Mariners Analysis

Monday, July 30, 2007

Texas gets better

Looking at the Rangers-Braves trade of Teixeira, it's hard to see how this doesn't make the Rangers better. They get essentially the top prospects in the Braves system in areas they need most- catcher and pitching, and get to shed salary in the process.

It's obvious the Braves are trying to win this year. They look at the NL landscape and don't see anyone that scares them, and I agree with the strategy while Smoltz, Chipper, Jones etc... are still around. This trade actually works for both sides.

Having said that, I don't really care about the Braves. I'm an M's fan first, and this clearly works for Daniels and the Rangers FO. I'd make that trade in a heartbeat.

While Teixeira is a nice hitter, he's one of those classic "love em when their cheap" kind of players. If he comes up from your farm system and costs practically nothing, hitting 20 homers and playing great defense he's a huge asset (Jones anyone!!). However, when that player starts costing you ten million a year, the equation changes.

All teams not called the Yankees have a finite budget. When a players consumes a larger and larger portion of your budget, their value must increase as well. Put simply, Teixeira is great at $4 million. At $10 million (or whatever Boras will get) he suddenly starts taking up 15-20% of your budget, and you've got a problem. He's not worth it. A little like Willis- has a name but his numbers don't quite match the hype. (don't get me wrong, Teixeira's a nice player, but not $100 million contract nice)

It's the classic 'sell high' strategy and the Rangers played it perfectly. It's too bad the old regime wasn't in Texas, they probably would have signed him to an extension.

This is the strongest sign yet one of our competitors is getting better.

What we learned over the weekend

It was nice to see the team win the series, as a loss yesterday would have put a bit of a damper on the upcoming Angels trip. Now they can say they took 3 of 4 from a division rival, and don't have to think about the 7 game slide as much.

The best news of all is that Bavasi hasn't made a trade that breaks everyone's hearts. This morning on KJR Mitch had a local writer from Florida on to talk about Willis. Basically his response was only an idiot would trade Adam Jones for Willis, as he simply isn't that good of a pitcher right now. It was interesting as Mitch appeared surprised by his answer. Perhaps he will use this information the next time a fellow staff member or caller proposes some of these wild trades.

But anyway, the bigger story is John McLaren and what he might have learned over the weekend. Like:
- Chris Reitsma is not very good. The injured pitcher who wasn't very good last year and was injured again this year is not the guy you want protecting a lead. I know this comes as a shock to some of you (ha-ha).
- Broussard should play more. Would we have won the game if Sexson didn't get thrown out? At the very least Broussard continues to show why Bavasi traded for him last year, and why he is better today than Sexson.
- Our outfield defense is bad. I think McLaren knows this, but hasn't wanted to rock the boat with his veterans so soon after taking the job. But there is no way you watched this series and came to any other conclusion. Trust me, Ibanez's days in LF is numbered.

I also found a little line in one of the papers interesting. It was a rumor mentioning that any of the Seattle veterans was moveable in the right deal. It wasn't implying we were ready to trade Beltre tomorrow or anything, but Raul's name was on the list and that is surprising. Perhaps he isn't as untouchable as we thought. Just the fact a local writer even threw the name out means the FO might be floating the idea we don't have to watch Raul patrol LF for the next several years after all.

So basically everything we learned this weekend we actually already knew. What we don't know is if McLaren learned anything this weekend.

Meanwhile, 10 minutes has passed and Bavasi still hasn't made a trade.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Time for Ibanez fans to step up

Critics of the Jones call up have been easy to find- Thiel, Baker, Drayer, Krueger, Raul's Mom... we could go on and on.
Now that we are in a losing streak, it will be interesting to see what this group proposes we do.

Will they say something stupid?

An example would be: "I would trade Adam Jones for Dontrelle Willis"

We can't expect every columnist or Mariner fan to be an expert on every player in the league. However, even a cursory look into Willis says buyer beware. Is it asking too much for them to make at least a 30-second poke into said players current situation before they say they would trade the Mariners number one prospect?

For some, it would seem I am indeed asking too much.

But the point is, it was easy to suggest we do nothing when the team was winning.

Now that the Yankees are breathing down our necks, and the Angels continue to lose and still are leading the division, a sense of urgency for the stand-patters will develop.

I can only imagine what they will come up with.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hernandez didn't lose last nights game

Let's make sure we don't go overboard on Felix yesterday. He did not cost the team the game. He could have pitched a shutout and kept them in the game, but he did not cost the team the game. The offense did that by not scoring a single run in either game all weekend.

Much as it pains me to make the comparison, if Felix had matched Weaver's performance from the day before and given up 1 run, the team still would have lost.

And no one would be blaming Felix for the loss.

Yes, he is young and had a temper tantrum on the mound. It's not a big deal, and I'm sure he'll learn from it. If it continues, then yes you get concerned. Right now, not so much.

The real concern is the offense. Ibanez has an OPS under .300 since the break. Sexson's numbers not only haven't sky rocketed upward, they're actually worse. You've struggled to score runs on a regular enough basis to eliminate the "hot pitcher" theory. It's a real problem if you don't score runs.

The argument against change was "don't mess with a winning team." The current status quo is not getting it done- I think a few more converts were made this weekend. You should have won 2 games in Toronto with decent hitting.

Our bullpen is still solid. Weaver is pitching well enough to deserve to stay in the rotation (much to my continued amazement). We still have Felix, Washburn and Bautista to run out there. Ichiro will remain a Mariner.

But at some point, the status quo critics will have to admit something needs to happen to this offense. I look to hear/see the plan quicker than they thought just a week ago.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Off day for Mariners

While the team travels to Toronto, fans continue to discuss the state of the team. A series win was nice over the O's, but I think most would agree it was a fairly ugly series against a bad team. Many of us have focused on calling up Jones, but I have a feeling Sexson is going to be the number one topic very soon.

Casual fans who listen to the games on TV or radio have a hard time understanding why you should swap Vidro for Jones and move Ibanez to DH. They see Vidro with a near .300 average and are told repeatedly on-air how he is one of the most patient hitters on the team. Trust me, very few casual fans ever bother to fact check the Mariner broadcast booth. If Dave or Mike says Vidro is a patient hitter, most walk away with the impression he is. They don't bother to find out Vidro is actually well below average at taking pitches, both on the Mariners and compared to other hitters in the AL.

But Sexson is a different story. Even a casual fan can point to a .199 batting average and think out loud "this guy sucks." How many times this season have we seen Richie fail at critical times, and look terrible doing it! Both the numbers and casual viewing point to serious problems for the team when it comes to their first basemen. We've been told all season he will post up huge numbers, but even the most ardent casual fan gets tired at hearing it.

The logical answer for some time has been to move Sexson down in the order and give more time to Broussard. The team has recognized the need to get Ben in the lineup, but mistakenly thinks putting him in the outfield is helping. The only time Broussard should play the outfield is when Ichiro, Guillen and Bloomquist all collide and require a stretcher. Otherwise he should stick to DH or first.

But soon, Richie will be in the spotlight.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Status quo critics need to supply answers

We've been over the argument for bringing up Jones. One side feels the upside in improved defense is worth the risk alone, the other argues for continuity.

Jones is obviously in Tacoma, so it's clear critics of the move are presently winning the debate.

However, the team is not exactly tearing the cover off the ball. While the team is sticking to established veterans, they aren't scoring a lot of runs in the process. Here are the team stats since the break:

This would make them the second worst hitting team in the AL since the break, ahead of only the A's. Now this is obviously a small sample size, and we did face the Tigers at home, but you can't make excuses forever. At some point this team will need to hit better, and more consistently if they want to make the post season. Can critics of the Jones move agree with that statement?

So for those against calling up Jones, I would like to hear a decent plan on how this team should upgrade its offense. You want Vidro to remain a DH. You want Ibanez to continue in LF. You got your wish. It is fair to ask how that is working?

I'm certainly not suggesting merely plugging in Jones makes the team an offensive juggernaut. The case for Jones has always been clear. You improve the outfield defense, you hope Jones provides adequate offense and you make the team better by removing Vidro and his powerless bat.

But at least it is a logical plan that is immediately implementable and is based on reasoned thinking. For all the Bill Krueger's, Shannon Drayer's and Bill Bavasi's of the world, I would like to see your plan, either on paper or on the field.

Frankly, the status quo is simply not getting it done. Hoping for outstanding pitching every game will not get this team to the post season.

(Note- I realize by posting this, the M's will likely score 15 runs tonight and Vidro will hit for the cycle. I've decided I'm okay with this, but my opinion stands.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ramirez pitches well

Or did he? That seems to be the question of the day. Some people think he pitched a great game against Baltimore last night, while a different contingent thinks the O's just suck. I have to admit, I felt during the game the Orioles were sort of going through the motions, which may or may not be quitting on the season. It could just be they aren't very good.

So we sort of have to give Ramirez a passing grade. If the Orioles truly do stink offensively then he did what he had to do to win the game- let hitters get themselves out by pitching to contact. His next few starts, especially on the road against Toronto will tell the real story.

But the biggest story simply continues to be the Mariners. They shrugged off the loss of Hargrove. They hung tough against a much better team in the Tigers. They give us a reason to watch the games, and argue about what it means the next day. I thought the manager was crazy for taking out Green with two outs in the 8th last night, but at least I found myself caring again.

The next big story assuming the team continues to do well will be trades. We know Bavasi is trying to improve the team. We know his record on identifying talent is suspect. We know his back has been against the wall all season to try to win to save his job.

The roster of this team after the deadline is the story that's about to become the next big topic.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bavasi's gamble continues

Weaver yesterday, now HoRam today. With the team in the middle of a playoff race, the gamble Bavasi takes when either takes the mound continues. The payoff can be a playoff appearance and almost certain contract extension. The loss can be the final nail in the coffin of a career with a footnote that reads "poor judge of major league talent."

The team has been on a nice winning steak built largely on outstanding pitching. With an ERA of roughly 3 runs a game during the run, good starting pitching + killer bullpen does indeed equal wins.

Make no mistake, this team wins when it pitches well. There are those who look at batting average and argue the Mariners are a good hitting team. They like to use phrases like "no easy outs" when they talk about the lineup. But this team doesn't outslug anyone very often.

Weaver and Ramirez are both pretty similar. They can both throw an occasional nice game, and they can both fail to last 3 innings. They can save your bullpen and destroy it with little rhyme or reason. If you were looking to upgrade this team, they are far and away the "weak link." The lowest of low hanging fruit when it comes to an upgrade.

Plenty of good teams have a poor 5th starter. The Angels are in first place and carry Santana, who must drive fans crazy every time he pitches on the road. The problem for the current Mariners is trying to win with essentially two 5th starters.

Two fifth starters who are thrust in to the rotation as much for political reasons as anything else. Weaver because you pay him $8 million, Ramirez because you gave up Soriano. There's a good chance neither pitches in Seattle next year, but right now they are 2/5's of the starting rotation on a $106 million team fighting for the first playoff appearance since 2001.

Ramirez gets to pitch in Safeco against the lowly Orioles. Let's hope Bavasi's gamble payoffs, because honestly it's not where I would put my money.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hypocrisy for critics of Jones call up?

While the M's continue to play well, the fact is baseball and the postseason is cruel. Who doesn't remember the team winning 93 games two years in a row and going nowhere? While the M's are playing better than many expected, it doesn't guarantee anything. Playing well doesn't alone get you the division title or ensure you win the wild card.

If the Mariners are going to catch the Angels, they need to play better. As nice as this seasons been, they would be sitting home if the playoffs started today. The wild card is even murkier- you have the Indians, Twins, Tigers, Red Sox and Yankees as possible roadblocks. The Mariners haven't been good enough all season to take the wild card lead, and again if the season ended today we would be watching other teams play in October.

The argument among the Mariner front office, commentators, radio personalities and fans against bringing up Jones basically centers around disruption. The apparent objection is why disrupt a team that is playing well. The fear, critics of the move suggest, is you force players to do things they don't want to do. Vidro to the bench, Ibanez to the DH. And in doing so, hurt the team chemistry that is responsible for the current success.

I argue these critics are contradicting themselves now, and will doom this team to forever finishing out of the post season if they actually believe these are legitimate arguments for leaving Jones in Tacoma.

Consider the two seasons in '02 and '03 when the Mariners finished with 93 wins (roughly what the current team is on pace to finish with). We all know the end result. A nice season, but no post season.

What were many fans, commentators, columnists and critics arguing for during those seasons? A trade mid season to bring in a bat, preferably with left-handed power. Oh, and pitching as well.

We all remember the nick name "Stand Pat" given to our then GM Gillick. The moniker was not meant fondly, as the criticism was placed at his doorstep when the team sat home during the playoffs. Fans called for an upgrade, and were disappointed when the team didn't make a move.

Compare that criticism to today. In both cases the teams were winning, albeit not at a pace to guarantee success in reaching the post season. Were these critics worried about disrupting team chemistry in '02? Surely someones playing time would be affected if they brought in a bat in 2002 or 2003. Were these critics against making a move because the team was winning?

No, they were not. The argument then was we need to get better. Today, many of these same critics are now calling for the Mariners to stand-pat. I believe it is hypocritical to argue in 2002 to make a move, and now in 2007 to stick with the status quo, ignoring what Vidro is hitting or Ibanez' defensive prowess.

I would like the critics of the Jones callup to argue why they are against mid season trades that disrupt chemistry. Is there something in particular about Jones that would disrupt chemistry that bringing in a hired-gun from another team would not? I would like these critics to explain themselves, because on the surface their argument makes no sense. Good teams attempting to get better alter peoples playing time, but I've never seen it be a decent argument to stick with the status quo and hope your opponent falters or your players get magically better.

The team cannot wait until a losing streak forces a decision. There is no rule that says trades or player callups kills team chemistry. Did the Yankees worry about team chemistry when they traded for Abreu last year? Were they worried about Bernie Williams when it came time to take away playing time during his last few seasons?

What is interesting about the Jones callup is how little downside there is. Unlike many moves mid season that require a team to give up valuable players, this move costs essentially nothing. We don't have to mortgage the future to get him. We don't have to trade popular players or cut wily old veterans.

Calling up Jones is a no-brainer. You guarantee yourself better outfield defense. FACT
You guarantee yourself less Vidro playing time. FACT
You don't have to give up valuable players to get him. FACT

The only casualties are Vidro's playing time and Ibanez' desire to play in the outfield. Vidro is a hired gun who was brought in during the off season and has played a grand total of 4 months of baseball in a Mariner uniform. He has no fan base to speak of. And Ibanez is not being dropped from the team. He will still hit, still get paid, and no one actually buys tickets to watch him play defense.

Critics of calling up Jones are hypocritical for arguing for trades in the past while making up a new excuse now that they have a viable candidate sitting in Tacoma. They are the worst kind of critic. They criticize when no move is made, and they criticize attempted moves.

This current team can be better. It will need to be better to make the post season. Let's hope the Jones call up is not too little too late, whenever it does come.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ichiro signs == Great day for Mariner baseball fans

The rumors were right and it's now finally official. Ichiro is going to remain a Mariner and we all get to continue to watch one of the most unusual players in todays game.

Yes, there will be plenty of baseball "experts" who will say Ichiro is not worth it. Obviously those experts are not in charge of the team, because we all know how important just from a marketing/apparel/ratings/family/asian influence Ichiro has been. For the Mariners, this was a no-brainer. You CANNOT lose Ichiro, no matter the cost. Just like the Yankees needed to step up and pay Jeter, the Mariners had to step up and pay Ichiro, and that's just the way it is. We don't need to bang our heads against a wall and try to convince the world about it, we just need to figure out a way to get the team to win on a consistent basis.

If the team wins the deal becomes inarguable. With a World Series ring on Ichiro's finger, the deal becomes a non issue even to the most vocal critic of singles hitters. The Yankees never had to worry about defending Jeter's salary when he had 4 WS titles on his resume. Now Ichiro needs the same thing.

He's got the money. He's got the fame. Now Ichiro just needs the postseason.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Looks like no Jones

It's been an amazing week in Seattle fan land. The news from Prospect Insider re: Adam Jones getting the call was pretty interesting, as you had a blog breaking a fairly major story.

Alas, the local papers are now reporting it won't happen, at least right away.

This has now happened several times- remember the news Hargrove was getting canned and we heard all of these "Trust us, our sources are never wrong" and it turns out they were? It looks like a source was wrong again, because the local papers wouldn't be reporting it if they didn't have direct confirmation.

Bloggers are still not considered "real" reporters, for obvious reasons. It's too bad the story wasn't true, as it was good for the team and good for the medium. It will be interesting to see the reaction from the FO, who are probably hoping the Ichiro news will overshadow the fact they are only delaying the inevitable.

While the news right now is that Adam Jones is not in Seattle, the real story continues to be...

Why not?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Bullpen amazes

While the brawl was the talk of the day, the bullpen is in my mind the single biggest factor in the M's success in '07. With the bases loaded and nobody out, to get out of the inning w/o giving up a run was huge. O'Flaherty was fantastic in bailing out Feierabend, but I guess we should expect that based on the season so far.

Taking 3 out of 4 against Oakland will make any Mariner fan happy. While it looks like we won't be upgrading our starting rotation courtesy of the White Sox, there is plenty to look forward to for the remainder of the season.

It's been years since we have had a decent team again- let's make sure to enjoy it.

Amazing story

So Felix was awesome yesterday, and the Mariners will finish with nothing less than at least a split of the series. Pretty amazing to be a Mariner fan.

But the really amazing story coming out of yesterday is news the letter Dave at USS Mariner penned actually made it's way to Felix and the pitching staff. While it's impossible to know the exact amount of influence it had in getting Felix to stop throwing ten consecutive fastballs, it obviously had some affect.

That I find simply amazing. I have always held the guys at USS Mariner in the highest regard, and their influence on this baseball team cannot be discounted. They are responsible for educating countless fans, and now in some small way have helped win a ball game.

I see a few people want to try and discount the role the letter played. They want to pretend USS Mariner has no influence on them or their team. This is simply laughable. To pretend they haven't noticed major ideas show first on USS Mariner and then trickle down to beat writers for the major papers would be silly. We are lucky to have one of the best baseball blogs in the country, and it's covering our team. I am happy to see them get some recognition, and hopefully the pot-shots a few simple-minded people take will not discourage them.

So back to baseball. The team sends Feierabend back to the mound, and this could be his last start of the season. With HoRam about to come off the DL, his days with the major league club appear numbered. I have actually liked his stuff better than most, and it would be nice to see him give the club reason to keep him around.

A series win over Oakland would be great over the ASB, and with news a certain pitcher in Chicago might be heading to Seattle would make for a great second half of the season.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A split would be nice

Playing in Oakland, the team would like to feel good about themselves during the break, and losing 3 or 4 to the A's wouldn't be so great. I'll tell you right now, I would take a split in a heartbeat. Historically we don't do well in Oakland, we just lost 2 of 3 to arguably the worst team in the AL, and of course we have a new manager.

Speaking of which, I have a feeling McLaren is going to be a bloggers best friend. He's going to do some crazy stuff, and likely cause a firestorm fairly regularly based on his first half-week. For those hoping Ichiro gets a chance to pitch, this manager might be the closest guy on the planet to actually making it happen (not that it will ever, but I bet he thinks about it from time to time).

It will be interesting to see what McLaren thinks of Jones, and basically rookies in general. Hargrove was so hell-bent on veterans we've all forgotten what it's like to have a manager actually make sound personnel decisions.

Let's hope Baker and the rest of the beat writers start figuring this guy out, because I have a feeling I might really like him.

Monday, July 02, 2007

First day w/o Hargrove

So far so good. It hasn't really sunk it yet he's not the manager, but I expect to feel pretty good he left as the days go by. We just need the team to keep winning and this looks to be a great summer.

I've written before I feel a team that plays in Seattle needs to use the bench. That was one of my many knocks on Hargrove and his veteran, set lineup. It sounds like McLaren plans to use his bench more, but it must be the right guys.

Use Broussard more? Yes.

Use Bloomquist more? No.

He understands the concept, but can he successfully execute the plan? That remains to be be seen.

A new era starts today with McLaren. I hope you take advantage of your new job opportunity and succeed.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


I don't know what else to say. Jeff Weaver continues to pitch effectively, and the man I considered a pretty lousy manager abruptly resigns. And the Mariners won the game. And they continue to play great.

I'm happy, puzzled, mystified and looking at my dog funny. What, are you going to start talking now or something?

By far the biggest news of the season was the Hargrove bomb. I think we all knew he wasn't being pushed out- a 4-year contract extension seemed more likely. The first thing that sprang to mind when I heard was a medical issue. Perhaps Mike or someone in his family needed help that required more than a full-time skipper could give. The second thing that sprang to mind was some sort of he-said-she said, I'd better resign now before I end up on the Harold Reynolds talk show circuit. Seemed unlikely, but no less so than a manager simply quiting just when the team actually started playing well.

Hargrove was old school. That brings good and bad qualities. The bad things we've been over a million times, but the good side of the ledger meant loyalty and honor. To have a manager skip out, right when the team was winning just seems impossible to consider for a man like Mike Hargrove. Sure, Lou Piniella said goodbye to the Mariners, but not during a win streak for crying out loud!!

Hargrove has been here while the team played some of the worst baseball in recent memory. The team finally starts to play well, and he decides to leave? It's like asking out a beautiful girl a hundred times to go out with you, she finally accepts and then you bail right when it looks like she might actually like you. Mike is leaving before the payoff. How will he feel if the team makes the playoffs and gets to the postseason? How will he feel if the team is in the middle of a division title and he's sitting in a damn cabin somewhere playing boggle?

I'm not sure what a few more months would have hurt, but the man is entitled to do what he needs to do. I didn't like him as a manager, but I sure never saw him quitting in the middle of the season. Whatever caused him to do this must be important, and I hope he has no regrets. Listening to his press conference, it sounds like he's at peace with his decision. If he is managing next season in Tampa or somewhere, I might look at this differently.

Baseball is just a game, and the team should survive just fine. They are playing great, and it's fun to be a fan again.

Now can someone explain Jeff Weaver for me??