Mariners Analysis

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pitcher command

Some people have made the argument Washburn is pitching better recently because his command has improved. Dave at USS Mariner made a point documenting his pitching hasn't really changed at all, while Geoff at the Times thinks it has.

As a casual fan, it's easy to think pitchers can become better because of a sudden gain of command. Whether this gain comes because they are trying harder, make a mechanical adjustment, injury goes away etc... it doesn't matter as long as the command is there.

The reality is pitchers have to live with less than optimum command all the time. A good analogy is golf.

Any one who has played golf can tell you some days you have it and some days you have no idea where the balls going. You can hit great warming up on the driving range and suddenly lose it during a round. It's part of the game.

Tiger Woods struggles with his command just like an 18 handicapper. The hacker loses it and puts in the 2nd fairway over 30 yards from the tee. Tiger loses his command and places in on the golf cart path. The difference is the hacker is 350 yards from the green while Tiger drove his "mistake" 270 yards and has a mid-iron to the green. The professional golfer has the talent to recover from his mistakes, and possesses the ability and confidence to turn a poor drive into a manageable event.

Washburn is closer to the hacker. There may be days when he really is putting the ball where it needs to be. The problem is this is not a repeatable skill. Pitchers need to have the raw skills and talent to challenge batters even when they don't have their best stuff.

Washburn will start to suck again very soon. Part of it is due to not facing the worst hitting teams in the league. The rest is due to his "command" disappearing.

Some fans may wonder what makes a guy like Greg Maddux so special. He can't hit 90 mph on the radar gun, but he has outstanding command. There are very few pitchers who can so consistently live off of their ability to locate pitches, and Maddux is obviously a first-ballot HOF candidate.

Washburn (Or Silva tonight) didn't suddenly reinvent themselves. They don't possess the ability to consistently make hitters miss and they can't rely on pin-point command. They are pitch to contact starters who will have good games and terrible games, and really be the same pitcher in both. I know the press and broadcasters will try to convince you otherwise but don't fall for it.

Washburn is what he is, and he didn't ingest a magic pill or fix a flaw in his mechanics the past few weeks no matter what the papers say.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Riggleman clearly has issues

A casual fan may wonder if McLaren was really the problem. The team took 2 of 3 against the Mets and actually scored some runs along the way. It's easy to jump to conclusions after a few games, but there are enough warning signs to question Riggleman as a manager even with a few wins under the belt.

Exhibit A is Willie Bloomquist.

The facts are damning. He has ZERO power. He doesn't hit for average.

Do I need anything else? If you play baseball and you don't stand on a mound, those are really bad things. The fact he is gaining playing time while setting a Mariner record for power futility is amazing.

Despite what the scouting report for Willie says, Riggleman starts him. He could play Reed and try to figure out if he has a future in a Mariner uniform next year, but instead chooses to keep playing the older journeyman with no long term future.

Forget about sabremetrics or scouting. Riggleman shares a common problem with McLaren- he can't evaluate talent and instead reaches for intangibles that don't show up in the box score but are apparently more important than things like "hits" or "runs."

I rest my case on Riggleman. Exhibit A is damning enough for me.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Willie Bloomquist

Regular readers of baseball blogs know Willie has set a team record for most at-bats without an extra base hit. How many times does this get mentioned in the local papers?

I mention this because every time I see Reed on the bench and Bloomie playing my anger level rises, and I feel like the local papers are giving the team a free pass on this obviously terrible move.
Willie and Cairo are pretty much the same player, but the local boy gets extra love for really no particular reason. He is one of the worst hitting players in baseball, yet continues to get a pass from his team, his manager and seemingly his press corps. While he sounds like a nice enough guy, this isn't about Willie as a person. This is about a team continuing to trot out a player who has no future as a Mariner. If the Mariners are serious about getting better, they need to stop wasting at bats to Mr. Ballgame and get Reed in the line up every chance they get.

As Bloomquist continues on his record setting ways, perhaps the local press can stop the fawning for a second and focus on why a team makers terrible managerial decisions on a regular basis. Larry Stone will touch on it during a blog update, but the paper copy carries no mention of the "curious" lineup choices.

Stop the Willie madness if you are at all serious about getting better next year.

Friday, June 20, 2008

McLaren still doesn't get it

Remember when Geoff Baker tried to make a big deal about Felix not sticking around for an interview after a poor outing?

I was reminded of it listening to John McLaren's conference call with reporters today. Rather than focus on the obvious-
- Sexson is finished as a 1st basemen for the Mariners
- Vidro is the worst DH in baseball
- Silva is pitching terribly
- Washburn can't win a game at home
- etc...

He chooses to look back on things like club house chemistry. Instead of focusing on the balding tires or leaky engine at the used-car sales lot, he places his attention on the pine tree air freshener when making his decision.

What McLaren could have said was what 99% of the fans would have said in his place. We knew going in to the season we had to have a lot of things go right. Bedard had to be healthy and pitch like an ace. Sexson had to rebound from a terrible outing. Vidro had to hit like he did in the second half of last season.

He doesn't have to throw people under a bus, but he can be honest about what this team needed to happen for it to be successful.

McLaren still has no idea why this team is terrible.

That's why he no longer deserves to be the manager of the Seattle Mariners.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

McLaren had to go

I thought Sexson would be gone first, but frankly McLaren was getting to be an even bigger problem than Ritchie's double plays.

The last thing the team needs is to make an even bigger mess in the club house. McLaren's move to make Ichiro a right-fielder made the team worse, and now adds to the combustible material a new manager will face.

When a competent manager is put in place, do you then tell Ichiro to march back to center? Does this hurt the relationship between your star player and the new manager?

McLaren created this problem, and he chose to do it on the day his boss got canned. He also did it without consulting with his new boss, which in my mind is career suicide.

McLaren was a lousy manager. We said it all last year watching him manage the game. Bullpen use. Substitution use. Bench use. Catcher use. You name it, he sucked at it.

But the decision on his own to move Ichiro to right field should have been the nail in the coffin for his short managerial career.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sexson won't last the week

The rumblings from the team seem to suggest Sexson will be cut loose shortly. I imagine our new GM is finding out the same thing Bavasi did- no one will touch his salary and they are going to have to out right release him. I expect the news to come out shortly... like in a matter of days if not hours that Sexson is out.

Meanwhile, speculation continues on who our next GM will be. Because the hiring won't take place until after the season, and likely after the WS, this is going to be a story that will get old quickly. No information from Lincoln and company will lead all of us to speculate and it won't be until the fall when we finally get answers.

Will Armstrong be open to younger voices? Does he even understand what the use of newer statistical methods to evaluate players has meant to the game? Does he realize Santana was traded for less than what Bedard pulled in and it has nothing to do with "make-up" or attitude? Can he accurately explain the differences between Bedard and Santana and why the trade market was different for both?

A good boss doesn't have to have detailed information about every operation in a company. But they do need a decent understanding of the business universe they compete in. We have no idea if Lincoln and Armstrong have kept up... we'll find out later this year.

There already are lines being drawn among Mariner fans, and I suspect they will look similar to the Bedard trade divisions we saw this spring. Those that wanted Bedard and his "ace" status will argue a pure stathead is not needed and will look for more conventional hires. Baker does a real questionable job over the GM search at his blog, and it reads much like his arguments for Bedard.

It's great to read Geoff's thoughts and I love his blog, but man he gets sidetracked by his Toronto days some times. Yes, no one is arguing hiring a guy who is proclaimed to be a "stat head" will guarantee success. Yes, J.P. Ricciardi has made mistakes. He works in a division where Boston and NY loom, and he was a first-time GM when he took the job. NO ONE is arguing a pure stats approach will guarantee success.

But I can guarantee you a "stat head" would have avoided Bavasi throwing $99 million at Zito. And he would have dealt with Sexson a lot sooner.

What the M's need is a strong system that leverages its advantages (Safeco field, revenue) and doesn't rely on a single savior who will magically make the team better.

Baker was told before the season the Rays were going to surprise some people. He was also told Oakland might not be as bad as he thinks, and Texas with Daniels at the helm is making strong progress. Baker disregarded this information before, and he appears to do it again when he dismisses the Rays recent success as simply the benefit of sucking for a long time. Call up the Pirates some time and ask if it really is that simple.

The team needs to learn from its mistakes. So do the fans who thought this team was only an ace away from competing this year. If we make mistakes, we need to admit and learn from them.

The search for GM will reveal who has learned what from this season.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Bavasi Fired

Oh how we've waited to see that headline.

C'mon now Lincoln. Don't screw this up. Your next hire is going to define the Mariner future for many, many years. Don't hire Bavasi 2.0

But we'll worry about that later. For now, peace has been restored in the Mariner universe.

Good thing Morrow is available to save games

When you have the worst record in baseball, how valuable is a closer?

I would argue not very. Would it be great to have a lock-down, lights out closer on any team? Sure.

But for most baseball teams, when facing a rebuild the first thing they look to spin is the bullpen guys. They have value and are simply are a luxury compared to finding lefty power bats and starting pitchers.

The Mariners are watching Morrow rot in the role of "closer" when they should be investing in their future by getting him back to the rotation.

The Front Office is faced with a simple question. When you have the worst record in baseball, is your priority the long term health of the club, or do you focus on short term goals?

It's been apparent which way the present management team leans. They have the choice now to prepare Morrow for next season as a starter. Every day they delay is costing them valuable time.

Release Sexson.
Move Morrow to AA as a starter.

How can they not see this?

It's like they don't realize there will be a season in 2009.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Not much to say

The team is stuck in a public relations nightmare. The present team has no hope of getting better and the minors are devoid of much immediate help. Other teams are only beginning to start thinking about making serious trades, and the Mariners have little to offer given their worst-record status.

Until there is a shake up in management, how much change can we really expect?

Sure, we still have Felix. And Ichiro is still entertaining. But things don't really get interesting until Bavasi and McLaren are gone, and we have no idea when that will be.

Let's hope Lincoln and company have a plan besides watching this team continue a death spiral.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

McLaren benches Reed

To further highlight how this team treats rookies and veterans, Jeremy Reed gets sent to the bench because he was picked off while straying from the bag. On the same night Ibanez drops a routine fly ball and stays in the game, Reed gets benched. On the same night Ritchie drops a foul ball and two-hops a throw to home (!) on a relay, Reed gets benched.

I'll never complain about a win, but the Mariners "defense" last night was literally laugh-out-loud funny. This is after McLaren has a team meeting about doing the little things.

The firing of this teams management cannot come soon enough.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Elia as interim manager

When McLaren is finally fired (a mercy firing if there ever was one), Elia will be a good fit as an interim manager. The team will want to wait until after the season to can Bavasi, so having a stop-gap until a new regime is named makes a lot of sense. That's how I read the story of Elia taking over as hitting coach today.

There is no way if the team continues to lose 2 of 3 games the manager survives much longer. I predicted the All Star break for Johny-Mac. There really isn't anyone on the current staff who is the logical replacement for an interim manager, but Elia can fill that role easily.

Today's firing is a step in the right direction of the complete over haul about to begin.

Friday, June 06, 2008

At least we have Felix

After a generally terrible first day draft for the Mariners, it's time we have something a little more fun to talk about. Felix.

Yes, it's true his starts have been spotty. He still can't figure out the proper ratio of fastballs to offspeed stuff. His walks are up. His strikeouts are down. His groundball percentage is down.

When you watch him, he still has electric stuff most nights. The key is still his command, and whether he has it on a particular night is usually the biggest factor on whether the team is assured a win or not.

This should be an exciting game. After all the fireworks from the Tampa series, plus injuries the boys in blue are catching the Sox and their annoying nation at the right time. The last game the team won was coincidentally Felix's last start.

Felix is the teams best hope. The most untouchable player on the team. He's just 22 years old and is the shining beacon of light for the next few seasons. If you watch any game this weekend it should be tonight.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

How Bavasi screws up drafts

Some say the scouting department is allowed to run the draft independent of the front office. That Bavasi has brought much needed talent into the farm system.

Only the Mariners would:
- Turn Morrow in to a reliever. Even if the team was smart enough to take Lincecum, it's pretty obvious he would be in the bullpen as well. This is 100% due to Bavasi and his team. Think about it for a second. The team drafted a college starter with the #5 pick and immediately turned him in to a setup guy the next spring. This is like the Seahawks drafting one of the best college running backs and turning him in to a punt returner. If you would like to recreate this pick personally, take a twenty dollar bill to your nearest banking establishment and demand ten dollars in return. This is the world Bavasi and McLaren live in every day.
- Deny arbitration to Guillen. They knew they were likely trading Jones. They had no viable back up plan. They had ample evidence teams were willing to give him more than one year. By executing their "plan" the way they did, they cost themselves a supplemental pick the worst team in baseball sorely, sorely needs right now.
- Draft a college reliever. This pick is so stupid it boggles the mind. This team has no current corner infielder close to the majors in the farm system and know Beltre is likely gone after next year. They just watched a series with Jose Vidro batting clean up. They are about to release their 1st basemen and the biggest delay is simply the knowledge they have no on in the system any where near ready.

So they draft a reliever, probably the teams one strength right now.

Way to go Bill. Good thing we didn't fire your ass three weeks ago because it might impact the draft.

Changes coming

The recent quotes by Bavasi were pretty much expected. He confirms, as we've been saying, to not expect many changes in the coming weeks. Very few teams are willing to deal right now, and the farm system is limited in how it can help the club.

The contrived "outburst" by McLaren was sad but expected when your team realizes it's going to have to start firing people. We know this team doesn't like change, but if the losing continues, and we see no reason why it won't, changes will be forced on them.

I expect both McLaren and Sexson will be gone by the All Star break. Ideally Sexson is cut this afternoon, but the team seems hell bent on giving this guy useless at bats in the hope he somehow creates a miracle.

Sexson being cut is a no brainer that the team will be forced to make shortly. If the team loses really badly and Ritchie continues to hit under .200 then he won't make it to the All Star break. At worst, they might try to string this out to the trading deadline in some futile attempt to gain some positive PR. (As much with their bosses as opposed to the public)

If the Mariners continue to lose series after series in the next two weeks, the team will be forced to fire McLaren as well, if for no other reason than to put him out of his own misery. The guy will soon have a nervous breakdown watching Vidro batting cleanup game after game. A merciful execution may be in order.

Once McLaren and Sexson are gone, the rest of the moves will be pretty predictable. Bavasi will be as good as gone by seasons end, and we'll all know it. He will attempt to get some value by moving as many players as he can by the trading deadline. I'm sure he and upper management will have an agreement on what the plan will be for the rest of the games and who can be traded and who will be untouchable. By September we'll be seeing the callups playing regularly and we'll be actively speculating on who is the next GM.

Who ever replaces McLaren will be interim until the new GM is hired. This season will be lost, not only on the field, but in the FO as well. Since the team won't fire Bavasi until after the season, and yet everyone will understand he is no longer in the future, the season will play out as a lame duck from an organizational perspective. Their won't be agreement on whether to tear down or do a minor rebuild, so the team will make small moves meant more to appease an angry fan base than actually improve the team long term.

That's how I see it playing out. McLaren watch is on. Sexson is the first every day player to get cut.

Go M's.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Not much to do at this point...

But continue to watch this team lose on a regular basis. It's not like there is a magic bullet or star player who can turn it around. The Mariners have serious flaws on the team and the farm system is in no position to offer much help. What you see is what you get.

So what should the Mariners do?

Nothing earth shattering. The moves are so obvious and have been discussed for so long they come as no surprise.

Step one- DFA Vidro, Sexson and Cairo.
Step two- move Ibanez to DH.
Step three- play Reed and Wlad every day while you begin evaluating what either can offer you long term. Is Reed valuable as a 4th outfielder? Can Wlad learn to recognize pitches and hit for average? Time to start finding out.
Step four- Call up Clement and play him at DH when facing lefties. Alternate him and Joh behind the plate. Determine if Clement is a major league catcher or not.
Step five- work the phones on deals. See what value your players have to other teams.

This team is not going to be able to pad their win total like they did last September to try and please the casual fan. No one will care if they end up with 72 or 82 wins. The season was lost in May. Effective management would react immediately and start planning for the future.

Why give Sexson one more at bat this month? Is he in your teams plan next year? Is there any chance the team resigns Sexson for next year? If not, why play him and let him practice at the major league level?

Let some other team try and figure this guy out. Every day Sexson is on this team, it's basically impossible to believe this management group is even trying.

Lose Sexson, and let the future begin.