Mariners Musings

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

Thursday, July 03, 2003

The Will Carroll/Michael Lewis Interview

The following conversation between Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus author, and Micahel Lewis, author of The New York Times best-seller Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, was first broadcast on Baseball Prospectus Radio May 21st, and is transcribed and posted with permission from Baseball Prospectus.

WC: Welcome back to Baseball Prospectus Radio. We’ve just heard from the subject of Moneyball. Let’s hear from the author of Moneyball. Joining us now in his first national radio interview after writing his best-selling, controversial book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, joining us now at BPR is Michael Lewis. Michael, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule.

ML: Well, for Baseball Prospectus, anything.

WC: We like to here that. Hey, how did this story come about? You were a best-selling author previously with one of my personal favorite books, Liar’s Poker, you also wrote The New New Thing and Next: The Future Just Happened. How did this story come about?

ML: It was idle curiosity at first. I had heard the noise out of the commissioner’s office about how poor teams couldn’t compete, and money was the ruination of baseball and so on and so forth. I also noticed, at some point it had caught my eye, just a table of how much the teams were spending on players, and I had really no conception of how vast the differences were, say, between the New York Yankees and the Oakland A’s, and also, how strange it was that the Oakland A’s were winning all these games with no money when they weren’t supposed to be. So, I thought I was going to write a magazine piece for the New York Times magazine, and I wandered over to the Oakland A’s spring training facility in 2002 during spring training and got to know Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta, his assistant, and quickly saw that it wasn’t a magazine piece, that there was a sensational book somewhere in this. I think what led me to that wasn’t just that there was this, although it’s a great story, this application of new baseball knowledge in actual baseball going on, and this exploitation of inefficiencies in the game, which was riveting. What was really interesting to me was the notion that these guys had essentially assembled this juggernaut on the field out of the disused, broken, spare parts of other major league organizations out of players that people had passed over for one reason or another. They were a collection of underdogs, who had somehow turned themselves into a great fighting unit, and that’s initially what attracted me to this story.

WC: Now, how did you convince Billy Beane and the A’s to allow you the access that you had, sitting there in “The War Room” as they’re drafting, going around with Billy Beane for better part of a year, and how much time did you get within the organization?

ML: Well, to do the thing the way I needed to do, that was novelistically, I had to be there to see all the important stuff. How did it happen? It happened, kind of, very naturally. You develop a relationship with people, and you go from there. I was very fond of Billy, and we got along, and I kind of said, “Look, you don’t know what I’m up to, and you’re being very nice not asking me what I’m up to.” But to do this right, I had to see, for example, the weeklong conversation he had with the scouts he had with the scouts before the 2002 draft. So he let me sit in the room for that. I told him actually, “I’ll need to barge in at weird times from time to time.” So, I barged into his office right before the trade deadline, or barged into his clubhouse during the 20th win last year. And, you know, I think what happened was by the time it was clear to me the dimensions of the story and that it was unquestionably a book, I had developed enough of a relationship with him that it would have been weird, I think, for him to say, “No you’ve gotta leave now.” It is a great question – why they let me in – and I think there is probably a much longer answer to that, but I think part of it is that, you know, they knew, they knew it was an extraordinary story that they were in the middle of. It is astonishing what they have accomplished, and it gets to the very guts of baseball, all this business of rethinking the whole game, using knowledge that a lot of times has been developed outside the game but that no other team wanted to use. I think that, in some sense, when people are living in a story that is that great, they kind of want to see it told.

WC: Now the inside-baseball answer to why this was allowed to happen is that Billy Beane’s ego needed it. Do you think that’s true?

ML: You know, you’re talking to a man who had to use all of his reportorial guile to get what he got. They were many times where Billy expressed a kind of ambivalence about me doing a book about them. I know from spending time with him that the thing that drives him craziest is media attention. I think if Billy had his way, his name wouldn’t be in the papers at all, because he gets no pleasure when it’s in the papers in a flattering way, and he gets thoroughly pissed off when it’s in the papers in an unflattering way. I mean, he has an ego, but it’s a more interesting ego than, “I want a book written about me,” or “I want my name in the newspaper.” He has an ego that wants to be the best ever at what he did. But, that distinguishes him how from everyone else in the game of baseball? I think that baseball’s reaction to the book, this hostility that is coming out from a lot of the stupider front offices, is simply a measure of how much they are threatened by an organization that is doing things so much more efficiently than they are doing them, and they’re hoping to distract, they’re hoping to sort of shape a conversation about Billy Beane’s ego, about the book being about Billy Beane’s ego, as opposed to being about how do you run a baseball team, how do you put together the best ball club.
|| Peter @ 7/03/2003
WC: Author of Moneyball, the best-selling book about the Oakland A’s. Michael Lewis joining us. Now, it seemed like you had this preternatural sense for what moments to walk in. You must be a baseball fan or follow the A’s pretty closely to know that the draft was that important. The 20-game win was pretty easy to walk in on. The trade deadline. How did you determine what you wanted to cover?

ML: Well, the book maybe makes me look more prescient than I was. The truth is that I have been a baseball fan for a long time, but the truth is that I kind of had to grope my way into finding what was important. What I did was I just hung around all the time, and for every scene that’s in the book, there are 20 scenes that are on the cutting room floor because I didn’t think they were interesting or good enough or important enough. So, I was not wonderfully discriminating about when I dropped into Billy Beane’s life. I was just dropping into his life all the time. And it wasn’t just Billy: Paul DePodesta, too. There was a stretch of months where I was calling him almost every day or coming to see him everyday or wanting to sit and watch a baseball game with him everyday. For example, I went on a scouting trip with Paul. We went to go watch a pitcher down in Southern California. We flew down and spent a couple of days looking at high school and college baseball games, and I thought that was going to be terribly important, and it turned out that it was just, you know, money poorly spent, but that and I got to know Paul a little better.

WC: And it will probably surprise people who read the book that Paul DePodesta is out on a scouting trip. I mean, in the book he comes across as something of a computer geek staring at his laptop, and we know that’s not completely true.

ML: You know, it’s funny. Paul’s reaction to the book was, “Billy and I come across as the sum or our differences.” And there may be some truth to that, that when you’ve got a kind of buddy story going, the characters do tend to be distinguished by how they’re different rather than how they overlap. So Paul’s complaint, that he’s just a brain in the book, and Billy’s complaint, that he’s just a tempestuous man trying to impose reason on a big league clubhouse, have, I think, a little bit of merit to it. People who are written about at this sort of length are invariably victimized by the choice of material that the author makes. I’m writing a book about the most intense moments in the Oakland A’s 2002 season and the prehistory as well, leading up to that, and when that is the material, the most intense, important moments, they are going to be different from how they are in every other moment. So, what you get is how Paul and Billy function in those moments. You don’t get them how they are when they’re having dinner with their wives because I just didn’t think that was very interesting. It wasn’t what the book was about.

WC: Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball. Now, Billy Beane was obviously your first target. When did you begin to sort out who the characters were, who were going to be the heroes and the focus of the book, like Paul DePodesta, like Jeremy Brown?

ML: Or Scott Hatteberg or Chad Bradford?

WC: Right.

ML: Well, I spent a lot of time in the clubhouse, and I got myself on the team flights when they went on the road and got to know some of the players. It’s always a casting search. I was looking for a combination of things, but people who represented more than just themselves. So, Billy was obviously always going to be the main character of the book. Paul was obviously going to be important in the book. The players were tougher. At one point, I thought Tim Hudson was going to be a really important character. Then I decided that really what I wanted, what would be consistent with the themes I was addressing, would be to take players that the wider world still didn’t appreciate and still didn’t completely understand and explain their virtues and explain why they were a part of this winning machine, and I also wanted them, it was also helpful, if they had not been drafted by the A’s but had been essentially abused inside other major league organizations and plucked from those organizations by the A’s simply because the A’s alone had identified their value. And, Chad Bradford, the relief pitcher, and Scott Hatteberg, now their first baseman, were just wonderful examples of this. I wanted a hitter and a pitcher so I could talk about offense and defense. So, they fell, kind of naturally, into my lap. But, if I had gone about with just my broader theme in mind, Bad News Bears, undervalued guys, guys who had something wrong with them, then that was another thing. Everybody who came to the Oakland A’s seemed to have something wrong with them. That’s why they were available to the Oakland A’s. The pool of likely characters was much, much greater, and there are guys I still wish I had written more about, but I didn’t need more than that.

WC: Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball. We’ve gotta take a quick break and we’ll be right back with more with Michael Lewis here on Baseball Prospectus Radio.
|| Peter @ 7/03/2003
WC: Welcome back to Baseball Prospectus Radio. I’m Will Carroll. We are joined today by the author of Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Michael Lewis. Michael Lewis, joining us from San Francisco. Thanks a lot for your time today. The reaction to the book has been both almost worship in parts of the baseball community and absolute, you’re up for a stoning, in some parts of the game. Did you anticipate this reaction?

ML: I did not anticipate the violence of it, and the book is now just a few days old. So it is astonishing to me that this happened so quickly. I assume there will be a lot more of it to follow. But this is my first reaction to what’s happened, and what has happened is that people who are interested in thinking about baseball and who embrace the idea that you can actually create new baseball knowledge and baseball can be subjected to reason are very positively interested in the book. A lot of people who work inside baseball, and that includes some crusty old baseball columnists along with general managers, especially general managers of the rich teams that aren’t winning games, are very angry about it, and it astonishes me because, think about it this way: Think about baseball as an industry. Assume some mole, like me, gets inside what is by far the most efficient business in the industry and writes a book that is in effect a blue print of its secrets and reveals it to everybody. In any other industry, this would be a cause for celebration. They have the secret. They are no longer going to have this great intellectual advantage. Instead, the rest of this industry is furious. They don’t want to know the secrets. They just don’t want to be exposed as the fools that they are. I mean, I hate to put it quite so bluntly…

WC: No, feel free.

ML: But, I’m sure if you sat down and had dinner with some of these people that are very upset about the book, you would say these people aren’t fools. They’re perfectly intelligent people. But, the fact is they are faced with a great contradiction in their lives. They are spending money systematically so much more ineffectually than the Oakland A’s, and the Oakland A’s are doing things differently than they are doing, and they know that, yet they refuse to reexamine their own premises. And, that’s folly. It’s malpractice. If I were the owner of a baseball team spending lots of money on players, I would have one long conversation with my GM asking him why he isn’t doing things the way the Oakland A’s are doing things. It’s not even imitating the Oakland A’s. Why isn’t he embracing the idea that is propagated by Baseball Prospectus, that there is such a thing as thinking about baseball, that there is such a thing as baseball knowledge? And if he gave me unsatisfactory answers, I would fire him.

WC: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. If I were the owner, it would be a very short conversation with most general managers.

ML: And, I would say, look, baseball is still fun when you think about it. It’s even more fun. There’s no glory in being a moron. There’s no guts in doing things the way everybody else is doing them simply because everybody else is doing them that way. Your membership in this fraternity of kind of baseball guys is too highly priced. We’re paying the price with this hugely inefficient organization, for you to be, sort of, one of the boys. What drives me to distraction is the idea that I write this book, and it’s my book. You know, I got into the Oakland A’s by my guile, whatever it took to get inside the Oakland A’s. I got inside the Oakland A’s and Billy Beane didn’t particularly want me there to write a book about him. And, I wrote what I saw, and I did it as honestly as I could do it. And, the response of baseball to try to use it as a weapon against Billy Beane just drives me crazy. It’s gutless. It’s like a mob ganging up on the guy who is doing things better than they are doing it because they’re embarrassed that he’s so much better than they are. And, what’s so embarrassing is he’s better not because he’s some kind of mythical genius. He’s better because he’s willing to try in different way and do things differently. That’s just guts. That’s just nerves. I wish these people would leave off Billy. If they want to come after me, fine. I’ll meet them anywhere.
|| Peter @ 7/03/2003
WC: Hey, and I’ve got your back, Michael. Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball joining us on BPR. Now, you gave away a lot of secrets. Honestly, some of the things that the A’s are doing are things that have written about in the Bill James Abstract, all over the internet and, of course, in the pages of Baseball Prospectus. At what point do these stupid teams get smart? Is there going to be a point where being smart ceases to be such a major advantage?

ML: You know, the first thing that springs to mind is Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, that there will be a tipping point, and the question is: What is the catalyst? What’s the moment? And, we’re somewhere near it because the biggest hurdle has been leapt. The biggest hurdle is that other teams have embraced the, sort of, Oakland spirit: Boston because of John Henry, an owner whose experience of business, in the financial market has prepared him mentally for baseball, and the Toronto Blue Jays because of the collapse of the Canadian dollar and they couldn’t afford to do it any other way. So you’ve already got two franchises out there that are pretty explicit in trying to think about the game differently. I assume that this is the way it happens because it seems this is the way it always happens. Organizations that are in crisis, their current management will not change their behavior or the way they think. They will be fired eventually or there will be new ownership and new people will come in. A thousand Theo Epsteins will bloom. And, it will be new people who aren’t threatened by the idea of new baseball knowledge because they grew up with it because they grew up reading Bill James or because they’re Baseball Prospectus fans or whatever it is, who have no vested interest in the old way of doing things. It’s just a question of how long that takes. That obviously takes some time, just the way baseball moves slowly. Ownership changes hands slowly. Owners are naturally probably kind of chummy with the guys who run their teams and they feel uncomfortable firing people. It’s not a smooth, frictionless environment. But, it might only be a few years before we look out and see Paul DePodesta running one team, David Forst, who is Paul DePodesta’s assistant at the Oakland A’s, running another team. I wouldn’t be surprised if you and I had a conversation five years from now and we could say 10 or 15 teams are being run more or less along the Oakland model.

WC: Absolutely. Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball. You go right into my next question, which is: Billy Beane is obviously a very smart, very open-minded man and Paul DePodesta as his right hand has been a big part of the success, and obviously there are more names down the list, Eric Kubota, David Forst. The list just goes on and on seemingly. The best way for somebody to get that thinking is to do what John Henry tried to do: Hire Billy Beane. The next best thing, of course, would be to do what Toronto did and hire J.P. Ricciardi, or Paul DePodesta or any one of the names on the list. How much of Billy’s success is the people he’s surrounded himself with.

ML: Oh, there’s no question that some part of his success is the people he’s surrounded himself with. All successful people in organizations that is true of. It’s a big part, but he has a gift for surrounding himself with the right people, and when Paul leaves to run whatever team Paul runs, he will replace Paul intelligently to the extent that Paul can be replaced. If you asked me, what would happen if Billy Beane do if he had to do it by himself, I would say this would be his problem: He is not a research scientist, and he is actually impatient with long, analytical arguments and has no real interest in finding new baseball knowledge himself. He is interested in evaluating the findings of others and putting them into practice. So, left to his own devices, I think he wouldn’t have the instinct to innovate himself. He needs help with the innovation. He is smart enough to understand regressions analysis but not terribly interested in or even capable of doing them himself. So, that’s the really important thing that Paul DePodesta supplies him.

WC: Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, and Michael, I think this is the Ball Four of my generation, and obviously, the book that is going to legitimize the type of thinking that Baseball Prospectus has come to be known for to the mainstream. Thanks a ton for coming on today. And, I just have to tell you, you’re married to my college crush, so I’m like the most jealous man in the world.

ML: Then I’m glad we didn’t do this thing in person at my house.

WC: Ha! Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, probably the best book of the year, let alone the best baseball book. Thanks again, Michael. I really appreciate it.

ML: Thanks for having me, Will.

©Prospectus Entertainment Ventures 2003

This interview is posted with permission from Baseball Prospectus.

Special thanks to Will Carroll.
|| Peter @ 7/03/2003

Mariners Win Shares

thru games of 7/3; short form; 54 wins=162 win shares

Offense - 98.67; Defense - 65.33

Bret Boone 22
Ichiro 19
Edgar Martinez 15
Mike Cameron 14
John Olerud 11
Carlos Guillen 10
Randy Winn 8
Shiggy Hasegawa 8
Jamie Moyer 7
Ben Davis 7
Gil Meche 6
Joel Pineiro 5
Ryan Franklin 4
Kaz Sasaki 4
Jeff Cirillo 4
Mark McLemore 4
Dan Wilson 3
Arthur Rhodes 3
Jeff Nelson 3
Freddy Garcia 2
Greg Colbrunn 2
Rafael Soriano 1
Willie Bloomquist 1
Julio Mateo 1
Aaron Taylor 0
Pat Borders 0
Luis Ugueto 0
Giovanni Carrara 0
John Mabry 0
Matt White 0

For an explanation of Win Shares, here you are. Again, take them with a grain of salt. Since they're based on actual wins, the unbalanced schedule makes them unreliable in comparing across teams, since the Red Sox haven't played the same teams the Mariners have.
|| Peter @ 7/03/2003

Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo

Game 3: Mariners 13, Athletics 0
Good: All is right in Marinerland, no? The M's buried the division rivals in a blowout shutout, 13-0. Jo-El tossed 8 innings allowing just 6 baseruners (3 hits, 3 walks) with 6 strikeouts. Dan Wilson led the hit attack with 4. Every Mariner had a hit and only Cirillo and Bloomquist (who did walk twice) didn't get at least a pair. Edgar had 3, scored 3 runs and hit just his 2nd home run in a month. Eight of the 20 hits went for extra bases.

Bad: While they did score 13, the M's had 26 total baserunners for the evening, meaning they stranded just as many as they scored. They stranded the bases loaded in the 1st, runners on second and third in the 2nd, first and second in the 3rd, bases loaded in the 5th, runner on third in the 8th and runners on the corners in the 9th. All that damage undone. I guess they were feeling sportsman-like, so as to not run up the score.

Ugly: Jo-El threw 123 pitches in a 13-0 rout. Given, the Mariners scored 7 in the final two innings. Still, a 6-run lead isn't worth risking the arm of a young pitcher, and is a perfect opportunity to give Taylor and/or Soriano some innings. Here's Jo-El's pitch per inning with cumulative total:

1 - 24
2 - 16, 40
3 - 19, 59
4 - 15, 74
5 - 12, 86
6 - 15, 101
7 - 10, 111
8 - 12, 123

Yet again, Jo-El struggled through the first inning, walking 2 of his 3, and it cost him his complete game. And while pushing him for 8 gave the "bullpen" (i.e., Rhodes, Nelson, Shig) a night off, Bob seems to have forgotten he has 3 more pitchers in relief. Instead, for some reason, the rookies don't count and Bob would rather handicap himself with a 22-man roster. It's nonsense that has to stop. Soriano was a starter last year in Seattle and for most of this season in Tacoma. Asking him to go 3 innings with a 6-run lead shouldn't have been any big deal. Jo-El had no business going out in the 8th. What better opportunity to give Taylor a tryout. Was he going to blow a then 9-run lead? Rondell White wasn't in the lineup.

Game 4: Athletics 5, Mariners 2
What can you say. Franklin vs. Zito. You can't complain about losing to Barry Zito. I think Ryan Franklin would have made great trade bait about 2 weeks ago. His value will never be higher and it's dropping with each start. That's his third loss in a row, but he can hardly be faulted as the M's scored just 3 runs in those losses. Regression to the mean is kicking in. He threw 98 pitches in just 5.1 innings, 64% for strikes allowing 11 baserunners (10 hits, 1 walk) and struck out just 1. Fortunately, those 10 hits were all singles.

Since the rookies only get to pitch when the Mariners are behind, Taylor finally got his trial run and was perfect, retiring all 5 batters he faced. Soriano pitched the 9th and struck out a pair.

While the Mariners managed 10 hits off Zito, through the 7th the only run was Edgar's 2nd home run in as many days. Boonie contributed a trio of singles. With Olerud nursing his leg, Colbrunn got his second straight start against an Oakland lefty and responded today with 3 K's. But hey, that's Barry Zito. I'm not complaining about a 4-game split in Oakland.

Next up? Arlington and the Carl-less Rangers. Edgar has an .847 career OPS at the Ballpark, Boonie .903, Ichiro .893, Cirillo .792, Cammie 1.019 and Winn .996. And there's that yummy Texas pitching. The OPS allowed of the 3 pitchers the Mariners will see: Victor Santos .915 (in 20 innings), John Thomson .833, and Ismael Valdes .885.
|| Peter @ 7/03/2003

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

"Tragic Sensibility"

Athletics 3, Mariners 2 (sigh) Yesterday, Edward Cossette of Bambino's Curse spoke of "tragic sensibility," or to quote David Ignatius's original article, "the sense that in most instances, things do not work out as you might have hoped." I hear you, Edward. Mariner Nation is all to familiar to it. No, not quite in the Greek tragedy sense that it surrounds the Red Sox year in and year out. But, and you know who you are, there are those of us that bleed Mariner blue wondering, contemplating, itching to remove the safety from the PANIC button. Consider:

On July 2, 2003, the Mariners find themselves 6 games in first place, and at 53-29 have the best record in the major leagues.

On July 2, 2002, the Mariners were 4 games in first place, 52-31. They finished with 93 wins in third place and did not play in October.

On July 2, 2001, the Mariners were 21 games in first place, 60-21. The finished with a record 116 wins, won the pennant, but were denied by the Yankees in 5 games in the ALCS.

On July 2, 2000, the Mariners were 1-1/2 games in first place, 47-32. They finished with 91 wins in second place, but were denied by the Yankees in 6 games in the ALCS.

On July 2, 1999, the Mariners were in second place, trailing by 7 games with a record of 39-40. They would finish that season 79-83 in third place, trailing the Rangers by 16.

No, the summer months of July, August and September are rarely kind to Seattle baseball. But are we greedy? The franchise is just 25 years young. We didn't even celebrate our first winning season until just 12 years ago. And in just the 3rd winning season in 1995, Seattle hosted the playoffs for the first time. And in 7 years the Mariners have played October baseball 4 times now. Boasting the best record of the new millennium, now nothing short of World Series glory is expected. Am I right? Nonetheless, in light of the bigger picture, I will forego fingering the safety on the PANIC button for at least another month or two, and, despite the shenanigans being pulled nightly in the dugout and the prudish, stinginess of the front office and the bullpen echoing ghosts of Mariners past (as Greg Johns points out), I will bask and enjoy the moment while the Mariners are the best team in all of major league baseball.

It's in the P-I: "Both [Rhodes and Nelson] are being used too much."

True, subjectively I would say we're seeing them an awful lot. But what do the numbers say? Here are the projected numbers for Rhodes, Nelson and Hasegawa for 2003 compared to the average of the previous 3 years:

Arthur Rhodes
2003 - 73 G, 71.2 IP
2000-2002 avg - 70 G, 69 IP

Arthur's on pace to pitch his most innings since 1998 while with the Orioles when he threw in 77. The previous year, he saw 95.1 innings of action. But while with the Mariners he's consistently flirted with 70 innings mark, so it's a real stretch to say Bob is overusing him or burning him out.

Jeff Nelson
2003 - 67 G, 55 IP
2000-2002 - 61 G, 60 IP

Ditto. Nellie spent a good chunk of 2002 on the DL, which keeps those numbers low. In 2000, he threw 69.2 innings and has thrown 70+ four times in his career. He's 36 so not a candidate for 80 innings as he did his rookie year, but Bob isn't heading him in that direction anyway, what with these 1-out saves.

Shigetoshi Hasagawa
2003 - 73 G, 85.2 IP
2000-2002 - 55 G, 74 IP

Shiggy's the one I'm worried about, if just slightly. He's thrown 90+ innings three times in his career, the last time being 2000. He then missed time in 2001 to injury.

I like Aaron Taylor in the bullpen. At Tacoma this year, he's collected 16 saves in 33 appearances over 40.1 IP. He's struck out 34, walked 13, allowed 30 hits and 3 homers. I say enough of this Bizarro World Strat-O-Matic Platoon Closer Bob keeps playing around with. I say make Taylor close and put Nelson and Rhodes back into the roles they've excelled so well at: Rhodes in the 7th, Nelson in the 8th. I know that's probably not the most sabermetric way to use your bullpen, but we've got to keep it simple for Bob.

Sooner rather than later (tonight would be very nice), Bob has to realize that there is more to his bullpen the Rhodes, Nelson and Shiggy. Rafael Soriano and Aaron Taylor are the real deal, and they need to be pitching now and not learning their way through in late August and September when the A's are nipping at their heels. Once upon a time, the M's bullpen was automatic, they'd slam the door shut. Well, the door is getting rusty as of late.

I see the Elephants in Oakland have posted as their worst fear, "Seattle’s Bullpen." That's a joke, right?

It's really too bad for Gil Meche, who though he struggled through the early innings throwing 72 pitches in 3, he matched Hudson frame for frame and lasted through 7. He tossed 111 pitches, just 58% for strikes. He allowed just a run on 8 baserunners (5 hits, 3 walks) and only struck out 2.

If it's any consolation for the Mariners, Ken Macha burned his closer for 2.2 innings, so we won't be seeing Foulke for awhile.
|| Peter @ 7/02/2003

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

First Blood

Mariners 3, Athletics 1 - Enough of the interleague, DH-less nonsense already. The M's are back doing what they do best: Carving up the AL West. I really like this matchup this year more than in years past. In defense, the M's and A's are #1 and #2 in the AL. In pitching, they're #1 and #2 in the AL. The one noticeable difference is the offense, where the M's are 4th in the league and the A's 11th. However, it is just 25 runs that separates then, or just 1 every third game.

You've probably already heard this is a big series. Big as they get. That's just not true. There are 162 games in the year and the first one is just as "big" as the last one. Every Mariner win and Athletic loss carries the same weight in July as it will in September as it did in April. And in this first of the four-game set, the Mariners struck first, though it did take them until the 7th inning.

Through 6 full innings the Mariners managed just 3 singles. The home team managed just a walk. Over 7.1 innings, Jamie Moyer allowed just a run with 6 baserunners (4 hits, 2 walks), striking out 2 while throwing 106 pitches, 63% for strikes. For a pitcher who frequently throws 100 pitches by the 6th, against a an offensive whose founding philosophy is plate discipline, that's impressive.

After going down meekly for 6, though, the A's threatened loading the bases in both the 7th and 8th innings with only an out. In the 7th, Moyer walked Adam Piatt to force in the A's lone run but then retired on Ramon Hernandez on a line out and Terrence Long on a grounder. In the 8th, Moyer retired Ellis then surrendered a double to the hottest A, Eric Byrnes. In comes Arthur who promptly gives up a single to Scott Hatteberg who takes second on Cammie's throw into third. So now the score is 2-1 Mariners, and the A's have runners at 2nd and 3rd, just one out and the meat of their lineup--Durazo, Tejada, Chavez--standing in line, visions of Rondell dancing in their heads. Durazo walks on 4 pitches, and while Tejada's and Chavez's season numbers are paltry for them (.745 and .804 OPS, respectively), their Junes, as I noted yesterday, suggest they're back up to par. Good ole' Miggy swings at the first pitch he sees and grounds into a fielder's choice to home plate. Chavez then swings at his first pitch grounding out to Boone and catastrophe averted. Makes me wonder if Billy and Paul played long toss with the clubhouse furniture.

And then there was that rarest of Mariner occurences. I hope you didn't blink, because Greg Colbrunn hit a pinch hit home run to seal the game in the top of the 9th. See Bob, Colbrunn hits lefties real good.

Jeff Cirillo laid down a fine sacrifice squeeze bunt to score the M's second run of the game. He lunged to avoid the tag and was called out by homeplate umpire Greg Gibson. Then he threw a fine, little temper tantrum and got himself (and his glove) ejected. Lou would be proud. Jeff, even those of us who don't make 7 figures know you're not allowed to run in the grass on the way to first. At least, it gave him an excuse to shave that mythological-creature-like goatee. Now if only Jo-El would follow suit. The shaving, that is, not the spoiled-brat temper tantrums.

Yesterday I finally got my grubby little paws on Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups, and being the anal, type-A personality I am, had to start at the beginning with Anaheim and Arizona. And, I found this interesting tidbit in his essay on the Diamondbacks:

"And while Bob Brenly certainly had some good players in the 2001 World Series, he was also very, very lucky. Because Brenly probably did as many stupid things as a manager can do and still win a World Series" (17).

He then follows with a detailed account of Bob Brenly's haphazard usage of his pitchers in the 7 games of the 2001 Series. It all sounded so eerily familiar to some of the game recaps I've typed here, or certain rants from the fellas at USS Mariner, or even Derek's latest on BP. Why is that, might you ask? Well, because that was Bob Melvin serving as Brenly's bench lieutenant for the 2001 Snakes. Yessiree, Bob (our Bob) apprenticed with the best and brightest. Which leads to our existential question of the day: Is it better to have an educated, cunning and intelligent manager where every break of luck goes against him, or the "Box or Rocks" who gets lucky? Discuss.

Look out! There's another Mariner blogger on the loose! Dave's his name and Mariners baseball (and more) is his game. Check it out at the aptly titled Dave's Mariners and More Blog.
|| Peter @ 7/01/2003

Monday, June 30, 2003

Go Vote: The Outfielders & DH

Go now because times 'a wastin'. Just 2 days left. Do it because it's your duty as an American citizen. With the outfielders for my ballot, I'll start with the American League. Now as a reminder, the way you qualify as a starter for the All-Star game in my book, you have got to be the best player at your position, and I'm not talking about the stats of the current season: 300 at bats does not earn your vote on my ballot. I prefer instead to look at performance over the previous three years. That's just my system. So here's the stats on the top 15 AL vote-getters thus far:

Ichiro - .336/.385/.441 with 16 homers and 76 RCAA (runs created above the league average)
Godzilla - I can certainly see an argument as to Matsui starting the All-Star game on sheer marquee value alone, and that is part of being a "star," but he needs to prove his worth on American soil before he starts an All-Star game.
Manny Ramirez - .333/.435/.648 with 112 homers and 212 RCAA
Torii Hunter - .276/.320/.480 with 61 homers and -6 RCAA
Bernie Williams - .317/.401/.526 with 75 homers and 118 RCAA
Juan Gonzalez - .302/.348/.529 with 65 homers and 37 RCAA
Garret Anderson - .293/.318/.511 with 92 homers and 14 RCAA
Mike Cameron - .257/.352/.453 with 69 homers and 48 RCAA
Raul Mondesi - .249/.326/.463 with 77 homers and -4 RCAA
Vernon Wells - .279/.310/.452 with 24 homers and -1 RCAA
Rocco Baldelli - no AB prior to 2003
Tim Salmon - .269/.384/.480 with 73 homers and 66 RCAA
Darin Erstad - .300/.353/.433 with 44 homers and 34 RCAA
Magglio Ordonez - .313/.378/.558 with 101 homers and 101 RCAA
Johnny Damon - .290/.354/.434 with 39 homers and 45 RCAA

The greatest tragedy here is that Ordonez is 14th in voting so far. Where's the love? Only Manny has more home runs and a higher SLG than Ordonez yet the fans think youngsters like Wells and Baldelli and on-base-challenged Anderson should start in front of Mags. And the game is being played in Chicago of all places. Now if I were in charge, they'd separate the balloting into RF, CF and LF. Nobody wants to see Manny playing center or Ichiro in left. Lucky for me, the best 3, in my opinion, are one from each position. My votes? Manny Ramirez, Bernie Williams and Magglio Ordonez. Please don't stone me for not voting for Ichiro. He'll start no matter how I vote or what I write.

Now for the NL, which is probably the most talented group of players to choose from. You could easily pick 9 NL outfielders worthy of starting the All-Star game. Luckily the fans have slightly better taste with one glaring error. Here's the numbers for the top 15:

Barry Bonds - .333/.512/.782 with 168 homers and 418 RCAA
Sammy Sosa - .312/.415/.655 with 163 homers and 245 RCAA
Gary Sheffield - .314/.420/.580 with 104 homers and 171 RCAA
Albert Pujols - .321/.399/.586 with 71 homers and 105 RCAA
Andruw Jones - .274/.348/.505 with 105 homers and 49 RCAA
Vlad Guerrero - .329/.402/.607 with 117 homers and 147 RCAA
Chipper Jones - .323/.422/.570 with 100 homers and 166 RCAA
Jim Edmonds - .303/.414/.570 with 100 homers and 155 RCAA
Junior Griffey - .275/.375/.525 with 70 homers and 43 RCAA
Adam Dunn - .253/.391/.493 with 45 homers and 37 RCAA
Austin Kearns - .315/.407/.500 with 13 homers and 21 RCAA
Jose Cruz - .254/.322/.481 with 83 homers and 6 RCAA
Moises Alou - .320/.383/.531 with 72 homers and 71 RCAA
Shawn Green - .284/.375/.543 with 115 homers and 121 RCAA
Corey Patterson - .243/.278/.379 with 20 homers and -29 RCAA

...and two the fans have forgotten
Lance Berkman - .308/.411/.590 with 97 homers and 148 RCAA
Brian Giles - .308/.428/.601 with 110 homers and 198 RCAA

Do we just not know who Brian Giles is? It's worse than the neglect of Ordonez. Now, the AL has just 3 outfielders with 100+ RCAA between 2000 and 2002. In the NL there are 10, and there are 2 that are 200+ with one more pretty darn close. There are also 10 with 100+ home runs over the 3-year span. Barry Bonds is The All-Star in left field. Sammy Sosa, cork or no, is my starter in right. And in center, I vote for Brian Giles. Yeah, he's playing left this year, but he has played center in the past, so that's no stretch of my imagination. Edmonds, Sheffield, the Joneses, Green, Berkman, Pujols and Vlad are worthy candidates all.

Now, do you really need to ask me who the best DH in the AL is? Here are the only 4 that should garner any kind of serious discussion to start the All-Star Game:

Edgar Martinez - .306/.418/.544 with 75 home runs and 145 RCAA
Frank Thomas - .288/.396/.546 with 75 home runs and 89 RCAA
Ellis Burks - .307/.381/.560 with 84 home runs and 98 RCAA
Carl Everett - .277/.345/.496 with 64 home runs and 33 RCAA

Okay, maybe not Carl. The DH is all about Edgar.

So here's my final ballot -
AL: C-Posada, 1B-Giambi, 2B-Boone, 3B-Glaus, SS-Rodriguez, OF-Ramirez, Williams, Ordonez, DH-Martinez.
NL: C-Piazza, 1B-Helton, 2B-Kent, 3B-Alfonzo, SS-Aurilia, OF-Bonds, Sosa, Giles
|| Peter @ 6/30/2003

The Sun Also Rises

What's to say about yesterday's game.

Part of me wants to go on a cynical rampage. You know, throw stuff. Break some things. Write about how the Mariners should be nothing short of ashamed of themselves. The A's split their 6-game Bay Area series. Anaheim won 4 of 6 against the cross-town Dodgers. The Mariners won just 2 of 6 from the friggin' Padres. A team that scores 4.03 runs per game scored 4.33 runs per game against the AL's best pitching. A team that gives up 5.46 runs per game allowed just 3.67 runs against the AL's 4th most prolific offense.

But who do you point the finger at? Arthur and Nellie combined for 6 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks while recording just 2 outs with 40 pitches between the two of them. Like you expected that to happen, right? The move to leave Arthur in against White was the right one, but not because Nellie gave up to grand slam to him last week. As I pointed out last week, the right-handed Rondell hits lefties .276/.316/.418 with now 3 homers but righties .299/.357/.542 with 12 home runs. He also grounds out 40% of the time, and Arthur is slightly (though probably negligibly so) more prone to give up grounders than Nellie. A double play ends the game. But, as we all know, Rondell most definitely did not hit that pitch on the ground. The best one can do is stack the odds in his favor. Whether Bullpen Bob did it on purpose or not is up for debate, though.

Part of me wants to say its just one game in 162. Some you win with a grand slam, some you lose. As Boone said:

"It's another series," he said. "Let's try not to make too much out of it. Let's not start doing this. We hear it every year. It's stupid" (Moore, P-I).

Today's a new day. A new ballgame. A new series. Four games in Oakland to prove our mettle.

It was the 6th inning before I realized the game was on, and with the M's cruising along 5-1, I was thinking Freddy must be on his way to his 6th straight win. In his 6 innings, he threw 102 pitches (is it just me or is Bullpen Bob pulling his starters pretty consistently at the 100-pitch mark?), just 60% strikes. He allowed only a run on 5 hits and 3 walks with 5 Ks.

Olerud had a pair of hits with a home run. Cammie also went deep. Boonie was the only starter without a hit, and I could feel the breeze from his game-ending cut 4,000 miles away.

"We could have had such a damned good time against the Padres."

"Yes. Isn't it pretty to think so?"
|| Peter @ 6/30/2003

Pythagorean Rankings: Week 13

(last week's rank in parentheses)

1. Seattle (1) Freddy Garcia's ERA 7.22 in May, 2.13 in June. Joel Piniero's walks by month: April 17, May 14, June 10. On the flip side, Winn (.474), Cirillo (.579), Guillen (.584), McLemore (.568) and Wilson (.363) are 5 regulars with sub-.600 OPS.

2. NY Yankees (2) Godzilla's OPS .655 in May, 1.200 in June. Jason Giambi's .733 in April, .871 in May, 1.368 in June. Even Ruben Sierra has a 1.034 OPS in pinstripes. Yes, the Yanks have won 15 of 17, but 13 of those games were against the Mets and Devil Rays. It'll get a little spicy with 4 against the Sox this weekend and 3 against the Jays the next.

3. Philadelphia (6) The Phils have won 10 of 12, including 4 of 6 against the Braves. Randy Wolf 4-0, 2.76 ERA and Brandon Duckworth 3-0, 3.38 ERA in June.

4. Atlanta (3) So while Javy Lopez is still blistering opposing pitching with a 1.213 OPS and 10 homers in June, the summer heat is showing cracks in this once invincible offense. After a 1.079 OPS May, Rafael Furcal had a .583 June. Marcus Giles has dropped .200 points a month, from a 1.074 April to a .611 June. And after his .930 May, Vinny Castilla has returned to his out-making ways with a .571 June.

5. Oakland (4) Very good signs in Oakland: Eric Chavez .305/.350/.589 with 7 homers in June. And even better, Miggy Tejada .301/.357/.534 with 10 walks against just 7 strikeouts.

6. Boston (11) Outscoring the Marlins 45-25 in 3 games does wonders for your Pythagorean rank. But even after that, they are playing exactly to their projection. Then there are the 5 Red Sox with +1.000 OPS for June: Millar 1.181, Manny 1.140, No-mah 1.138, Nixon 1.097, and Varitek 1.019. And don't forget David Ortiz (.999) and Gabe Kaplar (2.400 in his first 5 at bats).

7. St. Louis (7) No more potent right/left knockout combo in all of baseball than Jim Edmonds (1.348 OPS, 13 homers in June) and Albert Pujols (1.185 OPS, 17 XBH, 12 walks to 11 strikeouts for the month).

8. Los Angeles (7) Shawn Green (.181/.243/.330, 10 XBH in 94 AB in June) and Dave Roberts (.205/.275/.229) just two reasons why Hideo Nomo won just 3 out of 5 starts despite a 0.88 WHIP and 1.24 ERA in the month, Ishii won 3 of 6 starts with a 2.75 ERA and Brown 3 of 5 with a 2.81 ERA.

9. Toronto (9) Carlos Delgado is on a pace for 45 2B, 51 home runs and 176 RBI, and Vernon Wells 53 2B, 40 HR and 148 RBI. And Wells is just warming up: .759 OPS in April, .922 in May and 1.096 in June.

10. Arizona (15) Winners of 11 in a row, 16 of 19, without Schilling and Johnson. Scary. The ageless stalwarts Luis Gonzalez (1.055 OPS) and Steve Finley (1.077 OPS) have led the offense this month. In Bob Brenly's cut-and-paste lineup, 12 D-Backs collected 40+ at bats in June, and of those 12, just two posted sub-.700 OPS while eight of them were over .800.
|| Peter @ 6/30/2003
11. Houston (5) Since no-hitting the Yanks, the Stros are 5-11. Morgan Ensberg with 1.147 and 8 homers in June. Lance Berkman is certainly back from his hideous start with a 1.045 month. And after a .356/.392/.644 month, Richard Hidalgo now ranks in the NL top ten in SLG (.551) and OPS (.951).

12. Anaheim (11) Ramon Ortiz 5-0 with 1.19 WHIP and 3.38 ERA in June, while Jarrod Washburn 1-4 with 6.83 ERA. Garret Anderson 1.154 OPS with 11 homers, 5 of them in San Juan.

13. San Francisco (10) Barry Bonds with a 1.206 OPS for the month with 9 homers and 25 walks. Jason Schmidt with a 1.66 ERA for the month but a 3-2 record to show for it.

14. Chicago Cubs (13) Sammy Sosa has raised his OPS .050 points with 4 homers in the ten days since serving his suspension. Mark Prior won just 2 of 5 starts despite a 2.14 ERA and 11.76 K/9.

15. Montreal (18) How's this for consistency? Brad Wilkerson .921 OPS in April, .905 in May, .990 in June.

16. Minnesota (14) Twinkies 6-10 against D-Backs, Royals, Brewers and White Sox. The reason? One would be Radke, Rogers, Lohse, Mays and Reed combined for 24 starts in June and a 6.08 ERA while Johan Santana started 2 games, totaled 22.2 innings with a 1.99 ERA.

17. Colorado (16) Shawn Chacon 1.04 ERA in April, 5.66 in May, 5.12 in June. Which of these is not like the others? The last time I mentioned a Rockies middle reliever he then got pasted, so I could be putting these fellows in peril, but Brian Fuentes (remember him from the Cirillo deal?) 0 ER in 14 IP with 16 K and Justin Speier 3 ER in 15 IP with 15 K.

18. Florida (17) Yeah, yeah. Dontelle Willis 5-0, 1.04 ERA in June. But did you see Pudge is coming back? After a .558 OPS April, he hit .366/.424/.598 in June. Oh, and Mike Lowell hit 9 home runs.

19. Kansas City (20) Won 3 of 4 against rival Twins, split 6 games with Cards and swept the Indians. At the half way point, despite allowing more runs than they've scored, they find themselves in a virtual tie for first this morning, such is the AL Central. This means that two teams of the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Mariners and A's will not make the playoffs. That, my friends, is a tragedy. I won't forget to mention Angel Berroa's .967 OPS month and Ken Harvey's .958.

20. Baltimore (19) You want more consistency? How about Melvin Mora--1.065 OPS in April, 1.021 in May, 1.053 in June. Just 7 XBH in 73 AB in June, though.
|| Peter @ 6/30/2003
21. Chicago Sox (21) The Sox are, no doubt, a two-man team. While Loiaza hasn't maintained his April ERA of 1.25, the dropoff has been far from catastrophic: 2.65 in May and 2.57 in June. Then there's big Frank Thomas: .333/.467.679 with 7 home runs and 19 walks.

22. Pittsburgh (22) He had a .461 OBP for the month, but Brian Giles hit just 2 home runs and 9 total XBH in 90 AB. And, Lloyd, find Matt Stairs and his 1.360 June OPS ( and 5 homers in 46 AB) some more at bats.

23. Milwaukee (26) Another former Mariner thriving in a new uniform: Scott Podsednik hitting .373/.453/.471 in June.

24. Cleveland (24) With a .985 June OPS, Milton Bradley now ranks 2nd in the AL in OBP (.444), 3rd in AVG (.342), 8th in OPS (.967) and 10th in BB (42).

25. NY Mets (23) Dropped 10 of 13 against cellar rivals Florida and subway rivals across town. For the month, Tom Glavine was 0-3 with a 7.36 ERA and Al Leiter was 3-2 with an 8.76 ERA. And Robbie Alomar's June OPS of .573 can't help his trade value.

26. Cincinnati (25) Player A hit .354/.456/.615 with 4 homers and 15 strikeouts in 65 AB. Player B hit .206/.329/.349 with 2 homers and 22 strikeouts in 63 AB. Player A is Jose Guillen. Player B is Junior Griffey.

27. Texas (27) The Rangers won only 6 games all month. Buck sent out 8 different pitchers to start games. In 4 starts, Tony Mounce was the only to post an ERA (3.00) below 5. Joaquin Benoit, in 2 starts, was the only one to post a WHIP (1.13) below 1.50.

28. Tampa Bay (28) Likewise, the Devil Rays won just 5 games with Lou Piniella utilizing 8 different starters. Yet Victor Zambrano won 4 of those games (in 6 starts) with a 2.36 ERA. Jeremi Gonzalez picked up the other win with a 4.00 ERA in 6 starts. Baldelli and Crawford combined for 10 walks and 37 strikeouts and OBPs of .293 and .291, respectively.

29. San Diego (29) Then there's the Padres who, though with the 2nd worst record in baseball, were 12-15 for the month. Oliver Perez, Jake Peavy and Adam Eaton combined for 14 starts and a 3.45 ERA.

30. Detroit (30) It's reaching historic proportions: The Tigers are now tied with the 1932 Red Sox for the all-time worst record through 79 games. But what can you do when Alex Sanchez and his .291 June OBP leads off? Dmitri Young remains the one thing to half-smile about in Tigerland, hitting .326/.415/.652 for the month.
|| Peter @ 6/30/2003
AL - Hideki Matsui (NY Yankees) 28 AB, 6 R, 14 H, 3 2B, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 7 BB, .500/.622/.821, 1.443 OPS
NL - Jim Edmonds (St. Louis) 24 AB, 8 R, 12 H, 5 2B, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 3 BB, .500/.556/1.333, 1.889 OPS

AL - Esteban Loaiza (Chicago Sox) 1-1, 15 IP, 15 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 2.40 ERA
NL - Tomo Ohka (Montreal) 2-0, 15 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 0.60 ERA

AL - Willie Harris (Chicago Sox) 22 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 1 SB, 1 BB, .091/..130/.091, .231 OPS
NL - Jack Wilson (Pittsburgh) 20 AB, 2 H, 1 RBI, 1 BB, .100/.182/.100, .282 OPS

AL - Jeremy Affeldt (Kansas City) 0-1, 3 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 5 BB, 2 K, 24.00 ERA
NL - Brad Lidge (Houston) 0-1, 2.2 IP, 5 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 27.00 ERA
|| Peter @ 6/30/2003