Musings about, um... well, the Seattle Mariners as well as a love affair with this game baseball. By Peter J. White
Friday, November 14, 2003
Dear Santa, (part IV)
Let’s see if I can wrap this letter up today, Santa. Two areas remains: Pitching and the bench.
As far as starters go, I’d like to see at least one, maybe two, of three candidates traded away—Freddy Garcia, Ryan Franklin and Gil Meche. Freddy’s been involved in trade chatter for the last four months, and it’s getting hotter, for the very good reason that his arbitration raise last year was unwarranted based on his 2002 performance, and certainly his 2003 performance deserves a paycut. But you can’t do that in arbitration. If the Yankees would even consider Nick Johnson and Alfonso Soriano for Freddy and John Olerud, I first might possibly wet myself, but I would most definitely proclaim the Yankees dumber than they look. While I’d like to think the Yankees are really dumber even then they do look, but Finny has to be making this up. It's just nonsense when you think about it.
But I can see Nick the Stick and Edgar together in a linuep forcing opposing pitchers to throw 100 pitches by the third inning every night. That's be sweet.
Both Franklin and Meche had excellent 2003 seasons given their expectations. Their trade value will never be higher. He’s 30 years of age, so asking Franklin to improve on his 3.57 ERA (which was 9th in the AL last year). That he throws in Safeco Field makes his stats appear a bit sweeter than they really are. And yet, he gave up 22 homers in Safeco Field this year and 12 on the road. Go figure.
As for Meche, he’s 25. Arm injuries kept him out of baseball all of 2001. He pitched just 65 innings for San Antonio in 2002. That’s 65 innings over the 2 years coming into this year. He then pitched 186 innings this year. What do we say May 1 as the date his arm officially falls off? He pitched just 74 innings after the All-Star break with a 6.08 ERA, and he complained of arm soreness. In September, his ERA was 8.06. Am I the only one seeing red flags here?
That would leave Rafael Soriano, Julio Mateo, any one of the Tacoma/San Antonio boys and/or a free agent pickup (Leftie Brian Anderson? Innings-eater Rick Helling? Ron Villone?) to fill two starting slots.
Alas, time’s up. The bullpen and bench will have to wait for another day, Santa.
|| Peter @ 11/14/2003
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Dear Santa, (part III)
Let’s see… where did I leave off? Oh yes: Mike Cameron. The decisicion to part ways with Mike Cameron was a black and white issue a year ago. It’s a murky situation at best today. The thinking was that, like Jeff Cirillo, Cameron was completely psyched out by Safeco Field. From 2000-2002, Cammie hit .224/.324/.385 with just 67 extra base hits in 768 at bats in Safeco Field. During the same time period on the road, Cammie hit .278/.364/.510 with 103 extra base hits in 851 at bats. Affected most by his home ballpark were his ability to make contact and his ability to hit for power. It was simple, really: Let Cammie walk, and he can rake up some massive offensive numbers as a speedy centerfielder somewhere else, anywhere really.
But something weird happened last year. His home/road splits, while still favoring the road, were not near as extreme. He hit .235/.329/.429 with 24 extra base hits in 247 AB in Safeco. On the road, he hit .268/.357/.432 with 30 extra base hits in 287 AB. Essentially, his contact and ability to get on base were no different than the previous three years, but his power jumped at Safeco by a good margin and dropped significantly—nearly .080—on the road. Adding to the bizarreness is Cammie hit more home runs at home (11) than on the road (7) but hit half as many doubles in Safeco (11) compared to everywhere else (20). Just what happened? I’ve no clue, but I do have to wonder how the change in the hitters’ backdrop in Safeco affected Cameron, even if it was only a psychological boost.
As it stands, Cammie’s 28.4 VORP in 2003 puts him 5th offensively among AL centerfielders. His defense is, without argument, the best in baseball. Thus, the question becomes, if you let Cameron walk, who is there to replace him with? Kenny Lofton? I believe it’s certainly worth the risk to bring Cameron back and hope Paul Molitor can teach him to make contact.
If Cammie does leave, Santa, the only worthy replacement is the one and only Carlos Beltran. According to Win Shares, only Mike Cameron had more defensive value among AL outfielders than Beltran, and according to VORP, only Vernon Wells was more valuable among AL centerfielders. He’s 26 and just hitting his prime. He’s a switch hitter with power from the left side. His SLG was actually .050 points higher away from the mini-Coors Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City. He has hit .309/.390/.500 with 3 homers and 4 doubles in 68 career AB in Safeco. He is a perennial 30/30 threat, and I’m pretty sure he has never been caught stealing, which means that at least 30 of his singles/walks are automatic doubles. He did draw a career-high 72 walks last year while striking out a career-low 81 times.
Can you just see a lineup of Ichiro/Beltran/Edgar/Boone? And the Royals are desperate for young pitching, of which the Mariners have more than enough for the entire AL Central. Beltran just might even be worth sacrificing Joel Pineiro and/or Rafael Soriano. Maybe.
There’s just one problem. One massive, Mt. Rainier-sized problem: Carlos Beltran is represented by Scott Boras, which is roughly the equivalent of the beautiful princess held captive in the tower by the evil magician. All of my hopes and dreams I’ve just worked up are crushed to smithereens by those two words: Scott Boras. Somewhere I’ve read that Boras is not at all interested in a trade-and-sign deal for Beltran. I say the M’s save their pennies this winter and go all out for Beltran next winter if he can’t be pried out of Kansas City this year.
So back to reality, Santa, that other Royals' outfielder Raul Ibanez is a bad idea, very bad, I’m talking ten-plagues-of-Egypt bad. He is currently 31. Yes, he bats left-handed. However, he put up a .799 OPS last year as a corner outfielder in very-hitter-friendly Kaufman Stadium. His VORP was 10th among AL left-fielders (Randy Winn was 5th, for comparison’s sake). Non-tendering Winn, as Finnigan suggests today, for the sake of signing Ibanez is a grave mistake. His road batting line last year was .274/.328/.427 with 26 XBH in 307 AB, and I’m not even sure we could expect that in Safeco Field next year.
Then, Santa, there’s Jose Guillen. He’ll be 28 next year. For his career, he’s hit .270/.315/.430. However, thanks to his .337/.385/.629 in the Great American Bandbox in Cincinnati, I’m sure he’s looking to cash in. However, after coming to Oakland he hit .265/.311/.459. Now, which of these three lines is not like the others? The guy has no patience at the plate (24 total walks last year in 485 AB). His total .359 OBP was a direct result of his .311 batting average, and we all know how consistent batting average is year-to-year. Don’t we, Anaheim Angels? I’d pass on Guillen.
Then there’s Reggie Sanders. He’s 36, so he’d be no long-term solution, just a placeholder until Chris Snelling is ready, maybe trade bait at the trade deadline. He hit .285/.345/.567 last year with 31 home runs in 453 AB. Chances are his price will be a bit more than his $1 million/1 year deal last year with Pittsburgh. He’s one of the streakiest hitters in baseball, and he’s an extreme pull, power hitter, which puts him at a big risk to see his power fall off a cliff in Seattle.
However, with this nifty toy I found on MLB.com, you can compare PNC Park to Safeco and see where Sanders’ homers landed last year. PNC Park is 325 feet down the left field line. The wall then sharply angles in the left-center power alley to 389 feet with a weird corner nook at 410 feet before pulling back to 399 in dead center. As you can see most of Sanders’ homers at home went beyond the 389-410 power alley. Comparatively, Safeco isn’t much different at all. The wall is 331 in the left field corner, makes a straight line to the alley at 390 before angling to 405 in dead center. I really don’t think Sanders would be as affected by Safeco as an initial impression would give.
Santa, there’s also the option of giving Chris Snelling a shot. When healthy last year, Snelling hit .333/.371/.468 with 17 XBH, 8 walks and 30 strikeouts in 186 at bats in San Antonio and .269/.333/.433 with 5 XBH, 5 walks and 12 strikeouts in 67 at bats in Tacoma. I don’t see how you can hand him a starting spot. At best, he needs a spectacular spring to show he’s healthy to even make the big league team. He needs a good half season of regular work, at least, before he sees major league pitching, in my humble opinion. But geez, there’s nobody in the organization I want to see succeed more than Chris Snelling.
So Santa, regardless at this point of the combinations, as I see it, the Mariners need at least four starting outfielders to rotate throughout the season. That not only would allow the rest needed to prevent a late season offensive collapse as we’ve seen the last couple of years, it would also greatly strengthen the bench, and depth was a major weakness last year. I’m sure I could be quite content with any combination of Ichiro, Cameron, Winn, Cruz, Sanders or Snelling. And perhaps some others. Guerrero or Beltran would just be a bonus.
I’m going to try this again, as my last attempt was erased by one stray swipe of my pinky. And as I missed the early train this morning, this is going to be as brief as possible.
I would like a starting outfielder for Christmas this year for my beloved Mariners. Please don’t think me greedy if I ask for two. You see, if Mike Cameron leaves, the M’s need a centerfielder. Last year, the outfield of Safeco Field was manned by three centerfielders, and they all hit like centerfielders, too. If Cammie goes, Randy Winn can shift over and play center and you can bring a leftfielder, Santa. Or Ichiro can shift to center and you can bring a rightfielder. Or Ichiro can play center, Winn can be the best fourth outfielder in baseball and the Mariners can have two corner outfielders that actually hit like corner outfielders.
The most popular items, as you know Santa, are Vladimir Guerrero and Gary Sheffield. While I agree with Mr. Zumsteg that Vlad and his reclusive personality are a perfect fit for the ethos of the Pacific Northwest, I expect the Mariners to deliver Guerrero about as much as I expected my parents to present me a brand new car on my 16th birthday.
As for Gary Sheffield, well, he’s 35; he’s at the top of his game; he’s got a couple good years left. But he wasn’t happy in LA because of the distance from his family in Florida. Who’s to say he’d be happy in Seattle. He’s a great hitter but on the wrong side of “old” and “affordable” for the Mariners.
While on the topic of “too old,” “too expensive,” not to mention “fragile” and “temperamental,” pardon me while I briefly acknowledge ESPN’s suggestion of Brian Jordan… There, I acknowledged it. He's #49, if you're curious enough to scroll down that far. It's laughable. It's ridiculous. It's like someone was playing some blind pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game with free agents.
Due to time constraints this morning, Santa, I’m limited to advocating only my favorite outfield choice this morning: Jose Cruz. I honestly believed Junior Cruz would thrive in San Francisco this year as a fastball hitter between speedy Ray Durham and Superman Bonds. Well, he didn’t, hitting .250/.366/.414. It turns out Felipe Alou jerked him up and down the lineup, and Cruz saw at bats in all nine spots. You could argue that Alou’s inconsistency with Cruz led to Cruz’s inconsistent bat. Maybe. I don’t know.
He saw the most AB in the #8 hole (145) where he hit .234/.302/.359, and that’s just plain ugly. He got at least 50 AB in the leadoff spot, #2, cleanup, #5 and also #7. He got 55 AB in the 2-hole and hit .309/.367/.655 with 5 home runs. I still think he’d be perfect in the 2-spot between Ichiro and Edgar. Perfect. And that’s before I mention he took 102 walks last year. He's patient at the plate and sees a lot of pitches (4.0/PA, 18th in all of baseball last year; Edgar was second at 4.3), an ideal #2 man. In addition, despite having his head somewhere other than rightfield in the NLDS, he earned himself a gold glove this year, in large part to his league-leading 18 assists. According to Win Shares, only Andruw Jones and Craig Biggio (both centerfielders) had more value defensively than Junior Cruz in the NL. We all know Bob Melvin is married to his lineups and if Cruz saw a whole season in the #2 spot he might just more than make up the loss of Mike Cameron.
Hopefully, Santa, tomorrow I can peel myself from bed in time to make the early train and continue my post I lost yesterday about how losing Mike Cameron isn’t such a black-and-white situation, Carlos Beltran is a damsel in distress and an outfield of Reggie Sanders, Ichiro and Junior Cruz would be pretty sweet.
|| Peter @ 11/12/2003
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Epic posts... deleted... pinky strays on wrong key... ARGH! xllksdfvlkja d [head smashing keyboard]
|| Peter @ 11/11/2003
Monday, November 10, 2003
Rumors, blah, blah, blah
Boston Herald suggests Trot Nixon would be a good fit in Seattle. And hey, the Mariners have a right-handed starter named Freddy Garcia to deal. To which I say: Not unless you get Trot (.671 OPS vs. left-handed pitching) a platoon partner. Like say Marquis Grissom (1.056 OPS vs. lefties), though not a free agent. Or Eduardo Perez (1.126), who is a free agent.
In a division where you see 4-5 starts each of Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Jarrod Washburn, hitting lefties is a big deal.
|| Peter @ 11/10/2003
I thought I’d get my list to you early this year. I just want to give you the time you need to work your magic. The general manager meetings start today, after all.
Not to sound ungrateful for our new general manager, I can’t help but express my disappointment a little. I was kind of wishing for Paul DePodesta. I fully realize that his portrayal in Moneyball was simply a caricature, but he would have brought something different to the ballclub. And there was Chris Antonetti. There was Tim Purpura. There was Kim Ng. Wouldn’t politically correct Seattle be the perfect environment for the first female GM?
But Bill Bavasi… I’m not trying to sound ungrateful. I mean, he has yet, to my knowledge, gone on record criticizing the validity of on-base percentage and other aspects of performance analysis, like some other interviewees have in the past. He was the director of player development in Los Angeles, right? The Los Angeles minor league system went a combined 250-263 (.487) last year. Their AAA-affiliate in Las Vegas won 85 games in 2002 then 76 in 2003. I don’t see much player or development coming recently out of LA.
So Santa, I guess as a fan there’s really not much I can do but muster all the blind faith that can be mustered that the powers that be know something I don’t. It’s a stretch, I know, but what’s left to do but sit back and enjoy the ride? Today’s a new day, a new ballclub for Bill Bavasi. I’ll try to save the kicking and screaming for only when it’s absolutely necessary.
Okay Santa, thanks for the new GM (finally) and thanks for another year of Edgar. Here’s the rest of my list, and this year it’s all for the benefit of my beloved Seattle Mariners: 1) A shiny new starting third baseman and/or shortstop, 2) a state-of-the-art starting outfielder, 3) a dazzling leftie hitter off the bench, 4) a flashy gloveman or two back-up middle infielders, 5) some superb bullpen filler, preferably a couple of lefties. I know, Santa, that beggars can’t be choosers, but allow me a second to be picky.
Santa, everyone’s talking about Kaz Matsui. If Ichiro and Godzilla have taught us anything, it’s that batting average translates better than slugging percentage from Japan. That’s an understatement. Kaz hit .305/.368/.549 last year. He walked in 9% of his at bats, so chances are he's likely to slap the ball around the park before he works a pitcher deep in the count. Apparently, he plays a pretty slick shortstop, and he’s 28, so he should be hitting his peak. Clay Davenport, a much smarter man than me, thinks Orlando Cabrera is a realistic comparison. That's not a bad thing. It's just important to remember when putting a dollar value on Matsui that he won't be a one man savior. He's not A-Rod. I hope that’s clear with everybody else. If Mr. Yamauchi wants to open the coffers of Nintendo for what is sure to be ridiculous bidding for the services of Matsui, I can live with that. If, however, it straps the flexibility of the Mariners’ payroll, there are more cost effective options.
Miguel Tejada is not one of those options. The letters “MVP” on his resume, to the money givers, will greatly outshine the objective reality, which is a career on-base percentage of .331 and an OPS of .786 in 144 AB in Safeco Field. Granted, he’s an excellent defender, good for at least 25-30 homeruns. Tejada is one of the top five best shortstops in baseball. But the price tag will be steep, too steep. Officially, he’ll be 28, but if you believe that, you’re a gullible one. There are other more cost-effective solutions.
Rich Aurilia is not one of those options, either. At 6+ million, his salary was actually greater than Tejada’s last year. His career OPS is a Tejada-esque .331. He has a meaningless .758 OPS is 13 career AB in Safeco Field. While one could jump to the conclusion that Aurilia’s hitting stats have been deflated by PacBell Park, his OPS was .800 there, but .679 on the road. He just might be more valuable as half of a platoon has his OPS last year against lefties was .927 but .679 against righties. He’ll be 34 next year. Unless Aurilia’s willing to take a pay cut, there are more cost-effective solutions.
Like Jose Valentin. He’ll be 35 and made 5 million last year. According to win shares, he contributed more defensive value than any other shortstop in the American League. I’m not too crazy about his .324 career OBP or his .582 OPS in 74 AB in Safeco Field. His OPS has dropped three consecutive years, so maybe he’s not such a good pick after all.
Within the organization, the M’s have Ruben Castillo (Tacoma: .211/.263/.252, .153 MjEQA), Luis Ugueto (San Antonio: .260/.312/.314, MjEQA .191) and Jose Lopez (San Antonio: .258/.303/.403, MjEQA .203). Perhaps keeping Carlos “Mr. Glass” Guillen at short with a dependable backup is the best option short of capturing Matsui outside the budget. If Guillen stays at short, then Santa, we’ll need a third baseman, and there just isn’t much to choose from there, either.
Tony Batista: Mmm... no. Three digits for you — 3, 0 & 2. That’s his on-base percentage in 8 years in the major leagues. Don’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. Plus, he's ugly.
Joe Randa: Eh. Is there any reason at all to believe he’ll leave Kansas City?
Robin Ventura: He’s best days are behind him, but he can still draw walks, hit an occasional home run and play a solid hot corner. He has an 1.131 OPS in 23 Safeco at bats. He’s left-handed. At 37, he’s not a permanent solution, but he would be a temporary upgrade until something better comes along. If nothing else, give him an incentive-laden contract and make him the leftie off the bench. I’m still all about bringing Robin Ventura to Seattle.
Justin Leone deserves a shot at the third base job after his stellar year in San Antonio last year (.288/.405/.541, MjEQA .263). But if he emerges from the Rule V draft still a Mariner, I'll be shocked. He'll wind up next year's Scott Podsednik for some team like Pittsburgh.
Well Santa, that's all the time I have today. I'll write more tomorrow.
P.S. Please leave those Wachowski brothers a big pile of... um, coal in their stocking. The way I see it, they really deserve a truckload. Why, oh why, didn't I take the blue pill.