Saturday, February 14, 2004
A-ROD TO THE YANKEES?
TEXAS RANGERS INFIELD REVIEW AVAILABLE
Texas Rangers blog has posted their review of the Texas Rangers Infield. Here are links to the Blogger All-Star Reviews of the infields for other AL West Teams:
- Oakland A's by Athletics Nation
- Anaheim Angels by Fire Bavasi
- Seattle Mariners by Mariners Wheelhouse
Friday, February 13, 2004
IT'S LIKE NOT EVEN CONSIDERING THE IDEA OF CONTRACEPTION
At Futility Infielder, Jay Jaffe today posted a piece that supports some of my darkest suspicions about Bill Bavasi. In his entry today, On the Good Foot with the DePo Dodgers?, Jay is discussing what Paul DePodesta might bring to the Dodgers if Frank McCourt does hire DePodesta as the new Dodgers GM.
In discussing the Dodger's long-running inability to develop hitting talent through their farm system, Jay discusses the Dodgers' need to better understand how park factors affect performance. In the Dodgers' case, the home parks of their minor league affiliates are among the most friendly to hitters, whereas Chavez Ravine is perhaps the most pitcher friendly park in baseball. For a young hitter, the jump from AAA to the Big Leagues is already difficult. Expecting the player to simultaneously switch from an extreme hitters park such as Las Vegas (and Albuquerque before that) to the batters black hole of Chavez Ravine is an unneeded extra burden. And, if a team is already having a hard time identifying and developing hitters, they should be aware of any and all factors that might be impeding player progress.
Jaffe links to an article by Dayn Perry of Baseball Prospectus on Park Factors, and then adds the following commentary:
Dayn goes on to crunch some numbers which show that in terms of park effects, the Dodgers had the second-largest difference between their major league ballpark, which favors pitchers in the extreme, and their full-season minor league affiliates. Regarding this, over the winter I've had several discussions with B-Pro's Ryan Wilkins, who wrote the Dodger chapter in the forthcoming book, about this phenomenon, and he said that farm director Bill Bavasi, now the Mariners' GM, hadn't even considered it.[emphasis added] As far as I'm concerned, this is like your sexually active teenage daughter saying she hasn't even considered the idea of contraception -- it's dangerously ignorant on multiple levels. In light of Perry's study and Wilkins' anecdote, the Dodgers' failure to develop hitters becomes more clear. Failing to understand the terrain on which they reside, the expectations they place on their minor league hitters are unreasonable, and when a player like second baseman Joe Thurston doesn't pan out, they're left in a fall-back position.This winter I have sometimes pondered if Bavasi had considered park factors as he was resolutely "retooling" the team. The Mariners as a team are heavily dependent on outfield defense; the pitching staff is an extreme fly ball staff, and the dimensions and characteristics of Safeco field favor teams with fly ball staffs and strong outfield defense. As I have mentioned on several occasions, I simply do not see the sense in weakening outfield defense for the relatively modest offensive gains made. Although I've made sarcastic comments that I thought the changes were ill-advised, I never seriously thought that Bavasi hadn't considered park factors.
But now that I've read Jaffe's piece, the notion that Bavasi made the outfield changes without considering park factors doesn't seem so remote after all.
Thursday, February 12, 2004
MARINERS INFIELD LOOK 2004
As mentioned last week, several AL West bloggers got together to collectively look at the 2004 season and compare how we believe different elements of the rival teams will improve or decline. This post is a continuation in that series.
In conducting this review the participating bloggers are taking a somewhat different approach than is followed by many fans. The basic assumption that most people make when they review teams is to expect a similar output from each player in the coming year as that player produced in the preceding year. Statistics and experience, however, show that it's far more likely that a player's performance will change from year to year than remain the same. Therefore, an alternate way of considering changes is to assume that the contribution from each position will change in the coming year, and focus on assessing whether change is more likely to be an improvement or a decline.
The following links have some background on the approach we are trying to use in this evaluation:Athletics Nation, Texas Rangers blog, and Fire Bavasi, here is my look at the Mariners infield expectations for 2004:
First base for the Mariners in 2003 was John Olerud. The Mariners had a total 1441 total innings on defense last year, and Olerud was at first base for 1287 innings, or 89% of the time. As nice as it would be for Olerud to have a right-handed hitting platoon partner, at this point it appears that Olerud will still cover first base almost all of the time, barring injury. So the question is how Olerud is likely to fare in 2004 versus his 2003 efforts.
Looking first at Olerud's offense, the chart below present Olerud's career OBA and SLG (not park adjusted).
As the chart indicates, Olerud has been remarkably consistent through most of his career. He had outstanding seasons when he was 23 and 28 years old; otherwise he has generally been good for a .400 OBA and SLG between about .450 and .500. Then, in 2003 Olerud's OBA and SLG slumped to .372 and .390, respectively. Since Olerud is in his mid-30's, and is not named Bonds or Martinez, we need to assume the he had the normal peak in his age 28 season, and since then has been declining, albeit not uniformly. So as Olerud enters his age 34 season, the question before us is whether last year was a particularly bad year from which we should expect him to partially rebound, or whether 2003 was a regression back to a declining trend after his 2001 and 2002 seasons.
Since the most pronounced slump was in Olerud's slugging percentage, I reviewed the MLB.com hitting charts for Olerud at Safeco Field to see if there were any obvious patterns. I was particularly looking for indications he was hitting more balls to left field (indicating loss of bat speed). But comparing 2001 to 2003, I didn't see any obvious changes in his patterns for singles, doubles, home runs, or fly outs.
Overall I expect that Olerud's hitting in 2004 will be similar to his 2003 contribution, but the methodology of this analysis requires me to decide whether he is more likely to decline or improve. At Olerud's age, I think the decline in his slugging percentage is ominous. Furthermore, if teams have less reason to fear that he will drive the ball, they will be less likely to pitch carefully to him, which might keep his OBP down. Finally, I think that most of the other key Mariners hitters (with the exception of Ichiro) are also likely to decline in 2004, meaning that Olerud may not receive protection from other hitters in the lineup. However, Olerud's career SLG graph does show a sawtooth pattern, with declines followed by several years of improvement. Since his hitting charts didn't show any obvious changes in hitting patterns, I am guardedly optimistic that he will recover some of his lost power in 2004.
Defensively, Olerud posted a strong performance in 2003. His Range Factor was 8.54, which is slightly below the league average of 9.55, but after adjusting his Range Factor to account for the Mariners pitchers extreme fly ball tendencies, I assigned him an adjusted Range Factor of 10.00, about 5% above league average. (See this post, Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics for a discussion of my methodology in making these adjustments.) For 2001 and 2002, I estimated his adjusted Range Factors at 100% of league average for both years. According to Win Shares, Olerud had a defensive Win Share rate of 2.02 per 1000 innings, versus an average defensive Win Share rate of 1.65 for all players in baseball playing first base and logging more than 200 innings at first base.
Again, the question is whether we expect Olerud can continue to perform at his 2003 level in 2004. As with hitting, I expect that aging will exact its usual toll, and we should expect that Olerud's defense will decline slightly. His defense will still be above league average, and if the Mariners use Spiezio to give Olerud time off instead of Ibañez, the overall decline defense at first base should be small.
Overall assessment: In 2004 offensive performance at first base is likely to improve, whereas defensively there will be some decline.
Last year Boone dispelled most doubts (including mine) about whether his 2001 season was a fluke. Boone has established himself as one of the elite second baseman in the game, both offensively and defensively. Following our methodology, the question we consider is whether his 2004 season is likely to be better or worse than his 2003 season.
The chart below shows Boone's career OBP and SLG numbers (as well as Scott Spiezio's).
As indicated, Boone has increased his game pretty consistently since his age 28 season. This is a remarkable record; Boone is one of a handful of players that seem to have defied the "decline in your 30's" trend.
Nevertheless, I don't think we can reasonably conclude that Boone is immune to aging. It certainly is possible that Boone will improve on his 2003 numbers, but he has been performing at such a high level that there's not much potential for improvement. On the other hand, there is ample room for a decline similar to his 2002 season. Given that next season will be his age 35 season, it is simply far less likely that he will post better numbers than that he will decline somewhat.
Defensively, Boone continued to provide sterling defense. Using the same computations as I did with Olerud, Boone's Range Factors are 108%, 99%, and 105% of league average. As with Olerud, however, we should expect some inevitable declines due to aging.
Overall assessment: Both offensive and defensive performance at second base is likely to decline (albeit slightly) in 2004 as compared with 2003.
At third base we have the shift from Cirillo (673 innings)/Guillen (281 innings)/McLemore (216 innings) to the brave new world of Scott Spiezio. Last year this fearsome trio gave the Mariners a combined OBA of .302 and a SLG of .316. (That's based on their actual stats while they were at third base).
The Mariners plan to use Spiezio as the primary third baseman, so I assume he will log at least many innings at third base as did last season's three-headed monster. Spiezio has a career OBA of .331 and SLG of .427. No need to go into a lot of discussion here; offense from third base will be improved for the Mariners in 2003.
In contrast to the offensive subineptitude, defensively third base was a strong position for the Mariners last year, with all three players providing average or better defense (based on corrected Range Factors and defensive Win Share rates). I discussed Scott Spiezio's defense in the Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics post I mentioned above, and I will refer readers there for details. Spiezio will probably be less than league average defensively, so there will be a defensive drop-off at third base in 2004.
Overall assessment: In 2004, offensive performance at third base is likely to improve significantly, while defensive performance will decline as compared with 2003.
The other big change in the Mariners infield is at shortstop, where Rich Aurilia replaces last year's Guillen/Sanchez/McLemore triad. Let's start with the offensive stats for these three players. As before these stats are based on their record while actually playing shortstop.
2003 Season DataThe chart below shows Aurilia's career OBP and SLG: (not park adjusted):
Player Innings OBA SLG
======== ======= ==== ====
Guillen 620 .352 .395
Sanchez 391 .292 .393
McLemore 216 .336 .303
-------- ------- ---- ----
Combined 1227 .330 .378
Aurilia's career OBP has pretty consistently been about .320, and that is what I would expect from him for 2004. For the last two years, Aurilia's slugging percentage has been below his career averages.
This could easily reflect that he is past his career peak. He reportedly did have some problems with his tear ducts last year that were fixed near the All-Star break. Some people believe that his performance was better after the situation was corrected, but the data I have seen seem ambiguous. Since the park factors for Safeco and PacBell/$BC/whatever are much the same, we don't need to consider park adjustments.
Overall, a SLG of about .400 to 0.410 seems to be a reasonable expectation for Aurilia, which would mean Aurilia's contribution at shortstop would be a bit better than the production from the Mariners 2003 triad. Since I think it is more likely that Aurilia will do better than .320/.410 than to slide further, I think that overall the Mariners will see some offensive improvement at shortstop.
Defensively, the Mariners shortstop triad was above league average. Going through the same Range Factor adjustment exercise I've done for other positions, the Mariners shortstop triad posted a combined Range Factor of 4.91 after FB/GB adjustment, which is about 8.1% better than league average of 4.54.
In contrast, Aurilia is below average defensively. The table below summarizes Aurilia's Range Factor stats for 2001 through 2003, applying the same adjustments for pitching staff GB/FB ratio that I have used throughout this exercise:
GB/FB Ratio Aurilia RF League Per CentThese data indicate that Aurilia will not provide the same level of defense the Mariners received in 2003. In fact, Aurilia's defense seems to have been declining significantly over the last three years, and it may be best to assume that it will continue to erode.
------------- ------------ Avg of
Year MLB Giants Raw Adjstd RF League
---- ---- ------ ---- ------ ------ -------
2000 1.16 1.06 4.59 4.79 4.47 107
2002 1.18 1.02 4.36 4.67 4.52 103
2003 1.22 1.16 4.14 4.24 4.52 94
This defensive assessment of Aurilia is supported by two other metrics, Win Share Rates and Ultimate Zone Rating. In my discussion of John Olerud, I mentioned Defensive Win Share rates. Aurilia's defensive Win Share rate at shortstop in 2003 was 5.23 Win Shares per 1000 innings. For the Mariners shortstop triad, their defensive Win Share rates as shortstop were 6.05, 6.68, and 6.75 for Guillen, McLemore, and Sanchez, respectively. Across the board, all of the three Mariners who received significant time as shortstop were better than Aurilia.
Ultimate Zone Rating is a statistic that I am currently reviewing. It divides the baseball field into various zones, and them compares players in their abilities to turn batted balls that are in those zones into outs. It's essentially a runs created/runs prevented formula. You can read more about it at these links:
Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), Part 1
Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), Part 2
Ultimate Zone Rating provides the following comparison of Guillen and Aurilia from 2000 through 2003:
Year Aurilia GuillenWhat these stats are saying, essentially, is that Guillen makes a lot more plays on balls hit in his area of the field than does Aurilia.
---- ------- -------
2000 -3 -1
2001 17 6
2002 -16 -1
2003 -11 -1
Overall assessment: In 2004, offensive performance at shortstop is likely to improve, while defensive performance will decline as compared with 2003.
Wrapping It Up:
The Mariners are punting defense in the infield, hoping that the added offense will offset the defensive losses. This is not necessarily a bad strategy. Given the fly ball tendencies of the Mariners pitching staff, it makes more sense to sacrifice defense in the infield than the outfield. (But the Mariners, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to sacrifice defense in both areas.) If Olerud can regain some of his lost power and Boone doesn't slide, there may be enough infield offensive improvement to offset the defensive losses. If, however, Olerud continues to decline and Boone's year is similar to his 2002 season, the Mariners infield will be noticeably worse offensively as well as defensively in 2004.
I hadn't looked at the effects of adding Aurilia this closely until I prepared this analysis. Before doing this review I was relatively indifferent towards brining in Aurilia. After looking at this information I now conclude that spending the extra money on Aurilia was probably wasted. Given that the modest increase in offense that Aurilia will provide is largely offset by the loss of defense, the added salary paid Aurilia not appear justified. There is a very good possibility that in 2004 the Mariners will pay more and get less at shortstop than they would have obrtained had they kept Guillen and just added a serviceable backup infielder.
Links to the Blogger All-Star Reviews of the infields for other AL West Teams
- Oakland A's by Athletics Nation
- Anaheim Angels by Fire Bavasi
- Texas Rangers by Texas Rangers Blog - pending
MENTORS AND MONEY IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts has been tracking the situation involving Raul Mondesi owing 1% of his earnings to Mario Guerrero. Jon has a series of posts on this topic. In his most recent post, The Youth Market Jon shares an e-mail he received from Latin broadcaster and writer Carlos Lugo on this topic. Lugo's comments are interesting, revolving around the following theme:
Our country is transformed into a baseball player factory or some sort of assembly line. Everywhere you can see young kids playing ball, and the sad part is that they're not exactly playing for the fun of it (as I did and as you did) but trying to become professional baseball players.So it becomes a business, and any kid with talent get latched on to by a mentor, who is looking for a payday down the road.
I'm not sure what to think about this. A good mentor obviously can greatly assist a young player. The mentor should help the player improve his skills, get noticed by teams, and negotiate a better contract when the player is ready to sign with a team. And with the alternative being poverty, it's generally good for a player to get help that enables him get a baseball contract he would otherwise miss.
The system howver, certainly appears ripe for exploitation. The mentor is not necessarily going to have the player's best interests in mind. How objective can a mentor be, for example, in counseling a marginal player to give it up and get an education? Because a mentor would logically push a player to ignore other skills and studies in favor baseball, if a player doesn't make it into baseball (which is going to be true for most players), wouldn't the player then be worse off than he would have been without the mentor's involvement? And with the potential rewards that come with a baseball contract, how often do parents allow mentors to virtually take over their children's lives in hopes that the mentor can get the child the contract that will enable them all to have a secure life?
Of course, teams will develop (or, more likely, have already developed) relationships with mentors, so each mentor will tend to steer his prospects to the teams and baseball schools with whom he he has a working relationship. Is there anything prohibiting mentors from also being paid scouts for teams? If a mentor is also a paid scout, would the mentor really be objecitive in negotiating that first contract? Unless I'm missing something, mentoring could easily provide loopholes for teams to extend their farm system to the younger players they are currently prohibited from signing.
There are some parallels in the United States already, particularly with young basketball players from poor families, with the relationship between Jamal Crawford and Barry Henthorn being one example.
This situation has the possibility of becoming extremely ugly and embarrassing for baseball. This is the type of situation that an effective Commissioner would address and resolve proactively, before baseball gets an ugly mark.
METS TURN TO TECHNOLOGY TO THROW STRIKES
More on Rick Peterson and the American Sports Medicine Institute, from the NY Daily News: Mets Turn to Technology to Throw Strikes
Thanks to Avkash at The Raindrops for this link.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
JOHN LEVESQUE AND THE GHOST OF DANNY KAYE
Joh Levesque takes a few licks at the Mariners in a supposed interview with Danny Kaye, new special consultant to the Mariners: Mariners' plans for 2004 are A-O-Kaye. According to Levesgue, the Mariners are resurrecting (literally) Danny Kaye as part of the effort to bring back former Mariners, breathing or not.
KAYE: True enough. But this is a conservative organization, and it's important for Mariners fans to recognize the value of contingency plans.
P-I: Such as ...?
KAYE: Such as celebrating the joy of taking the family to a ballgame regardless of the outcome. And the great pleasure of walking up to the ticket booth on game day and being able to get good seats. That hasn't happened in years
KAYE: I'm not saying they will be bad, but they could be bad. We've already discussed the feeble bench. Their fielding is probably softer at third and short, which makes the pitching staff automatically weaker. Randy Winn will get to a lot of balls in center but he's not going to throw anybody out. Odds are the starting rotation won't repeat its ironman feat of 2003. And if Edgar Martinez goes down, it appears right now that the backup DH is none other than Quinton McCracken.
LIES, DAMN LIES, AND STATISTICS
I'm just catching up on a post made by Chris over at At Least The Red Sox Have 1918 several weeks ago about Scott Spiezio's defensive history at third base. Chris cited the following data for Spiezio's career at third base, referencing data from Baseball-Reference.com:
Russ Davis as M's 3B:I don't believe the situation is nearly as bad as Chris portrays.
0.933 Fielding Pct., 2.24 Range Factor
Scott Spiezio, Lifetime, as 3B:
0.929 Fielding Pct., 1.66 Range Factor!
The 1.66 career Range Factor that Baseball-Reference provides for Spiezio at third base is a bogus statistic because it's calculated using games played instead of innings played. (If you are unfamiliar with Range Factor, scroll to the bottom of this post for an explanation of Range Factor and why it needs to be based on innings instead of games played.)
If we focus on just years 2000 through 2003, for which Range Factor data are available by inning played, Spiezio's Range Factor measurements are as follows:
Innings Spiezio LeagueThose factors are considerably more respectable than the 1.66 value from Baseball-Reference used by Chris.
Year Played RF RF
---- ------- ------- ------
2000 75 3.00 2.65
2001 40 2.48 2.75
2002 94 3.16 2.68
2003 396 2.09 2.65
The next big problem with Range Factor is that it is affected by the pitching staff of the player's team - particularly the ground ball to fly ball ratio (GB/FB). Teams that have fly ball pitching staffs generate fewer putout and assist opportunities for infielders than do teams with ground ball pitching staffs. (The fly ball pitching staffs, though, enable outfielders to rack up huge numbers.) If you just used Range Factor, for example, you would conclude that the Mariners have bad infield defense, because every Mariners infielder is below league average in Range Factor. The Mariners, however, have an extreme fly ball pitching staff, so the lower Range Factors in the infield simply reflect that Mariners infielders have signficantly fewer putout and assist opportunities than league average.
So, has Spiezio's Range Factor been hurt by the GB/FB ration of the Anaheim staff? As a matter of fact, it probably has. To examine this, let's focus on the 2003 year, since that is both the past season and is the year when Spiezio had by far the most playing time at third base.
For 2003, Anaheim's pitching staff had an innings weighted ground ball to fly ball ratio of 0.97. In comparison, the average innings weighted ground ball to fly ball ratio in baseball in 2003 was 1.20. In other words, last year Anaheim's staff was a fly ball staff. Thus, even if Spiezio were a league average defender at third base, his expected zone rating would have been below league.
Making a proper correction of Spiezio's Range Factor to adjust for pitching staff GB/FB is pretty complex. But we can do a crude adjustment to Spiezio's Range Factor with a simple estimate of the additonal putout and assist opportunities Spiezio would have had if the Anaheim staff had an average GB/FB ratio. To do this, I will assume that every extra ground ball hit is a new infield fielding opportunity, and that the addtional fielding opportunites will not change Siezio's fielding success. (In other words, if Spiezio actually fielded 10% of the ground balls yielded by Anaheim pitchers while he was playing 3rd base in 2003, then he would have fielded 10% of the additional ground balls produced had the Anaheim pitchers yielded a league average GB/FB.) That assumption isn't totally correct, since some of the flyballs that become ground balls would have been infield fly balls. But because it's a lot harder to get data on infield fly balls, I'm going to ignore that factor and just recognize that I'm overcorrecting by a bit.
Proceeding to the numbers:
- at the league average GB/FB ratio of 1.2, 55% of the balls hit were ground balls.
- at the Anaheim Angels GB/FB ratio of 0.97, 49.2% of balls hit were ground balls.
- dividing 49.2/55, I estimate that Spiezio had only 89.5% of the Put Out and Assist opportunities he would have had were he playing behind a pitching staff with an average GB/FB.
- Dividing his actual 2003 Range Factor of 2.09 by 0.85, his Range Factor (adjusted) is 2.45 (versus a league Range Factor of 2.65).
Another way to look at this is with defensive Win Shares (data from Baseball Graphs), comparing Spiezio at 3rd base with Glaus at 3rd base. I'll look at both Range Factor and defensive Win Shares for Glaus and Spiezio. From Baseball-Reference.com, Glaus' Range Factor in 2003 was 2.35, which is better than Spiezio's 2.09. Making the same correction to Glaus' Range Factor as I did for Spiezio's, Glaus' Range Factor becomes 2.63 versus a league average of 2.67. So Glaus is pretty close to league average, and Spiezio is an increment below league average.
Shifting to Win Shares, Baseball Graphs shows defensive Win Share generation rates of 2.13 and 2.35 Win Shares per 1000 innings for SpIezio and Glaus, respectively. So Win Shares and Range Factor both agree that Spiezio isn't the defender that Glaus is, but he certainly isn't a disaster, either.
So, where does this leave us? As I indicated, I think Chris is far too pessimistic about Spiezio. Spezio's defense will probably be below league average, but he won't be horrid. And, as Chris has also pointed out, with additional work at third base he might improve.
Finally, as I have noted before, the Mariners pitching staff has an extremely low GB/FB ratio, and, on that basis, I criticized the Mariners for sacrificing outfield defense. With the extremely high numbers of fly balls the Mariners give up, weakening outfield defense has a bigger impact on runs allowed than it would for other teams. The corollary, of course, is that sacrificing infield defense will affect the Mariners less than other teams.
As long as the Mariners pitchers remain extreme fly ball pitchers, the infield is a better place to give up some defense to add offense. With SpIezio replacing Cirillo/Guillen at 3rd base, I think the Mariners will gain more offensively than they will give up defensively at third base. On the other hand, I really can't see how Ibañez is going to produce enough offense to offset the related weakened outfiield defense.
I'm still working on the Mariners Wheelhose assessment of infield defense. I was working on that post when I caought Chris' post and decided to respond. I will be referencing back to this post when I do my infield assessment.
Note on Range Factor:
For readers unfamiliar with Range Factor, let me explain the stat. Range factor essentially measures the number of plays a player makes per game that are turned into outs. Properly calculated, you add together Put Outs and Assists, divide by inning played, then multiply by 9. It's a bit similar to ERA, where you divide earned runs by innings pitched, then multiply by 9. Properly used, it's a much better statistic than fielding percentage because it credits a player for getting to balls that other players don't reach.
There is a real problem with calculating range factor using games played instead of innings played. If a player is a late inining substituion, he might get only a few, or even zero, assists or putouts, yet still be credited with a full game. That trashes the range factor, and that is what has happened with Spiezio.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
FROM ECON TO CHEMISTRY
Having flunked his Econ midterm with the Villone contract, Bavasi is now moving on to his chemistry mid-term. Since Sasaki's departure, Bavasi seems to have belatedly discovered that the Mariners bench lacks offense. (Do you remember that at the start of the offseason, improving the team offense was the top priority?) Well, having failed with Burks, Bavasi's attentions may have shifted to Raul Mondesi. According to David Andriesen in today's P-I, Jeff Moorad, Mondesi's agent, said the Mariners have shown interest in Mondesi.
Now, I generally think that "chemistry" on a team is overrated. My experience has been that, if you take the same group of people, chemistry is there when things are going good, and chemistry disappears when things go bad. I've seen that duality repeat itself over and over again with project teams at work. With any group of reasonably well-balanced people, chemistry is simply much more a function of the circumstances surrounding a group of people than the people that are in the group.
Note the caveat, however, about the group being reasonably well-balanced. "Head cases" are tremendously devastating to any organization. Mondesi, as nearly as I can tell, is a head case of Ruben Sierra magnitude. There's a reason why an 11 year veteran with a career OBP of .333 and SLG of .491 is still looking for a contract. Sierra eventually realized he had been a complete jerk, but Mondesi doesn't seem to have figured that out yet - according to Moorad he still expects a deal as a full-time player. If the Mariners were to sign Mondesi, I figure that by July his picture will be featured on billboards and milk cartons all around Puget Sound as part of a community service campaign to fight idiocy. If Bavasi is seriously considering signing Mondesi, that says Bavasi needs to spend a lot more time in the chemistry labs.
Unfortunately, there is yet another important part of chemistry that Bavasi hasn't yet mastered - the concept of a solution. To make a solution, you add components to an appropriate solvent and allow the components to dissolve in the solvent. Unfortunately, with many of Bavasi's additions this winter, he has added the components, but hasn't produced a solution.
Let's look at the Villone signing. Villone was brought in as a situational lefty, so let's compare his 2003 splits vs left handed batters with the other setup pitchers in the pen. (I'll leave Guardado out because he is the anointed closer, and I'll include Soriano because he's still in the pen as the roster is currently assembled.)
2003 SPLITS VS LH BATTERSIf the Mariners had a problem matching up with left-handers before signing Villone, I don't see how signing Villone is the solution. Just as trading Colbrunn for McCracken is not a solution to the need for more offense.
Player BA OBP SLG
-------- ---- ---- ----
Villone .267 .342 .475
Hasegawa .246 .301 .317
Mateo .220 .237 .393
Soriano .191 .248 .287
Jarvis .288 .353 .436
So if Bavasi has added stuff to the Mariners mix, but he hasn't made a solution, what has he accomplished? Any chemist will tell you that if something isn't part of the solution, but doesn't settle out, it's a colloid or a precipitate that you need to filter out.
That pretty much describes the Mariners right now - they need to filter out the crap that's on the roster but isn't part of the solution. Unfortunately, since our head chemist is the one who's adding crap to the mix instead of filtering out the crap, we may not pass the upcoming chemistry exam.
Finally, some kudos for Andriesen. I've frequently crticized beat writers for just parroting back whatever nonsense the team dishes them. Andriesen does the obligatory piece, but also adds these two paragraphs not provided by the Mariners:
The team wanted a left-hander to use on a situational basis against left-handed hitters, but Villone hasn't done especially well against lefties. In 2003, left-handers batted .267 against him and hit 11 homers in 101 at-bats.Ouch!!
Five of the Mariners' regular right-handers held lefties to a lower average last season.
Monday, February 09, 2004
WHAT DID HE KNOW AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT?
Burks signed with Boston, reportedly after surfing around the net to get more info on the BoSox and the Marinrs.
Do you suppose the news that Mariners were looking at Villone convinced Burks to sign for Boston for half the money?
MARINERS INFIELD UPDATE ...
has been delayed as I've been taking care of some work commitments the last week. It will be up tomorrow.
Regarding Villone, I really can't add anything to what hasn't already been said.