Musings about, um... well, the Seattle Mariners as well as a love affair with this game baseball. By Peter J. White
Saturday, April 05, 2003
MARINERS 6, RANGERS 4
So, after yesterday's rank against Kaz, he turns around and strikes out 4 in an inning. His splitter was dropping so hard Ben Davis couldn't even catch it. That's what I like to see (just not with the tying/go ahead run at third). And for the second day in a row Davis provided a late inning go-ahead "clutch" hit. Heroics might be too strong of a word. And for the third straight day the M's strike first in the top of the first, this time on an Edgar solo shot. He'd finish with 3 hits and 2 ribbies. While for Ismael Valdes, he's still got the same problem as last year with the Rangers. He pitched six innings, allowing only 4 hits and 3 runs, leaving with the lead. If I were Izzy, I'd be pretty pissed off with the bullpen. If I had to the time, I'd do the homework to find out how many times he left with lead last year only to have the bullpen blow it. He was only 6-9 for the Rangers last year, but his ERA was only 3.93. This for the team that finished 5th in runs scored. The starters in Texas aren't that strong, so the Rangers need to take advantage of every solid start and stop blowing it in the late innings. Just stop it. Plain and simple. Unless of course, you're playing the Mariners.
Hank Blalock had a nice day: 2 for 2, a double, a home run, 2 walks and 2 RBI. He flopped in his debut last season, but I'm rooting for him as hard as anybody this year, regardless of what position he plays. His been on my radar screen since about 2 years ago back when I lived in Tulsa. I took my mom to a Drillers game just before I moved out west and Blalock hit for the cycle in that game. As it was Mom who taught me to keep score like a religion, I think the two of us were the only ones in the stadium who noticed. It was about 15 minutes later that the announcer came to his senses and Hank was still standing on third base from his triple to tip his cap. About three days later he hit for the cycle again. That has to be one of my favorite baseball memories, right up there with Robin Ventura's walk off grand slam. That was probably about '92 or so. New Comiskey was brank spanking new, and come to think of it, that was off then Rangers closer Goose Gossage. Anyway, go Hank.
And finally, congrats are in order to Sammy Sosa, the latest member, and first former Driller, of the 500 Home Run Club.
And while I'm on the subject of the Tulsa Drillers... was I the last to find out they're no longer affiliated with Texas and now the AA team for the Rockies?
|| Peter @ 4/05/2003
Friday, April 04, 2003
MARINERS 7, ATHLETICS 6
When I said yesterday that we'd finally see a game between these two teams, I wasn't expecting to sacrifice all of my chewable fingernails. Runs were scored in every half inning from the bottom of the ninth to the bottom of the 11th. Geez, did Kaz look terrible. He didn't get a first pitch strike on anybody. I'm looking at the M's payroll in today's Times and Kaz is the highest paid Mariner at $8.5 mil. Hmm... $8.5 mil for 1 inning of work in 3 games with 1 blown save. Are closers really overvalued? Let's think about this. Okay, I'm done thinking. There's no way, no way whatsoever, that a "closer" deserves the highest salary on any team. Don't tell me Epstein in Boston isn't on to something. But back to the game. Pineiro wasn't his usual sharp self (what's new with the rotation?) as he pitched 6 innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts. At least he was sharper than Mulder. And congratulations are in order for Ben Davis, the last person we would have picked to hit the first Mariner home run of 2003.
Today, it's off to Texas for another afternoon game and against our old buddy, Izzy Valdes.
More salary trivia... Did you know Jeff Cirillo will make more this year than both Ichiro and Edgar? Travesty of travesties. Cirillo $6.475 mil, Ichiro $6 mil ($3 mil base), and Edgar $6 mil ($4 mil base).
In other news... How about San Diego's Jake Peavy last night? 5 innings, 1 hit (a Brian Jordan home run), 1 run, 11(!) strikeouts, and oh yeah, 5 walks.
|| Peter @ 4/04/2003
Thursday, April 03, 2003
ATHLETICS 8, MARINERS 3
Barry Zito is now 21-1 when he starts in Oakland going back to June of 2001. So inevitably, it was a rough night for the M's. There's something very different in these teams from their 2002 versions when the Mariners stormed out on a 10-0 roadtrip against the West and the A's stumbled to start the season 25-28 in April and May. What separates these two teams so far this year is in these numbers:
Those are the combined numbers of the starters in the two games thus far. This afternoon we'll see Pineiro vs. Mulder, and I think we'll finally see a game between these two teams.
|| Peter @ 4/03/2003
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
ATHLETICS 5, MARINERS 0
God, it's a beautiful thing to hear Dave Niehaus's voice again. Freddy's still up to his 2002-second-half tricks. Rubes Durazo showed ex-bench coach Bob Melvin why he deserved more than bench role in Arizona. If anybody knew the scouting on Rubes it should have been Melvin. Instead he rockets a homer and a bases-loaded double off the top of the wall, driving in all 5 runs and making Billy Beane very happy, I'm sure. Tim Hudson pitched a gem of a game. On the bright side, Melvin did finally get the lineup card right and Randy Winn got 3 of the 5 Mariner hits, one a double. Sure the M's got shutout, but for crying out loud, I'm just excited it's Opening Day.
Over in Tampa, Lou and company yet again embarrass the socks off the Boston closer-by-committee bullpen. I'm the sure the Boston media is already gathering the pitchforks and torches against Theo and the Brain Trust.
|| Peter @ 4/02/2003
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Preseason Predictions – Part 6: AL West
By far, hands down, the best division in baseball. Where else could the worst team sport a .500 record? Very likely, the Rangers will. Basically, the only changes over the winter are the annual Rangers pitching shuffle, and curiously, three of the four teams will introduce new managers come Opening Day. The Rangers, though improved over last years version, will have to settle for the cellar once again, while the Angels, Mariners and Athletics battle over who plays in October and who wins 95 games and watches the playoffs at home. Forget October, the best baseball we’ll see this year is September as these four teams close the season against each other.
If I were a Texas Ranger fan, I’d be hopping mad about the unbalanced scheduled which requires the Rangers spend the majority of its games against three of the best teams in baseball. Is Dallas that much further west of Houston, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Milwaukee, all Central Division teams? If the Rangers were in the AL Central, they’d be contenders. Last year they finished 18th in run differential, comparable to the Phillies and Cubs. The offense scored 843 runs, 5th in all of baseball between the Angels and Diamondbacks. Alex Rodriguez led the barrage batting .300/.392/.623 with 57 home runs, and ageless wonder Rafael Palmeiro followed suit with .273/.391/.571 and 43 home runs. Name me a better 1-2 offensive punch then A-Rod and Palmeiro. Injuries to Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez and Carl Everett severely handicapped the Texas hitting machine. I-Rod is catching for the Fish in Orlando now, but comebacks by either Everett or Gonzalez or both and the Rangers have maybe the scariest lineup this side of the Yankees. Then add to that the continued development of Hank Blalock (perhaps at 2B now) and “the next big thing” Mark Texeira, and whoa momma, what an infield. Then consider the rumors of Carlos Beltran into the mix. But I really have to wonder whose bright idea it was to bring in Doug Glanville and his career .320 OBP to lead off for these guys? They’d have been better off picking up Kenny Lofton.
Well, it must be the same guys who forgot that they also have to put together a pitching staff and prevent fewer runs than they score, because in 2002 the Rangers allowed 882 runs, 27th in all of baseball, just between the Tigers and the Royals. Kenny Rogers was the one and only bright spot going 13-8 with a 3.84 ERA. To call the bullpen a mess is a gigantic understatement, so they’ve brought in Ugueth Urbina. Chan Ho Park was a bust in his first year as a Ranger. As can be said of so many other Texas Ranger teams throughout history, the offensive is colossal, but their pitching is almost nonexistent. The Rangers suffered mightily from injuries in 2002 and have made several upgrades, but in a division where 93 wins means third place, they’ll be stuck in the cellar yet again.
Yes, I’m putting my beloved Mariners in third place, though I believe this three-team race will be better than last year and the difference between first and third will be no more than 5 games. Last year, the M’s sped out of the gate, picking right up where they left off in 2001, but sometime in June the momentum died. In August, while the A’s won 20 in a row and the Angels were just as hot, the M’s came to a screeching halt, and in September, the bottom just fell out. In the end, Seattle finished 9th in run differential, between the Cardinals and Dodgers. The offense scored 814 runs, 7th place in league with the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays. I plan to go into more depth with each player in a special Mariner preview throughout the rest of the week. It may not be done by the opener on Tuesday and it may be piecemeal, but I promise to deliver.
On the mound, the Mariners allowed 699 runs, ranked 11th between the Mets and Yankees. And again, more on this in more detail later.
Boy, they sure missed Jason Giambi, eh? The A’s finished out 2002 ranked 6th in run differential, equal to Atlanta and Arizona. The offense scored 800 runs, good for 9th, or on par with the Cardinals and Blue Jays. What impresses me about the Athletics from last year is that they ranked among the top third offenses in baseball without a classic A+ slugger. Sure, they fielded the AL MVP in Miguel Tejada, and he got some nice clutch hits in August, but for the season his OPS was just .861. Eric Chavez batted .275/.348/.513 with 34 home runs. Scott Hatteberg played a solid first base with a .807 OPS. David Justice (.785) and Jermaine Dye (.792) both had subpar years, while Terrence Long just sucked it up (.689). Ray Durham provided a solid midseason acquisition. Tejada and Chavez should both build on their numbers from last year and Dye should bounce back. The biggest addition to the lineup has been Erubiel Durazo, finally rescued from the Arizona bench. Given a full, healthy (that’s the real question with Rubes) season, he should undoubtedly mash 30-40 home runs. I’d say the A’s should see an increase in runs in 2003.
That said, the strength of the Athletics is their starting rotation. The pitching staff allowed 654 runs, 6th in baseball between the Cardinals and Red Sox. Barry Zito (23-5, 2.75 ERA) won the Cy Young Award. Tim Hudson (15-9, 2.98 ERA) and Mark Mulder (19-7, 3.48 ERA) would be #1 starters on any other team, except maybe the Diamondbacks. Round out the big three with Ted Lilly and John Halama, and the A’s have the best 1-5 rotation in baseball, hands down. And to think Rich Harden could join the big league team by July and be as good as the Big Three… Geez, where does Oakland find these guys? That’s the genius of the A’s. Despite providing about the nearest rivalry as my Mariners might have, I can’t despise the A’s. In fact, I admire them greatly. General Manager Billy Beane year in and year out disproves the myth that payroll is directly proportional to wins. They lost Giambi and still won more games. Don’t cry for Oakland over the announcement that Tejada won’t be resigned. They’ve got a stocked farm system ready to step in. The World Series is not out of their grasp this year, and with two recent first round eliminations, you can bet they’re hungry.
The Angels postseason dominance should have come as no surprise last year. The Angels posted the best run differential in baseball. Top to bottom, through the lineup, from the starters through the bullpen, Anaheim boasted an even, balanced, above average roster devoid of any superstar. I was betting against the Angels because rarely does the best team in baseball survive the postseason. The only team to do it in last 15 years was the 1998 Yankees. The offense scored 850 runs, 4th in baseball between the White Sox and Rangers. An interesting note on the Angels: They were 4th in runs scored, 6th in on base percentage, 1st in batting average, 21st in home runs and 26th in walks. What that tells me is the Angels were very lucky in 2002 and their likelihood to maintain the same level of success is very low. The Angels lineup is chockfull of hitters with above average batting averages and below average on base percentages: Darin Erstad (.283/.313), Garrett Anderson (.306/.332), Adam Kennedy (.312/.345). I’m not saying they can’t repeat or even win the division (I’m in fact picking them, aren’t I?), but it’s going to be an uphill battle. Also consider, that like the Mariners of 2001, the 2002 Angels had career years from key players, in this case Anderson and Kennedy, and the whole team pretty much stayed disabled-list free. It’s safe to say that all the luck swung in Anaheim’s direction last year, and that rarely happens twice.
On the mound, the Angels allowed 644 runs, 4th place between the Dodgers and Cardinals. Jarrod Washburn emerged as the ace of the staff with an 18-6 record and 3.15 ERA. Ramon Ortiz, Kevin Appier and John Lackey all provide a stable, dominant pitching rotation. The Angels should prove that 2002 wasn’t a fluke, but they won’t find it easy, especially in this division.
I picked the order based on their finishes last year and what impact I saw their additions/subtractions to make. It could just as easily finish Oakland, Seattle, Anaheim, or Seattle, Anaheim, Oakland. My heart tells me to go with the hometown Mariners. My gut is with Oakland. My head is with Anaheim. It’s too bad a team from the Central has to go to the playoffs, too, because the best teams in the American League, if not all of baseball are the Mariners, Athletics, Angels, Yankees and Red Sox.
So to recap: In the National the pennant winners will be Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Francisco, and the wild card will be Houston. In the AL, the playoff teams are Boston, Chicago, Anaheim and Oakland will be the wild card. The World Series will be Oakland over San Francisco (just like 1989, only without the earthquake). Come November, we can all have a good laugh over all this.
Other World Series matchups I would like to see:
Oakland vs. Chicago – Zito/Mulder/Hudson against Wood/Prior/Clement
Boston vs. Arizona – Pedro against Randy
Seattle vs. Philadelphia – Edgar’s last hurrah.