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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 26, 2008 3:04 PM

Criticism and analysis

Posted by Geoff Baker

ath0426.jpg

A look above at Richie Sexson, Brad Wilkerson, Miguel Cairo and Jamie Burke taking some early batting practice this afternoon. Reading through your comments and private emails today after another long night for the Mariners. One thing that is becoming clear to me is that there is a disconnect between the expectations of criticism and analysis some of you have and what can reasonably exist.

A handful of you keep writing in, wondering "what has happened?'' in this space between this year and last. The simple answer is, absolutely nothing. One of the hallmarks of reputable criticism and analysis, as opposed to knee-jerk commentary, is flexibility. My two-second analysis of writing here in Seattle is that the quickest way to gain 100 percent support from the blogosphere is to rip Mariners management and managers at every turn. It's OK. Not much different from other markets that way. Problem is, not everyone is wrong at all times.

In this case, in the spirit of open-mindedness and flexibility, I approach each season looking at what a team's goals are. Not what my personal goals were for a team, but what that team is trying to do and whether it has a reasonable expectation of pulling it off. Going into last year, I didn't see the Mariners having much hope of pulling any of its expectations off because too much had to go right. A lot of it did go right and the result was an 88-win team. But I also did see some elements that surprised me. I saw a team that, until that fatal August losing streak, was able to win games when it had to and avoid being knocked out of the playoff race entirely. I saw some talented bullpen arms that -- while they withered under August intensity -- held promise for the future.

I still wasn't all that optimistic heading into the off-season and let it be known I wasn't all that confident GM Bill Bavasi could undo the starting pitching hole he'd dug for himself by allowing arms to walk away the previous years at a time the market for pitching was blowing sky high. Never did I imagine Bavasi could parlay some of his prospects into a trade for Erik Bedard, or land a top free-agent pitcher like Carlos Silva. But guess what? Bavasi surprised me.

And when things change, when they surprise you, the parameters of that criticism change.

Going into this season, I understood the team's plans and objectives -- building a team around strong starting pitching, a relatively strong bullpen (even without George Sherrill) and adequate offense. Hey, it worked for the Oakland A's during their Moneyball heyday. I did not believe the defense was going to make-or-break this club and I'm still not convinced it will. The problems this team has had are all hitting and injury-related. Yes, the bullpen has struggled, but again, I believe it's more a function of previous injuries than anything else.

Am I wrong? Quite possibly. But it's too early to tell. It's possible the defense will ultimately sink this club. I don't see it but anything can happen.

But what I can't do, what nobody offering objective criticism can afford to do, is judge a team based on their own ideas of how to win. There are more than one. Reputable analysis isn't as easy as saying a team should hold on to prospects, build from within and wait a few years to see that plan all come together. Frankly, that's pretty easy analysis. It will take years to know whether the decision was right or wrong and by the time the answer is known, most people will forget who predicted what in the first place.

I'm sure every team would love to say, hey, we're building from within, let's hold off a few years and take our time. In today's real world, most teams don't have that option. And you have to keep that in mind when tailoring the analysis and criticism you're about to deliver.

Some of you think the long-term strategy was the way to go for the M's. They disagreed. But the worst thing any analyst can do after that is color all criticism based on that viewpoint. Just because you may have thought it was the right way to go doesn't make it so. And therefore, at the first signs of trouble, you can't simply go "Ah-hah! I was right!'' and base all subsequent criticism off of that. We're all guilty of doing that, to degrees, from time to time.

For nine seasons, I picked the Toronto Blue Jays to finish third (actually, my first pick was for the mto win the wild-card, but I learned after that error). Not because they weren't building the way I thought a winning team should build. But because I listened to their goals and objectives and honestly questioned just how realistic they were. Turns out, they weren't all that realistic. They sounded good on paper at times, but the other elements, the human ones, weren't always working.

An example: I finally picked Toronto to finish second this season. On paper, their pitching looks great. But as of now, I'm questioning my pick because I forgot the other important thing I'd learned about that club from being around it almost a decade. The Jays play down to the level of their opponents. Always did and still do. That team is in trouble right now. It may very well rally and turn things around. But chances are, it may not be in time to save the job of manager John Gibbons. That's another thing to remember when it comes to criticism. Your timeframe for success may not be the same as a team's timeframe. Bill Bavasi does not have three years to build a playoff team here. You can criticize him, if you want, for trying to speed things along, but that's human nature. I don't know many GMs anywhere who will sacrifice their own jobs intentionally so their successors will have an easy time of it.

Anyway, that's a job for ownership to do. If they wanted Bavasi to go long-term with another three-year plan, they could fire him for going the Erik Bedard route. But now, the way Bavasi's job has been laid out, it's his job to win sooner rather than later. You can't criticize him for that -- not as absolutely as some of you.

Criticizing a manager in-game is like a referee calling holding penalties in football. There will always be something, everywhere you look, to single out if you so choose. You can debate each and every in-game decision, which is the beauty of baseball. And every opinion given by one baseball "expert'' can differ from that of another. Rarely though, will one bad decision, or even a handful that don't work out well, be grounds to fire a manager. Ron Washington makes terrible decisions in Texas from time to time. He still has a job, last time I checked. It's the body of work you examine over time.

Some of John McLaren's decisions don't look good. We've called him on them from time to time. But half a season last year and four weeks this year are not enough time to make a call on him. I'm sorry. If the M's rebound and win the division, he'll be an automatic manager of the year candidate. That's the reality. And then, all of the impulse-driven commentators will truly be "eating crow'' if he's worked out in the long term.

It's not that we're afraid to criticize. As I've said, we do it daily. We call the team out and the players. We deal with them every day. They read the stuff. McLaren does and he's got a pretty thick skin. He knows I didn't like his roster when the season opened. He knows what I thought of keeping Cha Seung Baek over R.A. Dickey because he reads it and I ask him about it -- face to face.

McLaren may think I know nothing about the game. He may think a lot of you know nothing. I happen to think that what some of you write is so far-removed from real world thinking that it blows my mind. But I try to listen to all of it. Try to explain to you where I'm coming from.

Some of you don't think clubhouse chemistry exists. We wasted days debating this late last season. And yet, when I spoke to Frank Thomas yesterday, one of the first things he mentioned was not wanting to cause a clubhouse problem by coming here and bumping Jose Vidro from his job. Yes, it exists. Yes, it may exist more here than in other cities, but that's still a real world issue that has to be dealt with.

Bottom line, since I have to get going: I think some of you have an expectation of criticism and analysis for this team that won't be found in any city, or any newspaper or media outlet. True criticism and analysis isn't about describing the ideal formula for a team to succeed. Every team in baseball knows you need good pitching and defense and to score runs to win. No team has all three of those elements perfected because of the laws of supply and demand.

There will always be something to rip a team for if you look hard enough. Always some idea that will run contrary to yours. It's the beauty of the game. But when I criticize something, I want you, as a reader, to know where it is coming from. To know it's legitimate. Not to say "Oh, there's Baker going off half-cocked because the team lost three in a row'' or "he just hates management and will do anything he can to bury them.''

My goal is to be flexible, to listen to arguments I don't agree with, and, most importantly, to judge whether a team has a realistic shot at achieving its goals. Based on what I've seen from the 2008 Mariners, warts and all exposed already, I still believe they have a realistic hope of succeeding if they make the adjustments that will be needed going forward. And on April 26, I'm not about to reverse course and decide it was all a pipe dream. Not enough evidence, at least in my eyes, to support that yet. When it's there, you'll hear about it. And better yet, you'll be able to trust what is written.



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Posted by Tony S

3:14 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Any news on who got sent down for Bedard?

Agreed, still early in the season, next week should be a breeze for the M's in Cleveland and Yankee stadium.

Posted by NYC M's Fan

3:17 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Geoff--

When the M's broke camp and RA Dickey was successfully landed in AAA, I lauded Bill Bavasi's shrewd maneuver on your blog. It allowed the M's to keep Cha Seung Baek in the organization.

As Baek demonstrated last night, he can be an effective pitcher in the big leagues. Though I preferred Dickey on the staff (and still do), I recognized the value of retaining a big league arm. Baek is an asset, and I feel the job of a GM should be to efficiently manage a teams' assets (payroll and players) to consistently field a championship contending team.

It's through this filter that I consider the M's assets at catcher. And in the wake of Kenji Johjima's recent contract extension, I think that something's gotta give.

Kenji is too valuable to be used as a backup catcher, when he could be traded for a sorely needed upgraded bat at DH, first base or outfield. Likewise, Jeff Clement is too valuable to languish at AAA or be used as a backup catcher, when he also could be traded for an upgrade at DH, first base or outfield.

Keeping them both on the roster doesn't maximize these assets for the M's in the long term. If Clement's bat is as good as advertised, it's value would be diminished considerably if he played first base or DH, instead of catcher (as offensive production is typically easier to obtain in a first baseman or DH).

So what were Bavasi's motives for giving Johjima an extension?

Perhaps Johjima's signing was the organization's concession that Clement doesn't project as a capable catcher in the majors. If this is the case, it's too bad for the club. Geoff, is there evidence that Clement isn't cutting it defensively in AAA? Do you think the organization has given up on Clement's viability as a major league catcher?

Or, was Kenji's signing such a good deal financially, that the extension actually increases his trade value to a club seeking a catcher?

It's apparent to me that, as presently constituted, the 2008 Seattle Mariners are not a championship contending team. However, the organization has an excess of talent at catcher and on the mound (Baek/Dickey/Corcoran). Thus, Bavasi has assets at his disposal which, if effectively managed, could considerably shore up glaring weaknesses in the lineup.

Let's see how he plays his cards.

Posted by kingk

3:25 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Geoff what agreat piece...I hope we can all root now with a more long term outlook and not rip evry game apart with meaningless comments and number analysis...of course that won't happen but worth a shot...also have we considered that Joh was ordered resigned by Japanese ownership and Bavasi 's hands were tied??

Posted by scottM

3:26 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Thoughtful post, GEOFF. Remember, as has been pointed out repeatedly, when the M's lose, the "venters" will throng here to blow of steam. Those posts rarely offer thoughtful, balanced critiquing. Of course, these last three loses have given fans plenty of heartburn to fuel legitimate concerns.

One of the key arguments for upgrading the starting rotation from last year was to avoid those multiple seven game skids we had. Tonight, the M's are facing a three game skid. This makes BEDARD's start more significant than usual. This is where an Ace steps up and applies the tourniquet.

Let's hope Sir Erikkkkkkkkkkkkk shows up!

Posted by AKMarinersFan

3:27 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Geoff - Your article gives the impression that people have been critical of McLaren and Bavasi for individual decisions. While individual decisions are used as examples of their incompetance, it's the lack of a logical philosphy that really bothers us.

Fans understand that this team is not going get better until the team uses a more sound philosphy for player personnel and in-game decision making.

"I still believe they have a realistic hope of succeeding if they make the adjustments that will be needed going forward"

Can you give examples of adjustments that the Mariners have made in the past that would give fans faith that this will ever happen?

Posted by andrewgolfsalot

3:36 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Why I'll criticize now, and will continue to do so:

The Mariners, for the last several seasons, have not operated with a single plan in mind.

For example, in 2005, we draft Jeff Clement because lefty, power-hitting catchers don't come around very often.

In 2008, when Clement is on the precipice of being ready to catch, full-time in the Majors, we re-sign Johjima who is having a slightly better offensive season than my grandmother, to a three-year extension, effectively shifting Clement to 1st, or DH, where his bat is no longer above average for the position he'll play.

In 2006, we draft Brandon Morrow because we think he'll be ready to produce at the big league level sooner, and we need starting pitching.

In 2007, desperate for relief help, we bring Morrow up to be our setup guy.

Last offseason we stretched Morrow out with the idea of using him in AA/AAA to develop him as the starter we originally intended.

We then trade for Bedard, and sign Silva. By trading for Bedard we weakened our bullpen, significantly, in addition to dealing away two quality starting pitcher prospects.

So, we can do one of two things:

1) Keep developing Morrow as a starter in AA/AAA
2) Use him in the 'pen for the '08 season

Clearly, we've chosen option 2.

Meanwhile, the guy we passed up with that pick, is pitching lights out.

In 2007, we drafted a 18 year-old starting pitcher who will undoubtedly take forever to make the big league club. How do you justify the '06 and '07 first round draft picks under the same logic?

--

The Mariners built the '08 team, as you said Geoff, on a few things:

"[S]trong starting pitching, a relatively strong bullpen (even without George Sherrill) and adequate offense."

A) Our starting pitching has been fine, except for the fact that the one piece we traded for, to solidify our staff, has this hip problem that none of us happen to know anything about because the front office chooses to withhold any meaningful information.

B) Our bullpen is not "relatively strong."

When we started the season, it was Rowland-Smith, O'Flaherty, Lowe, Morrow, Baek, Putz, as the six arms that we thought would get us through the year. Putz has been hurt, which hurt us a ton. O'Flaherty has been absolutely horrendous, and hasn't looked much better in Tacoma. People saw this coming. He's like Sherrill, only without the "good." Lowe has been ineffective in large part, as he's hung far too many pitches. Morrow has looked good in his 1 and 2/3 IP, but his inability to start the season wtih the club definitely hurt our depth. Rowland-Smith was significantly underused by McLaren at the start of the year, while he continued to use O'Flaherty every day.

Our bullpen last year, is basically the thing that turned us from a 79 win team to an 88 win team.

What did we do to make the bullpen better this year? Nothing.

What did we do to maket he bullpen worse this year? Trade away its second best arm.

Did we maintain a "relatively strong" bullpen? No, we did not.

C) You suggest we were building an "adequate offesne"

Is Sexson and adequate first baseman?

Is a Wilkerson / Morse / Bloomquist platoon adequat in right field?

Is McLaren even thinking straight when he decides platooning a guy who has a reverse platoon split is the right move?

Is Johjima actually hitting like an adequate catcher?

Is Vidro an adequate DH?

You and I both know the answers to all these questions are no.

And if the front office didn't before the season started, (with the exception of Kenji's poor hitting) then they more than deserve to be raked over coals for their lack of foresight.

D) Finally, let's get to defense. The Mariners, at this point have arguably the second worst defense in the American League, by any sort of measurable metric. Is this adequate? Will this help a pitching staff, that outside of it's 1-2 "punch" pitches strictly to contact?

The time for criticism IS now. We overachieved last year; we all knew it.

Yet, Bavasi was given another one-year deal, and interpreted it as anyone else would as a win-now proposition.

He just happened to make the exact wrong moves to win now.

Does any of the following make sense:

Putting Bloomquist in a position to get 200 abs?

Keeping Sexson and giving him ~500 abs over the course of the season?

Letting Vidro hit everyday?

Keeping Raul in left so that he can butcher plays that should be easily made?

--

So yea, I'll feel okay to criticize.

The Mariners, this weekend, finish up the easiest part of their schedule. We had seven games against Baltimore. The Orioles. The worst team in the AL, going into the season. What do we do? We go 1-6.

Teams that win their divison don't do that.

Posted by steve

3:46 PM, Apr 26, 2008


Jojima has been a trooper! But signing him for 3 years is crazy! Clement should be up here now, platooning and preparing to take over next year! And be sure and promote Balentin to play right field too!!

Posted by Ziasudra

3:52 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Last night in the first inning, I was struck with Batista's inefficiency. What screamed at me was the angle of his arm/wrist during delivery. The term "short arming the ball" stuck in my mind. However, his velocity seemed reasonable, just not his control. I wish I had tape to watch his delivery from his previous game. It may well might have been caused by discomfort.
Anybody think the same thing?

Posted by Gomez

3:56 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Commenters: Even if you're convinced the Mariners are run badly by fools... I'm not sure giving Geoff Baker a hard time is going to change anything, other than frying his nerves over something you or he cannot control.

Take it easy. Let the guy tell us what he sees. He's got an inside view of the team that we don't get.

Posted by bikeman

4:05 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Geoff,

I thought I've seen everything, but a poster complaining about the Bedard trade not upset about losing Jones instead upset over giving up Sherrill and two potential starting pitchers?

Where are the USS Mariner detractors with their Colon signing instead of Bedard, and the Geoff Jenkins? Jenkins is hitting .225 in the Citizens band box.

Posted by Matt Day

4:11 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Great stuff Geoff. It's good to read a level-headed piece of commentary every once in a while. The blogosphere was about ready to crown the M's AL champs after going up 2-0 on the Angels a couple weeks ago. Now everyone seems ready to cancel the season.

Good job explaining the need for rationality and perspective, in addition to your role in the analysis.

Posted by Eburg T

4:14 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Adam Jones was a "prospect" and Carlos Silva was a "top free-agent pitcher."

I used to think you were better than this kind of revisionism, Geoff.

Posted by D. Olson

4:23 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Mariners should go to a 3 man rotation. use the other so called starters to relieve early if necessary. There middle pitching is horrendous. Mariners are once again a disappointment. Why are they not using Clement? Put him at first base and send Sexson packing.

Posted by Faceplant

4:36 PM, Apr 26, 2008

"Some of you don't think clubhouse chemistry exists. We wasted days debating this late last season. And yet, when I spoke to Frank Thomas yesterday, one of the first things he mentioned was not wanting to cause a clubhouse problem by coming here and bumping Jose Vidro from his job. Yes, it exists. Yes, it may exist more here than in other cities, but that's still a real world issue that has to be dealt with."

This just isn't true Geoff. Nobody said clubhouse chemistry doesn't exist. What we were saying was in the end it doesn't have a tangible affect on a teams win/loss record.


"If the M's rebound and win the division, he'll be an automatic manager of the year candidate. That's the reality. And then, all of the impulse-driven commentators will truly be "eating crow'' if he's worked out in the long term."

Sorry, but that isn't going to change my opinion of John McLaren. I personally feel that the managers impact on the outcome of a game is minimal. I think that's the case with McLaren most of the time. But there is such a thing as winning in spite of the (bad) strategy, and winning because of the (bad) strategy. Just because a team wins, doesn't mean that the manager is any good at his job.

We had the exact same complaints about McLaren when the team was winning.

Posted by well_armed

5:06 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Although your post was honest, and probably true...its still a pompous piece.

Posted by Ross in Summerland

5:18 PM, Apr 26, 2008

"Take it easy."
When you post a blog, you invite alternate POVs. When a team loses for almost 3 decades of its existence, those POVs will be 'unique'.

"He's got an inside view of the team that we don't get."
Which is why he will cut the players and management some slack while long time fans will not. To claim more "legitemacy" than the rant from the poor slob who actually pays to see a perennially 2nd rate product mirrors the arrogance of mariner management and fairly reeks of supercilious Canadian superiority.

Posted by Jason

5:27 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Like many I am completely frustrated with the team's play by far and the makeup of the roster. But for my sanity I try to find a happy place between the "sky is falling" USS Mariner bloggers and the "Rick Rizz Train ofThought."

If Bedard comes back helthy thenyou have to love our starters....Silva has been quite the surprise (a zillion times better than the man he replaced)

Defense is a little weak so far, but I've seen every game and have yet to say to myself "If Raul was not in LF we'd have WON that game!"

My biggest worry about Bavasi is that he looks at his team and says "Cairo, Bloomquist and Wilkerson? Yep, we're a playoff contender!"

I'm also concerned that Bavasi is not willing to cut ties with his aging players. Thus, Vidro will still be on this team next year.

I know it's a long season but this team is going nowhere with Sexson, Vidro, Joh, Wilkerson/Bloomquist, and Yuni hitting like they are. These rally killers...or non-rally makers just take the wind out of the team.

There is no pressure on the opposing pitcher. All they have to do is be careful with Ichiro, Ibanez and Beltre and breeze through the other 6 batters. As opposed to the Angels where there only 2-3 batters that you can "relax" with.

That being said. I will still tune in to watch as many games as possible with my newborn son and hope for some of that magic that the Rockies caught last year.

Posted by BradA

5:55 PM, Apr 26, 2008

I feel like putting in a few of my points here just because Jason hit on a lot of what I was feeling and want to put my spin on some of it.

First, I think this team has the potential to still win this season with what Bavasi did in the offseason with the pitching. However I don't think Bavasi can make the neccesary changes in the offense and defense.

The defense is probably below average, maybe even bad. But I don't think its costing us to significantly yet.

It's the offense that I am completly worried about. I remember when I first heard that we traded for Bedard I knew it was a now or nothing mentality. Then we signed Wilkerson and I was floored. It was bad enough that we already had Cairo. Vidro as DH still and always will baffel me. I don't care if he gets to .300, his production as a 5 hole DH is pathetic.

I watch every game. I hope we win every game, I think we can win everygame (not literally think we can win every game but I go into the games with a we can do this attitude), and the problem is that I have no trust in Bavasi. None. At all. I just don't think he can get it done. I'm sorry if other people disagree with me, but look at his track record.

Carl Evertt is one of his solutions? Rich White? John Parrish? Horacio and Weaver? The guy signed Silva, one of the widely known best FA and got an 'ace' in Bedard. Wow, good find BB. It's being able to find those extra pieces I don't think he can do and sadly the offense needs it to happen.

Posted by dr

6:05 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Right on, Geoff. Of course, you appreciate that, in about 1 hour, each poster towhom this blog entry was specifically addressed will be back to insisting his/her view of how the Ms should be constructed is THE MASTER PLAN and why don't the rest of us see it. It goes with the blogosphere.

As for the '08 Ms, injuries are part of the game. They happen. I'd rather have 'em happen in April than in August or September.

That said, Bedard may turn out to be a bust. It was a gamble and one I thought the Ms should take. Hey, those who thought, a few years back that the Ms should have signed Zito, checked his stats lately? IBaseball trades, signings and farm systems all involve a significant degree of chance. No one "Master Plan" is every going to work out exactly the way you think it should.

The Ms' offense does look a lot like last year's offense. That's my personal opinion. How do you get guys like Betancourt and Sexson (but they ain't the only ones) to lay off the 2-strike low-and-away (I mean WAY low 'n away) pitch? Is the answer to trade away guys you never liked in the first place and replace them with AAA players?

The starting pitching staff may well get healthy and produce. The BP may well get into "roles" (a hated word on this stie) and produce. The offense may improve. Who knows? It's completely out of my hands. If I don't like what's going on with the Ms, I turn off the tube and read the lowlights in the paper. Look at Detroit. The NYY. The Padres. Colorado. NYM. Everybody is trying to adjust. Some will make it, some won't. In that regard, the Ms concern me. Time to switch the channel and the website....for now.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

6:45 PM, Apr 26, 2008

One side note: The commenters here seem so inconsistent because the specific people who comment are not consistent. There's a core of regulars who post here pretty much every game or so. There's then some iregulars who come in every series or so, or when there's a major move. Then there's the random one-off yahoos who don't post regularly, who haven't had the same discussions and arguments some of us have had, so they're rehashing old ground or just venting randomly. Add in the overlapping (but not 1:1 matching) range of people who go from "baseball fan" to "Ms fan" to "occasional Ms fan" and everything in between... and it's hard to say that you're really responding to "the blogosphere" or "the fans".

It's a one to many relationship. You're constant (occasional Larry Stone sightings notwithstanding). We're not.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

6:49 PM, Apr 26, 2008

And by the way, I'm still operating on the assumption, based on your past posts, that your official definition of "time to panic" is...

Mid-May + 4 or more games out = panic
Mid-May + .700 OPS by most of lineup = panic
All else = adjustments possible, no panic

Can we get an assessment of the team on 5/15, in that context? I.e. can we all agree by mid-May that the Ms are either a true possible AL West champ, or they'r not?

Posted by Ross in Summerland

7:07 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Chris- Thanks for the clarification on membership in the "core", but you forgot another category: Blowhards who squat on a Blog or Board with an ever increasing sense of ownership and entitlement.
And by the way, how many posts qualifies someone as not a "yahoo"?

Posted by Spike Owen

8:26 PM, Apr 26, 2008

It is way to early in the season to panic. Look at the Yankee's record and other top teams. Baltimore and Oakland are leading their divisions. You know that won't last. Sure, some games have been very frustrating. But God, it's getting so annoying reading bloggers who think they have the solution to everything. Who is this Faceplant guy, and how come he's not in the majors if not the Hall Of Fame? The guy knows everything there is to know about the game of baseball! Please, stop using the word ''we'' as if you're speaking for all of us!

The reality is, last year ''we'' had surprising success, the team made some daring moves in the off-season, and let's wait and see how the season unfolds before judging this year's performance.

Posted by Librocrat

1:57 AM, Apr 27, 2008

~Answer - I don't know many stat people that will have a problem waiting to see what happens this season. We do, however, dislike being called "wrong." Are you calling us wrong? No, of course not. You tend not to go that route and that is respectable. However, one thing you have done in your writing is not allowed us to be "right."

For example, we said Vidro, with his skillset, was due for a major decline and that his level of productivity couldn't be sustained. Now, he's done terrible. It's early in the season and although I am completely against giving him any playing time, I'm willing to chalk it up to a small sample size.

However, last year we were "told" that we were WRONG, that he was productive and that he was pulling his weight. Then we were told it was sustainable. Now he's struggling. Are we RIGHT now? Because we were told that we were initially wrong, so clearly we must now be right, yes?

The thing is that often, even on this blog - which again, you do a fine job so I'm not calling you out - we are told that we were wrong - and that judgment comes from a small period of time. But when we're right, we don't get any credit. It's chalked up to injury, or some other weird reason - or it is simply ignored altogether, as if we never said it would happen, and Vidro simply "needs to hit better" or that "we have a problem in right field."

And while it may not feel like you are calling us wrong, statements like "that's why we play the games" when something goes in the Mariner's favor are a way of telling us that our stats were wrong/meaningless. But... they're not. And when we're right about the declines, we never see anything like "ah, it is true, he was in for a massive decline." Instead, we see "he really needs to step it up or he'll be replaced."

I suppose what we're saying is that if you're going to constantly reference the stat people and disagree with us, please give us credit when we're right, rather than only mentioning us when we're wrong. If that happens, you'll probably get far less angry posters on here disagreeing wholeheartedly with what you say - even though you are really not doing anything wrong when you say it. If we're given credit once in a while, we'll probably be far less defensive.

Posted by Matt W

8:17 AM, Apr 28, 2008

Geoff. Agreed that impulse criticism is pointless and shortsighted however your article appears to discount several areas of criticism that are valid and possibly point the finger at commentators who have been balanced.
You are right that absolutely nothing has changed. This team has not changed from what it was at the beginning of the season. The Ms were predicted by some (from a statistical point of view) to be at best second favourites for the AL West title. They are now "playing the games" and on current form this prediction is proving accurate. Those who are having their expectations dented are those who believed the view propagated by the club that the moves made over the winter, and in particular the strengthening of the rotation would be enough to propel the team to clear favourites for the West. Admittedly this could all yet change. Let’s wait and see.
While criticism of “win now” cannot be based on an assumption that “rebuilding” would have worked, criticism can (and should) reasonably be based on:
(a) whether going for a “win now” policy is (as you point out) realistic – injuries (especially to pitchers with history) and inadequate batting are no surprise and are no excuse.
(b) Bavasi’s record to date in constructing an adequate roster – the current lineup and farm depth is the result of more than one winter’s work.
(c) the moves made (or not made) over the winter to produce a team to win this year – decisions made in respect of players capable of run production have been questionable.
McLaren’s influence on games is limited as he can only work with what he is given however I do not see any problem with criticism of illogical player selection or use of the bullpen. Quite early to be doing the former at the moment but already some questions have arisen with the latter.

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