Jose Fernandez in 2014

By Blaidd Drwg

Jose Fernandez has a goal for his sophomore season – to have an ERA of 1.95. Not a bad goal for a 21ish year old who pitches in a pitcher’s park. David Schoenfield had a great article about that here.

Fernandez posted a 2.19 ERA in his rookie season. Pretty damn impressive, so what are the chances that he does it again?

One of my favorite things that he mentioned in the article:

Look, I wouldn’t bet on a 1.95 ERA but I wouldn’t bet against him either. Since 1950, only 15 different starting pitchers have had least two seasons with an ERA under 2.25. Since 1980, only three have done it — Greg Maddux (five times), Pedro Martinez (four) and Roger Clemens (three).

Odds are definitely against him, but scoring in the league is down, so you never know. My point in posting this – If you don’t think that Pedro Martinez belongs in the HOF, think about the above statement. In the expansion era, which saw the highest scoring in baseball history, Pedro Martinez had an ERA below 2.25 four times and an ERA less than 3.00 another 4 times, including 2002 when his ERA just missed the cutoff at 2.26. Oh, and his ERA+ during that stretch from 1997 to 2005? Just a lousy 187. That is Sandy Koufax dominant folks (actually it is significantly more dominating than Koufax, but that is for another post).

I Don’t Know Why You Say Goodbye…

By Blaidd Drwg

 

…I say hello. Why do I have the feeling I have used that one before? Anyway, just a couple of tidbits from the transaction wire on opening day.

Heeee's baaaaaack!
Heeee’s baaaaaack!

Vlad Guerrero signs a one day contract with the Angels and retires.

Vladdy probably would be a HOFer if he had not spent most of his prime years playing in Montreal. He will forever be remembered by me for 3 specific things:

1)      In 2002 in the last game of the season in Montreal, wrapping a double in the 5th inning of the game to tie the Expos single season hit record with 206 and getting a tremendous ovation for it. For years, that score card hung on my wall.

2)      In 2003 in the last game of the season in Montreal (see a pattern here), getting pulled from the game in the 7th inning after taking the field for warm-ups. It was known that Vladdy was going to be signing somewhere else in the off-season (the Expos weren’t going to attempt to keep him) as a free agent and he was loved the way that Dawson, Raines and Carter were in that city. He trotted off the field to a 5 minute standing ovation and 2 curtain calls. I have never seen anything like that before or since and that is how a departing player who is that loved should be sent off.

3)      In 2004, after signing with the Angels, was a 10-1 shot for AL MVP. Vlad had been murdering the ball in the NL for the last 4 seasons and I liked the odds. I put down a c-note on that line. Needless to say, he paid for my 2005 trip to Vegas.

Of course, in what seems like it should have been an April Fool’s joke, Vlad signed his contract on the field before last night’s Angels game and was honored with throwing out the first pitch to the only other player in Angels history to win an MVP – Don Baylor. Baylor received the pitch and then proceeded to break his leg trying to catch the pitch. Seriously.

The Diamondbacks announced the retirement of C Henry Blanco and added him to their coaching staff .

Henry Blanco is 42 and has hit about .150 over the last 2 seasons and probably should have started his coaching career years ago. I will be honest, I had absolutely no idea he was still even playing until this article a couple of days ago.

Grady Sizemore makes the Red Sox opening day roster.

Not only that, but he is their starting CF! It is a great comeback story for a guy who has missed most of the last few seasons with injuries, but I can’t help thinking that he is going to break down about a week after he has to play a few cold weather games. My guess, he is on the DL before April 15th.

The hyphen is back!

Ryan Rowland–Smith made the Dbacks roster. You remember him – failed M’s pitching prospect from Down Under who imploded in 2010 and then dropped off the planet. Well, he is finally back in the bigs after 4 seasons in the minors. Hopefully he sticks around, I always did like him.

Mad Libs: The 2014 Mariners Starting Rotation Edition

By Blaidd Drwg

Let’s play a game of Mad Libs:

The Mariners 2014 rotation to start the season will be Felix Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton, (Insert name of failed M’s prospect) and (Insert name of another M’s failed prospect).

Remember, Iwakuma and Walker are out for at least the first 2 weeks of the season. The Mariners released their scrap heap recalmation candidates, Scott Baker and Randy Wolf on Tuesday and they were the 2 most likely guys to start for the Mariners coming out of spring training. I am guessing that the other 2 spots are going to go to Hector Noesi and Blake Beavan, and yes, I am serious about that. They would only have to make 3 spots assuming that Iwakuma and Walker are back when they are supposed to be back (the M’s schedule in the 2nd week of the season has enough off days that they don’t need a 5th starter), but there is a huge risk to this team gaining any real traction if they have to slog through 3 potentially disastrous starts. Other than 3 games in Miami and 2 in NY, all of the rest of the games in the first month of the season are against AL West opponents, and only 3 of the 22 games are against the Astros.

If the M’s don’t get back Iwakuma and Walker when expected and/or Ramirez and Paxton are not as good as advertised, this is going to be a long season yet again – the M’s have absolutely no depth in their starting rotation right now. I bet the backup plan is to trade Nick Franklin for a middle of the road starter if someone flames out.

The Mariners and Spending Money

By Blaidd Drwg

Reason #124342423 that Jack Zdurencik will be fired this season and the Mariners will continue hopelessly spinning their wheels. This is from a Jim Bowden article on ESPN.com:

Several general managers told me they don’t understand how the Seattle Mariners could give Robinson Cano almost a quarter-billion dollars and then claim not to have the money to bring back Kendrys Morales or make a run at Ervin Santana.

Seattle is emboldened by its lucrative local television deal, but many general managers are wondering what the Mariners’ plan is. How does a team spend that much money and go from fourth-best in the division to … fourth-best in the division. The Mariners haven’t really improved at all, and with so many needs they would have been better off spreading the money around.

Cano complained a few weeks back about the team not spending any money. I don’t think that he was wrong, and it appears that other MLB GM’s feel the same way. I am starting to think that the Cano signing was just to try to keep season ticket holders from defecting (I am still glad that I did not renew my tickets) and not about trying to make the team better. Unless they catch lightning in a bottle from about 5 of the guys in their lineup, this is basically a .500 team.

And for my next prediction – the Taijuan Walker shoulder tightness will end up being more serious than expected and he will need major surgery at some point before the end of the season and be out for all of 2015.

Isn’t It Ironic?

By Blaidd Drwg

February 7th was Babe Ruth’s birthday and on that date Dave Schoenfield posted a quick hit about it. He included this wonderfully ironic bit in the piece:

This is also the 100th anniversary of the start of his career. Ruth made his debut with the Red Sox on July 11, starting against the Indians. He allowed eight hits in seven innings and — get this — was removed for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the inning, picking up the win when the Red Sox scored to take the lead.

I just love the irony of that.

The Randomness of Closers

By Blaidd Drwg

Note: It appears that I wrote this in July of 2013 and never bothered to post it. I found it when cleaning off my hard drive. Lucky you, you get to read it now.

Dave Schoenfield has a nice little piece on ESPN.com about the shelf life of closers. It goes along with what I have been saying for years – your bullpen is a bunch of interchangeable parts. Sure you get the mutants like Mo Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, who remain effective for very long periods of time, but if you are a GM, you probably A) don’t want to spend huge amounts of money on a “proven” closer, and B) want to keep an eye out for the guy who will be your closer in 2 years.

Scoenfield uses 2011 as an example:

Look at the major league save leaders from 2011: Jose Valverde, Kimbrel, John Axford, J.J. Putz, Rivera, Heath Bell, Drew Storen, Joel Hanrahan, Francisco Cordero, Brandon League, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Perez, Brian Wilson, Carlos Marmol, Jordan Walden, Neftali Feliz, Ryan Madson, Jonathan Papelbon, Sergio Santos.

That’s 19 closers who all saved at least 30 games. Only four are still doing the job — the three guys Buster mentioned, plus Papelbon, who switched teams (or five if you count Bell in Arizona, although his hold on the role is tenuous). Joe Nathan missed part of 2011 with an injury, so count him as well if you want, although he too has changed teams. By the way, most of those 19 guys were pretty good in 2011; 14 had an ERA under 3.00.

So where are these guys now? Here is the list:

Player 2011 Team 2013 Team 2013 Role
Jose Valverde Tigers None Didn’t resign until May; released by Detroit after 9 games.
Craig Kimbrell Braves Braves Closer
John Axford Brewers Brewers Set-up man;  lost closer role   early 2013
JJ Putz Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Set-up man; lost closer role early 2013.
Mariano Rivera Yankees Yankees Closer
Heath Bell Padres Diamondbacks Closer (only because JJ Putz got hurt); did lose job with Miami in   2012.
Drew Storen Nationals Nationals Set-up man; lost job in 2012.
Joel Hanrahan Pirates Red Sox Closer before getting hurt in early 2013; out for season.
Francisco Cordero Reds None Couldn’t win closer role in 2012 for Blue Jays or Astros, currently   out of baseball.
Juan Carlos Oviedo Marlins Rays Currently injured; hasn’t pitched since 2011.
Brian Wilson Giants None Hurt early in 2012, hasn’t pitched since.
Carlos Marmol Cubs Dodgers Lost role in both 2012 and 2013, currently in Dodgers minor league   system.
Jordan Walden Angels Braves Lost role in 2012 with Angels; set-up man for Braves.
Neftali Perez Rangers Rangers Converted to starter in 2012; currently injured.
Ryan Madson Phillies Angels Injured in 2012, hasn’t pitched since.
Jonathan Papelbon Red Sox Phillies Closer
Sergio Santos White Sox Blue Jays Lost job early in 2012, got hurt and has barely pitched since.

Cleveland Rocks

By Blaidd Drwg

A little nugget from the “Strange but True” column by Jason Stark on December 30th:

Speaking of Cleveland, the Indians played an April 20 game in which they took a 14-0 lead on the Astros. The Strange But True part involves the local football team, the Browns, who haven’t held a 14-0 lead in any of their past 96 games!

In case you are following at home, that is 6 seasons worth of games. The last time that the Browns had a 14-0 lead on an opponent – December 30, 2007, exactly 6 years to the day that the column ran. It was also the last game of the season and the last time the Browns finished a season with a winning record.

The Blaidd Drwg 2014 Mariners Report

How hard is it to get excited about the Mariners? Well, let’s take a look at their off-season so far:

Signed Robinson Cano – 10 years/$240 million

Signed Corey Hart – 1 year/$6 million

Signed Willie Bloomquist – 2 years(!)/$5.8 million

Signed John Buck – 1 year/$1 million

Signed Franklin Gutierrez (!!!) – 1 year/$1 million

Signed Endy Chavez to a Minor League Deal (YAHOO!)

Signed Scott Baket to a Minor League Deal

Traded Carter Capps for Logan Morrison.

I know a bunch of Mariner fans are really excited by the Cano signing, but, as I have written before, I don’t think that it benefits the team. The Mariners aren’t near contending and I honestly think that they are probably 2-3 years from POTENTIALLY being there, and by the time they get there, Cano will be in the decline phase of his career and that contract is going to look horrible. That contract is so bad that I know Yankee fans who are happy their team didn’t offer Cano anywhere near those years or dollars – and these are people who think Cano is the best player in the league. That should tell you something.  It also probably means that the Mariners have given up on Nick Franklin since he no longer has a position to play. So much for the youth movement.

The other problem with all of those signings is that you don’t really improve on the positions that you have deficiencies in. One of the Mariners biggest issues was lousy outfield defense. There is absolutely no way that the Mariners should have every put Raul Ibanez in LF for the 100+ games that he was (the Colossus of Rhodes has more range than Raul) and they had the revolving door in both CF and RF and on occasion were playing 3 left fielders in their outfield at any given time. So what do they do, go out and replace Ibanez and Morse with Hart and Morrison – basically 2 OF who are horrible defensively and probably aren’t any better offensively than Ibanez and Morse.  Add to that they still don’t have a centerfielder (I think they have given up on Ackley there too) or a right fielder. Kind of makes you miss the days of Ichiro, doesn’t it.

The catching situation is definitely up in the air. The John Buck signing is an important one because it tells me that the M’s still have questions about Zunino’s ability to hit at the MLB level. Buck isn’t going to win an MVP award, but he is decent enough to catch about 2/3 of your team’s games, so this didn’t strike me as a “sign a backup guy” type move. My prediction is that Buck is your opening day catcher and Zunino starts the year in Tacoma.

The M’s didn’t address the need for another starting pitcher. Sure they have a bunch of young guns in the system, but you never know how those guys are going to hold up over a full season (take a look at Brandon Maurer last year) so you need an insurance policy. The 2 best starters left on the market are Ubaldo Jiminez and Ervin Santana. It is probably going to take a 4 year/ $50 – $60 million dollar deal to land one of those guys and I have the feeling that the M’s will sign one of the two of them and then regret that move by the end of the season. The problem is that neither is consistent enough to warrant the money you will have to spend for them and there is a good chance that neither would be pitching for the Mariners by the end of their contract should they get signed by the team. The M’s need to show fans they are trying to win and the way they seem to approach that is by overpaying for talent. The other option is to sign a scrap heap started (see Joe Saunders last year, that is what the Scott Baker deal is this year) and hope that the young guns actually can contribute. If they don’t, you probably just lost another 20% of your already eroded fan base.

The other two guys whose names keep getting associated with the Mariners are Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz. Both guys were looking for huge contracts and neither one is going to get one, so at least if you sign them, you probably can do it on a one year deal. The issue is that you already have a bunch of horrible defense/1B/DH/LF types on the roster and how much of an improvement are these guys anyway over the mass of players you have?

We still have a few weeks before the start of spring training and there is always the possibility that the Mariners will make some unexpected moves, but right now, this looks and feels like a 77-80 win team at best. On the bright side, at least the Astros will keep the M’s from finishing last in the division and I am willing to bet that Zdurencik gets fired if this team is not playing at least .500 ball at the all-star break.

Oh, in case you don’t agree with me, Dave Schoenfield is much more pessimistic about the Mariners outlook:

Yes, signing Cano will make the Mariners interesting at the start of the season. But … well, what else is there? The Mariners are desperately counting on their young players — Mike Zunino, Brad Miller, Dustin Ackley (is he still a young player?), Justin Smoak (ditto) and Michael Saunders (ditto) to improve — and all have huge question marks. They’re counting on two rookies in Taijuan Walker and James Paxton for the rotation. They hope Hart and Morrison are healthy, but even then they’re basically replacing the production Morales provided last year. Cano should be great, but I’m having trouble seeing where the improvement is going to come from unless Walker and Paxton are much better than anticipated.

Prediction: 74-88

More on the Mariners…Now With Expert Opionions

By Blaidd Drwg

The Mrs. accuses me of being too negative about the Mariners.  Yet, every year I make a prediction about their win total, I am either pretty much spot on or slightly optimistic about the team in hindsight. Since I don’t really care about the team, my predictions are analytical based on stats rather than emotions, so when I say that the Mariners are a 75 win team, that is what the stats tell me, not what my gut does.

My wife probably hated this post last week where I thought that the Mariners prospects for making moves and signing someone like Cano were not as optimistic as some people.  I wrote it before the rumors about David Price came up. I still don’t think that getting Cano and Price makes them a playoff team and I am not the only one. Here are some comments from 3 diehard Mariners fans who I absolutely respect the opinion of:

Scott Weber of Lookout Landing:

It’s that the Mariners simply are not in a position to make this kind of a splash, this many games out of a playoff spot. Especially when two other teams in their division are much stronger, and are also fortifying their clubs with moves that help them win now.

Dave Cameron of USS Mariner:

And I’m not convinced that David Price is the right guy, nor am I convinced that the 2014 Mariners are the right team, for this kind of trade to be worth doing.

David Schoenfield of ESPN.com:

You can’t trade Walker for Price and then not sign Cano. But that’s no guarantee. You could trade for Price tomorrow and then see Cano sign with another team in January. And how good would they make the Mariners? Maybe Price pushes this team to 75 wins. Maybe Cano pushes it to 80. Maybe the young guys play a little better and you win 85.

All 3 quotes came from Schoenfield’s piece last week on espn.com, it is worth the complete read. These 3 guys know a heck of a lot more about the Mariners than I do and they all feel the same way I do. What does that tell you about this team?

The Mariners and the Offseason

By Blaidd Drwg

I keep hearing that the Mariners are going to be a major player in the FA market this season. Here is where I think the Mariners have some major holes to fill to bring them to an 82-85 win team:

RF and LF (assuming that Dustin Ackley is their CF)

1B or DH (depending on where you play Smoak)

C (you need someone who can play almost every day in case Zunino proves 2013 was not a fluke)

SP (at least one back of the rotation guy)

RP (the bullpen needs help – too many guys imploded last year)

If you want to talk about being a playoff contender, they probably need to replace Smoak with someone better and they probably need 2 middle of the rotation guys in addition to 2 OF, a catcher and some bullpen help. I personally think they need to do more than that and that would be a ton of spending, so it isn’t going to happen.

I write this because of the flurry of activity that has occurred over the last week. The A’s have made trades to bolster their team and so have the Rangers. The Yankees have signed the best catcher and OF on the market and appear to still be in the running for Cano. The Tigers are making themselves better through trades and signings. The Mariners? Well, they did sign Willie Bloomquist. Are you excited yet?

I keep hearing the Mariners are the front runners for Robinson Cano. He tried to play chicken with the Yankees and the Yankees wouldn’t budge, so his agent, Jay-Z, decided to pull a Scott Boras move and get a bidding war for Cano’s services going, hence the Mariners involvement. The M’s are a team with just 2 players under contract (Iwakuma and Felix) and a bunch of guys who are arbitration eligible/under team control. If the M’s don’t go out and spend any money on FA’s this season, their payroll will be in the 45-50 million dollar range. Based on that, the M’s could afford to overpay Cano in the 25-27 million dollar range just to get him to sign.

With the M’s offer, Jay-Z goes back to the Yankees and says, “See, there is a team willing to pay my client 27 million per for 8 years, but he really wants to stay in NY. If you do 25 million per for 7 years with an option, we can call be happy.” Unless the Rangers step in, I would put money on Cano signing for 7 years/175 million with the Yankees.

There are a couple of reasons why signing Cano makes no sense, especially for 8 years:

  • You have now committed 50+ million dollars on 2 players through 2019. That is a ton of payroll on two guys considering one is a pitcher and the other will be in his late 30’s.
  • Signing Cano to that contract would basically mean he is untradeable. You now have to hope that his batting numbers don’t fall into a black hole in Safeco, or that he becomes unhappy if the team is not competitive.
  • You have no place to play him. I don’t think you can put him at DH, so that means you have to find a new position for Nick Franklin, unless you put Cano at 1B and move Smoak to DH.
  • Your team is going to get really expensive over the next 3 seasons. All of the guys under team control will get bumps due to arbitration and the arbitration eligible guys will get huge bumps from free agency.  As deep as the M’s farm system is, it can’t replace the entire roster, so you are probably looking at adding 40-50 million to your payroll in the next few seasons, assuming that you keep all of the important guys.
  • You are going to have to sign or replace Iwakuma. He is on the last year of his contract in 2014 and you are probably going to be paying him in the 15-17 million per range unless he implodes this season. The M’s hold an option on him for 2015, but I expect that the contract will get extended sometime this season and void the team option.
  • When was the last time a mega deal free agent worked out for the team that signed him?

Cano makes sense if you are close to being a perennial contender. The Mariners are not. I suspect what happens in the next few months is the M’s sign Nelson Cruz, resign Kendrys Morales, a couple of replacement level guys for the bench , a scrap heap starter and a couple of fungible relief guys and plod their way to another 77-81 win season, hoping that all of the kids become superstars.

And folks wonder why I gave up my season tickets.