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September 7, 2014 at 2:43 pm ET
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Jesus Screams About Ice Cream

You’ve heard about the ice cream kerfuffle featuring B&C Weight Control Poster Boy Jesus Montero and a Seattle Mariners scout in a late-season Pioneer League game in Boise, Idaho?ice_cream_truck

(Those words, no doubt, are the strangest ever posted by this writer…)

If you haven’t, here’s a dizzyingly quick recap.

Montero is down at Boise to rehab and coach up the Everett Aqua Sox. I guess Seattle wanted their young players to be fat layabouts, but anyway…

A scout FOR SEATTLE (again, it’s a SEATTLE scout) starts heckling Montero as he was coaching first base. He probably used the famous Ball Four line “One man to a pair of pants out there…”

Said scout allegedly sends Montero an ice cream sandwich between innings. You know, for laughs.

Montero, who is now in the stands charting pitches (such grueling rehab work, eh?) objects. There’s words and maybe a pushy-shove.

Noted hack GM Jack Z (subject of a slurping, sycophantic article in another publication today) blabbers words about thus and so and HOW WE CAN’T HAVE ANYTHING LIKE THIS GOING ON HERE. Montero’s shut down (for an entire week. Who. Hoo.) and the scout cast into the abyss of something or other.

Anyway, we here at B&C decided that this entire incident was absurd. It would make a great movie. And like every great movie, it needed a soundtrack! So thanks to Spotify, we gots one:

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August 16, 2014 at 12:16 pm ET
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Nut-Cutting Time in Detroit

betel-nut-cutter-500x500Whatever you really feel about Bud and the Minions (coming soon to a discotheque near you), the addition of the Wild Cards have added a lot of drama and intrigue into the pennant races.

This weekend, the white-hot Seattle Mariners travel to Detroit, Rock City, to face the flailing Tigers in a critical, crucial series for the Second Wild Card in the AL and also Detroit’s hopes to be AL Central Champs. Seattle took round one yesterday, as the Tigers continued to reel.

Today’s game (Saturday) is THE highlight, with Felix Hernandez squaring off against new Tigers ace David Price. That matchup is a get-your-popcorn-and-beverage-and-don’t-move-from-the-couch classic on paper.

It is, as they used to say, nut-cutting time.

Despite their offensive torpor for most of the season, the Mariners are now tied for “the lead” for the second wildcard spot. Many critics, like yours truly, didn’t think their offense could sustain their pitching and they’d fall out of the race. Here they are, though, and their goal is simple. Score four runs a game.¬† Achieving that seeming simple task (the league AVERAGE team scores 4.24 runs per game) portends victory; the M’s are 49-10 when scoring four runs.

The recent Mariners hot streak has now propelled them to an average runs per game of 3.97, as former millstones Dustin Ackley, Kendrys Morales and Logan Morrison have become productive. Ackley hit .365 with an .892 OPS in July, and still has an OPS+ under 100. So that should tell you how effective he was in the beginning of the year.

Seattle’s historic run prevention means they just need league average run production to excel – right now they’re doing that. They’re harvesting at just the right time.

The Tigers, proclaimed LORD GOD KING WINNERS OF THE TRADING DEADLINE QED, are (insert clever metaphor about a sinking ship or some other disaster). They made a mistake in thinking their competition was really Oakland in the ALCS, when instead they forgot they had to GET to the playoffs in order to beat Oakland and get to the World Series. Sure, they’ve had some key players get injured (Verlander, Sanchez and Soria all have owies), but they gambled to get the ace (Price) and not solidify their entire roster. Which means now, in the middle of a pennant race, tjhey have to trust guys like Robby Ray, Nick Castellanos and Austin Romine.

The fruit of their early labors, which looked so tasty and ripe a couple of weeks ago, may be taken away.

These games mean more for Detroit, since they have a series in Tampa next before heading to Minnesota, while the M’s go to Philadelphia and Boston for their next series. Detroit has to have these two games, else Seattle could build on their lead when they face the geezzers and gimps this next week.

Still, this being baseball, anything could happen. Tonight’s game could be 14-12, the M’s could get swept by the putrescent pair next week and Detroit could re-assert itself after the weekend.

This weekend, though, is critical. The team that handles the pressure, and can gather those nuts wins will have the upper hand moving forward.

 

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August 9, 2014 at 2:05 am ET
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Hang On…Hang On Tight

zuninoEveryone hang on tight,¬† just to keep from being thrown to the wolves…

The pennant races in baseball are all nutty thanks to the second wildcard, and the nuttiest is the current cluster-flop in the American League.

Every team, except Oakland and perhaps the LA Angels, have some serious flaws, and of course one of aforementioned teams will have to win the wild card game to make the playoffs proper.

Right now, Kansas City is leading the pack for Wild Card #2, followed closely by Seattle and the Yanks at 1/2 game back, then Toronto at 1 1/2 games behind. Cleveland and Tampa Bay are long¬† shots, but at 5 and 5 1/2 games behind Kansas City, they’re certainly not out of it.

But do those teams really scare anyone?

Oakland and the Angels are seemingly solid from top to bottom (with only the bottom half of LA’s pitching staff being suspect). Nobody wants to play them in the playoffs.

Baltimore is in good shape in the AL East, mainly due to some good luck in that the rest of the East is flaky, and their pitching is pretty darn solid. But their offense has some cancer bats in it (Schoop, Lough, Flaherty) and two other guys (Hardy and Davis) that aren’t hitting near what they could or should. That pitching isn’t spectacular, it’s just…good.

Detroit made a BIG MCLARGE HUGE SPLASH in getting David Price. However, they didn’t shore up their bullpen, where the Joe Nathan Festival of Nausea reigns supreme. Plus, JD Martinez can’t sustain this production for much longer, can he? If he doesn’t, then the Tigers are going to struggle to score runs and as good as Price, Scherzer, and company can be, counting on winning 1-0 and 2-1 isn’t a guarantee for success.

Then there are the potential Wild Card #2 teams. The Mariners haven’t been able to score runs until this past week. Dustin Ackley’s been out of his mind of late and is still just at league average. While rookie Chris Taylor has helped at short, the vaunted pickups of Kendrys Morales and Chris Denorfia have struggled, just like me trying to spell Denorfia the first time through. Scoring is still going to be an issue going forward.

KC’s offense isn’t as bad as Seattle’s, only because the Royals don’t have anyone as heinous as the worst of the Mariners hitters. They have no power, and I don’t know if I can trust some of their rotation over the long haul of these last two months. The bullpen, though, has been incredible. (Wade Davis?!?!?!)¬† It makes you wonder the juggernaut the Tigers could be with the Royals pen.

The Yankees have made a lot of moves and skeeterd back into contention. Is it enough? They’re a true over-the-hill gang saddled up for one last ride and have gotten some good performances from some retread pitchers (McCarthy and Capuano, hello!) They could easily creak ahead, or their offensive could fall apart totally like Derek Jeter’s defense. Oh, that fell apart in the 90’s? Well, then.

Then there’s Toronto. I mean, the hell? Yes, injuries have hurt them, but they should have enough offense to club¬† their way past Baltimore. Their pitching’s not THAT had and they definitely had the means to take a bigger lead before the owies happened. Yet here they are, struggling along and having to play guys like Josh Thole, Steven Tolleson and Danny Valencia in key situations.

So we’ve got a cluster bomb here. Of the five AL teams to make the playoffs, three of them are going to have some gaping weaknesses and a team that may be only the 8th or 9th best team in the league may make the post season because of luck, dumb luck, schedule, and happenstance. Just like you draw it up!

Baseball, being like it is, that team will probably win the World Series. They all might be giants when it comes to the randomness of baseball.

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July 26, 2014 at 6:43 pm ET
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Just What Is the Optimal Staff Size? Part One: The Travers Game.

traversWhile researching the Oquist Game, I found that the last pitcher before Mike Oquist to give up 14 runs in a game was Bill Travers. I remembered him and looked up the game and his career. When I did, a whole new set of questions and ponderings entered my head about pitching staffs, abuse, and how many pitchers do you really need on a staff.

Pitching staffs have changed dramatically from ye olden days to modern times, where at times managers have more pitchers on the active roster than position players. This causes a whole series of lineup and staff management issues, and a lot of consternation when those manglers wind up using up all of their position players AND still run out of pitchers in a game even with a bloated staff.

But in the mid-70’s, after the AL instituted the DH, things were a wee bit different as you can see by running through the Travers game.

In 1977, Bill Travers was in his fourth big-league season, and was coming off of an All-Star year in 1976. just 24, he endured a heavy workload after being a swingman for his first two years. He also missed almost the entire 1973 minor league season recovering from arm surgery. The workload of 1976 may have taken its toll in 1977, as he pitched just two games between May 12 and August 2nd. His third start after his long DL stint was August 14, the second game of a double header. He was pitching on four days rest. To that point, despite the DL stint, his numbers were pretty decent (4-5, 3.45) but his control was a bit off as he walked 37 in the 73 innings he pitched to that point, while fanning just 34.

The Brewers were in Cleveland for a double header, and 16,590 fans actually showed up to watch these teams duke it out for fifth place in the AL East. The Indians won the first game of the DH 12-4 as the Tribe plastered Jim Slaton and relief ace Bill Castro (who pitched 3 2/3 mop up innings) for nine runs in the fifth.

Milwaukee as abominable on offense that year, which is weird because their 1978 resurgence started with their offense. Manager Alex Grammas lost Sixto Lezcano for about a month and had to play guys like Jim Wohlford, Von Joshua, Jamie Quirk (who hit like a shortstop yet was their DH), and Lenn Sakata way too much. They’d have to win with pitching. Travers was one of their key guys.

Was.

It didn’t start out well for Bill that day. Cleveland plated two in the first on an Andre Thornton home run and five more in the second as Travers was pilloried about, with the capper being a Thornton triple. It was 7-0 after two. Now, a starter may be asked to get another inning or two at the most after that kind of performance. Not in 1977.

Cleveland scores two more in the fourth behind key hits by Bill Melton and Ron Pruitt. Travers trudges on, down 9-2, and has trouble in the sixth and seventh but gets out of it. It’s now the 8th, and he’s STILL in there.

Two singles and two walks score one run against him. Double, strikeout, and single make it 14-3. Does Grammas get him then? NO! Only after Frank Duffy doubles does the manager relent and put in Bob McClure who faces on batter.

Travers’ line:

7 2/3 18 14 14 4 4. 1 HBP.

Yes, he gave up 18 hits and four walks and hit a batter. 23 baserunners. He faced 45 batters.

Bill Travers wasn’t an economical pitcher. He had relatively high walk totals for his era and hit a lot of batters, too. But 45 batters? At four pitches a batter, that’s at least 180 pitches.

Alex Grammas let a young All-Star pitcher that had arm surgery in his past and had missed 2 1/2 months with arm trouble that season throw about 180 pitches.

Needless to say, Travers was toast for the rest of 1977. He made seven more starts, and went 0-6 with an 6.37 ERA.¬† As for his career, Bill came back to around league average performance for three years, signed a four year deal with the Angels in 1981, and then had more arm issues in 1981 and threw just 42 innings during that contract. While this one game can’t be THE cause of his issues, because pitchers do get hurt, it couldn’t have helped any. It certainly affected his 1977 performance, and the performance of the Brewers the rest of 1977, since one of the guys they were counting on to keep them in games was totally wrecked.

How does this tie into the size of pitching staffs?

The 1977 Brewers used 13 pitchers – total. That’s it. 13.

Now, that’s not totally unheard of- as the 1976 Tigers used just 12 and other teams didn’t yo-yo pitchers up and down like they do now. But of those 13 pitchers, two (Rich Folkers and Barry Cort) threw just 30 2/3 innings between them and were basically fill-ins while Travers was hurt. Mike Caldwell was a mid-season pickup from the Reds to also make up for Travers’ absence. Gary Beare was up and down as well. So even though the grand total was 13, the actual number was less. Now, teams can use 13 pitchers in a three game series if they use their DFAs and minor league options judiciously.

Basically, the Brewers had a nine-man staff, and just a four man bullpen. Castro, Sam Hinds (a rookie that basically just mopped up), McClure and Eduardo Rodriguez, who was also the swingman. Rodriguez pitched 142+ innings in 42 appearances, including five starts. In this game, Castro was out because he threw in game one, and Rodriguez had to start in another double header two days prior in place of Moose Haas, so he was out. The day before, Hinds threw one inning in relief of Caldwell, so he was supposedly fresh. Well, as fresh as you can be in mid-August.

So yeah, the Brewers had two pitchers ready to relieve Travers, but chose not to until he had already thrown an amount of pitches that would make Rany Jazayerli and Will Carroll froth at the mouth. The end result was that Milwuakee stunk, Grammas was fired, and George Bamberger (and some key free agents) molded the team into the Brew Crew that terrorized AL pitchers.

Nine men seemed like a very short staff, and it was. In the early DH days, managers shortened the staffs because they thought they could keep their starters in longer since they didn’t need to pinch hit for the pitcher. Earl Weaver used to break camp with just eight pitchers and added one or two after April, when the off days were fewer. But Earl Weaver also knew how to break in young pitchers and specialized in pitchers that threw strikes and didn’t mess around. If you don’t throw a lot of pitches per batter, you can pitch a lot more innings. But 8-and-9 man staffs assumed that your top guys could go deep every game and not break down. A lot of these pitchers couldn’t handle it, but in the epoch before real sports medicine pitchers toughed it out, lest they be made fun of like Steve Barber in Ball Four. Too often, it was too late.

It wasn’t until Billy Martin wrecked the young A’s arms in the early 80’s did¬† teams really move to larger staffs with more judicious use of relievers and a lot less emphasis on complete games. Ten man staffs were regular, then it moved to eleven with the advent of dedicated one-inning wonders as ‘closers’. Offense began to dominate, and teams had to add more and more pitchers. Then uber-hyper specialzation became the vogue and now we have times where 13 pitchers make up the active 25-man roster. That’s just too many.

In the second part of this easay, coming soon, I’ll try to find what the optimal number of pitchers are, and what KIND of pitchers you need to make up an optimal staff that also allows you to make the most of each of your roster spots.

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July 24, 2014 at 12:56 am ET
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It Ain’t All Pitching & Defense

broken bat

I know I’ve done a post like this earlier, but today, the OPS+of the lineup Seattle put out against the Mets, in order:

82

85

141

138

78

79

86

70

28

I’ll let you decide which ones are Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager.

A few days ago, noted clouter Stefan Romero hit cleanup for the Mariners when Cano had to take a day off. His OPS+ is 58.

Pitching and good defense can keep you in games, but in order to win games, you need to score more than 8 runs total in a three-game series against the New York Mets.

Next up is Baltimore – who are not the Mets in any way, shape or form.

 

 

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July 11, 2014 at 1:50 am ET
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One Game – NY Yankees @ Oakland; August 3, 1998

oquistTonight, Colby Lewis of the Texas Rangers gave up 13 runs against the Angels.

That’s also known as an “Oquist”.

Sure, many pitchers before this date have given up double digits of runs. In ye olden days, pitchers gave up 15 or 20 runs in an entire game, because bullpens were for sissies and liquor was cheap.

But since the advent of relief pitching and managerial sanity, not many have had the luxury of being pelted around the yard for a 10-spot, much less 13 or more. Hitting that magic number of 13 – that’s an Oquist.

Monday night, August 3, 1998, was one of those nights. Mike Oquist was and thanks to ESPN radio and the internet’s reach, it became a touchstone.

The Yankees rolled into Oakland with a 77-28 record to face the first Billy Beane’s A’s team. Orlando Hernandez was taking the hill for the Yanks, facing failed Orioles prospect Oquist in a game that on paper was a mismatch. In real life…it was too.

Oakland had the building block for their early 2000’s offense in place, and they had Rickey! leading off. They could score runs. They were 50-60 because they could not pitch. No, that’s not strong enough. They COULD.NOT.PITCH. Oquist was the #4 starter behind Kenny Rogers, on his last legs Tom Candiotti, and another failed prospect, Jimmy Haynes. Blake Stein, yes, THE Blake Stein, was the #5 starter. That was a starting rotation, besides Rogers, that was between rancid and putrescent.

The pen was Billy Taylor as the closer and a whole bunch of guys like TJ Mathews, Mike Fetters, Tim Worrell, and Mike Mohler backing him up. Not exactly top shelf. The A’s basically had to try to ourscore everyone, in the worst offensive park in the league. Ick.

So out comes Oquist, with an ERA nearing six, facing an absolutely loaded Yankees team. Lovely.

Chuck Knoblauch leads off the game by rocketing a double down the left field line. Derek Jeter follows with a double to the gap in right center. It’s 1-0 before anyone could have a second beer. No more damage is done in the first though, and Oquist moved on to the second.

All around bad guy Chad Curtis singles to lead off the second. He steals second and then Jorge Posada walks. Scott Brosius hits a grounder to short that Miguel Tejada barely gets to, then throws wild. It’s an infield hit and Curtis scores on the throw, making it 2-0. Knoblauch then rockets a 3-1 pitch one over the fence in the power alley in right, making it 5-0. Jeter singles to deep short, then Paul O’Neill sends one over the left field fence.

It’s 7-0 with no one out in the second; it gets worse.

Bernie Williams doubles to right. Tino Martinez singles to left scoring Bernie. It’s 8-0. Is anyone warming up in the A’s pen? I don’t think so; they had to use their bullpen a lot in the past few days and the starter on Tuesday is the immortal Jay Witacek. Oquist is going to have to take the heat, as it were.

Oakland scores a run on a Matt Stairs homer, but that only made the Yanks mad. Brosius leads off the third with another infield hit, and Knoblauch swats another round tripper to make it 10-1. Not a bad start for Chuck – 10 total bases in three at bats!

Oquist calms down a bit, getting two outs sandwiched around an O’Neill single. Tino drives in O’Neil though,and then DARRRRYL! smacks a home run and it’s 13-1 after three.

Here’s where ESPN Radio and the internet comes into play. I played softball in my hometown, but I lived 45 minutes away near Indianapolis. We had the late game on Monday night so I was on the road near my house when I got the AM radio signal for the ESPN affiliate ESPN radio was still kind of a new thing and it was still a bit novel to have Sportscenter on the radio and not the TV. I heard the hosts talking about the games in progress and they said something like “The Yanks are in Oakland, and I can’t believe Mike Oquist is coming out for the fourth inning.” For about three minutes, they went on about how incredible it was that he was still in the game, and it wasn’t for another minute that they actually gave the score.

I was in my neighborhood when the game went to the fifth. Oquist somehow got the Yanks out without scoring a run in the fourth, but it was still 13-1. One of the announcers, Chuck Wilson maybe (it’s lost to the sands of time, really), said “It’s Bang the Bum Slowly in Oakland, and Mike Oquist is out there again for more punishment.” I was just fascinated by this, as were the radio yakkers, as were others around the nation just wondering why the A’s were doing this to one of their starters in this day and age.

It was relatively quick in the fifth, but it wasn’t a goose egg. A walk, a single and a double play ball netted the Yanks run number 14. Oquist got the third out, and finally Art Howe made a move to the bullpen.

The line for Oquist?

5 16 14 14 3 3

Of course, I was curious about this game, and thanks to the internet I could see it kinda sorta unfold; or at least the box score could be updated. Fans around the nation logged onto their AOL or other ISP accounts to ESPN to see the score. Instead of waiting for the box score to show up two days from now (if at all, since late night west coast games were never in the morning paper and their late scores were never guaranteed to run), we could see it in all of its glory either that night, or in the next morning. We didn’t have to wait for Jayson Stark’s Rumblings & Grumblings to appear in Baseball America. We saw it ‘live’ and then we went to message boards or on ICQ to talk about the wacky Oakland game – as it happened. That was novel.

Nothing else really happened in the game. It lasted just 2:38 and I think maybe 50 people were left in the stands in the ninth inning. It wasn’t really the end for Oquist, either. He finished the year in Oakland and was part of their rotation most of 1999 despite his 6.22 ERA in 1998.¬† In 1999, though, Beane’s younger pitchers were starting to arrive, and at the end of that season Oquist was jettisoned never to pitch in the bigs again.

Since then, we’ve had the Vin Mazzaro game, the Jason Marquis game, and now the Colby Lewis game. We can all look them up, witness them as they happen, and now we can mock and cringe on Twitter as it happens. But games like tonight for Lewis will always be an Oquist. Mike wasn’t the first one it happened to and obviously he won’t be the last. But he was the first one interactive one, in it’s own quaint, retro way.

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July 3, 2014 at 8:32 pm ET
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For Reals?

james jonesAs I write this, the day before Independence Day, the Mariners are 47-38 and sitting firmly in the second wild card spot in the American League.

This is a surprise to many, myself included. I had no reason to think that Seattle would contend for the playoffs. I thought .500 was a reasonable goal. The main reason was that their offense, horrific for this entire decade, would remain dormant even with Robinson Cano.

Sure, they had the pitching, but when Taijuan Walker and James Paxton went¬† down early, I thought they’d have to rely too much on a bullpen that had some *interesting* characters. Plus, their defense wasn’t that stellar in the outfield and they didn’t really rectify that by adding to their endless collection of DH’s.

But here they stand. Baseball, though, is a long slog, and many teams have had a record this good only to falter. And the locals, while pleased that the M’s are actually winning a few, still seem a lot more excited by the Seahawks and the Sounders.

Are the Mariners for real?

Welp, it depends.

Their pitching is for real. The slump King Felix had early in the season was just a hiccup. Hisashi Iwakuma may not have all-star stuff anymore, but he’s doing well enough. Chris Young hasn’t gotten hurt, which is a bonus. Roenas Elias has done better than expected, with an ERA+ barely under 100 (thanks park effects!) and, more importantly, an ability to keep the M’s IN games. Only the fifth starter spot has been troublesome, but Walker is back off the DL so Erasmo Ramierz and Brandon Maurer can go light up the sky in Tacoma.

The bullpen has been tremendous – better than anyone expected. Fernando Rodney hasn’t imploded. Tom Wilhelmsen has recovered, seemingly. And the rest of the crew, including Lord Farquahr, has done their job.

They have the best ERA in the AL, which can be expected with Safeco. But their team ERA+ is 117, so it’s not all park effects.

As for their offense…

Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano have done what’s been expected of them, and more. Seager has moved beyond ‘good’ player to knocking on the door of ‘elite’, with a SLG of .500 despite Safeco. Michael Saunders is having a good year and it would be better if he could stay healthy. Of course, Saunders has had good years before, and he’s had good half seasons, and he’s also been absolutely dreadful in stretches. So the juries out there.

James Jones was called up when Abraham Almonte couldn’t hack it as a regular, and he’s FAST. So fast. So, so fast. His OPS+ is under 100 though because he’s not walked a lot. He wasn’t going to be a slugger, so he NEEDS to walk to be a good player. Still, there is hope if he could develop patience that he could become a good lead off man.

Mike Zunino has an OPS+ over 100 and has 13 dingers. He’s developed a bit faster than expected.

So if Saunders keeps it up (knock on wood) and Jones improves his plate discipline, that’s five plus offensive players.

Five out of nine.

Not good.

Logan Morrison’s been hurt, and he’s been on a hot streak, but an OPS+ of 104 for a guy that you just pay to hit isn’t good. The other outfielders have ranged from meh (Dustin Ackley) to dreadful (Stefen Romero). Corey Hart’s been hurt and not hitting. Justin Smoak’s hurt and not hitting. Brad Miller’s hit poor enough to have Willie F’n Bloomquist spot start for him and have fans clamor for Brendan Ryan to come back. (Come back, Brendan! All is forgiven!)¬† In fact, WFB has played FIRST BASE on occasion.

WFB! First baseman!

There’s no other help available, not when your bench has John Buck, Endy Chavez (he’s a ZOMBIE, I swear!) and Cole Gillespie. Almonte’s¬† not hitting in Tacoma. Nick Franklin and Jesus Montero were bad in Seattle, making them candidates for the dreaded AAAA player label.

Somehow, they’re 8th in the league in scoring thanks to some timely bops. I attribute that to luck, since they’re DEAD LAST in OBP.

And while their defense hasn’t been stellar on some metrics, they don’t commit errors and Seager is an excellent 3B. Ackley’s really good in LF, too.

Right now, they’re getting by on great pitching and a little luck. Is that enough going forward?

I don’t think so, not entirely. You can win with pitching and some defense, but you have to have a lineup that doesn’t rely on two players driving in a fast guy that’s still learning the game and a guy that’s puts the merc in mercurial.

Enjoy it now, Seattle, though. Savor it. Winning baseball is something that shouldn’t be sneered at. Not even by Eeyorian bloggers.

 

 

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June 15, 2014 at 10:58 am ET
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Buy Dad a Baseball Team: OOTP 15

screen1You love baseball. Your dad probably loved baseball.

And you learned to complain and kvetch about baseball from your dad.

“I could run this team better with my eyes glued shut,” he probably said, as the Jack & Coke slid down his gullet.

Well, this Father’s Day, ask your dad to prove it!

Out of the Park Baseball 15 is the computer game for all of you baseball geeks who think they know better. Probably because they know better.

Those of you who know OOTP know that you can start from this current major league season, or a season in the past, or as a manager in Rookie League, and build a team and / or your career into world domination. And if you get fired for running a team like the 1930’s Phillies, then you can always hit the reset button.

This year, the geniuses behind OOTP have made a lot of enhancements. One of which is adding a plethora of international leagues so you can REALLY have world domination. “I will build the best team ever in the Netherlands, and then it’s Taiwan, and then the WORLD!” Another is adding 3D elements to the game (which, for me personally, I can live without because I’m all about simple game play.)

You can choose to manage (or micromanage) each game in a season, or set it up so the computer does that for you. You can choose to run your minor league system or have the computer do that for you. You can choose how hands on you want to be. You can choose to play against other seamheads and stat nuts and lapsed APBA and Strat players worldwide.

You manage the finance side as well. It’s your call to offer extensions and manage budgets. Some owners will spend, spend, spend, and some make the late period Montreal Expos seem like the Yankees.

What you can’t choose, sadly, is the randomness that is baseball. Players get hurt. Players go on slumps. Players hate you. But at least you can try to trade them.

There are so many options, so many features, so many ways to play, that you can’t go wrong with this game.

Me, I started with the current year for the Mariners and tried to make sensible deals. I said no to Logan Morrison, Endy Chavez, and John Buck, and well, I’m hanging in there. I don’t bunt, don’t over-specialize the bullpen, and make sure I don’t waste outs. Still, I’m not dominating because…

It’s baseball.

OOTP 15 is available here for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Buy it for Dad, but don’t tell him to put up or shut up…

Today…

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June 1, 2014 at 11:13 am ET
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17 Outfielders I’d Rather Have on the Mariners over Endy Chavez

In case you didn’t know, the Mariners called up Endy Chavez from Tacoma on Friday because, well, Cole Gillespie isn’t enough of an offensive juggernaut!

Chavez is a nice guy, but he’s a slappys slappy and he can’t really play center anymore, and you really want a slappy playing a corner, right?

In thinking about this odd turn of events (Why Chavez? Why not LoMo? Montero? Almonte?) I thought, heck, lets jump on the listicle trend.

So, I present to you¬† 17 outfielders that may be available that I’d rather have on the Mariners than Endy Chavez.

1. Abraham Almonte

2. Jabari Blash

3. Xavier Avery

4. Greg Briley

5. Ruppert Jones

6. Mickey Brantley

7. Rich Amaral

8. Darren Bragg

9. Leon Roberts

10. Brian Turang

11. Quinn Mack

12. Mike Kingery

13. Leroy Stanton

14. Darnell Coles

15. Rod Craig

16. Carlos Lopez

17. Steve Hovley

 

 

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May 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm ET
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Is It Time to Be Worried about King Felix?

Normally, you wouldn’t worry about a pitcher with an ERA+ of 124 and a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) figure of 2.48. He’s getting work done!

Except if that pitcher is Felix Hernandez, and you look at the trajectory of his last few starts.

The Mariners are a surprising 20-21 (I say surprising because their offense teeters between heinous and non-existent on a daily basis) and despite push-button managing from Lloyd McClendon and a lack of production from their shortstops and outfielders (save Dustin Ackley!), and an abject refusal to get on base on a daily basis (last in OBP in the AL), they seem to be an improved club.

On the surface, Felix is a big part of it. But below the surface, there’s concern. Now, it’s not quite fear and loathing, yet. We’re not scheduling surgery yet. Yet consider, if you will…

The first four starts of the season: 28 1/3 innings, 7 runs,¬† 18 hits, 3 walks, 39K’s. That’s dominance.

The last FIVE starts: 31 innings, 20 runs,¬† 36 hits, 9 walks, 21 K’s. That’s a #4 or #5 starter.

(Don’t say that only 14 of those 20 runs were earned. Did they count on the scoreboard? Is it Felix’s job to prevent runs from scoring? Yes and yes. QED.)

His last start was confounding. He threw the most pitches of the season (111) and was dominant for a while. But then he tired out and gave up eight hits and four runs in 6 2/3. Sure he had words with the PCL ump who was behind home plate. Yet he didn’t walk anyone, and hits and runs count the same no matter how bad the ump show is.

What’s more telling is that his line drive percentage is 31% over his last five starts. They’re hitting him hard when they make outs.

It’s been documented that his fastball has lost oomph. Yet he still can be dominant and overpowering because of how he uses his pitches and keeps the batter off kilter.

Each pitcher has a stretch we’re he’s merely ordinary or worse. Justin Verlander has stretches of mortality, and then snaps out of it. So perhaps this is just part of the normal ebb and flow.

The Mariners need to be concerned though. Their whole plan was for Felix and Iwakuma to steady the staff until their aresenal of young arms can assert themselves, and use a dominant pitching staff to get into contention in 2015. That staff was going to be led by King Felix.

That plan doesn’t work if he puts up Chris Young numbers, though.

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