Musings about, um... well, the Seattle Mariners as well as a love affair with this game baseball. By Peter J. White
Saturday, May 24, 2003
If there's anything I love as much as baseball, it's movies, and I'd have to rank the Coen brothers right up there among my favorite filmmakers. Barton Fink is a must see for any aspiring screenwriter, or even writer in general. So it was with great joy that I discovered Alex Belth's semi-baseball-related interview with Ethan Coen. It's his Friday-the-23rd entry.
"I'm a writer, you monsters. I create for a living! I create! And this is my uniform!"
|| Peter @ 5/24/2003
I'm just listening to the Michael Lewis interview I downloaded from Baseball Prospectus. My favorite quote?
"There's no glory in being a moron." So true.
Now on to the game...
MARINERS 5, TWINS 2
Cammie pulled a Torii Hunter on Torii Hunter in the first last night in front of the 388 sign in left-center, erasing a 3-run homer. According the P-I:
"Now I know what it feels like," Hunter said. "I'm sorry, everybody. The thief got robbed."
As they crossed in the field after Cameron's catch, Hunter sent him what Cameron described as "some colorful, comical noise."
The Mariners cooled the sizzling Twins, if only for a night. The Twins in May are now 15-6 and as a team hitting .309/.365/.479. The M's maximized 2 Twinkie errors for 3 unearned runs in the first. And that was all we needed. A rare McLe-homer was a nice bonus.
Mac is hitting .364/.462/.545 as a rightie and .215/.308/.354 as a leftie. Now that's quite a split, but not when you consider he's only got 11 at bats from the left side and 79 from the right.
Jamie used up his 100 pitches before getting to the 6th yet again. He threw 107, a subpar 54% for strikes, and surrendered just 2 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks. Lasting just 5 innings is a bit worrisome, considering who Melvin's been giving the ball to in the sixth recently. But Giovanni kept the Twinkies off the board, yet it did take him 21 pitches to get his 3 outs. Shiggy went out for the 7th and 8th without giving up a run, and The Incredible Shrinking ERA is down to 0.33. I say he doesn't give up a run the rest of the year.
Go vote… now. Do it 25 times. Then go to the ballpark and grab a big handful of ballots. If only all elections were so third-world country-ish. But then registering, and setting up curtained booths at the ballpark would be a bit extreme. Actually, hold off your voting until I've finished telling you who you should vote for...
I suppose I'm a bit old-fashioned when it comes to the All-Star game. All the hoopla concerning it now, the debacle of last year, the league winner getting home-field advantage in the World Series, the expanded roster--I don't really care about that stuff. I just want to see all the stars play in one game together. I want to see Barry Bonds face-off against Pedro. I want to see Randy Johnson strike out the side of A-Rod, Giambi and Manny Ramirez. That's all I ask. What I don’t want to see are Carl Everett, Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora going up to the plate to face Matt Kinney, which is the far more realistic expectation for the 2003 All-Star Game.
In the end, the All-Star game is a bit like a James Bond movie--exciting to fantasize about and disappointing in the manifestation. I remember the first All-Star game I watched as a kid in '87 when Tim Raines scored the winning run in the 13th inning (I think). Now that was a thrilling game. As a kid, I taped the games from '87 to about '92. Next time I visit the fam' I'll have to pull those out again.
Now when it comes time to vote for the starting lineup, everybody’s got their own system—their favorite players, the home team, the best looking, name recognition, IQ, shoe size. It’s usually the same system they apply to their civic voting. I can’t see a worse reason to vote on a player than his April and May stats of the current season. One should not vote for Travis Lee over Jason Giambi because Lee is hitting .294 and Giambi .212. Nor should one pick Preston Wilson because he has 45 RBIs over Vlad Guerrero who only has collected 31. Unless, of course, you happen to support the home teams of either Tampa or Denver, or they happen to be your favorite players. I won’t slight you there. They 10-year-old kid who shared my M's ticket plan last year and sat next to me at nearly 10 games was set and determined to vote for Marlon Anderson on each of his ballots. Who was I to tell him he sucks?
So what’s my system? First of all, this is the ALL-Star game, and every spot on the roster should be filled with the very best players at each position, especially the starting lineup. Secondly, selection to the All-Star must be earned, so I personally draw the line at 3 years of experience to be and All-Star starter. So, no, you won’t see me voting for Soriano, Ichiro (the above kid last year gave me some look that suggested blasphemy when I refused to punch Ichiro's name), Pujols or Berkman. I have no problem with them being there; they can just come in as a sub in the 6th or 7th inning.
Last year, I took an Excel spreadsheet and went to work compiling the 3 year stats of everybody on the ballot. The Mrs. must have thought I had a screw loose. Perhaps I did, so I scrounged all the pocket change from the couch cushions over the winter and ponied up for Lee Sinnins’s CD-ROM, and now it’s all at the click of a button.
So without further adieu, I present the Catchers…
In the AL, with Pudge Rodriguez changing leagues, there’s Jorge Posada and pretty much nobody else. Posada’s created 60 runs above the league average and hit .277/.384/.490 with 70 home runs the last 3 years. Is there really any other AL catcher you can say is better? Jason Varitek has hit .263/.342/.406 with 27 home runs and -17 RCAA. Dan Wilson? .268/.309/.382 with 21 homers and -25 RCAA. It’s no contest, really.
Pudge does make the NL more interesting, however, and will bring up the debate: Piazza vs. Pudge. If we’re voting on mere throwing ability, that’s just not fair to Mikey. No, we do this on offensive value, and here’s how they compare. Pudge: .322/.357/.579 with 71 home runs and only 52 RCAA (that’s fewer than Posada). Piazza: .301/.380/.577 with 107 home runs and 98 RCAA since 2000. Pudge has the edge in batting average, while Piazza in on-base, their SLG is nearly identical. But Piazza has hit over 30 more home runs and created nearly twice as many runs against the league average. I know he’s hurt, most likely out the whole season, but still, Piazza’s the most deserving of my vote.
Now if you’re the subversive type, and just for the sake of being contrary you want to show Bud what you really think of his All-Star game might I recommend these guys for your ballot…
AL – Brent Mayne .275/.342/.358 with 12 home runs and -67 RCAA in 987 at bats.
NL – Brad Ausmus .253/.324/.354 with 18 home runs and -74 RCAA in 1392 at bats.
|| Peter @ 5/24/2003
Friday, May 23, 2003
ROYALS 5, MARINERS 1
Gil Meche: Perhaps his halo is shining so bright in light of the dark side of Freddy. In 6 and 2/3 innings, Gil shut down the Royals on 6 hits, 1 run, 2 walks and 7 strikeouts. And that will get you a lot of good press. He threw 111 innings, 60% for strikes, slightly underwhelming. I like that he shut down the top 4 of the Royals lineup (that includes Sweeney and Ibanez) 0 for 13, with a little help from the bullpen. A look at the Royals side of the box score and there's absolutely nothing: Relaford grounded into a double play, Berroa was caught stealing, Beltran stranded 1 in scoring position and Febles 2, and that's it. Now that's impressive.
Whoa Nellie -- he walked as many batters as he sent to the bench. That's never pretty, even it it is only 2.
Ichiro continued his tear with 2 hits and 2 runs scored to raise his OPS to .798. It's 1.192 in the last week.
BEST AND WORST OF PLATE DISCIPLINE 2003
Again, couresty of ESPN's sortable stats. Pitches per plate appearance is the offensive inverse of the pitcher's pitches per inning I looked at last week. It looks like there are 186 qualified hitters.
1. Edgar Martinez 4.5 (surprise, surprise).
2. Bobby Abreu
Nick Johnson 4.4
4. Brad Wilkerson
Jose Hernandez 4.3
12. Mike Cameron 4.2 (might this explain his .894 OPS)
47. John Olerud 3.9
Carlos Guillen 3.9
69. Bret Boone 3.8
103. Randy Winn 3.7
147. Ichiro 3.5
179. Jay Gibbons
Cesar Izturis 3.2
183. A.J. Pierzynksi
Vinny Castilla 3.1
185. Nomar Garciaparra 3.0
186. Deivi Cruz 2.9
It looks like the average is about 3.7-3.8. The first thing I notice with this list is that it generally correlates OPS. I'd much rather build a lineup from the guys at the top of the list than the ones on the bottom. They not only see more pitches, increasing their likelihood of drawing a walk, but also have better odds at seeing their pitch and driving it a country mile. Those are some sluggers. The oddball of the group is Alomar. While the high OPS that sticks out on the bottom of the pack is Nomar. Meanwhile, Edgar sees nearly a full count every trip to the plate.
The Mariners rank 6th in OPS, 3rd in OBP and 5th in walks, and it's because 5 of their starters see an above average number of pitches.
|| Peter @ 5/23/2003
Thursday, May 22, 2003
ROYALS 14, MARINERS 5
Dear Freddy, Giovanni and Julio:
Indulge me for a moment with some numbers...
Michael Tucker .338
Joe Randa .338
Mike Sweeney .381
Raul Ibanez .334
Carlos Beltran .343
Ken Harvey .294
Desi Relaford .332
Mike Difelice .290
Angel Berroa .320
Those are the career on-base percentages of the starting lineup you faced last night. You have one significantly above average hitter in Mike Sweeney, 2 severely below average hitters in Harvey and Difelice and 6 average hitters. In other words, this is a lineup that you can throw strikes to--granted, not juicy meatballs on a tee, as they did crank 6 home runs on the evening, but they are also not the most patient of teams either. However, shall we review the tape? Freddy, first inning: 34 pitches, only 16 strikes (that's a horrible 47%), 2 walks, 4 runs. Giovanni, 8th inning: 30 pitches, 17 for strikes (56%), 2 walks, 4 runs. Julio, 9th inning: 22 pitches, 11 strikes (50%), 1 walk, 3 runs. Shall we compare to your Kansas City counterparts? In the bottom of the 8th, Jason Grimsley used only 7 pitches to record his 3 outs, and in the 9th, Mike MacDougal used 10. Royals hitters collected more runs (14) than they did base hits (12), thanks to 6 walks and 6 home runs. On the night, the 3 of you combined to throw only 57% of you pitches for strikes, and this to a team that ranks 15th in the majors with a .336 on-base percentage. This to a team where the odds are in your favor 3:1 of sending that hitter back to the dugout.
Shame on you.
But enough sulking and finger-pointing. Where else, but in Seattle, my friend, will you find the best record in the American League with a "No. 1 starter" who is 3-6 with a 5.90 ERA and "The Closer" who has nearly as many blown saves (4) as he does saves (6) with a 6.08 ERA?
One has to wonder how Lou would be handling Freddy's meltdown, or more entertainingly, what Lou's postgame show would have been after last night's game?
|| Peter @ 5/22/2003
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Let's welcome the AL Central to the Safe. Thus begins a 6-game homestand against the Royals and Twins, teams moving in opposite directions. The KC series matchups appear to be Franklin against Runelvys tonight, Freddy against Miguel Ascencio tomorrow and Gil against Chris George on Thursday. The Mariners rank 7th in runs scored and 5th in runs allowed. Meanwhile, the Royals are 17th in runs scored and 17th in runs allowed.
KC hasn't won a series in 2 weeks, losing 5 of their past 6 games. They were just swept by the Blue Jays and prior to that split series against the Twins and Orioles. Don't let the hot start and 2nd-place standing fool you; the only teams they've played thus far with winning records are the Twins and Red Sox.
|| Peter @ 5/20/2003
Monday, May 19, 2003
PYTHAGOREAN RANKINGS: Week 7
(last week's rank in parentheses)
1. NY Yankees (1) 16-3 against Toronto, Tampa Bay and Minnesota. 11-13 against the AL West, dropping 6 of their last 7. They now go to Fenway for a 3-game set tied with the BoSox atop the AL East. That's going to be a fun series to watch.
2. Oakland (2) Quietly the best defense in baseball with a .761 defensive efficiency.
3. Seattle (4) Ichiro in the month of April: .243/.317/.306. Ichiro in the month of May: .446/.471/.631.
4. Chicago Cubs (5) In a word, overpowering. Cubs staff, led by Kerry Wood's 76 and Mark Prior's 69, at the top in strikeouts with 393.
5. St. Louis (3) Scott Rolen hitting .373/.441/.745 with 4 homers in the month of May.
6. Philadelphia (5) Brett Myers with 7.81 K/9 and 2.21 ERA, 2nd in NL only to Mark Prior.
7. Atlanta (11) Despite blowouts of 7, 9 and 10 runs this past week, they're still overperforming by 5 games. Russ Ortiz 6-2 with a 3.18 ERA and Mike Hampton 2-1 with 3.25 ERA.
8. Montreal (8) Zach Day 2nd in the NL with 15 Runs Saved Against Average, but he's walking nearly as many as he strikes out (24:26).
9. Los Angeles (7) When the highest ERA among your 5 starters is 3.51 (Dreifort) that's really, really good--Brown 2.51, Ishii 2.76, Perez 2.93, Nomo 3.04.
10. Minnesota (14) They just don't do walks: Twins pitchers 2nd best with 117 free passes, while the lineup is 2nd worst with 119.
11. (tie) Boston (12) Bill Mueller leads the team with a 1.078 OPS with a line of .363/.431/.647.
(tie) San Francisco (9) Barry leads majors in BB/K with 2.35. Edgardo Alfonzo 3rd with 2.11.
13. Anaheim (13) Middle Relief Man, pt. 1: Scot Shields 36 IP, 33 SO, 1.50 ERA.
14. Houston (15) Middle Relief Man, pt. 2: Brad Lidge 26.1 IP, 28 SO, 1.37 ERA.
15. Toronto (19) Jays lead the majors in runs scored thanks to Vernon Wells who is 2nd in the AL in extra base hits and on pace for 158 RBI, and Carlos Delgado who ranks 2nd or 3rd in 7 offensive categories, including OPS (1.087).
16. Arizona (18) Schilling quickly back to form: 10.73 K/9 and 3.22 ERA.
17. Kansas City (10) Royals quickly back to form: 7-11 in May.
18. Colorado (18) Rocks lead the majors in OBP, thanks to Helton (.442), Wilson (.396), Belliard (.391), Walker (.389) and Payton (.381). Who needs Coors Field when more than half the lineup reaches base at that clip?
19. Baltimore (19) Jason Johnson with a 3.00 ERA.
20. Florida (20) Fish staff ranks 3rd (behind the Yankees and Dodgers) in homers allowed with only 33.
21. Chicago Sox (21) Can we say the The Big Hurt is back? Thomas with a .945 OPS, 9 home runs, 4th in AL with 31 walks.
22. Texas (22) Everett 1.120 OPS + Blalock .966 + A-Rod .965 + Palmeiro .931 + Gonzalez .913 = Sweep of the Yankees in Yankee Stadium.
23. Pittsburgh (23) Started the season 7-3, but 11-23 since. OBP only better than Cleveland and Detroit.
24. NY Mets (25) Just when Piazza was getting hot, too: .390/.510/.805 in May.
25. Cincinnati (24) Boone, Kearnes, Dunn and Guillen all .900+ OPS. And not a starting pitcher yet with a sub-4.50 ERA.
26. Tampa Bay (28) Aubrey Huff 4th in AL is SLG (.600), 5th in OPS (.974) and 6th in home runs (11). Have they ever had news that good in Devil Ray-land?
27. Milwaukee (26) Ben Sheets: 14 walks to 43 strikeouts.
28. Cleveland (28) The Tribe's staff has forced a majors' best 52 double plays.
29. San Diego (27) Anybody for a Padres-Indians World Series in 2007?
30. Detroit (30) Dmitri Young (is it just me, or does his ESPN mugshot look suspiciously like Cedric the Entertainer?) .349/.391/.587 in May.