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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 23, 2008 10:52 AM

See Putz get pied

Posted by Geoff Baker

You read about it in Larry Stone's piece from this morning. Heard about it on KJR AM 950. Now, you can see it for yourself, courtesy of the folks at FSN. J.J. Putz, master of post-game pies to the face, is clearly paranoid about getting his last night as he does a dugout interview. Then later, in the clubhouse...let's just say I'm glad Mark Lowe doesn't wear a goalie ,ask and carry a steak knife. Got a few hearts pounding with his sneak attack.

Here's the link: jjpie.wmv

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Posted by Merrill

11:01 AM, Apr 23, 2008

Fan-tasticka-licious!

Thanks, Geoff.

From the bottom of my locker.

Posted by ChrisP

11:10 AM, Apr 23, 2008

Great video. It's nice to see our team getting healthy. Man our roster is boring without JJ there to mix things up.

Posted by Beady Eye Guy

11:11 AM, Apr 23, 2008

Welcome back JJ!

To those who disagree that Clement can't come up and play C & DH here's the quote:

"Mentally, he's getting it done, his game-calling is much improved; all of it," Hansen said. "He's ready to go to the big leagues and catch."

If Roger Hansen says Jeff is ready, I believe him more than anybody posting that he isn't ready on the blogs. Too many people are telling me he looks good behind the plate. He isn't going to magically lose those skills splitting time with Kenji AND DH'ing on days when he isn't Catching.

His ability to hit MLB pitching should be given a look. I believe he would make an instant impact if called up now. Split him with Pepe Vidro at DH and then play him at Catcher 2 days a week minimum.

Posted by scottM

11:29 AM, Apr 23, 2008

The M's, hypothetically, are supposed to be building a big "easy" early season lead over the injured Angels (and the A's who, for some reason, aren't obeying the predictions that they stay in the cellar). As they say, that's why we play the games, and the games reveal our warts. Our biggest wart isn't whether it's Safeco Field or Liberty Field, it's Right Field.

We'll know on Frank Thomas in the next couple of days. If we don't get him, then what?

The M's have a major pressing concern in Wilkerson's poor performance. As many here have said, Vidro, indeed, is a concern, but less so. Assuming we don't pick up Thomas and take a chance on his aging power stroke, then what?

Would the M's be better off waiting until closer to the trade deadline and then see which teams are out of contention and might have a legitimate power hitting Right Fielder available in trade? With an actual power hitter in right, Vidro becomes yet less of a concern for the M's.

First thought for this is Griffey, if the Reds are struggling.

Baek is not a primary concern. The roster spot he holds won't hurt us as long as the Starting Rotation continues to go deep into games. However, both he an Reed ought to be traded if the M's don't plan to use them.

Get rid of Wilkerson!

Posted by scottM

11:34 AM, Apr 23, 2008

Man, that was a real Lowe blow.

Poor JJ.

:=0

Posted by Nat

11:35 AM, Apr 23, 2008

The quote from Beady Eye Guy comes from an article on Clement in the P.I. (And yes, Mr. X, it's by Jason Churchill, who quotes Roger Hansen extensively). Excellent article BTW- changed my thinking about whether Clement is ready to catch at the big league level.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/baseball/360219_mfarm23.html

The Mariners should be able to configure the roster to take advantage of Clement's bat - maybe platoon Joh and Clement at C/DH 50/50? Not unheard of, pretty much what the Angels do with Mathis and Kotchman as catchers.

Vidro moves on to PH. 'Course that means Cairo goes too to make room on the bench. A reasonable solution for what there is to work with.

Posted by -k

11:50 AM, Apr 23, 2008

ScottM - I agree completely. Wilkerson is the bigger concern, and that problem should be addressed first, and i said so in the topic earlier.

I think the Reds are a good place to look, with their GM getting canned today. Both Dunn (who i think is way overrated) and Griffey (who is better suited as a DH at this point in his career) would be interesting pickups.

Posted by Donovan

12:00 PM, Apr 23, 2008

As Geoff and others have noted, the affordability of Thomas is not a given. He will want (and will get somewhere) guaranteed money next year as well as this. How much, and how structured, that's the question. He won't jump at the first offer, and he won't take the league minimum for 08, that's for sure. I don't like committing much for him, not unless his deal for 09 is heavily driven by incentives. Nothing about Thomas excites me. Ditto Griffey. I was happy to see him go and have no desire to see him back. Now A-Rod in an M's uni again, that would be exciting.

I think getting all Frankenstein with your roster in the first month of the season is a last ditch, panic maneuver. I don't think we should be panicked at this stage. Bringing up some minor leaguers for a trial when regulars are hurt or slumping (what is the status or Wilk's hammy, by the way?) makes a lot more sense to me than committing current and future roster spots to declining, primadonna geezers. At least the flawed players we have all have good work ethics and attitudes.

Posted by ScottM

12:01 PM, Apr 23, 2008

It's painfully obvious, isn't it -k? Fix Right Field properly, and we can fix two problems at once. Pathetic lack of power overall and our weakest team position (offensively and defensively).

Right now, give me Griffey defensively, too. He's better than Wilkerson. Then in '09 and 2010 he can segue into being our full time DH at "Griffey" Field.

Posted by scottM

12:02 PM, Apr 23, 2008

By pathetic lack of power, I am echoing Mr. X who pointed out, aptly, that the M's offense is only producing at about 5 of the 9 spots.

Posted by cg

12:21 PM, Apr 23, 2008

upped to youtube... hope fsn doesn't care :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJFXLnULHDM

Posted by Adam

12:35 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Not sure why we should be surprised by the team's lack of power - this is exactly what we saw last year.

The team's 2007 IsoP (isolated power, or slugging - BA) was a pretty meager .138, meaning they hit a bunch of singles. This year? .143. So, despite Sexson and Ibanez, this team is hitting for just a lick more power. Further, the 2008 team has an OBP of a terrible .319, despite the apparent emphasis on taking more pitches. Compare this with the 2007 team, which drew the fewest walks in the game, but had a .337 OBP.

So while you can make the argument that there is nowhere to go but up, so far the team isn't performing much different than it did last year. And considering the number of hitters in the lineup who are past their prime, this isn't a surprise.

We shoud expect improvement from Johjima, Wilkerson, and Ichiro. We should probably expect Sexson, Ibanez, and even Beltre to regress a bit, and Betancourt, Lopez, and Vidro aren't really doing anything too surprising.

So I wonder how much this team will improve offensively. It's the same team as it was last year, only a year older.

There are two options to improve the team:

1. Bring Reed up to play LF, put Raul at DH.

2. Bring up Clement, let him DH and also catch 2 days a week, Vidro to bench.

I think these are immediate needs. I'm willing to give Wilkerson another couple of weeks; he shouldn't be this bad.

But Vidro is done; he's our biggest problem and needs to be replaced.

Posted by Stat Prof

1:14 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Adam

Another way to look a power stats is to compute base/hit.

Just take SLG/BA. The result is the average number of bases per hit. The one reason last year that I didn't figure Sexson had run out of power was that his BPH was something ridiculous like 2.5 +. I like that figure better than the iso power number.

just for some grins :

Ichiro 1.43
Lopez 1.33
Raul 1.84
Beltre 1.73
Vidro 1.49
Sexson 2.20
Wilkerson 1.37

So not only is Wilkerson not hitting, but when he does hit he's not supplying any more power than Vidro and about the same amount as Lopez. His place in the lineup resembles a black hole

Posted by eagoldb

1:24 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Geoff, any idea if we're looking at a new stadium name now that Safeco has been sold to Liberty Mutual? I sure hope they're not renaming it "Liberty Mutual Field"!!!!

Posted by grant

1:45 PM, Apr 23, 2008

I'm pretty sure Reed has a better career MLB avg. than Wilkerson has right now. And there is no question that he plays superior defense. But he also provides speed on the base paths, saving Willie to pinch run for the likes of Joh, Sexson, or Raul. Or he could give Raul a day off in the field to rest (aka DH). Reed's no superstar, but he is a total improvement over Wilkerson. This is a bigger issue than Vidro at DH.

As for the DH, Raul seems like a good fit, but there's nobody to play OF right now (except Reed and Willie, and I don't think we want Willie playing full time). The Clement/Joh platoon seems like a no brainer, with Clement at DH on his non-catching days. Keeps them both relatively rested for the season (and post-season), gives Clement experience at C at the ML level, and injects some lefty power into the lineup. Vidro becomes the best PH in baseball, and the M's score more runs.

The best part is that this requires no trades (Griffey, who I hope they get back eventually, but probably not now), no high risk/high reward signings (Thomas, Bonds) and could be implemented tomorrow if they wanted to try it.

To review, we have the in-house ability to upgrade our defense, speed on the bases, hitting, power, depth, and develop our future catcher at the ML level by bringing up Reed and Clement. Why wait for Wilkerson's average to drop any lower or Vidro's power and average to remain too low ? And it's not like Joh is tearing it up on the offensive end either. Make use of everything we have to work with Mac!

Posted by Jared

2:15 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Haha, Man that was great! I missed that last night. Thanks Geoff.

Cant wait to see some Silvaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

Posted by Chuck

2:53 PM, Apr 23, 2008

You guys are just blowing in the wind. As long as we stay close and play at least .500 ball Boovasi and Mac are going to stand Pat. They are even crazier about vet stats then Adam is about stats. It will take a major disaster to get them to change course. Look how they continue to keep Baek and that base runner-whashisname? They don't need a bench cause they don't use it. Even if vidro went to the bench, he still would not be used as a pinch hitter. Mac only uses pinch hitters when we're behind by 4-5 runs in the 8th inning. Theres as much chance of clement coming up as this year as there is Morrow starting a game this year (Unless Jo goes down with an injury). Speculate all you want but there will be no roster changes.

Posted by Donovan

3:01 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Adam - I respect your understanding of baseball statistics, and, even more so, I respect that your opinions are reasonably dispassionate and fact based, but you do tend to always implicitly assume that a player's performance will follow a smooth, unidirectional trend over his career. Is there really evidence that this is usually or even often the case? In other words, over the length of a player's career, do you usually see production (measured by appropriate metrics) that rises to a single, clear peak around 30, followed by an irreversible decline? I question whether that is really typical, even if it is intuitive. There may well be a population mode like that, but with a lot of variance.

I definitely think it is the exception for pitchers, who frequently lose skills, gain skills, and generally reinvent themselves due to injury, age, experience, learning new pitches, Tommy John surgery, taking steroids, etc. There are many obvious examples of pitchers with pronounced ups and downs throughout their career, defying the bell curve model (Moyer, Smoltz, Clemens, etc.). Yes, they eventually decline, but may have many peaks and valleys before.

Hitters will inevitably lose foot speed and bat speed, but is it really typical that their net productivity rises and falls in a predictable, consistent way? It is easy and reasonable to assume that a guy like Ichiro will have 200+ hits and a

Put more generally, is last year's performance really the best predictor of this year's performance for most players? This could be tested mathematically I suppose. I think my argument in the most simple terms is that two points in a time series are always co-linear, but rarely define a long term trend accurately. I'd rather look at, say 5 years of data, and even then you have to interpret events that shaped the curve. I'm not sure we should just assume a fall-off in production because a guy is 33 as opposed to 29. Conversely, you can reasonably assume a talented 23 yr. old will get better, but predicting when and how much is voodoo.

Thoughts about this? Not a gotcha question or anything here. I'm actually interested in the answer.

Posted by Donovan

3:08 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Aaargh. Multi-tasking leads to errors. My last post's 3rd para should have read as follows:

Hitters will inevitably lose foot speed and bat speed, but is it really typical that their net productivity rises and falls in a predictable, consistent way? It is easy and reasonable to assume that a guy like Ichiro will have 200+ hits and a

Posted by ethan

3:08 PM, Apr 23, 2008

i'm not much of a "stats" guy. (i'm more of a "girls" guy.) anyway..i'll tell you whats going to hurt us down the line...this anemic, streaky offense. take last night. in the 8th, Richie got up with runners on 1st and 3rd and two out. he struck out. the inability to put that final nail in the coffin is going to hurt our chances of a title.

Posted by Donovan

3:11 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Ok, this is getting weird. I'm going to post that paragraph one more time, then have my computer exorcised if it cuts off again at the same place.

Hitters will inevitably lose foot speed and bat speed, but is it really typical that their net productivity rises and falls in a predictable, consistent way? It is easy and reasonable to assume that a guy like Ichiro will have 200+ hits and a .300 avg. because he has never failed to do so, but his consistency is freakish. A guy like Sexson, on the other hand, has been all over the map his whole career, largely due to injury. What likely physical reason is there for him to just fall off the map offensively for good last year, as opposed to just having alternate up and down years? He's not really that old, and he would not appear to have the pharmaceutical excuse that most people associate with Boone, Sosa, and others. Why isn't his recent hitting form likely to hold up all year? It isn't inconsistent with what he did in 05 and 06.

Posted by Adam

3:29 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Donovan - studies have been done on this subject, you can Google it pretty simple. From what I've read (and it's not a lot), there is some consensus that 27 is a peak age for hitters. Of course, you see variance. Barry Bonds is a prime example, as is Raul.

But in the case of the Mariners, I think it's pretty clear which way these hitters are trending (with the possible exception of Raul). Sexson, Vidro, Wilkerson all are clearly past their prime. Hopefully Johjima can bounce back, but catchers past age 30 seem to decline at a pretty good pace.

This roster is really set up to win now, and there are a few guys who we are hoping don't fall off a cliff. I think Vidro's already at the bottom, while Sexson and Wilkerson are teetering.

And Raul just continues to defy Father Time.

Posted by Mike

3:29 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Donovan---A good post yesterday on USSM about falling off the cliff. In short some types of hitters are much more prone to it than others.

I think one of the things that is hardest to deal with is what is a decline in skills and what is decline due to injury and how much overlap is there between the two? I think most of the SABR community would admit they've been wrong about Raul for a couple years now in that he hasn't fallen off the cliff yet.

Posted by Simon

3:33 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Adam,

I agree with you, although the difference in OBP between this year is explained by the fact that we hit .284 last year and only .250 so far this year. Given that, the players are being more patient (7th in walks in AL vs. last in MLB in 2007) - but the hitting is obviously a concern.

If Clement's catching has improved to the degree that some are claiming, I would be greatly in favor of bringing him up now to platoon at catcher with Kenji and DH the other days. Given Bavasi and Mac's love of veterans, I have little hope this will happen.

Wilkerson is another huge concern. I would love to see Balentien in right, although I don't know much about his defense. Surely it can't be any worse than Morse's (hopefully much better), can it?

Posted by Simon

3:37 PM, Apr 23, 2008

I was responding to Adam's 12:35pm post

Gotta respond quicker!

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