Mariners Musings

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

Friday, August 08, 2003

Hitting Dr. Jekyll

Billy Traber is a Jamie Moyer wannabe--a 23-year-old leftie, soft-tosser. And he likes pitching in Jacobs Field...

Home - 6-1, 2.51 ERA, 57.1 IP, 3 HR, 14 BB, 47 K
Away - 0-5, 7.80 ERA, 30.0 IP, 5 HR, 22 BB, 26 K

He's Jekyll & Hyde--an ace in Cleveland, hitting fodder everywhere else. In his last start, he gave up three home runs in two innings in Texas. But last night, in Jacobs Field, he shut out the first-place Mariners. He effeciently threw 83 pitches (68% for strikes) in 7 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks and striking out 5.

This was Traber's second start against the M's. On April 24, the Mariners worked him for 3 runs on 4 walks in 4 innings. Of course, that was in Seattle. I just read BP's biweekly Indian/Dodger/Mariner Triple Play over at BP, which has me wondering what about Jacobs Field so tailors to Traber's pitching style.

So Freddy's rotation slot will have to die another day. Apparently, he's adopted the Jamie Moyer School of "Pitch Smarter, Not Harder." We'll see if he can make the strategy hold up against the better hitting Blue Jays come Tuesday. At 6.1 innings, it was his longest outing in nearly a month. He threw 109 pitches, just 60% for strikes and yet struck out 7 and didn't walk a batter. Of the six hits he allowed, three were for extra bases, and that was the difference in the game, as the Mariners bats took the night off.

About the only thing to report offense wise is Rey Sanchez' 6-game hitting streak, in which he's hit 9 singles. That's more than Mark McLemore was doing. Olerud hit a double to lead off the 2nd and was stranded at third. Winn was stranded at third to end the 9th, too. For crying out loud, two of Mariners seven hits were bunt singles.

The Mariners were outscored in Cleveland 14-8, and that's not a good way to head into New York.

For the Yankee series the M's will send Franklin, Meche and Moyer to face Weaver, Pettite and Clemens. Is there any good reason why the Moyer/Clemens matchup is not nationally televised? It's two guys with as different pitching styles as you can find, at the top of their game when most guys their age are playing slow-pitch softball.

Jeff Nelson made his Yankee debut last night, and gave the fans their money's worth. He comes into the 8th inning with a 3-run lead and a runner at second base, two outs, to face his biggest fan, A-Rod. (By the way, A-Rod has 7 walks in 8 at bats with 3 strikeouts lifetime against Nellie). After a first pitch strike, Nelson walks him on the next four pitches. Runners at first and second. Tying run to the plate. Raffy Palmeiro swingings at the first pitch. Giambi botches the play at first. Bases loaded. Go ahead run to the plate. Nelson throws three more balls before getting a strike across the plate. Teixeira than lifts his 3-1 pitch just not deep enough to center field. It would have really been something had Nelson surrendered a game-losing grand slam in his debut when all he needed was one out to end inning, eh? As it was, it took him 11 pitches to record that out--7 balls and 4 strikes.

Anybody else catch Darn Sox' top reasons for the trade? My personal favorite:
"Steinbrenner offered unbeatable package of Benitez, cash, and an indentured slave (pictured) to carry Kaz Sasaki's luggage."

|| Peter @ 8/08/2003

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Doing the splits with Nellie and Benny

Tons of ideas and commentary have come out in the last 24 hours regarding the Nelson/Benitez deal. Alex Belth of Bronx Banter has a great list of links to Seattle and New York media regarding the trade, as does Mike Thompson at the P-I blog. Then there's A-Rod's reaction, captured in this Alan Schwarz interview:

"What? You're kidding me. Oh my god. That's a great move for the Yankees. Incredible move. That gives them the championship. That puts them over the top. That's the best move of the trading deadline, no doubt about it. Hitting that slider (from Nelson) is no fun."

A-Rod has seen Rafael Soriano just once in his career after all. Hyperbole aside, the gist I get from the New Yorkers is, "Hey, we screwed the Mariners! Good riddance Benitez! Welcome home, Nellie!" That somehow the Yankees' bullpen is strengthened and the Mariners' bullpen is weakened. Well, I'm here to say, "Yankees, you can have your Nelson." Because the Jeff Nelson that left New York in the winter of 2000 is not the Jeff Nelson coming back in 2003.

[But first, on a side note: Did any else notice how in last week's trade Aaron Boone was always referenced as "All-Star" Aaron Boone, while Armando Benitez was selected to the same "All" Star game but he's not "All-Star" Armando Benitez? Maybe that's just me.]

I've seen several comparisons of Nelson's and Benitez's stat line. Sportcenter's graphic last night was the most ludicrous, pointing out their saves and blown saves when Nellie was used a "Closer" for, what, 2 weeks in June and 2 weeks in April. But here's a couple of juicy tidbits I haven't seen anyone else throw out:

Jeff Nelson
2003 Home - 21.1 IP, 1.69 ERA, .213 BAA
2003 Away - 16.1 IP, 5.51 ERA, .290 BAA

That, my friends, is a huge split... but 20 innings is a small sample size, so take what you will.

Armando Benitez
2003 Home - 34.1 IP, 3.41 ERA, .227 BAA
2003 Away - 24.1 IP, 2.22 ERA, .222 BAA

Benitez seems to be quite a bit more consistent, regardless of ballpark, but better on the road. So Nelson has been significantly better pitcher in Safeco while Benitez has been a better pitcher outside of New York. Score a point for the Mariners.

Here are some more telling situational numbers of how batters fare against these two pitchers:

With the bases empty - .192/.280/.301 (73 AB)
With runners on - .313/.351/.359 (64 AB)
Runner in scoring position - .432/.468/.514 (37 AB)
Bases loaded - .667/.714/1.167 (6 AB)
2 outs, runners in scoring position - .381/.500/.524 (21 AB)

Jeff Nelson is a pretty effective guy to start an inning, and as long as he keeps the ducks off the pond, he's in the clear. But once those runners get on and to second and third base, they just might as well come home, because Nelson sure isn't going to stop them. He's been absolutely horrible in what we might call those "clutch" situations for pitchers, those situations that call upon the intestinal fortitude of all relievers. Just ask Rondell White. (Hey, maybe White's in the Mariners plans after all now.)

By comparison, here's the same numbers on Armando:
With the bases empty - .254/.320/.333 (114 AB)
With runners on - .192/.315/.327 (104 AB)
Runner in scoring position - .183/.306/.310 (71 AB)
Bases loaded - .154/.214/.154 (13 AB)
2 outs, runners in scoring position - .206/.341/.294 (34 AB)

Armando is a little shaky to start the inning but is quite effective in the pressure situations with runners on base. The one thing is the difference of the batting averages and on-base percentages: Benitez is more prone to the base on balls. But personally, I'd prefer a walk myself in those situations to a hit. A runner doesn't score from first on a walk. Score two for the Mariners.

The biggest hurdle for Benitez is the first pitch: Batters are hitting a 1.078 OPS against him when they connect on the first pitch. But if he gets a first pitch strike, it drops down to .495.

As for Nelson, well, there was a time that the troika of Nelson, Rhodes and Sasaki were as automatic a relief tandem as they get. That time is no more, and not just because they play on different teams now. Age is taking it's toll. Batters' OPS in that situation of 2 outs and runners in scoring position for Jeff Nelson in 2000 was .685. In 2001, it rose to .807. Last season he brought it down to .638. But now so far through this season, it's 1.024. And that's hardly a reason to give him the ball with the game on the line. Jeff Nelson is now 36, and right handed relievers don't last forever.

Don't get me wrong--I have no delusions about Armando Benitez. If he's out pitching 9th innings with one-run leads in September in Seattle, I'll probably be chewing my fingernails to nubs. But these two pitchers are textbook examples of reputation overshadowing performance, both ways.

This deal is as one-sided as the early press reported. Just to the wrong team.
|| Peter @ 8/07/2003

Welcome to the Show, Loop

On Sunday, Aaron Looper, brother of Marlins' pitcher Braden and son of M's exec Benny, made a rather pleasant major league debut. Entering the ninth inning of a 10-0 Mariner blowout, Looper looked anything but a greenhorn throwing 17 pitches, 10 of which were strikes, in his inning of work. After walking Roberto Alomar on 3-2, he struck out one of the league's hottest hitters in Carlos Lee looking. He then struck out pinch hitter Brian Daubach swinging, and forced the keystone of the Sox lineup, Magglio Ordonez, to ground into a fielder's choice to end the game.

Sunday was the debut. Wednesday in Cleveland was the baptism.

It all began innocently enough as Looper took the mound in relief of Jo-El Piniero with 2 outs in the 3rd inning, the score already 7-0 in favor of the Indians. With 2 more runners in scoring position, Looper induced a pop out of Jody Gerut on just his 2nd pitch to end the inning. It was the next four hitters that immediately showed the rookie he wasn't in the Pacific League anymore. Milton Bradley led off with a single. Ben Broussard then singled on the very next pitch, and in Looper's one lucky break, Bradley got caught when he overran second base. After putting Casey Blake in the hole 1-2, he plunked him. And Travis Hafner followed by smacking a home run to right center. And right there, the Indians own a 10-0 lead with just one out in the 4th inning. After striking out Victor Martinez swinging, Looper allowed another single to Jhonny "O before H except after J" Peralta, but then ended the inning on a grounder to second.

By the 5th, he was a little more settled as he set down Crisp, Gerut and Bradley on just 10 pitches. But his line for the night was 2.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 K. And a major league ERA of now 8.10.

But that was better than Jo-El. On the bright side, he only walked one in the opening innings. Riding a 16-inning scoreless streak, Jo-El pitched his poorest game of the season. The streak ended on just the fifth pitch of the game, when Coco Crisp led off the festivities with a home run. And frankly it didn't get any better for the rest of the evening. He lasted just 2.2 IP with 77 pitches (64% for strikes). He allowed 10 hits, a walk and 7 runs. Every Indian went home with a hit, 5 of them took more than one, and just two of them didn't score a run. And that was all by the end of the 4th inning.

Julio Mateo and Rafael Soriano put a stop to the bleeding, allowing just a hit while striking out 4 in the final three frames. If they keep this up they'll make us forget Jeff Nelson real quick.

John "The Hawk" Olerud connected for his third home run this week. He now has more homers in the past week than he's had in any month this year. For the past seven days, he's hitting .286/.400/.714 with 13 RBI.

And the question of the day is: What happens to Fredo after he gets shelled tonight?
|| Peter @ 8/07/2003

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Thank you, Indians

A throwing error and a bases loaded walk. Not exactly the prettiest way to win a game, but I'll take it. But its not for lack of opportunity (as the Indians didn't even get a runner to second) that M's only got the gift runs. They stranded the bases loaded in the 3rd.

Winn singled (his 2nd hit of the game) to lead off the 4th, was erased on a Wilson double play. Then Wee Willie singled and erased himself trying to steal.

Cameron tripled with 2 out in the 6th. Winn stranded him.

Cameron singled to lead off the 9th. But Washingtonian David Riske struck out both Winn and Wilson swinging and popped out Willie.

And while Ichiro collected 3 hits (bringing his league leading BA to .340), the 2-5 hitters in the lineup combined to go 1-13 with a pair of walks. Who got the lone hit? Yours and my first guess: Rey Sanchez.

Moyer, Nelson and Shiggy dominated the Indians' young lineup allowing just 5 baserunners all evening. The lone run came on Jhonny "My Parents Can't Spell" Perralta's home run. Nelson struck out all 3 of his outs in the 8th. Alas, the next time we see that wicked frisbee from Nelson, it'll come in pinstripes this weekend.

Shiggy's ERA is now a ridiculous 0.68, the lowest it's been since he allowed his 2nd and 3rd runs of the season back in the end of May.

Jamie Moyer. Let's talk Jamie a moment. He tossed 110 pitches, good for 7 innings, 61% for strikes, striking out 5 while walking only 1. After a series of shaky starts since the All-Star break, it sure is nice to see Jamie giving hitters fits. As a reminder to us all, the only geezers to win 20 games beyond the age of 40 include just Cy Young, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Warren Spahn and Phil Niekro. Jamie is currently at 15 and on pace for 22. Spahn has the most wins past age 40 with 23.
|| Peter @ 8/06/2003

Be careful what you wish for (or Pat Gillick's last laugh)

I'm getting all worked up to write about yesterday's game, and all of a sudden I discover the following in my email:
The Yankees traded P Armando Benitez to the Mariners for P Jeff Nelson.


Lee being Lee Sinnins and his Around the Majors reports, and if you don't subscribe, then what self-respecting baseball fan are you? It's been clear for some time that Jeff Nelson's days in Seattle were numbered, and certainly his comments last week were his own signature on his walking papers out of town. The fact that the Mariners took Benitez rather than the draft picks had they offered Nelson arbitration, and the M's current abundant stock of right handers in Tacoma and San Antonio reflects just how great the gulf between the front office and Nelson had become.

One has to wonder if Pat Gillick snickered smugly as he closed his cell phone.

At least there's Yankee cash involved. Will the front office spend it on the bench or tell us fans there is just still really is no money to spend to improve the club?
|| Peter @ 8/06/2003

Monday, August 04, 2003

Pythagorean Rankings: Week 18

(last week's rank in parentheses, followed by Runs Scored and Against)

1. Seattle (1) 568-430 After slumping with a .231/.333/.372 July and 4 total homers for the season, John Olerud has hit .364/.462/1.000 with 4 homers in the last 7 days. And please, please give Rafael Soriano a shot in the rotation. He more than deserves it with a 1.63 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 11.71 K/9 in 27.2 innings. Before allowing a home run yesterday to Aaron Rowand, he had not allowed a run since July 8, a span of 14 innings, 10 appearances, 1 base on balls and 17 strikeouts. He struck out another 5 yesterday in 2 innings.

2. Philadelphia (3) 535-434 After squandering 280 AB of Jimmy Rollins hitting .268/.314/.379 in the leadoff hole, the Phils have finally found their top-of-the-order man in Marlon Byrd, who is hitting .376/.424/.550 in 109 at bats in the leadoff spot.

3. NY Yankees (3) 582-473 David Wells: 12 wins, 11 walks. Roger Clemens is on pace for 214 strikeouts, which would be his most since '98 with the Jays. Pinning your playoff hopes on a pair of 40+ year-old hurlers isn't usually the best strategy, but in this case… I still think the Yanks are lucky they haven't broken down yet.

4. Atlanta (5) 632-532 Why isn't anyone talking about John Smoltz for Cy Young? In 57 innings, he's allowed just 1 home run, walked only 8 and struck out 62. His ERA is 0.78 and has allowed just 0.85 baserunners per inning. At this point, my vote (if it really mattered) would probably go to Miguel Batista, but Smoltz at least deserves to be in the discussion.

5. Oakland (6) 504-427 Don't let the 8-9 record fool you. Zito's "off-year" isn't as bad as it looks. He's still 7th in the league with a 3.30 ERA and 5th with a .227 BAA. He is walking more batters and striking out fewer, but that's about the only "off" part of his game right now. I take back what I said about Jose Guillen. He's cheap, he's hot, and he'll be a free agent at year's end. Makes perfect Beane sense. But he does just have a pair of singles to go along with 3 strikeouts in 13 at bats thus far.

6. Boston (2) 673-572 The Boston Red Sox lead the majors in hitting (.292), on-base (.360) and slugging (.502). They lead the majors in doubles (278), triples (35) and are third in home runs (162). It's my humble opinion, but the World Series is thiers to lose.

7. San Francisco (6) 528-453 Barry's on pace for 50 home runs, which would put him at 663, surpassing May's 660, just 41 behind the Sultan of Swat. And that would his EDTA for Ruth about this time next year. But, maybe sooner, the way Bonds is swatting them presently: 1.581 OPS with 11 home runs in July.

8. Houston (8) 537-464 For July, Jeff Bagwell posted a 1.076 OPS with 10 homers, while Lance Berkman hit 1.105 with 16 XBH. They combined for 36 walks and 25 strikeouts. Meanwhile, Jeff Kent is hitting .196/.226/.353 since coming off the DL.

9. St. Louis (9) 628-560 A 13-14 July does not bode well for the Cards. While his opponents' batting average has decreased .254 to .242 to .239 over the past three months, Woody Williams' ERA has gone from 3.00 to 4.77 to 4.79 over those same months. He allowed 9 home runs in 134 innings prior to the All-Star break but 5 in the 18 innings since.

10. Toronto (11) 634-581 July wasn't pretty in Toronto as the Jays went 8-17. They were just outscored 127-119, though. Eric Hinske put together his best month of the season (.242/.346/.505, 5 home runs), while Frank Catalanotto had his worst (.227/.269/.307)

11. Arizona (10) 492-454 Brandon Webb now has enough innings to qualify for the ERA title and he's 2nd (behind Kevin Brown) at 2.43. His 1.09 WHIP is also 2nd (to Jason Schmidt), and his .217 BAA is 5th in the league. He's just one reason why the D-Backs have the 4th best ERA in all of baseball. We'll see if he can start to steal any of Dontrelle's rookie thunder. And as a side note, the D-Backs are 1-3 since acquiring Raul Mondesi, as his OPS is .467 in 15 AB with 1 RBI and 6 K.

12. Florida (13) 528-488 After going 16-11 in June, allowing 1.44 baserunners per inning with a 5.07 ERA, the Fish improved to a record of 17-7 in July with a WHIP of 1.24 and ERA of 3.37. Talk about consistency: Pudge Rodriguez with a 1.059 OPS in June and 1.051 in July. Rookie Miguel Cabrera hit .318/.379/.612 with 14 XBH.

13. Chicago Sox (15) 513-487 They were the hottest team in baseball (13-2 since the break) until being outscored 18-2 in a pair against a Mariner team that likes their new honeycomb backdrop. After hitting for an atrocious .272 OPS in June, Paul Konerko hit 1.043 in July. He hit 5 home runs with 22 RBI in 233 AB in the entire first half. Since, he's already hit 6 homers and driven in 20 in just 59 at bats.

14. Anaheim (12) 505-480 Mouthing off against a highly respected manager of a World Champion team is one way to earn your release. In Kevin Appier's case, a 10.91 ERA in your last 5 starts, allowing more than 2 baserunners per inning and striking out less than 3 and a half per nine innings is an even better one.

15. (tie) Colorado (16) 624-604 If only they could get the Marlins and Braves to make Denny Neagle disappear, too. Or least give him an Appier-esque release. He posted an 11.65 ERA with a 2.06 WHIP and 3.71 K/9 in 4 starts this month before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery.

(tie) Los Angeles (14) 379-367 Since we mentioned the NL Cy Young, choosing between Kevin Brown (2.10 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 119 K in 137 innings) and Hideo Nomo (2.67 ERA, 1.14 ERA, 136 K in 165 innings) is a near toss up. Here's to hoping Robin Ventura doesn't catch Dodger-itis, that allergic reaction Dodger hitters have to first base, a la Rickey (.256 OBP) and Jeromy Burnitz (.279) since joining the Dodgers.

17. (tie) Chicago Cubs (19) 494-485 After that off-year last year, Moises Alou is hitting a respectable .294/.360/.486 and on pace for 24 homers and 103 RBI. He had a .969 OPS in July.

(tie) Baltimore (18) 551-541 Brian Roberts has a decent .354 OBP (6th among all AL 2B) and has stolen 17 bases in 19 tries (89%). The power stroke (.387 SLG, 13th among all AL 2B) could use a little work, though. Since the All-Star break, Melvin Mora is hitting .121/.216/.212.

19. Montreal (20) 507-510 After a .966 OPS in June, Brad Wilkerson slumped to .615 in July. He slipped from 22 walks to 25 strikouts in June to 8 walks and 32 stikeouts in July.

20. Kansas City (17) 565-574 Do you think maybe Carlos Beltran (30/33 in steals) could give Michael Tucker (8/18) some pointers? If Angel Berroa (.293/.345/.489) could win the Rookie of the Year, that would make two in a row, after Eric Hinske last year, traded away by Billy Beane. He won't though, because he plays in Kansas City and Hideki Matsui (.808 OPS) plays in New York. Berroa is even hitting better than Alfonso Soriano (.821 OPS).

21. Minnesota (21) 526-551 As a starter, Johan Santana has an above average 3.40 ERA, yet his WHIP is a fantastic 0.85 and he's struck out 39 to walking 7. What's killing him is the long ball: 7 home runs in 42 innings as a starter.

22. Pittsburgh (21) 503-543 I'm a little surpised the Pirates didn't find a way to move Reggie Sanders and Matt Stairs. Sanders hit 9 home runs with a .950 OPS and Stairs hit 7 with a 1.290 OPS for the month of July.

23. Cleveland (23) 471-549 Jody Gerut is the 5th best rookie hitter in the AL (Matsui, Baldelli, Berroa and Teixeira have all created more runs for their teams) but he's the only one with his own blog, and that has to count for something.

24. Texas (27) 583-698 Rafael Palmeiro had a horrible month, especially for his standards: .182/.252/.333. Someone must have stolen his Viagra stash.

25. Cincinnati (24) 524-635 Boy, when the spit hits the fan, it really hits. Rumor has it, Matt Boone demanded a trade, too. But no one hears you scream in double-A Daytona. Yet, the Reds are 5-2 since the big shakeup, and until last night's 7-3 loss to the Giants, each of those games had been decided by either one or two runs.

26. Milwaukee (25) 487-598 Let's see, what's good to report in Milwaukee? Well, Glendon Rusch lost only one decision in 5 appearance (4 starts), and his ERA was 3.12. Ben Sheets went 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and only lost two fly balls over the fence for the month.

27. NY Mets (26) The bad news (is there any other kind for the Mets?) is the team ERA for the month was 5.30 with a 1.62 WHIP. But yes, there is good news: Al Leiter has a 0.95 ERA in his last 3 starts.

28. Tampa Bay (29) 487-611 With so little going right in Tampa, Travis Lee hitting .344/.455/.567 with 19 walks to 10 strikeouts in July is a pleasant surprise.

29. San Diego (28) 467-593 After seeming to turn the corner with a .837 OPS in May and .934 in June, Sean Burroughs regressed to a .694 in July. On the bright side, Phil Nevin is hitting .292/.393/.542 with a pair of homers since returning.

30. Detroit (30) 364-583 Eric Munson is tied for 2nd with Berroa among AL rookies with 15 home runs, and he has 90 fewer at bats than Berroa and 50 fewer at bats and just 2 fewer home runs than the leader Teixeira. He also leads all rookies with a 0.65 BB/K ratio and .103 BB/PA.

Boston at Seattle
Kansas City at New York
Philadelphia at San Francisco
Houston at Atlanta

AL - Jay Gibbons (Baltimore) 24 AB, 8 R, 13 H, 4 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 BB, .542/.593/.958, 1.551 OPS
NL - Marcus Giles (Atlanta) 29 AB, 8 R, 13 H, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB, 4 BB, .448/.515/.759, 1.274 OPS

AL - Mark Mulder (Oakland) 2-0, 16.2 IP, 12 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 18 K, 1.62 ERA
NL - Matt Clement (Chicago Cubs) 2-0, 17.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 15 K, 0.53 ERA

AL - Scott Spiezio (Anaheim) 23 AB, 3 H, 2 RBI, 1 SB, .130/.130/.130, .261 OPS
NL - Alex Gonzalez (Chicago Cub) 20 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 2 BB, .050/.136/.050, .186 OPS

AL - Fredo Garcia (Seattle) 0-1, 1.2 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 37.80 ERA
NL - Claudio Vargas (Montreal) 0-1, 0.1 IP, 3 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 189.00 ERA [8 batters, 28 pitches, 1 out]
|| Peter @ 8/04/2003