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

Friday, July 02, 2004

 

Suffering Sovereignty, Art!!

From Art Thiel's column in today's P-I:
Well ahead of 2006, the kid mainstays of the pitching future all made their major league debuts lately, as the club wisely decided on an early handover of AL West sovereignty.
Art, the Mariners surrendered sovereignty in the AL West two seasons ago.

 

Decisions, Decisions!

From the Mariners Notebook in today's Seattle Times:
A source said the Red Sox are talking to the Mariners about a deal that could send first baseman John Olerud to Boston.

Olerud, who has played for the Mariners since 2000, is in the final year of his contract, which pays him $7.7 million this season.

The Red Sox might also be looking for help in the bullpen, after right-hander Scott Williamson left a game Wednesday with an injury. The most likely Mariners relievers to be discussed would be veterans Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Ron Villone.
If the Mariners actually could package either Villone or Hasegawa with Olerud, that creates an interesting situation. Villone is on a shorter contract (one-year $1 million dollar contract with a possible additional $1 million in performance bonuses), he's left-handed, and he has pitched more effectively than Hasegawa this year. In contrast, Hasegawa has a two-year deal at $2.5 million and $2.98 million, with an automatic vesting of $3.1 million for 2006 with w/ 58 G or 45 GF in 2005. Ordinarily, Villone would be more valuable in a trade, not only because of the differences in contract and performance, but because he is also left-handed. With the Red Sox needing a right hander in the pen, though, the gap in value between the two may be less.

Hasegawa has underperformed even the diminished expectations of those (such as this intrepid blogger) who thought his 2003 season was an aberration. Normally, I would favor keeping Hasegawa for now, hoping that he continues to rebound over the next month. The Mariners could then move him at the end of July for more than they could ordinarily get for him now. But If Boston's current situation is causing a temporary spike in Hasegawa's value, the Mariners should move Hasegawa now. I wouldn't expect anything of value in return – perhaps a few non-prospects to "increase inventory" and fill roster holes in the lower levels of the minor leagues. The benefit would be eliminating the contracts and clearing roster space to get a look at some more minor leaguers this year. (Bucky Jacobsen at first base, perhaps?)

Villone has exceeded reasonable expectations this year, so his value right now is high, and it will likely never be higher for the rest of his career. But that should make him more valuable to a team other than the Red Sox. We should be able to get at least a grade B prospect back from some team for Villone.


 

Investigating the Yankees

Both Jason Giambi and Kevin Brown of the Yankees have intestinal parasites. Although the specific parasites are not described, they most likely both have Giardia infections.

Giardia has a fecal-oral transmission route. The transmission route responsible for the most cases is contaminated water supply, but that is far from the only exposure. Transmission can occur in any route by which with poor sanitation practices can lead to ingestion of fecal material.

When the news came out about Giambi, I drafted a post about it that I decided not to publish, but now that Brown has also reported an infection, it's worthy of more attention.

With both Brown and Giambi becoming symptomatic about the same time and having many shared life elements, they very likely have a common exposure. Giardia has about a one to two week latency period. If Giambi and Brown both first showed symptoms recently, attention should be focusing on the first half of the Yankees recent road trip to Arizona, Los Angeles, and Baltimore, including the off-day on June 21. In the Newsday story I linked to above, though, Brown suspects the exposure may have occurred during the season-opening trip to Japan. Brown says his symptoms started the about 3-1/2 weeks after the return from Japan; if so, that would make Japan less likely as the place where he picked up the infection. The Yankees team doc also discounts exposure in the Japan trip, though he tries to do so simply on the basis that Japan is a developed country with advanced sanitation practices. That's poor logic, as Giardia outbreaks occur in all countries. The timing of the onset of symptoms is much more definitive. The onset of diarrhea and flatulence is more significant than simple weight loss.

The Yankees will probably survey the rest of the team to see if other team members are infected, but that there likely will be no further investigation by anyone else, even though Giambi and Brown are high profile individuals. Normally high profile cases receive disproportionate attention and interest, and it's easier for public health investigators to receive support for detailed investigations in high profile cases. In the current situation, though, credible suspicions have not been directed at any particular person or location, so there's little incentive for any public health organizations to initiate an investigation. So the Yankees doc will treat Giambi, Brown, and any other cases they find, and that will be the end of the issue. Were a more detailed investigation to be conducted, it would likely proceed somewhat as described below.

The possibility that Giambi and Brown were sex partners would probably be eliminated quickly (though a responsible epidemiologic investigator will address the issue discreetly and carefully). A contaminated public water supply system is not likely, since there would be reports of many more illnesses than just Giambi and Brown. Specifically, if a public water supply system were contaminated, a large population would have been exposed. If the exposure were sufficient to infect two healthy males in top physical condition, people in the exposed population who are in poor physical condition or who have weakened immune systems should also be showing symptoms. In a case such as this, investigators would immediately survey morbidity data for the elderly and AIDS cases, as these are the population segments where the infection rates will be the highest and most severe.

In the Newsday article, Brown says that he and Giambi don't hang together outside the team, so the two of them probably would not show common exposures from having gone hiking or rafting together on an off day. They are also not likely to have common exposure from having being involved with changing and diapering of the same infants or in the same physical setting (i.e., at someone's house).

With that background, ingestion of contaminated food or beverage would be the exposure most intensively scrutinized. Investigators would look at all situations where Brown and Giambi ate food prepared from the same kitchen, particularly if they ordered the same items off of the menu. They would look closely at consumption of fresh and uncooked fruits and vegetables, and of any meats that were not fully cooked. They would also examine post-preparation food handling at suspect locales. This would include food handling procedures, as well as identifying specific food handlers who may have had contact with food items served to both Giambi and Brown.

After identifying common elements, the investigators would look for other individuals, not associated with the Yankees, who may share that exposure. For example, they would contact other customers at restaurants who might have ordered the same dishes. If Giambi and Brown both retrieved ice from the same ice machine in a hotel, they might track down other guests who stayed on the same floor of the hotel who might also have taken ice from the same ice machine. If the investigators are then able to identify other individuals who became sick and who share the common exposure route, that would be virtually conclusive proof of the source and mode of transmission.

Background note: the early part of my career was spent in public health engineering pertaining to water supply, and I have provided engineering technical support for investigations of water supply as a potential source of Giardia transmission.


[Note: the fifth paragraph of this post has been edited. The original post said followup investigation was likely, but after further reflection and some correspondence with Will Carroll, I don't think that's likely to occur.]

 

Tracy, You Can Drive That Carrara

The Dodgers pitching situation gets desperate. Nomo has been a complete disaster this season, and after his last start (4-2/3 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 3 HR, 2 BB, 5 K, 95 PC), the Dodgers put him on the 15-day DL.

Taking his place on the stage at Chavez is:
    [insert sound of drum roll]

    Giovanni Carrara!

    [add clip of clowns circling on unicycles, honking rubber horns, and squirting seltzer at each other]
When a team has to resort to bringing up Giovanni Carrara to fill holes in its pitching staff, it's time to stop making any pretense of being a contender.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

 

You're Going to Make it After All

Garcia picked up the win in the White Sox 9-6 victory over the Twins today, Freddy's first start with the White Sox. It was one of Freddy's lesser outings of the season, giving up seven hits and five runs, four earned. But he got the win anyway as the White Sox scored 8 runs for him.

The Associated Press game recap reported Freddy's post game reaction:
"What a difference," said Garcia, acquired Sunday in a trade with Seattle to solidify Chicago's rotation for the playoff race.

"We can hit, and we can come back," Garcia said. "Everyone is excited to play."
That's quite a change in post-game attitude from his Safeco routine of sitting in the dugout alone after a game, disgusted after taking another loss with no run support.

Does anyone remember the Freddy Garcia Mariners ad from Freddy's second season that was a take off of the opening credits for the Mary Tyler Moore show? The premise of the MTM show was that Mary had just moved to Minneapolis to start a new life. Not stated directly, but implied, was that she was recently divorced, and she was now in a new town, with no friends, no support group, and little work history. She had landed a job with the news department of one of the local network TV stations.

The MTM show opening credits showed MTM in a series of quick clips in various recognizable locales around the Twin Cities while the show's theme song played. The intro ended with MTM on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, joyfully twirling and throwing her hat in the air, while the theme song lyrics proclaimed, "You're going to make it after all!"

The Mariners ad played on the theme that Freddy was also nervous and unknown when he arrived in Seattle, but now he had established himself. Parroting the MTM show intro, the Mariners ad showed Freddy in various recognizable Seattle locales while the MTM show theme song played. The ad concluded with Freddy in uniform by the glove sculpture at First and Royal Brougham, twirling and throwing his hat in the air, just as MTM did in her opening credits. As he does, the music also proclaims, "You're going to make it after all!"

Despite his apparent shock and sadness at leaving Seattle, Freddy's moved on, and now Freddy's "going to make it after all" in Chicago as well. I wonder if he's going to go to the Nicollet Mall tomorrow and threw his hat in the air??

 

Say "Yay!" for "What'd I Say?"

In a post yesterday I made a couple of "suggestions" for Safeco Field promotions. The Mark Kotsay's Wife Photo Night was in jest (I hope everyone understood that), but the Ray Charles night idea is more serious. Frinklin also likes the idea.

If you think Ray Charles night would be a good idea, add a note of support in the comments link below. If there's enough interest, I can collect the comments and forward them to the Mariners. Maybe it's futile, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

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Comments on Last Night's Game

I was able to watch only a few snippets of last night's game. A couple of comments from the parts I did see:
  • Benoit was missing his target frequently, but was still getting outs. If the Mariners had any kind of offense - hitters who consistently punished pitchers for making mistakes - Benoit should have been gone early. On Cabrera's double in the fourth, Cabera nailed a pitch where Benoit missed his target by about two feet - Barajas set up down and away, but the pitch was middle in and just above the belt.

    Benoit threw 103 pitches in 5-2/3 innings, with 66 for strikes. So even though he seemed to be missing his locations, he was staying in the strike zone. Or maybe I just happened to catch the game when he was having problems.

  • Cabrera followed up his double in the fourth with a stupid advance to third on Martinez' walk. Benoit's ball four to Martinez was in the dirt. Barajas blocked the ball, but it bounced about five to ten feet up the first base line. Cabrera broke for third when the ball got away from Barajas, and was safe at third on a fairly close play. While he was clearly safe, the play was close enought that Cabrera's advance was clearly not a "gimmie".

    Now let's look at the situation. At the time the Mariners were down 3-0, with Cabrera on 2nd, one out, Martinez up, Boone on deck, and Olerud in the hole. If Cabrera is out trying to advance, the Mariners have two out and Martinez at first, Boone up. If Cabrera stays, the Mariners have runners on second and third, with one out, and Boone and Olerud coming up. That's quite a difference in situation - big enough that I don't see where it justifies gambling on the advance.

    I think this shows a continuing pattern of mental mistakes on the bases, particularly with players not thinking through possible situations clearly when they are on the basepaths. In this case, Cabrera needs to be aware of what the situations are if certain events unfold, and he should realize that he shouldn't gamble on an advance to third on a passed ball.

    Cabrera was safe, and although he might not have been able to score from second on Boone's subsequent single, he would have scored on Olerud's fly ball to center after Boone. Had he been out at third, the inning would have ended with no score. It's like hitting on 16 on a blackjack table and not busting. Just because the play worked doesn't make it smart.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

 

Search Engine Fun and New Ideas for Safeco Field promotions

My hit counter tracks the search terms used by visitors reaching Mariners Wheelhouse through a search engine. Not surprisingly, the most common search phrases are various combinations of Seattle", "Mariners", "baseball", and "wheelhouse". After you get past those searches, however, the most popular seach phrase is "mark kotsay's wife". Try googling it.

I think a Mark Kotsay's wife photo day is still an excellent promotion opportunity. If baseball is serious about needing to expand its appeal to younger fans, a promotion such as that might do it. Better than Country Nusic Night; I'm really sorry I missed out on that one.

Actually the musical promotion night the Mariners should have is a Ray Charles night. Ray started his career in Seattle, when he decided to get as far from Florida as he could. It would be a great way to remember Ray and remind people of his connection to Seattle. Use Ray's rendition of America the Beautiful in lieu of the anthem that night.

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P.S.: I know Charlotte Dodds is not Mark Kotsay's wife. But we shouldn't allow a small detail such as that to ruin a fine promotional idea.

Monday, June 28, 2004

 

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky

And that means that Mariners Wheelhouse readers must be the most astute in the Mariners blogosphere. While USS Mariner and NGFT are getting negative or questioning feedback about the trade, I've received no e-mails about this and nobody has posted any negative comments.

I can only assume that all of you think the trade is so self-evidently good that there's no need to say anything. (Or maybe I'm just blogging to myself!)

Sunday, June 27, 2004

 

Cold Summer Trade Winds in New York City?

Fallout from the Freddy Garcia trade is starting in New York. Both Newsday and the NY Times have stories in their Monday editions describing the Mariners contacts with the Yankees prior to completing the trade of Garcia to the White Sox. Both articles appears to be based on interviews with Cashman. Some key points from the stories:
  • The Mariners didn't decide to trade Freddy until the last day or two.

  • By the time Bavasi contacted Cashman, Bavasi already had the White Sox offer in hand. Cashman told Bavasi to name his price, and Bavasi declined to respond. Bavasi's next call to Cashman was to let Cashman know that the Mariners had accepted the Chicago offer.

  • Bavasi told Cashman that he didn't think the Yankees could meet or beat the offer that he already had. When Cashman learned of the details of the trade, he agreed.

  • The Yankees next option after Garcia would be Randy Johnson. If Johnson is unavailable, Moyer would be in the next group of pitchers to consider, along with Russ Ortiz and Kris Benson. Joe Torre likes Moyer.
Meanwhile, the NY Post says that the Mets could have had Garcia if they had been willing give up David Wright. The Mets apparently were involved in discussions with the Mariners up the time the Mariners accepted the White Sox offer.

I think the dynamics of these deals are fascinating, and the information from the Newsday article provides some interesting morsels.

To start, if the Newsday story is correct, it suggests that the Mariners management really did believe the team could get back in the race up at least through then end of Texas' sweep of the Mariners. If so, the Mariners statements to that effect over the last several days might not have been a negotiating ploy (though the Mariners probably also realized the statements didn't hurt their negotiations).

The Mariners didn't even bother to talk in depth with the Yankees, as they apparently did with the Mets. The Mariners non-response when Cashman asked the Mariners to name their price suggests the Mariners couldn't cherry pick a package of players from the Yankees system that would be better than what they Mariners believed they were receiving from the White Sox. That shows how depleted the Yankees minor league system is after the Yankees' series of trade deadline deals in recent years.

The speed at which the deal was completed also left Cashman unable to try to assemble a three way deal, in which the Yankees could use money to obtain prospects and players to send to the Mariners. The White Sox offer for Garcia may have been preemptive – to give the Mariners a better deal than any other team could offer, and to encourage the Mariners to deal sooner rather than later. I imagine Williams also told the Mariners that if they did not move quickly on his offer, he would deal with Atlanta for Ortiz. So the reported trade discussions between the White Sox and Atlanta were likely serious discussions.

Of course, the deal with the White Sox wasn't negotiated in one day. Much work was completed before today, with Williams letting Bavasi know what he would be willing to give up when and if the Mariners decided to move Garcia. Having done the groundwork with interested parties, when the Mariners decided yesterday or today to trade Garcia, they quickly identified the White Sox as the trading partner. The parameters of the deal were finalized (probably the money component), and that was it.


---------

Update: Stories from various sources indicate that the deal didn't happen quite as I thought it did. When I made the post above I was presuming the White Sox had an offer on the table, and the Mariners were mulling it over before deciding the make the deal. Now it appears that the negotiations weren't quite that complete. According to Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune, negotiations had almost completely broken down, but Williams decided to make one last try before he decided to go after Ortiz instead of Garcia. The impasse broke down in that call.

What the impasse was is unclear. Rogers says that the Mariners were holding out for Crede, but decided they could take Reed instead. USS Mariner reports that their street sources say that Reed always was the Mariners primary target.

The USS Mariner slant seems more believable to me. Plus I don't like Phil Rogers.

 

There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies...

There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies... -- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
One of Lee Sinin's ATM reports today led off with the following trade rumor regarding the White Sox:
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Whitesox could be close to acquiring Braves P Russ Ortiz, while the deal could be expanded to include Andruw Jones and Magglio Ordonez. While the Chicago Sun Times doesn't say anything about a deal being close, they also report that it could be expanded to include the OFs.

Meanwhile, they are both reporting that Jon Rauch could be part of the package the Whitesox would use to get Ortiz
This provides some perspective on the "behind the scenes" stuff going on involving in deals such as this. It's clear that the White Sox and Mariners were closing in on the deal for Freddy, and Garcia is the player the White Sox wanted.

The White Sox appear to have been playing up the possibilities of an Ortiz deal as a ploy, and Bavasi didn't bite. The piece that's missing is the spin that the Mariners may have been using to increase the pressure on Kenny Williams. My guess is that Bavasi was playing the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Yankees in the background.

The same Lee Sinins report also said, "According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jamie Moyer to the Yankees rumors are starting to heat up." So I went to the Strib (for whom I delivered newspapers 40 years ago), to check this out. Here is the piece about Moyer in it's entirety:
Look for rumors of a Jamie Moyer trade from the Mariners to the Yankees to heat up. Former GM Pat Gillick has been checking out Yankee prospects lately.
That doesn't even say that trade talks are heating up - it just says to expect rumors to heat up! That's a story with as much substance as whipped jello.

 

That Silly Kenny Williams and Kudos to Bavasi

I saw news of the Garcia trade while watching the game. The ever reliable (and ever so much smarter) David Cameron is gushing. Go there for details and analysis.

Upon hearing the deal it sounded too almost too good to be true, and David likes it more than me. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the NY dailies. Is this trade as good as a five game winning streak?

By the way, this opens a spot on the 40-man roster. Is it too much to hope that Bucky Jacobsen gets added, followed by a promotion to the 25-man?

And good luck to Freddy and Ben in Chicago! It should be a good move for both of them.


 

Is there a Santayana Clause?

As much as I want to just walk away from blogging about the Mariners FO, I just can't do it. I'm condemned to living and dieing with this team.

Right now I'm compelled to write about the idiocy of the Mariners effort to trade for Brandon Inge, particularly the notion, stated in the P-I article on the trade offer, that the Mariners were interested in Inge "in a quest for more offensive pop". By the way, some of this post repeats material I posted at the Mariners TopMLBForum.

Let's examine the notion that Inge will provide needed offensive pop. I assume that the Mariners interest in Inge is as a catcher, since the Mariners already have such "stalwarts" such as Cabrera and Bocachica for the non-catching roster spots that Inge has been filling for the Tigers, and because the Mariners are also trying to address the team's catcher black hole. Now let's ask the reasonable question, "Is there another catcher in the Mariners organization that would provide equal or more offensive pop than Inge?" The answer to that question is "Yes, and his name is Ben Davis".


Does that seem surprising to you? Well, let's compare their careers, focusing on batting statistics. We'll start at age 21, because that was Inge's first year of professional ball.
  • Age 21
      Davis:
      AA, 483 AB, .286 AVG, .460 SLG

      Inge:
      A, 191, AB .230 AVG, .419 SLG

      Comment: Davis outperforms Inge while playing at a higher level.

  • Age 22
      Davis:
      AAA, 201 AB, .308 AVG, .512 SLG
      MLB, 266 AB, .244 AVG, .361 SLG

      Inge:
      A, 352 AB, .244 AVG, .403 SLG

      Comment: Davis rockets through AAA ball and makes it to the big leagues. Inge is still in A ball, showing virtually no year over year improvement.

  • Age 23
      Davis:
      AAA, 221 AB, .262 AVG, .439 SLG
      MLB, 130 AB, .223 AVG, .338 SLG

      Inge:
      AA, 298 AB, .258 AVG, .409 SLG
      AAA, 190 AB, .221 AVG, .379 SLG

      Comment: Inge progresses to AAA even though he hasn't shown he's ready, and Davis spends some time back in AAA. Davis' AAA numbers are better than Inge's AA numbers.

  • Age 24:
      Davis:
      MLB, 448 AB, .239 AVG, .357 SLG

      Inge:
      AAA, 90 AB, .289 AVG, .500 SLG
      MLB, 189 AB, .180 AVG, .238 SLG

      Comment: Inge is promoted to MLB after catching a hot streak in AAA. He has the first of his putrid seasons. Davis, while crappy in his own right, is clearly better than Inge.

  • Age 25:
      Davis:
      MLB, 228 AB, .259 AVG, .404 SLG

      Inge:
      AAA, 65 AB, .262 AVG, .554 SLG
      MLB, 321 AB, .202 AVG, .333 SLG

      Comment: Inge posts some middling numbers in AAA and is rewarded with a promotion. After reaching Detroit, he shows he is not Davis' equal.

  • Age 26:
      Davis:
      MLB, 246 AB, .236 AVG, .382 SLG

      Inge:
      AAA, 142 AB, .275 AVG, .444 SLG
      MLB, 330 AB, .203 AVG, .339 SLG

      Comment: Both Davis and Inge show that they are not really big league hitters, but Davis puts out a better record than Inge. Not shown in the data above is that Davis posts very strong numbers for half the season, before collapsing after the All-Star break.
Both Davis and Inge are in their age 27 seasons, so both players are probably in their peak production years right now. In their careers through 2003, Davis has always outperformed Inge. At the same chronological age, Davis has usually played at higher level than Inge, and while playing at those higher levels, Davis has posted comparable or better numbers than Inge did at lower levels. When Davis and Inge have played at the same level, Davis has always outproduced Inge prior to this year. Scouting reports for both Davis and Inge consistently note that both players have outstanding tools, athleticism, and unrealized potential. Given the comparison between Inge and Davis, how could the Mariners believe that Inge would provide anything offensively that the team doesn't already have with Ben Davis?

Any conclusion that Inge would be an offensive improvement over Davis can only be based on Inge's output to date in the current 2004 season (165 AB, .303 AVG, .374 OBP, .491 SLG). Reaching that conclusion also demands that Inge's one-third of a season of good performance override his previous entire six seasons of mediocre to abysmal performance.

Inge's performance so far in 2004 is like Ben Davis first half of 2003 (149 AB, .294 AVG, .333 OBP, .490 SLG at the All-star break). If the Mariners don't think that the first half of 2003 is the defining marker for Davis, why would they think that Inge's 2004 season to date defines his career? If anything, Davis first half of 2003 should carry more weight because it was put up by a player who has put up superior numbers throughout his career.

The attempt to acquire Inge shows the same missteps that led to the Mariners current abysmal roster. Once again, we see the organization souring on a particular player (Ben Davis in this case), so that player is a pariah. Then they find another player at that spot who has great toolsy type scouting reports, who has had one or two bursts of adequacy in the midst of an otherwise pedestrian (or worse) career. The Mariners then convince themselves that the flukes of good performance establish that the player is realizing his potential, and they decide that is the guy they need to get on the roster.

I'm not a baseball professional, and I know that it's easy to sit on the outside and cast stones. But I simply can't understand how the Mariners can look at Inge's career and conclude that Inge will bring more offensively than Ben Davis. I don't see how they can rationally extract three months of performance from any player's career, and decide that three months is more significant than years of consistent performance at a decidedly different level.

My passions about the aborted Meche-Inge deal run deeper than just that particular trade offer. The Mariners roster is littered this year with players for whom the Mariners chose to believe selected spurts of prior performance, while ignoring greater periods of miserable performance or declining career performance trends. I was hoping desperately that after being burned this year, the Mariners would have gotten smarter about not being suckered in by short term performance bursts. Considering that this trade offer was initiated by the Mariners, it's clear that the Mariners management has not learned one of the lessons from this year's team that should have been branded into the backs of their hands.

Yes, Billy, there is a Santayana Clause:
Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. - George Santayana

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