Detect-o-Vision: Pokey, Not Yer Typical Scrub
Detect-O-Vision On … Pokey's Glove and Giving The Pitchers Some Love:
Bavasi Hauls in The "Untouchable" Fish:
Okay, kiddies, everybody who remembers the 1999-2000 offseason, hold up your hands. Or, If you prefer, hold your nose between thumb and forefinger. As y'know, that was the offseason in which Ken Griffey Jr. said "Please trade me. To the Cincinnati Reds. Not that I'm picky." It was also the offseason in which Jim Bowden, with a down-snap of the scroll as if he were a maitre ‘d crisping out a lap napkin, unfurled his list of "untouchable" Reds. This list of Reds players, whom Bowden deemed better than Ken Griffey Jr., was exactly 34 names long.
Bowden was joking, even though he didn't know it at the time. But he was serious about one Cincinnati Red; The young Pokey Reese.
In 1999 Pokey Reese was; (a) a dazzling glove wizard who cemented the Reds' entire infield defense, and; (b) an exciting leadoff man who hit .285 with walks, doubles, and plenty ‘nuff stolen bases.
Here In 2004-05 Pokey Reese is; (a) a dazzling glove wizard who cements a team's entire infield, and; (b) an offensive player who has his problems. The worst being that … um, that he's an automatic out. Not an "automatic out" in the sense that Willie Bloomquist is an automatic out (.625 OPS), but an automatic out in the sense that Dontrelle Willis is an automatic out (550 OPS).
Hey, don't sell that short, though. It is kinda cool to have a starting position player whose top-end ambition is to have an offensive season comparable to Russ Ortiz'. It paces the game for you. As soon as the catcher gets two strikes, you can lean toward the Safeco stairs like Ichiro taking his lead … the instant the catcher puts the ball in play or whiffs for strike three, you break hard for the concession stand.
Pokey's at-bat gives you three extra timeouts a game. (Remember to point your lead foot down the stairs on your leadoff, so that you don't jab-step and lose precious "Pokey Time.")
More seriously, Pokey's offensive presence does come with an Earl Weaver Specialization Opportunity – it means that in the crunch time of every game, the Mariners will send a masher to the plate in the #9 hole- and with the platoon edge, no less.
Admittedly, this might alarm M's fans under Lou Piniella and Bob Melvin. But the fact is, baseball features an in-game rule known as the "pinch-hit substitution." Relax, you'll find it very enjoyable to watch. It is fun even to anticipate it beforehand, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how a big late-inning hit can send you home listening to "happy totals".
Mike Hargrove manages to win. You can bet that Grover will not "Melvin" a .194 EqA shortstop out to the batter's box against Barry Zito, in a desperate attempt to avoid a scowl from a veteran.
The Good, The Bad, & The … BEST?, Dept.
How good is Pokey Reese with the leather? Detect-O-Vision asked a high-placed Red Sox official about it. The Red Sox in fact offered Reese arbitration to return to the defending World Champs "because the manager believes Reese to be the best defensive shortstop in the major leagues."
Not "one of" the best, not "close to as good as" Furcal or Vizquel or somebody else – but absolutely the #1 glove man in the major leagues. There's Pokey Reese, and then there's whoever is #2.
It's not just the opinion of the guy who managed him. Scouts who watch Reese play every day tell you the same thing, that Reese is the best middle infielder in the game.
Blimey, let's see a coupla Reeses-to-Sexsons already, what? Hard cheddar for the A's, mate.
Parental Advisory Dept.
So we've established what? That (1) Pokey Reese is a truly horrific batter, that (2) Pokey's a glove wizard, just as good defensively as he is bad offensively. And, let's establish (3) that sabermetrically, his glove does NOT carry his bat.
The last two years, Pokey has hit – Parental Advisory Warning, material may be too graphic for younger viewers - .218/.271/.285. YEAAGGHHHHHH. Cue "Psycho" weeh-weeh-weeh-weeh!
So let's say that Reese does save you 10 or 15 or even 20 runs a year with his glove? If you add the math right, you can't add the math right, Yogi. There's no such thing as a mitt so slick, that it makes up for a hitting pushover like Reese doing the Popup Punching Clown act at home plate.
And saber-stats confirm that. Baseball Prospectus' WARP statistic, which adds runs gained batting, and runs saved defending, delivers the grim verdict. Reese was no better than a "replacement level (AAA) player" in 2003 and 2004.
So why is the Seattle blog-o-sphere, usually cheaper with the Mariners' dollars than the suits' own accountants are, so thrilled about $1.9M to a replacement-level player?
Und Eine Keine BALLCLUB Hier? Vot Next?, Dept.
The answer lies in the fact that baseball is not as simple as last-year's-OPS-per-dollar.
"We do not have near-perfect measurements of baseball players; it is foolish to assume that we do," Bill James said last year. He's right, of course. Never allow the saberdweebs (including Dr. D!) to convince you that they've got 950 of 1,000 knowledge light bulbs on. Pokey Reese, His Ownself, is Exhibit A as to the limitations of our current baseball statistics.
Bill Bavasi is not attempting to buy the most 2004 VORP for the 2005 dollar, a fact for which we can be extremely thankful. Bill Bavasi is attempting to build a championship baseball club.
The 2001 Mariners, who went 116-46, were (literally) history's greatest club. The ‘01 M's had no Cy Young starter, didn't have a Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth or even a Adrian Beltre. But night!, after night!, after night!, they played celery-crisp, pretty-as-a-picture baseball. Offensively they played sequential baseball, taking what the pitcher gave them, and defensively they were a miracle.
This crisp-ness gained its own momentum. The night-in, night-out hardball beauty gathered force like the Polar Express on its 70-degree downhills through the tundra. It seemed it was like September before the 2001 Mariners lost a series.
Sterling team defense has the effect of causing very consistent play in other areas of the game, such as pitching and hang-tough hitting. The 2005 Mariners are rising from the ashes of 99 defeats to resurrect the 2001 defensive miracle. In the infield they now field not one, but -- count them – four gold glove defenders. If you want to ask "how good are Beltre, Pokey, Boone and Sexson?", ask not how other current clubs compare. Ask rather how clubs compared going back to 1945.
Pesky rodent AL West offenses who hit the ball (1) in the air at Safeco, will watch Jeremy Reed camping out with an arm waving in the air, fair-catching their NFL-punt style hanging fly balls. And offenses, who hit the ball (2) on the ground, will see their worm-burners smothered under a relentless bee swarm of diving Mariner mitts.
Muahahahahaha, sez Bavasi, to which Dr. D replies, "what he said."
Roster Construction as Art & Science, Dept.
The post-James sabermetrician has (over-)simplified baseball. He believes that building a pennant winner involves no more than buying the most 2004 OPS for the 2005 money.
The sabermetrician is hopelessly wrong. (We mean that in a good way.)
Baseball is Bill Bavasi's mother tongue. It has been since he heard the Buzzie baseball chatter around the breakfast table at six years of age. And Bill Bavasi is interested in building a ballclub - a club on which some players are very, very good at hitting the ball over the fence, and some are very, very good at catching the ball, and some are very ……. um, okay, "pretty" good at throwing it.
The 1994-98 Indians, for example, built a tremendous ballclub based on (1) offense-first stars, (2) a couple of "rubber-cement" defensive players who carried all those bats, and (3) fairly good pitchers who kept the team in the game. The point is that a single great defensive player, provided he is in the middle of the field, can glue your entire defense.
That is exactly what Omar Vizquel did for the bat-first 1990's Indians, and it is the role that Pokey Reese will play for the 2005 Mariners. Except, ahem, that Pokey's glove won't have to carry Adrian Beltre's.
The Seattle internet watched Bill Bavasi grab the Mariners' heads with both hands, and forcibly crank their necks over to look at the Stars and Scrubs way of doing business. When Bavasi did haul the stars into a 99-loss boat, ‘net fans' jaws dropped so wide they caught colds. They rallied gamely, though, and then wrung their hands that Bill Bavasi wouldn't have a clue what a good scrub was.
Read ‘em and weep. Pokey Reese, amigos. Bavasi is going to his scrubby left as well as he goes to his starry right.
Detect-O-Vision Diagnosis, Dept.
The 2001 Mariners saw an entire rotation overachieve. Aaron Sele went 15-5, with a 3.60 ERA and Paul Abbott went 17-4, and that was the back of the rotation.
The 2005 Mariners will see an entire rotation overachieve also. When there are two on and two out, game tied - and Vlad Guerrero sizzles a hard shot to the left side? – Hey, amigos. When Adrian Beltre and Pokey Reese or, more likely, both, get to the ball, saving Joel Pineiro's start, do not call it luck.
Call it the AL West's most balanced ballclub.
Does defense win? Who knows? Detect-O-Vision might or might not format the 2005 hard disk with defensive defrag. Hmmmm.
But when you have great defense in combination with Ichiro, Beltre, and Sexson, you've got a ballclub, bab-eh. And not just "Stars and Scrubs" as a scrambled set of disjointed parts in the bottom of a dusty bin, but do-it-all and do-it-well parts that jigsaw sweetly into a single grand design. The 2005 M's have Big Ball, they have Little Ball, they have gloves, they have a team.
Pokey Reese isn't a scrub in the sense that Jolbert Cabrera is a scrub. He's not a Swiss Army Knife who does everything kinda-sorta okay, but who does nothing well. Pokey Reese is a specialized wire-stripping tool, a tool that can be deployed for a set purpose.
He is also a tool who will accomplish that purpose – the purpose of nurturing and comforting the 2005 M's pitchers. Reese, along with Beltre and Sexson and Boone, will help the 2005 staff to jell together.
Pokey's a scrub, but he's the right kind of scrub. Pokey Reese's dazzling glove gives us a well-thought-out, and exciting, complement to the Seattle Mariners' superstars.
Can't wait for the first ground ball in Safeco, can you?
Seattle Clubhouse Top Stories
Ridiculously Early 2017 Mock DraftThe IBI's Jeff Ellis takes an early look at the 2017 MLB Draft...
Indians Baseball Insider10/03/2016
Astros fall 12-4 to MarinersAstros say farewell to Brownie, Tal's Hill, and Post-Season aspirations in 12-4 dud
MLB Draft Top 50 Prospects: 21-30Taking a look to the future, Scout.com and it's draft analyst, Taylor Blake Ward, is giving you an in depth look at the Top 50 MLB Draft Prospects. In a continuing article, Ward…
Scouting BaseballYesterday at 2:17 AM
Mariners sign Micah Owings, Brad MillsMariners make two minor signings, add Micah Owings and Brad Mills.
Hardball ScoopTuesday at 3:42 PM