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May 3, 2007 at 5:37 AM

Awaiting the Diceman

Here in Boston, they’re billing tonight’s game as Dice-K vs. Ichiro II. Guess they aren’t sold on the whole Mariners-as-contenders thing. Lots of talk about how the new Oakland center fielder dropped that key line drive right at his glove in last night’s 6-4 win by the home side. Well, today, that new center fielder is an old center fielder, traded after just a couple of days in order to get this old Seattle favorite.
By the way, Snelling returns to Safeco Field (if he stays healthy) on July 26.
Looks like that Jose Vidro deal is at least returning some dividends for the Mariners on the field. Snelling was deemed expendable by arguably the worst team in the majors. Vidro has been Seattle’s steadiest hitter through the first five weeks and his on-base-percentage is encouraging. Try to forget the salary for a moment. as well as the upside for pitcher Emiliano Fruto. This trade hasn’t turned out as badly as some first thought it would. We’ll re-visit the topic in June.
Hey, since A’s GM Billy Beane is so hot to deal this week, how about taking a look at Ben Broussard? Seattle’s once-a-week backup outfielder/first baseman used to be a decent DH candidate. Now that Oakland has lost DH Mike Piazza for at least a month after last night’s game here in Boston, he’ll need another bat to help his decimated team survive in May. Yes, yes, I know Broussard is a lefty hitter, Piazza a righty and all that. But there is a match here. Seattle needs more pitching. Oakland has plenty of young arms. Chad Gaudin, who lost last night, would be a great fit in Seattle. No, I don’t think Beane will make that deal, especially with a team in his own division. But I’m not sure Gaudin is the front-end prize many folks think he can be. Saw his act in Toronto and I still think he walks too many guys, though his 2:1 ratio of strikeouts-to-walks this season is a marked improvement. If not him, maybe another pitcher who’s a little older? Or perhaps Broussard is packaged with a minor-league hitter like Jeremy Reed? Anyway, it’s fun trying to stir things up. This A’s squad is in serious trouble. Now is the time for the M’s to put some distance between themselves and an Oakland team that always seems to enjoy a second-half bounce.
A setback for this local boy in his comeback bid. But good news for this one as he replaces a pitcher who may go down as this winter’s biggest free agent bust.
A loyal reader, Gary Bust, took the time to compile these stats on Jeff Weaver to make the case for why management would have bothered signing him in the first place. Bust took the median of Weaver’s ERA in 2006 between the Angels and Cardinals, but his main thrust is that the number of innings pitched per start (second column) made him a fine candidate for a No. 4 or No. 5 slot in Seattle.
1999 5.7 9-12 5.55
2000 6.7 11-15 4.32
2001 7.0 13-16 4.08
2002 8.0 11-11 3.52
2003 6.7 7-9 5.99
2004 6.5 13-13 4.01
2005 6.6 14-11 4.22
2006 5.5 8-14 ~5.7
I’d agree with the innings-pitched part. One problem I have with the whole theory is that you don’t spend $8.3 million on a back-end starter when you already have one of those (or two if you like Jake Woods) in Class AAA. But it’s not my money, so I’ll stick to on-field issues.
The big problem I can quickly spot when it comes to Bust’s numbers on Weaver is the whole AL, NL thing. Simply put, Weaver’s best numbers since 2002 came with NL teams, when he had the pitcher’s spot in the order due up every two or three innings to bail him out of trouble.
Here are the numbers on how No. 9 hitters have fared against Weaver the past four seasons:
2003 (AL) — 22-67 (.328)
2004 (NL) — 14-88 (.159)
2005 (NL) — 15-81 (.185)
2006 (AL) — 9-34 (.265)
2006 (NL) — 4-27 (.148)
Once again, nobody is trying to run Weaver out of town. Just pointing out how much more difficult it can be in the AL without the automatic out of a pitcher’s spot in the order. Yes, it was different in 2002 when Weaver, then pitching for the Tigers, saw the No. 9 hitters go only 10-for-80 (.125) off him. But that was five years ago. This is now. Any management team that bases a decision off of something that happened a half-decade ago is foolish. Bill Bavasi’s team, by the way, didn’t do that and is on-record as saying that Weaver’s numbers with the Dodgers in 2004 and 2005, along with his second-half St. Louis stint last season tipped the scales.
But since that big year for the Tigers, right up to this week, Weaver has seen No. 9 hitters in the AL go a combined 34-107 (.318) off him. Compare that with just 33-196 (.168) for the same No. 9 spot in the NL, and it becomes much clearer why he can’t get out of jams the same way.



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