Mariners Analysis

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The ridiculous situation with Brandon Morrow

The Times today talks about Morrow and his role to the team- link. Most of the blogs have been following this story for some time, and the mainstream media occasionally picks up on it as a feel-good piece.

And in general, none of us need to feel sorry for Morrow. He is a young athlete getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to throw a ball. On the scale of things-we-need-to-care-about, we all agree this doesn't register.

But we are Mariner fans, and this is a Mariner blog. The value Morrow has as a #5 pick in the draft matters because we want the team to win. And the team is criminally misusing Morrow.

Let's think about this for a second. If Morrow had been allowed to spend last year in AAA like many of us argued, he just might have been ready to start this spring. In which case the team didn't need to spend $48 million on Silva. Or could have traded Washburn.

You could very easily argue the team was so desperate for wins last year that the set-back to Morrow is costing the team millions and millions of dollars. Was 88 wins that important to the franchise they are willing to sacrifice the long term good of the team? To Bavasi the answer is obvious.

It's the classic short term solution costing you more money in the long run. It's a band aid when major surgery is needed. If you don't get your teeth cleaned eventually they fall out and you have to buy dentures, cleaners etc... You were better off investing in the health of your teeth.

The Mariners were so desperate to win last year they went for the quick fix and allowed a young, wild pitcher they have spent millions on to sit in the bullpen.

From the article-
"Manager John McLaren admits the Mariners have pondered the past few months whether Morrow would be better off in the minors, developing as a starter."

Does the team really need to ponder this?

Does Mike Hargrove fret over using Seneca Wallace as his punt returner? No, because he understands the value of having a healthy backup for his quarterback if/when he needs him. It's an easy decision. He can find punt returners, but a QB is simply too valuable and the reward wouldn't be worth it.

In the same way, the team wonders if Morrow is more valuable as a set-up man or as a starter.

How often does a set-up man get a $48 million contract? How often does a team give up 5 players for an 8th inning set up man?

The Mariners think this is hard decision. A tough question.

I don't agree, and I suspect most FO people will privately tell you this is a mistake.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Politics and our number one pitcher

Yesterday our manager announced before spring training even starts that Bedard is the opening day starter. As anybody who follows baseball knows, the rotations get mixed up as the season wears on and who is number one and who is number two is not really a big deal. By the end of the season, the team and players know who was really the strength of the pitching staff, who belongs in AAA etc... so the naming of the opening day starter is mostly ceremonial.

The hard part is when a team makes the post season. Then you really have to decide who you trust in what game. The numbers are no longer ceremonial, they matter.

So it's not a big deal who's number one and who's number two in April. The season will sort that stuff out.

Still, it is easy to wonder why the rush. Why not wait until spring training plays out. What if Bedard tweaks his elbow and misses two weeks of the season? What if he struggles on his new team and Felix is untouchable? Why not make it a real competition in Spring Training?

And while we're at it, if you don't care about competition why not name all 5 spots? Why the focus just on the number one spot?

Simple, it's politics. The Mariners FO wants the fans and world to know they just traded 5 players for a NUMBER ONE starter. When you have a NUMBER ONE starter you are excited for the season to start. When you have a NUMBER ONE starter you will win 90+ games and play meaningful baseball in September, and NUMBER ONE starters don't let teams lose 10+ games in a row.

This season will be different because we have a NUMBER ONE starter, and the Mariners want the world to know.

So don't forget it, or the team will be happy to remind you about our NUMBER ONE starter.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Now what?

So Bedard is officially a Mariner and a lot of people are happy. The M's get their so called "TOR" pitcher and the O's get a good chunk of their farm system in return.

Now we can start looking at other issues, like Morrow and his return to the bullpen, Sexson etc...

Unless Bavasi has a couple of tricks up his sleeve, it looks like the completely obvious makeover (remove your logjam at DH/1B) isn't going to happen.

It's hard to believe the upgrades are the pitching staff (Silva and Bedard) and the defense and offense are totally ignored. There is no way you can look at the current M's lineup and think this is a playoff team-


The only "plus" players on that list in my mind is Ichiro and Beltre. The rest of the players tend to fall in the 6-8th best at their position in the AL, which in my mind makes them average. Doesn't mean you expect your team to look like the Yankees with an All Star at every position, but the team is clearly hoping a team of "average" hitters is good enough to win.

The real flaw in this offense is the sum of the parts. Having average hitters is one thing. When every hitter is a hack-tastic non-walking singles hitter, I tend to get more nervous. Combine that with a team philosophy of not respecting splits when you make out your lineup card, and this offense is uninspiring.

I think the team and many fans are so focused on the good (Cy Young, Bedard strikeouts) they are ignoring the lack of progress on the offense. Is trading Guillen for Wilkerson really the only change on offense?

I have to believe Bavasi has more up his sleeve. Today is a disappointing trade for me, but I hope the team FO recognizes there is more to be done. Plugging Bedard into the present roster is not enough.

Unless you like seeing a 29 year old pitcher throw a great game but lose 3-2, this off season is not done.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Mariners and Herschel Walker

I don't like the trade for Bedard. I think we are giving up WAY too much for a pitcher who is two years from free agency and never pitched 200 innings in a season, and I think we are gutting our system at a time when the trend in baseball is clearly towards youth.

I understand others feel differently and we'll see how it plays out. I fear the worst but am always a Mariners fan.

That said, watching the Super Bowl over the weekend we all heard arguments comparing the Pats to the greatest teams in football. One of the obvious comparisons is always the Cowboys. Even though the Pats lost, they are still the dominant team of the decade thanks to 3 SB wins, just as the Cowboys were the dominant team of the 90's.

In Jimmy Johnson's first year as couch, the team went 1-15 and was the worst in football. Besides the goofy hair, Johnson is credited with two things during his tenure that stick out:
  • He understood the value of draft picks, and created a point system for every pick to begin identifying their value relative to each other. Was 2 second picks worth more than a 1st round pick? Johnson wanted the answer to that. What's fair value for moving up in a draft? The groundwork for answering these questions was established. His system is still in use today.
  • The greatest heist in the history of football. He gave a super star running back to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a complete rebuild of his system.
Now I know it's unfair to compare the haul the Cowboys got from the Vikings and the haul the O's will get from the Mariners. And I'm certainly not saying the O's are about the win three World Series.

But the reality is history has not been kind to the 1-for-5 type of trades where a team gets a superstar but guts the system to do it.

I remember when Mark Langston was traded and we got a bunch of no-names back. I also remember when Johnson was traded and we got back a bunch of names I'd never heard of. Freddy who? Carlos who?

If Jimmy Johnson was the manager of the Seattle Mariners I can guarantee you he could quantify what it cost the Mariners by not offering Guillen arbitration and giving away a supplemental pick.

And I can pretty much guarantee he wouldn't make the Bedard trade.

Jimmy Johnson was a coach who understood how to build a team. I'm not sure the Mariners can say the same.