Of 164-160 Records and the Mystique of Epignosis
Dr. D isn't sure what a Gnostic is, exactly, but Mel Jr. might know


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 HernandezTaijuan WalkerNate KarnsJames Paxton, and Roenis Elias, we do have starting pitchers who miss bats. Carson SmithTom WilhelmsenCharlie 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 CanoKyle SeagerNelson 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,

Dr D




A question: Is Jerry DiPoto so enamored of his philosophy that he values implementing it as much or more than he does getting players with the kind of talent that separates his team from the pack?

Obviously, put this starkly, the answer is no. Still, I can't help but wonder if his attitude of "this guy fits our philosophy and we can make him marginally more productive here" doesn't fog up his valuations of players. You can field a team where 20 of your 25 guys fit your philosophy, but if your goal is to win the division and make it to the World Series, you'd better have the talent to match up with the best teams. Maybe your philosophy will take you from a .500 team to a .510 team, but only talent will take you to a .575 team.

And then, if you focus on philosophy but let your guys run the bases like morons, what good is your philosophy. If you focus on control the zone, but your guys only control the zone for the first month or two of the season, what good is it? If you're focused on your philosophy but you're left after the season saying, "We need to focus more on conditioning (because of a slew of injuries), has your laser-focus on your philosophy kept you from needed focus on certain fundamental aspects of GM-ing?

Me, I'd prefer less emphasis on philosophy and more emphasis on getting the sort of help other teams got at the trade deadline.

This is not to say philosophy is unimportant. But we all know the kind of guy who's head is in the theoretical but his practical value doesn't match his supposed wisdom. (I say that as someone who might be described similarly!)

Gimme a guy who succeeds on the street as opposed to a guy who can pontificate from a podium.

P.S. - Re: Gnosticism, are we talking full-blown Nag Hammadi stuff or the incipient strains combatted often in the New Testament epistles? Hah! The Illuminati of the times held themselves aloof from the crowd, thinking their musings superior to themes the average man can grasp. In the first-century Roman Empire their kind was pervasive and quite popular. Though they attempted to co-opt Jesus and early Christianity for their empty philosophy, Paul confronts the Corinthian church with the stark differences between his self-sacrificing ministry commisioned on the road to Damascus and their self-aggrandizing pomposity.

"Have Philosophy, Will Travel" doesn't stack up against "Will Lay Down My Life For You."


It occurs to me that one of the dangers of surrounding yourself with disciples and like-minded people is this: There's no one outside the point of view to seriously point out flaws in the thinking. While a unifying purpose and a coherent team is VERY important, one must be careful not surround oneself with ditto-heads. Most points of view have gaps, and sometimes those gaps can seriously erode the usefulness of a point of view.

To apply this in a different sphere, being President of the United States is an intrinsically difficult job that demands two seemingly constrasting qualities. First, the ability to listen and balance the points of view of vastly different constituencies. Two, the ability to cut through the competing, often confusing points of view and move the ball forward towards the end zone of your vision, and to do it in such a way that a large majority of the people agree that, even if they have a different end zone in mind, you have overall truly moved the ball forward.


In the multitude of counselors there is safety.  If you are making an important decision of any type, it's critical to know what THE VERY BEST ARGUMENT AGAINST would be.

It's great that Scott Servais "sees baseball the same way I do" according to Dipoto, but having all 10 of your top advisors see baseball the way you do, that's another matter.  Don't know if that's the case here.


With respect to President Trump, even his detractors would have to concede that he kept his various factions competing with each other, the Bannon nationalists against the Kushner globalists/Manhattan liberals.  It's clear that he likes to be told he's right, but it's also clear that he likes to listen to a variety of ways of solving problems.

It's fair to say that President Obama was a True Believer on globalism and on progressivism.  Maybe Obama had the right side of the ball on those things.  But I don't think Trump's detractors have quite realized how persuadable he is on issues like DACA, Middle East involvement, backing of this or that Senator, etc.


My criticisms of MSJ aren't isolated; I just wonder what's going through the minds of the front office in reference to the general level of play this season from a group of highly skilled, and in many cases very highly paid, talents.

As I've said before, pitching isn't even my main gripe. The baserunning progressed from mildly amusing to maddening to baffling.  How did that last for an entire season?  OK, so the offending coach is gone--but was that the whole problem?

MSJ of course has the fully justified get-out-of-jail-free card with all the injuries. But my question now...and moving forward...is who has he made better?  I continue to maintain that Zeus was fixed by Painter.  Diaz has regressed, as has Miranda.  Was Scrabble who we expected him to be?  Our best hope (IMO) is that people who join who are already 'fully formed'--Leake, Erasmo, etc.--simply ignore what MSJ says and just do their things.  So it's said that pitchers like MSJ because he's a battler,...that they would go to war with him?

I would just point out that a lot of people who go off to war never come back.

But even with this, I am not picking on him.  Because I wonder if the problem is systemic.  I think DaddyO is absoutely right.  If the prime goal is thinking alike rather than performing, something's wrong.

We just saw three playoff teams boot their managers.  And another, St. Maddon of Chicago, jettisoned his entire coaching staff, perhaps to save his own skin.  And he's won 292 games over the last three years.

And we're satisfied with what we've got?


By the time you parlay the questions about Stottlemyre with the baserunning stuff and the apparent throwing-in-of-the-towel even by Corey's Brother, you've got some real traction there.

Not clear to me why Bogar was so decisively shed, why Acta is a candidate for promotion (elsewhere) and Servais couldn't be more safe.


Totally Classic, diderot.  Totally.  

The great coaches (and GMs) just win, or at least greatly exceed expectations.  As fans we admire “systems,” but systems don’t win, of and by themselves.

A story:

Back when I was a HS basketball coach I attended clinics every year.  There,  a bunch of college coaches collected their Nike check and shared “secrets” with us. My favorites were Jerry Tarkanian and Abe Lemon, not because they shared revelatory Knowledge with us, but that they admitted there was likely no such thing.  They just coached the same stuff better than the next guy.

Jim Boeheim, of Syracuse U., once talked to us about the intricacies of the 2-3 zone defense.  Whoever followed him said that everybody else ran a 2-3 like this, and drew 5 X’s on the overhead.  He then said Syracuse ran a 2-3 that looked like this, and drew 5 GIANT X’s on the screen.  We all laughed, knowing Boeheim’s love for size and reach in his line-up.  It wasn’t so Gnostic, after all, and even a bunch of HS coaches got that.

Another time, Auburn coach Sonny Smith talked about his “man behind the zone“ philosophy vs. zone defenses.  The guy following him pointed out that the player Smith had running the baseline, with a behind the zone philosophy, was Charles Barkley.

Philosophy is great, but great Players still make the difference.

Frank Robinson was not a great glove in RF.  Don Buford was not a great glove in LF.  Paul Blair, of course, won a bunch of CF GG’s.

Despite the dweeby gloves in the corner OF spots, those Earl W. Oriole teams weren’t bad.

Gnosticism is a neat thing to claim.  Getting players is a better thing to do.

In one of the Dipoto quotes, he essentially says that he likes pitchers who strike people out but don’t walk people. Damn.  Those dinosaur Branch Rickeys never figured that one out.  

Dipoto has delivered Segura, Haniger, Gamel and Leake. Plus whoever I missed.

He gave up some guys, too.

Now just go win, or go the way of Jack Z.  2 years is not enough to decide.  But after 3, you start to get a taste for the direction you are going.  


++ Jim Boeheim, of Syracuse U., once talked to us about the intricacies of the 2-3 zone defense.  Whoever followed him said that everybody else ran a 2-3 like this, and drew 5 X’s on the overhead.  He then said Syracuse ran a 2-3 that looked like this, and drew 5 GIANT X’s on the screen.  We all laughed, knowing Boeheim’s love for size and reach in his line-up.  It wasn’t so Gnostic, after all, and even a bunch of HS coaches got that. ++


Never heard it put quite that way.  The Blazers are playing pretty "long" with their zone and pretty tough scrapping for balls, if you haven't had a chance to catch their act.  Stotts may be moving it in the right direction down there?


Why no outcry at the loss of Mallex Smith?  Of course Smyly got inured and or was ineffective.  He was a 2017 Mariner pitcher.  Dipoto had to know, right?  Just a bad year to bring in pitching.  He should have stuck with Smith.

I can't look at this year as indicative of anything but having more than your share of things go seriously wrong.  Not to say I liked every move (Silva 2.0?) but the outcome wasn't deserved from the roster.  With that in mind, topping Z's "2 60-dayer" 2015 in wins by only 2 seems much more an accomplishment to me.  He lost only Furbush and Scribner for any length.  Aoki's 15 days here and there were likely creative ways to replace garbage output.  Paxton for 15 was the serious loss.  2015 was just a crappy roster, they actually got to take the field most days.  That's all that the 2017 roster should be jealous of.

The problem this year was that GOD said, "No, you don't get to play that roster!".  Gnostic 'nough?


That Dipoto shoulda known what he was getting himself into with risky pitchers.  It sounded a bit smug from where I was sitting.  Sounds like it did to you too Wish...


That and I think if Smyly makes his starts it's a different year.  That one killed us, in my opinion. 


This is all very good shtick.  I hope the Mariners don't delve too deeply into fly ball mysticism, because fly ball gnostics tend to find a tolerant climate on the West Coast but tend to get exposed, denounced and burned at the stake in Houston and Dallas.


.400 .478 .550 1.028
.407 .414 .815 1.229

What are these, some Ted Williams lines from a GOAT argument?

No, the top line is Erasmo's 2017 Minute Maid line against and the bottom is his 2017 Arlington line against.  The slugging percentages are where he was burned at the stake.  You thought that part was hyperbole. If Erasmo is the poster child for secret fly ball wisdom, let us also consider the folly of making horse!@#$ pitches.   "Prince Fielder isn't going to miss that pitch" is sounding prophetic.  Stick with K's if you want good sound baseball doctrine. 

JeDi doesn't like to pay for pitchers but rumor has it he has $40 million to spend this winter.  I want a 200 inning man and I don't care whether JeDi thinks that TOR's are frivolous.  Bring on Arrieta and Darvish.


Lloyd was seeing a lot of gopher-able pitches, from that low release point, and Erasmo has in fact gotten launched more than his share.

What is your take Mojo on the whole "cut fastball revolution" idea for Ramirez?


Bring on Arrieta AND Darvish ... :- )  and Ohtani into the bargain?  Hey, if that's what it takes to compete with superteams...


Hey Doc,

I don't know if Ramirez can improve his game with a cut fastball.  I'm sure he can.  He's not a bad pitcher.  He ran a 2. something ERA in Safeco last year.  Just sayin' 1. Erasmo's not TOR and 2. too many fly ball pitchers will guarantee we lose every series in Texas forever.  That's all obvious stuff though.

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