Diagnostics, June 2006
Since June is almost through, and it's been awhile, I'd like to take a moment to run this team through the diagnostics.
1) George Sherrill > 50 IP?
After some indecision as to his role, it seems that Hargrove has settled into using George as a LOOGY -- the past couple of games, of course, being an abberation moreso than a norm. He's currently on pace for 42-43 innings -- the same pace as when last we took a look at the diagnostic dipstick. Again, I'll reiterate:
Corey Brock seems to really like writing about George. Yet another article, pointing out his sheer dominance vs. lefties, appeared last week. Probably goes back to Brock's days as a Tribune reporter, in the Cheney neighborhood. It's common knowledge his lefty-righty splits are pretty dog-gone wide. But still, as the season progresses, George settles in and becomes a better pitcher. When he gets the chance, of course.
I'm getting ready to pull those "Free George Sherrill" placards and banners out from the burn barrel.
2) Where does Lopez start the season (a.k.a. how much playing time does Willie Bloomquist get)?
While he did start in favor of Lopez last week, Bloomquist has become the platoon partner for Jeremy Reed, not Lopez, as I had suspected. We can give Hargrove a mulligan for starting Bloomquist at second while Lopez recovered from injury. That's actually a good role for Bloomquist -- provided those starts are few and far between. Platooning with Reed is still not a good role for Bloomie.
As pretty much everyone in the blog-o-sphere recommended (and I did last diagnostic check-in), they moved Lopez out of the 2-hole and into the 3-hole. That's been an OK move -- in that moving Beltre to the 2-hole has helped him. Looking at Jose's splits, however, we see that his OPS has dropped over 100 points, since moving down a spot in the order. Mostly due to a 100+ point drop in SLG. His OBP is basically the same, but his BA and SLG are way down. Not exactly sure what to make of his 96 at-bats there.
But the fact that he's starting to open some eyes nationally can't be all bad. We'll keep him, thanks.
3) Will Kenji Johjima and Rafael Chaves have any measurable impact on the pitching staff?
Dr. Detecto's recent thoughts suggest that Gil Meche has most benefitted from Kenji Johjima's pitch calling ability. The other starters don't seem to be quite as comfortable. John Hickey backs this theory up, reminding the M's pitchers that they can "always, always, always just say no" to a pitch that Kenji calls for. So, while Kenji could be credited for having a positive impact on Gil, the same reasoning could allow one to say that he's caused the others to struggle. I'm still not sure what the diagnostic reads. Same on Chaves. He seems to be behind the scenes, and no one's saying anything really positive or really negative. I'd say that Kenji may have had a slight impact, but Chaves hasn't. Too hard to tell, really.
4: How far will the "Hinge" players who disappointed last season bounce back?
- Ichiro -- what more needs to be said about Ichiro, except: He's BAAAAAAAACK!!! I'll give him his customary exclamation point back: Ichiro!
- Adrian Beltre -- En fuego! Still smokin' hot since last we checked in. The move to the 2-hole has worked out brilliantly for Adrian. Not exactly sure why, but it's working. Not something I'd tinker with right now.
- Jeremy Reed -- stock is still falling. Definitely isn't bouncing back. Still not sure what's happening here. Still solid defensively. Should hit better, but Hargrove's platoon plan can't be helping.
- Joel Pineiro -- Oops. Definitely won't receive any player-of-the-month awards anytime soon.
- Gil Meche -- Still on pace for 175+ innings (actually 189, to be exact). Has been mostly effective, and somewhat consistent as of late. Trade value couldn't be higher -- except if the M's are going to make a run for the division, who'd they replace him with?
Not yet. Especially since cRyan has yet to relinquish his title as Sir Home Run. Philly hasn't made him a starter yet, although we'll see what happens with Myers pulling his head out of his rump and facing his family problems head on. Doubt it'll happen, though. He's a bullpen mop-up guy now. We got plenty of those in Seattle. We need a starting pitcher who won't blow a 5-run first-inning gift from the offense.
Other than that, I'd be less-than-complete in my thoughts if I neglected to mention how Hargrove's decision making is still maddening me. Not sure if I blame him or Mateo for giving up two runs for George tonight. Definitely both. The M's are winning in spite of Hargrove. He really tried to blow it tonight, but Kenji and Richie had somethin' to say about it.
Two things worth celebrating, though, at this diagnostic check-up. The M's will not be losers in June -- the first time they've had a winning month in a long, long time. Also -- they're now back to .500 late in the season. My guess of 80-85 wins isn't out of the question, which is a HUGE improvement, and would ultimately be a better measure of the direction this team is headed.
It's getting exciting again. That's all I ask, really!