Sunday, July 30, 2006

Doyle Update, Photos...

Time's limited, as is energy, since I had to get up extra early on a Saturday morning to drop my wife off at the airport, so I could spend the better part of a week without my better half to help manage my darn-near-5 year old. Thanks a ton to my brother-in-law, we were able to sneak into the front of the line at Cheney last night, where everyone was there to win the early 90's Dodge Caravan that they gave away in the first inning. Oh, and they happened to be giving away autographed baseballs, too.

Speaking of autographs, I took Joey (my kid -- I'm pretty sure you knew that) down to the Rainiers' dugout to mix with those kids and adults who happen to flock that general area about half an hour before game time. Of course, since we were in the gates early, there were only a few people down there until the players started coming out (upon which there was a near mosh pit type crushing going on). Robby Johnson put on his catching gear and ran right past the crowd. As did Cruceta. After all, they had much more important things to do (like, you know, warm up). I found it quite fitting that on the night that I'd kinda regretted not printing out a large copy of this picture that I'd intended to eBay to help our fellow bloggers USSM financially recover from their massive disintegration, it was none other than the guy who caused all the commotion in the first place who was the first to stop and sign autographs. Darn -- I really missed out on an opportunity to complete a cosmic, karmic circle or something.

Figuring it was somewhat OK to gab with him as he was signing his name to stuff, I asked Doyle how the shoulder was. He reassured us that it was completely fine. Considering he was starting the game in right field, it obviously wasn't too big a deal. A conversation I had with Bavasi during the game, too, reconfirmed that. As did the picture I shot just before the 8th inning:

In the second inning, however, we all booed pretty loudly when Doyle was smacked with a pitch.

Yeah, R.A. Dickey's a knuckleballer and all that, but I'm sure it hurt. Watching him over at first, he looked so angry you just knew he was going to steal second. Unfortunately, however, Dickey and Tom Gregorio had the same thoughts, and Doyle was thrown out at second.

I mentioned that Bavasi confirmed that Doyle's shoulder was OK. Yeah, he was there last night. I ran into him on the way to taking Joey to one of his many potty breaks. Joey was asking who this 'stranger' was that I was talking to, and I told him he was "the boss of the Mariners." I probably blew it by being hypocritcal with that whole "Don't talk to Strangers!" life lesson. But, hey, while I don't really know him, and he doesn't know me, Bavasi isn't exactly a stranger. He was totally into the game, yet still able to respond to Joey's incessant attempts to give him a high-5, simultaneous to answering my silly questions. And, no, one of them wasn't "Did my 'Bavasi losing Face' blog article inspire you to dump C-Rex?"

The R's took control of R.A. Dickey early on, plating 8 runs in the first three innings (4 each in the 2nd and 3rd). Cruceta pitched well, and showed much better control. As is typical at Cheney, the umpire had a very inconsistent strike zone, and he ended up with 4 walks and 6 hits in 6 innings. He just seemed a bit more poised on the mound to me, and while I totally spaced and didn't take a picture of it, he had lots of fist-pumping moments on K's to end innings. Looked a LOT better this time around than when I saw him last.

Robby Johnson had a great night (3-4), and little Oswaldo Navarro (I SWEAR I heard the Cheney PA announcer almost say "Asdrubal Cabrera" when he came to the plate once) hit a home run.

Nice to see the R's win one. A 9-2 victory is something you can tip your hat to:

Here's the photo album. It's pretty empty now, but I'll add many more pix. It'll take me a little longer, because I'm working on improving my pictures, and will be a little more fussy with how I process them. Okay, it's 1:30 a.m. on Monday morning. Finally got the pictures uploaded.

Plus, you know, my wife's out of town, and I've gotta keep at least 1/3 an eye on Joey.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Hello, dear readers, it's been far too long since I've had the chance to describe my opinions to you.
And my, what a couple of weeks for opinion-fodder. ..

1: The trade
The acquisition of Ben Broussard is either purely great, or sort of bittersweet. It's all in one's perspective. DOV and PI are firmly in the camp that this move is nothing short of a coup; the M's get a real impact bat from the left side to match up with Perez from the right. Choo? Who cares, he was blocked anyway, and Hargrove refused to lose him. He had no future here.
All of that is true, of course. And yet, as Christina Karl wrote at BP (only to be savaged at LL...god, and they say Government overuses acronyms),
"The problem is that they've now dealt another top prospect to get the other half of a DH platoon in place, and while I like Broussard well enough, and like the fact that the Mariners recognize that the division's wide open and flags fly forever and all that, they've given up an awful lot to get bats that don't significantly improve their chances as much as they just paper over last winter's mistakes."

It hurts, but, for all the pshaws and 'Kahrl hates the M's' stuff, there's more than a grain of truth there. No one's arguing that Ben Broussard won't help the M's. He will, guaranteed. But why is it so easy to make a guarantee like that? We brought in lefty/switch DH-types in the offseason, and we spent a fair bit for them (well, for Everett). This move shows that Bavasi's off-season attempts to get a half-decent DH utterly failed. That's not exactly news to a region that's relished every opportunity to trash C-Rex, but it's also sort of tough to keep out of one's mind when reviewing the trades for our new two-headed monster DH. Other teams don't seem to need to give up quality 'spects, why do we?
I've said often that getting platoon guys to play DH isn't hard. I've never been a GM; I remain a guy with a computer, so feel free to discount that assertion. But really - the offseason has plenty of Hee Seop Chois, and Roberto Petagines, and Branyans and Thames by the dozen. I may be overestimating the ease with which you can find these guys, and the number of free agents signings the M's have DFA'd (correctly so, too) shows I might be. But even thinking the Broussard deal is awesome, you've got to start thinking that something's amiss in the way the team looks at freely available talent. That's not saying it's always free, or that plugging in AAA star X is guaranteed to do better than free agent Y, but dang it, I want OUR David Ortiz. Or at least our Kevin Millar.
The other problem (jeebus, I sound negative) is that this continues a trend wherein the M's seem to be conflating a hot streak with a player's true talent level. The M's got Eduardo Perez at the absolute peak of his value; I think even Perez himself would admit he's simply not a .980 OPS guy, even as a platoon partner. Broussard's seen his BABIP go from .287 last year to .371 this year. He's hitting fewer line drives and more GBs. DOV suspects that this is a good thing, and opines that this heralds a new, more sluggery approach at the plate (yes, that is a word. It was coined in honor of Ken Phelps.). It's a testable hypothesis. But does anyone think these guys are going to continue doing what they've done this year? Check out Perez' three year splits here , and then try and convince me he's a .600 slg RHB. Peruse Broussard's stats here or here and I think you get an idea why I'm, er, not quite at JAC levels of excitement.
I think a very optimistic forecast puts them at 80% of their current pace. And yet, 80% of their current pace is *amazing.* My problem isn't that the M's traded Choo for Broussard; the M's will get a lot out of Broussard, and seemed determined not to get anything out of Choo. Sometimes you need to make a deal, even though the timing and 'price' aren't really in your favor. This is an actual MLB season, and not some keeper league that you can brag about at Sickels' place ("i drafted Hunter Pence in the 5th round of my league!" "pfff... I nabbed Matt Garza in the 6th round of mine...and the draft was on April 4th"). So again - I love this move, and it definitely helps the M's chances to make the playoffs.
But, despite the fact that he didn't exactly light up the offseason this past spring, it's not totally Bavasi's fault that this move *was* necessary. The moves look especially great when viewed through the incredibly dysfunctional prism that is the M's GM/Manager relationship. Grover seems determined to assert control by sabotaging the minor moves of his GM. The GM then steps in and, as Paul describes below, removes the Manager's unhealthy obsessions. And so it goes. Seriously, is it like this everywhere? Am I incredibly naive, and it's basically a baseball truism that such a power struggle impacts the on-field performance of the team? Next you'll tell me that life isn't fair, that there is no Santa Claus and that when someone tells you they think you've got a 'great personality' *they may simply be changing the subject.*
I think Bavasi's done incredibly well under circumstances that suck. It's tough for those of us outside the team to understand how hard it might be to change those circumstances, but that doesn't stop us from offering up our unedited, rambling, strongly-held opinions on them.

2: nah, I've wasted enough of your time, dear reader, and I thank those of you who've made it through. More later.

Now, About Bavasi's Face...

I'm real curious if Bill Bavasi reads my blog. I seriously doubt it, of course. Seriously doubt it.

Exactly one week ago, I wrote a post on how, in my eyes, Bavasi was losing face. Whatever facial skin cells that were lost a week ago have been completely and totally regenerated. While I do have some connections within the game, I'm nowhere near as connected as several other folks. I was pretty much running under the assumption that as long as Hargrove was around, Everett was going to be here, no matter how poorly he performed. I actually had no problem with Everett, and thought he was probably a good fit in the clubhouse, but his on-the-field performance was hurting the team's chances of winning, and his ability to get his point across in that clubhouse.

The fact that Bavasi took his authority by the horns, and removed Carl Everett from the roster probably made Mike Hargrove very, very angry. As in -- "You can bring up Snelling, Yoda, Doyle, or whatever you call him, and I'll absolutely refuse to play him no matter what" angry. Now, one of the commonly-understood things about Bavasi is that he's EXTREMELY loyal -- perhaps, even, to a fault. It's why he left the Angels, after all, refusing to fire someone that his superiors wanted to fire. Upsetting his field manager, no matter how well they are in sync (and, no, I'm not talking about THAT type of 'N Sync - wink, wink; nudge, nudge say no more), is something he really tries to avoid.

I'm fairly certain, then, that he softened the blow to Hargrove by trading a player that Hargrove seemed to loathe for a MLB-proven bat, who's having a pretty good year at the plate, even if it has been as a platoon split. You'll recall that a few weeks ago, the M's made my blogmate marc w pretty irate by trading away Asdrubal Cabrera for the first half of Cleveland's "Benuardo" platoon. The fact that Hargrove didn't play him like he should have, too, made ME more irate. I would assume that Bavasi calmed everyone's nerves by trading Shin-soo Choo away for the better half. Choo+Drubes for Perez+Broussard. May not have been the best use of those trade chips, but you can't really argue that (in combination) this is an upgrade that will help both this year and in the next 2-3 years. Choo and Drubes were precisely spare parts for the M's. Good spare parts, of course, that could develop into decent-quality major leaguers. But if there's one thing we know -- prospects don't always pan out. If you can get a good, proven MLB player for those prospects, you take a serious look at that deal.

I'm all for stealing good ideas, as long as it's legal. I agree with Dave Cameron's rule of thumb in last night's "USSM in a Foster Home" game thread -- an idea stolen from Mark Shapiro is probably a good one. I also agree with Dr. Detecto's take on this. It may be bigger than upgrading from the M's 7-headed monster at catcher to Kenji Johjima. I see it more like upgrading from 1993 Omar Vizquel's bat to 1996 A-Rod's.

This should be a good trade for all parties involved. Choo goes to an organization that favors prospects, and likely treats him right. Broussard brings his lefty bat to Safeco, and his personality will fit right in with this club. Bill's happy, Mark's happy. Carl's happy, Hargrove's happy.

I'm happy.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Wow. I'm stunned here. Don't really know what to say. Glad to see this move, as I didn't really expect it, considering Bavasi's tendencies to be loyal.

Heh. Loyal rhymes with Doyle.

I bet there's a senryu in there somewhere. Not that senryu is supposed to rhyme.

Everett's DFA
Hargrove's loyalty aside
Made room for Doyle

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hot, Hot, Hot!

I dunno about your house, but it's really hot in mine! I just walked past the thermostat, and the temp inside my house is 92 degrees. It's at least that hot outside, but there's somewhat of a breeze going. Even though the ratio's pretty much the same, I'll have to start opening the windows pretty darn soon. As soon as that gaseous orb that we never get to see in Western Washington hides behind the row of cedar trees along my back fence, those windows are flyin' open!

After a pretty intense game of back-and-forth, the M's ultimately won the battle. The curse of the Slocumb trade still haunts us, but that curse was neutralized by another reliever the M's sacrificed a bit of the future for. Since the only bullpen arm I would've considered trading for just landed in San Diego, I don't really want to see the M's go after another one. Ridding ourselves of Julio Mateo when Sean Green decides that he's healthy would be just fine by me. Man, wouldn't it be nice if we could sucker some team out of their Varitek/Lowe for our Slocumb! Hello Jim Bowden -- er, wait. He already made one of those deals, and, well, let's just say he wasn't on the receiving end of the Slocumb this time.

On that note, the M's are hot, hot, hot!!! They took a series from the AL-East leading Red Sox. They were a Mike Reilly blown call away from taking one from the second-place Yankees. They hung in there vs. the Blue Jays. With barely a week to go before the first trading deadline, the M's are still in the race. Yes, they have to leapfrog 3 other teams. But, really, none of those teams has decided to go for the gusto yet. The Angels are probably the most primed -- with the best set of pitchers, arguably, and some decent offensive reinforcements thrown in with the deepest pool of talent in their farm system, should they decide to make a run on one of the more available bats. But they lost two out of four (almost a third) to Kansas City. Yes. Kansas City.

It's nice to have some more momentum, going into another series with the Blue Jays. Park Factors should control Glaus. The inside-the-park HR should pump up Beltre's confidence. It'll be an interesting pitching matchup, with Halliday vs. Meche. The Baseball gods owe Meche for the debacle last week in Yankee Stadium. That it'll probably land on Pineiro's shoulders shouldn't surprise us, but still.

Let's hope the weather cools off 'round here, but that the M's don't. It's time to take the division! The M's can do it, and they should focus on doing it. Rebuild, schmeebuild. I'm sick of losing! Let's leave these foes in the dust!!!!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Sold, But Not Leaving Town!

(as posted in the Lookout Landing diaries this morning):

No, this isn't another thread about the Sonics potentially leaving town. This one's actually about baseball.

I heard on the radio this morning, and saw it confirmed on the Rainiers web site, that the Tacoma Rainiers have finally been sold. George Foster (Foster Farms) has been trying to sell the team for awhile, and a Texas group that has other minor league interests bought the team.

Damn. I was going to buy the team when I won the mega-Lottery. Just to be sure to keep it in town.

It sounds like, though, that they're not going to be moved. They're already talking about rennovating Cheney, renewing the lease, and extending the player development contract with the Mariners.

Sad news for me, good news for Rainiers fans!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bavasi Losing Face

I've been a supporter of Bavasi for quite awhile. I've stood against those who banter about the "Fire Bavasi" perspective. I've trusted his judgment through the questionable trades and even MORE questionable signings. But the one thing that sticks out in my mind is his treatment of Chris "Doyle" Snelling.

If you recall, the M's had a decision to make with Snelling to start the season. They needed a roster spot to make room for a decent backup catcher (Quiroz), and Bavasi decided to DFA Carvajal rather than place Snelling on the 60-day DL. The reason that Bavasi gave for not putting Snelling on the 60-day DL was along the lines that it was more of a mental thing for Snelling. Bavasi wanted to give Snelling a bit of a psychological break.

Now, however, what favor is Bill giving Chris by holding him down in Tacoma, while Carl Everett sucks roster space and crucial at-bats up in Seattle? It's been waaaay more than 60 days, and I'd like to think that the extra 40-man spot freed up (take your pick -- Lawton, Borchard, Carvajal) would have helped the M's more than the psychological negative vibes would've hurt Snelling.

I've seen Chris a few times in Tacoma. He's struggled a little bit, but his defense has been solid, and he appears to be healthy enough. Maybe marc or Oly Rainiers Fan can give a little more insight, but it doesn't appear to me that Snelling needs any more time in Tacoma.

A brief discussion
over at Prospect Insider gives us, possibly, one reason for Snelling's extended stay in Tacoma. Jason suspects (as does a wide group of others) that Hargrove's insistance on Everett is blocking Snelling's return.


Does anyone believe that Hargrove's lovefest for Everett is reciprocated -- that Everett likes Hargrove as much as Hargrove likes Everett? I have many reasons to believe that it's not -- starting with Everett's little tirade shortly after the M's landed Perez. If Hargrove's own 'ally' is against him, then, then why are the M's so intent on keeping Hargrove and/or Everett around? Why doesn't Bavasi do something about this situation?

I'm of the belief that Bavasi doesn't have ultimate authority over roster/coaching decisions. Based on his track record, that may not be a bad thing. But still, I don't see Chuck Armstrong retiring any time soon, and even if he did, there's no reason to believe that the M's would take Bedirthanaverage's suggestion to replace Armstrong with Bavasi. It's fairly common knowledge that Bavasi's strength as an executive is moreso in the field of farm system management, especially when partnered with Bob Fontaine's drafting knack.

That's an important reason to keep Bavasi around -- the seismic aftershocks of decimation wrought about by the failures of the farm system to produce much outside of the international market (which, actually, is somewhat of an understated area of overlooked success, in light of the common criticism of the Gillick era) have started to subside. Some Bavasi-era trades, a couple of drafts, and a focus on rebuilding from the rubble seems to point to an improvement in the farm system.

But the fact that he either has no authority or hasn't used his authority to remove some obvious holes in the clubhouse and in the lineup cannot be overlooked. Again, I've been one of Bavasi's biggest supporters. But I'm really starting to tire of his lack of proper action.

It's not like he's averse to risk...

Monday, July 17, 2006

By George, the Numbers!

I know I'm taking a HUGELY jinx-able risk here with this post, but I wanted to bring some stuff into the forefront a bit. Don't worry, elsid and family, I've knocked quite hard on my oak kitchen/dining room table several times, of course, just in case.

What follows are a couple of things you might not have known about George's performance thus far in 2006. Not only is George the only pitcher (that's been on the roster for the entire year) who hasn't given up a home run, but he has also yet to allow any of his ERA-affecting runs to score himself. Sure, I suppose you could argue that Hargrove's choke-chain leash-snappings minimize this a bit, and that its moreso due to the LOOGY factor than anything. Still, he's made 41 appearances (to the tune of ~25 innings) and that's AT LEAST 41 opportunities to give up a long ball. That he hasn't is really quite remarkable. Even if he has faced mostly lefties.

Actually, though, while he has faced more lefties than righties, George's splits show that that gap isn't as far as it seems. Well, true, the gap between the RESULTS of George's lefty-righty splits is quite wide (but narrowing every day). But he's only faced 5 more lefties than he has righties. It felt a lot more like 2- or 3-to-1 to me.

Looking at the numbers, George has had 9 runners which he's left on base score. If I'm reading ESPN's stats correctly (and I don't know where else to find such stats), I see that he's inherited 34 baserunners (IR) and allowed 8 of them to score (IS). Elsid and I were chatting about this the other day, and he mentioned that JJ Putz is the bullpen leader, percentage-wise, in this stat (5 IS/25 IR according to JJ's ESPN stats), George is second and Soriano's 10/34 is third.

So, the IRAS (Inherited Runners Allowed to Score) for George is about even with his BRAS (Bequeathed Runners Allowed to Score). His K/BF and K/9 ratio is still quite good (over 9 K/9). The one thing that's affecting him are his hits, as well as his nearly doubled BB/9 and his well-weakened K/BB rate. He's putting a ton more guys on base in the first place this year. That it's continued past the halfway point is somewhat worrysome. Of course, we're probably rather biased (okay, there's no "probably" about it), but it does appear that George's strikezone is very inconsistent. Even on Opening Day it seemed to be apparent that George will have to get guys to swing in order for them to strike out. That could explain a bit of the jump in BAA (for righties anyway -- Fortunately George is still pretty much death to most lefties).

A consequence of leaving baserunners, multiplied with the LOOGY-choke-chain factor, is that his ERA is totally dependent on others' performances -- not that ERA is a good measure, of course, of a pitcher (especially a reliever). I know it isn't, and that looking at relievers' ERAs and judging them is total folly. But anyway, I digress...

Last year, it seemed to be JJ Putz or Jeff Nelson that padded George's ERA. This year, it seems to be Mateo. So, to be fair to Julio, I actually tried to put together a list of the guilty -- the guys who allowed George's runners to score once he left the game. As with all hypotheses, I wanted to verify my assumption and possibly gather some data to throw at folks when they ask me why I want the next move the M's make to be the Julio Mateo DFA (if they're not going to DFA Everett and Fire Hargrove).

So, I went back to George's Game Log on Yahoo (since it was the first place I found it) to track down when George was charged with a run. I then looked at the game logs and play-by-play data (not pitch-by-pitch, although I can totally see how much more helpful that might be to analyze) to see who gave up the run(s) and how.

I did my work first in Excel, and exported it into an HTML file, since that's the only way I know how to display tables in Blogger. The results? Of the 9 runs that other pitchers have surrendered on behalf of George, the breakdown appears as follows:

JJ Putz: 2
Sean Green: 2
Rafael Soriano: 3
Julio Mateo: 3

So, my theory that the load was unbalanced in Mateo's favor didn't pan out to be true. Soriano's equally guilty. I suppose that if I'm going to go deep into an anti-Mateo rant using those situations as an example, I'd be less than honest, and would have to bring Soriano into the discussion.

I know sample size is a huge issue here, but still. There's no conclusive data that points to the conclusion I wanted to make with it. Now you know why I rarely dabble in the numbers ;-) Still, although this tiny piece of analysis doesn't really support my original theory, the fact that Mateo leads the club in IRAS (with Woods being a close second -- and having a higher percentage) is cause for concern. Is it because he's getting a ton of inherited runners? Nope, he's 10 behind George and Raffey. Mateo and Woods are not the types of pitchers you want to have coming to the mound with runners on base.

But, unfortunately, Mateo's the guy that Hargrove loves to pull in to clean up the 'mess'. Here's to hoping that Lowe's confidence is built up by his success and that Hargrove's trust in Lowe develops him further.

And that George is allowed to clean up his own messes. I'm sick and tired of that sinking feeling when someone else is called upon to do so. They often don't get the job done...

Now Back To Seriousness...

I have a legitimate question:

I'm honestly curious if someone can come up with a list of decisions by Hargrove that:

a) positively affected the outcome of a game;
b) would've been a unique decision that another manager would not have made.

I'm sure I can come up with a list of the converse (decisions by Hargrove that NEGATIVELY affected the outcome of a game, and would've been a decision another manager WOULD NOT HAVE MADE).

I've followed a lot of M's games closely this year, and I'm seriously trying hard to brush away the negatives to see if there are any positives I can focus on with Hargrove. I obviously need some help with that. If anyone can give me a legit list, I'd more than appreciate it!!!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Free Dan Rohn, Part MCMXLVII^4

With all this talk about how bad Hargrove's managing has been over the last series especially, there's got to be a way to reach Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong to give Bavasi the blessing to give Mike the boot. The guy is very seriously bad for my health. Just ask my wife. Or my son.

Of course, I probably should be much, much more like my twin brother from a different mother and emotionally (and physically) detach myself from this team. Unfortunately he inherited all the self-control genes, leaving me with the addiction. I know, I know -- the Mariners don't care about me, and I'm just a marionette in their little ideological puppet show. One thing's for sure -- they don't seem to care about their fans. Howard Lincoln came on the pre-game show and reiterated that for me.

Hmm. Maybe there's one way to do it. Class action lawsuit. Seriously -- I'm sure there can be SOME correlation made between my escalating blood pressure and my addiction to all things Mariners. Heck, just like Stella Liebeck knew that McDonalds coffee was hot, I know that the M's are bad for my heart. Maybe they've intentionally drug me into the abyss, and their massive luring and entrapment can be legally challenged in the court of law. Imagine Judge Judy presiding!

So anyway -- I have a fresh idea for letting the Mariners save some face while firing Hargrove. Just like the 1969 Seattle Supersonics did, the Mariners could name a player-coach. If they're not going to give Rohn his deserved shot, then why couldn't they do that? I've got one person in mind who would help the M's pull this off. Willie Bloomquist. Why the heck not?

He'd be no worse than Hargrove.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Roberto, Roberto, Wherefore Art Thou, Roberto???

When the M's decided to DFA Roberto Petagine to bring up a backup catcher as a 40-man placeholder for subsequent, post-ASG moves, the buzz around the blogs was that Snelling was going to be the one brought up. Then Dave Cameron (of USS Mariner fame) and Jason Churchill discovered that Adam Jones was going to get called up.

Today, however, it's been confirmed that the M's are indeed throwing Adam Jones into the fire, giving him the chance to further convert from a pitcher/shortstop into a much-needed Centerfielder. So, fine. That's where Petagine's 40-man spot is going (having been borrowed for a day by Luis Oliveros).

But wait -- there's more!

Catching the same flight into Toronto, ladies and gentlemen, is Greg Dobbs! Hmm. As Corco and I discussed over at LookoutLanding, there's another 40-man move that needs to be made.

So, now, Choo goes back down to further develop with Tacoma, while Jones takes his place and Dobbs inherits Petagine's Bench Spot of Doom. Now seriously, I probably shouldn't blow a gasket on this move, but it does make me wonder. I would, of course, prefer Petagine's bat over Greg Dobbs'. But I'm not Mike Hargrove running this team as if the roster only allows for 18 1/3 players (9 hitters/fielders; 5 starting pitchers, Putz/Soriano/Mateo, Bloomquist and 1/3rd of GS52).

Only thing I can think of is that Dobbs' defensive liabilities are much less significant than Petagine's. Or that Bloomquist let Dobbs join in on his blackmail conspiracy.

Enough already!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Adam Jones Called Up

(heh. Gotta have some graphics! --PositivePaul)

So, you've read it everywhere else, and wanted to, um, read it again here at MM. It's true, Adam Jones is set to become the M's fourth starting CF in the past 20 games or so. And here we were all set to tune in and hear how he'd do in the AAA all-star game, which starts in about 45 minutes or so.

My thoughts: well, as you all know, I'm one of the bigger Jones believers out there; I've never seen such a young prospect learn so quickly. Everyone develops and learns new skills, especially gifted athletes like Jones. But his approach at the plate today is simply unrecognizeable compared to the Adam Jones of May. Not May 2004 or 2005, I mean about 10 weeks ago. Check out his minor league stats here - USSM/LL have quoted these, so it shouldn't be unfamiliar, but look at the month-to-month progression in OBP and K/BB ratio. That's astounding - to go from 20:1 in April to 1:5 in (small sample size) July... I don't know what to compare this to; what sorts of comparables would you use for this?

But does that mean he's ready for the majors? Well, honestly, probably not. He's still raw - punishing fastballs with his unearthly batspeed, but still trying to fight off breaking pitches. Having seen him a lot, I should say that a lot of the scouting reports are a bit too bleak on his ability to deal with off-speed stuff. It's not like he's 0-2006 on curves - it's a pattern, not an absolute rule. I'm also a bit worried by his weird reverse platoon split. He's shown a marked inability to hit lefties. Or rather, to make contact with pitches hurled by southpaws: he's 9-70 vs. lefties (.128), but 5 of those 9 are for extra-bases. I'm fairly certain this will level out as he gets more exposure to lefties, and who knows, maybe 'by the book' managers will help out and keep RHPs in to face him. The problem is that it will probably start levelling out sometime in 2008 or so. He's just not going to get the reps needed for a while yet.

Shin-Soo Choo's defensive struggles are what precipitated this move, so is Jones an improvement? Again, I think the scouting reports are a bit too pessimistic. His route running is suboptimal (though still probably an improvement over Choo), but he actually gets great jumps on the ball. Choo and even Jeremy Reed, when he was in Tacoma, seemed to have real trouble judging the ball off the bat. Jones always seems to know where to go. He may not know the best way to get there, and he's still prone to little mental lapses (he's made some silly errors - dropped balls, etc.), but the raw material of a plus-plus defender in center is there. His arm will surprise a lot of AL hitters trying to stretch a single into a double, and as many have pointed out, if the M's keep Choo around to spell Ibanez in left, the OF of Choo/Jones/Ichiro may be one of the strongest throwing OF groups in baseball history.

Will this hamper his development? It's tough to say - he was able to work through his struggles remarkably quickly in Tacoma. He'll probably struggle the remainder of the year, but Bavasi obviously believes in Jones' make-up. It's a tough call, but given what he did between May and June, or May and July, I'm inclined to give Bavasi the benefit of the doubt here. I would've loved to see the M's keep Jones in AAA the entire year, but we're dealing with a bad set of circumstances. On the plus side, and it's a big plus, the M's avoid making a rash trade for a crappy NL CF like Juan Pierre or Willy Taveras. Thank you, but we can put a low OBP fast guy out in CF AND avoid giving up prospects and cash. On the down side, this move signals that Choo got about 10ABs to prove himself, and that's insane. I'm hoping, though I have little faith this will happen, that Choo gets into some ballgames in left. If any of you are hoping for a platoon, Choo hits lefties about as well as Jones (although Choo's got the excuse that he IS left handed). My biggest fear is that this signals the end of Choo-as-Seattle-starter; that he's essentially typecast as the 4th OF that so many have pegged him at. [Edited after looking at JAC's wise words of caution/bile at prospectinsider]

The other potential problem is that the M's get tired of his struggles and rashly demote him. They've got to know that the kid needs reps - if he just struggles and they then bench him or drop him back, he'll be losing development time. I'm hoping Bavasi shows some backbone on this, but after what they've done with Choo ("Mr. Choo, thanks for coming in." "Hey, thanks, I just wa.." "NEXT!"), I'm not going to hold my breath. To sum up, Jones is a special kid, but it'll still take a front office/manager with some foresight and intestinal fortitude to make sure this goes well. Your evaluation of this move, as with so many others, is to a large degree the product of your faith in the people running this team. *gulp...*

From what I've seen, I'm not that worried about Jones' development or confidence. He's a confident guy, and didn't fall apart when he was *clearly* overmatched after his last early promotion. I see no reason to think this time will be different. That doesn't mean I think he'll actually hit well, of course, but stranger things have happened. The odds of this move doing serious damage to Jones as a prospect are low, but then the odds of this move spurring a pennant run may be lower. I'm a bit nervous, but more than a bit excited right now...

Welcome to the show, Adam!

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Meche, A Conundrum

I got a decent chance to watch Gil Meche pitch yesterday, after really trying to avoid it. It looks like the M's are using a different pitching philosophy with Gil than they are with Felix. It's certainly debatable whose stuff is better -- the thing with Meche is that he's always had "good stuff" and that he just needed to learn how to use it. I'd probably rate Felix's curve and change-up a little better than Meche's right now, so certainly you have to examine why the pitching strategies are different for the two pitchers.

Meche last night seemed to be using his curveball a lot at the start of counts. In the at-bats in which I was paying close attention to, he started the batter out with 2-3 straight breaking pitches. The results were different, of course, with each batter -- a few more aggressive type hitters (Granderson, Shelton) would bite at the curve, while guys like Guillen and Ordonez seemed to watch it go by -- and more often for a ball than for a strike.

Dave Cameron initiated some good discussion on Gil Meche over at USS Mariner last night. Of course, Dr. Detecto and Silent Padna have some further discussion over at Detect-O-Vision. I have my own views -- driven less by statistical analysis and more by "who does this player remind me of -- and are those good memories or bad memories..."

Right now, I'm looking at Gil Meche and am reminded of Freddy Garcia in 2002. Back then (before I was addicted to blogging and message boards), I was screaming for the M's to trade him at the All-Star break. His trade value was pretty high back then, coming off an 18-6/3.05 season, and starting the year 11-5 with a 3.44 ERA. Of course, those things aren't what I judge a starting pitcher by, but I'm not a MLB GM. I feel the same way about Gil Meche right now.

And now for the conundrum.

Unlike in 2002, when the M's farm system seemed to be loaded with replacements -- this year, the farm system is pretty depleted. The M's were basically in the pennant race in 2002, just like they are in 2006. The 2002 M's chose to "Stand Pat" and blew the division lead, and haven't been the same since. What happened to Freddy Garcia? He went 5-5, and got pummled for a 5.66 ERA (with a .306 BAA). And in 2003? He got worse.

This is my fear -- Gil Meche's trade value couldn't get any higher, really, and I'm not convinced he's going to sustain the "success" he's shown so far in 2006. The stakes are a lot higher this time around, and the M's 2006 pennant chances very much hinge on what the M's decide to do with Gil Meche. I personally believe that they really need to add starting pitching -- both for a 2006 pennant run and for any hope of competing in 2007. Losing Gil Meche -- either via collapse or via trade -- really would hurt the M's both now and in the long-term.

My suggestion? Pray for Gil ;-) And let Felix in on Meche's pitching strategy.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Useful MLB Pitcher After All?

Pitcher A threw 7 shutout innings tonight, allowing only 1 hit and striking out 6. He got 10 GB outs to 4 flies (and 1 line drive). In his last game, he also went 7, giving up 2R on 6H against 7Ks. The time before that? 7 1/3IP, 1R, 4ks. Sounds intriguing, doesn't he? Yeah, it's not exactly Jimenez's sparkling 1R in 38IP, but it's nothing to scoff at.

As you probably know, 'Pitcher A' is none other than Cha Seung Baek, who's quietly having a great season in Tacoma. M's fans have been wary of him, because his stuff isn't all that great, because he gives up HRs, and because his shot in the MLB rotation in the disastrous 2004 campaign didn't go all that well (except for one game vs. Texas). That and his disastrous 2005 (8-8, 6.41 ERA, 147 hits in 113 2/3 IP) made him look eerily like a Korean Craig Anderson: someone who got by in the lower minors on control and guile, but who's simply too hittable for quality opposition.
Baek's doing what he can to dispel that idea - but is anyone watching anymore? Many in the M's blogosphere (incl. me, and basically everyone else) have written him off as an org pitcher - not a prospect at all. I was at his 7inning one-hitter early in the year, and probably made all sorts of excuses for it: it was early, the hitters aren't ready yet. It was against Colorado Springs, who suck. It was an afternoon start and the shadows were weird, etc. etc.
So the question is this: How many times does he have to repeat performances like this before we consider that he might have figured something out or that he actually WAS hurt in '05? He's never going to be a big K guy, so is he the Jeff Harris of 2006 (and that has value), or is he something different - someone with the potential to be more? I don't know, but as a guy who's been loving watching Cesar mess with PCL hitters' timing, it's kinda tough to argue that Baek's success is all BABIP-driven. Obviously, Jimenez is much younger, which makes what he's doing all the more impressive. But the question remains: given that Baek isn't going to put up Cruceta's K rates, what does he have to do to get noticed? Maybe the lack of attention and pressure is all he really needed...
Adam Jones' maturation continues apace, as he hit his 14th home run to cap off a sublime AB in the Rainiers' 4 run 2nd. He fell behind early on a couple of foul balls, got it to 1-2, and then was utterly fooled by a John Hudgins fastball. Clearly sitting on something offspeed, Jones basically put a tennis swing on the ball, fouling it up the 1b line. It doesn't sound like much, but these are the kind of ABs that ended in Ks in April/May. Every time. Now, he can fight off pitchers' pitches and wait for better offerings. He took a few more balls, fouled off another pitch, and then absolutely crushed a ball to the left field power alley. Classic. He also had a bloop double and a stolen base, so he was clearly the offensive star of the night.
Chris Snelling went 1-3 with a walk, Rob Johnson went 1-4 with an RBI, Jeff Clement had two singles, and newcomer Erick Monzon made his AAA debut a good one, with an RBI single in his first AB and good defense at second.

He'll be up for a while, as Rainiers' second basemen Michael Garciaparra (who was already out of the line-up due to injury) broke his nose today in batting practice. He'd just returned from the hospital at about 6-6:20pm.

The other 'highlight' of the game came from the stands. I decided to go late, and thus couldn't get my customary seats. I was still behind the plate, but I picked up my ticket and my heart just sank: I was going to be seated right next to Cranky Yankee. She was in rare form tonight, and managed to get four people thrown out (for abusive language). As irrascible as ever, she was even insulting some of the security guards who didn't throw out the offending individuals fast enough. Apparently, everyone knows that nickname, as spectators, security staff and even the Fun Squad referred to her as Cranky Yankee. I'll remember to be more specific about where I sit next time. (To be fair, the people next to her were drunk and generally trashy, but when CY's blood is up, her targeting skills aren't all that great. She had basically divided the entire section into 'OK' and 'Scum' by the fourth inning. First time security called by CY: end of 2nd inning, which is a record, I'd think).

Got More Work To Do, Bill!

I was too busy compiling pictures of Francisco Cruceta last night to pay any attention to the score in Safeco on the scoreboard at Cheney at the game last night. I'll probably write up my thoughts on Cruceta's performance soon, but Dr. Detecto has two posts that are interesting discussions on Cruceta and the M's philosophy with pitching. I have learned, though, that you can learn a whole lot about a game by reading game threads from Lookout Landing and USS Mariner. It's nice, too, to have Gameday to look back on.

But one thing I do know. It's time for Bill to remove more tools from Hargrove's shed. The next one: Julio Mateo. For the M's sake and Julio's sake, it's time to look a different direction. Hargrove's riding him waaaaay too hard, and punding him into the ground. It's not fair to Julio, and it's not fair to the M's starters whose ERAs are consistently bloated.

There's a poll question on LookoutLanding -- "Trade Deadline: Buyers or Sellers." I wish there was a response for "Both" because that's how I'd answer it. But I chose "Buyers" because by selling, they'd be buying. Okay, that doesn't make sense. Still, while we "bought" Eduardo Perez, we "sold" Eddie Guardado. By "selling" Eddie, we've "bought" our chance at further wins. How, you ask? By removing him from Hargrove's toolshed.

So maybe I should've chosen "Sellers" -- because by selling the guys they need to get rid of, they're improving their team. Exactly -- buying more wins.

Let's hope, anyway...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

One Eddie In, One Eddie Out

Finally, a trade whereupon PositivePaul and Marc W can agree ;-) Here's to hoping that this sequence of trades pans out better than the trades of 1997. And, again, it shows that the M's are very serious about contending in 2006. I really hope we don't end up blowing up the farm system, though. I wonder if in 5 years I'll be calming my frustrations saying something to the effect of:

"Think of it this way -- we traded Eddie Guardado for Eddie Perez, and Asdrubal Cabrera for Travis Chick. It takes the sting out, a little -- just like the trade for Varitek and Lowe was really for Jamie Moyer (and, subsequently, it was Bragg for Slocumb)."

I liked the persona that Eddie displayed (I've never met him, so I can't say for sure whether or not I actually like him as a person, but he sure seems like a decent chap to me), but at the same time am with the rest of the M's blog-o-sphere in pretty much overwhelming joy that Hargrove will not have Eddie as an option to go to at any critical point in the game.

And, it's slightly good news for the "Free George Sherrill" campaign. George just took one step up in the bullpen pecking order.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Finally, I have Internet connection. It's been a busy day -- driving home, unpacking, shopping, and grilling all happened to occur today. On my day off. I popped my head in a few places to see what was happ'nin' in the blog-o-sphere, but this weekend left me without reliable Internet connectivity to really pay a whole lot of attention. I did have excellent satellite TV in our little compound in the woods...

Really, it was a nice little vacation -- 4 nights at the expense of only one vacation day (Monday), and a fair amount of gas money. I won't say how much we spent on wine this weekend, but the two bottles we already drank certainly helped numb the pain of watching the M's play. When that numbness wore off, I chased it down with a subsequent beer or two. Which is kinda weird, because I'm usually very strict about my drinking. I actually had three drinks on Sunday -- a glass of wine and two beers. Must've been the hot weather.

Even though I was horribly upset with the Hargrovian decisions that seem to always ruin this team's chances of acheiving a new season goal, it was definitely the weather that caused me to break my limit. Fortunately I'd limited my drinking so I didn't feel the effects the next day. We took a trip up into the mountains on Monday. My wife only wanted to go so far, but she later relented and allowed me to press on. I wanted to scout out the road to a potential cross-country ski haven while the road was bare and dry. It's a MUCH different road in winter...

Eventually, too, I convinced her to go all the way to this lookout on the back side of Mt. St. Helens. It'd been twenty years or so since I'd been up there. Maybe not quite that long ago, but it wasn't too long after the mountain blew. I remembered the "wow" factor, though, and when we rounded the corner and had a clear view of the mountain, my wife just absolutely flipped! She didn't want any part of that mountain. She's pretty into seismo stuff, and has been watching the mountain ever since I told her about this strange dream I had about St. Helens blowing to bits pretty much like Mount Mazama did (forming its more famously known aftermath Crater Lake).

Doesn't that sound familiar. I mean, the whole erupting and blowing to bits part. Evidently Carl Everett knows a thing or two about it. In tomorrow's P-I, sport section readers will probably find out about Everett's tirade in Hargrove's office. Carl Everett may be completely done as a hitter, but let me tell you -- I'm glad to see SOMEONE fart in Hargrove's general direction.

All the more reason why the M's need a new manager. When Hargrove's hand-picked lefty sock turns on him -- the guy who was brought in to be the clubhouse leader and take charge (hmm, isn't that one of the manger's roles???) -- you have some pretty good signs of how things REALLY are in the clubhouse. This cat-and-mouse game the M's seem to play with 1) .500; 2) First Place and 3) becoming a winner has to be really wearing on people. It's certainly wearing on fans. Just let us know, M's, if you suck still or if you're on your way out of suckdom. This ebb and flow really is throwing us for a loop.

Nearly everyone I know in blogdom has united against Hargrove. Again, we never ever want to see our team lose, but if losing causes the greater good of jettisoning Hargrove, then I'm sure we'd all be willing to sacrifice a few games. It's not like Hargrove's trying to win. I'm really not the proper judge of Hargrove's intelligence, but I'm really starting to question it. Giving up above-average talent to patch holes that have cropped up, and then having the manager refuse to apply the patch most certainly is frustrating.

Really, it's just a matter of paying attention. I was watching Phantom Menace under the urgings of my Star Wars-addicted son to kill some time in a cool 85 degree house (it was 100 outside!), and I was drawn to a particular cameo appearance by Jabba the Hut at the end of the pod racing scene. After the race was over, Bib Fortuna slaps Jabba to wake him up to declare Skywalker the winner. I couldn't help but notice how much that reminded me of what must happen during a game -- Ron Hassey slapping Hargrove to wake him up when it's time to make the next decision. I'll try and convert this to a Flash video or ASF or something so you can watch it. It's quite fitting...

Okay, that's not very nice perhaps. Still, it just rings true to me. A huge part of me really wonders if Hargrove is indeed asleep in the dugout. When an equally-bright guy like Dave Henderson calls out Hargrove's bad decisions (and is actually right about them), or even when Dave Niehaus has some negative thoughts that direction, something's got to be wrong.

Have you picked up what I'm saying yet? I've said it before on this blog. I'm doing it again. It's not very creative and has been said several times before. Definitely once before in this manner.

Now is the time. The M's have lost whatever momentum they had coming home from their lollygag against the NL West. Get Hargrove and his croonies out of there while there's still hope remaining in the season. If you're going to give up the farm trying to win the division, you might as well stir the pot up a lot and replace one of the guys who's hurting that goal the most.


Jimenez Keeps Rolling

Cesar Jimenez kept it rolling yesterday, going 8IP without allowing a run. He struck out only one, but only allowed 5 hits, and he managed to induce 3 double plays.
Detectovision has a POTD feature on him here, and Jeff does a nice job of laying out some of the contradictory data we have on this guy. He's not striking anyone out, and yet no one's getting any hits. He's not some GB-machine, but no one's hitting home runs. He's got so-so velocity, but he's by no means some sort of control artist (4.7BB/9). So what's the deal here?
Like DOV, I really don't know what to think. In last night's game, he looked in complete control, as the Fresno Grizzlies managed just 5 singles off him. But a number of hitters managed to square the ball up and hit deep flies to right center - Adam Jones made two catches on the warning track. At the same time, he's coming off a 1 hit shutout in Las Vegas, where any well-struck fly ball is long gone. So is it possible that he had an 'off night' last night? For the Rainiers' sake, I hope so.
It really is difficult to go this long (38IP over 6 starts) and pitch this well strictly on luck - BABIP or otherwise. DOV makes the point that J at MarinerMinors has been talking about Cesar's ability to change speeds for a while now. And both are right that he's got to be just about perfect for his stuff to work in MLB. But for now, it's a lot of fun to watch. I wasn't in my customary seats last night (I'm a sucker for all you can eat hot dogs. sorry.) so I didn't get to see if he was really hitting his spots, but you notice when 95% of the best swings a team gets on a ball go for one-hop grounders or line-drive singles. Jimenez is managing to keep basically the entire PCL off balance, and he's been doing it for a month. Definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Also, kudos to Adam Jones, who moved up to the leadoff slot last night with Shin-Soo Choo's departure and responded with a home run to *right* center. Nice to see him go the other way with power. Ismael Castro went 3-4 as well and looked solid at 2b on those three double plays. Snelling had a bit of an off night, but the Rainiers certainly didn't need much help in pounding 8 runs and 13 hits off of Michael Tejera (who had been one of Fresno's best starters). Washington prep stars Todd Linden and Jed Hansen had a lot of friends and family at the game; Linden (South K) went 1-4, but was upstaged by Hansen (Olympia), who hit a monster home run in the ninth off of Thom Oldham for Fresno's consolation run.