Tagged: Seattle Mariners

Felix Hernandez, the Seattle Mariners and a really bad contract extension

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Felix Hernandez and the Mariners have agreed to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension.  The contract will make him the highest paid pitcher in baseball history, both in overall contract and in average annual value.

The Mariners will tear up his current deal, which was to pay him $19.5 million this year, and replace it with the new one. It will pay him, on average, $25 million a year through 2019. It’s not known yet if the contract amount increases over time or if it’s a flat $25 million a year.

Lemme say it right here.

This is a bad move.

No, it’s a terrible move.

Hernandez is a great pitcher. One of the best in the game no doubt.  I absolutely love the guy and would kill to have him on my team…at the right price.

I mean the dude is 98-76 with a 3.22 ERA and 1,487 strikeouts and 480 walks in 1620.1 innings across eight seasons.

Those are great numbers sandwiched around one really freakin’ scary one. Simply put, “them’s a lot of innings man”.

No matter how you slice it, the guy already has a ton of mileage on him and more importantly we’ve already seen a substantial decrease in his velocity.

via Fangraphs this is what King Felix was throwin in his in 2007:

Felix Hernandez Pitch Velocity 2007

The fastball was 95-100, the slider was 89-92, the change-up was 86-89 (ignore the “FS” labels, as the algorithm wasn’t so good back then), and even his “slow curve” was 82-87. Felix was the embodiment of a power pitcher, and while his three off-speed pitchers were all notable in their own right, Felix’s mid-90s two-seamer was his defining pitch. There just weren’t many guys in the game that could run a sinking fastball up there at 95 MPH, and that pitch helped him run a 60.8% GB% that year.

Now here is what he did in a randomly picked start this past season:

Felix Hernandez Pitch Velocity 2012

The change-up is still in the upper-80s, while the slider and curve are both down a couple of ticks on average, but not too terribly far from where they were five years ago. However, the fastball is 90-93, and because of its close proximity to the change-up, it’s basically indistinguishable in the chart. Instead of two distinct clumps, there’s just now one big mess of pitches in the 90 MPH range with similar movement and velocity.

It’s not just the lack of swinging strikes that set his fastball apart on Saturday night, however. As noted, Felix came into the league as an extreme groundball pitcher. As his velocity has declined slightly over the last four years, he’s settled in as more of a 50-55% groundball guy.

Now none of this is to say he will not be a very effective pitcher for the bulk of this contract, provided he stays healthy.

But the warning signs are there:

Felix Hernandez downward spiral on the velocity charts.

We saw these signs with Johan Santana before he signed his big deal with the Mets & then we saw them a couple years back with Tim Lincecum.

Johan was nothing short of a bust when you factor in the cost of the contract (3 very good years, one injury riddled year everyone who paid attention saw coming and one mediocre bounce-back season so far) and “The Freak” is not a guy you’d want to see your team handing a 7 year/$175M deal to right now, is he?

The Mariners have a good farm system but it is loaded with pitching and not a lot of high-end offense, at least not with any amount of depth to survive flame-outs and injuries that are bound to happen.

Felix is just a high-priced (albeit proven) version of what they have tons of in the system.

They’re trying to catch an A’s team that has a decent organization, tons of pitching depth and a shrewd general manager.

They’re trying to catch up to a Rangers team that is both light-years ahead of them AND has every bit the farm system they have.

They’re trying to catch up with the Angels who have a lot of young offensive talent, two of the games biggest sluggers and an owner that is not afraid to make bold moves or write big checks.

In other words, simply re-signing one man at such a huge expense is not going to get it done.

They would have been much better served to put him on the market and completely fleece a team like Boston or New York for 5-6 high impact prospects.

By the time this team turns it around Felix will have 2,500 – 3,000 innings on that arm, his velocity will have lost a couple of more miles per hour and he will in all likelihood be a shadow of his former self.

At that point he’ll still be owed two to three years at $25M per season and you’ll be over-paying for “veteran’s presence” while wishing you had never made this deal.

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Mariners Offense Is Just Plain Crazy Bad

Crazy Stat of the Day

The Mariners team numbers look like this for 2012:

.232 AVG, .294 OBP, .364 SLG, .657 OPS.

For his career Randy Johnson allowed hitters to bat the following off of him:

.221 AVG, .297 OBP, .353 SLG, .650 OPS.

Meaning on your typical day the M’s offense makes your run-of-the-mill average MLB pitcher literally as dominant as a five-time Cy Young winning, first ballot Hall of Famer.

Yet again, a lack of instant replay looms big in another no-hitter

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Hardball Talk‘s chimes in on the latest umpire assisted no-no:

Just like in Johan Santana‘s no-hitter exactly a week ago, a close play that could have been overturned by replay loomed large in Seattle’s combined no-hitter against the Dodgers on Friday night.

Dee Gordon, maybe the National League’s fastest player, led off the bottom of the ninth with a broken-bat flare to shortstop against Tom Wilhelmsen. Brendan Ryan, just in the game as a defensive replacement, grabbed the ball and made a strong throw to first, getting the out call.

Replay, however, showed that Gordon may have beaten the relay.

In this case, the evidence wasn’t so solid as last week’s fair-foul call on what should have been a Carlos Beltran double.

The play at first base was so close there’s a good chance it wouldn’t have been overturned on whatever replay system baseball eventually implements. Still, it did look like Gordon was safe. Besides just disrupting the no-no, it was a huge call in what was just a 1-0 game at the time.

It’s one of those calls MLB will someday need to make its best effort to get right, instead of just letting one man try to call it at real speed.

Whether it’s the blown Jim Joyce call that actually cost, the now infamous “No-han Santana*” incident or now this, too many of these “historical moments” are being affected by things so easily remedied.

When Armando Gallaraga lost his perfect game on a blown call just over two years ago I wrote that baseball needed instant replay, but “if change comes, make no mistake it will come for entirely the wrong reason” and for me, nothing has changed.

We need instant replay expanded to ensure the integrity of the game, to make sure that a botched call doesn’t determine which teams make the playoffs (or God forbid, the actual outcome of a playoff game).

BUT if the catalyst for change comes in the form of your average baseball fan’s infatuation with no-hitters & perfect games, I’ll take it.

Quote of the Day: Buster Olney on Michael Pineda

by @ Hardball Talk

Buster brings some serious truth to the Michael Pineda injury:

The explosion of social media has fueled the desire to identify incompetence, to illuminate failure, to expose the cheaters. Within seconds that news broke that Michael Pineda will miss the rest of the year with a labrum tear, Twitter was flooded with theories — that the New York Yankees blew it, that the Seattle Mariners knew that Pineda was hurt, that there were idiots and schemers … The Mariners didn’t cheat, the Yankees weren’t idiots. It just didn’t work out.

When bad things happen we often look for someone to blame. It makes it much easier to deal with bad news if we believe that it is the result of malfeasance. The scariest part of this world, however, is that the vast majority of bad things that happen … just happen.  Often for no reason at all other than bad random chance.

Baseball player injuries obviously don’t compare to the real bad things, of course, but in their frustrating habit of just … happening, they are pretty similar.

The Other Part Of The Pineda/Montero Trade

Jose Campos has surrendered just one hit in 11 innings this season.

by Ben Badler @ The Daily Dish

With one trade, the Mariners sent arguably the two best Latin American pitchers they’ve signed since Felix Hernandez to the Yankees in January.

It may end up being worth it, given Jesus Montero’s bat potential and some early concerns about Michael Pineda’s health, but losing righthander Jose Campos in the deal may end up stinging.

Pitching for low Class A Charleston tonight, Campos threw five no-hit innings, allowed one run (it was unearned, thanks to a couple of fielding errors in the first inning), walked two and struck out seven against Augusta.

It was a nice two-day stretch for Campos’ family in the series, as his cousin, Giants lefthander Edwin Escobar, had shut down Campos’ Charleston club the previous day, throwing six shutout innings with two hits, no walks and seven strikeouts.

While Escobar is an interesting 19-year-old southpaw with some pitchability, Campos is a potential frontline arm. Campos, a 19-year-old signed out of Venezuela three years ago, ranked as one of the Top 20 prospects in the 2010 Dominican Summer League and Venezuelan Summer League after a strong VSL season, then came as advertised last season when he ranked as the short-season Northwest League’s No. 3 prospect.

Campos has a power fastball that he can ramp up to the high-90s when he needs to, but he also throws it for strikes, backs it up with solid secondary stuff and has a big, durable 6-foot-4 frame.

Montero should help a Mariners offense that scored the fewest runs in baseball a year ago, but Campos has the potential to swing that deal in the Yankees‘ favor in a big, big way.

Another Stellar Example of Why Too Many Bleacher Report Articles Are A Joke

I don’t want to come across like I am just bashing Bleacher Report for the hell of it. Because I’m not. I am really not.

When it first showed up on the “blogosphere” it was a good thing. Hell, it was a great thing.

It offered a venue where the casual writer yet avid sports fan could offer up their opinion on whatever it is they felt the urge to talk about.

But over the last couple of years, as more & more “writers” found their way into that community the quality/relevance of what you find on there has gone from “decent amateur sports journalism” to “a collection of biased, statistically unsupported, mindless drivel”.

You get hit over the head with an endless parade of pieces that are nothing more than hatchet jobs on teams/athletes the writer’s don’t like or completely ridiculous pipe dreams like “How The Yankees Should Acquire Felix Hernandez For A Bucket of KFC & A.J. Burnett’s Jock Strap”.

Yet, every day I get an e-mail with a collection of today’s “stories” from the site because I am an eternal optimist and secretly hope the site (and its contributors) pulls itself around some time soon.

In today’s e-mail comes a piece titled Seattle Mariners: 5 Reasons Why They Have Already Won the Jesus Montero Trade.

The thing is a joke.

An absolute, freakin’ joke.

Not because of the premise, because in the end the Mariners may very well indeed “win” that trade, but because it a. is claiming that a team won a trade involving two premier talents who are BOTH under the age of 23 just a couple of months after it was completed (and before one meaningful game was played by either club after the trade) and b. it offers no real analysis.

Just bad analysis.

First thing it does is ignore the obvious.  It doesn’t even address the fact you are trading a young, high end starting pitcher for a young, high end position player. Ask every GM in baseball what side of that scenario and I am willing to bet vital parts of my anatomy that every single one comes back saying they want that young arm.

They will talk nuances like what each clubs specific needs are, but as Curt Schilling said after the trade “there is a reason why you never see 22 year olds with his arm and his upside traded…let alone for a position player.”

A century’s worth of statistical analysis shows that, yes, pitching is far more important that position players and offensive production.

In the history of baseball only three teams have won the world series with an ERA+ under 100, meaning that those teams had a staff that performed below the league average.

Over that same span nearly forty percent had an offense that was close the league average in terms of OPS+.

Looking at the data this is what you see:

• Only 22 of 106 winners had better hitting than pitching (20.75 percent)
• Only eight of 40 winners had better hitting than pitching in the divisional era (20 percent)
• Only two of 16 winners had better hitting than pitching in the dead-ball era (12.50 percent)
• Since the offensive-centric Reds of the 1970s, aka The Big Red Machine, only five of 33 have had better hitting than pitching (15.15 percent)
• The average World Series winner had an OPS+ of 103.47 and a median of 104
• The average World Series winner had an ERA+ of 113.84 and a median of 113
• Thus, on average, the winner has an ERA+ of 10.37 more than its OPS+

So to not even address this simple fact automatically renders his entire conclusion as flawed. But it gets better, oh so much better when you look at the positions he does put forward.

Case in point, the author’s argument that:

When Hector Noesi was thrown in with Jesus Montero in the Michael Pineda trade, I certainly didn’t expect him to fall in behind Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas as the third starter in the Mariners rotation.

However, after an encouraging spring, it’s easy to see why manager Eric Wedge chose Noesi for the spot.

After five freakin’ innings pitched. Five. F -I – V -E. And how did this surprisingly dominant third starter do in their exhibition game on Sunday? He got shelled. By a Japanese team.

So way to jump the gun homer.

His next piece of justification:

Like I said before, it was great watching Michael Pineda dominate opposing batters as a rookie last April and May, but as the season wore on and his unseasoned arm grew tired, his efficiency dropped pretty significantly.

It’s possible it was just because it was his first year in the majors throwing (almost) a full season, but you could also argue that as Pineda faced more and more batters, they started to figure him out.

It is much more likely that he wore down as the innings piled up but yes, it is indeed possible that the league “figured him out”.

But you know what that means? That it might “figure Jesus Montero out” once he plays more than a month in the show. You know, kind of like Jason Heyward.

Heyward has bee absolutely lost at the plate for the last season and a half, after having a Hall of Fame caliber start to it. He tore up the league, the pitchers did their homework and found holes in his swing that the kid has yet to fix.

If both Montero and Pineda had played the entire season in 2011 his argument would have merit, but since Jesus didn’t it doesn’t.

His next argument is mind numbingly retarded:

I don’t mean to snub Jose Campos—he’s got legitimate potential as a starting pitcher—but he has only gone as high as Single-A (short season) in the minors.

He’s f***** 19. Nineteen. N – I -N -E -T- E – E – N.

This tool thinks a nineteen year old, high end pitching prospect with a cannon for an arm as part of the trade is a negative.

Bart Klett over at BaseballInstinct.com has a great piece outlining Campos’ upside, describing his impressive fastball as such:

“Campos is listed as 6’4” and this helps him to get downward plane on his fastball. His fastball has been described as heavy and I think that is a fair description. Very few hitters are able to square up and drive the ball with any authority. In fact, at the games that I have observed, not many hitters actually got the ball out of the infield.”

Jose Campos, a 19-year-old capable of hitting upwards of 98 MPH on the gun, could very well be the steal of the deal for GM Brian Cashman and his Yanks.

Campos posted a 2.32 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 85 K in Single-A in 2011—all while allowing just 13 BB in 81.1 IP over 14 starts.

And somehow that is a bad thing?

Granted, maybe his entire argument is based around the fact that Campos won’t arrive for a while as he seasons himself in the minors. But ya know what?

That means you can’t evaluate this trade yet then doesn’t it?

Now if the Yankees had a pressing need for starting pitching maybe you could make the argument that the short-term impact of the trade is it compromises the Yankees but this year, of all years, you can’t even come close to making that case.

The Yankees have so much starting pitching they traded A.J. Burnett and are still shopping Freddy Garcia, just to trim down to six starters once Andy Pettite is up to speed.

Not only do they have a wealth of pitching at the big lig level, but they have a ton of high end arms in AAA ready to step in if needed. Just take a look at the stats from the Yanks spring training this year.

Kontos, Phelps, Warren and Betances all have an ERA under 1.93 (with all but Kontos having thrown more innings than Noesi, the man the author crowned as a legitimate number three after a whole five IP).

And that list doesn’t even include the Yankees best pitching prospect, Manny Banuelos, because he gave up one three run home run to jack his ERA up, but other than that blemish he hasn’t yielded a single runner past second base, let alone one that scored.

Then this buffoon closes with:

Perhaps the listed circumstances give Jack Z and the M’s an advantage in public perception, but either way, the Mariners did take the cake here.

The Yankees took on a high-risk, high-reward pitcher who was definitely ready to start this year, and a young, unproven pitching prospect who could potentially benefit the team in the future.

The Mariners acquired a proven hitting asset who will contribute to the team for a number of years, and who is developing even more useful tools, as well as a safer pitcher who followed a more conventional path to the majors.

The Mariners acquired a guy who doesn’t even have 70 AB‘s in the major leagues, where as the Yankees acquired someone who was already logged more innings in one season than Clay Bucholz (a fine damn pitcher), yet the M’s received the “proven thing”.

Where exactly is that supported by one shred of evidence, either of the statistical variety or some well crafted logical arguments?

Sorry, but this is the kind of senseless crap that pervades Bleacher Report right now. So if you go there, continue reading at your own risk.

Seattle Mariner’s Offense Is Still Historically Bad

Ichiro Suzuki was the main attraction in the Seattle Mariners‘ 5-1 loss to the Hanshin Tigers in an exhibition game at the Tokyo Dome on Sunday.

What the…? One friggin’ run, Seattle? One?

I know. I know. It’s a spring training exhibition game. Versus a JPL team.

But..

It has been well chronicled that the Seattle Mariners offense for the last few years hasn’t just been bad, it’s been historically bad. Like the kind of bad that makes grown men in the greater Seattle area lose sleep at night, wondering “how could this be possible?” sorta bad.

Last year they became the first team since the mound was lowered to post back-to-back sub-.300 OBP seasons as a team and hit a mere 109 HRs.

To put this further in persepective, The Phillies‘ much ballyhooed & insanely deep rotation limited its opponents to an OPS of .642. The Seattle Mariners’ OPS was .640. A year ago, the Mariners’ OPS was .637.

Yes, on your average day versus your average league pitcher the Mariners offense was so pathetic it was like they were facing Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and/or Cole Hamels.

As Jeff Sullivan at Lookout Landing put it, talk about downright offensive:

We know that the Mariners’ offense was bad. We lived through that offense. These offenses. It did not and could not escape daily notice. And there are a lot of ways, countless ways, to express just how bad it was in both 2010 and 2011. But this way might be my favorite I’ve seen yet.

True, the Mariners’ numbers were hurt by having to spend half the games in Safeco Field. If you adjust for park, their OPS figures should be a little higher. But then, the Phillies got to face NL teams and NL lineups with pitchers in, so if you want to account for that, it kind of balances out.

Look at it like this and the inconceivable is revealed as truth. For two years in a row now, the Seattle Mariners have hit about as poorly as teams hit against the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies’ starting rotation. The Phillies’ starting rotation that ranked among the best ever built. When people would joke that the Mariners could make any opposing starter look like a Cy Young winner, they weren’t wrong. On average, that’s basically what they’ve done for two straight seasons.

There are other comparisons you could choose to make, of course. How about Randy Johnson? Over Randy Johnson’s career, which admittedly took place in a different era, opposing batters posted a .650 OPS. That’s higher than what the Mariners have done.

So it probably should not come as any surprise that they could only muster a single run, one they could only manage to score in the ninth inning with the game hopelessly lost.

Suzuki, who went 1 for 4, drew huge cheers from the crowd of 42,139 when he hit a single down the left field line in the top of the first inning.

“I felt a lot of tension so that was quite a moment,” Suzuki said of his hit in the first inning. “It didn’t feel like an exhibition game and there was a different atmosphere.”

Suzuki grounded out in his next three at-bats, but the near-capacity crowd on hand didn’t seem to mind.

“Ichiro has been on a different level for all these years and when you saw those flashbulbs going off when he came up to bat in the first inning that says it all,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.

The Mariners are in Japan to open the season against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday and Thursday.

Hanshin scored three runs in the bottom of the second. Takahiro Arai scored from third on an infield single by former Mariner Kenji Jojima and Tomoaki Kanemoto hit a two-run homer to right off Seattle starter Hector Noesi, who took the loss after giving up three runs and six hits in five innings.

The Tigers added two runs in the seventh on Kohei Shibata’s double to center and a Takashi Toritani single to left.

Seattle’s run came in the ninth inning on a home run by Casper Wells.

The Mariners had a chance to score in the top of the eighth when Munenori Kawasaki led off with a double and advanced to third on a Suzuki grounder to second, but Alex Liddi popped out and Jesus Montero struck out to end the inning.

Wedge said he continues to be impressed by Kawasaki.

“Mune has been fantastic for us all spring,” Wedge said. “He had to compete to be on the ballclub and he has done what he needed to do. He brings a lot more to the team than what he does on the field.”