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

Saturday, May 22, 2004

 

Jason Johnson - the Latest Mariner Killer

Jason Johnson is the latest crummy pitcher to embarass the Mariners. Johnson's line coming into the game:
     2004  Career

ERA 6.00 4.97
AVG .299 .277
OPS .363 .350
SLG .511 .451
Tonight Johnson goes 8-1/3 innings. Before faltering in the 9th, Johnson's line is:
IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-ST

8 4 2 2 1 6 1 93-64
Also listening to Melvin in the post-game, he said he was ready to bring in Eddie for one out in the eighth if needed, with the left-handers coming up. But then the Tigers tied the game.

Once again Bob would rather let a game get out of hand then use Eddie in situation when the Mariners don't the lead.

 

Reds Interested in Meche?



According to Will Caroll at Baseball Prospectus (premium subscription required):

"The Reds, among other teams, are inquiring about Gil Meche"

 

He Succeeded in Making Scott Boras Appear Ethical

When I resurrected my February post about Mondesi earlier today, I was unaware of any reported Mariners interest in Mondesi. But now Jeff Sullivan at Leone for Third dug out this story, which claims the Mariners have expressed interest in Mondesi. I wouldn't give much credence to these reports. The information appears to trace back to the Dominican Republic, which means it is probably coming from Mondesi's camp, not from any major league team. Players and agents often plant false or misleading stories about team interest because they want teams to believe there is more competition for the players services.

It is clear, though, that there's more involved with Mondesi walking out on the Pirates than what has been in the news so far. What we do know is that after several teams (including the Mariners) passed on Mondesi last winter, the Pirates were Mondesi's only remaining option for a full-time roster position as spring training was getting ready to start. Without having any demand for his services, Mondesi had to accept Pittsburgh's one-year offer for $1.75 million. This was a big drop from Mondesi's previous contract paying him about $6 million, and Mondesi started whining about the contract even before he signed it. For their part, I think the Pirates signed Mondesi just because he was cheap, and Littlefield figured he could probably trade Mondesi at the deadline for some prospects (as the Rangers did with Urbina last year).

I think there is a likely explanation for the recent strange events involving Mondesi and the Pirates. The pieces fit together neatly with the simple, Occam's Razor-like assumption that Mondesi and his agent, Jeff Moorad, believe that Mondesi can get a significantly better contract than the one Mondesi had with Pittsburgh by signing with another team as an unrestricted free agent. If you accept that conjecture, then everything that has transpired is simply a strategy to get Mondesi out of his contract with Pittsburgh, with the timing staged to ensure that he would be available as teams decided they were contenders and needed outfield help. After Mondesi walked out on the Pirates in April and told them he was not going to return under any circumstances, Pittsburgh had no real alternative but either to put Mondesi on restricted status or to terminate Mondesi's contract. Because the Pirates had no reason to leave Mondesi on restricted status, they terminated the contract for breach, freeing them of all obligations to Mondesi, and making Mondesi the unrestricted free agent he wanted to be. Now Moorad is marketing Mondesi to teams who might need his services.

As I mentioned previously, I wouldn't worry much right now about Mondesi becoming a Mariner. As pessimistic as I am, I still find it difficult to believe the Mariners would seriously considering signing Mondesi. If the Mariners do become seriously interested in Mondesi, I would be very concerned, for several reasons:
  • Mondesi is precisely the type of player that does not belong in a clubhouse. He has amply demonstrated throughout his career that he is only concerned with himself and how much money he is making, and his teammates and the success of his club are only distant concerns. He is one of the few players that actually would make a difference in chemistry, and the difference would not be good.

  • Mondesi is 33 years old. If the Mariners are interested in Mondesi, it would be clear that Bavasi has learned nothing about aging players from this season.

  • Adding Mondesi only makes sense if the Mariners think this season is salvageable. The delusion would mean the team is not taking needed actions to clear the roster and assess the talent at Tacoma.

  • One consistent unifying theme in the Mariners transactions has been a focus on player character and integrity. Adding Mondesi to the roster would indicate that philosophy has been peremptorily discarded, and replaced with nothing but expediency. In other words, seriously considering Mondesi is a panic move, not a planned move. Whether or not you agree with the Mariners emphasis on character and integrity is immaterial - some type of operating philosophy is necessary, and dismantling the current approach without creating a replacement will make things even worse.
If the circumstances underlying Mondesi's separation from the Pirates are as I have conjectured, then Mondesi will have removed any remaining doubts that he is the poison that he appears to be. And Moorad will have accomplished something I would have thought impossible - he will have succeeded in making Scott Boras appear ethical by comparison.

 

The Case for Adding Edgar to the Hall of Fame

Synaptic Flatulence sets forth the case for adding Edgar to the Hall of Fame. I don't think permalinks are working at Synaptic Flatulence, so if my hyperlink doesn't bring you to the article, navigate to John's post of May 13, 2004.

 

Results of Mariners Wheelhouse On-Line Poll on whether the Mariners will be buyers or sellers at the July 31 Deadline

As I've noted previously, Wheelhouse readers are a pretty cynical bunch. There's been ample time to for readers to vote in the Mariners Wheelhouse On-Line Poll on whether the Mariners will be buyers or sellers at the July 31 Deadline. By far the two most popular options were:
  • Option 8 (31%), the Big Lie scenario, in which the Mariners claim they don't have budget to dump salary or acquire salary; and
  • Option 4 (28%), the Rearrange the Deck Chairs on the Titanic scenario, in which the Mariners juggle the roster without any coherent overall plan.
After that voters are equally divided on whether the Mariners will be delusional about the team's prospects, or whether they will throw in the towel and bring in more players of the same types that they are relying on this year.

Through most of the voting period, Option 8 was the clear leader, but in the last two week Option 4 closed part of the gap. Because that change in voting patterns coincides with the Mariners almost total collapse of the last two weeks, most of us apparently believe that the listing of the ship is so obvious that the Front Office won't be able to ignore it. We have little confidence, though, that Bavasi will do anything more than compound his errors.

The table below presents the full results of this totally unscientific survey:


Results of Mariners Wheelhouse On-Line Poll on whether the Mariners will be buyers or sellers at the July 31 Deadline
Option% of VotesDescription# of Votes
11%The Mariners will be contenders in the AL West, and will be buyers, trading prospects for fading veterans.3
213%The Mariners will delude themselves into thinking they are contenders, and will be buyers, trading prospects for fading veterans.32
36%The Mariners will decide the current team can contend, and will make no significant changes.16
428%The Mariners won't be able to decide if they should be buyers or sellers, and, just so they can say they did something, will trade fading veterans in their 30's for other fading veterans in their 30's.71
56%The Mariners will throw in the towel (sponsored by Bed, Bath, and Beyond, trade veterans for unproven toolsy young players, and use the payroll savings to help pay off the Safeco Field construction cost overruns.16
612%The Mariners will throw in the Bed, Bath, and Beyond towel and trade Rafael Soriano and other promising young players for fading veterans in their 30's.29
72%The Mariners will throw in the Bed, Bath and Beyond towel and trade Rafael Soriano and other promising young players for unproven toolsy minor leaguers and should be minor leaguers.6
831%The Mariners will not make a deal, because they will claim that paying off Jarvis will require all of the salary savings from Sasaki's departure.77


 

From Econ to Chemistry

The Pirates terminated Mondesi's contract this week, which bought to mind my comments last February when his agent contacted the Mariners. I thought adding Mondesi was a bad idea then, and I think it would be even worse now.

I'm not sure that I'll have time later today or tomorrow for some blogging, so I thought I would retrieve that post out of the archives. When I did, I found it has some other thoughts in it that are also worth reconsidering on this dismal May 22.

FROM ECON TO CHEMISTRY. Originally posted Feb 10, 2004

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 BATTERS


Player BA OBP SLG
-------- ---- ---- ----
Villone .267 .342 .475
Hasegawa .246 .301 .317
Mateo .220 .237 .393
Soriano .191 .248 .287
Jarvis .288 .353 .436
If 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.

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.

Five of the Mariners' regular right-handers held lefties to a lower average last season.
Ouch!!

 

What happens when you combine a clueless GM with unrequited passion?

When you combine a clueless GM with unrequited passion, one result is intense blogging. So as some Mariners weblogs become cobweblogs and others just give it up (permanently or temporarily), new bloggers are inspired and come forth.

So give a welcome to Mariners Intelligence. Our anonymous compatriot will primarily feature links to news articles about the Mariners.

Continuing the thought of Mariners blogosphere passion, I think it's notable that the Mariners are by far the most blogged team at BaseballBlogs.org. At the time I am posting this, there are 2212 links to posts about the Mariners. The second most blogged team is the Red Sox, with 1871 linked posts.

In terms of blogs devoted to a team the Mariners and Yankees are tied for third with 22 team blogs registered. The Red Sox are first with 41, followed by the Mets with 25. Mariners bloggers are more prolific than bloggers for other teams, probably because of our frequent and intense needs to vent our frustrations.

 

Farewell to Doug Pappas

Doug Pappas died.

This is a loss to the baseball blogging community. Among many other activities, Doug covered the business side of baseball through his writings at Baseball Prospectus and through his Business of Baseball Pages weblog.

Doug was one of the best sources of independent and knowledgeable information about the how baseball operates. Doug regularly deconstructed the lies and deceits put out by the Commissioners office and by team owners.

And he was also very willing to take a few minutes to answer questions from fellow bloggers whom he had never heard of before and who sent him e-mails out of the blue (such as me).

His death leaves a big hole in the blogging community.

Farewell to yet another friend whom I never met.

Added comments. Jay Jaffe at Futility Infielder has a fitting obituary on Doug Pappas, with many links to his works. If you were not familiar with Doug and his contributions, it's a good introduction.

Doug may have died, but his thoughts and writings endure.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

 

Will the Mariners Look at Lo Duca?

Paul Lo Duca will likely be a free agent this offseason.. Let's see how Lo Duca stacks up against the Mariners established free agent signing criteria:
  • veteran player in his early 30's: check

  • popular player in clubhouse: check

  • good character, fine human being: check

  • had fluke career year in 2001 that he wlll probably never repeat: check

  • batting average in high .200's, with little power, and hacks at pitches instead of taking walks: check

  • offensive stats in declining status typical of players past 30: check

  • previous positive history with Bavasi and Melvin: check

  • does not come with long-term contractual commitment: check
It appears to me that Lo Duca has just about everything Bavasi and the Mariners look for in a free agent. The only thing missing is that the Mariners wouldn't forfeit a draft pick to the Dodgers if the Mariners signed Lo Duca as a free agent. (Because Lo Duca doesn't have the six years of service needed to be an unrestricted free agent, he would only be a free agent because the Dodgers gave him an outright release in lieu of offering arbitration.)

The Mariners have also been interested in Kendall, and Lo Duca and Kendall seem comparable both offensively and defensively. Kendall is two years younger, but has a long term contract that the Mariners don't like. Since the Mariners season is pretty well shot, the Mariners have little to gain by trading for Kendall this year instead of waiting for Lo Duca to become available in the offseason.

I wouldn't be surprised if the 2005 Mariners feature a catching tandem of Lo Duca (2-year contract at about $4 million per year with team option) and Wilson (1-year contract at $2.5 million with team option).

BTW - the salary figures are what I think the Mariners would offer based on their past history, not what I think the players are actually worth.

 

Bob, Is there anything positive you can take out of this game?

More from David Andriesen in today's P-I:
"I feel like I'm a guy who can somehow find a silver lining, but we didn't play very well," [Melvin] said. "We didn't put up much of a fight."
That was Melvin's postgame response to the question, "Bob, Is there anything positive you can take out of this game?"

 

Younger and More Athletic

Larry Larue's story on the Mariners potential roster reshuffling included this comment:
The Mariners want to get younger and more athletic, they want to send a message to the team - and its fans - that there is hope this season.
Younger and more athletic sounds to me a lot like toolsy prospects, big slow power hitters need not apply. Imagine a team composted of young Quinton McCrackens and Mark McLemores, with the minor leagues stocked with Vince Faison clones.

Remember that Bavasi says he doesn't know how to evaluate statistics for minor leaguers, and he relies heavily on scouts identifying and evaluating players with tools. That sounds to me as if we are going to wind up with a lot of teams toolsy prospects who can't use their tools.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

 

David Locke Deconstruct the Mariners Roster Management

David Locke deconstructs the last couple of years of Mariners FO office moves.
The irony in all of these moves is the front office is averse to risk-taking and terrified of mistakes. Instead, while acting conservatively, they have destroyed a great team.

 

Bavasi Hews to the Company Line

On the postgame show, FSN ran a clip of an interview with Bavasi earlier in the day. Bavasi said the Front Office believes the Mariners can still climb into the pennant race, and any trades or roster moves will be made to contend. He said the Mariners would not be trading for prospects, nor were they interested in adding prospects to deals – so any deals would be players for players. Since there aren’t a lot of teams that match up in trades of players from the 25-man rosters, it’s hard to make deals.

So it's the usual “we’re trying to make trades but there aren’t any deals out there” line from the Front Office”. Don't expect the Mariners to make any significant roster moves, essentially guaranteeing that the team will still be in the cellar come July.

BTW – the negativity about the club has now spread to FSN.

Update:David Andriesen's column in the P-I has some additional reporting on Bavasi's comments this afternoon, but Andriesen's column doesn't have Bavasi's remarks about not being interested in either dealing for or giving up prospects.

 

Randy Johnson Perfect Game

Congratulations to Randy Johnson on his second perfect game!
Correction: his second no-hitter.

ESPN.com - MLB - Randy Johnson's perfect game by the numbers:
  • Total pitches: 117
  • Strikes: 87
  • Balls: 30
  • Batters faced: 27
  • Velocity of last pitch: 98 mph, striking out pinch-hitter Eddie Perez.
  • Strikeouts: 13
  • Number of batters in which he reached 3-ball count: 1
  • Number of batters in which he reached 2-ball count: 8
  • Swings and misses: 28
  • Foul balls: 31

 

Deja Moo - We've Seen This Crap Before

This is getting tiring. Top of the first and Tejada sends one into the gap in right center with Mora on first. Winn takes the wrong line on it, and the ball goes past him and to the wall - another in the long series of hits that would have been outs with Cameron in center. Then, knowing that Winn is fielding the ball, the Orioles send Mora home. Winn misses Boone on the cutoff and there isn't even a play at the plate.

Although Cameron could have caught the ball in his hip pocket, I don't think Winn had a chance of catching it on the fly. With a better line, Winn did have a good shot at keeping it from going to the wall. And if it did reach the wall, Winn would have gotten to it quicker and might have prevented the run.

 

How Washed Up is Donovan Osborne?

Keven Jarvis level washed up, that's how much. He's so bad that failing to keep even a lowly team such as the Mariners in check is a ticket off a big league roster.

Osborne made only two starts this year, both against the Mariners, going a total of 6-1/3 innings with an ERA of 14.21 and opponents batting average of .452. The Mariners offense has been so bad this year that failing to keep the Mariners in check is unforgivable for an opposing team's pitcher - it's the Yankees equivalent of back-to-back-to-back homeruns.

 

Link to Video for Alex Cora's 18-Pitch At Bat

For those who didn't catch it, here is a link to the mlb.com page with video of the Alex Cora 18-otich at bat against Matt Clement.

 

If they're not ready now, they'll never be

From Larry Larue's column today, Tribnet.com - Analysis: Change is coming:
The Mariners' front office is in agreement - they will not rush young players like Lopez, Justin Leone, Madritsch or Nageotte before they think they're ready.
Justin Leone is 27. Bobby Madritsch is 28. That means they are the peaks of their careers. If they're not ready now, they'll never be. Either bring them up or trade them. There's no point in letting them waste.

Although Bucky Jacobsen wasn't mentioned, the same reasoning applies.


 

"We finally got sick of seeing our games being lost by our 11th or 12th best pitcher in some matchup situation."

The Orioles series may provide an opportunity for sharp fans to compare Melvin's management with a contrasting approach. In particular, look for possible differences in bullpen usage between Orioles skipper Lee Mazilli and our own beloved Bob Melvin.

Management by Melvin

To start, I want to look at Melvin's approach in a bit more detail. Melvin has been ragged on pretty heavily for letting Guardado rust in the bullpen, awaiting save opportunities that never come, while Melvin persists in using lesser pitchers in critical situations. Meanwhile, the failure of those pitchers to consistently perform in those situations often puts games out of reach, further cutting into Melvin's usage of Guardado.

It was hard for me to understand Melvin's fixation on only using people in defined roles, until I realized that I have seen (and worked at) companies that operated the same way. After employees are assigned to certain roles, when work comes in it automatically goes to the person whose role aligns with the task. Even if there are people who are better at certain tasks than the person who has that responsibility, the work still goes to the employee assigned the role, rather than the person who is more skilled. And I've seen that carried to illogical extremes, just as it is with the Mariners.


In the same way, Melvin believes in defining roles, assigning players to those roles, and always using a player in a situation if that is his role, come what may. This is probably also part of Melvin's approach to building and maintaining team chemistry. Team chemistry can be enhanced when everyone has a defined role, they are performing that role, and the team is succeeding. Players, as with most employees, also appreciate knowing their roles and knowing they will be called on when those roles are needed. By being clear and consistent with roles, Melvin generates respect and appreciation from his players. Melvin does have a reputation as a players manager and it's reasonable to expect that derives from his consistency in setting roles. I think this approach also blends well with Mariners ownership focus on personal values and treating people with respect.

That all sounds good, but, as with most management approaches, problems occur when the manager won't temper the style to reality. To describe better my concerns, I want to switch settings and have us consider how an auto collision repair shop might operate if it were managed in the same way Melvin runs the Mariners team.

At Bob's Auto Collision Repair, the first thing Bob has done is create separate shops for various types of repair activities, such as engine and powertrain, electrical, chassis and suspension, and body. When someone brings a car in for work, Bob sends it to the appropriate shop. If the car needs to be worked on in more than one shop, it will proceed from one shop to the next in order. When the car is in a given shop, it will be worked on only by guys assigned to that shop.

Let's say that Bob has a really good collision repair guy working for him - we'll call him Ed. Ed is one of the best guys in Bob's repair shop; in fact Ed would be one of the best guys in anybody's shop. Ed has never done complete overhauls and rebuilds, but he has done specialized work in most areas of collision repair. For the last several years Ed has been doing body refinishing almost exclusively, and when Ed joined Bob's shop, Bob assigned him to body refinishing because Bob thought body refinishing was a critical specialty area. Body work is usually the first thing a customer notices when they get a car back, and Ed's skill left a good impression on customers getting their cars back after repair. While Ed is very good at body work, Ed is also more skilled than anyone else working for Bob in repairs to engine and powertrain, electrical, and chassis and suspension. Obviously, Ed can't do all of those jobs, but if given work to do in any of those shops, Ed could actually do better than any of the other people working for Bob.

Now let's take a closer look at what happens at Bob's Auto Collision Repair when someone brings in a car for work after a collision, and let's assume that along the way the car needs some electrical work. Bob, of course, includes the electrical shop in the vehicle repair activity. Unfortunately, the guys in Bob's electrical shop are not particularly good at investigation and diagnostics. Half of the time the electrical guys bungle the job, and Bob ends up returning the car to the owner unfixed and in worse shape than when the owner brought in the car. Meanwhile, Bob doesn't have a lot of body refinishing work, in part because the problems in Bob's electrical shop are causing cars to be returned to customers before they reach body refinishing (which is the last step in the repair sequence). So right now Ed spends a lot of time hanging out at the water cooler, flirting with the office manager and the bookkeeper, and occasionally doing some light body repair work on a car that really doesn't need it just because there's nothing better to do. Ed, of course, is quite skilled and experienced in diagnosing and solving electrical problems.

If we were in Bob's situation, most of us would start having Ed do electrical work and let someone handle the little bit of body reapair work that Ed wouldn't be able to handle when he's doing something else. In fact, we would generally run our shop so that Ed always had work to do and we wouldn't worry about which shop the car was in, because we would want the best mechanics doing the most work.

But that's not the way Bob runs Bob's Auto Collision Repair. Bob is known in the industry as a "mechanic's guy", a guy who is sensitive to the feelings and concerns of his mechanics, and a guy who goes out of his way to be sure that everyone who works for him feels trusted and respected. Bob believes that electrical work is the job of the guys in the electrical shop, and that if he started assigning electrical work to Ed, Bob would create confusion in the shop. Some of the guys might complain because they weren't getting a chance to do what they were hired to do, and they might be confused about what their role is. So Bob will not assign Ed to work on electrical problems except in emergencies, because electrical work is not Ed's role.

As far as Bob is concerned, if that approach results in cars being returned to their owners unfixed, so be it. Bob won't run his the business any other way because removing people from their roles would disrupt the chemistry that results from everyone having a defined role and knowing that they will always be the ones called on when that role is needed.

I think most car owners, though, care more about getting their car fixed than they do about the feelings of Bob's mechanics.

The Oriole Option

During this series with the Orioles, The Orioles may offer a good opportunity to see some contrasting approaches in managing a pitching staff. The Orioles are changing the bullpen usage roles, questioning the logic of losing games with your 11th or 12th best pitcher on the mound just because that is the matchup. Before the season started, Peter Gammons included the following item about the Orioles in a preseason discussion of the AL East:
The O's bullpen should be deep, but Flanagan says, "we want to get away from the lefty-righty thing. We could have from three to five left-handers out there, but John Parrish gets right-handers out better than left-handers, and the rest are equally good against either side. That knee-jerk matchup thing is something we're trying to get away from."
On May 8, Tom Boswell in the Baltimore Sun (registration may be required for this link) had the following comments:
The "Moneyball" crowd in Oakland, Toronto and Boston isn't the only group that has novel ideas about how baseball should be played. This season, the Orioles have introduced a radical new idea about how to construct a bullpen. So far, it has saved a season that otherwise could have been ruined by the failures of an inexperienced and, so far, inept young rotation.

Instead of worshipping the supposed "percentages" and going by "the book," always seeking to match left-handed relievers against left-handed hitters and right-handers against right-handers, the Orioles are simply waving in "the next best pitcher." Then, instead of using several relievers in one inning, the Orioles are leaving their best available man on the mound for one to three innings, rather than one to three batters.

"What on earth is he doing?" managers, players and fans have been saying since Opening Day when, with the very first managerial decision of his career, Orioles Manager Lee Mazilli called in Rodrigo Lopez, a right-handed reliever, to face a left-handed batter. Lopez proceeded to pitch 11/3 shutout innings, and the Orioles won.

"We finally got sick of seeing our games being lost by our 11th or 12th best pitcher in some matchup situation," said co-general manager Mike Flanagan. "Too often, we never even got the game into the hands of our closer because we'd lost somewhere along the way with one of our worst pitchers. Now, we usually only warm up one reliever, then we bring him in -- our Next Best Pitcher -- regardless of who is hitting."

...

Not only have the Orioles made their games more enjoyable to watch, their decision to rip up the book and spit on the percentages has probably prevented an early-season disaster. Baltimore gambled on starting its season with four starting pitchers with a total of 10 career big league wins. That novel concept has bombed so far. The Orioles' rotation has only six wins and a 5.20 ERA. The bullpen has eight wins, a 2.67 ERA and three-quarters as many innings as the starters (108 to 138).

What we have here is a bullpen that pitches almost as much as the starters and has more wins! If it weren't for Lopez, B.J. Ryan and Rick Bauer, the primary subjects of this experiment who have averaged about two innings per appearance and an ERA around 2, the Orioles might be in turmoil instead of above .500.

For the last 25 years, and increasingly with time, bullpens have been built around specialists -- sometimes side-armers or one-pitch wonders -- who dominate hitters of the same hand, but are instantly vulnerable when the matchup goes against them. Now, thank heavens, the Orioles are trying to blow this whole over-managing tradition to smithereens. They're calling their best rested arm, then telling him to, "Go get 'em," until he's tired or it's time to wave for closer Jorge Julio to finish the show.

"You need pitchers with better stuff to do it this way," says Flanagan. "But we have them, so we'll take advantage of it."
Look for the differences between the Orioles and the Mariners. We may, in fact, have already seen one change, with the Orioles inserting Rodrigo Lopez into the starting rotation - the Orioles are increasing the number of innings being pitched by one of their more effective pitchers.

I think it's interesting that baseball insiders and the self-anointed high priests in the news media aren't dumping on the Orioles as they did on Boston last year. Is that because the managers setting this direction for the Orioles are people such as Flanagan, Beattie (formerly with Mariners front office), and Mazilli, all of whom have a baseball pedigree? Maybe some folks might be more opposed to the messenger than the message.

And a tip o' the hat to The Orioles Warehouse for providing Orioles information for this post.

Monday, May 17, 2004

 

The Same Old Storey

Doug Pappas at his "Business of Baseball" weblog has a piece on sports teams putting out the team's medical contract to bid. As Doug points out, this creates the situation where team medicine is not based on who will provide the best medical care, but which practice group or institution is willing to pay the most for the "prestige" of being a team's official medical care provider.

Regular readers know that I have not been impressed with Mitch Storey, the Mariners team physician. For details, see the following posts: I don't know if Mitch Storey got the Mariners contract by competitive bid. Within the sports and occupational medicine area, though, Storey does emphasize his relationship with the Mariners in marketing his practice. My contacts were also amazed that Storey kept his position after his spectacular incompetence in handling Carlos Guillen's tuberculosis infection in 2001.


BTW- when I spell checked this post, the Blogger spell checker suggested I replace "Mariners" with "Mourners". Perhaps that's one of the enhancements Blogger added with their recent update.

 

Bob Melvin Discusses Mariners Little Ball

Larry Stone gives us some Melvin comments after yesterday's game:
"Where we are in the league in home runs is not good," Melvin said. "There are games that have had the effect on us where we get three, four, five hits and score a run, and then they come up and get a walk and a homer. That can wear on you a little bit.

...

"It has an effect on you sometimes," Melvin admitted. "A team can be struggling, not swinging too good. Then someone will make an error, you get a walk, and all of a sudden, a three-run homer. That's something we're really not built to do right now."
So is Melvin thinking that a lineup with high OBP guys and slow footed sluggers isn't so bad after all?


Sunday, May 16, 2004

 

Larry Stone on Why the Mariners Aren't the Type of Team that Makes Up a 10-Game Deficit

In his column today, Larry Stone column today explains why the Mariners are not the type of team that makes up a 10 game deficit.

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