Mariners Musings

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

Friday, January 16, 2004

The force is strong with this one

The most recent Google hits returning Mariners Musings:

mariners musings - I guess that's an obvious one.

"glove bench" - As this came via Google Poland, I'm really scratching my head as to what they were looking for. I hope they found it. Makes me wonder how the Polish Mariner community is holding up through the winter of Bill Bavasi.

"lance nix" texas - Where's an editor when I need one? That should have been Laynce Nix. But I'm sure he gets that all the time.

"billy beane" - Mr. Beane is one popular guy. If I combed through each and every google search and created a top ten list, I'm pretty sure "billy beane" (all lower case, mind you) would outnumber numbers 2 through 10.

One that particularly caught my interest this past week, though, was "'chris snelling' yoda." This I had to investigate. Just what ties these two colorful characters together to the extent that would inspire internet searching?

What my detective work revealed is that the 22-year-old Snelling signs the name of the Jedi warrior beneath his own name when giving his autograph--at least that was the habit three years ago at the time of this interview with Paul Gierhart of Top Prospect Alert. As Snelling explains,
"The Yoda thing. Well, many people have asked me this and it's hard to explain to a person why I write the name of an ugly looking green guy in my autograph. I do it not because of what he looks like. It started back when I watched Star Wars every day for about 5 years, all through my high school years. I do it because it's my focal point. To me a focal point is something to get your mind off worrying about your technique. When I'm feeling down or unconfident I go back to what he said to Luke Skywalker on planet Endor just when Luke is about to fight Darth Vader in 'Return of the Jedi'. He says, 'Try not, do or do not, there is no try'. It's a mental thing and it works for me. People say I'm immature for having it and believing it but bottom line is I'm twisted and it works for me."

Read the whole interview. It's priceless stuff.

My first reaction to this--Just how cool is this. I think I've found my new favorite Mariner.

My second reaction to this--Is the Australian version of Star Wars different from mine? Because, pardon my geekiness, but in my VHS copy the sage "Do or do not" line comes in Empire Strikes Back on the planet Dagobah prior to Luke's Freudian dual with the Vader that turns out to be himself. Awh, details, schmetails. I know who I'm rooting for in Spring Training. And it's not Raul Ibanez.

Snelling's affinity for the diminutive green one continued into last year's spring training. As John Hickey reported,
"There was a new addition to the Mariners clubhouse yesterday -- a 2 1/2-foot-tall figurine of Yoda from 'Star Wars.' It arrived after noon and resides in front of rookie outfielder Chris Snelling's locker. His nickname, not surprisingly, is 'Yoda.'

"'I've always wanted one of these,' Snelling said. 'I got it off eBay'" (P-I).

I have in my head a picture of some Jobu-like shrine. I can only imagine what Boonie's smart remarks may have been. Maybe something along the lines of Yoda using the force to hit a curveball.

Speaking of Mariners' extracuricular activities, did you catch Nathan Fox's notes from the Hot Stove, Cool Music benefit in Boston? It's a Prospectus freebie, so help yourself. The image of Peter Gammons rocking out is arresting, but what most caught my eye was this bit...
8:35 p.m. Non-baseball bands took the first few slots, but now Sandfrog, fronted by Scott Spezio [sic] (he of the recent World Series champion Anaheim Angels, now of the Seattle Mariners) hits the stage. Spezio [sic] is a bona fide headbanging grunge rocker. This is possibly the most surreal experience of my entire life, at least until later, when Gammons plays. With the Paradise amps all set on '11,' Sandfrog doesn't sound half bad. Theo and Gammons, stageside, are smiling and apparently digging it.

Drowning in the sea of number crunching, I had nearly forgotten the M's now carry a "bona fide headbanging grunge rocker."

That's Spiezio on the far left in the black shirt with the mic. I myself have yet to immerse myself in the Sandfrog experience. It appears they have a pair of songs to download off their official website, where they boast to be "one half hard rock, 29% grunge, and two-fifths metal." Apparently math isn't their strong suite. The British Yahoo! Music Directory describes the band "as modern Black Sabbath, power grunge, and even as a triad of metal, grunge, and prog rock."

Spiezio scored #14 on Rolling Stone's 50 Baseball Moments that Rock, where he states, "We were all huge Alice in Chains and Soundgarden fans." He must be in heaven to find himself in Seattle.

I can't seem to find whether the band has recorded any albums, but if any music critics, serious or otherwise, out there have been to a show and want to share a review, I'd be more than happy to post it.
|| Peter @ 1/16/2004

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The worst Mariner seasons ever... again

As promised, here's the continuation and finale of the 10 worst non-pitcher seasons in the 26 years of Seattle Mariner history. Again, the disclaimer: Reading discretion is advised. The following is not intended for small children, pregnant women, nor those suffering from heart conditions.

5. Juan Bernhardt, 1977.

Bernhardt was taken from the Yankees in the expansion draft by the fledgling Mariners. The 23-year-old didn't see any action in that first fateful game on April 6 against Frank Tanana. It wasn't until the fifth and final game of that opening series against the Angels that manager Darrell Johnson worked Bernhardt into the starting lineup as the designated hitter. Bernhardt responded by going 3 for 4 with a pair of singles, two runs scored and an RBI on the first ever home run hit by a Seattle Mariner. He was also hit by a pitch.

So if you're ever on Jeopardy and Alex Trebek gives the answer: "This Seattle Mariner hit the first home run in club history." The questions is... "Alex, who is Juan Bernhardt?" April 10, 1977. Fifth inning. Two out. Off Frank Tanana.

Bernhardt earned a start the next day and went 2 for 4. Thus, Johnson kept him in the starting lineup for a good part of the next month. He did post a very reasonable line for the month of April: 64 at bats, .313/.353/.547. But spring soon gave way to summer and Bernhardt wilted in the wretched Seattle heat. Or maybe it was the concrete claustrophobia of the Kingdome. He was as automatic an out as one can imagine through July and August, hitting .163/.163/.186 for that month of August, yet he still found a place in the starting lineup for the remainder of the season. It's not as if Darrell Johnson had any better options. This is the '77 Mariners we're talking about.

His final line for the year was .243/.259/.354. The free-swinging Dominican (pardon the redundancy) walked a ridiculous 5 times in 305 at bats while slugging 18 extra base hits. He also grounded into 9 double plays. All this translates to an EQA of .218.

Defensively, he did see 21 games at third base (1 error) and 8 games at first (1 error). Given that small sample size, his defensive worth was 2 runs below average, and overall, Bernhardt was worth 0.2 wins below replacement. The M's lost as many games that year as any other American League team (98), but escaped the cellar by winning just one more than the Athletics.

Bernhardt never again saw regular playing time again and was finished with baseball after seeing just one at bat in the 1979 season at the age of 25.

4. Luis Sojo, 1996.

"Here's the pitch. Swing, and it's a ground ball, and it gets on by Snow. Down the right field line into the bullpen. Here comes Blowers. Here comes Tino. Here comes Joey. The throw to the plate is cut off. The relay by Langston gets by Allanson. Cora scores! Here comes Sojo! Everybody scores!!! Sojo comes in!!!"

That was 1995. Luis Sojo is immortalized in Mariner history in that one single at bat that finished off the Angels and sent the Mariners to their first ever playoff appearance. But that was 1995. This is 1996. And Luis Sojo turned back into a pumpkin.

Sojo was signed as a free agent prior to the '94 season. His time in Seattle was spent first as a backup for Felix Fermin, and then as a placeholder for a young upstart 19-year-old kid named Alex. For the year in question, Sojo provided a glove off the bench backing up Alex at short, Joey Cora at second, and was one of several stopgaps at third. He was hitting .211/.244/.263 when the Mariners placed their franchise hero of less than a year earlier on waivers on August 22. He had 10 extra base hits and 10 walks in 247 at bats. Who needs a backup when you've got a 20-year-old kid playing short hitting .358 with 36 homers making $150,000 less than Sojo? Sojo's EQA for the Mariners that year was .155.

Furthermore, his defense far from justified his roster spot. He made 5 errors in 33 games at third, 2 errors in 27 games at second and one error in 19 games at short. He was worth just 4 runs above an average fielder. Overall, his worth was 0.6 wins below replacement. The Mariners fell just short of division-winner Texas, four and a half games back. Meanwhile, Sojo was claimed by the Yankees and became an emblematic part of that dynasty. He would go 3 for 5 in the World Series that year and 6 for 15 in those four World Series in six years for the Yanks.

3. Manny Castillo, 1982.

In October of 1981, the Mariners initiated one of the silliest trades in franchise history. Over the passing of time, it has faded from memory, certainly in light of more recent gaffes in the late nineties that saw Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek, David Ortiz and Mike Hampton blossom on other diamonds. Still, looking at the details twenty years later, this one's pretty goofy. In October of 1981, the Mariners acquired Manny Castillo from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for a player to be named later. Four months later, at the start of spring training 1982, the Mariners sent the Royals 25-year-old rookie Bud Black.

Black had seen but just an inning with the Mariners during the '81 season with the Mariners. He would go on to a respectable career putting up ERA+ of 89, 108, 130, 96, 133 and 127. Don't tell me the Mariners of the mid eighties couldn't have used a pitcher 25-30% better than the league average. Manny Castillo's legacy in Seattle, well, is probably enough to make Jeff Cirillo proud.

The 25-year-old Castillo manned the hot corner full-time and batted second for the '82 Mariners. He hit .257/.286/.336 with 22 walks and 33 extra base hits in 506 at bats. That's the fifth worst on-base percentage ever registered by a full-time player (500+ plate appearances) and the tenth worst slugging percentage in Mariner history. He erased himself from the basepaths 8 times in 10 total stolen base attempts, and killed another 11 baserunners while grounding into double plays. His EQA for the season was .223.

Whereas Jeff Cirillo in 2002 provided something with his glove, Castillo did not in 1982. He committed 20 errors in 130 games at third and one error in 9 games at second. He was worth a whopping 17 runs below the average third baseman. Offensive and defensive ineptitude all taken into account, Castillo's worth was 0.6 wins below replacement. The Mariners finished dead last that year, losing 102 games--10 more than the next worst team.

And replace Castillo the Mariners did. They gave the starting third base job to Jamie Allen in 1983 and released Castillo during Spring Training 1984. Interestingly, in the sixth inning on June 26, 1983, Manny Castillo took the mound in then 12-3 runaway at the hands of the Blue Jays. Castillo pitched 2 and two thirds innings and gave up 7 runs on 3 homers, 3 walks a hit batter and a wild pitch. After that, Castillo was gone from baseball.

2. Mike Felder, 1993.

Among the victims of Seattle's Curse of Left Field, Felder suffered it's effects the most. With longetivity considered, Mike Felder is the worst left fielder in Seattle history. Brought in as a free agent in the winter of '92, the 31-year-old brought with him a reputation of speed on the basepaths. He had just a bit of trouble getting to first, though. Though rumors may prove contrary, I believe his nickname "Tiny" was for his .211/.262/.269 batting line while with the Mariners. He walked 22 times in 342 at bats and clubbed 13 extra base hits--and 5 of those were triples. His "tiny" EQA was .194.

In that Bermuda Triangle of the Kingdome's left field, Felder fumbled 2 errors in 143 games. However, his defense was worth a run below an average outfielder. Overall, Felder was worth 0.7 wins below replacement for the '93 Mariners, who experienced a winning record for just the second time.

The following December, the Mariners packaged Felder with a 20-year-old Mike Hampton and sent them to Houston for yet another chapter in the sorry legacy of left field in Seattle--Eric Anthony.

1. Leroy Stanton, 1978.

Stanton is the third representative of the '78 team on this list (four if you count Bernhardt who also was on the roster that year). But Stanton put together the stinkiest season by a Mariner non-pitcher in their short history. Stanton was picked from the Angels in the expansion draft. He spent the '77 season in right field and was the team MVP with 27 homers. Opening Day the following season, Stanton found himself at designated hitter. Despite the fact he was just 31, Stanton's career was finished. Done with. Kaput.

In '78, Stanton hit /182/.265/.248 with a respectable 34 walks in 302 at bats, but a puny 14 extra base hits. After leading the team in homers the previous season, Stanton's power completely went out. The only thing that saves numbers like those is a really, really fancy glove in the middle of the diamond. Stanton was the designated hitter. That's bad. This specialized hitter managed only an EQA of .202. He did play 30 errorless games in the outfield, but his defense was worth a run below average. His overall worth to the team was 0.8 wins below replacement.

Stanton never stepped into the batter's box again, and the Mariners released him prior to the 1980 season.

One can only hope that Bill Bavasi doesn't coax him out of retirement.

*This project was made possible by the good folks behind Baseball Reference, Baseball Library, Retrosheet, Lee Sinins's Sabermetric Encyclopedia and Clay Davenport's Translation cards available at Baseball Prospectus.
|| Peter @ 1/15/2004

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The worst Mariner seasons ever

It could always be worse. In my nightmares Bret Boone turns an ankle Opening Day and Ramon Santiago becomes the everyday second baseman... all season. In my nightmares Ichiro pulls a hamstring Opening Day and Quinton McCracken becomes the starting right fielder... all season. At least Bill Bavasi can't bring back these guys. These guys make up the ten worst offensive seasons ever by Mariners. Most of these guys were regulars, so that disqualifies Cirillo's 2003, and they have to be bad with the bat and the glove. That disqualifies Cirillo's '02. Offensive, indeed. The below is not intended for small children, pregnant women, nor those with a generally faint heart. Proceed with caution...

10. Al Cowens, 1983.

Once upon a time, Cowens had finished runner up in the MVP ballotting. That was 1977 when he hit .312/.361/.525 and won a gold glove for the Royals. The Mariners purchased his contract in the spring of 1982 from the Tigers. He hit 20 homers that year, for just the second time in his career, but posted a brutal on-base percentage of .325. Thus, the Mariners signed him on for another year. The results are a bit frightening.

At the age of 31, Cowens only saw 356 at bats for the '83 M's, though that was the fourth highest total on that team. He split his time between right field and DH, putting together a bone-chilling batting line of .205/.255/.329. Imagine Jeff Cirillo without the bases on balls as the designated hitter. He walked 23 times and hit 28 extra base hits. His EQA was .217. He grounded into 13 double plays that year--just one off his career high, but in half as many at bats.

In the field, he made just two errors for the whole season. But he did just play 70 games in right field. Advanced fielding metrics credit him with 2 fielding runs above the average right fielder. That's not hideously bad, per se, but it far from compensates for his out-producing bat. He was worth 0.5 win above replacement for a team that lost 100 games for the third time in seven years.

So what do the Mariners do with him? They keep him on for another two years before finally releasing him following the '85 season. But wait, they re-signed Cowens for 1986 before finally dumping him for good in mid season, and Cowens was gone from baseball for good. Sadly, he passed away in 2002 at the age of 50 of a heart attack.

9. Mario Mendoza, 1979.

Of course, that Mendoza. Mark your calendars, folks. This is history. December 5, 1978--the infant Seattle Mariners trade Enrique Romo, Rick Jones and Todd McMillan to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Odell Jones, Rafael Vasquez and... wait for it... 28-year-old shortstop Mario Mendoza, the inspiration of the infamous Mendoza Line standard (.200) for batting averages. To call Mendoza even a feather-weight hitter is generous. He had never seen regular playing time in Pittsburgh and never posted an OPS north of .580, so naturally, the Mariners make him the everyday shortstop.

What follows is B-horror movie material. Hide the children, please. Mendoza hit .198/.216/.249, the lowest on-base percentage from a player with at least 350 at bats since since Teddy Roosevelt stepped out of office. That's 70 years of baseball play, counting on my trusty abacus, and it hasn't been touched in the 25 years since. He walked 9 times, struck out 62 times and hammered, I mean tinkered, 13 extra base hits in 373 at bats. All that translates to an EQA of .164.

And you can't say his defense justified his roster spot. In 148 games, he commited 20 errors and was worth 3 fielding runs above the leage average shortstop. Overall, he was worth 0.2 wins above replacement. Ironically, that 95-loss season was the Mariners best season in their short three-year history.

Needless to say, his role was somewhat diminished the next season and the M's dumped him on the Rangers in the winter of 1980, exactly 2 years and a week to the day they had acquired him. Mendoza's only season as a regular was that fateful 1979.

8. Jim Presley, 1988.

Drafted and developed by the Mariners, Presley occupied the starting third base job beginning in 1984 and held onto it until 1989. From 1985 to 1987, Presley averaged 26 home runs and 93 RBIs. The wheels fell off the cart of Presley's, however, at the age of 27, the year one might have predicted his peak.

That 1988 Mariner lineup is an odd bunch. There are two professional hitters who posted on-base percentages over .400 (Alvin Davis and Ken Phelps) but five below .300 with Presley being the greatest out-maker of them all. He hit .230/.280/.355 with 36 walks and 40 extra base hits in his 544 at bats. He also grounded into a team-leading 14 double plays. This gives him an EQA of .232.

At the hot corner, Presley made 22 errors in 146 games. His defense was worth 16 runs below a league average third baseman. Thus, his overall worth was 0.2 wins above replacement for this Mariner squad that finished in the cellar, 35 and a half games behind the Bash Brothers.

In 1989, the Mariners introduced a new third basemen who would hit .240/.314/.304 in his first serious trial. Astonishing, no, but a diamond in the rough. Presley would lose his job to this 26-year-old rookie with a funny mustache and the name Edgar. If only he'd lost it a year earlier.

7. Dan Meyer, 1978.

Meyer had been a batting champ in the minor leagues, but wasn't given a full-time job in the majors until the Mariners picked him in the expansion draft. He was the original Mariner first baseman. I can't imagine there's many people in the world that would get very excited about being an Original Mariner. He had led the team in hits and runs batted in that inaugural season, but his follow-up was like a bad movie sequel.

At the age of 27, Meyer put together a season of .227/.264/.327 with 24 walks and 17 extra base hits in 444 at bats, one of the all time worst offensive seasons by a first basemen since integration. And yet for some reason, he led the team with six intentional walks--a quarter of his walks were intentional. His EQA was .225.

Defensively, Meyer committed 13 errors in 121 games at first base, and he was worth 4 runs below the league average. Overall, he was worth 0.2 wins above replacement, as the Mariners lost 104 games, finishing in last place by 35 games.

6. Larry Milbourne, 1978.

This was just a bad year for baseball in Seattle. Milbourne is one non-regular to make the list (I think). He was that bad. The M's had acquired him prior to the '77 season for 24-year-old, untried rookie Roy Thomas, who would later come back to Seattle. He was hardly adequate as a utility man that first season. His offensive numbers actual improved in 1978, but negligibly. However, his defense became a liability.

You might want to cover your eyes for this. At the age of 27, Milbourne hit .226/.254/.295 with 9 walks and 10 extra base hits. And you thought new Mariner Ramon Santiago was offensively challenged. He stole just 5 bases in 12 tries and also grounded into 7 double plays in his pinch-hitting role. More like pinch-out-maker. He may have invented several other ways to make outs that unfortunately were not recorded for posterity's sake. His EQA that year was .202.

Whereas his defense had been ever so slightly a positive in '77, it was ever so slightly a negative in '78. He saw 32 games at third base with one error, 23 games at shortstop with 4 errors and 15 games at second base with 4 errors. Why anyone would give a guy with a sub-.300 slugging percentage even 10 games at designated hitter is one of the great mysteries of the universe. He was worth 2 runs below an average fielder, and overall, 0.1 wins above replacement.

By some chance of fate, good karma, divine blessing or blind luck, Milbourne wound up on the World Series-bound Yankees just two years later. He hit 2 doubles in that series, one of them the only extra-base hit in the Game 5 Yankee victory. Go figure. The guy hit only 71 doubles his entire career of nearly 1000 games, but he hits 2 in that 6-game World Series, going .327/.375/.385 with 4 RBI in the '81 post season. How's that for Mr. Clutch.

To be continued... (I promise)...

|| Peter @ 1/14/2004

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The longest winter

Today is just one of those days. What to write about? I can't get the image of the Brian Cox character from Adaptation out of my head:
"Nothing happens in baseball? Are you out of your f*cking mind? Free agents are signed every day. There's genocide, war, corruption. Every f*cking day, somewhere in the world, somebody sacrifices his life to save someone else. Every f*cking day, someone, somewhere makes a conscious decision to destroy someone else! People find love, people lose it! For Christ's sake, a child watches her mother beaten to death on the steps of a church. Someone gets traded. Somebody else betrays his best friend for a woman. If you can't find that stuff in baseball, then you, my friend, don't know crap about baseball! And why the F*CK are you wasting my two precious minutes with your blog? I don't have any use for it. I don't have any bloody use for it!"

Maybe I watch too many movies. Then again, it is January 13, the Mariners roster is more or less set, and pitchers and catchers don't report for another 38 days. This has been the longest winter. I so often crave to put together some well-crafted essay, at least something with a vague resemblance of a cohesive journal entry. Instead, I more often than not wind up with a random smattering of hurried trivial factoids. Creativity was so much easier when there were three Mariner weblogs and a game everyday. I'm such an insecure whiner...

Have you taken a gander at Joel Pineiro's splits from last year? That's a 3.35 ERA at Safeco Field and 4.31 on the road. In fact, Joel's road ERA has been creeping upwards each year since his debut: 3.78 in 2001 (33 innings), 3.95 in 2002 (96 innings) and 4.31 last year (96 innings). Over the past year and a half, his ERA is a full run and a half better at home than on the road. Makes me wonder if it isn't Pineiro, rather than Rafael Soriano, who should be dangled as trade bait. And on the subject, it makes me wonder, with the extreme nature of Safeco Field couldn't Management manipulate statistics to overvalue some players, i.e., Pineiro? Oh, but that would be conniving, deceptive and would tarnish the boy scout image of the organization. Oh well.

I had thought about taking the 40-man roster and whittling it down to a realistic 25-man roster, which seems to me the biggest challenge for the next two and a half months. But really, I can't improve upon Jason's Big Board. Jason, I thank you for that invaluable Mariner resource. It looks like Bavasi may need to go shopping for some more of that "inventory" he was talking about over the weekend to restock the Tacoma roster.

Jason picks a bench of Davis, Hansen, Bloomquist, Santiago and McCracken, which will strike fear only into the hearts of Mariner fans. I can just imagine it now: 9th inning. Mariners down by a run. Troy Percival on the mound. Rich Aurilia comes to the plate. No wait! Melvin goes to his bench. Here comes... Quinton McCracken. *sigh* On the bright side, Gonzalez and Ugueto don't make the cut. Neither does Pat Borders, but I don't see him anywhere on the chart.

I'm not too concerned about the bullpen, questions about Kaz Sasaki, aside. I wonder what's become of the Japanese team interested in him? I like the tandem of Soriano, Mateo and Guardado setting him up, though. I would prefer Soriano start the season in the rotation, but along with Mateo and Jarvis (if you really want to count Jarvis), the Mariners now have three starters for insurance should one or more in the rotation break down. Gil Meche nearly pitched 200 innings. Joel Pineiro pitched more innings than he ever had before. Ryan Franklin, at the age of 30, pitched as many innings as he had the rest of his entire major league career. The breakdown is inevitable. Having Rafael Soriano to be the first to step in will prove invaluable.

And I wonder, too... Dave mentions the cascading effect of losing Cameron. Have you ever played Jenga? Cameron makes me think of that piece on the very bottom you think you can pull out. You finally get up the guts to try it and the whole tower crashes down. Yeah, Cammie's defense is like that. So, will the Angels suffer a similar defensive conundrum in jostling their outfield and/or moving Darin Erstad? Erstad was an above average centerfielder in 2002. In 2003, with Erstad missing much of the season, the Angels had one of the leagues most extreme flyball pitching staffs, and the ERA of their starters--for the most part, the very same group--ballooned from 4.00 to 4.90. The whole staff went from 3.69 to 4.28. In Colon, they've signed another flyball pitcher whose strikeout rate is not as impressive as it once was. Disaster in the making? Probably not, but something to think about.

I also wonder, with as old, old school as the Mariners are these days, how the mantra "pitching and defense win championships" is curiously missing from the rhetoric of both Management and Media.

Last week, Kevin Baxter of Baseball America reported the status of Cuban defectors Maels Rodriguez and Yobel Duenas. Rodriguez is a 24-year-old right handed pitcher, while Duenas is a 31-year-old second baseman and outfielder. According to the article:
Rodriguez holds the single-season Cuban strikeout record, having fanned 263 in 178-1/3 innings three years ago and he is the only pitcher in post-revolution Cuba history to throw a perfect game. [Agent Henry] Vilar said a half-dozen teams, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Mariners and Rangers, are interested in him. Vilar has used the four-year $32 million contract the Yankees gave fellow defector Jose Contreras in December 2002 as a measuring stick for Rodriguez' asking price.

Excellent. Just what the Mariners need. Yet another right-handed pitcher. And of the Cuban, four-year, $32 million variety. Great. Just great. That'd be a wonderful signing, Bill. What are you waiting for. (Aaacck!)
|| Peter @ 1/13/2004

Monday, January 12, 2004

Can we start playing the games already?

I suppose today is the first day of the rest of your baseball rooting life, that is, if it so happens that your team is the one with a monkey for a mascot. Halofan is buying drinks. I could use a particularly stiff drink.

I was trying to think of the last marquee free agent Anaheim signed (other than Bartolo Colon). That Bavasi-induced plague Mo Vaughn?

I realize Bob Finnigan's Sunday column has already been fisked and shredded elsewhere, but one comment in partcular stands out to me:
"The anticipated loss of Mike Cameron required someone to play center field. Melvin's call was to have Ichiro remain in right, and how could anyone argue with the manager's extreme reluctance 'to move the best right fielder in the league, if not in the game'" (Times).

Okay, I'll dare to argue and break the news to Bob that Ichiro is not even the best outfielder in the division anymore.

My gut is trying to tell me that the Angels have just wrapped up the division right here. However, me and my gut, we go way back, and my gut just ain't that trustworthy. Despite the cloud of gloom I'm so willing to succumb to, I have to side with both Derek and Rob here.

Just look at the standings from last year. The Angels finished 19 games out of first. Nineteen games! It takes an extraordinary stretch of the imagination to say that the combined losses in Oakland of Tejada and Foulke with the additions in Anaheim of Colon and Guerrero eliminate that 19-game margin. Furthermore, Derek reminds us that the Mariners were the unluckiest team in the AL last year (unlucky, or victimized by a rookie manager, or maybe something else we don't yet know). The Mariners, according to their runs scored and allowed, were the best team in baseball last year, and it's not like they've lost Edgar Martinez.

The M's run differential last year predicted that they should have won 99 games. To say they are now no better than an 85-win team means that Bavasi's ceaseless tinkering has cost the team 14 games in the standings. Now, that's just a bit overdramatic.

Those days I've been comparing the wins-above-replacement-player, I've been going about it all wrong. The 2004 M's would be an 87-win team only if they were unlucky by 6 games again. Eliminate luck from the equation all together, and Bavasi's blundering moves total up to the Mariners bad luck of '03: They're still a 93-win team. And that, my friends, is still a pennant-contending team.

And have you seen the characters who may be filling out the Angels bench? Halofan speculates Wil Nieves (.243 EQA in Triple-A last year, .202 adjusted for major leagues), Rob Quinlan (.276 EQA in Triple-A, .229 adjusted for major leagues), Jeff DaVanon (.287 EQA), Chone Figgins (.258 EQA in 248 AB) and Alfredo Amezaga (.295 EQA in Triple-A, .245 adjusted). The Mariners may have the Bench of Doom resembling extras from Michael Jackson's Thriller video, but these guys aren't far behind.

Am I saying the Angels are still a third-place team? Nope. Am I saying the Mariners are going to win the pennant? Nope. Am I saying Bavasi has improved the Mariners? Not even close. What I am saying is that the evidence would show that 2004 in the American League West will be the three-team race that we were promised last year. While signing Vlad doesn't bring the Angels the pennant on a silver platter, it does make the division exponentially more interesting. And as Derek notes, if Lady Luck were to smile ever so subtly on the Mariners this year, the odds are not quite so bad.

Oh, and am I the only one who will be feeling a bit of guilty glee that Jeff Nelson will be throwing his increasingly hittable frisbees in Texas blue? According to Ranger GM John Hart, "He has pitched in the seventh and eighth inning for a number of years, and he's been outstanding." Riiight. Outstanding at allowing inherited runners to score. Welcome back to the West, Nellie.

And lastly, over the weekend, Carlos Lugo of Baseball Prospectus gave a wrap-up of the Winter Dominican League (it is a premium article, and I whole-heartedly endorse a Baseball Prospectus subscription). His choice for best pitcher in the league? Hot rumormongering subject Rafael Soriano who went 1-1 in 7 starts with an infintismally microscopic ERA of 0.21. According to Lugo, "The guy allowed just 19 hits and TWO extra-base hits in 42.1 innings pitched. It wasn't his teammates either, as he pitched in front of the league's worst defense according to defensive efficiency ratings. The Lions featured one of the worst offensive groups in the history of the league, scoring just 3.3 runs per game." Talk about bad luck.

If Bavasi trades him, and the Mariners don't receive Barry Bonds in return, I'm signing the petition.
|| Peter @ 1/12/2004