Mariners Analysis

Friday, August 31, 2007

Not much more to say

Last nights game was a terrible way to lengthen a losing streak, with White walking two consecutive batters in the bottom of the 9th inning and losing the game.

Sure, we could all scream about JJ Putz not pitching in a week and Rick White suddenly being asked to succeed in critical situations night after night. But what good would it do?

There are times for healthy debate. Like how to deal with Ibanez with Jones needing playing time. Or figuring out what to do with Lopez.

But there is no debate needed right now. Only a fool would defend John McLaren as a major league manager.

The team needed to win yesterday, and didn't. They needed to not get swept by the Angels. Now the M's are behind the surging Yankees and have no shot at catching the Angels.

We just lost October.

Not much more to say.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Asdrubal Cabrera

While watching the M's play Cleveland, don't forget a certain player named Asdrubal Cabrera. He would provide some much needed infield depth for the Mariners, who for some reason didn't think much of him.

Do you think Baker and the rest of the anti-youth realize Cabrera is a young hitter playing on a team fighting for a spot in the post season? Do they sit amazed a team like the Indians would dare play a youth when they could be playing a less talented veteran?

Take a look at the Yankees and their handling of Mussina. Take a look at the Tigers and notice their handling of multiple rookies this year.

Then take a look at the Mariners. The exception is clearly the way the Mariners handle youth, not the other way around as some would have you believe.

Got beat by a better team

While we are all disappointed, the reality is the Angels are better. Certainly it's frustrating to have a rookie manager who has loads to learn despite many, many years in baseball, the truth is it didn't cost us more than a game at most. We were never in the first or last game, and one or two changes weren't going to make Felix's fastball command any better.

A win would sure help our mood. The team is relying on HoRam to stop the bleeding.

On the road.

In Cleveland.

Let's hope he throws a no-hitter.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Can McLaren bench himself?

Jose Lopez makes a mental error and gets benched in favor of the older, less talented Willie Bloomquist for a game. Sexson continues to suck and gets to sit on the bench for a game while Broussard gets a rare at-bat or two.

Given what we saw last night, can McLaren bench himself? Perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad thing if McLaren gets himself thrown out of the game... say before the first pitch?

Your little sister could manage better than McLaren displayed last night. I think the guy needs a damn time-out.

McLaren loses game

If a competent manager was running the Mariners last night, would we have won the game?

Of course we'll never know, but we do have irrefutable proof that John McLaren lost last nights game. There were so many headscratching "what the hell were you thinking??" moves I'm sort of left speechless. Did last night really happen?

During the last month, the Mariners have won a lot of games. During that time we have tried to provide thoughtful analysis of moves the team has made. In general, any type of suggestion the team might be making a mistake was drowned out by "the team is winning so shut up."

Last night all the questionable moves this team has made caught up with them.

John McLaren not only doesn't deserve manager of the year, he just made an excellent case for being the worst manager in baseball. If you don't agree, you simply were not watching the game last night.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Risk in strategy seen

With the team dropping the first game against the Angels, after having lost two in Texas, the pressure of playoff baseball is starting to appear.

The M's have had few "must win" games this season. They have been the chaser, which in some ways is easier. You look ahead, not behind, and get to play a little freer when you have no expectations from the fans. (the benefit of sucking for 3 years)

Baker of the Times and many other fans have been supportive of McLaren and his "ride the veteran" approach. They talked about the need for rest, but at the same time saw no reason other than to play the same lineup as long they won.

I've talked about the risks associated with this strategy. Sure it looks great as long as Vidro continues to hit .400 and Ibanez hits a home run every other day. But there is always the risk the players cool off, and you have no backup plan.

This team is about to play a brutal stretch of road games with a playoff intensity every night. They have a small bench courtesy of their desire for keeping the Rick White's of the world on the roster. They have had every opportunity this season to cultivate an active bench that plays regularly and contributes. It could have kept it's core players rested and ready for a critical September.

The team has neglected to pursue that strategy.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

McLaren's bench use

Major league teams have 25 players and nine get to play at the same time. Clearly all teams are constructed with a bench firmly in place. It's up to the Manager to divvy up the playing time.

Some have argued over the years the Mariners need to rely on their bench more than any team in baseball simply due to travel. The team covers more ground and more time zones and resting players from time to time is a good idea. (or so the theory goes)

Pineilla was the first to really say he was going implement this strategy on a regular basis. In fact, he is really responsible for the career of someone like Willie in Seattle; a "super sub" who can play multiple positions and rest regulars while still collecting a lot of at bats during the year. The model for this would be someone like McLemore.

Of course when Lou left, Melvin and Hargrove instituted the dreaded "set lineup" concept where you pick eight guys and play them the entire season. Melvin did it because he was a rookie manager afraid of veterans and rocking the boat, and Hargrove was simply old school and valued veterans to an extreme. When they did use their bench, they did so in the worst way- running players like Bloomquist as if it was the only alternative.

So today we have McLaren, who likes to say he wants to rest his regulars but has a hard time figuring out how to do it. Let's recap his current style:
  • Runs set lineups for long stretches with little change
  • Little evidence of using/creating a "Super Sub"
  • No evidence he selects days off based on the opponent or the Mariners starting pticher (ie- groundball pitcher so keep Beltre in the game)
  • Instead relys on general baseball principles (eg- backup catcher on day games)
  • Conflicted on bench runners (often comments after the game about "saving" his bench for later innings)
It's pretty hard to see where McLaren has instituted a plan unique to Seattle's travel situation. It looks remarkably like Melvin's and Hargrove's plan- stick with status quo and cross fingers.

While McLaren is quoted as saying he wants to provide rest, his current plan is extremely risky. He acknowledges he must rest his regulars but in practice rarely does so. On the days when he does use his bench he is relying on players who see no consistent playing time. To expect Broussard to suddenly be effective after not playing is risky- it's a move with a small probability of success. In my mind the definition of a risky move. McLaren's been around the game long enough to understand players need to play, so rather than being a spark the bench is more of a doghouse. Whether he intended it to be or not.

McLaren's plan will work as long as the Mariners make the playoffs and he can continue to rely on running out the same lineup daily and the veterans produce. The risk is in not knowing when your set lineup is suddenly cooling off. While he can tell the papers all day long he believes in rest, the reality is he rarely does so and is close to running out the rest of the schedule with his same 8 position players.

Now when I see a Jones or Broussard in the lineup I have no expectations for success- their lack of playing time makes production not an expectation but a surprise. It seems like a foolish risk to be taking during a time when the team is so close to making the playoffs, but that's the plan.

September will be interesting, and our rookie manager seems hell bent on using his bench as little as possible.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rick White laugh of the day

I termed the acquisition of John Parrish as a headscratcher. Couldn't really figure out what they were thinking. (And I might add, the team made clear they weren't going to explain his role either. Deafening silence when they acquired him.)

So with White all you can do is laugh, right? He's old, he's not very good. He's again the least trustworthy member of the pitching staff.

But we are in a pennant race! We can't complain when the team wins right! It's sunny in Seattle today!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Guillen's extension

First of all- great sweep by the M's. They beat a bad Chicago team, which is exactly what a playoff caliber team needs to do. This is the best season since 2001 by far, and has been a joy to watch.

Meanwhile, we have heard an extension for Jose Guillen has been in the works for weeks. The question for Mariner fans- is this a good thing?

Looking ahead, we know Ichiro is in center. This much is assured. If you believe in Adam Jones, you have to think one of the outfield spots of the future will belong to the #1 prospect in the system.

That leaves one open spot, and the easy option is to lock up Guillen for three years. After all, 20-25 homers and 100 RBI's is nothing to sneeze at.

In fact, this option is so easy it's almost impossible to believe the Mariners veteran loving FO doesn't go for it. The money is on Guillen being in the Mariner outfield next year.

Just to add to the Guillen in 2008 theory, let's not forget to add he seems to be a positive in the clubhouse. While he has burned many a bridge in the past, this year he seems to fit in fine with the Mariner's squeaky clean image.

So why the delay? Is this just a money issue?

We already have heard there is no chance the Mariners conservative approach lends itself to two youngsters in the outfield next year, so it's hard to believe a certain slugger in AAA has much of a chance.

Still, the Mariners know Ibanez can't roam LF forever. Even their most ardent bobblehead producers have to understand his days in LF are numbered. But complicating the matter is what to do with Vidro- if you believe Jones should be in LF, and Guillen is in RF, then what about RAUUUUUL?

The reason Guillen hasn't signed is simple. The Mariners are trying to figure out how to get out of their own mess. They have serious roster construction issues and can't figure out a future that includes Guillen, Vidro and Ibanez with Jones standing on the sidelines.

The Mariners have a talented player in Jones and have talented youngsters in AAA ready to step up. For most teams this is a welcome problem to have.

For the Mariners, it's a marketing nightmare.

Guillen in my opinion is bad for the team in the long run. The money spent on Guillen would be better spent on pitching.

Therefore, expect Guillen on the team next year.

We'll examine this more in the off season, but even Bavasi is having thoughts around the wisdom of signing Guillen to an extension.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

John Parrish's role

Last night when McLaren put in Parrish while the M's clung to a 3-1 lead, I was dumbstruck.

How could a manager with the full bullpen at his disposal choose his worst reliever in a situation like that? It was impossible to apply logic to the move.

Managers get second guessed all the time when it comes to bullpen usage. It comes with the territory, and in general I don't get too worked up about it because ultimately the player has to perform. We only ask that the manager puts the player in the best possible position to succeed, and asking a player like Parrish who hasn't been very good all year to suddenly step in during his home debut and not suck seemed like a lot.

The trade to get Parrish was a bit of a head scratcher. The M's already had a great bullpen, and trading with Baltimore who has one of the worst seemed like an odd way to try and upgrade. No matter what type of metric you believe in to evaluate relievers- scouting reports, radar guns, ERA+, wins, losses... whatever you choose, Parrish didn't grade out very well.

The Mariners have never really clarified why they got him, and why they think he will help the team. They talked about sending Lowe to AAA, but you don't need to acquire a bad reliever to do that. You had plenty of other options if that was the sole concern.

So last night, amid the scattered boos, the team made a choice in sending Parrish out and it backfired big time. The team needs to make a choice here.

Do you admit that you knew Parrish wasn't very good in the first place, and he really is just an arm to pitch mop-up? If so, then you screwed up in sending him out last night against Santana. A 3-1 lead for your ace (Felix) is hardly mop-up time.

Or, do you tell us you believe Parrish is a valuable addition to the club who will contribute through his veteran presence? If so, last night says volumes about your player evaluation skills.

The Mariners are between a rock and hard place here. They traded for a guy who isn't very good, and hope they can make him good in the middle of a playoff race. They have no margin for error here.

Either Bavasi made a mistake, or McLaren made a mistake last night. It's not second guessing, it's just the facts.

Boo mystery

It seems some of the Mariners can't figure out why the fans would boo a team that is finally getting good. After all, the team is 16 games over .500 and clearly exceeding expectations, so it would seem reasonable to wonder why more than an occasional boo might be uttered at the home park.

However, the mystery is not that difficult. While the Mariner moose and the FO likes to pretend 99% of the fans at the game want to eat hot dogs, watch the hydro races on the big screen and cheer for their favorite veteran player, reality is something else.

Fans pay a lot of money to watch baseball. They also commit a huge amount of time, whether it's sitting in traffic on the way to the park, or sitting in front of the TV. I'm not sure what universe Richie Sexson thinks people regularly make $14 million to suck, but it's not this one.

Last night was a perfect example. This should have been a must-see game for a Mariner fan. Felix against Santana. It doesn't get any better than that.

But instead of being in baseball bliss, I am fighting the urge to throw my TV through the window watching John McLaren managing a baseball game.

I seriously wondered if McLaren was trying to lose the game. He starts Vidro at second despite the obvious need to prevent any defensive mistakes in what will surely be a close game. The error Vidro makes in the first cost Felix an extra inning of work, and almost costs them the game.

The call to bring in Parrish was simply astonishing. Close game, against the premier pitcher in all of baseball and you bring in your worst reliever. I turned off the game for a while I was so upset, not wanting to watch the train wreck that was certain to happen.

McLaren last night was an idiot. The players won the game in spite of his moves, not because of them. When I see Baker commend McLaren on his choices, I simply can't believe my eyes. Did someone actually write that??

I have a lot of things to do in my free time. I don't have time to watch McLaren screw up a game, and I don't have free time to watch Sexson look ridiculous at the plate. Neither do plenty of other fans, who clearly are fed up with under performing 1st basemen and a management team that seems to need extensive on-the-job training.

I am happy to see the team do well, but I don't believe this team is doing all it can to make the playoffs. Plenty of other fans agree with me.

Mystery solved in my mind.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Compare and contrast

I don't think there is any question a large number of Mariner fans and front office folks prefer veterans over youth. This has been well established over the years.

At the trading deadline, influential writers such as Geoff Baker of the Times criticized the Mariners for not getting veteran bullpen help. Perhaps the recent trade with Baltimore was an attempt to rectify that situation, since on the surface the trade makes zero sense from a pure talent perspective.

Last night was illustrative to the dangers of relying purely on veterans.

The "rookie" Boston pitcher Matsuzaka who the Mariners wanted nothing to do with pitches a great game and limits the Orioles to one run over 7 innings. Time to turn it over to the Boston bullpen, and the newly acquired Gagne. We don't want to beat a dead horse here and get in all the gory details, but suffice it to say Gagne has been a disaster since the trade. He loses the game singlehandedly, and Boston dropped a game it really can't afford to drop.

Similarly, it is well known in baseball what Cashman and the Yankees have been trying to implement- a well stocked farm system that reduces the need to constantly acquire aging (i.e. expensive) and risky (i.e. injury prone) veterans. Instead, the Yankees rely on newly acquired Joba Chamberlain, who started the year in A ball.

Think about that... A ball!! The Yankees, on the verge of staging one of the most amazing comebacks in baseball history, has the audacity to play a kid with no major league experience, much less playoff baseball experience in New York. Don't they understand you don't play kids because they are unreliable?

Apparently they didn't get that memo. I really hope writers such as Geoff Baker, who I like very much, pays attention to what other teams in baseball are doing.

What is often presented as "facts" are in fact simply the way things used to be, and relying on outdated thinking and simplistic stereotypes will continue to hurt the Mariners.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Art Thiel

I'm not sure how someone as talented as Mr. Thiel, who has written some great columns over the years, can even come up with this:

"The acquisition of 29-year-old lefty reliever John Parrish from Baltimore on Thursday is an acknowledgement by Bavasi that too much is being asked of Putz and the too-young crew of set-up relievers."

I won't even get into the ridiculous Jones quote.

Mr. Thiel: I simply ask the next time the M's make a bonehead move like acquire Parrish you don't mail in your column like you did today.

This article is something I would expect from Jim Moore, not Art Thiel.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

John Parrish Nonsense

The joke over the past few months has been the Mariners aren't interested in acquiring you if you're not over 30 and injured.

The news today that the completely ineffective John Parrish was acquired so Mark Lowe could be sent to Tacoma only adds fuel to the truth of what was meant as a joke.

Imagine the discussions at the Front Office meetings. In looking at the team, they decide to ignore Lopez, Sexson, Weaver, HoRam et all...

Instead they decide to downgrade the bullpen.

I am mystified.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Raul Ibanez elected to Hall of Fame

After tonights incredible performance, including a wind-aided opposite field shot that cleared the fence by almost 6 inches, Raul was granted automatic entry to the HOF.

From Bud Selig-
"The rules are pretty clear. Based on a game like we say tonight, there's little reason to delay the inevitable. He's in the Hall."

McLaren was absolutely giddy in the locker room afterward-
"I've got him penciled in to every lineup card this year. I can't wait to get back to the hotel so I can start on 2008!"

Bill Bavasi-
"Normally I don't comment on these matters, but it's an open secret were are looking to extend Raul through 2015."

While it's too early to be made official, I can only assume the next steps will include Adam Jones retiring. With Raul on a pace to smash Bonds all time HR record based on tonights game, and Guillen poised to sign a monster extension, it's clear he has no career path in baseball. Expect a graceful exit by the classy rookie.

Jones after the game-
"I knew he (Raul) was good, but I had no idea he was this good."

More to come, but I'm on hold trying to buy Mariner playoff tickets...

Big road series

Everyone agrees the team needs to play well on this road trip. This is the type of series if you play well, it doesn't guarantee you anything other than remaining solidly in the playoff hunt. A really bad series would make reaching the playoffs a longer shot than it already is.

Baltimore and Chicago are not pushovers. It seems so logical as to hardly need repeating, but the team needs to put the best players it has on the field and they must produce. I'm not sure we need further experiments ala Vidro at second base. We need Adam Jones on the field because he's the long term and short term upgrade on the field. The coddling of Sexson and Ibanez needs to stop.

It's true McLaren has gotten a lot of grief from fans, not all of it deserved. The lineups over the next few games will determine what he has learned over the past few weeks. We should be seeing Jones and Broussard often in the lineup, and we should be seeing the bullpen used often and intelligently.

If we do those two things, I think McLaren will have done his job.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Fun series

Anytime Boston comes to town it's fun, and then you add in the lingering affect of the dramatic win over the Angels and Adam Jones... I can't believe any serious Mariner fan isn't looking forward to this series.

It's interesting none of the local papers has any idea if/when Jones will play. I'm guessing he's in the lineup tonight and the manager will have to answer questions after the game on the plan going forward. It is also possible FSN or someone will have a pre-game interview that will prove helpful in answering some of our questions.

Winning this series would be huge. It would let everyone know the sky is not falling because a rookie is on the team. It would mean McLaren has not lost the clubhouse, or any of the other crazy theories being floated.

The A's are playing the Angels which means we win no matter what happens there. Let's get a good look at Lester and hopefully Adam Jones and see a great game tonight.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Will Jones play

Now that we hear Adam Jones is coming up tomorrow, the million dollar question is will he play? It will be a complete waste of time if they call him up and play him 1 to 2 games a week, but we have reason to fear this exact scenario.

For Jones to play regularly means someone is losing at-bats on a regular basis. I can't see Jones playing 1st, and I can't see him DH'ing much. This means Ibanez and Guillen will see reduced playing time and this seems hard to believe as well.

Don't forget, in only a few weeks is Raul Ibanez bobblehead night. You are kidding yourself if you don't think the team doesn't take this into account. It is quite possible the team will bring Jones up, play him in limited games under the guise of "easing him in" and then giving him the outfield job after the giveaway.

I know it doesn't make any sense, but neither does Jones sitting in Tacoma for all of July. You can platoon Broussard all you want, but I really don't see how that situation has much affect on Jones' playing time.

The lame plan would be to cycle Jones in all three outfield spots, including late inning replacement situations and try to find him at-bats in a piecemeal fashion. It's hard to see how this will help Jones get comfortable and help the team to the maximum of his abilities, but it will keep the veterans quiet.

Since it's lame and requires little imagination, I suspect it's being discussed right now.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bavasi and the importance of the trading deadline

Since the Mariners didn't acquire any players at the deadline, even casual fans have wondered if Adam Jones would get the call up. According to Bill Bavasi, it is now ok to consider making the club better.

"Now that the trade deadline is past, (calling up Jones) is in play."

In other news, Bavasi also provided a list of additional activities that are now in play since the deadline has passed:
  • Making love to his wife
  • Mowing the yard
  • Filing '03 tax return
  • Returning Hargrove's calls
  • Scouting Lincecum for next years draft
I mean seriously, do the reporters at these conferences even stay awake?!! How can you let a guy make a ridiculous statement like "Now that the deadline is passed... Jones is in play" and not ask follow up questions. There is no rule that says prospects can't come up before the trading deadline. Did Andrew Miller rot in AAA for the Tigers while they waited for the deadline to pass? There is no unspoken rule in baseball either. This is Mariner baseball folks, hey look at the pretty boats on the screen... Isn't that moose great!

If you ever wondered if the M's were managed as a marketing company first and foremost, just add this evidence to the pile.