Mariners Analysis

Monday, April 30, 2007

Weaver cannot start in NY

I've said consistently all year Weaver has looked terrible. He's not getting unlucky, he's not a break away from getting good, he's just bad. I was astounded when people argued he just need to work on a few things, because I see little hope he turns things around.

Having said that, no one could have predicted how badly Weaver did Saturday against KC. We are talking a level of bad that is hard to recreate.

Seriously, if you sent a high school pitcher in a game they couldn't have done worse. A softball slow-pitch hurler could not have done worse. Even if you grooved pitches down the middle at 70 mph, batters tend to get themselves out. They get under the pitch and fly out, they line out to a fielder etc...

For once, I will actually agree that Weaver was unlucky Saturday. Statistically it's hard to be as bad as Weaver was against the Royals.

Weaver has been historically bad in this starts this year. You couldn't find a pitcher with a worse start to a season in the last twenty years. Look it up, Weaver has set a new standard of terribleness.

There is NO WAY you can start Weaver against the Yankees. It would be funny as hell, and I'd be glued to my set, but it would be unfair to a fellow human being to subject them to such misery.

Send him to the bullpen, let him work on his confidence and start preparing his release papers.

But please don't start him this weekend.

Friday, April 27, 2007

KC no pushover

I find it interesting some people see this weekends series as a good time to build up some wins before going on a tough East Coast road trip. While it sounds good on paper, we all know sports doesn't work this way.

If talent was the sole determiner of wins, the Yankees would beat the Devil Rays literally every time they play. And certainly overall the Rays have lost many more times to the Yankees.

But in small 3 game series, a team has a hard time penciling in wins before the game is played. (Just looks at the Rays record some years against the Yankees.) ESPECIALLY if the team is playing like the Mariners.

The same Mariner team that just lost 6 in a row (and needed Texas' pitching and Oakland's offensive woes to stop it). The same Mariner team that has Jeff Weaver taking the mound every 5th game. The same team that can't draw walks or score runs consistently, and the same team that's finished in last place the past 3 years.

I'm not so sure the Royals aren't looking at the Mariners and feeling like they need to grab some wins while they can too! I'm sure they'd rather play the M's than Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago...

I'll be happy if the M's get two+ wins this weekend (like any fan), but they will need to play better than they have if they want to win series on a consistent basis. Let's not get too carried away here, the M's have some serious flaws as a team.

They are as likely to lose this series as win it- it's the hallmark of a .500 team or worse.

Is anyone ready to believe the M's are better than .500 based on what we've seen so far?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thought Washburn pitched well last night

I understand what Dave is saying at U.S.S.Mariner regarding Washburn's start last night, but I actually felt watching it he was pitching quite well. The difference between last nights starts and most of his starts was location- he absolutely was living on the edge of the strike zone all night long. He consistently was throwing borderline pitches and the umpire was calling them strikes. That will win you a lot of games in this league (e.g. Moyer).

Now some might argue that the A's offense helped out tremendously (by being so bad) but let's not forget his last start. He had a 2-1 lead over Santana and the Twins offense in the 7th inning. Certainly no one is going to argue the Twins have a poor offense.

Sure, the A's offense is bad but their pitching is very good. Last year we didn't win these games, and now we've gone on a mini-roll against our division rival.

I feel good any time we beat Oakland, especially in Oakland. Washburn pitched well his last two outings w/o Felix healthy, and has done a pretty good stepping it up. Will it continue all season, probably not.

I don't think we need to overthink this too much. No one is arguing Washburn is suddenly a #1 starter, but he did what needed to be done- he bailed out our poor offense by pitching well and relying on his defense.

Good job Washburn.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Morrow != Lowe

As I said in the earlier post, I don't believe Morrow is this years version of Mark Lowe. However, I feared Hargrove would think he had the same thing based on his Texas outing.

From the Times:

"It gives you a more secure feeling, knowing he can go longer and still hold his stuff and be effective," Hargrove said. "If he comes in and throws strikes in those situations, with that velocity, on this club it moves him more towards the role that Mark Lowe had for us last year."

A good analogy many have used is this: Would the Mariners have ever treated Felix Hernandez in the say way they are treating Brandon Morrow?

Of course not.

We got here because:

1) Bavasi downgraded the bullpen by trading Soriano
2) Rhodes couldn't stay healthy
3) Mateo sucks but is owed money
4) Hargrove/Bavasi fighting for their job

Because of these 4 factors, Brandon Morrow is the only 2006 player drafted playing in the majors today.

I'll remind you, before the Texas "success" Morrow was supposed to pitch in non-critical situations to gain experience and build arm strength. After one outing and a total of 8.1 innings this season Hargrove is already eying him for the Lowe role.

Can Hargrove be fired quickly enough?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Morrow last night

While I'm happy for Brandon Morrow last night, both personally and for the team, I can't understand how anyone can really be impressed by his performance. Against Texas we saw even more evidence why the young man has no business being in the majors right now.

Let's recap the situation. Morrow comes in for Baek, runners on 1st & 2nd, M's clinging to hope and trying to avoid an even longer losing streak.

Morrow promptly uncorks a wild pitch, advancing both runners into scoring position.

After some quick debate, Hargrove loads the bases and prays.

The formula the rest of the night was simple- watch Morrow throw as hard as he can while he hopes the Rangers can't connect with his fastball. Amazingly enough, it worked well enough until Putz was called in to bail him out. I'm sure Morrow's 95-97 mph fastball must have looked even faster after replacing Baek & his junkball repertoire, and in some ways it seems like a perfect situation. Young kid out of college comes in and stops losing streak. How could you not be excited?

But the kid is so unpolished it's embarrassing he's even on the club!! Anyone with any baseball sense can see he has one pitch (fastball) and everything else is a work-in-progress.

A good example would be Lowe last summer. He also sported a 95+ mph fast ball, but he had command of an offspeed pitch that made him ridiculously effective as a reliever. If it wasn't for his genetic condition in his arm, he would be one of the top relievers in the division, if not the AL. He was no fluke, the kid was good.

Morrow is not Lowe of last summer.

If a certain reliever was not traded over the winter (Soriano) the club wouldn't have this problem (no power arms in the bullpen) and we wouldn't be screwing around with a top prospect in this reckless manner.

Last night Morrow was lucky, not good.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Talk of firings premature

I have to agree with Thiel, the M's find themselves in a tough spot. If Baek pitches well tonight, it begs the question of why you threw so much money and resources at so little (Weaver, Ramirez etc...)

If he pitches poorly, the losing streak likely continues. Which then leads to job security issues for Bavasi and Hargrove (or so the theory goes). Given the conservative nature of the M's, firing a manager (much less a GM) in the middle of a season would not be something taken likely. We've heard talk of firings before, only to get our hopes dashed in the end.

If you are in the fire-Hargrove camp (card carrying member myself) there is one possible angle that hasn't been talked about.


It's possible the M's owners might be expecting more for $106 million then the current payroll is producing. Certainly if I was an owner, raising the payroll by $30 million ought to be get me something, right? Yet current results seem to say otherwise. Since I don't have direct access to the owners, I can only speculate, but it's possible the money was authorized with great reluctance and quite possibly is amping the pressure on the wonder duo of Bavasi and Hargrove. (Bargrove, B-grove, Havasi??? - we need a moniker stat.)

In the end, you usually use the press to gauge the managers hot seat. Last year bloggers were certain Hargrove was gone (swung and missed), but until Hickey, Baker etc... start penning columns calling for/speculating on a managerial change, don't expect much. Lincoln and company pay close attention to the media and what is being reported. If a change is being considered, they will likely want to float the idea publicly, and see what the response is first.

To clarify, these comments from sports writers and columnists needs to happen IN THE PAPER, not on some silly blog.

Everyone knows blogs are untrustworthy.

Hargrove is paying attention

Well, sometimes at least. I have not been buying into the whole "Weaver just got unlucky" story that was circulating earlier in the season. I saw a pitcher who was serving meatballs for dinner and was carrying an ERA over ten because of it. Yesterday saw Hargrove pull Weaver after three innings, confirming he was seeing the same thing.

It couldn't have been easy for Hargrove. Weaver has three starts to his Seattle career, is playing in front of his brother, family, etc... the Angel angle. Plus we know Hargrove loves veterans.

Yet he pulled him nonetheless. It is clear baring a miracle Weaver is now in Hargrove's doghouse. It is going to take a very unlikely string of good innings to get back in the skippers good graces.

So what will the Mariners do with him? It seems extremely unlikely they will cut an $8 mil pitcher this early in the season, and Weaver has zero trade value. The logical move is Weaver goes to the bullpen, where he rebuilds his confidence and Bavasi ships him to the NL at the trade deadline.

The M's will eat his salary, minus the pro-rated minimum, just as the Angels did last year.

Bavasi gambled on Weaver, and lost.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Trade snapshot

Meaningless, but still fun:

.267 / .313 / .400

.242 / .390 / .424

Mind you, this is with Vidro slugging .600 the past week and on a big streak. I hope both players do well, but this stat is important too:

Snelling: $450,000

Let's hope they both stay healthy and we can compare over the course of the season.

Hargrove keeps bloggers busy

Questionable game strategy combined with poor roster building == busy fingers for bloggers.

Where to start... ok, how about yesterday with the M's leading Santana and the Twins 2-1 in the 7th inning. Tell me you weren't yelling at the dugout/TV (depending on viewing location) when you saw Mateo entering the game in a critical situation.

I doubt there are 3 hardcore fans in the Seattle Mariner universe who would have gone with Mateo. Even the damn Moose was probably wondering if all that scotch was still in Hargrove's system to make a call like that.

It really boils down to the Carl Everett/Vidro school of thinking that Hargrove preaches. Rely on a veteran, because experience is the sole trump card over youth when you have a high-pressure situation on the line. Hargrove looks at his choices in the 'pen, and goes with Mateo because he is the "veteran." Just like he would bet his career as a Mariner manager on Vidro over Snelling, he is willing to live or die career wise with veterans.

To that, I say die!

Then of course there is the Morrow situation. Felix goes down, so you take your most valuable pitching commodity in your farm system and risk his development in a panic move. I don't think there is really any other way to describe it.

If you disagree, all we have to do is look at history. There is not a GM around who has treated their highly rated pitching prospects in the same manner. Basically, Bavasi is doing something that literally no other GM would be doing right now.

Is the decision solely Bavasi's, or did Hargrove convince him? Hard to say, but regardless the tag team of Hargrove and Bavasi cannot leave town soon enough.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

We wait

All you can do is wait. You wonder if Felix will be gone for a start, a month, a year... but until we hear more that's it. It's all conjecture.

Watching Santana pitch might make it worse, but a win by the Mariners would really help.

Is that too much to ask?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Not sure what people are seeing in Weaver

The day after Weaver pitched, Geoff Baker argues he was close to having a good game.

"Weaver did not pitch as badly as his final line looks. He was within an inch or so of getting out of that fifth inning..."

Wow- that is not the same pitcher I saw last night. I agree 100% with Dave over at U.S.S Mariner.

There is no way he continues to stay in a Mariner uniform if he continues pitching like he did last night. He was not an inning away, a pitch away, a bad call away from being good. He was throwing stuff up there last night that was awful- no velocity, no movement, no location. He was playing with fire all night. The way he was getting ahead of hitters was by watching them just miss his meatballs as their eyes lit up like saucers when they saw what was coming their way. I think the Twins hitters had to readjust their swings a bit. Probably telling themselves to slow down and remember this is just like batting practice.

Don't get me wrong, I want Jeff Weaver to be good. I'm a Mariner fan first and foremost, and hope we wins the Cy Young this year. It's just after his first two starts, things don't look very promising.

Tonight- King Felix takes the mound. I'll be there, as should many of you.

Should be a great game.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


It was painful watching Jeff Weaver pitch tonight. He threw so many belt-high pitches over the middle of the plate it was a miracle he lasted as long as he did. It would be like if you or I were forced to pitch and we somehow lasted a few innings thanks to hitters whiffing on softball pitches.

Seriously, he is pitching like a poor-mans Ryan Franklin. He is pitching to contact- he has no movement to miss bats, and his fastball can't break 90. He looks like a bad AA ball pitcher right now.

It will be interesting to see if he can somehow turn it around. I can't remember seeing a pitcher magically find their stuff in quite the way Weaver has to- he needs 3-4 mph, command and movement in 2 months or he's out of a job.

If he continues to pitch like he does tonight, he'll be gone long before the All Star break. He will have a hard time getting his ERA under ten.

Tonight was really that bad.

He was dreadful, and still lowered his ERA.


Stats out of whack

With the Mariners in first place, the casual fan sees little to complain about. The story of Felix and his early success is generating national interest, and newcomers like Vidro and Guillen have made at least modest contributions.

Because the team has missed four games, it's difficult to really judge this team right now. You can't compare HR totals, walks etc... with teams that have played a full schedule. Of course the team will be in the bottom of almost every statistic. Early in the season, four games is a pretty big gap to make up, not to mention the layoff and any effects (real or imagined) it might have had.

This team hasn't faced a lefty, hasn't played a full series on the road, hasn't had a significant injury.

Honestly, it will be a month before we can really judge what we have. I expect one of the Washburn/Batista/Ramirez boys to be better than we thought, but can't possibly figure out which one yet, and have almost no faith Weaver will be on the team in July. But those are just guesses- ask me in June and we can have a discussion. Everything right now is best argued over a beer, because for once I have to agree with Hargrove on something.

It's just too early to figure this team out right now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Offensive woes continue

I would agree, a fan arguing about the offense 4 games in to the season is rarely to be taken seriously. Normally a month tells you something, but not a week.

But as any observer will tell you, it's not the fact they aren't hitting, it's the WAY they are not hitting. Swinging at terrible pitches, refusing to work the count, letting the opposing pitcher cruise on low pitch counts.

Not only does it not allow you to win the game, in some ways its about the worst possible disease a team can have. It makes the fans want to leave/turn off the game. There is little more uninteresting about a team than watching your offense continue to go down meekly in order. Watching your pitcher walk guys is maddening, but you know it can be fixed. Watching an entire offense flail away with a flawed approach to the game is another.

If this continues, the blame squarely lays on Bavasi and Hargrove's feet. Hargrove for not teaching/motivating/appreciating a quality at-bat, and Bavasi for allowing him to do it for yet a new season.

Seriously, if the teams offense continues to stink and we suddenly hear Hargrove is getting an extension this team will lose fans.

Better hope the bats show up

While of course tomorrow is the matchup everyone is waiting for, it would be nice to see the bats come alive. While it's true the Mariners faced three quality pitchers in the Oakland series, and we probably shouldn't read too much into Byrd's no-hitter, the fact remains the bats have been largely silent. We all know how important a decent start is for this team, and relying on Felix to shutout teams is not the recipe for long-term success. The only way pitchers like Batista and Weaver gets wins is when the bats come alive on a consistent basis.

Let's hope the team starts hitting to keep fan interest, and let's hope rumors of a Hargrove extension remains a rumor.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Mariner Snow day

While the M's take the day off yet again, it seemed like a good time to look at the teams payroll and how it compares to its peers. The FO will never come forward and tell you their budget beforehand, but by opening day it becomes public knowledge. The big-spending Mariners as we know are part of the $100 million payroll club for the first time this year. Here's the current list of big spenders, courtesy of USA Today:

Yankees- $189.6 million
Red Sox- $143 million
Mets- $115.2 million
Angels- $109.2 million
White Sox- $108.7 million
Dodgers- $108.4 million
Mariners- $106.5 million

I'd have to say the Mariners have less talent then any team on the list, although in their defense every team listed also has serious holes. Even the mighty Yankees have a suspect bench and a look at their current starting rotation shows even $190 million can't buy everything.

It is interesting to see the Angels still ahead of the Mariners in payroll. They have more talent in the system and apparently the ability to sustain a healthy budget over a long period of time. They will likely remain a challenge for some time to come. Forget the A's, the Angels look to be the long term threat in terms of resources and commitment. The fact they also have a WS ring can not be ignored.

Anyway, on to Boston and back (hopefully) to playing baseball.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Just one game

Lots of hand-wringing by Mariner fans after last nights blowout loss to the A's. We won the series, so overall we should be happy. Instead, there seems to be an effort to find doom and gloom 3 games into the season. A few thoughts on last nights game:
  • The lack of fans was noticeable. Large sections were empty, and by the 9th inning 80% of the "fans" behind home plate were gone. Part of this I think is due to the weather. Locals understand Safeco is a cold place in April. We see this every year. Attendance builds once decent weather kicks in. Once we get a few warm days the walk-ups will return and attendance will rise.
  • The A's pitching is solid. While it's true the M's offense looked terrible, a lot had to do with Oakland's pitching. For those who feel the A's took a huge step back, as long as their pitchers stay healthy I expect the Angels to be challenged by Oakland all year.
  • Vidro will hit eventually, but will continue to be a story for fans. He belongs in the 6-8 slot in the batting order, not a 2 or 3. Bavasi/Hargrove is attempting to make him something he isn't (a key acquisition) by having him hit higher in the lineup, but your eyes are not deceiving you. He really is an aging NL-infielder with bad legs. Oh, and he'll be your DH for the rest of the year. And possibly beyond.
  • Batista will be fine. He is what he is, an innings eater who will generally keep you in games. Unlike your usual 35 year old pitchers, he actually still throws hard. This isn't the case where an old veteran no longer has the ability to get hitters out because his stuff is gone, so I don't expect Batista to fall off the earth pitching-wise any time soon.
  • The M's patience was sickening to watch at the plate. Just take a look at last nights 9th inning against Street. In his first 10 pitches I don't think 2 were strikes, yet he already had 2 outs and was heading towards his third. Beltre was back to swinging at low and away pitches, and though it was obvious Street wasn't throwing strikes the M's batters didn't care. They were happy to swing-away and seemed to have no interest in getting a hitters-count pitch.
Well, lets see if Cleveland and the cold changes things. I would honestly think about pushing back Felix's start if the weather is really brutal, as it seems the likelihood of pulling/tearing a muscle would be greatly increased. Then again, watching the Indian hitters try to hit Felix's fastball in the cold will be fun too. I would imagine it will feel like punching thru ice with your bare hands when you foul a ball.

We won the series, let's not get too carried away. It takes a couple of weeks before we can really get a sense for how this is going.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Felix stole the show

Of course everyone is in awe of last nights performance. He didn't pitch like someone who was 20 years old, he was in command, and when he really needed to get an out he got it. You don't get to watch a pitcher throw like that very often. It reminded me a lot of his first few appearances, where the ball was always around the plate. The pitches that weren't strikes didn't miss by much, and there were a few times I found myself questioning the umps strike zone.

Speaking of which, I hated the new pitch location graphic being used last night. For those of you that saw the game on TV, did you have the same reaction? It seemed to show pitches that were borderline strikes like they were two feet off the plate, and pitches that were clearly strikes (to my eye and the umps) were shown way off as well. It was a huge step backward from the tool they used last year. I'll be watching again tonight to see if its been tuned up a little. Last nights was terrible.

Speaking of terrible, a few people have pointed out if Crosby doesn't make that error, the game might have been lost in extra innings. We'll never know, but we can say we won the game, and we'll take any break we can from the A's. History says they'll heat up after the All Star break, so let's stomp on them while we can and try and get some confidence!

The other story is Vidro, who doesn't look like a #3 hitter at all. I give this experiment a month at the most... when Bill Krueger is openly questioning him one day into the season, you know you've got problems.

The only reason he is there is because the team is trying to pretend his is a valuable addition to a $110 million team, not the aging veteran who was almost tendered and has no power to be your full-time DH.

Oh well, no reason to be negative after a great opening night. Go M's and let's hope the pitching can keep them in the game.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Excitement of Opening Day

New season, new optimism. The fact we are playing our nemesis Athletics only makes it sweeter.

With the team playing so poorly last year against the A's, the opener has grown in importance to some observers. Common sense tells us there is little-to-no impact of a 3-game series in a 162 game schedule in the grand scheme of things, but given the 2-17 record last year and the Bavasi/Hargrove hot seat, it's hard not to pay extra-attention to how the team plays the next three days.

Long time M's fans know the Athletics have OWNED the Mariners over the years. Particularly in Oakland. Except for that dominating stretch when the team was the talk of baseball, basing the seasons success on your play against the Athletics is a recipe for disaster. If you've watched this team for years, you've seen way too many losses to Oakland already. A few more isn't going to suddenly make you love-or-hate this team any more.

Mariner fans complaining about losing to the Athletics is like two long-time Seattle residents complaining about the rain to each other. It's simply a waste of time. People who've lived in Seattle for a long time know August is really nice, and the rest of the year is a crap-shoot. You enjoy nice weather when it comes, but otherwise don't expect much. You certainly don't get too worked up about it.

Mariner team losing to the Athletics is essentially the same thing. You expect it, and anything else is pretty much a pleasant surprise.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Bavasi's last season

With the season about to get underway, it's customary to make predictions on how the season will go. It seems most fans and columnists peg the M's in the 81-84 win category. There are certainly those that see doom and gloom, and think a mid-70's total is likely, but in general fans tend to be optimistic at the start of the season and assume best case scenarios.

With last years WS champs getting to the playoffs with such an uninspired win total, there is a group of fans who argue the M's have a realistic chance at a playoff appearance this year. They look at the West and argue there is little to like among the teams, and feel every team took a step back this year.

But of course who saw Detroit going to the WS last year either? What history shows us is 83 wins almost never gets you in the playoffs. In fact, we know the M's won 93 games two years in a row and didn't make the playoffs, so the idea the M's will even be in contention is hard to believe.

The cream of the crop in the AL this year would have to be Boston and NY. While it is tiresome to say that every year, and acknowledging the Yankees are starting Pavano(!) on opening day, can we really make an argument for the Mariners beating one of those two teams for a wildcard spot? Not to mention the Twins, Tigers, Blue Jays etc... who look far stronger on paper.

So if history says it takes 95+ wins to take the AL West, and if the M's would have to beat out a large field of quality opponents to win the wildcard, it would seem there is little chance this team will make the playoffs.

And if there is little chance we make the playoffs, what would possibly warrant bringing Bavasi back at the end of the year?

While I hate to say it, the end of the year will see Bavasi, Hargrove and Ichiro all leaving the M's. For some it may not even take that long.

This team is marginally better (and significantly more expensive) than last year. I think 82 wins is achievable. I hope I'm wrong and the M's are better than they look on paper, but history says someone will win 90+ games in the West and I just don't see it with this group.