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Maybe Guti Cares Too Much

Franklin Gutierrez
You'll have to trust me that a post about Franklin Gutierrez's hitting was in my head before I read this post on Lookout Landing. I like to try to space out my posts a little, that's all. Still, since discussion on Guti now looks like a reaction, I thought I should have the courtesy to link to another, higher profile post about the same thing.

Gutierrez got off to a great start, but cooled off and then some. He is significantly worse than last year, and part of the team-wide power outage.

Searching for answers, I found some interesting trends in Guti's batted ball data:

Comparing To The Hated Rival

At the start of the season, based purely on projections, the Mariners were tabbed for 82 wins, and the Padres for 76. Obviously, these teams have gone their separate ways. Arguably, San Diego has been the biggest surprise in baseball this year, while the M's have been arguably the biggest disappointment.

The interleague "rivals" are built quite similarly. They both play in pitcher's ballparks, and have both placed an emphasis on defense, often at the expense of offense. So, how come one of these teams has beat the odds to be great, while the other has beat the odds to be terrible? One of the more popular answers is that the Padres offense isn't that bad, while the Mariners did not care enough about offense in the first place.

Let's put that theory to the test. Below is a table, comparing the weighted on base averages (wOBA, click here for more on the stat, but in short it's the best one-number look at offense), both projected and actual, for both teams. If the Mariners did not care enough about offense, we would expect to see roughly the same projected and actual wOBA numbers. If the Padres are better than advertised, we should see some stronger wOBAs than anticipated:

2010 M's Chess Set

It's an off day after a long (though surprisingly successful) road trip, with a team that's going nowhere, in the middle of the "dog days" of summer. It is hard to get all that excited over any accomplishment the Mariners make on the field until next April.

Recently, to pass time during M's games, I've taken to playing chess on my laptop. A high schooler I tutor challenged me several times over lunch, and I thought it would be good for me to practice some in my down time. It is a pretty fun game anyway.

Somewhere in the middle of the M's horrific stretch in July, I put these two random strands of my life together. If the 2010 Mariners were a chess set, who would be which pieces? If I were to craft the set, it would look something like this:

Prospects Under The Radar

Thankfully, the Mariners have finally had some young guys worth following and getting excited about. Even more exciting, many of those guys are in AAA now, meaning they are just a short drive away in Tacoma, and also that they are very close to the majors.

The other exciting thing is that the Mariners finally have enough promising guys to allow some to get lost in the mix a little. The following are a handful of Mariners prospects that haven't caught many headlines, but are worth some attention:

Covey, Loux Far From Unsigned Norms

Three amateurs picked in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft did not sign by the deadline earlier this week. Since the inception of the earlier deadline a few years back, that is a normal number.

One of the three, Kharsten Whitson, simply thought he was worth more than the Padres offered, so he will go to the University of Florida. It might be interesting to track Whitson's career earnings, because he turned down $2.1 million guaranteed from San Diego. While I think there are many good reasons to turn down that kind of money, Whitson clearly indicated that he simply thought he wasn't offered enough. I am not sure I agree with him, but perhaps that is a post for another time. Bottom line, Whitson is what I would consider the prototypical case when a player doesn't sign. He compared the value of college to what he was offered as a pro, and chose college.

However, the other two unsigned first-rounders have unique stories.

K-Rod's Hot Mess

Francisco Rodriguez
An atypical pitching pose
Francisco Rodriguez is in a jam that he might not be able to save.

The story began last weekend, when police took K-Rod into custody after what was called an "altercation" with a family member after the game. Apparently, Francisco has a bit of a temper, and it got the best of him. The Mets remained closed-lipped, as is customary with more personal matters. However, since the police had to get involved, it seemed like a pretty substantial confrontation.

We got concrete proof of how bad the scuffle was. K-Rod tore a ligament in his throwing hand, so he's gone for the year. He admitted that he injured it in the aforementioned scuffle he got in.

For a more in-depth report, here is the story from the New York Daily News.

As bad as this situation already looks, it could get a whole bunch worse for Rodriguez.

Improving Draft Pick Contracts

Today was the deadline to sign players taken in this year's amateur draft, with the exception of college seniors. As usual, most of the high-profile picks waited until the last second, and then signed. Here is an updated list, in case you want details.

Instead of analyzing specific players and contracts, I would rather take this opportunity to talk about the draft signing process in general.

Wak's Firing Justifiable

As reactions to Wak's firing mount, one caught my eye over at FanGraphs. You can read it here, but basically Matt Carruth argues that Wak's, or any manager's impact, is hard to quantify. However, he concludes that no matter the impact, it probably wasn't enough to make the M's sink or swim. They are bad because they don't have talent.

I was all geared up to agree, but as I lined up my supporting data, I realized that I might have to reassess my stance.

I started with one of the cooler baseball geek tools on the internet, the lineup analysis tool at Baseball Musings. Good luck spending less than an hour playing with it. I always have to try all sorts of hypotheticals.

Anyway, the lineup analysis tool spits out an expected run output for the given offense, but also provides optimal and worst lineups, because order does make a difference. Since the manager fills out the lineup card, we can think of the difference between the best and worst lineups as the difference a manager can make in offensive output.

Wakamatsu Canned

Don Wakamatsu
The Mariners won tonight, but does that really matter more than the story off the field? I won't even leave that as a hypothetical. The answer is no. Don Wakamatsu, and anyone associated with him still around (Ty Van Burkleo, Rick Adair, and Steve Hecht), were "relieved of their duties" before the game today.

Jack Zduriencik will be on the post-game show, and I will write this as I listen to that. However, I have some initial thoughts. I had a feeling that today was inevitable when I wrote this post about Griffey last week. I am definitely a believer in the Griffey conspiracy, and that he has something to do with today's big decisions. I will not belabor that point, because it is all arguing truth and rumors. Refer to the post I linked to above if you want to argue about the Griffey conspiracy, and I will be happy to take up that argument.

For now, go with me, and assume that Wak had to go for Griffey to have a relationship with the Mariners. This post, then, is really an extension of my thoughts on the 2010 Griffey fiasco.

Sweeney To Philly

Mike Sweeney
Not much to analyze, but still worth talking about. Mike Sweeney, about to be activated from the DL, was acquired today by the Philadelphia Phillies for cash or a player to be named later.

The analysis takes a sentence, but I'll break it into a couple shorter ones. Mike Sweeney is old, and liable to retire in a few months. It was tough to see a roster spot for him in Seattle at this point too, so it isn't surprising that the Phillies more or less just took him.

Sweeney single-handedly makes me a Phillies fan for the next few months at least. He is universally regarded as a class act, the type of guy that deserves to win. On top of that, he was a darn good player in his prime, but those years happened in Kansas City. Sweeney has never made the playoffs in his lengthy, quality career. Add how good of a guy he is, and it would be a shame if he never got a taste of the postseason. I know the world isn't fair sometimes, and the ironic twist is that Sweeney is the type of guy that can handle that, but still...come on, baseball gods! Sweeney deserves his chance.

That's about all I have to say. I'm amazed that Sweeney fought his way onto the M's roster twice as a non-roster invitee, and it was somewhere between inspiring as a human interest story, and maddening when looking at the roster construction. However, frankly, he might have been the M's best hitter with a more healthy 2010...which again, is somewhere between inspiring and maddening.

In the end, Mike Sweeney gets a legitimate shot at the playoffs, and the Mariners don't have to figure out how to wiggle him back on the roster in a meaningful role. This is a win-win, no doubt about it.

Griffey Still A Presence

Sleepgate, or whatever you want to call it, isn't over yet. In fact, it may have never left this team. As I was driving into work this morning (and as you can tell, I'm being so productive right now), Geoff Baker was on KJR. He said that he was surprised that Don Wakamatsu did not get fired yesterday. More interestingly, he said that he has heard the M's have to either can Wak, or sever ties with Griffey.

Interesting, to say the least.

First of all, nobody within the Mariners is on the record confirming anything close to this report. They probably will come out and deny it at some point today too. That's just how these kind of things work.

However, as ridiculous as the Baker report is, it adds up more than anything else people have theorized. Just last night, I was at the Rainiers game (and I thought this blog post would be about Michael Pineda), and one of my friends brought up how odd it is that Jack Zduriencik hasn't backed up Wakamatsu as he has come under fire. It seems like an obvious sign that the two aren't on the same page, and almost as if Z wants to fire him.

I hadn't bought into that theory though. Z had just hired Wak last year, and they were always on the same page then. Wak is Z's guy, and they built this team together. Furthermore, Z doesn't seem to be the kind of guy to turn and burn so fast. However, I couldn't deny that Z was acting a bit like an aloof GM positioning himself to fire a guy. It wasn't all adding up.