CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

<< Previous Article
Prospectus Hit List: W... (07/05)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Game of the... (06/28)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Game of the... (07/13)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Under The Knife: Not S... (07/05)

July 5, 2005

Prospectus Game of the Week

Texas Rangers @ Seattle Mariners, 7/1/05

by Jonah Keri

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.


DH David Dellucci
SS Michael Young
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Hank Blalock
2B Alfonso Soriano
LF Kevin Mench
CF Laynce Nix
RF Richard Hidalgo
C Rod Barajas

The Rangers rank third in the majors in runs scored per game, just behind the Yankees and Red Sox. Yes, Ameriquest Field's batter's park factor of 111 is the most hitter-friendly in the AL, 2nd in MLB. But that fact can't obscure the great seasons being forged by several Rangers hitters. According to Baseball Prospectus' new Sortable Stats feature, six of the top 30 hitters in the AL as ranked by VORP are Rangers. While you might expect big seasons out of corner infield stars Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira, the emergence of Kevin Mench (.309 EqA) and the out-of-nowhere explosion of David Dellucci (.333 EqA) have supercharged what already looked like a formidable lineup heading into the '05 season. It's Dellucci that gets the party started for Texas on this night, crushing the second pitch of the game from Aaron Sele for a near upper-deck homer.

I only learn this after the fact, however. While the magic of TiVo allows me to slo-mo Sele's neck whiplashing around as Dellucci's homer takes out a small satellite, I don't make it into Safeco Field until the top of the second inning. Accompanied by my wife Angele and BP alum/Mariner die-hard Derek Zumsteg, we've set out to test our ability to see the game from the best vantage point possible, for the least money. After waiting until the bottom of the 1st to approach a scalper, our efforts start slowly, when the first ticket-waiver says we can have three View-Reserved seats for $15 apiece; we were hoping for better, given the game's well underway, the Mariners are horrible this year, and season-ticket holders can buy these seats for $15 each anyway, meaning he's basically asking for face value. After Derek sniffs around for another couple minutes--this is his show, given I've been living in Seattle only three weeks and this is my first trip to Safeco in two years--he heads to the ticket window to get cheap seats, setting up a plan to sneak down for a better view once inside. Just as the ticket vendor hands him the trio, I see the same stubborn scalper ("The price won't go down 'til the 6th inning!" he practically taunted us after we refused his hard-line offer) pleading with a group of six teenagers to take his ducats for $11 each. Ouch.

Walking purposefully, Derek leads us down the first-base line, where he then darts into a section near the foul pole guarded by a seemingly indifferent usher. He and Angele are already putting down their jackets and about to sit down when the usher, for no apparent reason, sees me straggling and asks to see my ticket. Busted, he gives me the boot and whistles for the rest of my group to get the Rick Helling out of there. We circle around the park and reach the same section near the foul pole on the opposite side of the stadium. There, we quickly learn the key to getting more for your ticket buck--sweet-talk an older, female usher. "Come back in the 3rd inning and you can sit here," she tells Derek. This is far from the days of Olympic Stadium, when as a perpetually broke 16-year-old I used to buy $1 bleacher seats, then sneak into the $20 primo locations with my buddies for a better view. Of course paid attendance on this night is 37,000+, compared to the four-digit crowds the Expos often brought in during the lean years, so maybe my perception's just skewed.

We find a nice standing vantage point in the lower concourse near home plate, where we set up shop for the half-inning before our usher lets us through. Here's what you missed, besides the Dellucci moonshot:

After Dellucci's blast, Michael Young crushed a ball to right-center, Ichiro's improbable running catch saving a sure triple. Blalock then rockets a ball to center that's hauled in near the wall by Jeremy Reed. Sele then gets touched for a walk and a sharp single in the second, barely wiggling out of the jam. Despite the small 1-0 deficit, Sele looks ready to give up 10 runs. Frighteningly, he's also the best starter the Mariners have this year. Meanwhile the M's manage only an Ichiro walk in the first, a Randy Winn double play and an Adrian Beltre five-year, $65 million, .306 OBP strikeout negating any germ of a rally. An inning and a half into my efforts to become an M's fan while living in Seattle and Derek's prediction has come true: Other than Ichiro and maybe Jeremy Reed, I'm having a tough time liking any of these guys. Speaking of which...


RF Ichiro Suzuki
LF Randy Winn
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Richie Sexson
DH Raul Ibanez
2B Bret Boone
CF Jeremy Reed
SS Michael Morse
C Pat Borders

When your two big guns aren't producing the way you'd hoped, that's a recipe for disaster. Beltre's been a huge disappointment three months into his big contract. He's young as free agents go, plays a premium defensive position, and a 2004-like big second half would go a long way to redeeming his season. For now, though, he's been a bust. Meanwhile Richie Sexson's hitting .238/.340/.484/.290 EqA--not bad, but hardly worth the five-year, $50 million deal the M's gave him in December, ignoring Sexson's health risks, his falling short of stardom even in his best seasons, and of course my oft-repeated immutable law of free-agent first basemen: Teams that sign 30-something free-agent first basemen to lucrative, long-term contracts are almost certain to throw away tens of millions of dollars. I'm not saying that the Mariners will be looking at Sexson's deal as Mo Vaughn-esque in two years. Call it somewhere between Jason Giambi-disaster-level and Jim Thome-great-for-a-while-then-increasingly-ugly status.

The M's do get on the board in the bottom of the 2nd, though it's the bottom of the order, not the high-priced three-four hitters who get the job done. After a two-out walk by Bret Boone, Reed laces a double down the line in left, Boone sliding in just ahead of Rod Barajas' tag to tie the game.

Sele and Chan Ho Park then set the clock back to 2001, both settling into a groove. Park's still getting knocked around this year, but thanks to ample run support and some luck he compiled a 7-2 record heading into the game. He's spotting his fastball well--or at least taking advantage of the weak Mariner lineup, with an Ichiro double all the M's can muster from the 3rd through 5th innings. Sele sets down the first three batters in the 3rd and the first two in the 4th. Falling behind four of the lineup's top five hitters, Sele retires all five anyway, using mostly change-ups and curves to bail himself out. A 1-2 change to Soriano produces a prodigious whiff, and the Mariners look like they may finally get a strong pitching performance this time around.

It doesn't last. With Sele topping out at 87 on his fastball and throwing mostly junk, Mench sits on an off-speed pitch. He gets one, driving the ball to right-center for a double. Laynce Nix and Richard Hidalgo follow with an RBI double and RBI single, cashing two runs. The bleeding stops only when Winn--who may have the worst throwing arm in baseball--runs toward the ball before suddenly giving way to Reed. Hidalgo, committed after seeing Winn move toward the ball, gets gunned down at second by the much better throwing Reed.

It gets uglier in the 5th. Barajas hits another line shot to right-center--the Rangers are just sitting on slow stuff outside and pummeling it--and Dellucci walks to put two on with none out. Sele looks like he may again squirm out of it with the damage minimized. But Blalock ropes a single to left, bringing up more Winn comedy. Barajas, one of the slowest runners in the game, touches third just as Winn fields the ball in left. He comes up throwing--any kind of decent throw will nail Barajas by 15 feet. Winn throws a three-hopper that gets to Pat Borders around the time Barajas is on his third handful of sunflower seeds in the dugout. The Mariners' need to give regular playing time to talented, if injury-prone, OF prospect Chris Snelling (.363/.447/.540 at Triple-A Tacoma before being called up Sunday) and the team's desire to get the 31-year-old Winn's $3.75 million 2005 salary and $5 million '06 mutual option off the books are better reasons for a trade, but if Winn's arm ends up sealing his ticket out of town, that works too. Soriano's RBI single makes it 5-1 Rangers. Though the game's only half over, the crowd goes dead quiet, probably realizing there's no way the M's are coming back.

Other thoughts:

  • The Mariners rank just 8th in the AL and 16th in MLB in runs prevented, despite playing in the most extreme pitcher's park in the game (Pitchers Park Factor 93, tied with San Diego and--surprise--Cincinnati for most pitcher-friendly environments in baseball). When the M's made their run at the start of the decade, it was the stand-out pitching of Jamie Moyer, Joel Pineiro and Freddy Garcia as much as the hitting of Ichiro, Boone and Edgar Martinez that won games for the M's. With Pineiro coming off injuries in recent years, Moyer finally showing his age and Garcia pitching for the White Sox, that front-line pitching is now gone. The simultaneous temptation to bring up 19-year-old sensation Felix Hernandez and save him for when some of the Mariners' young major leaguers start to bear fruit must drive Bill Bavasi and company batty. You could say the M's are lucky that Hernandez is out a few days with what's being called "shoulder bursitis," thus preventing a promotion, but it's never good news when a pitching prospect gets even the slightest twinge in his shoulder, is it?

  • If nothing else, Kenny Rogers' 20-game suspension marks the first time in recent memory that MLB has recognized the pointlessness of the typical five, seven-, eight-game suspensions given starting pitchers for various transgressions. With a little rotation juggling and a well-timed appeal, teams can get away with having their suspended hurler miss only one start--which can even be a blessing given the rigors of the long season on a pitcher's arm. If the Rogers suspension sticks, that'll cost the Rangers four starts from their ace, a painful penalty for a team facing long odds in chasing the Angels and a tough race for the AL Wild Card. Of course Rogers is already appealing the suspension; based on precedents, you can expect the length of his suspension to be cut. As this recent article from the Wall Street Journal explains, a dramatic cut off Rogers' $50,000 fine is all but certain.

  • There was plenty of noise surrounding Boone getting designated for assignment over the weekend. His 2001 season ranks as one of the best ever by a second baseman, whatever you might think of Boone's training regimen. The angle I find most interesting is the idea of forcing other teams' hands. The Yankees recently DFA'd the woefully ineffective Paul Quantrill. Instead of seeing his 6.75 ERA go unclaimed, the Yanks got the Padres interested during the 10-day window the team had to trade the sinkerballer. Though Darrell May and Tim Redding won't win any beauty contests for their own '05 performances, it's not a bad haul for a player the Yankees had long stopped using in relevant situations. The Mariners may have sniffed the trade market for Boone, only to find teams reluctant to take on the remaining half of Boone's $9 million+ salary. With the 10-day window now in effect and the Pads among at least a couple of teams interested, the Mariners' move may return a decent haul in its own right. No word on whether Derek's rendition of POD's "Boom" every time Boone comes up to bat will follow him out town:

    Boone! Here comes the Boone!
    Ready or not, I strike out a lot!

The Rangers go on to win the game 6-2, the Mariners sleepwalking through another lifeless game in what's been a lifeless season. With any luck the losses will continue, and fans will start to stay away. Then we can start sweet-talking the ushers in the box seats.

--

Set Your TiVos and VCRs: The next Prospectus Game of the Week pits the Cleveland Indians (the team pegged as the clear favorite for the AL Wild Card according to BP's Playoff Odds Report) against the New York Yankees, Sunday July 10, 1 p.m. ET. Tune in to Channel 735 on DirecTV to see Scott Elarton duke it out with either Tanyon Sturtze or a sore-shouldered Carl Pavano. We'll take the over on this one.

Jonah Keri is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jonah's other articles. You can contact Jonah by clicking here

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Prospectus Hit List: W... (07/05)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Game of the... (06/28)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Game of the... (07/13)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Under The Knife: Not S... (07/05)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article What You Need to Know: August 29, 2014
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: This Article Mentions Fehlan...
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, August 29
Premium Article The Call-Up: Dilson Herrera
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, Augu...
Prospectus Feature: Roast A Parks
Premium Article Raising Aces: Mis-Priced

MORE FROM JULY 5, 2005
Premium Article Can Of Corn: Pythag and the Nats
Premium Article Under The Knife: Not Saviors
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: The Last Pretty Good Thing
Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 3, 2005
The Week in Quotes: June 27-July 4

MORE BY JONAH KERI
2005-07-26 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: Boston Red Sox ...
2005-07-19 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: Washington Nati...
2005-07-13 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: Cleveland India...
2005-07-05 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: Texas Rangers @...
2005-06-28 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: Chicago Cubs @ ...
2005-06-24 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: New York Mets @...
2005-06-08 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: Milwaukee Brewe...
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS GAME OF THE WEEK
2005-07-26 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: Boston Red Sox ...
2005-07-19 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: Washington Nati...
2005-07-13 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: Cleveland India...
2005-07-05 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: Texas Rangers @...
2005-06-28 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: Chicago Cubs @ ...
2005-06-24 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: New York Mets @...
2005-06-08 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: Milwaukee Brewe...
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2014-08-26 - The BP Wayback Machine: King Felix Arrives
2005-08-10 - Prospectus Game of the Week: King Felix Arri...