Enjoy Silva While He Lasts

Carlos SilvaIt is hard to call the M's signing of Carlos Silva controversial, but at the same time few would argue that they overpaid for him. He has been a solid, durable starter throughout his career, and that simply is not worth $12 million a year. However, the argument was that Silva's stuff translates much better in Safeco Field than it did in his old home park, the Metrodome. The Metrodome is known to have a fast service, so between natural grass, a great infield defense, and the steady diet of ground balls that Silva's sinker produces, the thought was that Silva would be much better than average in Seattle. The argument makes some sense.

However, the statistics simply did not back up the Mariners' claims. First of all, though Silva's primary pitch is a sinker, he is not quite a ground ball specialist. For his career, his ground ball to fly ball ratio is 1.58, and the average ratio is somewhere around 1.3. So, Silva does induce more ground balls than the average pitcher, but he is not among the elite sinker-ballers (for instance, Brandon Webb's career GB/FB ratio is a ridiculous 3.21, and Roy Halladay's is 1.99). Furthermore, Silva's numbers in the Metrodome were actually considerably better than his road numbers last year, so to argue that the Metrodome hurt him is comical. Statistically, there was no good reason to expect Carlos Silva to improve noticeably by pitching more in Safeco Field.

Still, to this point, the Mariners have looked like they are right. Just last night Silva shut down the A's, and for the season he is 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA, all while averaging over 7 innings a start. In fact, Silva's 2008 performance thus far equates to an 82 in my rating system, when last year he was a 75. So, will Silva continue to pitch like this?

I would not bet on it. Even with only four starts' worth of a sampling size, Silva's ground ball to fly ball ratio, strikeout, and walk rates are all comparable to his career averages. In other words, all of these numbers indicate Silva is probably roughly the same pitcher he has always been. However, he is giving up an average of about two fewer hits per every nine innings pitched. That may not sound like much, but it is roughly the difference between a 1.15 WHIP and a 1.35 WHIP, or roughly 35-40 points in on-base percentage. Perhaps playing in Safeco behind a good infield defense accounts for some of the improvement, but it is highly unlikely that it accounts for all of it. More likely, the ball is finding gloves for Carlos Silva right now, and he is a bit lucky. Especially as the weather warms up, I expect Carlos Silva to start giving up more hits, and subsequently more runs. He will still be a solid pitcher, but enjoy the great start while it lasts.

Opening Day 2008 Observations

Jose LopezThe last three weeks or so have kept me quite busy, and as a result Opening Day snuck up on me more than usual this year. In fact, other commitments kept me from seeing the first four innings of the game, but by the time I was able to sit down and watch I was psyched out of my mind. Opening Day is a glorious day, and it quickly went from great to greater as the Mariners pulled out a 5-2 win over the Rangers. It was a beautiful game to start the season with, and many interesting things happened. Here are the things I took particular note of throughout the game:
  • Erik Bedard was not dominant, but he pitched better than in any of his spring starts. I would have liked more than five innings and less than four walks out of him, but all things considered, he kept the M's in the game and put in a solid effort. I will take it.
  • We got a glimpse of the McLaren way of doing things when Jose hit the weak dribbler out towards second base that turned into a hit because Ian Kinsler was covering second base on the hit and run. Generally I am not that big of a fan of putting the game in motion, but with this team it might be a good idea. Most of the guys on this team are not that patient, but they are good at making contact. Putting the game in motion would not really limit their plate discipline because there is not much discipline to start with, and it may make their ability to hit for contact a bigger weapon.
  • Between the aforementioned hit-and-run dribbler and a clutch two out double, batting Jose Lopez second looked like a smart move for at least one day. I question batting Jose second, but his skill set should translate pretty well in the two hole, especially with the way McLaren wants the Mariners to play baseball this year. Even when struggling, Lopez has consistently been able to make contact, and somehow driven in more runs than he really should have looking at the rest of his numbers. It is fair to argue that both the dribbler and the double were lucky hits thanks to the defensive alignment, but I think that double would have gotten through even with the infield back, and the dribbler was mostly a product of Lopez doing his job and hitting the pitch to the right side.
  • The Mariners lineup drew seven walks, though frankly it was against a Texas pitching staff that is not expected to be real good. Still, it was seven walks, and at least this lineup might have enough patience to let erratic pitchers hang themselves. There have been times over the past couple years where I was not convinced this team would even allow that because they have been so aggressive.
  • There is no doubt the M's got some huge breaks from critical mistakes by the Rangers, and the mistakes were what allowed the M's to break through. Obviously, the Mariners cannot win every game by waiting for the other team to screw up, but good teams take advantage of mistakes and that is precisely what the Mariners did.
  • I was impressed with what I saw out of the bullpen. Sean Green came in and looked as nasty as he did at the end of last year. Mark Lowe only faced one batter, but his velocity was up and his command looked decent despite all the excitement he must have been feeling. Eric O'Flaherty also looked really impressive, with a breaking ball that if anything is better than the one he had last year. He looks poised and ready to handle the role Sherrill filled last year. Though O'Flaherty did give up a run thanks to a grounder that found a hole, that made things perfect, because it allowed J.J. to come in and pick up the save on Opening Day.
Between seeing Bedard on the mound in the home white on Opening Day, and O'Flaherty coming in where Sherrill used to, the trade finally hit home for me. Something about Opening Day finally made it a reality for me that this team is about winning now, and it got me that much more excited. I have my concerns with this team and the trade, but it is great to be watching a team with a win now mentality, and if every game goes something like Opening Day did, this is going to be a great season.