Thursday, August 18, 2011

Is something not quite right with King Felix?

This post is supposed to show my skills in pitcher evaluation. I looked at Felix Hernandez' performance Saturday, August 13 against the Boston Red Sox.

What does it take to evaluate a pitcher? Don’t rely on Mariner broadcasters to give you too much insight into pitcher evaluation.

Recent statistical development shows a compelling ratio anytime Felix Hernandez takes the mound: +K/NQ measures pitcher strikeouts versus the amount a broadcaster speaks the phrase "no question." Felix inspires more "no question" statements per strikeout than the average American League pitcher.

Rizzs: “Swiiiiing and a miss! Strike three! When Felix has that slider working like that, Red, he’s the best pitcher in the American League.”
Fairly: “No question.”

Felix puts out +K/NQ ratios in each start that average about 3:8, often affected by whether Ron Fairly is calling the game. In a May 6th complete game win against the White Sox, Felix struck out 6, and Fairly dished out 16 “no question” response commentaries. Felix may be a league leader, but +K/NQ ratios are often skewed higher with Red Sox and Yankees pitchers.

Regardless of the +K/NQ statistical analysis in Felix' 2011 season, something that is in question is whether anything is "wrong" with Felix in 2011. Some measurements indicate not much has changed between this season and the last two. I like to look at seasonal trends on Fangraphs. Felix’ BABIP this season is a little higher but not outside of career ranges, so it doesn’t appear to be a bad luck/good luck issue. FIP, BB and K rates are all within range of previous years. But there's something not passing the eye test with Felix. We expect Felix not to not merely pitch well, but to dominate the opposition. The Cy Young in 2010 elevated expectations even higher, and there is also an underlying expectation that Felix can become even better. The establishment of the baseball bacchanalia that is The King’s Court capitalizes on that belief. Even though Felix has put up some great performances in 2011 (the recent 12 K performance in Anaheim), Saturday’s start against the Red Sox showed that something is just enough out of kilter to watch in the future. Granted, the Red Sox put out a formidable line-up, working counts and driving the ball all over the park. The Sawx send many pitchers away whimpering.

The Red Sox bats gave us an idea of where the trends may be going with Felix. In the 6th inning, the Sox hit the ball all over the park. With one screaming line drive of several that inning, Dustin Pedroia smoked a ball over the right center fence, a drive that I couldn't imagine on Felix in the last two seasons. The Line Drive % for Felix is the highest of his career, and his Ground Ball % is the lowest, according to Fangraphs. It's not as if Felix is getting shelled, but those rates bear watching. Felix was definitely watching in disbelief as well, as he stood with mouth agape after Pedroia’s shot.

A hypothetical Mariners roster move

This article is fictional, but after watching the Tacoma Rainiers play last Friday night. I realized that Matt Tuiasosopo's time in the Mariner organization may be short. This is a hypothetical roster move based on a fictitious release of Matt Tuiasosopo.

Friday night, the obvious scapegoat in the Rainier's pounding at the hands of the Iowa Cubs was Luke French. To say French hit his 2011 form of mid-80's velocity that night is generous. Even the Cubs' left-handed hitters sat on his fastball like he was delivering it on a platter, despite an arm slot that indicates he should get lefties out with some efficiency. French’s start made a statement that if he wants to have a future in MLB, he may have to explore becoming a LOOGY if he thinks he can pull off a little self-reinvention.

French won’t likely have a LOOGY future with the Mariners, as he was promptly DFA’d after the start. Jack Z. seems to be learning some lessons about hanging on to players too long, and followed up the move of cutting bait on French with a DFA for Matt Tuiasosopo. Though Tui’s future with the Mariner organization has looked bleak for some time (especially since the 2010 season), this DFA bears a thoughtful mention if only for the reason that the Tuiasosopo family is a bit of a Seattle area institution, and many Seattle fans have rooted for Tui to do well. I wanted Tui to do well in a Mariner uniform, and I will smile if he can continue to craft his game and become a good contributor to another organization.

Some players with their poor play draw fan ire, but to watch Tui Friday night was sad. Never has Tui been more clearly a player without a position in the Mariner organization than Friday night. Watching Tui play second made me appreciate Dustin Ackley, Chone Figgins, Jack Wilson, Jose Lopez, Harold Reynolds, Jack Perconte, Julio Cruz and Larry Milbourne and the cast of other second basemen in Mariner history more. Every second baseman the Mariners have ever had, regardless of their defensive ability, seemed to know where to play. With their knowledge of positioning they could make an appropriate catch and throw, and get an out. These players all have/had their flaws and none of them (maybe Ackley?) had/will have a HOF career, but they knew a few things about their position. Playing out of position on a few plays and making a key throwing error (profoundly ugly) behind French, Tui hung his head carrying the entire weight of his Mariner experience on his shoulders. I wanted to take him out of the game myself, buy him a Deschutes IPA from the concession stand, and offer some consolation.

Okay, Tui is not an infielder, but where do you put him when you have an outfield/DH fleet in Tacoma that includes a PCL-punishing outfield like Peguero, Halman, Pena (since called up), Wilson and Saunders? Maybe you give Tui a chance at third, but you can’t legitimately take playing time away from Liddi at this point. Place him at short and the front office may be convicted for cruel and unusual punishment. Though his hitting line isn’t abysmal (.341/.394/.735), it doesn’t stack up in the PCL or make him look like a good option at first base. This DFA makes sense, as it clears the way on the 40-man roster for promotions in the organization.

Tui was the Mariners’ first pick in the 2004 draft (3rd round) and fit something of a trend of choosing well-rounded athletes/stud football players (see Wilson, Mike). Tui could have followed in the footsteps of his brother, Marques and star at the U Dub in football, but he chose his own path in the more body/health friendly athletic field of baseball. The pick also says something about the trajectory of the organization after the departure of Pat Gillick—their draft hit a serious downward trend after Tui (see Clement, Jeff in 2005). Tui’s DFA says something about the trajectory of the Mariner organization today.

Though it might be a great story in the Seattle Times to see Tui continue in the organization and be one of those feel-good stories about local guy/mostly career minor leaguer who hits a fun, yet unsustainable hot streak in his early 30s with the Mariners, this ship has sailed.

Tui, thanks for the exciting possibility of a local guy making it with the Mariners. If you want that beer, let me know. Maybe Willie Bloomquist can join us.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Seeing the forest among the trees of writing

I developed this blog four years ago to rekindle a writing life. Writing is something innate to me. Though I don't consider myself an entrepreneur, constructing my own newspaper as a second grader came naturally to my existence, a fire fed for most of my life. The name of that newspaper was The Madhouse Gazette (sounds like a name created by second grader, right?).

The second plant of The Madhouse Gazette served two purposes. First, it provided me a place to sort out ideas not spoken from a pulpit or written in a newsletter. Occasionally I whittled an idea from a rough thought eventually carved into a sermon, but the blog turned into a place among the trees for me to rebuild a love for writing.

The second purpose sprouted after a vocational shift involving a move from pastoral work to parenting. I found myself missing the frequent theological wranglings among the work of diapers, naps, tight grocery budgets, and other topics for a home economist. The blog became my theological discourse in addition to my reflections of living as (mostly) stay at home Dad. The New Calvinists are shuddering somewhere...

My life has changed once again, and I now serve in a congregation that values my writing and me as a person. I live more as my true self in this congregation than any other I have known. Writing and ministry have an oak-like quality. Rooted, solid, branching out in interesting patterns and directions. Madhouse Gazette served a good purpose for four years, but the time has come for the blog to lay dormant--not to merely think about it, but write it down. Madhouse Gazette is going into hibernation, in a wooded cave. Maybe the dormancy will last a few weeks, months or years. I don't know.

I do not share my identity on this blog. Not that anyone cares, and not that it's too hard to figure out. It was a way to share my thoughts. If you want a more public side of my life and more regular writing, you can check me out at my other blog, your average pastor. The writing is more theologically oriented, without prominent references to pop culture or my children. I miss writing about those things, but this became more challenging in my crazy commute. I spend around 8-16 hours in the car per week--and my time in front of my desk top computers is limited. Regularly blogging on Madhouse Gazette is one aspect of my life that is pruned.

Something may grow stronger in the months ahead, especially if I can lay my hands on an iPad without going into debt.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A musical history of Rush--on film

Why is this movie not coming to the Seattle Metro??? Rush fans, get together and bring this movie here. I want to see this on the big screen! Strange, I'm writing a piece of my own personal history related to Rush, and then I find out about this new documentary last night. It gives me the chills.

I'm am thrilled for the idea that my brothers and/or friends come join me to see Rush on August 7th.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Listening...(May 3, 2010 edition)

October Project--Funeral in his Heart
Grand Funk Railroad--We're An American Band
R.E.M.--Shiny, Happy People
Rush--New World Man
Good Charlotte--Thank You Mom
Good Charlotte--Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous

During my late elementary school years and middle school years, I discovered that access to being a cool kid (in my estimation at the time) was through listening to 2 radio stations, KISW and KZOK in Seattle. KISW was (still is) a heavier rock station, and KZOK was more "classic" rock. My mother and I used to listen to Top 40 on KJR AM 950. I enjoyed the heavier rock, but being a people-pleasing kid, I embraced some stuff I didn't enjoy. Rush was easily my favorite band, and I also enjoyed Van Halen, Sammy Hagar, Def Leppard, Ratt, Judas Priest, Queensryche, Journey fit in there on occasion, and a few others. I remember a stigma against synthesizers among the hard rockers. It wasn't cool and even blasphemy to be a hard rock band that used synthesizers--rockers became their own musical purity police. I remember that rock dogma preached on KISW. I saw a video for Iron Maiden touring behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe, reaching out to budding rock musicians. They told them "no synthesizers!" I kept up with the discussion of the genre scene, buying magazines like Circus and Hit Parader. Rush became a blasphemer on the album "Signals." Forget the band "Asia." I liked Asia, but a true rocker wouldn't listen to that garbage. People called up KISW and called it "Wimp Rock."

Van Halen bridged the divide a bit with the album "1984." Eddie Van Halen played the synthesizer??? Hmmm. The guys I knew went along with Van Halen's move, probably because the girls were going to follow Eddie Van Halen regardless of what he played. I didn't worry about Van Halen's evolution, I was still primarily a Rush fan. At the time, some considered Moving Pictures the last great Rush album (maybe some still do). They really lost some fans with "Grace Under Pressure," a synth-heavy album. I saved my babysitting money and bought the new cassette the day it came out for $8.99, a lot of money at that time. I loved it--Kid Gloves was my favorite track, and still is an all-time favorite. I was not allowed to go to concerts in middle school, but someone on my soccer team could go, so I sent him with 15 bucks (at least 3 babysitting jobs in those days) to a Seattle Rush concert so I could get a Grace Under Pressure t-shirt. I wore that shirt until it disintegrated into cotton-polyester blend powder (an honor shared only with my Mr. Bill t-shirt). My brothers and I used to pretend we were Rush if we had an evening home alone to play Moving Pictures on our turntable console stereo. Rush was the epitome of rock--for me it started with Neil Peart and the cathartic rhythms of "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight." I lay awake for hours in those days listening to KISW or KZOK hoping to hear Limelight. I grew to appreciate Geddy Lee more, mesmerized, yet sometimes driven to my own air bass with my favorite solo on "Freewill."

Rush is probably the longest continuous musical relationship I've had with a band. Some favorite bands today have staying power, but not to the same degree as Rush. I have yet to plug into their releases in the past 5-7 years--though that is a new music project for me to consider. I appreciate the trio more and more all the time. Social analysis, critique, creative musical appreciation and catharsis wrapped in so many songs. "Signals" is a brilliant album. It becomes more brilliant in the numerous times I have listened in the past 25 or so years. It registers more today as I recently hit 40 years old. "Subdivisions" taps into teenage angst, yet it also analyzes the real world considerations of adults and where they shall live, how we organize our relationships and the meaning of community. "New World Man" is a song that speaks to my young adult outlook of optimism about my abilities and the opportunities before me in my emerging adulthood moving into midlife. It is a hopeful, yet realistic song. I still feel that optimism in my life, yet I think it's tempered with a little more wisdom--not a good or bad thing--my place in life.
Mary Fahl, formerly of October Project, is supposed to be releasing a new CD that keeps getting put off. I hope she tours in the Northwest. I've listened to Funeral In His Heart at least 40 times in the past 6 weeks. A unique, haunting, deep and smooth voice.
I saw the Grand Funk Railroad song on VH1's 100 all-time greatest Hard Rock Songs. It's been a long time since I remotely paid attention to this song. I love finding old songs like this that become like new to me.
I'm thinking of titling my day of Pentecost sermon "Shiny Happy People." The song is great for several reasons, but Kate Pearson of the B-52's makes this song. She can still belt it after 30 plus years. Athens, GA must have been quite a place to be in the 1980's as a musical hub.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Carbonated Beverage Tax

Returning to the Pacific Northwest brings a daily joy during the spring and summer months. While productively keeping my household in order, I listen to my favorite sports team, the Seattle Mariners Baseball Club (Ichiro led off the game with a ground-rule double and came around to score as I write).

After 30 minutes of the broadcast, a commercial decries the proposed carbonated beverage tax in Washington State, three times during that span. The merits of the tax are debatable. Seth Godin makes an interesting argument about these types of beverage taxes. What I appreciate about Godin is his creative approach to looking at issues, ideas and concepts. I have to think about the merits of the tax, but the commercial adds nothing to the debate.

I realize the goal of almost any political ad is to create an emotional response. The ad depicts a couple going over their budget. Their budget is busted by taxes on carbonated beverages (Even seltzer water! Even club soda!). I find it amusing that the ad attempts to establish that carbonated beverages are an essential grocery item. Regardless of carbonated beverages value to a diet if carbonated beverages are busting your budget, then you don't know how to live with a budget.

The website (linked above) goes even further, by making carbonated beverage bottlers the victim, that the tax will "depress (nice word choice, eh?)" sales. Carbonated beverage bottlers and companies are far from the ranks of victims.

I am not against the right of free speech for the ad, and I'm not making a statement about the merits of taxes. I am such a victim that the joy of listening to the Mariners game by a terrible ad has been compromised. Woe is me.

Political advertisements with poor emotional baits that do not benefit public discourse on state government revenue? Put it on the Lame List!

I miss Almost Live.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Please. No.

I know more pressing world issues deserve more attention. But I deal with issues of the nature and paths of the cosmos on a day to day basis. What produces the most visceral reaction in my mind? NCAA Basketball.

What jerks my chain? Not that my beloved Jayhawks were knocked out early, or that the family favorite Washington Huskies underachieved, then overachieved, then underachieved again--being knocked out of the Sweet 16. Expanding the field from 65 to 96 teams will dilute a good product. I used to take off work with some of my good friends to watch the first Thursday/Friday of the tournament, and now it will be garbage--infiltrated with mediocre teams. My visceral reaction is to say I won't watch the damn tournament--at least in the early rounds--but I'm sure I'll come crawling back because I won't be able to stand spring training baseball.

Rather than worry about a lame boycott, maybe I'll take up an activity of my own and build my own presence in the field of athletic mediocrity. Curling, training for my next half-marathon, bicycling, etc. To the people at the NCAA, please stop this movement to mediocrity by expanding the basketball field. I feel hope and despair on this topic, as the NCAA isn't interested in doing something that makes sense. However, they are a bit unpredictable as well--maybe the foolishness stops and the insiders will look like fools.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I'm getting in touch with my inner Ah-nuld

I'll be back.

Writing. Maybe this week, maybe next. The Lenten vortex can only keep me down for so long.