Mariner Talk
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
 
As the USS Mariner asks, should Rafael Soriano be a starter or a reliever? Well, we all know that a good starter is more valuable than a good reliever. The flip side of that is the argument that Soriano does not have enough different pitches in his arsenal to be a full-time starter. If I had a vote with M's management, I would keep him in bullpen and keep our rotation the same. In fact, let's make Soriano the closer now and keep Eddie Guardado as the set-up man. What possible reason is there to keep our best reliever out of the closer role? That reduces our need to keep a has-been lefty on the roster at the expense of one of our kids. When I say that Soriano should close, I mean that he should be pitching when the game is tied or the M's are up by a run. Our best reliever should be pitching in our most important situations.
 
Well, I guess I have to post something again, since I was mentioned in the PI article about bloggers! What should I say?
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
 
If the M's are late in the game and the score is tied or the team is up by a run, who do you want on the mound? If I'm the manager, I turn to Rafael Soriano. Don't get me wrong, Shiggy and Eddie are fine pitchers. But is there any doubt that Soriano should be the closer right now? Maybe Melvin shouldn't officially anoint him the closer in the media, but he should bring in Soriano when the game matters most and let other pitchers save the 2 and 3-run leads in the 9th.
 
So, what do we do with our $9.5 million dollars, now that Sasaki will be gone? We've got to have more offense. The obvious answer is Pudge Rodriguez. If he's willing to sign a 2 year, $18 million deal, then the M's should make the move. A healthy Rodriguez takes the worst offensive liability the M's currently have (Wilson/Davis) and turns it into an asset. An outfielder who could replace Winn against righties and Ibanez against lefties would also be a good solution. And trading Olerud for a real 1st baseman might not be bad either. I don't really like the Winn/Garcia for premium outfielder talk from my fellow bloggers. If we do a deal like that, we still have no hitting at catcher, no bench and nobody to replace Olerud or Ibanez against lefties.
 
Most bloggers have said that we've improved our offense only incrementally (if that much) this offseason. I just can't agree with that. I presented these splits a month ago and now I'm updating them for the signing of Aurilia. Of all of the players on Mariner rosters over the past 4 years (2001-2004), these would be our best lineups. And out of these 13 players, we're only missing Podsednik vs. righties and Colbrunn and Cameron vs. lefties. We've made obvious, if not splashy, upgrades at shortstop and third. The only real disaster of the offseason is the Colbrunn trade.

Vs. righties

Ichiro RF - .810
Podsednik CF - .837
Ibanez LF - .887
Edgar DH - .897
Olerud 1B - .895
Boone 2B - .855
Spiezio 3B - .793
Aurilia SS - .793
Davis C - .675

Vs. lefties

Ichiro RF - .822
Winn LF - .869
Boone 2B - .973
Edgar DH - .980
Colbrunn 1B - .969
Cameron CF - .878
Aurilia SS - .860
Wilson C - .766
Spiezio 3B - .762
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
 
Russ Branyan? I've heard that name thrown around by columnists and bloggers alike in the past couple of days. He plays 1st, 3rd and some LF. He's a lefty that, for some odd reason, has hit lefties better the last 3 seasons than righties. Now the biggest weakness in the M's right now is their lack of a hitter to platoon with Olerud and/or Ibanez and hit against lefties. Is Branyan the answer? Seems weird to sign a left to platoon with 2 other lefties. Is there a better available hitter out there? Why not Palmiero?
Sunday, December 21, 2003
 
I'm ambivalent on the Garcia signing as many of us seem to be. But I see it as a negative that he takes up a roster spot that could have gone to a young pitcher. I'm also don't want to see the M's go out and sign another free agent lefty for the bullpen. That would leave zero roster spots for the kids. I say that it's time for us to see what more of the kids can do. Give them your "soft landing" in the bullpen, but let them play with the big boys.

On a similar note, with the signing of Garcia, it now seems that Soriano will spend at least the next year in the bullpen. If that's true, then I hope Melvin does not use him as his 4th best option in the bullpen. Soriano is so good, that he should be used in all situations in the 7th, 8th or 9th, when the team is tied or ahead by 1 run (unless he's unavailable that day). Kaz can have the save situations where the team is ahead by 2 or 3 runs. Does the signing of Guardado keep Soriano from the closer role for good?
 
Rick at The Bullpen advises us to watch K. Matsui this year on the Mets. Did we make a mistake by not pursuing him? We don't know yet. First, the only position left on the M's radar seems to be shortstop. We'll have to wait until we find out who's our starter and how much we'll pay him. Second, if it ends up being Guillen, maybe we'll have a healthy and exciting year out of him. I'm hoping for that. If we do make an effort to obtain Aurilia/Valentin, I hope we keep Guillen as a backup. He would be the best hitter on our bench, and he would effectively be the backup at all 4 infield positions (since Guillen would play 3rd and Spiezio 1st, if Olerud needed a rest).
 
I've heard quotes from Bavasi and his assistants, in the past couple of days, telling us that the M's have a lot more to do this offseason, and that they have ways of clearing payroll to do these things. I'll be interested in hearing what these moves are. Is the Garcia/Valentin deal still in the works? What about Garcia/LoDuca? Can we afford Aurilia now that Garcia has been signed?

We have 2 roster spots to fill on our bench (if Cirillo is released). What positions do we need? Who do we sign to improve the bench offense, since Wilson, Bloomquist, and our new friend McCracken, don't exactly strike fear in anyone?
Friday, December 19, 2003
 
We now know that the wild card team from the American League will be from the East. So the only way to get to the playoffs is to win the division. The first step to winning the division is to have a higher payroll than our 3 competitors. We've done that. The next step is to assemble a management team that can allocate those resources better than the other 3 teams. We haven't done that. Oakland's management is definitely superior to ours, and Anaheim's management may be equal to ours.

Now what I was trying to say earlier (that Steve killed me on) was that above average payroll + average management = competitive every year. The M's goal this year needs to be to win the West. Period. From the sounds of it, most of my fellow bloggers don't think it looks like we'll be able to do that. But if we win the West, then we've accomplished our goal. Which is to get ourselves into the game of winning a World Series. Management needs credit for that, even if we bomb out of the playoffs.

Just because Billy Beane loses every single playoff series he's in, doesn't make him any less than the best GM in the game. What do all of you bloggers mean by the term "championship team". Surely it's not a team that wins the championship every year. That's impossible. We need to realize that the Yankees and Red Sox have higher salaries and better management than us. With that being said, NY and BOS chances of winning a World Series next year are something less than 1 in 4 for each team. If we're the 3rd best team in the American League each year, then I'll be happy. Because that means that eventually we'll sneak by the Yankees and the Red Sox and into the World Series.

Let me say this again. The best team usually doesn't win the World Series. There are too few games (too small a sample) for the best team to usually win. I read a mathemitician once who said the chance of the best team winning in an 8-team playoff was something like 24%.

And, Steve, forget setting up your team for the playoffs. We just need to get there! Setting up rosters for the playoffs is so inconsequential to getting there in the first place.

Now I agree that the M's shouldn't settle on mediocrity. And I agree with Steve that the M's have not been particularly wise with their dollars these last couple of years. My personal opinion is that we should have hired Paul DePodesta as our GM. Despite some questionable moves, I do think the M's are stronger this year. And I do think the talent is moving East and our division is weakening. I also think that our pitching staff is only going to get better and better these next few years. I would give us a 75% chance of winning the West next year.
 
I saw that the M's put some incentives in Ichiro's contract for plate appearances and for MVP awards. What the M's should have done is give him massive incentives to lead the league in OBP. As we all know, Ichiro isn't patient enough. To the detriment of the team, he swings at bad pitches anytime in the count. It's clear he doesn't understand the value of a walk. He wants his hits and his batting title. Somebody (Melvin?) needs to tell Ichiro that if he wants to be the best player in the league, he needs to lead the league in getting on base. Ichiro's job is to get on!
 
Valentin vs. Aurilia vs. Guillen. It looks like the M's final push for more offense is focused at shortstop. 3 out of 4 arguments say we should go with Aurilia. First, he's 2 years younger. Second, he'll probably come cheaper than Valentin's 2003 salary of $5 million. Third, he's better than Guillen at hitting both lefties and righties and he's better than Valentin at hitting lefties. But how does starting Aurilia compare with platooning Bloomquist with Valentin?

OPS LHP RHP
Aurilia .860 .793
Bloomquist/Valentin .740 .859

Who should we get to make the M's as high-powered offensively as we can in 2004? Not Guillen and not Vizquel, we know.
 
Feel free to email me at:

tim_g at telepress.com

if you have any comments on my postings. So far, my friend Steve is taking me to task on his blog, which is a great thing. Unfortunately, Steve's a better writer than me, so he's winning the debates so far. We'll see if I can score some points, though, in the next few days.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
 
Looking at the blogs today, one blog advocated offering Freddie Garcia arbitration (Steve) and another said we should let him go (Sodo). Both made some arguments that I would like to respectfully disagree with.

Steve says that Bavasi has already proven himself inept at managing a payroll, so we should lock up Garcia to prevent Billy from getting his hands on the money. I just cannot agree with that. We have got to give Bavasi every chance to improve this team. Garcia is not worth whatever he will get in arbitration. He may run the M's into the ground with the chance, but it is just too early to trash him so badly.

I lean more towards Sodo's position of letting Garcia walk. Where I disagree is Sodo's low arbitration estimate for Garcia of $6 million. That is way too low! Has anyone ever received a pay cut in arbitration? We all know that since the winter of ARod and Manny 3 years ago, the market has taken a turn down. And no arbitration salaries are no longer in tune with the market. That's why Garcia got such a huge pay raise last year after a mediocre 2002. GM's know that going to arbitration results in inflated salaries, so they stay away.

What about this scenario? Teams are reluctant to trade for Garcia because they think we are going to non-tender him. What if we do offer him arbitration and then try to trade him? Does his trade value go up, once teams realize that we are willing to keep him?
 
The word on the street (ok, the web) is that Ichiro's deal is 4 years, $44 million, which includes a $6 million signing bonus. I'm not crushed by the deal. As I've said before, Ichiro is about an $8 million player, but the additional profit he brings to the team is probably worth the extra $3 million. Rotoworld.com makes the same point. Now what's next on the agenda to improve our offense?!
 
Ok, people, you need to let up on our favorite GM, Bill Bavasi. He's made one great move (Guardado), six good moves (Spiezio, Winn, Franklin, Guillen, no Cameron, no Tejada), one ok move (Ibanez), and one awful move (Colbrunn/McCracken). We don't know about the Vizquel deal because we don't know if any money would have changed hands. We don't know about Ichiro or Garcia or Cirillo yet.

You've got to stop with this woe-is-me garbage. Sure, we now know that Bavasi is not the best GM ever. But it's yet to be proven that he stinks. Have a little patience, everyone.
 
Using all of the M's players from 2001 to 2004, what are the best lineups we can assemble to face both lefties and righties? I took the 3-year OPS splits from ESPN to figure this out. I even added Omar to the list of eligible players.

Vs. righties

Ichiro RF - .810
Podsednik CF - .837
Ibanez LF - .887
Edgar DH - .897
Olerud 1B - .895
Boone 2B - .855
Spiezio 3B - .793
McLemore SS - .747
Davis C - .675

Vs. lefties

Ichiro RF - .822
Winn LF - .869
Boone 2B - .973
Edgar DH - .980
Colbrunn 1B - .969
Cameron CF - .878
Wilson C - .766
Spiezio 3B - .762
Bloomquist SS - .740

What does this tell us?

1. The obvious. Boone, Ichiro and Edgar should play every day.

2. The less obvious. Guillen, Vizquel, Relaford, Bell, Sanchez and Vazquez really aren't that good.

3. The obvious. The Colbrunn trade was stupid. He should be starting for the M's in 2004 against all lefties. We now need to find another 1st baseman to platoon with Olerud.

4. The less obvious. Spiezio will be the best 3rd baseman we've had in at least 3 years, from both sides of the plate.

5. The obvious. Our catchers can't hit righties.

6. The obvious. Letting Podsednik go without giving him a shot was stupid.

7. The obvious. We need an outfielder to platoon with Ibanez. McCracken is not the answer.

8. The less obvious. Jose Valentin for Carlos Guillen is a great trade! Valentin has an .859 OPS against righties in the past 3 years. We could platoon Valentin with Bloomquist at short.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
 
We all saw Rob Neyer's trashing of Bavasi and his attempted trade of Guillen for Omar. What struck me about that column, though, is that Neyer approved of the Spiezio signing. I agree with Rob, especially if Spiezio plays all 3 years at 3rd base. We needed someone out there to play alongside Guillen. I still haven't heard anyone bring up a better alternative than Spiezio at either SS or 3B (besides Nomar).
 
There are a couple of other myths out there that I want to address besides the clutch hitting one. First, we often hear from Rick Rizzs and most of the M's columnists (including Art Thiel in his book) is that pitching and defense win championships. Now, most of us bloggers are smart enough to know that this is garbage. Baseball is 50% pitching and defense and 50% hitting and baserunning. Look at the M's last year as one example. The first team in 35 or so years to use the same 5 starters all year. And the fewest errors ever. They just didn't have enough hitting.

Secondly, it's dangerous to measure your success on whether you've won a championship or not. The important thing for any team is making the playoffs. If the M's have the 5th highest payroll, and their management is simply average, then they should average the 5th best record each year. And averaging the 5th best record should get you into the playoffs probably 3 out of every 4 years. Once you're in the playoffs, you basically have a one in eight chance of winning it all. And it's usually not the best team that wins. Does anyone think the Marlins, Angels and Diamondbacks were the best teams in the majors the last 3 years? If the M's make the playoffs this year, we as fans need to be satisfied with that. We can't kill the management for not bringing home a championship.
 
The U.S.S. Mariner brought up the point about different perspectives coming from each blog. I have an accounting degree from the University of Washington business school. And I'm a practicing accountant. So, from this business perspective, I have absolutely no problems with the M's $95 million payroll. If a higher payroll means that the team will lose money, then I'm against raising our payroll. The problem, as I've already said, is not how much money we spend, it's how we spend it.
 
I pointed out yesterday that if we are going to trade for LoDuca, then we need to trade Wilson and not Davis. The response I received was that as a 10 and 5 player, Wilson can veto any trade. Now I may have been a bit hasty in my analysis. We would all agree that Davis is both cheaper and better than Wilson. But, of course, which one we trade depends on what we can get, and I'm sure we could get more for Davis.

As a side note, the problem with the Davis/Wilson platoon that is likely to continue in 2004 is that they both hit better against left handers. If you're the manager, how do you divvy up the catching duties?
 
I just, quickly, want to echo something that Matt over at J.A.M.B. said. There is no such thing as a clutch hitter, as anyone who knows anything about baseball knows. So if Bavasi thinks Spiezio is a clutch hitter, that's another piece of evidence to convict Mr. B. in the court of public opinion.

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