“Kevin Jarvis warm in the bullpen, Melvin’s got the towel ready… he’s wiping his hands off. I guess his hands were dirty, Dave.”
“No question about it Rick, you can see on the replay–”
“And there goes the towel! Jarvis is coming in from the bullpen and we’ll be right back after this time-out.”
Not to pick on Art Thiel, I’m just using this as a starting point. He writes about the team’s start (“Mariners’ early struggles cause for concern“)
“Indeed, 10 percent of a baseball season is a small sample from which to make sweeping conclusions. Teams have rallied from deeper holes to greater glories, none more recently than the 2003 Florida Marlins.”
You want to wait 30, maybe 40 games before you start to draw any conclusions about the overall strength of the team. Unbalanced play at the start of the season makes this particularly true right now.
That said, one of the reasons the Marlins turned their season around was they fired their manager and put Jack McKeon on the bench. It paid off all year long: McKeon’s so old-school his ideas seem new to people, but he’s generally been much less concerned about pitcher roles than the LaRussa managers, and also willing to flex his lineups around to fit as much talent on it as possible. The Marlins called up Miguel Cabrera, made trades to beef up the lineup… when McKeon got them back on track, they reinforced success.
None of these options seem likely for the Mariners. Melvin’s unlikely to be fired (and given the absence of more-qualified candidates we can be sure would be better, why would we?), so that kind of turnaround is unlikely. The team doesn’t have any impact position players in the high minors ready to step up and contribute in the way Cabrera did. They’ve been historically unwilling to trade for high-salary players, even those they really need, and to expend stockpiled farm system talent to win that year. The best thing we’ve got in that department might be Soriano, who could step into the rotation when he’s healthy, and maybe — and I’m reluctant to mention this — King Felix as a Francisco Rodriguez-type bullpen addition.
Generally though, while their are outliers (teams that start hot and suck, teams that start slow and win 102 games on the season), we find that teams that start slowly are indeed bad. We like to drag the A’s out, but again, the difference is so large: the A’s are a team that Beane constantly improves through the season, while the M’s play the hand they’re dealt on Opening Day, and have for years. When you look at teams that have started like the M’s have, you find a lot of teams that finished shy of 80 wins on the season, a few that broke .500, and very few that did well for themselves.
Because that deals with larger aggregates, it’s probably a more accurate indicator than (say) player comparisons, too.
Someone pointed me to this Art Thiel column. It echoes something in Levesque’s column. Bavasi’s trying to spread the word that he’s into stats, which if he believes that he is, is actually more disturbing than the alternative. The team tried to hire Craig Wright, but failed, and —
Bavasi is continuing his search, but the market is competitive.
Qualified analysts are in such demand that the best sign non-compete clauses so they don’t work for two clubs in the same division or league.
The Mariners are still looking.
“We do our own stats, but you need a guy who thinks out of the box,” Bavasi said.
If you want a guy who thinks out of the box, you can’t look in the box for him.
It’s moments like this I wish I hadn’t been a Mariners fan, and written so much publically-archived material on the team and my opinion of their management. I’m over here!! Look, and here’s Jason, and Dave knows the minors really well! Helllloooooooooooooo!!!!
Probably be a pretty short interview, though.
“Tell us what you guys bring to the team that we don’t already have.”
“A dissenting voice, first. We can make cogent arguments about why the moves you’re making might not be in the best interest of the team, offer better, cheaper alternatives, and help add a depth of knowledge the organization has historically lacked.”
“We’re really more of a team here in the front office… this dissent thing, it wouldn’t fit in with the team concept we’ve worked so hard to build.”
“Dissent doesn’t have to be personal, or divisive. Only good can come of honest discussion and arguments and it’ll make the organization better from–”
“Thanks for coming in.”
Here’s the big thing, though: Thiel makes a huge, huge error in his column:
He also knows that most of the recent A’s stars — Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez — were acquired before Beane’s arrival, using traditional methods.
This is false. I mean it’s flat out, verifiably false, something that even the barest of fact checking would have revealed.
As Rob Neyer pointed out in this column, “Beane was the A’s assistant general manager in 1997, when Hudson was drafted, and he was general manager in 1998 and 1999 when Mulder and Zito were drafted.”
This is at best lazy writing by Thiel, taking something Bavasi said (which would still be wrong) and paraphrasing it without looking it up, followed by sloppy fact-checking (if any was done) by the PI. But I don’t understand how stuff this wrong gets printed, when it takes a couple of minutes and a web search to determine that.
Further, mocking Oakland’s skew towards college drafting, as Bavasi does earlier, should spur Thiel to note that of those guys, in order that he mentions them —
Hudson – Auburn University
Zito – USC
Mulder – Michigan State University
Giambi – Long Beach State University
only Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez weren’t drafted out of college.