The USSM QnA for 1/17
A really long set of answers to the questions in 44 comments.
a. Does Hunter Brown have a future?
b. Should we expect Brian LaHair to make his MLB debut this year?
c. Where do we think Broussard/Reed/Woods will end up?
a. In baseball? Not unless something dramatic happens.
b. I wouldn’t. If Sexson’s traded, it’s possible, but I don’t see evidence LaHair’s ready to hit in the majors.
c. Now that’s an interesting question. I don’t think Woods gets traded. There are a bunch of options for Reed, but I suspect his trade’s going to be a minor transaction that doesn’t net the M’s much. They might end up playing chicken and hoping someone sees their center fielder injured in spring training.
Broussard is an interesting question. If you think you can get away with playing him at first, he’d be a huge upgrade from the floatsam New York’s talking about playing (when Josh Phelps is clearly your best answer, you’re in trouble). As a DH, if the Twins are really going to run Rondell White out there (or Ken Harvey), he’s a clear upgrade on those guys too.
Wherever he goes, there’s a pretty good chance we’re going to want him back.
Assuming defense is the final frontier in sabermetrics and basically even that is getting charted at light speed by systems like UZR (albeit with proprietary access), whats left for the next generation of Palmers/McCrackens/Davenports to discover and contribute? Or to put it another way, is the next generation more likely to be educators or innovators? If innovators, what still awaits? — terry
The temptation in these case is always to say “education” because the problem with this stuff is you can’t see innovation coming. There’s opportunity for both. I don’t know who’s going to spark the next “pitchers don’t control the outcome of balls put into play”-type debate, but we’ll see something. I do think there’s a real opportunity to really bring intelligent analysis home to the masses and drag people, one by one if they have to, into reading for OBP.
Maybe that’s naive, and people don’t want to learn more about the sport and understand it better.
If Tui doesnâ€™t break out bigtime, what are the chances the Mâ€™s will try him out on the mound – as Sickels suggested on his blog today? – Conor
They’ve certainly done this before – see Rafael Soriano. But I have to wonder how willing they’re going to be to give up. I think it’s a lot more likely that if Tui has another horrible season they finally push him down the organizational chart and see how low he has to go before he hits, and then think about their options. Unless he wants to try it, it seems unlikely to even be considered seriously this year.
…with The Master of the Sweet Swing now the property of the Phillies, what do you think Burroughs chances are of breaking camp with the team on the bench? — Goose
Does Hargrove like him? Not bad at all. It really will depend on what kind of shine Hargrove takes to him, because at the end of the bench it’s not as if the organization really cares if he insists on Burroughs.
Q1. Assuming every player performs at around the same level they did last season, what do you think is the most ideal batting order? (especially interested in where Johjima fits in)
Q2. Should the Ms go with the same â€œaggressive baserunningâ€ strategy this season as well? (and a quick analysis/opinion on how well it went last season would be great) — tak
1. ooooh, batting orders. I could spend ages on this. Personally – Ichiro!/Johjima/Ibanez/Sexson/Beltre/Guillen/Lopez/Vidro/Betancourt. The justification for that would be a whole other post. I think, though, the obvious change there is Beltre for Johjima if you think Beltre takes a more successful approach when he’s hitting 2.
2. They shouldn’t. We saw the M’s pull the throttle on that way back after some initial blunders (you can go back and read the game threads, it was deadly). By the end of the season, they were in the middle of the pack (Dan Fox did some end-of-year work on this at Prospectus).
As a strategy, it has its place. If you have the players, you can do it like Billy Martin, where you go into spring training and say “everyone run all the time. I don’t care the situation, run and run and run” and they look less and less ridiculous as they get better at it (and you lose your spring training games) until you go into the season knowing how far you can push it.
That assumes though that you have good judgment once the games start. Big lumbering guys shouldn’t ever be playing that game. If it turns out when you try it that some of your players just can’t do it, or the marginal guys aren’t getting any better at taking the extra base, you have to pull back and knock it off. Hargrove’s just not that good at making those kind of evaluation decisions, so you have Ibanez trying to stretch doubles into triples and crazy ill-timed steal calls for players who aren’t good at stealing.
You play with the team you have, not the team you wish you had. I’d give Hargrove some credit for pulling back some, except that’s ridiculous.
Which one of the pitchers vying for the 5th starter spot has the most upside? — Jared
Woods. And that upside is “he puts up league-average hit, strikeout, walk numbers”. Which out of the back of the rotation you’re happy to get.
How much influence does Chaves have when it comes to the pitchers that we sign in the off-season? — Jared
Generally, the GM talks to managers and coaches if they’re considering a guy or a need to get an additional perspective. For instance, take Everett: Bavasi goes to the staff and says “hey, we’re looking at getting some power from the left side, and we’ve got a bunch of schlubs lined up-” “Carl Everett!” “Uhh… okay.”
They all get input, and if they’ve got strong opinions, the GM listens. Some portion of the fringe player movement you see is due to coach influence – they’ll join the staff and rattle off a list of sleepers they worked with in the last organization, for instance, and some calls get made.
…would it be reasonable to assume that Bavasi and Grover would hang around for another season? …do we expect them to be gone barring anything short of a playoff berth? Oh, and would the team even be better off with others? — Enrique
Thumb to the wind: sub-.500 and they’re both fired. .500 or better and not contending will depend on the shape of the season and how the fan base is feeling, but to be totally safe they have to get into the playoffs. However, as you noted, we all thought Hargrove was getting canned last year, and look what that got us.
Would they be better off with others — we’ve talked about this before, but it depends on who they hire. I think Hargrove’s proved he’s dramatically ill-suited to the team’s composition, so yes on that count, but Bavasi? Depends on who they hire, obviously. We’re pulling for Antonetti, obviously.
Who said something so rude to Bavasi at the feed he appeared at that he suddenly became bent on utterly destroying the team?
It must have been me. I understand that in person I’m an arrogant smart-ass who’s too full of himself.
If you were to tear down the teamâ€™s roster today and rebuild it over the course of the 2007 season, which current pieces would you keep and which would you try to trade for younger talent? Where would you target your searches for trading partners? What area would you focus on first (SP, RP, IF, OF, etc)? Which area of a team is the toughest to build around (I would assume SP)? — Cap
Jeez, there’s a question. Today would be a really hard task to undertake. So… Keep the undervalued: Lopez, Beltre, Johjima, Felix. See who you can get value for Betancourt and the rest. If there’s opportunity, take it. Try and get the Snelling trade invalidated somehow. Give Sexson away if I have to, play Broussard there.
I don’t think any area’s toughest to build around. Player development is a crapshoot. You do as good a job as you can, and try and build around the products. If the system gives you starters, that’s certainly helpful, but you can build an effective pitching staff if you have good young players elsewhere that free resources.
Will Mac provide enough of a comfort level for Howard to feel he can dump Mike if they start slow out of the gate? –msb
If they start really badly, I don’t think it would matter if McLaren’s there or not to take over. 0-10 and Hargrove gets axed if it means a potted plant manages. But yes, I think if it’s a toss up, they’re a little more inclined to make a move compared to having a longtime Hargrove crony who’d have to be axed too.
when the Mâ€™s switched their AAA affiliate from Calgary to Tacoma in the early 1990s, did all the Cannons players just suddenly become Rainiers, leaving the Cannons owner to find another Major League team to affiliate with? So the Cannons fans came to the ballpark the next year rooting for the same team but with completely different players? — wabbles
Yes, that’s exactly what happens, though the team name often changes with an affiliation switch. For a local example, look at what happened when Tacoma flipped from Detroit to Seattle.
Which trade is more easily likened to the irrational killing of the albatross from the â€œRime of the Ancient Marinerâ€: Rafael Soriano or Chris Snelling? -CSG
Snelling. I liked Soriano a lot and kept pushing for him to start, but Snelling’s young, cheaper, potentially bad-ass, and the kind of risk you take to get to the playoffs. Trading him for Vidro was… well, we’ve been into that. It’s indefensible.
What would fair value have been for Chris Snelling and Emiliano Fruto?
Rafael Soriano? — Corco
I can’t think rationally about it. In all these cases, the team’s not trading from strength: for reasons Dave’s gotten into, trading Soriano could be a good move, but on his own you still don’t get much. I certainly don’t think you trade Snelling now – if the knock on him is health and people who haven’t seen him hit consistently, you don’t get much for that guy. But let him try to hit for a year, here or in Tacoma (or both). If he fails, you haven’t lost value. If you win, he’s much more valuable.
That the M’s keep trading low and buying high is a good indictment of their player valuation abilities.
Are there concerns among the USSM staff about Clementâ€™s recent performance? Is Law being unreasonably negative about Clement? — Kirk
I would say we’re less worried than many others. The super-aggressive promotion policy clearly has hurt him, but there’s not enough evidence yet to write him off. We’ll see what happens next year.
Is Johjima a free agent when his contract expires, or is he arbitration eligible? Will this have an effect on a possible Clement trade? What are the chances that Rivera is on the roster this year?
I don’t know if there’s anything in his contract or a handshake agreement that the team won’t seek arbitration, and I think I’d remember. He should be arb-eligible. I don’t think it changes the chances of Clement being traded. It does make their decision to push Clement so hard more baffling, though.
On Rivera, they’re decent. Right now, I’d say it’s 50-50 between him and Rob Johnson. We’ll know more as spring training starts: if they’re leaning Johnson, we’ll hear a lot about his stellar defense and how that makes him a good complement to Johjima.
If Ichiro leaves after this season, who do you have left as the â€œcoreâ€? Do you consider it Beltre, Betancourt, Lopez, and Felix? Is that core solid enough to build a contender around around? — spanky
Generally, when we talk about the core you build a team around, we mean young, cheap players who produce value far exceeding their cost. More than anything, you’d love to have them be starters or up-the-middle players, because it’s harder to find and buy those guys, but you take them where you can get them. The idea is you take them, surround them with free agent and fill-ins, and off you go. The cheap production you get out of them allows you to spend on the rest of the team.
So – the true core of the team is Felix. Felix is the kind of player you try to build around, and Beltre’s the kind of player you buy to supplement the young cheap guys. Betancourt, Lopez as good, cheap players are certainly part of that.
But can you build a contender with those guys? Sure. You could build a contender around Felix alone.
If the front office of the Mâ€™s gathered enough info to determine they have no chance at retaining Ichiro!, would they ever trade him? I personally believe that Ichiro would never request a trade and he will leave at the end of the season. If the front office feels the same way, what should they do? — coasty
The only way Ichiro gets traded is if the season is well and truly lost before the trade deadline, the fans have abandoned ship, and there’s a really great offer on the table. If any of those isn’t true, ownership’s not going to approve dealing him.
Alternately, if Ichiro really wants out and starts to really be a jerk about it and the ownership gets offended, that’s another way out.
This isn’t going to be a front office decision either way. What they get if they do trade him would be.
Whatâ€™s the over-under on attendance this year? How will attendance affect FO decisions about player-personnel and the manager? — bellacaramella
2,250,000. Uptick in fortunes balanced by general malaise. If there’s a huge swing, they’ll take action just to show us they’re serious about taking action.
I dropped a $200 deposit on our two 16-game plans back in November â€” before the really dumb trades happened. Give me three good reasons why I should send them the remaining $280 for the tickets rather than blowing it all on building my own baseball team, with hookers and blackjack. –dw
Felix. Ichiro. Johjima. Also, the consequences of the hookers part are potentially catastrophic.
Q1: Would you rather see the Mariners compete for the division title this upcoming season and fall short, or would you rather have a 70-80 win season full of unfulfilled potential, which at least has the potential to lead to a major overhaul in the front office?
Q2: How do you see the next couple years for Jose Lopez panning out?
Q3: What are the odds of the Mariners retaining Bob Fontaine after Bavasi is let go? — katal
1. I want the M’s to win the World Series. Barring that, an AL Championship. I would love to see the Mariners compete this year, and if that means I’m wrong about every move and have to admit Hargrove is a genius, so be it. A division title is a ticket to the playoffs, and I’d much rather have that than a failure, however productive.
2. There are two things that happen. Either he keeps grounding out to the right side to Hargrove’s applause and he sucks, or either he rebels or they let Lopez be Lopez and he hits really well. If you get the latter, he’ll be a pretty good player.
3. Close to zero.
If you could only recommend one baseball book this year what would it be? (There you go, I put it on the tee for you.)
What is your best guess for Mâ€™s win total this year. I realize this is completely impossible to predict but I want your one number absolute best guess.
Following up on that what place in the AL West will the Mâ€™s finish?
The last sketch I did of the win total came out at 82. I haven’t revisited that armed with ZiPS/PECOTA, but right now it looks a little high.
Frequently itâ€™s been mentioned that the GM *never* questions the managerâ€™s in-game decisions – and that makes sense. But does a conversation like this ever happen?
[…] over the course of a month or so, wouldnâ€™t the GM at least ask why a player he took great pains to acquire isnâ€™t getting playing time?
Who decides which players get called up from (or sent down to) Tacoma? Does Hargrove get to pick a 25-man roster from the 40-man? –five toed sloth
To the first question, it depends on the organization. Here, they do have those conversations (“I brought up x” “I hate that guy, why’d you do that?” “He’s ready and you should play him in center” “No I won’t”) but Hargrove controls the lineup card and if he says he won’t play x, the organization puts him in Tacoma or wherever. They’re not forcing him to do things he doesn’t want to, which is unfortunate in a lot of ways.
In other orgs, the GM may have a much stronger say in how player development should be considered in playing time decisions.
As to the roster construction, kind of. Take Hargrove: he gets to say “I want 13 pitchers, and in the bullpen I like these seven guys” and really, to Bavasi, he doesn’t really care about where those last two guys, because in the organizational sense, unless they need playing time, it’s a wash whether they’re in AAA or sitting on the bench not pitching in the majors.
[Jorge Campillo] And with the Mariners digging up graves for a 2007 fifth starter, and he is one, why in the world wouldnâ€™t they at least give him a crack at camp this spring? — Senor Romo
I don’t remember being that bearish on Campillo. He was my favorite Mexican junkballer. I think I compared him to Bosio. Guy totally cracked me up. Campillo, arm surgery or not, is like… it’s like finding a nice popcorn popper at a thrift store for $2. If it works, awesome, but really you’ve still only got a popcorn popper. If it’s broken, you’re only out $2. The M’s did a great job going after independent league talent (like Sherill) and finding parts like this.
I’d be happy to give him a shot at the rotation. I don’t see that he makes it, but you’re certainly right that it’s not as if the M’s have a vast array of great candidates to pick from. Baek/Woods isn’t all that inspiring. But then neither is Batista/Ramirez.
If you canâ€™t convince dw, would you pony up some of that fat book money to make his team a reality? — Mike G
If I ever make fat book money, I will attempt to buy the Mariners. I promise.
How did the Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez trade help the Mariners at all? Other than releasing Everett the trade wasnâ€™t really necessary since Perez was released was it?
Any rumors that the Ownership maybe looking to sell majority interest.
Wonder how it will be this year?
Yeah, looking back we didn’t write much on this, but having Perez/Broussard turn out to be not that massive an upgrade from Everett is one of the big shockers of the season. They really did suck as a DH platoon for us. I like Cabrera, but he is a weird prospect, and I don’ t know what he turns into. But trading him didn’t do the team any favors in the end.
I haven’t heard anything about a sale.
On the who’d you rather have question: mentally scanning the division, there’s going to be very few positions I wouldn’t swap for someone else playing in the AL West.
Is it true that PECOTA projections are so-named to honor the great Bill Pecota? — sankthetank
It certainly seems like an odd coincidence, doesn’t it, even if the official word is that it’s just an acronym.
Can you please advise the best web sites for fantasy baseball info and the ones that bring the news fastest? thanks — Slovakian Mariner
I use Rotowire myself. Your tastes may vary.
…should we care what Keith Law thinks about the Mariners? -msb
As much as you care about any other national analyst. Dave’s mentioned this, but I really think the utility of national columnists is limited. I know some baseball writers who spend all their time reading all the national and local papers for baseball news, watch every game they can, but they’ll still write about the M’s and get something wrong, and it’ll be something glaringly obvious to those of us who follow the team closely. It’s impossible to follow 30 teams at the level of detail required to know (for instance) that the M’s think of Ibanez as the face of the team and aren’t going to consider trading him.
So if you read Buster Olney (or whoever) tell you that Betancourt’s a left-handed hitter, and you know better, it’s okay to blow them off.
That said — the issue of national/local aside, when Law makes a good argument, there it is, and he makes them a lot more than many national guys, so it’s worth paying attention to.
Woo-hoo I’m done! And it only took… forever, according to my timer. Wow. Oh man, there are more? Why didn’t I turn off commenting in the question thread? Argh.
Can you tell us once and for all what happened between you and Baseball Prospectus? It seems like there is a fair amount of antipathy between you and Dave and BP. What gives? — MarinerDan
I could, but it’s been a while, and I don’t want to rehash it. How about this: Speaking only for myself and not Dave — I disagreed with the way things were going, and it became clear that parting was the best option.
Prior to the birth of his child during last season, Jose Lopez was hitting at All-Star level. Postnatum, he had absolutely zero power or pitch selection. What happened? Was it corporal or mental? Also, is there a chance Lopez will return to first-half-2006 form, or will he continue to be an effete out machine?– Slippery Elmer < /blockquote>
I believe Jeff did some nice work on this at Lookout Landing, where he showed that by following Hargrove’s expert advice, Lopez went from having some nice pop to a ground-out machine.
And I answered the first one earlier.
Is moving the left field fence in even on the the clubâ€™s radar? — Manzanillos Cup
Are we a rudderless ship or can this team go back to where it was at the start of the decade? –Plim
Sure. As to farm system rankings, don’t put too much stock in that. If you had a farm system with no one in it at all, and you started to stock it with great players, it’d take a while for the improvement to get noticed as they worked their way up. And if you’ve graduated a batch of players to the majors, the farm system looks really weak (Oakland’s in this boat as well).
Can the team get back to where it was? Absolutely. The M’s have a ton of money and other advantages, and correctly used, they can build a franchise that competes for pennants every year for ages.
Now will they…
Despite the apparent improvement in the broadcast team, thereâ€™s still one glaring problem. What can we collectively do to get rid of Rick Rizzs? –bat guano
If you really want to get rid of Rizzs, it’s not that hard. He’s employed because the team thinks people like him and he’s an asset to the crew. You need to prove otherwise. Write letters to the team and whoever that say “I dislike Rick Rizzs so much I don’t listen to his broadcasts at all when they’re the only option available to me”. Then get other people to do so.
If you can convince them they’d be better off with someone else, either through letters or whatever, they’ll switch. Until then, the presumption is the majority of people are happy and he’s doing a great job.
Will we ever again see a ballpark with really deep fences (Iâ€™m thinking Polo Grounds or farther)? — Evan
Ever? I’m not going to say never. But current ballpark requirements require that there be outfield seats, and they be reasonably close, so until that changes, no.
On outfield arms, which team do you see having the strongest arms in the AL this coming season? The worst? Where would the 2007 Mariners rank in that? — Evan
Strongest? With Ibanez/Ichiro/Guillen, the M’s may actually be near the top in “raw speed put on baseballs”. I don’t know… who else, as a unit, has that strong-armed an outfield? I don’t know, I’m clearly wearing out if I can’t rattle off the next three.
If the 2007 season is a disaster, what are the chances of Lincoln/Armstrong exiting (along with Bavasi and Hargrove)? Any chance at all of Chris Larson taking the reins in the near future? — edgar is go(o)d
I believe I wrote about this before, but where… anyway, until we hear rumblings that the team’s not meeting Nintendo of America’s expectations, nothing happens.