Mariners Analysis

Friday, September 28, 2007

No surprise Bavasi's coming back

I think many fans are wondering what he has actually accomplished to deserve another chance, but few can act surprised. This is a conservative organization that values many things- winning makes up only a part of what goes in to the decision. Bavasi doesn't criticize the owners, ballpark, players etc... he remains in the background, as management nods in approval. The fact he isn't terribly competent is not a concern for Lincoln and crew.

I did feel there was a chance McLaren could lose his job if the team struggled in the final weeks. With the team assured the PR claim of .500 baseball in place, McLaren was given the job for many of the same reasons as Bavasi.

It is doubtful Bavasi would have brought in an upgrade over McLaren anyway. Clearly if he saw need for improvement he would have demanded changes earlier, so he must like what he sees.

I do laugh at the quotes from Bavasi about not trading Jones. We can't find room to play him but we sure aren't going to trade him either!

I go into this off season with amusement. I can only guess what kind of hair brained ideas the bald one might come up with. It's amusing in a macabre kind of way, but it's all I've got as a Mariner fan.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Santana not coming to Seattle

If I see one more "Jones for Santana" or otherwise ridiculous proposal about acquiring the best pitcher in baseball I'm going to go crazy!

If you think Morrow will become an effective Mariner starter next spring I would venture to say you don't fully understand the risks in developing pitchers. If you think the M's should make a trade for Santana I'm left with little choice but to conclude you're an idiot.

If you really think the M's have a chance at acquiring Johan Santana, consider:

* Johan is widely recognized as the best pitcher in baseball
* Johan is in the last year of his contract next season
* Johan if healthy will likely command $25 million+ per season, possibly up to 8 years
* The Mariners have ZERO exciting pitchers in the upper levels of the farm system
* The Mariners haven't sniffed the post season in years
* The Mariners are widely considered to have a poor farm system at present, with the best and brightest stars in the lower levels of the organization

For the Twins to give up Santana, they will need to hugely compensated. Not only would they miss out on compensation picks by trading him before his contract runs out, they will expect near-major league players in return. Exactly the type of players the Mariners don't have.

Sure Adam Jones is a nice player. But to land a player like Santana will require MULTIPLE players like Jones. With stocked farm systems in Anaheim, Arizona, Tampa etc... why in the world would the Twins want to poke around the wasteland of Seattle's system when they can cherry pick from the deepest in baseball?

The correct answer is of course they wouldn't. Ask yourself if the trade makes sense for the M's. If yes, then ask yourself if the trade makes sense for the Twins. If it doesn't then forget it. No one said the Twins are morons, and asking them to hand over the #1 pitcher in baseball on favorable terms for the Mariners is simply wishful thinking.

This doesn't even address the question of is Santana worth it. What happens if he doesn't resign and the farm system is set back years in the process? Can the team compete with $45 million committed to Ichiro and Santana if they do sign an extension?

Santana to the M's is a dream, plain and simple. We have about an equal chance to sign A-Rod as we do the best pitcher in baseball.

In other words, we have no chance at all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

McLaren to winter ball?

As we all know, the Mariners have decided to send Adam Jones to Venezuela to try and make up for the fact he has been sitting on the bench for two months. Being the new Jason Ellison has required the talented outfielder to essentially stop playing baseball on a regular basis for the first time since he was in grade school. The Mariners feel it is worth risking an injury in a foreign country to try and recreate the missed at-bats and defense he has lost since being called to Seattle.

Meanwhile the team apparently feels it is perfectly appropriate for the rookie manager to learn on the job. It's ok to misuse your bullpen, avoid confrontation with your veterans, make poor roster decisions and over see a team collapse never before witnessed in baseball history.

Perhaps it makes more sense to send John McLaren to winter ball and let him work on a few things...

Morrow's future as a starter

When Brandon Morrow was inserted into the bullpen after Spring training, many of us wondered if the team was really thinking this through. When a young pitcher is thrown into the bullpen with only a single pitch he can't control, the plan for the future becomes murky. Here we stand as the season nears and the future is still just as uncertain.

I have heard many columnists, analysts and sportscasters penciling Morrow in to the rotation next year. They are of course referring to the Mariners rotation.

What they are expecting is for Morrow to magically regain his control AND develop at least one other pitch while at the same time building up his arm strength.

What they are asking for is a miracle.

The odds that Morrow makes the Mariner rotation is actually fairly high next spring. The team is going to want to prove they made the right decision in rushing his professional career and don't want to add fire to the HoRam trade. However, they won't be able to get the rest of baseball to play along with the plan. Once opponents get their eyes on a pitcher who won't be able to throw 98 mph fastballs all game long, and who has no control, what do you think the game plan will be?

He will likely get lit up, and the team will need to send him to the minors again and attempt to rebuild his confidence as well as his pitching ability.

What the team SHOULD do is send him to AA and let him work his way up. If later in the season he has proven AAA hitters no longer present a challenge, THEN they bring him up. I just really question if the team will do this given the PR hit they will take.

What the team is asking Morrow to do sounds simple, but you can take this same plan they have for Morrow and apply it to every pitcher in every teams minor league system.

"If only XXX can develop a new pitch and develop control of his fastball while learning how to face hitters multiple times in a game he will be ready to help the big club..."

The team was eliminated last night from post season play. Next season has already started in many ways.

When you hear someone penciling in Morrow in the Mariners rotation next spring, you can be pretty sure they either haven't thought it through or are a member of the teams PR department.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mariners pad win total

I'll never complain about beating Oakland, but this was a BAD Athletics team. Their playoff hopes long since dashed, the team is clearly looking ahead.

Meanwhile, the M's called up half their farm system to learn on the bench. It's not clear when McLaren and Bavasi will run up the white flag, but it's clear they are more interested in trying to make a statement and save their jobs than look ahead to next season and get a look at the kids.

There is not ONE reason besides marketing bs to not take a look at what Clement or Johnson can do, not to mention Adam Jones. With Sexson out with an injury this has made Mac's job even easier yet he still cannot find a way to be creative here.

Essentially McLaren is exhibiting the same characteristics we saw with Bob Melvin. He can take a static lineup of veterans and copy it for the rest of the season, but has shown zero creativity or ability to think outside the box.

You'd like to think a team with a $107 million payroll wouldn't need to have yet another rookie manager learning on the job, but they do.

I thought earlier McLaren needed to avoid extending the losing streak to the end of the season to save his job. It looks like he agrees with that as he intends on neglecting the long term needs of the club for the security of a paycheck.

Not really any other way to explain it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Youth on the team

Geoff Baker of the Times gets a little defensive in his latest post:

"Sean Green, Eric O'Flaherty, Ryan Rowland-Smith? All veterans, I guess. Oh wait, I forgot, they were victimized by the conspiracy because the team went out and brought in some veteran relievers from elsewhere, right?"

Baker is getting picked on a bit because he often takes the teams side on issues and is the most obvious target for fan ire. Obviously if Bavasi had a blog he would get crucified but since Bill is nowhere to be seen, Hargrove is banished as far from Ichiro as possible and McLaren is crying in a corner, we are left to pick on Baker.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at his argument- essentially since the team has a bunch of rookie relievers, how can you possibly say they have a bias towards veterans.

The argument Baker is posing is so simplistic and full of holes I know 99% of the readers who follow the team and finished middle school have already moved on, but I feel compelled to point out just a few data points Geoff conveniently left out.

I'll start off by mentioning Julio Mateo and Arthur Rhodes.

Take two of the relievers Geoff mentioned in his post and cross them off the list. Put simply, the rookies on the team are the back up plan. If Rhodes wasn't 83 years old and haunted by David Justice he would be getting lit up in a Mariner uniform. But in an incredibly fortunate turn of events, the Mariners were "stuck" with a younger player who performed better and would have cost them 1/3 as much (pick any of the young relievers, it doesn't really matter who). Mateo of course was the first reliever out of the bullpen for Hargrove in a pressure situation, and the faster he got off the roster the better for everyone.

Ok, there's point number one.

I'll next mention the budget. Sure the Mariners have a few rookies on the team. Name a team that doesn't. The reason a lot of teams have rookies is because they blew their budget on free agents and simply can't afford any more. Just because you see a rookie on the team doesn't mean Hargrove and Bavasi thought it was a good idea. In more than a few cases it's simply fiscal reality. Veterans cost more. When you max your budget on the Weaver's of the world you tend to get rookies in the bullpen.

Still with me? Let's throw out heat.

Managers love 98 mph fastballs. Always have, always will. It's what got Mark Lowe in caveman-Hargrove's rotation last year. The fact Morrow is in the bullpen at all is a joke and should never be used as an example of the teams acceptance of youth.

Throws really fast and gets strikeouts? Check.
High draft pick? Check.
Uncontrollable fastball? Check.
Inability to control other pitches? Check.
High risk of stunting future growth as a starter? Check.

Everyone knows the Morrow situation (FUBAR). You traded away Soriano, thereby creating a hole in your bullpen which you didn't address in free agency/trade...

Why someone would use this example to say the team understands roster construction or budget management is a mystery to me. Morrow is the poster child for what is wrong with this team- a risky gamble taken when self-induced actions leave you little choice.

I could go on. I could mention White or Parrish. The Dotel offer. The Jones situation. The Vidro trade. The Everett signing. The Eddie injury.

There are SO many points to show the jury how this team feels about rookies.

Sure, they use them just like every other team in baseball.

But it certainly doesn't mean they use them effectively.

My guess is Baker will have changed his tune a year from now. I really enjoy his blog and read it regularly. But I really can't wait until he outgrows some of his Neanderthal views.

Thank God for Tampa Bay?

If the M's continued to lose as they had during the "streak" the managers job would surely come into question. You could start to see the desperation as he struggled to fill out the same lineup card day after day, watching the team lose. I'm sure he had many sleepless nights wondering if his likely last chance at a major league managing job might be slipping from his grasp...

Enter the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Three game winning streak later, McLaren breathing easier. While there was never any doubt he wouldn't finish out the season, I would say preventing a complete collapse has raised his job security in to the 99% category. The players like him and Bavasi is highly unlikely to make a major managerial change so soon on a man he picked himself just a short time ago.

After last nights win, a few optimists even ventured to wonder what might have happened had the Yankees not rallied last night. One day doom and gloom, a series against the Rays and suddenly people start feeling good again.

The team could certainly continue to pile up losses. For a few days many thought perhaps a .500 finish was even possible. That seems very unlikely now, but with Weaver and HoRam pitching every few days anything is possible.

If the schedule had included someone like Cleveland or Anaheim for this series instead of Tampa Bay, the story might be different.

Yes the team isn't losing every start not pitched by Felix. Yes it feels good to win a few games again.

The question still remains however. Can the team win against good opponents with this pitching staff and this lineup?

I'm not sure Tampa Bay has really answered any questions, other than allowing McLaren to sleep better.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Weaver failure has upside

While it sucks to watch Jeff Weaver explode, one upside is we don't have to argue about the team resigning him. Only a month ago I regularly got into arguments with readers who were convinced we HAD to resign Weaver. My brother was convinced he was one of the three starters the M's should rely on in a 5 game series.

I argued earlier in the year the team should dump him. I had to bite my tongue when he suddenly enjoyed success after the layoff. He has returned to the pitcher we saw in the first 2 months of the season, and the talk of resigning him has evaporated.

My brother no longer talks about Jeff Weaver.

The universe is returning to normal...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

McLaren fighting for job

It's hard to believe one month ago John McLaren was mentioned as a serious manager of the year candidate. There was legitimate talk of trying to give an award to both Hargrove and McLaren for their work with the M's this year.

Now McLaren is in serious jeopardy of losing his job. What was once an absolute certainty (his coming back) is now at least open for question. The Mariners did the one thing that might force the team to make a change by losing practically every game that mattered in the drive to the playoffs.

The M's are a conservative team that is reluctant to make a change. They like continuity and were expected to keep McLaren around and let him earn the job long term based on next years performance. The utter collapse of the team is forcing even the risk averse M's FO to reconsider that plan.

Do we have any evidence the team is actually considering replacing John McLaren at this time?


But we know this losing streak exposed obvious flaws in this team we have been observing for months. Even local columnists and beat writers are starting to question his moves, something they have been loathe to do all season.

If the M's finish at .500 can the team bring back the manager next year?

They can, but will have to weigh the risks of continuity versus a skeptical public being asked to buy their tickets.

John McLaren believes in his veterans. He might actually be trusting his job next year to the kids he wouldn't play as the team finishes the season.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Sexson heating up

We've been told all year. Richie gets hot the second half of the season. His numbers are always there in the end. He owns September.

I guess McLaren is still a believer, since I can't think of any other reason he would continue to get regular playing time.

Massive losing streak. No lineup changes. Season over.

About time Sexson starts to carry this team...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Vidro test

This is a very simple test. A simple yes or no is all that is required.

Question: Do you believe Jose Vidro should play second base?

The answer is of course no. If you answered yes, you failed the test and need to start over.

Baseball is about scoring runs and keeping the other team from scoring runs. Defense is a big part of baseball. You don't need to be an advanced scout to be able to watch Vidro and realize he has no business playing 2nd base for any team wanting to try to win a game.

Defense is underrated by many fans and front office personnel. Just because they don't understand the importance doesn't mean you have to fall into the same trap.

The logic is Lopez is making mental errors so let's replace him with a guy who will make physical errors instead.

Stupid is as stupid does. Don't fail the Vidro test.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Yesterday never happened

We all knew HoRam wasn't winning that game yesterday. It didn't matter what the score was or how many runs he allowed. We took the game on Monday we had to have, and lost the game we were destined to lose.

Today rightly is the big game. Win this evening, you win the series and have a chance at the post season. Lose and October will require help from others as you no longer control your destiny.

I have been amused at the arguments Geoff Baker has been making on the Times blog. The team has lost 10 of its last 11 games, but he is absolutely certain McLaren made the right call in sticking with the status quo.

He is also certain Vidro and Ibanez have proven they will have a big September.

I hope he's right.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Tonight had to happen

The Mariners had a nine game losing streak staring them in the face. They had HoRam scheduled to take the mound tomorrow. They had Felix on the mound.

They did what they had to do- stop the streak and get a decent nights sleep. Tomorrow is a whole new day, and could very well be the start of a new streak. The Mariners face a tough opponent in Wang, and have one of the worst starters in baseball taking the mound.

A win tomorrow would be huge. It would not only give you a tie, but would tell the Yankees you're not going away.

You had to win today. You need to win tomorrow.

You'll be stealing a win tomorrow if you get it. You have no business winning a game against Wang when Ramirez is taking the mound.

Tomorrow is worth watching. My hands will be partially covering my eyes, but I think the Yankees are a little worried themselves. Wednesday will the the game that will likely decide the series, but maybe the M's can steal a game they have no business stealing...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Couldn't resist

I know I said I was only going to focus on Monday's game, but I saw this quote from Theo Epstein and had to laugh-

"We talk for a few years now how our biggest organizational challenge is to develop players who can come up and contribute during a pennant race," general manager Theo Epstein said. "We saw a little bit of that this weekend."

Compare this type of thinking to the Mariners. They prefer to rely on the same players who started the year (regardless of production) and have extreme difficulty finding playing time for talented player within their own ranks.

Ironic the team can call up 10 players in September while we complain the Broussard's and Jones' of the world don't get enough playing time as it is.

The Mariners are just a mess in so many ways. They needlessly rush players in their own farm system, have trouble finding playing time for them when they do make the club and can't be trusted to make sound trades involving the youngsters they can't/won't play.

Oh yeah, beat the damn Yankees and make me forget how much this team is dysfunctional.

One game changes everything

If the Mariners somehow pull a miracle and beat the Yankees tomorrow night they will be one game back.

The losing streak will be over and they will have just beaten one of the hottest teams in baseball. It's amazing to think they could lose so many games in a row and still be hanging around.

Instead of focusing on what went wrong during the streak, I'm going to go in to tomorrow nights game with a positive attitude and just forget about my opinions of McLaren as a manager. At some point, this streak will stop and there's no better time than in Yankee stadium.

If we get swept in NY then the season playoff chase is over and the attention turns to the future again.

But I think Monday night is a good time to end the streak and start something else.