Mariners Musings

Musings about, um... well, the Seattle Mariners as well as a love affair with this game baseball. By Peter J. White

Saturday, June 28, 2003

The Will Carroll/Billy Beane Interview

The following conversation between Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus author, and Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, was first broadcast on Baseball Prospectus Radio May 21st, and is transcribed and posted with permission from Baseball Prospectus.

WC: I am honored and joined by a man that the Baseball Prospectus crowd needs absolutely no introduction, Billy Beane, former major league player, subject of Moneyball, and of course, his main job, General Manager of the Oakland A’s. Thanks for joining us Mr. Beane.

BB: It’s an honor to be on this program. I’m a big fan of Baseball Prospectus, as well.

WC: As you know, we’re big fans of you. Hey, the new book, Moneyball, and we’re talking to Michael Lewis right after you, it’s got to be both an exciting time and a challenging time for you. What’s your feeling on the book having seen it and lived through it?

BB: Well, I think the first thing, obviously it wasn’t something that I either editorialized or profited from, but we have a tremendous amount of respect for Michael. He’s a great writer, and actually I enjoyed his company during the time. Certainly there are some things that make me, for lack of a better term, some things that make me wince a little bit, but I think the important thing is to, I think, separate a writer’s interpretation and what, maybe, came out of the mouths of people in the organization. But, I think anytime, too, that you do things in a business atmosphere that are different from everybody else, it lends itself to scrutinization, and our organization certainly has had that even before this book, probably a little bit more after this book, but, you know, our job is to put the best baseball team under the economic restrictions that we have, and if it means doing things differently, so be it.

WC: Now doing things differently has become almost a mantra for you. A lot of people have said that this book gave away the secrets, and I didn’t feel that way. Did you feel there was anything that was given away?

BB: No. I think that, a lot of the stuff, and I think you guys may have mentioned on your site, a lot of this stuff, that they talk about in the book are things that people knew we did anyway, but I can guarantee that there are certainly some things that we didn’t reveal and probably never will. So no, we weren’t concerned with that, and ultimately if the game becomes more efficient, I think that’s good for everybody, and that’s certainly what we’re trying to do here in Oakland because we have to, and as far as giving away secrets, there are always a few cards in the back pocket.

WC: Now your playing career was less than successful, we’ll call it, though making the major leagues is obviously a success…

BB: Ha! You’re being kind, Will!

WC: Now that prepared you, it seems, to be the general manager you are, to question the conventional wisdom that picked you up as a player. What was really your “Eureka!” moment as an executive where you realized what you wanted to do with this team, that you wanted to focus on things like on-base percentage, pitchers that don’t give up on-base percentage? Was there really a moment for you where suddenly you got it?

BB: Well yeah, a little bit. I think I was fortunate to be around somebody who was a bit clairvoyant in where the game was going with Sandy Alderson. Sandy was a very stimulating guy to work next to because he had to teach himself the game, and just by virtue of his background, I think it was his natural inclination for him to sort of question what was going on. So being next to Sandy, as long as I was, really opened my mind to a lot things. And, I think another thing, if you’re looking for sort of a moment, I remember going, and once again it was all building up to this moment, but when it finally hit me as hard as it did, this was certainly after seeing some of Bill James’s work and going into the season, but I remember sitting in 1993, me and Sandy were at the World Series and looking at that Philadelphia Phillies lineup and watching this club just wear clubs down and then going through the lineup and looking at some of the guys—the Dykstras and the Daultons and the Kruks and, even in that case, I believe that was the year Mariano Duncan even walked. And, for me, after doing the investigation beforehand, and really trying to find out and question what was going on and then to see it right in front of your face and to also have the experience of playing with Lenny and remembering my history with him. I think at that point I was completely sold and stamped, that this is the way that we are going to have to do it. This is an undervalued statistic in the game. It is the most linear statistic as it applies to scoring runs, and everything became an offshoot of that and a derivative of that. But, that was the epiphany, but once again, the investigation started as far back as the age of some of Bill James’s stuff.
|| Peter @ 6/28/2003
WC: Now you mentioned Lenny Dykstra, and with him, a lot of people before reading the book won’t know that you were a teammate of his. Are there any players today that you see as kind of that Lenny Dykstra type, the, what you called, prototype baseball player, one that doesn’t outthink himself?

BB: Wow, you know, well, I don’t know the guy, but I look at a guy like Jim Edmonds a little bit. You know, Lenny had such a great makeup to play the game. The one thing that people didn’t realize about Lenny was Lenny actually had a lot of ability. It just was in a 5'9" frame. And, having played with Lenny and actually rooming with him and realizing that on all the teams this guy played on, the impact that this guy had was remarkable. You saw him on the Phillies when he played on an everyday basis, as well. He was really a great baseball player and was really a great guy at the top of the lineup. You look at his year, I’m not quite sure of the year it was, but his first year in Lynchburg when he played in the Carolina League. Take a look at the numbers that he put up, not just with his base hits and stolen bases, but the on-base and even the slug that year for a guy that was 5'9" as a centerfielder, and I think he was 19 years old that year. It’s really remarkable. It’s hard to find that kind of guy. If I was going to build a leadoff guy other than Rickey, it probably would have been Lenny in his prime. He really was a remarkable player. He had the ability to forget the previous day and sort of move forward and build off the positives.

WC: Now with a guy like Lenny Dykstra, why isn’t a guy like that in the game, perhaps in a position, not exactly like yours, but advising people, perhaps even coaching?

BB: Well, actually, Lenny has actually had a couple of successful carwash businesses in Southern California. Financially, he had done pretty well in the game, and he has a young family that I know he is still raising. The lifestyle is something he doesn’t necessarily, I’m guessing, that he doesn’t need right now, and once again, the success of his other businesses is probably keeping him busy as well.

WC: Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane joining us here on BPR. Billy, you spoke really briefly of Bill James and his work. Now, this year, famously, he was hired by the Boston Red Sox, a team that almost hired you on in the off-season. What took so long for Bill James to get into the game, inside the walls he tried so hard to break down, and why wasn’t it with Oakland?

BB: Hmm…well, that’s probably a good question. I think what you have to do is give credit to the people in Boston who had the foresight, they have the ownership with John Henry there who I think is a very forward thinking owner as it relates to some of the things that we all both agree on, myself and Baseball Prospectus. So I think it just took someone to talk to him, and it took really just someone to pull the trigger, and certainly, I think, with Theo Epstein there, you had a great forum from which to invite a guy like Bill in. And, so yeah, it is kind of amazing that somebody wouldn’t have considered somebody of that caliber to bring in. I think certainly there are guys that organizations employ that are at similar levels, but Bill was certainly the godfather of all this, at least in the modern times. It’s hard to believe he wasn’t in earlier.

WC: Now with Bill James and his stuff and with the Boston move, what was really the reason behind that? We’ve heard several stories about John Henry basically backing up the truck and handing you either all the money or a blank check or both. What ultimately kept you with Oakland?

BB: Well, I think first and foremost, my entire family is on the west coast. I have a daughter who just turned 13 today. And, although John Henry and the Red Sox were doing everything they could to allow me to get back there, I think realistically, knowing the kind of commitment that that organization and that town deserve, I probably would have been spreading myself a little thin trying to be a father on the west coast and a general manager in Boston. I think ultimately that was the biggest reason. And, the thing is, they’ve got a great GM right now. Theo is a Boston-raised diehard and is one of the brightest minds in the game. And so, in the end, I think it turned out great for Boston, and I think, from the lifestyle standpoint, some of the things that are important to me outside of baseball, it worked out for me.

WC: Billy Beane joining us on BPR. Billy, can you hang around for one more segment?

BB: Oh absolutely.

WC: We’ll be right back. This is Baseball Prospectus Radio.
|| Peter @ 6/28/2003
WC: Welcome back to Baseball Prospectus Radio. This edition is all about the best-selling book Moneyball. We’ll be joined in just a little bit by author Michael Lewis. Right now, Oakland A’s General Manager and subject of Moneyball, Billy Beane. Billy, most of the book seemed to focus on the draft and how the draft was beginning to change things for you. Last year’s draft, to the baseball insiders, looked like nothing they had ever seen before, especially with a player like Jeremy Brown. The sequence in the book is absolutely comical where you went back and forth with your scouts with them saying he wears a big pair of underwear and you telling them, “We’re not making jeans here.” What were you trying to do with that draft? Do you feel you succeeded with it?

BB: Well, I think first and foremost, I think there is this misinterpretation of the way we do things, that we think we have the answers. We don’t pretend to have the answers. The only thing we’re trying to do is investigating the failure rate the draft has had, trying to play the odds and just trying through the draft every year, trying to build a better mousetrap if we can. We don’t know the answers. We just know the risks and the odds and the probabilities as it relates to drafting players and we’re trying to go with those. And, the other thing, too, is we’re trying to recognize the skill level, and for us, and I don’t think it’s any secret, the command of the strike zone for us is a tool that needs to be recognized even at the amateur level, and once again, this is still a litmus test for us as well. I will say this: Looking back as we sit here almost a year later, I think we are very happy, particularly when you talk about Jeremy being at the AA level and commanding the strike zone at that level the way he has. Nick Swisher another guy we thought very highly of is doing the same thing in the California League. And, going down the list, it seems to have some correlation, their strike zone discipline in amateur ball and going into professional baseball. And once again, we don’t pretend to have the answers, and we’re not saying that this is the right way. We’re just, once again, trying to find a better way and trying to eliminate as much risk as possible.

WC: Now, I’m looking at their stats right here and Nick Swisher is just absolutely killing the California League. He has an on-base percentage of .445. Jeremy Brown is in the Texas League at Midland, and he has an on-base percentage of up over .360. Add in the couple of pitchers that you got, it absolutely has to be considered a success. Do you feel with this year’s draft, you have a few less draft picks, do you think you can get the same sort of success, or do you feel that other baseball organizations understand what you’re doing now better and you’re losing that advantage?

BB: Well, I can tell you that there are very few people that probably agree with the way that we draft, and there are some that actually agree. I think you can look to the Toronto Blue Jays and expect that a few of their drafts will be guys that we’ll covet as well as the Boston Red Sox and some of those other organizations. Each organization has its own beliefs, some of them subjective. We prefer to look at the objective. As far as people mimicking what we do I think we’re a long way off from that because if you read the papers, it’s filled with criticisms about the way we do things anyway. So I’m not overly worried about that. And if it is, there are always going to be inefficiencies that you can take advantage of. There will always be a swing too far one way, and if there is, you just have to be prepared, stay ahead of the curve and scoop up and collect those nickels off the ground that people are leaving behind.

WC: Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A’s joining us here on BPR. Now Billy, it almost seems like General Manager doesn’t seem like the right title for you. You may be closer to someone trying to, what’s the word I’m looking for, cheat the casino, or the word I really like is arbitrageur, which seems what you’re actually doing when you’re looking at players. Is that an accurate assessment?

BB: Well, it’s the one that you usually have to define for most people. But yes, I think it’s one, that’s the way we try and look at things. Once again, everything is risk management, and for us, we’re trying to play like an insurance company would set insurance rates or an actuary and try and look at things very objectively, trust the numbers, trust the probabilities. I think I saw a famous line from a book that I sort of filed away in my head, “Without numbers, you don’t have odds and probabilities, and without odds and probabilities, you leave your outcomes up the fates and gods,” and so we try and keep that in the back of our minds all the time, and make sure that we sit on the house side of the odds.

WC: Billy Beane, General Manager of A’s joining us. Billy, one of my favorite players on your team is Eric Chavez, and you’ve been quoted a couple of times that if he increased his walk totals just a little bit, he’d be Barry Bonds. Now Barry Bonds walks almost three times more than Chavez does now, but do you think it would become almost a positive feedback loop, and he really does have that kind of talent?

BB: Well, the one thing with Eric, you’ve really got to take into account with a lot of players their age, and Eric is doing just fine. Even if you just look at him this year, there is a significant increase this year in his percentage of walks, and all Eric needs is a few birthday candles. He is a remarkably talented guy, 25 years old in December, and to look at what he’s done up to this point, and the improvement that he continues to show with each birthday, he is well on his way to being one of the best players in the game if he is not already.
|| Peter @ 6/28/2003
WC: Now, you picked up a player in the off-season in Chris Singleton that, on first look, goes against your organizational philosophies. What did you see there, or did you realize you were undervaluing defense perhaps?

BB: Yeah, well, a little bit of all that. First and foremost, you have to understand we knew that to find the perfect player for that position is very difficult and particularly with the cost that we would have had to expend on it. And, then the other byproduct is the impact it would have moving Terrence Long over to left field. Terrence goes from being, this is other people’s words, a below-average centerfielder to being a Gold Glove caliber left fielder. And, subjectively, which we try not to put too much stock into, it has had an impact in his offense as well. So, we thought moving Chris there would give us a defensive improvement, and would give us a significant improvement in left with Terrence’s move over there. And, once again, you have to always remember that you are very limited in this market in filling a middle-of-the-diamond position, such as centerfield, so we were limited as to who we had available to us. And, we’ve been very happy with Chris, and he’s done a great job.

WC: Now, with someone like Singleton, you’re almost going to have to instill that getting on base philosophy and controlling the strike zone. Do you feel at all that this is something that you can develop in players or even teach to them at the Major League level or is it an innate ability?

BB: A little bit of both. I certainly think the environment can improve upon it. That’s at least my opinion now. It may change as I get older. I think there are certainly limitations. I think the environment can have an impact on it and an awareness. It’s one thing to tell somebody, “Hey, swing at good pitches,” but if they understand the reason and the impact it has, seeing pitches and how much walks and on-base percentage. That was a great thing about having Jason Giambi here. Jason is one of the smartest hitters I have ever had around, and I love talking to him because Jason, as an individual, absolutely, positively gets team offensive baseball. If you create the environment, even if it is a small incremental improvement, it can have a big impact if you multiply that by nine.

WC: Now in the offseason it seems like your one quest, what I heard called your “White Whale” was Erubiel Durazo, and it took one of the most complicated trades, I’ve seen in all my years following baseball, to get him in an Oakland A’s uniform. Talk us through what you saw in him and if you continue to see it.

BB: Well, you know, once again, we’re always hamstrung by the economics. I think it’s obvious in Ruby’s brief playing time that had in Arizona that he had a command of the strike zone. He had power. He was available, and he was cost effective. And, if you put those 4 things in order, there are very few guys that you could say all those things about. And so, it really limited it to one or two guys, and Durazo, given his service time, given the cost of the player, given what he’d accomplished and what we thought he could accomplish over the course of the season, really, that’s why he became the focus. Certainly, there are better offensive players, but you have to combine all those things and whether they’re available and if you can afford them. So that was why we were so aggressive in our pursuit of him the last couple of years. Up to this point, I think he has justified that faith.

WC: Yeah, I don’t think Brian Sabean was going to trade you Bonds.

BB: Yeah, exactly. If you look at Bonds, that’s the ultimate offensive player right there, and for obvious reasons he’s not a guy who’s too available to too many teams.

WC: Exactly. Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s joining us. Billy, several of your disciples, it sounds like, J.P. Ricciadri, Theo Epstein, a couple of others through out baseball. Are you losing some of your advantage, or are you gaining people who speak your language? It certainly seems that you have an easy trading pipeline with J.P. in Toronto.

BB: Yeah, I think in some respects it makes it easier, because I think the idea of a trade isn’t necessarily to make sure that you don’t give up anything. We try and focus on what we’re getting, and when you’ve got a guy like J.P., we’re not going to fool J.P., and quite frankly, the fact of the matter is that it makes it quicker because you’re looking at the same players. When you start talking about players, you’re on the same page, and there is certainly a trust factor there as well. So, I find it a little bit easier to make deals with people who are on the same page because, once again, you’re looking at the same players, and when you’re offering players, you’re offering players of a similar vein that you like as well. So to me, it actually helps. And once again, if it helps the game become more efficient, great.

WC: Now, as the game becomes more efficient, where is the next advantage for you and for the Athletics’ organization? Is it perhaps, and I’ll say this a little selfishly, is it injury management?

BB: There is certainly a correlation between injury management and age. That’s no secret. Certainly a word that has been used around here is “pre-hab,” particularly as it relates to pitchers. As far as the next frontier, it’s hard to say, and once again, everyone is going to have their own opinion, and teams are going to do it the way that they believe is the best way to do it based on their economic circumstances. As far as knowing what it is, we’re certainly not going to tell anybody.

WC: Exactly! Billy Beane of the A’s joining us. Billy, one last question for you: If you knew then what you know now, would you have been a better player?

BB: You know, I always think there’s a reason. I’ve always believed that there has never been a future Hall of Famer that has spent his career in AAA. If you’re good enough, we’ll find a way to get you up here. You only have to look at the Billy Taylors, the Berroas, guys like that. I certainly think it would have helped as a younger player maybe developing in high school, and things like that. I think it would have made a difference. How big a difference, would it have changed my playing career into being a great player? Probably not. I think I was realistic. I think that, as I said, with the physical tools there are the mental skills to handle it. You have to have everything to be good, and if you’re missing one, then it’s going to show.

WC: Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A’s, thanks for joining us today. I really appreciate it.

BB: You bet, Will. Thanks for having me on.

©Prospectus Entertainment Ventures 2003

This interview is posted with permission from Baseball Prospectus.

Special thanks to Will Carroll.
|| Peter @ 6/28/2003

"It's a bird! It's a plane..."

No, that's Jo-El's fastball nipping the corner of the plate faster than a speeding bullet. Best of all, he dominated the early innings. His first walk didn't come until the 4th inning, and that was immediately erased on a double play. The Padres didn't manage a basehit until the 5th. His first round through the Padre lineup, Jo-El retired the first 5 on ground balls and 7 out of 9 on grounders. He pitched 7.2 innings with 112 pitches, 69% for strikes. He struck out as many as he allowed on base (5), the only runs coming on another Rondell White home run.

And while just 3 Padres managed hits, only one Mariner, Randy Winn, did not. But he did walk once. You'd be hard-pressed to find a goose-egg in this box score as only Winn and Cirillo didn't score. Everybody drove in a run, save Ichiro, Cammie and Davis. Everybody drew a walk except Ichiro and Cirillo, not that we expect them too, though. I mean, it sure wouldn't shock me to see Ichiro swing at an intentional ball and drive it into the gap.

So here we are in the 8th inning and Jo-El has given up just 2 hits. The score is 7-2. White and Xavier Nady leadoff the inning with back to back singles. Jo-El retires the next 2 batters on a strikeout and sac fly. So naturally, with a 5-run lead, runners on the corners, the Padres down to their final 4 outs, top of the lineup and the left-handed Kotsay coming up Bullpen Bob pulls his starter. With a lead of 5 runs will he give one of the 3 rookies some innings? Heck no! The Padres still have a chance, so in comes Arthur to shut 'em down. Gotta slam that door with some style. Nip this rally in the bud. Show those Pads whose boss. And after his 3 obligatory outs, Padres now 6 runs down and one last chance, by golly, let's bring in Jeff Nelson to face last week's Cinderella hero Rondell White. Yeah, that'll redeem Nellie's value on the talk shows and in the morning columns.

It's that time of the month again, time for BP's bimonthly Triple Play summary of the Indians, Dodgers and Mariners. Is Ichiro having his hottest month ever in majors with his June of .440/.463/.604, 1.012 OPS? Hands down, it's not even close. You have to go back to August 2001 to find his next highest monthly OPS, and that was .948 and a line of .429/.461/.489. Yeah, compare those SLGs. He's never posted a .600+ SLG in any month in America, and he's hit .500+ just 3 other times (May 2003, May 2001 and for 17 at bats in October 2001).

To call Boonie the sidekick, though, is a disservice to the little guy. His line for June? .348/.378/.663, 1.041 OPS with 8 home runs. Since coming to Seattle, he's had just 2 better months (June & September 2001). No, if Boonie is Robin to Ichiro's Batman, then... well... um... the muse has vaporated, but we'll move right along.

At the beginning of the season I was of the belief that Boonie's 2001 would go down in history as one of the biggest fluke seasons of all time. I'm beginning to reconsider that thought now. The following are OBP/SLG:

2001 Pre-All-Star: .363/.582
2001 Post-All-Star: .384/.572
2002 Pre-All-Star: .301/.391
2002 Post-All-Star: .384/.564
2003 Pre-All-Star: .380/.612

So which of these is not like the others?

According the the article, Boonie trails that Yankee in All-Star voting by 335,208. People! What's the deal? You've got till midnight Wednesday to remedy this travesty. MLB allows 25 votes online per person. So we just need 13,408.32 Boone fans to show their support over the next 4 days. Figure in the home games tonight and tomorrow where you can punch as many ballots as you like, and we can do this. That Yankee ranks 49th in OBP in the AL, sandwiched between Rocco Baldelli and Marlon Anderson, just inches ahead of Angel Berroa and Mark Ellis. Five other 2B are more successful at not making outs.

Then there's the madness of Bullpen Bob. I've run this topic into the ground, and I'm tired of thinking about. It just depresses me. And, Derek, the link to Rany's research doesn't work. I really wanted to read that.

|| Peter @ 6/28/2003

Friday, June 27, 2003


I have a serious problem and I need your help. You see, Blogger this past week "new and improved" their software. To call it "improved" would take an extraordinary amount of imagination. My problem is that the permalinks in this new template don't work. And it's not the common problem where just the most recent posts don't work, it's all of them. Give it a try. It seems to recognize the URL, but it's almost like there are no anchors in the page. Now again, I don't know programming, and I'm really struggling to learn. By any chance could somebody that it is HTML savvy check the source code for the site and let me know what's wrong and how to fix it? I would be eternally grateful.
|| Peter @ 6/27/2003

1152, 1153

I tell you, it sure is nice to see that "10" on the scoreboard. It's been awhile. In fact, it's more than two and half weeks since the Mariners collected double digits in runs. They'd scored just 10 runs the three games previous. And there was Edgar. Oh, was there Edgar. 3 for 4 and a walk. His first 3-hit game since the first of the month.

In the 7th inning, Edgar strolled to the plate. It's 8-6 Mariners. Guillen has singled and Boone struck out. Now Ben Weber of the Angels came into last night's game with a 1.66 ERA. Since getting touched by the Blue Jays for 5 runs back on May 3, Weber has allowed just 2 earned runs, and just 2 home runs all season. So Edgar, after taking strike one, lifts the next pitch into right centerfield to seal the 10-6 victory. When Carlos crossed home plate, Edgar tied Junior's team RBI record, and when he then touched home, he claimed sole right to it. 1153.

Edgar picked a good game to turn it back on as Gil Meche was pushed around for 6 runs on just 9 baserunners (how's that for offensive efficiency) in his 6 innings. He tossed 89 piches and 61% for strikes. Those 6 earned runs are a season high for Gil. Shiggy then came on and collected that rarest of achievements, the 3-inning save. With Bob's crapshoot bullpen, it was only a matter of time. But then it makes you wonder, did Bob plan that?

So bring on the Padres, and let's really show 'em who's boss this time around. Come on, really, guys. The Angels are playing the Dodgers, and the A's have the Giants, again. Tonight it's Jo-El (3.77 ERA, .666 OPS against) against Adam Eaton (4.46, .744). Then tomorrow we'll see a rematch of last Sunday's duel: Ryan Franklin (3.18, .706) against Jake Peavy (4.15, .760). And the Sunday matinee will be Freddy (4.28, .725) versus Kevin Jarvis (6.19, .915). Keep in mind Jarvis has made just 3 starts all season. And yes, the Padres are still 26th in runs scored and 28th in runs allowed.
|| Peter @ 6/27/2003

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Mariner Win Shares

(thru games of 6/25; short method; 50 wins=150 win shares)

Bret Boone 20
Ichiro 18
Mike Cameron 13
Edgar Martinez 12
John Olerud 10
Carlos Guillen 9
Randy Winn 8
Gil Meche 6
Jame Moyer 6
Ryan Franklin 6
Shiggy Hasegawa 6
Ben Davis 6
Arthur Rhodes 5
Jeff Cirillo 5
Kaz Sasaki 4
Mark McLemore 4
Joel Pineiro 3
Jeff Nelson 3
Dan Wilson 2
Greg Colbrunn 1
Freddy Garcia 1
Willie Bloomquist 1
Julio Mateo 1
John Mabry 1
Rafael Soriano 0
Pat Borders 0
Luis Ugueto 0
Giovanni Carrara 0
Matt White 0

For an explanation of Win Shares, here you are. I see that BaseballGraphs.com has now posted Win Shares for all 30 teams thru Monday's games. The difference between their figures and mine is the fact that they did it the long-tax-accountant-method way, and I'm doing the short Excel-spreadsheet way.

Be wary of comparing players across teams, though. Since win shares are based on actual wins, they're skewed throughout the season just like win-loss records are because of the unbalanced schedule. You can compare players on the Mariners and the A's, as they pretty much play the reciprocal schedule throughout the season. But, comparing the Mariners to say, the Yankees, isn't the same, as they've played different teams up to this point.
|| Peter @ 6/26/2003

"I am so smart, S-M-R-T!"

Do you remember that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Indy is fighting the baddies in the open-air marketplace, and then the guy comes up slinging a scimitar with each arm, maniacal grin on his face? And Indy, for all the guy's pomp and circumstance, just pulls out his revolver and blasts him? Yeah, I think there's a little bit of Scimitar Man inside each and everyone of us--when we have these moments of extreme revelation, of profound superiority in our abilities... and then it all crumbles in a pile of hubris.

Tuesday, it was Bob Melvin's opportunity to blow away Scimitar Man, with the foiled double steal. Last night, it was Mike Scioscia's turn. In the top of the 6th inning, with the Angels leading 4-2, Cammie leads off with a double. Winn grounds out and Cammie moves to third. McLemore then hits a double, cutting the the Angels' lead to one (Congratulations on #1500, Mac). Wilson then singles, and the Mariners have runners at the corners with only one out and Ichiro and the top of the lineup coming up. Surely, the Mariners can turn the tables. Surely, this is the moment that we take that Rally Monkey and wring his scrawny neck. Scioscia tightens the screws on the infield, bringing everybody nearly to the grass for the inevitable ground ball off the bat of Ichiro, who has not ground into a double play all season. Sure enough, ground ball to short and Mac is hung out to dry between third and home. Apparently, that's the way it was planned, with Wilson to take third and Ichiro second as the pesky McLemore was supposed to overwhelm the attention of the Angels in an epic, Keystone-Cops-style rundown. That didn't quite pan out, and then Wilson was caught between second and third. The Angels just flat out executed. 6-2-5-4. I guess there's more than one way to take two from Ichiro. Touche.

That was disappointing, but it was the 8th inning that really took the wind out of my sail and convinced me that the gods of the diamond were rooting for the home team. With the score still 4-3, it was deja vu. Cammie led off with a double, and Winn grounded out again, advancing Cameron to third. But this time Mac struck out looking, and Mabry weakly grounded out to second.

And of course, this being a 1-run game, in favor of the opponents, it was once again junior varsity night in the bullpen. Mateo got 2.1 innings of scoreless work in, but after Mateo retires Benji Molina to start the bottom of the 8th, Bob calls upon the services of newbie Matt White. And while White may have the surname of champions, we certainly can't say the same about his fastball. He first of all retires Scott Spiezio on 2 pitches, but then he walks Jeff DeVanon on 5. Up comes David Eckstein, yet another victim of the aliens in the Angel lineup. Prior to last night's game, Eckstein was staring at a .600 OPS and found himself demoted from leadoff to the 9 hole. Last night, he only went 4 for 4 with a double, a home run and 3 RBI. In fact, it was this very at bat against Matt White that produced the home run, making it the final 6-3. Hmm... walks and home runs... does White remind us of anyone? Anyone in Tacoma?

Jamie Moyer's line was just a tad un-Moyer-esque: 90 pitches over 5 innings, 54% for strikes. He gave up 4 runs on 10 baserunners (7 hits, 3 walks) and struck out just one. After dropping his last 3 decisions, his win pace is now 21.

Tonight it's someone else's turn to be Scimitar Man.
|| Peter @ 6/26/2003


Mariners 6, Angels 4 – Now that’s a play I haven’t seen since Little League. And in Little League it was two or three times a game. Only back then the catcher would lob the ball to second. The second baseman or shortstop (if he caught the ball) would attempt to make the tag on the runner, who by this time has slid into the bag (sliding was so cool in Little League) and been safe for a good 10 seconds. Meanwhile, the runner who had been on third was by now getting slapped on the butt and sucking down Gatorade in the dugout, high fives all around after scoring. Against a lesser-experienced team, the middle infielder would lob the ball back to the catcher trying to get that runner, and the one from first could then get all the way to third. I swear, the coaches in that league ran that play into the ground. And I’d never seen it for myself in the majors until last night.

With 2 outs in the 5th inning, down 2-1, the Angels threatened with Erstad at first, Kennedy on third and heavy hitter Troy Glaus at the plate. Glaus had fallen behind in the count 0-2 but had worked Freddy to 2-2. On the sixth pitch of the at bat, Erstad bolted for 2nd. Wilson glanced to 3rd and fired to Boone as Kennedy then broke to the plate and Boonie was waiting. Kennedy was dead in the water. I’ll just say it never looked like that in Little League. Now riddle me this: Why would Scioscia take the bat away from one of his biggest hitters for that superfluous play? Granted, if it works, the score is tied, go-ahead run in scoring position and Glaus sits on a full count.

Call it adrenaline, call it whatever, but on the next 3 successive pitches that came from the hand of Aaron Sele, the M’s turned a 2-1 game into a 5-1 game. Little ball, whatever.

Freddy continued his string of dominating starts with 102 pitches in 6.2 innings, 70% for strikes. Had you told me 6 weeks ago that by the All-Star break Freddy would have 9, maybe 10 wins, I would have scoffed at your hollow optimism. Shows how much I really know. He allowed 10 baserunners (9 hits, 1 walk) who scored 3 runs and struck out 4 en route to his sixth consecutive victory.

I sure don’t know who picks the MLB Plays of the Game, but they sure aren’t the plays I want to see. They picked the solo shot by Molina and the home run by Boone, because you’ve got to be fair to everybody. Well, I would have picked the aforementioned foiled double steal, and the following showcase of footspeed: Following Boone’s home run, Edgar walks on four pitches. Scot Shields then relieves Sele, and he strikes out Olerud looking. Yeah, Shields is good. Cammie then grounds to first, and I bet you’re thinking double play ball, force at second at the least. Nope, that’s Edgar standing on second and Cammie walking back to the dugout. Winn then singles to center and Edgar chugs all the way home. You can’t tell me that doesn’t make a highlight reel. Can’t Edgar “Touch ‘Em All” for that exhibition of baserunning? Watch out, he just might steal a base tonight.

While the Ichiro & Boone Show continued, the offensive contribution I’m most excited to see is the pair of hits by Cameron and Winn. That was Cammie’s first multi hit game in more than week, and as many hits as Winn’s had in over a week.

Aliens must have overtaken Benji Molina last night. I mean, how else do you explain 3 extra base hits (8 total bases) from a man with a career .372 slugging percentage?

When I lived back West, I had some issues with the delivery of my Seattle Times. But if I had problems with my Times carrier, it’s nothing compared to the confused soul that delivers my Washington Post. In the nearly 2 months I’ve been here, it’s rained like the clockwork weather of Puget Sound, only with thunder in lightning once in a while. Somehow, my Post manages, despite the plastic receptacle that contains it supposedly waterproof, to be soaking wet on a daily basis, rending it unreadable for about 3 days. Now that the sun has come out this week, and temperatures and humidity that would melt the very bones of a native Seattleite, my Post was nowhere to be found yesterday, and I thus missed Thomas Boswell’s first half roundup yesterday. Eric of the Off Wing Opinion didn’t, and he points out the ex-Oriole factor of the M’s office and roster.

Meanwhile, Mr. Boswell also mentions (please keep in mind Thomas Boswell is the only thing I find worth reading in the sports section of the Post):

“The Seattle Mariners, who didn't even make the playoffs last year, have the best record in the game (49-25). And, frankly, nobody knows why.”

Did you actually ask anyone, Mr. Boswell? Was it just an office straw poll? It must have just slipped his mind that the Mariners have won more games than anyone over the last 3 seasons. There was that whole historic 116 thing that happened, what, just 2 years ago? And just this time last year they were perched atop the AL West, and they did finish the season with 93 wins, and that team won their 50th game on June 28. So really, Mr. Boswell, are just playing aloof, or do you just not pay attention to those games on past our bedtime here on the East Coast?

And don’t end your surfing today with out first reading Derek Zumsteg as he takes on all dissenters in the Edgar Hall of Fame Debate. And even uses Akira Kurosawa in his argument. Now excuse me while I try to track down a copy of the Seven Samurai to watch over and over and over again.

Now can we all live with this new design? Frequent emailer Aditya called the last one "akin to a turn back the clock night at a Rockies-Padres game." It could have been worse, like maybe Oakland circa '75 meets Houston circa '85 with that miniscule font. So this one has pretty much everything I (and some threatening, irate readers) was looking for: a little bit of blue, big dark type on light background, links options. Can we all live with this? Good, because there's only so many times I can handle cutting and pasting the RSS feed back into the template.

|| Peter @ 6/26/2003

Tuesday, June 24, 2003


Man, I'm embarrassed. Hopefully, all those typographical errors are taken care of now. If you blinked and missed them, well, I'm just glad we can move on. But do know, please do not hesitate to set me straight when I screw up. I reserve my opinions, but if you see facts that look a little screwy, i.e. a wrong name, a wrong source, please let me know.

And here's a couple more links for the Moneyball collection, and if you know of others, please send them my way, as I'd like to put together a definitive list of the Moneyball discussion on the web together:

"Answer Guy" John Marshall gives his take in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (thanks Shannon Fears)
James Surowiecki interviews Bill James on Slate
U.S.S. Mariner contributor David Cameron gives his minor league perspective in the article "Funnyball" for Strikethree.com, which includes the important observation:

"The book's emphasis on the A's offensive philosophy does a disservice to the real reason Oakland has been a force the past three seasons... The true heroes of the success of the Oakland Athletics lie with Rick Peterson and the minor-league pitching coordinators who have created a pitching development factory."

On that note comes an email from A's fan Steve. It's a pretty lengthy note, so unfortunately I'm picking and choosing the tastiest morsels:

"There are four reasons why the A's have won the 2nd. most games, next to the Mariner's, the last three years....Mulder, Hudson, Zito and the incredible amount of balls that Tejada and Chevez get to that swing games... I don't give a damn about errors or the official scorer calling anything a hit unless it hits the fielder in the chest even though it makes reading a box score meaningless; what matters to me and what I think wins games is making defensive plays that most teams can't make that prevents the other team from winning the game.

Right now the A's are 17th in runs scored, 20th on OBP. The A's are also just 5.5 games behind the best team in baseball. They would be first in either of the other AL divisions. They would lead the NL Central by 4 games, and would 0.5 back in the NL West. If I didn't know anything about the Oakland A's but what I just read in Moneyball and those current stats, I would probably be thinking, "So how exactly does on base percentage translate to wins?" The overlooked dimension of the A's is their pitching staff (and it's not just Zito/Hudson/Mulder) that ranks 3rd in baseball in ERA, .06 earned runs/9 behind those pesky Mariners. Their defense ranks 2nd in all of baseball in defensive efficiency, again behind the Mariners. Kind of makes you wonder if Sandy Alderson still believes that baseball is just 5% defense.

When it comes to errors--Amen, Brother Steve! You are preaching to the choir. Errors have to be the most absurd statistic in baseball. It is the only play in a game not decided on by an individual actually on the field. It is entirely subjective, even more so than balls and strikes, and to measure a player's defensive skill and value (or lack thereof) is just silly. My attitude towards defensive stats is a pretty similar to my stance on the book of Revelation: If you've got it all figured out, you're probably wrong. There are so many unknowns and variables when it comes to measuring defense. Michael Lewis mentioned a couple--foot work, positioning, and is that really the the players doing or the coaches. Defensive efficiency is one stat I can wrap my mind around, but that just measures the team, and not the individuals. Derek Zumsteg had a great piece a bit over a week ago that made me think about, among other things, just how much of defense requires a second, third and often fourth look to really see what's going on and all the facets in which it affects the team. We so much want to split hitting, pitching and fielding into separate little compartments to pick apart and analyze, but the more I look at it, pitching and fielding are two inseparable sides of the same coin, like body and soul.

One of the misconceptions, I think, from Moneyball, and I've even seen this over the past few years, is the idea that the A's are a walk/home run offense. I don't think that's right. Walks are not the goal in the A's offensive philosophy but a by-product. The goal is plate discipline, working the count, for the batter to control the at bat. The pitcher can force the batter to make mistakes by baiting him to swing at pitches out of the strike zone. Or the batter can wait him out and force him to pitch it over the plate. One of two things happen when the batter controls the at bat. Either the pitcher throws 4 pitches out of the strike zone and a walk ensues, or he makes a mistake and the batter gets a juicy pitch to drive. He doesn't step up to the plate looking for a walk. He steps to the plate looking for his, and only his, pitch. A player that draws a lot of walks and thus has a high on base percentage does so because when he steps into the batter's box, he makes the pitcher pitch his sequence. It's a misconception as gross as "closer-by-committee."

Drop by tomorrow for a juicy Moneyball surprise.
|| Peter @ 6/24/2003

The Mariners enter the turf of the Rally Monkey for a 3 game set this evening. The Angels, no doubt, saw the Padres give the M's a good kicking and would like to make some ground on their 12.5 game deficit. They themselves are coming off dropping 2 of 3 to the Dodger Aces. They're a game under .500, and since clobbering the Yankees 13-3 a week ago last Saturday, they've lost 6 of their last 8. If you thought the M's were struggling to score runs, the Angles have scored just 11 runs in those 4 losses.

Tonight we'll see a rematch of last Wednesday's duel (which the M's won 2-0) Freddy Garcia (4.30 ERA, .711 OPS against) versus former Mariner Aaron Sele (6.52, .902). Tomorrow pits Jamie Moyer (2.93, .640) versus Ramon Ortiz (4.67, .785). On Thursday, we should see Gil Meche (2.89, .661) versus Jarrod Washburn (3.87, .748). As bad as Freddy was earlier in season, setting all of Mariner Nation on Red Alert, he's been nothing but lights out in his most recent starts. In the past 3, his thrown 23.1 innings with an ERA of 0.74.

The Angels rank 13th in runs scored, and the Mariners are 8th. Pitching wise, the Halos are 11th, while M's are 2nd. A betting man might wager that the Angels offensive slump isn't going to end in the immediate future. When the Mariners leave, Kevin Brown & Co. come to town. They get the #1 and #2 pitching teams in baseball back to back. But then, I'm not a betting man. The M's lead the Angels in every offensive stat but home runs, strikeouts and stolen bases. The M's also have to edge in every pitching category but walks. This is a team that does not strikeout at the plate and does not allow base on balls.

As the series in San Diego showed, anything can happen. So we'll see if we can catch the Monkey "yawning in an empty heaven."
|| Peter @ 6/24/2003

Monday, June 23, 2003

GAME THEORY: My reflections on Moneyball

May I begin with the statement that this is not a book review. I spent four years in college getting an English degree, and I've paid my dues with book reports. Besides, I really don't think there's anything in a book critique or discussion that I can add to the discussion. At the end of this entry I'll add a collection of links to the good, bad and ugly in terms of Moneyball reviews on the net, both mainstream media and blogs. What you'll see here are the thoughts that rambled through my mind in my days reading Moneyball. I foresee no structure to this, so be forewarned.

In any discussion of any book, it's critical to separate author from subject. Moneyball is Michael Lewis' interpretation of time he spent with the Athletics' front office in the summer of 2002 analyzing the question: "You have $40 million to spend on twenty-five baseball players. Your opponent has already spent $126 million on its own twenty-five players, and holds perhaps another $100 million in reserve. What do you do with your forty million to avoid humiliating defeat?" (119). Had I experienced the very same events as Lewis, I'm sure I would have written a different book. I'm sure you would have to. Any good storyteller is prone to exaggerating and truth-bending, even a non-fiction tale, so criticisms of factual errors, one-dimensional reporting and the like make no difference to me. It's entertaining and pulls back the curtain on a corner of baseball that intoxicates me, and that's enough for me. I haven't devoured a book like that in a very long time. I'm still hungry for more. If the literature industry ever challenges the DVD industry and there's a Moneyball: Collector's Edition complete with deleted scenes, behind the scenes documentaries and author and subject commentaries, I'm so there. It would also make a fascinating documentary film.

Much of what I've read about the book settles on the idea that the book is neither about Billy Beane, nor the Oakland A's, but it's about an idea, a philosophy of how to build a baseball team using sabermetrics or "how to build a better mousetrap." I think the central idea, though, is something much more broad than just designing a baseball team. The heart of the matter is financial responsibility. It's no different than my mother who refuses to buy anything unless it's "on special." Or my father-in-law who won't flinch at spending a large amount of money on a jacket or a home appliance because he knows he got the best value for his money. According to Bud Selig and the Blue Ribbon Panel, the economic catastrophe in baseball is brought on by rich teams that buy up all the good talent, leaving the poor teams in some sort of baseball purgatory between the major leagues and minors in terms of available talent. They are wrong. The problem with baseball's economics stems from its inability to properly value its players. Matt Williams is making $10 million this year to probably coach is son's T-ball team since being released by the D-backs. Eric Karros is being paid $8+ million in a platoon role for the Cubs. Meanwhile, Albert Pujols makes $900,000 while leading the National League in nearly every single offensive category. The system is flawed ridiculously. The front office of the A's knows this and is capitalizing on the inefficiencies of the system.

The philosophy of the A's is not a one-size-fits-all kind of idea for one reason alone: Money. The A's are driven to creative extremes because of their financial limitations. I really wonder what would have happened had Billy Beane gone to Boston. Would he be the same? A man with no limitations has no need for creativity. Look at George Steinbrenner.

I really don't think one can superimpose what the A's are doing on a club such as the Mariners with a budget 3x the size of Oakland's. It's not the perfect solution, but it is a better answer than what about 26 or 27 clubs are currently doing. I'd like to hear from Minnesota. They've turned their franchise from leading contraction contender to beating Beane's A's in the playoffs in less than a year with a club nearly entirely homegrown. Their payroll is in league with Oakland's, and they are poised to make the playoffs again this year with their two best pitchers playing in their first full seasons and with a minor league system bursting at the seams with OF-1B-DH hitters. How are they doing it, as they've been quite vocal that sabermetrics are not part of their equation?

Should the Mariners adopt the philosophy of Oakland? I'm not so sure Moneyball should be required reading, but any and everything by Bill James should be, and when Pat Gillick retires at the end of the season, the first and only name on their list of GM candidates should be Paul DePodesta. Please, please, Mr. Lincoln, please hire Paul DePodesta as the next Mariners GM. I promise I'll stop saying mean things about Bob Melvin's silly bullpen tactics. But as the Mariners have won 300 games over the last 3 seasons via the "old way," I seriously doubt a sabermetric revolution in the office of the Mariners anytime soon. But I promise I will wretch every single time I read a quote from the Mariners whining about budget constraints in the next month and then have to watch the A's make a flurry of deals and zoom past the M's in the standings. Pat Gillick has about three times the monetary resources as Billy Beane. It's about time to use those resources every bit as shrewdly as the competition down south. I want to see creativity, not complaints.

Without a doubt, had I read this book 10 years ago in the impressionable years of middle adolescence, I would not be typing medical reports to make a living. Heck, Rob Neyer's interview with Paul DePodesta during spring training nearly inspired me to head on down to my then-local AquaSox and volunteer. Yet as much as I relish in controlling the destiny of my own fantasy baseball team, I know I couldn't cut it as a baseball general manager. I hate talking on the phone, and I make a terrible salesman.

Detractors of baseball claim the sport has no clock. Football has a clock, they say. Basketball has a clock. A baseball game can last forever. To which I first of all reply, "What's so wrong with that?" But secondly, and more importantly, they are wrong. Baseball does have a clock. Just not in the conventional minutes and seconds of Western Civilization. A baseball game is measured out by 27 outs, three at a time. The team to score the most runs before spending their 27 outs wins the game. Outs are the currency of baseball. On offense, the teams objective is to score runs by avoiding outs. On defense, it is the reverse: prevent runs by forcing outs. This is, or should be, the foundation of baseball strategy. On offense, a player who creates outs prevents his team from scoring runs. Meanwhile one who does the reverse, who gets on base, leads to the scoring of runs. This is exactly why on base percentage is the most important statistic measuring a hitter's offensive value. Understand it's not the only one, but it is the most important one.

If there's anything that captivates me right now, it's Baseball Game Theory. No different than political theory, scientific theory, management theory. If only my college had had a degree in baseball game theory. Their would have been Sabermetrics 101, 102, 203 and 204, Pitching Staffs 301, Building a Better Team 411, Front Office Management 412, Batter vs. Pitcher 112, Strategic Myths 212 and Biomechanics of Baseball 305. Then you get an internship with a big league club your senior year. Man, that would be a great degree program. There's a whole different ballgame being played than the one most announcers talk about, far deeper than the one I was conditioned to watch my first years of following baseball.

There are many reasons to like Jeff Cirillo. One being his excellent defense at third base. I am sure his mother, wife and kids could provide a more lengthy list. Like many of us, there are also many things to dislike about Jeff Cirillo. One being his historically atrocious offensive numbers in 2002. Another comes from comments such as this, taken from the chapter about Scott Hatteberg, here specifically detailing Hatteberg's propensity to socialize while manning the territory of first base on defense:

Jeff Cirillo hits a single and, with only the tiniest prompting, starts to bitch and moan about hitting ninth in the Seattle lineup (169).

First of all, given his performance last year, Cirillo's lucky have been hitting ninth at all. Secondly, Cirillo's affinity for whining just really grates with me. There's that whole Lou Piniella fiasco over the winter. Regardless of what really happened in either of these cases, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Character is one of those wild-cards in a player's profile that somehow rewards poor players that have it, but rarely adversely affects those players, good or bad, who don't have it.

I remember reading 1984 in high school English class and being indoctrinated by my teacher the maxim that "Language is Power." Maybe one of my favorite chapters in Moneyball (although that's hard to say) is the one about Bill James. And what sticks out to me in that chapter is the notion that statistics are language. Since the first swing of the first bat at the first pitch, people have been counting, counting an assortment of events within a baseball game. It's only in the last 25 years that anyone thought to realize we might be counting the wrong things. There are numbers in baseball that mean absolutely nothing, and there are numbers that explode with meaning, that carry the very value of a player. The trick is separating the wheat from the chaff. The power comes in speaking the language that matters. Bill James garners all his attention as a statistician. But he is first and foremost a writer, a crafter of words, an artist of language of no equal in baseball, who not only writes eloquently in the language of baseball statistics but also the language of English.

Only time will tell if the efforts made by the A's over the past couple of years pans out. Even a year removed, it's far too early to evaluate their draft of last summer, and the players their minor league system has recently developed, like Tejada, Chavez and Eric Hinske now with the Blue Jays, still have years to evolve as ballplayers. The ideas of Bill James now infuse the deciscions of Toronto and Boston. And who knows what will happen when the generation of future general managers that currently are between the ages of 15 and 25 reading Moneyball and discovering Bill James enter the fraternity of "the inside."

I'm sure there's more that I'm leaving out. I may remember something else and post again. For now, I've spent far too long typing this already today. For more on Moneyball on the web, check out these reviews/columns/interviews (in no particular order):

Baseball Primer interview with author Michael Lewis
Matt Welch of the National Post on the Jamesian revolution
Review on Blissful Knowledge
Erik Lundegaard of the Seattle Timesreviews October Men, Game Time and Moneyball
Book review by Alex Belth of Bronx Banter
Tracy Ringolsby gives a dissenting opinion for the Rocky Mountain News
Larry Mahnken gives his review at Replacement Level Yankees
Rob Neyer interviews Michael Lewis for ESPN
Aaron Gleeman's take on Aaron's Baseball Blog
A list of links to mainstream media book reviews including the NY Times, Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle, among others.
A conversation between James Surowiecki and Rob Neyer on Slate.
|| Peter @ 6/23/2003

Padres 3, Mariners 1 - Same story yet again: Phenomenal starting pitching. No offense. They dropped 2 of 3 in San Diego. Un-freakin'-acceptable.

Franklin had a no-hitter through 5, broken up by a "foul ball" double. He threw just 84 pitches in 6 innings, 68% for strikes with 5 K's. He allowed just 3 baserunners, a walk and 2 hits, and unfortunately those 2 doubles were in the same inning, accounting for his only run. He lowered is ERA to a season low 3.18 but took the loss.

On the upside, the M's didn't strike out once against Peavy, the first game Peavy has failed to record a strikeout all season. Unfortunately, they managed just 5 baserunners and no runs against him.

The P-I has a nifty graphic today about how the offense is currently Ichiro the One-Man Show. I humbly beg to differ. It's a Two-Man Show, as since the Montreal series, Bret Boone is hitting .326/.354/.587 with 3 doubles and 3 homers. Of the 34 runs the Mariners have scored, Ichiro has scored 10 of them and Boone has driven in 11. So, it's actually a bit worse than that graphic points out:

Ichiro: 53 AB, 26 H, .490 AVG
Boone: 46 AB, 15 H, .326 AVG
The Rest: 312 AB, 50 H, .161 AVG

I realize I've been extraordinarily hard on Bob Melvin's bullpen tactics of late. Sometimes I feel a bit like the dork in the Bob TV Viva la Mojo commercial, though I can say with all confidence I could come up with at least a comebacker. I'm trying not to be so critical. Really, I am. But does anyone else notice the trend of using Shiggy/Arthur/Nelson in games together, and the scrubs in games together? It might be a great strategy if you're flip-flopping close games and blow-outs. It could be my imagination, and I could be being hyper-critical, but here's what happened yesterday (I know this is getting old, and I promise I'll stop it when Bob does):

He pulls Franklin after just 84 pitches for a pinch hitter. I really can't complain because with the Padres up 1-0, runners at the corners with 2 outs, Frankie was due up to bat and was pinch hit for by Edgar. So then Soriano comes in following the 7th inning stretch and promptly surrenders a leadoff single to the leftie Klesko (remember from Friday, he's one guy Bob doesn't want get beat by?) and then a run-scoring double to Hansen, another leftie. He further esacpes any trouble on Bennett's gift bunt pop-up and Hansen getting caught off third. Right-handed Soriano against 2 lefties to lead off in a one-run game?

Boone homers in the top of the 8th to bring the Mariners back within one. Soriano starts the bottom of the inning and strikes out Menendez. With the pitcher coming up next, here's where Bob gets outfoxed, yet again. Left-handed hitting Keith Lockhart comes in to pinch hit. I have to root for Lockhart because he's the only major leaguer from my alma mater, but he is no threat at the plate by any stretch of the imagination, certainly not enough to warrant a pitching change over a platoon split. Lockhart hits righties with a .771 OPS and lefties .608. Regardless, now Bob brings in leftie Matt White. To counter, Bruce Bochy, the manager of the Padres, calls back Lockhart and sends Brian Buchanan to pinch hit. Buchanan is the Padres' equivalent of Greg Colbrunn. He hits righties with an OPS of .595 but hammers lefties to the tune of 1.109. (cue ominous music.) You would not have had to be Miss Cleo to know what was coming next. Pinch hit home run. Padres 3. Mariners 1. White then walks his next batter on 4 pitches, induces a fielder's choice on the next pitch, and then picks off that runner.

I'm still looking for the methods to Bob's bullpen madness. I know. I sound like a broken record.

In other news, I got a couple of responses about the new design, and nobody was jumping up and down saying they love it. The basic gist of the comments were along the lines of "Good design. Bad colors. Bad font." To which, after a couple days, I have to agree with, and I'll be working on that this week. I know I can't accomodate everyone who has an opinion, but I greatly appreciate the feedback. Does Trading Spaces do websites?
|| Peter @ 6/23/2003
(last week's rank in parentheses)

1. Seattle (1) Ryan Franklin ranks 7th in the AL in ERA (3.18), 7th in batting average against (.238) and 6th in WHIP (1.13). If only he could keep the ball in the ballpark--more than half (18/35) of his earned runs are home runs. The M's staff groundball/flyball ratio (0.98) is second only to Anaheim on the flyball extreme.

2. NY Yankees (2) Only in the Bronx can a team be 2nd in the majors in run differential (the Yanks are just one game off their projected record) and the manager's job be on the line. Yankees pitchers have walked the fewest batters in the majors (163) by a healthy margin. Next is Minnesota at 198. Their offense draws more walks than anyone else (333).

3. Atlanta (3) Marcus Giles: 1.074 OPS in April, .831 in May, .675 thus far in June. Is this really a breakout season after all?

4. Oakland (4) I have a question for Paul DePodesta: The A's have struck out just 393 times (only Baltimore at 387 and Anaheim at 380 are better), they've walked 259 times (8th best in baseball), so why is their OBP .328 (20th in baseball) and their runs scored 16th in the majors?

5. Houston (8) Is there a better bullpen trio than Brad Lidge (10.00 K/9, 1.07 WHIP, 1.40 ERA), Octavio Dotel (10.88/0.88/1.67) and Billy Wagner (12.16/0.87/.1.85)?

6. Philadelphia (5) Are they waking up yet? Abreu 1.040 OPS and Marlon Byrd 1.068 in June, but Thome .775 and Burrell .630.

7. (tie) Los Angeles (11) The Bums in Blue hit 5 homers in the Angels series, nearly as many as they've hit all season. But seriously, folks, is the clock ticking on Adrian Beltre (.211/.271/.339) yet? Even in Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers can't afford 3 infielders posting OPS at .600 and below.

(tie) St. Louis (9) In June, Albert Pujols is hitting .440/.500/.762 with 23 RBI. I smell an MVP in his very near future.

9. Toronto (9) Look out Yanks! The Jays have passed the Sox and are 2 games back of first. They lead the majors in batting, on base, slugging (.294/.361/.489) and run scored 461 (and fewest stolen bases with 12 and fewest sacrifice bunts with 3). Somebody give them a solid pitcher to back Roy Hallady and watch Steinbrenner implode the Yankees.

10. San Francisco (6) At the age of 42, Andres Galarraga is hitting .359/.410/.587 in 92 at bats.

11. (tie) Anaheim (7) Garrett Anderson with a 1.230 OPS in June with actually more home runs than doubles (11-8).

(tie) Boston (12) So much for the Jeremy Giambi era (.173/.331/.355).

13. Chicago Cubs (13) It's hard to complain about Eric Karros when he's hitting .298/.365/.489.

14. Minnesota (14) As a reliever, Johan Santana is putting up numbers of 2.80 ERA, 10.95 K/9, .216 batting average against in 35.1 innings. In 3 starts totalling 18 innings, he's 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA, 8.5 K/9, .150 AVG. Come on now, does he really make the Twins better in the bullpen?

15. Arizona (15) Brandon Webb putting up dandy numbers of 2.36 ERA, 7.97 K/9 and 1.03 WHIP.

16. Colorado (18) The Rocks turn the most double plays (72) tied with Cleveland and Detroit. Of course it helps when your pitchers put runners on base at a rate 1.55 per inning, better than only the Reds and Rangers.

17. Florida (18) Contrary to popular opinion, their are at least 2 reasons to watch baseball in Florida: Since allowing 5 runs on April 20, Dontrelle Willis has given up only 4. He's won all 6 of his starts and lowered his ERA from 7.07 to 2.38. His last 2 starts have been complete game shutouts, albeit one rain-shortened. The second reason is Miguel Cabrera whose first major league hit was a walkoff homer run in the 11th inning in his debut this week.

18. Montreal (17) Since sweeping Texas and winning 2 of 3 in Seattle, the Expos have lost 9 of their last 11 and the staff's June ERA is 5.18. Those wild card hopes are slipping fast.

19. Baltimore (16) Will Sidney Ponson be trade bait in the next month? He's 9-4 with a 3.93 ERA, 6.51 K/9 and 1.31 WHIP.

20. Kansas City (20) Despite a better than league-average ERA at 4.18, Darrell May is 0-4 in 13 starts. Meanwhile, Jose Lima is 1-0 in 2 starts with a 4.76 ERA. That's just plain not fair.

21. Chicago Sox (21) Another breakout season turning sour? D'Angelo Jimenez .945 OPS in April, .740 in May, .564 in June.

22. Pittsburgh (22) First impressions are everything: Reggie Sanders hit 4 home runs in the first week of the season and has hit just 6 in the 11 subsequent weeks.

23. NY Mets (23) Vance Wilson has a 1.141 OPS with runners in scoring position (27 at bats). Give me a break, I have to find something for the Mets.

24. Cleveland (27) Jody Gerut is hitting .306/.383/.569 with 4 homers in June.

25. Cincinnati (24) The Reds dig the longball: Only 4 teams have hit 100+. Only 2 teams have allowed 100+. One can find the Reds in both exclusive clubs, hitting 101 and allowing 100.

26. Milwaukee (25) Over the last 3 weeks, Geoff Jenkins is hitting .357/.438/.643.

27. Texas (26) We are now 3 weeks into June and the Rangers have just 2 wins for the entire month. They've been outscored 132-76, out-OPS'ed .908-.752. Carl Everett is another one fading fast: 1.163 OPS in April, .893 in May, .631 in June.

28. Tampa Bay (28) Rocco Baldelli's batting average is yet another stat being overwhelmed by the summer gravity: .368 in March, .314 in May, .262 in June.

29. San Diego (29) A player on the way up is Sean Burroughs: .551 OPS in April, .837 in May and .912 in June.

30. Detroit (30) The Tigers lead the majors in sacrifice bunts (38), 2nd in caught stealing (32) and last in runs scored. Do you wonder if there's a correlation?

AL - Vernon Wells (Toronto) 21 AB, 9 R, 10 H, 2 2B, 5 HR, 10 RBI, 1 BB, .476/.542/1.286, 1.827 OPS
NL - Todd Helton (Colorado) 27 AB, 9 R, 13 H, 5 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 BB, .481/.516/.926, 1.442 OPS

AL - David Wells (NY Yankees) 1-0, 16 IP, 13 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1.13 ERA
NL - Dontrelle Willis (Florida) 2-0, 14 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 K, 0.00 ERA, 2 complete game shutouts

AL - David Eckstein (Anaheim) 25 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 1 CS, 1 BB, .040/.111/.040, .151 OPS
NL - Marcus Giles (Atlanta) 24 AB, 1 H, .042/.042/.042, .083 OPS

AL - Jeff Nelson (Seattle) 0-1, 0.2 IP, 3 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 67.50 ERA
NL - Glendon Rusch (Milwaukee) 0-1, 1 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 5 BB, 1 K, 72.00 ERA
|| Peter @ 6/23/2003