Responding To Baker, Yet Again

Dave · September 17, 2007 at 8:58 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Yep – here we go again. Geoff Baker’s latest blog entry revives the dead horse of the Adam Jones story, and in it, he lays out his problems with the viewpoints held by most of the M’s blogosphere. So, here’s the response. Note – if you’re as tired of talking about Jose Vidro as I am, feel free to scroll down to Derek’s two excellent posts on Horacio Ramirez below this.

Okay, here goes:

The easiest thing, I realized very quickly upon beginning this blog, would have been to fall in-step with the anti-Bavasi crowd out there.

Is there an anti-Bavasi crowd out there? Absolutely. Am I part of it? I don’t think so. As I’ve stated repeatedly, on a personal level, I like Bill a lot. He’s engaging, funny, and honest, and he’s been tremendous to USSM during his entire time as GM of the Mariners. If he loses his job, there’s a very good chance that we won’t have the same kind of relationship with the next guy that we do with Bill, and to be honest, I like that he’s willing to come hang out with us whenever we ask him to. He’s a stand up guy, and in the grand picture of life, that carries more weight than his analytical abilities.

So, no, we’re not in the Fire-Bavasi-And-Replace-Him-With-Absolutely-Anyone-Else lynch mob. I know it exists, but for the most part, I think its a minoritiy of angry fans and does not represent the consensus of the Mariner blogosphere. Yes, we believe that the Mariner organization has basic fundamental flaws in the way they evaluate talent and build a roster, and we believe there are people in baseball who could do a better job than the current administration (hello Chris Antonetti), but we’ve also recognized a lot of the positives that Bavasi has brought to the organization and acknowledge that the team is in much better shape now than it was when Pat Gillick left.

We’re more accurately described as Pro-Antonetti than Anti-Bavasi. We think the team could do better, but that doesn’t mean that we’re out to get Bill Bavasi.

But not all of it. I do think some of it goes too far and has been thought out from a fan’s perspective rather than a truly analytical one. And that, I suppose is where our views begin to branch off in different directions.

Most of the time, I’m criticized for being too analytical and not enough of a fan. Now, we’re getting criticized for exactly the opposite. Awesome.

Nowhere do I part company more with some of the fan blogs out there than on the subject of Jose Vidro. And this is, believe me, a very important subject because it drives much of the debate where the offense is concerned. Vidro has been targetted for fan criticism from the moment he arrived in Seattle and I suspect much of it has to do with the fact the team traded Chris Snelling and Emiliano Fruto to get him.

I’m going to be totally honest here, Geoff – this statement bugs the crap out of me. With this comment, you’ve veered from disagreeing with our analytical methods into questioning our motives, and that’s something of a sore spot for me. So, if this comes across as defensive or perturbed, well, when it comes to this kind of assertion, I am.

I guarantee you that I would have written exactly the same things about Jose Vidro regardless of who he had been traded for. My opinion of Jose Vidro has absolutely nothing to do with the departure of Chris Snelling. As much as we all love Doyle and want him to succeed, we’re not blind – we knew his chronic injury history was a huge problem.

No – The Jose Vidro stuff is about two things: Jose Vidro’s skills or lack thereof and how became the poster boy for everything that is wrong with how the Seattle Mariners build their roster and evaluate talent. It’s zero percent about Chris Snelling or Emiliano Fruto (who longtime readers know I was never any kind of fan of).

Disagree with our methods all you want – no problem. But when you start going after our credibility and claiming that our analysis is based on a hidden agenda, well, that’s not going to sit very well with me.

So, what happened? Well, the next half of the season is what happened. Since July 1, about when my advocacy of Jones was published on this blog — guaranteeing me weeks of love from the local fan blogosphere — Vidro has produced a .423 on-base percentage and a .459 slugging percentage for an OPS of .882. Now, I don’t know about any of you, but in my book, an .882 OPS from a DH not counted on strictly for power is quite good. It’s excellent, as a matter of fact.

We said so many good things about Geoff during the offseason and spring training – long before this issue ever turned into any real discussion – that people actually asked us to knock it off. We’ve made no secret of the fact that we think Baker is the best beat writer that we’ve ever seen, and his coverage of the team on a day to day basis has been a huge positive gain for the Seattle Times and for the online Mariner community. We didn’t stop liking Geoff when he suggested trading Ichiro for Mark Buehrle or Adam Jones for Dontrelle Willis, even as we were repulsed by the disastrously bad ideas he was coming up with.

So, no, this isn’t an issue of USSM only endorsing those who fall “lock-step” in line with our opinions. We like well thought out rational analysis, whether it comes to the same conclusion we do or not. The problem with the other side of the Jose Vidro debate is that the defenses of Vidro that we’ve seen aren’t well thought out or rational. No, instead, they were based on a constant misuse of statistics and a lack of understanding of how to properly value contributions of different players.

I really don’t want to turn this post into another Vidro/Jones debate that we’ve had a million times, but here’s the short of it – it was plainly obvious by the beginning of May that Adam Jones was a better player than Jose Vidro and would do more to help the team win the rest of the year. That was true in May, June, July, August, and it’s true now in September. Jose Vidro is an inferior baseball player to Adam Jones, and the team is better with Jones in the line-up than it is with Vidro in the line-up.

Which of those numbers bothers you? For the entire season, he’s hit .350 with an .808 OPS against righties. And another .308 with a .786 OPS against lefties. Those are season-long numbers, where the OPS was dramatically impacted by the first three powerless months. And do you know what? Neither OPS split is all that terrible.

What bothers us about Jose Vidro is that he’s keeping a better player on the bench. “Not Terrible” should not be any kind of obstacle to putting a player the caliber of Adam Jones on the field.

So, what to conclude? I’ll let you decide. But I am not about to write off 10 consistent weeks of top-level production by a guy as a “fluke” or a “hot streak”. I’ve heard this same tune being sung for weeks now. It was a “hot streak” two weeks in, then four, then eight and now 10. At what point do we conclude that possibly, just possibly, the first three months of the season were a matter of Vidro adapting to being a full-time DH?

There’s a couple of significant misunderstandings about how to understand statistics in this paragraph. I’ll try to tackle them both without getting too long winded.

1. Jose Vidro hasn’t been “hot” for 10 weeks. You simply can’t look at the actual performances during that stretch and come to that conclusion. Breaking down his post all-star break, you see three distinctly different stretches of baseball.

July 12th to August 15th: 29 games, 125 plate appearances, .413/.484/.500
August 17th to September 5th: 19 games, 86 plate appearances, .263/.326/.395
September 7th to September 15th: 8 games, 34 plate apperances, .464/.559/.679

For a month right after the all-star break, Vidro was a singles machine, building a productive 125 plate appearance stretch out of a massive quantity of singles. We all said it couldn’t continue, since the way he was getting his hits was not any kind of sustainable skill. He proceeded to have a stretch of 86 plate appearances where the balls stopped finding holes and he was, once again, a total drain on the line-up. Recently, he has once again started hitting well, this time actually driving the ball for extra base hits.

But there’s no 10 week hot stretch there. You can use the mean average to make it appear like there is, but that’s not intellectually honest. There’s a four week hot stretch, a three week cold stretch, and a one week hot stretch. Yes, you can pull his numbers since the all-star break and claim he was hitting well the whole time, but I could put a $50 million house in a ghetto and claim that the average home value of all the burned out buildings just increased by 600% too, thanks to the increase in the average home value of the neighborhood. Of course, that wouldn’t actually be true – that would be a misuse of statistics, ignoring the fact that the outliar is skewing the data. Just like claiming that Jose Vidro is on a ten week run of good hitting is a misuse of statistics.

2. The biggest flaw in the quoted paragraph, however, is a lack of understanding of random variation. This is a key point that I plan on addressing whenever I get around to finishing the other post on how to project player performance, but if you don’t know how to account for random variation or refuse to acknowledge its possible existence, you really have no chance of doing statistical analysis correctly.

Over 200 plate appearances, the effects of random variation are still very significant. Thanks to the work done in The Book, we know that if we assume a .330 true talent level OBP, for instance, over 200 plate appearances, 95% of all players will fall somewhere in the range of .264 OBP to .396 OBP. That’s a 130 point swing in on base percentage over 200 trips to the plate that can be correctly described as nothing more than random. If you’re completely unwilling to ever look at a performance change that large in that kind of sample and determine that it’s too significant to be random, you’ll fail at using statistics correctly.

Plain and simple – if every small sample of performance change leads you to believe that there’s been a tangible change of the underlying skill of the player and should change how he should be projected going forward, then you’re making a basic analytical error. And yes, Geoff, this is one of the major problems you continue to run into in your analysis – you’re far too willing to believe that recent performance swings obviously mean something. It’s an analytical problem, and if you want to try to set up a dichotomy where you’re taking the objective analytical approach and we’re just the biased fanboys, you really should look into getting that fixed.

I mean, I looked at his slugging percentage career-wise, in years when his legs were healthy, and concluded that a mark of .450 or higher would not be out of the question. That and his traditionally good on-base numbers would make him a good DH as long as the home run power was acquired someplace else. Well, if you want to point fingers, point them at Richie Sexson, because Vidro has now morphed into exactly what was hoped for when acquired.

This is exactly what we rail against in the Mariners analytical process, as it’s completely and utterly wrong. The M’s organization continually divides production up into predefined roles and expects nothing more or less than what they’ve established from that. They decided last winter that they needed a guy who didn’t strike out to hit second in the order, and so they acquired Jose Vidro with the singular hope that he would “keep innings going” and make a bunch of contact. Power didn’t matter, since that was Richie Sexson’s job.

That’s a ridiculous way to build a baseball team. The goal of every single hitter, regardless of line-up spot or position, is to produce runs. There are different ways to get there – obviously, Ichiro and Albert Pujols both produce runs using totally different skills – but that’s the goal for every hitter. You should never, never, never sacrifice runs for a particular skill. If you’re giving playing time to an inferior player because he does a certain thing that you tend to value, but it puts less runs on the board than what you could get from the other guy, you’re making the wrong decision.

Deciding that Jose Vidro doesn’t need to hit for power because “that’s Richie Sexson’s job” is just a horrible conclusion. Jose Vidro’s job is to produce runs, and he’d produce more runs if he hit for more power. Narrowly defining his job as singles-machine, and then being happy with your below average DH because he performed in your narrowly define target, does not mean that Jose Vidro performed well – it means that you created a ridiculous side goal that was different from winning baseball games.

Name me a team that’s going to sit a hitter, any hitter with a .423 on-base percentage over any prolonged stretch.

Alternately, name me a team that has a player as good as Adam Jones sitting on the bench. There isn’t one. He’s literally the best player in major league baseball that doesn’t have an every day job.

Or “platooning” (Raul Ibanez) against lefties for that one game a week Seattle actually faces one? For what purpose? Maybe some of you would take that risk. I don’t know. But it’s funny, I never see that part of things — the “head game” — discussed when folks talk about moving a player here, or plugging him in there.

Part of the Raul Ibanez Mystique is that he’s this great clubhouse veteran, a true team leader that does whatever it takes to help the team win, right? But the man has so fragile of an ego that we’re legitimately supposed to worry about how he might respond if he was platooned or moved to designated hitter?

Give me a break. This happens all across baseball all the freaking time. Platoons aren’t some neo-con statistical theory dreamed up in a baseball simulation by some nerds who don’t understand human relations. Every other baseball team in the world runs platoons, including the ones going to the playoffs. There are literally hundreds of examples of successful platoons throughout baseball, where amazingly major league players show the mental fortitude to not turn into a pumpkin simply when asked to DH or sit against same-handed pitchers.

There is exactly zero evidence supporting the idea that Raul Ibanez’s performance against right-handed pitching is tied to how often he plays left field or hits against left-handed pitching. It’s a theory – nothing less – that is unsupported by any kind of factual basis and goes against what every other baseball organization on the earth believes in.

Jim Leyland platoons. Joe Torre platoons. Tony LaRussa platoons. I think its fair to say that these guys understand the affects of playing time on a player’s psyche better than any beat writer.

Remember, this is not spring training. The parameters for this discussion began the day Adam Jones was called up and ran through to right now. A six-week period. Who are the guys who can give you the best production over the next six weeks to two months of playoff contention. Over the six weeks since, Ibanez and Vidro have been ripping the baseball, as I’ve shown. There is no need to remove either of them to squeeze a Class AAA call-up into the lineup.

Adam Jones is a better player, right now, than Ibanez or Vidro, and you can’t really come to any other conclusion based on the evidence at hand. You can, I guess, if you create bogus theories about platooning and veteran clutchness and the predictive power of small samples, but those theories lead to last place finishes.

He didn’t run down enough line drives to the gaps, you say? Well, point them out. Tell me which ones lost the game. I’d probably tell you the chances of winning would soar if the starting pitchers stopped yielding line drives to the gaps, but that’s just me.

The idea that some runs are inherently unimportant and should be completely discounted in the analysis of a player’s abilities because of their context is so remarkably wrong that I can’t even begin to wrap my head around it. Geoff goes through a few game scenarios where Ibanez came up with hits that he defines as important, showing how he’s won far more games with his offense than he’s lost with his defense, and essentially settling on the conclusion that the runs he’s allowed defensively don’t really matter.

It’s nonsense. Trying to decide which runs count and which ones don’t is a fool’s errand. Using this type of analysis, you’d have to conclude that Adrian Beltre’s home run yesterday was worthless, as the team ended up losing 9-2, but that Ichiro’s RBI single on Thursday night that put the M’s on the board, cutting the lead to 5-1 in a game that the team ended up winning 8-7, was critical.

Not every run is exactly as important as every other run, but there is no such thing as a run that doesn’t count, and deciding future playing time based on the context of past events is a great way to lose a lot of baseball games.

Geoff blames the pitchers for allowing these line drives in the gap (and, apparently, flyballs down the line, bloopers into shallow left, or routine flys to the alley that Ibanez also fails to catch) and discards any responsibility from Raul for turning those opportunities into outs. But here’s the thing – whether its the pitcher’s fault for allowing that hit or not, that ball in the outfield is still an opportunity to turn a hit into an out, and that has real tangible value. Every single ball in play is a chance to take a hit away from an opponent – some, obviously, better chances than others – and ignoring these opportunities is just a total waste of resources.

Again, I don’t have a stake in Jones failing or succeeding. But some of you want me to rip the team for not rolling the dice over the past six weeks. For me, it’s an easy argument to make. I don’t see there being enough of a justification to get Jones in there. To jolt folks around in the field or lineup when they’re batting well over .300 and hitting for power. You’re right, we don’t know what Jones would have done. Only what Ibanez and Vidro did do.

This is yet another logical fallacy that just clouds the issue. This idea that Adam Jones’ performance was this impossible to predict question mark, this massive risk, while we knew exactly what we were going to get from Raul Ibanez is just completely and utterly wrong. As we’ve shown with plenty of evidence, refuted by no evidence from the other side of the issue, there is no evidence that veterans are any less streaky than a similarly talented young player.

Jones numbers in Class AAA: .968 OPS
Shelley Duncan’s numbers at Class AAA: .957 OPS

Duncan’s numbers since his first three games as an outfielder for the Yankees after a July call-up: 11-for-48 (.229) with a .275 on-base and .396 slugging percentage for a .671 OPS.

Hey – I have an idea. Let’s find the one guy who supports my preconceived belief and use him to demonstrate that minor league numbers don’t mean anything.

I could do this to.

Matt Kemp, AAA: .329/.374/.540
Matt Kemp, Majors: .337/.374/.528

Matt Kemp, of course, is far more similar to Adam Jones than Shelly Duncan. They’re basically the same hitter – same age, same skillset, same development track. Shelly Duncan is nothing like either one of them. But again, that’s not the point. The point is that using one guy who came up from Triple-A and didn’t sustain his numbers doesn’t mean anything in any kind of real analytical discussion. The predictive power of minor league numbers is a well established issue with years and years of evidence.

This isn’t analysis, Geoff – this is cherry picking to support a pre-established belief.

None of us know what Jones would have done short-term and putting him in there would be a risk.

Guess what – none of us knew what Vidro or Ibanez would have done short-term and putting them in there was also a risk. Until you grasp this, the rest of the discussion is moot.

I just don’t get it. Well, actually, I do get it to an extent. But like I said, if you come here expecting an “agenda” where certain players, like Lopez, Green, Morrow, Jones etc. can do no wrong, while others, like Ibanez, Vidro, Sexson, and Willie Bloomquist can do no right, you won’t find it.

You won’t find that here either, Geoff. It’s not hard to search through the archives to find all guys of good things we’ve said about all those guys. Now, we may say more good things about Adam Jones and Sean Green than anyone else around, but that is basically a reaction to the ridiculous amount of positive press the veterans get from the organization and the local media. The entire reason there needs to be a Free Adam Jones Society in the first place is because the organization fails to recognize how valuable he actually is. If the organization didn’t have so many blind spots in their analytical process, we wouldn’t have to continually lobby for them to make better decisions.

And finally, this quote is actually from Saturday’s Baker blog entry, but it’s along the same theme, so I’ll add it here.

Should we bother to point out why they did this? Well, in their absolute foolishness, they worried that a bullpen supported by such young arms — having never been through the stress of a playoff run or arm strain of a full major league season — just might not hold up. Well, guess what? Do I really have to keep pointing out the obvious? OK, I will. The arms in the bullpen did not hold up. Now, we can do one of two things:

We can twist ourselves into pretzels grasping for excuses, explanations, comparisons with older players and all types of theories to justify the conspiracy angle…or…we can simply say, hey, maybe on this one occasion, the folks running the team were actually right. I know it hurts to do it, but just take a deep breath and try it. The team guessed right. The bullpen arms did not hold up. That means, of course, that those who believed they would hold up were wrong about that. It hurts to be wrong, sometimes, I know. We’ve all been there. But this bullpen just wasn’t going to hold up with so many arms not used to throwing so many innings under this kind of pressure. Not with this starting rotation, that’s for sure.

I want this point to come across as clearly as possible, as it’s vitally important to understanding where the disconnect in the two opinions is coming from.

None of us can know the future. We can’t. We just do not have the ability to know what other people are going to do in days that haven’t happened yet. All we can deal with is probability and likelihood. We can make the best decisions possible based on the information we have at the time, and what happens after that is completely out of our control.

No one “knew” how the bullpen was going to perform down the stretch. You didn’t, Geoff, and neither did we. Nor did John McLaren or Bill Bavasi. We all had our opinions, obviously, but unless you just think way too highly of your own opinion (and I’m pretty sure you don’t), you know that there wasn’t a 100% certainty on that opinion playing out as you suspected.

Now, again, this is important – the fact that the results went as you suspected does not mean that you were right. I’m pretty sure you’re going to disagree with this statement, but it’s a key point to understanding how to objectively analyze things correctly, which you’ve already stated is your goal. Let me give you an analogy:

We have a coin that has been altered so that it will come up heads 60% of the time and tails only 40% of the time. It’s designed to give the advantage to the person who calls heads. If you know this ahead of time and call tails, you have made the wrong decision, regardless of what happens after that. That coin can come up tails 10 times in a row and you still made ten wrong decisions.

Why? Because you had no way of knowing what the result of that 60/40 coin flip was going to be. All you can do is make the best decision you can on the available information, and in this example, heads is always the best decision, even though that decision will lead to losing 40% of the time.

This is what I’m talking about when I rail against results based analysis. When you allow your opinion to be swayed based on the results of a small sample that contradicts the conclusion of probability that real analytical processes led to, you’re going to make bad decisions.

Yes, the bullpen melted down, just as you suspected. We could have an entire discussion about whether this was probable or not, but here’s the key – that’s not the discussion we’re having. You’re basing your probability on the results, and that’s bad analysis.

Ironically, however, you’re ignoring the results of the proposed solutions to the problems you perceived. Since lobbying for their acquisition to upgrade the bullpen, every single reliever you were in favor of bringing in has performed disastrously. Eric Gagne, Dan Wheeler, Al Reyes, Octavio Dotel… all of them. And guess what? Since I lobbied for the Mariners to acquire Jose Contreras, David Wells, and Brett Tomko, all three of them have been terrific.

Does this mean that I was right and you were wrong? No, it doesn’t. Why? Because combined, that group of pitchers has only thrown about 130 innings total since the trade deadline, and anything can happen over 130 innings. I didn’t know that Jose Contreras was going to turn it around immediately after I started lobbying for the Mariners to trade for him. I didn’t know that Eric Gagne was going to implode upon leaving Texas. And you didn’t know that Sean Green was going to start struggling as soon as the calendar hit August.

The only thing we can evaluate is the evaluative processes we take to reach the conclusions that we do – everything after that is out of our control.

This is where we differ from both you and the Mariner organization. And this is where, I believe, both you and the Mariners make the most mistakes. This is the heart of the thing that we’ve been arguing for years and years – the Mariners are behind the times in learning how to evaluate players because their processes are broken.

Until the organization learns how to do analysis properly, understand probability, and not buy into cliches that aren’t based on evidence, they’ll continue to lose to better run organizations who are winning with less resources.

Why did we spend so much time on the Adam Jones/Jose Vidro debate? Because it’s 2007’s shining example of the analytical flaws that the orgnaization holds. As long as the team continues to make decisions based on the analytical processes that lead to things like Vidro = Good DH and Jones = Class AAA Callup, they’ll never be able to compete in the AL West. It’s a symptom of a larger problem, and that larger problem is the one that we’re trying to fix.


127 Responses to “Responding To Baker, Yet Again”

  1. bermanator on September 17th, 2007 3:04 pm

    An excellent post (and debate) but I do have Baker’s back on one item:

    Vidro has been targetted for fan criticism from the moment he arrived in Seattle and I suspect much of it has to do with the fact the team traded Chris Snelling and Emiliano Fruto to get him.

    The “much of it” part is hyperbole, but I do think Vidro started off on an unlucky foot when the team gave up Snelling to get him. There were a ton of posts here lamenting the loss of Snelling, and criticizing the deal because of the price paid in tradable commodities rather than the opportunity cost in giving him the lineup spot.

    I don’t think the outrage would have been the same if the deal had simply been Fruto for Vidro, or if Snelling had been replaced by a comparable player.

  2. davepaisley on September 17th, 2007 3:05 pm

    Excellent post. I realize there’s a lot to the bullpen meltdown, and my personal belief is that overuse of the pen led to its collapse. Using three, four, five relievers a night, often in an inning, even, was going to wear those guys down.

    I haven’t gone looking for objective evidence much up to now, but a cursory analysis shows this:

    If you look at IP/App for the top 50 relievrs by number of appearances in the AL, the M’s have five of them. An average team would have 3 or 4. They have the number 2 guy in lowest IP/App (Sherrill, duh, beaten only by Dennys Sampler Reyes, of all people), then 22 (EOF), 35 (Morrow), 38 (Putz) and 42 (Green).

    Hardly overwhelming evidence, but it shows that these guys are logging a lot of appearances and not staying in the game much. Add to that the warming up but not getting in the game, and it begins to look like a pattern of overuse relative to the rest of the league.

    Then there’s the psychological aspect, which Geoff seems to like a lot.

    Imagine you’re Sean Green. You started the year as random bullpen filler, emerged as a pretty good setup guy and in July you’re settling in for the stretch run feeling like you’re getting somewhere. All of a sudden some bloated has-been with numbers in the stratosphere (wait, TWO has-beens) is handed your job and proceeds to crash and burn when you KNOW you could have done better. Demoralizing? You bet. And the losing streak was sure built on a lot of demoralized play.

  3. PositivePaul on September 17th, 2007 3:06 pm

    One thing that seems to be lost in the shuffle — this public discourse between USSM and Geoff Baker is completely and totally healthy. Both sides have incredibly mutual respect for each other, even if there’s strong disagreement. This is where we blog readers and M’s fans are hugely lucky — we have a balance of power that’s pretty darn unique in baseball “media” between a beat writer who is excellent in disseminating information and in handling criticism, and blog writers who are quick to challenge bad logic and smart enough and tactful enough to stand up to the task.

    I have nothing but respect for USS Mariner and for Geoff Baker, and this dialogue is both necessary and civil. Bravo to both sides involved…

  4. currcoug on September 17th, 2007 3:12 pm

    I just re-read Baker’s blog. Am I crazy, or did he really forget to mention Rowland-Smith? Bill Krueger thinks Rowland-Smith could be an excellent option for the rotation. Krueger stated Rowland-Smith has three MLB pitches.

  5. Bearman on September 17th, 2007 3:13 pm

    Granted the M’s have been the victim as much as Toronto,Balitmore and so to added to that list Philedelphia of the “Gillick touch” which is success followed by seasons of rebuilding top to bottom.

    However the M’s had a solid core when Gillick left and if the GM following had been a smarter and more savvy one instead of Bavasi.

    His first act would have been to trade the likes of Olerud,Boone,and few others while they had high trade value for younger vets and prospects galore.

    Thus getting a leg up on rebuilding the minors while saving money in lower salaried players as stopgaps til the big splash deals were workable like Beltre etc……..

    Not only that a smart savvy GM eases in his MLB ready AAA talent while easing out his veteran at the spot.This way the vet doesn’t feel that he’s being dumped and the rookie has time to adjust to MLB etc………

    The M’s need a GM with Billy Beane’s trading savvy,Terry Ryan’s ability to develop in house talent to save salary yet produce a champ,and with Branch Rickey’s toughness in contract talks adapted to today’s realities.
    Where that guy can be found I have no idea but any GM who can meet 2 of the 3 with competence will be just fine.

  6. Gomez on September 17th, 2007 3:23 pm

    This was a brilliant analogy:

    Yes, you can pull his numbers since the all-star break and claim he was hitting well the whole time, but I could put a $50 million house in a ghetto and claim that the average home value of all the burned out buildings just increased by 600% too, thanks to the increase in the average home value of the neighborhood.

  7. Jeff Nye on September 17th, 2007 3:32 pm

    Regarding bermanator in 100:

    The initial reaction to the deal may have been less negative if Doyle hadn’t been involved (I’m sticking with the nickname, darnit).

    Many of us would’ve still hated the deal once he started (or continued) to suck and took playing time away from better options, though.

  8. CCW on September 17th, 2007 3:37 pm

    Here are some numbers to mull over. Below are the dollars paid per win for each of Cleveland, Seattle, Oakland, and LAA from 2004-2007:

    Seattle: $1,228,082 per win
    Oakland: $662,259 per win
    LAA: $1,097,000 per win
    Cleveland: $574,340 per win

    * Source of data for payroll: ESPN and USA Today.

    ** 2007 wins projected based on .500 play for the rest of the season.

    There is LOT one could say about this. You could portray the M’s as even worse than this makes them look or you could defend them a bit (e.g. blame it on Gillick). However, even without a detailed writeup, I submit these results speak for themselves. Under Bavasi, the M’s have performed horribly relative to their peers, under the one metric that really counts: turning dollars into wins. THAT is why the “blogosphere” is frustrated. THAT is why we care so much about stupid decisions that in isolation mean so little. In the grand scheme of things, M’s management is NOT DOING A GOOD JOB. Period.

  9. eponymous coward on September 17th, 2007 3:41 pm

    Three of the five are Gillick products, so what is your point?

    My point is Gillick traded useful minor league guys like Brian Fuentes away, and signed guys like Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Jeff Nelson and Arthur Rhodes as multi-million dollar FAs as a way to building that superior bullpen.

    A decent minor league system can usually produce a bullpen arm or three a year. Bavasi’s been MUCH better at recognizing this than Gillick was, and he deserves the credit for building a cheap bullpen that’s stocked mainly from internal options from the farm system, instead of importing over-30 “proven veterans”.

    Do you really want to compare Gillick’s free signings to Bavasi’s (Aurilla, Reese, Spezio, Everett, Reitsma, Weaver, Washburn, Sexson, etc.)?

    Uh, cherry-pick your examples much? And I explicitly SAID Gillick was better at this end of things, no question- though IMO his 2000-2001 acquisitions/trades (Cameron, Olerud, Sele, Boone, Rhodes, Sasaki, Mac) were what fueled the team’s success through 2003, not his 2002-2003 work (Cirillo, Baldwin, Sierra, Mabry, Shiggy, Colbrunn and Winn- the only guys worth a damn were Winn and Shiggy).

    Gillick’s a fine GM with a strategy that produces results… while it lasts. It’s like a bachelor party where you go on a bender and hook up with a stripper- it’s great fun until you wake up in the morning with a raging hangover and an extremely upset fiancee who just saw the cell phone pictures of the party and the credit card charges. The repercussions come back to haunt you.

    The thing is, Gillick’s the stripper in this scenario. He doesn’t HAVE to live with the aftereffects- that’s for the fans to deal with after he’s gone.

  10. eponymous coward on September 17th, 2007 3:49 pm

    His first act would have been to trade the likes of Olerud,Boone,and few others while they had high trade value for younger vets and prospects galore.

    Boone in 2003 was pretty good, but Olerud hit .269/.372/.390 and collapsed late in the season. The market for old, slow 1B is pretty slim. The next candidate to trade would have been, logically, Edgar (.294/.406/.489). Are you seriously thinking any GM would have traded a guy who clearly wanted to retire with the organization he’d been with for over 20 years?

    You might also recall that Gillick was part of the brain trust who thought getting rid of Carlos Guillen for basically nothing was awesome, and Bavasi was basically presented with this as a fait accompli when he signed on.

    The idea that Bavasi was handed this perfect opportunity and then botched it… well, I don’t get it, having actually FOLLOWED the team back then.

  11. CCW on September 17th, 2007 3:57 pm

    Hey EC – I totally buy your point about Gillick throwing a turd in the punch bowl and then leaving the party… but at some point I think you need to take a step WAAAY back and see that the Mariners, as an organization, have a problem… organizationally. Whether it’s Gillick or Bavasi or Lincoln, they’ve taken one of the very best situations in all of baseball – an incredible stadium lease and many of the peak years of Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Junior, Bret Boone, and Edgard Martinez, and produced very little (relatively).

  12. gwangung on September 17th, 2007 4:02 pm

    but at some point I think you need to take a step WAAAY back and see that the Mariners, as an organization, have a problem… organizationally.

    No doubt. That’s why I keep on saying that the rot extends far beyond the GM slot.

    In my view, it stems from Armstrong first (who wasn’t a particularly successful person outside of baseball and whose advantage seems to rely solely on his years on the job) and his philosophy about management and baseball team building and is continued and supported by Lincoln.

  13. msb on September 17th, 2007 4:15 pm

    Bill Krueger thinks Rowland-Smith could be an excellent option for the rotation.

    Bill Krueger also thought Gil Meche was going to become Mike Mussina 🙂

  14. Oly Rainiers Fan on September 17th, 2007 4:27 pm

    Hafner, I’m with ya man, just not as articulate.

  15. eponymous coward on September 17th, 2007 4:34 pm

    but at some point I think you need to take a step WAAAY back and see that the Mariners, as an organization, have a problem… organizationally.

    Oh, no doubt. But see, that’s why Gillick got hired. He fit in with the organizational philosophy. So did Bavasi.

  16. scott19 on September 17th, 2007 4:41 pm

    112: Compared to HoRam this year, Gil Meche IS Mike Mussina! 🙂

  17. bermanator on September 17th, 2007 4:41 pm

    106 (Jeff Nye) —

    Yeah, I agree with that. I think the initial intensity of the reaction was motivated as much by Doyle’s departure as Vidro’s arrival, but it’s a different argument entirely when Adam Jones is tearing up Tacoma.

  18. Sports on a Schtick on September 17th, 2007 4:53 pm

    Watching Bill Parcells talk about the Washington Redskins and their perchance for signing high-priced veterans reminded me of another franchise…

  19. DMZ on September 17th, 2007 5:11 pm

    There were a ton of posts here lamenting the loss of Snelling, and criticizing the deal because of the price paid in tradable commodities rather than the opportunity cost in giving him the lineup spot.

    Go back and re-read: that I lamented Doyle’s departure did not stop us from pointing out the opportunity cost problem (particularly the Broussard/OF issues)

  20. scott19 on September 17th, 2007 5:16 pm

    EC: I also agree with your assessment of Gillick…but will just add that, in the case of BAL and TOR, the recovery from his aftermath has been further complicated by being stuck in the same division as the Yanks-Sox dynasties. That’s not to defend PG, of course…it’s just the one point which he had no control over.

  21. currcoug on September 17th, 2007 5:25 pm

    eponymous coward,

    You won’t get an argument from me on the Cirillo trade, although from what I have read Lou had more to do with that deal than Gillick. I have argued many times that trading Fuentes was a mistakes, just like booting Carlos Guillen out the door was.

    In regards to minor leagues and bullpens, I can only point out again the reality that Putz, O’Flaherty and Rowland-Smith are products of Gillick’s minor league system, NOT Bavasi’s. Moreover, Green is a product of a trade for Aaron Taylor, not Bavasi’s farm system. Ditto for Huber. Morrow is the only product of Bavasi which came up through the Mariners’ system.

    I also dispute your assertion about Bavasi and promoting young prospects. Bavasi’s refusal to call up Jones, Balentien, etc., not to mention sticking with Weaver and Horam, was a mistake which led to the monumental debacle now ensuing.

    Bavasi also acquired veterans such as Jason Davis, Parrish, and Rick White…who were AWFUL.

    There is also the fact that Bavasi tried to give Balentien up for an aging, injured pitcher like Dotel. Trading an arm like Soriano’s was just plain foolishness.

    For me, the problem with the Mariner’s rotation goes all the way back to the Freddy Garcia trade. I still find it incredible that Bavasi failed to get at least one pitching prospect back in return. While Bavasi was credited for making what seemed like a good trade at the time, the problem was over confidence in the minor league pitching depth (Blackley, Nageotte, Livingston, etc.).

    In the end analysis, Gillick produced the best teams ever in Seattle in the four years he was GM…and he hardly inherited a juggernaut in 1999 did he?

    What has Bavasi accomplished in four years? Very little, including giving away a talent like Cabrera which for me was unforgiveable. You can’t blame that one on Gillick.

  22. effren on September 17th, 2007 5:45 pm

    This post can be used train leaders on effective decision making. The message has little to do with baseball and much to do with effective decision making. The points you make, Dave, are painfully clear and seemingly out of reach to many in the decision-making world.

    I share your pain and often want to make people swallow their tongue who cannot understand your loaded coin analogy.

    It does make me wonder, however, how you apply these principles to your own work via the stock market, people management, talent acquisition, etc. I wonder how it pans out when you’re in the Bavasi hot seat?

  23. Gregor on September 17th, 2007 6:00 pm

    The thing is, Gillick’s the stripper in this scenario.

    Man, now there’s a mental image I could have done without.

  24. SwungOnAndBeltred on September 17th, 2007 6:04 pm

    This post will surely get slammed but……

    How about this…? AJ is an upgrade from Vidro yes, but Vidro does have the 29th best OBP in all of baseball it just so happens the other half of his OPS is definitely lackluster. I found this interesting in looking up Vidro’s stats though. Hafner & Giambis OPS were only marginally better than that of Vidro and Vidro’s OPS was better than that of Sosa, Piazza, and Sweeney who all may be on the decline, but were all-stars at one point who all DH in the AL. Sure Vidro is not a traditional DH, but does it really matter in the grand scheme of things if say you have a 2B which hits 50 HRs or a C that hits for Ichiro type AVG and steals 45 bases as long as the production is from somewhere in the lineup? So Vidro’s value is in getting on base and setting the table for what should be dangerous 3-4 hitters, which the Mariners lack. Also, as a switch hitter who hits lefties & righties pretty equally which is actually a good trait in someone you want to set the table and not very common among very many switch hitters.

    My thought is that Guillen should not get an extension and is highly overvalued despite his solid performance this year due to his chronic injury problems and there is no reason to say that he could possibly even become a clubhouse nuisance in the next 2-3 years down the road. AJ should play every day in 2008 from the get go in either Right or Center and Ichiro will obviously be in the other spot not occupied by AJ. Raul in LF even though his glove is not great, but he provides a much needed lefty bat in the lineup. Looking back to 2001 Raul’s seasons this year is right in line w/ his other years w/ the exception of last year which was obviously a career year, so it is a decline from last year, but not a decline in comparison to his previous 6 seasons. And then as protection if he’s not traded for a starting pitcher… have Wlad down in AAA developing and waiting in the wings should Raul truly be declining.

    Additionally, the proper platoon would be a platoon of Bavasi & Gillick. Bavasi has done a decent job w/ the farm even though lefty & switch hitting bats are lacking and Gillick did a horrible job w/ the farm, but helped us reach unparalleled seasons w/ our big league club. Shapiro & Bean two examples have done unbelievable jobs w/ their respective farm systems, but how many World Series titles have they accumulated? This is not to say that they may not at some point down the road, but what is the end result having a continued winning ballclub that can never win the one, or having your ballclub be the World Champs. Building a World series team consists of a combination of both of these factors, and it also consists of a mixture of youth and vets.

  25. scottg02 on September 17th, 2007 6:16 pm

    Excellent post Dave. As a winning poker player, I see the point your trying to make as about results based analysis the same reason why idiots who play bad poker and get rewarded continue to play like idiots. The thing is, like the Mariner’s season, poor decisions will always catch up to you in time.

  26. ConorGlassey on September 17th, 2007 6:21 pm

    Dave –
    As someone who e-mails Geoff frequently and has even had lunch with the guy, do you resent being referred to as “Dave” (with the quotation marks like that) on his site? Seems a little degrading, if you ask me…

  27. effren on September 17th, 2007 6:25 pm

    It is frustrating when results based analysts get rewarded. I think Baker believes he proved Dave wrong because Vidro and Ibanez didn’t crap the bed in the latter parts of the season. He clearly fails to recognize that the outcome is immaterial going forward. The analytical process is everything. To echo again and again, the Mariners decision making process appears, over and over again, to be extremely average and following instead of leading. They are buffered by a nice revenue stream and a sizeable budget, otherwise we would be looking more like the boys of Agyros days.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.