Detect-o-Vision: M's Rotation - Twist and Shout
"Too many questions in the rotation," worries the Seattle fan base, wringing its hands again.
"True but NOT ACCURATE," laughs Dr. Detecto, nodding along to the power chords blasting in his headset.
Something's wrong, shut the light, heavy thoughts tonight
dreams of war, dreams of liars
dreams of Ranger fire, and of A's that will bite
Yeah! sleep with one eye open!
gripping your pillow tight!
Take my hand
we're off to ‘De-Tect-O Vision' land
–Power riff, harmonics, wah bar, pick slide -
Grab the cards and the plastic poker chips, amigos. Let's head to the green felt, and get our story straight on the Seattle Mariners rotation.
FDR "Shut Up & Deal!", Dept.
Dr. Detecto slides your five starting pitchers, er, cards, to a graceful rest in front of you. Pat hand? Ouch, only a couple jacks. You reach down for your tokes and . . . what now?
Two questions that kill the beginning poker player, mainly because he never dreams to ask them.
First is; what am I doing here? Every gambling pokey I know has less money now than he did when he started gambling. Check. Got that one. We'll play poker for matchsticks only, for exactly the same reason that we play Monopoly for play money only. For the love of the game (theory).
Second question, as I cobble up my two jacks and wonder whether to bet against Mike Hargrove and his slow smirk?
Easy. What is a probable winning hand here? The answer's simple: in a four-player game of 5-card draw, figure you need three of a kind.
Ah! Now I got my arms around it! Now we can start to guess what everybody else is doing, and whether it's a good idea or not.
A Cruel Twist Of Fate, Dept.
Be ware, be very ware, of the "twist." With the twist, you have the option to pay an extra bet and trade your worst card in for one more card. So you started with two jacks, and traded three in, and got nothing back. Yowch! But here comes the twist: You throw another one out, and get one last try.
The extra card is "twisting," not to be confused with "twisting in the wind." That's a poker phenomenon that Bill Bavasi's 2004 critics have discovered. "Twisting" is fun, but avoid "twisting in the wind," as many off-the-wall Bavasi rip jobs are currently doing.
Anyway, we said all that to say this. For every twist allowed, you must figure on needing one entire hand better, if you want to "twist" into a victory, and avoid "twisting in the wind."
In other words, you might usually seek 3-of-a-kind, but when Dr. D called "TWIST!!", you now need a STRAIGHT to win. Two twists? Straights lose, kids. Go for a flush. "THREE TWISTS!?" –be ready to line all five of ‘em up by number and suit, amigo.
And Bill Bavasi gets five twists this year. And that's why "Too Many Questions!" is exactly the wrong way to analyze this rotation.
First of all, the 2005 Seattle Mariners do not NEED "five good starters." What do you say we just go with the same number everybody else has? Like, um, two or three?
To make their three starters, the 2005 M's are going to twist, and twist, and twist some more. The Mariners have – wait for it – NINE or TEN chances to make three. And that's if they do NOT go get a Kip Wells type, which would create a 9-to-make-2 situation.
Mad Bobby "Picture Card Showing" Dept.
Madritsch combines picture-perfect mechanics – which means control on a game-in, game-out basis – with the solid-steel backbone of Bruce Willis in that meteor movie. Mad Bobby would H-bomb himself out of his own bullpen cart before he'd let a rodent batter chase him out of the strike zone.
Which means that Madritsch will pitch ahead in the count.
Madritsch also has an exasperating changeup, which is what keeps batters from planting the back foot and launching rockets off him. Three HR in 88 major-league innings pitched? Let me read that sentence again.
Power lefty in Safeco. Pitches ahead. Changes speeds. Jeff Fassero? Probably. A good pitcher? B'lee DAT.
Bobby Madritsch is not merely a deck-draw at a possible good pitcher. Madritsch IS a good pitcher.
Joel Pineiro "Ace Showing" Dept.
In 2003, Jo-El ran a high ERA into mid-May. In mid-May, he found his release point and ran an ERA of 2+ through the end of July, when he tired.
July 2003 would have impressed even Kal-El: 5-0, 1.44, .194 AVG. When Jo-El is on, his overhand curve and fastball are impossible to read out of his hand, and he tosses out three-hitters like a Denny's cook tossing hash browns into the heat window.
In 2004, Jo-El again got hit in the cold weather, with a 8.67 ERA in April. He found his release point earlier, and fired a low 3+ ERA until his elbow got sore.
Older pitchers have wrestled their mechanics to a near fall. Younger pitchers are still trying to sit out into an escape from the release points that afflict them. Jo-El is on the verge of taking down his mechanics and pinning them to the mat. When he does, he's going to be death on a stick.
Is Jo-El healthy? The Mariners have stated that he is. Ya think? Well, he is a great "twist," you know that.
Gil Meche "Joker's Wild" Dept.
Gil Meche always wanted to deal with batters like Greg Maddux does, trying to nibble and dink his way through lineups. The only person he ever outsmarted was himself.
After talking with Cal McLish in the middle of 2004, Meche tossed away his Granny spectacles, snapped some Guns ‘N Roses into his car deck and showed up with Charlie Sheen hornrims and war haircut. Don't kid yourself. Gil Meche is a completely reinvented pitcher.
Meche was 6-2, 3.95 in his late 2004 incarnation, with a 58/18 K/BB ratio but a very high HR ratio. Now that he is an attacker, he needs a final tweak – to throw for the corners every once in a while.
Meche is reborn. The learning can begin. The upside is large. Think Aaron Sele with a 94 fastball and a changeup.
How likely is it that Gil Meche will pitch well in 2005? Right now, it is unlikely that he will not.
Felix Hernandez "Stud Card" Dept.
The Mariners' official line is, "well, if Felix comes to camp and blows hitters away, we'll see about him in Safeco for 2005."
Say what? That is uncomfortably like scowling at a dog and warning him sternly, "unless you show you can widdle on that fire hydrant, you are gone."
Felix will of course come to camp and make fire hydrants of the M's hitters, because MLB hitters have their limitations.
Our fave MLB scout ever, reviewed Felix' curve this way: "It looks like a fishhook laid on its side."
We don't know what fishhook curves look like, but we DO KNOW that they are very popular with the MLB manager demographic. And it explains why Felix has to learn to field his position – apparently, he could catch his own curve, one-hop, in the cup if he's not alert.
It isn't up to the Death Star to learn the league at Tatooine, it's up to the little green planet to figure something out against the planet-busting boomgun. Kerry Wood, Doc Gooden, and other Death Star rookies don't fiddle about with learning the league; they just set their lasers to "well done" and fry the planet already.
Felix will "embarrass" the Mariners' brass in March, by detonating the M's hitting planet. After which they will have to send his arbitration keister to AAA for a month and mumble, "He has things to work on."
Like not saying, "Wow, that was cinchy" on the radio postgame. The rookie mistakes are all there, waiting to be made.
Jamie Moyer - "Teach An Old Dog New Twists" Dept.
Moyer went through a gopher bout in 2000 as well as in 2004, and Dr D pronounced him DOA. The muscles get old, they get weaker, and it's like trying to feather a three-point shot in the fourth quarter. You just don't have the juice needed to swish it, er, to hit the black.
In 2001, Moyer did crawl out of the coffin. How likely is it that Moyer will rise again, and stop centering fastballs in 2005? 40% chance. BUT THAT'S A TWIST, bab-eh.
Ryan Franklin - "Cheap Twist" Dept.
Is it possible that Ryan Franklin could pitch well in 2005?
Hey, in 2003, he DID pitch well -- Franklin actually finished in the top 15 ERA leaderboard. He walks so few hitters that at his best, his WHIP mirrors Jamie Moyer's.
Granted, when the hitters do guess right, Franklin's defense posts a low conversion rate. Windblown balls get lost in the Northwest cloud cover.
How likely that Franklin will pitch well in 2005? …it's a twist, amigo.
Twist Or Treat – Clint Nageotte & Travis Blackley
5.44 was Mark Mulder's ERA as a rookie, in 150 innings. 5.65 was Bartolo Colon's. But! Both pitchers were stars the next year.
Curt Schilling? 9.82 as a rook. Johan Santana? 6+.
Yet Nageotte and Blackley struggle in 30-inning debuts? And M's fans wander off in total disinterest, like eBayers finding an auction with a discount of only 80%.
Shame on us. Nageotte and Blackley are blue-chip pitchers.
March 20, you're just as liable to hear Brian Price say, "Wow, Clint Nageotte is just throwing the stuffing out of the ball. We're going to have to make a decision there."
Twist & Shout Dept. – Matt Thornton
Matt Thornton throws 95 mph with the same easy motion that you use to play "Fetch" with your dog. Unfortunately, while Thornton uses your "Fetch" arm motion to throw 95, his catchers also use your dog's scramble motion to retrieve Thornton's offerings.
Thornton in 2004 was decelerating down the centerline as he released the pitch. (Try decelerating your golf club, and see how straight the ball goes.) He was the anti-Madritsch, as though Madritsch got all the Arnold Schwarzenegger mechanical DNA to Thornton's Danny DeVito schlub delivery.
The day that Thornton lowers his weight a bit and accelerates down the driveline, he is C.C. Sabathia.
Will he? Who knows. Thornton did post a 14/3 control ratio in winter ball. But he might, and that's our point.
Twist Number Ten Dept.
Two words. Kip Wells. Or A.J. Burnett. Or any other trade possibility.
There's a new sheriff on Royal Brougham. Used to be, that the wind blew and no trees fell. These days, the M's talk softly about big moves – but then they happen.
The Mariners are in the market for a star pitcher. With Bill Bavasi in town, that means it is very possible.
They Laughed Until I Flipped Over Three Aces, Dept.
We are NOT asking M's fans to believe that Ron Villone might catch lightning in a bottle. We're not saying, "hey, Ryan Anderson might pull a Kerry Wood this year."
Every pitcher on this (long) list has been excellent in the majors, or is a genuine blue-chip talent. Matt Thornton, for example, is the least of the brethren here and you almost wonder why this guy wasn't a first-round pick. (Oh, wait. He was.) These are TALENTED pitchers we are talking about here, amigos.
But, for all that, if it's Bob Melvin in camp, the "twists" are irrelevant – he's playing the five cards he's dealt.
But a new broom sweeps clean. If the old manager pulls Ryan Franklin out of the rotation for no reason, it ticks players off. "Hey, what's that about? Charlie busted his tail for that guy, and look how he treats him."
Mike Hargrove has a blank check for who goes where. He is exactly the manager to take these draws at the 2005 deck. The synchronicity is delicious.
Dr. D Will See You And Raise, Dept.
Next time you are looking at a 7-Stud poker hand, and the other guy has two sixes and two jacks, with three hole cards? And he pushes a huge stack of chips in?
Go ahead and try that, if you want. "There are too many questions with your hand. Your #4 hole card might be nothing."
Just don't do it with my money.
The 2005 Mariners rotation has a lot of pulls at the deck. Let's get the games going, and see which cards flip spades. Hit me, Mike.
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