Mariners Musings

Musings about, um... well, the Seattle Mariners as well as a love affair with this game baseball. By Peter J. White

Friday, July 25, 2003

Happy Birthday, J-Dub!

The only hitter I struck out. The only pitcher I ever homered off of. The only double play partner of my baseball career. My kid brother, Jason, turns 22 today. What a minute. That's not him. It looks eerily like him though sans the Grizzly Adams facial hair.

We used to play one-on-one in the backyard with a can of tennis balls and an aluminum bat. Talk about ping. Coors Field was no hitters park compared to the White's backyard. We had about a half-acre to play with and it was terraced on three levels, the lowest one being farthest from the house, so home plate was back against the far fence facing the house. Anything over the first rock wall was still in play. Anything over the second wall with the chain link fence was a home run. And anything over the house and across the street was a Bo Jackson/Kevin Mitchell 500-foot blast to the imagination of a 10-year-old. It was always the Kansas City Royals versus the San Francisco Giants, circa 1989. Jason would be Will "The Thrill" Clark, and I was Kevin Seitzer, knees and elbows tucked together, bat dangling over my right shoulder. Tennis balls were great because they didn't hurt the house, but they did make a lot of noise. Especially to the cranky old lady who lived next door in "left field." I can remember cranking one particular pitch, a line drive rocket to left that sailed over the fence in left and thwacked against her siding. Instead of running the bases, I ran to the pitcher's mound, grabbed my brother and we hid until we knew Mrs. Colbert had had enough time to huff and puff and probably call and complain to Mom. Jay, when you come visit, we'll have to find a park. There's not much backyard where I live now.

Now at the age of 22, Smokey Joe Wood pitched himself a mighty fine season. For the World Champion Red Sox (doesn't that look weird) of 1912, Wood posted a record of 34-5. He lead the league with 35 complete games and 10 shutouts. His ERA was 1.91, and he struck out 258 batters. He even saved one game. And to top that, he won three of the Red Sox' World Series victories, including the decisive Game 8 (Game 2 had ended in a tie no thanks to Bud Selig) with a 3.68 ERA and 21 K's and 3 BBs in 4 series starts.

At the age of 22, another Red Sock, Ted Williams in 1941, produced one of the most prolific offensive seasons in baseball history. Teddy Ballgame batted .406, posted a .553 on-base percentage (the single season record until Barry Bonds last year, and he was 38) and slugged .735 for an OPS of 1.287 (only Ruth and Bonds have ever done better). He hit 37 home runs and drove in 120. His BB:K rate looks like the reciprocal of Alfonso Soriano--147 walks and a miniscule 27 strikeouts. (The Red Sox finished in their usual 2nd place, 17 games behind the Yankees in '41).

By the end of their age-22 seasons, Mel Ott had hit 115 home runs, Eddie Mathews had hit 112, and Alex Rodriguez had hit 106.

So no pressure, Jason. It'll be a good year.


A's 3, Mariners 0

Now tell me, was Mulder dealin' or was home plate ump Phil Cuzzi a little trigger happy with his strike call. Mulder fanned five Mariners with their bats on their shoulders, and here's the rundown: Boone in the first to end the inning. Olerud and Cameron back-to-back with no outs and runners at corners in a scoreless game in the fourth. Guillen to end the fifth with a runner on first. On Guillen's next at bat to end the 7th with the bases loaded and the M's trailing 3-0. One could argue that Guillen's maybe a little rusty, and maybe he is. That 7th-inning strikeout was the only one I saw, and he did looked fooled on that inside pitch. Then again, that 4th inning looks pretty fishy to me.

So the M's hold the A's scoreless for 15 consecutive innings, but squeeze just one win out of it. They collected one more hit last night than the night before, but six fewer runs. Meche lasted 6.1 innings on 115 pitches (just 55% for strikes) with 4 walks, just 3 K's and home run. Zumsteg today gives a rundown of Meche's performance throughout his games, but I'm willing to bet its something more than what inning he happens to find himself in, or the pitch count, even. He gets bruised the third time through the lineup. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times... and you can be a big league pitcher. Soriano had the same problems last year. He'd cruise till about the 6th inning, and the hitters would start to adjust. It's just my subjective hunch. But I'll definitely be paying attention to Meche the next time he sees a lineup the 3rd time through. Mike Marshall has these crazy ideas about limiting pitchers not by pitch counts but by times through the lineup. Wild, interesting stuff.


Take a look at these splits:
At home - .256/.313/.465 (43 AB)
On road - .176/.256/.189 (74 AB)

At home - .180/.231/.221 (122 AB)
On road - .238/.338/.333 (126 AB)

Would a home/road platoon be too radical a concept for Bob Melvin to handle?


Yesterday I receive the following in an email:
"Once again another stunning issue of Mudville Magazine awaits you. Like the island nation of Mauritius, it's unknown to most, a speck on the map, while an island paradise to others, best left undiscovered. And everyone needs to visit an island paradise now and again..."

I have no idea how I got on this mailing list, but I'll be darned if I'm not visiting an "island paradise" at the end of humid Virginia July. And you should, too. The latest edition features an article on The Baseball Reliquary, a seeming Animal House version of the Hall of Fame, complete with holy baseball trinkets such as a supposed skin fragment from Abner Doubleday. Simply reading the article is a free get-out-of-baseball-purgatory card. I'd love to go. The edition also covers a book review of Paths of Glory and commentary the sabermetric racism discussion:
"The saddest part of this debate is not that something so 'pure' as sabermetrics is being accused of racism; rather, it's that its accusers have done a poor job of proving anything."


John Sickels covers Kevin Youkilis the on-base machine Red Sox prospect in his column today. The "Greek God of Walks" is working on a 58-game on-base streak. If you're careful, you'll catch a nugget of wisdom in there:
"Although Youkilis draws almost a walk a game, his primary goal is to get hits by waiting for the best pitch to swing the bat."

The whole OBP revolution isn't about walks for walks sake. It's about controlling the at bat and waiting on the pitcher to throw the best pitch to drive.


Speaking of walks, anyone paying attention to John Mabry? Here's the bizarro stat line for the week:

5 games, 6 AB, 3 R, 2 H, 1 HR, 7 BB(!), .333/.692/.833, 1.526 OPS

Not even Barry Bonds draws more walks than at bats. Mabry must have read the disparaging remarks about himself in Moneyball and decided to prove himself to Billy Beane.


In Tulsa Driller news, Chin-Hui Tsao, the Texas League strikeout leader, gets to skip AAA Oklahoma and makes his major league debut tonight in Coors Field. May the force be with him. You have to understand. The last pitching phenom to come through Tulsa was Kevin Brown. That was over 15 years ago and I don't even think he was a prospect at the time. Tsao has a 2.46 ERA and has struck out 125 in 113.1 innings. Tsao also has the novelty of being the first Taiwanese in the big leagues.
|| Peter @ 7/25/2003

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Okie outduels Cy Young

Mariners 6, A's 0

"I unplugged the bullpen phone."
--Ryan Franklin (Stone, Times)

For what has seemed like months, the Mariners just seem to not show up when Ryan Franklin pitches. Maybe Ichiro doesn't like his southern drawl. Who knows, but Ryan Franklin hadn't won a start in over a month, despite allowing 18 runs in 31.2 innings (4.96 ERA, basically league average) over the previous 5 starts. The offense provided just 11 runs in those games and five of those in the 9th inning of last Friday's come-from-behind win after Frankie had been pulled.

So can we finally put to rest the kooky talk that says Freddy is #1 and Frankie is #5? Just a night after Freddy lasts just 2.2 innings, allowing 7 runs, throwing 76 pitches (55% for strikes), Franklin throws a complete game, 2-hit, 3-walk shutout with 120 pitches (59% for strikes) head-to-head against Barry Zito and the A's. Which brings to mind a couple of things:

First, the 120 pitches doesn't bother me a bit. Had it been Gil Meche, I'd be concerned. Had it been the begninning of April, I'd be concerned. Had it been 140 pitches, I'd be concerned. But a 120-pitch, 2-hit complete game at the end of July for Ryan Franklin--that's a moment to celebrate.

Second, and not take away anything from Frankie's pitching, but last night just shows how naked the A's offense really is. The A's are 10th in the AL in runs scored, 10th in on-base and 11th in slugging. Everybody and their grandmother will tell you that champions are born out of pitching and defense (both of which the A's are the best in the AL), but it certainly helps to hit better than 10th in a league of 14. So while the M's have stumbled over the past month, the A's have not gained much of anything at all in the standings. And this is one more day and one more game without a Billy Beane "f***ing-A trade."

Against the same Barry Zito who was 6-1 lifetime against the M's going into last night, the Mariner bats finally gave Frankie another "W." Carlos was finally back and proved is value in the 2-hole with 3 walks and scoring 3 runs. That set the stage for Olerud to have his first back-to-back RBI games in nearly a month. And Randy Winn connected for a home run in back-to-back games for the first time in his career, I'm sure. His 3 homers this week are more than he'd hit the whole rest of the season. For the week he's hitting .308/.379/.654. He must be paying attention to those Brian Giles rumors.

Interestingly, the Times and the P-I are the only national papers that I'm aware of reporting the story that Giles has vetoed deals to Seattle and Oakland. Nothing in the Post-Gazette. Nothing in the Gate. I'm just hoping against hope in the politics of disinformation.

Curiously, Art Thiel refers to him as "highly expensive Pittsburgh outfielder Brian Giles." Ahem. Giles is making roughly $8.5 million in 2003, which would indeed make him the highest paid player on the Mariners payroll, but it's nearly what Kaz Sasaki is getting paid for all 10 of his saves this year. Now Giles is signed through 2005 to make about $9 million a season. Consider this: His .435 on-base percentage is currently the 4th highest in all of baseball, behind Bonds, Helton and Pujols. His .935 OPS is 25th. Between 2000 and 2002, his .428 OBP is 7th (behind Bonds, Giambi, Helton, Ramirez, Walker, Delgado). His 1.022 OPS is also 7th (behind Bonds, Giambi, Helton, Ramirez, Sosa, Walker). At the age of 38, Bonds is collecting $15 mil. At 29, Helton is making nearly $11 mil. At 31, Delgado is getting $17.5 mil. And Manny Ramirez? Over $17 mil. Do you see where I'm going with this? Market value for Brian Giles should be in the neighborhood of $15 mil. That the Pirates can't afford him at two-thirds that price is a shame to Pirates fans. The M's could have a bargain on their hands, and if Giles winds up wearing Billy Beane's green and gold, it will be an even greater shame to Mariners fans.

And finally, Will Carroll seems to be the second national columnist to jump on the send-Junior-back-to-Seattle campaign (this is from the freebie Prospectus email so I don't think he'll mind):

"The M's smart usage of Martinez gives us an interesting look into what might be the perfect situation for none other than Ken Griffey Jr. With Martinez in the twilight of his career, Griffey could slot right into the DH that doesn't run slot. While he's a different type of hitter than Martinez, I think many could see him excelling in that slot and in that ballpark. I have no idea how that could work financially, but as we've seen, no deal is impossible if it works for everyone. Maybe, for Junior, he can go home again."

I really don't know how I feel about that.

|| Peter @ 7/24/2003

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Moneyball additions

A couple of them:

First an interview with Michael Lewis on the NPR sponsored Only a Game.

Secondly, have you wondered what minor leaguers think of the book? Terrmel Sledge, one of Montreal's top prospects, tells Colby Cosh it's his favorite book:

"He likes the book because it illuminates a part of the baseball world--general managers' decision-making, draft-day choices, trading strategies--which can change a player's life but to which he's not ordinarily privy. Moreover, some of the minor characters are people he's met or watched along the way to Triple-A."

Now they get see the wizard behind the curtain, the mind of the puppeteers pulling their strings.

(link via Baseball Musings)
|| Peter @ 7/23/2003

From the ashes

So last night, I'd watched my daily dose of the X-files, and it turns out Mulder's dead (hey, I missed these the first time around, so don't spoil it for me). And before hittin' the sack I catch the M's highlights on Baseball Tonight. Just in time to see Freddy melting down before my very eyes, resembling the smoldering ruins of a sinking battleship, as he hits Jones to load the bases, walks the rookie Morneau to score a run and uncorks a wild pitch to bring in another. Low and behold, it's 7-3 Twins, and Freddy can't even get out the 3rd inning. Boonie brought it to 7-5 before I turned it off and went to bed with visions of a 1-5 roadtrip against the kid brothers of the AL Central.

I was all wound up to write an entry titled "This is not happening," Radiohead's How to Disappear Completely reverberating in my head, complete with Joseph Campbell "Death of the hero" references and a call for Bob Melvin and Pat Gillick to raise this phoenix from its ashes. I just didn't expect it so soon. Certainly not with a starting lineup consisting of Mac in the 2-hole (.301 OBP) and the bottom half of the order with Winn (.324), Mabry (.237), Wee Willie (.289) and Wilson (.279). Two months ago, I would have considered that a challenge lineup ("Even our scrubs can score 10 runs off you!"). The way the offense has been misfiring lately, it looked more like suicide.

But luck finally broke the Mariners way (in the form of Joe Mays who threw 37 pitches to record just 2 outs) and Mac, Winn, Mabry and Wilson combined for 7 hits and 6 walks while Boone and Ichiro combined to go 1 for 10. Mabry raised his OBP 50 points.

Who walks John Mabry 4 times(!) one asks? Rick Reed, that's who. Yeah, Rick Reed, whose 1.63 BB/9 ranks 5th all-time (since 1930, min. 1000 IP). Rick Reed, who has walked more than 2 batters only twice this season, walked John Mabry in not just the 2nd inning to load the bases with no outs, but also in the 5th inning. Not to feel left out, Joe Mays walked Mabry following Winn's blast in the 6th. The million dollar quesiton of the night, though, is who walks John Mabry intentionally? Do you need some time to think about this? The answer to that riddle is none other than everyone's favorite ex-Mariner, James Baldwin. With 2 outs, Cammie on second, Gardenhire must have read the scorecard "DH-Ma..." and assumed Edgar was strutting to the plate. Yeah Ron, nobody's more deadly in the clutch than John Mabry.

If I'm Pat Gillick, I'm on the phone right now to Dave Littlefield with this deal: Freddy Garcia straight up for Brian Giles. Pirates need a young ace and Freddy's better than a prospect because he's established. Mariners need left-handed pop to man left field. Win-win situation. If money's an issue, lump Jason Kendall in the deal. Maybe he can play third base and bat behind Ichiro.
|| Peter @ 7/23/2003

Monday, July 21, 2003

Pythagorean Rankings: Week 16

(last week's rank in parentheses)

1. Seattle (1) Joel Pineiro has won his last 6 starts pitching 7 innings in 5 of them. He now ranks 7th in the AL in ERA (3.23) and 5th in BAA (.229).

2. Philadelphia (2) Brett Myers hasn't lost a start since June 11 as his ERA is now 3.55 with a WHIP of 1.21 and BAA of .236.

3. NY Yankees (3) David Wells: 12 wins, 6 walks. Jason Giambi getting back to MVP form with .950 OPS, on pace for 45 homers, 126 RBI, 100 runs and 136 walks.

4. Atlanta (5) The lowest OPS among the starting 8 is Vinny Castilla at .785. That's not a bad situation to have.

5. Boston (4) In 67 at bats this month, Todd Walker is hitting .134/.169/.164. Just 2 extra base hits after 5 homers in June. And I thought Jeff Cirillo was in a slump.

6. Houston (6) Richard Hidalgo ranks 6th in the NL in BA (.330), 6th in OPS (.991) and 7th in SLG .592. He's on pace for 28 homers but just 89 RBI. That's what happens when Lance Berkman clears the bases in front of you.

7. San Francisco (10) I'm going out on a limb here at the midway point and predicting the NL ROY will be a pitcher: Competing with Willis and Webb there's Jerome Williams, who has won 5 straight starts, including 2 complete games, and allowed just 6 runs total over those 5 games.

8. Anaheim (7) After a 1.046 OPS in May, Troy Glaus hit just .617 in June and .654 thus far in July, and he's on pace for 27 homers, which would be a career low.

9. Arizona (11) Edgar's not the only ageless slugger: At the ripe age of 38 and after a paltry .689 OPS in April, Steve Finley put together 1.000+ months in May and June and is at 1.231 for July.

10. St. Louis (9) Albert Pujols Triple Crown watch: .371 BA is 1st, 29 homers are 2nd (Barry has 31), 90 RBI are 2nd (Preston Wilson has 93). On top of that, he's 2nd in both OBP (.438) and SLG (.701).

11. Oakland (8) 10 days: Drew or Giles? Something needs to happen after 4-game sweep in Minnesota. First time each of the Big Three have picked up back-to-back-to-back losses since 2001.

12. (tie) Toronto (12) Let the Bobby Kielty era begin: .429/.529/.714 with a homer and 3 walks in 14 at bats.

(tie) Los Angeles (13) Rickey! His .786 SLG leads the team. In 28 at bats, he and Burnitz have combined for 4 home runs. More than the rest of the team. I think.

14. Kansas City (17) I take back what I said about the Royals losing 100. And to think Pat Gillick nontendered Desi Relaford (.288/.341/.469). He's exactly what the Mariners are missing this year.

15. Florida (14) Let's all welcome back the "real" Alex Gonzalez: After posting an OPS of 1.074 in April and .903 in May, he has just 6 hits in July and an OPS of .400.

16. Montreal (15) If you're looking for underrated players in the game, look no further than Jose Vidro. His .334 BA is 3rd in the NL and his .416 OBP is 7th. This could be his 5th straight year of hitting .300.

17. Chicago Cubs (18) What cork? Sammy is hitting .358/.386/.776 with 9 home runs this month.

18. Baltimore (19) One reason to be interested in baseball in Baltimore is center fielder Luis Matos who is hitting .362/.407/.538 with 11 stolen bases in 15 attempts.

19. Chicago Sox (20) Mags Ordonez is finally waking up with a .359/.388/.672 July.

20. Colorado (16) Wow, Preston Wilson is on pace for 101 runs, 191 hits, 53 doubles, 38 homers, 149 RBI and 146 K.

21. Minnesota (21) So what do you think, Peter Gammons, will the Twins still win 100? And let me get this straight… the Twins are loaded to the gills with corner OF/1B/DH types, with complete zeroes in the middle infield and a starting rotation that has crumbled to dust, so they trade a surplus OF/DH for... another OF/DH. Was 2002 a fluke?

22. Pittsburgh (22) Jason Kendall trying to sputter career back to life again. He's hitting .310/.387/.403, but no power with just 23 of 119 hits for extra bases.

23. Cleveland (23) Milton Bradley has hit a cold spell: Just .226/.368/.403 this month.

24. Milwaukee (24) Matt Ford was all the rage until being inserted in the rotation. He's made 4 starts, not once pitched into the 6th inning and been pasted for 14 earned runs in 13.1 innings. He's made 25 appearances this year and the Brewers have won just 4 of those games.

25. NY Mets (25) Why Rey Sanchez has a starting job with a line of .207/.240/.236 represents all that is wrong and futile with the Mets. No glove is worth that.

26. Texas (27) The Rangers have used a total of 24 pitchers. I wonder what the records is. Rob Mahay hasn't allowed a run in 12 innings. Then there's Francisco Cordero with a 3.25 ERA in 52 innings and Brian Shouse at 3.70 in 41 innings. No one else is below 4.

27. (tie) San Diego (26) Well, the Padres have used 23 pitchers. But at least they have Rod Beck, who has a 2.04 ERA and 10 saves in 17 innings.

(tie) Cincinnati (28) To the disgruntled Seattle fan that put the hex on Junior: Enough is enough already. Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT takes a look at Junior's Hall of Fame credentials if he retired to today (which I wouldn't put past him). You might be surprised by what you find.

29. Tampa Bay (29) Victor Zambrano finally lost a start in his shortest stint since April 1. He absolutely refuses to let the hitters put the bat on the ball as he ranks 1st in the AL with 61 walks, and he's 2nd in BAA (.220).

30. Detroit (30) There is actually a Tiger with a .900+ OPS: Dmitri Young at .912. He's on pace for 32 home runs and just 88 RBI.
|| Peter @ 7/21/2003