Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 2, 2007
BASEBALL: The Absent Mariner

I'd agree with Jim Caple that the most logical explanation for Mike Hargrove's sudden resignation as Mariners manager while riding an 8-game winning streak is that there's more we don't know - probably something in his life off the field he prefers not to get into publicly (an impression only underlined by his players professing to understand better once they taked to him).

On the other hand, it's easy to feel depressed and unmotivated when the team is losing; when you are on a hot streak and you still don't feel like coming to work, that should tell you something. It's like when the Pirates started winning in the late 80s and early 90s, and they still couldn't sell tickets.

Anyway, while the Mariners may be hot, I'm still skeptical of them. Their record is 45-33, but their Pythagorean record is 40-38. They are more dependent on high batting averages than any team in the majors. They've drawn 199 walks as a team; the Cardinals are second to last in the majors at 225. Only one guy on the roster, Richie Sexson, has more than 10 home runs, and he's batting .211. They are next to last in the league in doubles and triples. Their pitching staff is second only to the Yankees for fewest strikeouts in the AL, and besides the mediocre Jarrod Washburn, their only halfway-reputable starting pitcher is Felix Hernandez, who hasn't been right since his DL stay in April. The team's defensive efficiency is next to last in the AL, ahead of only the Devil Rays. Pitchers who don't strike people out and fielders who don't catch the ball are a bad combination; only an AL-best, Safeco-aided 56 homers allowed has saved them from ignominy.

That's not to say the Mariners have no assets. Hernandez and Sexson could contribute tremendously in the second half, and of course the Safeco caveat applies as well to Beltre and Jose Guillen, who aren't as punchless as their raw numbers suggest. Ichiro's .365 batting average is not exactly a fluke. The team's success is hugely dependent on closer JJ Putz (0.92 ERA) and a corps of setup/middle relievers whose Putz-less names are little-known outside Seattle - George Sherrill (1.48 ERA), Eric O'Flaherty (2.28), Sean Green (2.70), and Brandnon Morrow (3.68) - although you have to wonder how long those guys will be that lights-out, especially since the latter three had thrown a combined 43 major league innings before this season.

Bottom line: the Mariners are already overachieving and I don't see where they have a whole lot to fall back on when the hot parts of the team cool off. Hargrove's successor may end up deciding he got out at just the right time.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

I saw 2 games at Safeco recently and even though the Ms beat the Sox both times I was left wondering if Hargrove knew what he was doing or cared at all about what was happening. He made gaffes such as failing to wait for a pinch-hitter to be announced for the Sox (it was to be LH hitting Hinske) before he brought in a lefty reliever so the Sox got to send a RH hitter to the plate. How basic is that to screw up?

Posted by: jim at July 2, 2007 11:17 AM

One of the comments from the GM that stuck in my mind was that hargrove was first going to spend some time with his wife and then serve as a consultant to the team. Also, his wife commenting that he had only slept in his own bed 4 nights in the last 8 months. I agree Crank something is not right with the "Human Rain Delay".

Posted by: maddirishman at July 2, 2007 12:30 PM

I question the weak fielding remark. The Mariners look very solid up the middle. Besides Sexson they have no holes in their lineup and even Sexson The Atrocious is on pace for 30 HR and 100 RBI. The adequate guy on third has become barely adequate but they have no glaring holes until the 4th starter and Weaver is improving.

Also, they have several guys who had great 2nd halves last year. They might be here to stay.

Posted by: Walter Guest at July 2, 2007 8:56 PM

Couldn't agree more about the pythagorean pct. Sea looks to regress to the mean a little bit. Here's those sentiments in graphical form:

Posted by: Baseball Investor at July 3, 2007 4:56 PM

I pegged the M's for 83 wins and still feel they will be in that neighborhood. The overall run producing ability of this bunch is weak....see total bases / extra base hits. as far as Grover bolting....I tend to beleive him, that things just got to where he was ready to go. However, I think one of those "things " was Ichiro....Ichiro was NOT going to resign with the M's as long as hargrove was there...I think Mike did what he thought was best....I give Hargrove his due. Unlike media favorites like Pinella, Hargrove never badmouthed his players to the press, whined about ownership not giving him enough talent, etc. And all those who have ripped him for the last couple of seasons MUST give him credit for cobbling togehter a bullpen out of some very marginal pieces. M's will win 83-85, and should be very happy with that accomplishment.

Posted by: Bomb erboy at July 5, 2007 2:35 AM
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