The first half of David Laurila's fine interview sounded, to many of us, a little too much "I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you," especially in view of Seattle's 30-ish run differential over the last two years combined. The second part of that interview was more specific:
On pitching philosophy and park effects: “(Pitching coach) Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. has a great plan with his pitchers. More importantly, they have trust in him. This is the guy you want to go into battle with. He’s a trenches guy. Stot has been on major league mounds almost since he was born. He grew up in a great baseball family. His dad was not only a great major league pitcher, but then a fantastic major league pitching coach.
Our pal Diderot especially has asked re Stot, "What have you done for me lately, or less recently, or in fact at any time." LOL. Noncomittally, we could reply, "any Mariner who did good over that time," such as Zeus or such as Erasmo's cutter or such as half our guys, but we suspect Diderot would point (with some resonance) to the possibility of these good things happening whoever was pitching coach.
Which is itself a point of contemplation. Not tooooo many people believe that the Houston bullpen coach, or video guy, or CFO, or anybody, has been key to the Astros' emergence as a superteam; for that matter, it's usually pretty tough to get a sabermetrician to give credit to the MANAGER for team victories.
If that's where you're coming from, that the coaching staff doesn't matter much, then you'll probably nod along with Dipoto's factual observation that Mel Stottlemyre Jr. is oozing street cred. Timothy Gallwey taught us that the difference between the elite 2% of coaches, and the other 98%, is that the athlete doesn't COMPLETELY ignore the 2%'er.
:: shrug ::
“Ground balls aren’t as critical to us as they would be to a normal team, because our ballpark absorbs fly balls a little better. I do place high value on a sinkerball-strikeout guy – what we internally call a quadrant-four guy – but that’s maybe less critical to us.
“With Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, Nate Karns, James Paxton, and Roenis Elias, we do have starting pitchers who miss bats. Carson Smith, Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush. A premium for me is going to be guys who can miss bats and suppress walks. You can’t give away free bases. At the end of the day, I would trade some of the strikeout ability for the ability to suppress free bases. But when you’re talking about top-half-of-the-rotation starters, you want them to be able to miss bats.
“The group that we have… and you can look at my last stop, with Anaheim. Similarly, we were in a ballpark that allowed for fly balls to be absorbed a little differently than in many places. Safeco is a step further up the food chain in terms of fly ball suppression. I don’t walk away from fly ball guys, understanding that you might have a rough three-game set when you play in Baltimore. By and large, in the western ballparks – Anaheim, Oakland, Safeco – and when we play our inter-league in San Diego and San Francisco, much of our time is going to be spent in pitcher-friendly, fly ball ballparks. And those guys are generally more accessible than the ground ball-strikeout model.”
NORMAL, eh. :: chuckles ::
Connecting the dots for those who are speed-reading, which is every Mariner fan in November: if ground balls don't matter to you, then 30% or so of major league pitchers are Moneyball opportunities for your abnormal team. Sounds favorable to us, epignosis-challenged though we may be.
Mariner pitchers who threw flyballs and yet beat their expected ERA's last year ... hey! Did you know MOST of our 2017 twirlers were flyball pitchers... 44.2% groundballs is league average as Fangraphs counts them. A few of the M's:
- Pagan, 22% WOW. His ERA and FIP were exactly the same
- Moore, 29%. His actual ERA, which was "catastrophic," was better than his FIP, which was "tragic."
- Vincent, 31%. About the same, 3.20 ERA versus an expectation of 2.82, which is within random fluctuation.
- Miranda, 32%. An ERA of 5.12 against an expectation of 5.72.
- Albers was interesting, 34% grounders which is 5th on this list but still wayyyyyy below league. His ERA 3.51, his expectation 4.13.
- Erasmo, 37%, so a good solid "more flyballs than average" profile without being bizarre. His Mariner ERA 3.92, his FIP 4.71.
In fact it's tough to find candidates who were hurt by the fly ball in Seattle; the closest would be Casey Lawrence whose 42% grounders, not really a groundball guy. Maybe shoulda split this out with a title like "Flyball pitchers are a moneyball gene pool in Seattle, at least as long as Jarrod Dyson is here."
But then we'd be back to Jerry Dipoto's worst trades ever, wouldn't we? Even if you're not a KKKKKKKarns fan do you shed four years of him for 2.0 WAR total return?
On offense and Edgar Martinez: “I think our offense, right now, is as stable as the Mariners’ offense has been for years. The middle of the lineup is very good. I don’t care what ballpark you play in. Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz – that fits anywhere. What I’d like to do is make the lineup a little longer at the top, and a little longer at the bottom. I’d like to find a way to boost our ability to get on base. We want balance in the lineup.
“Controlling the strike zone is a combination of controlling your strikeouts and drawing your walks. It’s forcing an opposing pitcher to throw pitches, but if you go up and single, I don’t care which pitch you hit – it’s a productive at-bat. Making an out on eight pitches is also a productive at-bat.
“Edgar is a difference-maker as a hitting coach, and he’s 100-percent on board. Few players in the history of the game have controlled the strike zone, and managed at-bats, better than Edgar.
“We’ve defined a nine-point criteria of what we believe a quality at-bat consists of. If you do those things, you can play here. The nine-point criteria is something I’ve worked on through the years, with guys like Scott and Tim Bogar. It’s something I’ve taken a little bit of from the Red Sox, a little bit of from the Rockies. I’ve stolen a little bit from Clint Hurdle. You pick up pieces at all the places you go. That’s how your theories are built.”
Doesn't matter whether you like 8-pitch outs or don't. The point is that you're getting intelligent, thoughtful performances the John Wooden way - by technical coaching rather than by shaming and bullying.
That Edgar would deign to work 12-hour* days to be our hitting coach, well .... it's one of the remarkable things ever to happen to the franchise. Enjoy.
And then some,