Accepting Randomness

July 27, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 23 Comments 

I try to avoid linking to things I write other places, because I don’t want to become a self-promoter and I figure most of you probably know how to find my stuff at FanGraphs, WSJ, or ESPN anyway. But, I’m making an exception today, because my afternoon post over at FG is the kind of thing that I would have written here a few years ago, and I think it has quite a bit of relevance to the 2010 Mariners season. The post is entitled Accepting Randomness. Here’s the first few paragraphs, and you can read the rest over there.

Most of the conversations about the Dan Haren trade boil down to how a person feels about pitcher evaluation. There are clearly still a lot of people that simply believe that whatever happens is the pitcher’s responsibility, so if he gives up a bunch of hits and some home runs, he’s doing something wrong and that should be held against him. High BABIP or HR/FB rates are evidence of throwing too many hittable pitches, or that his stuff has deteriorated, or that his command isn’t as good as it was, or some other explanation that we haven’t yet figured out. But, whatever it is, it’s definitely something, and it’s definitely real.

These opinions are generally held because of the outright refusal to accept randomness. The idea that something could happen repeatedly, without cause, is very hard to for a lot of people to swallow. But it’s true, and it’s a very important concept to buy into when trying to project the future performance of baseball players. Random happens.

Game 100, Mariners at White Sox

July 26, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 101 Comments 

Hernandez vs Danks, 5:10 pm.

Happy Felix Day.

As has been pointed out in several different places recently, Felix is having essentially the same season he had last year. His numbers are almost identical across the board in every meaningful category. His walks are the same, strikeouts the same, home runs the same, runner stranding the same. Everything is about as identical as you could possibly get as a follow-up to last year’s performance, with one exception – last year, Felix won 19 games, and this year, he’s won 7.

The difference, of course, is the performance of his teammates. He hasn’t gotten support from his offense or his bullpen, so his wins are down. And this is why almost everyone is rejecting wins as any kind of useful statistic at this point. Well, everyone except the Arizona Diamondbacks, because if you haven’t heard, they shipped their ace Dan Haren to the Angels for Joe Saunders and some not-close-to-the-majors prospects. Dan Haren is really good, and Joe Saunders is pretty lousy, but over the last three years, Saunders has more wins (43 to 41).

The Angels took advantage of an Arizona franchise that’s a walking disaster right now, and by adding Haren for the next three years, they just made the AL West that much harder to win. With Weaver, Pineiro, Santana, and now Haren, the Angels actually have a good pitching rotation again, and all four of those guys will be back next year. Blech.

Yet another reason to build for 2012. The M’s are now staring at an even bigger mountain to climb for contention next year. Screw you, Jerry DiPoto.

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

Minor League Wrap (7/19-25/10)

July 26, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 22 Comments 

This one is on time! I don’t really know about the ones in the coming weeks… Well, let’s get to it, shall we?

To the jump!
Read more

The Fight

July 25, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 48 Comments 

I leave for the weekend – it was great, thanks for asking – and, of course, a player gets in a fight with the manager in full view of the TV cameras. Figures. As the guy in charge of the big Mariner blog, I feel like I’m supposed to write about this. I just don’t know what to say about the situation that you should really care about.

The baseball media (and yes, I include blogs like this one in that genre) does a good job of offering insight into certain areas of the game. We also are basically useless when it comes to amateur psychology. Regardless of the level of access or the ferociousness of opinion, very little of what is speculated about offers any real knowledge about what may happen. Really, let’s just look at the facts of this situation.

Chone Figgins, lauded clubhouse leader and great team chemistry guy, got into a public fight with Don Wakamatsu, calm and rational manager known for how much his players like him. Or maybe liked him. They seemed to last year, though not so much this one. Clubhouse relations have appeared to deteriorate after Ken Griffey Jr, lauded clubhouse leader and great team chemistry guy, sulked about playing time and retired mid-season after being relegated to the bench role he’s deserved for half a decade. Meanwhile, Milton Bradley, notable hothead and clubhouse cancer, has been a boy scout for the last few months, even as the season went down the drain and his personal performance went in the toilet.

The labels that these guys were affixed with run counter to how they’ve acted in almost every single case. The guys whose value in the clubhouse was so highly talked about have been the ones causing problems, and now, we’re being told that a clubhouse full of veteran team leaders lacks leadership.

Blogger, reporter, radio host, in the end, we’re all pretty much equally awful at predicting anything that has to do with how baseball players will interact with each other in the future. The usual approach is to take a guy’s reputation from where he’s been and assume it will dictate his actions no matter where he goes or how time changes, but that assumption falls on its face all the time. This team was supposed to have great chemistry, in large part due to guys like Figgins and Griffey. From most accounts, that just hasn’t materialized.

Rather than trying to expand on this point, I’ll just let Jim Leyland take it away, from when he was asked about the Washington Nationals last month:

“It’s not what Pudge brings into the clubhouse,” Leyland said. “It’s what Pudge brings on to the field. He’s hitting .336! That’s the kind of production you want. [Shucks], I can find a nice bunch of guys you want in the clubhouse. I can find that. He’s producing. That’s what’s good. That’s how I look at.”

“They didn’t bring Strasburg up because he’s a nice guy,” Leyland said. “They brought him up because he’s a big talent. He has a chance to be an unbelievable pitcher and he’s won two games already.

“Take all that clubhouse [stuff] and all that, throw it out the window. Every writer in the country has been writing about that [nonsense] for years. Chemistry don’t mean [anything]. He’s up here because he’s good. That don’t mean [a hill of beans]. They got good chemistry because their team is improved, they got a real good team, they got guys knocking in runs, they got a catcher hitting .336, they got a phenom pitcher they just brought up. That’s why they’re happy.”

Jim Leyland isn’t interested in playing amateur psychologist. He’s just going to assume that winning teams are happy teams. I am too.

When the M’s start winning regularly again, I’m sure Chone Figgins and Don Wakamatsu will get along just fine. You can speculate about what it means if you want, but in the end, none of us really have any idea.

Game 99, Red Sox at Mariners

July 25, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 93 Comments 

Matsuzaka vs Fister, 1:10 pm.

Man, that was an exciting game last night. Did you see that _______ (play) by ________ (player)? That was terrific. Of course, we all could have done without _______ (baserunning mistake/error/double play) by _______ (Lopez). That kind of sucked, right? Oh well, hopefully __________ (young player in the line-up) does well today.

Game 98, Red Sox at Mariners

July 24, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 92 Comments 

Lester vs Pauley, 6:10 pm.

I think I took Amy whitewater rafting today. I think we had fun. I think the Mariners lost last night. I hope I’m only wrong about the last of those things.

Game 97, Red Sox at Mariners

July 23, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 119 Comments 

Beckett vs Vargas, 7:10 pm.

I’m not actually here. I took Amy to the mountains this weekend for her birthday, so I’ve pre-written the game threads for the next three days. If the team makes a trade or does something interesting, I’ll talk about it when I get back. For now, I’m enjoying a weekend away with my wife.

What To Do With Milton Bradley

July 23, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 41 Comments 

When the M’s acquired Milton Bradley, the thought was that they were getting a guy who could hit, and they would have to deal with the personality issues that would inevitably arise. And he did have some early in the year. However, since going through his two week leave of absence, there hasn’t been a single incident with Bradley acting out, either on the field or off of it, as he’s been a model citizen for the last two months – even as the team loses games hand over first and the guy he respected most on the team left during mid-season. Since mid-May, Milton Bradley really has been on his best behavior.

He also hasn’t hit at all.

Since returning from counseling, Bradley is hitting .201/.285/.335, a bad line for a middle infielder, much less a DH. It’s not like he was tearing the cover off the ball at the beginning of the year, but he was at least drawing his normal amount of walks and showing some power. He’s walking less than ever before, striking out more often, and he doesn’t have an extra base hit since July 1st. For Bradley, this is the mother of all slumps.

So now, the Mariners have almost exactly the opposite of the guy they thought they were getting. They have a low-maintenance teammate who isn’t performing instead of a high-strung malcontent who causes trouble for opponents on the field and his managers off of it. And, with 2010 down the drain and 2011 looking like a long shot for contention, the question of what to do with Milton Bradley becomes one the team has to answer.

He’s under contract for 2011, so they can bring him back next year if they’d like to. They won’t be able to move him, so their only real alternative would be to cut him and eat all of the money he’s still owed. Given his track record, it’s hard to imagine that he’s actually done as a major league hitter, so it makes some sense to keep him around and hope for a rebound, given that they won’t get any of their money back by releasing him. And yet, he still comes with a decent amount of baggage. Even though he’s been well behaved since May, there’s always the chance that he blows up again. Teams are willing to take that risk when he’s hitting. When he’s not, though, what’s the point?

Factoring in his 2010 performance and combining it with his prior history, ZIPS projects Bradley to be roughly a league average hitter going forward. That’s a lot better than he’s been, but still nothing to write home about. It’s essentially the baseline for a DH. If a guy who doesn’t play the field that often can’t hit better than league average, he won’t be in the majors for very long. Bradley can play an okay-ish left field, so he’s more valuable than some of these DH-only types, but you’re still not going to want him to play left all that much, considering the presence of Michael Saunders.

At DH, the team could probably get similar expected production from a younger guy making the league minimum. They could certainly find a guy who could be expected to hit about league average who wouldn’t come with Bradley’s history of off field problems. But, considering that this is probably the best behaved he’s ever been, it seems a bit unfair to cut him for past transgressions now, when it appears that he’s made a legitimate effort to keep himself out of trouble.

I honestly don’t know what the team should do with Milton Bradley. I can see arguments for cutting him loose and giving his playing time to someone who might have a future with this organization, and I can see arguments for keeping him around and hoping he finds some of the thump that he had a couple of years ago. It’s not an easy decision, but it’s one the Mariners will have to make this winter.

Game 96, Red Sox at Mariners

July 22, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 338 Comments 

Lackey vs Rowland-Smith, 7:10 pm.

Happy Welcome Back Adrian Beltre Night.

Over the five years he was in Seattle, I made no secret out of the fact that I was a big fan. He was remarkably underrated during his time here, and Seattle never appreciated what they had – one of the game’s best third baseman. His success this year is perhaps my favorite thing about the 2010 season. I couldn’t be happier for Beltre, and hope he keeps on mashing until he retires.

Oh, and the Mariners sent Jack Hannahan to the Red Sox for cash or a player to be named later. Since Ackley was promoted, he wasn’t playing in Tacoma, so the M’s found a spot for him with an organization that has some playing time at Triple-A.

Ichiro, RF
Figgins, 2B
Gutierrez, CF
Lopez, 3B (not even a night off…)
Bradley, LF
Smoak, DH
Kotchman, 1B
Bard, C
Jack Wilson, SS

On With Brock And Salk At 1:00 Today

July 22, 2010 · Filed Under Mariners · 16 Comments 

My time slot is going to float for the next few weeks as Brock and Salk prepare to move to mornings, so today’s spot will be at 1:00. I figure Rob Johnson will come up as a topic of conversation, and I’ll have to figure out just how nice I want to be to the guy on his birthday…

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