Should We Stay or Should We Go?

NAH-NAH NAH, nah-nah, nana-NAH!

Though we don't want to appear (overly) narcissistic, there *are* times when it is useful for Dr. D to remind his fellow bleacherites that D-O-V is not a safe haven for pollyanna thinking...


This Mariner Central reply shows the turning point in the JJ-Malaysia / Dr Detecto postal chess match.

JJ is a master-strength postal player when analyzing while moving the pieces.  Notwithstanding, he had played an overly-optimistic opening, leaving a Swiss cheese of dark squares in his center and queenside, after Black had repulsed the initial offensive.

Dr. D has played this kind of position a googolplex of times before and had already chalked up the win.  Weirdly, this particular position happened to allow a bizarre maneuver of Re4 and d3-d4, bursting White's bonds and turning the tables to White's advantage.  If I've seen this position 1,000 times before, I have NEVER seen this particular maneuver working.  This time it does, though.  White wound up perfectly even in the center.  How odd.

After JJ's 30. a3!! it turned out that he had a disguised advantage on the Queenside as well.  Another turn of events that was so strange that I had to blink my eyes and stare and stare again, finally convincing myself that danger lurked in this routine technical win for Black.


After 30. a3!! if Black had made even ONE more move, under the delusion that he stood better, then White would have had all the time he needed to launch an unstoppable attack.  

Fortunately, my 30... h5 did manage to achieve full damage-control mode in the NICK of time, not one move to spare.  I managed to cobble a draw out of the position against JJ's fine play.


The point is, damage control is second nature to a chess nerd.  You might someday meet a dentist who has never heard of flossing.  But you won't find a tourney chess player > 2200 who does not have a V-E-R-Y concerned attitude about the limitations of his position.  

If a player didn't worry about when it was time to stop pressing for the win, he'd never get above 2200, period.

But!, a player who wussies out and loses his will to win every time he gets a bad position -- that guy never makes 2200, either.


==== Four Games Out ===

The questions persist about whether the Mariners should fight for the pennant, or whether they should quit.

This being the middle of July.

A 4-game race.

With a weak division leader.

Give you one more chess aphorism when you can't make up your mind about something:  if you had exactly this position every game -- would you make the same move every game?  (Often you wouldn't, and that's when you know you'd better play something else.)

If you were 4 games out in July every year, would you quit every year?   Which raises the question:  don't be a blinkin' wussy.


=== And For What? ===

It would be one thing if you were talking about potential July trades that were offering us Weiterses, Prices, and Escobars by the handful.

Nobody is saying that the M's are going to get back major building blocks if they sell off. 

People are suggesting that we quit so that we get either (a) minor league corn starch or (b) at best, NL shortstops -- way past arbitration -- hitting .232/.300/.376.

When we are calling for selloffs that bring back shorstops OPS'ing 79, we are quitting for the sake of quitting.  No cheering in the press box, babe.


If and when you are talking about bringing in young franchise players, then you can TALK about wasting the 2009 season.  But to quit on 2009 for the sake of players who are fungible?  Come on.


=== When Is It OK to Quit? ===

In chess, you cut your losses and play for a draw when it is no longer reasonably possible to win.  Profound, isn't it?

Are we saying that being -4, -6, -7 in July means that "it is no longer reasonably possible to win"?

If that's the case, is it okay for the players to quit, too?   Supposing the Seahawks walk off the field down 21-10 in the third quarter next September.  That will be understandable, right?, because an intelligent man knows when it is no longer reasonably possible to win?


How about the fans?  Does Capt Jack want the fans to feel like, -6 in July, it's time to stop coming to the park?

Or would he hold the fire sale, and just hope that Soccer Mom is too dumb to realize that the Mariners are no longer seriously trying to win?


Yes, I know that the national sportswriters agree that it's OK for the Mariners to quit.  That's because of their view of the Mariners, not because the AL West division is Sisyphus' mountain.   ESPN's contempt for the M's doesn't excuse Seattleites' lack of nerve.


=== C'Mon, Could THIS Team Really Win? ===

This team is genuinely elite in its pitching and defense.  Its ERA+ is 116 (!) and it is #1 in ERA.

Its offense includes Ichiro, Branyan, Gutierrez and Lopez.  It's not a 1979 Mariners offense. 

This team needs a few more runs.  But yes, it has the resources it needs to win. 

If I give you a 116 ERA+ in July, with two major offensive stars, and you're within one or two series of the lead ... and you want to quit?!   You need to be doing something else with your time, bro'.  Like, quilting is very sedate.  Give it a whirl.


=== Tell Ya What Your Problem Is, Amigo ===

Over their last 21 games, the LA Angels are 15-6.

On a subconscious level, you're thinking the Angels are just too good.   So ask this one:  is it "reasonably possible" that the Angels are going to cool off?   And go (say) 4-6 or 3-7 over their next ten?

You're buying into the Angels' hot July.  That's all.  

Give 'em a chance to cool down.   The Angels are a team with a 103 OPS+ and a 94 ERA+.  And we want to send over a Harry Potter Owl with the message that we acknowledge that Lord Voldemort cannot be challenged?  Pass the emetics.

The Angels are going to be good every year.  You still have to fight them, dude.


Dr D




The Angels aren't a 94 ERA+ team.  The have a 94 ERA+ becaus ethey were forced to give about 200 innings to players who had no business in the major leagues.  Take a look at this list:
Anthony Ortega (12.2)
Rafael Rodriguez (20.2)
Kevin Jepsen (17.0)
Shane Loux (38.1)
Matt Palmer (75.2)
Rich Thompson (16.2)
Daniel Davidson (1.2)
Sean O'Sullivan (23.2)
And I won't even speak of the pitchers who are now on the DL who were highly ineffective before their injuries got diagnosed (Shields and Santana being the main culprits)
As currently constructed, the Angels' pitching staff isn't quite as bad as they look numerically.  This is reflected in their much better PythagenMatt record (much better than their PythagenPat record I mean).
Actually it makes quite a statement about the strength of the Angels' organization that they can run 8 arms out there that have no business in the majors and still be on pace for 90+ wins.  That having been said, the Mariners STILL shouldn't give up on this position.  We just need one little hot streak like the Angels have had recently and everyone will be wondering why they were so down on the team.  We haven't actually seen Seattle firing on all cyllanders at any point this year except possibly their 7-2 start but there was a lot of luck in there as the team was not hitting well.
The Mariners' 92 OPS+ (still gradually rising thanks to MUCH improved OBP in their last 28 games of .339) may not seem like much, but the team is playing with three black holes in the offense...possibly 4...and some of that black-holishness is bad luck, plain and simple.
Beltre isn't a 50 OPS+ bat.  When he returns to the line-up, will you feel like we've added a 50 OPS+ bat?  Ronny Cedeno is certaily not a GOOD hitter, but he's not a .180 hitter.  He slumped badly in May and early June when he started getting playing time, but in his last 20 games is hitting .250/.309/.403.  Which is a heck of a lot closer to what I would have been projecting for Cedeno prior ot the season.  Rob Johnson is young in terms of baseball experience and still learning to hit.  He's hitting much better recently as well, especially in terms of showing some occasional power.  The team is going to have to find Johjima some at bats as well, because the man is EN FUEGO when he does play...raising his OPS+ to the 80s by hitting 114 in his last 12 starts.
The point is...this team is capable of hitting better than 92.  If we can keep the bottom of the order hitting above the mendoza line with occasional pop and working the count as well as they have, all things considered, the team will hit 98, 100, 105 when the bats are working.
Fact is, in the last 28 games, they've hit 107 (!), with a .280/.339/.439 slash line...that's pretty darned solid.  But the pitching hsad been in and out during that stretch...missing the ace Bedard (he came back in there but made three starts, none of which lasted 6 innings, and was only moderately effective), getting poor performances from Vargas, Olson and Morrow, and having some guys regress in the bullpen.  If we can now get the pitching back into a groove with that offensive line, we could easily run a 15-6 stretch like the Angels jsut did.


And agreed before I wrote it ;- )
If the Angels were REALLY a 103/94 team then they'd be sub-.500.
After you adjust for their (and every team's) trial-and-error time lost, they're still not a 115/115 team, right?
They're good, but they're not a juggernaut.  Your caveat is spot on, but doesn't undercut the main observation that they have flaws, which is why we didn't take the time.
Glad you did, tho.  :daps:


Their rotation is still weak and so is their bullpen.
Saunders has regressed to where he belongs...that mid 4s ERA looks about reight to me.  Weaver is having a career year and Lackey is just starting to get back on track, but after that, they're pretty thin.  Their bullpen is basically Fuentes, Oliver and pray for luck.
They're also hitting better than they have any right to.  Their BABIP is meteorically high and it's not like they're a super-fast team.  What the Angels have on offense that we lack is a line-up without black holes.  Everyone is OPSing 80 or better.

Sandy - Raleigh's picture

Lots of valid points above, Matt.  But, also some major problems with your observations.
1) Not a fast team?  They're #2 in both SBs and 3Bs.  Exactly how fast do they have to be to qualify for fast?
2) This is a team that has every right to except to IMPROVE offensively in the 2nd half.  Their BEST hitter (Vlad), has missed 40 games, and only posted an 89 OPS+ in the first half.  Vlad has FOUR (4) HRs, (one less than Ronny Cedeno).  Everything you note about Beltre is true about Vlad - except with a much higher upside.
3) They've won 5 of their last 7 with NEITHER Torii or Vlad playing.  So, missing their TWO best hitters, they not only swept the Yankees, they managed to score double-digit runs 3 times. 
4) Injuries have suppressed BOTH the offense and pitching.  The club has 6 guys posting over .800 OPS and none of them is Vlad.  The 104 OPS+ UNDER-sells the team's actual offensive potential.  The Ms have had to deal with lots more injuries this season, yes.  YuBet, Joh, Beltre, Chavez, (Griffey and Sweeney twinges).  So, which team has more 300 PA guys?  Trick question.  They're tied - 5 each.  Howie Kendrick hit 100 points below projection and was sent back to AAA.  The only area that LAA is truly deficient is in HR power - and Vlad is a major (non?) contributor to that short-coming. 
In the short-run, with Vlad and Torii on the shelf, maybe Seattle does have an edge.  But, if those two come back at standard projection, then the LAA team OPS+ CLIMBS -- it doesn't drop.


You of all people should not be projecting Vlad to come back at standard projections, Sandy.  He's on the wrong side of 30 and has been in decline for three years now.  The injuries are starting to cluster and I think his time as an elite slugger is nearly done.
As for the speed comment, I intended to imply that the Angels weren't fast enough to justify a .322 BABIP...they certainly have speed, but not even the 1980s Cardinals had a .322 BABIP.

Sandy - Raleigh's picture

Yes, at age 33, (2008), Vlad had his worst season since his rookie year, (.886 OPS).  He only posted a 130 OPS+.
This season, he's been hurt and missed a lot of time.  He's posting a .734 (90 OPS+).  Do I think he's going to smack 35 next year?  No.  But, longevity is largely attached to earliness of appearance.  Vlad was .960 hitter at age 23.  His age-related decline "should" be later than say ... Richie Sexson. 
He may not be a .958 (his career OPS) hitter anymore.  But, he hit 27 last season while missing 19 games.  He's on pace for what ... 12 this year?  If he were hitting .230, I'd be thinking maybe he was nearing the end.  He's hitting .290 DESPITE playing hurt.  Sounds to me VERY much like Beltre -- he was playing hurt this year, and the injuries dropped his ISO from 220 to 120.  In his 7 games in July he managed a 1043 OPS with 2-HR and 2-doubles.  The sample is WAY to small to be definitive, of course.  Considering the talent, if he were 37, I'd be thinking age-related plummet might well be in play.  At 34?  No.  Definitely smells more like injury-suppressed production.
Personally, I think the odds are greater that Wlad and/or Torii don't come back AT ALL this year, as opposed to them returning and playing badly.


...but Hunter is a rhythm-based player...I bet he struggles for a while after his return (meaning they get the productive Hunter back around early September), and I think you're wrong about the kind of decline to expect from Guerrero.  My research indicates that free swingers die young.  Especially ones who make a living hitting bad pitches well.  Vlad is the most extreme freak example of free swinger + out-of-zone contact skill in the history of baseball (yes...the whole history of baseball)...if he doesn't die young, I'll eat my shorts.


The only people I have heard really pushing the sell, sell, sell button are the talk show hosts who are need to fill air time. Bedard, Washburn and Branyan all are interesting acquisitions for deadline rumors.
Whether we want to admit it or not, teams don't look at the standings:
1)Themselves 4 games out of first place.
2) Two teams ahead of them
3) 5.5 back of the Wildcard
4) 70 games left in the season
These teams don't say "Yup, we have them right where we want them". While the Mariners aren't in a great spot they are in a great position to run down Anaheim should they slip up.
Most of the trade talk I have heard from local radio focuses on the great moves Jack Z. made this offseason. They feel that Zuriencik will pull yet another rabit out of this hat. In order to do this the club must find a team willing to part with players that are worth what we are giving up.
After coming into an organization that lacked depth, Zduriencik has been stocking up on players who might be able to help a major league team and he's been getting them for very little. The trade no one seems to be talking about that I thought was brilliant was the Langerhans for Morse deal. Z literally turned a piece with no future into an everyday leftfielder. That is robbery.


Long time no hear!
And I agree...a lot of under the radar minor trades have been happening that I think have strengthened the Mariners' hand in bargaining and in competing for the west in ways people don't notice right away, including that Morse for Langerhans swap.  Langerhans isn't sexy, but he's a +15 run left fielder on defense and he hits at least as well as Chavez but with a better eye for the strikezone and more power potential.
Other minor acquisitions include Hannahan (who I think is a clear upgrade over Woodward), Cedeno (who is about as valuable as Betancourt and way cheaper), Cortes (acquired for Betancourt), and a whole string o relief pitchers, back-up infielders and extra outfielders stashed currently in AAA.


This much is clear: (a) in terms of "handling pitchers" the team has cast its lot with Rob Johnson; (b) in terms of "more offensive minded C to share time with Johnson" then Joh is already there and Adam Moore is moving up; (c) in terms of "LH bat who won't contribute much on defense" then Mike Carp and Jeff Clement are increasingly identical.
Therefore: Clement ought to be available.
Also: We already know Wlad has no real future here.  And Halman has not only fallen way behind Saunders but probably has been passed by Tyson ("Heir to Ichiro") Gillies ( in the OF pecking order.  Gillies: 9 triples, 26 SB, 49 walks, .431 OBP.
Point being: Z can be a buyer on the value market without really costing us anything in terms of the next pennant.
And if he gets the right deal for one of the starters, he can also sell.
It may be smart for him to do both.


And in addition to filling air time with the 'sell' talk, they are also dancing to the Big Blog's tune, apparently.
I mean, you could fill air time with trade rumors a lot more easily, couldn't you...

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