M's 2-and-0 !
absolutely SICK that we stole a #1 for $14m a year

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Remember that bald guy in the wheelchair who was flying Bond around in a helicopter?  "Mwahaha.  I have waited for this moment for a lonngggg time, Meester Bond.  I intend to enjoy it to the full."  You and I have one gorgeous, precious week to enjoy leading the major league standings.

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YUSEI KIKUCHI - CAPT. OBVIOUS

1) The young Barry Zito used to run records like 23-5, 2.75 and it was all based on a shellshocking change curve.  Zito would reach back, come through with the fastball arm action... and the ball would just pop a parachute, drop in from 45 degrees.*  Batter after batter found it completely impossible to pull the trigger.

Or a Trevor Hoffman changeup.  Glorious the way he could toss 3 in a row and get three ice poses in a row.  That stiffening up of the batter's pose was so fun to watch.

Prediction here is that Kikuchi will have a sky-high taken strike percentage.  Not since Zito have I seen the change-curve action on a curve ball.  Greeeeeaaaaatttttt deception, neh?

And supposing they did get a swing off.  You had an Erik Bedard situation, the hook crackling so hard that they couldn't square it anyway.  Ohhhhhh man.  That was sooooo dee-lish last night :- D

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2) Of course Bedard had another problem.  50% nobody able to make contact, and 50% a fair amount of balls thrown by Bedard, he often hit 100 pitches by the 5th inning.

Dr. D will fight the good fight until they carry him out feet first, that 5.0 IP 0 ER (or 5.2 1 ER) is going to give your ballclub about a 14-4 record.  The writers' paradigm is, or was, that 7 IP was more important than a win.  But things are changing quickly in baseball these days.  I expect they'll adjust quickly to 5 IP, 1 ER being a major victory for the defense.

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3) Of course this was spring training, EARLY spring training.  Kikuchi had thrown all of 9.0 full innings this calendar year.  So his fastball was 87-92, as the young Zito's was, and he threw a fair amount of balls (not missing by a lot).

I'm *hoping* that he'll build arm strength from here -- add velo, and add first-pitch strikes.  That's the natural way.  If not he's pretty much the young Zito.  If he DOES add the reported 93-97 MPH then ..... whoa gramma.  That's lights out.  Noooooo chance, bab-eh.  

He was an All-Star last night and if he sharpens up, if he adds any arm strength, he is a certified Cy Young contenda.  B'lee DAT.

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3a) He has had some shoulder issues in the past; I'm hoping ML pitch counts will steer him clear of that.  We can hope.

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3b) What do you think of the idea of an "opener" for Kikuchi?!  He would take it well, for sure, and that could get the camel's nose under the flap of the tent for everybody else.

IF the innings issue persists -- not saying they will -- but if they do, Dr. D would have a lot of fun watching a mystery platoon man face the first three hitters -- stars -- and then watching Kikuchi tee off on the next 2.5 times through the lineup.  Somebody like Rosscup against lefties, Gearrin against righties, y'know?

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4) $14M per year for this guy is highway robbery.  $25M is the right value.

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5) Which would you rather field for a big series?  Kikuchi and Sheffield?  Or Paxton and Felix?

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6) I'm a little intrigued by the idea of Mike Leake as bullpen help.  Strike one, and a putaway pitch also (the slider).  Good tunnel action and good poise.  Not that the bullpen wasn't parsecs better than we expected, especially Elias.

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7) So that's 1.5, maybe 2.0 All-Stars running for us already.  We've got a Big Two to bring back and throw at Boston.  We're one promotion away from a Big Three.  Most years there is a surprise team, usually based on surprises in the rotation.  Joe Posnanski said last week:  

I think people underestimate how fast it can change in baseball. The ‘17 Braves won 72 games. The ‘17 As won 75. The ‘16 Brewers won 73. The ‘14 Cubs won 73. And so on. 

We've got a week to bask in our perfect series; how about some impressions in the comments thread below?  First series couldn't a gone any better.

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8) I flat-out enjoy Kikuchi's happy, forwardgoing, team-oriented personality.  .... the anti-Felix?  ;- )  j/k.  What were the odds that an NPB pitcher would come in here on 2 hours'* notice and make me forget* James Paxton?

Ya, Dr. D is feelin' purty giddy this mornin'.  He's only too happy to bid Zeus adieu and hop steeds over to the Japanese stallion gallopin' down the trail alongside.

Dunno what the Best Bet bids are but Dr. D assumes he's in a big pack of Denizens who expect All-Star performance out of this Zito/Bedard comp.

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PATREON

Thanks so much to all our sponsors who continued their subscriptions while I was in the hospital!  Talk about generosity.  Fully 90% of Patrons continued to toke their longtime (1995-present) dealer.  You guys rock SO hard.

Original plan was that if we hit $150 per month donations, we'd add a 7th article on D-O-V.  Almost the week we set that up, I hit a big health hiccup and it all went sideways.  I always felt terrible about that.  :- /

As it happens, the quota this year has changed from last year's 6 to now 8 this year, so the 7th article (and an 8th!) will be coming automatically.  Works out, I hope, for those who were patient.

And thank you again for your generous sponsorship.  It's so much appreciated.

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BRANDING 

Classy, classy exit for Ichiro in the 'Dome (compare to Griff's).  Don't think the NPB fans didn't notice Servais did EVERYTHING he could to get Ichrio that last hit.

Back in 2001 we started out with a nice edge in this realm, like Rickey in the late 40's with the Negro Leagues, and it sez here that LAST NIGHT, last night alone, put another nice gust of wind in the sails of the Mariners in Japan.  Kikuchi himself might be here 'cuz of Ichiro and there could of course be others shortly.

Included in this weekend is the fact that we can probably assume that Ichiro will go into the HOF in an M's cap.  For me, I hope he hangs around the club as a semi-coach, semi-ambassador the way he did last year.

But first of all, less' get 3-4 starts in and then let's get a Big Three rollin'.  The displaced SP's can help us out in the pen.

BABVA,

Dr D

Blog: 

Comments

1
tjm's picture

I've been out of action fan-wise. Still pouting about the off-season sale-off, but not about Patreon. Glad you're well again, Doc, and you don't owe nobody nothin' - not 7 or 8 or 1 or whatever articles per week. Work too much you'll put yourself back in the bare-butt pajamas. Can't have that if you gotta field TWO Best Bets. which I gather this article infers the second.

Hang tough, brother.

2

That did the trick Terry.  You've got a way with a word of encouragement!  :- )

Did 2-and-0 do anything to begin to soften you up?  Two games I know but looks like we've got two SP's and a lineup with some power to it ....

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As he watched the A's go from super aggressive the day before to super patient facing him.  89 pitches seemed so high for his 3rd start including spring considering it was a day after Marco was cruising to only 68 pitches.  Most of the time he looked the best I've seen him so far.  Only 2 lefty Aces until June should do just fine.

I do not for a moment believe that the M's offer was close in dollars to his top offer so I'd just like to thank Griffey (as Ichi's idol), Ichiro and Nintendo for starting the M's Japanese dominance, detailed in my response on "Cool Takes".

Some of the called balls did not seem to be called real evenly but the check swings were most annoying.  2 times that our guys were said to have swung I was OK with assuming it would be called on them the same.  2 of the 3 checks the A's had that seemed to go pretty much as far around were said to have not swung and the other they didn't even check with the 1b umpire.

Maybe a winning culture will soon start bringing those calls back just in time for robot strike zone and swing checks.  Green/ Red LEDs are cheap enough to equip the home plate umps mask so they can be signaled to relay the call or at least be guided without it seeming any different to the fans.  Except for getting calls right. And there's no need for replay if it's already been double checked in a fraction of a second.  Yeah, redundancies built in.

So how much time is currently wasted on reviews, arguing balls and strikes, checking and arguing swings that could be cut out by automating a few things? 

4

That poor calls can be more annoying than the pace, just not to everyone.  It is another thing that can push people away.  This should make positive changes towards both. 

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Good to see you writing, Doc.

My only note is that I think we got Kikuchi because of Ichiro and lost Ohtani because of Ichiro.

Reading through a lot of the material that has come out about Ichiro, Ohtani's quotes come across soft or borderline sardonic compared to the likes of Darvish, Tanaka, Kikuchi, Iwakuma, etc.

I know Matt isn't Ohtani's biggest fan and puts him in A-Rod territory... But I'm tempted to lean that way as well now.

Overall, the impact in Japan will be interesting to see.

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Having your in the park perspective during the games.  I had no plans to even be awake but it was a fun series and I'm glad I was. 

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I just wanted to toss in extra info for you all.

Like the LL guy on the ground reported that Kikuchi was hovering around 150 kph all night, but I honestly wasn't seeing that because that means 153~147 for me and not 144~150.

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And it seems a pretty good case.  Wouldn't you like to think he could think that way and still be reverential, not jealous?  People usually prefer humility too, but you can't have it all. 

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In Seattle, A-Rod thought he should be the leader everyone loved, but that was Griffey...and if it wasn't him, it was Edgar...and if it wasn't him, it was Buhner...and if it wasn't him, it was Moyer.

We enjoyed his play, but was never in our hearts, and I think it's because he wanted to be there far...far too badly.

He went to Texas...a bad team where he figured he'd be the leader...but that was Palmeiro or Juan Gone. LOL

He got tired of losing while still not being adored and forced a trade to Boston our New York. He landed with the Yankees and...

HE STILL wasn't the leader. That was Jeter...or Pettitte...or Rivera...or Posada. :)

He hated it so much that he and Jeter went from friends to enemies.

I see the same dynamics with Ohtani.

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I think you can sorta read between the lines see that Ohtani thinks he's Ichiro's equal (especially the 'his generation' part, etc.), where as the others recognize Ichiro's achievements in a more reverential/MLB is really tough brah light.

12

4 innings yesterday, 2 hits, 6 Ks vs a Reds’ lineup that was largely the varsity. 

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Watched awhile on Gameday which only even showed locations of pitches 1/3 of the time.  After 3 innings 1 BB/6k I got busy.  Wound up walking another so 4 baserunners over 4, but K'd 4 of the top 6 in their lineup almost in a row with Scott Schebler and Derek Dietrich in the first separated only by an Iglesias infield pop then Phillip Ervin and Kyle Farmer to start the 2nd.  This was actually mostly B squad as they had an earlier game against the Royals as well.  I'm seeing now that there were live streaming options and feeling dumb for not checking.  Even audio would have been much nicer than Gameday missing 2/3 of the data points.   I mentioned some of that in Slack and the fact that I couldn't even find a Mariners centric mention of the game aside from schedule and Gameday links.  Reds reporters seem much more aware that their team still had spring games.  With Dunn, Lewis and Kelenic among others of interest I'd have liked to have radio at least but that was running a replay of the morning's Tokyo sweep clinch.

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I enjoyed his commentary on the data revolution in particular (and his humorous anecdote about Johann Santana's perfect game bid :) ).

I was never a numbers purist. I've been skeptical of UZR all along, I've believed in team chemistry and clutch hitting throughout, I even created a defense-independent pitching metric that accounted for the quantifiable impact the pitcher had on ball-in-play events because I recognized that xFIP wasn't passing the sniff test.

It's been fun to watch the data crowd realize that their defensive metrics are failing without accounting for team context. It's been fun to watch the numbers-gamers realize that pitch framing is a thing. It's been fun to learn along with them about some of my own misconceptions (the comment about the shift inducing more walks for example...that's INTERESTING!). Or to see them realize that close-game pitching is also a thing.

I think he's overstating it to say that baseball is 'defeating' the data revolution. It's evolving. Data is more personalized, more granular, and more nuanced, but it's still powering the sport. Launch angle, spin rate, and eye reaction time analysis come to mind. But it's good to see the scientific thinkers of the game working together more with the historians. It makes the sport much more fun for me.

17

Equally terrific stuff, maybe better.

Loved this short paragraph!  

The umpires don’t care who deserves to win on moral, progressive, or demographic grounds. Their role is modest but crucial, and would be corrupted if they brought any supposed Higher Purpose to their work. They only care about the rules. The Supreme Court could learn from them.

18

Rate the M’s #8 at DH, but basically point out declining rates for EE and Bruce and are a bit bullish on Vogs.  

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/2019-positional-power-rankings-designated-hitter/

Santana & company are rated #20 in LF.  Just less than 2 WAR for Santana.

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/2019-positional-power-rankings-left-field/

Healy at 1B is worth 0.1 in 245 PAs.  M’s ranked 25th at the position.

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/2019-positional-power-rankings-first-base/

They like Mallex Smith in CF, giving 2.6 WAR, good enough for #12

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/2019-positional-power-rankings-center-field/

#23 at SS

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/2019-positional-power-rankings-shortstop/

The hate Gordon, pointing out that his bread and butter, speed, has fallen on the floor, butter side down.  #26 here.

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/2019-positional-power-rankings-second-base/

Sorry, Fangraphs doesn’t have RF projections up.

19

So they discount Gordon, based on last year's performance with nine good toes...

They discount Santana, presumably because of his suspect defense, ignoring the plethora of dingers we are all expecting

Sounds like they ignore Haniger entirely... also Seager? (Must be due for a bounceback year, according to some chart somewhere!) 

Healy must have accumulated more than .1 WAR already, through the first two games! (3 RBI; mostly stellar defense) 

In March, of course, hope springs eternal. I bleeve dem Ms gonna s'prize some folks! 

20

Glad to hear you’re all right.  Also glad to hear Daddy O is all right. Will keep you hombres in my prayers. Been in Costa Rica for two weeks. SSI doesn‘t work there.  It was nice to land in LAX yesterday, check the phone and get  a Shticknado of backlogged goodness to welcome me Stateside. Been digesting it ever since.   The Mariners starting pitching is better than last year!  If the bullpen isn’t a bunch of pyros, a wild card hunt should ensue.

21

That one made me literally laugh out loud.  That's got to be a glossary term from here on out.

Thanks back at you Mojo, and to Jonezie, IceX and all our other Denizens who've wished us well.

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