’08 M’s, Meet the ’07 Blue Jays

Dave · January 12, 2008 at 9:28 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Since it’s the topic we can’t get away from, here’s something I thought of in the last few days – if the Mariners make the Erik Bedard deal and have the pitching rotation of Geoff Baker’s dreams, is there a comparable recent team that was built on similar principles?

I think there is, and ironically, it’s the Toronto Blue Jays of 2007. Isn’t symmetry fun?

Seriously, let’s take a look at the concepts. Those in favor of the Bedard deal essentially argue that having Bedard-Felix-Silva-Batista-Washburn is such a good rotation, and that starting pitching is so vital to team success, that the team becomes an instant contender. Two aces, two innings eaters, and no unreliable guys who have no track record to sabotage things? How could this fail?

I present the ’07 Blue Jays.

#1 Starter: Roy Halladay, the definition of an ace. 225 IP, 3.71 ERA.
#2 Starter: A.J. Burnett, inconsistent but sometimes dominating. 165 IP, 3.75 ERA
#3 Starter: Dustin McGowan, electric arm but command problems. 170 IP, 4.08 ERA
#4 Starter: Shaun Marcum, strike throwing innings eater. 159 IP, 4.13 ERA
#5 Starter: Jesse Litsch, good command contact guy. 111 IP, 3.81 ERA.

Toss in a bullpen trio of Jeremy Accardo (2.14 ERA), Scott Downs (2.17 ERA), and Casey Janssen (2.35 ERA), and the Blue Jays pitching staff last year was the prototype for what the pro-Bedard camp wants the Mariners pitching staff to look like. Two dominant guys at the front of the rotation, solid guys at the back end, innings eaters in the middle, and a shutdown bullpen capable of holding leads.

Not surprisingly, the Blue Jays strength in run prevention led to a 4.00 ERA, second in the American League. Since pitching is the name of the game, this strong combination of power arms and depth carried them into the playoffs, right?

Uhh, no. They finished 83-79 with a run differential of +50 runs – solid, but not a real contender, especially not in the American League. Why didn’t they win more games?

Easy – they didn’t score enough runs. Troy Glaus, Frank Thomas, and Alex Rios were good but not great, and while they got strong supporting performances from Matt Stairs and Aaron Hill, Vernon Wells forgot how to hit again and Lyle Overbay was one of the few first baseman alive as bad as Richie Sexson. The lack of production from several line-up spots killed rallies, and their overall reliance on right handed hitters made them an easy matchup for teams with good right handed pitching.

So, lets see – a line-up with several good but not great hitters, some black holes offensively, and an over reliance on RH bats – where have I seen this kind of offense before? Oh, right, in Safeco Field every night.

Seriously, just run through the comparisons in terms of run production.

Catchers: Zaun and Johjima are basically a push
Corner Infielders: Overbay/Glaus and Sexson/Beltre are about as even as you could get.
Middle Infielders: McDonald/Hill and Betancourt/Lopez are pretty even as hitters.
Outfielders: Stairs/Wells/Rios and Ibanez/Ichiro/random RF is pretty close to a push.
DH: Thomas blows Vidro out of the water.

These offenses are basically the same. You could argue that there are minor differences, but nothing drastic enough to eliminate the comparison.

If the Mariners follow the ’07 Blue Jays formula, they’re very likely to replicate the ’07 Blue Jays results – a decent team that is a big step behind the elite clubs in the American League.

Swapping Adam Jones for Erik Bedard pushes the Mariners towards being Toronto West. And, despite the hyperbole about the amazing transformative powers of having two lights out pitchers at the front of your rotation, the formula fails if the team isn’t good enough overall.

And they’re not – the M’s could have made themselves contenders this winter, but instead, they signed Carlos Silva. Making a disastrous trade for Erik Bedard and replacing Adam Jones with the carcass of Luis Gonzalez and his veteran entitlement wouldn’t make them a contender – it would make them a sad organization hoping for a miracle in lieu of a real plan.


74 Responses to “’08 M’s, Meet the ’07 Blue Jays”

  1. jaysbaseballfan on January 13th, 2008 9:09 am

    #39 that is.

  2. gwangung on January 13th, 2008 10:50 am

    I don’t think that is true. The lower a pitcher’s FIP the less important the defense behind him (i.e. strikeout more, walk less and give up fewer HRs and balls in play are less damaging). Basically pitchers with high Krates and low BB rates tend to have ERAs that are closer to their FIPS because in essence they minimize their defense (by giving the defense less chance to impact scoring). Examples of this that are relevant to USSM content from last fall (discussion of Tampa’s undervalued rotation) would be James Shields and Scott Kazmir whose FIPs and ERA were almost identical despite playing in front of the worst defense in the majors.

    Hm. Probably right. I should retract that with respect to better pitchers.

    Of course, that doesn’t necessarily apply to the lesser pitchers..

    29 – defense is good, but having the best defense in baseball is not going to change a mediocre pitching staff into one of the best.

    2001 Mariners?

    Perhaps not the best, but better than might be warranted.

  3. skyking162 on January 13th, 2008 12:02 pm

    #50 …having the best defense in baseball is not going to change a mediocre pitching staff into one of the best.

    I beg to differ. If mediocre is league-average, that’s about a 4.50 ERA. The best fielding team could sport an average of +10 runs at 8 positions for +80 overall. That’s .5 runs per game, lowering our average pitching staff’s ERA to 4.00. The top three AL teams in ERA in 2007 were BOS (3.87), TOR (4.00), and CLE (4.05). 4.00 would qualify as “one of the best”.

  4. Teej on January 13th, 2008 2:10 pm

    You have Felix for 3 more years, hopefully more.

    Four more years, actually.

  5. edgar for mayor on January 13th, 2008 10:26 pm


    I Normally do not agree with alot of thing you say. And here is no different…no I’m kidding lol.

    You hit the nail on the head. You know I even called Bavasi? I got through to his secretary before they figured out I didn’t know him. Jones for Bedard would be the worst trade ever.

  6. wlad on January 13th, 2008 11:06 pm

    Felix should be better than Burnett this next year. Halladay had an off year too. The Jays also play in a considerably harder division than ours (granted, they do get to play the Rays and the Orioles). Our division is going to be weak this year with the Rangers still being bad and the A’s reloading.

  7. Evan on January 14th, 2008 9:26 am

    The 2007 Jays had some entertaining characteristics, and were fun to watch (there are maybe two pitchers in baseball I’d rather watch than Roy Halladay), but they were the definition of a mediocre team. I can only imagine what the Vegas line on them finishing third was.

    I did enjoy that of their three top position players by VORP, one of them was Rios, and the other two had a combined age and weight of 78 years and 510 lb. And for some unknown reason I’m a big fan of Gregg Zaun (he’s like a miniature Matt Stairs).

    The 2007 Jays are the team that teams who aren’t trying to compete should aspire to be. Hopefully that’s not us.

  8. Evan on January 14th, 2008 9:28 am

    Oh, and we can’t be the 2007 Jays without someone who looks as goofy as Jesse Litsch in his official photo.

  9. terry on January 14th, 2008 10:32 am

    As it turns out, the premise for this thread is bunk.

    The Ms with Bedard wouldn’t be like an 83 win Toronto team because that team competed in a division that had two playoff contenders (while the Ms only have to ceal with one such team in their division) so Toronto is a hopelessly flawed comp. Clearly, the Ms with Bedard would be much more like a 96 win Minnesota team because that team only had one…hey, wait a minute……

    OK, nevermind.

  10. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on January 14th, 2008 11:19 am

    Anybody notice Jones was instructed to leave the Venezuelan Winter league, so rotoworld says. Could mean nothing I suppose . . this discussion may not be moot if the deals goes down, but I sure don’t want to think about how little Bedard might help us if it does, at least not for a few weeks, after the vomitting stops.

  11. spar123 on January 14th, 2008 11:27 am

    The M’s with Bedard may win 85 games sure – who’s to tell as nobody predicted we’d win 88 games last year but they have the potential to do more. The M’s without Bedard and Jones in RF win 75 games max. Hard choice.

  12. Graham on January 14th, 2008 11:40 am

    The M’s without Bedard and Jones in RF win 75 games max. Hard choice.

    Hahahahahahaha. Haha. Hah. Awesome. Got anything to back that number up with?

  13. daffodilly on January 14th, 2008 12:04 pm

    This is a very interesting comparison, but I think the main thing the author didn’t take into consideration was the injuries the Jays had. From broken hands to back surgery, the Jays lost more man hours than any team in major league history. Hard to justify the jays only being an 83 win team when they weren’t on the field. In order to win anywhere, you have to have a #1 &2, pitcher. What they did do was win 83 games in the AL east with their pitching. If they didn’t have that, they would have been lucky to win 60 games.

  14. spar123 on January 14th, 2008 12:18 pm

    well let see – jones is only likely to put up something like 15/75 next year as he’s still pretty green and then we’d have our current rotation with probably HoRam rounding it out. If that doesn’t scream under .500 team I don’t know what does. Our rotation right now is awful – the rest of the rotation will just bring Felix down over time but if you get a legit #1 guy to anchor it then he could lift the play of the other guys especially felix. I’m not making a profound argument here – with Bedard we are a better team this year. Without him and we play jones/horam – we are a bad team. seems fairly obvious.

  15. Graham on January 14th, 2008 12:24 pm

    You’re incorrect. Mariners were roughly a .500 team last year if you like Pythag (and hey, if you don’t, we were better), and have gotten better – Jones is a net improvement over Guillen due to defense, and Silva is an improvement over Weaver.

    Yes, they would be better with Bedard, but only for one season and we wouldn’t get anywhere with it.

    PS: There are much better ways to evaluate a player than making up random HR/RBI numbers for them. The way analysis is conducted normally involves runs above/below average for both batting and glovework, but you can get away with a using OPS/mention of defensive ability. HR and RBI ain’t gonna fly, though.

  16. gwangung on January 14th, 2008 12:25 pm

    well let see – jones is only likely to put up something like 15/75 next year as he’s still pretty green

    Pulling numbers from thin air, I see.

  17. spar123 on January 14th, 2008 1:26 pm

    that’s what projections are my friend. you can use numbers he posted in AAA all you want but there is no sure-fire way to predict – you can spout off well the #’s say this or that but they aren’t always right/dead on. In his first year you can’t expect him to come out and hit his max of say 25-30hrs/100+ rbi’s. It just doesn’t work that way. I could put together all sorts of number projections off this or that but I have a life and realize that the #’s aren’t always right and there is a human factor into what a person does also.

  18. DMZ on January 14th, 2008 1:33 pm

    Why not? You’re expecting him to perform to a certain level, and you’re freely admitting you have even less evidence to back up that claim or methodology in your projection. I could claim he’ll hit 60 home runs, because I did his astrological chart or something, as long as we’re discarding all reasonable assumptions.

    Also, that “you don’t have a life” thing is out of line.

  19. gwangung on January 14th, 2008 1:52 pm

    that’s what projections are my friend. you can use numbers he posted in AAA all you want but there is no sure-fire way to predict –

    Bill James disagrees.

    He has a ring. You don’t.

  20. gwangung on January 14th, 2008 1:59 pm

    OK…that’s an exaggeration…but there’s all sorts of work done on projecting minor league numbers to major league numbers…and a lot of that work is being used by successful major league franchises.

    Some of it is kinda simple, too—if you knock out a lot of home runs out of a minor leauge park where it’s hard to hit homers (Cheney just might fit the bill here), then there’s a good chance you can knock a few home runs out in the big leagues (even in a park like SAFECO).

  21. Jeff Nye on January 14th, 2008 2:06 pm

    Must…control…fist of death…

  22. Graham on January 14th, 2008 3:47 pm

    See, this is what happens when I try to be nice when explaining that you shouldn’t use RBI/HR.

    I’ll know better next time.

  23. ArtfulDodger on January 14th, 2008 4:18 pm

    I simply need to know. How is it that i got lambasted for using ERA (previous thread) as an accurate stat to evaluate pitchers, by Dave, (The quote was something like “ERA is a completely worthless tool for evaluating pitchers.” Then I was referred to the remedial reading “How to evaluate pitcher talent.” Which i read and found helpful) then Senor Dave busts out with ERA as a tool to evaluate and compare the Mariners with the Jays?

    You can’t have it both ways. Either ERA is useful or it isn’t.

  24. Alaskan on January 14th, 2008 5:20 pm

    73, I was wondering that myself. Maybe it’s because the issue with ERA is that it doesn’t isolate defense, but in this analysis, we aren’t concerned with analyzing defense? I suppose it doesn’t matter who saved the runs, or if it was park factors or what, just as long as the basic formula is the same – 2 good pitchers, 3 average to below average pitchers.

    So, the short answer would be that ERA isn’t useful for individual pitching evaluation, but acceptable for a holistic team view. Obviously I didn’t write the post, but that’s my theory for Dave’s justification.

    Do you buy it?

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