Cameron
Sent: Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 11:07 PM
To: Carson Cistulli
Subject: USSM Post

The words weren’t that kind. I said you had a unique voice. So does Fran Drescher.

Note: Dave Cameron is a huge jerkface.

_ _ _

If you’re familiar with my work over at FanGraphs, you’re aware that Carson Cistulli is the sort of guy who asks the big questions. Questions like: What are we doing here? What does it all mean? Where’d that strange rash come from?

Well, one of the questions I’ve been asking myself recently is, What can a neutral supporter like myself — a man who feels no allegiance to any one team — what can I offer to a community that cares deeply about a single baseballing club?

It’s caused me a little grief, this — for a couple reasons. For one, I respect Dave a lot (and DMZ and the other guys who currently man the site), and I’d prefer not to disappoint him/them. For two — and as I mentioned in last week’s post — I respect the community you, the readers, have helped foster here, and I’d prefer not just to barge in and tear up the place. And for three, I’m getting paid a lot, a lot of money to write these weekly posts, and I don’t want to screw it up.

As an answer, let me say: I don’t know what the exact answer is to this question, but I have one idea.

My day job for the past six or so years has been as a writing instructor (teaching college writing, composition, or whatever else you wanna call it). Just as in sabermetrics, one of the things we writing instructors emphasize is the value of process over product, and part of the writing process is peer editing. Here’s how I explain it to my students: “When you write a text, you get very close to it — so close that it’s hard to really see the text anymore. The value of peer review, beyond copyediting or whatever, is to get a second pair of eyes on the text in question. The second party, coming to the text anew, might be able to see a glaring issue that just invisible to the author. That’s an important thing to have.”

It’s possible that reading the occasional dispatch from a disinterested (not uninterested, which’d be different) party might be a little like receiving peer review. I’ll presume that most readers of USSM are “close” to the Mariners — meaning, they (you) are exceedingly familiar with the various narratives, anxieties, etc. surrounding the club. Of course, I’m not immune to these narrative threads — like, I know that everyone is kinda sick of Mike Sweeney and know Brandon League should throw way more splitters — but there’s a good chance I don’t feel these issues as immediately.

So, uh, that might be a good reason for me to be here. That and all the white-hot prose.

_ _ _

Having five parts is a lot more pleasant, aesthetically speaking, than having just four, even if the fifth part is almost entirely meaningless. This may not have anything to do with baseball, per se, but it’s definitely something to remember.

Cliff Lee Appreciation Thread

June 23, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 30 Comments 

86 2/3 innings pitched, 4 walks, 76 strikeouts. Are you kidding?

This guy is amazing.

Michael Pineda’s AAA Debut

June 23, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 20 Comments 

With all the talk of the imminent trade of Cliff Lee, M’s fans need some good news – some hope.
Well, hope’s taking the hill for the Tacoma Rainiers tonight. Michael Pineda faces off against the Salt Lake Bees tonight at 7, and you can switch over to the audio on 850am or pick up the live stream at the Rainiers’ website.

Jay and I are in Tacoma, and will keep this updated with notes and photos. This season hasn’t gone how we wanted, but I’m still really happy to say that the M’s system has Cliff Lee and Michael Pineda pitching on the same night. Enjoy this.

–Update, 7:04 —

Pineda’s through one inning with two weak grounders and a strikeout of lefty Michael Ryan. He worked at 94-95 with a slow slider at 82. Mostly FBs. All systems go.
Peter Bourjos, an Angels prospect, led off tonight. He was also the lead-off man in Cliff Lee’s rehab start. Poor guy must have a really skewed idea of the Rainiers (although he torched the non-demi god portion of the R’s rotation in Salt Lake earlier).

And he’s through 2 IP, with two pop-ups, one more weak grounder. Lots and lots of the mid-90s FB. Hoping to see more of his offspeed stuff later.

–Update 7:26–
Meanwhile, a Greg Halman broken-bat single plates David Winfree, and it’s 1-0.

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