Free agent compensation

November 23, 2005 · Filed Under General baseball · 23 Comments 

This has come up in talks about free agents: the Mariners, if they sign Burnett or Millwood, would lose a second-round draft pick. They can’t lose a first because the’re in the first half of the draft order on account of being really bad last year. And let’s be frank, second round picks aren’t nearly the bee’s knees that a first round pick is.

For a complete listing of who’s classified as what, Jim Callis at Baseball America wrote it up for you.

Left-handed sock on the move

November 23, 2005 · Filed Under General baseball · 43 Comments 

A couple of guys the Mariners might have been considering in trade to fill the perceived need for more LH power have switched teams:

Carlos Delgado goes from the Marlins to the Mets
Jim Thome, it appears, is moving from the Phillies to the White Sox to make room for Ryan Howard, who will no longer be availble for trade rumors

Interesting times.

Manny Ramirez wants to come to Seattle?

November 23, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 139 Comments 

That’s what the Boston Herald says, claiming that the mercurial masher wishes a trade to the M’s or the Angels.

Manny Ramirez’ fondest wish – currently – is to play for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or the Seattle Mariners. The AL West rivals, according to a source close to the Red Sox left fielder, top the list of teams he wants to be traded to. Still, it is no secret around baseball that Ramirez has been known to change his mind and that his current desire to be traded could cool altogether.

The article speculates that Manny’s familiarity with Mike Hargrove is a factor in this seemingly out-of-nowhere impulse.

This strikes me as very far-fetched, though in theory I would love to see his bat in the lineup. Since I try to refrain from cooking up speculative trades, let’s leave it at that. The part that interests me from the article is this:

A Mariners source said last night that the club has not been focused on Ramirez but trying to obtain a left-handed slugger to complement righties Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson.

Yes, Safeco favors left-handed hitters, and yes, the Mariners have a right-handed heavy lineup. But this is one of the top sluggers in baseball. There are some good reasons for not pursuing him, but the side of the plate he hits home runs from isn’t one.

I’m reminded of the time when the Portland Trail Blazers were faced with the fateful decision of whether to draft Sam Bowie or Michael Jordan. GM Stu Inman was dicussing it with his friend Bob Knight, who was a Jordan booster. “But,” said Inman, “we need a center.” Knight shot back, “So play Jordan at center!”

So get Manny, and have him bat left-handed.

No, not really. But left-handed Manny would still probably pack more punch than most of the bench.

Roster moves

November 22, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 150 Comments 

With Jojima’s signing, the M’s are at 41 on the 40-man roster.

Likely candidates for subtraction include Cha Seung Baek and Ryan Franklin (please please please), though Torrealba may still be traded for someone who doesn’t have to be protected from the upcoming Rule 5 draft (and again, it’s Rule 5. Anywhere you see Rule V, you can be assured the writer or whoever edited the piece doesn’t know what they’re talking about).

It’s official, Jojima signs

November 21, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 73 Comments 

It’s up on the Official Mariners site (“Mariners catch a rising star in Johjima“):

the Mariners on Monday announced that they have signed catcher Kenji Johjima to a three-year contract for a reported $16.5 million.

Jojima projections

November 21, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 83 Comments 

A caution: part of the problem with trying to do this kind of comparison is that there are so few sample points every year. There are a ton of pitchers and hitters who move up and down between AAA and the majors, but in any given year there might be five players who go from NPB to MLB. One of the things that may be throwing off projection attempts so far is that the players moving over may not be a good, even representation of Japanese baseball talent in the same way that AAA has.

Also, this is me applying rough statistical tools that involve league difficulty, translations, and other related stuff. Jojima’s ability to adjust, his approach, and all kinds of non-stat things are going to affect his performance. This is intended for entertainment purposes only, so please… no wagering.

Updated note: in going through this exercise, my starting point was older estimations of the relative difficulty levels of Japanese baseball to the major leagues. While this is a good starting point, there are new ways to do this: see the comments for details.

So take Kazuo Matsui (please!).
2002: .332/.391/.617 (Seibu)
2003: .305/.364/.549 (Seibu)
2004: .272/.331/.396 (Mets)
2005: .255/.300/.352 (Mets)

That’s way under what he was projected to hit by most analysts who took a crack at it. (Dave, btw, said “The M’s should jump for joy that they didn’t get Kazuo Matsui. He’s got serious issues with his swing, and unless he makes some adjustments, is going to be a groundball machine. There’s just no way he hits for any real power with his current hitting mechanics.” This is because Dave is awesome.) So in this exercise, I tried to error consistently on the low side, to try and avoid that kind of over-estimation.

Here’s Jojima’s last couple of years for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks:
2003: .330/.399/.593
2004: .338/.432/.655
2005: .309/.381/.557

He was born in 1976, so aging’s not going to be a huge issue over the next couple of years. Jeff at Lookout Landing took a super-quick look at a couple of other players who’ve come over and said

Thus, Johjima’s .309/.381/.557 2005 batting line translates into a .270/.319/.413 performance in 2006.

Clay Davenport wrote a much longer, detailed look at a set of Japanese players in 2002 (here) that has some lessons as we attempt this.

Say, for a second, that there’s no adjustment in coming over. Averaging a player’s three-year performance is actually a great way to do projections (it gets us almost all the way there: PECOTA, the STATS, Inc. lines, and all the other systems are fighting over that last gap).

Raw 3-year-based projection if he stays in Japan: .326/.404/.602

That’d be nice if we could get it. That’s almost Pujols territory.

I’ll take some rough cuts at this. A straight Japanese baseball-to-MLB difficulty adjustment, based on Clay Davenport’s work on league difficulty, I come out with an estimate of .300/.380/.575 (pre-park-adjustments). That’s Mark Teixeira territory from a catcher. That’d be pretty awesome.

However, let’s also go for a much more pessimistic view and knock him down further. This is entirely reasonable, given a glance at recent Japanese players who’ve made that transition. I don’t want to be too doom-and-gloom, but skepticism is warranted.

I took the league difficulty numbers and then applied a blow-to-the-sternum adjustment, assuming that Jojima’s performance would take a significant hit. At that point, it became difficult to come up with a realistic-looking projection. Assuming that he retained the same offensive shape, it came out at .275/.355/.555.

That doesn’t look right, even for a low projection. If his average gets knocked down, we can assume that he’s not going to continue to get walks at the same rate, either. So toss that aside for a second, and let’s look for a more reasonable projection for an awful year. Kazuo Matsui only worse: his average gets chopped along with his walk rate, and almost none of his power comes over as well: .270/.310/.425.

Mariners catchers in 2005 hit .216/.253/.313. That’s not a joke. Upgrading from the Mariners to a horrible, worst-case Jojima is like the difference between 2005 Beltre and 2005 Sexson.

Before park adjustments, then —
High-end: .300/.380/.575
Total collapse: .270/.310/.425

Crunching some more numbers and assuming that Safeco blunts his power a little, I came up with a lower line of .300/.340/.500. I still wonder if I should go back and see if that power line is too high. A .500 SLG in Safeco? Really? For $5m? Heck yeah.

Now, whether any of those are high or low remain to be seen, but I hope the exercise has been interesting. It’s interesting that applying a NPB league adjustment that’s harsher than what’s been used in the past still gives us a line so gaudy it’s immediately discarded. While it’s obviously eye-poppingly gaudy, it’s not a best-case scenario in representing a career year in the same way that the worst-case line there is built to show a collapse.

I’ll be revisiting this later, looking at possible comperable players and how they did.

Perry says M’s should trade Ichiro, uses word “insouciance”

November 21, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 49 Comments 

Hey all. I haven’t been around much lately, and that’s not likely to change for the next few days at least. But when I do start posting again in earnest, I may have some exciting news to show for it. Any road, thanks to the others for holding it down top notch in my absence.

Dayn Perry’s latest argues that the Mariners should trade Ichiro ASAP. This is kind of like saying you should wear plastic pants in the sauna for as long as possible: a bad idea made worse by the suggested timeframe.

The core of his logic is that Ichiro’s comments give Bill Bavasi the political cover “needed to do something especially bold.” He then repeats the old knocks on Ichiro about his lack of power relative to other corner outfielders. There’s also this bit:

Ichiro’s also a player whose actual value exceeds his perceived value, and that’s precisely the kind of player who needs to be traded.

I agree with the first clause in that sentence, but fear that Dayn mistakenly transposed the words “actual” and “perceived,” since the sentence as it is written contradicts his argument. Paging Dr. Freud.

Another unfounded assumption in the column is that the M’s are years from contending, and need to add to their core of young talent by off-loading an existing superstar. Dave did a fine job rebutting that notion a few days ago.

Look, this trade isn’t going to happen, not for (as Perry suggests) Philip Hughes and Eric Duncan, not for Jon Papelbon and Dustin Pedroia. And from my perspective, it’s a good thing that this isn’t going to happen.

The old saying goes that history favors the bold. Maybe. It favors the bold and wise much more, though.

Seattle Times: M’s sign Jojima

November 21, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 77 Comments 

So says Bob Finnigan (“So say we all.”). The announcement could come as early as today. If he’s right, it’s 3y, $5m/year. This would be up from the 2y+option previously rumored. Also, Jojima looks sad in that photo.

This would also be a sudden turnaround, as this weekend the Japan Times was reporting that he was “waiting for offers”:

OSAKA — Japanese all-star catcher Kenji Jojima, who is in talks with major league teams, returned to Japan on Saturday saying he is still awaiting offers.

“If I get offers, I’d like to go again,” Jojima said after arriving at Kansai International Airport. “I’d like to not have this drag on too long if possible.”

At the same time, the printed rumor mill was grinding the increased year and money, and saying that the Mariners had won the U.S. bidding. If nothing else, it’s interesting to look back at what leaked when locally and whether it was true:
Nov 11th, TNT: the M’s are close to signing him to a two-year, $8m deal with an option year: got the contract offer and details right, and while maybe jumping the gun
Then the denials (from Jojima’s agent in particular) that they weren’t even in serious negotiations: yeah, that’s not true.

It also makes Jojima’s shortened trip interesting. He came to Seattle, hung out for a while, the M’s made him a strong, early offer, he headed off, maybe saw Shea while flying into New York, walked around a bit, and after a while asked someone if the constant honking and the smell are all-day amenities. And when they said “pretty much” he told his agent to work something out with the Mariners and went home.

Anyway, some time this week I’ll take a crack at projecting Jojima. If nothing else, this would be the second off-season in a row where the team saw a need and a free agent that would fill that need and went sprinting after them. Whether you think Beltre’s a great signing or not, they appear to be doing an excellent job of evaluating who they think the prizes are in the free agents and being aggressive. And if Carlos Delgado, say, wants $100m over 5 years, they say “thanks” and then start to work on their backup plan. They’re not losing out on the players they target for lack of effort.

Release Points

November 20, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 18 Comments 

If you haven’t read Lookout Landing today, go now. Jeff Sullivan’s been doing some really cool stuff on plotting release points to find variability in pitchers deliveries. He started with Felix, and today knocked out Joel Pineiro. Seriously, go read it now.

Jeff’s the man. Everyone should be thrilled that he’s writing about the Mariners.

Win the World Series, repeatedly

November 19, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 61 Comments 

“I am a patient boy
I wait, I wait, I wait”

In a previous post, I outlined how the M’s could contend for baseball’s championship next year if they’re willing to spend about $100m and tie themselves down to a bunch of free agents for a while. I mentioned, in passing, why that’s not the greatest idea for the franchise’s long-term prospects, but let’s talk about that.

What prevents the Mariners from competing for more than division titles, and for more than just a year?

Nothing. Read more

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