Tag Archives: Hisashi Iwakuma

2014 AL West Team

To be quite honest, creating a “Preseason All AL West Team” is a futile exercise.  If you are looking for an MLB season preview, full of sound analysis and predictions, this isn’t it.  But I’m a visual learner, and there is some value in seeing where the power is in the division, position by position.  Of course this isn’t an exact science, no predictions are, and only 2 players are selected per position, so you have a guy like Kyle Seager, the M’s second best position player, not making this list thanks to Beltre and Donaldson.   So ya, take this for what it is.  A quick snapshot of the division headed into 2014.  Although I should point out, by forecasting who has the most 1st and 2nd teamers, I correctly guessed the order of finish in the division last year!

My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as projections for the upcoming season, and anticipated playing time. Some of the picks are obvious and others are less obvious, so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

2014 AL West Team

Taking the visualization one step further, here’s a super scientific bar graph intended to show the separation between teams, by awarding 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection.

2014 AL West Graph

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by | March 15, 2014 · 9:05 pm

2013 AL West Team

Unlike some college sports, pro sports don’t come out with pre-season 1st and 2nd teams, but if the AL West had its pre-season team, this is how I think it would shake out. Clearly this is not a perfect method to predicting the AL West in 2013, and by season’s end the 1st and 2nd team selections will look different. But, it does provide a snapshot of how the division stacks up. My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as potential this upcoming year, and projected impact/playing time. Some of the picks are obvious and others are less obvious, so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

2013 AL West

A couple bullets:

  • It is hard to find much separation at the top between Oakland, Texas, and LAA. All 3 have playoff potential, but from this breakdown I would also suggest the Mariners are closer to the good teams in the division, rather than the bad (Houston).
  • Say what you want about Oakland’s 2012 season being an anomolye, but it’s hard to criticize the roster Billy Beane has been assembled this year. The A’s don’t have a lot of star power but they are solid at every position, and have a ton of depth, which will surely be an asset at some point.
  • The positions that were hardest to find a clear cut 1st and 2nd team selection were Catcher, DH, and the 2nd team OFs and Starting Ps. At catcher, Montero projects to have the most playing time and potential, so I gave him the honors. You could make a case for Jaso and Pierzynski too. The same is true between Kendrys Morales, Berkman, and Trumbo, but the numbers suggest Morales (when healthy) is the best option in the group. David Murphy is a nice player, as is Coco Crisp, Franklin Gutierrez, and Chris Young. Take your pick, I went with Murhpy. Starting pitching was a bit of a toss up to when you start picking the 8th-10th best in the AL West. I tried hard to justify an Astro but simply could not. Iwakuma was my 10th selection, but it could have easily gone to Derek Holland, Jason Vargas, or really any Oakland starter.
  • In order to visually quantify the separation between teams based on these picks, I’ve awarded 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection. Here’s how it shakes out on a fancy bar graph.

    graph

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The Rebuilding Process, Year 5

One year ago I asked your reaction following Prince signing in Detroit. One year later, I’m curious what your take is on Josh Hamilton signing with a division foe, for nearly $100 million less than Prince got.

This is my 5th installment in a series of posts I’ve done recapping and forecasting the Mariners Rebuilding Process, since Jack Z took over as GM. You can find the prior posts here: Years 1 and 2 Year 3 Year 4

Let’s recap the 5 year rebuild plan I laid out in October 2008.

    THE BLUEPRINT

2009, Year 1: Shed dead weight, Begin overhauling the farm
Summary: Traded Putz for Guti, Carp, Vargas, and managed to get rid of Silva, Betancourt, and Johjima, while also using 3 of first 5 picks on Ackley, Franklin, Seager.
Grade: A+

2010, Year 2: Shed dead weight, Continue building the farm (and lock up Felix)
Summary: Signed Griffey and Sweeney, locked up Felix and acquired Cliff Lee, then swapped him for Smoak. Could have done without the Morrow trade and of course the Figgins contract. Selected Walker, Paxton, Pryor in rounds 1, 4, 5.
Grade: B-

2011, Year 3: Bring the youth up, Evaluate potential, Acquire more young talent
Summary: Hired Wedge, traded for Brendan Ryan, picked up Wilhelmson at a local bar, and signed low cost vets such as Cust, Olivo, Kennedy. Fielded an even mix of youth and vets, but loads of young talent in the pipeline for the first time in forever. At the deadline traded Fister for Furbush and Wells. Hultzen chosen with #2 pick.
Grade: B

2012, Year 4: continue youth movement, achieve .500 record
Summary: Swapped Pineda for Montero and made some shrewd acquistions in Jaso, Iwakuma, Luetge, Millwood, Perez, then saw a young roster come up 6 games short of .500, while improving by 8 games from prior season. Picked Mike Zunino #3 overall.
Grade: A

2013, Year 5: add 1-2 big pieces, contend for playoffs
Summary: Thus far we’ve seen a few low cost signings in Bay, Ibanez, Bonderman, and a 1 for 1 swap of Vargas-Morales.
Grade: ???

I’ve said this before, but in 4 1/2 years on the job, Bill Bavasi set this organization back 5 years, minimum. Last year I stated

“For the first time on Jack’s watch, I think the on field W/L record is important. .500 ball is a reasonable expectation this year, which would be a welcomed site for our eyes.”

Well, The M’s flirted with .500 in 2012 and showed noticeable improvement, albeit without much offense yet again. Entering year 5 the talk of laying the foundation and replenishing the system should be over, and playoff contention ought to be close. Zduriencik has said as much if you’ve heard any of his recent interviews.

If the blueprint holds form, the M’s will be adding 1-2 big pieces this offseason, and assembling a playoff capable team in 2013. This sounds great but it is nearly January and almost all the big name free agents have signed elsewhere, and the only acquisitions Seattle has made are Robert Andino, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and a swap of Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales. Not exactly blockbuster moves capable of propelling the M’s from 75 wins into contention. I suppose the big moves we hoped for are still possible if Jack can, for example, land Justin Upton and Michael Bourn, and add a veteran pitcher to round out the rotation. That would certainly be a competitive team, but is that the best route to take?

Given how the AL West is shaping up, it may be best to hang onto the prospects, add a couple decent pieces, and shoot for a respectable 80-85 wins in 2013, while waiting until next year to make the big splash. I don’t see a scenario, at this point, for the M’s to overtake Texas or Anaheim in 2013, and probably not Oakland either. So why go all in? I’m not suggesting Seattle give up any hopes they had for next year, just because the division rivals are pulling away, but I don’t want the M’s to mortgage the future to field a better team next year, but one that cannot be sustained.

Keeping a positive trajectory is crucial next year, seeing an improved offense is also important, but that’s about all we can reasonably expect in 2013. This puts real contention off until next year, and adds a year to the original 5 year blueprint, but taking the path that leads to sustained success is what is most important. We’ve seen the Washington Nationals do this, and Tampa Bay also, and with much less money. It may not be popular, given the fractured fan base, plummeting attendance, and a decade of bad baseball, but Seattle has never given a player a $100 million contract, and unless it is a Felix extension, I don’t see it happening for at least another year. And surprisingly, I’m fine with that.

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Tim Tebow and Baseball Sabermetrics

Husky basketball season ended a few days early to make sure we focus on the Mariners and Japan.  With Chone Figgins less than 4 hours away from stepping up and seeing the first pitch, I’m here still talking about Tim Tebow.  I’m sick of him (to no fault of his own, blame ESPN and any other sports outlet) but I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time and it seemed fitting to write it before the season began.

As you know if you follow along here, I think highly of the Mariners’ blogosphere.  Lookout Landing is my favorite website on the internet.  USSM is as smart and statistical proof-driven baseball blog as there is.  Prospect Insider and Proball NW have good information, especially about minor league ball.  Seattle Sports Insider is the blog I agree with the most, and always a fun read.  I haven’t even covered Larry Stone, Geoff Baker, and a good amount of other good Mariner blogs.  They all have good information, especially since the evolution of baseball sabermetrics have made them relevant in everyday baseball conversation.

The sabermetrics have made the game more fun, it’s easier to understand and more complex all in one.  Usually the stats they show back up what they’re trying to prove and that’s what baseball needs after years of misleading stats like a pitchers win-loss record.  But, as we enter the new season, remember that these metrics don’t tell it all.  Here are 3 wide-ranging examples of why they aren’t the end-all in explaining a team.

Continue reading

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A Couple Of Thoughts On The M’s

As I write this, the Seattle Mariners are on a plane headed to Japan.  A week from now, they’ll have two regular season games under their belt and will be headed back to the states for another week of wonderful spring training baseball (sarcasm).  I’ll try to catch us up on some Mariner news.  If you have anymore questions about the M’s put them in the comments and we’ll address them.

  • As I said, the Mariners are on their way to Japan at the moment which means that they had to cut their roster to 30 for the trip.  Kevin Millwood (who we’ll discuss later) is not on the trip but will be in the starting rotation to start the year.  Him and Japan don’t get along.  This all gets a bit confusing as far as the rosters go for this trip, so stay with me.  I think I understand them.  30 players are on the trip and they’re all allowed to play in the exhibition games against the Japanese teams.  I’d have to take a look at the Japanese teams rosters but it’s hard not to imagine that the Mariners carrying Casper Wells AND Carlos Peguero for these games won’t give them an insurmountable advantage over the Tigers and Giants of Japan.  Unless they are actually Japanese tigers and giants.  Anyway, back on track.  After the exhibition games the Mariners then have to cut down to 28 players for their games against the Oakland A’s of Japan.  That has to be the day Guillermo Quiroz is dreading.  Of those 28 players, only 25 of them will be able to play in the actual games against Oakland.  Kevin Millwood, and any other players they left at home who they expect to open the season with the big-league team (there probably aren’t any), must count against the 28 players but not against the 25.  So, the Mariners may have a different 25 players available in the season opener than their first game stateside.  It’s a bit confusing, really and probably not worth your time to understand.
  • Anyway, here’s the 30 guys going to Japan by position:  Starting Pitchers – Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez (although he may be used in the bullpen for the M’s) Relief Pitchers – Hisashi Iwakuma, George Sherrill, Tom Wilhelmsen, Shawn Kelley, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, Chance Ruffin, Steve Delabar, Charlie Furbush Catchers – Jesus Montero!, Miguel Olivo, John Jaso, Guillermo QuirozInfielders – Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley!, Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Kyle Seager, Munenori Kawasaki, Alex Liddi  Outfielders – Mike Carp, Michael Saunders, Ichiro Suzuki, Casper Wells, Carlos Peguero.
  • So, you have those 30 plus Kevin Millwood to choose from for your final 25.  We know the starting rotation (Felix, Vargas, Noesi, Beavan, and Millwood), so I would imagine Erasmo Ramirez starts in Tacoma.  I think Furbush will also start in Tacoma.  Then, the M’s will chose between Luetge, Delabar and Ruffin for the last 2 bullpen spots.  I think Ruffin starts in Tacoma.  That puts the team at 12 pitchers and 28 players.  Quiroz and Alex Liddi will almost surely start in Tacoma.  So, I’d say the last roster spot comes down to Peguero and Wells.  I really hope that the front office picks Wells and I think they probably will.  There’s your 25 man roster.
  • I mentioned the starting rotation above and don’t really have any objections with those 5.  Blake Beavan is a little boring and Iwakuma is somewhat intriguing but I was never high on Doug Fister either and he proved me wrong plenty of times.  Beavan is in the same mold and could do the same.  Marc at USSM had a good article on the argument today.  Really we don’t know if any of these guys, aside from Felix, will be here the whole year.  Vargas has always been a subject of trade talk and the others could just be passed by better, younger pitchers.  For now though, I think these five will do.
  • Last time Matthew posted on the M’s, Michael Saunders was a big topic of conversation.  Since he has hardly done anything in the games (blame Matthew).  He finished the spring with a lower batting average than he had last spring.  I’m not saying he didn’t improve because I think he did, I’m just not a belie
    Bad Guy of the Day

    Bad Guy of the Day

    ver yet.  Here’s to hoping he proves us wrong.

  • Spring training stats are meaningless, so stop looking at them.
  • Today, Jon Heyman who reports for CBS Sports had an article on Ichiro.  The main idea was that Ichiro should not be back on the Mariners next year because he holds too much power over the organization.  To put it plainly, I think it was a ridiculous piece.  Yes, there needs to be a discussion about what the M’s should do with Ichiro and maybe they should let him go.  They definitely need to agree to a smaller contract after this year but that’s because of his age and performance last year.  Heyman mentioned his on-field performance but chose to focus on issues that came up in the 2008 season.  Heyman had a ‘source’ (Carlos Silva, anyone?) who said Ichiro caused problems in the clubhouse because of his egos.  All of these things were mostly taken care of in the 2009 season and have been non-issues since.  By the way, the person who called Ichiro out during the 2008 season was Carlos Silva, who said Ichiro was selfish.  Ichiro hit .310 that year and had 214 hits.  Carlos Silva was 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA that year.  Heyman finishes the article by saying Ichiro refused an interview before his spring training game and still treats himself like a superstar even though he isn’t playing like one.  He has never granted interviews before the game.  There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact I’d say that means he’s focusing on the actual baseball being played, which is something Heyman needs to do.
  • All of that to say, be cynical with what you read in sports especially when it comes to the national media.  Heck, be cynical when it comes to what you read here, if you think I’m on Ichiro’s side too much I understand.  There’s enough good Mariner blogs that don’t form opinions of players without actual stats supporting them.  Jeff Sullivan and Matthew at Lookout Landing are the best at this, and the best at trying to understand things from all the points of view.  Try to do that as well, it’ll make you a better fan.
  • The last bullet holes I have are just informative things around the blog (I doubt anyone has made it this far in the reading anyway!).  If anyone’s interested in forming a fantasy baseball league, I would gladly be the commissioner.  I don’t know if any of the other Good Guy writers will join but if you want to leave a comment or email me at andrew.long09@northwestu.edu.  Also, we will be watching the season opening game next Wednesday live at 3 AM.  If any of you are interested in joining us, shoot me an email and we’ll try to have a good time watching some very early morning baseball.

Thanks for reading!

Andrew

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Welcome to Spring Training!

While Seattle is alternating between snow and sun, the Mariners are already a few weeks into spring training in Peoria, Arizona.  Talking to people and reading different thoughts about this year’s team, it seems there are two predominant reactions.  For those who are fans but don’t necessarily get deep into following the team, there’s a lack of knowledge and sometimes interest.  And who can really blame them?  If you don’t care that much about the offseason stuff, the onfield play has given no reason for hope.  These people also tend to blame almost everything on Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln, but that’s a different issue.

The second reaction is that even the people who know this team well aren’t sure what to expect.  Part of that is natural, as the Mariners have a lot of guys who could rebound significantly, as well as a plethora of young players who could improve dramatically.  None of that is certain, though, so outside of Felix, this is a tough team to predict.  I think another factor in the uncertainty is that this is a team unlike any Mariners fans have seen in some time.  It’s legitimately build on solid young talent.  There are some veterans, but they’re either young, like Felix, or will not likely be here long, like Ichiro and Miguel Olivo.  The core of this team is young.  The last time I remember that being the case is probably back in the early and mid 90’s.  They’ve had quality prospects since then, although many haven’t panned out, but those kids were joining veteran-dominated teams.

Now the focus is squarely on the Ackleys and Smoaks and Monteros, and it’s a little hard to know what to expect.  This year should start to indicate who will be part of the team longterm and who won’t cut it, but until then, there is plenty of room for knowledgeable fans to disagree on what to expect in 2012.  Young teams are unpredictable, and most of us haven’t watched one on a daily basis in a long time.

Just for fun and as a general catchup for those who haven’t been paying a lot of attention to spring training, here’s a little fake Q & A post.  If you have real questions, put them in the comments and we’ll give you any thoughts we have.  People’s real questions would be more fun to answer than these ones I’m making up!

Any big stories so far?

The biggest has probably been Franklin Gutierrez.  This was good at first, as he reported in great shape and seemingly fully recovered from his GI issues of last season.  All anyone could talk about was how great he looked, and then he went and hit a homer off Felix in an early intrasquad game.  Unfortunately, a couple of days later he tore a pectoral muscle, which sounds terrible, and he will be out at least 4 weeks before he does anything baseball related.  Don’t expect him back before May.  In fact, if you want to be safe, don’t expect him back at all.  He should come back at some point, but given his recent struggles, it seems smarter to just keep the hopes as low as possible and then get excited if he suddenly does return and play well. Continue reading

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2012 AL West Team & Winter Wrap-Up

Unlike NCAA sports, pro sports don’t come out with pre-season 1st and 2nd teams, but if the AL West had its pre-season team, this is how I think it would shake out. My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as potential this upcoming year, and often I use the sabermetric WAR to break ties. Some of the picks are obvious (Pujols), and others are less obvious (DH), so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

A quick analysis shows that Texas is the class of the division, with more 1st team selections than the rest of the west combined. Anaheim has good 2nd tier depth, solid pitching, and balance. Texas and Anaheim each have 8 1st or 2nd team selections of the possible 10 positional categories, and of the 14 pitching spots, a whopping 11 are Rangers (6) and Angels (5). The M’s are a distant 3rd, but a ways ahead of the re-building A’s, who are loaded with average players but no star power whatsoever.

I wanted to take this chart one step further, and visually quantify the separation between teams based on these picks. To do so, I’ve simply awarded 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection. Here’s how it shakes out on a bar graph.

Lastly, here are team by team offseason wrap ups, after the jump… Continue reading

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It’s Almost Mariners Time!

This has been a weird offseason for Your Seattle Mariners, but it’s surprisingly almost over.  Pitchers and catchers report to Arizona in a few weeks, with the season just over two months away.  Actually, since the Mariners open the season in Japan, their season starts a couple of weeks early.  Yes, the season opener will be at like 3:00 in the morning on the other side of the International Date Line.  Plan your lives accordingly.

Anyway, if you haven’t been paying attention or haven’t stopped to think about what the team looks like, I’ll try to help you out with a little fake Q & A.  I’m making up the questions and I probably won’t have any answers, so don’t expect too much, but this will still be a pretty good time.

Who’s new this year?

Well, Jesus Montero’s the big one.  More on him in a minute.  Then there’s John Jaso, the mediocre young catcher acquired from Tampa Bay, who could actually be a pretty big upgrade.  Not a lot after that.  There are a bunch of relievers who may or may not make the team.  More importantly, the Japanese pipeline is back open, with Hisashi Iwakuma likely to join the rotation and Ichiro’s workout buddy Munenori Kawasaki vying for a backup infield spot.  Iwakuma could be pretty good.  Kawasaki is good with the glove but unlikely to hit, so that’s nothing new.  They just signed Kevin Millwood for rotation depth as well. Continue reading

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