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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Art Imitating Life?

The most traded players in The Sporting News fantasy baseball right now are two guys who were actually traded for each other this offseason. 

The Mariners dealt Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero this winter in a classic swap of young pitching for young hitting.  Fantasy baseballers are getting antsy with the kids and moving them from their fake teams as well.  Although presumably not for each other.

As long as we're on the topic, Larry Stone, via the Seattle Times, published an interested read on the trade as spring training was coming to a close.  Here it is in case you missed it. 
Stone wrote: "It might be four or five years before Campos is ready to crack a major-league rotation. By that time, we should have a good idea if Montero is the right-handed power threat the Mariners so desperately need, if Noesi developed into a quality starter, and if Pineda lived up to the vast promise of his rookie season.

In other words, by 2016, we should start to get a feel for who won the Pineda/Montero trade."
He's probably right.  But it definitely feels good to have Montero in the Mariner lineup rather than an injured Pineda on the DL. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mariners Represented on James' Top Pitchers Duels for 2011

Mariner fans enjoyed 3 of the top 21 pitching duels in 2011, according to Bill James.  James just published his list of the 100 best pitchers duels of 2011 on ESPN's Grantland site. 

The August 31, 2011 battle between Felix Hernandez and Dan Haren ranked 19 on the list.  From the Grantland article:
Hernandez pitched a five-hitter, struck out nine, but the Angels manufactured a run against him in the third, and Haren made it stand up until the bottom of the eighth. He got two out in that inning and then Scioscia pulled him after two singles, and a Mariner rookie with a windmill swing doubled them home off the reliever. Seattle 2, Angels 1.
2011 performances by Jason Vargas, Doug Fister and Michael Pineda also made the list.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pineda to the Yankees!

Pineda mania was short lived in Seattle.  The Mariners have agreed to send right-hander Michael Pineda to New York in exchange for top prospect Jesus Montero,'s Jon Heyman reports.  The Mariners will also get right-hander Hector Noesi, while right-hander Jose Campos goes the Yankees, Heyman reports.

Mariner fans have been screaming for a big bat all offseason.  Is Montero the answer?  Montero has some success in a handful of big league games last year, hitting .326 with an OPS of .996 in just 18 games.  In 109 minor league games in 2011 (AAA) he hit 18 HR with an OPS of .815.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Starting Pitching (was) A Mariner Strength

A hitters delight
I've heard many times recently that the Seattle Mariners have pitching depth. After screaming obscenities at the radio, television, relatives, or any other medium that this is coming from, I have to ask how one would define depth and who exactly occupies this chasm?

By my count, the Mariners have three starting pitchers (worth a damn) heading into 2012. Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, and Jason Vargas. One great, one good, one acceptable.

Looking at 2012, it's getting difficult to see how the Mariners are going to add much in the way of significant offense unless they make some kind of massive splash via trade and fill holes at left field and third base, which is a possibility, but unlikely. One place they could shore up some glaring deficiencies is starting pitcher, however.

First of all, let's just establish something about the candidates I've heard for #4 and #5:

Blake Beavan isn't a very good starter. Yeah, he had some flashes last season, but he doesn't strike anyone out (3.90 K/9 which is putrid), he doesn't throw particularly hard (90.6 FB average velocity), he doesn't have even average secondary pitches other than a pretty good slider. His ceiling is probably as a #5 starter on a decent team and that's just not someone I want to watch develop over the 2012 season -- and he doesn't really represent anything close to "investing in the future".

Anthony Vazquez was horrible as a major league pitcher. He strikes out nobody (3.99 K/9) and relies on pin-point accuracy, which he got away with in the minors and got torched by in the bigs, which led him to try to be so fine that his walk rate elevated to 3.07 BB/9 after being in the 1.2 range throughout the minors. He simply doesn't have the stuff to get major league hitters out right now. He needs seasoning or he needs to be abandoned.

Charlie Furbush has some promise. He has shown the ability to strike batters out, he has better stuff than the previous two mentioned arms, and he was also impacted by some bad luck last year (low strand rate, above average BABIP, 16.4% HR/FB) which is why SIERA pegs his actual performance right around 3.88 instead of his actual ERA at 6.62. I would be ok with Furbush occupying the 5th starter role if necessary.

Yes, the M's are probably inviting Hultzen and Paxton to camp, but it's not realistic to think they will make the team -- and even if they do -- make the team any better. They're great talents and yay, yay, yay for having them, but they're still kids and probably need to continue to develop in the minors.

But - there are some names that the M's should be pursuing to shore up the one or two holes in their rotation, and it could be done rather cheaply.

Chris Capuano

Capuano is the crafty veteran twin to Jason Vargas. The tall lefty doesn't throw particularly hard, but he misses bats with a K/9 of 8.13 (Felix was 8.55 for reference). You'll look at his 4.55 ERA and call me a madman, but the ERA predictors xFIP and SIERA both recognize he had some miserable luck, and peg him at 3.67 and 3.60, respectively. His strand rate was really high, his BABIP was a tad high as was his home run rate (although it's right around his average of 11.8%, so that's just his M.O.), so in many ways he outperformed his ERA and by a good sum. He's an injury risk, but he might sign a one or two year deal somewhere in the $5 to $6 million dollar range, with incentives.

Paul Maholm

The Pirates are unlikely to pick up his $10 million dollar option and while they might try to trade him to someone to get some useful body out of the deal, he may wind up being a free agent. Maholm is a chronic 2-win pitcher as he's been right around that level since 2006 (with one year at 3.2). He's another Jason Vargas clone with their K/9 virtually identical and while Maholm might give up a couple more hits than Vargas, he's also stingier with the home runs. He's also left handed, he can strike out a lefty pretty well, and controls the long ball off of lefties which would play nicely at Safeco. Signing Maholm would likely take more than Capuano as he's considerably younger, and he'd probably be fishing for something more in the 3-year deal range maybe up to $20 million or so. But if the marginal value of a win is $5 million bucks, if he delivers his 2-win season every year, you've done alright.

Jaime Moyer

Dave Cameron made the case for Moyer already over at, so I won't re-hash it, but it is a rather no-brainer to give him a minor league deal with an invite to camp and just see what he's able to accomplish. Honestly, what the hell. Bring him back.

A couple honorable mentions:

Aaron Harang pitched pretty well with San Diego last season, winning 14 games with a 3.64 ERA. The peripheral stats suggest he was probably getting a tad lucky and peg him more around 4.20 (xFIP). He's probably due for a 2-year deal from someone and it's likely that he'd get more money than he deserves because the more obvious stats are pretty shiny (wins, ERA) than the underlying ones. But if he lingered on the market and the M's were able to pick him up on a one year deal with incentives, he would probably like pitching at Safeco and there's a good chance he could be just as effective as he was with San Deigo.

Lastly there's always Hisashi Iwakuma, who was linked to the M's last off-season but the A's won the bid on him and then couldn't come to an agreement. Well, he's still looking to pitch in the Majors and he'll be looking for a suitor. It's unknown if he's likely to sign with a team in rebuilding mode, but perhaps Seattle's connection with other Japanese players will be some kind of a draw. He's 30, has a history of injuries, and his stuff isn't classified as particularly electric - he's a ground ball pitcher with great control. Some reports suggest he's going to be looking for $10 million per season over a three or four year contract, which wouldn't make any sense for the M's, but I figured I'd toss his name out there anyway.

Progress can be made on the starting pitching front while we wait for the kids to develop. I know we all want more offense, but if we can't buy run production, we might as well buy run prevention.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Ichiro Opting Out

"After lots of very deep thought and deliberation, I have decided to return home to resume my career in Japan.  I have had a wonderful experience competing at the major league level. I will always be indebted to the Mariners organization for giving me the opportunity to follow my dream.This was a very difficult decision, both professionally and personally. I feel now is the time to go home, while I still can perform at a very high level."

Remember those words? I do.

That's Kenji Johjima, right after he decided to walk away from roughly $16 million dollars included in the last two years of a (miserable) 3-year, $24 million dollar contract he signed.

It was a stunner, really. Johjima wasn't a very good hitter, and by most accounts, not a very good backstop either. His leaving freed up quite a bit of cash and it left most fans dancing in the virtual streets.

With this example in mind, how big of a surprise would it be if Ichiro walked away from his last season in order to go back to Japan? While I'd actually be rather shocked, I could certainly see a world in which it happens.

Ichiro had the worst season in his professional career in 2011, and whatever your opinion of him might be, you know he's arrogant enough to not like being embarrassed. He's lost a step, and he knows it.

He also knows that this Mariner team isn't likely to be very good in 2012, or at least not with their current payroll. Is he really all that excited about coming back to a mediocre team only to face constant criticism that he's not the player he once was? Maybe. Maybe not.

He's not going to get to 3,000 hits unless he plays four more years, and I'm not sure there's a team that will give him a three year contract headed into 2013 so he can slap-hit his way to a .260 average as a 40 year old. So what is there to play for? Ichiro must know that 2012 is his last year here, and he must know that his $18 million dollars is almost exactly what the team would need to sign a productive bat on offense.

Would he want to go back to Japan and play out his days adored by fans instead of playing out an albatross contract with a bad team and a media frequently using has-been terminology? I could see it.

If he did it, the M's brass would suddenly be legitimate players for some big name bats.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Michael Pineda, AL Rookie of the Year?

The staff at recently voted on all the associated hardware that the Baseball Writers of America will ultimately choose. The runaway choice for American League Rookie of the Year was the M's Michael Pineda (despite the stinker last night). It was interesting that Dustin Ackley didn't get any votes, but as Dave Cameron points out in the post, the voting on the AL ROY is likely to be a pretty interesting one as there are a lot of good candidates and nobody really emerged as the dominant choice. Had Lawrie played in more than 40-odd games, he probably would have been that guy, but hey - maybe Pineda will will have some hardware to show for it.

For what it's worth, I also voted for Pineda in the poll. Total homer.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jack Zduriencik: A Seattle Mariners Trade Retrospective

Fake hair. No hair. Funny.
So now we know that Jack Zduriencik is coming back for another year, and quite honestly I think this is super. In fact, I'd argue that you should extend the guy two more seasons as he executes his plan for the Mariner future -- a future that probably won't include contention in 2012, but hopefully 2013 and beyond. But we'll take the one, and see what the big bald-headed brute can pull off in the off season.

With the off-season in mind, I decided to take a look back at the moves Zduriencik has made and consider the outcomes. I'd like to stress that this really isn't a very fair practice -- you do what you can with the information that you have in context of your needs. It's the old 20/20 hindsight bit, but nevertheless, evaluating the trades of a general manager is at the very least, really quite fun. I'm not going to take a heavy saber-mided approach here and badger you with WAR and xFIP and all that, although it would make it a more robust inspection.

This has been done before, and done in far greater detail, so I'm not claiming dibs on this -- but it has been on my mind lately, and it seems pretty relevant as we start to think what the M's roster will look like next season, so let's take an extremely quick look at his tenure with the Mariners.

December 11, 2008: JJ Putz, Sean Green, Jeremy Reed, Luis Valbuena for Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Aaron Heilman, Maikel Cleto, Ezequiel Carrera, Mike Carp, Jason Vargas.

A three team deal with the Mets, Indians, and M's all exchanging a bunch of parts and prospects where the big name was Putz. The result was Putz got hurt, Gutierrez put up one of the most incredible defensive seasons in major league history, and Endy Chavez was actually pretty darn good before he got hurt.

Since then, Putz has gone on to be a damn good closer again with Arizona, Green was injured and is now in the minors with Milwaukee, Reed is now in the minors with Minnesota, Valbuena is up and down in the Indians system (mostly down), Gutierrez has regressed into a defensive specialist with stomach and oblique problems and little bat, Chavez is contributing with Texas, Heilman has been crappy for three different teams since the trade, Cleto is just now sniffing the bigs with St. Louis, Carrera has had some at bats for the Indians this season and generally stunk, and Jason Vargas is a decent back-end starter

Then there's Mike Carp, who is just now starting to shed that "AAAA" label, and might just be a useful major leaguer, even a good major leaguer. At .279/.340/.460 (batting average/on base %/slugging), he has really been pretty terrific -- and since his latest recall, he's been crushing the ball. These stats don't stabilize much over such few AB's, so we need more of a sample size, but Mike Carp could turn out to be the gem of the bunch.

January 20, 2009: Fabian Williamson for David Aardsma

Gotta love it when you beat Theo Epstein. Aardsma was a good closer for a couple seasons before getting shut down with a variety of ailments, he should be useful in 2012 if he can get healthy. Williamson is in the minors with the A's now, and hasn't been good at all.

January 28, 2009: Aaron Heilman for Ronny Cedeno and Garrett Olson

At the time, it seemed like a really good deal, and now it's just a who-cares deal. Cedeno was awful for the Mariners, and has subsequently been a decent shortstop for the Pirates and Garrett Olson never panned out and is now in the Pirates minor league system where he continues to demonstrate that he can get only minor leaguers out.

March 29, 2009: Cash for Chris Burke

April 21, 2009: Chris Burke for Cash

Chris Burke has to feel a little like a whore. He's no longer in baseball.

June 28, 2009: Mike Morse for Ryan Langerhans.

Widely celebrated at the time, Morse had no future with the Mariners and the Mariners needed a warm body to play defense in left field. But whoooooo-boy would we like to claim takesy-backsies on this one.

Still not a good defensive player at any position, Morse is raking in Washington to the tune of .311/.366/556 with 26 HR and 82 RBI in 127 games played. Ouchy.

July 10, 2009: Yuniesky Betancourt for Derrick Saito and Daniel Cortes

Ridding the organization of the lazy shortstop, the M's picked up a flame throwing Cortes, who has been up and down this year, but constantly having the "future closer" bumper sticker slapped on him. Cortes has struggled mightily with his control this season, but it's hard to teach kids to throw 98 and he's still got the pedigree of a very good reliever. Saito is sitting in rookie league ball still. He might be hurt, I can't tell, and frankly it doesn't really matter.

July 11, 2009: Justin Souza for Jack Hannahan

A reliever with some upside, Souza is getting hammered in AAA in the Athletics system and Hannahan is keeping a seat warm for a kid by the name of Lonnie Chisenhall in Cleveland.

July 29, 2009: Jeff Clement, Nathan Adcock, Ronny Cedeno, Brett Lorin and Aaron Pribanic for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell.

The latter part of that deal is pretty easy to sum up. Both players disappointed. Ian Snell defined disappointment while Jack Wilson endeared himself to nobody. Wilson now gets a shot at the playoffs with the Braves. Clement was awful in Pittsburgh and finds himself in AAA. Adcock is now with the Royals, mostly as a reliever, pitching, well, meh. Lorin is a huge chap at 6' 7" but he's still at high A ball, where he's pitching pretty well. Pribanic is a no-strikeout control kind of pitcher, at AA with the Pirates, and pitching pretty well. Cedeno we've talked about already.

I don't think anyone wins this deal, it was a batch of prospects for a bucket of veterans and hope and the latter flopped while the book remains open on a couple of the kids.

July 29, 2009: Wladimir Balentien for Robert Manuel.

Wlad continues to crush minor league pitching and continues to look totally confused by major league pitchers. He's at AAA with the Reds. Manuel was claimed off waivers by the Red Sox last year. He's no longer in baseball.

July 31, 2009: Jarrod Washburn for Mauricio Robles and Lucas French

After being downright magical for the Mariners, Washburn was terrible for Detroit and hasn't pitched since the 2009 season. French is in AAA sucking. Robles had a ton of upside. Had. He's been bad since coming back from elbow surgery. He's young and still has a good arm, but probably a lefty specialist reliever at best. Sigh... he was supposed to be the real gem of that deal.

August 19, 2009: Ruben Flores for Bill Hall

Flores is in high A ball for Milwaukee and has been okay, but he's 27 and they don't usually save the minors for right handed decent older dudes. Bill Hall was a nice idea, but wasn't very good for the Mariners. Jack then flipped him to the Red Sox for Casey Kotchman and Hall revived his career with a great season and signed as a free agent with Houston, where he once again wasn't very good and got flipped to San Francisco. And then there's Kotchman, who stunk it up in Seattle and then revived his career with Tampa Bay. Man, now I'm getting irritated.

September 16, 2009: J.C. Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies for Cliff Lee

I did a retrospective on the Cliff Lee deal a while back so I won't re-hash. I'll say this though, Aumont has a K/9 rate of 14.69 at AAA and the conversion to reliever seems like it's going pretty well now.

But yeah, this deal was ridiculous.

September 18, 2009: Jamie Burke for Cash

Something about Burkes. We like to buy and sell them. He was catching insurance, we sold him to Washington, and he's now out of baseball.

December 18, 2009: Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley

A disaster all around. Just a friggin train wreck of bad contracts, bad attitudes, and bad performance. Carlos Silva is currently getting checks from the Cubs and the Mariners to the tune of $12.75 million dollars in order to pitch for the AAA affiliate of the Yankees. I honestly would like to see him called up so he and Bartolo Colon could pose for the fattest-two-starters-on-the-same-team-in-history pictures. Honestly, that'd be about 600 lbs. of meat on two heads.

December 23rd, 2009: Brandon Morrow for Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez

Sigh. Yeah, League was an all-star this season and was an all around great closer. But this team could use a Brandon Morrow in the rotation not only this season, but more importantly going forward. Felix, Pineda, Morrow would have given the Mariners three young great arms. As it stands, with the trade of Fister, there are a lot of problems in this rotation in 2012 unless Paxton, Hultzen, and Walker are truly ready for the show.

Chavez had a tremendous 2010 season and followed that up with a pretty big flop this year. Young and raw and all that, but his ability to make contact needs serious work. And last I checked, making contact was the general idea of hitting.

January 7th, 2010: Bill Hall for Casey Kotchman

Already discussed. Casey Kotchman was worse than Jose Vidro.

June 27th, 2010: Russell Branyan for Ezekiel Carrera and and Juan Diaz

Nothing much to see here. Branyan wasn't very good, and the move barely made any sense. Diaz isn't much to get excited about. Already discussed Carrera.

July 9, 2010: Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, Matt Lawson.

Splash. It was a good haul, who knows if Jesus Montero was a better fit for the team, but this is definitely a wait-and-see kind of trade. Smoak has all the potential in the world, but flashed his hitting talent in fits and spurts. Beavan is a control artist who is a back-end of the rotation kind of guy at best. Lueke has a plus arm and ought to be in the bullpen to start 2012. Lawson is now with the Indians.

And Cliff Lee continues to be one of the best pitchers in baseball, but his future was never in Seattle.

December 3, 2010: Chaz Roe for Jose Lopez

Lopez fizzled out with the M's, and is now with the Marlins where he's actually playing okay. Roe still has some life left in him despite having pretty awful counting stats this season (no wins and a 6+ ERA). His K rate is up to 7.5 per 9 IP this year and he's been pretty unlucky in terms of stranding runners and batted balls. We'll see if he can become something useful.

July 30, 2011: Doug Fister and David Pauley for Casper Wells, Francisco Martinez, Charlie Furbush, and (later) Chance Ruffin.

Will have to wait and see how this one plays out. M's needed offense and they got a little in Wells who is having a decent debut for the M's thus far. He's also a pretty good defender. Martinez will be the wildcard in this deal -- a lot of people view him as the 3b of the future. Furbush is a back end starter. Ruffin should lock down a slot in the bullpen in 2012. M's will miss Fister though.

July 31, 2001: Erik Bedard and Josh Fields for Chih-Hsien Chiang and Trayvon Robinson

A way better haul than I ever thought we'd get for Bedard, Robinson could be the future centerfielder for the M's for years. He was hitting the snot out of the ball in AAA with the Dodgers and he's actually flashed a pretty good bat with the M's thus far. He's got some strikeout problems which will impact his batting average, but he has decent power and good speed, and while he has work to do in the outfield, he's regarded as having good potential as a defender (sans arm).

Chiang rather came out of nowhere to post a .340/.402/.648 line with 18 home runs with the Red Sox AA affiliate. In 32 games with the M's AA squad, he's been just completely lost though. So who knows.

Oh, and then he traded Jack Wilson to the Braves - who cares, right?

There you have it - I may have missed something, so let me know. But on the trade front, I'd say that Jack Z is pretty shrewd. There's really only one stinker in there, and it doesn't even stink all that bad, plus one that might leave a bad taste in your mouth when you visit Toronto. Bill Bavasi had so many stinkers, it was like being hot-boxed by Aunt Fannie. The recent deals are going to need to pay off pretty quickly for the M's to contend in 2012, which is probably asking too much -- but I have a feeling that we're not through talking about the trades that Jack makes. The free agent market ain't too exciting and if he's going to shake up this roster, it's probably going to come via trade.

I give the big guy a B+.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Falling To Pieces

It wasn't that long ago that Mariner fans could hang their hats on one of the best pitching staffs in the league.  Sure, the hitting was terrible (dead last in OPS in the first half at .621).  But the Mariner staff held opponents to the second lowest OPS in the league. Mariner hurlers held the league to a .643 OPS, second only to Atlanta's .637.  

Unfortunately the second half pitching regression has been obvious to anyone following the Mariners.  The chart below (courtesy of the Sporting News) shows the ugly truth since the break.  Numbers are through Tuesday. That's the Mariners down at #27, serving up an opponent OPS of .801.

Has the league caught on to their tricks, or was Mariner pitching not that great to begin with?  Can a staff led by Felix, Pineda and Vargas compete in the AL West next year? 

2nd Half Pitching Results by team (through 8/23):

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mariners Sign Wily Mo Pena

You know what, maybe he's not part of the future, but he has absolutely crushed for a year and a half at AAA and he raked in a short stint with the DBacks, although he didn't hit for high average. But regardless, in a Mariner season in desperate need of run scoring and lets face it, entertainment, we could use a whole lot of this:

It's a minor league deal, but I'd expect to see him up with the big squad in no time. Why not - I like this move.