Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What to do with Ichiro...

I've been mulling over this post for a long, long time. I figure I better start writing things down and finish it before it's a) irrelevant or b) covered excessively elsewhere. Since b) can only get worse as the 2007 season rolls on, I'm going to get my thoughts down now.

In analyzing the Ichiro situation, and his impending free agency, it's relatively straightforward to take a simple approach -- look at scenarios and do a cost-benefit analysis of those scenarios. So, that's what I'm going to do here. I'll definitely further discuss my opinions in a later post or two, but for now I just want to make an attempt to lay down some simple framework.

Scenaro 1 -- Ichiro is traded during the season

Notes: For this to happen, it will have to become very, very clear that Ichiro wants to leave Seattle, and becomes very public or vocal about it. I'd be very surprised if this scenario comes into play, even though I could argue it may make the most sense for the M's.

  • Ichiro's hitting, base stealing, and defense disappears.
  • If LH major-league-ready bat doesn't come over in a trade, that's one more LH bat the M's need to add back into the lineup.
  • Fans disappointed/angry/sad/annoyed, etc. (leading to potential significant revenue loss).
  • Potential loss of other role players in an Ichiro + trade.
  • M's lose a little more of the national spotlight, and their relevance, by losing a nationally-recognized Mariner (i.e. when some random Yankees fan in Illinois is asked to name at least one Seattle Mariner, I'd bet that fan would be most likely to name Ichiro, if he/she's able to name any M's player at all. We need to work more on the "Free George Sherrill" campaign).
  • Adam Jones develops as the M's new CF, and adds a little more punch to the lineup.
  • Ichiro would likely bring some big time impact players via trade -- players that would potentially fill more than one hole on the team.
  • A possibly distracting situation is resolved.

Scenario 2 -- Ichiro stays the entire season, and leaves via free agency.

Notes: This is a real possibility, with Howard/Chuck and the rest of the M's execs very hesitant to trade their franchise player. It would also likely be the most painful for everyone but Ichiro. However, since this really would be one of the first times Ichiro would be a free agent , ever, I can see where he really honestly would like to at least reach free agency. I mean, think about it -- wouldn't you want to have the baseball resume Ichiro has, and finally be able to have a lot of control over your own destiny? It's Russian Roulette for the team, as it really could be tough selling Ichiro on this franchise's future. Especially if the front office turmoil that needs to happen, happens. But, of course, one could argue that a front office churnage would also encourage Ichiro to stick around. Especially if the manager's one of those casualties...

  • Ichiro's hitting, base stealing, and defense disappears (in 2008 and beyond).
  • Losing out on potential trade chips that could help the team.
  • M's lose relevance and national spotlight even more (in 2008 and beyond).
  • Another LH bat needed in the lineup.
  • Ichiro helps the team in 2007, if they are close to a playoff race.
  • Payroll flexibility, as Ichiro's not going to be cheap.
  • Adam Jones inherits the CF job.
  • Team would definitely offer arbitration, and get the draft pick(s) that Ichiro's departure could potentially help out in the future more than Ichiro can.
Scenario 3 -- Ichiro remains a Mariner, either through signing a contract extension during the season, or as a free agent.

Notes: Right now, I'd say this is the most likely scenario, but, honestly, that's more of a guess than anything. Unless Ichiro truly wants out (which I don't think even he knows yet, but is still very, very possible), I think he stays in Seattle. The M's will give him plenty of money, and I'm sure he knows that, and I can certainly see where that might not be the best idea, too.

  • Payroll. Lots of it. Ichiro's going to get a boatload of cash. He'd likely tie up around 20% of the M's payroll. That's a huge chunk, really.
  • Potential trade of Adam Jones or other OF prospects (Wlad, Reed, etc...).
  • Risk of aging effects. I would argue that Ichiro's more likely to buck the aging trends, but I still recognize that there's some real, significant risk in committing 3-5 years to a 35+ year old player.
  • Flexibility. Sort of inherent in the payroll thing, because they do go hand-in-hand, but it could work to their disadvantage, too. If they're going to have a $100 million payroll from now on, is it in their best interest to give Jose Guillen 1/2 of what Ichiro would've gotten? By giving so much money to Ichiro, this answers that question a bit. But, it also could close another potential opening for a much needed power hitter.
  • Losing out on potential trade chips that, combined, could help the team more than Ichiro himself could.
  • M's keep some relevance and retain some national spotlight (in 2008 and beyond).
  • Ichiro's hitting, fielding, running. While there's some risk of those skills diminishing, there's also a fair enough chance that they don't decline significantly. Especially if you consider Ichiro (as I do) a HOF-caliber player.
  • One less LH bat to acquire.
  • Fan satisfaction -- potential retention of revenue by having happy fans that don't overreact to losing yet another huge Seattle franchise star...
Okay, so that's my stab at this. What am I missing? Do you see costs/benefits in any of these scenarios that I've overlooked. I know you do -- I can't see everything, and I tend to overlook even the obvious a lot of the time...

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Rainiers Report #6: *sound of vomitting*

The Rainiers' Jorge Campillo and Tucson's Yusmeiro Petit matched up in a tight pitcher's duel today at Cheney, and for most of the day, the two put up zeroes in a crisply played game in the intermittent rain.
Then, everything went to hell.

Campillo and Petit are both change-of-speed pitchers; Petit was once a big time prospect with the Mets (the centerpiece of the Carlos Delgado deal), and he blew through the low minors easily. Scouts never bought into him, thinking that his meh stuff and plus command meant his ceiling was more of a MOR/BOR starter in the Majors.

So far, the scouts appear to be right - Petit's been scuffling for a while, first at AAA Albuquerque last year in the Marlins' system, and now again for the D-Backs AAA affiliate. None of that mattered today, as a fastball-hitting line-up couldn't seem to square him up. Below, Wlad Balentien gives an example of the sorts of swings Petit was getting:

You might expect a pitcher like this to be especially hard on Adam Jones and Wlad Balentien, but instead, the two OF prospects looked pretty good. Balentien hit a 2B on the first pitch he saw, and later worked a walk. Adam Jones was 2/3 with a 2b and a 3b and 2BB. Here's Jones swing on the 3B, a line drive off the base of the CF wall:

The Rainiers struck first in the bottom of the 7th, when Rob Johnson led off with a brilliantly placed bunt single - Sidewinders 3B Jamie D'Antona's throw (which never had a chance anyway) went into the dugout, and Johnson took second. The next batter, Gookie Dawkins, thought he'd try the same thing. His bunt wasn't quite as good, but the result was the same: Petit threw wildly to first, resulting in a two-base error and the first run of the ballgame. Navarro followed and, you knew this was coming, laid down a bunt. This time, the Sidewinders were able to handle it for the first out. Adam Jones followed with a triple and chased Petit.

However, the bullpen let Campillo down. After 7 2/3 innings of 0R 5H 3K 1BB baseball, Campillo turned it over to Ryan Rowland-Smith, making his 2nd appearance after his rather uneventful stay in Seattle. He got out of the 8th, but the 9th would prove... I don't know, nasty? Ridiculous? Bush-league?
Alex Romero led off with a single, but RRS got Jeff Salazar to bounce a slow chopper right to 2b Gookie Dawkins. Dawkins attempted to tag Romero coming down the line, but missed. He then tried to hurry a throw to first, but threw it away. What looked like an easy FC and fairly easy DP turned into a 2nd and 3rd, no out situation. RRS walked the next hitter to set up the double play again, but the tone had been set. Sean Green was called on to finish it out - a good move as an extreme GB pitcher. With D'Antona batting, Rob Johnson yielded a fairly sloppy passed ball, and it was 2-1. Green walked D'Antona to again set up the DP opportunity. He didn't quite get it, but he did get Brian Barden to chop one to an onrushing 3B Ronnie Prettyman - he looked to have a force at home, but after studying the situation for what felt like 5 minutes, he decided to throw to first for the out. 2-2. Dee Brown then hit a comebacker to Green who flipped to Johnson, but Johnson dropped the ball for an error and a 3-2 Snakes lead. A wild pitch from Green scored another. After another out, Rich Thompson hit a bloop single to left which Jon Nelson misplayed for another error (that's three in the inning, for those scoring at home), and the final run.
From a 0-0, well-played game (Snakes LF Romero made some nice plays in LF) to a 5-2 game reminiscent of tee-ball and office softball. To cap it, I got in a car wreck on the way home. Rad. I'm displeased with my saturday, and would like to exchange it for another.

(all photos by Marc W.)

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Thursday, May 10, 2007


No, that's not the M's winning percentage. Nor is it Willie Bloomquist's OPS (his BA+SLG+OBP isn't even that high, let alone his OPS). That's what batters are hitting off of Jeff Weaver. Some may argue that it's just luck -- the bad kind -- that Jeff's just been unlucky. I say he's been pounded, and it's going to continue.

It's not like Sexson's poor batting average. Sexson is hitting the ball hard, he's just hitting it right at people, or the defense just makes an outstanding play. Weaver, on the other hand, is being blasted. Hitters are taking good swings at bad pitches. His breaking stuff isn't breaking away from where the hitters expect it. They see the ball and they hit the ball, and it's likely it's hit hard.

They say that a high BABIP is one way to determine if a pitcher is "lucky" or "unlucky" -- that if a pitcher has a high one, going forward it's likely to even out, and his results should improve. And, conversely, if a pitcher is having abnormally positive results, and his BABIP is low, he'll work his way back to normal. This also assumes that the pitcher has major-league quality skills.

Does anyone believe Jeff Weaver has major-league quality skills? I'd bet that Jeff himself doesn't.

I hate to rag on Jeff, I really do -- especially since I was advocating that the M's sign him in the 2005-6 offseason (for 4 years $32 million, even!). But this team is still in the race, and has a decent amount of offense to carry a less-than-strong pitching staff. But it's very clear they can't start games behind 4-0, 6-0, 5-0 in the first. That sucks the wind out of everyone.

And, losing fans = losing money. They've already committed the funds to Jeff. A suitable replacement shouldn't cost more than an additional $500K (if you believe in the concept of freely available talent).

I think you mean Thompson...

Edit: 11:30 A.M. 5/11/07. USSM is reporting a couple of roster moves are about to happen. One of them is presumably Weaver. Best of luck, Jeff, pulling it together. I thought you'd fit in here, and pitch pretty decently. Now that you've shown us you can't, best of luck to ya!

Kevin Jarvis Redux

Jeff Weaver is done as a Major-League pitcher. Done. Any more appearances here will hurt this team's chances of making the playoffs, even if it's out of the 'pen.

In recent memory, Kevin Jarvis is the worst pitcher I can think of -- yes, even worse than 2006 Joel Pineiro. I know that's a lot of money to just flush down the toilet, but it was already headed that direction when the decision was made to sign Weaver.

Kevin Jarvis
Joel Pineiro
Steve Trout
Tom Niedenfuer
Bobby Ayala

ALL of the above were better than Jeff Weaver.

I know Ryan Feierabend needs some more seasoning. I'm all for giving Campillo another shot just for the heck of it. Yes, Felix is supposed to come back next week. Still, we need a pitcher and not a belly itcher!

And we need Jeff Weaver away from this team.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Rainiers Report #5 - Lord Byron, WladWatch '07, Joe Saunders

The Rainiers were held to a mere 3 hits over 8 strong innings by Joe Saunders and lost a 6-2 decision to the first-place Salt Lake Bees today in Tacoma.
At least the R's made the most of their hits: Brant Ust homered to right on a change away, and Jeff Clement broke out of a slump with a pulled HR to right on a fastball. Bryan LaHair had the other hit off of Saunders, an inside-out liner down the third base line, but he was erased trying to stretch it into a double.
R's starter Jake Woods went 6 innings, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits, striking out 6 and walking 3. Using a very good curve (around 76-78) and his mid-high 80s FB, Woods did a great job of limiting the damage from the heart of the Bees' order: 2-3-4 hitters Terry Evans, Jeff Mathis and Kendry Morales were a combined 1-14 with no runs scored. Unfortunately, lead-off hitter Nathan Haynes was 3-5 with a HR (as a LHB, no less), and Matt Brown was 2-4 with a 2B.
The Rainiers videotaped an inning or two of Woods pitching; perhaps they could work on how he's holding runners on. The Bees stole 4 bases before Adam Pavkovich was caught stealing second (off of Byron Embry - more on him later) - 3 steals came off Woods. The first baserunner of the game, Terry Evans, immediately stole second and then third off of Woods. I've been wondering why Rob Johnson's CS% has been down this year - today was a clue.

"Lord" Byron Embry came on to work the final three innings, and the husky righthander struck out 5 of the first 6 he faced. Through two, the big fella was simply untouchable. While he gave up an unearned run in the 9th, it was still an impressive performance for the indy-league veteran. Below are a few photos of his delivery, this time from the third base side. I'd intended these to show that Embry hides the ball, ala Emiliano Fruto, making his 90-93 FB seem much faster. I'm not sure that they do show that, though I suppose they'd need to be taken from the batter's viewpoint to say definitively. I'd also wondered if they'd show more of a 'short arm' delivery, again, like Fruto, but the only thing they proved to me is that Embry is a large, large person.

This one actually hints at why Embry's so tough: he does look like he may be hiding the ball behind his head. It also shows that Embry is putting his per diem for meals to good use.

This one shows Wlad Balentien waiting for a fly ball that never comes: Embry K'd 5, had 3 GB outs and one CS in his 3 innings of work.
All in all, a great job by Lord Byron, who really needs a better nickname.

Special Feature:
Mariners Morsels Asks the Tough Questions (and gets questionable results) #1:
Tonight's subject, SP Justin Lehr

MM: Justin, has the M's organization worked on your delivery/motion at all this year?
JL: *look that implies questioner is either annoying in general, or has annoyingly just farted*
MM: You've traditionally had a much higher GB ratio than this year; it's closer to even in 2007.
JL: *look that says, 'if I could punch you without consequence, I *totally* would.'* "Well, my last start it was 12 GO to 5 AO."
MM: That's good to hear; the previous start was 9:9.
JL: *smiling the way one smiles to people who've explained the Venusian conspiracy that's taking over the food supply* "Yeah."

Tough questions: MM asks them. Like the person who merely loosens the jar's lid, I bet Justin will spill his guts to the next person who merely asks him for an autograph - all crying like it's a Barbara Walters interview, some confused 5 year old tentatively reaching for his ball back to go ask someone more stable.
Stay tuned for more hard hitting journalism...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Three things to say.

Wlad Balentien is awesome.

Welcome back to the West, Doyle!

Free Chris Antonetti!