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

Friday, July 16, 2004

 

Welcome to Evening Perambulations

A Wheelhouse Welcome to the latest addition to the Mariners blogosphere - Evening Perambulations.

 

Chin Music

Batgate Revisited

Thanks to Cleveland Indians Report for reminding us of the tenth anniversary of "Batgate".

Batgirl Dreams

I admit it - Batgirl has smitten my heart, but like the verse from a Roy Orbison tune or the subplot from a DC Comic, she doesn't know I exist. Sighhhh!!  So I just admire her from afar. Unrequited passion makes stronger drama, so it's better this way. It really is; trust me.

Anyway, if you like wonderful clever writing, check her out. You don't need to be a Twins fan to enjoy stuff as well written as hers. Blog on, Batgirl!

Cleaning Up at the All-Star Game

I first posted this idea as a comment in an All-Star game thread at David Pinto's Baseball Musings, but I think it warrants more attention.

Selig has the wrong idea about restoring competition to the All-Star Game. Awarding home field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star game is just an artifice. If baseball really wants to motivate players and managers to play the game as if it means something, just make the losing team responsible for cleaning the clubhouse and doing the laundry of the winning team. As Lisa Gray (of The Dugout, the Most Valuable Network blog for the Astros) observes, most guys will do anything they can to avoid doing bathrooms and laundry. (Except maybe for Jeb; I'm sure Batgirl can get him to do anything. Go, Batgirl!). Sounds like the ulitmate All-Star game motivator to me.




 

If Facts Don't Meche, It Doesn't Mean They Don't Fit

Gil Meche started last night for Tacoma in Fresno.  So all of the trade talk rumors, including my previous speculations, were probably unfounded.

Never mind …


 

On to Castle Anthrax!

I caught only the last three innings of tonight's game, and I'm very pressed for time.  So several quick comments.
  1. Congratulations to Justin Leone!  It sure is nice to see a Mariner put a ball in the second deck in left field.
     
  2. In the portion of the game that I saw, I thought there was palpable difference in the atmosphere and attitude surrounding the club.  Leading into the All Star Break, it appeared to me that the team was becoming dispirited.  I commented on this after the last game in Toronto, and it deepened through the course of the Chicago series. Tonight's game, though, had a completely different aura; it seemed visible in the players' faces, and seemed to come through in the crowd at the game as well.
     
  3. John Olerud, always a class act.  Best wishes to John for the rest of this season; he's sure to be picked up by someone and I hope he gets another shot at World Series ring.
     
  4. I have no great expectations for the second half of this season.  A 100-loss season is certainly conceivable.  But it will be a lot more entertaining and enjoyable seeing players up from minor leagues playing to lose those 100 games instead of the old and boring team we had in the first half.
     
    I am more than ready to give the front office liberty for the rest of this year to size up prospects.  Consider it a diversion at the Castle Anthrax in our noble quest for our holy World Series grail.  But this measure of grace is only good for this brief half season; we must avoid the lure of the castle sirens and next year the grail quest must resume with redoubled zeal.
I'm not going to get into the Mariners financial shenanigans with payroll.  It's too frustrating, it's too late, and I'd rather revel with Justin than wallow with Howard.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

 

Farewell, John

Olerud is the current Mariner who departs to make room for Bucky Jacobsen.

It's been obvious for quite some time that signficant changes to the roster were needed, and there's been a growing din among fans and in the local meadia for the team to do something, anything. In the face of the public reaction, the Mariners face has generally been remained impassive and detached, as they have done their usual long and invovled review and plan update. Clearly, they've now completed their reviews, decided what they want to do, and now we are seeing the new strategy implemented forthwith.

Pretty classic Mariners MO.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

 

Next year - Dominican Republic Versus the World!

Let's face it. Baseball's All-Star Game is not what it used to be. Fifty years ago, the players and leagues took the game seriously as a competition between the leagues. The leagues emphasized selecting the best players for the game, and position players commonly played the entire game. That's why Stan Musial was still in the game in the 12th inning in 1955 to win the game with a walk-off solo home run. The All-Star game may have been meaningless in the standings, but the players and leagues took it seriously as a statement of rivalry between the leagues/

I know that an All-Star game between leagues that doesn't count for anything will probably never again generate that rivalry, but Selig's notion of home field advantage for the World Series really doesn't get the competitive urges flaring either.

If we want to stir players passions, we need a rivalry that reflects something about which players are passionate. And I think baseball is missing a great opportunity to do just that.

Let's make it Dominican Republic versus the world.

Let's look at the contributions to last night's game by Dominicans:
  • 11 Dominicans on All Star game rosters

  • Leading vote getter - Alfonso Soriano.

  • Home run derby winner - Miguel Tejada (breaking fellow Dominican Albert Pujols old record of 15 HR in a round)

  • Game MVP - Alfonso Soriano.

  • AL runs driven in by Dominicans - 7 (out of 9 total), by Manny Ramirez (2), David Ortiz (2), and Alfonso Soriano (3).

  • NL runs driven in by Dominicans - 3 (out of 4 total), by Sammy Sosa (1) and Albert Pujols (2).
No pitchers last night were Dominicans, so we might have to make it something like Caribbeans against the world. As if the rest of the world would stand a chance!

Seriously, if baseball did something like this, I bet the players would get really motivated.

And a tip o' the hat to Raul Tavares at Dominican Players for pointing out the Dominican dominance in last night's game.

 

What is the Sound of One Team Swinging (and Missing)?

Here at Mariners Wheelhouse we do occasionally use life in baseball to examine deeper social issues and philosophical questions. Last winter I recast the eternal paradox of "What would happen if an unstoppable force encounterd an immovable object?" as "What would happen if a player who can't hit came up to bat against a pitcher who can't get anybody out?". With that in mind, I asked readers to ponder what would happen if Jeff Cirillo came up to bat against Kevin Jarvis.

Thanks to the ineptitude that is the 2004 Seattle Mariners, we can revisit this question in a slightly different format.
Hitter(s)                  Avg   OBP   SLG

----------------------- ---- ---- ----
Jeff Cirillo, 2001-2003 .267 .324 .377
Seattle Mariners, 2004 .256 .324 .380
Thus the new question I offer to my readers, "What would happen if Kevin Jarvis took the mound against the 2004 Seattle Mariners?"

If the AL West had faced the NL West in interleague play, that could have happened. Might Jarvis then have not been cut by the Rockies?


----

Erratum: When I first posted this, I had misread the data from Cirillo's ESPN card as 2002-2004. The data listed for Cirillo are 2001-2003.

Cirillo's numbers for 2002-2004 are .232 / .293 / .306.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

 

Is picking on Tim McCarver morally indefensible?

One of the measures of a civilized society is the respect and dignity it affords to the weak and powerless in its midst. Base cultures regard their fringe members as fit objects for ridicule and personal gratification, but as most civilizations advance, they recognize a moral imperative to protect and defend those members with mental or physical limitations that leave them unfairly exposed to the cruelty of others.

Listening to Tim McCarver's All-Star game commentary, I was reminded of this principle. Which forces me to consider, "Is picking on Tim McCarver morally indefensible?"

 

Learning to Dance the Western Flip

I wish the Western Flip really were the latest moves of the Safeco grounds crew. David Pinto at Baseball Musings comments on the flip-flop in AL West between Texas and Seattle.
Before the season started, I tried to do an analysis of each team using their core players (projected starting 9, starting rotation and closer) win shares. You can see the AL West here. This analysis had Seattle with the best core of players and Texas with the poorest. What happened?
David updates his view by looking at Win Share numbers through July 5, available at Hardball Times.
What I've found is that in Texas, young players improved, and when the projected core failed, players filled in well. In Seattle, there was a total core failure, and no one stepped in to take up the slack.

 

The Answer Guy Gave the Wrong Answer

The P-I's Answer Guy needs a better answer. From today's Answer Guy column:
Q: Mary Jane Nader asks: "Have Seattle pitchers this season thrown more home run balls than pitchers for any other team in the majors?"

AG:
That's a natural supposition as the Mariners are on track to establish many "worsts," but it is incorrect. At the All-Star break, Mariners pitchers have given up 101 homers, tied for ninth with the Yankees in the major leagues. But don't forget, the Mariners play half their games in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, where apparent homers often die in outfielders' gloves.
He's got that last part wrong. This year anyway, apparent homers don't die in outfielder's gloves. They fall for doubles and the occasional triple.

Monday, July 12, 2004

 

Bucky Jacobsen Wins Triple-A Home Run Derby

Bucky Jacobsen beat Justin Morneau of the Twins in the AAA Home Run Derby. Congratulations, Bucky.

And a tip 'o the hat to Devin at Leone for Third for picking up the story.

 

The Bonds of our Limited Imaginations

Jeff Shaw at San Shin and David Cameron at USS Mariner both discuss how dominant Bonds has been. The point for both of them is that there is no credible basis to not believe that Bonds is the Most Valuable player, by almost any reasonable criteria you would like to select.

David mentions Bonds utterly insane OBP. Let's look at how incredible that OBP is. To do so, I'm going to look at what the OBP probabilities would be if you had two Scott Rolens in a row in your batting order. Is it more likely that you will put a runner on base with two Scott Rolens up in sequence or with one Barry Bonds?

First, here are the data we start with:
  • Bond's OBP is .628; He is on base 62.8% of the time he comes to the plate.

  • Scott Rolen gets on base 41.5% of the time.
Now we want to know what is the probability that at least one of our Rolens will get on base. We approach that in several steps.
  1. First, note that if there is a 70% probability that a batter reaches base, there is a 30% probability that the batter does not reach base.

    More generally, the probability that a given batter reaches base is:

      100% - OBP, where OBP is stated as a percentage (i.e., .400 OBP = 40%)


  2. Now note that when two events have to both occur, we determine the combined probability by multiplying the individual probabilities. If there is a 60% chance of a runner making an out, then the probability of that batter making two outs in succession is 60% x 60%, or 36%.

    Looking at our Rolens, if they get on base 41.5% of the time, then they don't get on base 58.5% of the time.

    So the probability of neither Rolen getting on base in succession is:

      58.5% x 58.5% = 34.2%


  3. If the probability of neither Rolen getting on base is 34.2%, then the probability that at least one reaches base is 65.8%. That's a combined OBP of .658.

  4. Bonds gets on base 62.8% of the time, i.e., OBP of .628. In other words, one Bonds will result in a baserunner only 3% less often than will two Rolens.

  5. With two Rolen's, almost 25% of the time it costs one out to get the runner on base. (I'll spare you the math on that one.) That more than wipes out the slight advantage in OBP.
What Bonds is doing with OBP is so far beyond the norm that I think many otherwise rational observers, such as Stark, aren't comprehending what they are seeing.

 

Thornton Down. No word on Meche.

According to Mike Thompson at the P-I blog, Thornton has been sent back down to Tacoma. No word yet on who wil go into the rotation after the All-Star break.

As noted yesterday, Meche checked out of Tacoma on Saturday. At this point, Meche is likely to be getting recalled, although the circumstances of his departure Saturday night leave me wondering.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

 

The Facts Don't Meche

My first thought last night when I saw the posts speculating about a Meche trade was that it was BS. I figured that after Thornton's outing yesterday, Meche was just being called up to take over Thornton's spot on the roster. But as I thought about the situation more, it didn't make sense that Meche would leave in the middle of a game if it were just a callup.

The only reason to have him leave the clubhouse in the middle of a game for a callup would be if he was needed immediately on the Mariners pitching staff. But Meche wasn't needed on the roster to be available to pitch today, and he wasn't with the Mariners today.

Next up is the All-Star break, and the Mariners are home after the break, so Meche doesn't need travel time to catch up with the team anywhere. It's now the afternoon of the next day, so if it were a callup, it should have been announced by now.

That leaves me wondering why Meche was pulled out of the clubhouse in the middle of a game if there wasn't a critical situation requiring him to hook up with the big club as soon as possible. Now it's also time to start wondering where he went to, since he apparently cleaned out his locker at Tacoma, but there aren't any reports of him joining the Mariners.

Could he be off somewhere getting a medical exam required to complete a trade?

 

Wild Pitches

A couple of miscellaneous items:
  • Late yesterday, speculation started on the Mariners fan message boards that Meche has been traded, with most comments indicating a trade with Minnesota for Cuddyer.

    As nearly as I can tell, the rumors started when Meche was seen shaking hands in the Rainiers dugout last night in the third inning, after which he gathered his belongings and left Cheney stadium after the fourth inning. The Tacoma News-Tribune mentioned this in today's Rainiers story.

    Some people think it's just a callup to the Mariners. I wonder, though, why he would leave the stadium in the middle of the game if it were just a callup. Presumably he would be taking Thornton's place, and with teams heading into the All-Star game, why have him check out in the middle of the game if it's just a callup.

    Update: more of my thoughts on Meche's situation at this post: The Facts Don't Meche.

  • John McGrath of the Tacoma News-Tribune links Aurilia's washout to a perceived more general issue of players changing leagues:
    The truth is, I applauded the idea of Aurilia replacing the talented but conspicuously brittle Guillen. And I had the stats to back it up.

    Aurilia not only had a higher career bating average (.278) than Guillen (.264), but last year he had more hits, doubles, homers, runs scored and RBI.

    My mistake - more important, Bavasi's mistake - was a failure to recognize how Aurilia's numbers were compiled in the National League. When the Mariners finally cut bait on their $3.15 million investment, Aurilia joined a long list of Senior Circuit veterans who've flopped in Seattle.
    I don't buy McGrath's analysis. I'll first note quickly that if you cherry pick examples, you can prove anything. If McGrath really wants to support his case, he first needs to look at all players who made the jump, and compare the performance of those who were changing leagues with those who didn't.

    The more important factor, which McGrath totally overlooks, is that Aurilia is a veteran player in his 30's whose career had clearly started it's descent, whereas Guillen is 27 and his career was on a typical upward trajectory as he moved into his peak years.

    The only surprising elements are that this year both Aurilia's decline and Guillen's ascent have been greater than anticipated.

    In fact, most of the examples cited by McGrath are acquisitions of veteran players on the downside of their career. In my opinion, McGrath's column actually addresses the inherent flaws of the Mariners veteran player acquisition strategy than it does issues about switching leagues.

  • Still at today's News-Tribune, Corey Brock has a feature piece on Felix Hernandez.

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