Saturday, January 31, 2004
IP ERA 1-R Win%
Good Pens 10,088 3.29 .545
Bad Pens 10,301 5.24 .469
He then shows that the teams with "Good Pens" did better, winning 58%, and the teams with "Bad Pens" did worse, winning only 44%, in games decided by two or more runs.
Here's the thing: The over 20,000 inning sample size seems pretty significant, but it's misleading. Only a fraction of those inning actually represent those pitched in one-run games. A better survey would look at every team (not just the exceptionally good or bad), and only in one-run games. Being the nerd I am, my Friday night schedule left plenty of room to begin such an analysis, so here goes:
First, I went through the 2003 March and April American League schedule, and looked at the boxscores for every one-run game in that span (51 games altogether). Then I sorted the pitching stats into two categories: Winning Team Bullpen ERA (WBE), and Losing Team Bullpen ERA (LBE). If carrierd out for the eleven years of Neyer's study, we would have around a 4,000-inning sample to work with. In my limited sample, WBE in one-run games was 3.32, and LBE in one-run contests was 4.54, a difference of 1.22. Bullpens averaged roughly 3 innings on both sides of the one-run games, so bullpens accounted for about 40% of the winning margin in these games.
A better statistic thatn Bullpen ERA would be ERA of a bullpen's top three pitchers. These are the ones that get the outs that count. It is quite irrelevant if a team's mop-up reliever has an ERA of 3.00.
Close game performance, in my view, is the true measure of a bullpen's strength. Pitchers pitch completely differently at the end of these games than they do if the score is, say, 6-3. Batters are fighing for every inch, and pitchers aren't giving in to anybody.
(If you were looking for a strong finish to this post, I'm sorry, but it's past my bedtime, and I'm bushed)
Thursday, January 29, 2004
And frankly, I don't think the Mariners were serious players in the Pudge sweepstakes anyway. My understanding was that he really wanted to stay with the Marlins, but he turned down a very nice three year deal with them. Then the Cubs were his first choice, but Hendry flatly refused to offer him more than two years. Then Detroit showed up with a big bag of money.
So Pudge has been sitting around trying to choose from three very nice offers:
1) Wait until May, sign that 3 year deal with Florida, the place he wants to be.
2) Take the two year deal from the Cubs, the team he wants to play for.
3) Sign with the Tigers, who are offering him the amount of money he wants.
So what made anybody think the Seattle (not where he wants to be) Mariners (not the team he wants to play for) could sweep Pudge off his feet with a 1 to 2 year deal for less money than Detroit was offering?
Doesn't make sense. Boras just likes to drop names. Chill, Chris. Chill.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
On an FSU recruiting dinner:
The steak didn't even have a price. The menu said something about market value. I was kind of embarrassed so I didn't order a lot.
On Coach Bowden:
''Coach Bowden was cool, but Ms. Bowden was the bomb,'' Williams said. "I swear, she must be related to Betty Crocker or something."
Read these, laugh, and forget about the M's for a minute or two.
...have I mentioned lately that Goat Boy's dad was the guy who kept Koufax out of the Dodgers' rotation?
Russ Davis as M's 3B:
0.933 Fielding Pct., 2.24 Range Factor
Scott Spiezio, Lifetime, as 3B:
0.929 Fielding Pct., 1.66 Range Factor!
(Statistics from Baseball-Reference.com)
Russ Davis was so bad that Lou replaced him in 1998 with Rico Rossy, a .198 hitter. Spiezio has Davis' stone hands, but without the range. But Spiezio is such a better hitter, you might say. Kinda. Davis' average OPS+ (weighted by # of plate appearances) during that span was 92. Spiezio's weighted average OPS+ the last four years is 106 (100 is by definition average). So Spiezio is just a hair above average at the plate (actually, OPS+ considers all hitters, not just regulars, so, compared to starting position players, he's probably below average) and a complete and utter hack with the glove. By any measure, Scott Spiezio figures to be one of the worst regualrs in Mariners history. And his band blows. Hard.
Last year, the Cubs won 16 games by six or more runs, the Astros 23.
Well, I hate to throw my hat in with Joe Morgan, but I'm with the old baseball guys, dammit. Sort of.
And I'm not the only one. Bill James, inventor of pythagorean standings and the ultimate smart-ass-baseball-obsessed-stat-whiz, came to the same conclusion some years ago. After spending decades trying to figure out how the hell stats become wins, he spun the world of baseball-obsessed-stat-guys on its head by starting with a brand new assumption: that the exact number of wins a team ends up with are a perfect reflection of the performances of the players on that team.
Not pythagorean wins, but wins. This implies that, after years of scorning the foolish assertions of "clutch performance" by the Joe Morgan Crowd, James essentially shrugged and decided they were right. Sort of.
There's one key difference between the way Joe Morgan sees clutch performance and the way James does. Morgan and his ilk drastically overestimate the importance of the odd clutch hit or "forced" double-play. Anybody who's heard him call a ballgame knows this. There's always some shlub he insists is going to be a star because he saw him hit a game-winning double a few months ago. Bill James insists on establishing the value of each of these discrete events statistically, then adding them up.
As a stat-minded person who failed miserably as a baseball player, I'd love to believe that there's no such thing as clutch performance. Because in the clutch, I always choked. But there is. You can't play any sport without knowing this. It's just that "clutch performance" is a much more complicated formula than people think.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
160 games into the 2004 season, the Angels have locked up the A.L. West crown with a 93-67 record. They've scored 760 runs and allowed 649, giving a Pythagorean record of 93-67.
The second-place Mariners, 90-70, are out of wild card contention. They've scored 753 runs and allowed 660, giving a Pythagorean prediction of 90-70.
As you can see, both teams are performing exactly as predicted by the Bill James' Pythagorean Postulate (it's not a theorem; a theorem is proven mathematically) of Baseball.
(the formula is Winning Percentage = Runs squared / (Runs squared + Runs Allowed squared)
The Angels and Mariners play the last two meaningless games of the season against each other. In the first game, Jamie Moyer goes for his 20th victory versus John Johnson, a AA pitcher called up for September roster expansion by the Angels. Moyer pitches well and Johnson is absolutely shelled, and the Mariners win, 12-1.
In the final game of the season, Freddy Garcia faces Sancho Sanchez, another Angels farmhand called up to fill the extra roster spots. Freddy pitches well, but Sanchez is brilliant in his Major League debut, and the Angels win, 2-1.
The Angels finish with a 94-68 record, scoring 763 runs while allowing 662. Their final Pythagorean record is 92-70.
The M's finish with a 91-71 record, scoring 766 runs while allowing 663. Their final Pythagorean record is 93-69.
As you can see, one blowout shifted each club's "expected" record by two games. The differences between actual W-L records and expected W-L records are often cited as a credit or discredit to the managers' abilities, but neither team was managed particularly well or poorly in the last two games of the season. It would be ridiculous to think that Mike Scioscia was four games better as a manager (his team outperformed "expectations" by two games) than Bob Melvin (his team underperformed by two games) based solely on the teams' Pythagorean Records in this example. Scioscia's team simply had the good fortune of having their asses handed to them when the race was already decided.
Pythagorean Standings are based on a pretty good hypothesis, but like any empirically-obtained formula based on a population distribution, there's random error involved. In other words, the Pythagorean Standings offer a good estimate of actual won-loss record, but whether "expected" record is, say, five games too high or five games too low is just a case of dumb luck.
First, a few situation-specific selections:
Situation: First AB of the game
Song: Mothership Connection, Parliament
Alright, alright! Star Child here! Put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip and come on to the mothership!
This next one is more for the irony than anything else.
Situation: AB in a road game
Song: All About U, 2Pac
Every other city we go
Every other video
No matter where I go
I see the same ho
Situation: Late in the game when they're obviously going to bring in a specialty reliever
Song: For Whom The Bell Tolls, Metallica
This one takes about a minute to develop, getting progressively harder and harder, so it would be perfect for those occaisional key AB's late in the game.
Now, a few tunes for any old time:
Them Bones, Alice In Chains
It hits hard right away, and it's got that awesome scream right at the beginning.
Rush, Talib Kweli
It opens with the hook, "Feel the rush, Feel the rush," and it's got this horn lick in the backgound that reminds me a little of "Gonna Fly Now" of Rocky Training Montage fame. Plus, I've never heard Kweli at the ballpark, and, frankly, I'd like to someday.
Immigrant Song, Led Zeppelin
This fills the exact niche that is alredy covered by Them Bones, but the song's just too good to leave out.
What can I say? This is probably the smoothest hip-hop song I've ever heard. Another brilliant usage of horns with hip-hop. From the Aquemini album.
Hunting Bears, Radiohead
The beginning of this one is pretty much just an electric guitar playing a riff that sounds like something from the great Johnny Depp western, Dead Man. It's from the Amnesiac album, if anyone cares to give it a listen.
Oh, don't give me that. Everyone is a closeted Styx fan.
Hmmm, that makes nine. One more to give me a nice, round number:
Ring Of Fire, Johhny Cash
Pay your respects to the Man In Black!
He argues that the Cubs basically had no business even being in the race last year, so why should they be expected to win this year?
Good question, professor! And I have a good answer: Because the Cubs did most of their improving BEFORE the end of the year. That's why they won the division, remember? Because they added Aramis Ramirez (one of the three or four best hitting third basmen around) and replaced the underperforming Hee Seop Choi with a platoon of Eric Karros and Randall Simon. I was watching all year, and after those trades, the Cubs were a completely different team.
But don't take my word for it. Just check the run differentials before the All-Star break and after.
(Before Break, After Break)
Cubs: (-2, +43)
Astros: (+70, +58)
The Cubs didn't improve on the AVERAGE of these two teams, they improved on the second-half team. And frankly, I don't know what makes Neyer think the Astros have improved more. They lost Billy Wagner, for heavens sake! The Cubs lost nothing but dead weight (ooh, that's a burn, Randall Simon!). The Astros have added two solid starting pitchers. They have also gotten older the old-fashioned way, by aging. The Cubs, on the other hand, have replaced the squeaky old Karros / Simon platoon with Derek Lee, the Scott Rolen of first basemen. They added Latroy Hawkins to a bullpen that was already very good. Then they added Todd Walker, just because it's always nice to have one great ballplayer you can't fit in the starting lineup (though it seems likely to me that Grudzielanek, not Walker, will be the McLemore).
Just because the Cubs haven't done anything too splashy (yet!) doesn't mean they haven't improved substantially.
One more thing about the Kaz situation has been brought to my attention. Brian Meehan of the Oregonian, in a Jan. 23 article, reports the following:
Bavasi said a Japanese team would have to compensate Seattle for signing Sasaki, the amount subject to negotiation.This is analog to the Mariners negotiating with Orix in 2001 for the rights to Ichiro. Sasaki will be a big draw in Japan, and whichever Japan League team gets him will be willing to shell out some dough for the attendance boost. Rest assured that this revenue will NOT be factored into the M's 2004 payroll, or any other season's payroll, for that matter.
Monday, January 26, 2004
Barry Bonds was in Rookie of the Year (1993) with Tom Milanovich
Tom Milanovich was in Novocaine (2001) with Kevin Bacon
Thanks to Barry's file on the Internet Movie Database, I now look forward to seeing him as Senator Wilson in 1994's made-for-TV Moment Of Truth: Broken Pledges, an emotional drama about a woman's fight for legislation to be passed banning the fraternity hazing which resulted in her son's death.
George Bradley played with Bert Cunningham for the 1888 Baltimore Orioles
Bert Cunningham played with Nick Altrock for the 1898 Louisville Colonels
Nick Altrock played with Bud Thomas for the 1933 Washington Senators
Bud Thomas played with Dizzy Trout for the 1939 Detroit Tigers
Dizzy Trout played with Brooks Robinson for the 1957 Baltimore Orioles
Brooks Robinson played with Dennis Martinez for the 1976 Baltimore Orioles
Dennis Martinez played with Kevin Millwood for the 1998 Atlanta Braves
One thing I just noticed: check out the career of Nick Altrock. 1898-1933 makes 36 seasons! Altrock only played in 19 of those, but still, he was 56 years old in 1933.
I anxiously await the day someone walks up to the plate with ODB's "Got Your Money" bumping. Either that, or Outkast's "Spread."
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Ichiro has kept a leadoff hitter's approach in most situations, even with runners in scoring position. Many times have we seen him, say, bunt for a base hit with a man on second. While he might not drive the runner home with his bunt, he does succeed in extending the rally and putting additional pressure on the pitcher and the infielders. Batting second or third, we may see Ichiro alter his game a little. I think he's going to try to drive the ball a lot more, which would have two effects: a few more strikeouts and quite a bit higher slugging percentage.
Ichiro should also benefit from having Edgar Martinez following him in the lineup, instead of a two-hitter. Nobody's going to want to pitch around Ichiro and put a speedy runner on for Edgar. Especially if Winn does a good job getting on base at the top of the order, Ichiro should get a lot of pitches to hit.
Here's my hopelessly optimistic prediction of Ichiro's 2004 numbers:
.340 BA, .395 OBP, .485 SLG, 18 HR, 100 RBI, AL MVP
Saturday, January 24, 2004
It appears that the rest of the league now takes Goat Boy for an idiot. What was the hold-up?
...on Friday night, (Scott) Boras (Rodriguez's @!#$ of an agent) told The News' Tom Gage that a contract length had been agreed upon with the Tigers. That leaves just the economics to be negotiated. Just the economics!
So where did Boras come up with his forty million dollars figure? I would love to see the Mariners sign Pudge, but they need to proceed with caution when dealing with Boras. Sports agency is in the same category as event ticket brokerage and the towing industry when it comes to fairness and honesty, and nobody does more to cement that reputation than Scott Boras.
Friday, January 23, 2004
You make it so hard, Goat Boy, but still we're all trying REALLY hard to believe in 2004, so throw us a friggin' bone, please?
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Selig has also gone on the record many times, outlining the vast financial woes of his family's Milwaukee Brewers. One of the biggest problems facing the Brewers (as well as the White Sox) is that their geographical fan base is already partly spoken for by another club, the Chicago Cubs. To their credit, the Brewers club has made every effort to "convert" these Cubs fans living in Wisconsin, albeit to a very limited degree of success.
Selig was presented a golden opportunity to improve the fortunes of the Brewers in 1998, the first year of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The addition of these two new teams presented a difficult dilemma for Major League Baseball. Both the National and American Leagues already had an even number of teams (fourteen each), meaning every team could play on any given day. Adding one team to each league would mean at least one team in each league would be off on every day of the schedule. Furthermore, adding both teams to one league or the other would have the undesirable effect of thinning the overall talent of one league with respect to the other. In an effort to spread the initial dilution of talent to both leagues, it was decided that each league would get one new team, and one existing American League team would move to the National League. Selig selected his Brewers to be that team.
Prior to 1998, the American League Milwaukee Brewers hosted the locally popular National League Chicago Cubs in exactly zero regular-season games each season. In 2004, the Brewers are scheduled to host the Cubs ten times, a direct result of the Brewers' league change, and of the recent "unbalanced schedule," a Selig-backed policy by which a team plays its own divisional opponents more often then their non-divisional foes. These contests with Chicago have resulted in an attendance spike of 12,000 additional fans per game (when compared with attendance figures for games in which Milwaukee hosted other teams), earning Selig's family a gain in ticket revenues of approximately $6.7 million over the last six seasons (1998-2003).
Average price of a Brewers ticket (according to Team Marketing Report, as reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):
2001: $18.12 (1st season at Miller Park)
Average attendance of a Brewers-Cubs game in Milwaukee (all attendance figures derived from USAtoday.com's season attendance figures and daily box scores):
Average attendance of a Brewers home game against all other opponents:
2001: 34,583 (1st season at Miller Park)
By adding the Cubs to the Brewers' home schedule, Selig has directly and immediately created additional revenue for his ballclub in a way that other owners who don't happen to be Commissioner of Major League Baseball are unable to do. Other teams certainly benefit from the unbalanced schedule (the Yankees and Red Sox immediately come to mind), and I suppose the realignment of the divisions has helped many clubs as well. But Bud Selig is full of crap when he says that his family's ownership of the Brewers never has never been a factor in his decisions.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
They're dropping like flies...
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
ORGANIZED BASEBALL SUCCUMS TO THE VERY WHIM OF GENE ORZA!
Yes, at least probably.
Don't be shocked, however, if it isn't.
The question now, I guess, is whether or not the Mariners have assumed all offseason that Kaz was going to take his ball and go home. I kind of bet they have. Obviously, Bavasi's hands haven't exactly been tied.
But using the power of imagination, we can all pretend that the Mariners just got their budget expanded by a significant amount. What do you do?
I see three options:
1) You could get involved in one of Scott Boras's imaginary twenty-team bidding wars. But the Mariners just don't need Maddux (Especially since the addition of Kevin Jarvis!). And I get the feeling they don't really want Pudge, insisting instead on giving Ben Davis another chance to prove he really is the second coming of Paul Bako.
2) You could make a flashy trade. Magglio Ordonez remains available (and, coincidently, about ten million dollars more expensive than either Randy Wynn or Raul Ibanez). Boston's got this expensive, pissed off shortstop with a little brother in the Seattle organization (Does anybody else like the idea of a Garciaparra-Garciaparra double-play combination down the road?). Colorado would love to lose the long-term commitment of Todd Helton's salary. And the word out of Saint Louis is that Pujols is feeling jerked around by management. Possibilities in this area are endless.
3) You could put that cash in your pocket and wait. I hate to say it, but this would be the smart thing to do. We all know that the best trades are made during the season. Good players become available for cash when owners get furious, and owners get furious in May, not February. The only guys available right now are the most expensive ones. You never know what'll happen during the season, though. Just look at what the Cubs accomplished before the deadline last year.
Monday, January 19, 2004
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Killing some time at home yesterday, I again turned to the King County Library System's online journals to stave off my boredom. There I discovered "The Baseball Research Journal," a wonderful periodical from University of Nebraska Press full of fascinating historical and statistical research on the game we all love. One article that particularly impressed me came from the 2002 issue of the journal (vol. 31, pp 54-61), entitled "Baseball's most unbreakable records: polled from SABR's Records Committee" written by Joe Dittmar. The idea of strange, seemingly unbreakable records has always held my interest, especially since the May 2, 2002 game (more memorably, Mike Cameron's 4 home run performance) when Cameron and Bret Boone twice hit back-to-back home runs in the same inning against the White Sox, becoming the first and only duo to accomplish the feat.
In Dittmar's poll, SABR members were asked to asked to name what each considered to be unbreakable records under one or more of the following criteria:
Different performance expectations
Scoring, league structure, or rules changes
Ballpark configurations / improvements in crowd control
Simply unbelievable performances
"Alignment of the stars"
Many of the records named were ones you would expect, like Pete Rose's 4,256 career hits, Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games played, or Cy Young's 511 career wins. Here are some that you may not have heard of, arranged by the criteria of the poll:
DIFFERENT PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS
In the early part of the 20th century, pitchers threw a LOT of innings. With one-year contracts almost exclusively the norm, there was little reason for managers to conserve pitching arms and their fragile ligaments. Furthermore, with the concept of the bullpen still a couple of decades away, managers had few options expect to stick with their starters for all nine innings. In fact, pitchers were often left in the game, to bat for themselves, while trailing in the bottom half of the ninth inning. Even in the midst of being shellacked, pitchers remained in the game to pitch. Some of the more interesting records of this type:
Jack Taylor, Chicago Cubs / St. Louis Cardinals, 1901-1906: 1,727 consecutive innings pitched without relief.
Eddie Rommel, Philadelphia A's, 1932: 29 hits allowed, single game.
1901 Boston Braves, 1904 Boston Red Sox: 5 pitchers used, entire season.
CHANGES IN SCORING / PLAYING RULES
Today, if a runner advances from first to second base, in the late innings of a lopsided game, with no throw from the catcher, no stolen base is awarded due to what's called "catcher's indifference." According to Dittmar:
Another rule change, one of defensive indifference, will likely keep safe the mark shared by the Senators of 1915 and the Phillies of 1919. Each club stole eight bases in one inning, the Nationals (Senators) doing it in the first inning against sore-armed Cleveland catcher Steve O'Neill, and the Phillies notching eight in the ninth inning of a lost game. The rule was changed in 1920.
In 1912, the Pittsburgh Pirates set the record for most triples by a team in a single season, with 129. Playing their home games in spacious Forbes Field (365' to left, 376' to right, and 435' to center), the team was quite adept at circling the bases on line drives. Owen Wilson (no, not that Owen Wilson) alone notched 36 triples that season, also an untouchable record.
TIGHTENED CROWD CONTROL
So many St. Louis Cardinals fans attended a doubleheader versus the Cubs on July 12, 1931, that areas of the outfield and foul territory were roped off as a Standing Room section to accommodate the overflow. A gameday rules change was made, making any fair ball that reached the roped sections a ground-rule double.
Several fly balls that likely would have caught for outs fell into the Standing Room area, and as a result, in the second game both teams combined to hit 23 doubles, a record that has yet to be approached.
Perhaps the single most significant innovation in baseball has been the adoption of the more tightly-wound baseball, creating the live-ball era that we enjoy today, and ensuring that a few dead-ball records will stand forever. During the dead-ball era, extra-base hits were scarce, and teams that scored runs did it with small-ball tactics. It was then that Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians established the record for sacrifices in a season, with 67 in 1917.
Today's Major League Baseball player's union would never allow the 1943 Chicago White Sox to play 43 doubleheaders, but they did. Also of note, on three separate occasions teams have played tripleheaders.
ALIGNMENT OF THE STARS
Walter Holke, Boston Braves, 1920: 42 putouts, single game.
Fernando Tatis, 1999: 2 grand-slam home runs, single inning.
Rennie Stennett: 7 consecutive hits, nine-inning game.
What I like to think about is that, at some point, a few of these record are going to fall. Dittmar sums up his list of unbreakable records on a similar note:
It should be kept in mind, however, that a half-century ago, prognosticators confidently predicted the immutability of many marks no longer found on this list, such as Gehrig's consecutive-games-played streak and Ruth's single-season and lifetime home run benchmarks.
Yep, records were meant to be broken. Personally, I'm rooting for "first and only instance of walk-off catcher's interference" to be established, but that's just me.
Saturday, January 17, 2004
Steve at Mariners Wheelhouse found this article about the effect of former Cub players on their current teams. Specifically, Steve breaks down the AL West by "Cubness," which is determined by a combination of three factors: number of former Cub players on the teams' rosters, length of these players' tenures with the Cubs, and elapsed time since these players' last Cubs appearence (or, the degree to which their "Cubness" has worn off).
Steve's article is a must-read for fans of Sox-1918.
Friday, January 16, 2004
There is a central character missing from Wednesday's "Rocky"/baseball comparison, Rocky's ever-discouraging wife, Adrian.
Ladies and gentlemen, playing the role of Adrian is...
Typical Randall (an acquaintance of Pete's and mine) statements:
"The Cubs can't do it. They have X, Y, and Z flaws."
"I knew X, Y, and Z would come through! I just knew it!"
Playing on that slowpitch team with Randall's co-workers remains the worst athletic experience of my life, but that's another story.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Also, who gets to play Apollo Creed, and when can we expect him to die at the hands of the unstoppable Russian, who declares his lack of concern over Apollo's condition coldly, uttering "If he dies, he dies."
Predictions based on the "Rocky" series model:
"Rocky II": Rocky captures the heavyweight title for the first time, in a rematch with Apollo.
Baseball Future: The Cubs win the 2004 National League pennant (thus avenging their previous defeat).
"Rocky III": Clubber Lang defeats Rocky by a knockout, but in the rematch Lang falls to the more determined Rocky.
Baseball Future: The Red Sox sweep the Cubs in the 2004 World Series. In a 2005 Series rematch, the Red Sox are again dominant, but are out-gritted by the Cubs, who win in seven games.
"Rocky IV": Trained by the latest methods and the best equipment money can buy, the Soviet champion Ivan Drago is out of Rocky's league on paper. Rocky's determination defeats the juggernaut, however, winning the favor and respect of the Soviet people and displaying the fallibility of Communist Russia.
Baseball Future: Armed with all the high-priced talent money can buy, the Yankees look like a lock to run away with the 2006 World Series crown. The Cubs, however, come out on top in an epic 22-inning game seven, drawing a standing ovation from the imbecillic Yankee faithful gathered at Yankee Stadium.
"Rocky V" is omitted due to the excruciating headache induced by the mere thought of that terrible film.
Let it be said, the cards have spoken.
I stand by what I wrote.
The most dangerous of these involves a certain gaping hole in the roster and a certain ex-Cub who would fill it very nicely and a certain division rival and a certain very evil agent. This is the one that scares me to death. If Greg Maddux ends up with St. Louis, the Central becomes a very scary place. At the moment, people are saying the Cubs have the upper hand, which probably means they don't. Terrifying.
The strangest is the one between Hendry and Pudge Rodriguez. He wants to be a Cub. The Cubs want him to be a Cub. No one else wants him. Yet he remains unsigned. Irritating.
But by far the most important game of tug-of-war is the one between Hendry and the infamously stingy Tribune Company. Right now, Hendry has enough extra money to sign Maddux OR Pudge while retaining juuuust enough flexibility to make an emergency move during the season. But he can't sign both of them, because the Tribune Company won't give him an extra ten million bucks to play with. This is the same company that just successfully sued a bunch of their neighbors (You know, the ones with those adorable rooftop decks that help make Wrigley Field look so cool?) for millions of dollars. Infuriating.
Here's my advice for Jim Hendry: Screw the flexibility. Put all the pressure on ownership, and do it publicly. Come to agreements with Pudge and Maddux as soon as possible, even if it means going over-budget. The fans are on your side, man, and that's all you need!
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Is it time to throw in the towel? Are drastic measures in order, like massive season ticket boycotts or angry protests outside the gates of our hallowed ballpark? For a while I considered the possibility. Then, on a whim, I went through the Sox-1918 December archives and remembered my 2004 sources of optimism post. Everything about which I was hopeful then I'm hopeful still. All is not lost.
2004 is Edgar's swan song. There shouldn't be anyone in baseball, let alone on the Mariners, that doesn't want to see Edgar retire without ever appearing in the World Series. Imagine the excitement of a late-inning tie game in the NL champions' ballpark. The M's have two outs with two men on base with Scott Spiezio due up. But wait! Edgar Martinez is putting on his helmet and grabbing a bat; it looks like he's going to pinch-hit for Spiezio!
No one on the M's wants to be the one that makes the last out or crucial mistake that ends Edgar's career, and veteran leadership, starting with Boone and Aurilia, is going to make sure the entire team feels that way. The 2004 M's should be a motivated bunch.
Ichiro is signed to a contract extension. Bavasi did the right thing this time, taking care of Ichiro. Popular opinion has shifted, from Ichiro being one of the top outfielders in the game, to Ichiro being one of the more overrated players in baseball. The little guy's got a lot of people to prove wrong, and I expect he will likely do just that. Don't be surprised if he puts up a line close to .340 AVG, 20 HR, 75 RBI, .410 OBP, .900 OPS. Throw in about 40 steals and another Gold Glove, and he could be looking at another MVP award with those numbers.
Many of you might not buy into the Player With A Chip On His Shoulder rationale, and you could probably find examples of players that try too hard and subsequently experience a dip in production to back your skepticism. John Mabry definitely tried too hard when he was with the M's, for one. To counter, I'll cite two examples of players stepping up their performances with the mindset of disproving their nay-sayers: Mike Cameron and Jay Buhner. From 2001 to 2003, Cameron posted a .309 AVG, .444 OBP, .649 SLG, and 1.093 OPS against the White Sox, the team that gave him up to Cincinnati for next to nothing. Cameron himself has said on many occasions that he always looks forward to the ChiSox on the schedule, just so he can prove them wrong. A similar pattern can be found (unfortunately, ESPN does not provide splits for retired players) for Buhner's performance against the Yankees.
I sincerely believe Ichiro will be in the Cameron/Buhner category rather than the Mabry category. Remember Ichiro's great 2001 season, when he was American League MVP? He seemed excited to be playing every day, given the chance to prove that Japanese position players could make an impact in the Major Leagues. In 2002 and 2003, those moments of joy and excitement were few and far between, and Ichiro's -- and the Mariners' -- fortunes likewise diminished. I understand that this correlation does not imply causation -- Ichiro's state of mind may have had nothing to do with his performance late in the 2002 and 2003 seasons -- but the correlation at least should provoke thought.
Rafael Soriano is straight nasty. Other blogs have referenced this already, but it bears repeating: Robocop had a 0.21 ERA in winter ball!
Soriano is one of FIVE Mariner starting pitchers who could conceivably be All-Stars in 2004, along with Moyer, Piniero, Meche, and Garcia. Could be the best rotation in the AL if things fall into place.
A NOTE ON SORIANO:
By repeatedly acquiring and re-signing marginal veteran starting pitchers, Bill's father, "Buzzie" Bavasi, effectively kept Sandy Koufax out of the Dodgers' rotation for years. It seems like Bill Bavasi is trying to repeat the same mistake with Soriano. Don't blow this one, please, Bill. No one in the game is too valuable as a middle reliever to be moved into the rotation.
For the above reasons, Mariners fans should hold on to their hopes for the 2004 season. Add in the contributions expected of the bullpen, with Mateo, Guardado, and Hasegawa setting up Sasaki, and the continued excellence of Bret Boone, and we should be downright excited. The M's aren't the favorites, by any measure, but they're certainly contenders. And as long as they're in contention, they may just go all the way.
Think back to the 2001 season. Who would have thought the Arizona Diamondbacks could have won the World Series? The players overcame the mistakes made by their management (in their case, by Bob Brenley, their rookie manager) and took home the trophy. Baseball's a funny game. Anything can and does happen.
Sunday, January 11, 2004
Their pitching will be much improved too, with the additions of Colon and Escobar. The Mariners need to get better to compete with this team.
Friday, January 09, 2004
For many of the players that follow, I have a pretty decent reason for my hatred, or at least a bad reason. For the players I hate the most, however, I won't have a reason. Like hatred in all it's other reprehensible manifestations, it's indefensible. Finally, I've never met any of these players, and I'm sure they're all good men that love their mothers.
Alright, let's hate:
See yesterday's post.
Get a friggin' haircut. You're not a rock star. Since, at best, Spiezio is a "utility" infielder (I use the term loosely, because how useful is a "utility" man that plays only one position adequately?), he's almost not enough of a factor to be included. I hate him that much.
Is this the father/son game?
Any player that plays a position where arm strength is important should have a better one than my sister.
Ordinarily, I like players that don't wear batting gloves. George Brett didn't need them. I also like players who hustle. I just can't help but think that Mabry wouldn't suck so much if he toned it down a notch. Mabry also boasts the lowest talent to spouse attractiveness ratio in the league.
Called strike three! Season over!
Also, what was up with that face shield?
Modern-day professional athletes should be in shape.
Get the lead out.
Frank Thomas (A.K.A. "The Big Skirt")
This is one player that I really should like. I just don't.
I'll miss that Rangers outfield duo of Carly and Juanita.
Everett was also the target of the second-best heckle I've ever heard, a two-parter (the best being Pete's "You suck, Albert Belle!"):
(during the lull between pitches, with Everett playing center field):
"Get your hand off your knees, Carl!"
(a pitch goes by for a ball, then all is quiet again):
"You're paid way too much to be unprepared!"
Just because he's often mentioned in the same breath as Bret Boone.
A gimme for this list.
See Nick Johnson, above.
Giambi used to be one of my favorite players, when he was with Oakland. I've always had great respect for the Mariner Killers, like Rafael Palmiero or Garrett Anderson, and Giambi used to be just that. Then came a series of events from which no player could recover. He went to New York. Strike One. He got rid of the trailer-park haircut. Fouled off for Strike Two. He started doing male hair care product commercials. Strike Three.
Oh, and his play has suffered. He went from the best all-around hitter in the American League to being a .250-hitting strikeout machine.
Oh, and every other word out of his mouth was about how great it was to be part of the Wankee legacy. Strikes four through ten.
I'm too sick to play, so I'll go hang out with someone on the Wankees instead.
If the Cubs get Pudge, baseball's all-time greatest catcher, they'll immediately become my pick to win the World Series. They'd have a great lineup from one to nine, with two great starting pitchers (Prior and Wood) and one really good one (Carlos Zambrano). The 'pen will be better with LaTroy Hawkins on board, and Corey Patterson, who would have been an All-Star last year without his injury, will be back. There's good reason for Northsiders to be excited this year.
This is the most skilled all-around catcher of all time! He wants to be a Cub! The Cubs are one Pudge away from being every bit as good as the Yankees! All the pieces fit, but I'm getting the feeling that it won't happen. We're just going to let him slip away again, just like last year. He's really not that old, and he really hasn't gotten hurt all that often, and $10 million really isn't out of the question. I do not get it.
Maybe if the Astros sign Clemens, Hendry will respond with a Pudge signing. That's my call.
That's not to say that someone else wouldn't be doing better. But at least with this guy you know that in a close pennant race, SOMETHING will happen before the deadline. Hell, he might trade for a whole new lienup.
As for the Aurillia=crybaby post, I completely agree. He always seems ready to choke somebody when he fails to hit a 400-foot home run. I guess the team needed a new resident assface after losing Cirillo.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
I waver between pro-Guillen and pro-Aurilia in my analysis of the two shortstops, but crybaby factor eventually swings things in Guillen's favor every time. We'll miss you, Carlos.
I've always thought of Guillen as a better than average shortstop with the potential to make an All-Star team or two someday. But the Mariners think he's a bum. At least it seems that way. I guess there's no way to know whether they're really going out of their way to get rid of him this offseason, or it's a case of other teams seeing Guillen as desirable and attainable and going after him.
Anyway, I think Aurillia would likely be an offensive upgrade over Guillen, though probably not by a whole lot. Even if Guillen continues to improve slowly and Aurillia contnues to decline, Aurillia will still probably be a better hitter than Guillen in 2004. Having performed well in pitcher-friendly Pac Bell Park, he seems unlikely to suffer any dramatic decline due to the move to Safeco. Defensively, this would be another downgrade.
My take is, go ahead and sign Aurillia for a year. But for God's sake, play him at third.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
I've been looking all day for an actual voter who has published his votes and didn't vote for Sandberg. If anyone finds one, please let me know. And give him hell.
Also, the Eddie Guardado signing was good. I reluctantly give Goat Boy credit where credit is miraculously due.
Any one of us (contributers to Sox-1918 and readers like yourself) could have matched, and probably bested, the zero good moves Goat Boy has made so far for the M's. A few more stinkers, and we needn't question his competence any further. It's nearly to the point that this string of bad moves requires not the total incompetence surmised by most; since even the most incompetent GM will get lucky, say, one transaction out of ten. Rather, this impressive streak of ineptness is reaching the level where it can only be explained by an uncanny baseball knack, one with which Bavasi is recognizing one slam-dunk move after another, and taking exactly the oppostite action. Instead of dumping Cirillo outright, or keeping one worthless player with at least a marginal upside, he has traded Cirillo (at a financial wash with the cash involved) for four worthless players who will serve only to further set back the Major League debuts of more highly-talented minor league prospects. Oh, and he threw in a top pitching prospect, to boot.
The guy at Ahoy The SS Mariner! said it first and I'll paraphrase: the moves keep getting worse, but it's getting harder and harder to find a sense of outrage, since our once-lofty expectations have been so greatly diminished.
Spring semester begins Monday to mercifully distract me from the M's woes, at least until Spring Training starts.
$4,775,000, payable in 2005.
Why so much, you ask? The simple yet baffling answer to this fair question is that this very large sum of money represents the entire difference between the 2005 salaries of Jeff Cirillo and Wiki Gonzalez, who will still be a Mariner. Yes, that's right. In 2005, the Mariners will effectively be paying $7 Million for third-string catcher Wiki Gonzalez, who should henceforth be known as "The Seven Million Dollar Man".
This trade didn't save the Mariners a dime. Instead of one bum taking up space, they now have three bums taking up space. Why is this better?
"Jeff had made it clear that it was important to him and to his family to play elsewhere next season," Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said in a statement. "We think this deal gives us flexibility in 2004 and 2005 that we did not have with Jeff on the roster, and helps fill some needs on our big league club."
Ignoring the bogus "flexibility" and "filling needs" claims, are we to believe that this deal was a FAVOR to Jeff?
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
Molitor's easy induction should be brought up frequently and angrily when Edgar is mired in Blylevenville.
Ryne Sandberg will have to wait another year, however, to get his due. Receiving only 61.1 percent of the vote, Sandberg again fell well short of the 75 percent required for enshrinement. The good news is that, receiving just 49.2 percent of the vote a year ago, his support is on the rise. Molitor was a lock for the Hall, and deservedly so, yet any GM in baseball not named Bavasi would have traded Molitor for Sandberg without batting an eye. Ten All-Star selections, nine Gold Gloves (at a key position), and an MVP award don't amount to squat in the eyes of 38.9 percent of the voters, apparently.
Seattle gets Kevin Jarvis (a very bad 34-year-old pitcher due to make $4 million...for some reason), Wiki Gonzalez (a very bad catcher), Dave Hansen (a very bad 35-year-old first baseman set to make almost a million), and an unnamed minor leaguer.
Cirillo was due to make $6.7 million. Jarvis, Hansen, and Gonzalez are due about $5.5 million next year and are, combined, approximately three times as useless as Jeff Cirillo.
If he had played, and sucked, for four more years, he would have made it on the first ballot.
There's no point arguing about Molitor, though something about his being such a sure thing bothers me. Maybe I'm just dreading his speech.
As for Dennis Eckersley, I think I'll take the contrarian position. I'm not so sure he's a hall of famer at all.
There's no doubt that he posted two or three of the best seasons by a closer in the 80's, and he racked up a lot of saves--a novel stat at the time. But if that's enough to get him in the hall of fame, then we're going to have an avalanche of hall-of-fame closers in about ten years. Billy Wagner, Rob Nen, Mariano Rivera, Kieth Foulke, Kas Sasaki, Eric Gagne, John Smoltz, and Trevor Hoffman have all put up numbers just as good as Eck's in much more difficult times. Even lesser guys like Jose Mesa and Ugueth Urbina compare pretty well.
As for argument #2 (He even had four very good seasons as a starter.), that's just silly. If he was such a good starter, why did he make the switch? Was it because somebody saw in him the makings of the perfect closer? No. It was because he lost it. He sucked for five years before being relegated to the pen and turning it around.
All that said, I'm willing to admit that maybe he is a hall of famer. I mean, he was really awesome for about four years there. But then (and I'm sorry to use this name again Chris), Jose Mesa has had four great seasons too.
Saturday, January 03, 2004
The 1980's is considered a lesser decade, baseball-wise, for a couple of dubious reasons. Power numbers among the league leaders were down compared to previous decades (no player posted a 50-homer season), and today's emphasis on on-base percentage had yet to be established. For fans of my generation, however, the stars of the eighties were our childhood sports heroes. Players like Sandberg and Eckersley were able to grab our attention away from the NBA with Jordan, Magic, and Bird. These men need to be enshrined for their roles in getting baseball through a lull in popularity that it wasn't necessarily destined to overcome.
Incidentally, Molitor and his former teammate, Robin Yount, are the two Hall Of Fame-caliber players from that era that I was least excited about seeing play at the time.