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In God we trust. Everybody else needs data. - Rick Peterson

Saturday, January 17, 2004

 

BUCKY JACOBSEN QUICK HIT

Last year Bucky Jacobsen had a .251 major league EQA playing in the Southern League. For reference, a .260 EQA represents a major league average offensive contribution, and the average EQA for major league first basemen last year was .282.

In 2003 John Olerud had an EQA of .279, so the Mariners actually had slightly below average output at first base. Since Olerud is almost completely unable to hit left handed pitching any longer, most of Olerud's offensive value was generated against right handed pitching. A good right-handed platoon partner would fill a big hole in the Mariner offense.

Jacobsen, however, is one of those rare right-handed batters that hits right handers better than left-handers. Below are his splits for his last two seasons:
             Versus LHP

=======================================================
Year Team AB AVG SLG BB/AB K/AB BB/K
----- ----- --- ----- ----- ----- ---- ----
2003 Tenn 87 0.276 0.586 0.13 0.23 0.55
2002 Nw Hvn 32 0.250 0.344 0.13 0.25 0.50
2002 Hntsvl 85 0.235 0.471 0.11 0.25 0.43
Total 204 0.255 0.500 0.12 0.24 0.49

Versus RHP
=======================================================
Year Team AB AVG SLG BB/AB K/AB BB/K
----- ----- --- ----- ----- ----- ---- ----
2003 Tenn 332 0.304 0.560 0.11 0.19 0.57
2002 Nw Hvn 70 0.314 0.600 0.07 0.24 0.29
2002 Hntsvl 113 0.265 0.496 0.12 0.18 0.65
Total 515 0.297 0.551 0.10 0.19 0.54
Unfortunately, it does not appear that Jacobsen would be a good platoon partner for Olerud. I imagine that will hurt his chances of making the roster.

Nevertheless, Jacobsen is still a good, low risk signing of the type that the Mariners should do more often. There are many players in their late 20's throughout the upper minor leagues who can play better and are cheaper than many players who are on major league rosters. Few of these players will be stars, but many of them are better than the players on the margins of many major league teams rosters, including the Mariners.

 

P-I WRITER JOHN LEVESQUE "GETS IT"

In recent weeks the P-I has started scrutinizing the Mariners' activities this off-season in the same fashion that we expect the news media to do when covering City Hall. It's a welcome change. As I have mentioned before, the news dailies do a disservice to their readership and their staff when they tolerate lower journalistic standards for sports coverage.

If memory serves correctly, the first journalist at the P-I to start writing about some of the Mariners' questionable moves this off-season was John Levesque; the first piece I recall was his Christmas eve commentary on the Colbrunn-McCracken trade, Bavasi riding lucky streak. Since then there have been P-I articles by David Locke, Art Thiel and additonal pieces by Levesque that have continued to show that the people questioning the Mariners moves are not a lunatic fringe.

Today John has a piece discussing the inherent conflict of interest with having journalists involved in the Hall of Fame voting for professional athletes, Hall vote isn't for working press. John "gets it; the journalists primary obligation is independence.

Point on, John!

 

BUCKY BALL

Nice post by Jim Turnbull at Cracking "The Safe" about Bucky Jacobsen, one of the Mariners non-roster invitees. Jim does a nice job of presenting the human interest angle of the story - a minor leaguer getting a long deserved shot at the big time. A nice "feel good" story.

I would like to comment on two aspects of this story beyond the human interest elements:
  1. As with Jose Nuñez, this is a low cost, low risk, high upside signing. The Mariners should be doing more of these types of signings.

  2. Triple A ball has lots of players like Jacobsen - guys who have clearly mastered AAA ball, but seem to have problems sticking in the majors. There is no reason to fill a roster with players like McCracken and Bloomquist when equal or better production can be obtained for major league minimum salary. Plus, you give a player who has devoted his life to baseball a chance to fulfill a dream.

Friday, January 16, 2004

 

THE MARINERS CHARADE ABOUT BACKING UP GUILLEN

When the Mariners signed Aurilia and traded Guillen, they offered up the lame excuse that since Guillen was injury prone, they would need a veteran backup if they kept him. But by signing Aurilia, the Mariners could get by with "inexperienced" Ramon Santiagon as a backup, and the difference in salaries between Santiago and a "veteran" backup actually made Aurilia the cheaper option. For details on this, see my blog of January 9, WHY WAS GUILLEN WORTH NOTHING?.

I thought that reasoning was pretty lame, and in that blog I questioned who the Mariners might have in mind as a backup for Guillen, and what the actual differences in salary would be. Good glove, poor bat shortstops are a pretty cheap commodity, and I figured that there wouldn't be much salary difference between Santiago and a "veteran" shortstop.

Well, now we have an answer. Rey Ordoñez signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres today. He has a training camp invitation, and if he makes the 25-man roster he gets $650,000, with a chance to make $125,000 more in performance bonuses. That's about $300,000 to $425,000 more than Santiago (who earns the $350,000 major league minimum).

For the record, here are the offensive stats for Ordoñez and Santiago:
Player    Years      AVG   OBP   SLG

-------- --------- ---- ---- ----
Ordoñez 2001-2003 .258 .299 .348
Santiago 2002-2003 .231 .297 .311
So, the Mariners could have kept Guillen, obtained a veteran backup with a slightly better offense than Santiago, and saved enough money to add another bench player such as Branyan.

By the way, if you go back to Times beat writer Finnigan's story on the Aurilia and Guillen swap-out, note that Puppy Dog Finnigan lapped up everything the Mariners fed him about saving money on this transaction. The "Seattle official" who briefed Puppy Dog was clearly dissembling, and in case anyone had doubts, the charade is now obvious.

The Mariners say they value character and integrity. If so, why are they so often disingenuous?

 

CUBNESS - WHY ANAHEIM WILL WIN THE AL WEST

I suspect that many readers may not be aware of the role of Cubness in baseball team fortunes. Simply put, former Cubs carry with them a Cubs residuum that takes years to dissipate. The more former Cubs that play for a team, the less likely that team is to win. Cubness and the Ex-Cub Factor are explained more fully in this article, written in 1981.

Cubness is also influenced by the number of seasons since a player's Cub affiliation. It is no coincidence that Jamie Moyer's career has flourished since coming to Seattle. Jamie originally came to the majors as a Cub and spent three years pitching for the Cubs, from 1986 - 1988. It took him a full ten years to purge his Cubness. Had Jamie not had the misfortune of breaking in with the Cubs, he would have received at least three Cy Young awards by now, and would be a Cooperstown shoo-in.

Using Cubness and Ex-Cub Factors, the Mariners Wheelhouse staff prepared the following analysis of the AL West for 2004, using team rosters as currently constructed:
Team      Ex-Cubs (and seasons with Cubs)

-------- -------------------------------
Anaheim None

Oakland Damian Miller (2003)

Seattle Jamie Moyer (1986-1988)

Texas Ron Mahay (2001, 2002)
Eric Young (2000, 2001)
There you have it folks. Barring any further roster moves, Anaheim wins the West, and Texas comes in last. The Mariners and Oakland battle for second, and it's simply a question of whether Miller's one recent season with Chicago will outweigh Moyer's three more distant years.

I'm trusting that Gabriel at The Safest Blog on the Web will download the Cubness data for other major league teams, perform a mulitvariate regression analysis, and complete the Analysis of Variance tables for us. Good luck, Gabriel

 

PETE ROSE'S NEWFOUND HONESTY INSPIRES COMMISSIONER BUD

Buried in the announcement about the Brewer's being put up for sale, ESPN.com - MLB - Selig family to sell Brewers, was this little item:
"Now it is time for me to formally sever my ties to the Milwaukee Brewers," Selig said. "It is the correct decision for myself, my family, and, while I have played no role in the administration of the Brewers, putting my ownership share in trust in 1998, I am convinced and have been for many years that it is in the best interests of the game. As commissioner, it is inappropriate for me to root for any one club, but I must admit, and I hope people will understand, that I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Milwaukee Brewers."
Everybody knows Rose bet on baseball, just as everybody knows Bud continually favors the Brewers. Did Rose coming clean inspire Bud to come clean?

Actually, I think it's part of the deal worked out for reinstatement of Rose. Rose agreed he would admit to gambling if Bud would admit he never really separated himself from the Brewers affairs. Is the path now clear for Pete's reinstatement, thereby completing the vindication of Will Carroll and Derek Zumsteg?

 

A CATCHER CONUNDRUM

Corey at Mariner Optimist mentions the idea of picking up Pudge and moving Wilson off the roster.

I've also thought about how nice it would be to replace Wilson with Pudge. The problem is that, because Wilson is a 10-and-5 man, he cannot be traded without his approval. As nearly as I can tell, Wilson has no desire whatsoever to leave Seattle. Since no one is going to give him a pay raise to be their catcher, I can't see any way to move Wilson off the roster short of releasing him and eating his salary.

So, to add Pudge, the Mariners would either need to carry three catchers or trade Ben Davis. Actually, if carrying Pudge forced off one of the other current bench players it wouldn't be so bad!

 

BEN DAVIS' BAT

Today I went to Baseball Cube and looked up Ben Davis' career stats. After I did, I realized that I had never before looked at both his major and minor league stats. I don't have the energy right now to cut and paste and get it all formatted up, you can follow the link and get there yourself.

After looking at the stats though, I came away thinking that what we have seen offensively from Ben so far may pretty close to all that we can reasonably expect.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

 

THE MARINERS PITCHING MEDICINE MESS

Regular visitors to the Wheelhouse know that one of my criticisms of the Mariners operations involves the frequency with which young pitchers in the Mariners organization blow out their arms. In my post IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?, I discussed in detail the Mariners' medical staff bungling of Carlos Guillen's tuberculosis infection in 2001. In that post, I gave short shrift to the Mariners' problems with blowing out pitchers arms, simply mentioning it was a problem. With this post I would like to delve into that issue in more detail.

The Mariners have one of the highest rates of major arm injuries in young pitchers of any team in major league baseball. The situation has existed long enough that it's hard to ascribe it to chance, especially in comparison with organizations such as Oakland that seemingly have almost no major arm injuries to pitchers. Simply put, I believe the Mariners have fundamental problems in their pitching development program, and they are completely oblivious to the problems.

As with most other aspects of their player development program, the Mariners pitcher development program is an "old school" scouting approach that is a numbers game with given assumptions about attrition and failure rates. With that type of operating philosophy, there are two ways to improve the flow of pitchers to the major league. A team can feed more players in at rookie and low A ball, or the team can do better scouting so that a higher proportion of prospects advance at each level.

The "old school" philosophy simply accepts that a certain proportion of young pitchers will have debilitating, career-threatening arm injuries. The only way a team can beat those odds is by moving more players through the system, and accepting the losses. To be fair, the Mariners scouting program does include some assessment of pitcher's history and motion, and, like most teams except the Houston Astros, the Mariners avoid drafting pitchers who are less than six feet tall. But again, all of the precautions taken by the Mariners are essentially old school approaches - the same precautions that almost every scouting organization follows. (And, as the Houston Astros have shown, the six-foot tall pitcher rule is probably another of those hoary old pieces of received wisdom that does not withstand rigorous scrutiny.) Most significantly, the Mariners do not use certain precautions to prevent injuries that other teams are using,

With that in mind, I racked my memory banks and did a bit of googling, to see what I could assemble as a list of young Mariners pitchers with arm injuries. I came up with the following incomplete list of young Mariners pitchers who have suffered arm injuries requiring either surgery or a protracted shut down period:
    Gil Meche
    Ryan Anderson
    Roger Salkeld
    Jeff Heaverlo
    Greg Wooten
    Jordan Zimmerman
    Matt Thornton
    Sam Hays
    Jeff Farrnsworth
    Ken Cloude
    Aaron Taylor

    Sept 1, 2004 updates to list:
    Aaron Looper
    Rafael Soriano
    Travis Blackley

    Removed: Rett Johnson (his DL time at the end of 2003 was not a major arm/shoulder injury)

    Comments:
    1. I did not add Eddie Guardado to the list because it is not likely that his injury was related to his usage by the Mariners.
    2. Julio Mateo's diagnosis is tendinitis. I added him to the list because often tendinitis is an initial diagnosis for a condition that later proves to be more severe.
    3. I did not add Joel Piñiero and Julio Mateo to the list because current information does not indicate their injuries will require surgery or extended rehab. Both situations merit watching, though, as frequently these initial diagnoses prove incorrect (as with Soriano).
By any measure, that is a devastating chunk of pitching talent to have lost or to have on the cusp of losing. Preventing those injuries would be of tremendous value to the team. I am also sure that this list is not complete, and readers should note that I limited the list to pitchers who are still in development stages; I have not included any arm injuries for pitchers who would be considered "veterans".

As it turns out, there are teams that have started working proactively to keep pitchers from blowing out their arms. Rick Peterson, the former pitching coach for the Oakland Athletics, played a large role in building Oakland's highly successful pitching development program. Under his leadership, Oakland has been one of the most effective teams in baseball in bringing pitchers to the majors. Peterson works closely with Dr. James Andrews at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Alabama; here is a link to an article on Edward's program: Technology takes the mound - Pitchers get high-tech tips on how to improve technique.

Barry Zito has been through the program at ASMI - he calls it "prehab" instead of "rehab" because the focus is on preventing arm injuries before they occur. Here is a quote from another article that describes the program:
This kind of analysis has been done before. But what the A's have done beyond that is to take painstaking measurements of the pitching motions, not just of ailing veterans on the mend but also of young talent in peak form.

"It's really great foresight by Rick to analyze pitchers when they're healthy," Dr. Glenn Flesig, director of research at the Sports Medicine Institution, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "A lot of times, someone gets hurt and then comes here to analyze their mechanics, but the truth is, we never see them when they're throwing well."

Zito was taken to Alabama and filmed at 500 frames per second -- with markers for his hip and elbow and other key points. That provided a remarkably precise set of measurements that can be used all season long -- and throughout his career -- as a base point for tuneups.

Zito calls it "prehab," as compared to rehab, and it fits in with a lifelong passion of his for constantly learning all he can about biomechanics and the technology of sports.
Wired News: The Science of Pitching, Redux
Finally, here are some excerpts from an article from the NY Daily News, Mets put pitchers in Peterson's hands, in which Peterson describes some of his approach:
He intends to keep up his high-tech emphasis with the Mets.

Pitchers in the A's organization - including Tim Hudson and Barry Zito - had markers placed on their joints and then had their motions captured by six high-speed cameras filming eight times faster than a regular video recorder does.

For first-timers, different aspects of the pitching delivery - like elbow angle at the point of release and the length of a hurler's stride - can be compared with the composite motion of 50accomplished pitchers, including samples taken of Al Leiter and Roger Clemens when they visited Andrews earlier in their careers.

Veterans of the process can also have their motions compared with samples taken of themselves in previous years.

Peterson's philosophy: "In God we trust. All others must have data."

The goals: Get the greatest possible pitch speed and effectiveness while reducing the pitcher's risk of injury to a minimum.

[snip]

Peterson helped develop and uses software from Bainbridge Island, Wash.-based Tendu to determine the best pitch to throw and the ideal location based on a hitter's tendencies - "what's the likelihood of the guy swinging and how successful the hitter is," according to Ron Antinoja, the company's founder.

For instance, armed with data from the company - as well as his own exhaustive video watching and scouting-department reports - Peterson knows that Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki swings at 38% of fastballs thrown on the outside corner by lefthanders and is hitting .167 on those pitches.

He also knows that if the pitch is above the belt on those offerings, Suzuki swings more frequently and has a higher batting average.
[emphasis added]
I could not remember a single recent case of a young Oakland A's minor leaguer or rookie undergoing a major arm injury or rehabilitation, although I confess I am not as familiar with the A's organization as I am with the Mariners. So I did do the same googling exercise for the A's that I did in researching the Mariners, and I did find one story, USATODAY.com - Athletics 2002 prospect report, that cited the following an arm injuries to pitching prospects:
    Bert Snow
    Keith Surkont
That's it. I only found two pitchers total, in an organization that has arguably been at least the equal of the Mariners in producing big league pitching talent.

How can anyone compare those two lists of pitchers undergoing arm injuries and not conclude that maybe the Oakland A's have figured something out that eludes the Mariners fine medical staff (the same people who wouldn't recognize the difference between a Mycobacterium tuberculosis culture and yesterdays leftover yogurt? )

When I think about this stuff, I come up with a whole raft of questions.
  • When you read about the program that Zito and Hudson have gone through, don't you wish the Mariners had done the same thing with Garcia, Meche, and Piñiero?
  • When Freddy was having problems last year, wouldn't it have been nice to have been able to have his 2003 pitching motion compared scientifically with his motion from 2001?
  • Given that Gil Meche has already had two arm surgeries, wouldn't it be a good idea to have his motion analyzed to ensure that he is not putting unneeded strain on his shoulder? Wouldn't it be a good idea to do this before his arm goes dead again (presuming it is not already too late)?
  • Wouldn't it be a good idea to do this study for some of the bright young prospects (such as Felix Hernandez) while it is still relatively easy to make corrections to their deliveries and before serious injury may have occurred?
(Note to any Seattle area beat writers or radio jocks who might be reading this - feel free to steal these questions and ask them yourselves of Mariners management. Just be sure to share with us what you find out, and please don't just recycle the pabulum they've been feeding us for years.)

What got me started on this topic today was an article in the The Cincinnati Post: "Minor-league starters will be on pitch counts. Below is an excerpt:
In the past two years, more than 20 Reds major- and minor-league pitchers have undergone arm surgeries. New general manager Dan O'Brien has a plan he hopes will dramatically slow that trend.

Beginning this season, each of the Reds' starting pitching prospects at the Rookie and Class A levels will be placed on a strict, 75-pitch limit. One result will be that each of those four clubs -- Class A Dayton and Potomac, Rookie-level Billings and Gulf Coast League affiliate Sarasota -- will operate with what are in effect eight-man rotations. That means two starting pitchers will work in each game and each pair of starters will work every fourth day rather than every fifth
Twenty arm surgeries in the last two years - that's positively Mariner-esque!! But at least the Reds are doing something about it.

What about the Mariners? Aren't they doing something proactive here? Well, if they are, they sure are hiding it well, and they must have sworn to secrecy any of the pitchers who have been through Mariners prehab. So, since the Mariners haven't shared any information with us, I went googling again to see what I could find anything linking Mariners personnel with pitcher development philosophies. And I got two hits:
  • Little League Elbow:

    Here we have the Mariners' very own Dr. Rich Storey (one of the guys who doesn't know about tuberculosis), talking about injury prevention. It's got most of the usual "old-school stuff". I am sure it is medically correct, but if I were the parent of a Little League pitcher, would I really trust the advice of a man who has a patient dishonor roll like the one I posted above for the Mariners? Especially when I knew there were other people in his profession, with the same responsibilities, under whose care pitchers were having just a fraction of the arm injuries? Should I really put my faith in this man to keep my son's or daughter's elbow and shoulder intact?


  • John Martin, former big league, current Scout for the Seattle Mariners and developer of Pitching Mechanics: Building a Solid Foundation, offers up some good tips for pitchers.

    All old school stuff, with nothing to show any kind of knowledge of modern injury prevention techniques. Again, if I were a parent, I would question if I were getting real current information about keeping my children healthy if they were pitchers for their teams.
As with virtually all aspects of their operation, the Mariners are solidly planted in the middle what they perceive to be the tried and true, even when there is solid information showing that the ground around them is eroding.

I also couldn't help but think of the Mariners when I saw this article, also from the NY Daily News, Bobby Ojeda rips into Mets. Seems that Bobby O doesn't like all of this new-fangled approach that Rick Peterson is bringing with him to New York. Bobby is one of those old school guys - you've got to love some of these quotes:
  • Ojeda is … convinced the club is headed in the wrong direction.

    Like the last couple of years are the right direction, Bobby?

  • They wanted me back, but I decided to leave because of an overall feeling the right things aren't being done, and my own frustration at not being able to have an impact.

    Bobby, maybe the Mets shared your feeling that the right things weren't being done, and decided to bring in someone who knows how to make sure the right things get done?

  • Ojeda thinks the Mets need more people who understand what it takes to win in the bigs, especially when making personnel and policy decisions

    Maybe someone such as Rick Peterson, Bobby?

  • He notes that he was very impressed when he first saw Aaron Heilman, the Mets' No. 1 draft pick three years ago, and doesn't understand why he hasn't blossomed. "When I first saw him, with that hard sinker and that funky delivery," Ojeda recalled, "I said, 'Kid, don't change a thing. I've seen major league hitters and they're not going to like your (stuff).' But then, when I saw him last year, I wanted to hit against him. Mentally, he looks like he's overwhelmed."

    So, with Heilman regressing under the old setup, Bobby, don't you think a different approach might help before he's a complete bust?
I've had a bit of fun here, but there is a scary aspect to this. Doesn't Bobby O sound as if he's a perfect fit for the Mariners?

To add some final perspective here, my single overriding frustration and complaint with Mariners management is their conscious and deliberate placement of themselves in the "old school" in all aspects of their operation; proudly eschewing all types of enhancements in such areas as player evaluation and pitcher prehab. In doing so, the Mariners are condemning the team to future mediocrity as they lose competitive edge.

Most businesses get very energized when a prime competitor consistently produces a competitive product at half the cost. But not our Mariners; as long as the Mariners can put more than 3 million bodies in the Safeco seats year after year, the Mariners will not be pressured to change. But when the team flags and attendance falls, the transition to modernity will be all the more painful for fans, team, management, and owners.
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'

- Bob Dylan

 

VLAD WITH THE MARINERS NEVER REALISTIC?

After seeing how the situation with Vladimir Guerrero developed, I'm left wondering if the Mariners had a realistic chance of landing Vlad had they decided to make him an offer.

Vlad said the Latin connections were extremely important to him. Vlad clearly was reticent to sign with Baltimore, but immediately comfortable dealing with the Angels Those actions certainly suggest that he was being very straightforward and honest in his statement about the importance of Latin connections. I understand that an agent might orchestrate similar actions as a way to get more money in an offer or more teams involved. But, in this case, I think Guerrero's actions are sincere, and a true effort on his part to be in comfortable surroundings. This is no different than the advantages the Mariners have had in attracting Asian talent.

If these presumptions are correct, I don't think the Mariners would have had any more chance of signing Vlad than did the Baltimore Orioles. As with the Orioles offer, a serious offer by the Mariners probably would have simply dangled out there, and immobilized a lot of other roster decisions.

On a related note, within the next couple of days I hope to get up some posts with my thoughts on the changes in the baseball landscape in Southern California (Angels, Doders, and Padres) and on the status of the AL West.

Later today I also hope to do something on protecting the arms of minor league pitchers.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

 

RSS SYNDICATION ENABLED

For those interested, Mariners Wheelhouse now enables RSS syndication. Look for the link in the right sidebar below the links to other baseball sites.

 

PHIL ROGERS AT ESPN ALSO CHECKS IN WITH A SUBMITTAL

Is it just me, or did terrorists sabotage the water supply in the drinking water coolers at all of the major newspaper sports desks around the country?

Phil Rogers checks in with his entry from his column today at ESPN.com: ESPN.com - MLB - Rogers: Rocky Mountain high:
O'Dowd signed Jeff Fassero (another guy who induces ground balls) with the thought the left-hander can possibly take over the final spot in the rotation.
Jeff Fassero had a ground ball to fly ball ratio last year of 1.21. Because Fassero didn't log 162 innings, he doesn't make it onto ESPN.com's database of sortable stats for NL Pitchers. Had Fassero placed, though, he would have ranked in the bottom 30% pitchers in ground ball to fly ball ratio.

Great fact, checking, Phil! Of course, based on the overall content of Phil's writing, the only real surprise is why we had to wait this long to get an entry from Rogers.

If I were a Rockies fan, though, I would be shuddering right now, because it's entirely possible that Phil is just passing on information that he received from the Rockies. In other words, maybe O'Dowd thinks that Fassero is a ground ball pitcher. Maybe O'Dowd had trouble with simple division in grade school, and he thinks that groundball pitchers have smaller groundball to fly ball ratios. And maybe O'Dowd's been confused about this for years, and has been using the wrong statistic in all of his botched signings of pitchers!

Sometimes it's not so bad to blog the Mariners.

 

MORE CANDIDATES FOR THE BOB FINNIGAN AWARD FOR CRITICAL THINKING IN SPORTS WRITING

This is getting exciting!! Today we've got two more candidates.

Locally, David Locke submits his entry, Locked on Sports: 'Boone factor' to grace new trio?. He comes up with one of the all time stupid statements:
If [the Mariners] hadn't traded their manager, the last player they acquired via trade or development would have been Wilson, 10 seasons ago.
Derek at U.S.S. Mariner takes this one on, and I can add a few others to Derek's list: David Bell, Alex Redriquez, and Jose Cruz, Jr, are players who came to the Mariners either via trade or developed through the Mariners' minor league system.

Finally, Randy Youngman of the Orange County Register clamors to not be overlooked, with his claim that Garret Anderson is more valuable than Vladimir Guerrrero.

I sent an e-mail to Gabriel at The Safest Blog on the Web the other day, suggesting that, rather than trying to rate blogs, it would be more entertaining to have a competition for the worst example of sportwriting by a beat writer. Except I'm not sure we would be able to handle all of the possible entries.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

 

HIJINKS IN THE RANGERS ORGANIZATION?

Next up from the Wheelhouse's favorite Rangers beat writer:

Call to arms 2004 - Young pitchers dominating minors enhance major dreams for Rangers

This could give Roman Polanski some bad ideas for a remake of Bull Durham. I guess the Rangers are so desperate for pitching they'll do anything to keep pitchers motivated. And I wonder what are those dreams that the Rangers have for them in the majors? Ryan Minor should certainly be glad he didn't wind up in the Rangers organization after he left Tacoma.

T.R. Sulliivan really needs a new headline writer.

 

CHARLTON TRYING TO MAKE A COMEBACK

Seattle Mariners News. If the alternative is Jarvis on the pitching roster, I might be able to get behind this.

 

BUG IN MY TEMPLATE FIXED

If you've tried to link to stories at the Wheelhouse by using the hyperlink in the date portion of the byline, you may have noticed that the link carries you to the archived page with the story, but not to the story itself.

I finally isolated and fixed the offending code, so that now you can use the hyperlinks to point straight to the story.

Try it - here's the hyperlink to one of my favorite posts, Is There a Doctor in the House.

 

UNTOUCHABLE TO UNCLAIMABLE

Mariners' Anderson assigned to Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.

Several other bloggers have picked up this item as well. The real story, however, has nothing to do with any possible good fortune for the Mariners that he cleared waivers.

The important part of the Anderson saga is the Mariners' silly entrenched notion that certain minor league pitching prospects are "untouchable". Four years ago, teams were clamoring to trade with the Mariners to get Anderson, and the Mariners could have exchanged him for almost any other young prospect in baseball. But the Mariners said he was "untouchable"; now he is not even waiver worthy.

I really hope that Anderson recovers from his surgeries sufficiently to at least have reasonably normal use of his arm for the rest of his life. Being able to throw a baseball again would be a plus.

Ahh, the ignorance of youth. When he was in high school, he successfully maneuvered to be drafted by the Mariners because he wanted to be around Randy Johnson. Would that he had found an organization that keeps pitchers' arms intact. Instead, he ended up in a system that winnows pitchers by attrition, and he is now one of the winnowed.

 

KENDALL-CIRILLO TRADE DEAD

CBS.SportsLine.com - Padres nix Kendall trade, sign free-agent CF Payton:
The long-discussed deal to send Jason Kendall from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the San Diego Padres fell apart Tuesday -- apparently because the Padres' ownership balked at picking up the remaining $42 million of the catcher's contract.
Kendall has $42 million remaining on his contract, and, Cirillo and Hernandez combined were about $22 million. Pittsburgh apparently refused to pick up any of the remaining $20 million difference in salaries. Without getting some additional contribution from Pittsburgh, Kevin Towers killed the deal.

Definitely the right move by Towers. After netting the salaries, San Diego would have had Kendall for four years at $20 million. That, by itself, is probably near the upper end of his value if he were a free agent. Hernandez has value, so if Kendall alone might barely be worth four years and $20 million, he is not worth 4 years, $20 million (with a no-trade clause) and Ramon Hernandez, as well.

Hernandez is a more than serviceable catcher - and a decent upgrade over what they have had in recent years - so Towers properly didn't feel as if he had to do a deal. Kendall has extra value to the Padres because of his local ties, but unlike the Mariners, Towers knows not to let the 'local ties" override good judgement.

Similarly, I can't fault the Pirates for not extending themselves further. If Kendall is willing to waive his no-trade clause, the Pirates may be able to move Kendall sometime in the future to a team that is desperate for an upgrade at catcher. I would be surprised if Kendall is still in Pittsburgh next August 1.

 

A NEW CONTENDER FOR THE BOB FINNIGAN AWARD FOR CRITICAL ANALYSIS IN SPORTS WRITING

This contribution from T.R. Sullivan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:Star Telegram | 01/12/2004 | Rangers address need, add Rogers.

Silly me, I thought the Rangers already had a surplus of ineffective starting pitchers. Who would have thought they needed another?

 

A LONG WINTER OF DISCONTENT FOR DODGER FANS

Bill Plaschke of the LA Times on Turning the Ravine Into an Abyss of Despair:
In the middle of it all was Tom Lasorda, one guy who still remembers the importance of workouts like these.

He was talking about the Angels.

"I'm very impressed with what they've done," he said. "They're gonna have a lot to say about who wins their division. That's the good thing about free agency, you can go out and get players you need."

What about the Dodgers, Tommy?

Lasorda shrugged and winced, a silence that spoke volumes.


 

THE POWER OF THE PROVEN VETERAN

Andy Brown at BallparkAnalysis.com on The strange world of Bill Bavasi
.
Any team should always be looking for ways to get younger, get cheaper, and get better. The Mariners have done the opposite on all three counts this off-season. Factoring in natural decline from their aging position players (they now have no one in their everyday lineup under the age of 30) and the backward steps from Bavasi and the Mariners 2004 version will be noticeably worse than that of 2003 vintage. That said, the Mariners still have a very good chance at making the playoffs. The A’s, at least on paper, would not appear to be better (and many expect them to be worse) and while the Angels have greatly improved, they may not have improved enough to seriously challenge the leaders. It does make me wonder about Bavasi’s skill as a GM. If he continues to botch off-season moves and spend money on aging, overrated players, the Mariners’ window of opportunity will close very quickly.

Monday, January 12, 2004

 

SELIG SLIME SPREADS TO DODGERLAND

Over at Dodger Thoughts, Jon Weisman has had his hopes dashed about the Dodgers obtaining Vladimir Guerrero. But Jon also detected and has been publicizing an item in the LA Times that should concern every serious baseball fan:
With major league owners scheduled to vote this month on whether to approve the bid of would-be Dodger buyer Frank McCourt, a source said Sunday that McCourt asked Commissioner Bud Selig whether some owners might vote against him if he spent freely to acquire Guerrero yet presented a financing package heavily dependent on loans. Selig offered no assurances, the source said, and McCourt sent word to General Manager Dan Evans to cease talks with Guerrero. - Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times | Top-Shelf Moves
Can't you just smell the Selig slime in that paragraph? Doesn't that suggest that Selig told McCourt that if he wanted to buy the Dodgers, he should not bid on Guerrero?

Readers should remember that the Dodgers just moved Kevin Brown's contract to the Yankees. Why should McCourt need to clear a decision to go after Guerrero with the Commissioners office? Why would the other owners care whether or not McCourt bid for Guerrero, unless they were concerned that he might increase the bidding? If McCourt's finances are so shaky that he needs permission to bid for Guerrero's services even after moving Brown's contract, doesn't that call into question his qualifications to buy the team?

I'll let Jon describe the situation:
Is this for real?

The Dodgers are saving Brown's salary in 2004 and 2005. When the Brown savings stop at the end of 2005, that's when the Dodgers knock $30 million in Shawn Green and Darren Dreifort off the books.

And yet we're supposed to believe or accept that, amid a market correction for player salaries, Vladimir Guerrero's is the one that would drive McCourt out of business?

Did anyone actually think this through? It makes no sense.

If McCourt can't afford to sign Guerrero with the Dodger payroll already on the Atkins diet, he can't afford to buy the Dodgers. Period.

This should unequivocally mark the end of McCourt's ownership bid.

If baseball's owners approve McCourt's purchase of the team, it can only be because they want the Dodgers to be less competitive. They want a weaker team in the nation's second-largest market.
[snip]
News Corp. is unloading the Dodgers at the local pawn shop, and Bud Selig is all too happy to oblige. We're all being sold down the river.
Jay Jaffe at Futility Infielder adds his voice to Jon's: Futility Infielder - AROUND THE BASES:
While I share Jon's concern that the team may be bought by an owner who won't spend the appropriate money to make the Dodgers competitive, I see a far more ominous cloud over this. Namely, that Selig effectively blackmailed McCourt out of pursuing Vlad in exchange for his blessing regarding the Dodger sale -- we all know that behind the scenes, Bud can orchestrate the other owners' yea or nay on this.

I want to see sombody investigate this as further evidence of collusion or at least a foul Seligulan shenanigan. As per our ongoing community-wide discussion on the growing influence of non-mainstream baseball writers, I think we can do our part in building a fire that will make Bud sweat this one.
In previous entries I have posted about how the blogging community can be a voice to ask questions and raise viewpoints that are not expressed by mainstream media. Frankly, the LA Times blew it by not asking these types of questions - just like our local Seattle area dailies similarly fail their readers.

So, I am going to add the voice of this little blog to Jon's and Jay's voices, and I hope that other bloggers reading this also add their voices. And, maybe we can raise enough of a ruckus that the larger public will recognize this latest discharge of slime around the edges of the office door labeled "Commissioner of Baseball". And if enough people are aware of enough of Bud's misdealings, maybe baseball owners will realize that Bud has to go.

The sooner we get Bud out of his office and in front of a panel of Wisconsin state legislators investigating Miller Field, the better off baseball will be. Seattle learned about Bud when Bud grabbed the Pilots. Maybe the rest of the world will someday be awakened.

 

A COMMENT ON THE SORIANO TRADE RUMORS

As mentioned below, Derek Zumsteg at USS Mariner posted that he was aware of rumors that the Mariners were exploring the possibility of trading Rafael Soriano for more offense.

I have had a bit of contact with Derek in the past, and I also know that Derek has contacts within major league baseball and within the Mariners office. From those contacts and from being a regular reader of his writings, I have substantial regard for Derek. Regardless of whether or not you like Derek and the folks at USS Mariner, I think you should be confident that Derek would not have posted this item unless he had received actual information from someone inside baseball that the Mariners have been exploring a Soriano trade. That does not mean that other teams have been contacted. It could very well simply mean that discussions have been occurring within the Mariners brain trust.

Derek's source clearly does not wish to be quoted. Therefore, Derek correctly presented it as a rumor. But readers should understand that this news is not just a posting in a chat room somewhere that has taken on a life of its own. If that were the case, Derek would not have posted it. I am confident that Derek received actual information that the Mariners were considering a Soriano trade, and the person providing the information to Derek was a person who is in a position to know that information.

I think it is pretty likely that the Mariners are exploring what they might be able to get for Soriano. Those who are pessimistic about Bavasi and his moves are either getting wound up again, or they are shrugging it off, having given up all hope. Others who have a kinder, gentler view of Bavasi may be intrigued.

For myself, I have been among the pessimistic bloggers about Bavasi's actions. Despite that reputation in the Mariners blogging community, I am actually an optimisic person by nature, and I am not jumping on an anti-Bavasi bandwagon on this one. Bavasi's roster moves to date certainly do not make me optimisitic about his ability to receive value matching what he gives up. But, in this case, I have a pollyanna-like hope that he talking with St. Louis about moving Winn and Soriano for Jim Edmonds. (Scroll down to see my post on this topic.) At the same time, though, I do fear that he might be looking more at players such as Moises Alou or Paul Konerko. I also fear that this greatly increases the chances that the Mariners will break camp with Jarvis on the 25-man roster, and the Mariners will promptly give back the gains of any additional offense by losing winnable games in the late innings. We will simply have to wait and see whether anything transpires, and, if so, what types of deals surface.

Whatever else you can say about this off-season, it certainly has not been boring.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

 

CIRILLO AND HERNANDEZ FOR KENDALL

David at Sports and Bremertonians mentions that the Padres and the Pirates are discussing a trade like this. David has unkind words for the Pirates about such a trade.

I think David is being a bit hasty. Regular readers here may remember that I considered whether the Mariners should try to swap Cirillo for Kendall - I even considered the implications of including Ben Davis in the deal. Ultimately I concluded that the Mariners were better off keeping Cirillo than trading Kendall.

The issues with Kendall are:
  • Kendall has an awful contract, with about $42 million due over the next four years
  • While Kendall has a nice batting average, he has lost almost all of his power. Right now he appears to be about a $10 million per year singles hitter.
  • His defense isn't what it used to be, and given his age, is almost certain to get worse.
Even if Pittsburgh would have picked up a significant portion of the salary difference in a Kendall for Cirillo deal with the Mariners, I thought it was a bad deal for the Mariners as compared with simply cutting Cirillo. (Though if I had known then about the Cirillo trade we just completed, I might have felt differently.)

From the Pirates' perspective, if they could move Kendall, that opens up a lot of flexibility for them. Kendall doesn't figure much in the Pirates' future, but having his salary obligation for four years really hinders the Pirates' operations. If the Pirates swapped Kendall's contract for Cirillo's, they would clear the salary obligation in two years. That is just about the right timing for when they will need added salary flexibility for the young players they are counting on for their future.

So, if Cirillo + Davis would have been a good deal for Pittsburgh, Cirillo + Hernandez would be even better.

The uncertainty, of course, is how much financial contribution Pittsburgh would provide to make the deal happen. If Pittsburgh can get San Diego to take Kendall without contributing too much money, this could be a real winner for the Pirates.

I just wonder why the Padres would want to take on Kendall's contract when they've got Hernandez. I have a lot of respect for Kevin Towers, and I'm sure the he's figured out a way to make it work for San Diego.

 

USS MARINER RUMORMONGERING ABOUT TRADING SORIANO

Over at USS Mariner, Derek has a post about rumors of a Soriano trade for an offensive upgrade. Derek does have sources of information inside the MLB community, and I am confident that he would not post something like this unless there was some substance.

Derek, by process of elimination, suggests that the roster positions likely involved in a trade are center field, catcher, or 1B. He suggests that 1B is the most likely.

The possibility that caught my attention, though, was center field, particularly a deal with St. Louis involving Winn and Soriano for Edmonds. St. Louis needs pitching and has previously indicated a willingness to explore trading Edmonds. Winn and Soriano would get them pitching and not leave a vacancy in center field.

A deal for Edmonds would fit the Mariners' patterns in some ways, but not in others. Consistent with previous roster moves this off-seaon, Edmonds is veteran player in his 30's. He is also familiar to people in the Mariners brain trust, in this case Bavasi from their days in Anaheim. Bavasi has previously indicated that he is not committed to Winn in center field. The primary, and really the only, inconsistency that I see with the Mariners' operating philosophies is Edmonds' contract. Edmonds remaining contract terms are as follows:
2004: $9.0M
2005: $10.0M
2006: $12.0M
2007: Team option $10.0M or $3.0M buyout
I'm sure, however, that if this trade were done, it would have more components than just Soriano and Winn for Edmonds. Perhaps Bavasi could get St. Louis to contribute some money to even out the salaries.

I think this would be a good trade. Edmonds would greatly add to the Mariners offense, particularly against right-handed pitching. (The Mariners hit much worse against right-handed pitching, and any road to the World Series goes through formidable right handed pitchings staffs.) Edmonds would also be a great candidate to move into the DH role after next season.

My primary concerns with Edmonds involve his age. Edmonds is 33 years old, and players in their 30's are in the declining phase of their careers and they are more injury prone.

The chart below shows Edmonds basic offensive stats for his career.
Edmonds career offensive stats.  5 kb
The chart indicates that he has not yet started to decline offensively. Since he is 33 years old, we should assume that he will start declining next year. However, he is at such a high level now that even with ordinary declines, he should remain productive for the remaining three guaranteed years on his contract.

Injuries are a bigger concern, both because of his age and his injury history. If he were playing in the outfield full time, he likely would miss signficant time to injuries before the end of the contract. But by moving him into a DH role, his health could be preserved.

In the best of worlds, the Mariners would be adding more younger players. But, with the current operating philosophy, a trade of Soriano and Winn for Edmonds is one that I could support.

The biggest sour note in a deal such as this is that it would almost guarantee that Jarvis would be on the pitching staff when the Mariners broke camp. Despite Jarvis' notable lack of success throughout his entire career, the Mariners believe that Jarvis actually adds pitching depth. Our best hope would then be that one of the minor league pitchers performs so well that he forces Jarvis off the roster.

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