Random thoughts

On this off day in the schedule, some random musings on the state of the Mariners and the Majors, as well as the experience of attending games at TMP...

  • Before the season began, I named Ty France as my prediction for American League MVP. I know, we're only 16 games in with 146 to go and anything can happen. But at the moment, I'm feeling pretty good about that pick: the Mariners' first baseman has a batting line of .375/.460/.656, five homers, 19 runs batted in, and currently leads the league in hits and total bases. The batting average wasn't that good on the season's initial road trip, but he still posted an on-base of .375; in fact, you have to dig pretty deeply into the splits to find a circumstance wherein Ty hasn't been terrific. Runners in scoring position? .500, 14 RBI. 0-2 count? .571. Day games? .370/.500/.630. However, he's 0-for-3 when the M's are ahead by more than four runs. What a bum.
  • Similarly, in our preseason profile of shortstop J.P. Crawford, we wondered if he'd be able to overcome whatever was keeping him from producing in home games and put up numbers at TMP that rivaled his production on the road. Well, after nine home games, John Paul is getting it done, batting .300 at home with six walks and a pair of home runs. Still better on the road, but hey, we'll take that home line any day.
  • Eugenio Suárez has been a huge surprise here in the early weeks. Yes, he's batting .255 with 11 non-home-run hits, and yes, he's drawn nine walks to go with his expected high strikeout total, but the biggest thing is this: In 11 games at third base he has just one error, and it was on a weird play that involved him fielding an errant "throw" from J.P. Geno has actually been good at third base. Can we all give a hip-hip-hooray and hearty Get Well Soon to infield coach Perry Hill, currently among the Mariner personnel out with COVID infections? We need Perry back on the job, he's clearly as magical as his charges all say he is.
  • Whenever I'm looking over the box scores from around baseball, I still get a visceral feeling of utter disgust when I see "DH" in a National League game. I don't care who it is, even if it's some player I like or am otherwise rooting for—Daniel Vogelbach, say, who is raking for Pittsburgh at .311/.380/.556—it still feels like a gut-punch, a stunning blow that just knocks the wind out. When I came of age as a fan, the designated hitter rule had already been established in the American League, but the NL remained unsullied and clearly played a superior brand of baseball that demanded more from a manager, more from the fan watching, more from the pitchers. To have that taken away, and to have it gone without any sort of a fight, is depressing. Remember back when former commissioner Bud Selig—then holder of the title "Worst Commissioner Ever," now the guy we think of as "not as bad as the current moron"—was hell-bent on realigning the leagues? If you're too young to recall, back in the '90s as one of Selig's first attempts to revel in his new power after dissolving the two leagues as separate business entities and merging them under the umbrella of Major League Baseball and thus under his direct control, he proposed what he called "radical realignment," which would separate the leagues by geography and go back to two divisions each. Every team in the Eastern time zone would be in the American League, every team west of that in the National League. There were several very good reasons to be against this, but the most vocal opposition came from executives with teams like Cincinnati and Atlanta, who said it would be a cold day in hell before they agreed to play in the American League under AL rules. We went from that kind of adamant belief in the value of DH-less baseball to the current feeling of "eh, whatever" among everyone involved. So dispiriting.
  • Speaking of realignment plans, bank on hearing about a new one sometime soon. With next year's advent of massively-expanded Interleague Play in addition to this year's death of real baseball with no DH, the distinction between the leagues is essentially gone. Give it another year or two and opposition to a realignment will be minimal. And, frankly, with the leagues basically merged now anyway, it might even be a good idea depending on the details. Any legitimate concept wouldn't have the detriments that Selig's 1990s plan had because everyone will already be playing everyone else every year (nobody would be giving up big-draw series against teams from across the country) and no team would be forced to change the rules under which they play the game. Even reducing the number of divisions from six back to four wouldn't be a big deal now because under the current fiasco of a playoff system (mine is clearly better) the third division winner is treated the same as a Wild Card team anyway (though going back to four would mean going back to an unequal number of teams per division as 30 does not divide evenly by 4). If and when the A's and/or Rays relocate, expect a bigger restructuring.
  • I'm anti-WAR, both in terms of geopolitics and in baseball. I like the intent of the Wins Above Replacement measure, but it's inherently subjective and in order to be measured as a statistic depends on formulae that are inconsistent across the industry and that themselves rely on somewhat imprecise submeasures (e.g. Ultimate Zone Rating). The idea is good—a shorthand that exemplifies how good a player is compared to his positional peers—it's just not, you know, real. You can say that Marcus Semien led the league in WAR last year with 7.3, and yeah, it's not unreasonable to think that without him the Blue Jays may have won maybe 7 fewer games, but you can't prove it. They might have won more games. Unlikely, but someone would be filling his spot, and who's to say what "replacement" really means anyway? I mean, it's fine; saying I'm anti-WAR is overly vehement, I just think it shouldn't be given the weight it currently is given. Even FanGraphs, one of the major providers of WAR measurements, admits that it is "not meant to be a precise indicator," but rather an estimate of value. On the other hand, I do like the Fielding-Independent Pitching (FIP) sabermetric measure. It too is imperfect as it cannot be carried over from year to year (it is based on the league-average ERA), but is a helpful companion stat to ERA, giving an indication, not so much on whether a pitcher has been lucky or unlucky with outcomes, but how much he depends on his fielders, how a pitch-to-contact guy might fare with a better or worse team behind him, or how a guy with crazy-wild stuff can get by with double-plays. Yohan Ramírez, for example, has a career ERA to date of 3.86. Not bad, but watching him you think it can't possibly be that low with all the walks and hit batters; then you glance at the career FIP of 5.82 and say, "ah, that seems more accurate."
  • I've been to a couple of games this year at TMP, and as per usual, Tom Hutyler is phoning it in. But what really bugs me about the experience at the ballpark these days is the deafening volume of the speaker system. Holy Moly, gang, turn it the frak down already. You cannot hold a conversation with the person next to you, let alone a couple seats down, with the speakers blaring music clips and sound effects and other noise at excessive levels of loudness. Is there anyone anywhere that likes this sort of thing? Is there logic behind it at all? What am I missing, because someone thought it was a good idea to blast sound with the volume turned up to 100 on a scale of 1-80 and there seems to be no reason for it other than to annoy the hell out of your patrons.

What's on your baseball mind today?


  • Posted by Bill on April 26, 2022 (5 months ago)

    I will be depressed the first time a world series has two ex-NL or AL teams.

  • Posted by Mark Russell on April 25, 2022 (5 months ago)

    The M's team numbers on offense are the gaudiest we've seen from them in quite a while. Their mediocre RISP average is masked by the amount of traffic they generate. Basically, they are throwing everything at the wall and eventually some of it sticks. If their walk rate drops off they'll need to pick it up with the bat. So far, so good though.

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