Tag Archives: illuminati

Kyle Seager and the streakiness inherent in hitting the ball in the air all of the damn time

Joey strokes the Seager boner of the Mariners’ early season confusion-orgy.

This is a necessary post to remind us all of why we love Kyle Seager.

Less sitting, more hitting.

Mariners’ fans are familiar with Kyle Seager. He has been a lone bright spot on a team that has had very few bright spots over the past few years. If you consider an average, productive, worth-having major league position player to be worth roughly 3.0 WAR, then Kyle Seager is the lone Mariner to qualify as a productive everyday Major Leaguer on this club for the past 2 seasons. This is pretty unfortunate, given how 3.0 WAR is kind of the low-end cutoff for this degree of productivity and most teams have a few of these sorts of players if not 5 or 6 of them.

The Mariners have Robinson Cano and Corey Hart now. This is cool and something that makes watching the mariners a tiny bit less depressing than it was the past couple of years. These are veteran players with proven track records who have been more or less the same guy throughout their careers and are now firmly operating within their prime years. The Mariners have had veterans before, but these veterans either had not been good players for a few years (Ibanez), or were simply never good players to begin with (Morse). It can be pretty depressing watching a team that is riddled with question marks. It is more depressing watching a team entirely comprised of question marks. The term “riddled” is used to describe some surface filled with a bajillion holes and thusly rendered into something resembling Swiss cheese. A lot of teams have had this Swiss-cheese consistency. The Mariners the past few years haven’t even really had any cheese at all which makes the term “riddle” not even really work. The no-cheese Mariners, some would call them (Nobody would ever call them that).

But there is more cheese here than meets the eye! Kyle Seager exists. He is the tiniest of morsels remaining after a drunk-five-year-old-with-a-hole-puncher-esque onslaught of inconsistency. And he isn’t even that consistent within his own consistency. That was a silly sentence. How can a player be consistently inconsistent? The term I would use: streaky.

Imagine if you will a coin. A coin when flipped has (basically) a 50% outcome of being either heads or tails. Let us then assign a positive outcome to one of these events. In the case of heads, you get 1 dollar. In the case of tails, somebody changes the channel at your apartment to the Hallmark Channel and then subsequently shatters your remote control. It’s all about the O.

Bad analogy do-over. Kyle Seager has been a player who can look terrible for stretches, but whose numbers have in our recent experience eventually trended towards a certain, predictable result over the course of an entire season’s worth of ups and downs. We have recently been provided some empirical evidence to support this claim. Kyle Seager spent the first two weeks of this year being absolutely terrible. Prior to this last week, Seager was arguably the most maddeningly awful player in the Mariners’ lineup. Yet, we as fans have come to expect Seager to be a solid contributor. How can these two outcomes coexist within the same paradigm and both be true? Streakiness. Seager is not alone in his up and down ways. Just look at Mike Zunino…

But what about Seager’s play results in this kind of streakiness? It is easy to assign a certain nebulous, platonic understanding of streakiness to a player without looking deeper into the player’s skillset to determine if there is perhaps, an underlying manner of playing the game that can result in this day-to-day inconsistency.

“Kyle is just hot right now” people might say. If those people were talking about Kyle Seager the way people talk about Hansel in Zoolander.

I believe that in Kyle Seager’s case there is a rhyme and perhaps a reason to his streakiness. Kyle Seager is a flyball hitter. Kyle Seager is also almost strictly speaking a dead-pull hitter. This year, there has been a record-setting pace for the number of infield shifting being done around the league. Teams are no longer simply shifting for big, obvious dead-pull guys in the traditional mold of a David Ortiz or Prince Fielder. Teams are noticing that little guys can be one-trick ponies too. Kyle Seager is one such player that could see more shifts in his future.

Let’s look at a Kyle Seager spray chart courtesy of baseballsavant.com. I have went ahead and filtered out the groundballs for a clearer picture into what I am looking for with Seager’s game.

Kyle Seager spray chart leftandright flies

Bingo bango bongo. As we can see, Seager’s success comes when he pulls the ball. Period. There is really no other interpretation to be drawn here. Seager is a dead-pull flyball hitter who shows impressive power to the pull side which the eyeball test validates by noting one of the more beautifully classic lefty uppercuts that I have seen in a while– let alone by a player in Mariners’ blue.

There is an upside and a downside to this kind of hitter and that is fairly easy to qualify. Fly ball hitters’ success is governed by the quality of their contact more so than a player who sprays the ball around and hits groundballs with more frequency. A guy like Cano is going to hit for a higher average and a higher BABIP than Seager because Cano is primarily a line drive hitter. If Cano misses a pitch, he may send a soft, broken-bat line drive into shallow center for a single. If Seager just misses a pitch, he is going to most likely be serving up lazy fly balls to right. When Cano hits the ball the other way, he is likely to get a few more singles as soft line drives drop down in front of the left fielder. When Seager hits the ball the other way, he loses distance and with it some of the success his pull-side power grants him, again, serving up lazy flyballs to the outfielder.

Players can change over the course of their careers, and Seager has several years of good baseball ahead of him. All indications point to Seager carrying the success he has had into the future- but if his style of hitting remains static he will likely remain prone to cold spells when his flies aren’t leaving the yard or crashing into fences.

This doesn’t bother me at all. We have seen what happens when Seager is squaring pitches up. Seager has carried the Mariners to 3 victories in the past 5 games. No player exists in a vacuum, and credit should be given to the guys who got on base in front of him in both of his go-ahead blasts this past week. That being said somebody has to sack up and hit the ball hard to drive those guys in. That guy has been Kyle Seager. The Mariners would do well to capitalize on this stretch, as it should be clear to everyone with eyeballs and the gumption necessary to sit down and watch the Mariners play baseball that when Kyle Seager plays well this team is astronomically superior to when he is mired in one of his slumps.

At the end of the year, Kyle Seager’s numbers will look good. They won’t reflect the AL player-of-the-week numbers he put up this past week. They don’t have to. As long as the hot stretches properly balance out the (hopefully shortened) slumps, the aggregate total will be a solid, above-average major leaguer. The Mariners don’t have many of those. We should all be grateful that he graces us with his presence. We should be doubly grateful that he seems to be superbestpals with Justin Smoak. If we were to get rid of Smoak would Seager’s production dip? Is Smoak required for moral support in order for Seager to continue to be productive? Would Smoak have to start for this to work, or could he be maintained in a symbolic role? This is something to be monitored moving forward, as I delve into the depths of their relationship via anonymous sources and idle social media speculation.

In the meantime, here’s hoping that Seager is doused with frigid Gatorade more often in the coming weeks. Sorry boss.

Umbrella!

The Mariners’ bullpen situation examined through a lens of misery

New and exciting way to quantify Mariners losses for the diehard fan!

Lock a loaded pistol into your nightstand or any such desk that has a locking drawer in it.

Take the key. Lose it intentionally. Perhaps give it to a friend to hide. Perhaps lose it in a river. Throw it into the ocean. Tie it to a piece of bread, feed it to a duck and then scare the duck away. Feed it to Anna Paquin and have her construct some sort of homemade dirigible to guide a herd of geese into the southern hemisphere. She loses her father in the process, but gains an experience and an adventure that is timeless, classic. Jeff Daniels. Deff Janiels.

I don’t actually remember if her dad dies in that movie, but they are flying Ultralights. Ultralights are a death sentence. Thus, they both died in that movie.

I’m in love with a stripper.

Once the key is thoroughly lost, a friend or other observer be they psychiatrist, truant or parole officer, can gauge the Mariners’ success (read: failure) by the number of claw marks left near the handle of the drawer in which the pistol (representative of the sweet release of the NFL season) is locked.

Experiment end.

Since my fingernails are all filled up with splinters typing is kind of hard.

The Mariners have suffered through what is the first, but will not be the last, prolonged stretch of ineptitude in the long, long MLB season. Yesterday the Mariners brought up a guy who struggled mightily in a starting role in Brandon Maurer.

Maurer was already well on his way to being transitioned into a reliever. They brought him up, not fully stretched out, in a starting role. He proceeded in delivering 4+ solid innings in which he surrendered 1 ER, walked 2, struck out 4, and generally looked solid all around. Maurer looked to be throwing free and easy, his fastball touching 97 on multiple occasions with some great late movement. He kept the ball out of the middle of the plate, thusly limiting the hard contact that made him suck last year. His changeup looked far better than the minus offering we saw in his starting appearances last year. Basically, his performance was everything the Mariners could have asked for. He left the game with a lead and the Mariners’ bullpen merely had to come in and seal the deal.

Unfortunately, this bullpen is tired. And this bullpen is kind of bad. The walking of the bulls.

What even is this?

McClendon initially brought in Joe Beimel who took care of his batter in short order.

Then McClendon brought in short person and relief pitcher extraordinaire Danny Farquhar, who walked a batter but otherwise got out of his inning with a relatively minimal dose of drama.

Then the Furbush arrived. And in this case, the carpet totally matched the pubes as Furbush proceeded to issue a hit to one of the two batters he faced, leaving a guy-on-second-fire to be put out by…

…Tom Wilhelmsen, the bartender. Alcohol is flammable. Alcohol is also inflammable.

I am generally against bringing Wilhelmsen into the game in most situations. I am categorically against bringing him in for high leverage situations in which a runner is already on second and the Mariners are clinging like Leonardo DiCaprio to a one run lead.

The Bartender is broken. There is no doubt to this. The guy goes 3-0 to every batter he faces. The stuff is still there, but his mind just is not right and has not been since the beginning of last year when he was more or less untouchable.

As a Mariners fan, it is one thing to lose a few games to a team that is objectively shitty. It is another thing entirely to go out and blow leads over and over in the 8th inning to said teams. The offense is one thing. The Mariners have not scored that many runs. But still, playoff teams win games where they take leads into the 8th. Winning teams win games that are winnable. What a stupid fucking sentence!

The best course of action for the Mariners is to continue to dip into a deep farm system for help. That help is there. The help is named Carson Smith.

Can I help? I am The Help. Who helps The Help? The Illuminati.

Similar to Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps, Carson Smith and Dominic Leone are two guys who I have always imagined as being super best pals. This is probably because they were linked in terms of both their Major League expectations as well as their timetables. Leone is up, pitching in the Mariners’ bullpen and doing a solid job thus far. Carson Smith has spent limited time in AAA but, in the past 2 seasons has posted a better-than 11 K/9 rate with stuff that projects as ready for a Major League bullpen ASAP Rocky.

So please Mariners. Stop putting out bushfires with alcohol. All of my fingernails and 1 of my toenails are already embedded into a wooden drawer in my apartment. Scrabbling at locked doors is hard to do with your feet. Don’t send help (to me, that is). Do bring up Carson Smith though. That would be an excellent idea!

Letters. Factors. Mike Zunino and why he is a player to watch moving forward

Last night the Mariners decided to do some really un-Mariners things and shake up all our increasingly pessimistic worldviews with a nice little game. Admittedly we benefited from the Rangers booting the ball around a bit in the field, but regardless anytime the Mariners are even in a position to take advantage of a team’s mistakes it is still something that qualifies as being fairly un-Mariners-like and this is no exception.

There are multiple, un-terrible storylines that can be derived from last night’s game. Some of those storylines even lend themselves to narrative leads about boats and Cuba and the steely-eyed will of a young man struggling to achieve his dream, struggling even…to survive!

Fuck that though.

I want to talk about a top 3 overall draft pick from Florida! I want to talk about Mike Zunino!

Yum!

Let’s start first with a hilarious tweet from Jeff Sullivan, formerly of Lookout Landing web-fame and un-formerly contributor to both USS Mariner and Fangraphs.

Mike Zunino tweet

As much as I am not typically disposed towards using slash lines for player evaluation, this one is so odd and hilarious and telling that it is worthy of inclusion. More or less, what this slash line tells us is that Zunino is playing exactly as he looks to be playing: unbelievably shitty most of the time until he stumbles drunkenly into a baseball at which point in time one is inclined to lean their head back and think, “This guy was drafted No. 3 overall, once.”

Zunino is a player who we have seen experience wild fluctuations in effectiveness over a reasonably small sample size.

He was rushed aggressively to the Majors, after which it was exposed that there are holes in his swing (several, in fact) that need to be addressed if he is to get on base with any degree of consistency in this league.

Counter to that negative evaluation is his extremely respectable work behind the plate, where he has proven to be a far better defensive catcher than any Mariner in recent memory whose name doesn’t rhyme with Fran Frillson.

I will avoid, for now, using pitch-framing numbers for Z. at this point. The sample size from this season is so small that any such numbers could be wickedly skewed by circumstance, umpires, etc. even more so than these numbers already are. I will have to, in the meantime, rely on scouting reports and the eye test, which Zunino consistently passes with flying colors.

Mike clearly is a mature guy who handles his business and provides great defense at a premium defensive position. Oftentimes the best judge of a catcher are the opinions of the pitchers he works with. Felix loves Zunino. Felix is the King. Zunino is his queen. Queens are the most flexible pieces on a chessboard. Catchers have to squat for a couple hours during a game. Illuminati.

The defensive qualities being what they are– what really separates Zunino from his peers is his raw talent, particularly when it comes to the bat.

Mike Zunino’s swing isn’t particularly sexy. It reminds me a lot of Brett Boone’s steroid-hack, intended to convert as much corned beef into bat-speed as humanly possible and do so based on educated guesses at where the baseball probably is. This is obviously not an exact science and has been exposed as such. But, that isn’t to say there is no value in this approach, if at least Z. shows some willingness to improve his strike zone recognition as he matures. The dude is only 23 years old.

Let’s talk for a second about x-factors.

I only trust people after seeing a quarter of the surface area of their throats. Dude on the left babysits my kids. Dude on the right is my secret keeper.

Referring to professional athletes as X-factors is often the faculty of concussion-stricken NFL analysts talking about Darren Sproles. It can function as an excuse to elevate a player with a unique and limited skillset to a position of great supposed importance in order to sidestep boring people by talking only about those players who would almost certainly make a larger and more predictable impact.

X-factors are often discussed in the way they are because of their volatility. These are players that do one or two things extremely well. Boom or bust. Sometimes they suck, sometimes they suck much less.

The boom or bust label actually extends to the perception of the analyst as well. When an analyst proclaims some B-list player to be an x-factor he is taking a calculated gamble whose reward is an “I told you so” to his colleagues and a hopefully meteoric rise in his audience’s perception of him as a clever, insightful guy. There is no such gain in applying that term to a Robinson Cano type. There’s little risk and less reward. An X-factor is a surprise, is volatile, much excite, wow.

I am legion

All that being said, this hearkens back to an earlier post in which I equated production from Cano with an improvement to the team’s baseline (read: expected) production. Robinson Cano comes into a game and consistently does what he does. If you had a team filled with players exactly like Cano, then that team would be consistently spectacular. Nobody has a team filled with players exactly like Cano. That would be fucking stupid.

What we have instead are teams whose secondary parts bridge the gap from the baseline provided by consistently outstanding performers to the peak that only comes as result of a larger, concerted effort.

I think Zunino represents this bridge-from-baseline-to-peak x-factor perfectly. Mike Zunino has had several forgettable games in a Mariners’ uniform. He has had a few forgettable games already this year. But Mike Zunino is a guy who will win a team games over the course of the year because of the surprising value he can add on a good night, as well as the fact that he has his own baseline of efficacy that is represented by his consistently solid defense.

Most catchers are not huge offensive contributors. When a catcher is an offensive threat, you end up with teams like the Giants. The Giants’ lineup has been pretty lame the past couple of years. They have, however, been pretty lame with the benefit of also having the best offensive catcher in baseball. A league average contributor in a corner outfield position is still an offensive contributor (the swing is upwards of .60 OPS, on average). A league average catcher can often be an offensive black hole. By virtue of this, a team whose catcher periodically explodes for effective, productive nights adds a good deal of value over what another team is throwing out there. A team with a consistently outstanding offensive catcher can win World Series Titles with some real bullshit filling out the rest of the lineup (read: hunterfuckingpence)

Did somebody say, kids?!

Last night, Mike Zunino crushed a HR to deep center to snap a scoreless streak for the Mariners which had become longer than I care to recall or count. His counterpart, J.P. Arencibia, was 0 for 2 and was pulled from the game for a pinch-hitter. If Zunino sucks tomorrow, and Arencibia remains predictably meh, then it is a wash. If Zunino has another outstanding AB or 2 tomorrow then the Mariners are at a distinct advantage.

For those games where Zunino is a valuable contributor, you just added a bat at a position that your opponent is often lacking. While this won’t always be the case, with the odd Mauers and Poseys floating around, there is a good chance that there will be nights where Zunino’s offense is the bonus dragging the Mariners from victory to defeat.

The X-factor.

Or Z-factor.

I’ll go fuck myself now.

Mariners open game thread – 4/3/2014

Roenis Elias takes the mound for the Mariners against Jesse Chavez and the Oakland A’s.

The A’s roster continues to be unbelievably unexciting on paper and they will inevitably continue to go out and win the division anyway. I’m pretty sure Billy Beane could go to a dumpster behind a barbershop and sew a serviceable (read: bearded 28 year old rookie) major leaguer out of human hair.

On the Mariner’s side of things, Roenis Elias is a lefty starter with projectable front-ish rotation stuff and a cutesy (read: harrowing and crazy to imagine) narrative to match. Tell your Mom! Tell your sister! Tell your girlfriend! Human interest narratives enable the savvy baseball fan to talk his way into more screen time for a pastime that is either getting less and less American (no fucking way) or simply drowning in the socialist illuminati conspiracy espoused by the insidious propaganda of our leader, B. Hussein. O.

Elias is already 25 years old, which doesn’t necessarily indicate readiness but does maybe indicate that he isn’t being rushed from a medical perspective. While I have no real quantitative proof of this being utterly oblivious to all-things-medicinal– it is somewhat of an accepted maxim that guys shouldn’t be throwing 200 or so major league innings in their late-teens early twenties.**

**Felix is explicably excluded from this trend because his mom dropped his right-arm into the river styx on their way to the….uh…Venezuelan…food…store. (read: ?)

See MLB.com’s preview here.

These threads are being established as a means to discuss the day’s game. Comment away!

 

Why we watch

It is a common view that spending a large time watching, discussing or thinking about professional sports is a waste of time- a form of escapism in which one chooses to allocate meaning to an external and ultimately frivolous activity.

I get why people would have this understanding.

Professional athletes are paid an exorbitant amount of money to play games. Sports games! People are then paid an exorbitant amount of money to form opinions, comment upon and even announce said games. For the non-sports-fan, this is something people find frustrating.

Yet, if that frustration is rooted in a jealous outcry against the relatively unfair financial value of these frivolous professions does that imply that “value” insofar as we are to say “meaning” equates to monetary value? Should we indict the entire capitalist system that allows mass interest and entertainment to supersede the needs of children (i.e. teacher’s wages)!? Should this be a topic I avoid?! Are rhetorical questions an effective rhetorical device? Divestment?!

But what happens for those of us who have already fallen in love with one of these games (in my case, baseball)? What happens to we who have ascribed value to that game that is so deep-seated and expansive that it has no discernible beginning and has already become part of our narrative understanding of ourselves?

I am not going to boycott Safeco. I love baseball and that is part of what I look forward to as I slog through the frivolity of the day-to-day. You can’t take me alive, Communists! Illuminati! Conspiracy! Nobama!!!

Let’s look a little at one way in which we allocate meaning in our lives. Let’s do it in the context of professional sports! I am of the opinion that the narratives and meanings that human beings allocate to their team’s successes and failures is no less frivolous than say, an appreciation for art or music. Yet someone who has a nuanced understanding and appreciation for the latter two mediums is considered cultured, whereas the avid sports fan is often portrayed as an oafish, According-to-Jim-esque caricature of everything that is wrong with the American male.

I’ll start with a quick discussion on narrative structures. While Heidegger isn’t exactly someone who you want to throw in your lot with for all things philosophical (he was a Nazi, and all), he does have some interesting thoughts about the mechanisms of narrative structures and how they operate within a human life.

To paraphrase for my own benefit here: human beings are thrown into the world against their choosing and our lives are bookended by this “thrownness” into the world (read: birth) and our inevitable deaths. The term bookend is not accidental.

Once we become conscious and anxious regarding our own finite existence, oriented towards death, we almost-automatically project a narrative structure onto that finite existence. This narrative structure becomes the mechanism through which otherwise incidental blips on our day-to-day radar are ascribed meaning.

Our lives are filled with the aforementioned blips. There are shit tons of them. We live in Blip-city. Blip-nation. Blip-blip-boom. Blip-knot. If you were to take all of the blips in your day-to-day routine and imagine each of those blips as a grain of sand, it is likely that you would end up with a shit ton of sand! A small hippie convent’s blips can, if placed sequentially next to one another, form a line of blips long enough to reach a place very far away! Maybe Mars!

When we relate the story of our lives, most of those blips are wholly omitted, glossed over, or subsumed under a category (i.e. work or school) to be filed away. In constructing the narrative of our own lives, we are automatically making choices about what to include and exclude which makes the thrust of our narratives deeply personal.

Heidegger calls this the for-the-sake-of-which, but in a post on a Mariners blog, I will refrain from using that term again. As it turns out, English translations of German compound nouns are actually a pretty big pain in the ass to read and tend to clang and clamor with internal dissonance alongside the more familiar words that echo in our heads while reading.

Baseball lacks any inherent value. There is no objective reason why I should scream obscenities and throw my roommates’ cat in the air when Brad Miller hits a dinger. But- there is a subjective reason. The Mariners successes and failures become important because they have a place in the narrative I have authored and projected on to my life. They are the teal, blue and shiny blips that I pluck from the sea of work-blips, laundry-blips and grocery-blips that are comparably drab. I am a magpie who covets baseball-blips. Caw!

So, when trying to describe why you care about the Mariners to whosoever would force you to yield your remote to them: recite this post. They will likely be so bored by the end of it that you will get your way!

You’re welcome!!!