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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 14, 2008 8:19 AM

Monday blues

Posted by Geoff Baker

I see cliff diving has regained popularity with some of you after a couple of days' worth of hiatus. Certainly, there is some angst while awaiting the results of Erik Bedard's hip injury. From what I'm hearing, this isn't season-ending stuff. That would be catastrophic to this team's playoff hopes, no doubt. But for now, it is not that severe. So, let's see what transpires and take things from there.

For couger, in the comments thread, No. 1, learn how to spell cougar. No. 2, if you think you're going to get someone to cry "uncle'' on a contender's expected playoff hopes two weeks into a 26-week season, you're best off going back to watching football. In baseball, one week is a mere blip on the radar screen. I saw it written on one blog that things could not have gone much worse for the M's the first two weeks of the season.

Au contraire, mes amis. As bad as things have looked for the M's at times, they could be far worse. The M's could have lost three of the first four series, rather than winning three of four, and found themselves with a record of 3-10 instead of 6-7. They could be five games out of first place instead of two. Carlos Silva could have been a major bust instead of pitching the way Bedard was supposed to for this team.

It's not eternal optimism, it's just reality. Even if you really thought the Oakland A's were going to run away with this division, a two-game deficit with 24 weeks to go is hardly insurmountable. So, first things first. The M's will take care of some bullpen housekeeping tonight by adding R.A. Dickey to the club. In return, Eric O'Flaherty will be sent down to Class AAA Tacoma. Not everyday a team bails on its once-designated situational lefty two weeks into a season, but O'Flaherty has options left and this is the right move to make at this stage.

Dickey can handle lefties and righties with his knuckleball. O'Flaherty can't handle either right now. Some of you keep asking why John McLaren left him out there for so long yesterday. The answer is twofold. The game was already pretty much over after O'Flaherty and Cha Seung Baek gave up those fifth-inning runs. Yes, it was only 4-0, but the M's were showing zero spark offensively. They didn't get anything going until they were down 7-0 and at that point, the runs they put up were meaningless. The odds against a comeback were astronomical.

Back to O'Flaherty, though. Thing is, it's his job, as the second lefthander, to go more than just a few batters. The team's other long man, Baek, had started the game. What you don't do as a manager, with your team already down 4-0, is burn a string of relief pitchers instead of sticking to your second long guy. Especially when you've gone with only an 11-man pitching staff despite a slew of injuries (good thing the M's kept that extra bench player, insn't it? Who could have seen this coming?). Somebody had to suck up the innings this time and the job went to O'Flaherty. The second aspect of keeping O'Flaherty out there was hoping -- praying? -- he found an answer. But if you're the manager, and you know O'Flaherty's performance just bought him a ticket to Tacoma, why not leave him out there to take a pounding and save some of your bullpen? If his psyche is so delicate that he'll never recover, then O'Flaherty won't be in the big leagues very long. My guess is he'll survive his latest shellacking and live to fight another day.

But someone had to pick the innings up. What a dumb manager would do is manage this 4-0 game as if a World Series were on-the-line on April 13. Then, he would head into this two-game set with the Kansas City Royals -- a series the M's should at least split -- with a gassed bullpen and a chance of being swept. That's what a bad manager would have done. So, yes, in essence, McLaren more or less sacrificed this one game, one the odds said his team was destined to lose, by pitching someone whose job it is to pitch in those situations and not bailing on him at the first sign of trouble.

It had the impact of losing the battle while saving enough troops to win the long-term war. Don't kid yourselves. You cannot manage a bullpen the same way you normally would when so many key guys are missing from it. You do have to conserve arms for when they are truly needed. Not to mop up a 4-0 game in which your offense has gone AWOL.

The lack of perspective by some of you is truly intriguing. I can understand the angst over Bedard. Yes, I will admit the team's playoff chances without him will take a severe hit. But no one has said his season is done just yet. No one, as far as I can tell, is even hinting at it.

One week ago, the M's were being swept by the Orioles. They have since gone 4-2, taking a series on the road and another at home against a team they have to beat this year. Seattle has already notched a third of its 2007 win total against the Angels. But because they did not go 5-1, everyone is abandoning ship. Very interesting indeed.

The things that are keeping me from ripping into this team right now are, in no particular order:

1. An offense that scored 16 runs the first two games of the Angels series. All of you Pythagorean fans, the team's run differential has improved, albeit with a teeny sample size. But remember, the offense was the biggest problem a week ago. It has shown signs of coming around. Yes, it will be inconsistent. It will not score eight runs per game all year. That's where the pitching is supposed to come in and save the day.

2. The M's have won three of their first four series. As I said, it's very tough to do that and still have a losing record. Not when the series are at least three games long. I don't have the time to do a big historical check on the odds of this happening, but it did not occur last year. The Cleveland Indians nearly had it happen to them at the start of last season, but won their 13th game to go to 7-6. Anyone noticed the Indians are 5-7 to start this year? The model franchise every baseball club has to be fashioned after? Yes, there are a lot of teams around the game having problems with injuries and underperformance so far. Two weeks into a season is not the time to panic.

3. Carlos Silva has been everything this team hoped for and more.

4. Seattle is hanging in there despite its closer being hurt, its situational lefty imploding and its late-inning righty also being hurt. With the offense being invisible in the middle of the order for the first week and a half. With its supposed "ace'' pitcher now having been scratched from two starts.

So, no. This isn't even close to being the worst start possible by the Mariners. Yes, there are some areas for concern. But this is hardly the recipe to abandon ship. When will that time come? Not for a long while. It intrigues me that our blog numbers seem to jump when the team loses, but steadily decrease when the team wins. Not sure what to make of that. Any ideas?

There are 24 more of these weeks to go. If you find this tone condescending already, some of you aren't going to make it past Week 3. Take a chill pill, deep breathe and see if your team can make it back to .500 by tonight. Eleven of the 14 American League teams are within two games of .500 at the moment. The M's are not unique in that regard. Try to keep what's happened in perspective and let's see what other moves are made in addition to Dickey/O'Flaherty.


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Posted by Ziasudra

8:36 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Thanks Geoff - any news on the status of Mike Morse?

Posted by scotty boi

8:37 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Geoff, I was just wondering about Mike Morse and what the results of his MRI yesterday. Also, Norton looked good yesterday. What do you think the likelyhood of him moving to left, Raul DHing and Vidro packing his bags or coming off the bench are?

Posted by downinthegroove

8:38 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Add a sweep in for that series loss. Not always a silver lining....That is why this is a middling .500 team.

The past few years are the same as this...Call it a trend.

Posted by khardy

8:39 AM, Apr 14, 2008

THANKS GEOFF!

There are certain blogs that almost aren't worth reading when the Mariners lose.

I think the mantra "Things are never as good as they seem, but they're never as bad either" aptly describes this weekend.

How many starts did the M's lose Felix for last season? We still managed to be a playoff contender into late August, and that was with a much worse starting rotation than we have now. We can survive Bedard being out, but not for long.

Posted by rambler

8:40 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Geoff,

Whats the deal with Roy Corcoran? He is very solid! He has been a great call up with 0.00 era.

Posted by phlotis

8:53 AM, Apr 14, 2008

What is up with the RSS link, it doesn't work...

I agree with KHardy completely. Hard to visit the forum after a loss. I can only attribute it to the people that are the most angry may have a decent percentage that truly believes this team can take it all the way. When there is a loss their dream is crushed. Personally I like to watch a team for a month before passing judgement.

Posted by Mint Husky

8:57 AM, Apr 14, 2008

So since the purpose of this blog has shifted to talking jumpers off the cliff, when CAN we panic Geoff?

We may as well rename the blog "don't panic, it's still early" but I'm just curious when the tipping point is. I'll take your advice and remain calm, but I do really WANT to panic so I'd like to know when I can.

How bout the middle of May when Bedard's missed 6 starts and Mac still looks like a moron? Is that too early?

Posted by Babu

8:58 AM, Apr 14, 2008

I would put Greg Norton in the "pleasant surprises" category along with Silva -- again, admittedly with a very small sample size. Another pleasant surprise? Yesterday, Raul was leading the AL in total bases.

And mon Dieu, Cougar, at least spell it in French if not in English!

Posted by t2

8:59 AM, Apr 14, 2008

My only complaint re yesterday's game is I think Mac should have had Morse sacrifice with 2 on and nobody out down 2-0. The chance of Morse getting a hit off Saunders was extremely small, given how Saunders was pitching combined with the fact that Morse has been on the bench so long this season. A sacrifice could have led to at least one run, and with the game 2-1 that may have changed how Mac later used the pen.

Posted by Husky Fan In New York

9:07 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Thanks Geoff, for telling it like it is and setting people straight. It's a long season indeed and we have to get guys healthy!!!!

Posted by scottM

9:07 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Who's blue, GEOFF? A win today will be great.

Now, if Mr. Jose Guillen hits for the cycle and the M's lose 4-0, EVERYONE (as you put it) will have just cause to be rankled. (Especially me and Frankie and our defunct "Extend Guillen Society.")

Posted by kranky

9:09 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Look it up back in the comments during the Baltimore series. Kranky said O'Flaherty was not getting it done. Kranky was right. Kranky now asks: Why in world is Miguel Cairo on this team? McLaren needs help in picking his players.

Posted by thatgirl

9:11 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Geoff, You are an excellent Shrink. Thanks for the attitude adjustment / perspective talk.

What's the status, situation (or lack there of) regarding Chris Reitsma? Any news from him or about him lately?

Posted by eastcoast

9:19 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Several things:
First - it seems as if this team would benefit more from the addition of a seventh BP arm instead of carrying 4 bench players (not counting Burke). WB and Cairo have seen very little playing time - why not send one down and call up Jimenez or Rhodes as a second LH. Also, I understand why they have Baek here, but I really don't see how he fits into any future M's plan, and he isn't even pitching that much - so send him down/release him when Morrow is ready. I was happy to hear the EOF for Dickey move, and JJ probably isn't that far away. A BP of Dickey, RRS, Green, Lowe, Jimenez/Rhodes, Morrow and JJ should be pretty solid.

Secondly - It's unfortunate to hear about Morse but his misplay of the 5th inning fly ball was a back-breaker. His bat is solid but the M's have shown early that they need to seriously tighten up their D. Personally, I would like to see a bench of Bloomie, Norton, and Balentien. Wlad could fill Morse's shoes, and play better D. I would also let him play vs the occ RH so he doesn't rot on the bench. Norton should be given a shot to beat out Wilkerson - did Wilk even earn that spot or did it come with the contract? And Bloomie is versatile enough to play any position, inc CF when Ich is off.

Last - it was very disappointing to not see Bedard go for the sweep. That's exactly the type of game he was brought here for. However, it is early and you have to be happy with the early showings of Felix, Silva, Raul, Lopez, and.. i can't believe I'm saying this, Sexson. Just remember, it IS early, and I think this team can make some upgrades within.

Posted by slescotts

9:19 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Ryan Frank...err Clint Nage...,wait, EOF needs to get it straightened out, of course. Glad we got Dickey back. He deserves a shot after his spring. Can you imagine how potentially debilitating it'll be to have a power pitcher keeping you off balance like Hernandez, followed by Dickey... the speed change alone might be enough to rattle some guys, add the movement and we might have a great set-up guy. I look forward to his ability to log innings and only hope that he can keep those odd run explosions/control issues that seem to curse a good knuckleballers every full moon or so, in check. As for Morse, is he inconsistent at the plate because he doesn't get consistent at-bats, or does he not get consistent at bats because he is inconsistent at the plate. He certainly doesn't look like much of a RF. The FSN crew was talking about his Batting Practice and his ability to 'launch' balls. Uh, that's fine and good. It's his eye during a real game that's suspect. Trouble is, I don't see Wilkerson, the human out-machine, the multimillion dollar offensive and payroll drain, being any better.

Posted by Moe DeLon

9:23 AM, Apr 14, 2008

More and more, it looks like the choices coming out of Spring training were not the best ones. Baek is not suited at long reliever. We've need pitchers more than the extra bench player. The lack of the lefty or any power off the bench.
Now, these things are being addressed. Norton is up for more lefty pop on the bench. Dickey is here to provide the long relief that Baek can't. What else will happen? Reed or Balentien to replace Morse. Or will another pitcher come up? (Putz/Rhodes/Morrow - anybody ready?)
I think things are rounding into shape, though.

Posted by daddydriz

9:23 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Geoff, right on. While it is legitimate to have some angst over some aspects of things (pitching to Guerrero, Bedard, Morse, Cairo, O'Flaherty), to throw the season down the crapper based on a 6-7 record is ludicrous. If the M's had split with the O's, we wouldn't even be talking about this. But it happened. It's history. Get over it.

Baseball is a marathon. If you don't think so, then go back to watching pro (or better yet, college) football. Do I wish the record were 8-5? Of course. But it could be worse. We could be cheering for the Tigers.

Posted by tylerv

9:35 AM, Apr 14, 2008

2 Questions-

What is the significance of starting the season with an 11 or 12 man pitching staff? Can't the just decide to go from 11 to 12 at any point and just option / waiver a bench player? Or are there rules to prevent a team from altering its pitching staff size once the season has begun?

Another more off topic question- What does it mean when announcers talk about coaches being 'charged' for visits to the mound. Are they only allowed a certain number?

Thanks

Posted by Donovan

9:36 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Amen Brother Geoff. I have no problem reading well-reasoned criticism of the M's, or counterpoints to other posters (myself included). I learn a lot from disagreements in fact, which is one of the main reasons I'm here. The hystrionics resulting from yesterday's game are so disproportionate to the significance of the loss as to be laughable, bordering on pathetic, however. Either a lot of posters here have never actually watched an entire baseball season, or they just have a lot more emotional investment in each and every game than I can imagine. Are you guys this volatile about everything in life, or just sports? It is traditional to use sports blogs to vent, I realize, but it makes for really boring reading. Maybe we should have a rule that with every "Mac is a moron" or "Bavasi is a pedophile" rant, you have to at least post some quasi-rational observation or question with some actual baseball substance? Maybe there should be a separate "M's Lose" thread for 4 hours after every loss where those so inclined could spew bile and get it out of their systems, then we can return to intelligent discourse. Well, maybe that's kind of what we have. Maybe yesterday was just bad because we went back to seasonal dreariness after the tease of sunshine the day before.

Anyway, I posted before the game yesterday about all the positive signs among team offensive stats. Even after the limp performance yesterday, the M's are in the top 5 in the AL in the following categories: Runs, Hits, HRs, RBIs, TBs, Walks, OBP, and SLG. We have the lowest total K's of any team (that is just amazing to me), and we are third in team OPS, which is widely regarded as the most important single offensive stat. Yes, it is early, but with 432 team ABs, it isn't ridiculous to make comparisons between teams. Our offense isn't "non-existent" as some have posted. It is actually decent, and it should get better. Most hitters need a few weeks to get on track. Our starting pitching is great. Barring a season ending injury (which there is no reason to suspect - it isn't as if Bedard has arm problems), it will be great all year. The bullpen has also been great, except for EOF, and that's with JJ out. When he gets back, we will be in good shape there. The sky isn't falling.

And as for the idiots and morons who run the team, there are encouraging signs there too. Mac has not hesitated to address problems on the field. He gave Sexson a week in the cleanup role, then slid him down to a position more befitting his actual performance (walk machine). He brought Norton up when it become obvious that we needed a bat with pop on the bench more than we needed 3 PRs. Now Dickey is coming up and EOF will go down to figure out his deal. He is making the correct moves. Yes, some of you would have done the same before the season, and you would have been right. I would have had Norton and Dickey up opening day too. But the tired old truism that Mac is incapable of making changes to the lineup (which wasn't even true last year - that was Grover) doesn't really hold water. As some of the calmer posters here have noted, Mac has some good options, and I think we will see him using them, though the timing won't be to everybody's liking. The main thing is that Mac isn't panicking, though some of you are. What I see in the M's right now looks a lot better than what I saw on the field a year ago. This team can beat out the Angels for the Division. That doesn't mean they will, but no question they can.

Posted by BandwagonJumper

9:40 AM, Apr 14, 2008

I would guess the reason there are many more posts when games are lost rather than won is people like to vent their frustration. When they are mad and they can nitpick at every little detail. When the M's win people are more happy no real need to vent frustration because even though people didn't quite play up to par with expatiations the M's still found a way to win. Typically more of the team plays well in wins so there are less players to nitpick about.

Really as posters we should us constructive criticism in both the wins and losses. When a player is doing bad, don’t write “this guy sucks” with no explanation, but say something like “his clutch hitting is something to be desired, I’m continually disappointed each time he comes to the play it’s time for him to have a few days on the bench.” Or for instance if a pitcher wins a game but he only had one pitch that was any good say “he was a little off his game, was glad his fastball was working, he was pretty lucky today because his curve and change up were way off target and if it wasn’t for the third baseman’s continual supper star effort this game really would have gotten out of hand really fast. In a way it’s what Adam has been doing with EOF. He’s been pointing out the EOF has some good stuff, just getting unlucky, not ragging on EOF for his performance in games but stating that he was making some pretty good pitches just getting unlucky.

I think a little time for EOF in AAA will help and hopefully if he is needed down the road he will be back to much better for. Maybe all he need to do it was Felix did over the off season work on mixing his pitches up a little more so he's not so predictable.

I think I agree with Mac’s decision to leave EOF in yesterday, if we had burnt the bull pen and held the Angles to 4 we could have won it but at the cost of not having a bull pen for the next game and with Washburn going, more than likely we will need a little bit of the bull pen today.

Posted by Al

9:41 AM, Apr 14, 2008

"The answer is twofold. The game was already pretty much over after O'Flaherty and Cha Seung Baek gave up those fifth-inning runs. Yes, it was only 4-0, but the M's were showing zero spark offensively."

That's incorrect in terms of the reasoning. It was 2-0 when Baek left the game and Mclaren was very much trying to manage for a win. Why else would he have Baek intentionally walk Vlad with a runner on and then bring in O'Flaherty to face Anderson with 2 men on.

If Mclaren thought the game was over then he would have left Baek in to try and get through as much of the game as possible. Baek may have been tired since he threw about 84 pitches, but I doubt that was the reason he was pulled.

Last how can anyone not be worried about a hip problem that could linger or even become worse over the season. Even missing a month or two of the season makes the trade for the super FRAGILE ace worthless. You seriouly never know what Bavasi might do when he's pressured or in a tight situation. He traded Soriano for nothing. Sent Asdrubal Cabrera, OF Left handed hitting prospect Choo, and hard throwing pitching Nottingham to Cleveland for retired Eduardo Perez and now Texas 1st Baseman Broussard. Can't forget he recently traded potentially 900+ games of team control of Premium OF defense, and true 5 tool potential in Jones, 50 plus games of Relief this year from Sherrill, and 3 pitching prospects that could have helped this year and within the next 2 years. The whole reason you sent all that for the FRAGILE ace was because you were banking on Bedard making all 68-69 starts he could possibly make in his 2 seasons in Seattle before he bolted for a place closer to home that will offer more money. I mean he's made all his starts without getting hurt in consective seasons 0 times in his whole life of pitching so expecting that to suddenly be the case in Seattle is very reasonable.

Seriously, you think Bavasi is just going to let this team tank, He'll probably chuck the whole farm this year just to save his job. I can see it now Clement, Balentien, Triunfel, JC Ramirez and Tui for Matt Morris. How can you put it past Bavasi, just look at his track record.

But then again it's only 2 weeks into the season, so here's to hoping that the M's just got over the biggest bump of their season and every thing's going to just miraculously start clicking.



Posted by Adam

9:44 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Hey Geoff - any rumblings about when/whether Bedard is going to have an MRI? I have a feeling this is more serious than the team has let on.


As I said last night - if the team loses Bedard for any period of time, any advantage we gained with the Lackey/Escobar injuries is gone.


And it was the right decision to make the Dickey/O'Flaherty move. EOF needs to work on his control a bit. I firmly believe he's the best LH reliever in the system, so we need to get him straight.

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

9:45 AM, Apr 14, 2008

O-4 is not an insurmountable lead, and I take issue with Geoff's suggestion that the game was over and Mac was justified throwing in the towel. This was not the world series, true, but a sweep against the angels would have been HUGE for morale, and similarly, throwing in the towel and sending the message to the troops that we just can't cut it is HUGELY demoralizing. We did go on to score 5 runs after that, remember? If Mac had actually fought for the win, by, oh i don't know, putting in Corcoran or someone who could actually throw, this game could have become a W. As a fan, it makes me sick to my stomach to see our manager lie down in the fetal position like he did last night. please mac, have a little self respect! and if you can't respect yourself, at least respect OUR time- we didn't become fans so we can spend our sunday afternoons watching the angels sluggers take batting practice on a minor league hack like OF.

But I'm not down on the team, I'm just down on Macs horrible strategy. Lets hope all of our good relievers who got the middle innings "off" while OF was getting hammered got enough rest to beat KC tonight.

Posted by Wildman

9:46 AM, Apr 14, 2008

"It intrigues me that our blog numbers seem to jump when the team loses, but steadily decrease when the team wins. Not sure what to make of that. Any ideas?"

I wonder about this, too, Geoff. I think when there's nothing to complain about, there's nothing to say - it may be that simple. The mentality of the fan is "Things are fine. Leave it alone." A soon as things go whacky the mentality of the fan becomes "Things are not fine. What's wrong?". The blog gives the fan a chance to espouse their opinion in the public forum. It certainly makes sense that when things go wrong - whether it be personal or public - that a person would want to vent. It's indicative of the passion. If things go wrong and the blog writing stays the same, that would indicate that there is just a constant fanbase out there who care. But, by having the blog numbers increase during losing times, it shows you that the fans out there care about their team. That's very cool. Keep up the good work, Geoff! Here's hoping your blog numbers don't jump! ;)

Posted by PRchef

9:51 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Geoff

You have a special gift for calming down the mood when people start freaking out, well at least my mood (after todays post). But you also have a nack for making things seem a little gloomier as well. That's how I felt after reading "Bedard scratched, Beltre also hurting" Sometimes it feels like a little roller coaster ride from posting to posting.

If Bedard winds up going down for a little while, is Baek going to be the starter until he comes back? Is there any chance of Dickey starting some games?

Not sure on the whole blog numbers theory but by the way, I am an equal opportunity blogger. I just don't have the time to do it every day. But I try...

It is also hard to read it everyday when there is so much negativity being thrown around, especially when I am trying to keep an optimistic view of the team. Just seems like things are constantly getting rehashed and it gets a little old.

Thanks for doing an awesome job

I look forward to reading your future posts the rest of the season

Posted by Walla Walla Girl

9:56 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Hey scottM,

As a former member of the now defunct "Extend Guillen Society," I smiled to read your post above.

Here's hoping for a Mariner win tonight. :)

(Am I the only one who has trouble reading the characters in the pictures before submitting a post? Hmmmmm.)

Posted by Mike

9:59 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Of course Geoff is right. The season is a marathon. But if Bedard is hurting more than the Ms are letting on I reserve the right to freak out just a little.

Posted by Ben

10:01 AM, Apr 14, 2008

I was at the game yesterday - and from what i can tell, mike morse should not play outfield... he was terrible. He takes about 3 seconds to decide if he needs to run or not and then he ends every play diving to make up for the fact that he has no first step - let alone a bad one (he made a very bad initial move in the game too - letting a slicing line drive go in the opposite direction he was running). So i don't see his injury as that big of a deal. Greg Norton seemed pretty good as a back up to Wilkerson.

Maybe Morse should just be an infield utility guy - although there is not much room for that on this team...

Anyway, here's to Bedard being out for only a couple days.

Posted by Paul

10:02 AM, Apr 14, 2008

I don't totally disagree, Geoff, about Mac throwing in the towel last night. And if Mac had no control over the personnel and construction of this team, I'd hardly blame the guy. But the fact that Mac carries an 11-man pen instead of 12 is the primary reason he HAD to throw in the towel - that was his call. The fact that Mac waited this long to send O'F down is the only reason he was in the game to give up 6 ER. And to be honest, Mac has a track record of in-game mismanagement. He's done it since he took over last year, and I'm of the opinion he's mismanaged the team into 2 or 3 losses that COULD have been won. If Mac lacked the track record, last night would be one-and-done, as far as I'm concerned. But the frustration does build.

I was never part of any bandwagon that piled up against Hargrove and called for his head, if one existed. I always loved Lou. I didn't always agree with their management, but it wasn't something I constantly worried about. I always had confidence that they knew the team well enough to be in control. Alas, that's why they had the job as skipper. But it's SO evident that Mac lacks the ability to make these decisions effectively. The outcomes of his decisions bear this out. If he hasn't learned by now (30+ years in baseball, right?), I figure he's probably not going to learn.

I know it'll be viewed by some as "jumping off a cliff", but I think Mac's run out of leash, and should be replaced. I know Ichiro will need a tissue, but I suspect that most of the team will view it as the right move moving forward. It'd be awfully nice to focus on a game as an M's fan and focus on PLAYER performance rather than MANAGER performance again. It's been a while....

...oh, and Tylerv: there is no rule restricting how many pitchers/position players a team carries, and it can be changed at will throughout the season. And a coach/manager may only make 1 visit to the mound per inning, then they MUST make a pitching change if they want to cross the white line again. The plate umpire can make an exception for a trainer/injury or something unusual.

Posted by cesame

10:03 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Wow, you are so full of crap. Insurmountable lead? It was only 4-0 and the Angels bullpen has been crap this year. Throwing away games against your main competition in your division is a joke.

Posted by sjazzdude

10:06 AM, Apr 14, 2008

With Morse being injured, does this mean Bloomquist will get the opportunity to play? If he does, don't expect much production out of him tonight. That's what happens when Mac doesn't utilize all of his bench players. Bloomquist is the type of player that gets more consistent with more playing time. With his versatility, he can fill in the outfield and the infield.

Morse has seemed lost in RF subbing for Wilkerson and Ibanez' mobility in LF is apparent. Why don't they bring up Balentien to play RF and Bloomquist could spell Ibanez in LF. That would give Vidro his needed rest by giving the DH duties to Ibanez.

Bloomquist can also give rest to the infielders as well. He can spell Lopez a couple of games. Lopez has shown he goes through the occasional let down.

The point is that Bloomquist is vital to this team, and Mac needs to utilize him. Bloomquist doesn't do this team any good by sitting on the bench, and he's not going to get any better by sitting on the bench.

Posted by Mike

10:16 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Because Willie Bloomquist is a poor hitter.

Posted by Go M's!

10:25 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Well done Geoff. I still believe this team will be right there all year. Keep winning every 3 out of 5 games and this team will win 95 games. The Angels don't look that great and the A's are playing above their heads. 149 games left folks.

GO M's!!

Posted by i heart Morse

10:28 AM, Apr 14, 2008

I love how Geoff time and time again demonstrates how valuable perspective is to quality journalism.

To answer his embedded question…personally, I hit the blog more when we’re losing simply because it’s the only thing that takes me away from the game. It’s either that or throw things/cry/complain to my fiancé (which drives her crazy). When we’re winning I sit in front of the tv and bask it in. No need to storm to the computer and type out the frustration.

Posted by stango

10:29 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Thanks for the dose of sanity, Geoff. As to the number of comments after losses, sometimes it's a matter of timing. They won on Friday and Saturday, and I, for one, don't spend all my weekend nights posting on a blog (plus I went to the game on Saturday)

I think that a lot of the histrionics come from the fact that, despite being really early, those of us who were concerned about the roster coming into the season are seeing our worst fears come true already. It is a marathon, and the small sample size has justified our fears: bad defense, Bedard's injury history, and the utter lack of any depth (BP and bench) on this team. The long season will not improve our depth or defense, it will more likely highlight these deficiencies even more. The Bedard book is still in the prologue phase.

It's true that our starting pitching was awful last year, and we needed to improve that. However, in order to do so, we greatly weakened a strength (BP), and a different area that was already weak (bench), without improving the defense or team speed, the last two of which is what a singles- and gap-hitting team that plays in a pitcher's park needs in spades.

Posted by oregongal

10:33 AM, Apr 14, 2008

I'd guess the reason numbers go up when the team loses is there's something to debate. When Ichiro makes a great throw to Kenji, who's blocked the plate perfectly, there's not to say but yea.

On the other hand, when something goes wrong, there are different takes on what exactly went wrong (was Morse's poor fielding typical for him, an aberration, just bad luck, Mac's fault for putting him in, Bavasi's fault for putting him on the team, is good offense worth bad fielding). And then there's something to debate, often ferociously. Even if you're not involved in the debate, there's something worth refreshing the page for.

I don't usually stay on the blog during games, but if something happened I want more info on, I'll sneak back in and check to see if you've done an update or if someone else can explain it or saw the same thing.

On another topic, one of the things about Mac is he always wants to keep someone in reserve. I remember a couple of games last year when he said he didn't bring in a pinch runner or pinch hitter in the 7th or 8th because he wanted to have options later in the game (the whole reason we've got Cairo, he said.) I'm still of the mind that you take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. It was interesting watching the Yankees last night. They were so ferociously going after the Sox that Posada ending up going from DH to catching in the 8th, so the Yankees lost the DH. But Girardi used his bench aggressively all the way through. (Fortunately, they still lost.)

Posted by dfb

10:33 AM, Apr 14, 2008

I rarely blog when the team loses because I can't stand to read all the whining. Considering what has happened to the Tigers it is beyond humorous to read some of the responses on this blog about the M's. Honestly I think some of the posters just want to find something to be unhappy about. Considering the injuries (which happen to every team-look at the Yanks) and the slow start for Ichiro and Johjima among others the M's have done pretty well I think. A lot of the concerns before the season like Sexson and Lopez seem to be answered so there is much to be optimistic about.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

10:34 AM, Apr 14, 2008

I absolutely agree with your 4 points about why this team is fine, Geoff. The team is fine. The manager and his in-game management are what scares me.

Geoff, down 4-0 in the 5th inning is NOT insurmountable. That's the difference right there between "slumping offense" and "poor offense". Giving up on the game when it's 4-0, says to the offense that in 4 innings, at home, the entire offense cannot produce 4 runs. Are you kidding? A contender can't produce 4 to 5 runs over the course of half a game, at home?

Slow April start for some guys - I get that. Season as a marathon - I get that. However, the poor offense becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when Mac isn't trying to inspire them to do better. One more bullpen call could have been the difference here, and if that didn't work out then yes, let whoever it is eat the remaining innings.

Which gets more to the core of why I think some people flip out at losses or Mac's decisions. It touches on a nerve with Seattle fans because we've had to put up with listless, complacent teams for too long. Aside from '95, and turn of the century, Mariners teams just give up too easily. You can see it in the body language, you see it in the managerial choices in-game, you see it in the kind of players the organization brings in (Jose Guillen notwithstanding). Jeff Nelson (the pitcher) complained about that years ago, and was booted out of the org. Scott Spiezio (for all his personal trouble and lack of contribution here) saw it too. This has been part of Ms history for years. So we're hypersensitive to it.

THAT is why I am flipping out in April, Geoff. You bring up perfectly valid points about how well the Ms are starting, how good they're doing in spite of challenges and compared to the rest of baseball. I realize it could be worse, we could be Tigers fans.

However, the early signs are that Mac does not have the ability to manage the bullpen and bench to win a close game, or to try to rally. There's no rabble-rouser, no inspirational voice in the dugout kicking people in the ass to go out there and get back in the game. That tone needs to be set, either explicitly from the manager or through encouraging a clubhouse leader.

That will become important when the Ms play the Angels 8 times in September. If it comes down to Sciosca v. McLaren as difference makers in September, it's no contest; it'd be like a chess match between Kasparov and my cat. I know statistically a manager directly affects or contributes to perhaps 2 or 3 wins a season, tops. But if the good signs we see in a more patient offense and strong rotation continue, 2 or 3 games may be the difference.

Eastcoast has it exactly right: "it is early and you have to be happy with the early showings of Felix, Silva, Raul, Lopez, and.. i can't believe I'm saying this, Sexson. " Donovan is also right, in that Mac is starting to disprove the preseason worries that he will be inflexible and not make the right roster and lineup changes to improve things. EOF for Dickey, for example, even though I would have had a faster hook than they have.

Let's put it this way: I just wish I could fast-forward to August, without knowing the standings, and watch Mac manage a series that matters, without the "it's only April, it's a marathon" reasoning. And then come back here to watch in context. I just don't have faith at this point in the season that he's the right guy to keep the team on track to the playoffs.

Posted by sjazzdude

10:39 AM, Apr 14, 2008

If Bloomquist is indeed that bad of a hitter, he wouldn't be up here. In fact, he and Morse had the hottest bats this spring training. All I'm saying is that it's a waste to have him up here just to sit on the bench.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

10:39 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Oregongal's comments about why people come here more when the team loses are exactly right.

I have to think Geoff asked that question already knowing the answer, simply to get more posts / traffic. ;) ;)

Posted by Anthony

10:40 AM, Apr 14, 2008

OK, people need to relax. And certainly people like Steve Kelley don't really help matters when they right knee-jerk reaction columns. This is a "play-it-safe" move by scratching Bedard because of a little hip soreness. Folks, it's a hip injury. It's not his arm, hand or even a leg injury -- all that can keep a pitcher on the DL for a sustained amount of time. This is a hip injury and as someone who has dealed with "hip inflammation" it's no big deal. If this was August-October Bedard would be on the mound pitching through it. At most he's going to be bumped back another two days and the rotation will become what it was at the beginning of the season: Bedard, Felix, Silva, Wash and Batista. If MacLaren and had simply said they were holding him back to reset the rotation would anyone be worried? No and that's pretty much what is going on. RELAX. Shit...

Now, can we start talking about the Royals? I'm worried about this series for two reasons: 1) were facing Greinke today who is pitching incredibly to start the season and 2) we're countering with Wash and 0-2 Batista. Game 2, which should be an easy win, is now sketchy because of Batista going. We need to find a way to beat Greinke and sweep the Royals.

Posted by oregongal

10:42 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Sorry to be a grandma, but there are a lot of kids who read the blog. Could we keep language to the level you'd hear on basic cable? Thanks.

Posted by scrapiron

10:44 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Chris - I don't think you can say that Mac can't manage a bullpen just yet. The entire bullpen is built around the foundation, which is a healthy Putz. All the other roles fall out of that. With JJ down, everyone is scrambling. The Angels are going through it too, which is why we were able to score so easily on their bullpen. A healthy F-Rod makes their entire bullpen stronger, not just the closer.

Let Putz be the closer, Let RRS or Rhodes be the situational lefty, let Morrow be the situational righty, and then you have Green, Dickey, et al, to get their short innings in. If all the pieces are in place and they still struggle, then you can say Mac doesn't know what he's doing. So far his grade has to be incomplete.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

10:45 AM, Apr 14, 2008

OGal - I agree with you, but sorry to say, but check your cable package; some of that language IS on basic cable. You need to set your standards higher than what you'd hear on Comedy Central. ;)

While we're all whining this morning - where exactly are those "Changes are coming in the months ahead to our comment functionality that will allow us to better-control the content."? We've seen that in the heading of the blog for, well, months...

Posted by Chris from Bothell

10:48 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Scrap - Sorry, man, that's 180 degress from how I understand it. A manager - or people in general - shouldn't be measured on how he does when everything goes to plan. They should be measured on how well they shore things up when crises occur. Otherwise there's no need for a manager at all. It's Mac's *job* to compensate for the loss of JJ. That it's difficult, that other teams are going through it too... well, that's why they pay him the big (um, ok medium-sized) bucks.

And having JJ around wouldn't have helped in the 5th inning of a 2-run game yesterday, even with the ripple effect of who'd be available for what. it's why Mac is doing these things, not just the bodies being used.

Posted by Paul

10:48 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Scrapiron - why stick with 11 pitchers? I don't disagree that Putz being out presents a new set of challenges, but if Mac made a simple, logical decision to add a pitcher and send down a useless sub like Cairo, don't you think that would be good managing? He did what he had to at the end of last year with a tired pen. Now he's CREATING a tired pen to carry Cairo (or Morse, or Bloomie, wherever your allegiance lies). The man doesn't learn....

Posted by Mike

10:49 AM, Apr 14, 2008

"If Bloomquist is indeed that bad of a hitter, he wouldn't be up here. In fact, he and Morse had the hottest bats this spring training."

Bloomquist is not a terrible hitter compared to, say, me. But compared to other major leaguers he really is. His lifetime OPS is .641.

He is versatile defensively and can steal a base which makes him a serviceable 25th man on a roster.

Posted by eagoldb

10:50 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Geoff, I think the reason blog traffic goes up after a loss is because everybody wants to place themselves in the manager's seat - and it's much easier to manage the team from the comfort of home using hindsight to pick apart any mistakes that may have been made after a loss. It's much harder to do this after a win as there should be a lot less to question.

Posted by Paul

10:56 AM, Apr 14, 2008

To be fair, eagoldb, lots of people have been first-guessing management. A lot of people think Mac (others blame Bavasi, but I don't personally) has created these problems himself, so complaining about a depleted bullpen or a DL'd JJ Putz or an underperforming situational-lefty doesn't hold water. If Bavasi didn't provide Mac with options (Dickey, Clement, Wlad, Jimenez, Norton...), it would be on him. But Mac has made his decisions, and he's handcuffed himself. So.... I don't think people are second-guessing after tough losses with the benefit of hindsight so much as they're venting frustrations about mismanagement that pretty much all of us can see.

Posted by slescotts

11:00 AM, Apr 14, 2008

I am not certain that recognizing the Front Office's oft-poor decision making and a rather confusing retreat from the team to beat in the AL West, when we're only down by 2 runs is cliff jumping. Mac plays the team he is given to play. I have no problem with him. Mr. Baker, what bothers me, and likely concerns the rest of us 'lemmings', is that this organization makes the same mistakes habitually and we are left in the lurch. This is a great franchise and my favorite team and it pains me that it is being run so poorly at the organizational level. We have too much talent, a vast amount of resources that are being misapplied, and a likewise 'concerned' fanbase.

Posted by oregongal

11:00 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Chris--Tee hee on the cable reference. Also, right on with the management comment. I'm nowhere near giving up the M's for the season, but what most impressed me about Scioscia's management last year was that he helped put together a team with depth and he had to manage around a lot of injuries. Didn't work in the playoffs, but he got him there limping and crawling.

Posted by sjazzdude

11:04 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Eagoldb: I think the majority of us bloggers also agree that McLaren is not managing the team well right now. The losses shows us where the team needs are and gives us an indication if we feel the manager is addressing those needs.

We, the intense fans need a place to vent. I know my wife would rather have me vent on the blog than to vent towards her. This blog is probably saving my marriage. LOL

You are right, the arm chair managers have a lot to say, but hey, that gets the brain juices flowing. Where would we be with out this blog. It gets me infuriated at times but I feel better at the end. I guess that's why I get addicted to this at times.

Posted by Adam

11:06 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Anthony - all due respect, but you have no idea how severe Bedard's injury is.

Let's wait for an MRI or some medical diagnosis.

Posted by ricofoy

11:13 AM, Apr 14, 2008

As the founder and sole member of the "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Guillen" , he's doing pretty much as I expected without the pharmacuetical help he has relied on the past several years. As much as he has contributed so far ..which is a big fat NOTHING, the Royals would have been better off if he was suspended like he deserved to be.

Posted by Donovan

11:13 AM, Apr 14, 2008

I'm no fan of censorship, and kids being warped by reading this blog isn't really my main concern, but I think something is wrong when we are concerned about mild, bodily-function sort of crudities, but ok with people screaming insults and labeling other people "idiots", "morons", etc. I think malicious tone and destructive intent toward others is far more offensive than use of profanity.

I'm also ok with venting, but maintaining some sense of humor/perspective makes the vent more credible to me. This is, after all, only baseball.

I'll say this, the denizens of that Angels blog Geoff posted the link to make us look like Zen masters.

Posted by oregongal

11:24 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Donovan, I agree, but there's nothing I can do about that. Swearing doesn't bother me personally, but I know it does others. Besides, it seems like once we start getting the regular four letter words, the other things get worse.

I tend to hang out on blogs that have a no insult, personal attack rule because it lifts the level of discourse. I only come back here because of the comments of Geoff and some people like yourself.

Posted by eagoldb

11:25 AM, Apr 14, 2008

I admit to managing this team myself while at home in front of the TV or while listening to the broadcasts in my car. But I think its funny sometimes that we think we know more about the game and how to manage a team than those hired to do so based on a lifetime of experience. If you're like me, my experience is born out of 30 years of watching the Ms play- and that's it. We don't see what goes on behind the scenes, what relationships are developed in the club house and how those issues might affect on-field decisions. I'm as guilty as anyone for second-guessing Ms management - but I also recognize that I may not know everything I think I know (uh oh, getting too close to Rumsfeld-speak for comfort)...

Posted by stango

11:31 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Ogal,

"I tend to hang out on blogs that have a no insult, personal attack rule because it lifts the level of discourse. I only come back here because of the comments of Geoff and some people like yourself."

Word...

The insulting each other on here has got to stop, although today's thread is not as bad as yesterday's. As they say on USSM (never mind if some of you hate them, it's still a good rule of thumb), "if you wouldn't say it to someone in a bar, because it might get you punched in the face, don't post it here."

Posted by Donovan

11:49 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Oregongal - ditto.

In the interest of keeping the level of discourse high, I've been wanting to sound out the Bill James devotees out there on their views of his rather iconoclastic take on batting order. Specifically, he claims that batting order doesn't really matter - much. In other words, if you take a given 9 hitters with typical variability in offensive skills, you could arrange them in any random order, and their net offensive output would be almost exactly the same, over the course of a whole season (that last bit is important). While this is a slap in the face to generations of baseball fans who love to debate whether someone is a better 2-hole hitter or 6-hole hitter, it also makes some intuitive sense, since there is only one inning (the 1st) where the team can actually determine who hits first. After the 1st, there is no higher probability of the leadoff hitter leading off another inning than the 2-hole guy or the cleanup hitter. Furthermore, putting your best power hitter in 4th position does not necessarily mean he will ever come up with runners on. Randomness determines that as much or more than the batting averages of the 1,2, and 3 hitters. The only mathematical certainty is that the earlier in the order you hit, the more total at bats you will get over the season (assuming the order never changes, and everybody plays the same no. of games). It therefore makes sense to put players with high OBP earlier in the order to maximize their contribution.

A number of people have tried to assess possible batting orders using statistical simulations of actual data for real lineups. Some of these have been published (see links below). The details aren't the most riveting thing to read, but they generally conclude that the difference between the best and worst possible batting order is likely to be 1 to 3 wins per season at most, and that's assuming a stable lineup all year, which doesn't really happen. Three wins isn't trivial, but it is far less than commonly presumed. Furthermore, the traditional criteria used to set batting order almost never result in the optimal production, and are often not better than a random order. Other than your first two hitters having high OBP, there really are no significant predictable benefits from ordering the batters, according to the modelers. Simulations have also shown that the idea of "protection" of power hitters - putting a good hitter behind them - is largely a myth. There is little or no net gain in putting your best hitters back to back over the alternative of distributing them through the lineup, over the course of an entire season. Also, base-stealing speed, while a good thing, is completely irrelevant wrt batting order. A 9 hitter who can steal is just as valuable as a 2 hitter who can steal.

I'm curious if anybody has researched this topic in detail, and what they think. I'm as skeptical as anybody about the use of models to predict outcome, but I'm inclined to agree with James that the significance of batting order is massively overblown by fans and managers. Probably human elements, like how psychologically comfortable a given hitter is in a given slot, are far more important to his net offensive production than how well his skills fit a preconceived mold for a given slot in the order, and matchups with individual pitchers probably trump everything. In my fantasy world, the one where I am a ML manager (not the other one where I am MLB commissioner and do away with the DH, artificial turf, and The Wave), my batting order every night would be the rank order of the OBP of my players against the opposing pitcher. When guys were similar or had too few at bats to judge, I might alternate lefty-righty to make it tougher for relief pitchers. That would be it. Forget designating a permanent leadoff or cleanup hitter. If my main power guy had a lousy OBP against the pitcher that night, he'd bat last.

Anybody have thoughts on this? Here are a couple of links to info on attempts to assess the effect of batting order using real data. Not necessarily the best out there, but a starting point.

http://www.pankin.com/markov/btn1191.htm
http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=941681&jmp=cit&coll=GUIDE&dl=GUIDE

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

11:52 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Well, Geoff, I am certainly not jumping ship - I really don't ever do that, even though I might concede the inevitable at some point in the season (usually when the numbers can't be worked to show me there is any hope left). But I am not sure we should be looking at what the team has done as much as what it can likely do going forward. I agree the jury is out on the Bedard injury but let's face facts. Looking at how the team can compete going forward these issues becoming lasting realities will doom the season:

1. Injuries to Beltre limiting playing time and/or effectiveness;

2. Defense continuing to be plain awful. You haven't said too much about this, but this defense is actually playing worse than many of us feared. I hope you now can at least see that Ibanez's (in)ability to get to balls - and plays where he manages to take one off of odd parts of his body rather than catch them - is a problem when you've got guys like Magic Fingers Morse in RF. Defense has cost us runs already. The infield has been bad at times as well. That has to change.

3. Bedard being out for even just a significant part of the season. If Bedard is on and off the DL all year, or misses even 1/4 of the season, I argue this team can't compete with the alternatives we currently have. We created a lot of problem areas bringing him in (both in what we gave up and what we didn't spend to upgrade elsewhere), and if he can't be close to a guaranteed win for the team most every start we are pretty well sunk.

4. JJ Putz missing any additional time beyond this injury;

I'd call it more than causes for concern. It reasons to hold our breath, at the least. Bedard's injury is a small step below Felix going down last year. We've pinned our hope on that guy, and you better believe we should be freaking out when a past injury appears again to scratch him from 2 starts. I am not ready to say he's damaged goods, but what reasonable person DOESN'T have this in the back of his mind for as long as Bedard is a Mariner - whether or not he bounces back from this particular manifestation.

An ironic twist is that there was some bogus rumor about Adam Jones having a hip issue during the deal negotiation/physical stage. Maybe the source got the x-rays mixed up?

Posted by Mike

11:56 AM, Apr 14, 2008

Stats probably only of interest to me. The Ms are 5th in runs per game yet if you extrapolate these 13 games to the whole season (yes, very small sample) they score 34 fewer runs than last year.

Ms are 3rd in OPS but at a pedestrian .750 (last year they were .762). League average OPS was .760 last year and so far this year it is .726.

I wonder if this is typical for the first two weeks of the season or rather it is just too small a sample to have any meaning.

Posted by eleman

12:08 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Mac went with an 11-man staff, because we all came into the season thinking that if this team had a weakness, it was the offense. The bullpen depth only became a problem after JJ went down and a couple of the other pen guys struggled. I completely understand the reasoning for going into the season with an 11-man staff and I didn't question it. Now that it is apparent that we're going to need more help in the pen than on offense, it makes sense to add a 12th pitcher, but if we had brought up 12 pitchers to start the season and the offense was beset by injuries and poor play, there would have been a lot of people blaming McLaren for bringing 12 pitchers up to Seattle and not an extra bat off the bench. Injuries are going to happen, but you can't blame the manager for not anticipating them by bringing up an extra guy for the bullpen or the bench when they aren't needed.

Posted by tom

12:17 PM, Apr 14, 2008

The fans calm down when they recieve their fix (a win) and go to the cliff when they need a fix (a lose). They are heroin addicts in a sort and we all know what happens to addicts... they die in the gutter very unhappy lost souls. Best to not due drugs (Mariner Baseball)!

Posted by oregongal

12:20 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Donovan--I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball by Tom Tango, et al. They've looked at all kinds of interesting things.

One of them is batting order. Here's a brief condensation of pages and pages of data and analysis. They looked at:

1. Number of PA, by batting order and men on base
2. Number of PA, by batting order and outs
3. Run values, by batting order, PA, and event (hit, BB, etc.)

Then they compared different batting order positions: who gets more runs opposed to more AB.

Their conclusions (remembering that all of the differences are minor) :

"Your three best hitters should bat somewhere in the #1, #2, and #4 slots. Your fourth- and fifth-best hitters should occuply the #3 and #5 slots. The #1 and #2 slots will have players with more walks than those in the #4 and #5 slots. From slot #6 through #9, put the players in descending order of quality."

Their estimate is if you use this batting order, along with the other parts of the chapter (strikeout, basestealing, etc.), you can pick up about 5 wins a year.

Batting order is one of those things I can't imagine we'll see major changes in. In both the fans' and players' minds, certain batting order positions carry more prestige.

Considering what the Yankees just went through to get Ortiz' shirt out from under the new stadium, I'm also confident in saying that the industry continues to have a high level of superstition about tradition. A manager brave enough to move things around would be roasted when it didn't work out (and most things don't work out in baseball, it's the nature of the game).

Posted by Brian

12:23 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Do you think the Mariners will hang in there if they're hit hard by injuries the way the Angels have been? Our bullpen is a huge mess because Moseley is a starter, Bootcheck is on the DL, K-Rod has bad ankles, Shields just got off the DL a week ago, Oliver and Speier are our main guys and Speier has his own leg injury from what I read this morning.

Now it doesn't look good for Howie Kendrick, our hottest hitter. Torii Hunter has a bad toe. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I guess when the Mariners have that many injuries I'll feel bad for them. Until then the Mariners need to just play baseball and not complain about injuries. They just don't know what real injuries are yet.

Oh yeah, I forgot. We don't even have our two aces. How could I forget that one?

Posted by BandwagonJumper

12:28 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Heres some good news for M's Ibanez is the Al Co-player of the week.

http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20080414&content_id=2527139&vkey=pr_sea&fext=.jsp&c_id=sea

Correct me if I'm wrong but last season once Ibanez picked things up, Vidro started to do better also? There's still hope for the M's!

Posted by stango

12:28 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Donovan,

I saw something on FSN last week about Bill James' stat analysis of batting orders, and I haven't done any research on it.

For the record, I land right in the middle of the stat-head and strictly scouting line. They both have value, in my eyes.

I doubt if any of us are qualified to answer the good Q's you ask, but I still think that you want your power guys in the 3-5 spots, on the assumption that the high-OPB guys are batting in front of them, and therefore more likely to be on base when they come up.

If you had Ichrio, Jeter and Bonds in your line-up, according to James (as I understand it), you might as well hit Bonds first, since he's the best all-around hitter of the three. I just don't see it. I'd rather have Bonds hit 3rd, and come up with a 33-40% chance of having someone on, than have him come up with a less than 30% chance of having someone on (hitting first also guarantees one AB/game in which you have no one on, obviously).

Without any stats to back up (as no one constructs their lineup this way) I just don't agree with James on this. Unfortunately, you have to use stats to refute stats, it seems

Posted by scrapiron

12:29 PM, Apr 14, 2008

(scrapiron waving the white flag) Ok guys, you got me. There is no excuse for McLaren not having a 12-man pitching staff right now, especially with an injury depleted bullpen.

I was merely stating that he was doing an okay job of managing the bullpen that he had, and certain players (EO) not performing up to expectations was not something that anyone saw coming.

But a lot of those problems WOULD be alleviated by simply adding another healthy arm and releasing Cairo.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

12:32 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Donovan - Not really researched on the subject at all, but how does pinch-running or pinch hitting factor into that, then? Whoever you have as pinch hitter isn't necessarily going to be the same OBP as the guy you're swapping out, so I don't see how the bench gets used in that "lineup by OBP".

And just from what I've seen so far this year, it seems like Yuni is so effective where he is b/c he functions as a leadoff hitter so much. (i.e. The guys in front of him are 2 or 3 high-strikeout guys in a row, making it likely he'll come up to bat first in an inning, not third). Which works in favor of the "there's no such thing as set roles" but seems to counter your thought of "lineup by OBP". Because Yuni should be batting much higher in the order, based on OBP.

And finally, it seems that most power guys are also slower than death. Isn't there a chance that arranging by OBP, or by success against a particular pitcher, might also create a bunch of ineffective combos on the basepaths? (Slow guy on 1st doesn't get good jump, so what might have been a sac bunt / hit and guy on second might be out at second, guy on first. Or a hit that could drive in Ichiro or Yuni from first is instead something that has Joh or Vidro going station-to-station over to second, or Raul barely going first to third.) In other words, the traditional 2-hole, 6-hole, etc. way of thinking groups the slowest players into an order where they're most likely to be driven in, because the people driving them in are the most likely to hit extra-base hits.

Again, all this is intuitively, sorry I'm not good enough with math to back this up. Or researching the stats on my lunch break. :)

Posted by scrapiron

12:34 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Chris - I think you're missing the point on EO that Geoff was making. When EO came into the game it wasn't out of hand yet, and it was the "soft landing" that Mac mentioned that he wanted to give O'Flaherty to get his confidence back. Beginning of an inning, no one on, just throw strikes. Instead EO kept missing his spots and his pitches were up. Before Mac could even get anyone warmed up EO had given up 2 more runs, and by then the game was out of hand.

At that point Mac made the decision to just let EO ride it out rather than burning up his bullpen for the KC series. I'm sure that was also the time he made a call to Tacoma to make sure Dickey was packing his bags for the I-5 drive.

Posted by stango

12:34 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Donovan, Ogal:

I stand corrected! I guess one of us (oregongal) is qualified to answer your Q's. ;>)

What a great, thorough response. This is why I come here.

Thanks you two!

Posted by oregongal

12:34 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Yay for Raul. He deserves it. I think the award is a Rolex. What do you do with a handful of Rolexes? Maybe I can get on his Christmas list!

Posted by Ben

12:37 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Mike Morse went from fan favorite to getting booed yesterday. We're probalby going to have to find a better OF bench player. Maybe bloomquist will have to get more reps out there.

From what i hear Balentin is not that great of an outfielder either. Maybe Wilkerson will have to be an iron man this year and play 90% of the games... and raise his batting average, one would hope.

And yes - the angels have a lot of injury problems right now. Hopefully we can get up on them and keep them down. Best way to do that is sweep them in anaheim next weekend.

Posted by oregongal

12:37 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Well, it does help that I keep "The Book" right next to my desk!

Posted by stango

12:40 PM, Apr 14, 2008

I find it so funny that the give these guys prizes like Rolexes or a truck for ASG MVP.

Even Willie and Cairo make $850k. Can't they just give them a trophy or a plaque?

Just be glad that none of these guys on your X-mas list! Imagine trying to buy a present for them.

Posted by Babu

12:40 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Three cheers for Donovan and Oregongal, for both their substantive comments on the team/games and for their appeals to keep the blog civil.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

12:48 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Scrap - "Before Mac could even get anyone warmed up EO had given up 2 more runs, and by then the game was out of hand. " Mmm. I still don't call down by 4 runs with half the game to go as out of hand, but YMMV.

I fear this might drift into "*whack* neigh! *whack* neigh!" territory, but getting one more reliever in there and asking them to burn the remaining innings doesn't hurt, when you've pretty determined that EOF is gone and thus a fresh arm to replace him is incoming.

Posted by Babu

12:48 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Further to Tom's comments, there is an interesting book out, edited by Dan Gordon, called Your Brain on Cubs: Inside the Heads of Players and Fans. It includes essays in which neurologists look at what happens (shown on MRIs, for instance) in the brains of fans during games, and after wins and losses. Well worth a read.

That said, right now I'm a lot more interested in the MRIs on Bedard (if he is having one) and Morse.

Posted by stango

12:50 PM, Apr 14, 2008

I fully agree that yesterday's situation was the right one to give EOF another shot.

Starter gets knocked out early, 4 guys that are marginal major leaguers in the lineup at once, there wasn't an offensive explosion imminent: This is what a long reliever does, which is the role that EOF has already been relegated to. A role that is a departure from Mac's plan, which is indicative of his increased willingness to be flexible with his plan.

Like I've said before, I'm no fan of Mac's but this was the right time to see if EOF can get it right. He didn't get right, and it really sucked. That's the way the game goes sometimes.

With Bedard scratched, AB hurting, I don't think that this was the right time to trot out Morse, but it was a game that we had no chance in from the start. 2 of 3 vs our main rival is a good result, though. We're not going to sweep them much this year. The teams are too closely matched.

Posted by Confused

12:55 PM, Apr 14, 2008

I'm not a manager but I've seen enough baseball to know that yesterday's game was not managed well. It was against the Angels, and while not a 'must win,' it would have put us up one game. Now we need to win two games and the Angels lose 2 to get in the same position. And why was Baek pulled in the 5th after just striking out Matthews? Because of 85 pitches and Anderson's a lefty? Then how about RWS? You don't put EOF into an Angels game after the start he's had. Awful. It's as if Mac was saying that we won the series, which was good enough. When we finish 2 or 3 back of the Angels we'll all remember April

Posted by Ben

12:58 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Ok - so why not put morse at 3rd base in beltre's absence? I know we "have to" work Cairo in - but I just don't have much confidence in Morse's play in the outfield.

Say what you will about Ibanez depth - he at least knows the position very well and makes good throws in. He may not be fast, but he knows the angles to take.

We didn't put the heartiest lineup out there yesterday, but it's just one game in the season. Now we have to go out and beat a pretty decent Zach Greinke.

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

1:03 PM, Apr 14, 2008

why don't they just make a charitable donation in the player's name for player of the week. why a rolex? the greed and materialism in this game is nauseating.

Posted by Charles

1:04 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Hang on, Geoff. The blogs weren't saying that the Mariners record couldn't have been much worse, they were referring to the fact that Beltre, Putz, and Bedard are all already having injury problems. If you're arguing that the record through the first two weeks of the season isn't all that important, you should recognize that having injuries to 3 of its best players is what really hurts the team. That's why the beginning of the season couldn't have gone much worse. Not because of the record. Our supposed "advantage" over the Angels coming into the season was that they had two key players hurt while the Mariners were quite healthy. Well, that advantage is gone now. No one is arguing what you're implying, that the Mariners can't recover from this, but you're ignoring the fact that injuries to its best players could hurt this team for a very significant part of the season.

Posted by stango

1:09 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Ben,

Morse is not a good IF, either. He's a DH/1B guy at best. It's true that he was a SS originally, but all reports I've read (and I'm no scout) is that he was a disaster at short. 3B is not much easier to play. It's only easier because the # of chances at 3rd are much lower than at SS, but the chances have a tendency to be tougher, hence "hot corner". Willie is our best 3B option on the bench.

You're right that Raul is intuitively good in left. His range is bad, but that's not uncommon in left. The problem is, that, even among LF's (traditionally your worst fielder) he's below avg. In Saturday's game, Kotchman hit a double in the corner. It was a rope that was a double because Raul couldn't get to the ball. He couldn't make his angle work. A little later, Yuni hit almost the exact same ball, but it was a single, and he's MUCH faster than Kotchman. And, GA is not exactly a stellar fielder, either.

At least, that's how it looked at the game to me. I didn't get to see any replays, but one thing you don't see on TV that you do at the game is how the OF reacts to a given play.

Posted by Paul

1:10 PM, Apr 14, 2008

"Mac went with an 11-man staff, because we all came into the season thinking that if this team had a weakness, it was the offense."

Eleman, speak for yourself. I thought the bullpen - especially considering the loss of Sherrill, the lack of Morrow and the still-recovering Lowe - was our distinct weakness. Our starting offense is completely unchanged from last year, excluding the Wilkerson-for-Guillen swap. Not a huge change to the overall offense. The bullpen has been more significantly changed, PLUS it was clearly worn out by the end of the season. Mac's reponse? Less arms in the pen. There is no logic here, and many here didn't think there was any logic then.

To be more specific about it though, Mac decided that the opening roster would include three essential clones of each other on the bench in Bloomquist, Cairo and Jimerson, with Jimerson incapable of playing an infield position.

No, eleman. I didn't endorse this mindless composition from day-1,and still don't.

And I don't think, as you state, that lots of people would question Mac if he'd gone with 12 pitchers to start. That'd be like questioning a basketball coach for having 2 backup centers or a football coach for carrying 3 running backs. It's conventional. And it's conventional in baseball for a reason: throughout a 162-game season, it's been proved time-and-time again that pitchers arms endure more wear and tear than position players. Mac has also proved between last season and this season so far that he probably doesn't need much more than 2 bench players: Burke and any one of the others he kept. So the decision totally defied any real purpose.

Posted by stango

1:12 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Tallahassee,

That's a great suggestion!

I mean, it's not like the players need some sort of material incentive to play well. Well, maybe some do, but I still think that a charitable contribution is the way to go. There's no sponsorship money in that, though. Must be why there's no United Way Stadium, or Breast Cancer Awareness Park.

I guess we'll never see it...

Posted by Ben

1:16 PM, Apr 14, 2008

stango,

Yeah - i was at that game too, but i was on the first base/rf side - perhaps where my new found distaste for Morse's play is coming from.

Morse does not react well off the ball at all. On the play that he got hurt, the roof was closing and perhaps he lost it in the lights or something, but he doesn't make good decisions out there and he's not fast enough to make up for it.

I don't know what the mariners will do with him - if he's healthy enough to keep playing. But even Norton looked a lot better out there - perhaps that's due to his veteran-ness, but isn't he a first baseman mostly?

Anyway, it's over - it happened - let's move on. 1 game of 162. I assume Bedard and Beltre will be fine, especially when it warms up and the muscle tightness thing isn't so common.

Posted by NateDawgUS

1:18 PM, Apr 14, 2008

We could be the Tigers but we're not. Stop panicking people.

Posted by Lance

1:20 PM, Apr 14, 2008

The mistake was not in the 11-man pitching staff, but in comprising the subsequent five man bench into the backup catcher and four guys who all do pretty much the same thing.

Now with A.J. in the pen and the left-handed hitting Norton on the team it should all work out much better for us and make a lot more sense.

It would have been interesting to see how it would have worked out had Dickey gotten that emergency start for Bedard. But, alas, we shall never know.

Posted by Knuckler

1:23 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Remember what delayed the big trade??????
Adam Jones degenerative hip!!!!!!!
Maybe that was part of the trade. To see if it could be exchanged with or transplanted to Bedard.

Posted by CrypticSailor

1:24 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Silly question of the day, Can theMariners put Morse on theDL and then pull Jimerez back from the wavier wire?

Posted by stango

1:25 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Ben,

I think that we were hamstrung with Morse in that he's out of options, and would have to clear waivers if not on the club. He does provide us with a bit of a problem, and there's no place for him here.

He'd probably make a decent NL bench player, maybe the brass thinks we can shop him later in the season for some relief pitching?

As it is, we have 2 guys that play in the field who should be DH: Raul and Richie; a DH w/no power, and a bench that includes a lot of guys that are worse defensively than anyone they would replace. It's like they still don't know that we're in the AL. When do AL teams use their bench? To rest guys, to pinch run, to provide a late game matchup against a situational pitcher and as a defensive replacement.

Burke and Willie are the only ones that can serve as sufficient rest, and neither of them provides us with a great defensive replacement option, they're also not good PH options (Burke and Joh are both RH's).

Whither Stan Javier, McLemore and even Charles Gipson (who Lou would never play, either)? How I miss thee...

Posted by oregongal

1:28 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Oops. This is why I rarely rely on my memory:

"Tourneau, the world's largest watch store, will supply both Raul Ibañez and Brain Bannister with a luxury Swiss Tourneau timepiece, suitably engraved, in recognition of their achievement as players of the week."

And I'm with you tallahassee, give 'em the recognition, not the money.

Posted by Larry Croix

1:29 PM, Apr 14, 2008

This is the only reading I do no the M,s. Clear, straight forward thinking. I am shocked by the lack of capable thought by many commenters

Posted by Paul

1:30 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Lance - keeping 4 of the same person, esssentially, definitely exaserbates the problem. But not a mistake to keep 11 pitchers? Even now, with the struggles we've seen? Assuming Geoff is right and/or has a source confirming the rationale for keeping O'F in the game yesterday, the concern over burning up more pitchers would have been severely reduced with and extra arm in the pen. Same thing in Bautista's first start in Baltimore - a disaster with Bautista walking in runs and getting hammered in his final inning. The pen had been depleted a bit the previous night I guess, so Mac felt cornered into letting Bautista keep going. There was nobody even UP in the pen that night until it was too late and the lead had been lost.

So by my count, that's at least two times that winnable games have been forsaken for Mac's ingenious 11-man bullpen. How many games has the bench won for us to offset this?.... definitely zero.

Posted by Ben

1:37 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Well let's go out and get a great defensive outfielder who can't hit but has some speed and have him as our backup option...

What about Kenny Lofton? I'd take him.

Posted by Simon

1:41 PM, Apr 14, 2008

OK, I know I'm a day late on the Saturday game against the Angels, but that was a fantastic game to attend. Early lead changes, so good hitting, Ichiro throwing a laser to the plate, and some July-like weather in April.

Back to the topic at hand, I agree with Charles. I think USSM's concern was mostly about injuries, not so much the 6-7 record.

My thoughts on the season so far:

Positives -
1. Improved focus and batting from Lopez
2. Sexson showing signs of life (at least at the plate)
3. Raul going on a tear
4. Mostly good performances from our SPs

Concerns -
1. A greatly weakened bullpen, even more so with EOF heading to the minors. It is obviously necessary, but he was a strength last year.
2. Injuries - Putz, Beltre, Bedard, Morse. Who's next? Hopefully these are all minor, but still worrying all the same.
3. A very poor bench. There's no way we should be carrying Cairo and Bloomquist.

Overall, the sweep in Baltimore was terrible, but the team has done OK so far. Assuming that the injuries are minor, I don't see why this team shouldn't continue to do OK. However, I stick by my earlier predicitions that "OK" probably won't be enough to win the division.

And Oregongal, thanks for helping to keep things civil round here.

Posted by Mike

1:49 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Ben--Don't get me started. Lofton makes so much sense. You could rescue Raul from left and put him at DH. Lofton actually had a higher OPS than Vidro last year so you really aren't losing offense and defensively Lofton is light years better than Raul. And you add a decent switch hitter to the bench. The team would be stronger and have more depth. Really, wouldn't it make much more sense to have Lofton on this team than Miguel Cairo? Oh and speed on the basepaths, did I mention that?

But I repeat myself.

Posted by Ben

1:53 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Yeah - lofton is on winning teams each year. Someone will pick him up in late July/August if he's available still.

Posted by M's Fan

2:01 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Looks like the 12 man staff is here (Rhodes and Dickey) Hope EOF can find his magic again in AA.

Posted by Choska

2:19 PM, Apr 14, 2008

I applaud your optimism. You are right, there are lots of games left to play. Anything can happen, as Detroit Tiger fans should keep in mind.

Among those things that will happen to the Mariners will be their struggle to be a .500 team while its players attempt to overcome their age as well as their physical limitations.

Geoff, what is the point where you will begin calling on the Mariner's to fire Bavasi? .500 at the All Star break? 5 games under? 10 games under?

This team's immediate future is easy to read. The sooner we start the rebuilding effort the better.

Chris Antonetti in '08!

Posted by Mike

2:27 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Another stab at why defense matters and it makes sense to sigh Kenny Lofton.

Statistically the difference between converting a ball into an out rather than a hit is about half a run(If OregonGal has the book by her desk she could actually look this up for each and every situation). Picture yourself at Safeco for a week long homestand. How many balls do you think Lofton might reach that Ibanez can't. Or maybe keep a single to a single rather than letting it get to the wall for extra bases. Does 4 seem like an outrageous number? That would be about 2 runs a week or 50 or so runs. Some defensive metrics have Raul at -20 runs or more a season. I don't know where Lofton rates but as a CF in left he certainly would be in the +15 realm, so let's say Lofton is 35 runs better defensively.

If Erik Bedard gives ut what we hope and repeat last year's ERA of 3.16 (bad stat but it works for this example) he'll give up 63 runs in 180 innings. If you replace that with 180 innings of 5.00 ERA and you give up 100 runs. That's 37 runs.

So if you are open to accepting defensive metrics the difference between Lofton & Ibanez in left over the course of a season is about the same as the difference between Bedard and Mr. 5.00 ERA, say Cha Seung Baek.

Enough for now. I'll be at the game early, likely in the beer garden working on my prayer to the healthy hip gods.

Posted by macdoubter

2:54 PM, Apr 14, 2008

I agree with cesame. What a load of crap.

So Geoff, you find our lack of perspective intriguing? Well, I'll bet some of us find it itriguing that you know know the exact point in the game when it's ok for the manager to give up (down 4-0 and showing zero offensive spark).

Please! Obviously you want to stand by your assertion that the M's are contenders. Now that call is intriguing, given the fact that the team purposely made itself weaker on offense from last season.

The old Geoff-the one who didn't make the contender pick-would have criticized Mac the same as most of us have.

One more thing. Would you try to be more consistent within 24 hrs. Yesterday you thought it was sssooooo important the M's complete the sweep. Today it's no big deal. I think you are getting too attached to the team. Perspective? Your outside perspective is what set you apart last year. Now you're starting to sound just like another one of the posts.

Posted by FYI

2:57 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Didn't want to read all the comments to see if this was posted. Rhodes and Dickey, in - Morse and EOF, out.

http://www.thenewstribune.com/sports/story/335096.html

Posted by scrapiron

3:00 PM, Apr 14, 2008

So is RRS the official left setup man, or does Rhodes automatically get slotted there?

Posted by Adam

3:14 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Mike - wait, corner OF defense is important? Really?


Yeah, I'd have no problem with Lofton. Better offense than Vidro, better defense than Ibanez. Not really a difficult solution to what's ailing the M's...

Posted by oregongal

3:19 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Donovan, here's an article at THT that contains a review of a study about the effect of the on-deck hitter. Another book I'll have to get.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-baseball-economist/

Posted by scrapiron

3:21 PM, Apr 14, 2008

08 Kenny Lofton = 05 Vince Coleman

I'd have no problem with that, except it'd stunt Balentien's growth.

I have been fairly impressed with Wilkerson's defense so far. Better than I thought.

Posted by Mike

3:21 PM, Apr 14, 2008

"Mike - wait, corner OF defense is important? Really?"

Evidently not to the Ms.

Posted by Greg K.

3:27 PM, Apr 14, 2008

Best part is that Reitsma would probably be back! haha

http://mlbfleecefactor.com/2008/04/14/mariners-make-some-pitching-moves/

Posted by thatgirl

8:02 PM, Apr 14, 2008

I asked earlier in another thread what the circumstances are with Reitsma....Greg K. - thanks for providing a tidbit. Reitsma's insulant behavior was inexcusable for a big-leaguer, but again - Mac not selecting him to be a part of a 12-man rotation is just another reason why I don't have a lot of confidence in Mac's ability to manage.

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