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June 21, 2007 at 12:01 PM

Feierabend replaces Baek

Hopefully, the Mariners make this move official today. I like it for several reasons, in that it gives the Mariners another lefty and one who has shown signs of being able to go deeper into games. Since Feierabend threw his 7 1/3 innings on June 3, only two of the current starters have gone at least seven — Jeff Weaver last night and Miguel Batista last week. In fact, those two are the only current starters to go at least seven, as we’ve mentioned ad nauseum, since way back on May 27. Baek just simply hasn’t gotten it done the past month. He hasn’t gone at least six innings since May 31. Allowed nine baserunners in 5 2/3 innings in June 5, another 11 baserunners in 5 1/3 innings in helping to blow a 7-0 lead in Cleveland on June 11 and then 11 baserunners in only four innings last weekend in Houston.
He’s gotten progressively worse. His first innings have been terrible. He didn’t allow any first-inning runs in the Cleveland game but still threw nearly 30 pitches. I do think there is a future for him here, but he’s got to work on getting his game straight in the early going. There was no need for the M’s to continue to keep sending him out there to get beat on when they have Feierabend around.
One sign that Baek could be back in the rotation soon is that he is sticking around in long relief. The team isn’t demoting him to Class AAA — at least, that’s the early word — and calling up Jake Woods. Some of you have asked why the team didn’t make this move sooner. Well, it has a lot to do with how the pitchers performed the past week. Don’t forget, when Feierabend hopped on a plane to join the M’s, they were riding a five-game winning streak. He seriously was going to be used as a long reliever.
But plenty has happened since then. Had Weaver been lit-up in Chicago last week — especially after that tough first inning — Feierabend might have replaced him. Especially had Baek done well against the Astros. But that hasn’t happened. I don’t expect Feierabend to be on a very long leash here. Possibly game-to-game. Don’t forget, this was a move that evolved out of desperation the other night. The Mariners had just lost a sixth consecutive game and needed to make moves to shake things up. They switched the batting order around last night and are expected to soon announce this move.
To answer some questions now, this one for “John” in the previous thread, yes, I do think the Mariners as an organization lately have put added emphasis on drawing more walks. Not compared to other organizations. When I was in Toronto, J.P. Ricciardi issued an edict when he first arrived that all hitters throughout the organization had to draw at least one walk per every 10 at-bats. That has since been eased considerably, but the idea remains. No such edict in Seattle. This is especially apparent at the big-league level. If you look at the players who’ve been signed during the Bill Bavasi era, like Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, Yuniesky Betancourt and and Kenji Johjima, they are guys who like to swing away.
The Mariners are having better luck at the minor league level. If I glance at my minor league stats pack, forwarded daily by the great Mariners PR assistant, Kelly Munro, you see that Wladimir Balentien, Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson, and Mike Morse, to name a few, are Class AAA guys drawing at least one walk per every 10 at-bats. Adam Jones is below that figure, but his on-base percentage is still up at .394, where you want your power hitters to be. Down at Class AA West Tennessee, six of 10 hitters with at least 150 at-bats are drawing walks at the 1-in-10 rate or better. Rene Rivera is not one of those.
Mariners manager Mike Hargrove has told me repeatedly that he wants his guys to take more walks. But he’s realistic about it. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. You can teach them a few things, but you’re not going to completely reinvent a ballplayer overnight. The M’s are trying to do this with the players they have, but are obviously having very limited success. Better off if you, as you said, start looking for these types of players right away — before they make it to the big leagues.
No “Anna” you’re not on another planet. Just in Serbia…
As for “Merrill” and “Alex” (and “Alex”, and “Alex”, and “Alex” — folks, I know the posting button can be very slow, but try to hit it just once, LOL), it’s not apples and oranges to look at yesterday’s Pirates and Red Sox swing stats. Both teams lived up to their advance billing, one as a swing-happy club, the other as a patinet, pitch-taking unit. The Red Sox over the past five seasons since Theo Epstein became GM have been known to work pitchers to death. They are emulating what the Yankees had been doing for years prior to that. Take a look at most of the Red Sox games from this year (I would, but I have other things to do today) and you generally won’t see them hacking away early, especially in the first few innings. If the Bosox drew 1.5 walks per game and had a .310 on-base-percentage, you could jump all over me for using yesterday’s game as an example. But all it does is illustrate the point. You won’t get the Bosox to swing into early outs. I watched them 19 times per season for several years and they keep doing the same thing. Weaver will have to be on his game next week.
Not sure how what I wrote about Brian Butterfield translates into a debate over Derek Jeter’s Gold Glove skills. It’s pretty well known around baseball, not so much in the general public, that Jeter, in his first full season of low Class A ball as an 18-year-old, made 56 errors in 126 games. Yikes! It was up to Butterfield to polish him to become a major leaguer. He made 25 and 29 errors in the two seasons after that and then had it down to 22 by age 21 when he became New York’s full-time shortstop. Nobody is arguing that he was the second-coming of Ozzie Smith (who I actually sat next to and chatted with on a plane ride from New York to Arizona between Games 5 and 6 of the 2001 World Series — that was a thrill). Butterfield also helped make Orlando Hudson of the D-Backs into the Gold Glove second baseman he is today. Also got him to stop booting the ball around, as young infielders are prone to do.
That’s it, that’s all. And by the way, defensive inadequacies (and yes “Bratticus” you are right, he is not the top defender of his generation) or not, I’d still take Jeter on my team every time over some of the defensive wizards in the game. When you can count a World Series ring on more than half you fingers, it’s more than just luck. The guys who won those rings, to a man, will tell you that about Jeter. I was at Shea Stadium when he singlehandedly deflated the Mets with a tying home run in the decisive Game 5 of the 2000 World Series after the Mets had led and outplayed the Yanks to that point. Saw him deliver the winning hit in Game 5 of that 2001 World Series. Do it enough on a big stage and it’s not a fluke, as so many of Jeter’s detractors over the years have continuously suggested.
Anyway, that’s off-topic. Butterfield is a great defensive coach.
To “jeffw” you are right, the Gold Gloves do tend to go to good offensive players who show some glove. They are voted on by the managers and coaches in each league — who are not allowed to vote for their own players. That these awards are given more for reputation than on-field prowess is becoming widely known amongst players. After all, most coaches and managers only see these guys play when they face their own teams. Some writers face the same problems when voting for the big awards at season’s end, but in general, I think their picks are far superior to what the Gold Gloves often generate.
No one will ever forget Rafael Palmeiro’s 1999 Gold Glove at first base for the Texas Rangers, a position he appeared at only 28 times. Or his testimony in front of Congress, but that’s another story. In other news, about Rangers, or Texas residents past and present, Sammy Sosa hit his 600th home run last night. And Roger Clemens goes for win No. 350 tonight.
And in a totally unrelated event, Rangers owner Tom Hicks (what’s with all the Texas news?) tries to back up Jose Canseco’s book with his mouth. Last I checked, Juan Gonzalez and Bucky Jacobsen were teammates with the Long Island Ducks last year. No, there aren’t really any major league teams willing to take a shot at Juan-Gone any more. Hicks just showed you why.
OK, what else? Yes, we know the Angels and A’s both won. Bit of a surprise for the A’s today, designating Milton Bradley for assignment. Oh and then there’s the Cubs trading Michael Barrett, but saying it wasn’t because he’d tried to punch out two of his own team’s pitchers the past few weeks. Good thing for the Mariners that he was still with the Cubs last week, or else the new catcher might have held on to the ball on that 13th inning tag play.



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