Blind Spots, All Humans Have Them
No disagreement with Doc's assessment, but one...

I'm going to lead off this post by agreeing with Doc 100% so he'll forgive me for ranting a bit later. :)

The entire Mariner blog-o-sphere is up in arms over Scott Servais' obvious lukewarm reception of Dan Vogelbach. They should be. It makes no sense from a pure baseball perspective or from a clubhouse chemistry perspective or even from a tactical perspective to roster him and then have your manager say "well we'll give him a quick look and hope he stays hot." He couldn't possibly have done anything else to show he belongs than he did this spring and, even with his ungainly girth and clumsy feet, it is very very apparent that this guy can help the 2018 Mariners.

As Doc points out, the Mariners will gain zero new insights from watching Vogelbach for 10-15 at-bats in the regular season that they didn't already have from spring games. A manager should be able to scout a player and determine whether he's got the talent and attitude that works at the big-league level. He also rightly points out that Lou Piniella routinely made this sort of call with hitters like Vogelbach with a decisive (and mostly accurate) hot take. "That guy...he belongs...roster him, Pat."

It's just plain lazy/ignorant/stubborn to watch Vogelbach all spring and then shrug and say "but let's see you do that in Seattle, and you get three starts to do pressure or anything."

I depart from Doc and others here at SSI for two reasons:

First, all managers, even Sweet Lou, have spectacular blind spots and make stupid decisions about players that annoy them personally or that they don't know how to use. Doc claims that Piniella may have favored certain pitchers (who attacked the hitter) over others (who tried to outsmart them and nibbled too much). So sayeth the good Doc, he was mostly right to do this. It's clear from all my years watching the Mariners (and baseball generally) that nibblers frustrate their teammates and tend to struggle to create value. BUT...

The look in Ken Cloude's eyes every time Lou came out to talk to him, however, told me a lot. Cloude wasn't going to win any CYs but there was every reason to believe he should generate value as a solid MOTR starter. Piniella got one look at him and decided, with his trademark hot take, that Cloude was a woolly-headed coward who was afraid to throw strikes. He then spent about a full season burning holes in Cloude's Mariner cap every time he took the mound and stalking out to get him like Sherman cornering a wide receiver. Look at those eyes in the included shot. That is not a pitcher that feels supported by his team. Lou Piniella took a kid who, undoubtedly, lacked confidence in his game and completely destroyed him. Point blank, Lou's preference for a certain personality type among pitchers burned millions of dollars in value right the to the ground.

So yes, I think Piniella would get the Vogelbach call right and it wouldn't be difficult for him to do it. But I also think he might have torched Altavilla and never given him a second look. Many a reliever with good stuff and mediocre command of the zone came to Lou and he leveled them all like trees before a pyroclastic flow. I simply do not believe any claim that Piniella didn't have blind spots. I remember them very well. And I remember Doc expressing concerns over those blind spots when Piniella was still in his glory years.

Second, and I don't think this is something we can afford to ignore, it's not obvious how exactly we can keep Vogelbach rostered after April 11th if Dipoto continues to insist on eight relievers. Servais has to be looking ahead to that date and thinking to himself, "OK, it's nice to have an extra bat, but we like Healy enough not to want to toss him aside completely, and we can't carry two first basemen." Both of those statements are both entire logical/rational and objectively correct. We can't carry two first basemen if we carry eight relievers. The correct decision is to carry seven relievers, but the Mariners seem committed to a different idea. The correct decision is certainly NOT to powerflush Healy. He's not likely to be a major star, but Doc, himself, has repeatedly commented on the real probability that Healy can be an impact bat despite poor CTZ results.

I don't think Dipoto is the guy pridefully clinging to Healy, BTW. I think Dipoto thinks Healy has value, for sure, but I think it's Servais who's been lukewarm about Vogelbach taking Healy's PT.

TO SUMMARIZE: I would roster Vogelbach and give him a 50/50 job-share for now, with each of them stealing some of Cruz's ABs as his nagging injuries are starting to swarm on him and with Healy spelling Seager when he needs a day off, especially against left-handers. I would plan to make Healy my first baseman in 2019 and Vogelbach my DH. I would accomplish this by carrying only seven relievers and leaning on the non-elite guys to throw multiple innings much oftener. Not only that, but I agree with Doc that Servais' comments re: Vogelbach are completely braindead and extremely frustrating.

But I think it's a huge overreaction to determine, based on this one blind spot, that Servais deserves no respect. What manager have we seen that had no pecadillos like this. Mike Scoscia is frequently credited with 'knowing how to win' and developing young players, and he has giant holes in his managerial style too (for example, refusing to implement the deep shift for two years). Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Joe Girardi, Buck Showalter, John the manager and I'll tell you where his game was weak...and particularly weak due to stubborn personal biases.

Servais has also shown more mental flexibility and willingness to adapt and play the hot hand than anyone the Mariners have used since Lou Piniella. His mind is almost always very open to new ideas. His players think he's a good listener. I think he's weak with pitching changes and his preference for athletic baserunning is causing more problems than it's solving for us, and I certainly dislike this Vogelbach fiasco, but...all respect gone over it?

Doc, I know you particularly loathe players and coaches who refuse to think. As well you should. If the Vogelbach decision were part of a long pattern of stubbornness, I'd be right there with ya, isn't. Servais isn't a stubborn anti-intellectual man unwilling to try new things. He's the opposite of that.

He's got a disastrous blind spot re: Vogelbach. The kid made a HORRENDOUS first impression last year. He looked like a dear caught in the headlights out there on top of being very unsure of where to place his feet at any given moment. He looks much, much better this spring...this is the guy Dipoto thought he was getting. Great! But Servais is slow to see it because he isn't sure how to use Vogs. It's dumb and frustrating, but he's only human and he will make mistakes.

Deeeeeeep breath and biiiiig smiles! Opening day is tomorrow and we have a lot of interesting stories to follow.

Warmly, and with nothing but respect, I offer this counter as food for thought.




The best post I've  read of yours.

I think the best we can do is have faith that Vog will run with it like Gehrig.  He's got it together right now, I'm exited too see it continue.

Which is exactly why I don't approve of the idea of telling him he has to produce immediately.  To me that seems almost like they want him to fail.

I've got faith he won't. 


The Mariners, actually Hargrove, DID want Petagine to fail and that's why when he stepped up and HR'ed, Hargrove put him on ice.  Did not want him doing it again.  Anybody ever read "That Prosser Kid"?

At age 27, Petagine smacked a 128 OPS+ for the Reds and then went to Japan to spend his prime, where he was a superstar.


Funny thing is Hargrove was the manager of that "best offense of the last 68 years" 99 Indians team.  Something tells me he wasn't the secret to their success.

Petagine was one I do recall but I do think there have been others.


My heart fluttered a bit with that line. Truly a joy to read, Matt. And, I have been persuaded to come back from the brink a little on Servais.

It really is his first managerial gig, so lets all hope those bullpen changes and blindspots are just the bumps along the road to a good manager. What's the learing curve on decent managers? Year three seems like about the year they begin warming the seat for under performing, loaded rosters. So here's to everyone keeping their jobs (Big Tasty most def included) and these guys finally pulling this act together. Whoot whoot, True to the Blue!


"I don't think Dipoto is the guy pridefully clinging to Healy, BTW. I think Dipoto thinks Healy has value, for sure, but I think it's Servais who's been lukewarm about Vogelbach taking Healy's PT."

Dead on Matty.  Perfect.

There was a time back in ST that I nearly said that we should dangle Healy out there and see what kind of an arm we could get for him.  But it was a silly thought, in that we know what kind of an arm he was worth just months ago AND we had a weak 1B FA market.  But I was that confident in Vogs and Ford that I thought about it.  

I now regret that we didn't give Ford a bunch of COF time.  The guy was a good pitcher in college, he has to have the arm and he probably is better than a Nelson Cruz in RF.  To tell yout he truth, I wouldn't have minded seeing Ford get the vR time until Gamel is back.

Alas, he's gone.  

Back to your Vogelbach point: Dipoto invested in Healy and feels that we have to use him.  Fair enough.  Servais has some sort of negative attitude about Vogelbach.  Fair enough.  But Vogelbach was smoking hot in ST, he's earned--even demanded--a bunch of paying time.  I would give him every vR start to begin with AND use Healy to spell Seager/Cruz, etc.

To not ride a white hot bat, just because you acquired the other guy to "play every day" seems like a silly philosphy.  Healy and Vogs are both long term assets.  Use the one that's hot now.


Shortly become clear which was the one to be lukewarm about 'Bach.

Keith, I think your Ford-OF maneuver was so bright as to honestly be one that Dipoto could have overlooked.  In terms of internet kibitzing, many are called, few are chosen.  THAT one resonates.


They'd either have to shave back to 7 relievers or let one of their first basemen go.  Agreed.  (Can't shave the 4th OF, the UTIL, or the b/u C.)

So if Servais means "Vogelbach cannot be panicky and out of rhythm when Apr 14 gets here" that's something a little different.  Of course it will panic anyone and throw them out of rhythm if they're given one game at a time and a steely-eyed look of suspicion by the manager ....


I've variously heard Apr 11th, 14th, and 17th as the date for the first SP5.  Anybody know for sure?

10 would go:

3/29 - Felix
3/31 - Paxton
4/1 - Leake
4/3 - Gonzalez
4/4 - Felix
4/5 - Paxton
4/7 - Leake
4/8 - Gonzalez
4/9 - Felix
4/10 - Paxton
4/11 - Leake (uh oh! - that's three days rest...which would mean we need the fifth starter the 11th)

If they go by the fifth-day rule and give pitchers lower in the pecking order some skips:

3/29 - Felix
3/31 - Paxton
4/1 - Leake
4/3 - Felix
4/4 - Gonzalez
4/5 - Paxton
4/7 - Leake
4/8 - Felix
4/9 - Gonzalez
4/10 - Paxton
4/11 - and you STILL need that fifth guy on the 11th

The 11th is the date.


No joke there.  And 3 days’ rest is still comventional when used judiciously. What’s the date if he talks them into that start?


I remember Mike Morse had a spring like Vogelbachs.  Then I looked it up.

He hit

.492 .548 .769 1.317

in 2008 and led the Cactus league in everything.  Then he played part time for a week, tore his labrum and was traded to the Nats the next year.

In 2014, Brad Miller hit

.410 .478 .836 1.314

That ST earned him full time play.  He hit

.221 .288 .365 .653

in 123 games.

If memory serves, in 2014, Miller struck out too much because his swing was too long.  Also, he seemed anti-clutch, that is, he played worse in big games.

I think Morse, Miller and Vogey have had the best Cactus lines the Mariners have ever produced.  The thing they seem to have in common is mammoth power.  Morse and Miller probably prospered in Spring Training from the lack of booking, but the holes in their swing caught up to them once the season started.

I agree with Doc that mammoth power and excellent eye can only mean good things and Vogelbach's career looks much brighter than Morse and Miller's.  Also, those guys have been productive major leaguers in their own right.


and the sabe wisdom of the day is that they don't mean anything.  That will change, subtly, over the next 5-10 years; they will find that to a small extent, breakout players can be detected from EXTREME springs.

As you are careful to say, Mojo, Michael Morse did in fact turn out to be a very rich MLB player ($35M career earnings)-- not a AAAA player -- who batted MOTO for a 2011 Nats team at a 147 clip.  The year before he was 133.  Then he broke down under the presumed 'roids.  That's an example of a a cash-in success, and a clear one.  He finished his career just shy of 3,000 PA at a 116 OPS+.


I also read that 'Bach had the #3 spring of the last 15 years, or something, with the other two also coming in 2017 and 2016.  Forget where.


But this isn't about huge ST stats.  This is about scouting the player.  100%.   For me it is about the way Dan Vogelbach easily and casually passes on a left hand slider just off the plate, about the suddenness of his bat launch, about his new throughspeed, about the HIT tool he has always obviously had.

It was as easy to entice Frank Thomas into swinging at a ball, as it is to get 'Bach to do so.


Bit hard and as often by the Chris Snelling Injury bug... got 5 game's in before injury after that torrid spring.  Came back in 2013, 8 HR in spring, 9 in the first 30 games of the season.  That included 4 HR in the first 4 games.  Definitely not a fluke with him.  He probably left as many WAR on the table due to injuries as he produced in his career.  Langerhans and and Avery, twice traded for what?  Nearly nothing anyway.  Avery did have 1 career HR, with the Orioles. 


Gerry Spence, author of How to Argue and Win Every Time, never lost a criminal case from either side of the table.  There actually is a lawyers' Hall of Fame, LOL, and he's in it.  Surely Mojo could tell us a lot about Spence.

One of his key principles is to --- > stipulate, and strongly, your opponent's key ideas and to do it right at the beginning.  One thing this does is put your opponents on a hot seat, because they're anxiously wondering, "So why is this guy still so confident?"

I haven't seen a piece of Gerry Spence argument like that in a LONG time.  Masterfully done Matty.


As a defense of Servais' honor it's also as strongly stated as could be done :- ) and I will admit that I was actually ranting more at the IDEA of "If you go 0-fer-8, kid, I'm not writing you into the lineup any more" than at Servais as such.  Provided that Vogelbach does not drift over to the A's and become David Ortiz I will calm down to a position of "this was my least favorite move of Servais' " within a week or so.

The complaints against Sweet Lou are cheerfully stipulated.

Wonderful article Matt.


...I wasn't trying to 'win' an argument. I was bothered that I didn't state my case as well last night and I wanted you to know that I shared your position almost entirely and to show you respect while raising an objection.


The Mainframe inputs 

>CHECKSUM "We'll give him a few games and hope he stays hot," and it returns

>CHECKSUM "If he goes 1-for-8 with a scratch single, he's not getting back into the lineup."

That's what Servais' lingo NORMALLY means in manager-speak.  Let's hope Servais means something different.


Servais wants to put out a lineup that will win a game.  That's his job.  He may write out a lineup or change a pitcher in different ways that we would, but it's his responsibility.  

JD has to look at this a little differently.  He's not just playing game-to-game, but also year-to-year.  He's talked about winning now and simultaneously building for the future (unfortunately, easier said than done, but still the right approach).  But that future creates a problem.

Two years from now, he has to assume that Nellie won't be his DH on opening day.  Which in and of itself is not a problem, since either Vogs or Healy could fill that, with the other playing first.  But then there's the rub--Cano probably won't be playing second, either.  Whether he moves to DH or first, there's still three players for two spots.  

Vogs and Healy seem like very good options to help build the future team.  But how does he make that happen?


Filling out a lineup card starts with the opposing pitcher.  "RHP, let's get some lefties in the lineup.  Oh, but not that one."?  I just have trouble understanding the short rope connotation with a guy who's MiL #s are significantly better, looks better in the box, better pedigree and has platoon advantage 65% of the time.  IMO, Vog should be the large part of the platoon until he proves he shouldn't.  But it's not my call. 

Cano moving off of second is not nearly as certain as Cruz not being around.  Dipoto would know what to do with an excess 1b/DH, making it a good problem to have in 2 years if Cano did need to move.  Next year and to an extent this year I'm glad there's backup for Cruz in case he drops off or isn't brought back.  By 2 years from now we'll be worrying about Whites playing time and Dipoto will suddenly trade away someone in front of him to open 1b.  Cano kind of needs to stay at 2b.


I think my biggest question/gripe is that this type of thing seems to stay the same, even through all the different permutations of GMs and managers we've seen.

The M's, organizationally, never seem to change strategy unless it's forced upon them by something that's totally unavoidable.
It's like the M's are stubborn and never change gears, even if it's a choice from winter.

Is there any harm into saying we're going with the hot hand?
Or, "Vogelbach has made it too hard to ignore him".

If anything, I do blame Servais for being strategically irrelevant to the team.
In terms of changes that have happened, the M's almost *always* have Dipoto on the front lines of marketing team strategy now.
And even then, it still seems command by committee.

You just wonder how a team doesn't change much through 15+ years of flailing in the basement.

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