Position Roundtables: #4 Starter

March 29, 2005 · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables · 35 Comments 

Jeff: No. 4 Starter: Gil Meche

Gil Meche is younger than I am by four years. Already, he’s had
big-league success, major surgery, a long recovery process, another
full season as a starting pitcher and an almost comically up-and-down
season that saw him return to the minors, get knocked around, and
subsequently return to Seattle and a modicum of success.

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Position Roundtables: #3 Starter

March 22, 2005 · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables · 59 Comments 

Derek: I’ve walked the line on Moyer so far — he could be done, but we thought
that before. He might have lost a bit of control, but what if it’s only
a matter of adjusting? What if there’s a delivery flaw he, or Price, can
find? Or if it’s a problem of approach?

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Position Roundtables: #2 Starter

March 18, 2005 · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables · 44 Comments 

#2 Starter: Bobby Madritsch

Jeff: Work the chip.

This is the advice I used to give to debate students that came from a
tough background or were, for any reason, angry at the world. The
logic being, if you’ve got a chip on your shoulder, you can let it
weigh you down or motivate you. You can either work the chip or let it
work you.

Bobby Madritsch works the chip. Read more

Position Roundtables: #1 Starter

March 16, 2005 · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables · 47 Comments 

Dave: #1 Starter: Joel Pineiro

This spot, the opening day starter, the ace of the staff, is the
team’s biggest weakness. Compared to other teams with playoff
aspirations, our best starting pitcher often pales in comparison to
their best starting pitcher. New York has Randy Johnson. Boston has
Curt Schilling. Minnesota has Johan Santana. Oakland has Rich Harden
or Barry Zito. Anaheim has Kelvim Escobar or Bartolo Colon. In
almost any potential playoff matchup, we’re just outgunned in game

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Position Roundtables: Reserve Outfielders

March 13, 2005 · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables · 39 Comments 

Dave: Reserve Outfielders: Raul Ibanez, Willie Bloomquist?, Jamal Strong, Shin-Soo Choo

You thought the team was thin at shortstop? There’s a very real chance that the Mariners will field an opening day lineup with zero true outfielders sitting on the bench. Ibanez is the token fourth outfielder, but he’s going to DH nearly every day, so in case of injury to Winn, Reed, or Ichiro, it looks like Willie Bloomquist is going to be the guy trotting out to play the field.

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Position Roundtables: Reserve Infielders

March 10, 2005 · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables · 54 Comments 

Dave: Reserve infielders: Scott Spiezio, Willie Bloomquist, Ricky Gutierrez,
Benji Gil, Justin Leone, Ramon Santiago, Jose Lopez

The M’s will carry two, maybe three, from the above group.

Spiezio’s basically a lock to be on the roster, since the team owes
him $6 million the next two years. And, you know, for all the crap he
takes, he’s also the best player in the group. He’s a better player
than he showed in 2004, and if he even gets back to 80 percent of his
Anaheim performances, that makes him a pretty nifty reserve infielder.

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Position Roundtables: Backup Catcher

March 8, 2005 · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables · 86 Comments 

Dave: Backup catcher: Dan Wilson

We could sit here and pile on Dan Wilson if we wanted. It wouldn’t be
hard to talk about how only 4 major league catchers who received at
least 200 at-bats last year had a lower VORP than Danny Boy’s -2.1.
We could explain how his ability to call a game is vastly overstated
and lacks any objective evidence to support the claim. But you know,
I think we’d be preaching to the choir. I’m not sure there are that
many people out there that still believe Dan Wilson is a productive
major league player. So why belabor the point?

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Position Roundtables: Starting Designated Hitter

March 3, 2005 · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables · 50 Comments 

Jeff: Starting Designated Hitter: Raul Ibanez and/or Bucky Jacobsen

Dear St. Patrick:

Are you there, St. Patrick? It’s me, Jeff.

Look, I know I don’t take much time to reflect on my Irish heritage, probably because all we know of it is that my great-grandfather fled from some trouble he got into, changed his name, and forbade anyone in the family from ever speaking of The Old Country again. But I come to you two weeks before your namesake holiday to ask a favor.

You’ve got to help Bucky Jacobsen out.
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Position Roundtables: Right Field

March 1, 2005 · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables, Mariners · 87 Comments 

Jeff: Starting Right Fielder: Ichiro

My first car was a Volkswagen Fastback. Vintage 1969, one of the first
years they put an automatic transmission in the terrapin of
fahrvergnugen, so there were bugs aplenty. The muffler fell off from
time to time. The door panels were rotting. Once, a heating vent stuck
open, bathing passengers in heat during dead summer.

That car was a heap. But I loved it.

Most of all, I loved the stereo I’d installed myself — the only part
that always worked. When the transmission gave out, I could at least
sit in the driveway and pretend I had a way out of my hometown. In a
way, I did, but it was Guided by Voices, Dinosaur Jr. and Husker Du
that were paving the way, not my green given-up-the-ghost car.

In a lineup that has seen a real overhaul, Ichiro is the one part that
you pencil in from last year and expect great things from. This should
be the easiest roundtable, but it isn’t.

What is there left to say about Ichiro? Dave touched on his unbelievable 2004. Derek has noted how unique he is and considered a Hall of Fame case. Nate Silver admits that he throws PECOTA for a loop.

How about, as Larry Stone mentions, that he appears to be the most likely player to make a run at .400? No, we can’t talk about that: if a respected baseball writer is openly musing about Ted Williams territory (and Dimaggio’s 56-game streak), that territory has to be played out. Right?

That’s Ichiro. The stupefying becomes conceivable, the incredible
becomes commonplace.

Well, we could speculate about No. 51 breaking the Mariner record for
runs in a season now that he’ll be batting in front of Beltre and
Sexson. Oops: it’s been done, with John Hickey even discussing the major-league
run records
as well.

Now, I’m not necessarily saying that Ichiro will come through with
another record-setting performance this year, and neither are the
authors of any of the pieces I’ve linked to. That’s the point of his
forecast-busting nature. No one really knows what the guy is going to

What we do know is what to do with Ichiro: plug him in, watch him,
enjoy. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Dave: Umm, what Jeff said.

Seriously, Ichiro is awesome. He’s a remarkably valuable player, extremely unique, exciting, and marketable, all rolled into one mini package. Ichiro makes going to the ballpark more fun in a way that other great players don’t. The Ichiro experince goes beyond his BA/OBP/SLG and and the tangible value of his production. Ichiro is great for the game. Ichiro is great for Seattle.

I-chi-ro. I-chi-ro. I-chi-ro.

Jason: Jeff didn’t find one of my posts to quote… but then, I guess I haven’t gushed about Ichiro here on the USSM. I knew I had somewhere, though, so I did some digging. Ah yes, here it is, the August 2003 issue of the Grand Salami.

By the time 2002 rolled around, all was right with the world. Ichiro was seemingly having an even better season, hitting .357 at the All-Star break. He was even drawing more walks, having eclipsed his total from the previous season in just 62 games, leading to a stellar .430 on-base percentage. What was I thinking, having doubted this guy?

Then the second half came. Ichiro hit .282 in August and just .248 in September, dropping his average 36 points after the break. He also stopped walks, and when he did get on base he wouldn’t attempt to steal second base even in a close game. Again, I wondered if this guy was all he was cracked up to be. In his defense, it turned out he had never fully recovered from an injury suffered when he ran into the outfield wall in Oakland late in the year, but still…

Given his performance in the second half of 2002 you can imagine my angst when he started slowly this year, hitting just .243 in April. I wondered aloud—and wrote as much in this very magazine—if Ichiro’s star was beginning to fade. He seemed ordinary, no longer the dynamic offensive catalyst he once was. After all, he was hitting a mere .258 over his last 300-plus at-bats, and it’s not as if he was making up for it with power or walks.

I’m happy to say that’s the last time I’ll ever doubt Ichiro. He quieted me in May by hitting .389 with four homers. He shut me up in June by hitting .386 with ten steals and two more homers. And just for good measure, he smacked me silly in July by hitting well over .400 in the ten games leading up to the All-Star break.

Don’t doubt him. Don’t knock him. Just when you think he’s down, he’ll whiz a line drive single past your ear. Ichiro, you the man.

Should he play center? Yeah, sure. Should he walk a bit more? Yeah, probably. But c’mon. Given all the good he does — and the problems elsewhere on the team — it’s hardly worth wasting words on such minor quibbles.

Position Roundtables: Starting Center Field

February 26, 2005 · Filed Under 2005 Roundtables, Mariners · 39 Comments 

Dave: Starting CF: Jeremy Reed or Randy Winn

It’s pretty widely assumed that Reed is going to get this job unless
he has a terrible spring or gets hurt, and we just talked an awful lot
about Randy Winn, so I’m going to focus on Reed for this discussion.

The national take on Reed has been pretty strange to watch. He was a
second round pick by the White Sox in 2002, then was immediately
assigned to full-season Kannapolis and hit .320 in his pro debut.
Despite his strong initial performance, he was basically off the radar
for most analysts heading into 2003. He was assigned to high-A
Winston-Salem and continued hitting for a high average, but also
posted a ridiculous 41/17 walk to strikeout rate in his 222 at-bats
before the promotion, though he was still flying somewhat under the
radar. BP hired me in the summer of ’03, and I wrote my
first column
for them on Reed, who I had seen extensively, seeing
as I lived in Winston-Salem. It was the first major exposure Reed had
been given on the national analysis scene, so I became something like
the defacto driver of the Jeremy Reed bandwagon. Then bizarro world
took over.

Reed went to Double-A Birmingham and hit .409/.474/.591 after the
promotion. .409 for 242 at-bats, which is just unheard of. For half
a season in Birmingham, Reed was Ted Williams. And quicker than you
can say Splendid Splinter, the bandwagon overloaded. The statistical
analysis community piled onto the Reed bandwagon in droves. PECOTA
spit out comparisons to Tony Gwynn and Don Mattingly. He became the
poster child for all that a minor league prospect is supposed to be.
When we sat down to discuss the BP Top 50, I suddenly found myself as
the voice of dissent. I drove the Reed bandwagon down the “hey, this
guy’s a pretty good prospect that no one talks about” road, but when
the horde took over and switched over to “he might be a potential hall
of famer”, I got off at the next stop. Eventually, the consensus at
Prospectus won out, and Reed ended up #2 on the 2004 BP
Top 50

This wasn’t just a Prospectus thing. The Hardball Times ranked him #4
overall. John Sickels called him the 3rd best hitting prospect in the
game. Despite my opinion on Reed never really changing, I was
officially a naysayer, the negative voice in the community, the guy
who was “down on Reed”, simply because I thought he was a lot more
likely to be Rusty Greer or Mark Kotsay than Tony Gwynn. It was a
weird experience, and I’m still not totally sure what to make of it.

So, 2004 rolled around, and Reed was pretty mediocre in Triple-A as
his average fell to a more human .289 with his usual lack of home run
power. At midseason, he was traded from the White Sox to the
Mariners, and during September, he got his first call to the big show
and partied like it was 2003 all over again. For 58 at-bats, he hit
.397/.470/.466 and whacked singles all over the park. The hot finish
to the season in his major league debut gave him a strong lead in the
fight for the everyday center field job heading into 2005.

So, where do we stand on Reed in ’05 now? We know he’s perfectly
capable of going on sustained hot streaks where he sprays line drives
and seeing eye singles like our current right fielder. We also know
he’s not much of a power threat at this point in his career, and like
Ichiro, his offensive value will be almost completely wrapped up in
how many singles he hits. So, how confident can we be in a projection
of a guy who is going to pepper the margins of fielder range by
hitting the ball just out of reach?

Like Ichiro (but to a less extreme degree), Reed has a skillset that
can create a wide range of possible performances. I’m guessing he’ll
hit something like .280/.340/.400, but the possibility of
.220/.290/.330 is there, as is the .330/.390/.450 upside. Talk about
a wild card. I could reasonably buy an argument that would have him
winning the rookie of the year in a landslide just as easily as I
could see him back in Tacoma by June. Reed is one of the key guys to
whether the M’s are going to contend in 2005 or not; they have several
wide-range-of-possibility guys on the roster, and they need more than
not to lean toward the optimistic side of the ledger.

Jeff: Jeremy Reed’s arrival in Seattle wasn’t quite like Beatlemania — it
lacked fainting, odd haircuts and Ringo — but there was much in the
way of joyful noise. I know, I made a few of the noises.

Part of the Reed hysteria among Mariner fans can be explained by the
team’s recent dearth of heralded position prospects. The fact that the
M’s acquired someone else’s top minor league talent led to what Alan
Greenspan might call “irrational exuberance.” This understandable
giddiness may have caused some unrealistic expectations. I’ll admit to
being guilty of this myself.

Reed is still a valuable player, though, and I don’t mean to sound
like I’m down on him. Indeed, I’m very excited to watch him play this
season and hopefully for years to come.

Neither Reed nor Randy Winn is the prototypical center fielder; both
lack the range and arm you would like to see. It’s clear (to me at
least) that Reed’s superior arm makes him a better solution, though
not an ideal one, and this statement makes me think of one of the
names Dave mentioned.

Mark Kotsay could wind up being a pretty good comparison for where Reed
is headed. Not a perennial All-Star by any means, but a helpful player
that astute teams value.

Kotsay entered the majors at a younger age than Reed, so he had a
couple of full seasons under his belt before he put up a line of
.298/.347/.443 at 24 years old. This performance was in the unfriendly
hitting confines of Florida, and looks remarkably similar to what
PECOTA suggests for Reed, who will turn 24 in June: .286/.353/.423.

You don’t hear Mark Kotsay and think “star player,” but last year,
only four regular center fielders (sorry, Ken Griffey and Jeff
DaVanaon) had an Equivalent Average higher than Kotsay’s .289.

Whether Jeremy Reed performs toward the lower or higher range of what
we can expect will, as Dave said, have a huge impact on whether the
Mariners can contend this year. Regardless, he is a commodity that
will likely prove very useful over the course of his career.

Maybe Reed won’t be John Lennon or Paul McCartney, but he’s not likely
to be the fifth Beatle, either.

Oh, and one more thing: I can believe I have never before noticed that
Jeremy Reed hails from San Dimas, Calif. — making him that town’s
third most-famous favorite son. Excellent.

Derek: I like Reed a lot, but I agree with Dave. In a way, Reed i’s like Jose
Lopez — in trying to talk people down from “future superstar” to
“future good player” it’s almost as if you’re attacking them, rather
than trying to be realistic about their futures.

Reed’s going to push the Mariners closer to being a contender if he can
stick in center field.

A question for Dave — didn’t Reed play most of his minor league time in
right? I don’t know of any players who were minor league RFers who moved
to center successfully, but I’ll admit that this is the kind of detailed
minor league data I don’t have.

Dave: Yea, Reed spent most of his time in right field in the lower minors.
When he was in Winston, we’d talk about his defense, and he felt most
comfortable in right. I talked to many White Sox personnel guys about
his future position, and they all said they didn’t think he had the
range to play center in the bigs. Then, he starts hitting .400, they
have Magglio in right field, and wam, he’s the center fielder of the
future because that was their glaring weakness at the major league

He’s played a significant amount of center field the past year and a
half, so its not like he’s learning a new position. But Derek’s
right; when just projecting him on his abilities and not “how do we
get him to the show the quicket”, they had him in right field, not

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