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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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July 9, 2008 6:35 PM

Why Vidro is batting cleanup

Posted by Geoff Baker

oakk0709 003.jpg

Another hot one here, today. If you folks can tear yourselves away from insulting each other for a bit, I did manage to ask Jim Riggleman about why he keeps batting Jose Vidro fourth. Riggleman's answer was long and multi-faceted. It isn't black and white. Several shades of gray. But here goes. Even with an OPS of .571, easily making him one of the worst hitters in all of baseball, Riggleman feels that Vidro offers him the best shot at "protecting'' Raul Ibanez when a righthanded pitcher is on the mound.

The reason for this has little to do with Vidro's current numbers. In the past, though, he's been close to a .300 hitter from both sides of the plate. Against righties, he figures Vidro will offer some incentive for pitchers not to walk Ibanez intentionally, or pitch around him. This type of thinking began under John McLaren, but Riggleman was part of it as the bench coach and is continuing to implement the thinking into his nightly lineups.

He said it was not the same when Adrian Beltre or Richie Sexson was hitting behind Ibanez in the order.

Ibanez has been intentionally walked a team-high nine times (tied with Ichiro for the lead). None of those occasions has come with Vidro batting fourth.

Riggleman admitted to me that it was not a traditional use of a clean-up hitter. That he'd love it if the guys who were expected to hit in certain spots had performed up to expectations and they could go with a traditional type of lineup. Against lefties, he'll move Vidro away from the clean-up role.

But this type of allignement is actually what Riggleman used to use in Chicago, when he managed the Cubs in 1998 when Sammy Sosa hit 66 home runs. Sosa didn't bat clean-up for that team. Mark Grace did. Same reasons. Riggleman knew that teams were going to hesitate to put Sosa on base, knowing that Grace was a guy who could put the ball in-play.

Vidro is also a guy who puts the ball in-play. Not like he once did. Not like Grace in his prime (or, in 1998, that's for sure). But he can put it in-play. And reputation still matters in this game. Sometimes, it carries as much weight as current stats. Teams know Vidro has hit from both sides before, know he's driven in some runs this year. And that he is not easy to strikeout with men on base.

Is this logic perfect? Of course not. Vidro has a sub-.600 OPS. But for now, on this team, it's the best shot the M's feel they have to help Ibanez see as many pitches as he can.

I asked Ibanez whether he'd noticed a difference and he laughed and told me he had not. But he never notices things like that. He's too zeroed-in on his job. He admits he stays away from thinking about things like "protection" and other stuff at the plate. One time, he told me, the M's had Ken Griffey Jr. hitting behind him for protection. Pedro Martinez was the opposing pitcher.

"The count went to 3-2 and I thought for sure he was going to groove the next one over,'' Ibanez said, figuring Martinez would not risk walking him with Griffey on deck. "Next thing I know, he drops a curve ball in on me. After that, I stopped thinking about protection and trying to guess what guys would do because of who is behind me.''

So, there you go. Hope that answers your question.

I also talked to Jeff Clement, trying to get his take on the difference between the sinkers thrown by Carlos Silva last night compared to previous outings.

Clement said there was a noticeable difference between Silva's sinkers as Tuesday's game progressed, compared to what he threw in his prior start against Detroit.

"It just wasn't sinking as much and his control wasn't what he wanted it to be,'' Clement said of the Tigers outing.

Clement admitted the sinker wasn't as good early on against the A's. But, as Silva said, once he got more relaxed, the sinker became more effective. The groundouts he notched from the sixth inning on seemed to confirm that. Clement noted that Silva gave up a lot of early flyballs as he was getting used to the adjustment.

How did it compare to other outings besides the Detroit game?

Clement feels the sinker was as good as he'd seen it in Silva victories over Texas back in May and against the Padres two weeks ago. Not better, but as good. Which is, logically, what Silva was aiming for since the Rangers have the best offense in the AL.

So, to clarify what was said last night, when Silva says his sinker was sinking more, he's obviously talking about how it was once he got used to the adjustment. He's comparing it to his previous game. He's not saying it's the greatest sinker he ever had. Just better. Just good, like when he was actually winning some games.

A scout I talked to moments ago agreed that Silva has thrown a similar caliber sinker this season. But he also agreed it was better than what he'd seen from Silvain some of his poorer outings.

So, there you go.

You have a pitcher and a catcher saying they saw improved sink on the ball from one start to the next (even if it was the later innings last night). Does this correspond to the pitch graphs on the computer? I don't know. I don't have innings five through eight sitting in front of me right now to match up with last Thursday against the Tigers. I'll have to go by what the pitcher and catcher say and what the data from innings five through eight last night suggests -- that Silva was getting plenty of groundouts because of a sinker he said was improving -- again, not the best of his career, simply improving.

If today's difference of opinion with the USS Mariner boils down to semantics, then fine. I think it's a pretty minor thing to try to attack someone's credibility with, throwing words like "access'' and "truth'' out there in a headline as if you have a monopoly on the subject, or know for a fact there is some type of blinder that prevents the media from doing its job.

If that irritates me and makes me sound thin-skinned at times, I can live with it. But you let too much stuff get by in a public forum, too much junk get spattered on the wall without responding, it eventually gets assumed to be fact. Just want you folks all to know, issues of access have nothing to do with our coverage of the team. If any of you disagree, you can feel free to ask. Just do it the way you would expect someone to ask you a question and you'll be treated with respect.

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Posted by NB

6:45 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Geoff this comment is not regarding you at all I just wanted to point out:

Mark Grace 1998: .309/.401/.471

Not the same thing

Posted by Miles

6:47 PM, Jul 09, 2008

I don't know whether to laugh at the theory behind VIdro batting cleanup or shake my head in sadness that he might actually be the best guy given this current roster.

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

6:50 PM, Jul 09, 2008

NB -

I think after I explained that Pitch F/X was a twin-high speed camera system and not a spreadsheet on Dave Cameron's laptop, Resin realized he needed to change the subject.-spoken by the guy that doesn't know a splitter from a sinkerball

BrianL you have no room to insult people when Geoff clearly explained that a sinkerball's effectiveness is determined by the break of the pitch. It's location. You are choosing to ignore this fact because otherwise you would look like the idiot you are. A slider and curveball, sure the break is important. The sinkerball, break has nothing to do with it's effectiveness. Like I said earlier, people that ignore the facts are uninformed bloggers.

Posted by BrianL

6:52 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Resin, why do we call it a sinker if the break isn't important? Pitch location is important -regardless- of what kind of pitch you're throwing.

Posted by Maui Mariner

6:52 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Miles, it is a sad fact indeed.

Geoff, you are doing fine, keep up the good work and hell yes, defend yourself with impunity!

Go M's

Posted by BGR

6:57 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Question: is Riggleman qualified to manage in the majors? Yes, your post answers that question.

Posted by Chopper58

7:03 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Well at least we have a quality pitcher on the mound tonight.

*checks and sees Batista*

This game is doomed.

My prediction last night came true, how about this today.

The A's score 8 runs on 3 innings of Batista. We score 2 for the whole game on 7 hits (3 of which are Ichiro's).

Posted by bammy

7:04 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Thanks for asking the question that boggles my mind every time i see the lineup with Vidro fourth. I don't know if my mind is less boggled but I do know feel confident that I would not like to see riggleman as manager next season.

USS Mariner used to be ok. Dave C's stuff has fallen off as he seems to be more active on other sites and without the inside info he used to have the whole site is nothing more than a fan like you or me on a soapbox. DMZ has always been about as entertaining as a hemroid.

Keep up the good work Geoff. I'll take what the pitcher and catcher have to say than some wanker on a compouter. Thanks for the access.

Posted by KingDog

7:08 PM, Jul 09, 2008

In defense of this kind of thinking, let us not forget that all those years Edgar batted clean-up, he didn't always have respectable power numbers, he was still more of a singles and doubles hitter. Same deal. I even remember reporters asking Lou why a high-average singles hitter was batting cleanup when we could have had Buhner in there instead.

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

7:09 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Riggleman feels that Vidro offers him the best shot at "protecting'' Raul Ibanez when a righthanded pitcher is on the mound

Wow, that's the quote of the year. We have no hope of getting this thing fixed with that kind of logic.

If today's difference of opinion with the USS Mariner boils down to semantics, then fine. I think it's a pretty minor thing to try to attack someone's credibility with, throwing words like "access'' and "truth'' out there in a headline as if you have a monopoly on the subject, or know for a fact there is some type of blinder that prevents the media from doing its job.

It's called elitist entitlement issues they believe they were born with. They have called K-Rod a cheater using an illegal substance under the bill of his cap which was dismissed, to saying that Mat Olkin was strictly the Royals consultant, attacking Joe Sheehan on his analysis on Ichiro. Attacking people's credibility and USSMariner go hand in hand.

Posted by BrianL

7:12 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Resin, you're dogmatic persona never ceases to amuse me.

Posted by -dmc

7:17 PM, Jul 09, 2008

"Teams know Vidro has hit from both sides before, know he's driven in some runs this year. And that he is not easy to strikeout with men on base."

I'm going to guess that most teams also know that Vidro appears to be done as a "professional hitter". In either case, the fact that this team needs to start thinking about it's future - a future Vidro does not figure into, and a future that will take another hit if Vidro's option is allowed to vest, makes Riggleman's continued use of him incomprehensible. And a good GM would take the choice away from a coach who can't make the correct call.

Posted by enough is enough

7:19 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Ironic. I just got on here to ask why oh why oh why is Vidro still hitting cleanup. I guess this "answers" it. What a joke of a lineup and a team. My God. Do something in the FO. Releases, trades, anything to show that you are actually trying!!!!!

Posted by Ben

7:26 PM, Jul 09, 2008

The old two catchers in a row trick... works every time.

Hmmm... well let's see how this pans out - Batista had a decent first inning.

Posted by Seth Cotner

7:26 PM, Jul 09, 2008

I would rather have Mark Grace right now batting 4th rather than Vidro. In all honesty, the answer of 'I want to protect Ibanez from getting pitched around' is the worst argument I have ever heard. I wont even waste my time coming up with the plethora of reasons that is flawed.

Geoff, on another note, have you heard anything in regards to the Beltre to Twins rumor that ESPN is reporting?

The Twins have reportedly had discussions internally about possibly aquiring Adrian Beltre from the Mariners.

Posted by BrianL

7:27 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Clearly, keeping Miguel Batista in the rotation instead of stretching RR-S or Morrow out is a bad idea.

Good grief that ball was crushed.

Posted by BrianL

7:28 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Seth Cotner - Don't put much stock into that rumor. THe Twins may ahve discussed it internally, but they don't have the payrol necessary to pull it off.

Posted by Vinz Clortho

7:34 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Oh yeah... one more thing...

Geoff, no need to start a thread for tonights game... no one cares... we suck.

You can go on the DL retro back to before the 15 inning fiasco and take some time to heal... just come back refreshed after the all star game.

Posted by Swung On And Belted

7:36 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Geoff, I bet that was difficult asking Riggleman about Vidro, as I suspect, you, like some of us, already knew the answer. Forcing him to spell it out, thus revealing the sorry state of our offense, and the lack of options available is painful for everyone.

You sure took a beating over at USSM today. I think some of it is due to misinterpretations. I've noticed on blogs that once someone puts something in writing, it can be mercilessly picked apart and a lot of times misconstrued. It is much different than a conversation where you can hear someone's tone of voice and see their bodily language to help determine the entire picture. And for random bloggers there is the anonynimity factor that gives them the courage to say things they might not ordinarily say.

As far as the debate of scouting vs. sabermetrics, I've noticed that both sides say THEY are the ones calling for an intelligent mixture of both philosophies. It seems to me that most bloggers are just paying lip service to this. I don't see too many putting it into practice. Mike seems to be the only one who is somewhat trying to do it. Personally, I hope that the new GM gets the best available advisers from both sides to use at his disposal. I just hope that they can find a way to come together for the common good. If the animosity on the blog is the same at that level, then I have my doubts.

Posted by Strasburg in 2009

7:36 PM, Jul 09, 2008

I'm sure other teams are scared of Vidro hitting a grounder to 2nd base for a textbook double play.

Posted by Seth Cotner

7:37 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Yeah... I also heard that the A's are interested in Beltre:

The A's did not have the results back Wednesday afternoon, but they have been linked to Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre in a recent trade rumor. Considering that Beltre has roughly $18 million left on a deal that runs through next year, that's a stretch, but if Chavez were to miss extensive time, the team certainly would examine every option.

That almost seems more unlikely than the Twins.

Posted by marinerfansince84

7:38 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Wow, it looks like the hitters think the season is over on Sunday instead of just the All- star break. Their thought process seems to be swing early and swing often, get this thing over with as quick as possible. Although that has seemed their m.o. all season. This is off subject but interesting to me. Back in the 1970s Lymon Bostock who had signed with the Angels after a great year for the Twins got off to a bad start to the season and actually went to the FO and asked if he could return his salary for the way he was playing. They refused so he gave his salary to charity and then went on to finish with a decent season. If the Mariner players did the same for those who are under-performing we would have the lowest team payroll in baseball!

Posted by BrianL

7:39 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Seth - That seems even less likely. I really doubt Beltre is moved.

Posted by BrianL

7:43 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Alright, if we're going to complain about Erik Bedard's durability, be prepared to complain about Miguel Batista, too.

Posted by Capo

7:52 PM, Jul 09, 2008

good lord......Jim Riggleman can not be this stupid........rationally trying to explain the worst DH in baseball as "protecting" his #3 hitter, and talking about nine intentional walks......just unbelievable....where do the M's find these people?

Posted by Full Count

8:22 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Vidro, Vidro, Vidro does any one really care any more, the fact that he is in the line-up indicates how weak the minors must be. Professional hitter my a**.

Why didn't the M's take Braun in 2005 instead of Celment another miss to go with Lincecum in 2006, nice couple all-stars we just missed.

Geoff, USS Mariner what pant loads, keep up the professional journalism and thanks for letting us participate and let us get rants out there and have a laugh.

Posted by RustyJohn

9:08 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Wow- is there some type of intelligence test that they can give to potential managers- like the Wonderlic test? M's managers would score somewhere in the neighborhood between low grade moron and imbecile. That is the stupidest explanation for hitting a sorry hitter clean-up- I am sure that opposing pitchers fear the power of Vidro. Does that mean if Barry Bonds hit fourth that Ibanez would sink to the Mendoza line?

This team needs a blood transfusion- a purging of all these ridiculous theories that have no basis in truth- unfortunately until the people at the top of the ladder are purged, we'll get the same results. Morons hire morons, it is that simple.

Posted by tom

9:10 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Vidro is a proven .300 hitter in a slump. last year he was our 2nd best hitter and he is a switch hitter. USSmariner has poisoned so many people against him. their hero snelling was traded for him so no matter how super he was last year they HAD to insult him! they are sad pathetic individuals! GO MARINERS!!!!

Posted by MKP

9:21 PM, Jul 09, 2008

[Geoff] Just do it the way you would expect someone to ask you a question and you'll be treated with respect.

Ha ha ha !!!! RESPECT is the last thing you can expect from DMZ and USS Mariner - all they need is "yes-men" who will accept WHATEVER they say. Ofcourse, you Geoff, are not a YES MAN, so you will get RIPPED.

Posted by David Gee

9:32 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Until today, I never realized that "multifaceted" could be a synonym for "stupid". Instead of thinking too much, how about not putting someone who can hit behind our best all-around hitter?

Posted by David Gee

9:35 PM, Jul 09, 2008

I meant someone who CAN hit.

Posted by RustyJohn

9:48 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Um, a proven .300 hitter in a slump? I hope you are being facicious.

If your definition of slump is 250 at bats or one half of a season, and if you fail to recognize that players skills decline, sure. The fact that, other than last year's fluke, Vidro hasn't hit above .300 since 2003 shouldn't disuade you either. Boone did pretty good in 2003, maybe we should bring him back.

Second, if you want batting average to dictate who should hit fourth, as opposed to slugging percentage, then that'd be a terrific idea too- however, even in last year's .300 season, Vidro had 172 hits- 140 of them were singles. His career high in homeruns was 24 in 2000. He hasn't hit double-digit homeruns since 2004 (14).

Finally, he has twice as many strike-outs as walks, he is just over powered at the plate.

Posted by bigwall

11:08 PM, Jul 09, 2008

well the logical hitter for the four spot is Beltre, since he is the best second best slugger on the team behind raul. Strangely enough he also hits right handers better then Vidro, but instead of using facts to back up a decision Rigglemen assumes the rest of baseball manager, pitchers and catchers are as big an idiot as he is.

Posted by Fred

11:31 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Bob wrote: " But you let too much stuff get by in a public forum, too much junk get spattered on the wall without responding, it eventually gets assumed to be fact."

Ain't that the truth. Reminds me of the fact the many people now believe the Yamauchi was behind the Kenji extension.

Why is that?

Posted by Josh

6:18 AM, Jul 10, 2008

*******f today's difference of opinion with the USS Mariner boils down to semantics, then fine. I think it's a pretty minor thing to try to attack someone's credibility with, throwing words like "access'' and "truth'' out there in a headline as if you have a monopoly on the subject, or know for a fact there is some type of blinder that prevents the media from doing its job.*******

This either completely misses the point or is intended to confuse the point. Neither interpretation reflects well upon the author....

Posted by downonstrikes

9:14 AM, Jul 10, 2008

As a professional arm-chair manager I would not have Vidro batting in the 4th spot ever. In fact, he would not be playing at all for me. I don't care what excuse Riggleman gives, his lineups are bogus.

Nothing has really changed for this team since it's period of shakeup. I posted back then that these changes are cosmetic and it is still the old guard in charge of the isylum. Hope has flown out the window for this team. The number of jetisoned fans is growiing and they won't be back.

Posted by byronebyronian

10:15 AM, Jul 10, 2008

I agree with Resin wrt USS Mariner. I posted a point on there about Matt Olkin and it was erased. I even posted it in the forum where they were asking WHO the saber guys were and Derek lit into me.

When you call them on something, they make your posts disappear or you are basically told to shut up and you are wrong.

I dislike that. Especially coming from folks who claim to be running a board for discussion. I did not insult anybody NOR did I attack their claims. I only pointed out that Olkin did indeed work for the M's and had proof. Derek didn't like it and made my post disappear.

Oh well...guess if you can't tow the party line over there, you get tossed. People rip on Detecto but at least they are open to opposing viewpoints (I had some comments about K-Rod which I admit the stats didn't bear out - but they never attacked me for it).

Lookout Landing is a fair place. For example, RRS is looked at as somebody who can be quite good as a starter YET USSM played skeptic until just recently. One minute they liked having Burke as a backup, five minutes later he sucks. I can go on and on but it's too bi-polar there for anybody who claims to be objective.

Posted by titowa

10:56 AM, Jul 10, 2008

re: USSM...In general, I don't see how calling out reporters for printing canned answers from athletes/managers as definitive explanations is a bad thing. That type of reporting comes off as lazy, even when this blog in and of itself is a testamant to how unlazy Geoff actually is.

I don't even want to get into the Silva thing, but this post about Riggleman's Vidro reasoning falls in the same category. As many other commenters haven't pointed out, there are numerous flaws in his reasoning. To let him off the hook and defend that reasoning is truly disappointing.

Posted by HonoluluFan

12:49 PM, Jul 10, 2008

The M's should have kept Ben Broussard and not signed Cairo. He was better than Sexson.

Posted by Jensen

3:44 PM, Jul 10, 2008

But none of this could've been predicted before the season started, that's why they play the games, anyone who suggests otherwise is blinded by prejudice and isn't to be taken seriously, besides their arguments should be dismissed because there is no accountability....therefore the logic of Riggelman's comments shouldn't be questioned.

Posted by Marcus

7:54 PM, Jul 10, 2008


At some point this off season, you'll presumably have time to reflect upon this season.

Consider the quality of the arguments made by those who are of USSM ilk versus the quality of the arguments of those who are trashing USSM.

You might just have a cathartic moment....and realize one side has considerably greater "command" of the truth...

Posted by Ned

8:42 PM, Jul 10, 2008

Geez, why did the A's intentionally walk Beltre twice today with the feared and respected professional hitter Vidro batting behind him?

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