Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The blogsphere is in uproar about the Andriesen column in the PI today. It's not that big a deal. I think every sports reporter has a contractual obligation to write at least 1 "suck up" column each week. These suck up columns let them fawn over some part of the organization they cover in a wholly transparent attempt to get a chip in the big game that they can cash in later on in the season. I'm quite sure Andriesen will write several more of these columns in the next 4 months. Then he'll expect some return loving around the trade deadline to "scoop" the rest of the beat writers.

It's classic Finnigan / Gammons school of journalism. It's a way for lazy thinkers to try and get ahead. Instead of applying time working up independent analysis and investing in their craft they choose the easy route. It's a lot easier to parrot a corporation's PR staff then it is to gather independent data, analyze it, derive conclusions and present the information to the public. It's why investigative reporters are held in much higher esteem than the majority of sports writers. It's why I like reading Rob Neyer a lot more than Peter Gammons.

Take the Andriesen article for what it is, pure suck up drivel spewed directly from the M's mouth pieces, brought to you by your local rag, with edititorial control provided by your friendly advertisers.

In you want information stick to the net.

Monday, March 29, 2004

The M's are going to break camp with 12 pitchers to avoid eating Jarvis contract. Mike and I had a hallway discussion about this.

Mike: You can tell a lot about a team by the decisions they refuse to make. Modifying your roster in order to keep a pitcher on it that has no business being part of a club that is supposed to be in contention is amazing.

John: The M's have the 5th highest revenue in pro sports. Isn't it about time they started acting like it? I'm sure that the only reason he's on the roster is so they can try and make another team take on his salary as part of their next deal. It's going to be a we'll take Griffey if you take Jarvis situation. Even if he only pitches in blowouts (which will amply demonstrate to all clubs what the M's perceive his value to be) he'll be taking up a roster spot that could be used in so many other ways.

Mike: This is a team with an incredibly weak bench, with no backup shortstop, that has a huge number of off days in their early season schedule. Just eat the contract.

John: As long as they don't use the Jarvis money as an excuse later on in the season (we'd have loved to pick up Barry Bonds for the stretch run but we're still paying on that Jarvis contract), it'll be 1 paragraph in the paper for 1 day. There is no PR hit in releasing Jarvis. It's this Scrooge like mentality that seems to be pervasive in the M's.

Mike: I don't care how well he's pitched in his last 3 innings. He's amply demonstrated over the course of his career that he's not a MLB pitcher. Since young pitching is the M's strength it's not like we've got to save him for a disaster situation either. Eat the contract.

John: Carrying 12 pitchers means our "bench" is going to be Quinten, Willie, Hansen, Davis. It hurts me to say that.(ed: it hurts more to see it in print )

Mike: That's ugly....

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Sports and Bremertonians have set up an M's blogger fantasy league. As the hosts of the M's blogger simulated league you'd think I'd be interested. I love all kinds of games (card, board, video) and baseball is my favorite sport so I've played all kinds of baseball games (tabletop, computer simulation, arcade-type video games). But I have never played in a fantasy league. I just have a really hard time rooting for anyone not on the Mariners! I mean, obviously I can't have anyone from the AL West on my team. But I don't want any American Leaguers at all really. Are there NL only fantasy leagues? But eventually the M's will play someone with a player on my team. Is this a weird attitude that I have? My other problem is that the scoring systems don't translate all that well to real life - stealing is way to over-valued. Have you ever played in a fantasy league? Should I try to get over this problem?

I play fantasy football but I've never played rotisserie baseball. There are several reasons I've played one and not the other. Football takes very little time. Having all the games on 1 weekend day means that I can gather information pretty easily. Fantasy baseball just seems like it takes a large time investment. I spend enough time following the M's I don't think there are enough hours in the day for me to try and follow all of MLB or even just the AL or NL.

From what I know about fantasy baseball I also have a problem with the popular scoring systems that appear to over value steals, saves and RBI. Steals are overvalued because caught stealing doesn't enter into the equation, saves are strictly a factor of when you pitch, not the value of the effort and RBI is very dependent on where you bat in the order and how good your team mates are at getting on base.

Yes, in fantasy football the point gatherers are very dependent on the supporting cast but it just doesn't rub me wrong in the same the way fantasy baseball scoring systems work.

I also would have a tough time rooting for my fantasy pitcher to strike out Edgar. I guess the confrontations are more personal in baseball than football. That's probably the crux of the issue for me. I don't really have a "favorite" football team. Yes I root for the 'Hawks and my old home town team the Patriots but neither team has taken part of my soul like the M's and Red Sox have. Thus the combination of team loyalty and personal challenge in baseball are the two biggest reasons why I've never participated in a fantasy baseball league.

The one thing that is the same with sim leagues and fantasy leagues - OTHER PEOPLE DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR TEAM! I feel bad about the nice people I ride with on the shuttle to the ferry after work. There are three owners of teams from the FSBL and every day they are being subjected to the lasted imaginary events from the league. It must be brutal.

Unbeknownst to me when I started this thread, the current Writers' Bloc segment is about the pros and cons of fantasy leagues.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Today was the first day of practice for my nine-year-old daughter's softball team, the Storm. She made the majors this year and I've coached her every year since she started T-Ball five years ago. Spring is the best time of year with both the Mariners and softball starting up. I love working with these teams - the girls are out there trying their best and always improving. We're very passionate about the Mariners but let's remember, it's a kids game. If you can get out and help with youth baseball or softball I think you'll find it very rewarding.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The lastst steroids news is having a tangeble impact on me - it's more fuel for my Dad's fire when he starts in on his favorite topic - how today's players don't measure up to those from his era. Now he's talking about setting up a different record book since it not fair that the home run records are falling to players that are juiced. This is just the lastest reason to add to his his list which includes: juiced balls, bandbox ballparks, diluted pitching and postage-stamp strike-zones. How do I deal with this guy?

I'd love for this controversy to just go away - but how to solve it?
The current solution in the CBA is not going to accomplish anything except create bad PR for the league (they are experts at this). The NFL "solution" is a joke. The only organization that SEEMS like it has this handled is the Olympics. Do they really, or do they just have good PR?
Would the, until recently, all-powerful MLBPA ever allow Olympic-style anti-doping regulations? It could be the only way out from under a perpetual dark cloud over the game.

I think that the MLBPA would allow Olympic style anti-doping regulations. They would do so because they are secure in the knowledge that whatever tests the anti doping guys dream up, the steroid scientists are 2 leaps ahead. Don't forget that the latest BALCO scandal only exists because an informant sent in a used syringe of the steroid so they could develop a test.

Honestly and realistically I don't think there is any way to "stop" the use of steroids for those that really want to use them. You can catch the stupid users but you're not going to catch the smart ones.

I think the only thing that MLB can do is educate the hell out of the players so they truly know how dangerous these chemicals are. Then put rules in place to really sock it to the stupid users who they manage to catch. First offense, 1 year (paid) suspension, second offense, gone from the league, contract voided.

As far as arguing with your Dad. I can't refute any of his points.

I think that the ball is harder and smaller than it was in the 50's
I think that most modern ballparks are made too small (exceptions, Safeco and Comerica)
I think the strike zone is too small.
There is no argument that there are more MLB pitching positions available now than there were 40 years ago.....


Modern ballplayers are in much better shape than they were even 20 years ago.
Modern travel is easier than it was through the 70's.
Modern ballplayers swing harder and miss more often, when they do hit the ball it goes a ton.
Modern equipment is helping out ball players, forget the gloves and bats, think of how video swing analysis would have helped players in the 30's and 40's
The modern game draws from a much larger talent pool than even 20 years ago.
Careers are becoming longer than they were 20 years ago due to changes in workout, diet and the potential windfalls ($$$$)

Simply spouting that the records are falling because the players are juiced is a simplistic argument. I just hope that I'm not a crusty old curmudgeon and that my mind is still open to new ways of thinking when I hit my later years. There is no way to refute a point when the person making it has closed the book.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

I'm cross-posting my CasdraBlog first impression review of MLB SportsClix.

Friday, March 05, 2004

We now support comments. We hope this helps you contribute to our new discussion format. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


Joe Sheehan's Hope and Faith article spoke to something we recently talked about, the supposed competitive imbalance in baseball. Yes, the Yankees and Boston are going insane in their never-ending war to one up each other. This make one of them a virtual lock to make the playoffs. Note that I am not entirely convinced that the AL wildcard will come from the East. The teams in that division are good enough that in a weakened AL West, two teams could have very good records. So how does the Yankees and Red Sox spending all that money affect the other teams? Not that much, there are still six or seven playoff spots available and once the playoffs start, anything can happen. The Yankee "mystique" created by there string of World Championships seems to be wearing off of late. And in two of the years they won it they were lucky to escape the Division Series. Yes, both the AL East powerhouses are very talented many talented teams have come up short in the end?


What does competitive imbalance really mean? The same team winning the World Series every year or something that relies a little less on "luck" like having 75% of the same teams in the playoffs every year?

The former means that the Yankees haven't been successful because they haven't won a world series in 3 years and blows the imbalance argument out of the water. The latter more effectively reflects the true nature of the game where the "average" fan becomes disenchanted with the game because "the same team always wins", even if they don't.

The Yankees vs. Red Sox story, while great press, really only affects the Orioles, Blue Jays and Devil Rays playoff chances.


I decided to compare competitive balance to another sport (I only had time for one). I picked the NFL, the league that MLB seems to want to emulate. Here are some numbers for playoff teams over the last five years (1999 - 2003).

                         NFL     MLB

Total Teams 31-32 30
Size of playoffs 12 8
Appears at least once 27 16
(at NFL ratio) 22.5
Teams that never made it 5 14
Appears exactly 1 time 9 4
Appears exactly 2 times 8 6
Appears exactly 3 times 5 3
Appears exactly 4 times 5 0
Appears exactly 5 times 0 3

Well, it doesn't look to good. Only five NFL teams have not made the playoffs in the last five years, compared with almost half the teams in baseball. Certainly they let more teams in in the NFL, but even adjusting for that baseball comes up short. There are numerous reasons for this, many that don't show the NFL in a good light. Their treatment of players might be good for the owners wallets, but I'm quite uncomfortable with the annual shakedown that gets performed by teams to their veteran players (renegotiate your contract or else). I find that final two lines interesting. This shows dominant teams and there is not as much difference here. Five NFL teams have made the playoffs four or more times while 3 baseball teams have done the same.


The NFL gets more churn and the tradeoff is that they treat their players like cattle. I wouldn't mind the NFL "system" if all the contracts were guaranteed. The NFL cap is tied directly to league revenue and contains a minimum team salary (no Brewers here) and a rookie salary cap (I do object to this). This system came about by breaking the union twice.

There are more intriguing questions for me to propose.

1) Now that more MLB teams are using statistical analysis to uncover the cost effective players does this indicate an end in the ability of small market teams (Oakland, Toronto) to compete against bigger markets?

2) Will the small market teams, that want to compete (big caveat) , evolve a new system that will again "balance" the market?

3) Does revenue sharing solve anything?

4) If the big market teams continue to dominate during the regular season will we see a downward spiral in the small market areas? If you do truly start the season where 50% of the teams have no chance at making the playoffs what affect is it on league wide revenue?

5) Can any of these questions be answered without waiting for the actual events to occur? Can you model the scenarios and predict the outcomes with any assurances in the predictions?

Mike and I have decided to change the format of the blog. Instead of posting the same news as many other blogs or links to articles we've decided to post our "conversations" instead. We discuss a lot of topics around the M's and baseball at the office, over email or chat. We both really enjoy the BP running dialogs that they occasionally post and have decided on that format for our blog. Here's the first one....

This is an email thread we had after reading the Bavasi interview by Jonah Keri at Baseball Prospectus. BP Premium subscription required.


I'm not as down on the interview as most of the bloggers are.Bavasi shows some sort of thought processes going on. It appears the M's were at least thinking about what kind of hitter fit best at Safeco when they went after Raul. They identified the need for a left handed pull hitter to take advantage of the ball traveling to RF as opposed to the death valley of what a right handed pull hitter faces at Safeco. He also brings the fact that the deal was 99% done before he even took the job.


I'm also not as down on this interview as some other bloggers. I agree with the Mariner Optimist that the interview was a setup. Did we learn anything that we didn't know? Bavasi is an old-school GM - we knew that. If anything, I'm happy with some of the things he said about the value of objective analysis. If he keeps saying the words it might stick.

Part II went up last night. He spoke to one of my questions, why was Guillen such a marked man. I guess I can buy the injury issue to some degree. The follow-up question I would ask is after getting Aurillia, why not keep Guillen on the bench? He's not very expensive and he'd be a much better "supersub" than Bloomquist by any measure.

I'm certainly intrigued by the "tampering" comment on Vizquel. That non-move, along with the McQracken-Colbrun trade, are what sent me into an anti-bavisi blogging tizzy. What is the good rationale Bavasi refers to?


The tampering comment caught my eye also. I'm disappointed in his answers to the questions pertaining to FrankenFreddy. I argued back in December that the M's should have non-tendered Freddy. This team has young pitching to spare and you better believe that if Freddy hits the All Star break at .500 with an ERA of 4.5 I'll be jumping up saying "I told you so". Stating that you prefer Freddy to Greg Maddux is a foolish statement to make.

Numbers for 2003

       YEAR  G GS CG    IP   H   R HR BB  SO  K/9  W  L Sv  P/GS WHIP  BAA  ERA 

Maddux 2003 36 36 1 218.1 225 112 24 33 124 5.11 16 11 0 81.5 1.18 .268 3.96
Freddy 2003 33 33 1 201.1 196 109 31 71 144 6.44 12 14 0 101.9 1.33 .255 4.51

Maddux career ERA 2.89, Freddy's 3.97, Number of years Freddy has had an ERA under 3.5 (1), Maddux (14).

I'm slightly encouraged by his response to the question regarding the M's losing defense this year compared to last. His answer gives the appearance that this was a conscious decision by the M's to trade defense for offense. Now, I don't believe that Randy Winn is going to come close to Mike Cameron in center field, no matter how long he plays there, nor do I buy in to the statement that "we had a real firm upgrade offensively in center" but I do agree with the principal behind this quote "We had a tremendous upgrade at third base, from no offense, or minus offense, and a plus defender, to a just below plus defender and a plus offensive player."

My largest concerns remain 2 things. The M's insistence on spending big money in the bullpen ( The M's should have at least 3 young, cheap pitchers in their bullpen, not continuing to prove they can get out AA hitters) and their gawd awful bench. They simply could have kept Colbrun and Guillen and had a decent bench at an incremental cost of around $1 million.

Monday, March 01, 2004

The latest Basics article at Baseball Prospectus focuses on the strikeout. The conclusion: not that big a deal for a hitter, but vitally important for a pitcher. This is particularly galling information with all of the scorn now being heaped on Mike Cameron now that he's left town. Bavasi took another swipe at him in his BP Q&A (subscription required) today. Shameful. And Bill, I sure hope I am surprised by how Winn plays center field, because what I'm expecting is the end of Ryan Franklin as we knew him.