Shohei Otani and Three Magic Words

My junior year of undergrad I had a professor, we’ll call him Mr. Williams. He was in his early 30’s, energetic, passionate, and opinionated. His class at my small bible college was one on the Book of Revelations, the Bible’s lowkey signing off on recreational drug use.

A major topic in Revelations, one debated by scholars for centuries, is whether the Rapture, the event in which God calls his still living faithful from earth to heaven to create a new heaven and new earth, is to occur before or after The Great Tribulation, a period cataclysms and horrors set to wipe out a vast swatch of humanity, and signal The End Times.

The two camps of this argument are shorthanded in Evangelical scholarly circles as “Pre and Post-Trib”. Mr. Williams was Pre-Trib, and was to such a passionate degree that you could almost forget that brilliant men had been arguing over this, a prophesy written in a foreign language scribbled down by a guy most likely under the effect of hallucinogens while sitting around on a small Greek island, for hundreds of years. In all that time there has never been a consensus opinion to emerge, and that probably has something to do with the fact that Koine Greek is a bit of a bitch, and that the future is, per my experience, inherently unknowable.

Nonetheless Mr. Williams was unshakable in his belief that the only possible reality was that God would spare his Faithful the horrors of the Tribulation. It was in that class that the largely dormant, but very much alive, seeds of speculation in my mind began to grow, and has led to a philosophy of stubbornly resisting passionate argument, probably too much so.

It was in that class I formed the opinion that the best and most correct answer for something as unknowable as the Tribulation/Rapture debate was one Mr. Williams seemed unable to see, let alone arrive at:

“I don’t know”

***

Shohei Otani is a unique player, in a unique situation. The perplexing and shortsighted willingness of the MLBPA to negotiate away the earning power of future players has put a cap on what teams can pay international free agents. As such Otani, who has made it mostly clear that he intends to come to MLB during this offseason, will most likely make the decision on where to play based on factors that have little or nothing to do with the terms of his initial contract.

As financial compensation is traditionally motivating factors 1-10 for deciding where an athlete is going to play, the absence of it in Otani’s case leaves a vast, gaping, crater in which we can pour our speculations, dreams, and hopes. This is a natural instinct. Humans like to know, and when we can’t we grow uncomfortable and oftentimes try to shape reality to our will.

We have seen plenty of exactly that with Otani this week: “Seattle is close to Japan”, “The Mariners have a strong track record with Japanese players”, or “Otani doesn’t care about money”. The latter is particularly fraught, as it can lead to assigning a moral superiority to a player accepting less money than he can theoretically extract from cutthroat billionaires, where in fact it’s easy to posit that getting every last cent possible out of them in order to use it for the ease of the suffering of the impoverished is at least as, if not more in line, with a highly-aspiring moral code.

The reality with Shohei Otani is we do not know. It’s entirely plausible Otani himself doesn’t know. We have no reason to believe the Mariners are any more or less desirable to him than any of the other 29 major league baseball teams. We do not know how much money means to him, nor should we ascribe a sort of Sunday School Morality to the possibility that he is almost assuredly giving up short term financial gain with the timing of his arrival in MLB.

We should allow Otani the dignity and mystery inherent in all the wildly complex depths of each human soul, and admit that we do not know why he is coming to America at this exact moment, and we do not know where he will choose to play. To attempt to distill the human spirit into simple cultural and/or moral archetypes to fit our predispositions does him and us a disservice. This is the most honest appraisal of the situation, and as it is so often with honesty, the most freeing.

Shohei Otani could become a Mariner, and he most likely will not. While we can read whatever we like into how much money he lives off of in Japan, or channel a Western understanding of Japanese culture into motivations for him to feel honored/dishonored by this or that, doing so plays into many of our worst American/Western/Imperialistic instincts. Real information will come in due course. For now, the best course of action is to embrace the three magic words:

We don’t know.

 

To Know Someone

(In the spirit of this post we wish to direct our readers to where they may donate to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, an excellent charity working to defeat cancer for all.)

As we stumble through life we have slowly, haphazardly, developed a rough system of determining the quality of a person. Of course, we acknowledge that perfect knowledge of a human’s personhood is practically impossible, thanks to the incredible depth and complexity of the human spirit. This is part of its appeal, and a great contributing factor to many of our trials and tribulations, in our estimation. However, with what little time and exposure is afforded us, here is the cribbed version of our person evaluation process:

How does the person treat other persons when no other persons are watching?

Some years ago we were traveling on the ferry, heading home after a Mariner game. We had consumed somewhere between one and ten beers, and the way we were feeling indicated it was toward the upper levels of that range. At departure from the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal our traveling companion sat up with a start and said, “That is Angie Mentink, you must go talk to her.” Having just started writing about the Mariners on the internet at the time, we and the beers were in no position to disagree, and so off we went.

Introductions were barely completed when Angie said, politely though briskly, “Great. Can you walk and talk?” Due to our beers this was more of an open question than is typical, however we said yes. During the 20 minutes between Fauntleroy and Vashon Island, Angie did two things ceaselessly: She did not stop walking in circles VERY quickly, and she did not at any point treat us as a hassle or unwelcome interruption, although we surely were.

We have no illusions that Angie remembers this interaction, or a single word we spoke, but we do not care. In the busy excrutiations of adulthood, there is a very real kindness and charity to projecting the illusion of care, whether or not care actually exists. Angie was extremely kind to us in this way, for no other reason other than we were there. We do not forget that.

How does a person respond to the unexpected, and/or that which is out of his/her control?

We have some mild experience with public speaking, stage place, and public performance. The process demands the utmost exactitude, combined with the ability to make everything seem organic and natural. When things go sideways, and surprises pop up, it can be extremely jarring, and we believe reacting to such things with grace and humor belies a strength of spirit, and peace with oneself. These are excellent qualities, and ones we wish we contained to a greater degree.

On July 22nd, after a walkoff win, Angie Mentink was doing her job and interviewing Mariner outfielder Ben Gamel, when:

Danny Valenciea’s poor aim, far from throwing Angie off her game, led to one of the great moments of the season, and perhaps the finest tweet of 2017:

As a mild postscript we remember that, after a walkoff home run on June 7th Angie, a former softball player at the University of Washington and no stranger to how athletes congratulate each other, smacked Mariners catcher Mike Zunino on the ass. This was, in the absurd modern world we exist in, cause of some consternation. We like to think Angie has not spent one moment worrying about that, and we also acknowledge we would very much also like to smack Mike Zunino on the ass.

How does a person react to hardship?

In the case of Angie Mentink, it’s just grace and humor, all the way down:

It has been said many times and ways, but we will repeat it here: A local baseball team’s broadcasters, more than any other sport, become family. They are daily guests in our home and lives, part of the rhythmic routine that marks our days. In this way we grow to appreciate their presence, a comforting salve which we apply over the aches and pains of existence. Their words are like a nightly nip of brandy for the soul, and we are very grateful for that.

***

We said at the top of this that a human’s capacity for layers and depth makes them all but unknowable, at least in the fullest sense. The act of choosing to love will always contain risk, because the possibility of darker, previously unseen nature is always lurking, regardless of how much time we have spent with a person. But we still choose to love, and sometimes we don’t need to see much to feel comfortable making that decision.

Angie, we love you. We believe you to contain a strength and fire that burns hotter than any disease or malady can defeat. Whether we do so in person, or from afar, we look forward to celebrating your triumph over cancer, and we stand by you in your journey to do so.

The Perfect Pitcher

4-11-06

There are a few things I want you to keep in mind about today, so in the interest of brevity, and rather than trying to sound like someone with a lot to say, or a poet, or someone else that I’m not, I’m going to just list them here:

1) Felix was coming off his first Opening Day start of his career, an 8 IP, 12 K obliteration of the Oakland A’s. In between those two starts he would turn 21 years old. Think for a moment about how preposterously young that is. Here are the ages of some of baseball’s current bright, young, pitching stars:

Luis Severino – 23
Jimmy Nelson – 28
Aaron Nola – 24
Marcus Stroman – 26
Michael Fulmer – 24
Gerrit Cole – 26
Kevin Gausman – 26
Dylan Bundy – 24

Felix Hernandez was 21 years, and 3 days old when he took the mound at Fenway Park. It was the 45th start of his major league career.

2) This was a coronation, but for once Felix had nothing to do with it. The Yankees and Red Sox were in the middle of their decade-long blood feud over the AL East, and the Red Sox were debuting their newest weapon of war, Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka threw something called a “gyroball”, which legend made sound like a cross between Sid Finch and black magic, and he was making his second start of the season as well, after demolishing the Kansas City Royals on the road in his first start.

ESPN was on hand, Fenway was packed, and one of baseball’s glamor franchises was prepared to celebrate their newest hero.

In the middle of the 7th inning I was scrambling to a church youth function I’ve volunteered for and I was screaming at the guy there “You HAVE to get this game on TV! I am not missing a Mariner pitcher no-hitting the Red Sox in Fenway!” He got the game on, and as I walked in I saw Jose Lopez diving as J.D. Drew’s groundball finds center field.

Damn.

One inning later, Fenway is empty, figuratively if not literally. Its soul has been swallowed by the all-encompassing totality of Felix’s genius. There are two outs in the ninth, and two strikes on Kevin Youkilis. The play-by-play marks it as a swinging strikeout, but that was no swing. It was surrender.

Felix_Youkilis__2_

4-24-2015

When you’ve seen it, you know you’ll never see it again. But, you’re a hopeful kind of idiot, so you think, maybe, just maybe.

The 2015 Twins are supposed to be atrocious. It’s through three and not only has no one reached base, Minnesota’s hitters are approaching the batter’s box like meek, contrite, sinners come to suffer god’s judgment. Felix has six strikeouts, five swinging. The Mariners are winning at home, early into their most anticipated season in half a decade. New DH Nelson Cruz has homered. There is a crescendo building, a feeling that burns through the television, that something may be happening.

We’re into the fifth, and I’m writing the recap, and I’m thinking about writing a game story about the first pitcher in baseball history to throw two perfect games. This is the power of Felix Hernandez. His youth and talent, like Ken Griffey Jr. before him, made anything seem possible. Every achievement left unlocked for a pitcher in baseball history could be viewed with Felix as, “No pitchers has ever done X……yet”.

There is still, of course, no pitcher in baseball history to throw two perfect games. With two outs in the fifth Brian Dozier got a running, buzzing, chainsaw-with-seams on his hands and dumped it into rightfield for a single.

Damn.

Felix finished it out, he would not be denied his shutout. He spent the first three innings surgically removing the Twins’ heart, and the next six slowly feeding it back to them.

9 IP, 5 H (all singles), 9 K, 0 BB, 0 R, 102 pitches. Dominance upon dominance.

8-15-12

Like many, I left work. Though I was too far from Safeco to get there in time, Gameday and the radio were simply not sufficient. After the 7th I closed my computer, walked to an empty Mexican restaurant bar, and ordered a Dos Equis.

They were tolerant of me in there, if mildly annoyed. I got them to turn off a car race, and helped them find the channel the baseball game was on. Someone the bartender knew sat down, and they started talking about nothing in particular. There was no audio, and no music. No real sound other than the constant, ceaseless tapping of my feet on the ground.

Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap

The 8th is where it was going to live or die, you just knew it. Tampa’s best hitters were due up, Felix’s pitch count was approaching 100 and, Mariners being Mariners, the team had managed only one run on the day. Everything; Perfect Game, No-hitter, shutout, complete game, win, hung in the balance of the next three hitters.

Evan Longoria – Strikeout Swinging. Tap tap tap tap

Ben Zobrist – Strikeout Swinging. Tap tap tap tap tap

Carlos Pena – Strikeout Swinging. “YES! HELL YES!” Tap tap tap tap

***

Felix Hernandez has known, seemingly his entire life, the abundance of ability he possesses. You can, and many people have, debate the various nuances between cockiness and confidence, but I don’t intend to do that here. Felix Hernandez has spent his life believing he is the best, and whether it’s fate, hard work, good luck, genetics, or something else the simple fact is that for a very long time he was absolutely correct.

I have often thought about the picture of him finding out he won the 2010 Cy Young Award:

Felix

There are tears, yes. And joy. There is also something else, and who knows if it’s actually there or if I am, always the slave to narrative, simply reading too much into it. But I see relief.

Felix Hernandez spent his childhood and early career believing he was absolutely going to win awards and set records, and the 2010 Cy Young was confirmation he was not wrong. Preposterous talent brings preposterous standards, none more so than his own. He had met them. Partially.

***

In the 9th it was the split-change, or whatever that pitch actually was, that carried him through. Felix Hernandez’s changeup at its peak is unlike anything the game has ever really seen before or since. He used it to strike out Desmond Jennings for out number one, got Jeff Keppinger to ground out to shortstop with it for out number two, and you know, with two strikes, it was a hot-breathed demon sitting in the back of Sean Rodriguez’s mind.

tap tap tap tap tap

Felix stepped back, lifted his leg, and pivoted his torso slightly past 90 degrees from home, showing Rodriguez the 3 and maybe half the 4 on the back of his jersey. Perhaps the first pitcher since peak Pedro Martinez to possess four true out pitches, a player whose insistence on overusing his fastball famously got him an open letter written by a now famous baseball blogger, Felix Hernandez had worked his entire life to get one pitch from a perfect game. What is the one pitch he wanted at that moment, more than anything else?

Fastball, inner half, with movement. Hit it if you can.

Damn.

Five years ago, today. Perfect. No one has been since.

Hail to the King.

 

If It Goes Half Right

1) The rain is starting to fall at Safeco Field, just like the forecast said. The last home game rained, too, but that was nine days ago. Somewhere in that span summer finally left. There’s no warmth in this rain. It is cold, oppressive; the kind we sat through all winter and spring. It feels like football and, indeed, the Seahawks just beat the Colts across the street, two days ago. It was the same day the Mariners finished up their season in Anaheim, with a 6-3 win. Cano and Haniger went deep, and Moore gutted out 7 innings, like he somehow did the whole second half.

The season is over, but I’m at Safeco Field, because there’s a baseball game today.

2) I’m stuck in line, a long line. A Black Friday kind of line. The kind of line that doesn’t make sense to be in. There must be something better to do with my time; some friend to go say hello to, a beer to find, batting practice to watch, signs to enjoy. I’m in a line that reaches its foolish length because there was something after all to what James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams. I am wading in baseball’s magic waters and I, like seemingly everyone else here, know the only right thing to do today is to go say hi to Dave. I don’t mind the wait. Impatience melts away when you’re sure of your destination.

3) It doesn’t make sense, what Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz have done the past two and a half months. They are too old, and too gimpy, to have provided the ceaseless, daily impact they have in this second half. Signing these two men to play in Seattle was folly. Their ages, the amount of money they commanded, the years on those contracts. They should be albatrosses, dead weight. Baseball history is littered with contracts for players like Carlos Lee, Vernon Wells, Adrian Gonzalez, and Albert Pujols. Great players who were paid for past greatness, and never approached it again.

Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz are not those men. They are instead two of the finest players in the American League. They are All-Stars. They are the absolute, full stop, beginning and end of what drives the Mariners clubhouse. They are kind, smart, charitable, engaging, funny, and brilliantly talented. They have given us not just wins, and a game 163 at long last, they have given us a team to be proud to root for, win or lose. They are Mariner legends, without playing another day. I look forward to standing in line for their statues, too.

4) While standing in line, the moments pass by quickly in my head: Haniger’s walk off bomb against the Rangers, only one strike from defeat. I remember watching a late-inning double sink into left-center, only to have Jarrod Dyson streak into frame, running in that slow-appearing way that only truly fast people do. I can see Shae Simmons, all but forgotten, providing the desperately needed additional bullpen arm. There is Felix, these days so mortal, fighting through every single start. Once so mighty, still so proud, he would not allow himself to fade into oblivion. Not yet. Not this year.

As the rest of the American League continued its mediocrity only the Mariners, finally, were able to take advantage. Through good luck and good play they carved a 43-29 second half out of the muck and mire, and they won the Wild Card. To paraphrase a great man, sixteen long years of frustration, is over.

5) Was it worth it? Was it worth these sixteen years? Was it worth the Jeremy Reeds, and Carlos Silvas? Was it worth the Adam Jones trade, and LollaBlueza, and 2010? Was it worth Bill Bavasi, Rick White, Eric Wedge, Chone Figgins, Ryan Anderson, Danny Hultzen, Jeff Clement, Michael Garciaparra, and on?

The 2017 Mariners should have been sellers. The 2018 and 2019 team will be worse off because they did not. Was all the time spent, both in the past and now in the future, worth it for a hot few months, and a one game playoff against the Rays?

I don’t know the answer to that. Professional sports are a dumb investment of practically any resource we choose to assign to them. Money, time, emotion, etc. all flow from us in huge quantities, and there is no guarantee that anything worthwhile is ever coming back. This is not a sound decision, to be a sports fan. Perhaps, somehow, that’s part of the appeal.

6) I’m in my seat, finally, but there’s still plenty of time before first pitch. Everyone is here: Alvin Davis, Dan Wilson, Jamie Moyer, Randy Johnson, Bret Boone, and many others. Russell Wilson and a bunch of Seahawks are in a suite. Sitting in the front row are three tall reminders of childhood: Detlef Schrempf, Gary Payton, and Shawn Kemp. The Mariners, always hitting the PR notes perfectly, have Marilyn Niehaus throw out the first pitch to Junior. It’s raining at Safeco Field, and it’s cold, and it’s perfect. It’s family.

7) If the Mariners lose this game, their season is over, and their future remains cloudy. As a child I would never have thought twice about that, I would have just cheered. Time and understanding have slowly made that basic act more and more complicated. Sports are not that simple. Life, far less so. I’m pondering all this, still sitting in my seat, when the voice of Tom Hutyler begins to speak, but he’s quickly drowned out, as everyone already knows what to do.

My head snaps up, for one final glance at it all. I see 45,000 dots of yellow, each with their chest cavity ripped open and heart fully exposed, as though the simple act of naked vulnerability, of offering their very essence, can assure victory. They are so present, desperate for echoes of the past, that it might lead us to our future. The door to the bullpen opens, and he’s walking out: Old, less, ours, proud, regal, King.

The PA faintly echoes in my head; is it a directive, or a simple observation of what we already knew to do?

“All rise.”

Andrew Moore: The First Three Starts

Andrew Moore is one of the Mariners’ best stories of 2017. We should just get that out of the way. A PNW-born, slight, no-velo kid who starred at the region’s best baseball college, Moore is one of only a handful of 2015 draft picks to have already reached the major leagues. Most of the others (Andrew Benintendi, Alex Bregman, Dansby Swanson, etc.) are upper 1st round, consensus top prospect talents. What Moore and the Mariners have managed to do in successfully rocketing him to Seattle is a fine achievement, and we can all be happy about that.

The Mariners rotation is a disaster, and looks to be a disaster through at least the rest of the year. Moore is being asked to do more than he probably should, which is to arrive as a 23-year old rookie and shore up the rotation for a team that’s desperately trying to make the playoffs. With that in mind, even though it has only been three starts, let’s take a look see

CAVEAT ALERT: I am not a mechanics or pitching expert in any way, and if you want a place to learn the building blocks of Moore’s game I highly recommend reading Kate Preusser’s exhaustive breakdown here. I’m just here to do some Small Sample Size Sizin’ Up. So, through three starts, what has Moore done well?

Pacman, but innings 

In two of Moore’s three major league starts, he has managed to go at least seven innings. This sounds like low praise, but it’s not an easy thing, and in the context of the 2017 Mariners rotation, it’s rarified air. Here’s the leaderboard for starts of 7+ innings:

Ariel Miranda7
James Paxton5
Andrew Moore2
Christian Bergman (!)2

Moore’s economy of motion, very quick pace, and well-advertised ability to pound the strike zone is a huge plus for this team, which features one of the American League’s scariest bullpens. No, not like the Astros bullpen is scary, the other scary.

Swing the bat or walk (back to the dugout)

Going in tandem with the previous point is Moore’s almost total unwillingness to walk anyone. After his first 21 major league innings he has only walked two batters, or a BB% of 2.4. Of all pitchers with a minimum of 20 innings that puts Moore 4th, behind only Kenley Jansen, Noah Syndergaard, and Roberto Osuna.

This is, again, as advertised with Moore. He has never run a BB% higher than 6.5% as a professional, and was running a rate of 3.9% in Tacoma prior to his callup. The dude throws strikes, and then some strikes, and then more strikes. You gotta swing it.

Ok, that’s some good stuff to build off. Let’s look at the concerning parts

Oh lordy please miss some bats

Major league hitters are terrifying, earth-destroying, pitcher-swallowing demigods, sent to this planet from the cosmos with the sole purpose of reconfiguring our perception of the atrocities that can be committed to baseballs. As such, it’s really in a pitcher’s best interest to just have them not hit the ball altogether. Thus far, Moore is one of the worst in baseball at this.

Through three starts Moore’s K% is 12.2% 12.2! That is 12th worst in baseball, two spots better than the tanning corpse of Jered Weaver, and three places worse than poor, poor Hisashi Iwakuma. This is a concern I expect to alleviate at least partially. Moore will never be even a league average strikeout pitcher, but his current MLB rate is almost half what it was in Tacoma.

I certainly hope it rises, because after factoring in the annually increasing league-wide strikeout rate Moore’s inability to generate strikeouts starts to look a lot like, um, well, you all won’t like this comp I know.

 

 

 

 

I’m sorry. You can stop reading now.

 

 

 

 

Still here?

 

 

 

 

(Guy peeking out behind the building ASCII art)

 

 

 

 

Carlos Silva. It’s a lot like Carlos Silva. There, I said it. The thing with Silva, who actually scraped together a few 2+ fWAR seasons in Minnesota, despite striking out less than 10% of batters, is he ran above average to good groundball rates. And, well……

Bombs over Safeco

Andrew Moore’s inability to generate strikeouts is doubly concerning when we notice that over 70% of the balls hit off him are in the air. His GB% of 29.4% is 12th lowest in baseball, tied with AJ Griffin, and a few spots worse than Francisco Rodriguez. Here, Moore’s rates lineup with his minor league numbers very well. He has always allowed a very high number of fly balls, with a GB% under 35.0 in every level above A ball.

Not surprisingly, Moore has already allowed 5 home runs, and there has been plenty of hard contact hit foul or to the warning track in addition to that. The HR/FB% of 13.5 should theoretically decline, but allowing so many balls to get hit in the air is not a traditionally repeatable model for quality major league pitching.

Summary

Andrew Moore is smart, and probably knows everything I just said way better than I do. He knows his .188 BABIP is going to regress in the bad way. He knows his ERA of 3.86 is almost two runs worse than his FIP. He might even know his DRA is 6.34, which, yikes.

Moore is a tough, intelligent, savvy competitor. He has dedicated his life to gaining every bit of pitching skill out of his talent that he possibly can, and by all accounts has done so while remaining a grounded, humble, likable person who teammates adore. However, even with his ability to work deep in games, and refusal to walk batters, he will quickly need to show an ability to miss bats, or generate more groundballs.

It’s possible he could be an exception to the idea that a low strikeout, low groundball pitcher can succeed as a starting pitcher. Baseball’s greatness shines brightest when players gleam through the cracks in our ascertations and rigid stereotypes. However, I see no compelling reason to believe that at this time.

I have little doubt that Andrew Moore is one of the Mariners organization’s five best starting pitchers. He belongs in Seattle, even if that is partially due to the organization’s utter lack of MLB quality pitching depth. The primary concerns remain, however, and they are large enough to potentially overshadow everything else.

Without more strikeouts and/or fewer flyballs (which, again, could absolutely come. It’s three starts Nathan, you idiot) it’s very difficult to see Andrew Moore as anything greater than a useful, cheap backend starter at his very peak. To my admittedly layman’s eye, it’s hard to see much more than a Brian Bannister-style career.

As always, may I be wrong.

 

Gee Yair Mo

An uncomfortable truth is that, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s fun to play favorites. Watching someone, or something we’ve anointed with our favor succeed results in an intoxicating bouquet of pride, joy, and, truthfully, superiority. It’s easy to love your team’s greatest players, and we almost all do; Junior, Edgar, Felix, Ichiro, etc. But there is something special about picking a player before greatness, catching them before their rise. It’s personal, in a way rooting for superstars is not.

The 2017 Mariners are not a great team, but they are replete with fun players to root for. You could pick one of a group of 6-7 guys to ride with. I’ve made my choice, and it’s an intense, scrappy outfielder from the island of Cuba.

Guillermo Heredia

Experiencing Guillermo Heredia playing baseball is like watching George Bailey wildly running around Bedford Falls at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life, telling everyone and everything Merry Christmas. He possesses the emotional equivalent of an exoskeleton, and watching everything he feels and experiences portrayed so visibly, at all times, is riveting.

Earlier this week, when Heredia saved Nick Vincent’s ass with a fantastic running grab in Los Angeles I announced, with my usual lack of thought or research, that of all the Mariners sudden bounty of quality outfielders, he is the one I would take for the next five years. That was a moment of mildly inebriated hubris, and as we now have this nice new place to serve for investigation, I went searching for some ACTUAL DATA, to determine just how dumb I was and am.

I can do a decent Fangraphs/BRef search like a normal baseball blogger, but for a player I love as much as Guillermo Heredia, I wanted to find some good stuff. As such I consulted with good friend Eric Blankenship, formerly of Lookout Landing, and as sharp a baseball mind as I personally know. Eric disappeared into the Matrix for a while and came back with an exhaustive look at how Heredia’s offensive profile comps with major leaguers past and present:

Well well, there are some might fine baseball players on this list. Angel Pagan would be a terrific career for Guillermo. Ditto, David DeJesus and few others. Heredia’s combination of quality plate control, and contact ability has worked very well for some very good players over the years. However, for Heredia to separate himself from the Timo Perez and Augie Ojedas of this list he needs to do two, mostly interconnected things better: He needs to hit the ball in the air more, and improve that ISO slugging.

Players like Heredia walk a very narrow path with their offensive profile. Little power and absolutely no power is one of the key differences between 2009 and 2010 Chone Figgins. The total absence of power means pitchers regard you with a total absence of fear, and you really want major league pitchers to feel some fear.

Guillermo’s slight frame, tendency to dive over the plate, and, to this author’s marginally trained eye, below average lower body torque limits his ability to hit home runs, even with the nonsense rabbit ball MLB is currently using. Still, the swing and contact ability are there for more than a singles slap hitter. A player with Heredia’s well-rounded skillset, speed, and defensive ability can be a quality starting outfielder on a good major league roster if he can hit 30+ doubles, and with his speed a few of those can be triples. That kind of contact should be, and I’d imagine is, the goal he and the team have set for him moving forward.

The offensive side of the game needs only to reach average to slightly above average levels, because by most accounts and data Heredia is a very good defensive outfielder. Fangraphs currently has him at +5 runs saved defensively, whereas the Total Zone Rating used by baseball-reference has him accruing 0.9 wins with glove alone in 2017. This serves as a good excuse to say hey holy shit y’all remember that time Guillermo Heredia sprinted backwards and, in the span of approximately a half second turned, found the ball, leaped, crashed into the wall, and robbed Andrelton Simmons of a home run?

ENHANCE

BASEBALL SHOCKED COBRA

BASEBALL SURRENDER COBRA

Guillermo Heredia’s story of defection, quality defense, and electrifyingly energetic playing style has made him one of my favorite 2017 Seattle Mariners. The path to a long, productive major league career exists, but more than likely he projects as a quality 4th outfielder, a role that easily makes him a Jerry Dipoto success story. However if I’m honest, from a front office perspective I would not, in fact, take him over all the Mariners other young outfielders. The road to stardom is simply too long and winding for a player with such a low offensive ceiling.

As a fan, however, I can do whatever I want, and that is this: I want to sit down, turn on my tv, and let this earnest, skilled, passionate man from Matanzas make me care about what he does every second he’s in the game. He’ll do that, as long as he wears a Mariners uniform, and probably well after.

(I am extremely grateful and indebted, again, to Eric Blankenship for his assistance in researching and compiling the data for this post, and talking through it with me.)

Welcome to Dome and Bedlam

Dome and Bedlam began in 2015 as a pressure valve. The daily work and stress of running a major team site in a sport with a game every day takes a toll, and so we decided to just let something rip. A podcast allows a freedom the written word does not, and there is joy in spontaneity and camaraderie.

After Nathan and David left Lookout Landing due to time constraints, this site was started as a sort of halfway house for recovering baseball bloggers. More than anything, it was a way to hold on to the most valuable thing any of us ever got out of baseball writing: A wealth of relationships with wonderful, hilarious, smart, and kind people. The continued development of those relationships, and our continued enjoyment creating and sharing things we like with each other and a small, loyal audience has led to what we are announcing today.

As the season has worn on, and the podcast and site have served their purpose as a depository for our free time and ramblings, the thought has remained that there may be room for something more. After a lot of discussion and (a little) planning we are thrilled to bring Dome and Bedlam into the world as a fully functional, living baseball blog, starting today.

While Dome and Bedlam started as the vision of three friends with a shared passion for baseball, and the podcast for now will remain largely Scott, David and myself, we are thrilled to welcome some good friends to the site, and can now feature something approximate to a fully staffed baseball website:

Scott Weber (@ScottyWeebs)
David Skiba (@SkibaScubaShop)
Nathan Bishop (@NathanHBishop)
Matt Ellis (@MatthiasEllis)
Andrew Rice (@Andrew_Rice)
Peter Woodburn (@Wernies)
Scott George (@ScottGeorge)

The underlying principle of Dome and Bedlam being as much for the authors as the reader has not changed. Click chasing and content grinding is not, and will never be our mission. This is a place for us to record when we have time, and write when inspired. If you are hankering for daily, in depth Mariner coverage, beloved stalwarts Lookout Landing and USS Mariner are both excellent sites that admirably fill that purpose.

This will be something different; a return to the days of independent blogging, with a high bar for content, a blend of old and new school baseball thought, a shitload of nonsense, and a posting schedule that first and foremost fits our availability and energy level. You will never see anything on Dome and Bedlam we are less than thrilled to share with you, because all content will be produced solely at the creator’s whim and availability.

If you’re still here, and if that sounds like something you’ll enjoy, welcome. You are our target audience, and we’re grateful for you. We can’t wait to get started. We hope you’ll make us a regular part of your reading routine, and you can follow us @DomeAndBedlam on Twitter.

Go Mariners, blah blah blah.