Saturday, December 13, 2003

A few things on what Rick's been saying at the Bullpen, again...

I'm also quite disappointed that we never so much as suggested that we've even interested in Vladimir Guerrero. I thought the market would be much bigger for him than it's turned out to be, and given that Baltimore appears to be the only serious suitor I don't see the harm in throwing a contract his way to see if it sticks. He's a better player than Tejada, and projects to post superior numbers than Miguel for a number of years. Of course, the last thing you can expect the Mariners to do is displace their current right fielder. (Speaking of whom, if the rumors concerning his salary [wants $15m/offered $10m] are true, I'm going to be irked.)

Raul Ibanez is not an excellent hitter. His .294/.345/.454 2003 line is almost exactly league average for an AL left fielder, and that came in the best hitter's park in the American League. That line, adjusted for a neutral ballpark, comes out to be something in the neighborhood of .284/.336/.441, which is what you'd want from your shortstop, not your starting left fielder.

His OPS+ last year was 99, which places him slightly below average. It would be bad enough if he were simply below-average when compared to other corner outfielders (which he was), but OPS+ also takes into consideration light-hitting middle infielders and Brad Ausmus. Ibanez's career high OPS+ was 116, which came in 2002.

Just for kicks, let's look at another player who was available this winter:

Matt Stairs OPS+: 114 in 2001, 119 in 2002, 146 in 2003.

Raul Ibanez hits like the pre-2002 Garret Anderson (the bad one). The difference between Ibanez and the pre-2002 Garret Anderson is that there're no upcoming 2002 & 2003 seasons on the horizon for Raul. He's 31 years old, beyond a player's peak years, and coming from the best AL hitter's park to the worst one isn't likely to jumpstart his career, left-handed hitter or not.
All the optimism is getting sucked out of me.

"You guys are focused on him and I understand why you have to be. I just think you are more singularly focused on that than we can afford to be."
Asked if the Mariners adjusted their offer -- believed to be three years for $25 million -- Bavasi said, "I wouldn't say that."
Colbrunn will make $2.5 million next season, while McCracken has a deal for $1.75 million. It's believed the two sides are trying to even out the money involved and the Diamondbacks would also like to discuss the move with manager Bob Brenly, whose flight to New Orleans on Saturday was grounded by fog in Dallas. He was not expected to arrive until late Saturday night.

If that trade is made, the Mariners could use Raul Ibanez as a backup for first baseman John Olerud. McCracken has experience at all three outfield positions and also is a switch-hitter.

In the interest of maintaining something of a readership, I urge all of you to send me suggestions on how I can improve this site. I'm new to the blogging game, and any advice would be much appreciated.

Also, if anyone knows how I could add a "Comments" link underneath all of my blogs, I will love you for life if you divulge your secret.
This blog has become something of a rumor central, and I realize that, but here comes another one...

Looks like Mike Cameron could be a Met. $18m/3yr (per Jayson Stark).

While I don't think Cameron deserves to go to such a disappointing franchise, I'd rather he play in New York than Oakland.

Update: Mike Cameron is, in fact, a Met. Details here.
No matter how bad Quinton McCracken may be, it can always get worse.

Quoting Chuck Lamar, on losing Mark Malaska to the Red Sox: "It shows how good we were getting since other teams were taking our guys off waivers."
Good news, from Rotoworld:

"Miguel Tejada has reportedly told his agent to get a deal done with the Mariners. Former Reds GM Jim Bowden reported on ESPNews that Tejada has picked Seattle over Baltimore and Detroit."
In the spirit of optimism, I've decided to spend the afternoon thinking of ways to justify a Colbrunn - McCracken deal, should it go down. And so, with no further ado, here we go:

-In 2002, McCracken had an OPS+ of 110. Greg Colbrunn's career number is a paltry 107.

-McCracken has stolen 80 bases in his career, and is a much better fit for our slap-and-dash offense than Greg Colbrunn and his hackneyed three-run homers and productive at bats.

-McCracken was released by Tampa Bay, the same team who got rid of Bobby Abreu. Spooky!

-According to St Petersburg Times writer John Romano, Quinton McCracken is a fan favorite. Greg Colbrunn isn't, and has suspicious eyebrows.

-In 1999, McCracken destroyed his knee trying to make a catch against the wall. Greg Colbrunn doesn't even play in the field.

-The Devil Rays have an annual charity golf tournament, and McCracken used to play for them. Greg Colbrunn's brother beat up a 12 year old on Halloween.

-Quinton McCracken doesn't have cancer, whereas Greg Colbrunn chews tobacco.

I think I've made it pretty clear which guy is the better choice. If you want a cancerous guy with bushy eyebrows who might beat up a preteen, fine, go with Colbrunn. If you want a true athlete who smiles a lot and has things in common with Bobby Abreu, you go with McCracken.
Quoting Billy Beane:

The A's will go after Mike Cameron "full steam ahead".

Juan Encarnacion is a Dodger. Dealt for a PTBNL.

And to think, just two years ago he was almost traded for Joel Pineiro.
Looks like JD Drew is a Brave, along with Eli Marrero, in exchange for Ray King, Jason Marquis, and Adam Wainwright.

I don't think Atlanta knows what it's doing. I didn't think the price for Drew was THAT high.

Adam Wainwright reached AA for the first time last year, and at the age of 21, he posted the following numbers:

7.99 h/9
2.22 bb/9
7.70 k/9
3.46 k/bb
0.54 hr/9
3.37 ERA

He's only 22 years old, now, and could conceivably be in a major league rotation by the All Star Break.

A quick look at the potential Red Sox bullpen, with the pitchers and their average ARP over the last three seasons:

Keith Foulke: 21.3
*Scott Williamson: 8.8
Byung-Hyun Kim: 16.8
Mike Timlin: 9.7
(Alan Embree averages 12.7 over the last two years, following a disastrous 2001)

*-Includes 2000 year, instead of 2001, when he was hurt.

If they keep this bullpen together, Boston could have the most dominating pitching staff in the majors next year.
According to ESPN, Keith Foulke has signed with Boston for three years and $21m.

As mentioned before, Foulke was the sixth-best reliever in 2003, behind Gagne, Cormier, Wagner, Donnelly, and Hasegawa (Soriano was #9). He saved 26.5 more runs than a league-average pitcher last year, so by slapping together some Pythagorean calculations we find that, by replacing Foulke with, say, Mike Stanton, Oakland loses three games in the standings.

It also looks like they'll be losing Rincon, their third-best reliever last year. You can't take a walk around the block without running into a qualified relief pitcher, but they're going to have trouble trying to replace two guys as good as Foulke and Rincon (Todd Walker nightmare be damned).
1:21, and McCracken isn't a Mariner yet. I can only hope this trend continues.

If this trade does, in fact, go down, heads will roll.

Or they'll do whatever it is oblong noggins do on a downhill slope, anyway.
I usually overreact to things before arriving at a rational conclusion. These last two summers, I've thrown things across the room after learning that Gillick skimped on the deadline deals, but within an hour or two I've managed to sit down, cool off, and justify his actions (or lack thereof). When the Ottawa Senators lost in the final minutes of game seven of last year's Eastern Conference championship series to the New Jersey Devils, I went out back and destroyed a trash can with a baseball bat before realizing that Ottawa's a young team who'll be better in similar situations in the future. When the Seahawks traded Ahman Green for Fred Vinson, I was pretty ticked until I remembered that fumbles suck.

Well, it's been three hours since I've heard the news, and I still think that Quinton McCracken is the worst player in all of professional baseball.

It's funny what a bit of terrible news can do to your outlook on things. Since learning of our intentions concerning McCracken (is McCrap'in too obvious?), I've formed a decidedly bleak opinion regarding our chances of landing Miguel Tejada. How could a GM do something so right just moments after doing something so colossally stupid? I was planning on writing a somewhat lengthy post later this afternoon discussing the numerous benefits of signing Tejada, considering it an all but done deal, but now I think I'll spend those two hours drinking things in the chemistry lab.

Life sucks.
Blogging would be a lot easier if the sites would stop going down every five seconds.
The A-rod-Boston talks appear to be dead. Personally, I'm glad; Epstein/Henry were never going to meet Texas's financial demands, and knowing that the Sox are stuck with Garciaparra for the time being might calm Steinbrenner down and put this arms race to bed (if only temporarily).

There were two possible outcomes of this deal:

1) Texas succeeds, in which case fans would point to A-rod's deal as the reason why the Rangers couldn't win.
2) Texas continues to do poorly, in which case fans proclaim "YOU DIDN'T NEED A-ROD TO STINK!!"

I'm glad that we don't have to deal with that kind of idiocy. Not right now, anyway.

Tonight's horrible rumor:

Greg Colbrunn for Quinton McCracken.

I couldn't make this stuff up.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Rule 5 Draft coming up. I was dreading this for quite a while, almost certain that the M's wouldn't put Leone on the 40man, but alas, they came through.

This could spell the end of the Craig Anderson era in Tacoma. No real news here, but it's always fun rooting for the John Stephenses of the world.
Rick, over at Mariner Bullpen, caught something in an earlier post of mine:

"I do think you comparison of Ibanez vs. Perez/Stairs platoon is worth thinking about - but it is also misleading. I assume the 2.7 mil is for one year of the platoon. One year of Ibanez is, what, a little over $4 mil. So you are really talking about a difference of $1.5 mil or so."

He's right, in that Ibanez is really only getting around $4.33m per year. However, the $13.25m figure acts as a comparison between the level of commitment we gave Raul and that which was given to Stairs/Perez (who, by the way, will cost $1.85m this year; Perez is signed for two years at 1.7, Stairs at 1 for 1). If Ibanez flops, we're on the hook for another reasonably expensive two years. If Stairs and Perez flop, one's gone after the year and the other can be hidden on the bench or cut, without suffering significant financial consequences.

I do not think the Ibanez signing will cripple the team, because he's still only the eighth-(?)highest salary on the roster. My problem with the acquisition is that Ibanez is an aging platoon player leaving the friendliest AL ballpark for the most hostile hitter's environment, and Bavasi (or Gillick, depending on how you see things) decided that that's well worth an eight-figure investment. Will Ibanez live up to his contract? I doubt it; he can't hit lefties, so even if you bench him for a third of his games and let him put up a .800 OPS in 400 at bats against righties, that doesn't scream "Give this man thirteen million dollars!" to me. Especially when there are better and cheaper alternatives, two of which i mentioned.

I'm not too concerned about any individual contract Bavasi's handed out, but rather all the contracts as a group. Ibanez won't kill us at $4.33m a year. Neither will Guardado at $4m. Hasegawa's not too much of a problem at $3m, either, and neither is Franklin at $1.7m. But when you put them all together, you realize that we've already spent $13m worth of our 2004 payroll on entirely fungible commodities. All right, so Guardado is something of a relief ace, but I'd be willing to take the downgrade from him to Madritsch if it meant we could invest that $13m in Vladimir Guerrero, wouldn't you?

If we don't sign Tejada, I'm going to be pissed.
I will take this opportunity to post some of the stats I've been calculating in a spreadsheet for the last while (if you want a copy of the excel file, feel free to email me):

Over the last four years, Mariners & Opponents have hit .252/.326/.391 in Safeco (.138 IsoSLG), with hits on 28.7% of balls in play.

Over the last four years, Mariners & Opponents have hit .274/.342/.436 on the road (.162 IsoSLG), with hits on 30.7% of balls in play.

Thus, Safeco has the following effect on hitters in general:

92.2% BA
95.5% OBP
89.5% SLG
85.3% IsoSLG
85.3% Home Runs
93.4% hits on balls in play

(For example, a .300 hitter in a neutral park could be expected to hit (.300)(.922)=.277 at Safeco, meaning that he'd turn out as a .288 hitter in a full season.)

This should be a handy little tool for projecting hitter performance in Seattle. I can't find splits for lefties and righties in Safeco/on the road, but I hear the Bill James Handbook has them. Hmmm...
Just how good was our team defense last year?

Slapping together a few calculations in the Voros McCracken mold, we find that our beloved M's got hits 30.9% of the time they put a ball in play last year. This is consistent with results from the previous three years, over which span the figure increases to 31.3%.

Last year, Mariner opponents got hits on 27.4% of balls put in play. If you're willing to believe that the Mariners' percentage represents something in the neighborhood of league-average, that means that, over the course of a full season, Mariner opponents recorded ~147 fewer hits than you would expect from an average offense.

While I realize that I'm taking some mathematical liberties here, opponents scored one run per 1.85 hits last year. If you use this number, then it's reasonable to conclude that the Seattle defense prevented a mind-blowing 79 extra runs last year, which means a difference of about seven games in the standings over 162 games.

Say what you will about the pitching staff and the ballpark, but my hasty math serves to provide a little more support to the argument that losing Cameron is going to hurt in more ways than one.
It is officially Rumor Season. ESPN takes us behind the scenes of the winter meetings and informs us that A) Guerrero could sign with Baltimore this weekend, B) Tejada could join him, and C) Greg Maddux could wind up a D-back relatively soon.

I hate this time of year.
Is anyone else tired of players unretiring?
Keith Foulke could be leaving the division as soon as today. Michael Wolverton's pegged him as the sixth-best relief pitcher in 2003 (you can check that out here), and if Oakland loses him, they'll have a bullpen to rebuild. Not that Beane doesn't know how to find good relievers on the cheap, mind you, but none of the guys he finds will be as good as Foulke.

Of course, my gut tells me that Foulke will stay with the A's, so maybe none of this matters.
So Tejada thinks he'll sign this weekend. I think that's good doesn't give Boston an opportunity to enter the running, after all. As far as Tejada's contract goes, if we get beat out by Detroit, then something has gone horribly, horribly awry, and we would need to re-examine our negotiating strategies in an attempt to find out why we scare the best free agents away to sign with lousy franchises.

At this point, it looks like Tejada could make or break our offseason. You sign him, and you immediately put our infield among the better offensive and defensive groups in the majors, and it leaves us with an extra option for third base (Guillen). Also, it would lead to eventual forgiveness for the heinous Ibanez deal.

...if we DON'T sign him, then we'll turn our efforts towards re-signing Garcia and Guillen (as stated in the article). I needn't outline the reasons why bringing Garcia back is a bad idea in many ways. It leaves us with Johnson/Blackley/Nageotte/etc on the outside of the rotation looking in again, along with a SS/3B combination of Guillen and Leone/Bloomquist/Cirillo. Color me unimpressed.

This team needs Miguel Tejada. I'm always pretty conservative about contract offers, but if we need to break the bank to bring in the best available shortstop, then we should break the bank. Nevermind the improvement on the field; Tejada would immediately re-energize a fan base sick and tired of hearing about the best players going somewhere else. I don't think I could take another offseason of "maybe"s and "almost"s.
In recent developments, Kenny Lofton may be the newest Yankee. No word yet on the financial side of the deal, although the article hints at a one year contract worth $3m+.

Lofton's still got some game, and in the short-term he should be able to muster something in the neighborhood of the .300/.350/.450 line he put up last year. The other side of the acquisition is that Bernie Williams would be moved to DH, something that should have happened a few years ago. It appears to be both a good deal for New York and a relief for everybody else, because it pretty much puts to bed any lingering nightmares concerning Carlos Beltran, Allard Baird, happy hour, and Murphy's Law.

Oh, and the Yankees signed Miguel Cairo, too, further proving that the organization has a curious fascination with crappy role players.
On an unrelated note...

Four months ago, this was the view from my front door:

Now, this is my view:

I sure am glad I go to school back east.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

$15m/3yr looks to be the deal for Batista.

Somebody out there cares. I just know it.

Update: It's a $13.1m/3yr deal.
Miguel Batista is almost a Blue Jay. Evidently, Ricciardi is close to signing the pitcher for a three-year deal somewhere in the $12-14m range.

Batista is an interesting guy; he was never a particularly good prospect, and didn't pitch well as a starter until 2001, at the age of 30 (insert Moyer comparison). He was good in 2001, average in 2002, and then good again last year, but he's been nothing but inconsistent for his entire career, and he'll be 33 years old next February. A team desperate for some rotation help would do well to get him (and Toronto did), but I'm not sure I'd be willing to give him three guaranteed years.

Toronto has reason to be happy, though. Batista is a groundball pitcher who shouldn't be hurt by Skydome as much as, say, Tanyon Sturtze, and he improved his K/BB to a career-best 2.37, good enough for 37th in the majors among qualified starters. Nothing great, but it's still some good insurance behind Halladay.

Of course, the only way this signing really has an effect on the Mariners is that it keeps Batista away from Texas, and anything that prevents a division rival from improving is a good thing.
It's been about three hours since I've had this thing up and running, and I already got a mention from DMZ over at USS Mariner. Many thanks to them for both their promptness and for their accessibility; I can only hope that, somewhere down the road, my rants become as enlightening and entertaining as theirs.

There is still more baseball news to be discussed, and in my excitement over getting this site up, I fully intend to mention it all. Like, right now.

We signed Winn and Franklin to extensions. Winn's deal is all right, I guess, but it would look a lot better here. Franklin, as we all know, is quite dependent on the defense behind him, so pitching with a Cameron-less outfield could spell disaster. When you strike people out about as often as Al Pratt, there's only so much success you can have before you make people suspicious.

The White Sox extended the contract of Mark Buehrle for three years and $18m. Buehrle is 24 years old, and has thrown 690.2 innings over the last three years. Not coincidentally, opponents have hit better against him with each passing season, and come 2006 I won't be too surprised if Buehrle's either posting a 4.50 ERA or rehabbing from major surgery.

Vinny Castilla and Fernando Vina found work. This is news in that it gives the bad Brian Hunter hope for a Better Tomorrow.

Andy Pettite left the Yankees to sign a big contract with Houston. At first, I didn't know what to make of this; I've hoped for a while that Steinbrenner would overreact to the Schilling trade by giving Pettite some ridiculously huge deal ($60m/4yr?), but such a deal wouldn't cripple New York any more than a mosquito bite hinders a hippopotamus. Pettite will go to Houston, post a 4+ ERA, and maintain his reputation by winning a playoff game or three. The Yankees promptly dealt for Kevin Brown, in a deal that gives New York another dangerous, overpaid superstar and gives LA the financial flexibility to sign Brian Jordan for seven million dollars. The Yankees are going to be a formidable opponent come spring training, but we'll see how well they're holding up as August approaches and the team holds its meetings in the local ICU.

Oh, and Dan Plesac retired. For a team who's allegedly been chasing after a second lefty for the last 4392758623495 years, we sure do let quite a few of them get away.
Entering the offseason, I had a plan for the franchise, the outline of which was as follows:

1) Cut Cirillo and eat his contract. And proceed to send him many nasty letters.
2) Explore the market for Freddy Garcia ("Kenny Williams? You don't think that highly of Joe Crede, do you?"), and eventually non-tender him.
3) Re-sign Cameron to a modest contract, something along the lines of the $15.5m/3yr deal he signed with us last time. Throw an option year in there, for kicks.
4) Deal Randy Winn and any number of nondescript live young arms to Milwaukee for Geoff Jenkins, a local guy.
5) In the event that the above doesn't work, sign Matt Stairs and Eduardo Perez to one-year contracts, and watch them mash.
6) Re-sign Rhodes, let Hasegawa walk, and fill the rest of the bullpen with any combination of Putz/Sweeney/Looper/Madritsch/Taylor/Gillick/etc.

Things haven't exactly followed. There has been encouraging news regarding the death of Cirillo as a Seattle Mariner, but I have a hard time envisioning the organization eating that much money. Freddy Garcia is being peddled relentlessly, but thus far there have been no takers, and with the arbitration deadline on the horizon, the pessimistic side of me thinks we'll ink him to a deal, particularly if the Pat Borders arby offer is any indication. Cameron's gone, and it looks like he may wind up in Oakland. I question the wisdom in giving him four guaranteed years, but Mike represents a colossal improvement over last year's Singleton disaster. It follows, of course, that Randy Winn will take over Cameron's job in 2004, providing worse offense and worse defense (but for a fraction of the cost! Nevermind that it's a rather large fraction.), which gave us the flexibility to send an early Christmas present Allard Baird's way. And, oh yeah, instead of re-signing Rhodes and letting Hasegawa take his smoke and mirrors act elsewhere, we signed a slightly better southpaw to a much bigger deal than whatever Rhodes can expect this winter, and we re-upped Hasegawa to an expensive contract. Don't get me wrong; Guardado's a good pitcher, as is Hasegawa, but for a team that could use so much offensive improvement, and for a team that has so many bullpen arms stocking the upper minors, these moves just don't make very much sense.

To make matters worse, one of the most inept front offices in all of baseball signed half of my dream platoon, while the ever-improving Allard Baird got the other.

Raul Ibanez, circa 2003:

vs lefties: .245/.291/.392
vs righties: .319/.371/.485


Eduardo Perez/Matt Stairs platoon:

vs lefties: .353/.459/.667
vs righties: .304/.402/.582


But what do I know?
For those of you unfamiliar with Justin Leone, he is a slick-fielding minor league infielder who destroyed AA pitching in 2003 to the tune of .288/.405/.541, after beginning the year as a utility infielder blocked at third by Greg Dobbs. Leone has a solid, if unspectacular track record, and at 26 years old (27 next March), he's unlikely to develop much more. This is where people get me wrong; I do not believe that Leone will be a permanent solution to our current third base problems. Even last year, his ML EqA was .263, which would place him squarely between Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo (the 2003 versions) in terms of usefulness.

When you consider, however, that said .263 figure would represent a 60-point upgrade over Dueling Banjo #1 and a 25-point upgrade over Dueling Banjo #2, the point becomes much clearer: Justin Leone, at the very least, would be a moderate improvement over the clowns we've been running out there for the last two years, and has the potential to become something incrementally better than league-average. At the league-minimum, where's the risk? By granting Leone the job for 2004 and avoiding the urge to purchase somebody else's garbage (Tony Batista, anyone?), we're left with some extra money to spend on Tejada, who would represent a gigantic improvement both on the field and in the front office.

Of course, if we hadn't splurged on the left field version of Bill Spiers (read: league average) and handed a couple million dollars to a fungible reliever in Hasegawa whose best years are most certainly behind him, this wouldn't really be an issue. But I've been pushing for Leone to get the starting nod since last summer, and damned if I'll be denied now.

I should say now that I'm not quite as pessimistic on Ibanez as Dan Szymborski, but projecting our starting left fielder for an OPS north of .746 should be a guarantee, not a wish.
Inspired both by USS Mariner and the AA play of Justin Leone, I have arrived. Not that this announcement deserves immediate acclaim, but I figure the more Leone supporters, the merrier.

We'll see how this goes.