Dave · December 23, 2004 at 12:45 am · Filed Under Mariners 

The P-I has a nice article on the offseason up. It’s well-written, makes a solid point, and is a nice change from the analysis we usually get from the local dailies. It’s definitely worth reading.

And I hear the author’s a pretty good guy.


46 Responses to “P-I”

  1. Matt Staples on December 23rd, 2004 12:48 am

    Great article, Derek, and congrats on getting in the P-I. Needless to say, it will be great to have you in the mainstream press.

  2. tede on December 23rd, 2004 12:59 am

    Yes, very good article.

    Two questions though. Were you able to choose the name of column “Off The Wall” and did you or the editor select the title for this first column?

    Actually a third question. Does this now make you an official member of the MSM, and if so do you get a press pass instead of your 300 level seats? I suggest sitting with the Japanese media instead of with Pocket Lint.

  3. matthew on December 23rd, 2004 1:19 am

    if he doesn’t sit with pocket lint, then who else will we hear from that lint was playing solitaire on his computer rather than watching the game? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Chickenhawk on December 23rd, 2004 1:22 am

    Wow, very good article. You actually got in a few zingers, all the while making excellent points to back up your arguments.

  5. PositivePaul on December 23rd, 2004 1:22 am

    Kudos to the PI, too, for allowing an infiltrator from the blogosphere (albeit a well-published industry expert outside of the blogosphere) to crossover. Another reason why the PI kicks the Times @55…

  6. Ryan Carson on December 23rd, 2004 1:28 am

    Agreed, kudos to DMZ!!! All hail the coming of blogobot! Seriously, I would like to see another feature, one where Derek rips Pocket Lint’s column to shreds and PL is asked to respond. Could make for a great read.

  7. matthew on December 23rd, 2004 1:31 am
  8. Brian Bach on December 23rd, 2004 1:43 am

    Derek, as usual, an insightful piece of writing. Congratulations to you for breaking into the mainstream press, and congratulations to the PI for recognizing that you and others who write for blogs have a contribution to make to M’s fans who mainly read newspapers.

  9. Joseph on December 23rd, 2004 3:08 am

    But if you’re going to get in a zinger, shouldn’t it be a fair zinger? Mo Vaughn gave the Angels two years of 115 OPS+, the Angels traded him, he put in another year at well above league average, and then got hurt.
    If that is one of the worst deals in major league history, what is Wilson Alvarez’ contract, or Albert Belle’s, or Jason Giambi’s? In your professional opinion, Vaughn’s contract is really one of the worst in history?

  10. Tricky Dicky on December 23rd, 2004 3:42 am

    When did the “Milhous” disappear? Shouldn’t you change to DZ?

  11. Joshua on December 23rd, 2004 5:37 am


    That is a breath of resh air, my man! But then, that’s nothing new around here. Does your attachment to the P-I mean your writings will be will be a bit less critical of the team and the media from now on?

  12. David J Corcoran on December 23rd, 2004 8:25 am

    YES!!! Derek has finally been discovered! Good Job, Derek! Oh yeah, and the article is pretty darned good too.

  13. David J Corcoran on December 23rd, 2004 8:26 am

    Now let’s see if he can get to print, eh?

  14. Myron on December 23rd, 2004 8:28 am

    I agree that it was an excellent article. However, I was a little surprised at a couple of the points Derek made in light of other points that have been made here at USS Mariner and elsewhere. I keep hearing over and over again from stat-oriented columnists that batting average is a very overrated statistic, and that a better offensive approach is to seek high OBP (via both hits and walks) and power. And yet Derek says:

    “A player such as Mo Vaughn, who has what people call ‘older-player skills’ — the walks, the home runs — ages much less gracefully, and sometimes drops off the face of the sport in one glorious collapse of a season.”

    “At the same time, [Sexson will] be 30 next year, and doesn’t hit for a high average.”

    Was this just to make the article better relate to casual fans who view batting average as the primary offensive statistic?

  15. Chris Begley on December 23rd, 2004 8:44 am

    Congrats Derek on making another jump up! Way to stick with things. And we thought you were just in this to entertain us.

  16. Gabriel on December 23rd, 2004 8:54 am

    Derek, I think it’s testimony to your value as a writer that my first reaction was “that’s great for the P-I” rather than “great for Derek.” I look forward to the weekly column.

  17. david C on December 23rd, 2004 8:55 am

    Now the big question is when do you get your BWAA membership?

  18. petec on December 23rd, 2004 9:06 am

    Myron beat me to it by a bit. Great article – nice balance between speaking the lingo the average fan will understand while still appealing to this crowd.

    Now, your challenge is to educate the masses, little by little, to the beauty of OPS. Leave the VORP/RCAA/EQA stuff out for good or you’ll lose ’em.

    It can work. I was once one of the unwashed masses, back in my days at Digital Equipment. We had a primitive in-house version of discussion groups and I spent many days ripping on Jay Buhner because of his BA and strikeouts. I have since seen the light and others will too.

  19. Paul Covert on December 23rd, 2004 9:09 am

    Congratulations, Derek. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Myron– it’s important to distinguish between assessing the present value of a player’s contributions, and predicting his future development. The stathead community in general has often stumbled on that point, but I think Derek did a good job of (at least implicitly) distinguishing the two in his article.

    On one hand, it’s true that batting average and stolen bases have traditionally been overrated relative to power and (especially) walks, and to some extent still are (but not nearly as much as 20 years ago when “OBP” was an obscure technical term). To understand the relative contributions of base hits, home runs, walks, and steals to an offense is still essential in putting a team together, and is also useful in putting together an intelligent MVP ballot.

    However, the skills that are most valuable in present performance aren’t always the most useful in predicting future performance. The future tends to favor players with broad skillsets (including both offensive and defensive skills). Even Edgar Martinez started out as a third baseman with respectable foot speed. We often think of guys as they were at the end of careers; but nobody in 1989 would have applied to Edgar the label of the “slow, patient slugger.” Barry Bonds was a much more all-around player in his 20’s than he is now. For that matter, even Harmon Killebrew first came to the majors as an 18-year-old second baseman, and made his first appearance as a pinch runner.

    There’s a tendency to associate Bill James and the sabermetric revolution with the “new” concepts like the importance of getting on base, which differed from the old-school conventional wisdom. But one point on which James strongly agreed with the old school was the importance of building a team up the middle. In one of his early Mariners team comments, he remarked the franchise’s first two major trades had gotten rid of a young shortstop (Craig Reynolds) and a young centerfielder (Ruppert Jones), and that that was no way to build a team.

    James (as far as I know) coined the term “the defensive spectrum” for the way different position’s skills relate to each other. The spectrum goes (DH) – 1B – LF – RF – 3B – CF – 2B – SS, with catcher being a separate case. The idea is that you can usually move a player leftward along the spectrum, but that rightward moves rarely work out. A shortstop can usually also play second or third (or, as Robin Yount, even center); a third baseman can’t usually move to short or second (a very good third baseman might, but won’t be as good there). Likewise, a third baseman can usually move to first or to an outfield corner; the same move in reverse doesn’t usually work. Therefore, a good young player at a premium defensive position can usually stay in the game even if he loses some of his skill areas– either remaining a valuable fielder in spite of a weak bat, or (more likely) remaining a good hitter but shifting to a less demanding defensive position.

    One possible explanation for this effect is that a player who has a broad skillset in his prime will still have some untapped talent; since he’s had to develop his skills in several areas, he won’t have maxed out in any one area, and as he focuses more intently on his core skill areas (usually hitting, as he moves to easier defensive positions), he’ll be able to counteract the effects of aging in those areas; he’ll be less of an all-around player than before, but will still be valuable for what he is. However, when a guy’s already a slow slugger at 28– what you see is what you get, and there’s nowhere to go but down.

    So, back to your original question about why Derek was paying attention to batting average– it’s not that batting average is the end-all of performance metrics, but that it does still represent a real skill area, and that as such it helps to indicate how broad a player’s skill set is; which in turn gives an indication of how well he’ll hold up as he moves into his thirties.

  20. IgnatiusReilly on December 23rd, 2004 9:22 am

    Congratulations on the paying gig Derek. Don’t try to say it all in one piece…

  21. Nony on December 23rd, 2004 9:24 am

    Excellent work, DMZ – I’m happy to see your work in the PI!
    Also, that’s an excellent post, Mr Covert. I understood most of that stuff already, but you did a good job of presenting it in a clear fashion. Maybe the PI is looking for another writer?

  22. Dan Gonsor on December 23rd, 2004 9:34 am

    I don’t follow the logic of the Gillick analysis. The Mariners were a good to very good team each year he was the GM. That tells me that his philosophy is/was successful. Also, if Cleveland still had Manny Ramirez, he would have been the only good hitter on Cleveland? Check out Travis Hafner’s stats, and Victor Martinez. One last comment. When the Rangers signed A-ROD, he was taking about 20% of their payroll, and they weren’t tearing down the team (at least they didn’t think they were).

  23. Bill Fugazi on December 23rd, 2004 9:54 am

    That’s fantasic, Derek! A weekly column!!

    But dang! Now I guess this means I’ll have to start taking the paper daily in order not to miss the Thursday edition.

  24. msb on December 23rd, 2004 9:56 am

    hey– where’s the byline photo? maybe posed in front of the lockers with notepad in hand, a la John Mcgrath?

  25. Sully on December 23rd, 2004 10:13 am

    Not to nitpick but Travis Hafner is pretty good. Manny wouldn’t be the only good hitter for Cleveland.

  26. DMZ on December 23rd, 2004 10:26 am

    Now I guess this means Iรขโ‚ฌโ„ขll have to start taking the paper daily in order not to miss the Thursday edition.

    It’s not in print, it’s online only. And it’s a trial run, so if you like these columns, and want more, or if you want to see them reach print, well… I’ll say that emailing or calling me isn’t what you want to do.

  27. Jeff Nye on December 23rd, 2004 10:33 am


    Big congrats in getting into the REAL Seattle sports paper. (well, as real as it gets anyway. I just don’t like the Times).

    Who do we contact to let them know that we want more?

  28. Dave Paisley on December 23rd, 2004 11:16 am

    I checked the “most printed” and “most emailed” lists. Off the Wall is 4th on the most printed, but not in the top ten of most emailed. Presuming these are some indications of popularity that’s pretty good, but why not email a copy to a friend?

    In addition to sending a nice, complimentary email to the editor, of course.

  29. Tobin on December 23rd, 2004 11:17 am

    There’s always room for shameless self promotion! Ha Ha! Good write!

  30. RealRhino on December 23rd, 2004 11:19 am

    Derek, is there really much support for the contention that great teams have been built as you say they’ve been built? I think too much reliance on our definition of “stopgap” or “who-dat” players is required to make that claim successfully.

    For example, you claim that Gillick didn’t believe in the concept of stars surrounded by “scrubs,” we’ll call them. You claim that his philosophy was shaped by the success of the 2001 team, which (seemingly) had no stars. But you claim that his view of the 2001 team was false, because there really were players playing at a star level who just weren’t considered as such before that. The implication is that in 2002 and 2003 Gillick — having incorrectly identified the strategy that led to the success of the 2001 team — continued to avoid stars while signing Proven Veterans. Derek, you’ve just said there *were* stars on the team. You even identified them as Ichiro, Boone, Edgar, Moyer and Garcia. As you will notice, ALL of those guys remained on the team in 2002 and 2003. Isn’t it just as likely that Gillick (in 2002 and 2003) did almost precisely what you say he didn’t do — and that good teams should do — by surrounding his “stars” with decent players at relatively short-term contracts, and in some cases, cheap youngsters? Isn’t it possible that he in fact *recognized* that these guys WERE the stars you say a team needs, and that he believed they would continue to produce at a high enough level to assume that if he got guys like Olerud and Winn, and added youngsters like Meche, that we would succeed? Where you see him failing to sign high-priced stars, isn’t it equally accurate to say that he did you one better, by signing and retaining mid-priced stars? And that his failing may have been that instead of using the “savings” from having star players at reasonable prices to go and acquire MORE stars (for which he would presumably pay market price), he either (a) pocketed the money for the owners (paying down debt) or (b) overpaid mid-tier players at every other position? I just don’t get that you say he didn’t believe in having stars when you’ve identified five of them on the team.

    Finally, I’m not sure there’s support for the claim that Boston had stars + who-dat players (nor that the Yankees or Marlins had that kind of roster construction, either). Who exactly were these “who-dat?” players on the Red Sox? I give you Manny, Pedro, Schilling, Nomar and Foulke as clearly the “stars” on the team. Maybe Ortiz, as a mid-priced surprise. The rest of the team looks comprised almost entirely of the kinds of guys you suggest Gillick stockpiled, to the M’s detriment. Damon, Nixon, Varitek, Millar, Meuller, Wakefield, Williamson, Embree, etc.; aren’t these just the kinds of guys we think of when we think of paying good money for demonstrated good — but not spectacular — production? Maybe the difference is that each of these guys is just above the “filler” that the M’s had on the roster. Maybe the difference between good teams like the M’s and great teams like the Red Sox and Yankees is that difference between a $90 million payroll and a $120 million payroll, rather than a philosophical difference in player acquisition. Because of the payroll difference, the guys surrounding the M’s stars were of the $4-7 million variety, while the guys surrounding the stars on the Red Sox and Yankees are of the $5-$9 million variety. None of them really had many cheap youngsters in productive roles that I can recall.

    Anyway, I like the article overall.

  31. Jim Thomsen on December 23rd, 2004 11:28 am

    Derek … as a fellow print journalist, welcome to mainstream hackdom! Your next step is to put on 40 pounds, dress badly and inhale the pre-game press buffet while strutting around self-importantly with at least six badges, tags and pieces of ID dangling from your neck.

    Seriously, the concept, as well as the execution, is wonderful. And I’ll e-mail the P-I to say as much.

    Regarding the thread below about the future of the site … I personally would be willing to do my part to help financially sustain USS Mariner so you and Dave and Jason can be free to be paid full-time baseball pundits. I suspect that’s where USS Mariner is eventually going, even if that day isn’t imminent. I think we should do everything possible to create circumstances in which you never have to say “I don’t have the time to do this.” Because Seattle baseball needs your perspective, and needs your growing infiltration into the mainstream to the point that Mariners management disregards or marginalizes you at its peril.

    I guess that begs the question: Are you three willing to explore scenarios in which you do nothing else professionally but write and consult about baseball? If so, let’s talk about how to make that happen.

  32. lyle in pdx on December 23rd, 2004 11:40 am

    i don’t know if i would agree that manny ramirez would have been the only decent hitter on cleveland last year. travis hafner almost had a 1.000 ops, in 490+ at bats.

    good article, though.

  33. PositivePaul on December 23rd, 2004 12:08 pm

    He makes his home on the Eastside.

    Jim, if you’ve got pockets that deep (or know someone who does), I’ve got a non-baseball related business venture that needs some assistance…

    I recall it being posted here, too, several weeks ago that the M’s were looking for staff writers for their web site. I’d argue that any one of the three here would be a nice counter to (or replacement for) the writer known as “Street”.

  34. Todd on December 23rd, 2004 12:10 pm

    Great to see your viewpoints in print in the local paper, Derek!

    Regarding your statement “they were almost an all-star team,” I’ll say that might even be a little bit understated — the M’s had EIGHT all-stars in 2001 (Boone, Cameron, Garcia, Edgar, J. Nelson, Olerud, Sasaki, Ichiro — nine if you count Piniella).

  35. PositivePaul on December 23rd, 2004 12:17 pm

    Yeah, Todd, I was going to point that out, too. The argument, then, becomes whether that Seattle glut of All Star roster was due to the game being hosted in Safeco, or that the M’s were by far the best team in baseball at that point.

  36. Jim Thomsen on December 23rd, 2004 12:26 pm

    The point I was trying to make is that as much as I love the unruly democracy of this place, I support the idea of eventually making it a registered, subscription-only site if it will help free Derek, Dave and Jason from their non-baseball paycheck endeavors and make them into the full-time pundits sorely needed by baseball in general and the Seattle area in particular.

    I’ll continue to do my part by trying to introduce their work into the mainstream press elsewhere whenever possible, as I did last spring in the Seattle Weekly. They do important work.

  37. Ryan on December 23rd, 2004 12:26 pm

    Congrats Derek.

    I’ll be sure to let the PI know we want it in the print edition.

    I noticed a dearth of statistical analysis in your first column. Is your plan to kind of ease into that as you gain a foothold with the mainstream?

    I would love to see EQA and VORP mentioned in the PI (hell, I’d even settle for OPS every now and then). That might be asking for too much, though.

  38. Lonnie on December 23rd, 2004 3:16 pm

    Very well written, and I agree with most of it too! What I would like to see is some sort of comparison between Richie Sexson and another player who suffered the same type of injury at the same level of severity.

    All in all, job well done!

  39. David J Corcoran on December 23rd, 2004 3:22 pm

    Re 31:

    Dave, DMZ, and Jason, I am sure that if ever comes a time where you feel you need money to keep up this blog, bandwidth or otherwise, I am sure almost all of us would be more than willing to give whatever we can afford to keep this site running. Try to avoid subscription, but take donations.

  40. Rob on December 23rd, 2004 4:42 pm

    Congrats on the article DMZ, I was even more suprised to see it was one of the three M’s articles for me to read today on my espn insider.

    As a note on the article with sexson and spending more for beltran, it looks like the price of beltran is going to be too much. 96mil for 6 years from houston. Jeez I could never imagine spending 16million a year for him. Although that is only 3.5 more then sexson.

    I hope you continue to write for the PI, I just gotta convince my dad that he should cancel his times subscription and switch to the PI…

  41. Matt Staples on December 23rd, 2004 5:27 pm

    I could see spending $16m per season on Beltran — to me, Beltran plus, say, Bucky would be better than Sexson plus Ibanez for the same price — but what I could not see is beating the Yankees and Astros in the bidding for him. We’d probably have to make an offer along the lines of 7 years, $125m for him to come here.

  42. Josh on December 23rd, 2004 7:47 pm

    DMZ got this article linked to on Primer now.

  43. Noel on December 24th, 2004 12:57 am

    The strength of USSM is the legions of casual readers who lurk in the background and slowly get more interested and eventually morph into contributors of analysis and wisdom. It’s a “critical mass” thing, and USSM has clearly surpassed that critical mass (an awesome accomplishment in itself).

    The challenge in the future will be to maintain the flow of new readers and existing readers/posters, while dealing with the rising time/cost demands of the site.

    Long-term, a hybrid site with some free content and some paid content (along the lines of Baseball Prospectus) might work quite well. The free content would keep the casuals interested, while the lure of good paid content would entice some of them to subscribe. That’s how Baseball Prospectus hooked me. ๐Ÿ˜€

    In the meantime, as suggested in #39, creating a facility for ad-hoc donations would make sense. Paypal is relatively simple these days. I could see myself kicking in a few Canadian pesos from time to time. And hey, Canadian currency is actually worth something lately. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  44. DMZ on December 24th, 2004 2:05 am

    While the three of us discuss the site frequently, I will say that we are not considering putting up a donation button of any sort. And you’ll have to trust me when there are excellent reasons we’re not pursuing it.

  45. topher on December 24th, 2004 2:08 am

    I agree with Gabriel #16: the PI is getting the best bargain here!

    #43 – Excellent point! That’s how I got hooked on on the USS too. Consistent insight and high signal to noise ratio. Good writing is hard to come by, not just in baseball but overall.

    As to finances, I for one would be happy to buy a subscription. Just tell me where to sign up! (And this from someone who’s never bought a subscription to anything on the Net). Beyond that, I’d be interested in buying some advertizing on your site for my small 9-person business. As Jim Thomsen said, you provide a valuable service. I wonder if other small businesses would be interested in sponsoring your site? If you guys are interested, please feel free to email me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  46. Brian Rust on December 24th, 2004 9:01 am

    It’s not just a blog, it’s “THE AUTHORITATIVE BLOG,” U.S.S. Mariner. Ooooh. Sounds like a tagline to me. Congratulations!!!