Mariners Analysis

Thursday, May 29, 2008

How many players does it take?

The team actually wins two games in a row (gasp!) and the optimists are already stirring the pot by wondering aloud how many players it would take to turn this around.

Of course during the off season we heard Bedard was that one player, so you'll to excuse our pessimism on the subject. If a team is one player away, and then discover they are 2-3 players away, how far away were they in the first place... sounds like something you'd see on your SAT test in high school.

The key term we keep hearing repeated over and over is "regression to the mean"
Statistical tendency of a data series to gravitate towards the center of a distribution, provided it starts on the either end of the distribution and is free to fluctuate.

In other words, what comes around goes around. Just like Silva was not going to win the Cy Young after having a great start, we shouldn't be shocked to see the team win games from time to time. They are likely a .500 capable team like many suspected who are flawed but always have a chance when a Bedard or Fernandez take the hill. The fact they are so much worse is not shocking, as this is still a game played by humans.

Before the season, here's what a computer thought of the M's chances- link

You'll notice Diamond Mind's projections have the M's winning the division 6% of the time. You'll also notice some seasons the team wins 70 games.

The point is plenty of people and systems thought the M's would struggle this year. This particular projection was done for the AL East, meaning they weren't Mariner fans who were looking through rose colored glasses. An independent observer if you will.

We are now coming up on one third of the season. There's no more "its early" to point too. The scary part for me as a fan right now-
  • Bavasi is in charge of the draft
  • Bavasi is in charge of this team at the trading deadline
  • Bavasi is trying to save his job and will do anything he thinks might work, no matter the risk
This team will win some series. This team won't finish with 100 losses. But it's a lot more than one player away from competing in this division. Don't read too much into a 1-0 win at home...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chamberlain and Morrow

It's interesting to see the Mariners heads slowly start grasping new ideas by watching what other teams do. Is it a coincidence the Mariners are looking at moving Morrow to the rotation when Joba is about to do the same thing? After all, McLaren has come right out and said they are monitoring the Joba experiment and are "considering" making a similar move.

The problem is Chamberlain and Morrow are completely different pitchers and what works for one won't necessarily work for the other. Let's look at how they are similar-
  • Both are young
  • Both are first round draft picks (i.e. high expectations)
  • Both throw hard (97+ mph)
  • Both have great movement on their fastballs
  • Both started the season in the bullpen
  • Both have more value to their team has a starter in the long run (or we wouldn't be having this conversation)
So are they the same type of pitcher and would the Mariners be smart to copy the Yankees handling of Joba transitioning to the rotation? Let's look at the differences between the two.
  • Joba pitched in the minors as a starter
  • Joba has at least 3 quality pitches
  • Joba can throw pitches besides his fastball for strikes
This is where Joba and Morrow really show why they need to be treated differently. Joba is in the pen because the team feels they need to limit his innings. If he started the season in the rotation, he would reach his roughly 160 inning limit before September. The team would then be forced to shut him down right during the crucial playoff stretch.

Morrow on the other hand has no second pitch he can throw reliably for strikes. Joba's biggest hurdles right now are simply staying within a pitch count and stretching out his arm to return to his starting role.

If the M's think what works for Joba will also work for Morrow they are deluding themselves. At this stage in their development, Chamberlain would seem to be far more developed and is much closer to moving to the rotation. Both teams are in a desperate win now mode, but thinking Morrow can develop pitches while in the majors may permanently setback his career as a starter.

The smart thing for the Mariners is to ignore what the Yankees are doing and send Morrow to the minors to work as a starter. They also need to resist sending him to winter ball yet again, which only increases the workload on his arm and proves nothing as the level of opponents makes the exercise largely useless.

Joba is not Morrow. Hopefully the M's front office recognizes the differences and can make a smart decision in what has become a lost season.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Media to blame for M's mess?

It's interesting to see Geoff Baker of the Times call out the team for not shaking things up. For not holding themselves accountable.

Shouldn't the local media do the same?

Let's step back to the offseason and try to put yourselves in Lincoln or Armstrong's shoes for a second. Did you hear any local media criticism of the Bedard deal? Did you hear any predictions for the team to struggle from the paper columnists? Any warning signs at all about the team scoring less runs last year than they gave up and how last season might have been a mirage?

We know there were plenty of credible sources who predicted this might be a long season for the Mariners. How this was a really risky move by Bavasi to count on this team. Consider what Bavasi was counting on-
  • Sexson coming back from a disastrous season.
  • Vidro coming back from a dreadful first half as a DH.
  • Ibanez to hit enough to replace his defensive deficiencies
  • Lopez coming back from a disastrous season
  • Wilkerson staying healthy
  • Wilkerson able to hit again after years of struggles
  • Yuni learning to walk and regain his defensive skills
  • Johjima not regressing as many catchers do in their thirties
  • Washburn would win again in Safeco
  • Oakland would be bad
  • Texas would be bad
  • The Angels would be impacted by injuries and not run away with the division
  • McLaren would learn on the job how to be a manager
I could go on. To say no one saw this coming is a stretch. Baker saw all of the above, and declared this team a contender who would win the division. He was wrong, just like Bavasi.

Would it have helped if he would have been more critical of the team during the offseason? Would it have helped if the local papers had listened to the critics and published their concerns to a wider audience? Would it have helped prevent Bavasi from speaking to reporters and getting a free pass when he said no analyst saw this collapse coming?

Of course we don't know. But we do know the same reporters who predicted a successful year just three months ago are now calling for changes. What exactly do they expect to see change? it sounds more like they want changes so they have something to write about.

The team cannot make any major trades in May. The list of teams who are open to making a move right now is very small- and Bavasi and his supporters traded off half the farm for our new "ace." The options are incredibly limited right now.

The team you see today is largely the team you are going to see for awhile. We all need to get used to it. And it would be nice if the media asked themselves if they are at all culpable for this mess by giving the team a free pass during the winter.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bedard gives up 5 runs to the Yankees?

As we watch the game, my eyes see Vidro with two hits and Bedard with five earned runs.

That's impossible?!!

Bedard is an ace. A top of the rotation pitcher. A TOR pitcher.

(I said that last part really slow so you understand just how important and special it is to have one of these.)

It is said by many when you have a TOR, you win games. And when you win games, you win more games. Get it?

They also are really handy because they stop all losing streaks. So handy you'll give up half your farm system to get one, instead of using your own guys.

This makes me a little shocked to see Bedard not pitching like a TOR. Did he get a bad catcher? Did he get thrown off by McLaren's ejection? Bad sushi?

When we do find out the excuses/reasons for his poor outing, just ask yourself one thing.

If a certain young, talented Latin pitcher gave up five runs tonight, would he be treated the same? Does he get to have the same excuses?

Just wondering.

It's always the players

If the plan was sound, then it must be the players.

That is the strategy many are taking who predicted this season would see the team competing for the playoffs. It's too bad, because while denial is always the first step, I wonder if they will ever reach the second.

Looking back, the signs were everywhere. Computer predictions that had the Mariners not scoring runs. Data that showed this team was terribly defensively. Questions around Oakland and Texas that actually wondered if they would actually be terrible like many had assumed.

Now we have the data to show those signs were real. We do know the teams offense is awful. We have proof the defense is costing this team games. And we look up at Oakland and Texas and wonder if they will ever be caught in the standings.

Instead of acknowledging they overestimated the value of Bedard, they instead lash out at the players. The problem with this approach is you are doomed to repeat your mistake over and over again. You can claim Bedard is worth every penny you paid for him until you are blue in the face, but you miss the opportunity to learn.

Baker was wrong about this team. He was wrong about how this team was constructed, he was wrong about the players skills and he was wrong about McLaren. Bavasi was wrong, but the difference is we never get daily updates from him.

Maybe McLaren, Baker and Bavasi can start a support group. How the season of 2008 was lost because of the players.

Now is a great time to learn something. Blaming the players is the easy way out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Waiting for team to root for

If this team continues to lose and goes further in to a tailspin, it may just provide a team worth rooting for. Could losing big on this road trip be a good thing?

The worst case scenario sees the team sputtering along, playing .500 ball for good stretches and getting Baker and the FO excited while finishing the season with something close to 80 wins. This is the rock bottom deal because it gets the present FO team a chance to return while playing a club that is hard to root for.

The best case scenario sees the team win the World Series. Yeah, World Series!

In the middle of these two scenarios lies something else. A serious free fall that causes the team to fall so far out of contention the team has to make changes in the FO. These changes then lead to more changes, leading to a team that is actually worth watching again.

Baker is actually writing that McLaren would have to go if the losing continues. As we know, there is little chance of anything happening right now, but when a local beat writer starts bringing up posts on removing a manager, it often steamrolls. Fans read it, start asking questions, other writers bring it up, pretty soon the TV's are talking about it and it may take on a life of its own.

Remember when Baker said McLaren deserved his chance to win with his guys? How we couldn't judge him on last season due to Hargrove and the veteran club house?

That same writer is now wondering aloud if McLaren will make it back home if the losing continues. That is a serious change of opinion from just a few months ago.

We all want to watch a team worth rooting for. We want to see this team win. The first quarter of the season has shown this is not that team. Would losing in the short term get us the changes necessary to have a team worth watching?

There is a chance losing may be the best thing to happen to this team.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Veteran Entitlement

It sucks there's no game today, but in the meantime we can continue to debate the merits of Bavasi over the weekend. His decision to move Clement to AAA, insert Vidro back as the DH and sit Reed on the bench is a perfect example of how to drive fans crazy!

When your team has the worst record in the AL, you open your self up to criticism. We praised the team for recognizing the offense was in trouble when they jettisoned Wilkerson and brought up Clement and Wlad. We also feared they might make the mistake of judging rookies on ridiculous sample sizes.

Consider the last weeks line for Clement before he was sent down-
An OPS of .794 is not great, but clearly headed in the right direction. The OPS for Vidro in his last seven games?


So to summarize, the team decided that Clement was hitting better than Vidro for the past week, but needs time in AAA to get better. The same Jose Vidro who 3 weeks ago wasn't good enough to be the full time DH.

These moves are completely, utterly impossible to explain. Bavasi can't do it. Baker can't do it. McLaren can't do it.

The team started this season with the exact lineup they have now, only they have swapped Wlad in RF and put Reed on the bench. At best it's a tweak in the lineup that's based more on hopin', wishin' and prayin' than anything else.

While the team strokes their worry beads and hopes these band aids heal the gushing wounds, a larger issue remains.

Veteran entitlement.

As long as the team thinks it's fine to jerk kids around, play them out of position and sit on the bench while the vets are given leashes miles long, they will never compete on a regular basis. This team has no problem with Reed sitting on the bench, playing irregularly with a gun to AAA pointed to his head, but heaven forbid Ibanez would be moved to the DH position in the middle of the season!


The same 36 year old Ibanez who can't play the field and hit's lefties like your little sister has a different set of rules than rookies. If you started working in a place that behaved like this most of us would be out the door so fast McLaren would have to fill out his own damn TPS cover sheets. But instead, the team continues to judge rookies and play them under separate rules.

Baker can argue there is too much to lose to risk Ibanez playing DH.

I argue when you are in last place, what exactly are you risking?

Don't fall for it

Baker and the local papers may try and get fans thinking this series is important. That the team is in position to get back in the race.

It's a silly argument, and I doubt any one past the stage of casual fan would fall for it.

When the two worst teams in baseball (M's and Padres) collide someone has to win. The fact the team was pressed to win two of three with their best pitchers on the mound was telling. I'll also note the results Felix had this start was little different than his previous outing. The Padres can't hit for beans- exactly the opponent the M's can "handle." That's all we learned this weekend.

We now have Detroit, record wise the best team to compete with the Mariners for the title of biggest loser. Just like the Padres, some one has to win and I guess the local scribes can try to generate excitement from a series win.

I want to root for the team, but they are doing exactly what I hoped they wouldn't when then sent Clement down and are going with Vidro again. It was a mistake to make decisions based on 50 at-bats, but it's exactly what they are doing. With Vidro they have little upside, but in a "win now" mode Bavasi and McLaren apparently think this is their best shot.

Good luck with that guys. I'll be watching, but you'll need to do more than take 2 of 3 from the Padres before I become a believer.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No reason to pick on Felix

Last night Felix pitched 6 innings and gave up 2 earned runs. Normally that equals a win (and makes you millions of dollars if you can do it with any consistency).

Instead the Mariners booted the ball all over the place and lost 5-2. I'm not exactly sure what Baker and others were expecting- that Felix was supposed to hold the Rangers to 1 or fewer runs while at the same time playing left field?

With Felix pitching exactly like he did last night- wild, high pitch count, yet hanging on... the team could have easily won had they hit the ball and played a little defense.

The team did not display any offense and played some of the worst defense all season.

Baker can bitch about Felix all he wants but the reality is his post game demeanor had nothing to do with why the team lost the game last night. This team is really looking bad right now, and the train wreck continues. If an idiot blogger like myself wants to make stupid statements that's fine; but a person in a position like Baker who reaches thousands of fans needs to be more careful about what they write. Geoff is letting his personal predictions and investment in this team color his coverage.

It's not right, it's not fair and it really reflects poorly on those who think Felix was the problem last night.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A few good things out of a loss

At least last nights loss to Texas was entertaining; something we couldn't say about many previous games.

Many have written up some of the good- Joh, Morrow etc...

I'll throw in one more.

Bedard's supporters finally get to shut the hell up.

Ever since the "trade" we have heard all the great things about aces. They stop losing streaks. They protect the bullpen. They keep winning streaks. They shorten the game. Blah, blah, blah. All true, if you have a decent team that hits a little and plays some D.

But there has been another little subplot that some of the trade supporters like Baker like to throw out there. Basically they like to stereotype Felix as the young, hot head who can't handle the title of "ace" and Bedard as the exact opposite. Cold killer. Veteran. True ace.

We've seen Felix struggle his last few starts. Bedard has been good when he's healthy and actually on the field. So more than a few fans were rubbing their hands with glee last night when Bedard was given a 5 run lead before he even stepped on the field.

And then Bedard threw up all over his supporters and couldn't make it out of the 3rd inning.

Everything the trade supporters promised last night didn't happen. Bedard taxed the bullpen, cost them the game and should be causing general anxiety to every Mariner fan out there. He wasn't just bad. He looked terrible.

This from a guy who has historically been injured year after year and finally had one great season. The guy we gave up half our system for, who will be a free agent after next year and has the personality of a shoe. This is the guy we are supposed to tell Felix he should emulate.

Not good for Mariner fans, but at least this should quiet down the stuff about Felix and Bedard and slow down the stereotyping many fans like to make about the two "aces."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Finally a win

The consensus was the team needed to do well at home. Instead they won twice during the home stand and fell to the bottom of the AL. Instead of declaring them dead however, some still see hope because the Angels lost over the weekend too!

Sorry, but this is wishful thinking to an extreme. I know we all feel this team is better than they've shown (even the worst critics don't believe they are the worst team in baseball) but even Bavasi's mom has got to realize this team has serious flaws.

We all knew Sexson, Ibanez, Vidro and Lopez were question marks coming in to the season. Both Lopez and Ibanez are a mixed bag. Both are hitting, but their lack of defense negates much of what they bring to the table. Vidro and Sexson have been disasters.

So they won yesterday. Does that make Sexson any more likely to turn it around? Is Vidro suddenly going to hit for power? Is Washburn developing an out pitch all of a sudden?

This team is not going to lose every series. They will string together wins and give hopeless optimists reason to try and imagine them climbing back in to the race. But even with a 4 or 5 game win streak, the problems on this team will remain. I don't see how Baker or anyone else not related to Bavasi or McLaren can possibly pretend this team as presently constructed is ready to compete.

We are 25% of the way in to the season. The flaws have been exposed for all to see. Until they are patched/fixed this team isn't going any where.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Good time to get on the road

This team needs to get away from home and just think about baseball. Probably not easy to do when the papers and sports radio are calling for firings and shakeups. No matter what you thought of Bavasi or the Bedard trade, there is no way this team should be this bad.

If this continues, you really have to think there is some "culture" problem or losers attitude that has taken hold of this franchise. They came in to the season with high expectations, but faced with the slightest adversity they didn't just fade, they ran screaming into the night. Last night not withstanding, there appears little fight or leadership in this club.

Talent wins games, but even the most pessimistic fan couldn't have thought this team was the worst team in the AL. But here we are.

What must be killing the marketing dept isn't just the team is losing. It's losing in the most boring way possible. No blown saves. No killer, heartbreaking 8th inning comebacks. No, this team falls behind early and gives up.

Things will turn, and we hopefully have hit rock bottom.

But right now, this really is a train wreck of a club right now.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Fingerpointing begins alright

Now that the team is starting to implode, the blame game steps in to high gear. Sites like Baker and DOV were very vocal about how good this team would be, and now sit in the position of having to defend their predictions.

I have always felt Baker would come around on his baseball views. You can see it in his use of statistics on this site. It won't be long and FIP+ will start getting mentioned in his blog updates.

What would be sad would be to simply blame this on the players. Yes the players always bear ultimate responsibility, as they are the ones on the field, but the warning signs for this team were crystal clear for anyone paying attention.

Any number of computer simulations of the season were run before opening day. Two things stood out for Mariner fans- our offense wasn't very good, and Oakland might not be as bad as the national media predicted.

It's kind of interesting how we are almost 25% into the season and those computer models are dead on. They aren't always or sports would be really boring, but as a fan you can't help but be fascinated when we went in to the season how it would play out.

Baker is already saying the correct moves were made. The pitching is better and the groundwork has been laid. Of course no mention of the famous "pitching wins championships" stuff we hear all off season. This team has great starting pitching most nights yet is in last place.

The fingerpointing begins and we haven't even hit summer yet.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Silva blow up bound to happen

Regression to the mean. Those that thought Carlos would continue to be the ace of the staff would invariably be disappointed as his talent and numbers realign.

The real question at this point is will the team and fans give Clement and Wlad time to adjust to the big leagues. You can't make judgments based on 20-30 at bats, no matter how much McLaren and Bavasi want to save their jobs.

Things will go from bad to something much, much worse if the team does that.