Monday, January 31, 2011

Macklemore's Tribute to Dave Niehaus & The Love of the M's

If you haven't seen this, spend 4+ minutes on it. Great work by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Productions.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The More You Know: Olivo's Impact

News is a little thin right now, so I figured I would highlight something that we can all start to get used to in 2011 from our big offseason acquisition, Miguel Olivo. 

Over the last three seasons, Miguel Olivo is slightly better than Jeff Mathis and Rod Barajas in On Base Percentage at .296.  Yeah, Mathis and Barajas are widely panned for being black hole's of OBP.

Two.  Ninety.  Six. 

As in, gets on base less than 3 out of 10 times coming to the plate in any possible variation of ways of getting on base, of which there are many. 

Every other catcher with at least 800 plate appearances got on base more frequently than Miguel Olivo.

Next Sunday, when you may be at Church, light a candle or something and pray that Adam Moore finds his stroke.  Pray to whatever God will listen to you. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eric Wedge Job Interview

Jack Zduriencik and Jeff Kingston enter interview room.

Tony Blengino stands to the side. Chuck Armstrong sits on adjacent couch.

Eric Wedge sits unassumingly. 

Z: "Now, let me take a wild guess're Eric, right?"

Wedge: "Yeah"

Z: "Looks like me and Jeff have caught you at your breakfast, sorry about that. What'cha havin?"

Wedge:  "Sandwich."

Z: "Sandwich!  The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast! What kind of sandwich?"

Wedge: "Uh, a reduced fat turkey bacon breakfast sandwich."

Z: "No, no - where'd you get it, Trader Joes, Dicks, Whole Foods..."

Wedge: "Starbucks"

Z:  "Starbucks!  That's that coffee joint with the logo of the mermaid and the boobies, right?  I hear they have some tasty sandwiches."

Wedge:  "..."

Z:  "I ain't never had one myself, how are they?"

Wedge: "Uh, good."

Z:  "You mind if I try one of yours?  This is yours here, right?"

Grabs sandwich

Z:  "MMM!  This is a tasty breakfast sandwich!  Kingston, you ever had a reduced fat turkey bacon sandwich?  Want a bite, they're real tasty!"

Jeff Kingston:  "Ain't hungry."

Z:  "Well if you like sandwiches, try one sometime.  Me, I can't usually get them because my girlfriend is a vegetarian, which pretty much makes me a vegetarian, but I do love the taste of a good sandwich."

Wedge:  "..."

Z:  "You know what they call a home run in Mexico?"

Wedge: "No."

Z:  "Tell 'em, Kingston."

Jeff Kingston:  "El Jonrón"

Z: "El Jonrón!  You know why they call it that?"

Wedge: "Uh, because they speak Spanish?"

Z: "Check out the big brain on Eric!  You're a smart motherfucker, that's right, Spanish!"

Wedge: "..."

Z:  "What's in this?"

Wedge: "Coffee."

Z: "Coffee. Good.  You mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down?"

Wedge: "Go right ahead"

Z drains coffee

Z: "That hit the spot."

Wedge:  "..."

Z:  "You, Chuck Armstrong - you know why we're here?  Why don't you tell my man Kingston here why we're here."

Blengino: "We're here to..."


Armstrong: "We need a manager.  Anyone."

All eyes focus on Wedge.

Z: "We happy?"

Kingston: "Yeah, we happy."

Wedge: "Look, Mr. Zduriencik, I'm sorry, I thought this was a competitive position."

Z: "My name's Jack and you're not going to talk your way our of this shit."

Wedge: "I just want you to know how much I want to manage a major league baseball team
again...back in Cleveland, we had the very best intentions of being competitive..."

Z shoots Armstrong.

Z: "I'm sorry, did I break your concentration?  I didn't mean to do that.  You were saying something about the best of intentions? Oh, you were finished?  Well allow me to retort!"


Z: "What is Milton Bradley like?"

Wedge:  "What?"

Z:  "What country are you from?!"

Wedge: "What, what??"

Z: "What ain't no country I ever heard of!  They speak English in what?"

Wedge: "Wha...what???"

Z: "English, motherfucker, do you speak it?!"

Wedge: "Yes, yes!"

Z: "Then you know what I'm saying?"

Wedge: "Yes, yes!"

Z: "Then describe what Milton Bradley is like!"

Wedge: "What?? What???"

Z:  "Say what again, I dare you!  I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more time!"

Wedge: "He's black."

Z:  "Go on!"

Wedge: "He's mean!"

Z: "Does he look like a Left Fielder?"

Wedge: "WHAT?!"

Z shaves off part of Wedge's beard.  Wedge cries out.


Wedge:  "NO!"

Z: "Then why are you interviewing for a job that has him as one?"

Wedge:  "I'm not!"

Z: "Yes you are, Wedge!  YES. YOU. ARE!"

Wedge: ""

Z: "...and Milton Bradley doesn't like to be considered DH."

Wedge whimpers

Z: "Do you read the rule book, Wedgie?"

Wedge: "Yes," rubbing his new mustache with no beard.

Z: "You see, I got this passage that I've got memorized...Rule 6 point zero 2, clause C?"

Wedge: "..."

Z:  "If the batter refuses to take his position in the batter’s box during his time at bat, the
umpire shall call a strike on the batter."

Wedge: "..."

Z:  "...The ball is dead, and no runners may advance. After the penalty, the batter may take his proper position and the regular ball and strike count shall continue!"

Wedge: "..."

Z: "...If the batter does not take his proper position before three strikes have been called, THE BATTER SHALL BE DECLARED OUT!!!"

Wedge: "..."


Wedge: "..."

Z: "Ah, hell, you're the only one to make it this far, you're hired."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mariners sign Chris Ray

Remember Chris Ray?  Pretty darn good reliever with the Orioles back in the mid 2000's (do we refer to the last decade as the aughts?) who could bring some pretty high heat, was awfully difficult to make contact off of, and actually saved 33 games in 2006.

Then his elbow exploded, he had Tommy John surgery, and his high 90's fastball turned into low 90's and the sparkling ERA and ridiculous K/9 turned both turned into pumpkins pretty quickly.  Last year, he split time between Texas and San Francisco and actually proved to be a fairly effective reliever with a 3.72 ERA although his 5.30 xFIP and .249 BABIP suggests he was getting darn lucky and his 5.01 K/9 seems to corroborate that he wasn't fooling too many hitters.

Anyway, the M's signed him to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring, so let's all cross our fingers that his Tommy John elbow goes the way some do and he not only regains his velocity but hey, let's get greedy - maybe he gains velocity!

More likely, he's a replacement part with some experience that hopefully we don't need.  But all in all, not a bad guy to have around for general organizational depth.  He just turned 29, so he's not old by baseball standards and it's not out of the question that he's got a little left in the tank.  But without the velocity, he's pretty ordinary.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Milton Bradley Conundrum

So it turns out Milton Bradley is a bad guy.  Shocker of shockers. 

Yeah, we moved him to a friendly (or mildly retarded in some print cases...cough cough, Baker, cough cough) media in Seattle. 

We fans, for the most part gave him a big wet hug upon arrival as he was replacing the dead cow named Carlos Silva and at least Milton Bradley was in no way directly related to Bill Bavasi's ineptitude. 

We put him through the "belief system". 

We sent him to therapy.

We failed.

He failed.

He's busted, and there's not much that anyone can do about it.

The weird situation the M's find themselves in is whether or not they should pay him over $11 million dollars to play or if they should pay him over $11 million dollars to go away.  The questions the M's brass have to answer include a choose your own adventure kind of model:

Can he contribute in a unique way better than another player we currently have?  If no, cut him loose, cut your losses.  After all, what's the point?  If he can't contribute any better than anyone else, why keep the baggage?  If yes, then it creates new questions.

If he can contribute in a unique way, is it in a way that makes this team anywhere close to playoff contention?  The issue here is, if he is say, one win better than any other baby on the farm, or Jody Gerut for that matter, is that one win worth a damn?  Does that make the Mariners a 79 win team instead of 78?  If so, better to give the kids a shot.  If this makes the team an 85 win team versus 84, well then we have some teeth gnashing to do, because who the heck knows if 85 is enough for a wild card slot.

Milton Bradley has zero future in Seattle, and if he's only going to make this team as good, or perhaps a tick better, than any other player with a future in Seattle then it really doesn't make any good sense to keep him around if your team isn't playoff bound. 

Thus, if the answer is "no" I say you still cut your losses.  If yes, then it creates another set of questions.

If he can contribute in a unique way and if he can contribute in a way that makes this team anywhere close to playoff contention, does his presence hurt the public relations of the team?  If no, well, continue on.  If yes, well then it's a matter of degree that probably relates to the answer of #2.  Just how much does the team think he can help them get to the playoffs?

If he can contribute in a unique way and if it's in a way that makes the team close to playoff contenders and it isn't a public relations nightmare because the team is winning, is it worth waiting for the ticking time bomb that is Milton Bradley?  That is, he's going to have an episode.  He has just about everywhere he has been.  How bad that episode is, who knows - but it could be a massive distraction for the team as well as a public relations mess.

Honestly, if I have to look at his situation objectively, I say you keep him around for Spring Training because without question nobody else is going to take him right now and the #1 thing that Milton Bradley will provide in Spring Training is a distraction from Josh Lueke being invited to camp.  Lueke has a future with the Mariners and we've all read his police report a dozen times and you are either comfortable with Josh Lueke or not, but the fact remains that he's likely to make the team and probably be quite good. Having Bradley around will give the yellow journalists out there, and there are many, some fodder to sell rags in their traditional way instead of re-hashing the unfortunate case of Josh Lueke, which simply has not changed since it happened and therefore it's old news.  Bradley presents new news as he's just constantly reinventing himself as a shape-shifting asshole.  If that's how we spend our $11 million dollars, then maybe it's a fine investment for the Spring. 

If Bradley somehow has a monster Spring well then great, the M's can decide if they can move him, cut him,  or if they want to keep him at that time.  But cutting him before that seems like it's just trying to polish up an organizational image that really shouldn't be judged by Milton Bradley as he was the unfortunate answer to an albatross contract that Buzzie's kid should still be embarrassed by.

But my guess is they unload him in a couple weeks.  I guess we'll see.  If they do, I won't cry, but I think it's an opportunity missed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tony ReaginsTrying to Make Bill Bavasi Look Like Charter Member of MENSA

Unless there's a whole truck load of cash coming to the Angels, as in $86 million which is owed to Vernon Wells for the next four years, the Wells/Cash for Napoli/Rivera deal is, while not a complete disgrace, just not pretty for Angels fans. ( appears very little money will be exchanging hands.  This deal is so bad for the Angels it warms the cockles of my heart.  Even the sub-cockles.  The deal is now a complete disgrace.)

Vernon Wells average WAR for the last three years: 1.8
Juan Rivera's average WAR for the last three years: 1.1
Mike Napoli's average WAR for the last three years: 2.7

And now the Angels turn almost full time to Jeff Mathis behind the dish, who by most accounts, is like bringing Dave Valle out of retirement, giving him a cardboard box to whittle a glove out of and a 9 iron to hit with and let him be the catcher.

The Angels pretty much just dealt Mike Napoli for Juan Rivera and tens of millions of salary (since Juan Rivera and Vernon Wells are not appreciably different hitters).  The Angels are not only so, so, so, so much poorer this season and the next three seasons, but they are now about two wins worse as a team.  It's just beyond belief that this deal went down and Anthopoulos must have been trying not to giggle during every conversation he was having with Tony Reagins throughout the negotiation.  

GM Z should get on the horn and see if Reagins wants to give us Kendry Morales for Milton Bradley. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Justin Smoak and Expectations

"Five-Star Prospect"
"Switch Hitting Justin Morneau"
"Top Ten Hitting Prospect in all of Baseball"
"Best Hitting Prospect in the Rangers Organization"

All these things have been said about Justin Smoak.  Makes you kind of excited as a Mariner fan, doesn't it?

The inevitable problem are the expectations by fans.  Will Justin Smoak be an All-Star first baseman in 2011?  Probably not.  But there's a good chance that he will be in the future.  So let's just get to know Justin Smoak real quick and perhaps toss a few projections out there...

Smoak was a monster in college.  Playing for South Carolina, he averaged a .333 batting average over three seasons, with better than 20 home runs and 70 RBI.  Note that he had no more than 260 AB's in any of his three seasons.  That's pretty staggering.  Of course, there have been many a college player who looked like Babe Ruth that turned out more like Babe the pig, so take college stats with a salt lick rather than just a grain. 

The more important part might be his walk to strikeout ratio which stood at roughly 150/100 over three years, suggesting an awfully good eye at the dish.  And just to put things in perspective, his on base percentage over 758 plate appearances in three years in the minors is .404.  Ichiro's OBP was .359 last season.  The guy can get on base.

The college AB's are important, by the way, because he's relatively "old" for a newbie in the MLB since he gave South Carolina three of his formative years.  He's much like Ackley in that way - he's not just some 16 year old that we plunked into the rookie league to see if something would stick.  Smoak is 24 and he's had the rough equivalent of one full year of games in the minors after his signing.

In that time, he has demonstrated an excellent batting eye, an ability to hit for good average and excellent power.  He doesn't strike out like a classic power hitter, he can hit for power from both sides of the plate and he has a plus glove at first base (but perhaps not the gold-glove label that followed him throughout the minors).

Most expect him to hit for good average, good to great power, and be a staple run producing bat in the Mariners lineup for years to come.  Many predict 30+ home runs as an average as a major leaguer.

And here's the big but. 

But it's probably not this year.  Maybe not next year. 

Projections for Smoak look like this: 

ZiPS projects .228 with 16 HR's and 61 RBI.  Excuse my French, but that's just a big dick in the mouth.  He's not going to be that bad this year, he's just not. 

Bill James says .249 with 19 HR's and 70 RBI.  This, I can accept.  Although if they let Smoak hit in the middle of the order (3-5) all season long and he winds up with 70 measly runs batted in, this is going to be the most painful Mariners season quite possibly ever. 

The "fans" over at Fangraphs have projected .266/22/85, which I have to admit seems not only more palatable than any other projection I've seen but perhaps far more realistic, save perhaps the batting average which very well may suffer this season as he continues to adjust to major league pitching.

But I will say this, even if Smoak turns out to be a .250 hitter with an OBP of .350, hits 20 home runs and drives in 80 while playing an above average first base, he's going to be one of the more exciting Mariners to watch certainly this year, if not for the past several seasons.

So temper your expectations, and just hope that he blows you away.  Smoak is one of the best things the Mariners have had in a long, long time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Redemption Song

So we take a time out from the hot stove league to wish good luck to the local footballers.  Rarely in life do you get a do-over.  But today the Seahawks get a chance to avenge their playoff loss 4 years ago (almost to the day!) to the Bears at Soldier Field.  To many Seahawk fans that game was more frustrating than the much celebrated Superbowl loss vs the Steelers and the NFL officials the year before. 

On that day in January 2007, Mike Holmgren and Matt Hasselbeck both mismanaged the final drive in regulation that should have resulted in a FG try to win the game.  I won't go into the gory details, but clock mismanagement, poor play calling and ridiculous decision making in the final minute kept Josh Brown's golden foot on the sideline.  'Da Bears ultimately prevailed in overtime, 27-24. 

Fast forward four years and the Seahawks get another chance to win at Soldier Field and host the NFC Championship game the following week.  Go Hawks!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

WWDD? On Replacing Dave Niehaus

There is no replacing Dave Niehaus.  No, really, there appears to be no replacing him - both literally and figuratively. 

M's VP of Communications, Randy Adamack has suggested that 2011 could be a "transitional season" relative to the broadcast booth and instead of seeking out a long term replacement for the great Dave Niehaus, the team will go with a mish-mosh of Rizzs, Blowers, Sims, and perhaps a cast of old Mariner characters (Bone, Hendu, Wilson) and/or a cast of old Mariner broadcasters (Fairly, Levine, etc.) to provide play by play and color analysis for the upcoming season. 

That the M's brass has conducted no interviews for the gig, according to Larry LaRue's article is "out of respect for Niehaus, his family, and fans."

Look, I know it can't be fun to follow a legend. Yes, we want to honor Dave. I'm glad the M's want to be sensitive to the situation.  But whether someone starts tomorrow or someone starts in 2014 as the full time guy/gal, they're immediately the person who replaced Dave. They just are.

There's going to be a lot written about this.  In fact, there HAS been a lot written about it and most sites seem to be competing in some odd one-upmanship about who loved him the most. But everyone seems to fail to ask the simple question - if you want to honor Dave, then what would Dave do?

I didn't know Niehaus, but I felt like I did, just like thousands of other fans. He seemed pretty practical to me.  And my bet is he'd like nothing more than to give some young, talented voice a shot instead of leaving a vacant seat while we worry about the proper way of honoring his legacy.  In fact, it might very well be the single most appropriate thing to fill his seat with that young talented voice in order to honor his legacy.

It's a quandary.  But I just think it's off the mark to think that passing the baton somehow disrespects Dave Niehaus. Give somebody a shot and let them honor Dave by working their butt off and trying to achieve the level of entertainment and joy that he brought us.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bullish on Bedard?

This is an odd post for me to write.  I'm certainly much more associated with skepticism than optimism, and without a doubt, when it comes to Erik Bedard, I'm not the first person on the "woo hoo we have two aces" bandwagon, and one surely exists.

Regarding Bedard, I've always maintained that whatever you get from him, whether it's 3 games or 10 games, you should consider yourself lucky - and this opinion was grounded entirely in my own suspicion that he'll get hurt again and the notion that you simply can't plan around a healthy Bedard because that would be just downright stupid.

So taking a step back, Bedard signs a very team-friendly-deal for 2011 out of apparent loyalty to the M's and an interest in showing the fans he can give a little back after Buzz's kid gave away the farm for him.  Awfully nice of him, really.  Low cost, high risk, but potentially high reward.  Super duper.  I'm all for it.

But again, there's this:

26, 24, 33, 28, 15, 15, ZERO.  Those are number of starts since 2004.  He has one full season, and three "almosts".  He has been hurt way more than he has been healthy, and that's why Bedard garners the eye-rolls among baseball enthusiasts.

I know the internet-snarky way to go is to just laugh at Bedard, and suggest anyone who thinks he can contribute is a fool because it's better to be wrong than right if you're a fan.  People who have false hopes can look silly in hindsight, and that's kind of how I always approached Bedard as well.  But after talking to BJ Maack who I write with over at RotoHardball, my tune might be changing. 

BJ knows about injuries - he's been a trainer for his professional life (19 years), and has spent time with major league baseball organizations working with players dealing with the whole range of baseball injuries. So where my opinion is just opinion based on observation and gut relative to Bedard's injuries, BJ's opinion is based on medical information and fact.  Read:  he should be trusted way more than anyone without a medical background (like me, or Paul, or anyone else who blogs about this stuff).  So on to Bedard... here's what BJ had to say:
In 2002 he had Tommy John surgery.  In 2008, he had a shoulder scope to debride/clean up some labral tissue...then last year the "big" labrum surgery.  Is there a "connect-the-dots" pattern here with the elbow & the shoulder?  Probably, but with it being 6 years apart it's not likely.  What does need to be looked at is a mechanical issue.  Something caused his arm & specifically his shoulder to be in a position to cause such wear & tear on his joint.
At which point, I referenced an article written in 2004, I think, where Will Carroll made a famous (ok, famous if you read as much as I do) statement about labrum injuries - "If pitchers with torn labrums were horses, they'd be destroyed".  Labrum tears were the death knell for pitchers.  Will Carroll knows what he's talking about too, if you're not familiar with him.  Here's what BJ said:
In the last 4-5 years, labral surgeries have come a long way, but more importantly the rehab process of allowing these things to recover.  I feel fairly confident that Bedard will be back to form...maybe not back to his 2006-2007 form...(but better than the previous two).  The thing to remember is the velocity issue.  His velocity should be back to or near that form after this procedure, as decreased velocity is almost always a sign of a full labrum tear.
So, looking at his velocity, indeed - he was throwing 92.1 in 2007, 91.2 in 2008, and 91.5 in 2009.  Not a massive drop, but notable. Would have been nice to peek at 2010 to see if it took a big hit, but reading this information from BJ is awfully encouraging. 

What we're left with is a Bedard that needs to address his mechanics, but also one who ought to be returning from a surgery with a fairly decent success rate, along with better approaches at rehab associated with labrum tears.  Changing one's mechanics is not something easy, but I'm suddenly way, way more optimistic about Bedard contributing to the 2011 Mariners than I was before. 

Recall that even in just a little over 80 innings in each of 2008 and 2009, Bedard was worth 1 WAR and almost 2 WAR, respectively.  Or put in perspective, half of Bedard in 2009 was about as valuable as an entire season of Doug Fister. 

And now I'm left to dream of getting 25-30 starts out of Bedard, and the possibility that he could be a compliment to Felix, netting us perhaps 3+ WAR on the cheap, and actually giving the squad a shot at a somewhat competitive season.  And I just know that I'm being set up for disappointment, but at least I have someone with a medical background to blame instead of my own hometown fantasies.

Go Mariners