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2012 Musings in Review

It's the end of the calendar year, although frankly that doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me. The baseball and school calendars mostly govern my life patterns, and I am in the middle of seasons within both of those. Regardless, after this post, nothing will go in the 2012 archives. You should read everything written on the Musings in 2012 multiple times over, but if you are pinched for time, here are the 11 best places to start. It's no coincidence that I picked 11 with Edgar Martinez still on the outside of the Hall of Fame looking in:

  1. The 2011 Mariners connections post was the first of 2012 and easily the most popular. It got linked to on Uni-Watch, of all places.
  2. Allen Schliebe started writing pieces for the Musings this year. His first post compared NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to Bud Selig.
  3. I had too much obscure fun placing price tags on non-roster invitees.
  4. The Musings did not predict King Felix's perfect game, but went on the record predicting he would be fine when many were worried about his velocity in April.
  5. The Musings did a few podcasts this year (you can subscribe on iTunes!) The second one featured reviews of a couple books the Musings got advanced copies of, a first for the blog.
  6. Prediction time came again with Albert Pujols's slow start. The Musings expected a bounce back to a degree, a forecast that looked quite good as the season progressed.
  7. There was the usual MLB draft coverage, starting with the top 31 list for 2012.
  8. Allen did a mid-season review of M's hitters and pitchers. The pitching one unleashed my personal favorite analogy on the Musings this year. Hint: it involved a former non-roster invitee and a gluten-filled baking staple.
  9. The Ichiro trade post got the most comments of any post this year.
  10. I unearthed some interesting historical information on triple crowns. They got romanticized in the baseball media this year if you ask me.
  11. I put the theory that former Mariners perform better than former players of other teams to the test, and for at least a few playoff series, the theory was totally verified.
Yes, 2012 was a good year at the Musings. Cheers to 2013!

Hanrahan, Melancon, and Bullpens

The Red Sox and Pirates officially completed a trade that was more or less done a few days before Christmas. Joel Hanrahan goes to Boston, either as the closer or insurance for oft-injured closer Andrew Bailey, and several players often characterized as spare parts go to the Pirates. One of those spare parts, Mark Melancon, happens to be the bullpen arm that Hanrahan more or less directly replaces on the Red Sox roster.

The idea is that Hanrahan upgrades Boston's bullpen. It is debatable if he actually will though. The fact that this trade happened suggests a team with a surplus of successful bullpens, like the Mariners may have at the trade deadline, could swing some interesting trades.

Raul Ibanez Returns to Seattle (Again)

Much like many of us who travel far to return home and see family and relatives, news just broke that Raul Ibanez will be returning 'home' to Seattle for the third time. The only difference is that Ibanez will be making about $2.75 million with another $1.75 million in incentives, according to AP, and I'm guessing he won't be dealing with that weird aunt or uncle who pours too much 'Christmas cheer' in their eggnog and then rants about politics. Although, Erik Wedge seems like a guy who likes his eggnog.

Bonderman Signed, Others Still Available

The Mariners signed Jeremy Bonderman to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.  In other words, he will show up in Peoria with a shot to crack the Mariners starting rotation. If he doesn't, the M's aren't out anything really. Bonderman hasn't pitched anywhere competitively for two full seasons so I don't expect him to make the roster. However, this is a risk-free move, so there is nothing to complain about.

Bonderman's signing speaks to a need on the Mariners roster. The starting five looks something like this as of right now:
  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. Erasmo Ramirez
  4. Blake Beavan
  5. Hector Noesi/Danny Hultzen/Andrew Carraway/pray for rain
That's an interesting rotation in every sense of the word. Adding others to the mix would make the interest a little less dangerous.

Mariners Trade Vargas For Morales

Finally, a legitimate move that changes the Mariners roster! LHP Jason Vargas is the newest Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim, 1B Kendrys Morales the newest Seattle Mariner.

Vargas is a known commodity. He has been a largely unspectacular but faithful sidekick to King Felix in the starting rotation. He was also a very pleasant surprise in the J.J. Putz trade, and his change-up conjured up memories of Jamie Moyer at the turn of the millenium. There are reasons Vargas was an underground fan favorite. I personally enjoyed watching him pitch, and I will miss seeing him take the mound every fifth day.

With that said, this is a really good deal for the Mariners - not franchise-altering good, but really good.

Process of Elimination

Anxiety keeps ratcheting up every day the Mariners do not sign a hitter. It is especially tough to watch a division rival like the Angels swoop stealthily in and sign Josh Hamilton. That might trigger a reaction from the Rangers, meaning yet another division rival may acquire a hitter before the moribund Mariners.

The waiting, in the end, will pay off. The reality is that the Mariners cannot compete with teams like the Angels and the Rangers in the open market right now anyway without paying way, way more than them. The fiscally responsible move is to wait the market out. The only risk with that approach is losing out on everyone. That's unlikely to happen for the Mariners though. It's a simple process of elimination.

Morneau Makes Some Sense

I mostly avoid hypothetical trades because anyone can come up with a made-up trade and they rarely come to fruition. My following proposal highlights a larger market trend that the Mariners might be poised to take advantage of. Here is my trade proposal:


The upside for the Mariners is pretty clear. They get a proven slugger with some gas left in the tank at a position they can readily fill. The Twins have traded away both Denard Span and Ben Revere this offseason, so Guti provides them a little outfield depth, and Carp gives them another option besides Chris Parmelee to replace Morneau. Joe Mauer might find himself playing more first base too. Carp is a logical guy for the Mariners to trade because he is out of minor league options, and I doubt a shoo-in to make the opening day roster.

Morneau makes $14 million in 2013, but Guti slated to make $7 million. Overall, that means the Mariners take on $7 million, which still leaves them roughly $13 million to spend in free agency. I doubt that hinders them from signing any of the best bats still available besides Josh Hamilton.

Ultimately, this deal likely makes sense for the Twins only if they value the money they save. I would be willing to sweeten the deal with a marginal prospect, but none of the big names. Perhaps Carlos Triunfel intrigues the Twins. I'd even play around with including a guy like Charlie Furbush.

Let's suppose the Mariners and Twins make this trade, and then the Mariners sign Cody Ross in free agency. Here is what the M's lineup could look like:

Normal Keeps Getting Bigger

I often shake my head when Jon Heyman analyzes baseball moves. The man is well-connected and probably can get scoops with one eye open, but his opinions are often...fascinating. Anyway, this is all a precursor to say that I promise I am not about to poke fun at Heyman in this post. A tweet of his caught my eye the other night:
Heyman is referring to B.J. Upton (5 years, $75 million) and Russell Martin (2 years, $17 million), respectively. He rightfully points out flaws in both of these players' talents, and infers that both are getting more money than they should.

What if these aren't big deals though?

2012 AFL Wrap-Up

I wrote an Arizona Fall League preview when rosters were announced back at the end of August. The league finished up play a few weeks ago, and the weekend after Thanksgiving seemed like a decent time see how M's prospects fared. The predictions/questions I had back in August now have answers:

Mariners Make Flurry of Minor Moves

There was a mini firestorm of moves across baseball yesterday because baseball teams procrastinate. Yesterday was the last day to add players and protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Every move the Mariners made (and everyone else for that matter) must be looked through with the Rule 5 draft in mind, because it is the reason for all the movement on what would have otherwise been the latest, slow-as-molasses offseason day in baseball.

I will go in reverse order from how things are usually reported, because it helps make more sense of what happened. Here are the players the Mariners added to their 40-man roster yesterday:

2012 Award Winners

I never got around to posting the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) postseason awards as they were announced. However, thanks to my negligence, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) has also voted on their awards! So, below is a handy table comparing the two associations' choices for 2012:

BBA
BBWAA
Connie Mack
AL: Bob MelvinAL: Bob MelvinManager of
NL: Davey JohnsonNL: Davey Johnsonthe Year
Willie Mays
AL: Mike TroutAL: Mike TroutRookie of
NL: Bryce HarperNL: Bryce Harperthe Year
Walter Johnson
AL: Justin VerlanderAL: David PriceCy Young
NL: R.A. DickeyNL: R.A. Dickey
Stan Musial
AL: Mike TroutAL: Miguel CabreraMVP
NL: Buster PoseyNL: Buster Posey

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance also votes on the Goose Gossage award, given to each league's top reliever. This year Fernando Rodney was voted the AL winner, and Craig Kimbrel the NL winner. The Musings is a BBA member, and my ballot (AL only since I am a Mariners blog) can be found here.

The AL MVP debate has had more than enough words written about it at this point. I made my peace with the triple crown a few months ago, and won't write more, other than to note that the BBA picked Trout and the BBWAA picked Cabrera.

Back to warming my hands over the hot stove league...

Josh Hamilton Comps

The Mariners may or may not end up as a finalist in the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes. Time will tell. They certainly should talk to Hamilton and take a shot at him. He is rumored to want 7 years and $175 million, which would be a hefty investment. Of course, prices tend to come down in negotiations, so he probably won't cost that much. Fangraphs contract crowdsourcing results predict a 5 year, $100 million contract for Hamilton when all is said and done...still a hefty investment.

Some people worry about Hamilton's past drug abuse and how much that may have aged his body. However, there are some important on-the-field concerns too.

Hamilton's skillset is interesting and problematic. He is basically an average (at best) outfielder with a prodigious power bat but a violent approach at the plate. He doesn't walk much, strikes out a bunch, but crushes the ball when he makes contact. Hamilton has been very productive with this skillset, but once his power goes, so does most of his value.

My gut told me that a player with Josh Hamilton's skillset, at 31 years old, is not a good long-term investment. I wondered if I could find some historical comparison I could make to support or refute my gut though.

Kuma And Ollie Coming Back

The Mariners hit free agency with the pitching staff in solid shape, thanks to keeping Hisashi Iwakuma and Oliver Perez before either hit the open market. Iwakuma got a two-year deal with a third-year option. Perez got a one-year contract with performance incentives.

I won't spend much time writing about either deal because there isn't much to say. Both Iwakuma and Perez finished 2012 strong and the deals will look nice if they carry their success into 2013.

Iwakuma was a logical fit in the rotation, given his familiarity with the team already, and his reasonable $6.5 million price tag annually for only two or three years. Iwakuma should join Felix, Jason Vargas, and Erasmo Ramirez as "locks" for the rotation, and the Mariners should be able to find an in-house option for the fifth spot from their minor league pitching depth. That projects to be a respectable rotation in my eyes. Felix is amazing, and everyone else should keep their team in games (provided the teams scores

Felix still needs a true sidekick for a formidable 1-2 punch before the Mariners rotation is really good. Iwakuma isn't that, but Taijuan Walker or Danny Hultzen might be in the next few years. Iwakuma can bridge the gap until the youth is ready to shine.

Personally, I wouldn't have signed Oliver Perez, but I'm not about to quibble over a $1.5 million commitment. Charlie Furbush established himself as the first lefty in the bullpen, so Perez is redundant - especially with Bobby LaFramboise and Brian Moran looking like serviceable bullpen lefties in AAA Tacoma for the league minimum. The Mariners did not need to bring Perez back, but I suppose he also costs next-to-nothing by MLB standards.

I will write more when the Mariners find themselves some hitters.

Payroll Kind Of Matters I Guess

I keep trying to come up with fresh ideas for blog posts. The obvious one for free agency is a grand off-season plan. That would have been fun, and I have my preferences. However, I don't expect the Mariners to do much in the free agent market, and trades are nearly impossible to sniff out. So what's the point?

Instead, I have an overwhelming (but interactive!) data extravaganza. Free agency boils down to money, and in particular the Mariners payroll seems to be a topic of concern most off-seasons. The payroll has sunk about $20 million while revenues across baseball have risen, and it is fair to wonder if the shrinking funds have something to do with the team's struggles. Below is a visualization tool so you can explore just about anything you want relating team payrolls to team victory totals from 1997 through 2012. I would say more, but I still am yet to play with all the options:



Bottom line: payroll does not seem to matter as much as we might intuitively think. There is a connection between payroll and success, but not much of one in baseball.

FPPI - Final Championship Series Standings

The NLCS took seven games to complete, forcing the Mariners to sweat bullets at the top of the FPPI leaderboard. Did they hold on? The final standings are below!

Click image for larger view

I find it remarkable that the Mariners "won" this "battle," even though most former Mariners played for the Yankees. It is pretty clear that the Yankees tanked worse than any other team in the playoffs. It just so happens that the former Mariners on their team were not part of the problem (or perhaps, in the case of A-Rod, they were such a big problem they got benched).

Still, the Marlins and Twins got strong contributions from Tigers players. The Red Sox were buoyed by Marco Scutaro, the NLCS MVP. Other teams high on the list had players on winning ballclubs, which makes sense since WPA measures a team's chance of winning. Somehow, former Mariners contributed significantly to wins even in the midst of losses.

Go (former) Mariners?

Could You Get Used to Vernon Wells?

Way back when Vernon Wells was good.
Photo taken by Flickr user imagesbyferg.
I almost went with a couple horrifically cheesy puns for the title of this post:

Angel in the Outfield?

Match Made in Heaven

If either of these puns would have made your day as the title of this post, let me know in the comments. The only thing that saved me from using one of them is that I had two to choose from, and couldn't make a choice.

The Angels want to find a new home for Vernon Wells. He hasn't been that good for them, they have a logjam in their outfield, and he's going to make $21 million in 2013, and $21 million again in 2014. He is darn near the textbook definition of a commodity impossible to trade.

Of course, I wouldn't be writing this post if I didn't have a Wells trade in mind, particularly a trade involving the Mariners.

What if the Mariners and Angels swapped Chone Figgins for Vernon Wells, straight up?

FPPI Midweek Update

I'll cut straight to the chase this time. If you want an explanation of what FPPI is, it's basically a quantification of the misery that is watching former players of your favorite team succeed in the playoffs. A more detailed explanation can be found here, along with the initial standings. Below are the rankings as of Tuesday night, with the NLCS tied at a game apiece and the Tigers ahead in the ALCS three games to none:

Click picture for larger size. Click "continue reading" for some musings.

Former Player Pain Index

This time of year, particularly without the Mariners even sniffing the postseason, former Mariners coming up big in big spots becomes painfully noticeable. It stings, because the obvious question is so why exactly did we get rid of him?

It feels like former Mariners succeed in big postseason moments shockingly often. However, I could just be a bitter fan. Maybe I only notice when former Mariners do great things, but never when they struggle.

I am going to put my assumption to the test with what I am calling the Former Player Pain Index (FPPI).

FPPI works rather simply. It is entirely based on WPA, the perfect stat for FPPI because it recognizes that a game-tying home run in the ninth alters a team's chances of winning much more than a home run in the top half of the first inning. Higher WPAs correlate to the big moments I think of in my head when I remember former Mariners in the playoffs.

Essentially, a team's FPPI is the sum of the WPAs of former players for that team. Not all WPAs are weighted equally though, because not every former player is the same. It's one thing for a player to spend one year with a team, and another for them to spend a decade. Recency counts too. The more recently the former player was a current player on a team, the more it stings to watch them succeed elsewhere. The loss is still fresh. FPPI accounts for these two factors by multiplying WPAs by a bonus factor. It is calculated simply by adding up all the seasons a player played for their former team and subtracting how many years it has been since they played for their former team.

For instance, Raul Ibanez played a total of 10 seasons with the Mariners, and it had been 3 seasons (before this one) since he played for the Mariners. Thus, his bonus factor is 7. Ibanez also played multiple seasons for the Royals, but so far in the past that they receive no bonus factor.

The standings through games one and two of the ALCS and game one of the NLCS are below. Click on the graphic to enlarge it. Some analysis follows after the jump:


Winning Rosters

Every division series went five games this year for the first time ever. I was constantly reminded how awesome it is to make the postseason, and how long it has been since the Mariners made it.

Honestly, how close are the Mariners to contention?

The more I thought about game fives, the more I thought about what makes them special, and perhaps illuminating with the correct data. Winner-take-all games foster the purist winning strategies. Neither team plays for tomorrow. They must put their absolute best lineup on the field that day, and every move is made for the sole purpose of winning the current ballgame. This is a rarity in baseball, where managing the daily grind is often as big of a deal as managing the current game at hand.

This year provided a chance to look at four game five winners. A total of 57 players were used by the four winners, for an average of 14.25 players per team. Starters account for 9.5 of those (one league has the DH, the other doesn't), and the remaining 4.75 players are roughly a 50/50 split between a team's bench and bullpen.

The following graph is a look at these 57 players' career trajectories, from the first season they appeared as a professional to today. Seasons where a player split time at multiple levels were counted to the level they spent the most time at (judged by plate appearances for position players and innings pitched for pitchers):


Rethinking MLB TV Revenue

I came across a small post about new MLB media deals by Maury Brown at Biz of Baseball. The national MLB media contracts will essentially double. Major League Baseball currently splits the revenues evenly with all 30 MLB teams, which makes some intuitive sense even though some teams (ahem, Red Sox and Yankees) have more national broadcasts than others. Major League Baseball takes an equality-based approach with national media revenues right now.

What could MLB do if they took an equity-based approach? What I am talking about is if Major League Baseball thought more about providing equal opportunities to franchises instead of dispersing equal resources. Essentially, I am arguing that national TV revenues ought to be treated much like competitive balance funds.

I took a look at Forbes team valuations to get a sense of what an equity-based approach could look like.  The franchise values are cool but what I was really interested in were the revenue estimates. Revenue should represent the money that a team can actually spend in a given year. I made a pretty major assumption and subtracted $24 million from each team's revenue total, assuming this amount is about what MLB teams currently get and that Forbes included that money in each team's revenue. Then I went to work. My premise was simple: balance out revenue as evenly as possible.

I was astonished at what I could do using only the pool of national media money. I could disperse the cash in such a way that 27 of the 30 teams had the exact same revenue, $227 million. The only exceptions were the top three clubs, the Yankees ($415 million), Red Sox ($286 million), and Cubs ($242 million), even though I gave no money from the national media deal to any of those teams.

Keep in mind that this is a pool of money that is currently distributed evenly with all MLB franchises. In other words, the competitive balance monies handed out, which are not distributed evenly, come from elsewhere. They haven't been used at all in this hypothetical scenario.

2012 Awards

One of the great privileges that comes with Baseball Bloggers Alliance membership is the opportunity to vote on postseason awards. I am classified as a Mariners blog, so I vote only on American League awards. Results of BBA-wide voting will come out as October unfolds, and I will post the results as they come out. For now, you will have to settle with how I voted, along with my rationale:

Fences Coming In

The last game of the season just happened, and that feels like a big enough deal to write about, but is it really? Neither the Mariners nor the Angels had much to play for, although the M's seemed to care a bit more with their convincing 12-0 victory. They beat Jered Weaver in the process, dropping him to 20-5 on the season. Fun fact: 3 of Weaver's 5 losses in 2012 were to the Mariners. Go figure.

Anyway, the more meaningful news is that the Safeco Field's dimensions will be different in 2013. The fences are coming in, particularly in left-center field. The changes should make hitting easier, but what kind of an effect will it have?

Let's start with quantifying how cavernous Safeco Field played in 2012. The Mariners had a .275 wOBA at home, easily the worst mark in all of Major League Baseball. 7.7% of their fly balls at home went for home runs, easily below the MLB average, but still better than the Padres, Marlins, and Giants.

Of course, not all team lineups are created equal. The Mariners have had some rough seasons in Safeco, but been just about as atrocious on the road. That suggests something more about their lineup than their ballpark. 2012 was a different story though. The Mariners had a .305 wOBA on the road and 11.9% of their fly balls went for home runs. The differences are noteworthy, but wOBA is particularly shocking given that MLB teams as a whole posted a .323 wOBA at home this year, but just a .308 wOBA on the road.*

*Percentage of fly balls that were home runs had a negligible difference, 11.9% at home and 11.5% on the road.

So what exactly will the new walls do? Below is a diagram of Safeco Field with balls in play data from 2012 (both Mariners and opponents). I've only included doubles, triples, and fly balls. The yellow lines are the new walls sketched to the best of my ability. Ball in play data doesn't have the incredible precision that the scatter of dots might suggest either. In other words, the picture gives a feel for what might have happened this season with the new dimensions, but no definitive answers. See what you think:

image from http://katron.org/projects/baseball/hit-location/

Placing Triple Crowns In Perspective

Miguel Cabrera may just win the triple crown. He leads the American League in batting average and RBIs. He is tied with Josh Hamilton for the league lead in home runs at 43. The last player to win the triple crown in either league is Carl Yastrzemski, back in 1967. Cabrera would become only the 13th triple crown winner since the birth of the World Series.

Wrapped up in the Cabrera triple crown race is an MVP debate, which has increasingly been colored as a battle between history and modern analysis. Traditionalists supposedly prefer and respect the historical glory of the triple crown more than sabermetricians, while the number-crunchers say that focusing on antiquated hitting statistics sells the rightful MVP recipient, Mike Trout, woefully short.

Get a taste of the debate for yourself, if you wish, via the internets. Arguments for Miguel Cabrera tend to romanticize what a triple crown represents. Arguments for Mike Trout tend to feel sound and logical, or cold and calculated, depending on your preferred view/adjectives.

I tend to live more on the sabermetric side of things, but the argument for the triple crown compelled me to investigate. What does it mean to win the triple crown, and what might that mean for Miguel Cabrera in the 2012 MVP race?

Smoak's Swing no Smoke Screen?

Justin Smoak is on a roll in September, seemingly out of nowhere. He has performed like the first basemen he teased us fans into imagining he could (or would) be after his strong start last season. I want to believe Smoak's September success is more than a mirage, maybe even proof that his altered swing is working out.

I went and broke down Smoak's batted ball data for each month this season. I noticed his BABIP is easily the highest in September out of all his months, and sometimes BABIP suggests good or bad luck in limited sample sizes. However, based on the batted ball data I present in the following chart, there is much more than luck involved with Smoak's surge:


Comparing Mariners to Contenders

It is that magical time of year where it is hard to think up meaningful posts. The Mariners season is essentially over. They have assured themselves a better record than last year (woohoo) and would have to really fall flat on their face in the last week and a half to stumble past 90 losses. The Mariners, in all likelihood, will have a losing record that is not catastrophically memorable. The tale of their season has been written.

The Mariners just finished up playing the Orioles, a team in playoff contention. Baltimore had gone over a decade since being relevant. A winning record would have been an accomplishment for them, but they have come out of nowhere to legitimately challenge the beasts of the AL East. Could the Mariners pull a similar trick against Texas and Los Angeles of Anaheim (and dare I say Oakland?)

It is clear enough that the Mariners are not good enough to contend as is. How far away are they though? I decided to investigate this question by adding up WAR totals. I looked at American League teams with a better than 50 percent chance of reaching the playoffs and compared their starters to the Mariners. All numbers in the table below are WAR totals. For the Mariners, these are simple sums. For the contenders I calculated WAR totals for each team and then averaged them. All players are sorted by season WAR totals. Below are the results:

Strasburg Should Get More Starts

Stephen Strasburg got shut down for the year. He is the best pitcher on arguably the best team in baseball. A legitimate World Series contender just shut down their ace for the season. It miserably fails the "eye test" as a good decision. Add me to the chorus of silly and unfounded complainers.

I have two overarching issues with how the Nationals handled Strasburg this season, one more deeper and fundamental than the other.

Minor League Recap

The minor league baseball season ended yesterday. Faithful readers might remember a minor league preview that I posted as the season began. I looked at players outside the Mariners top prospect lists that could establish themselves as parts of the Mariners future.

How did these players do? Let's take a look:

Podcast IV

The latest podcast is up for your listening pleasure! Allen and I discuss the Mariners season and talk some about what the offseason might look like:


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You can subscribe to Musings podcasts on iTunes.

2012 Fall Leaguers

The Arizona Fall League is a like a bonus month of minor league baseball where every team picks the players they want to send the most. As a result, the fall league often features many of baseball's most promising prospects. It's almost like a real-life prospect fantasy league. The rosters were announced on Wednesday.

The Mariners will send eight players to the Arizona Fall League. They are listed below with some brief comments on what they might stand to gain, and what to look for out of them:

THE Blockbuster

Too many trades get labeled blockbusters in baseball. Now the term ought to be retired. The Red Sox and Dodgers completed what has to go down as the most stunning blockbuster of all-time. Boston traded 1B Adrian Gonzalez, OF Carl Crawford, RHP Josh Beckett, and INF Nick Punto for 1B James Loney, RHP Allen Webster, INF Ivan DeJesus Jr., and two players to be named later, reportedly OF/1B Jerry Sands and RHP Rubby de la Rosa.

Let's start with a player-by-player analysis.

How To Win the Wild Card

It's surprisingly hard not to be excited about the Mariners right now. It is a nice change of pace from the previous decade or so. Whispers of "refuse to lose" are slipping out - timid whispers that respect the decade of futility, combined with the long odds the team faces right now, but whispers nonetheless that signal a little hope and excitement.

It would be easy for me to slam the door in this blog post. I would point out that the excitement is getting generated during an eight-game winning streak, and the Mariners are not going to win all of their remaining games. They also have four teams to leapfrog in the wild card standings, and it is next-to-impossible to get four teams to collapse simultaneously.

That's not where I'm going to go with this post though. Instead, how about I dial out a few hypothetical scenarios for you, and you decide how likely the Mariners are to take a wild card spot?

Double Sports Dream Day

I stole the name for this post from Allen. Really, he probably should write this post because yesterday was his idea (hence his title). I had the pleasure of attending both the Sounders and Mariners games yesterday, hence the name Double Sports Dream Day. Perhaps calling a day involving the 2012 Mariners and 2012 Twins a dream was a bit presumptuous, but it wasn't, thanks to John Jaso. Then again, I was with great friends, so maybe it was destined to be a dream day regardless of the outcomes.

There are many angles I could take with the Double Sports Dream Day but: 1. This is a baseball blog and 2. at least half the conversation, even at the baseball game, would force me to change names to protect the innocent and/or write horribly long parenthetical comments to explain the obscure inside jokes we tossed around. So, I am naturally limited.

One thing that struck me during the Double Sports Dream Day is more of a nightmare than anything else. I realized just how far the Mariners have fallen. However, the Double Sports Dream Day also offered shimmers of hope.

Mariners Opposition of Arena Ridiculous

If you read the Musings and live outside the Pacific Northwest, you might be unaware that there is an arena deal brewing in Seattle. Long story short, private investor Chris Hansen has bought property mere blocks away from Safeco Field with the hope of building a new arena to bring back the Seattle SuperSonics.

The deal has already made it rather far. The King County Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between them and Hansen's group. If the Seattle City Council also signs the MOU, then Hansen's group is basically only an NBA team away from building the arena*.

*One condition of the MOU is that the arena is not built until a professional basketball team is secured.

The arena deal would have nothing to do with the Mariners if it weren't so close to Safeco Field. It is though, and they have spoken. The organization wrote a letter to the city and county in early April stating that the arena-building process should include consideration of multiple sites. They note that it took a year to decide where Safeco Field would go. The letter, when read literally, seems innocuous. However, reading between the lines, would the Mariners really bother to write the letter if they didn't have some concerns about a new sports venue setting up shop next to them?

This morning, Q13 sports anchor Aaron Levine wrote a three-tweet-series reporting that the Mariners have hired the public relations firm Pacific Public Affairs. It just so happens to be the main PR firm for anti-arena efforts.

Again, April's letter does not flat-out say that the Mariners oppose the arena site, and there is no stated reason the Mariners hired Pacific Public Affairs. The lack of details leave room for bad assumptions. However, it would not make much sense for the Mariners to go to the extra effort they are at the moment if they supported the arena plan.

What I can't figure out is why the Mariners are so worried about the arena.

Smoak Up. Oh Well.

Mike Carp hit the DL, courtesy of the remarkable stretch he made below:


The Mariners called up Justin Smoak to take his place. Smoak is a known commodity and got sent down because he wasn't hitting all that well. I saw him in Tacoma a few times, and he did not look much better to me. He did not hit a home run in 82 AAA plate appearances. The biggest difference was Smoak's walk rate, which spiked considerably. Hopefully he packs his patience with him as he returns to the majors, but franky, there aren't many reasons to expect his return to look all that different than what got him sent down in the first place.

I am irritated that Smoak got called back up. Not incredibly irritated, but irritated, much in the same way that a hangnail isn't really that big of a deal, but it's still a hangnail, and enough of a bother to notice and complain about. First base is now the Mariners version of a hangnail.

Let's Get Real About Vargas

I wrote about a plausible trade for Jason Vargas before the trade deadline. Now, after a brilliant performance largely responsible for handing Jered Weaver his second loss on the season, I'm going to argue why Vargas should not be King Felix's sidekick long-term. If you think I hate Vargas, well, I guess I can't blame you.

The irony is that I thoroughly enjoy watching Jason Vargas pitch. He reminds me of Jamie Moyer in many respects. They are both quintessential examples of crafty left-handers. Vargas, by in large, forces his opponents to beat him*, and sometimes they can. However, Vargas has a terrific defense and Safeco's spacious pastures behind him, which makes the job tough for an opponent.

*This sounds like a "duh" statement, but pay close attention to baseball highlights some night. Most hard hits start with a meat pitch in a hitter's count and/or a hitter anticipating a specific pitch and getting it. Sure, the batter still struck the ball well, but the pitcher made their job a little too easy.

Vargas hysteria seems to be hitting Seattle. Maybe it is those Viva Las Vargas shades. Getting honored as the AL Pitcher of the Month in July probably didn't hurt either. The showdown with Jered Weaver yesterday isn't the only feather in Vargas's cap, merely the most recent.

I love what Vargas is accomplishing right now but I was struck by how excited other fans are. I listened to some of the radio post-game show yesterday on 710 KIRO and I couldn't believe some of the comments. One fan called Vargas a 20-game winner. Another implied that he compares favorably to Cole Hamels. Others talked about Felix and Vargas as one of the premiere one-two punches in the American League. In general, I got the sense that Jason Vargas is currently seen as more than a good pitcher in a good stretch. Has he ascended to a new level?

No.

League & Delabar Traded; Mariners Continue Rebuilding

Today is my birthday, but I got one of my presents early this year. Wrapped up with a bow on his head, the Mariners sent Brendan League to the Dodgers for a pair of minor league prospects. The Mariners also completed a deal with Toronto that sent Steve Delabar away, continuing their trend of giving away players during this home stand.

Greinke to Angels

Brewers GM Doug Melvin wasn't kidding when he guaranteed that they would trade Zack Greinke. He's now a part of the Angels, in exchange for a trio of AA prospects - SS Jean Segura, RHP Ariel Pena, and RHP John Hellweg.

Hanleywood

I was about to go to bed last night when my Twitter feed lit up with a deal between the Dodgers and Marlins. 3B/SS Hanley Ramirez and LHP Randy Choate are now in LA in exchange for RHP Nathan Eovaldi and RHP Scott McGough.

Ichiro

Ichiro got traded to the New York Yankees for RHP Danny Farquhar and RHP D.J. Mitchell. Let's get the most uninteresting part out of the way, scouting Farquhar and Mitchell.

Danny Farquhar is a diminutive 25-year-old reliever that has bounced around some, clocking some very brief time in the majors in 2011. He was a 10th round draft pick in 2008 out of the Lousiana Lafayette. Farquhar consistently posts solid AAA numbers, and maybe he could produce some decent innings in an MLB bullpen. However, Farquhar is what he is, organizational depth.

D.J. Mitchell is an undersized right-hander (though not as undersized as Farquhar) out of Clemson University. He has an ERA over 5.00 in the rather pitcher-friendly International League (AAA). He was also a 10th round draft pick in 2008. He is now 25 years old, and for the most part has posted decent enough numbers to get steadily promoted through the minors. He looks like organizational depth.

In other words, the Mariners got nothing for Ichiro (with all due respect to Farquhar and Mitchell). These are pitchers who could contribute, but in much the same way that Josh Kinney currently contributes to the Mariners. These are the kinds of pitchers that Jack Zduriencik is able to consistently find as minor league free agents to fill out his bullpen. They aren't the type of guys a team really needs to trade for.

Then again, with all due respect to Ichiro, the Mariners did not give up a highly valuable contributor at this point. Ichiro is a 38-year-old outfielder in the final year of his contract. His performance dipped considerably last season, and it hasn't rebounded much, if at all. Overpaid, over-the-hill superstars just months away from free agency due do not cost much to acquire, shockingly enough. From the Yankees perspective, that's the kind of player they just acquired.*

*Maybe. Ichiro's road numbers are much better than at home (.297 batting average versus .214), as is the case with virtually every Mariner. Perhaps Ichiro will be a decent hitter for the Yankees. Time will tell.

From the Mariners perspective, and particularly Mariner fans, we just lost a franchise icon. We lost this:


And we lost this:


Plausible Vargas Trade

I won't make a habit of theoretical trade proposals, but one popped in my head today that makes enough sense to actually happen. Jon Morosi reported this morning that the Cardinals might have interest in Jason Vargas. Take that rumor for what its worth, given the trade deadline is near, and the Mariners never say much about their discussions with other teams. It certainly makes sense that the cardinals would be looking for starting pitching, and it makes equal sense for the M's to shop Vargas. He has been a valuable starter for the Mariners, but he is due a pay raise in the offseason, and several young hurlers in the farm system are close to the big leagues.

My proposed deal: Jason Vargas for Matt Adams, straight up or with some other players involved.

Death of Signability?

I want to love the new MLB draft salary system. It makes sense to me. Each team gets a pot of money based on the slotted value of their draft picks. The team can use however much money they want on whomever they draft, but they have a finite cash amount to play with. The system allows for some freedom and creativity, but makes the draft more of a draft again, instead of a contest to see who is most willing to sink a ton of money into it. Hopefully, signability is no longer a buzz term come draft time.

The early returns give me cautious optimism.

Two Hopes for Noesi

The Mariners sent down RHP Hector Noesi to Tacoma today, and called up OF Carlos Peguero. The Mariners do not need a fifth starter for a while with the All Star Break coming up, and that's likely a factor in this decision, but the fact remains that Noesi got sent down. He is the owner of a 2-11 record with a 5.77 ERA this season - hardly unassailable numbers.

I hope that the Mariners sent down Noesi with two things to work on. He is far from a lost cause. I will start with a pretty picture (click on it for a bigger version). The explanation of the graph follows:


2012 All Stars by WAR

Instead of debating who should and should not have made the All Star team, I decided to make an infographic. It is a simple scatter plot, with a player's career WAR on the x-axis, and their WAR so far this season on the y-axis. The colored boxes signify quadrants, which I will explain more after the graphic. You can also click on the picture for a larger view:


The quadrants are not evenly sized because I divided them based on the medians for career and season WAR, respectively. Career WARs varied greatly, with more players lower on the scale. This makes sense since it takes time to accumulate large career WAR totals, and some All-Stars are young, while others are grizzled veterans.

Season WAR is one way to measure how great the player's current season is. Career WAR is a way to measure their past performance, and the kind of reputation they have earned/accumulated.

The following are the All-Stars listed by quadrant, along with a suggested way to interpret what each quadrant represents:

MLB Influence - June 2012

Last year I rolled out an MLB Influence infographic every month, in place of projected standings. This year, I'm more or less doing the same thing, with an added piece of data.

FanGraphs and Sports Illustrated have teamed up for MLB power rankings this season. The rankings are based on team WAR totals. I've now added this to the Cool Standings data, and search traffic data from Google Insights. I've also tried to make the graphic a little more interactive by sharing it on Google Docs. The result? It's below:

Keep Running, Billy, Keep Running

Speed, slowly but surely (ironically enough), is returning to baseball. Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon sprints to second most times he gets on first. I liked his speed so much I made him my opening day fantasy shortstop, but that's another story.* Juan Pierre continues to make a living swiping bags. Chone Figgins came to the Mariners as a noted thief on the basepaths. Speed didn't die, but it was one of the few things that steroids shriveled up in baseball.

*Gordon hit fantasy free agency a few weeks ago. His speed wasn't nearly as exciting to watch since he uses it mostly to retreat from the batter's box after his latest putout.

The tide is shifting back towards speed in Major League Baseball, but mark my words: when Billy Hamilton makes the majors, he will usher in a new generation of speed. I've struggled all season with when (or if) to post about Hamilton, but today is the day. His speed is the best story going in all of Minor League Baseball, and quite frankly, more exciting than most MLB stories if you ask me.

2012 Draft: Mariners Picks

Draft picks don't matter sometimes. The M's no-hitter is obviously the biggest M's story right now. Moreover, none of the six pitchers who combined for the no-hitter were drafted by the Mariners. Two (Furbush and League) were acquired in trades that involved Mariners draft picks though (Doug Fister and Brandon Morrow).

The draft is still the easiest place to find impact talent without giving any talent up, which is why it is so darn important to draft well.  The talent will get picked; it's just a question of whether your team or a competitor is going to get it. Did the Mariners get their fair share? I'll give pick-by-pick grades, and use an excessively complex GPA calculator to determine a final result*. Players are listed by round:

*Just kidding, maybe.

2012 Draft: Day 3 Preview

If you ask me, day three of the MLB draft should be mostly about senior recognition. The mostly likely MLB talents to sign have almost completely been picked by this point. It's fun to think about potential "diamonds in the rough," but the vast majority of players picked now will only play in the minor leagues.

So, why not reward productive college seniors? I can't think of a better way to recognize a great college player than to draft them, and let them say they played pro ball. Plus, I'm a sucker for production, and whose to say some of these ultra-productive players can't find a way to stay productive as a pro?

My thoughts on college seniors guide my thinking as I compile the day 3 preview. Day 2 is probably my favorite to follow, but this list might be the most fun to put together. History suggests a number of the players I'm about to highlight won't get drafted, but I hope a tip of the cap from my perch in the Pacific Northwest is worth something. Here are some guys to root for as the draft comes to a close:

2012 Draft: Day 2 Recap

It's always good to complete a story. I put out a day 2 preview, and I'll start my recap with a round-by-round breakdown of where my previewed players went. Ones from the top 31 list are bold. There also were a few players I had tabbed for my day 3 preview that popped up today, so I've included them with their write-ups I had prepared:

2012 Draft: Day 1 Recap

The first day only includes the first round and then the "sandwich" round, so I might as well take advantage of the opportunity to go pick-by-pick through the first round. I'll take a page out of Allen's book, and offer arbitrary grades for every pick. Here we go, 1 through 31:

2012 Draft: Day 2 Preview

The first day of the draft is in the books, but there are still 39 rounds to go! Plenty of talent is still available. The draft starts up again at 9am here on the best coast, so stick the draft tracker on in the background as you slog away on whatever engrossing document or spreadsheet at your cubicle. Here are some names to scan for as you periodically check in:

Z Versus B, State By State

Jack Zduriencik has clearly improved the Mariners farm system. He has made 152 draft picks so far as M's GM. His predecessor, Bill Bavasi, made 245 draft picks. I figured both sample sizes were big enough to see some trends in their draft strategies.

To a degree, the big-time prospects are known around the nation. However, as a draft wears on, a GM relies on their scouts and connections. Scouts are typically deployed to cover certain regions. So, I figured if Zduriencik and Bavasi have different people in their ears, and different connections, I would see differences in where Mariners draft picks geographically come from.

Below are the results. Mouse over different states for the raw total of prospects the respective GM selected from that state:

Bill Bavasi 
Jack Zduriencik
Click "continue reading" for some of my thoughts on the data.

2012 Top 31

The 2012 Draft is set to begin on Monday. It is time to unveil my seventh annual list of draft prospects to watch. The Musings coverage started modestly enough back in 2006 - basically 6 hours of me noodling around on the internet and coming up with 15 names from the college ranks.

I'm still no pro scout, and I have to wriggle in research around such nuisances as a full time job, and applying to grad school. In other words, as far as I'm concerned, every MLB team should be able to outperform my rankings. I'm not convinced every team does though.

Without further ado, the 31 players I would draft with the 31 first-round picks this year (in reverse order):

Dr. Strange Runs (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Mariners' Offense)

Well, wasn't this an odd series for the Mariners... but what does it mean?

The Mariners outscored the best offense in baseball 33 runs to 15 and won the series 2-1. Now, I knew the M's were bound to score runs at some point, but I doubt anyone expected to see something like this out of this team. I mean, have you seen this lineup? Seriously, look at this lineup, this a miracle.

Podcast III

It's been almost two months, but we have a new podcast! Allen and I talk performances of some different Mariners, and a few prospects making noise in the minor leagues:


You can also check out Musings podcasts on iTunes, where you are heartily encouraged to subscribe.

Fortnight Over

The silence has been deafening. We went a fortnight between posts at the Musings. There is activity behind the scenes. Free time has been sparse with my work schedule this month, and what free time I've had has been sunk into draft prep.

It's time for a post of some sort though. Let's talk about the state of the Mariners roster. The series against the Rockies and Rangers were largely awesome. The current series against the Angels has been a bust so far. This team is up and down, which is hard to watch at times, but I'll gladly take it over the down and really down we've dealt with the past couple seasons. Still, are there any major roster inefficiencies at this point? Here are my takes:

Progress Report: Hitters

Here's part two in my series of grading player performances based on their performances so far. If you want to read part one on the pitching staff, go here. I will note that these grades are mostly based on the players' hitting performance, rather than defense, or fashion sense.The rest of the grades are arbitrarily determined and whatever I felt like giving them. Enjoy!

Where Did Pujols Go?


Above is Albert Pujols's first (and, to date, only) home run as an Angel. It shouldn't be too big of a deal, but it is because it came on May 6. Really, it's not that big of a deal that Pujols hit a home run on May 6. The big deal is that Pujols did not hit a home run before May 6.

I was on Twitter last week*, and Kevin Goldstein posted a simple thought: Has anyone tried to figure out what's wrong with Albert Pujols?

*Actually I'm on Twitter all the time, and that included last week.

I'm not sure anyone has. So, I'm about to fix that.

Sinking League

This one's for Allen. He hasn't enjoyed Brandon League's recent inability to save one-run ballgames.* Allen asked me what's wrong with League, and I said nothing. We went back and forth for a bit, and I steadfastly stuck to my initial statement. However, I have to admit that I haven't seen League pitch much this season (I follow on the radio for the most part), and I didn't have any numbers in front of me as Allen and I texted back and forth.

*I haven't either, for the record.

I've looked at the numbers. Brandon League is different, but he's still Brandon League. The only thing that might be wrong is League's pitch selection, but that's nothing new.

Sample size is a significant issue with early season reliever data, but that's only if we are worried with predictions. Data helps us paint an exact picture of what's already happened, and that's at the heart of what Allen asked anyway. So, let's look at the numbers so far.

There are concerns in Brandon League's 2012 performance. Through 14 innings, his K/9 is 5.14, which would easily be a career low. His BB/9 is 3.86, which would be about a walk per 9 innings above his career average. League's ground ball rate is currently at 48.8%, and if that holds, it would be the first time he posts a rate below 50%. These are all troubling numbers.

However, League has counteracted the issues with some good fortune (or a newfound skill?) He has stranded 77.8% of baserunners so far, which is a rate 10% better than what we've seen out of him his past couple seasons as a Mariners. Also, with more fly balls, League should be more susceptible to home runs. However, he is yet to give up one!

The pros and cons of Brandon League's 2012 performance have roughly balanced each other. His ERA is at 2.57, which would be his lowest ERA as a Mariners, if it holds. The numbers suggest that Brandon League has been a bit more of a heart attack this season, but ultimately as effective.

The stranded runners and lazy fly balls won't last forever though. League has some concerns. The issues are connected, and hopefully can be fixed.

Progress Report: Pitchers

Congratulations to you for making it through a month and a half of Mariners' baseball! If you're reading this, you haven't completely given up on the M's this year (yet). You also haven't gouged your eyes out from watching this team throughout the roller coaster ride it has been since they opened the year in Japan back in March. Since then, we have seen winning and losing streaks, blown saves, and the Athletics. Boy, have we seen alot of Athletics baseball. In fact, Mariners fans have probably been to more Athletics games than Athletics fans have this year (Zing!).

Since we've been through more than a month of baseball this year, I think it's time for a progress report. Remember back when you got progress reports in school? Remember when you would try to check the mail before your parents did so that way they never knew about that 'F' you got in Home Economics? Well, this is nothing like that. This is just me throwing out grades which I feel approximate how well the players have done so far and are in no way scientific. Simply put, these are my opinions. Feel free to disagree in the comments, I love a good argument.

For part one of this series, I'll focus on the pitching staff.

MLB Influence - April 2012

Last year I rolled out an MLB Influence infographic every month, in place of projected standings. This year, I'm more or less doing the same thing, with an added piece of data.

FanGraphs and Sports Illustrated have teamed up for MLB power rankings this season. The rankings are based on team WAR totals. I've now added this to the Cool Standings data, and search traffic data from Google Insights. I've also tried to make the graphic a little more interactive by sharing it on Google Docs. The result? It's below:

Rivera Done

Mariano Rivera tore his ACL. It's hard to comprehend. His season is over. His career is finished as well, unless he reconsiders retirement. Everything I'd really like to say is captured in this wonderful video that the New York Times made a few years ago. Seriously, this is all you ever need to know about what made Mariano Rivera the greatest closer of all time, in only 2 minutes and 41 seconds:


Enjoy. Actually, maybe a better word is savor.

Pitch Counts Pointless

Tom Verducci's article on SI.com this week got me thinking about pitcher usage. Verducci argues that current injury rates among MLB pitchers are a symptom of bad pitcher management. His argument convinced me, at least, and my thoughts turned to pitch counts. I like the idea that King Felix can go 120, 130, maybe even 140 pitches (?!) without increasing his injury risk. If injury rates haven't really changed with all the new efforts taken to limit workloads, does data debunk the value of pitch counts?

I found injury data through Driveline's injury database*, and compared that with pitch count data from the 2009 season. I calculated each pitcher's pitches per appearance in 2009, and listed pitchers in order from most to leas pitches thrown per appearance. From there, I looked up pitchers one by one in the injury database. I noted how many days they spent on the DL in 2009, and how many days they spent on the DL in 2010.

*Free, to a degree. I looked up approximately 200 players before I was cut off.

I stratified the pitchers I had into groups of 25. So, the 25 pitchers with the highest average pitch counts were the first group, the next 25 pitchers were the next group, and so on, for a total of 7 groups (175 players). Here are the average pitch counts, and days spent on DL, for each group:

The Aftermath

So, the Mariners lost last night. In one of the most frustrating fashions in which they could have lost, they lost.

Since last night, I can't shake the feeling of disappoint that came over me after Brandon League gave up the narrow one run lead in the 9th.

When I can't shake something from my mind, I write about it. So, here is my attempt to shake my disappointment over last night, the same way an alcoholic might try to make sense of his latest bender the morning after.

Ackley, Seager, and hype

Two weeks into the season it's already clear to me that both Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager should be in the starting lineup regularly. This year is already about next year, and both Ackley and Seager look like two of the better hitters on the roster anyway.

It is convenient to look at Ackley as the crowned jewel among recent M's position prospects. That view was created, and maybe even warranted, when Ackley got picked second overall in the 2009 draft. The hype only escalated when Ackley was rated the M's top hitting prospect by pretty much any national scouting service as he worked his way through the minors. Seager, the M's third round pick from the same draft as Ackley, is hopefully one among the supporting cast.

Assume, at least for the next couple paragraphs, that Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager were both signed off the streets by the Mariners for $250,000. If that's too low of an amount for you, raise it. Would the perception around Ackley, and the prospects around him, be any different if they had entered the organization as perfect equals?

Thoughts on King Felix

Felix Hernandez is getting some serious attention. That's nothing new. What's new are a bunch of murmurs and concerns around him. He just doesn't seem to be the King Felix we adore.

How concerned should we be?

Free Stuff at Safeco This Year

The smell of fresh air with a hint of that signature ballpark hot dog aroma.

The crack of the bat and the subsequent roar of the crowd.

The relief of the seventh inning stretch and every fan singing "Take Me Out to The Ballgame" off key at the top of their lungs.

These are the images that conjur in my mind when I think about seeing the Mariners play at Safeco Field and the reasons that I make sure to attend at least a few games each year. However, given the recent stretch of mediocrity the M's have had, attendance numbers have been dwindling. Oddly enough, as most fans don't enjoy watching their team flail at the plate on their way to a 2-0 loss 80+ times a year.

I know I have had a rough time just listening to the M's on the radio as they've struggled these past few years. But that is no reason to give up on going to the ballpark though. There are still plenty of great reasons to go to a game at Safeco and most don't even involve the Mariners.

The Importance of Baseball in the Pacific Northwest

There are few things to cheer about during winter in the Pacific Northwest: a warm cup of coffee, sunsets over the Olympic mountains, any day it doesn't rain. These are all gifts in their own right, but like many good things, they are fleeting, their effects only a temporary escape from the freezing rain and bitter wind swirling in from the Puget Sound.

And then there’s baseball.

2012 Mariners Minor League Rosters

The Mariners set their opening day roster on Tuesday, which means they also set their minor league rosters. Plenty of good blogs will dig into the MLB roster, but really, opening day already happened. The juicier stuff is in the minors.

I've looked through the minor league rosters, and offer up a batter and pitcher I am interested in at each level (with honorable mentions). I've intentionally highlighted guys that don't grab headlines all the time. I don't have a real firm definition for who counts as a headline-grabbing prospect, but I generally tried to avoid players that pop up on most pre-season top 10 lists. My theory is that there will be plenty of coverage around those guys. The players I've chosen to write about might get overlooked though, and in some ways they are just as important to the vitality of the farm system.

Keep reading past the jump for some names to track in the M's farm system that aren't getting much hype, but might be poised to become a bigger part of the Mariners future:

Podcast II

At long last, the second part of the inaugural Seattle Mariners Musings podcast recording! Allen and I review a few books that hit shelves on March 15, Summer of '68 by Tim Wendel, and Trading Manny by Jim Gullo. Enjoy!

You can also check out Musings podcasts on iTunes, where you are heartily encouraged to subscribe. Thanks to Da Capo Press for sending me advanced copies of both books. They were fun to read, and fun to talk about. I'll happily preview advanced copies of other books too.