An Assortment Of Thoughts

Note: if you missed it, check out Matthew's July pitcher report card below.

When the Ms. is gone, I need things to do, and tonight my thing to do is write.

  • The Mariners are approaching a dicey situation, where Felix Hernandez only has two remaining years of team control after this one and will be in line for a big pay raise in the winter. It's a situation that could've been avoided had the team earlier signed him to an extension, but as much as Bavasi liked to say "it takes two to tango" (implying that he was open to an extension but Felix was not), the blame for this shouldn't fall on Felix's camp. Felix has always been open to signing an extension with the Mariners. Always. And Bavasi approached him and his agent on a handful of occasions. Bavasi, however, lowballed him with offers to buy out his arbitration years and get options for his first few years of free agency. It would be one thing if Felix turned down reasonable contracts, but Bavasi got frustrated because Felix wouldn't sign for pennies on the dollar. Don't get mad at Felix. Every player deserves the right to a fair contract. It's Bavasi's fault our ace never got one.

  • Mark Lowe through June 25th: 61% strikes, 8% swinging strikes, 1.7 K/BB
    Mark Lowe since June 28th: 63% strikes, 12% swinging strikes, 4.0 K/BB

    I've said a lot of negative things about Mark Lowe this year, mostly lamenting the fact that his results weren't matching his excellent stuff, but lately he's picked it up a notch and turned himself into a reliable late-inning arm. While he's not getting hitters to chase a lot of balls, and it's only a sample size of 15.2 innings, this is an encouraging bit of progress. 

  • Jose Lopez is up to a .767 OPS with a .277 BABIP. He hits the worst home runs on the team, but homers are homers, and he's starting to look like a little bit of a power hitter. For as down as some people were on Lopez last winter, now I'm seeing him as a bargain. A bargain who could top out at any moment, but a bargain nonetheless.

  • A few times I've described Jack Hannahan as a hitter whose overall value is less than the sum of his parts. When you watch him hit, he looks really good, and it's only when you see his numbers that you realize how much of a problem he really is. That said, he's at .264/.344/.415 since coming over from Oakland, and if I didn't know any better I'd almost suggest that he's halfway decent. In a way it's almost too bad that Beltre's going to be back so soon, because I feel like, who knows, maybe when a hitter has the fundamentals down like Hannahan seems to, things can just click overnight.

  • A little while ago I decided to run through what PITCHf/x information we have on Luke French's five big league starts. Here's what I came up with after a little tinkering:
    Pitch %Thrown %Strike %SwS
    Fastball 60.6 63.0 3.8
    Slider 25.6 74.1 28.6
    Change 13.7 50.0 8.3
    Now, you should know that the sample size on this stuff is pretty small. Only a total of 437 pitches in there. But what we can tell is that French's big money pitch is his slider, and his fastball is pretty bad. We'll see on the change. I'm not comfortable jumping to conclusions based on an n of 60, and given that French posted a 4.2 K/BB against AAA righties earlier this year, I imagine his change is better than these numbers make it look. But who knows.

    It's both interesting and encouraging to see French having such good results on his slider early on, because that's the pitch that's made all the difference between the Luke French of before and the Luke French of 2009. French didn't really throw a slider for a while. He only started throwing it in late 2008, and previously his K/9 in the minors had stabilized around the low- to mid-5's. He was even eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this past offseason and didn't get selected. By throwing the slider and becoming comfortable with it, though, French was able to push his K/9 in AAA up to 7.9 before getting promoted. So while his performance this year looks anomalous, there's a reason for it. French picked up a new pitch, and it turned him into a legitimate pitcher.

    I'm looking forward to seeing him. My expectations aren't high, and he has a really low ceiling, but I think he can succeed here, and I think he can succeed here for a long time.

  • I mentioned this in the game thread yesterday, but Jack Wilson has the same problem as me, where the goatee part of his beard is visibly thicker than the rest. It sounds stupid but once you notice it the first time it's all you can see in the mirror. It's annoying. We just want to be even. Now my beard's pretty thick, and I think he's got it a little worse, but it's more than a little disconcerting when you realize that part of your face looks like part of Jack Wilson's.

  • I'm going to take off my sabermetric hat for a minute and put it down on the desk. Today we saw Chris Shelton get DFA'd to make roster room for Luke French while Mike Sweeney remained on the team. Shelton, of course, is the better hitter of the two. I don't think there's really any question. Sweeney's got a .287 wOBA on the year and he doesn't have much in the way of home run power, while Shelton's come in at .391 in Tacoma with a dozen dingers. When you have a roster spot dedicated to a straight-up right-handed bat, you'd think the right move would be to give that spot to the best option available.

    However, as far as this move is concerned, I'm on the team's side, and for three reasons:

    (1) In terms of competing for the playoffs, the season is over
    (2) Shelton is 29 years old and not a prospect
    (3) Sweeney is rather obviously one of, if not the most well-liked player on the team

    Because of point #1, it doesn't really matter who's better, because wins now are less important than they would've been two or three months ago. And because of point #2, there's no reason to treat Shelton like some sort of great unknown or valuable youngster with a bright future with the team. He's a known entity and he's not about to get any better.

    So we're left with point #3. I know in the past I've come down hard on people who've made a big deal out of clubhouse chemistry, but this is a different and specific situation. Keep Shelton and DFA Sweeney and there's no real benefit. You might score an extra two or three runs over the rest of the year, but that's it, and those runs aren't going to get you much. Maybe a meaningless win. By DFA'ing Sweeney, though, you're left having to explain to the team why you just got rid of everyone's best friend. Sweeney occupies a central role in the Mariner clubhouse. I think that much is pretty clear. And I guarantee you - I guarantee you - that if the team cut Sweeney, the players wouldn't understand. They wouldn't understand, and they'd be upset.

    My position on clubhouse chemistry is the same as that of a bunch of other people - given two players, with all other things being equal, you pick the guy who's more likable. Because, while we can't evaluate the effect of chemistry, there's no reason to go against it if you don't have to. Here, there's no reason to go against it. Here, all other things are pretty much equal. Because the tangible production we get out of this particular roster spot no longer means anything. I don't want to see Mike Sweeney in a Mariner uniform in 2010 - and the same goes for Junior - but for these final two months of 2009, I have absolutely no problem with keeping them around. They're going to do more good than harm.
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