Musings about, um... well, the Seattle Mariners as well as a love affair with this game baseball. By Peter J. White
Saturday, April 26, 2003
Tomorrow's the big day that the Mrs. and I pack up the UHaul and drive ourselves from the pristine splendor of the Pacific Northwest to the urban sprawl of Northern Virginia. Yeah, we're making like Lou Piniella to be closer to family and I don't think the Mariners have worked out compensation yet, and that's their loss. Not that Baltimore really has anything of value to offer.
My father-in-law asked me if I'd be an Orioles fan now. The look I gave him I suspect had something to the effect of "Over my dead body." So yes, this will be how I still follow every move and game of the Mariners throughout the year. I'm already planning a trip to Camden Yards when the M's visit in September.
What this means in the short-term however, is no blogging while I drive for the next freakin' week. Yes, I am missing the Yankee series, for crying out loud. They'll be another. And no rankings this week.
In the meantime, go visit some of my favorite baseball writing...
Mariners 6, Tigers 0 - What's up with Joel? 115 pitches, only 53% for strikes, 6 walks, 6 strikeouts in 5.1 innings. At least it was against the Tigers. Anyone else, and that would spell certain doom. He walked the bases loaded in the first two innings, yet emerged without giving up a run. And that, my friends, in this futility that is the Detroit Tigers' lineup.
The Tigers' pitching isn't really all that bad. They rank 20th in team ERA at 4.72, which isn't exactly great, but still better than 10 other clubs, including World Champion Anaheim, Atlanta and Boston. It's their hitting that looks like its straight out of The Bad News Bears.
Randy Winn fell a home run short of hitting for the cycle. But come on, like he's really going to hit a home run in Safeco. Boonie continued his RBI tear with 3 more, that's 6 for the week and 16 for the month of April.
John Levesque of the P-I equates the Kaz-less Mariner bullpen to the closer-by-committee experiment in Boston. He cites that the one thing that Bill James ignores in his equation is the intimidation factor of having a closer. All in all, it's one of the few positive reviews of what's happening in Boston and what the Mariners are doing in Sasaki's absence. However, I still feel like he's missing the point. Now, I haven't referenced Bill James's article in awhile, so correct me if I'm wrong, but the gist I get is that its about expanding the closer's role, not abolishing it. It's not about eliminating the psychological effect of seeing Kaz Sasaki, Troy Percical, John Smoltz or Trevor Hoffman when the opponent is down by 2-3 runs in the ninth. It's about using, as I believe James refers to it as, your "best pitcher in the bullpen" at the most critical moment in the game and not just the situation dictated by the statistic called the "Save." What's so mind blowing about using your "Closer" in the 8th inning when the game is tied? Or in the 7th when the game when your team is down by a run? The psychologic effect is still there. It says to the opposing team, "You may be ahead now, but you're not scoring one more run." It's a point I have yet to hear in all the columns about Boston's bullpen this year. I don't think it's a bullpen free-for-all, or should be, ideally, anyway, it's just not letting some artificial statistic limit how you use the closer. Ironic, isn't it, that the media would rather have a statistic (saves, in this case) than Bill James' wild ideas?
As if we needed an excuse not to listen to Reggie Jackson. John Heyman goes to Reggie for historical comparisons of Alfonso Soriano...
"Jackson recalled two players who possess some similar traits, Joe Morgan and Rickey Henderson."
I have no idea what those "some similiar traits" Reggie might have in mind, because the one trait that stands out when I hear those three players is what set Morgan and Rickey apart from dang near everybody, and the one thing Soriano lacks... walks. Rickey and Joe rank 4rd and 5th, respectively, in walks better than league average among all players with 1000+ AB. (Some guys named Ruth, Williams and Bonds are the top 3). In 2001 and 2002, since Soriano's been a regular, he ranks 4th among active hitters in walks WORSE than league average, just two better than the co-leaders Neifi Perez and Doug Glanville.
Isolated Power is a stat that removes a player's batting average from his slugging percentage that gives an idea of just how much of a slugger he really is. I don't see any stat that removes batting average from on base percentage, but I think that would be useful in comparing these three hitters. We'll call it Plate Discipline average, and it'll show us how much of his being on base comes from walks. Soriano's numbers won't include 2003 thus far...
Rickey Henderson OBP .402 - AVG .279 = PDA .123
Joe Morgan OBP .392 - AVG .271 = PDA .121
Alfonso Soriano OBP .314 - AVG .281 = PDA .033
Obviously, this can't be one of the traits Reggie has in mind. For more on Soriano's plate discipline check out Aaron's Baseball Blog.
Couple of quick observations while watching GameCast this afternoon...
In Cincinnati... Jake Peavy struck out the side to start out the Padres-Reds game on 10 pitches. He struck out 8 through the first three innings! The only Reds that didn't strike out through the first run through the lineup were Kearnes and Dunn. Peavy had a no-hitter going until the 6th when Kelly Stinnet led off with a single.
In Pittsburgh... In spite of all the flack Adrian Beltre is getting these days, with two outs in the top of the ninth, he doubled in the winning run as the Bums avoided the shut out by exploding for 5 runs in the top of the ninth against Pittsburgh.
|| Peter @ 4/25/2003
HERE KITTY, KITTY, KITTY
Mariners 4, Indians 2 - Jamie struck out 7 in 6 innings thowing only 60% of his pitches for strikes. His 103 pitches only got him to the 6th. The only runs were scored on the back to back double and home run by Vizquel and Blake to lead off the game. Contrast to the rookie Traber who walked 4 and 2 of those scored.
Most of the Indians hits were bunched at the top of their lineup--Vizquel, Blake and Burks combined to go 7 for 14 scoring both runs and driving them both in. Then there's the M's lineup, where the hits were spread throughout. Nobody got more than 1 and the only starters without hits were Guillen (who walked twice) and Cirillo.
Jeff Cirillo deserves special mention for his effort this evening - 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and grounding into a double play. Of particular note was the third strikeout. Following Colbrunn's first basehit in a Mariner uniform and Guillen's first walk of the inning, Cirillo stepped to the plate with runners at first and second, zero outs. At this point the M's are up 3-2 in the 6th inning. He works the count full, and with the runners going, Jeffrey watches strike three, leaving Colbrunn out to dry at third. I swear, Colbrunn was thrown out by a good 10 feet. On the hit-and-run, I'm sure Colbrunn was half way to third, and on not hearing contact, knew Cirillo had walked, or that he was a dead duck. Willie B. followed with a sharp single that scored Guillen, took second on the throw home and then third on the error. You've got to figure that Cirillo cost the M's one, if not two runs on that blunder. So after striking out twice against the rookie Traber (with the above noted control problems), he then botched a hit-and-run into a strikeout-caught-stealing double play and topped off the evening erasing Guillen's lead off walk in the 8th with another double play. Batting line now .155/.246/.241.
Now after a proper sweep of the Indians, winning now 10 of the last 12, bring on the 2-18 Detroit Kittens, dead last in every offensive categories (except walks). The matchups for the series look like Piniero vs. Maroth tonight, Franklin vs. Knotts tomorrow and Garcia vs. Bernero on Sunday. While none of those Tiger pitchers have recorded a win, none of those Mariner pitchers has more than 1. And Maroth, while 0-5 has a better ERA than Piniero thus far (4.55 to 4.85).
|| Peter @ 4/25/2003
Thursday, April 24, 2003
MARINERS 4, INDIANS 0
Everybody loves Gil: 7.2 innings, 109 pitches, 66% for strikes, 8 strikeouts, 2 walks, 5 hits, 0 runs. That's his second straight solid outing, not to mention the first for a M's starter into the 8th inning. But we'll sober ourselves up with the fact that this was the Indians, who are 3rd from the bottom in the AL scoring runs, and they were without their best hitter at the moment, Milton Bradley. A quick glance at last night's box score and the vets Burks and Vizquel are the only Indians hitting over .250.
Sasaki's on the DL and so it looks like a Bob will platoon the closer between Rhodes and Nelson. We'll see today who gets called up from Tacoma.
Are Rhodes and Nelson so one-dimensional that Bob doesn't think they can get 3 outs in an inning? Rhodes got the first 2 outs in the ninth last night, gave up a hit, so with 2 outs in the ninth, Bob brings in Nelson to finish it. What, with a 4-run lead and one baserunner, you're telling me Rhodes can't get one more out?
|| Peter @ 4/24/2003
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
MARINERS 8, INDIANS 5
The Good... Mike Cameron hits a walk off grand slam and Dave Niehaus proclaims, "It's grand salami time!"
The Bad... The bullpen allows 4 of Cleveland's 5 runs.
The Ugly... Kaz blows #3 in his last 5 tries, which makes 4 out of 8 on the year.
For everyone's sake, I hope Sasaki's recent struggles are related to injury and that he gets a DL vacation. I could moan about the bullpen's struggles last night against the light-hitting Indians, but I've spent enough space on Sasaki the last week. It could be worse. He could be giving up walk off grand slams, as Denys Baez did to Cammie.
Stop me if you've heard this before... Freddy Garcia 7 hits in 6.1 innings, 1 run (Hafner's longball), 2 walks and only 1 strikeout. He threw 116 pitches, good to get him into the 7th this time, but only 57% for strikes. Not even close to overpowering a lineup with a team OPS of .731 and 5 starters under .700 (4 of them under .625). Ugh.
And to this lineup Hasegawa allows his first run of the year.
With one swing of the bat in the 4th inning, Dan Wilson quadrupled his RBI total on the year, clearing the ducks from the pond with a bases-loaded double that put the M's up 3-0.
Happy Birthday to Driller Girl. Because it's her birthday, and she asked, and I promised, here's comments on Tulsa Drillers' catcher Kevin Sullivan. I ran a search on Excite to see what I could find, and it turns out there are quite a few internet savvy Kevin Sullivan's in the world--a Connecticut senator, an Olypmic Canadian runner, some lonely computer nerds with too much time on their hands. No luck on the baseball player, so all I know is what I can deduce from the Drillers player card for him. At 25, and as I mentioned with Jorge Piedra, Sullivan's a tad old to be in AA. In 34 at bats (no he's not a starter), he's got a .353 batting average (not bad), .405 on base percentage (not bad), and .382 slugging percentage (bad), which tells me Sullivan doen't hit for power. He's only got one extra base hit so far (a double). He hasn't played, much less started, since Friday's game, so being the backup catcher in AA is another strike against him. But all the more reason to root for him.
By the way, Jorge Piedra is still tearing it up with a .333/.433/.649 batting line and ranked 2nd in the Texas League with a .364 EQA. That's really good.
|| Peter @ 4/23/2003
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Yesterday was an idle day for the M's (as well as most of baseball), so some general notes and observations...
Sunday ended the 19-game AL Watch grudgematch, and I think the results are pretty interesting. Even after week 1, it looked like Oakland might very well run away with the division, but here we see the Mariners leading the pack with an 11-8 record, Oakland 10-9 (1 game back), Anaheim 9-10 (2 games back) and Texas 8-11 (3 games back). That Seattle would be in first place despite their shaky rotation and lack of power in the lineup is the big surprise. Otherwise, we see all four teams bunched together. The only other division that sees its last place team just 3 games out is the AL East (Mets).
In Texas, it looks like the hitting is better than expected, with Blalock and Everett putting their miserable 2002s very, very far behind them. You could also say the pitching is worse than we first thought, keeping ahead of only Cincinnati and Tampa Bay in the runs allowed category.
Bob Finnigan reports on the latest "Little Matsui" rumblings. He states that San Diego, LA, Anaheim, the Cubs and White Sox, as well as Seattle are the current Rumor Mill contenders. I keep hearing San Diego, San Diego whenever Kaz Matsui's name comes up, and yeah, it makes sense with them moving into a new ballpark next year. It'd be nice to have a marquee name to attract the casual, curious fan. But what about Khalil Greene, the first draft pick from last year and their A-Rod in the making? I haven't heard one mention in the mainstream media. I'd like to hear how Greene figures into the Matsui plans in San Diego. The M's spent $15 million just to negotiate to Ichiro. You've got to figure the M's made that right back and more in 2001. And with that many teams interested at this point, you have to think Seibu's going to be looking at at least $15 mil, which is a hefty chunk of change for San Diego. I'd rather go with the Greene, myself.
I'm surprised to hear Anaheim in that mix. Would they really dump Eckstein? And what about San Fran. Aurilia's a free agent at season's end, so they may very well need to fill a shortstop hole, too.
The M's now host Cleveland and Detroit. I'd get excited, but it was last year's abysmal road trip to those two cities that hosed the M's playoff hopes last year. It's absolutely imperative that the M's show the Indians and Tigers who's boss. Normally, asking for 2 out of 3 in each series is optimistic, but anything short of 5 out of 6 or even a 6-game sweep in this homestand is doom for the Mariners, even this early in the season. Especially with these two teams a combined 8-28 so far.
The pitching matchups against Cleveland look like Freddy vs. C.C. Sabathia tonight, Meche vs. Ricardo Rodriguez tomorrow and Moyer vs. Brian Anderson. Curiously, the ERAs in each matchup favor the Indians. Milton Bradley is the lone bat in that lineup that even looks alive. The Mariners rank 13th in runs scored, while the Indians rank 26th. The Mariners are 10th in runs allowed, while the Indians are 15th.
|| Peter @ 4/22/2003
Monday, April 21, 2003
MARINERS 7, ANGELS 6
There's nothing new under sun. A day after the Angels pasted Sasaki, the M's get to Percival. Revenge, sweet revenge. A great perk of Easter is visiting relatives who have cable, so I caught the final inning.
Julio Ramirez is my new favorite Angel, who literally handed the game (you could argue with a little help) to the M's on a silver platter. He entered the game to run for Salmon. A baserunning blunder erased him from scoring position and the Angels down by one. They would eventually tie it that inning. He then botches a throw from center field that put John Olerud, following his go-ahead RBI single, in scoring position. Eric Owens and Troy Glaus then contributed on Cammy's sac fly to right. Owens's throw was a bit wild, but it's Glaus's bone-headed reluctance to get off the bag and block it that allows Olerud to score the winning run.
I'm growing increasingly fidgety seeing Kaz in the 9th with any lead, and yesterday was again cause for concern. A lead off double to Eckstein, passed ball and single by Spiezio makes a one run game. So with the tying run at first and no outs, up comes our hero Julio Ramirez, who proceeds to pop-up his bunt attempt right into the glove of Wilson. Fly to left by Anderson. Two outs. Single right by Glaus. Spiezo holds at second, seeing Ichiro in his rear-view mirror. Tying run in scoring position. Fullmer, 3 balls and 2 strikes, strikes out swinging. Game over. Yeah, take that rally monkey.
Offensively, Ichiro had 2 doubles, lifting his BA to .260. Cirillo doubled, but he's still batting .146. Olerud drove in 3 runs, while Boone homered (his 5th) and doubled. Can't complain about any of that. Greg Colbrunn finally gets some at-bats. Such a deal was made of picking him up over the winter, Melvin pushing to get him, but he's only got 10 at bats now in 4 games. Compare with John Maby 17 at bats in 11 games. Colbrunn's maybe 4th or 5th best hitter on the roster, definitely more of an asset than Mabry, so what's the deal?
Ryan Franklin posted maybe the best start from the rotation of the year (and missed the win): 85 pitches over 7 innings, 58 for strikes (68%), 6 hits, 2 runs, a walk and 2 Ks. On the other side, Nelson, Rhodes and Sasaki combined to give up 4 runs against 14 batters.
|| Peter @ 4/21/2003
Pedro's Power Rankings - Week 3 (last week's rankings in parentheses)
1. NY Yankees (2) - Before we get too carried away with the lastest invincible incarnation of the Yanks (35-4 homers vs. homers allowed and 79-45 walks vs. walks allowed, .931-.668 OPS for vs. against), let's keep in mind the competition thus far: Toronto, Tampa Bay and Minnesota. This week opens a month solid against the AL West and Boston.
2. Chicago Cubs (8) - This is what happens when you outscore your opponents 50-11 over 5 games. And by the way, Choi for ROY .300/.500/.675, 4 homers.
3. Kansas City (1) - Royals only 3rd (behind Cubbies and 'Spos) in team ERA at 3.01.
4. San Francisco (5) - Kurt Ainsworth: In 3 starts, 3 walks vs. 13 strikeouts and highest among Giants' 4 regular starters with 3.79 ERA.
5. Chicago Sox (9) - D'Angelo Jimenez: .379 (7th in AL)/.461 (6th)/.712 (4th) and he plays 2B.
6. Philadelphia (6) - Offenese tied with Cubbies for most walks (91).
7. Oakland (3) - Ramon Hernandez second to Durazo on team with 1.018 OPS.
8. Montreal (3) - What a rotation: Ohka (2.41 ERA), Day (2.59), Armas (2.61), Vazquez (3.61).
9. (tie) St. Louis (10) - Woody Williams: 3 starts, 19.2 innings pitched, 0 earned runs.
9. (tie) Boston (16) - Kevin Millar leads AL with .884 offensive winning percentage and OPS at 1.194.
11. Colorado (12) - How the heck does Larry Walker lead the majors with 5 triples?
12. Anaheim (6) - Donnelly, Shields and Weber all have ERAs less than 1.00. Next lowest on the staff is Washburn is 4.00, and Ortiz (5.96) is the only other starter under 6.
13. Seattle (17) - Any better middle bullpen in baseball? Hasegawa 0 earned runs in 13 innings, Rhodes 0.68 baserunners per inning.
14. Minnesota (20) - The defense only has 5 errors thus far, best in baseball.
15. Houston (14) - Lance Berkman: Hitting only .229/.362/.313 with 3 RBI.
16. Florida (15) - The Fish have 39 steals, more than 2nd ranked Angels and Giants (each 15) combined. Too bad, they can't steal first.
17. Los Angeles (13) - In the lineup, 4 starters with OPS below .600 and Green (.810) only one over .800.
18. Pittsburgh (11) - Kenny Lofton's .276 OBP problably not what they had in mind.
19. Baltimore (21) - The bats have struck out only 76 times, best in majors.
20. San Diego (19) - In 4 starts each, Brian Lawrence 2.33 ERA and Adam Eaton 3.16.
21. Toronto (18) - In 24 innings, Cory Lidle with 4 walks to 25 strikouts, but 5.92 ERA.
22. NY Mets (26) - Roger Cedeno's .238 OBP not anything I'd want topping my lineup, either.
23. Atlanta (27) - Don't forget he's related to Brian: Marcus Giles hitting .350/.426/.550.
24. Tampa Bay (23) - I have to imagine the clock is ticking on Carl Crawford: 91 AB, .514 OPS.
25. (tie) Cleveland (25) - Bartolo who? Ricardo Rodriguez 2-0, 2.08 ERA.
25. (tie) Arizona (29) - The offense ranks 27th in baseball with 68 runs scored, which is exactly twice as much as the last place Tigers. So they've got that going for them.
27. Milwaukee (22) - Matt Kinney with 18 strikeouts in 18 innings and 3.00 ERA.
28. Cincinnati (23) - You can't blame Griffey when the team ERA is 6.79, worst in baseball by nearly half a run.
29. Texas (28) - Rangers own top 3 in HR/100PA in AL: Everett (10.53), A-Rod (8.86), Blalock (8.77). You better hit a lot of home runs when the the team ERA is 6.05 (27th).
30. Detroit (30) - On the bright side (if that's possible), the Tigers' pitchers rank just 5th in walks allowed (51). That's only 8 more than the leading Yanks. Then again, they're also second from the bottom in strikouts with 81, just 2 more than Tampa, and nearly a hundred less than the Cubs.
AL - Carl Everett (Texas) - 22 AB, 8 R, 10 H, 5 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB, 1 BB, .455/.478/1.182, 1.660 OPS
NL - Larry Walker (Colorado) - 21 AB, 8 R, 9 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 4 BB, .429/.520/.905, 1.425 OPS
AL - Roger Clemens (NY Yankees) - 1-0 W-L, 13.0 IP, 12 H, 2 ER, 6 BB, 14 SO, 1.38 ERA
NL - Vicente Padilla (Philadelphia) - 2-0 W-L, 14.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 11 SO, 1.26 ERA