In God we trust. Everybody else needs data. - Rick Peterson

Saturday, June 26, 2004


The eyes are open, the mouth moves, but Mr. Brain is gone

This is the Mariners idea of a big offensive upgrade??? I have no problem trading Meche for useful players. But to think about Inge for his offensive potential?? Did the FO learn nothing from Ben Davis?? Ben Davis at least showed a few sustained flashes of promise as he progressed through the minor leagues.

Except for 58 games in AAA ball, divided between two years, Inge has never shown anything with his bat prior to this year. Here are Inge's career MLB numbers:
Year  Age   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS 

2001 24 189 .180 .215 .238 .453
2002 25 321 .202 .266 .333 .599
2003 26 330 .203 .265 .339 .604
2004 27 164 .305 .376 .494 .870
Inge is 27 now, so there's no reason to expect that he is going to get better, and every reason to believe he will quickly revert to the offensive black hole he's been throughout all of his career.

To even think that Inge is a reasonable option to provide "offensive pop" is simply stunning.

I think I've got to join Jeff in getting away for a bit.

(And a thanks to BlackAdder II for the title on this post.)

Friday, June 25, 2004


Something Old, Something New. Something Borrowed, Something Blue.

Something Old
    Once again, the game is over and the Mariners dugout is empty, save for Freddy Garcia. Freddy is still sitting in the dugout, in the same place he sat during the ninth inning, And he's visibly disgusted. We've seen this before.
Something New
    Bocachica makes the final out of the game getting caught too far off third base after advancing on an infield single. About the time we think we've seen it all, the Mariners find a new way to lose a game.
Something Borrowed
    Announced attendance at Safeco tonight was 40,918. Does anyone else think Mariners attendance is on borrowed time?
Something Blue
    Mariner fans everywhere. And it's not the apparel from the team store.


Did Beltran Set the Market?

Reports on what KC picked up for Beltran are mixed, but it's clear that KC did not obtain even one front-line player or top grade prospect. Perhaps Allard Baird did not play his hand well, but more likely the market for front-line players in their walk years isn't as strong as a lot of people think. Will the Mariners overplay their hand in trade discussions for Freddy Garcia?


storming a castle with a fleet of sword-brandishing midgets on Vespas

Jeff at Leone for Third provides the best image yet of Mariners impotence:
The baseball equivalent of storming a castle with a fleet of sword-brandishing midgets on Vespas …
Touché, Jeff!

Of course, since Prince Bavalium believes the Mariners are in a pennant race, he's telling us, "'tis but a scratch".:

black knight with one leg


Catching Up with Conor

With the dearth of solid position prospects in the Mariners organization, I thought I would check in again on Conor Jackson. Jackson is the player that the Arizona Diamondbacks selected with the compensation draft pick they received from the Mariners when the Mariners signed Greg Colbrunn. And since we traded Colbrunn and $$$ for McCracken, consider that McCracken is the player the Mariners deemed more valuable than Jackson,

Jackson is playing high-A ball with the Diamondback's California League affiliate, the Lancaster Jethawks. Here is Jackson's line through the first 73 games:
Games   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG

67 258 .345 .438 .562
Reduce those numbers some because Lancaster is one of the most hitter friendly parks in the minor leagues. Even with discounting, though, Jackson is a solid prospect of exactly a type lacking in the Mariners systes.

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Nearing the End of the Road

Edgar Martinez has the following career batting line:

.315 .423 .525
This year his production is off greatly from those career numbers - through today's game in Texas his line for the year is:

.246 .339 .390
That's a pretty significant drop.

In looking at Edgar's splits, though, his production has declined disproportionately against right handed pitching. The table below shows Edgar's splits against left and right handed for the last three seasons and for his career.

Edgar Martinez Batting Splits vs. RHP and LHP
vs. Left Handed Pitchingvs. Right Handed Pitching

Through his career Edgar has batted pretty effectively against both left and right handed pitching, with some preference for left handed pitching. In recent years Edgar's production has declined, however. While Edgar is still very effective against left handed pitching, he's now pretty toothless against right handed pitching. Unfortunately, it looks as if it's time to start giving someone else more of the DH starts against right handed starters.

Given the current roster, Dave Hansen should get those at bats. But the player who really should be slotted in there is Bucky Jacobsen. (The Mariners should be marketing Hansen to teams looking for a dependable left handed pinch hitter.) Jacobsen appears to be one of those rare right-handed batters that hits right handers better than left-handers. Last January I was found some splits for Jacobsen from the 2002 and 2003 seasons:
             Versus LHP

----- ----- --- ----- ----- ----- ---- ----
2003 Tenn 87 0.276 0.586 0.13 0.23 0.55
2002 Nw Hvn 32 0.250 0.344 0.13 0.25 0.50
2002 Hntsvl 85 0.235 0.471 0.11 0.25 0.43
Total 204 0.255 0.500 0.12 0.24 0.49

Versus RHP
----- ----- --- ----- ----- ----- ---- ----
2003 Tenn 332 0.304 0.560 0.11 0.19 0.57
2002 Nw Hvn 70 0.314 0.600 0.07 0.24 0.29
2002 Hntsvl 113 0.265 0.496 0.12 0.18 0.65
Total 515 0.297 0.551 0.10 0.19 0.54
Based on those data, Jacobsen would seem be a good platoon partner with Edgar in the DH role. If anyone has splits for Jacobsen for this year in Tacoma, pass them along and I'll get them posted here.


Shoutouts and New Links

Welcome to a couple of new additions to the Mariners blogosphere.
  • At Brain Droppings my namesake, Stephen, posts about whatever he's thinking about, and it frequently involves baseball and the Mariners.

  • Your Thoughts Exactly has contributions on a variety of mostly sports topics, again frequently involving the Mariners.
I've also added sidebar links for these sites.

Other recent additions to the sidebar include Petco Padres, Halodiary (Anaheim Angels), Batters Box (Blue Jays and some Expos), and Traveling Expos.

Blog On!


More Winnie Pooh

On the radio broadcast, Niehaus flatly said that Fullmer should have been out at home in the 9th inning, but Winn's throw wasn't on target. Rizzs at first said it would have been a close play, but then reluctantly concurred with Niehaus. It must have been hard for Rizzs to say that.


VORP? Gulp!!

Rick at Mariner Bullpen looks at the current Mariners lineup in comparison with Value over Replacement Player (VORP), and also looks at projected impacts on team offense by promoting some players from Tacoma. It's worth checking, as Rick's review quickly and easily shows the problems with the current lineup. The data also further make one wonder what a position player in the minors has to do to get considered for a promotion, and how bad a veteran position player needs to be before the team would consider addressing the situation.

Rick comments:
But you can certainly see what the problem is with the Mariner offense: Only Ichiro, Ibanez, Hansen, Olerud and Bocachica are performing above replacement level at this point.
I don't think that statement fully conveys the ineptness that is Mariner. Note that the comparison with replacement level players, i.e., freely available fringe big leaguers. That's a lower standard than major league average.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


With All Deliberate Speed - Part 1. Talk, Talk

I was corresponding recently with Jeff Angus (of the excellent Management by Baseball blog) about the Mariners baffling unwillingness to promote some of the players from Tacoma who could contribute to the team's anemic offense. As I responded to Jeff I gathered some of my thoughts about the overall operating tenets of the Mariners front office. With Jeff's encouragement (and nagging), I'm getting those thoughts posted.

I'm breaking this missive into four separate posts. This introductory post describes the Mariners apparent core philosophy of making decisions deliberately and in strict adherence to plans. The second and third posts provide examples of Mariner operations that show that philosophy in action and inaction. The fourth post discusses why I share Jeff Shaw's opinion that Bavasi's job is not at all in jeopardy.

To start, I emphasize these postings are purely my interpretations and observations from a totally outside perspective. I have no inside contacts within the Mariners organization, I am not privy to any inside operating information, and I have not dumpster-dived at Safeco Field seeking carelessly discarded memos from Bavasi's desk. I am merely a fan on the outside, peering in through darkened glass windows, gleaning bits of information from the team's visible actions and statements.

The Mariners manage their baseball operations by setting and following overall courses of action, and steadfastly avoiding short-term actions that do not comport with the overall plans. Mariners' management resists making decisions under pressure, and if pressured, will make no decision rather than make a decision that might backfire. This philosophy undoubtedly originates in Lincoln's office (and perhaps with Yamauchi as well), and proceeds downward through all of the key operations personnel, including Bavasi and Melvin. This style, of course, is extremely cautious and risk averse; it's the management equivalent of a team offense dominated by batters who are high-contact hitters, low slugging average, and speedy on the base paths.

For convenience, I'm going to reference this approach as "deliberateness", and being aware of Mariner "deliberateness" aids my understanding of Mariner decision making. When I don't allow for this deliberateness, Mariner actions appear haphazard and totally unexplainable, but when I put them against that perspective, I can at least cloak them with some rationale. That doesn't mean I agree with the decisions; it simply means that I can better understand the basis for those decisions.

Let's look at how an organization that operates in this fashion responds when an established plan does not seem to be working. From my experience, organizations of this type adapt to change in three steps.
  1. Review the situation to verify that the plan is actually not working.

    This step avoids the "knee-jerk" reaction of discarding or changing a plan prematurely. Deviating or changing a plan is a serious effort, to be undertaken only after due deliberation.

  2. Modify or update the current plan.

    This effort can be trivial or complex, depending on what elements of the current plan have been called into question.

  3. Implement the modified plan.

    This is the only place where change is apparent outside the organization.
Organizations that operate with this deliberate style will typically go through all three of these steps in sequence when they revise plans.

Although the Mariners' deliberate approach has been evident for several years, the response to the team's poor performance this year adds a stark relief to those operating principles. We can see a glimpse of the Mariners decision making process in Howard Lincoln's recent comments concerning the need for change on the Mariners. Look at the following quote from that article:
Without getting into specifics, Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln said Thursday afternoon that changes are in the works for the struggling team.

"There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that I am not prepared to talk about, but we are obviously going to have to make some changes," he said. "The changes will be made in due course."

General manager Bill Bavasi apparently has received permission to pursue trades that could improve the team immediately and/or down the road. And money isn't an obstacle.

"Bill certainly has the financial flexibility he needs this year, and next year for that matter," Lincoln said.
Lincoln's comments show the deliberate philosophy in implementation. The team has decided changes are needed. There is activity going on, but the changes will be made in due course. Even though the need for change has been identified and initiated, changes will not be rushed.

Fans, for whom action exists only on the field, only see inaction. But note the difference in perspective from inside the organization. The Mariners see their background work as "lots of activity". When an organization operates with this deliberate philosophy, the mere process of reviewing and changing the plan is the "heavy lifting". Notice that the same situation occurs with the Mariners at every trade deadline. The Mariners management states, with straight face, that they have been very active, even though the roster changes have been only cosmetic. Fans see the lack of roster change. Management sees all of the work that they did just to be ready to make a change, and believe the fans don’t understand or appreciate the work they go through in reaching that point.

Again, I emphasize I am not defending the team's operating philosophy here; I'm merely trying to report what I observe. Personally, I think the deliberate operating model used by the Mariners is not an effective model for a team trying to win a championship. Properly implemented, the philosophy should enable a team to consistently perform at a high level, minimizing variations from the norm – i.e., to consistently be competitive. The deliberate operating style is sometimes a good model for a company trying to please private investors; it works best when a company's marketplace is well-defined and not highly dynamic. It's probably not a good model for a team trying to win a championship.

In my next post, I'll discuss the Mariners reluctance to call up players from Tacoma to bolster the team offense.

Links to all four With All Deliberate Speed posts:


With All Deliberate Speed - Part 2. Don't Bucky the Odds - Resistance is Futile

Despite the collapsing offense and abysmal performance so far in 2004, the Mariners have not promoted players from Tacoma to boost the team offense and to get them some exposure to big league pitching and competition. The Mariners failure to promote these players is almost totally baffling to outside observers. Players such as Justin Leone, Bucky Jacobsen, and A.J. Zapp are in their late 20's, they're putting up good numbers in AAA-ball, and they can fill roster spots on the big league club that are positions of weakness. Totally baffling to outside observers – that's a cue for "Mariner deliberateness" in action once again.

I can rationalize the Mariners' decisions and non-decisions regarding call-ups from Tacoma if I assume the Mariners have a plan describing the use and development of minor league talent. The plan dictates when they call someone up and whom they call up. Consistent with their deliberate approach, the Mariners do not allow circumstances of the big league club to greatly influence their plans of when and how to use the minor league talent. If there is a need on the big league club, and they have a minor leaguer slotted into the role but the plan doesn't say he's ready for a callup, he doesn't get called up. The team will go outside the organization and trade (e.g., Cabrera) before they will call up a Leone, for example, because the plan presumes that Leone has not yet demonstrated MLB readiness. And they will bring up a Santiago when Ibañez goes on the DL because the plans says that players such as Leone are "not ready".

Now let's consider the 40-man roster, the Mariners plans, and the implications for players such as Bucky Jacobsen and A.J. Zapp. Because neither Jacobsen nor Zapp is on the 40-man roster, promoting either of them involves exposing someone on the 40-man roster to waivers. The Mariners go through agonies every time they have to make a move on the 40-man roster, so presumably every player who is on the 40-man roster is there because he fita in with the Mariners future plans. Thus, promoting Jacobsen or Zapp means potentially losing someone who is in the Mariners future plans. If Jacobsen or Zapp were promoted, Ugueto and Santiago are the most likely candidates to be removed from the 40-man roster. But part of the Mariners current plan is to get "younger and more athletic", and both Ugueto and Santiago are "younger and more athletic". So, in the Mariners analysis bringing up Jacobsen or Zapp becomes a knee-jerk reaction to an immediate situation that detracts from the larger plan, i.e., it is precisely the type of action that adherence to a plan is supposed to prevent.

Right now it appears that the only chance for any Tacoma players to see significant time in the Big Leagues is if the Mariners decide this year is a bust, and the team decides to not even pretend that contending is a possibility. That causes the “contend in 2004” part of the program to be dropped, allowing new strategies to be developed. Even then, however, I think the Mariners will resist promoting Tacoma players who are deemed “not ready” for fear of irreparably damaging their self-confidence.

As nearly I can tell Jacobsen and Zapp have only a minimal chance of reaching the big leagues with the Mariners; they're just AAA roster filler. Their only hope is to perform so well as to force themselves into the Mariners plans, and even then they will have to wait until the Mariners complete other transactions (i.e., trading players off of the 40-man roster) to create room for them.

I also figure that shortly after I post the Mariners will bring up some Tacoma players and I will look like a fool. But if I don't post this nothing will happen. So I'll take one here for the team and for all the players in Tacoma who deserve a chance.

In my next post I'll discuss how other areas of team operations show the Mariners deliberate management approach.

Links to all four With All Deliberate Speed posts:


With All Deliberate Speed - Part 3. Getting Deeply Insinuated

In the second post in this series I reviewed the Mariners deliberateness as shown in their unwillingness to promote minor leaguers from Tacoma. Now I want to mention some other areas where the Mariners' deliberateness shows, so that we can see that this philosophy is deeply insinuated inside the organization, and isn't just a peculiarity in handling minor leaguers.
  • The Mariners generally slow and deliberate approach in making trades, particularly during the season.

    This appears to be an area in which operations changed significantly after Gillick became GM. Woodward was prone to making panicky moves, whereas Gillick instilled a decidedly more cautious, deliberate attitude. The outgrowth, of course, was no significant deadline trades, but also no Varitek-Lowe for Slocumb types of disasters, either.

  • The Mariners doggedness in making a move once they have made decisions about a player.

    This is the obverse of the Mariners deliberateness in approaching roster decision points. The doggedness shows in acquiring certain desired players (Ibañez or Spiezio) or exiling players that the organization no longer wants (Guillen). It also showed in the Cirillo situation, where Bavasi persisted in trying to work out a trade instead of simply releasing Cirillo to clear roster space. In all cases we see that, while the team might take plenty of time to make a decision about a player, the plan is followed resolutely once the course is set.

  • The Mariners hiring process in recent years for GM and manager.

    In both cases the Mariners approached the task very methodically, conducted extensive interviews with the candidates in which they were interested, and made the hire. The Mariners also made sure that the only candidates seriously being considered were candidates who fit the organizational mold. The interviewing process was methodical and proceeded at its own pace. The team was oblivious to comments or criticisms that the hiring processes were taking too much time.

    Also note that many of the 2004 roster moves were already planned before Bavasi joined the team, and those plans continued apace with Bavasi's concurrence. This again, reflects the Mariners commitment to operating within defined plans. Even the hiring a new GM does not delay or sidetrack a plan; rather the new GM is expected to assimilate into the greater colony.

  • Melvin's in-game management strategies.

    I discussed Melvin's game management approach in more detail a couple of days ago, so I won't repeat the details. Suffice it to say that Melvin's identification of player roles and use of players in those roles is the outcome of the same type of deliberate management style. Melvin will tweak the lineup here and there, but is absolutely unwilling to do even mildly radical rethinking of roles and strategies (moving Ichiro to centerfield, reconsidering use of sacrifice bunts, changing bullpen roles to ensure that Guardado pitchers more of the significant innings).

  • Lincoln's recent comments about the need for making changes to the current team.

    I discussed this in the first post in this series. Lincoln's statements are as close to panic mode as I think you will ever see from current Mariners ownership. Lincoln believes changes are needed, but making those changes will only happen in due course. Juxtapose Lincoln's comments with the Oakland philosophy in which the first third of the season is used to identify roster adjustments that need to be made. The flexible Oakland model specifically anticipates dealing to upgrade the roster, and assumes the risks that sometimes it won't always work out. The Mariners model specifically limits wheeling and dealing, and minimizes the attendant risks.

  • The Mariners team medical practices

    Regular readers know that I regularly discuss the Mariners medical practices. For purposes of this post, I will simply note that the Mariners are as reluctant and slow to change or revise team medical practices as they are most other aspects of the baseball operations. Not seeing a need to make a change, they are certainly not going to make a change just for the sake of changing.
I think that deliberateness and adhering to operating plans are the lenspiece to the kaleidoscope that is the Mariners operations. Remove that eyepiece, and the operations are pretty much a jumble, similar to the view inside a kaleidoscope with the eyepiece removed. Viewed through that eyepiece, though, a measure of logic and order in the team's operations can be discerned.

Again, I reiterate that I'm only reporting what I observe, with the intent of understanding what and how the team is operated. I'm not defending the team's selected management approach; to the contrary, I don't think it is a model that maximizes the chances of winning a championship. I leave it to the reader to decide which kaleidoscope perspective is the more accurate – the one made through the eyepiece or the one made with the eyepiece removed.

My last post in the series will give my assessment of Bavasi's status with the team.

Links to all four With All Deliberate Speed posts:


With All Deliberate Speed - Part 4. Whither Bavasi?

As the debacle that is the 2004 Mariners season has unfolded, speculation in the blogosphere has started about how long it will be until Bavasi is fired. Some bloggers think the noose is tightening already. Jeff Shaw and I share the opinion that Bavasi is not in any realistic danger of losing his job.

I think Bavasi has security for at least two more years. His job will only come into jeopardy when and if it becomes clear to ownership that Bavasi's leadership is not enabling the Mariners to consistently field a competitive team. The results from this season contribute only minimally to that evaluation.

When Bavasi was interviewing for the position, his presentation to ownership his assessment must have addressed the following elements:
  • the current situation of the team

  • different options for the team to follow in the coming years

  • his recommendations for how the team should evolve over the next five years or so, and how he was going to get the team there
In hiring Bavasi, ownership ratified Bavasi’s plans, and thereby established the overall course the Mariners will follow. As I've addressed in previous posts, the team only deviates from a plan after long and careful consideration. One-third of a season is simply not sufficient time for a team to make a change as radical as deciding they hired the wrong person to be GM.

Furthermore, even if the team's 2004 collapse extends the full season, I don't believe that would affect Bavasi's position. I suspect that ownership already figured this year was going to be the last hurrah for the Gillick team, with major retooling scheduled for this off-season. The fact that the current season is a disaster does not invalidate Bavasi’s long-term plans. In fact, if Bavasi does breathe some life into this moribund patient, the resuscitation will more likely be considered evidence of his capability to respond to adverse team performance.

The real test for Bavasi will be in two or three years, when the Gillick influence is diminished and the team is Bavasi's creation. Barring another year of total collapse, I can't see Bavasi being in jeopardy before the end of the 2006 season. If the team is in a pennant race in 2005 or 2006, his day of reckoning recedes further.

That concludes this four part missive on Team Mariner. If you read all four of the posts to get to this point, congratulations and thanks for reading. As always, comments are welcome and appreciated!

Links to all four With All Deliberate Speed posts:


More Freddy blue

According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise (as quoted by Rob McMillin at the 6-4-2 Angels/Dodgers blog), Freddy Garcia's agent, Peter Greenberg, has said Garcia is willing to consider a long-term contract extension. Meanwhile, the same article indirectly quotes DePodesta saying he (DePodesta) is going to work the phones in pursuit of possible acquisitions and that he wouldn't shy away from going after a player who could test the market at the end of the season.

I mentioned yesterday that a Garcia trade by the Dodgers would make a lot of sense if the Dodgers could sign Garcia to a long-term contract. It's not too much work to link the two items from the P-E article to see that happening.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


¿Nomo? ¡No Mas!

My post earlier today about trade rumors involving the Mariners and the Dodgers led me to do a quick review of the Dodgers' pitching situation this season.

Although the Dodgers' team ERA of 3.75 is the third best in baseball, their starting pitching is in disarray. No one has really filled the role of fifth starter. The Dodgers were also counting on Hideo Nomo to provide a strong season, but Nomo has been a disaster, leaving the team with only three effective starters.

Last March, I suggested that relying on Nomo as a staff ace looked pretty dubious. I pointed out that Nomo's peripherals had deteriorated signfificantly since 2001, and that Nomo's 2001 season appeared to be a fluke year. That's probably no surprise to Dodgers management, but the uncertainly in the team ownership situation interfered with taking effective action to address the situation. By the time the sale was complete and DePodesta came aboard, opportunities to address the situation were limited.

Nomo's 2004 season so far has been worse than expected. He has started 12 games, but logged only 57 innings (less than 5 innings average per start). He has an ERA of 7.26, and opposing batters have an OBP of .368 and a SLG of .545. That gives him OPS against of .913!! No wonder the Dodgers are interested in Garcia.

The figures below are updates of the charts I posted last March, with pointed arrows extending the previous charts to include 2004 data through yesterday's games.

The situation is pretty gruesome. This first chart presents Nomo's career hit, homerun, walk and strikeout rates,

Nomo rate stats

As indicated, Nomo's strikeout rate has collapsed, while his surrendered hit rates and home run rates have balloned. Nomo's strikeout rate per nine innings has dropped by almost 3, and his home run rate per nine innings has increased by about 1. Thus, about one-third of Nomo's drop in strikeouts is accounted for by baseballs leaving the park. Nomo is putting more men on base, then compounding that problem by doubling his surrendered home run rate. Ughhh!!

Nomo's walk rate hasn't changed much; hitters are simply putting bat on ball much more often and hitting the ball out of the park a larger fraction of the time they make contact.

The next chart, updates Nomo's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and "pitcher out percentage" (PO%). BABIP is the percentages of batted balls handled by fielders that fall for hits. PO% measures the efficiency of a pitcher in getting batters out without any help from his fielders.
PO% = (SO-HR-BB-HBP)/(Total batters faced)

Nomo BABIP and PO% stats

The picture from this second chart is quite interesting. As indicated, Nomo's BABIP is not much different this year as compared with 2003. So if batters are hitting the ball more frequently, but his BABIP isn't going up, what's the story? The charts indicate the following items:
  1. Since the percentage of balls in play that fall for hits is not changed, Nomo is not being let down by his defense. Accordingly, a good portion of the increased rate of hits/9 innings is simply more balls being put in play.

  2. Nomo is no longer putting away more batters by himself (via strikeout) than he is allowing to reach base safely without putting a ball in play (via walk, HBP, or home run). That is almost always a bad sign for a pitcher.

  3. As noted above, Nomo is giving up a lot more home runs. Home runs don't count in BABIP (because a home run is not a ball in play), but home runs do show in PO%. So Nomo's increased home run rate contributes to a declining PO% without causing a rise in BABIP.

  4. So far this year Nomo has been an extreme fly ball pitcher - far more than he has been before in his career. This is consistent with his increased home run rate. Also, since fly ball pitchers record more foul ball outs than do ground ball pitchers, it's not uncommon for a fly ball pitcher to have a lower BABIP. (Foul popups successfully fielded are balls in play, whereas ground fouls are not in play. Hence, flyball pitchers often have a higher percentage of balls in play than do ground ball pitchers.)
If the Dodgers are going to contend in the NL West, they need to patch the starting rotation. Simultaneously, though, the Dodgers also have some woeful offensive weaknesses.

This poses an interesting dilemma for the Dodgers management and fans. As long as the Dodgers can contend in a very weak NL West, the team is almost obligated to make moves to stay in contention. The Dodgers weaknesses, however, are so large that they need a makeover, not short term fixes. Making deadline trades to stay in a pennant race usually conflicts with strategies to address long-term needs. So, as a Dodger fan, should you want your team to be buyers or sellers right now?

With the above concerns, I suspect if the Dodgers did make a deal to acquire Garcia, the deal might be contingent on Garcia agreeing to a long term deal. In that case, the Dodgers may have addressed the starting pitching situation both for the pennant drive this season and for several seasons to come. They might be able to hang in contention for this year with some additional tweaking, then make some additional offseason moves (Beltran?)to upgrade the offense. The wild card in this would be the extent to which team finances would limit the ability to lock up Garcia and make needed offensive upgrades.


Blue Freddy?

Today's Dodgers Report in the LA Times (registration required) says that the Mariners and Dodgers are talking about a Freddy Garcia trade. The Times note does not name any prospects that the Mariners would receive, but simply notes Bavasi's familiarity with the Dodgers minor league organization.

I suppose this is a case of good news and bad news. Good news because the Mariners may have concluded that the Yankees prospects Navarro and Cano aren't that valuable. Bad news because Bavasi hasn't shown to me that he can perform unbiased evaluations of players he is familiar with.

If Garcia were traded to the Dodgers that would provide an interesting thread back to the Randy Johnson trade with Houston that brought Garcia to the Mariners. About one month before the trade with Houston was made, Woody Woodward had put together a trade with the Dodgers; according to CNN-SI, the Mariners would have received Ismael Valdes, Wilton Guerrero, amd Ted Lilly for Randy Johnson. The deal reportedly was vetoed at the last minute by one of the "silent" Mariner owners. (I have also seen some reports that Hideo Nomo was to have been part of the deal, but the deal was rejected by Yamauchi.)


Boldly Followng the Trail Blazed by Others

I'm back from taking a small break from blogging for a bit. Mostly I've been pressed for time, with a graduation, an anniversary, Fathers Day, and some work deadlines coming together simultaneously. I've been working on a post about the Mariners operating philosophies, which I should have up within a couple of days.

In the meantime, I want to highlight the following snippet from John Hickey's Mariners Notebook in today's P-I. Here is Melvin talking about Hasegawa:
Manager Bob Melvin is trying to get Hasegawa right, and to do that, he has given the eighth inning setup role to the veteran right-hander.

"It would be important to us to get Shiggy back pitching like we all know he can," Melvin said. "I saw what he did last year; we all did. He can pitch setup, he can close. He can pitch middle relief.

"The way we set up best right now is to have Shiggy throwing mostly in the eighth inning, setting things up for Eddie."

In seven appearances in June, Hasegawa has pitched in the eighth inning four times. In two others, he pitched in the ninth. Look for him to continue to get most of the right-handed eighth-inning setup work.

Hasegawa yielded runs in both of his appearances in Pittsburgh over the weekend, but Seattle won both games, and Melvin could take a big-picture look because Hasegawa came into the weekend unscored upon in his previous six outings.

"Shiggy's pitching pretty well right now," Melvin said. "That (Sunday) homer was just one of those things, and it came when we had a two-run lead, so Shiggy still got the ball to Eddie with the lead. I never thought that ball (hit by Jason Kendall) was going out of the park."
As I've mentioned before, Melvin manages the team almost totally by defining roles and assigning players to those roles. Then, in the course of a game, when a situation corresponding to a role develops, Melvin plugs in the player who has that role. As nearly as I can tell, Melvin hardly considers nuances of a given situation, and Melvin does not use a player out of role even if another player might be more effective in that specific situation. Melvin's believes that players are on the roster to do a job, and he expects them to do their job when called upon.

In the excerpt above, it's clear that Hasegawa has the "role" of 8th-inning setup, and he will have that role unless and until Melvin does not believe he can fill that role anymore. Should Hasegawa fail, another pitcher will get that role, and it won't be Eddie Guardado, because Guardado has the "closer" role".

As has been discussed often, Melvin identifies and assigns bullpen roles totally "by the book", even though that approach results in the most effective pitcher, Guardado, being used less than optimally. This is a "top down" management approach, similar to that followed by companies that create organization charts and associated position descriptions, then assign people to those pre-defined positions.

A contrasting approach is a flexible organization structure, in which managers continually redefine and modify responsibilities based on circumstances and staffing. In the Mariners situation, for example, Melvin could create a "lead fireman" role, which is a pitcher whose responsibility is to snuff out opposing team rallies before the game gets out of hand.

Redefining roles based on player talents and skills would entail creative thinking and is more work for a manager. We know that creative thinking is not a trait that valued highly in the Mariners organization. I'm sure that the Mariners believe they are very open to innovative thinking. But, really, is there a company anywhere that believes that it is closed and unreceptive to innovative thinking? That self-assessment is a lot like people's self-assessments of their driving skills; virtually every vehicle operator on the road believes they are a better than average driver. And the Mariners actions show that they approach baseball operations in much the same way as most teams have for the last 30 to 50 years.

Aggressive action within the Mariners organization means boldly following the trail blazed by your predecessors. So Melvin will boldly continue to use Hasegawa as an 8th-inning set up man, and Guardado will only see action if the rest of the team delivers a lead to him in the ninth. Melvin would rather lose winnable games by sitting his most effective reliever than try to redefine the bullpen roles in such a way as to consistently use his best pitchers in the most critical situations.

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