Random post-loss thoughts

DMZ · September 1, 2004 at 8:06 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I have trouble feeling bad about losing when Ichiro! goes 2-3 with a walk. Ichiro’s second-half performance is really one of the redeeming things about this season for me as a fan.

It was weird to see Meche doing a Ryan Franklin impression (low K, low BB, dinger) except without going deep into the game. Meche’s big problem early looked like endurance and control, not stuff… starts like this make a case that he’s no better at keeping his pitch count low so he can go further into games, but he’s working around the strike zone and relying on his defense, an entirely opposite approach that’s no more likely to be successful.

I really don’t want to see Delgado here if the price is expensive. For $500k, maybe. I was thinking about this today, and if I wanted the Mariners to spend wisely and I could only give them one rule, it would be “no one over thirty”.

Seriously. Nate Silver, the guy who came up with the PECOTA forecasting system BP uses, likes to remind me that career paths take weird paths far more often then we think. It’s easy to say “ballplayers tend to peak at 27-28” but that doesn’t mean that any particular one won’t peak early, or late, or suck in those years but be good around them.

But in the aggregate, you can’t beat age. Players may age gracefully, but teams rarely do, and never for very long. If the Mariners invest in quality free agents, like Beltran and Beltre (hmmm… that sounds like a threat: “Don’t make me get the Belts”), they need to be reasonably sure those players will be healthy and productive through the life of their contracts, and that you’re not paying in five years for a level of performance the player’s not remotely capable of achieving.


24 Responses to “Random post-loss thoughts”

  1. Pat Gillicks Hemorrhoids on September 1st, 2004 8:13 pm

    My prediction is that many overpriced free agents will be knocking on Bill Bavasi’s door, mug in hand.

  2. Dan on September 1st, 2004 9:00 pm

    On Ichiro: after today, he is 214/575 (.372)
    ESPN projects him at 265/711 (.372) for the season.
    He can go 44/136 (.324) for the rest of the season and end with 258 hits, breaking the record
    He can go 71/136 (.522) and hit .400 for the season. Less likely, and it would be an amazing month indeed, but looking at what he has done recently (5 of his last 6 games are multihit, .463 for august) it’s not that outlandish.

  3. Paul Covert on September 1st, 2004 9:11 pm

    Two words for any Mariners executive thinking about signing somebody to a long-term contract: Jeff Cirillo.

    The trouble with the Cirillo deal was that, by taking on the last four years of his contract, the M’s were in effect paying for the upside: even if he sustained his level of performance, he wouldn’t have been worth much more than his contract was paying him, and if his performance dropped off– well, you all saw what happened. When the trade came down, I thought (but unfortunately didn’t go on the record): “Hmmm– this looks risky; it’s okay if he comes through, but he’d better come through.” The questions I recommend asking are: “What’s the upside? What’s the downside? And do we come out ahead on balance?”

    In the same way as Cirillo’s deal was, signing Delgado to a $10M deal would also be risky. I don’t think an added game in the win column in Seattle will boost revenue by more than $2M (maybe less); and five games added value from Delgado seems like almost the best that could be hoped for. (His offensive VORP is on pace for about three games this year, after having been about six games in ’02 and ’03.) If he returns to near his previous level on a $10M deal, and if he sustains it for the life of the contract, then sure, that’s fine; but it’s unlikely that he’d go much beyond that level, and so the probability of that would have to be very high in order to offset the risk of him dropping off to mediocrity in the next few years. (My recommendation for a Delgado deal would be maybe $6M/year x 3 years. I suspect somebody else will offer him more; I’m happy to let them do so.)

    Beltran, on the other hand, has been worth a steady five to six games a year, is if anything stepping forward this year, and is young enough to be expected to sustain his performance for a while. So $10M x 4 years could easily be justified, maybe even five years. Going above that level could make sense on the grounds that, with a superstar, you can afford to take a loss on his direct contribution thanks to the boost he gives you in roster-construction (i.e. by letting you look for Ken Phelps-style bargains at other positions– hello, Bucky). So I could see $12M for Carlos for that reason. $15M I’d have a hard time supporting, unless someone could show me that the marginal revenue of a win in Seattle is $2.5M or more.

    Beltre is perhaps the trickiest case of all, due to the uncertainty surrounding the sustainability of his Great Leap Forward this year. He’s been worth about 2 or 3 games a year before this; now he’s suddenly on a pace for nine games value, maybe ten and a half counting defense (TangoTiger, using UZR, puts him at 16 runs per 162 games; Beltran is at eight, counting range and arm– see http://www.tangotiger.net/UZR0003.html). How to make sense of this? My guess is that PECOTA would probably split the difference, starting him off at maybe five or six games and slowly dropping off from there; given what we know about his appendectomy a couple years ago (which PECOTA does not), we can probably bump that up to seven or eight. So an argument can, I think, realistically be made for a $15M/year deal for Beltre– recognizing, of course, that if he does drop back to his prior level we’ll look like far bigger idiots than we did on Cirillo.

    I think I’d take that risk– but Howard Lincoln might not. My thought would be: “If he keeps up this MVP-quality level, he and Ichiro could give us a championship core to build around; and if not– well, that’s the risk you have to take in trying to put a championship team together.” Howard, on the other hand, seems more interested in winning 87 to 90 games every year, and is likely to want to spend his money on somebody with a better-established track record.

    (And one final thought: I haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere, but might it be possible that management wants this to be Ichiro’s team, and would be reluctant to upset the clubhouse by bringing in somebody at bigger dollars than what Ichiro’s getting? Not sure if that’s likely– Ichiro doesn’t seem like enough of a prima donna for that to be a big deal– but the thought has occurred to me from time to time.)

  4. johnB on September 1st, 2004 9:45 pm

    I think that there are three free agents that are out of our league financially and they are Beltran, Pedro, and it looks now like Beltre.

    Beltran, Beltre and a quality starter would really pump up season ticket sales and help get us competitve again. Your talking about 30 million for the two of those guys, and up to another 10 million for the starter.

    If we ended up with Sexson and Renteria I would be pretty estatic. Add a Milton, Ortiz, or Clement to the mix and you have a productive winter.

    The M’s need a lot of help in the bull pen too. We need a setup amn and a closer. Guardado probably can’t be counted on.

    The task ahead may be too difficult to complete in one year.

  5. Paul Weaver on September 2nd, 2004 10:22 am

    Let’s hope Guardado is one of those guys you can trade at the deadline next year.
    I like Ichiro’s chances at the record. He’ll definitely get a lot of MVP votes.
    If the win Beltran adds gets us to the playoffs, it’s definitely worth $2.5 million. All things considered, Beltran and Beltre are probably about equal in terms of salary – and I seriously doubt it is $10 mil or under.
    Delgado isn’t worth big money – first baseman are a dime a dozen. How much is a good risk for his bat though? $6mil, $8mil, one year $10mil deal.

    I think both sides of any deal can help each other out with an incentive laiden deal. If Beltre and Beltran have an opportunity to earn more than their current market value with incentives than they win, and if they underperform, we don’t lose.

    Cirillo was an aberration. It seemed like the perfect signing. A third baseman with a good glove, and a contact hitter, with the power to get doubles – a perfect fit for Safeco field, and great 2nd or 6th hitter. Even if he underperformed and hit .280, he would have been worth the price of his contract considering what third basemen were available at the time. The fact that he faired so poorly – it was like he was a different person than the one we signed.
    I would loove to get Renteria – he would fill a hole, but more importantly we would be able to use Jose Lopez in a Willie Bloomquist role, and see what he can do at other positions, while grooming him for the bigs.

  6. Pete on September 2nd, 2004 1:57 pm


    Jose Lopez needs to be hitting every day if he is to become our answer at shortstop. He will either be the Mariners starter, or play every day in Tacoma next year. It would be completely unproductive to put him in a utility role. If you want to know if he can play other positions, move him around in Tacoma. Don’t stunt a 20-year-old’s growth before he even has a chance to mature…

  7. Paul Covert on September 2nd, 2004 2:56 pm

    Re. Cirillo: Yes, I agree that his performance was well on the downside of what could have been expected. But even then, adjusting the Coorsflation out of his stats suggested at least the realistic possibility that he was beginning the decline phrase.

    And besides that, he was 32 years old, under contract through age 35. Cirillo is by no means the first player to see his game fall apart on the wrong side of thirty (nor the last; see “Spiezio, Scott”). Sure, not every over-30 signing (or, as in Cirillo’s case, trade) will turn out that badly; but still, the risk is a real one that must be accounted for.

    So I agree with Derek that “you can’t beat age”– at least, not indefinitely. The M’s did well to hold out as long as they did. But the risks do have to be recognized up front.

  8. devil's advocate on September 2nd, 2004 3:01 pm

    here’s hoping, for the sake of drama, that Ichiro passes Sisler on the last day of the season; i think that’d be the coolest way to do it. the fact that i already have tickets for that game, of course has no bearing on this opinion. apart from that, it would be cool to see him go nuts and push the record up past 270-275.

  9. Paul Weaver on September 2nd, 2004 3:19 pm


    “Jose Lopez needs to hitting everyday if he is to become our answer at shorstop.”

    Is your logic substantiated? (Not saying mine is either.) If Lopez performs, he should hit everyday – that’s how most managers approach it.
    Lopez may not be the answer at shortstop as many have suggested on this site – in which case we may be costing Renteria a spot. It has also been pointed out that he has nothing left to learn in AAA, so why send him down to hit everyday? McLemore hit everyday in 01 without a solid position – perhaps I should have said McLemore rather than Bloomquist in terms of Lopez’s role – supposing he comes around.
    Should there be any injuries he would get a lot of playing time anyway.
    If we’re thinking about him as 2B in ’06, then next season will be grooming time. Otherwise we could be plugging up the SS position, and there would be a hole there if he moves to 2B in ’06.

  10. Troy Sowden on September 2nd, 2004 3:46 pm

    I think there’s a big difference there, Paul. McLemore was well over 30 years-old, he wasn’t going to get any better whether he played every day or not. Lopez can’t even drink yet, and certainly has plenty more to learn. He’s not going to learn that riding the pine every day, or even every other day. He needs to be facing live pitching day after day. I’m with Pete – play him or send him down. Let’s not do him like the Twinkies did Michael Cuddyer.

  11. Paul Weaver on September 2nd, 2004 4:20 pm

    I can see giving him playing time every day at the big league level, but not a the AAA level. The Mariner’s stunted Tino Martinez’s growth by holding on to (overpaid) Pete O’brien while Martinez dominated AAA. I’ve been studying other shorstops brought up at a young age and I guess it makes sense to thrust him into the position. I can concede that he might not be better off in a utility role.
    But if he is overhyped at shortstop, as is often contended here, and is the Mariner’s future 2B, and really has nothing more to learn at the AAA level, then why not a utility role? He would get playing time and PAs against major league calibre pitching.

  12. Dan on September 2nd, 2004 4:20 pm

    Just to note, cirillo did have inflated stats while hitting at coors, but his pre-coors numbers with the brewers were comparable. What likely happened is his decline started when he left the brewers, coorsflation kept him looking talented, then all illusions were lost when he landed in seattle.

  13. Paul Weaver on September 2nd, 2004 4:51 pm

    Sorry to be a Troll. I swear I’m moving on to places where I won’t be on this site the rest of the day.
    Coorsflation doesn’t explain a batting average drop from .312 to .249, especially when he was hitting mostly singles to begin with (in ’01). One red flag though was his walks had been declining a lot.

  14. Dan on September 2nd, 2004 5:14 pm

    In 2001, cirillo hit .362 at coors, and .313 overall. At least i believe those numbers are right, i haven’t found a good stats page that gives splits other than espn, and they only go back to 2002.

    In any case, he probably hit around .260 on the road in 2001.

  15. Steve on September 2nd, 2004 5:26 pm

    Ichiro will get MVP votes? From idiots. He’s not even the best, or second-best, right fielder in the AL, record or no record.

  16. Jim Thomsen on September 2nd, 2004 5:40 pm

    A good cautionary tale regarding Jose Lopez might be found in Cal Ripken Jr.’s first season. Bill James, in his 1983 Abstract, did an entertaining job of describing how Earl Weaver put this moose out there at short (remember, 1982 was a time of Ozzie Smiths and Garry Templetons and yes, Spike Owenses, when .240-hitting slap-batters who played short always batted at the top of the order without drawing walks) and the world watch him flail horribly for three or four months. At bat, he was overmatched. In the field (I saw a few of these games, and thought he was the worst fielding shortstop since Alfredo Griffin) he looked like he learned his footwork from Three Stooges shorts. James, among others, rained derision on Weaver for sticking with Ripken in the worst depths of his struggles … then, all of a sudden, something clicked. Ripken turned it around, and found who the scouts thought he would be all along, and won the Rookie of the Year despite a lost first half. It happens. Sometimes players can’t succeed until you give them the chance to fail. Like with the arms of Meche and King Phelicks, there is such a thing as being too overprotective. This is Lopez’s time to fail, and let’s watch and hope he fails well.

  17. Kyle S on September 2nd, 2004 7:05 pm

    I started writing this and can’t finish it, but there’s some interesting stuff in here so read it if you want:

    “I’m sure there are other economists reading this blog who might find what I have to say at least slightly familiar; to the others, I apologize, and will try to make as much sense as possible. Roster construction seems to me to be several complicated economics issues closely intertwined.

    It’s a constrained optimization problem: picking players that provide the most value per dollar while staying within a budget constraint (unless you’re the Yankees and just go after whoever you want; seriously, look what they have done the past three or four years). It’s applied auction theory: bidding against other participants under conditions of incomplete information (in fact, there might be a Senior Thesis somewhere in here: “The Loser’s Curse and Major League Baseball contracts.” Too bad I just graduated). It’s econometrics: using historical data to find new measurements of value and hence undervalued assets.

    All in all, it’s way too complicated to leave to a few leather-assed scouts who like the moxie in the Franklin kid. Then again, they often provide insight into areas where statistical analysis has failed. For example, Brian Dopirak had a horrible season last year after the Cubs used a high draft pick on him; Baseball Prospectus was merciless in their derision. This year, as a 20 year old in low A, he’s hitting .307 BA/.587 SLG with 37 home runs. Some scout saw that potential in him. Good teams have both of these people helping make decisions about personnel (at least, as a Braves fan, I like to hope we have at least one guy who can use Excel).

    It is not only difficult to determine which assets to acquire (especially the best risky assets, i.e. an old player, a relief pitcher, most starters, etc etc), but it’s also very difficult to properly value them. I think that economically-oriented baseball fans such as myself, especially those versed in sabermetrics, have become far too arrogant with their “superior” knowledge. While criticism of Bill Bavasi for his job with the Mariners is justified, what about JP Ricciardi with the Blue Jays?”

    It started okay but got to rambling. I guess I want to say that as an economist I see so many areas where I could apply my knowledge to various problems, but also see where like knowledge was applied in the past and failed. In other words, good luck affording Beltran, and I hope Lopez turns into a great player.

  18. EA on September 2nd, 2004 9:15 pm

    i haven’t found a good stats page that gives splits other than espn, and they only go back to 2002.”

    They can show splits going back further, but you have to manually type the year into the address bar at the top. Bring up the splits page for a year and you’ll get something like http://sports.espn.go.com/mlbhist/players/splits?statsId=4135&type=batting&year=2002
    Replace the year on the end with the year you are interested in.

    Here, go re-live some good memories..

  19. Paul Covert on September 2nd, 2004 11:09 pm

    Thanks for the good memories, EA. 🙂

  20. Paul Weaver on September 3rd, 2004 9:22 am

    EA, *sniff*, those were the good ol’ days *sniff*

    This thread has surely helped me develop/change my thoughts – except I still believe Cirillo was an aberration. His road splits from 01 put him at .266. But that could also be due to variation (look at other years) plus lots of players do better at home, or on the road. a .366 avg at Coors cannot simply be credited to Coorsification – it still takes talent to do that. If you de-coorsify his home average and add it to his road average, he’d still be about .285 or so. Either way, I was fooled – I thought it was a great trade.

    I’ve watched Lopez play some shortstop (in Tacoma and Seattle), and he doesn’t seem any better or worse than Guillen was. I’ve evolved to think we should take the risk (especially after looking at other 18-22 year old shortstops in MLB history) and put him out there fulltime in ’05 – maybe pass on Renteria, or try to trade Boone. The pitching won’t be ready yet anyway, so build a player in a rebuilding year.

  21. Pete on September 3rd, 2004 10:44 am


    For my part, Ichiro and Vladimir Guerrero are the two best right fielders in the game.

    But that’s just me….

  22. giuseppe on September 3rd, 2004 12:12 pm

    Derek, I completely agree with your one rule for the front office. This is a team in rebuilding mode and if done very well, it could be a short rebuild (2 years). Grabbing an aging 1B with knee problems is not smart rebuilding. We’ll soon be in the same position we are now if they sign Delgado. That would fall in line perfectly with the Mariners past strategy and I am hoping they move away from that. If they could get him cheap that’d be great, but he made $19.7M this year, right?

    Hickey has an article in the PI today saying Delgado’s the kind of player you can rebuild around!!! What is wrong with people!?! I can understand Edgar saying the Mariners should go after him, they’re friends, countrymen, etc., but I expect more from a sportswriter. I guess I shouldn’t.

    Beltre and Beltran are rare talents, young AND they address serious holes in our system. A rising star CF and 3B are just what the Mariners need. Granted, 1B isn’t all wrapped up either, but we have serviceable players for that area. When options like “The Belt Brothers” are out there to fill what you really need and build around you don’t overpay for something you already have.

    I currently live in LA and have Dodger season tickets. I would prefer Beltre to be in a Mariner uniform next year, but if he leaves LA AND doesn’t end up as a Mariner, this will be the worst off season ever for me. Yes, worse than last year.

    Please let me be wrong.

  23. Pete on September 3rd, 2004 3:27 pm


    I agree that Beltre and Beltran are young and are rare talents, and therefore more worth the risk. However, the odds of landing both of those players is very minimal, even impossible. So, less than ideally, the Mariners could pull off signing one of the two, and then settle on a cheaper (hopefully) Delgado.

    I don’t see how having either Beltran or Beltre batting third and Delgado in cleanup could possible be a bad thing…

    Sure he’s 32, but playing on natural grass should help his knees, and he could platoon with Bucky at 1B/DH for rest.

    Delgado has had a similar six weeks to Ichiro in terms of being hot – substituting power for sheer number of hits. He’s raised his average over 44 points since the last week of July. He’s hit about .320 with 13 HRs and 3 RBIs during those six weeks.

    He surely won’t put up those numbers constantly, but having someone capable of hot streaks like that can’t ge a liability. He’s a born hitter, and he’s left handed. If the price isn’t too steep, he’s absolutely worth the risk…..because there isn’t any way we’ll sign both Beltran and Beltre.

    3 years $25 million (about $8m per) for Delgado, 6 years $78 million ($13m per) for Beltre(an) sounds about right to me. $21 million on a couple of sluggers. A bunch of cash left for fill out the rotation and bullpen.

  24. Pete on September 3rd, 2004 3:30 pm

    Woops, Delgado’s 6-week totals were supposed to look like “.320ish, 13 HRs, and 37 RBIs”…not 13 HRs and 3 RBIs. …However, if he could pull off the latter, he’d fit in perfectly with the inexplicable 2004 version of the M’s.