Detect-o-Vision: Of Closers, Angels, and Mariners
Nightmare on Bullpen Street, Dept.
Nobody is a bigger fan of the Angels' bullpen than is Dr. D. The past two seasons (2003-2004) were a typical example; An aging but saavy Troy Percival was limping out the last of his 300-save Iditarod Dogsled Race, and the two real Angel relief beasts (Francisco Rodriguez and Brendan Donnelly) were doing the heavy lifting in the 7th and 8th innings. Pump you up, bab-eh. To the tune of a 2004 division title.
Those three had more star power than the Backstreet Boys, and even in the road crew, the Angels had sneaky talent unloading the sound equipment: Scot Shields is a very fine pitcher, and behind him there would always be guys like Kevin Gregg running amazing K and WHIP ratios.
It has been like the 2001 M's pen, but twice as much so. LOL.
Promoted To the Level Of His (In)Competence, Dept.
As the Peter Principle chuckles, a manager does a great job and gets promoted. Until he meets a job he's not good at; then he stops getting promoted. This universal principle is of great help to your business, especially if your business plan calls for slotting all your managers into the wrong jobs. This positions you to file for government tax relief.
Francisco Rodriguez, or "K-Rod" as he is often refered as, is actually the reverse, the photo-negative, of the "Peter Principle." Let's call it the K-Rod Folly. K-Rod is approximately as good as Walter Johnson, give or take 300 innings a season. Naturally, the Angels "promoted" him to an outpost in Siberia, where he will never be heard from again. Yes, K-Rod has assumed the role of Mr. Magic Closer.
Which has had a wonderful effect (if you are an M's fan). It has taken K-Rod out of the action for Los Angeles
Anybody with guts and ‘Strike One' can pitch a single inning in a 7-4 game. Facing three batters when you are up by three runs is a lot like that time Jimmy Carter was attacked by a large swimming bunny (yes, he was). Granted, it might pose some wee danger, but hardly one worth emptying 3,217 Uzi magazines upon.
"Closing" is a myth in baseball, and it is a myth which is right now badly hurting the Angels' pen. M's fans can happily wave goodbye to K-Rod, ex-fireman extraordinaire. Say hello to Franciso Rodriguez, mopup "saves" guy. Everybody okay over here, then? We win? Oh, great. Another 1 IP, 0 H, 2 K's for K-Rod in the celebration inning.
Surprisingly, at the same time, Brendan Donnelly has shown an alarming lack of nuclear-ness. He's given up about 5 runs in 10 innings, including 2 taters. While hardly a tomato can yet, Donnelly is giving M's fans some reasonable hope that he'll be less-than-superhuman in 2005. Anything less than superhuman, in the Donnelly news section, is cause for Javatown partying like it's 1999.
Scot Shields is still good, but he has walked 8 men in 12 innings. Relievers have short shelf lives, and are not supposed to throw more than 80 innings. Shields' last couple 100-150 IP seasons have not exactly pasteurized his career.
Esteban Yan has walked 7 and struck out 7. He's not a waiver claim, either, ::cough:: but neither is he Troy Percival 1997.
Kevin Gregg, one of my fave pitchers - 13 IP, 11 R, 11BB, 10K. He might be talented, but then so is Gil Meche. Hey, if Kevin Gregg can give the Angels a Gil-sized headache for even a month or so, I'm good with the idea.
No, As A Matter Of Fact, We Didn't Say They'd Lose 100, Dept.
Not many people understand that the 2004 Angels were built on the same principle as the 2001 M's. The 2004 Angels had, statistically, a league-average offense and a rotation that was good but not special.
What they did have was a great bullpen, super great, which allowed the Angels to play 1-run baseball, and a tremendous defense, which gave them a certain crispness game-in, game-out. What made the 2004 Angels dangerous, was their defense and 'pen
The Nightmare On Bullpen Street may have evolved, through K-Rod's "promotion," into a bullpen that is merely good. And if that is the case, the Angels will have lost their magic sparkle dust. They'll have to grind out their wins one at a time, like the rest of us.
Oh, wait. That's what they're doing. We're all .500, ain't we? I forgot for a sec.
Our Worst Pitcher Is Closing? That's What I'm TALKIN' About, Dept.
The one pitcher the Mariners have in their 'pen, who cannot handle heavy lifting, is safely stashed away "closing" in the 5-lb. barbell section. Stashed away safely out of the scary 7th-inning action, where the games are in fact decided. Stashed safely so he can come in, pitch from the full wind - wink - and protect 7-4 leads for three outs.
More seriously, Eddie Guardado does have the important virtue of courage. Courage and a good palmball will usually get you three outs before too many runners circle the bases.
By contrast, the rest of the boring-but-well-seasoned Mariner 'pen is coming in and facing the Teixeiras and Sorianos of the world with unbelievable courage. The results haven't jerked many tears either:
No, sorry, that is not the statline of Curt Schilling in Game 7's - Curt wasn't that good. As of April 26, that is the collective performance of J.J. Putz, Ron Villone, Julio Mateo, and Shigetoshi Hasegawa.
And don't kid yourself, those have been very tough innings. One M's game after another has been see-saw, nerve-wracking hammer-and-tongs warfare - and the M's relievers have come in and thrown one quality strike after another - 1.9 BB per nine? That's tough to do on your best night. The M's relievers have done it despite having their work chopped out into dozens of different nights.
The M's relievers are journeymen, but they are journeymen who are as tough as rawhide. And Mike Hargrove, typically, is coaxing nice years out of them -- by showing the right touch for the matchups.
Mike Hargrove has "pretty much stayed out of the way?" Good guess, but no. Mike Hargrove has the ability to perceive things like; (a) Ron Villone pitches well when his arm is minty-fresh; (b) Julio Mateo's arm is healed; (c) "there are 150 decisions a game and making good ones means anticipating them" and; (d) other cool stuff like that.
Grover has worked miracles with the pitching. We're all standing arms folded, shoes tapping, waiting for the mashers (and the King!) to join the party. Be Afraid, bab-eh.
Timeclock Set To One Month Ago, Doc Brown, Dept.
For a long time, it puzzled us why D-O-V wasn't becoming famous, arguing with other ‘net rats on message boards. Then in hit us - nobody ever makes DVDs out of message board posts. Brad Pitt may not ever accept our offer to play a guy who types into a computer 24/7 and cries at what he reads afterward.
So we've turned to, ahem, "formal baseball analysis." Nobody makes DVDs out of that either, but on the plus side, you get to alienate a far more important class of people.
Such as those people who, while scoffing at him, simply do not comprehend Bill Bavasi's mastery of his craft. Ron Villone and Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Ryan Franklin were supposed to be Exhibits A, B, and C as to this front office's inability to evaluate risk and reward. Were these contracts popular in the Seattle ‘net scene? I dunno. Is Randy Johnson popular with lefthanded hitters?
Before the 2005 season, the Seattle Mariner bullpen was "evaluated" by most blogheads kinda like this:
Minuses: Every bullpen arm on the 25-man roster is below "Replacement Level Player." Every pitcher is also making millions, to which we are foolishly commited to for years to come. They're physically quite ugly, and we suspect that they're probably Republicans for all we know. The biggest minus is that none of them seem to ever get injured.
Pluses: We blogheads were wise enough to have cashed in the season on March 12, sparing ourselves undue pain, and establishing ourselves once again as far smarter than Bavasi into the bargain.
Dr. D's preseason analysis of the bullpen was simple. It was to remind all of us that "journeyman" and "average-solid" and "crummy" and "somebody please blow my head off and steal my tickets" are not synonyms. Check the thesaurus!
Nah, kidding aside, amigos. If you stop and think for a second, you'll learn something from Billy B. Because these "journeymen" pitchers, at $2-3M per, snuck up on us and performed a critical function for the 2005 ballclub.
That of stoploss.
It woulda been wonderful if Dan Reichert, Gil Meche and Clint Nageotte came through, and it woulda been wonderful if Carl Pavano hadda batted his eyes at our overtures.
But a great chessplayer, errrr, great GM, which Bill Bavasi is, manages all the contingencies at once. And the Villone-Hasegawa-Franklin contracts were necessary in one variation - the contingency which we actually are facing. LOL. The one in which the "sexy" pitchers didn't pan out, in April 2005.
Health insurance may not seem very important. Until you fall off a ladder.
And Ron Villone isn't very important. Until your other options all fall through. Had the Mariners shed Villone, Franklin, and Hasegawa, they would be running from horrors unimaginable right now.
Because they did make sure of the saftey net before they stepped out onto the highwire? M's fans have fallen off the Blackley-Nageotte-Meche rope – landed with a ‘bwoing', and bounced happily back up onto the AL West trapeze act. Not to mention onto the AL's No. 4 ERA.
Rock on, Grover. You keep mixin' and matchin'. We'll keep cheerin'.
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